McIntosh MHA100 Headphone Amplifier

High=end audio manufacturer has released its first headphone amplifier. Famous for its historic tube power amps, the MHA100 adapts their Autoformer technology to produce three headphone impedance ranges of 8-40, 40-150 and 150-600 ohms for optimal impedance matching with all headphones. The new Headphone Crossfeed Director (HXD) generates a 3D-speaker-like sonic image headphones. A 5 Step Bass Boost Control enhances the low frequency presentation. The Four hi-res digital inputs can decode to 32 bits at 192kHz.

The MHA100 can also drive small speakers up to 50W per channel. McIntosh’s Power Guard technology prevents clipping in headphones or speakers. The amp is housed in a stainless steel chassis with glass front panel, knobs and brushed aluminum end caps. In addition to analog i/o, there are coaxial, optical, balanced digital (AES/EBU) and USB digital inputs. A OLED display on the front panel indicates source selection, volume levels, trim settings and setup functions.

Specs: 250mW to 1W per channel headphones and 50W per channel speakers. Impedance range: 8 to 600 ohms. Max. digital resolution: 32 bits at 192kHz (USB)

Price: $4500 US.

HiFiMAN HE560 Planar Magnetic Headphones

The HE560 is the new flagship of HiFiMAN’s orthodynamic headphone line. The 560 is 30% lighter than its previous flagship, the HE500. HiFiMan modified the single-ended magnet structure of the transducer to increase efficiency and deliver a lifelike soundstage and spatial imaging. The increased efficiency means that the headphone can be driven with a modest size amplifier.

A new suspended headband design, teak wood cups, and beveled ear pads provide comfort and improved sound quality. The new audio cable has been designed with crystalline metal featuring oxygen-free copper and oxygen-free silver for lossless, distortionless signal transfer. Comes with a storage case.

Specs: 15Hz to 50 KHz freq. response, 35 ohm impedance, 90dB sensitivity.

Price: $900 US.

Yurbuds Inspire Limited Edition Wireless Earphones

Yurbuds Inspire sport earphones connect wirelessly with Bluetooth protocol. Their 15mm drivers are twice the size of the average earphone and provide an extended frequency response. Yurbuds’ Triple Magnet technology helps create a 3D soundscape and deep bass.

As sports earphones, they are sweat and water resistant. The TwistLock technology locks the earphones in place during sports and active lifestyles, so they do not fall out. Although they sit in the ear canals, they allow ambient noise to enter for awareness of one’s surroundings.

The smartphone features include integrated volume, track and call controls and a noise cancelling dual-microphone, integrated into the enclosures to navigate music and handle calls with the highest clarity.

The internal rechargeable battery lasts up to 6 hours per charge. Auditory and visual indicators warn when the charge level is too low. The battery is recharged by plugging in the USB charging cable. Comes with 2 sizes of enhancers, a charging cable and carry case.

Specs: Bluetooth wireless connectivity, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.

Price: $130 US.

Alpatronix EX100 Earphones

Alpatronix mounts the 8mm drivers of the EX100 earphones in a vented enclosure to produce deep bass and an extended frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz. Three sizes of ear cushions ensure a perfect fit for maximum noise reduction and optimal sound quality.

The EX100 features a single button remote to control media players or smartphones. A single click operates play, pause or answer call. Two clicks skip forward and three clicks to skip back. An integrated microphone permits hands-free calling.

Specs: 16 ohms impedance, 20Hz – 20KHz frequency response, 100dB/1mW @ 1kHz sensitivity.

Price: $30 US

JBL J46BT Wireless Earphones

The very lightweight J46BT in-canal stereo earphones feature Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connectivity including A2DP v1.2, AVRCP v1.4, HSP v1.2 and HFP v1.6. Their 6mm transducers reproduce the range from 20 to 18kHz. A 3-button remote control on the cord and high sensitivity microphone control music and handle call functions.

The built-in rechargeable battery charges via a USB cable in about 2.5 hours and operates up to 6 hours of talk and 3 hours of music. Comes with 3 sizes (S,M,L) of silicone cushions, 2 sizes (S,L) stabilizing sports cushions, 1 cable clip and USB charging cable. Available in 3 colors: black, white and blue.

Specs: FR 20Hz-18kHz, Max SPL 105dBSPL @ 1KHz, Rated Power Input 3mW, Mic Sensitivity -37dBV/Pa @ 1KHz.

Price: $80 US.

Harman Kardon NI Earphones

Harmon Kardon designed the NI in-canal earphones to produce accurate bass and sound clarity even at low volumes. The 9mm drivers have been otpimized for wide frequency response, wide dynamic range and high sound-pressure levels and can generate accurate bass at any volume level. Careful acoustic tuning and passive noise-reduction mean that the NIs play music clearly even at low volume levels. The sonic clarity at lower volume means that the NIs are safer for listening.

HK designed the look of the NIs to project a blend of sophistication and simplicity. The black, rectangular, one-piece housing and aluminum complements the style of many smartphones and tablets. For navigating music and handling calls, HK added an inline three-button remote with built-in microphone for phone calls. The NI’s come with 3 pairs of sleeves (small, medium, and large) for optimal ear fit, 1.1m cable and carrying case.

Specs: 20Hz-20KHz freq. response, 28 ohms impedance, 102dB/mW sensitivity.

Price: $99 US.

Polk Audio Buckle Headphones

The Polk Buckle is named to evoke a stylish accessory and styled in old world casual elegance as a travel companion. Polk’s 40mm drivers have been adjusted for rich, immersive and realistic sound with Polk Optimized Electro-acoustic Tuning (POET). Their Dynamic Balance tuning technology eliminates driver and system resonances that distort sound.

Polk installed the drivers in enclosures colored to complement popular champagne color schemes. The closed back model features generous padding on the headband and plush circumaural earpads that block external noise. The ergonomically designed, lightweight aluminum headband and pivoting ear cups provide a comfortable, secure fit.

For smartphone compatibility, Polk built in a 3-button rocker-switch and microphone for one-finger control for audio and phone calls. The single detachable cable avoids cord tangle. Polk machined the gold-plated 3.5 mm connector is to seat deeper into the source connection. Comes with a brushed cotton and leather travel bag.

Specs: 10Hz-21.5kHz (+/- 9dB) freq. response, 24 ohms impedance, 99.7 dB sensitivity.

Price: $250 US.

Chord Hugo DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Chord’s Hugo employs the same FPGA DAC technology with maximum tap length filters for best sound quality in its ground-breaking DAC 64. Hugo features 26k tap-length digital filters in a reference-level portable 32-bit DAC and headphone amp that offers “studio-master-tape sound quality, advanced connectivity and uncompromising file playback capability” in a small player. The five digital inputs include A2DP aptX Bluetooth and 384kHz PCM and DSD 128 playback to decode high-resolution DXD (Digital eXtreme Definition) music files. There are 2 USB inputs: legacy USB and high-definition USB port (384kHz). Two additional digital inputs, coaxial and optical, provide versatile connectivity.

The Hugo’s A2DP Bluetooth circuitry employs a custom-made module with the aptX codec for lossless digital transfer into the DAC. It processes DSD 128 data under the latest DSD-over-PCM standard (DoP). Comes with proprietary driver software in Windows and Mac format.

The FPGA DAC itself draws only 0.7V, the rest of the battery supply powers the high quality, onboard headphone amplifier with excellent output characteristics (high output drive voltage and current). A touch-sensitive digital control adjusts the volume and changes color with the volume. A 3-setting crossfeed filter helps replicate interaural crosstalk to simulate stereo loudspeaker listening and 3D imaging. The built-in battery recharges in about two hours and runs for up to 14 hours. Hugo draws no power from its USB inputs, so that the data signal remains clean and compatible with low-power devices such as tablets and smartphones.

The Hugo is housed in an aircraft-grade, anodized aluminum enclosure. A top-mounted “porthole” changes color with sample rates. In addition to the 4 digital input jacks, there are two 3.5mm headphone jacks, one 6.35mm (1/4 inch) headphone jack and 1 pair stereo RCA phono output jacks.

Digital Specs: 4 digital inputs for HD USB input (32-bit/384KHz and DSD128-capable), Optical TOSLink (24-bit/192kHz-capable), RCA coaxial (24-bit/384kHz-capable) and Driverless USB (16-bit/48kHz-capable designed for tablets/phones).

Amp Specs: rated output varies from 720mW @ 8 ohms to 35mW @ 600 ohms, 0.075 ohms output impedance, 0.0005% THD and 120dB dynamic range.

Price: $2400 US.

CES 2014 Headphone News Videos

HeadWize did not attend the CES this year. Here is a selection of headphone videos (interviews, promotions, reviews) from the CES that have been published online. Among the celebrity appearances are Nick Cannon for Monster n-Pulse headphones and Tim Tebow and Brendan Schaub for Soul Electronics, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson for SMS, Anthony Pettis/Ne-Yo/Shane Victorino for Monster Octagon, Tyson Beckford for Monster Inspiration, DJ Tiesto for AudioFly. These were Cannon’s, Tebow’s and Jackson’s second appearances in a row at the CES.

Among the headphone and related products mentioned:

AudioFly: Club Life line
Audio-Technica: AG1, ADG1
Beyerdynamic: T51P, A200P (amp)
Bowers & Wilkins: P3, P4, P5, P7
DTS: Headphone X (sound enhancement)
Jabra: ROX
Monster: NCredible, Octagon, Inspiration
Sennheiser: HD7DJ, HD8DJ, HD6Mix, Momentum
Soul Electronics: Combat+ Transform and Flex
Stax: Omega
Torque Audio: t103z, t402v
Turtle Beach: XBox One line
SMS: Street Wireless, Carmelo Anthony Signature, Star Wars by SMS
Velodyne: vQuiet



Photive BTH3 Bluetooth Headphones

The Photive PH-BT3 headphones incorporate Bluetooth 4.0 technology for wireless operation with an operating range of 33 feet from the transmitter. Excellent sound quality from the 40mm drivers that generate prodigious bass and an extended frequency response. A slim, lithium ion battery powers the headphones for up to 15 hours and recharges in 3 hours. When traveling, the headphones fold flat to fit into the hard travel case.

Smartphone and tablet features include an integrated microphone for talk and navigation and call buttons located on the enclosures. A 3.5mm aux input provides connectivity for devices without Bluetooth. Comes with USB charging cable, hard travel case, a 3.5mm audio cable and user’s guide.

Specs: 20Hz to 20kHz freq. response, Bluetooth CSR 4.0, receiver range 2.401 to 2.480 MHz, -82dB S/N.

Price: $120 US.