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.
The original Shure E500 set the inner earphone industry ablaze. It was the first consumer-oriented triple-driver balanced armature earphone, and in 2006, it stormed into many eager audio-lover’s hands. Today, the the venerable earphone has been overhauled and re-badged. The SE530 retains its glorious mid-oriented signature sound which is one of the most stunningly presented among all inner earphones. Smoothly detailed, it twists and turns in time with any musical genre, paying homage to all, but favouring none. Today, there are many other triple-driver consumer earphones, but Shure’s striking debut is still one of the best.
In high Ultrasone tradition, the Zino, is a stylish, somewhat gaudy headphone, but unlike most of the headphone manufacturer’s line, it is aimed at the on-the-go market. This over-the-ear headphone features the company’s patented S-Logic technology which directs sound to your outer ear before driving inward toward your ear canal, delivering a very large, open sound stage which simply smashes the competition for sheer width. Ultrasone are also famous for the inclusion of ULE (ultra low emissions) which shields your ear from magnetic energy.
If Ultrasone don’t ring a bell, let me drop a hint: the Edition 7, 8, and 9 which are considered to be among the best headphones in the world, are the technological ground on which the Zino stands.