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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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Reviewers' ChoiceI guess we’re on the second wave of high-end headphone companies from China now. The first wave—kind of the Beatles/Stones/Kinks wave—was led mostly by HiFiMan. The second wave—kind of the Led Zeppelin/Bowie/Sabbath wave—is much larger, and one of the most interesting players is Sivga Audio, which also incorporates the Sendy Audio brand. Its specialty is big, audiophile-oriented, open-back planar-magnetic headphones, and the Peacocks are the brand’s new flagship.

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Reviewers' ChoiceFor the headphone world, the Meze Audio Empyreans—predecessor to the new Meze Elite headphones—were one of the biggest surprises of the last few years. The Empyreans cost about ten times as much as the company’s previous top-of-the-line model. Not only were the Empyreans Meze’s first planar-magnetic headphones; they were the first to use a radical new planar-magnetic technology with separate regions for bass and treble. To the best of my memory (and the limits of my tolerance for reading or watching most headphone reviews), every reviewer loved them.

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Reviewers' ChoiceConsider Focal headphones the opposite of AC/DC albums. AC/DC albums look different but sound the same. Focal headphones look the same but sound different. Sure, the Focal Celestee headphones come in an attractive shade of metallic dark blue, but other than that, I can’t see anything that distinguishes them from the company’s other headphones. So do they sound like the heavenly Utopias? Or more like the good but mid-forward Elegias? Guess we’ll have to find out.

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