As more phones are removing headphone jack nowadays, people are starting to go with wireless headphones. However, for some of us that already have a wired headphones that we love, a Bluetooth receiver with more sophisticated DAC and amp section could be a good solution. Audio Technica has been in this market since at least 2014 with their AT-PHA50BT. This product I featured here, is AT-PHA55BT, the successor that released late last year in Japan.
Personally, I like the convenience to disconnect myself from wire between my phone and my headphones, so lately my collection of Bluetooth receiver has been growing. The AT-PHA55BT is one of my favorite and perhaps have the most unique character that separate itself from the rest.
Bluetooth audio has gone a long way and is starting to sound as good as the wired counterpart, especially with high resolution codecs like LDAC and aptX HD. But to be completely free of cable, the true wireless technology is still pretty early. I’m not convinced at this since I had a bad experience with the first generation of Samsung Gear IconX, but with bonafide audio company starting to enter this scene, including Master & Dynamic, Sennheiser and lastly Audio Technica, I’m ready to give it another chance.
Enter the Audio Technica true wireless lineup that was revealed a few months back at IFA, which includes the workout-friendly ATH-SPORT7TW and audiophile-centric ATH-CKR7TW. It is the latter that intrigued me and I have been pretty excited to own one since then. It is finally released last November in Japan and I decided to import one from there.
When Audeze introduced the Sine headphone at CES earlier this year, it has caught my attention since then. The Sine became the entry-level from Audeze highly regarded line up of headphones and is the first on-ear from the company.
Like other Audeze headphone, it uses planar magnetic driver, complete with the Fazor elements and Fluxor magnetic arrays Audeze used in their higher-end line.
Unlike the LCD audiophile-minded design, Sine continues the consumer-friendly approach started from EL-8, with option for Cipher cable that connect to iDevices via Lightning connector. BMW DesignWorks is again behind the design of this nice looking headphone.
I have been using Sine for a couple of months now and I can say that I’m quite impressed by the sounds. Mine is the standard option without the Cipher cable though, so I can’t speak on how the Cipher cable improves on iDevices.
I have heard about Echobox earphone before, but I never paid attention to it. That is, until one day I went to my local headphone store and came across to this earphone physically. Fully named as Echobox Finder X1, I didn’t have big expectation on this small in-ear at first, that is until I tried it myself and went home with one. Since then, the Finder X1 has become my on-the-go cans.
Echobox is a small company that is based in US. They previously run Indiegogo campaign for this earphone along with a Digital Audio Player with Android OS, the Explorer. Both products is very compelling, a small titanium in-ear that built like a tank and an Android DAP with unique wooden housing. I hope I can review the Explorer one day (it’ll be released this month), but here is my review for the Finder X1 earphone.
One way to improve the performance of your beloved headphone or IEM is by getting an upgrade cable, although whether the improvement is noticeable remains debateable. I have never been a cable believer and the thought to upgrade my cable never actually cross my mind. Until recently when I got myself a Radius HP-TWF41 and I genuinely hated the cable that comes with it, which brings me to some valid reasons for getting aftermarket cable: less microphonic, not easy to tangle and easy to skin.
Radius as a company is probably not widely known among audiophiles, unless if you are based or have visited Japan, chance are, you won’t find their products in stores near you. Their history actually started in United States on May 1986 as a subsidiary of Apple. In 1991, the company expanded to Japan. Not long after that, in 1996, the Japanese branch became independent and separated from their United States origin. Since then, the Japanese Radius has been focused on making peripheral for Apple devices and also on home and portable audio market. The United States branch however, changed their name to Digital Origin, allowing the Japanese company to keep the Radius name today. Quite a journey, eh?
The current product lines of Radius consisted of home and portable DAC and amplifier, earphones, the digital audio player software called NePLAYER and some other accessories for Apple and Android devices. What I’m interested in is their audio product of course, in the case of IEM, Radius has covered the market from the bottom into the mid-fi range.
Their highest-end IEM is unique that they have Dual Diaphragm Matrix (DDM) driver, possibly the first that combine dynamic and piezoelectric driver in each side of the IEM. That current lineup consisted of two identical siblings, TWF31 and TWF41. I have used their flagship, TWF41 for a couple of months now, while it’s not trying to compete with the (ridiculous) high-end market for IEM, it’s a quite impressive performer in their price range… and unique.
Craving for some wooden IEM? Then the Wood series from JVC could be a good pair to consider. Released back in 2014, JVC Wood series line consisted of FX650, FX750, FX850 and FX1100 (or FX1200 for international version).
This is my review of FX850, which I acquire earlier this year. Priced below the flagship FX1100/FX1200, FX850 shares many similarities with the flagship sibling, including the unique 11mm “wood dome unit” dynamic driver and detachable cable.
Last year’s Massdrop collaboration with Fostex is a hit among audiophiles, selling all the allocated 1950 units in just a few days. The drop has been successfully run the second time and has now added Purpleheart version to the mix, which has attracted more than 1600 buyer at the time of the writing.
There is a reason why TH-X00 is popular, since it follows the predecessor success, namely the Denon D2000, D5000 and D7000 made by Foster, which later Fostex (Foster consumer brand) succeeded with TH600 and TH900. The Denons has been discontinued, while Fostex TH600 and TH900 is still regarded as one of the best closed headphone today, albeit not for everyone.
I got mine from the first drop last year, while late, here’s my review.
I have never been an audiophile myself, although I love to own a good pair of headphones, I didn’t worry much about my setup. My personal belief is that to upgrade audio quality, a good pair of headphones is a lot more important than anything else. Of course, a good source is important, but I’m also in the camp that couldn’t distinguish a lossless file with a good compressed one (iTunes AAC files for example, is generally good).
But I have always been curious how a separate DAC/AMP could do to improve my setup. Is it worth upgrading over the on-board sound from my setup? So FiiO recently released Q1, an entry-level ($69.99) portable DAC/Amp and I decided to give it a test myself.