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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.

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Reviewers' ChoiceThe 64 Audio U6t earphones really put today’s high-end audio scene in perspective—the company bills them as a “cost-effective” option, yet they’re priced at $1299 (all prices USD). Granted, these are complex earphones, with six balanced-armature drivers per earpiece, set into machined-aluminum chassis, but still, most people would be amazed if you told them you spent $1300 on earphones.

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I have long admired Bowers & Wilkins’ enthusiastic embrace of the new. The company is one of the best-known in high-end audio, and could easily keep its focus on ultra-expensive speakers. Instead, the company has usually been quick to embrace the latest trends—it was among the first to build such items as THX-certified home-theater systems, high-quality in-wall speakers, and iPod speaker docks. And in a field where innovation often inspires derision rather than praise, embracing the new takes a lot of guts. So while I’m a little surprised that Bowers & Wilkins is just now launching the P17 and P15 ($399 and $249 USD, respectively), its first true wireless earphones, about six years after the type debuted, I’d guess the company didn’t think the technology was ready yet.

Latest Comments

Brent Butterworth 13 hours ago When Is the Amp Important?
@RyanThanks! Give the SoundStage editors 100% of the credit for the integrity and courage. I ...
Ryan 14 hours ago When Is the Amp Important?
Really appreciate your integrity and courage to write this, as this (accurate) message is counter ...
@Brent Butterworth
I looked at the overlaid curves in the graph that you attached. The Edifier S3 ...
@Brent Butterworthhey thanks, will be out on Dec 10?
Brent Butterworth 2 days ago When Is the Amp Important?
@gzostDescribing these things as "solved problems" is right on target.
gzost 3 days ago When Is the Amp Important?
Clearly stating that DACs and amps are a solved problem and that cables do not ...
Brent Butterworth 3 days ago Edifier Stax Spirit S3 Bluetooth Headphones
@Joe Werner I haven't heard the Oppos in years, and the THX Pandas I sent to another ...
Can you compare with the Oppo PM-3s and THX Pandas?


I realize you may not have ...
Brent Butterworth 9 days ago Focal Utopia Headphones
@Bill SizerIt's not out of the question. But unfortunately, DCA usually arranges for about five reviews ...
Bill Sizer 13 days ago Focal Utopia Headphones
Nice, thorough review...much appreciated! Speaking of top-tier headphones, any chance you guys will be able ...