I spoke with the CEO of Sennheiser about audio, virtual reality and the notion of legacy

Working as a technology journalist is a privilege that allows me to play with hardware that I could never afford to own. Last week, while I was in Montreal for the opening of Sennheiser's new Canadian office, for example, I was able to spend some quality time with the company's crazy $50,000 made-to-order HE 1 headphones. For a guy that reviews audio hardware for a living, it was a ridiculous treat.

There are times that the privilege of doing what I do extends beyond all of the gear that I get to play with. Among the Sennheiser employees, audio nerds like me, and other folks attending the company's opening day bash was Dr. Andreas Sennheiser. Andreas, an electrical engineer by trade, has been co-CEO along with his brother Daniel of their family's 70-year-old audio company for the past five years.

Here in North America, Sennheiser is mostly known for their professional audio products -- microphones and reference headphones for the rich and musically famous, and conference-call hardware for high falootin' boardrooms. In Europe, Asia and Africa, the German company's footprint in consumer audio is massive. They’re one of the oldest names in audiophile-grade headphones and an early, much-respected maker of audio hardware designed to augment virtual and augmented reality experiences.

They make cool shit.

Once the celebration was over and the caterers had absconded with the all of leftovers, Andreas was good enough to spend a few minutes with me, talking about his company, his family and the notion of legacy. Read the rest

This $129 bluetooth headphone adapter sounds better than a $22 one

I have been enjoying Bluewave's GET, a $129 bluetooth receiver, DAC and amp for using 3.5mm jack-style headphones with my IOS and Android devices.

The Bluewave GET beats the pants off my $22 Ribbon, at least when used with my old set of Westones. I love these old in-ear buds and didn't want to lose them. The audio quality when playing music is just light years ahead of even my favorite bluetooth headphone set, the B&O HP5.

The highest end audio protocols these guys offer APT-X variants are not Apple kosher, which is sadly where most of my music lives. Using AAC from my iPhone, and playing the same several songs over the same set of headphones, shows the GET simply pushes a lot more power to the earphones than the Ribbon. Giving them more juice opens them up a lot and everything gets far more detailed. The sound stage widens waaaay the heck up and the sound is simply better across the board. For any time I am earbud listening, the GET wins over the Ribbon hands down.

The GET + Westones are just better sounding headphones than the B&O H5. I like the B&O a lot, but they are less comfortable and do not sound nearly as good. Bluewave is supposed to release an app for the GET that will allow the same EQ-like tuning that the H5's app allows. I do enjoy being able to switch things up between podcasts and music. Battery life on the GET is 2x that of the B&O (10 hrs vs 5.)

My only complaint about the GET is that I find the volume wheel to be jumpy and I hurt my ears when I am not careful. Read the rest

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H5, big bucks for big sound

Bang & Olufsen's H5 Bluetooth, water resistant, in-ear buds are pretty damn great. For $220 they had better be. Read the rest

Headfonia reviews the classic Sennheiser HD650s

Sennheiser's HD650 headphones are legendary. It should be no surprise Headfonia has offered a new review of the old classics.

I finally held them in my hand. I shook with anticipation. As I set up my system, I did notice that the build quality, although certainly a step up from the HD202, wasn’t quite at the level of the K550. It felt slightly more flimsy. As a paranoid measure, I gave the HD650 its own bed of feathers on which it still spends its nights.

As always with Sennheiser, the first time I put these headphones on, the death grip was in full effect, but after a few hours, the clamping force lightened up, and I found them to be very comfortable. My set-up here consisted of a HP laptop running jRiver media Center, a Dacport LX (which I had gotten as a Christmas gift) and a JDSlabs cMoy. I immediately recognized an upgraded HD202 sound signature. The sound has the same dark tonality, but with much more detail (I’ll take it), a more three dimensional sound (I love it), and a much stronger bass impact (YES!!!).

I bought a pair of HD650s worried my HD580s (a similarly revered, earlier version) might some day wear out. I still listen with both, regularly. I've had the HD580s since the 1990s, and have replaced the cable once, and the headband padding, once. The HD650s have never needed a thing. I pair them with a Schiit Lyr/BiFrost set, or a Peachtree Audio Nova. Read the rest

Skullcandy SLYR gaming headset

The headset that came with my Xbox One was chewed by a dog. This Skullcandy SLYR is a fantastic step up! Read the rest

Excellent Bluetooth headphones for kids with volume limit for ear safety

Do you have kids? Here’s my advice – get these headphones by Puro Sound Labs. You won’t regret it. The number one reason to get them is for their volume-limiting ear protection. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “As many as 16 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have reported some hearing loss that could have been caused by loud noise.” And the Hearing Health Foundation says “…the problem is listening to MP3 players through earphones turned all the way up.” These headphones keep the volume below 85 dBA, the safety limit established by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

The headphone cups and cushioning are designed to greatly reduce background noise so that your kids can listen to music and videos without having to turn up the volume to compete with traffic, airplane noise, and other sounds.

The ear safety features are reason enough to buy the headphones, but thier other features are also compelling. They have built-in Bluetooth, so no cord is needed (it comes with a cord in case you want to use the headphones with a non-Bluetooth media player). They will run for 18 hours on a single charge. They are also lightweight and made with attractive materials. They don’t look like a kid product - they are elegant and I like using them, too (though it’s a bit of a stretch to get them around my fat head). The sound quality is excellent, too. They are pre-tuned to sound their best on iOS (you can download an equalizer app to change the sound characteristics). Read the rest

Pesco's favorite headphones

Over at our sponsor Intel's LifeScoop site, I wrote about three of my favorite headphones. My go-to pair these days are the Bowers & Wilkins P3s, pictured here. From my post:

In 1979, Sony introduced the Walkman and changed our relationship to music. The obvious magic of the Walkman — and later MP3 players like the iPod — is that it made it easy to carry your music with you, providing a portable soundtrack for your life. But I think there was another, less obvious, transformation in music-listening spurred by the Walkman and its digital descendants: Suddenly, we all spent a lot more time listening to music through headphones. Sure, most people had a set of those big 70s corded cans sitting by the family stereo. And my dad had an earphone (singular) for his transistor radio to listen to the ballgame. But portable music players — tape, CD, or MP3 — are designed to be used with stereo headphones. And as a result, the listening experience is more immersive, more active, and almost universally delivers newfound appreciation for what you are hearing.

"Listening In: Three Headphones" Read the rest