2009’s party, mixed by last year’s Monster Turbine earphone, was off the charts. But in 2010, Monster’s sophomore Turbine, the Turbine Pro Gold, does everything better. Everything the original Turbine did right: bass, mids, treble – is trumped, and each is more controlled, more readily adapted for any music you throw at it. The Turbine Pro proves that Monster are ready to pick up the cheque as the best high-volume dynamic inner earphone maker on the planet. If you’d like to discuss the Monster Turbine Pro Gold, head to our forums.
Like stealing the king’s ransom, reviewing arguably the world’s best earphone is no easy task. Final Audio Design is no ordinary name in hi-end audio; its staple audio system have been hailed as among the best in the world, clear and true on the other; but overall, they are certainly pricey. Their new earphone products are marvels of esoterica: just like their speakers, they produced in small quantities with one aim in mind: mind-blowing sound. Of course, Final Audio’s top earphone range, the 1601, is made for the choicest of audiophiles. The same company produces the Opus 204 speaker system which not only costs 500 thousand dollars, but by merit of its solid steel chassis, weighs 800 kilograms per channel! In the same vein, the solid steel FI-DC1601SS is heavy and expensive, but ultimately, wonderful.
MEElectronics’ earphones rode onto the scene last year with aplomb. Not only are they priced to sell, they sound good and in general, are made well. Now, MEEl have jumped on the wood bandwagon started by the venerable Victor FX500. The R-1 is a solid earphone which will rock the clocks of bass lovers who happen to have no more than 40$ in the bank.
With the release of the CK100, Audio Technica have reinvented the inner earphone. Their former flagship portable, the dual-driver CK10 is a thing of neutral, fast, and airy beauty. But no matter how good it is, its younger, pricier sibling hurdles it in every imaginable way. The CK100 houses 3 balanced armature speakers per earphone from which a brilliant atmospheric sound haunts. For audiophiles looking for a high-quality, good-sounding inner earphone, there is none better for the price.
If anyone can one-up the Nuforce, it is Maximo. They sport many reasonably priced headsets and upgrade inner earphones which work well and sound good to boot. The iP-HS5 is their premium model which hits the important price point set by Apple’s new dual-driver inner earphone headset. But unlike the white-on-white of Apple’s sparsely accessorised kit, Maximo pack in a lot of black. In fact, its accessories kit might even make Jays blush.
UPDATE: Maximo have informed me that newer iP-HS5 cables are different to the model I have. If that is the case, I will update this review accordingly.
The world of earphones has been ripped asunder by the ‘driver war’ which is now sillier than the blade war which rears its ugly head in between French handball goals on TV. Today, models which boast 8 drivers roam the prototypical plains in the underbellies of inventive manufacturers – and mark my words, that number will only climb. On the heals of the Jerry Harvey JH13Pro, the Fitear Private 333 will expose another niche, another customer base, and another sound among custom earphones. This time, the badge of honour (other than “made in Japan”) which the 333 proudly wears, is that of ‘fun’. Indeed, this custom is somewhat of a departure from the more neutral options from Sleek and Jerry Harvey and goes the Ultrasone route of fun, space, and speed. And it rocks.
If Head-Direct’s RE series is a benchmark for how far Chinese-made headphones have come, Yuin, another great Chinese manufacturer, should be considered the standard by which even Head-Direct’s products are compared. Back in 2006, the Yuin PK1 startled the audio community not only with its high price, but excellent sound. In 2009, the tradition continues with the excellent G-series of clip-on headphones which start at 49$. The G2A isn’t cheap by an realistic definition of the word, but I will sum up why it simply rocks the house and will keep listeners coming back for more for a long, foreseeable future.
The Koss Porta Pro — which recently saw its 25th anniversary — has spawned look-a-likes, sound-a-likes, and a slew of pragmatic wannabes which can be as easily stowed and toted. Love it or hate it, the Porta Pro has left a deep imprint on the portable audio community for years and will probably continue to do so. Incidentally, whenever I strap the caboose of my brain into a new headphone, I mentally compare it with my rusty old Koss. Jays’ v-Jays, though dressed in simple plastic and fitted into seen-it-before ear pads, has become a landmark headphone which surpasses many erstwhile favourites, including the stodgy Koss Porta Pro.
Every month of every year, enterprising audio designers create new gadgets which achieve some paragon of aural nirvana. Jerry Harvey founded Ultimate Ears to support the rockers, Van Halen with products which would both protect their hearing and relate greater production value to their fans. For 1099$, the JH13Pro stands with a 50$ cheaper price tag than its older — and now estranged — brother, the Ultimate Ears UE11Pro, but lacks a few of its amenities. What it doesn’t lack, however, is beautiful sound.
INC have a great article detailing Jerry Harvey’s moves which changed the stage performance industry.
Among mainstream electronic companies, Victor (JVC) have quietly shed traditional speaker manufacturing techniques in creating driver diaphragms from wood rather than synthetic materials. Several of their small cabinet systems utilise wood driver technology, and the FX500 inner earphone also benefits from wood. In 2008, it was the world’s first earphone to employ wood in both its housing and driver diaphragm and is still the only production earphone whose driver is made from wood. Wood has the potential of fielding vastly more natural echo characteristics in comparison to plastic or metal.