CES 2017 Headphone & Earbud Round-up
January 11, 2017
Despite our sincerest wishes, the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas was no more loaded with sick new music gear than it ever was, which is to say that per usual, we’ll have to wait another couple of weeks for the NAMM show to run wild in a playground of synthesizers and software. Rather, CES brought us another round of robots, drones, self-driving cars, TVs with more pixels than your eyes know what to do with, and vomit-inducing virtual reality goggles.
However, amidst all the hype, there were a lot of interesting headphones and earphones to hit the scene. Most of them are not aimed at muscians and producers, but many of them do promise audiophile sound quality, as well as other benefits to our kind, such as affordable earphones that custom-mold to your ear and earphones that record 3D audio to a smartphone. Check out the highlights in the slideshow below.
Also take a look at the Coolest Innovations forKeyboardists at CES 2017 from our friends at Keyboard.
Hall-of-fame producer Quincy Jones inspired AKG’s new reference class auto-calibrating, noise-cancelling N90Q headphones
($1,499, available May 2017). They aim for high-end, faithful and precise sound through AKG’s TruNote technology and other patented technologies.
Audio-Technica's new over-ear Sound Reality ATH-SR9 high-resolution headphones
(US$449.00, available Spring 2017) incorporate 45 mm True Motion Hi-Res Audio drivers with Diamond-Like Carbon coated diaphragms and high-purity 7N-OFC (oxygen-free copper) voice coils. They are said to present high-quality audio with natural, detailed and spacious reproduction of vocals and instruments and extended frequency response to beyond 40,000 Hz.
For in-ear enthusiasts who demand nothing less that audiophile sound quality, Beyerdynamic presented the Xelento Remote earphones
($1,050), a high-end and slick-looking set that promises to cover the complete acoustic range both precisely and neutrally. It has an extended frequency response of 8-48,000Hz to capture every last detail, and it’s meant to perform at the highest level whether with a smartphone or a high-res audio player.
The high-end Blue Sadie
($699) headphones were designed especially for making music on a mobile device or laptop sound like a hi-fi system. It has a built-in audiophile amp, custom-matched drivers, isolating memory foam earcups, and a multi-jointed headband design inspired by the suspension of Formula One racecars.
Using a multi-jointed headband inspired by the suspension of Formula One racecars, the Blue Ella
($399) look unique and promises a new level of comfort. Supposedly, they seal around your ear, enhancing the bass and isolating the sound better while reducing audio bleed. Ella is made with planar magnetic technology and has a built-in 250mW audiophile amp.
An entry-level pair using a similar multi-jointed headband as the Blue Ella and Sadie, the Blue Lola
($249) features earcups shaped to fit, because you know, ears aren’t round.
The wireless Blue Satellite
foldable headphones will be available later in 2017. They have a built-in audiophile amp, onboard controls and use Blue’s proprietary active noise cancelling.
Getting earphones to fit your own ear has been either difficult or very expensive, but with Decibullz Contour ES
Custom Molded Earphones ($59), you just heat the mods in hot water first, snap on the earphones, and then custom-shape the molds to your ears. When they are cooled, you should have a perfect fit. These could make great in-ear monitors for live shows; the custom fit should help them act as earplugs, as well as monitors.
A newcomer to the headphone game, Meters Music employs instrument amplification engineers from Ashdown Engineering, so their product demands a listen, even if it looks a bit gimmicky. The OV-1
(279 British pounds) includes an active VU meter on each side which looks pretty cool, even if you can’t see it while you’re wearing them. They have a lightweight alloy frame, active noise cancellaion with USB charging, and over-the-ear cups.
The ridiculous Onkyo Diamond Headphones are only for people you neither know nor like very much. They include all the real diamonds that can be crammed onto the outside of two headphone cups and will cost $80,000-100,000 a pair. An Onkyo rep at CES 2017 was quoted as saying, “the specs don’t matter.” No, they certainly don’t.
To be available in the second half of 2017, the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Surround earphones
can record binaural, or 3D, audio to an iPhone. The earphones have microphones on the outside to enable the recording of sound the way your ears actually hear it. 3D audio is useful either in tandem with 360-degree videos or on its own.
The Sennheiser HD 1 In-Ear Wireless neckbuds
($200) will be available soon for a set of wireless Bluetooth 4.1 earphones that you won’t lose if they fall out of your ear. The neckband houses a generous control set and provides 10 hours of battery life.
The new Sony Extra Bass line of headphones is due this spring, and features the flagship MDR-XB950N1
Bluetooth model with active noise cancellation. We couldn’t really recommend these for mixing music, but the Extra Bass feature may be up your alley for listening to music, as it creates a deeper, punchier sound profile.