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Reviewers' ChoiceI’m gonna guess that as an audio enthusiast, you’re not that familiar with Edifier. Although the company makes the best under-$500/pair powered speaker I’ve ever tested or measured—the S1000MKII—it’s never really targeted audiophiles. But the new Stax Spirit S3 Bluetooth headphones seem tailor-made for SoundStage! Solo readers.

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When the pandemic hit two years ago, I took even greater joy in walking my dog, because it was one of my few chances to get outside—and I enjoyed the walks even more when I had some good headphones or earphones to listen to. So the HiFiMan Devas—excellent planar-magnetic headphones with a snap-on Bluetooth adapter—came along at just the right time. I thought the Devas were almost perfect, especially at $299 (all prices USD). Now HiFiMan has an updated version, dubbed the Deva Pro, that appears to be almost the same except for the color, the inclusion of a different Bluetooth dongle, and the price—which is $30 higher.

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The Rolling Stones occupy but a few square centimeters of my vast musical landscape. I’m merely using the launch of the Crossfade 2 Wireless Rolling Stones Tattoo You headphones ($279.99, all prices USD) as an excuse to give a fresh listen to some V-Moda headphones, which I haven’t reviewed since before the company was sold to Roland in 2016. The company was started in the early days of the headphone boom by DJ Val Kolton. Its headphones built a strong rep among enthusiasts for sound quality, and among the stylish set for their cool looks and customizable cover plates. But when Roland bought the brand, it kind of shifted more into the pro audio realm, which I cover only sporadically.

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Sometimes I wish HiFiMan wasn’t such an efficient, well-run business. I can’t think of any brand that cranks out so many new models each year. Most are variants of a previous design. The company might update an existing frame with an improved driver, as it did with the new Arya Stealth Magnet Version headphones ($1599, all prices USD) reviewed here. Or it might cost-reduce an existing design so it can sell for less. Or it might introduce a Bluetooth version. It’s great that the company keeps offering new and improved (or new and cheaper) models, but for a reviewer like me, the pace tough to keep up with—and any model I review this year is likely to emerge in an updated form within about 18 months.

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As I look back on my dozen or so years of reviewing headphones, the 2012 entry of PSB Speakers into the headphone market marks one of the most important new products I’ve tested. When PSB founder Paul Barton designed his first set of headphones, the M4U 2s, he applied much of the knowledge he’d gained in decades of work measuring and designing his speakers at Canada’s National Research Council in Ottawa (where the speaker measurements SoundStage! publishes are performed). The result was a set of headphones that sounded a lot like hearing real speakers in a good listening room. But it’s been a while since PSB introduced a new headphone model. I was starting to wonder if PSB, like so many other speaker companies, had bailed out of the headphone biz—but now along come the M4U 8 MKII Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones.

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I think I know why there’s so much emphasis on closed-back audiophile headphones now. A couple of years ago, they were few and far between, but now they’re becoming almost as common as open-back audiophile headphones. My guess? The COVID-19 pandemic, and the increase in the amount of time families spend together, left people wanting some personal sonic space where others couldn’t annoy them without putting some effort into it. So I wasn’t too surprised to hear, after I’d reviewed the Monoprice Monolith M1570 open-back headphones, that the company also has a closed-back model, the M1570C (both $599.99, all prices USD).

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 ...