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SoundMagic PL50 and EH11 Earphones

SoundMagico PL50Price: $55 (PL50), $50 (EH11)

Website: www.soundmagic.com.cn

S. Andrea said: Not all $50 earphones sound the same -- some manage to really stand out from the crowd, and the SoundMagic PL50 and EH11 are two of them. Each offers a particular set of ergonomic and sonic benefits that can provide a satisfying listening experience. While neither design challenges the best of their pricier competition, each offers strong value in a very competitive market. 

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: An earphone recommendation amongst the generic multitudes.

HiFiMAN HE-500 Headphones

HiFiMAN HE-500Price: $899

Website: www.head-direct.com

S. Andrea said: The HiFiMAN HE-500 is a well-engineered and well-built headphone design. Their overall neutral tonal balance, satisfying but measured bass, and big sound make them well suited to a wide variety of musical styles. They can show off many of the virtues of good recordings, but don’t render less-than-stellar recordings unlistenable. Their somewhat low sensitivity will require a very good headphone output or dedicated headphone amplifier, but is not too demanding to be realistic. While no single headphone design -- or design of any other category of audio component -- will appeal to every listener, I think that the balanced approach of the HE-500s will help them find their way into many systems.

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Well-balanced headphone design from a relatively new player.

Etymotic Research ER-4PT Earphones

Etymotic Research ER-4PTPrice: $299

Website: www.etymotic.com

S. Andrea said: The Etymotic Research ER-4PT earphones -- and, even more, the ER-4 S model -- provide reference-quality sound in a vanishingly small package. Their level of transparency of detail is beyond what I thought possible from this type of device. They really are like having studio monitors that you can take with you wherever you go. Very highly recommended.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: A reference in the category.

Bowers & Wilkins C5 Earphones

Bowers & Wilkins C5Price: $179

Website: www.bowers-wilkins.com

S. Andrea said: Bowers & Wilkins’ C5 earphones have a particular sonic signature: abundant bass, a full midrange, and forgiving high frequencies. The C5s’ high-tech yet classy appearance is just as distinctive as their sound. Thanks to the weight distribution, the Secure Loop, and the minimal insertion of the eartips, their fit is immediately comfortable and rock solid. The combination of all these features makes the Bowers &Wilkins C5 a unique product definitely worth an audition. 

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Unique sound in a stylish design.

Smyth Research Realiser A8 Audio Processor

Smyth A8Price: $3670 including Stax SRS-202 headphones

Website: www.smyth-research.com

Rad said: What Smyth Research claims the Realiser A8 does, with its intricate SVS algorithm, is to make the sound from the headphones like the sound in your room. It’s like taking a virtual-reality audio tour of the sound of your audio system in your room, one that you can commit to a digital file or preset, and preserve for your regular use.

Reviewers' Choice

Read the SoundStage! Xperience review.

The gist: Seems impossible, but it lives up to its claims.

 

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