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I’d say that over the last ten years, there’s been more innovation in headphones and earphones than in any other segment of audio—and there’s a lot more coming. With the “wearables” and “hearables” trends, audio companies and tech companies are exploring new form factors, hearing-enhancement capabilities, and other new features that can turn headphones into a substantially different experience than what we’re used to. Considering that SoundStage! Solo focuses on products targeted at audiophiles, I generally don’t review these types of products here—but I decided to make an exception when I heard the Soundcore Frames.

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My first “real” job was writing ads for a Dallas agency that handled Wilsonart decorative laminates. Wilsonart was number one in market share, yet they made it a rule never to innovate. They’d let competitors like Formica and DuPont come up with new ideas and build public awareness for them, then Wilsonart would launch something similar and out-distribute the other companies. Monoprice follows a similar plan with its headphones—a year or two after an innovative headphone technology comes out, Monoprice jumps in with a similar product at a lower price. The Monolith AMT headphones are the latest example.

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There are all sorts of paths into the audio products biz, but one of the most tried and true is to start as a dealer. That’s what happened with the new Caspian headphones, which are sold by Apos Audio, an online retailer specializing in headphones and related gear. Although Apos has been offering its own line of cables for some time, the Caspians ($499, all prices USD) are the company’s first attempt at making a complex audio product.

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I’ve become addicted to the Your Morning Coffee podcast, where two music industry vets examine current trends in their field. The key message they stress is that artists and labels have to re-evaluate their business practices continually. Headphone brands face the same challenge now, and for the same reason—the creator community is growing rapidly, new outlets are emerging every month, and the old ways of doing things are evolving or dying. The DT 900 Pro X headphones are part of Beyerdynamic’s answer to this challenge.

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Anyone who’s been writing about technology for a couple of decades probably greeted the recent announcement that Philips is re-entering the North American market with “Again?” But while the brand’s interest in selling things like speakers and TVs in the US seems to ebb and flow, I can’t remember a time, at least since the late 1990s, when it didn’t sell headphones in the US. The Fidelio L3 headphones ($349.99, all prices in USD) might get a little lost amid the company’s numerous new SKUs in soundbars, wireless speakers, and headphones, but given my positive experience with the passive, open-back Fidelio X3 headphones, I wanted to give them a spin.

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“So what happened to AKG?” I asked when I visited Harman International’s booth at CES, shortly after Samsung bought Harman, AKG’s parent company. The guy I was talking with went off to ask another guy, who went off to ask another guy, and I never really got an answer. AKG, of course, continues in a different location under different leadership. But in a way, Austrian Audio is what happened to AKG. When AKG’s Austrian headquarters closed after the acquisition, 22 of its former employees founded Austrian Audio, where they’ve gone on to specialize in microphones and professional headphones—such as the Hi-X65s.

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Brent Butterworth 19 hours ago Are There Valid Objections to the Harman Curve?
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@JonI feel exactly the same way. IMO, job #1 for reviewers should be to weed ...
Thanks for hosting a rare civil discussion of a topic that seems to generate heat ...
@Brent ButterworthThanks again for your reply. When I was in charge of my church's live audio, ...
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@Brent ButterworthHave you seen some of the newer DSP tech used in some understated headphones like ...
@Napier LopezGreat explanation. It's hard to get audio enthusiasts past this idea that sound needs to ...
@Napier LopezThanks! Great to hear from you.
Great piece Brent! Really captured a lot of my thoughts on the topic with a ...
@z mitchellYou are correct, that the Harman curve is a measure of consumer preference, but that ...