Introduction to Headphone and Earphone Reviews

From the days of the huge, over-the-ear headgear, with the coiled phone cable, that we used with our parents’ home hi-fi, to the latest wireless Bluetooth earbuds, headphones have been with us forever. In fact, without them, the category of “Personal Audio” couldn't properly exist.

In recent years, a spate of technological and material advances has increased both the sound quality one can expect and the available types and sizes of headphones to choose from. From the lowliest cell phone earbuds to reference quality electrostatic headphones, as consumers and audiophiles today, we are spoiled for choice. Closed-backed, open-backed, dynamic drivers, planar magnetic, electrostatic, balanced armature drivers, noise cancelling, Bluetooth, and that's just the tip of the iceberg! We haven't even touched on the available styles and aesthetics of these products we wear as well as listen to.

Typically, of course, the most cutting edge models command higher prices. Truly eye watering sums can be spent by committed souls who want “the best” out there. But we also have seen those same technologies that make the best headphones so special, gradually trickle their way down to genuinely improve the models that reside a little closer to Earth for most of us.

While we don't typically bench test headphones, we do rely on extended critical listening combined with our experience to provide honest feedback that will help you wade through the seemingly endless headphone and earphone choices out there.

Headphone and Earphone Reviews

RBH EP-SB Bluetooth Earbuds Review

The RBH EP-SB is a well-designed wireless earbud featuring both excellent fit and top notch sound quality. The battery life is solid and more than enough for a day of casual listening or long workouts. The internal amp provides plenty of volume, helped in part to the excellent seal provided by the included Comply foam tips.

HiFiMAN HE-400i Planar Magnetic Over-the-Ear Headphones Review

The HiFiMAN HE-400i is an updated version of their entry model HE-400 featuring the new design changes introduced in the terrific HE-560 planar magnetic headphones. Believe it or not, at $499 the HE-400i is an absolute steal in the headphone world. Planar magnetic designs are often tricky, with drivers that require strong housings for the magnets which add extra weight along with needing plenty of wattage to drive. HiFiMAN has successfully solved both of these drawbacks with the HE-400i. They are easy to drive, light, and incredibly comfortable and that's just the icing on the cake. These bring phenomenal tonal quality, clarity, and depth to the music they deliver.

HiFiMAN HE-560 Planar Magnetic Over-the-Ear Headphones Review

The newest planar magnetic headphones from HiFiMAN ushers in a new generation of design. A brand new single-sided driver allows for better imaging and sounds along with significant weight savings. Considerable thought has gone into the ergonomics of the new headphone and that has lead HiFiMAN to create the most comfortable over the ear headphone that I have had the pleasure to wear. Oh and they sound simply brilliant. A great buy in today's bustling headphone market.

OPPO PM-1 Planar Magnetic Over-the-Ear Headphones Review

OPPO, known for their very high quality universal players, including the latest OPPO BDP 105 Blu-ray player, has now ventured into another arena: headphones. Their first model, just released, is the OPPO PM-1, which is an over-the-ear design, using planar magnetic drivers. At a time when everyone seems to be offering headphones and/or earbuds as part of their product portfolio, only a handful really stand out as top notch performers. The PM-1 is destined to join that group. NOTE: INFO ON THE NEW OPPO PM-2 HEADPHONES IS POSTED AT THE END OF THIS REVIEW - APRIL 29, 2014.

NAD HP20 In-Ear Headphones (Earbuds)

The HP20 is a welcome addition to the in-ear (earbud) headphone family from none other than NAD. These little guys pack a lot of punch into a small package and at $169 they cost almost half as much as the $299 NAD HP50 headphones. Like the HP50, the HP20 also takes advantage of the years of research spent at the acoustic labs of Canada's National Research Council. This research is what Paul Barton utilized to create RoomFeel, the concept of making a headphone sound more like listening to a pair of speakers in a room.

NAD HP50 Viso Over-the-Ear Headphones

The NAD HP50 is the latest headphone design from Paul Barton, founder of PSB, a sister company of NAD, and features a new trademarked concept called RoomFeel. RoomFeel attempts to recreate the sound of listening to high-end speakers in a room. Most listening rooms add a low frequency bump to the sound that is often not taken into account when designing headphones. A room gain compensation transfer function was developed to add a +3 dB per octave boost from 200Hz down to 50Hz in order to replicate the fuller, warmer sound of a room. Clearly a lot of time and engineering has gone into the development of these headphones, the only question is, did it pay off? Yes it most certainly did.

RBH EP2 Noise Isolating In-Ear Earphones

RBH Sound is no newcomer to the audio market. They began in 1976 as an OEM manufacturer for companies including McIntosh, JBL, and Parasound. Since then, they have built up their own brand name; one of quality high-performance loudspeakers. Now they have started to produce their own line of earphones. The RBH EP2's, reviewed here, are in-ear earphones.