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Reviewers' ChoiceI signed on to review the JVC HA-FW01 earphones ($329.95 USD) because one of the many ideas about audio that I’m working hard to disprove, dispel, and sometimes even deride, is the absurd obsession with driver materials in headphones and speakers. Pick a driver material, and I can almost certainly cite examples of good- and bad-sounding products using that material. Or as Voice Coil editor and Loudspeaker Design Cookbook author Vance Dickason told me, “I certainly have my favorites, but given any decent set of drivers, I can make you a good speaker with them.”

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I tend to love headphones with planar-magnetic drivers. And I tend to love hybrid earphones using a couple of different types of drivers. So when I saw the oBravo ERIB-2a hybrid earphones ($899 USD) at CES a few years ago -- combining a planar-magnetic driver and a dynamic driver in a single earpiece -- I thought it might be love at first listen. Sadly, I never saw them again. But the new oBravo Cupid earphones ($179) seem like a miraculous rebirth of the ERIB-2a earphones -- the same concept, but at a price most listeners can afford.

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Atlantic Technology’s just about the last audio brand name I’d have expected to see on a set of earphones, even ones as complex as the FS-HAL1s. I first encountered Atlantic Technology when the company and I were both just getting started, at my first CES in 1990. It built a solid reputation in the ’90s and ’00s as a pioneer in home-theater sound. Now under new ownership, the company’s branching out into products designed for the listening preferences of the early ’20s -- including headphones and earphones.

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Reviewers' ChoiceLike most high-end earphones, the Meze Audio Rai Pentas ($1099 USD) use multiple drivers -- but multiple drivers aren’t a simple prescription for great sound. With speakers, a complex electrical crossover circuit is typically used to optimize each driver’s performance. While some multi-driver earphones do include simple electrical crossovers, most of the tuning is done using acoustical chambers -- a method that typically requires much lengthier trial-and-error sessions than simple crossover tuning.

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According to market research firm Futuresource, true wireless earphones already account for 30 percent of earphone sales by volume and more than 60 percent in dollars, and by 2023 they’re expected to account for more than half of all total headphone retail revenue. But almost all of them are rather plain when it comes to acoustics -- usually just a single dynamic driver per earpiece. The Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro earphones ($149.99 USD) use a unique driver arrangement to break out of the functional but uninspired engineering common to the category.

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Reviewers' ChoiceWhen I first saw the EarFun Frees, I thought they might be the answer to a question I’ve had for a couple of years now: When will someone make good, cheap true wireless earphones? Once you’ve tried true wireless earphones that fit well and work reliably, you’ll probably want a set. Even if you’re a hardcore audiophile who listens through $3000 headphones powered by a tube amp, true wireless earphones are an irresistibly convenient choice for day-to-day activities, such as walking the dog or cleaning the house. But for such casual use, do you really want to spend $200 or $300?

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