Reviews – Sound Guys https://www.soundguys.com Headphones and Bluetooth speaker reviews Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:21:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 https://www.soundguys.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/cropped-android-chrome-192x192-32x32.png Reviews – Sound Guys https://www.soundguys.com 32 32 8CC434 http://charged.io/wp-content/uploads/feed/aa-mascot-192x192.png http://charged.io/wp-content/uploads/feed/aa_icon_feed.svg Plantronics BackBeat 500 Review https://www.soundguys.com/plantronics-backbeat-500-review-15682/ https://www.soundguys.com/plantronics-backbeat-500-review-15682/#respond Wed, 17 Jan 2018 20:21:17 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15682 Quick pairing and solid sound with limited comfort

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Listening to your gut is good, but occasionally misleads us. Apparently, the only thing that my gut is good for is producing excess flora.

Initially, I was put off by the look and feel of the Plantronics BackBeat 500. I was expecting this to be an an easy review. One where I save everyone’s time and say, “Meh, look elsewhere.” After using these during two flights back from CES, it’s apparent that the Plantronics BackBeat 500 bring more than just dessert to the table.

What’s Inside

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

A 3.5mm cable, cloth carrying pouch, and the headphones are included. The bear necessities, the simple bear necessities.

Aside from the headphones, a 3.5 mm cable with reinforced stress relievers, a micro-USB charging cable, and a cloth carrying pouch are included.

Build & Design

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

A plastic exterior cheapens the look and feel of the headphones.

Anodized aluminum rails buttress the headband. The rest of the materials feel cheap. A rubberized control panel material (left ear cup) will transform into a perfectly discolored yellow-white in no time. Choosing a matte over a glossy finish, however, is a wise choice. Fingerprints aren’t visible and scratches are less likely to occur. The included cable is a nice touch. Though the cord itself is a bit meager, the connectors feel hefty.

Ears of all shapes and sizes will rest comfortably against the memory foam ear pads.

At first.

Supra aural designs rarely receive praise for comfort. The BackBeat 500? They too fall short. After rocking these for 30 minutes, the helix becomes a hotbed of pain. Unfortunately, no amount of memory foam padding can assuage the newtons of applied force. The discomfort is hard to look past and if you have glasses, just no.  Thankfully, the headband sits free of pressure points. Plus, the unit is incredibly light. Think the Manny Pacquiao of headphones: featherweight and packs a mean left hook … directly to the ear lobes.

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

The rotating socket feels fragile, a cause for concern regarding durability.

For $80, it may be asking too much for a palatable design. The round ear cups make for an incongruous pairing with the adjoining angled headband. At first, it looks like two designs were Frankensteined together. On the flip side, functionality is great. Basic playback and volume controls wrap on and around the left ear cup. Housed laterally on the right ear cup are the power and callback switches.

The BackBeat 500 can lay flat for a bag. Though, the rotating ear cup  joints are tenuous. Throw these into a crowded backpack with caution. Important to note: The headphones have a sporty look to them, but sporty they are not. Plantronics has stated  that these are not sweat-resistant. In fact, the company advises against using these for any kind of exercise. The FIT model of the BackBeat 500 does include a P2i coating though.

Connectivity

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Bluetooth pairing is excellent and the cable is stronger than it looks.

Here’s where things get good.

Bluetooth 4.1 and MultiConnect make the BackBeat 500 quick to pair. Connection is rarely interrupted and never came to a full-stop while testing. With headphone jacks on the decline, the ability to pair with multiple devices simultaneously has become less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Plantronics uses the typical Bluetooth range up to 10 meters. Though, I did start to experience drops and crackles closer to the seven meter mark.

If the battery conks out, Plantronics provides a backup cable. The cable lacks a mic and remote but does the job of physically linking the headphones to a source device.

Battery

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

On the rubberized left ear cup, users can control playback options.

Plantronics boasts that the BackBeat 500 are able to function for 18 hours before requiring a recharge. These accompanied me, without fail, during two return flights from Las Vegas to Chicago, with an intermediary stop in Phoenix. I was yet to hear a battery life warning after 12 hours of playback.

It would be nice to see more Bluetooth headphones implementing a USB C charging method. But in the case of the BackBeat 500, the cut corner is a logical one given the affordable pricing. Plus, for how light Plantronics has kept the headphones, its stamina is impressive.

Sound Quality

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Memory foam lines the headband and ear cups. Though the material is nice, it doesn’t actually do much for comfort.

Powered by 40mm drivers, the sound is good for $80. There aren’t going to be any socks knocked off by mind-blowing sound quality or bass, but they do everything well. Soundstage is to be expected, enclosed but not claustrophobic.

Lows

Regina Spektor’s “Fidelity” experiences appropriate low reproduction. Vibrations are subtle but tangible. Pre-chorus bass is steady and low. A bit more dimension would have been nice. It occasionally falls flat, especially when drum heads are hit. Things occasionally bleed sloppily into the mids. Fortunately, lows linger just enough, leaving a pleasurable ghostly feeling to carry listeners through the chorus.

Mids

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Mids are paid the least attention in the BackBeat 500 sound signature.

Vocals take a bit of a hit, in favor of the bass and treble. Spektor’s ability to simultaneously convey fragility and strength is lost with the BackBeat 500. During the pre-chorus in “Fidelity,” the vocals fell to the wayside in favor of bass rendition. Even during the chorus, Spektor’s disappointment and heartbreak is drowned out by the lows. A true loss.

The verses experience a redemption of the mids, since the bass doesn’t step in with the same rude strength.

Highs

It’s neck-in-neck, deciding what receives more attention, the highs or lows. After listening to “Fidelity” on repeat for about 30 minutes, it sounds as if the highs are reproduced in a more detailed manner than the lows. The snares are present and quick. Though there are moments when it sounds as if the mic was dressed in doubled up windscreens, they are a pleasure to listen to.

Conclusion

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

Plantronics’ BackBeat 500 pair quickly and are equipped with a lithium polymer battery for 18 hours of playback.

There are shortcomings to the Plantronics BackBeat 500, sure. For me? I don’t expect that I’ll grow to admire, rather than admonish, the aesthetic any time soon. But for the consumer who just wants a pair of Bluetooth headphones for short stints, say a quick train ride, these are a fantastic option at an affordable price. That said, if you plan to watch movies with these, keep looking. I’d recommend the Audio Technica ATH-M40X for a similar price or the Photive BTH3 ANC headphones for half the price.

Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable Plantronics BackBeat 500 headphones Bluetoooth MultiConnect pairing headphone jack portable

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Etymotic Research ER3XR Review https://www.soundguys.com/etymotic-research-er3xr-review-15457/ https://www.soundguys.com/etymotic-research-er3xr-review-15457/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 22:27:28 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15457 A hit or miss pair of in-ears.

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A lot of the headphones that come across our desks tend to be geared towards the average consumer. Someone who might not care so much about pristine sound quality, but just wants an inexpensive pair of headphones that will hold up to everyday wear and tear. And while that’s a giant market that encompasses basically every person with ears, there’s a smaller niche of people that require more from something they’re going to be using every day. To some, headphones are a tool and it’s for those people that Etymotic Research has been making in-ears like the new ER3XR for.

If you work with audio you need something that will tell it to you like it. A good friend that will tell you whether your mixtape is fire or belongs in the trash. Reference headphones are that friend, letting you tweak the sound you’re working with to how you want it. We previously reviewed their ER4SR in-ears and while we enjoyed them, they definitely weren’t cheap. But with the ER3XR in-ears Etymotic Research is hoping to reach for ears with a lower price tag, but can they recreate their accurate frequency response in a less expensive pair of in-ears? And more importantly are they worth it?

What’s Inside

Etymotic ER3XR with flanged tips.

When you open the box the first thing you’ll see is a carrying case. In there you’ll get the headphones along with an extra set of flange ear tips as well as a pair of foam ones, a filter removal tool, and a cable clip for managing the 4-foot audio cable.

Who’s it for?

As you’ll read later in the review, I think these try to do a little bit of everything for everyone. But I also think they fail at achieving that, instead carving out a small niche in a slighter larger niche or the market. You’ll enjoy these if you:

  1. Work with audio for work or for fun, these are going to show you things that other headphones hide. And they’re really good at doing so, especially in the sub-$200 price point.
  2. Are looking for headphones with great sound isolation for the office or for commuting and don’t mind trading a strong bass for better separation between instruments

Build & Design

The Etymotic ER3XR in-ears have a pretty thin audio cable, but solid build overall.

A quality build doesn’t always mean durable. I’m sure if you took these to the gym you’d destroy them, but you’d deserve it anyway because that’s not what these are made for. Now if you’re going to be recording a podcast at home, listening to music on your way to the office, or editing audio at work, these should hold up no problem. The audio cable is thin but it doesn’t feel flimsy or cheap. Plus the points of weakness where you would normally find tears and breaks are reinforced to prevent that from happening.

The Y-split has a metal covering and the 3.5mm connector is reinforced and angled at 90-degrees to prevent fraying. But the best part of the build has to be the earbuds themselves. They’re long, slender, and also made of metal but best of all: they’re removable. Thanks to MMCX connectors you can easily pop them off should you need to replace the cable. They fit snugly in my ears with the tips that come on them fresh out of the box, but if you need help getting them to stay in chances are one of the other options available should get the job done.

The Etymotic ER3XR use MMCX connectors so you can pop off the ‘buds to replace the cable when you need to.

If you’ve never tried a pair of in-ears before I’d recommend giving it a shot before you decide to pick these up because it’s both a blessing and a curse, and that’s true for the Etymotic ER3XR in-ears as well. We’ll start with the good. Because these sit in your ears sound isolation is pretty great. Etymotic Research claims anywhere from 35 dB – 42 dB in noise isolation and while we don’t have the proper equipment to put that to the test (yet) like we do with over-ears, I can say that nothing I’ve heard during testing gives me any doubts that the claim is true. Once you hit play it’s like everything else disappears. Now don’t get it confused, we’re not talking about active noise cancellation here. This is just good ‘ol fashioned isolation by putting a physical object in between your ears and outside noise.

But these aren’t without their downsides. Not everyone is going to like sticking a small piece of metal in their ears. Even I found these to be a little uncomfortable after about 2 hours and had to take them out to let me ears breathe. Then again if you’re going to be mixing audio you probably shouldn’t be going for hours straight anyway since you need to let your ears reset every now and then.

Connection

These are great for use in and out of the studio thanks to a 4 foot cable.

There isn’t much going on with these as far as connection goes. The 90-degree jack ends in a standard 3.5mm cable though I do wish these at least came with a ¼” adapter as some people will probably be plugging into higher end gear to get work done. But at the same time these will work perfectly with your average smartphone as they only have an impedance of 22 Ohms, so you definitely won’t need an amp to drive these. Even with the abysmal dongle included with the iPhone X and Pixel 2XL, I had no problem listening to music.

Sound Quality

Speaking of listening to music, the ER3XR surprised me. I guess I forgot what it felt like to listen to music through a pair of headphones that don’t emphasize too much because it was like a breath of fresh air. I got so used to listening to pushy basslines that I forgot the value of a less intense sound signature. And because these have a little bit of a push to the low end I ended up using these even when I wasn’t working with audio.

The Etymotic ER3XR are in-ears in the truest definition, sitting in the ear canal.

If this is your first foray into the category you’re going to think these are flat as hell, and that’s because they are. The push in the low end that I’m speaking of don’t compare to Beats or V-MODA, but more to Etymotic Research’s previous in-ears that I reviewed. The ER3XR in-ears definitely have a little extra sauce, and I love it. It means I can use these to mix the audio in my videos and then continue using them to listen to music when I walk out the door without missing out on too much.

But it has its pros and cons. The extra push works out for less intense instrumental pieces like “Paperman” by Christophe Beck, but it falls short on heavier bass tracks. It just fails to deliver that low end bump most consumers want, while at the same time failing to be truly accurate which means that these land somewhat in a No man’s land of trying to please everyone. True these have some extra bass, but the treble is also nothing to slouch at. Instruments are easy to distinguish and the stereo separation is very apparent, which helps to create the illusion of space when listening to your music.

But because these try to tell it to you like it is, you’re going to hear flaws in some of your favorite tracks that make them kind of hard to casually listen to. For me this happened in the song “Constellations” by Darwin Deez which is one of my favorite tracks of all time. I never noticed just how loud the claps are during the chorus compared to everything else going on, and it quickly becomes grating and annoying. But that’s what these in-ears are good at: showing you things that other headphones hide.

Conclusion

Etymotic Research is no stranger to quality in-ears, and the ER3XR just expand on their reputation by being a versatile and well-built pair of headphones. They’re easy to recommend for commuters because of the sick sound isolation, yet they’re just as useful in the studio because of the accurate frequency response.

Though they’re not the most accurate or the most pleasing to the ear for most people, I think they found a nice balance between the two worlds. That said, those two worlds might not be for everyone so I feel like these are going to be very hit or miss. You either like them or you don’t, and I do.

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Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO Review https://www.soundguys.com/beyerdynamic-dt-240-pro-review-15474/ https://www.soundguys.com/beyerdynamic-dt-240-pro-review-15474/#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2018 21:30:34 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15474 Flat, yet fun

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Remember that kid in high school who was all elbows and knees but could still out lift you?

Say hello to the Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO. These cans look like on-ears but fit like circumaural ones. Dressed in all black, the headphones keep a low profile. A combination of metal and plastic  keeps the headphones light and comfortable, even with eye wear.

So much for the little black dress. We’re here to discuss the little black headphone.

What’s Inside

Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO headphones cable removable on-ear over-ear comfort audio-technica ATH-m40X studio commuter

The Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO look on-ears but fit like over-ears.

Unboxing the Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO is like opening a door. Straight forward. Mundane.

No-fuss, no-muss means that the listener can immediately enjoy the music. Few accessories are included. The headphones include a 1.25 meter straight-coiled cable that terminates at 3.5mm and 2.5mm, a ¼ inch adapter and svelte cloth carrying pouch.

Build & Design

Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO headphones cable removable on-ear over-ear comfort audio-technica ATH-m40X studio commuter

Metal sliders reinforce the comfortable headband.

The DT 240 PRO are compact. But the padding extends beyond what’s expected. This creates a roomier fit for those with average lobes. Additionally, each ear cup is outfitted with a leatherette ear pad and a 2.5mm audio input. Though the 2.5mm size is inconvenient, at least it’s replaceable. Plus, the ear pads look and feel more natural than alternative synthetic materials. They also fold flat for storage, preserving precious real-estate in one’s bag.

Naturally, excellent build quality is to be expected from a company with nearly 94 years of audio experience. The metal headband and aluminum yokes elevate durability above the competition. (See the Audio-Technica ATH-M line.) Tactile, isolated clicks notify the user of how many notches the headband has been adjusted. Its architecture is so finely tuned that extended listening doesn’t pose a problem. Want more craftsmanship? Confidence-inspiring stress relievers are housed on each end of the cable.

Connectivity

Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO headphones cable removable on-ear over-ear comfort audio-technica ATH-m40X studio commuter

The proprietary cable is thoroughly reinforced an dis unlikely to snap at either end.

As aforementioned, the removable 3.5mm to 2.5mm cable is an odd choice. Its manageable form factor makes moving around while tethered a breeze. If 1.25 meters isn’t enough, it extends up to three meters.

A locking mechanism for the cable would have been a nice detail. However, the physical connection is strong enough that random ejection shouldn’t occur. Cable sizing is proportional to the headset, which prevents a feeling of unwieldiness.

Warning: The DT 240 PRO have a knack for getting caught on things. The cable then catapults back towards the listener, potentially running a b-line to the face.

Sound Quality

Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO headphones cable removable on-ear over-ear comfort audio-technica ATH-m40X studio commuter

The Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO are a great option for consumers looking to get a flat-leaning response out of their headphones.

Generally speaking, the overall sound leaves an impeccable impression on the listener. Those graduating from cheap-o IEMs to the DT 240 PRO will feel the difference. Everything is well-produced and clear . . . until you compare them to the Audio-Technica ATH M-40x. Though this isn’t a comparison review, the M-40X are significantly clearer than the DT 240 PRO. Additionally, the A-T soundstage recreates a more realistic, all-encompassing sound.

Now. Back to the DT 240 PRO.

Lows

Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO headphones cable removable on-ear over-ear comfort audio-technica ATH-m40X studio commuter

The Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO cable (left) has a significantly smaller footprint than the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x cable (left).

Emphasized lows make these great for commuting and daily use. Though a bump and thump is appreciated by many listeners, Beyerdynamic asserts that these thrive in both a studio and casual environment. Two weeks of testing suggest that these are skewed to the consumer ear. Though for audio equipment in the $100 sub-range, the DT 240 PRO have an exceptionally flat response.

Lows

Portugal. the Man’s song “Noise Pollution” experiences an effective reproduction of low frequencies. Slight exaggeration of the lows replicates the song’s disorienting feeling. Responsiveness is swift. And the bass lingers in the mind as a result of the thump.

A wider soundstage would have been appreciated but, as Josh Gourley sings, “c’est la vie.”

Mids

The mids recreate Gourley’s eerie and forward vocals. All the while Mary Winstead’s harmonies remain clear without forsaking detail.

Prior to listening for the midrange frequencies, I was worried that the mids may be overpowered by the lows. This thought was, thankfully, disproved. Winstead’s solo in the latter third of “Noise Pollution” maintains its air of dangerous seduction, a positive consequence of tonal depth.

Highs

A fine counterweight to the bass, the treble steers itself through synthesized highs with fluidity. They successfully avoid the trap of over kneading the highs that lower quality products fall prey to.

There are plenty of synth-created sound bites in “Noise Pollution,” none of which come off as grating, fatiguing or shrill. That said, highs roll off dully on occasion (as in many a Christmas jingle). Overall,  there’s an excellent balance to be heard with the DT 240 PRO.

Conclusion

Beyerdynamic DT 240 PRO headphones cable removable on-ear over-ear comfort audio-technica ATH-m40X studio commuter

Spacious ear cups facilitate painless listening sessions.

From the engineering expertise that went into the aluminum yokes to the well-tuned, flat yet fun drivers, the DT 240 PRO give other studio headsets a run for their money.

But if listeners are looking for studio cans in the $100 range, the ATH-M40x are still the better option for their clarity, soundstage and flat-leaning response. There are also plenty of other similarly priced options available. However, the DT 240 shouldn’t be overlooked. They serve as an exceptional hybrid and are suitable for both casual listening and editing.

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Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80Ohm review https://www.soundguys.com/beyerdynamic-dt-770-studio-80ohm-review-15348/ https://www.soundguys.com/beyerdynamic-dt-770-studio-80ohm-review-15348/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 21:40:08 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15348 Studio and monitoring legends, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80Ohm is a perfect pick for aspiring musicians.

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If you’re a music-lover or budding musician, a set of tough-as-nails headphones is an absolute must. You’re going to be taking your sidekick of choice on all sorts of adventures—not all of them electronics-friendly. Going to college, on tour, or even just hanging out in a studio is murder on plastic over the long haul. That’s why you need to take a look at headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio.

Who are these good for?

Because of their build and sound quality, these headphones are best suited to people who need either (or both) of these two things:

  1. Music creators with a need for a durable, high-quality set of tracking headphones in the recording booth. Something you can trust clients or bandmates not to kill accidentally.
  2. Casual listeners at the computer who need a super-comfortable set of closed-back headphones, or users with glasses.
A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm.

If you want durable headphones, it’s tough to go wrong with the DT 770 Studio.

The reasons for these intended buyers will be made clear soon, but let’s continue, eh?

What’s in the box?

Cracking open the box will reveal the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio headphones, a screw-on 1/4″ adapter, a carrying pouch, and assorted documentation.

Connection

Like the vast majority of wired headphones, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio uses a straight 3.5mm TRS-pin connector. As I mentioned before, there is also threading for a 1/4″ adapter.

A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm in use with a Scarlett 2i2 interface.

When you reach the post-processing stage, a set of headphones like the DT 770 Studio are a good idea to use to understand what most people are going to hear

As you may have already guessed by the title of this review, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80Ω headphones have a resistance of 80Ω. While that doesn’t mean that an amp is absolutely necessary, you may find that your smartphone isn’t always the greatest source for it to use. You may need an amp or sufficiently powerful unit to make the most of these headphones.

Build and design

As far as headphones go, Beyerdynamic’s design language has been ultra-clear for decades now: they want these things to last. To that end, the DT 770 Studio uses a lot of metal in its band and ear cup forks, along with a thick layer of durable hard plastic on the ear cups. The cable is protected by a lot of rubber and plastic, which is perfect for this type of headphone.

A photo of the band of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm.

A thick, removable band allows you to swap out dead parts whenever the fit starts to hurt.

You may notice right away that these headphones use a velour padding, which is exactly the sort of thing that those with glasses prefer to leatherette earpads because it doesn’t squeak or catch when you move your head. It also has the added benefit of not trapping in heat as badly as the aforementioned alternative does. If you’re a sweaty person, you may decide you need to air it out from time to time—but the pads are easily removable for cleaning.

If you’re worried about comfort, there’s no need; these can be used for hours without anything feeling off. If you’re in the middle of laying down some tracks, you’re going to be taking your headphones on and off a bunch, and using them for a really intense stretch of time. The last thing you want is your headphones’ clamping force to take you out of a vocal track or beat.

A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm.

This pair of headphones is built to be studio workhorses.

If you’re not going to be using these at home, you’re going to want to use some zipties or something to rein in that cable, because it’s just under ten feet long. Not ideal for smartphone use. While I would have preferred a removable cable, the DT 770 Studio doesn’t use one, so if the cord snags with too much force, it could break.

I’ve soldered Beyerdynamic cans back together for friends before, but it’s not something most people are willing to do. In that light, these are built more for the home or studio more than they are for a commute. Still, the relative fragility of the cord is something to pay attention to.

A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm in use with a Scarlett 2i2 interface. A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 ohm sitting on a glass skull display. A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio an its long cable. A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm. A photo of the band of the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm.

Sound quality

I’ve heard a really wide range of people putting forth opinions on this set of headphones, and the truth of the matter is that so many divergent articles can’t all be right. That’s because they aren’t. But I can help you out a little more than your average Amazon review can.

First things first, these are not “muddy” headphones, or whatever the hell words people like to use when describing sound they don’t like. You have to power them correctly. If you know that your computer or phone can handle it (say, by using an LG V30 or proper interface), these headphones can handle pretty much anything you throw at them, but you need to know that they’re a very bass-heavy set of cans. This simply means that the emphasis in anything that goes through them tends to favor the lower notes over all else. So while Barry White will sound fantastic, you may notice some higher-pitched male vocals can get lost.

Mids can take a bit of a backseat to the bass (very obvious in instrument-heavy Meat Loaf songs), but a properly-mixed track will preserve vocals and most instrument sounds quite nicely. However, you may notice that songs you mix with these end up with an over-emphasis on mids and weak highs. Leave these in the recording booth or at your computer. While they’re very decent isolators, you’ll get your best results with these indoors.

Highs aren’t bad either, but they definitely bear that Beyerdynamic signature spike in emphasis. You may find that cymbals and other stringed instruments can sometimes leave you with a somewhat shrill ringing, but it’s really not all that common. If a track is properly mixed, you won’t notice this as much, outside of the fact that you can actually hear the cymbal shimmer.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to build out a recording studio or just have a comfortable-as-hell set of computer cans, definitely take a look at the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Studio 80 Ohm. Seriously: they’re purpose-built for this situation, and you’ll be very happy you took the plunge. However, if you’re looking for commuting headphones: you’ll probably be better served by wireless or noise-cancelling headphones.

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Creative Metallix Review https://www.soundguys.com/creative-metallix-review-15455/ https://www.soundguys.com/creative-metallix-review-15455/#respond Mon, 01 Jan 2018 17:11:25 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15455 The Creative Metallix gets the job done

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Creative Labs has their hand in everything. If you want headphones for the gym, they got you covered. If you want a speaker that will fill your living room with sound on your next party, they got you covered there too. But what if you want a speaker that’s more portable? Or let’s be frank, not so expensive. There are plenty of Bluetooth speakers under $50 to choose from, but it’s hard to sift through the garbage in order to find the good ones. But even still every once in a while you stumble upon something good, and the Creative Metallix speaker is one of those unicorns. It might not be the prettiest little gadget, but it gets the job done. And it does it well.

What’s Inside

Creative doesn’t throw too much in the box with the speaker. You’ll get the speaker, some paperwork, the micro USB charging cable, and that’s it.

Build & Design

After a few weeks of testing the Metallix has some battle scars, and still works perfectly

I don’t know about you, but when I hear about a speaker that costs less than $50 I just assume it’s made of plastic from head to toe. And don’t get me wrong there are plenty of plastic speakers that sound great, but there’s something confidence inspiring about picking up a block of metal. Even if it isn’t so durable. Luckily, as you might have guessed from the name, the Metallix is metal. I don’t mean that you should go dropping it off a building (or even a table for that matter), but over the course of two weeks I haven’t exactly babied this thing and it seems to shrug it off as easily as a bad insult. The top rim has had the black paint chipped away and I’m fairly certain the grill that’s covering the single full-range driver is dented slightly, but it’s still going strong and it looks a little better in my opinion.

Minimal branding puts the only Creative logo in the center of the grill

The speaker itself only weighs 7.2 ounces and can fit in the palm of your hand making it easy to toss in a bag and bring with you wherever you go, or just to pick it up and bring it to the bathroom while you shower. Though keep in mind it isn’t waterproof so that might not be such a great idea now that I think about it (but I’ve been doing it anyway). The bottom of the Metallix is rubberised so it won’t go slipping around on slick surfaces but again, the speaker isn’t waterproof so keep that in mind. It’s cylindrical shape means that the top-firing driver is technically pointing straight up, but it does a good job at not sounding like your music is going away from you. It sounds pretty clear from all angles around the speaker.

It does a good job at not sounding like your music is going away from you

Towards the bottom of the Metallix is where all the fun happens. And by fun, I mean the minimal slick metal gives way for all of the inputs and buttons. While they work fine I don’t like the way that the buttons feel at all. They’re hidden underneath a small area of plastic with textures that I feel could’ve been a little more pronounced for when you’re trying to adjust volume without looking. They also just have a cheap feeling click to them that reminds you how much you paid for the speaker. On the bright side they work perfectly and you’ll get all the playback controls you could want.

Connection

There are plenty of ways to connect to the Metallix

From left to right you’ll get the volume down button, play button, and volume up button. By pressing the volume buttons at the same time you can answer and end phone calls, and you can also access Siri or Google by double tapping the play button in the middle. Besides that you’ll get the usual pause/play functionality, as well as volume control and skipping between tracks once you memorize the right amount of taps. There’s also a mode button that lets you switch between Bluetooth mode and the built-in FM tuner, plus you can use it as a mute button for when you’re taking a phone call on it. Speaking of which microphone quality was fuzzy at best, but both parties were able to distinguish what the other was saying. It gets the job done.

What is impressive are all of the other features Creative built into this speaker

As far as connection strength goes this speaker is just average. With nothing in the way you’ll get the standard range of about 30 feet with no skips or stutters, and once you throw a few walls in the way that drops to about 20 feet. It’s solid, but nothing that’s going to blow you away. What is impressive are all of the other features Creative built into this speaker. For one, if you have two of them you can pair them up for stereo sound. Then there’s all of the different ways you can play music.

The micro USB cable can be used as an antennae for the built-in FM radio

Of course you can stream over Bluetooth from your phone (Bluetooth 4.2 in the Metallix), but there’s also a 3.5mm input for passing the aux, a microSD input if you have your favorite tunes stored locally, and even an FM radio built-in. Plugging in the included USB charging cable acts as an antenna for tuning into FM stations. All together these features definitely help make a speaker of this size and price stand out from the crowd.

Battery

Creative claims a battery life of 24 hours of constant playback but that’s if you keep it to around 60% volume, which is fine if you’re just working at your desk but not so much if you’re blasting music around the house. At 100% volume I got a battery warning after around 6 hours on the first run. During the second run we got closer to 9 hours of constant battery while a third run with music playing at about 50% volume lasted closer to 20 hours in total.

Sound Quality

As I already mentioned the Metallix has a single full-range driver inside along with a hidden passive radiator which Creative claims makes the speaker sound bigger than it is. I wouldn’t go as far as that, because the speaker sounds just about as big as it is. But for the size I was pretty happy with the air it pushed. If you haven’t noticed the consistent theme yet, the Metallix gets the job done here too.

The Creative Metallix speaker from above

Considering I wasn’t expecting much from the low end I was pretty surprised with the level of control it had over insanely strong basslines like the one you’ll find in “Mikey Rocks” by The Cool Kids. Sub-bass is non-existent so if you keep your expectations in check you’ll notice that the bass kicks never distort or get in the way of the vocals. Don’t get me wrong, the bass isn’t great. Even something like a JBL Flip will give you more power, but for the size and price the Metallix manages to punch above its weight. Similarly, mids were there but not amazing.

It’s probably because the Metallix has a single driver trying to take care of everything, but during the chorus of the song “Step Out” by Jose Gonzalez everything gets so hectic it’s hard to distinguish individual instruments. The string melody gets completely hidden by things like drums and cymbals, which shouldn’t be happening. Just like the lows, the mids are fine but not great. If you’re at a party chances are you won’t hear a complaint, but any kind of critical listening will make you realize where this speaker falls short.

On the bright side I found that there was a surprising amount of space in the upper mids and highs for cymbals and hi-hats to flourish. The rolling cymbal hits throughout “For the Damaged Coda” by Blonde Redhead don’t exactly give you the impression of space, but they’re surprisingly detailed and well-managed for a speaker that fits in my hand.

Conclusion

If you couldn’t tell the Metallix is a mixed bag of good things and compromise. You’re getting a tiny speaker with plenty of connection options and features that make it one of the more versatile products we’ve tested in a while, but because of its size you’re going to have to give up some sound quality. Though to be fair not as much as you might think.

Being made of metal also means that it’s a tough little thing. Though you won’t want to take it to the beach, average drops around the house don’t seem to be a problem for it. But the one feature that it obviously has going for it is the low price. It sells for $40 but you can usually find it for around $30, which makes it one of my favorite cheap speakers hands down. Whether you’re looking for a spare speaker for your house or just want to give it to someone as a gift, I have no problem recommending this little guy to nearly everyone.

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Anker Zolo Liberty Total-Wireless Review https://www.soundguys.com/anker-zolo-liberty-total-wireless-review-15389/ https://www.soundguys.com/anker-zolo-liberty-total-wireless-review-15389/#comments Wed, 27 Dec 2017 23:13:24 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15389 True wireless for less than $100? Try these.

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Similar to the Spanish Armada of 1588, the Anker Zolo Liberty are unbeatable on paper. That said, King Phillip II and Anker both overestimated their holdings. Despite the Zolo Liberty’s drawbacks, Anker implements useful features into the design. The $99.99 question: Are the Zolo Liberty worth it, or are we better off investing in miscellaneous chatchkes instead?

What’s Inside

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

The Zolo Liberty supply plenty of ear tips, a charging case and micro USB cable.

Anker includes plenty of goodies for consumers. Like the earbuds and charging case, packaging is sturdy. The articulating tri-fold cardboard depicts a fit, 20-something female focused on stretching her hamstrings in what one can only assume is a gray-walled warehouse. The earbuds and charging case are proudly displayed behind a plastic panel. Beneath the main components are three pairs of ear tips, four pairs of Grip Fit™ jackets, a wasp-yellow micro USB cable and tinder for your next bonfire formal documentation.

Build & Design

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

Both the case and ‘buds are bulky and durable.

Forethought went into the design of the Zolo Liberty. The conspicuous yellow accents and PUSH AND GO™ setup make these fun. As some may be familiar, Anker is known for their power banks. Naturally, the included charging case is well-built and sturdy. (Good thing too, since it’s laughably slippery.) Reminiscent of a beached pebble, the magnetized clamshell case latches securely; its interior is also magnetized for storing the earbuds.

Durable plastic gives the earbuds their bulbous shape. Crediting the IPX5 rating, they can stand even the most profuse perspiration. A single LED indicator is located on each earbud and conveys connection status. Above each LED sits the Zolo logo in a whimsical typeface. The logo, which cutely springs from the second “O” in Zolo, brings to mind the iconic WiFi symbol.

Anker boasts its implementation of “graphene-powered sound.” Compared to traditional dynamic drivers, graphene technology theoretically produces better sound with greater efficiency. As discussed in the following sections, the Zolo Liberty suffer from constant hissing. This, unfortunately, renders any benefit of the graphene technology null.

Connectivity

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

Connectivity is dubious at best.

Unreliable connection proves itself the norm rather than the exception with true wireless earbuds. The Anker Zolo Liberty? They’re the norm. A shame since Anker asserts that the ‘buds are “held together by an almost unbreakable Bluetooth connection.” With a claim like that, Anker is begging to be lambasted. Half the time interruptions afflict the left earbud—a persistent issue, according Amazon reviews—and static underlies audio transmission. When a stable connection does form, annoyances still arise.

True truly wireless earbuds Bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty Optoma NuForce Be Free8 Apple AirPods

When conducting a search for the Zolo Liberty on Anker’s site, no results are available.

Any song exceeding three minutes takes on a new form, which is marred by auditory pock-marking pops and hisses, courtesy of the Zolo Liberty. Hopefully Anker and other manufacturer’s will remedy this in future iterations of Bluetooth products. On the flip side, Anker’s PUSH AND GO™ technology successfully connects the earbuds to the source device upon removal from the charging case.

As with other true wireless earbuds, calls are relayed over one earbud. The mic quality is okay when indoors. A brief step outside, however, means that call clarity is gone with the wind. For consumers who plan to use these while watching video, think again. Horrendous lag, ranging from a two to three second delay, plagues the earbuds. They presumably rely on SBC, rather than a low latency aptX codec. Anker’s website doesn’t specify. Actually, Anker’s website doesn’t list the Zolo Liberty at all. Curious.

The greatest redemption of the Zolo Liberty’s connectivity: Smart Assistant access. With a double tap of either earbud (I could only get it to work with the right), an AI assistant is immediately prompted. (I only have access to Google, which worked flawlessly. Anker explicitly states in the manual that the Zolo Liberty are compatible with Siri too.)

Battery

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

With the charging case, the Zolo Liberty have enough juice to last over 24 hours.

For true wireless earbuds, the Zolo Liberty have a fine battery life as standalone earbuds. After accounting for the reservoir power provided by the case, more than 24 hours of playback time is available. This outlasts the Optoma NuForce Be Free8 true wireless earbuds by eight hours. Corresponding to battery availability, three external LEDs line the case, indicating the charge in odd increments (30-70-100 percent).

Worth noting, a neat feature of the Zolo Liberty is their ability to automatically turn off when placed in the charging case. Powering on follows suit when removing the ‘buds from the case.

Sound Quality

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

The Zolo Liberty earbuds suffer from constant humming.

Accurately addressing sound quality is difficult. As mentioned in the “Connectivity” section, a pervasive, steady hiss impairs what could have been a fine listening experience. Per contra, the GripFit™ sleeves are effective. The least invasive pair, which happen to be preinstalled, maintain a cogent seal.

Lows

Jackie Wilson’s “(You Keep Lifting Me) Higher & Higher” ropes the listener into its fun beat with some bass plucks. Though the Zolo Liberty reproduce lows lazily, there’s some decent extension. Deep-bass doesn’t make up for the lack of differentiation between notes. If passively listening, as many do, the repeating G-G/D-Em/D-D pattern is difficult to hear. At times, it sounds as if just G and maybe Em/D are played.

Mids

In “New Year’s Eve,” Mal Blum’s pitch remains steady, ideal for determining the quality of mids. Blum’s voice sounds muffled when reproduced by the Zolo Liberty, proving difficult to distinguish between their voice and the guitar. It’s also hard to parse apart muffled sounds caused by connection-related humming as opposed to insufficient graphene-powered sound.

Highs

Christmas may have passed, but retail stores everywhere won’t realize that until mid January. For better or worse “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” serenaded to Hallmark shoppers by Mariah Carey, is, like the aforementioned songs, muffled. Surprisingly, the highs are well-defined here. At least compared to the lows. They sound more nuanced even with the interference.

Pertaining to soundstage, all of the instruments sound like they’re drunkenly vying for center stage when, really, the stage is a Denny’s and the mic is a collection of rolled up “specials” menus.

Conclusion

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

Anker includes a folded sheet inquiring: Happy? / Unhappy?

When handing over a Benjamin, we expect things to work well. Not without flaws but a near-$100 product should function well more than 50 percent of the time. Though I desperately wanted to praise the Zolo Liberty—and did upon unboxing—they just aren’t good enough to justify buying.

Consumer’s are better off investing in the Apple AirPods, which have solid connectivity because of Apple’s proprietary W1 chip, or the Jaybird Run for audio playback sans white noise. Yes, those options are significantly more expensive, but spending money on an unreliable product is a frustration and a waste. Hopefully Anker’s next true wireless product will be an improvement because, like Monoprice, the company produces above-average equipment at a below-average cost.

Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth Anker Zolo Liberty True Wireless earbuds bluetooth

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Marshall Stanmore Multi-room Speaker Review https://www.soundguys.com/marshall-stanmore-multi-room-speaker-review-15274/ https://www.soundguys.com/marshall-stanmore-multi-room-speaker-review-15274/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 11:00:26 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15274 The speaker that looks like a guitar amp that we've (I've) been waiting for

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Marshall might be known for their legendary amps, but they’re quickly making a name for themselves in consumer audio. At this point they’ve had more than a couple years of making speakers and headphones for people who won’t be jamming out on guitars with them, and though they’ve all been really good I think they’ve finally nailed most of the things that you look for in a home speaker with the new Stanmore Multi-room speaker. From connection options to overall aesthetics the Stanmore has it all, but it’s going to cost you.

What’s Inside

When you open the box you’ll get the speaker nicely wrapped in a microfiber cloth along with some warranty information, the instruction booklet, and a power source for both US and European wall outlets.

Build & Design

Marshall Stanmore multi-room speaker is wrapped in leather with golden accents

If you’ve ever seen a Marshall amp before (or even one of their earlier speakers) then the design of this one should come as no surprise to you. It looks like you could plug a ¼” plug right into it and start jamming on your Strat, but unfortunately you won’t get that functionality here. Instead you get a solid feeling speaker wrapped in leather with golden accents throughout. On the front you’ll find a giant logo and though I usually hate logos on products, I can’t hate on something as classic at the Marshall logo. They get a pass here from me.

The speaker itself is pretty heavy at roughly 10 lbs (or 4.7 kg if you live in the modern world) so although you can definitely pick it up and move it around your house easy enough, you’re going to have trouble getting this anywhere else. It’s not meant to be moved frequently, so just pick a nice spot in your house or apartment and leave it there. Not like you could take it anywhere even if you wanted to since it needs to be plugged into a wall at all times. But on the bright side, it’s slick design is sure to look good regardless where you put it. I tried it out on my kitchen table, my coffee table, and on the kitchen counter and it didn’t look out of place on any of them. So design-wise can’t knock Marshall for sticking to this look because it works.

The classic Marshall logo stares at you right from the front grill

Along the back are some inputs which include one for the power source, RCA, and micro USB. If you like to connect to your speakers via standard 3.5mm cables don’t worry, Marshall has kept that input you just won’t find it on the back. It’s up top instead next to the four knurled knobs and a few buttons. We’ll get into their exact function in the next section, but the knobs are actually my favorite part about this speaker. The volume, bass, and treble knobs are buttery smooth, and the last input knob has a satisfying click to it when you switch inputs. It also acts as a button for selecting the input with just the right amount of tactile feedback. I can see why some people might not enjoy the classic design of this speaker, but as far as build quality goes Marshall nailed it in my opinion.

Connection

The Stanmore has 7 presets available and compatibility with Bluetooth, WiFi, RCA, and Aux

As you may have guessed from the name of this speaker, the Stanmore Multi-room can be connected to other Marshall speaker. Unfortunately I only have one available for testing so I can’t do much more than say that feature exists. There are three differently sized speakers in the multi-room lineup with the Stanmore being the medium sized one. Naturally this means that this speaker connects to via your WiFi router, so you’ll need to download the app to get it all set up. Once connected you can take advantage of all the good things that come with having a Wi-Fi speaker, like internet radio stations that you can save to one of the 7 presets on the speaker.

On the back are the inputs (save for the aux which is found up top)

It’s also fully compatible with Airplay, Chromecast built-in, and Spotify Connect so once you have it all set up with your WiFi playing music on it is dead simple. Naturally, connection was flawless with zero skips and stutters in my experience because my apartment isn’t big enough to be out of Wifi range. Hell, my apartment building probably isn’t even that big. That said, if you miss having a limited range you can always connect to it via Bluetooth as well. Perfect if you’re having people over and they don’t feel like going through the whole process of downloading an app and connecting over wifi. They can just use Bluetooth.

Sound Quality

The knobs are super smooth and feel great when you’re adjusting volume.

As you might expect from a speaker of this size, the Stanmore gets loud. Keeping it on 50% was more than sufficient to hear throughout my entire apartment, with 70% touching on “my neighbors hate me” levels. What’s good about this speaker is that just like the amps that Marshall makes, you can choose whether you want to give emphasis to the bass or the treble with the two corresponding knobs up top.

The Stanmore has the aesthetic of a classic amp

With a speaker of this size it’s no surprise that it has a great low end. The bassline in the song “En El Muelle De San Blas” by Mana is full of depth and weaves in and out of the songs with ease. In a weird way it’s almost like the bass guitar sounds so good because if you go to a live show, chances are the bass will be played on an amp like this so maybe my ears are a little biased. To be fair, that also has a negative effect on the drums in my opinion. Where basslines felt smooth and controlled, drum kicks sounded a little hollow to me.

That was also the case with some songs when it came to the mids. I found that the clarity in bass made things ever so slightly muddy, and I ended up upping the treble and lowering the bass knobs by 10% each just to try and force some separation in the song “Hello Cruel World” by Dent May. Though to be fair, it kind of fixed itself at higher volumes. When it came to the high end I found the Stanmore did a pretty great job at avoiding harshness in the bells during the intro of “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix without sacrificing any of the grittiness from the guitar slides.

Conclusion

In the end there really wasn’t anything that stood out as a major complaint to me. Though it irks me to say it I guess you could consider this speaker as having a “warm” sound with emphasis on the lower frequencies, but it adds a kind of texture to the music that reminds me of being 16 with a guitar. It just has that classic kind of feel which isn’t something you’d get from something like a Sonos. Whether that’s a psychological thing because of the design of the speaker or not, I don’t know. But I don’t mind it. The fact that you can connect via Wifi or Bluetooth is also a plus, and I can see the presets being super useful if you can remember which one is which. A tiny LED screen would be great for that, but then it might make this speaker even more expensive.

It’s already $450 as it is, which makes it kind of hard to recommend to be honest just because if you’re going to be outfitting your house with wireless speakers you’re probably going to go with Sonos. Though having a house full of Marshall Stanmore’s will 100% make you way more baller in my opinion, I can’t see too many people doing that. That said, all three models of the multi-room speakers are currently sold out on their site so apparently people don’t mind the price tag and to be honest if I could afford it, I would love this speaker too. Bottom line is if you’re looking into wireless speakers, I would definitely give these a shot.

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Noontec Hammo TV Headphone Review https://www.soundguys.com/noontec-hammo-tv-headphone-review-15286/ https://www.soundguys.com/noontec-hammo-tv-headphone-review-15286/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 15:57:02 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15286 Tired of arguing over TV volume?

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Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

The multifunctional docking station will sit discreetly in almost any living room.

“Ben. Ben!” a wife yells, eliciting a grunt from her husband, resting in a La-Z-Boy, an extension of himself.

“For the umteenth time, Ben,” Lisa says, her controlled rage reminiscent of an audibly fuming tea kettle.  “Turn. It. Down.”

At first glance, TV headphones offer a solution to a problem that none of us know we have. Reflecting more critically reveals that isolating sound reception is hugely beneficial. With the avalanche of products living on Amazon’s repository, separating the wheat from the chaff proves difficult. So where do the Hammo TV headphones fall?

What’s Inside

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

Large and in charge, the Hammo TV packaging is a physical burden to bear. Humdrum, but informative, there’s no reason a consumer should preserve the structured cardboard. Immediately displayed upon opening is the Noontec-branded wireless docking station, a hodgepodge of cables (two 3.5 mm stereo, one micro USB, one micro USB to 3.5 mm stereo jack, and an RCA audio cable), a cloth carrying pouch and the Hammo TV headphones. Also included are illustrated instructions for proper setup.

Build & Design

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

Creaky plastic is an inescapable feature of the Hammo line.

Plastic composition rarely invokes confidence in a product, but Noontec alleviates concern by reinforcing the headband, sliders, and hinges with stainless steel. Collapsing the headphones, rewards the user with resistance followed by a satisfying click. Spacious but not cavernous, the handmade cotton ear cups allow for a full day of listening . In a similar vein, the headband provides a supportive framework with the appropriate amount of tension, simultaneously preventing literal slip-ups and temple-crushing pain.

The wireless dock is well-designed and you can also deconstruct it for storage. There are many setup options available from a traditional RCA hook-up, to a standard 3.5 mm output and direct Bluetooth connection with a compatible TV. Connecting via Bluetooth rids the need for the wireless station, cutting out the technological mediator. As with most things plastic, the dock looks better than it feels. Similar to the toggles found on the headphones’ left ear cup, the power button on the stand is dubiously mushy.

Connectivity

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

The docking station offers plenty of ports and charges the headphones.

Antithetical to the Hammo Wireless, the Hammo TV headphones are plagued with connection issues. More accurately, transmission from the wireless docking station interrupts radio receivers. When the station is plugged in within 30 feet of an analog radio, it renders the radio unable to receive anything on AM or FM channels. Instead, the radio emits an unpleasant static screech, rivaling the sound of nails on a chalkboard. At least, this was the case in my home. After reaching out to Noontec about the issue, they were unable to provide an explanation. The did share that this issue hadn’t come up before though.

Now that I’ve settled into a new apartment and left the radio behind, the transmission works seamlessly. Thanks to Hammo Smart Connect, the headphones register the transmitter or third-party device without interference. What’s more, the wireless docking station uses aptX to provide low latency playback. No more blundering lag while streaming the third season of Sherlock. Connection distance reaches an impressive 10 meters. This is excellent news for those inclined to make snacks while watching TV.

Battery

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

It’s unlikely that the Hammo TV headphones require charging more than once a week, if that.

Don on your Snuggie and pop that corn, because the Hammo TV headphones allow for 50 hours of playback time. Charging via the auxiliary input feels strange and inefficient. Though, an overnight charge is easy enough. With 50 hours of battery life, charging won’t be a pressing issue.

Sound Quality

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

A 3.5 mm aux input enables wired listening.

The aforementioned Hammo Wireless are manufactured with the same internals. Votrik HD500 speakers and Noontec’s superior closed cavity body (SCCB) acoustic techniques result in an outstanding audio experience. According to Noontec, the tuning is the same in each of the headphones. A more in-depth, music-oriented review of the sound quality is available here. Unfortunately, ambient chatter and general noise permeates the Hammo TV’s bubble at low volumes, 30 percent and under.

Explosions explode. When watching the street explosion scene from Swordfish, the detonation sounds as powerful as it looks. Concurrent glass shatters and human screams are appropriately piercing without inducing fatigue.

As wonderful as that reproduction is, most television and movies are dialogue driven. Transparently reproduced in his narration of Life, David Attenborough’s tone remains pacifying. As birds chirp, underscoring Attenborough’s voice, they are easy to separate from the script. With eyes shut and energies focused on sound analysis, the episode “Mammals” feels like the listener is exploring an Arctic tundra or torrid desert. Attention and engagement is easy to maintain with such a pellucid sound.

Conclusion

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

For $120, the Hammo TV are a nice bundle and will serve as a gift to you and your housemates.

The Hammo TV earns a cautious recommendation. With my roommates finishing their penultimate semesters of undergrad, their abilities to focus are imperative for effective studying. While testing the Hammo TV, we have all been left satisfied. They study in the apartment without disturbances, and I don’t feel obligated to watch Blue Planet II on a laptop. Nevertheless, it’s concerning that the screeching radio remains an unsolved mystery. (Perhaps an episode idea for the producers of Sherlock.) For listeners who enjoy the snap, crackle and pop of a physical radio, the Sennheiser RS120 for half the price may be a better bet. However, if $120 is no object, Noontec’s Hammo TV headphones provide superior comfort and clear sound quality.

Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear Noontec Hammo TV Bluetooth Wireless Headphones Comfortable Stream Over-ear

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Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro Review https://www.soundguys.com/beyerdynamic-dt-990-pro-review-15223/ https://www.soundguys.com/beyerdynamic-dt-990-pro-review-15223/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 20:47:35 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15223 Like good-sounding pillows for your ears

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Good sound quality usually means you’re going to be spending a little more than you want. Just take a look at the Focal Clear headphones we recently reviewed that will run you $1,499. But every now and then you find something that doesn’t cost too much and sounds great. This is one of those times. The Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones might not be the prettiest of cans, but if you can look passed that your ears will be treated to a spa day every time you put these on.

What’s Inside

There isn’t much that comes with these headphones. In the box you’ll get the headphones with a soft carrying case and a ¼” adapter. That’s it unless you count the box itself (which I don’t).

Build & Design

A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO and its silver velour ear pads.

Deep velour ear pads make for extremely comfortable wear.

You know how everyone who wears Crocs swear by them? This is a similar situation, although I admit not as hideous. The build of these headphones is almost entirely plastic save for the metal band that suspends the ear cups. But man, are these comfortable. Thanks to memory foam padding wrapped in velour, slipping these over your ears removes them from your head and places them into an alternate reality where everything is fluffy and plush. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. It’s more like slipping your feet into Crocs (or so I’m told I refuse to wear them). Whatever Beyerdynamic did to these, I love wearing them.

Everything has a downside, and luckily there are only a few here worth noting. The main one, which I already mentioned, is the build quality. As these are mainly plastic they’re not the most durable of cans. Sure they’re fairly flexible and I had no problem flexing them to relatively regular angles, but if you throw these in your bag and sit on them the wrong way I wouldn’t bet that they’d come out fine. There’s no hinges to be found here so you won’t be able to fold them down for easy transport, and the thin steel headband doesn’t feel too durable either. It’s only reinforcement is the thin pleather wrapping that doesn’t exactly scream quality. So even though I love the build in terms of comfort, I almost feel like I should baby them at times. They seem to be best for leaving on my desk which to be fair, as a pair of open-back headphones, is basically where they were made for.

Open-backs typically mean you’ll get more spatial cues in your music.

My other biggest concern when it comes to build quality is the audio cable. It’s a 1m coiled cable that can stretch to longer if necessary, but it’s also pretty heavy. More than once the weight of it almost pulled my phone clean off my desk just because I moved the wrong way. Not a problem if you’re plugging into an interface or computer, but not good news for smartphones or portable players. The attachment point at the bottom of the left earcup also doesn’t woo me, and because the cable isn’t interchangeable if it frays or breaks you’re going to have to cough up the cash for a whole new pair.

Whether you’re a professional or a secret goth, black just looks cool

But let’s end this section on another positive because toughness aside, I love how these were designed. They’re all-black which is already a plus in my book because whether you’re a professional or a secret goth, black just looks cool. The only accent of color is the name of the headphones (which I can do without but isn’t a deal breaker) and the gray memory foam ear pads which you can see from the outside of their open back design. Again, adding the perfect bit of flashiness to the minimal design.

Connection

The cable is non-removable, coiled, and doesn’t seem to have the most durable connection point.

As far as connection goes there really isn’t anything too crazy worth mentioning here. The coiled cable ends in a 3.5mm and you can screw on the included ¼” adapter if you’re plugging into higher end gear. Of course it’s worth mentioning the cable on this model has an impedance of 250 ohms so even though I was able to listen to music on my Pixel 2XL (#donglelife) without an amp, having one to drive these a little more definitely helps since you won’t have to max out the volume on your phone.

Sound Quality

If we were fairly mediocre about these headphones, it ends here. Sound quality is where these headphones shine and although they won’t blow you away, we were really impressed when we remembered their price tag.

These headphones are ridiculously comfortable.

When it comes to the low end these are right up my alley. They’re not overblown and super powerful, but they definitely bump and give the right amount of attention to the bass hits 0:39 seconds into “Phone Calls” by Jessie Reyez. The low sub-bass immediately following the chorus normally has enough power to make your eyes shake, but that isn’t the case here. You still get some of the punch with none of the bruising afterwards to ruin the experience.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you, but I prefer it this way. That lack of depth doesn’t the case when it comes to mids, with instruments and vocals sounding perfectly emphasized regardless of the genre. This was very apparent to me while listening to “Vanish In Our Sleep” by Rob Roy which has such a powerful bass that it usually disturbs the vocals, but not here. The bass was kept in check letting the vocals really flourish on their own. The highs were also great with no distortion to speak of any levels. The cymbal hits and hi-hats in “You Only Live Once” by The Strokes had a good amount of detail and the perfect amount of presence.

A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO on a headphone stand A photo of the Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO and its silver velour ear pads.

Conclusion

Though these won’t give your music the Beats treatment, these are still an enjoyable pair of headphones to listen to. They don’t particularly emphasize any one area of sound (and even de-emphasize the sub-bass to be honest) but I still had no problem jamming out to these at my desk or walking around my apartment.

As open-back headphones these aren’t meant for commuters, but if you like a higher amount of detail in your music and don’t mind sacrificing some range to get it these will do you justice. Not to mention that they’re next level comfortable. It’s worth mentioning again that these do have an impedance of 250 ohms so if you really want to push them a decent amp wouldn’t be a bad idea, unless you have a phone like the LG V30 that can handle it already. Overall, it’s hard not to recommend the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones to anyone looking for headphones that prioritize a clean and precise sound.

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TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds Review https://www.soundguys.com/trndlabs-nova-true-wireless-earbuds-review-15244/ https://www.soundguys.com/trndlabs-nova-true-wireless-earbuds-review-15244/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 19:30:19 +0000 https://www.soundguys.com/?p=15244 Truly wireless 'buds on a budget?

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Expensive doesn’t always mean quality and affordability doesn’t always mean value. Founded by Gerard Niewenhuis in 2014, TRNDLabs strives to establish themselves as a world-class brand. Their mission is to create an experience for the user, one worth sharing with friends. At just a few years old, the company is still in its infancy compared to Sennheiser or Audio Technica, but their goal is a noble one. At just $69, about $80 less than the competition the Nova Wireless Earbuds are a tempting product, but is this bargain worth it?

Out of the Box

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

The packaging appealed to my love of minimalist design.

Neatly folded cardboard encases TRNDLabs’ latest audio concept, the Nova True Wireless Earbuds. Included is a short micro USB charging cable, three pairs of silicone ear tips, one pair of foam ear tips, and the Power Case. The top portion rotates around to reveal the charging ports (USB type A and micro USB) and docking inlet for the earbuds to charge. The window rotation design is clever and useful, albeit a bit difficult to grip at times.

Build & Design

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

Each LED notifies the user of connection/charging status.

Plastic, plastic and more plastic. When stored in the case, the Nova ‘buds appear as two black bulbs with a cheap silver accent, each equipped with a multi-function button for music playback and redialing. Bulky but not unwieldy, the Nova Power Case properly protects and stores the earbuds when not in use and may be thrown into a rucksack without apprehension. Its versatility is beyond useful as the power pack may also charge other devices such as a phone or other Bluetooth headphones.

Ill-fitting and far from ergonomic, the earbuds have trouble creating a seal. Not only that but they also have a knack for falling out with minimal movement. Even walking from the couch to the refrigerator, a frequent occurrence, feels like gamble. Unsurprisingly, running is a nearly impossible task, unless a hat or headband keeps the earbuds in place. Difficult to push, toggling the buttons painfully forces the arms of the ‘buds into the ear canal. However, the covert profile and understated design is placid and inoffensive. Naturally, this will likely appeal to a wider audience than something frivolously ornate or terribly drab.

Connection

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

Connection was always questionable with the Nova earbuds.

Pairing the Nova True Wireless Earbuds is a pain in the (r)ear. First, the user must power on the left ear bud and hold the button until an intermittent beeping is heard. Then, the same must be done for the right earbud. In theory, the earbuds should then be able to connect to each other seamlessly and to the audio source thereafter. However, an astounding amount of trouble came with the initial setup. The first time they were connected, audio was only being received by the left ear bud. After resetting and initiating the pairing process, sound was only relayed through the right ear bud. It was only after the third reset, they were then able to easily connect to a phone or laptop. This exasperating process felt like something that may be expected from a pre-production unit, not a fleshed out product.

Again, no matter how magnificent a pair of headphones sound, it doesn’t matter if they can’t maintain a connection. Though the Nova provide impressive sound at their sub-$70 price point, the connection is about as stable as the San Andreas Fault Line. Interrupted connections are an unwanted, periodic occurrence. Even while stationary and no more than two feet away from the source, connection disruptions are unavoidable. In crowded spaces—the bustling café on Main Street or the local library during exams—the Nova have an even harder time retaining a strong connection. The microphone is fine. It picks up quite a bit of ambient noise when speaking though.

Battery

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

The Power Case is arguably the best part of the Nova earbuds. It allows for a total of 60 hours of battery life and can charge a smartphone.

Stamina is the Nova’s saving grace. The tiny ‘buds provide a full three hours of playback, three and a half hours of call time. And, extra juice is needed, the power pack combined with the headphones allows for a full 60 hours of battery life. Not only that, but the circular battery can also charge smartphones and tablets, albeit slowly. The rotating design is clever, yet difficult to grip. Though ears may have trouble keeping the Nova in place the provided case certainly won’t and protects the ‘buds confidently.

Sound Quality

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

Unfortunately, the buttons are stiff and difficult to press.

As aforementioned, a strong connection is cause for celebration with the Nova. As unfortunate as that is, when they work, they work. If the ‘buds form a proper seal with the ear canal, the sound is fantastic given the price and technology packed into the compact package.

Lows

Milquetoast. The bass plays it safe and responds quickly. “It’s Strange” by Louis the Child—previously used to test the Optoma NuForce Be Free8 true wireless earbuds—is subdued by the timid nature of the lows. It’s as if the volume of frequencies 250 Hz and below are decreased 30 percent relative to the mids. Overall, sub-bass and bass frequencies are responsive but restrained. Louis the Child’s interpretation of modern romance needs more bump and oomph to capture the emotional tug of war experienced by K. Flay than what the Nova can provide.

Mids

The mids are given the most attention by the TRNDLabs audio engineers. Adam Levine’s poppy vocals are resonant and present. His voice sounds clear and without any muffling as experienced in the highs. At the 2:53 mark, the tempo slows and Levine’s voice drops to his signature sultry tone. Of course, there’s always room for improvement as his voice should sound be more booming here, nonetheless it’s handled skillfully by the Nova.

Highs

To a lesser degree than the lows, the highs are also hindered by a subdued signature. In “‘S Wonderful” by Kat Edmonson, the triangle hit within the first 30 seconds of the nostalgic song is constrained. When compared to the B&W P5 Wireless, the highs are curtly cut off, sounding corrugated. Additionally, the dulled highs detract from the quaint mood that Edmonson’s song easily creates with other, more refined audio products.

Conclusion

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

The Power Case is larger than most users would like, but it can still easily fit into a pocket.

TRNDLabs deserves a head nod for trying, but the end product feels like a hastily cobbled together idea. It feels like it was conceptualized and executed with the same haste of a college junior throwing together a forgotten final paper just eight hours before the deadline. At that point, you have to give the student props for completion but without revisions, it’s still just a first draft.

TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth SBC aptX aptX HD AAC LDAC bluetooth codecs profile audio TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth TRNDLabs Nova True Wireless Earbuds bluetooth

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