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Headphone News, Reviews & Research

2014's Best Back to School Headphones

Yup, it's that time of year again, and this year brings more great headphones than ever to choose from for your student on the go.  Whether it's over-ear models for serious study sessions, in-ear headphones for serious isolation, or bluetooth wireless for serious mobility, we have picked out some of our favorite back to school headphones that will add a little magic to any student's academic life.

Best Over-Ear Headphones for Back to School

Over-ear headphones are great way to get in the zone for studying and relaxation, and offer great sound quality at reasonable prices.  We recommend closed headphones that will block moderate noise and prevent others from hearing your music.  These picks will sound great right out of a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and will sound even better out of a dedicated headphone amp.  

Beats Studio & Beats Solo 2The Beats Studio and Beats Solo 2 are two obvious choices as a great student headphone.  We've recently picked up the Beats line, and after some auditions we must say-- Beats has really stepped up their game in terms of sound quality and build.  Most students are going to love their rich, full sound and sophisticated looks with slick features like in-line mics, long battery life and bullet-proof carrying case.  The Skullcandy Aviators are another obvious choice for the student, and the best sounding Skullcandy in the line-up in our opinion.  With an extremely elegant retro styling and surprisingly refined sound, the Aviators are also mic'd for smartphones and ready to jam your favorite playlist.  Skullcandy Aviators & Shure SRH440Sennheiser's Momentum and Momentum on-ear headphones are perhaps the superlative of portable headphones, offering truly stellar sound, gorgeous styling and color options, all backed by Sennheiser's industry-leading reputation and German engineering prowess.  Finally, Shure's excellent SRH440 headphones, at under $100, are an affordable option for those still wanting a refined sound with craftsmanship ready to take a beating on the road or in a backpack. (Or, for the budding audiophile, check the killer package special, Shure SRH 440 headphones and Fiio E11 headphone amp package combo.) 

Best In-Ear Headphones for Back to School

Shure SE215, Etymotic M3, Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2In-ear headphones are perfect for the student who needs lots of isolation so they can focus on the task at hand.  They are also great for traveling and indoor exercise, and many models are headsets for easy smartphone compatibility.The Shure SE215 is our top recommended earphone under $100, thanks to it's accurate and refined sound, detachable cables, and Shure ergonomics known for being some of the most comfortable and highest isolating in the industry. The Etymotic MC3 also offers excellent isolation, rock solid durability, iPhone-ready mic, and Etymotic's renowned crisp detail in a very affordable ($69) package.  Finally, the Skullcandy Smokin' Buds 2 perform with surprisingly solid sound for under $30, redesigned ergonomics that provide a great fit, and microphone for smartphones.  All this for under 30?!, these are pretty much a no-brainer for anyone!

Best Wireless Headphones for Back to School

Outdoor Tech Privates, Jaybird Bluebuds X, Beats Studio WirelessGood news if you're interested in the convenience of wireless listening:  options keep getting better and better sounding at reasonable pricing.  Here we have several bluetooth options, ready for instant and easy connection to your smartphone, tablet or computer.  Recently added to our line up is Outdoor Technology, a fun and innovative brand out of Colorado with a nice array of wireless products.  We like the Privates; cool looking with durable construction, these wireless headphones are only $99 and sound great right out of the box.  The Jaybird Bluebuds X are the option of choice for those looking at wireless workouts; these wireless in-ear style phones are made for blood sweat and tears during the rigours of your exercise routine... the question is, are you?  Finally, for the cats meeeooow of wireless, the Beats Studio Wireless really are a treat.  Most folks won't be able to tell any difference in sound quality between these and their wireless counterparts, and they earned high marks here in the office for fit and overall operation.  

School's Back In... Are You Ready to Focus?

Make your favorite music part of the equation with some new headphones.  Besides, you're doing your ears a favor by throwing away the $5 cheapies and making (even a small) investment in quality, clarity, and comfort.  Just like everything else, your ears won't last forever, so take care of them for the long haul, long after the days of Greek parties, all nighters (studying of course), and collegiate adventures has ended.  Have fun everyone, and study hard!

 

August 05, 2014

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Fostex TH500RP Premium RP Stereo Headphones - Coming Soon

The long awaited Fostex TH500RP headphones are set to arrive at HeadRoom in a few short weeks.

Fostex have long since used RP (Regular Phase) diaphragm technology in their acclaimed professional studio headphones such as the T50RP.

The new TH500RP model now combines this RP technology with the design philosophy and flair of the TH900, resulting in a set premium headphones which deliver a simply stunning high resolution sound, with sparkling highs, rich mid tones and high quality lows.

View full article →

Go Anywhere Summer Headphones

Summer is here.  

Here in Montana, we have it pretty good, but “summer” is usually anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months, starting maybe in early May or maybe late June, and ending maybe in late June or maybe early October.  There’s an abundance of fun things to do, just look below at some our staffers whoop it up in the great outdoors.  There are lots of family and friends coming to town to enjoy the MontanaLife, and all kinds of festivals and concerts and holidays, plus weddings, family reunions, and parties.  But there’s really only 9 or 10 bonafide “summer weekends” that can be reliably assumed to only have a 50% chance of major thunderstorms and 10% chance of snow.  So while summer in Montana is pretty epic, it’s short.  Things can get pretty hectic. Downright stressful, even annoying. 

That’s why we all need at least one of the headphones on this page.  Because wherever you are and whenever you might get a spare moment, there’s nothing like a little musical escape to unwind.  Maybe it’s your way of getting through that 4 hour layover in Cleveland, that all-day neighborhood clean up day, or even one of those 3-birthday-parties-on-a-Sunday-afternoon days.

So what are you waiting for?  Save 10% on select models until July 10th.  >>


Etymotic Research

Got noise? Slip into your cocoon with a pair of small, discreet in-ear headphones from Etymotic Research.  Etymotic is proven as one of the top isolating earphones in the industry by creating a tight seal, allowing them to block more ambient noise. This, while delivering wonderfully accurate and detailed resolution, models mic’d for smartphones, and a nice array of accessories.  

audio technica ath-anc7b-svis

Despite it’s ridiculously long model number, this headphone is something to remember.  As one of the best noise cancelling headphones out there and pleasingly under $200, these headphones have generous battery life, mic’d for smartphone use, and sturdy carrying case.  It’s no wonder we’ve always recommended the ANC7B’s, and our customer reviews tell the same story.

 

Phiaton Chord MS530

Yes, you can have noise cancelling and bluetooth wireless all in one, and it can be good, with the Phiaton Chord MS-530.  Our favorite noise cancelling headphone since it’s release a couple years back, it was recently also highly praised in a review by Tyll Hertsens of Inner Fidelity, saying: “It's price/performance ratio is simply outstanding. If you need something like this, this is the one to get."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here's some of HeadRoom Staffers Enjoying Montana's Epic Summers... Tell Us What Your Fun in Montana Looks Like!

Here's Jamey, HeadRoom's CEO, with his upright bass doing what he loves best, playing music in the great outdoors, here in the beautiful Paradise Valley.

Ben (aka Headphone Samurai) plays a huge festival every year called Rockin' the Rivers in Cardwell, Montana on the banks of the Jefferson River... and he knows how to put on a show!

Susan loves to enjoy a little peace and quiet on Hyalite Reservoir outside of Bozeman.

Ivy doing some fishing, floating, and enjoying a beautiful summer day on the Yellowstone River.

 

 

 

Sennheiser's Unheard-of, never-before-seen, totally amazing HD800 & HDVD800 Combo Sale. (Again).

Sennheiser really surprised us back in April with a sale on their world famous premiere products.  The Sennheiser HD800 headphones and the amazing HDVD800 headphone amp/DAC were offered as a package at a substantial savings.  Well here we are again and Sennheiser has decided to offer this amazing special once again through the month of June!

Sennheiser HD800 & HDVD800 Combo Package

Even better, we're throwing in a CH800s 4 pin XLR headphone cable for balanced drive listening.  In our opinion this cable upgrade is not an if but a "must" -- we say go big or go home.  After all, you're listening to one of the world's BEST headphone systems ever known to man -- and the added spacial quality, overall tonal balance and sonic realism that can only be achieved with balanced drive is the icing on the cake.

Save over $849 on this amazing package, but hurry, stock is limited and we don't anticipate this to be offered up again.

June 03, 2014

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Sure-Fire Father's Day Gifts

Whoever your dad is, chances are he's got a set of ears that would stand to benefit from a headphone upgrade.  

Whether it's the latest pair of (surprisingly awesome!) new wireless headphones or one of the sweet little accessories listed here, we can help you find that unusual and useful gift for your dad, or yourself, that he'll actually want this year. And if you're still not sure, never fear, we spend a lot of time helping folks find the best audio set up for their needs and preferences.  We're just a click or call away;  800-828-8184 or sales@headphone.com.

Sennheiser Momentum and Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear
Sennheiser Momentum & Momentum Over Ear

There's a reason the Sennheiser Momentum headphones are found on many of our lists.  These headphones offer a premium listening experience and are a GREAT value (get 'em while you can folks!).  The over-ear Momentum is for the serious listener or audio professional and boasts luxurious details like a molded carrying case and Pittard's tanned leather pads.  Momentum on-ears are an excellent choice for those looking for a slightly more compact headphone with almost all of the stellar sound quality, at a wallet-friendly price. 

Jaybird Bluebuds X
Jaybird Bluebuds X

It's not very often tthat we say "wow" about the sound of a wireless headphone (okay, almost never).  But the Bluebuds X promised a new wireless listening experience, and they really delivered.  The Bluebuds offer convenience and durability in a great sounding package at a very friendly price point.  Jaybird is clearly in the headphone game to win, and their line of exercise headphones are some of the best in the industry.  So, if you know someone looking to get their sweat on, the Bluebuds X are a'calling.

Westone Adventure Series Alpha
Westone Adventure Series Alpha

The Westone Alpha Series is a perfect choice for the rugged adventurist in your life.  (Or, maybe just for the guy that tends to break stuff.)  Either way, Westone's Alpha Series is built for the long haul with extra tough reflective cabling and water resistant construction.  The Alpha's are also iDevice compatible so you can keep those calls coming in whether you're on a mountain or the treadmill.  Westone's patented STAR eartip design along with a large variety of included True-Fit foam tips will ensure a secure and comfortable fit with these workhorse in-ear headphones. New lower price:   Was $199, now $149.

Phiaton Chord MS530  M-Series
Phiaton Chord MS530 

You may not have heard much about Phiaton's Chord MS530 headphone, but we're not sure why.  This bluetooth wireless headphone offers a noise cancelling feature and full iDevice compatibility.  Expect a pleasantly well balanced sonic signature and very impressive wireless sound quality. If you're looking for an audiophile's headphone that doesn't skimp on modern day bells and whistles, the Chord is an excellent choice, offering the best of both worlds.

Fiio X5 High Resolution Player (DAP)
Fiio X5 High Resolution Digital Audio Player

Fiio certainly doesn't rest on their laurels when it comes to new product releases; typically the result of continuous improvement and constant innovation.  Enter the X5 high resolution digital audio player, doing what many of it's competitors do at a fraction of the price.  Sporting a robust processor, huge storage capacity and acceptance of virtually every file format available, the X5 isn't just another FOTM*.  On top of all this technology lies an attractive and well built device, with touch screen capability and impressive battery life.  Seriously, there isn't much Fiio didn't think of with it's new X5, and as a result, the audio enthusiast community has bestowed upon the X5 it's whole hearted approval.

BOOM Swimmer Wireless Speaker
BOOM Swimmer bluetooth speaker

Now, let's talk about the (really) fun stuff for a minute... who wouldn't want one of these?  The BOOM Swimmer is a little wireless bluetooth speaker that connects wirelessly to your iDevice.  It packs a surprising punch in a small package; we think it sounds great for it's diminutive size and price!  The BOOM Swimmer is also waterproof, as you may have surmised, making it that much more impressive (and great for the boat, too).  Pretty much every staff member has picked up one or more of these killer little units, and you should too.  It's a whole 'lotta fun in a cute little waterproof box.

 

Now, what are you waiting for? Dad's ears are waiting for some great new audio goods for his world.  (Pssst, hey Dad, if you're reading this, you better go ahead and bail your kids out [-AGAIN!-] and get yourself that gift you'll actually like.)  
Not dad?  Perhaps that's your cause for celebration... either way, your world will get just a little bit better with one of these top picks!

 Father's Day Gifts

*FOTM- Flavor of the Month.  Originating in World of Warcraft, this term has also been coined by audio enthusiasts to denote the sudden and drastic rise in popularity of a new product, only to see it's quick and precipitous decline once the hype has been played out.  FOTM phenomena regularly misleads unsuspecting consumers into getting the wrong products and parting them unjustly from the contents in their wallet.

May 09, 2014

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Headphone.com gets a makeover

 

Welcome to our new website!

We have been working overtime to get our new website ready for prime time. However, we still have plenty of tweaking to do now that it is live. Really, this is just the beginning as we see it. While the biggest change you will see is a new design, we are most excited about what you don't see. Behind all the beautiful photos of headphones is a flexible and well integrated website platform. What this means for you is that we get to spend less time coding widgets and more time finding and evaluating great headphones.

The ideas we have on how to improve headphone.com are overwhelming. This is where we need your help. We would rather bring in products that you want or build tools that would help you find the best headphones for your lifestyle rather than just working on our wants. So with that in mind we'd like to ask you:

What can we do better?

What new products would you like to see at headphone.com?

Or more simply, what do you like or dislike about the new website?

Feel free to post in the comments here or email jamey@headphone.com if you'd like to keep it private.

Digital Audio 101: Using Headphone Amps & DACs for Computers & Laptops

Thanks to digital audio, attaining amazing audio sound quality has never been easier.  For a fraction of the cost of old-school analog systems, you can put together a killer computer-based audio system.

First off, Do I Need a Headphone Amp & DAC?

If you're just starting out, investing in a decent pair of headphones is the best way to get the most improvement out of your computer. Plan on spending around $50-$150.  It's important to use headphones that do not require too much power to be driven properly, otherwise they will be under-powered from the relatively weak headphone output of computers and particularly laptops.  However, today there are many highly quality headphones that can be driven efficiently from the headphone jack of a computer or laptop.  Some laptops sound better than others depending on the sound card's quality and the computer's overall value.  

But once you've acquired decent headphones, and you want to know what else is out there, it's time to consider an amp/DAC combo.  The next step in creating a high-quality computer audio system is to use a digital USB-compatible headphone amp & DAC (digital to analog converter). These can be in one unit or two separate components.

Benefits of a Headphone Amp & DAC

Dedicated headphone amps & DACs can solve the following problems commonly found with computer audio: 

  • A large amount of radio frequency [RF] and electro-magnetic interference is generated internally from power supplies and hard-drive circuitry.  A headphone amp/DAC isolates the audio circuitry in it's own box, providing valuable shielding.
  • typically relatively low quality components are dedicated to audio reproduction in computers, while a dedicated amp/DAC will have much higher quality parts, depending on the units price.
  • there is low power voltage swing capacity available in PCs and laptops, while in dedicated headphone amps/DACs the power is designed strictly for one specific purpose.

Digital audio over USB connection can offer great sound quality because the music data is sent in "packets" and is then re-assembled at the receiving end, which is the external DAC device. This means that jitter from USB transmission is eliminated as the data received is re-clocked within the noise-controlled environment of the outboard DAC (or 'combo' headphone amp/DAC). 

Read More:  Why Do I Need a Headphone Amp?   and What is a DAC?

The Mobile Audiophile-  Using Amps & DACs On The Go

Ah, so you're a mobile audiophile eh?  Lucky for you that today you can have a mobile audio system on par with $30,000+ listening rooms right in your laptop bags!  A DAC becomes a critical piece in your audio chain at this point ,and we recommend an amp/DAC combination thanks to their compact size.  Many little units today offer an impressive array of features, have rechargeable, AA, or AAA batteries, and sometimes in shockingly small packages.  Most are capable of driving most headphones under 300 ohms.  All of these units have USB connectivity, the most popular and commonly available method for connecting a DAC to your computer.

Many headphone choices are available to you at this point, as nearly all these amps will drive most headphones with ease.  Many mobile audiophiles will recommend a high-end in-ear model; impressive universal fit models are available.  For the ultimate in audio reproduction, blissful isolation, and supernal comfort, a custom molded in-ear headphone is a very popular choice.  Several custom brands are available, with JH Audio leading the pack as the premiere custom provider.

Home Use & High-End Digital Music

Most headphone listeners will prefer an over-ear style for most home-based applications; since they provide great sound quality, lots of comfort and ease of use, with many choices at varying price points.  Choosing an open or closed model will depend on your need to block outside noise.

The good news is that extremely high-quality music reproduction on a computer is within easy reach. Headphone amplifiers and DACs can be purchased separately or are commonly found as an all-in-one.  An important consideration for high-fidelity digital listeners is bit rate transmission, with many DACs offering up to 24k/192.  Most amps and DACs offer multiple inputs simultaneously connected and easy switching between sources and from headphones to speakers. Occasionally you will have a computer that offers digital output via optical connection, this can be arguable slightly superior to USB, so you may want to consider an optical connection.  Balanced drive is also a popular way to obtain extremely high quality audio, and a computer can be an excellent source for balanced transmission.

May 01, 2014

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Why To Add Headphones To Your Listening Room

The Benefits Of Headphone Listening For Audiophiles

Sennheiser_Momentum

Although headphone systems for audiophiles are most often used as a way to get a superb listening experience in secondary locations, there are a couple of very good reasons to have high-end headphone capabilities in your main listening room.

Critically speaking, the most precise audio resolution is heard on top headphones. Speakers will always deliver the physical intensity of sound better; but headphones can offer listening isolation and a personal intimacy with the recording in a far more intense way than speakers. If you find yourself hearing things on your big home rig but can't quite make out the nuances, a simple check on reference headphones will make every subtle musical detail plainly apparent.

The comment HeadRoom gets most from music lovers is that they regularly hear things on top headphones that they've never heard before on their $25,000 speaker system. Naturally, audiophiles often must coexist with others who don't want to hear their music late at night or at the office. A superior audiophile headphone system delivers a private listening experience that's different than, but just as satisfying, as a giant room speaker system -- and all without disturbing anyone else.

Keep Your Workouts Going With Running Headphones!

If you're serious about working out, running & workout specific headphones is a necessary part of your fitness gear.  Exercise headphones are made to withstand the rigours of constant movement, sweat, and weather.  Better yet, will keep you pumping to the sound of your favorite workout playlist.  Here's what to look for when finding your ideal exercise headphone.

Best Headphones for Running & Workouts

Secure Fit: Bottom line- your headphones must stay secure and stable on your head.  Look for ergonomic designs, including in-ear, clip style and other styles.  Short, flexible cords to ensure easy mobility.

Highly durable: Workout and running headphones must be built for holding up in extreme conditions.  Many workout headphones are made of bullet proof materials, are sweat-proof, and super flexible cables.  You'll also find many travel friendly models you can throw into the gym bag and grab for the treadmill.

Bluetooth & microphone features like a microphone headset gives one the flexibility to answer calls and skip tracks, while bluetooth delivers freedom from cables. 

Noise blocking or not? If you exercise outdoors, it's usually critical to hear noises around you.  We recommend a clip-on, earbud, or open headband/neckband style. Indoors is a different story; you may need to drown out screaming children or bad gym music. An in-ear or closed headphone style will isolate ambient noise and distractions at varying levels. You'll also be able to hear your music or media clearly at safe listening levels.

Top 10 Audiophile Headphones of 2014

Are you looking for the world's best headphones?   Here are our recommendations of the world's best, spare-no-expense ultimate headphones, updated for 2014.

1. The German-engineered Sennheiser HD800 reigns supreme for many audiophiles and is touted by many as the preeminent ‘open-back’ headphone in existence.

2. The Fostex TH-900 is arguably the best full-size sealed-back headphone currently available; many may prefer the mild isolation, comfortable circumaural fit, beautifully rendered mids/highs and textural bass response over any other high-end headphone.

 

3. With nearly the imaging of the HD800, the Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 has a fuller-bodied timbre that will thrill those looking for a more romantic listening experience; with classical music in particular.

4. Listeners seeking the ultimate in juicy, creamy accuracy for rock and jazz have flipped their wigs after hearing the Audeze orthodynamic LCD-2 and LCD-3 headphones, offering unmatched warmth and Magnaplanar-like clarity.
5. The HiFiMAN HE500 is also of  orthodynamic design, a technology currently taking the high-end headphone world by storm. It’s perfectly round timbre and fast dynamic sound is a marvel of high-end headphone audio engineering. 
7. Long considered a classic ‘affordable’ audiophile headphone, the laid-back Sennheiser HD650 still holds its own in price-to-performance for smooth-toned listening.

8. Audio Seekers Of The Great Beyond looking to replace iPod, MP3 player, or other portable device earbuds will marvel at the pristine, rich tone and easy universal fit of the Shure SE846 premium in-ear headphones.

9. Uber-musical in-ear mavens will want to consider going fully ‘custom’ with the Jerry Harvey Audio line of audiologist-molded headphones, a superlative series of in-ear monitors all rating at the very top of the category at their respective prices.

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