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In 2010, Bowers & Wilkins, the iconic British loudspeaker manufacturer, debuted its first headphone model—the P5. Every year since then, B&W has launched a new model, eventually making at least one in every form factor, from the in-ear C5 to the large, over-ear P9 Signature. As the headphone market has evolved, the company has kept pace by going wireless, and adding active noise-canceling technology. Now, in celebration of its first decade of headphone manufacture, Bowers & Wilkins has introduced a special Carbon Edition of its current flagship PX7 Bluetooth active noise-canceling headphones ($399.99 USD).

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Sound: ****1/2
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By far, the biggest potential for improvement in headphone sound comes not from new driver materials, new amplification technology, or tweaking by some grand master of audio, but from digital signal processing, or DSP. DSP can make headphones sound almost any way you want—or adapt the sound of headphones to your specific needs and situation. This is exactly what Yamaha is doing with the YH-E700A headphones ($349.95, all prices USD).

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I’m surprised that Emotiva didn’t get into the headphone business a long time ago, considering it’s in so many other areas of the audio business. But I’m not surprised that the Airmotiv GR1 headphones ($299, all prices USD) represent a somewhat fresh approach, because Emotiva’s always been fairly aggressive about moving into new technologies.

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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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Brent Butterworth 14 hours ago When Is the Amp Important?
@RyanThanks! Give the SoundStage editors 100% of the credit for the integrity and courage. I ...
Ryan 15 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 ...