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Reviewers' ChoiceSo much attention in the audiophile headphone biz is devoted to relatively young companies, such as Audeze, Dan Clark Audio, and HiFiMan, that we tend to overlook the three German brands -- AKG, Beyerdynamic, and Sennheiser -- that were making good headphones before the founders of the aforenamed upstarts were even born. In fact, I’ve still never spent quality time with some of the high-end models from that classic Teutonic trio. That’s why I was excited to hear Beyerdynamic was releasing third-generation versions of its T1 open-back and T5 closed-back headphones. Finally, I’d get a chance to listen to them for more than a minute. I requested samples of both, flipped a coin to see which one goes first, and here we are with the new T5 headphones ($999 USD).

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Reviewers' ChoiceI’m less demanding than Winston Churchill, at least when it comes to headphone amps. Churchill is often quoted as saying, “My tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best” -- but with headphone amps, I don’t even need the “best.” I just want one that’s powerful enough to drive the notoriously insensitive HiFiMan HE6se headphones, and that has balanced output, because a lot of headphones I get in for review offer a balanced connection. And I want it to be affordably priced, which shouldn’t be too tough considering that even very demanding headphones need only about 1W of power. The new Schiit Magnius ($199 USD) seems like it was made according to my specifications.

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If you’d have told me (or anybody else) ten years ago that 2020 would see so many companies selling headphones for more than $1000, I’d have said you were crazy. But off the top of my head, I can name a dozen brands, and that’s not even getting into earphones. With such a surprising number of competitors, it’s becoming more difficult to create headphones that are truly distinctive. But with the HEDDphone headphones ($2499 USD), HEDD Audio has indisputably come up with something no one else has.

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With all the talk about the Harman curve and how it’s improving headphone and earphone design, it’s easy to forget that a lot of headphone designers were getting things right a long time ago. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones, which became ubiquitous in audio and video production after their introduction in 1991, are still winning comparison tests of affordable headphones. I have a set of decades-old AKG K240s, given to me by vintage audio guru Gordon Sauck of Innovative Audio, that to this day sound really good. The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros go back about as far as the MDR-7506es; I’d used them in radio and recording studios, and always liked them -- but I never reviewed them. So in my probably never-ending quest to find the perfect recording headphones, I thought I’d test the DT 770 Studios ($199.99, all prices USD), which are said to be the same as the Pros but for the name.

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Reviewers' ChoiceWith this review, I’m violating one of my long-established rules: never review a product after a lot of other people have. I figure, with so many opinions already out there, who’ll care about mine? And how will anyone even find my review with so many others grabbing the top spaces of their Google search? That’s why I never reviewed the Utopia, Focal’s top-of-the-line headphone model that debuted in spring of 2016 -- I didn’t submit my sample request early enough, and by the time Focal had a set to send, there were already at least a dozen reviews posted. But when Focal sent me a pair of Utopias to use to test the Arche DAC-headphone amplifier, and SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider suggested I take this chance to do a formal review of the Utopias, I didn’t hesitate.

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Lutefisk, Dua Lipa, AIAIAI: three foreign entities I’ve been dimly aware of yet never really taken the chance to check out. Dusty shelves of my memory hold vague recollections of AIAIAI headphones encountered in various European places -- perhaps at the IFA show in Berlin, or in the electronics stores of Munich or Prague, or worn by passengers on the London Underground, or featured in the pages of What Hi-Fi? magazine. I was curious about them, mostly because of the cool name (pronounced “aye-yi-yi”), but the Danish brand’s negligible presence in North America discouraged me. Then out of the blue, I got an e-mail from the brand’s PR rep, which suggested my home continent was at least on AIAIAI’s battle maps, so I immediately asked for a set I could listen to.

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Latest Comments

Brent Butterworth 6 days ago Beyerdynamic T5 (3rd Generation) Headphones
@Joel LeeGood question. According to Beyerdynamic:
1) Both plates on the earcup look entirely different
2) The new ...
1 image(s)
How do you know you have the 3rd Edition if the cups only say T5?

Joel ...
Brent Butterworth 20 days ago Where Are We At With The Harman Curve?
@SianaIt's absolutely possible to do that. It's called measuring in phons, which is a unit ...
But when I’m in a car and it’s pretty quiet I don’t experience eardrum suck. ...
This is a super-geeky article! Loved it!