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Looking at the Sundara Closed-Back headphones takes me back to the earliest days of my audio obsession: reading Stereo Review in my high-school library, ogling the top-of-line Realistic Mach One speakers in the RadioShack catalog, listening to the ample selection of headphones at the Burstein-Applebee store in my local mall, and dreaming of a day when I could afford snazzier gear. The Sundara Closed-Backs aren’t what I’d call retro, but their woody, earthy vibe wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Burstein-Applebee’s headphone display, and any pipe-smoking, Esquire-reading, 1970s suburban-sophisticate dad would have been proud to listen to his Dave Brubeck records on them. I, as a teenager with nothing but a paper route to fund my hobbies, could afford only a plasticky, $17 set of Panasonics. Little did I know I’d someday be reviewing $3000 ’phones.

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I guess the high-end audio companies got sick of Bose and Sony owning the market for noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones. We’ve seen DALI jump in with the IO-6 headphones at $499, Mark Levinson with the N⁰ 5909s at $999, and now Focal with the Bathys headphones at $799 (all prices USD)—substantial price boosts over the $350 or so that Bose and Sony tend to charge. I’ll come right out and say it’s highly unlikely that the high-end guys are going to beat Bose and Sony at noise canceling. But they might beat them on sound quality, although Bose and Sony are no slouches at that, either.

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Reviewers' ChoiceMeze Audio has the weirdest line of headphones. They include affordable stuff priced in the low three figures, but from there, they leap boldly to the $2000 Liric, the $2999 Empyrean, and the $4000 Elite headphones. Yeesh! What’s the audiophile to do if they’re neither as pathetically broke as an audio reviewer nor as absurdly oversupplied with disposable income as an audio manufacturer? Fortunately, Meze now has an answer: the 109 Pro headphones for $799 (all prices USD).

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Reviewers' ChoiceHowdaya buy high-end headphones these days? That might have been an easy question five or ten years ago, but now there are so many brands and so many models and so many options. Open-back or closed-back? Dynamic drivers or planar-magnetic drivers? Standard impedance or high impedance? High sensitivity or low sensitivity? I’ve heard probably every possible combination of these things—and heard them all work. And not work. So what did I think when I saw the Sivga SV023 headphones, a dynamic-driver, open-back design with high sensitivity and high impedance? Nothing. I knew I’d just have to listen to them—and measure them—and hope for the best.

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I can tell we’re deep into the headphone boom because so many hot brands that emerged a decade ago have—well, not necessarily fallen, but certainly ceded the spotlight to others. I can think of a bunch, such as SOL Republic, Skullcandy, Soul Electronics . . . and Phiaton, a brand I remember liking the last time I reviewed one of its products . . . seven years ago. So when I got a PR pitch for the new 900 Legacy, a set of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones, I was eager to see what Phiaton’s been up to—and whether the brand had retained the safe’n’sane, neutral-sounding voicings I remember it for.

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Whether your notions about the Technics brand come from decades-old memories or familiarity with the products the company has made since its 2014 relaunch, you probably think of Technics as a provider of fairly trad gear, such as turntables and stereo components. That’s why reading the webpage for the EAH-A800 headphones came as such a surprise to me. I wouldn’t say the EAH-A800s ($349.99, all prices USD) are the highest-tech headphones I’ve encountered, but they’re way up there—with advanced noise-canceling systems for playback and for phone calls, and one of the most capable control apps I’ve seen.

Latest Comments

Brent Butterworth 2 days ago Focal Utopia Headphones
@Bill SizerIt's not out of the question. But unfortunately, DCA usually arranges for about five reviews ...
Bill Sizer 6 days ago Focal Utopia Headphones
Nice, thorough review...much appreciated! Speaking of top-tier headphones, any chance you guys will be able ...
@a1982They're supposed to be sending me one ... I'll check on it.
Hi can you measure the 2022 utopia? no one had ever published details like csd ...
@JimmyYeah, I created one for Wirecutter that's an average of the noise canceling between 100 ...
Have you thought of a rating system for noise cancellation. Useful like your other scale. ...
@Brent ButterworthFair. Thank you for your time. Appreciative of advice.
Very informative, easy to read article. It's gotten hard to find reviews of any kind ...
@JonathanYou should read those reviews on this site, read some other reviews, and decide. I ...
@Brent ButterworthThose 4. What would you pick for you? I want sound most, but good cancelling. ...