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The Master & Dynamic MH40s bring me back to 2014—a very different era in headphone history. Beats by Dre was at the zenith of its popularity, and it seemed every new brand sought to copy Beats’ original formula of fashion-forward looks and bass-heavy sound. So when I saw the retro/steampunk design of the first Master & Dynamic headphones, I assumed they would suck. But they turned out to be among the best in their price range at the time. I feel remiss in never having reviewed the brand’s more recent products for SoundStage! Solo, but better late than never.

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It seems like a new—or at least unfamiliar to me—headphone brand pops up daily in my Facebook feed. A lot of them pitch me headphones to review, but most of those are cheap, true wireless models or $50-ish, plasticky over-ears with lame noise canceling. But when I got an e-mail from Calyx—a brand I’d never dealt with, known primarily for portable music players, amps, and DACs—I was delighted to find they were pushing the Calyx H, a set of on-ear, passive headphones for $250 (all prices in USD). Seeing that the product was targeted at audio enthusiasts rather than bottom-feeding Amazon shoppers, I immediately agreed to a review, having not the vaguest idea of what I was about to hear.

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A few months ago, Beyerdynamic released third-generation models of its classic T-series headphones: the open-back T1 and the closed-back T5 (both $999 USD). I literally flipped a coin to decide which to review first, and the T5s won. To say I was impressed with the T5s would be like saying François Moutin is a good bass player. (More about him later.) I used to dislike high-end, closed-back headphones in general because too many of them had a boomy resonance that muddied the bass, but I’m finding that some of the most recent ones to cross my test bench—such as the T5 and the Dan Clark Æon RT Closed headphones—have been fully up to the performance of comparable open-back models. So let’s see if the T1s meet the T5s’ high standard.

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I bet most North American headphone enthusiasts would be shocked if they saw the Ultrasone booth at the High End show in Munich, Germany. Both times I’ve attended, Ultrasone had the biggest booth of any headphone manufacturer — yet while the brand is huge in Europe, it’s barely known in North America. So Ultrasone is usually off my radar, but when I saw the Performance 880 headphones ($499.99, all prices USD), and the snap-on Sirius Bluetooth adapter ($169.99), I immediately wanted to check them out. With headphone jacks rapidly vanishing from smartphones, the idea of an audiophile-grade headphone with Bluetooth capability is increasingly appealing.

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I found the Dan Clark Audio Æon Flow 2 Closed headphones pretty thrilling when I reviewed them earlier this year, and I thought they were a good deal at $899.99 (all prices USD). So imagine my surprise when the company came out with a new model only a few months later that looks the same but is priced at just $499.99: the Æon RT Closed. Clark took the original Æon (pre-Æon 2) open- and closed-back designs and retuned them for a different sonic vibe, thus saving a lot of money on R&D costs while reaching a different kind of listener. So this decision makes economic sense, but does it make musical sense? We’ll find out . . .

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I got my first set of Philips headphones in 1998, I think -- compact, noise-canceling on-ears for which my dear departed friend Ken Furst had been the product manager. Although Philips wasn’t a big name in the headphone biz back then, the headphones sounded good and the noise-canceling worked reasonably well. Twenty-two years later, Philips still isn’t a big name in the headphone biz, at least in the US, and I sure don’t know why, because I’ve liked a lot of their headphones. So when I found out about the new Fidelio X3 headphones ($349.99 USD), I couldn’t resist giving them a spin.

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