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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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I finally checked out this new “You Tube” thing that my friends tell me their grandkids are watching for 16 hours a day. You know what’s weird about it? It looks like everyone on Earth is now a headphone reviewer! Why they’d want to do that, I can’t figure, but what I am pretty sure about is that every headphone reviewer has already reviewed the Sivga P-II planar-magnetic headphones. So by that logic, I would appear to be the last person on Earth to hear these. But even this late in the game, I think I still might have something to offer, because it doesn’t look like these handsome headphones have ever been treated to a full set of measurements with gen-u-wine laboratory-grade test gear. In fact, if you don’t want to read the opinions of the last person on Earth to weigh in on these ’phones, hit the link right above this paragraph to check out the measurements.

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When I lost my Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones a while back, I faced a conundrum. I’d switched to using AKG K371s for mixing and monitoring my music recordings, but I still needed something visiting musicians could wear when laying down tracks. I just wanted a good, cheap set of studio headphones, but professional reviews of cheap headphones are few and far between. The AKG K72s looked like they might be a safe bet: established brand with a strong rep for studio gear, rave reviews on retailer websites, apparently decent build quality, and $49 on AKG’s site—or just $38.95 on Amazon.

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Reviewers' ChoiceI’m actually not interested in the Life Q35 headphones for the reasons Soundcore wants me to be. They want me to get all excited because the Life Q35 headphones feature Sony’s LDAC codec, which in its highest-quality mode transmits data at 990 kilobits per second (kbps). That’s about three times the maximum that the standard SBC Bluetooth codec can achieve, and pretty close to the 1411kbps data rate of uncompressed 16-bit/44.1kHz audio.

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I’m reluctant to review any headphones more than a few months past their launch, because I worry that readers won’t be interested—and that all the search traffic for those headphones will go to sites that got their reviews posted earlier. Technically, I’m not making an exception with the DALI IO-4s, because the company recently introduced the IO-4 and the IO-6 headphones in two new colors: Army Green and Chalk White, in addition to the existing Iron Black and Caramel White. I liked the IO-6es so much when I reviewed them last year, but sadly, I got only a few weeks with them. The new colorways gave me an excuse to check out the company’s line again; the IO-4 ($399 USD) is basically the same model, except that the IO-6 ($499) adds noise canceling.

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Reviewers' ChoiceThe HiFiMan HE400se headphones are a classic example of product development. Last year, HiFiMan introduced a new, more mainstream, less artisanal industrial design with the Deva headphones . . . and I loved them not only because they had a great design, but because they had a fuller sound than the dozen or so HiFiMan models I’ve previously tested. Now HiFiMan combined the headband of the Devas with the cup design of the company’s 400-series headphones to create the HE400se headphones—a “parts bin” model that costs just $149 USD.

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Brent Butterworth 15 hours ago When Is the Amp Important?
@RyanThanks! Give the SoundStage editors 100% of the credit for the integrity and courage. I ...
Ryan 16 hours ago When Is the Amp Important?
Really appreciate your integrity and courage to write this, as this (accurate) message is counter ...
@Brent Butterworth
I looked at the overlaid curves in the graph that you attached. The Edifier S3 ...
@Brent Butterworthhey thanks, will be out on Dec 10?
Brent Butterworth 2 days ago When Is the Amp Important?
@gzostDescribing these things as "solved problems" is right on target.
gzost 3 days ago When Is the Amp Important?
Clearly stating that DACs and amps are a solved problem and that cables do not ...
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Can you compare with the Oppo PM-3s and THX Pandas?


I realize you may not have ...
Brent Butterworth 9 days ago Focal Utopia Headphones
@Bill SizerIt's not out of the question. But unfortunately, DCA usually arranges for about five reviews ...
Bill Sizer 13 days ago Focal Utopia Headphones
Nice, thorough review...much appreciated! Speaking of top-tier headphones, any chance you guys will be able ...