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A headphone enthusiast would likely pose a couple of questions when first confronting the Andover Audio PM-50s: Who’s Andover Audio? And what do they know about headphones? To answer the first question, it’s a Boston-area company founded by ex-Cambridge SoundWorks employees. Cambridge SoundWorks was a hyper-innovative speaker company founded in the mid-1980s by the legendary audio pioneer Henry Kloss. (Nowadays it’s a brand applied mostly to inexpensive Bluetooth speakers.) Andover Audio makes only a few products, and they’re rather idiosyncratic -- such as a sound system that slips under a turntable -- and the company continues the classic, quasi-Scandinavian styling of Kloss’s best-loved products.

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From the Meze Empyreans to the AKG K371s, I’ve found a few sets of headphones that inspired no significant complaints from me. But I’ve never found a set of noise-canceling headphones I couldn’t complain about. Either the noise canceling was weak, or they exhibited too much eardrum suck, or they didn’t sound particularly good, or they were too bulky for travel. But there’s always hope! This month, it comes in the form of the Marshall Monitor II A.N.C. headphones ($319.99, all prices USD).

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The Drop + THX Pandas are radically different from any other headphones I’ve ever reviewed. According to Drop, while the company’s worked for five years with numerous brands to create headphones tailored to the desires of Drop’s audiophile community, the Pandas ($399.99 USD) are the first headphones whose design is based entirely on suggestions from the community. So in theory, at least, they represent not some company’s idea of what audiophiles want, but precisely what audiophiles want.

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Reviewers' ChoiceMy e-mail’s easy to find, so I hear from readers often. To my surprise, the most demanding ones are not audiophiles interested in getting the best sound, but business travelers looking for a set of headphones that can keep them happy through a transoceanic flight. They want effective noise canceling, great sound, and comfort that lasts for hours -- and some of them have bought every top-of-the-line noise-canceling model in search of the best. That’s just the customer DALI is targeting with the IO-6 headphones ($499 USD).

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The Monoprice Monolith M570s ($299.99 USD) are, in the world of headphones, what the Steve Carell-starring The Office was in the world of TV: an Americanized version of an unfamiliar foreign thing. The M570s riff on a basic headphone design sold by the relatively obscure Chinese brands Blon and Sendy. They substitute a more familiar brand name, adopt a sleeker look, alter the tuning a bit, and cut the price -- by roughly 33 or 50 percent, respectively.

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When the Audeze LCD-1 headphones debuted a couple of months ago, I was deeply disappointed -- in myself. I’d reviewed the company’s products for years, but never really stopped to ponder why there were LCD-2s, LCD-3s, and LCD-4s, but no LCD-1s. Maybe I assumed it was an early attempt that never came to market. Regardless, the LCD-1s ($399 USD) are here -- but these are radically different headphones from what we’d normally expect of Audeze.

Latest Comments

Brent Butterworth 13 hours ago When Is the Amp Important?
@RyanThanks! Give the SoundStage editors 100% of the credit for the integrity and courage. I ...
Ryan 14 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 ...
Brent Butterworth 3 days ago Edifier Stax Spirit S3 Bluetooth Headphones
@Joe Werner I haven't heard the Oppos in years, and the THX Pandas I sent to another ...
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 ...