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Sound: *******
Value: *******1/2
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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.

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Reviewers' ChoiceTo date, the best science on what headphone frequency response sounds best comes from Harman Research. Although the group presented its original research at the 2012 Audio Engineering Society Convention, it has only recently begun to influence headphones and earphones made by Harman companies, such as AKG and JBL. In fact, the AKG K371s are the first passive headphones that clearly show the influence of the so-called “Harman curve.” Harman International senior fellow Sean Olive, co-author (with Todd Welti) of the 2012 paper, told me the K371s come within about 1dB of the Harman curve -- which, for passive headphones, is quite impressive, given how complicated they are to tune.

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Another great review, Brent! Your writing is always so in-depth yet approachable. I’m a beginner ...
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Many interesting subjects!
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