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Reviewers' ChoiceUnder normal circumstances, I’d have been reluctant to review the Campfire Audio Solaris earphones. Why did I relent? Because I’d had such a positive experience with the company’s Comet earphones, and because company founder Ken Ball’s pitch for the Solarises sounded so proud and impassioned, I didn’t even bother to find out what they were before I agreed to the review.

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“Wired headphones have really tanked for us,” a sales manager for a large and respected headphone maker told me at the recent Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering that Apple took the headphone jacks off new iPhones two years ago -- and that there are countless Bluetooth headphones and earphones now available at affordable prices. Still, cables have their utility, which is why Acoustic Research’s AR-E010 earphones ($249.99 USD) let you change from wireless to wired operation in just a few seconds.

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Fidue is a Chinese company founded by Benny Tan, who, according to the company’s website, has been involved in research and development of headphones and earphones for over two decades. To date, all of the company’s products have been high-end earphones with multiple drivers, including the A83 ($349.99 USD) and the A91 Sirius ($899.99) models. The latest are the A85 Virgo earphones ($299.99).

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True wireless earphones like the PSB M4U TW1 ($149 USD) -- models in which the left and right earpieces communicate wirelessly with each other, and with your phone or tablet -- got hot all of a sudden when Apple launched the AirPods late last year. The true wireless category had already debuted a few months before, with a bunch of mostly clunky and fussy products that left me wondering why anyone would bother with them. But the AirPods showed the world how nice the true wireless concept can be if executed well; analysts expect Apple will sell 25 to 30 million sets of AirPods in 2018.

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Although audiophiles haven’t embraced Bluetooth wireless sound with much gusto, the technology is becoming the norm for mainstream users of headphones and earphones. That’s partly because Apple has omitted headphone jacks from its latest iPhone models, and partly because when people experience the convenience of wireless listening, they usually don’t want to go back to cords. Just one transit ride with the HD 1 Frees, from Sennheiser’s latest Bluetooth line, might be enough to make the average user swear off cumbersome cords forever.

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Reviewers' ChoiceIn many ways, Campfire Audio’s Comet earphones exemplify for me what high-end audio should be. They use custom-designed components and employ innovative materials and manufacturing techniques. They’re made by hand in a hip place: Portland, Oregon. They come with thoughtful extras. They impose no inconveniences or discomforts on the user. And they look cool.

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