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.
Taiwan’s Firestone Audio is known for creating high-quality amplifier and digital-to-analogue products at reasonable prices. One of their constants is the use of sturdy construction materials and methods, a design decision which guarantees the longevity of their products. The Fireye 1 is an impressively constructed headphone amplifier which has a couple of unique features that will help you enjoy music and movies from your your iPod, laptop, or larger, hifi source.
Last year, Westone released the first true 3-way earphone, the Westone 3. It comes in an overhauled shell, but remains similar in size to the UM2 before it. With a focus on consumers, the Westone 3 has a ‘fun’ sound which is graphically v-shaped in its frequency response with emphasis placed on bass and treble. This year, Westone are releasing the Westone 1, a one-way balanced armature earphone which utilises the same housing and what looks to be the same accessory kit. But, at 199$ versus the 399$ MSRP of the Westone 3, the new headphone will be an easier decision.
In typical Westone fashion, the Westone 1 will utilise the excellent cable which is the industry’s least microphonic and best relieved and bumpered earphone. The suggested street price will likely fall to around 139$, making this a perfect earphone for the active audiophile.
Earsonics, a French producer of professional earphones, have broken into TMA with their SM2 DLX, a dual balanced armature professional in-ear stage monitor which is priced at 280 € in France, or 268€ outside the country . It both feels and performs worthy of its asking price and comes in your choice of the following three attires: black, crystal (clear), and white. Like the UM3X from Westone, Earsonics’ top-tier universal iem has been constructed to exacting standards and utilises the same cable type: a durable, non-microphonic twisted strand design which is a benchmark for cable quality. Also, like its American competitor, the SM2 is plagued by a dearth of accessories.
In what is now absorbed in a flurry of sonic bliss and strange musical poses, yesterday, was a simple cardboard box. Yes, that is right, Felix received the Westone ES3X custom monitor and has been ordered to spend his days listening with renewed vigour (something he wasn’t about to cheat on anyway) to the customs until he can pump out a fitting review. He will be comparing Westone’s top of the range model to that of Jerry Harvey‘s similarly priced 10X3, another triple driver custom with a passive crossover network.
The two American headphones companies’ websites are below.
Audio Line Out (ALO), based in Oregon, USA, are masters of audio art. Their cables and line-out docks are among the best-built in the industry. Ken, ALO’s head, is always busy with some new project and this time, he is targeting the budding iPhone audiophile market with a top-secret new headphone amplifier – an amp whose spy-shots fell into my hands and whose final product will come to TMA for review! Following the break are a few details about the project.
My experience with wooden headphones began five years ago with Audio Technica’s Sovereign W1000, a beautiful lively headphone whose smoothness belies its price. Since then, there have been a few: Darth Beyers and Audio Technica’s ES9, but few companies have gone the extra step of pairing down their beautiful creations to the tiny real estate of an earphone or earbud. Mingo, home of a famous headphone shop in Hong Kong number among that handful. The WM-2 which comes in two flavours: bass (silver) and vocal (gold), is created from Longan wood and is an excellent-sounding debut model from the company.
Jays from Sweden joined the earphone market in 2006 with the balanced armature earphone, d-Jays. Since then, their engineers have been busy creating new technology and designs for their products. Later, they introduced the dynamic driver, j-Jays and the dual balanced armature, q-Jays that we tested in May 2009. Today, we have the s-Jays, an earphone that uses a new technology dubbed, ‘siren’, which refers to armature drivers which work similarly to moving coil drivers (dynamic). The drivers are designed to maximize low frequency performance and allow for high volume output without distortion. Jays has taken this technology and put it in their s-Jay, for the reasonable sum of $89.99.
The Beats Tour, Monster’s second foray into quality mid-priced inner earphones, is a departure in sound, design and construction from their first, the Turbine; a product which is backed and co-produced by American hip-hop artist, Dr. Dre. At 150$, the Beats Tour tips the scale toward the more expensive side of portable earphones, but in many areas, stands tall even amidst stiff competition. However, at around the same price, the Tour’s closest competition comes from the Monster Turbine.
The University of New South Wales in Sydney have come up with a very general, yet good test of your ears’ own equaliser settings. Essentially, it proves that while you can hear 30Hz – 16 KHz, you may find certain frequencies much louder than others. This test (link after break) should be taken in an absolutely quiet environment with the best headphones or earphones you own. However, most headphones, loudspeakers, et al., impose their own frequency responses upon your hearing. This test has not been formatted for your source or your headphones, so it can remain only a general indication.