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Why are the Evos the first Etymotic earphones I’ve ever reviewed on SoundStage! Solo? After all, the company practically invented the in-ear monitor, and was the first to use balanced armature drivers in consumer earphones. But I still remember the first time I tried Etymotics, way back in the early 1990s, and while the highs did sound clean, I was put off by the lack of bass response, which as a musician I know is not realistic. I respected the brand, but only because it was respected by people I respected.

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Reviewers' ChoiceThere’s only one inherent reason why true wireless earphones struggle to sound as good as high-end passive earphones. It’s because most high-end passive earphones use a cable-over-ear design that fits snugly and seals tightly in the ears, as exemplified by numerous models from Shure, JH Audio, 64 Audio, Westone, and other companies. I expect it would be quite a design challenge to squeeze the circuitry and batteries needed for true wireless operation into such a design, but for the Aonic 215 Gen 2 earphones, Shure came up with an alternative: packing the electronics into a separate module that snaps onto each earphone and sits behind the ear.

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Reviewers' ChoiceWhy did I get so excited when I heard 64 Audio was introducing the Duo earphones? Because they’re one of only a very small number of open-back earphones. I have a long history of disagreeing with many of the principles commonly espoused by audio enthusiasts, but when it comes to open-back headphones, enthusiasts are absolutely right: open-back models simply sound better. They have a more spacious sound, and because the driver’s back wave isn’t captured by a resonant enclosure, they have a negligible amount of bass resonance—and thus flatter, more natural-sounding bass. I guess I shouldn’t generalize, but I can’t think of many exceptions to this rule.

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Unless manufacturers tell me otherwise, I assume that all the headphones and earphones I review are intended for mainstream listeners and/or audiophiles. Not the Campfire Audio Honeydew earphones, though. They’re marketed as being an “excellent choice for drummers, bassists, DJs, and electronic beat makers.” Their webpage says they have “a reference level bass response that is fast and detailed.”

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Reviewing the Campfire Audio Satsuma earphones—essentially a new version of the beloved Campfire Comets—gives me a great chance to indulge in a more technical discussion of balanced armatures. Like the Comets, the Satsumas ($199, all prices USD) are basic passive earphones with a single balanced-armature driver per earpiece. Although balanced armatures are sometimes considered to be a magic prescription for high-end sound, it’s much more complicated than that, as I found in my recent interview with engineers from Knowles Electronics.

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Sometimes we can judge headphones by their brand name. I kind of know what to expect from HiFiMan and Focal, for example. But what should we expect from Sony? The company has created some of the world’s most respected headphones, but it has also created some of the world’s least respected headphones. When I encountered the WF-1000XM4 earphones ($279.99, all prices USD), I figured the noise canceling would be pretty solid—Sony and Bose have been the leaders there for years—but I had no idea what they might sound like.

Latest Comments

Ragav 2 days ago HiFiMan HE400se Headphones
Hi Brent! How is the build quality on the HE400SE? Lots of people complaining about ...
It’s an interesting topic. That’s good that someone has tried to technically define it. 

I have ...
Brent Butterworth 3 days ago Eardrum Suck: The Mystery Solved!
@BrianI apologize, this one escaped my notice. Yes, with the Bose, the eardrum suck only ...
Brent Butterworth 4 days ago Shure Aonic 215 Gen 2 True Wireless Earphones
@MauroThe TW2 is what comes with the Aonic 215 Gen 2. I can't say anything ...
@Brent ButterworthThanks for confirming. 
In the meanwhile I found this on Head-Fi: “only the TW2 allows for ...
Brent Butterworth 5 days ago Shure Aonic 215 Gen 2 True Wireless Earphones
@MauroHi, Mauro. Just had a chance to try this, and the EQ did work with ...
Hi Brent,
Interesting product and review!
A question about EQ. I read a user review and also ...
@QtaxIs it permanent pressure on your ears even when you take the headphones off?

Brent Butterworth 10 days ago Shure Aonic 215 Gen 2 True Wireless Earphones
@GuestThanks! And thank you so much for the tip on the adapters. Just ordered a ...