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Reviewers' ChoiceWith this review, I’m violating one of my long-established rules: never review a product after a lot of other people have. I figure, with so many opinions already out there, who’ll care about mine? And how will anyone even find my review with so many others grabbing the top spaces of their Google search? That’s why I never reviewed the Utopia, Focal’s top-of-the-line headphone model that debuted in spring of 2016 -- I didn’t submit my sample request early enough, and by the time Focal had a set to send, there were already at least a dozen reviews posted. But when Focal sent me a pair of Utopias to use to test the Arche DAC-headphone amplifier, and SoundStage! founder Doug Schneider suggested I take this chance to do a formal review of the Utopias, I didn’t hesitate.

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Sound: *******1/2
Value: ******1/2
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Lutefisk, Dua Lipa, AIAIAI: three foreign entities I’ve been dimly aware of yet never really taken the chance to check out. Dusty shelves of my memory hold vague recollections of AIAIAI headphones encountered in various European places -- perhaps at the IFA show in Berlin, or in the electronics stores of Munich or Prague, or worn by passengers on the London Underground, or featured in the pages of What Hi-Fi? magazine. I was curious about them, mostly because of the cool name (pronounced “aye-yi-yi”), but the Danish brand’s negligible presence in North America discouraged me. Then out of the blue, I got an e-mail from the brand’s PR rep, which suggested my home continent was at least on AIAIAI’s battle maps, so I immediately asked for a set I could listen to.

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Reviewers' ChoiceFor years, I’ve mentioned in reviews the concept of taking open-back audiophile headphones on business trips. It seems like a good idea -- treating yourself to high-fidelity sound while you’re sitting up all night at the Hilton Garden Inn banging out a PowerPoint for your morning meeting -- but honestly, I never thought anyone would actually do it. That is, until I tried the HiFiMan Deva headphones.

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I’ll be honest: sometimes I request products for review for the same reason a lot of people watch auto races -- with the expectation that I might see something crash and burn. Impressed as I was with the Atlantic Technology FS-HAL1 earphones, the announcement of Atlantic’s FS-HR280s -- a dual-driver, over-ear headphone design -- raised a zillion doubts in my mind. Although dual-driver over-ears were common back in the 1970s, every one of the dual-driver models I tried for my 2012 “survey” of vintage headphones was literally worse than any modern headphones I can think of (the JustBeats Solo perhaps excepted). Could a company that got into the headphone biz only a few months ago actually make a dual-driver design work?

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Reviewers' ChoiceI’d kind of sworn off reviewing Monoprice products on SoundStage! Solo for a while, because I’ve reviewed so many lately -- three headphones, one set of earphones, and two headphone amps. It’s been hard to resist because the company just keeps upping the ante, getting into pricier models and embracing advanced technologies at a staggering rate. And when I recently had the chance to hear four new models, and run some quick measurements of them, I found one that I just couldn’t resist reviewing -- the Monoprice Monolith M1570 headphones ($599.99, all prices USD).

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Reviewers' ChoiceOver the last decade, Dan Clark Audio (formerly MrSpeakers) has grown from a company that sold modded Fostex products to one of the most respected names in high-end headphones. But when I interviewed Clark for my March column, I realized I hadn’t reviewed any of his headphones since the Mad Dog Alphas, a Fostex-based model from 2012. I decided to correct that oversight by checking out the Æon Flow 2 Closed headphones ($899.99, all prices USD), a recent model to which an interesting new option has just been added.

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