Nighthawk Stereo Headphone
Sources: iPhone6+ with Oppo HA-2/Beyer A200p DAC/amps, various computers using the HRT Microstreamer/Audioquest Dragonfly/FiiO E17k/FiiO E07k DAC/amps.
How to describe the sound of the Audioquest Nighthawk? The term liquid comes to mind, as a smoothness that’s like water on a plate. As I’ve been listening the past few days I thought “This is like listening to average solid-state amps for years, and then hearing a highly-regarded tube amp for the first time.” That’s an imperfect analogy, since I’m dealing with the complexities of sound, and audiophile sound at that.
There are aspects of audiophile sound that fall into a hierarchy of sorts – frequency response, balance, signature – those three terms describe the thing that’s most obvious to beginners and advanced users alike. There are theories and there are preferences. My personal take says that the Nighthawk is both warmer and softer (less harsh) than the classic hi-fi flagships from Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic, to name some examples. But that’s also my impression of good tube sound, so the question then is “How much does the Nighthawk actually differ from those ‘flagship’ headphones?”
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Because absolutely no one asked, Guy goes over in detail how he’s going to podcast using just iOS at the Macworld Expo. You’d think he’d have the process pretty much worked out by now. Meanwhile Gaz is excitedly testing rechargeable batteries in Apple devices that don’t have Apple’s logo, that rebel! While it all sounds rather mundane, this was a pretty funny show.
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Guy’s audio on the floor was pretty bad (Tim has the GOOD Microphone), so Guy waited until he got home to try and clean it up. You can be the judge of how well he (or didn’t) do. These are the last five developer interviews on the Macworld Expo floor from Guy and Tim.
Fresh Body Shop – Bring Me Down
Sennheiser CX 680i Adidas Sport In-Ear Stereo Headphones
Price: $79.95-$99.95 USD — depending upon vendor
Ever since my first iPad, I’ve been using Apple’s traditional white earbuds. When I got the opportunity to take a look at Sennheiser’s CX 680i Adidas Sport In-Ear Stereo Headphones, I suddenly realized what I’ve been missing all these years. Priced at around $100, these headphones aren’t Sennheiser’s highest-end headphones, but anything I take a look at is going to sound great compared to the white earbuds I’m accustomed to.
Price: $147 on Amazon
The Sennheiser PX210BT earphones are a comfortable against-the-ear headset designed to be used wirelessly with any newer Bluetooth compatible device. They also come with a USB cable that can be plugged into an external power source or computer output so that when the built- in rechargeable battery is low or exhausted you can still listen to music as you would with any other set of wired earphones. If you’re going to use them with an iPhone, keep in mind they do not come with a microphone.
I’ve tried many different earphones but none that were Bluetooth enabled. I’ve been told that on some Bluetooth headphones the sound quality can be weak or inconsistent, but this is decidedly not the case with the PX210BT headphones. The sound is clear, distortion-free, and lifelike. The Sennheisers have a wonderful mid and upper range and are free of the thundering bass that makes you feel like you’re trapped in the percussion section of a 110-piece orchestra. Which is not to say that the bass is anemic. It is not. It is simply well-balanced, which makes the listening experience infinitely more satisfying.
I compared them with an older set of Sony against-the-ear earphones that I’ve had for many years and the difference was striking. The Sonys had a deeper bass that bled through every other tone, creating an indiscriminate muffling effect. The sound on the Sonys was so muffled by the bass boost I felt like I was listening under a pillow. Switching to the Sennheisers, by contrast, was like listening to a finely tuned piano that produced music that was crisp and precise.
The headband and earcups on the PX210BT headphones are nicely cushioned and comfortable enough to be worn for extended periods of time without wearing you out. Controls on the right earcup allow you to increase or decease the volume whether you’re using them wirelessly or connected to the computer, but only in Bluetooth do you have the added functionality of being able to change tracks.
There are several positive features about these earphones. The setup was simple. I went to System Preferences, clicked on the Bluetooth icon and OS X quickly discovered the Sennheisers and paired with them. After that, any time I wanted to use the phones wirelessly I just powered them on by pressing the middle of the right earcup. A message would appear on my iMac’s screen asking if I wanted to use the Sennheiser headphones. Click on yes and off you go.
In order for this to work as effortlessly as I’ve described, the included lithium battery must be fully charged. The battery will last for up to 10 hours, so to be really useful I found it best to plug mine into a USB port and let it recharge whenever it’s not in use. A full recharge takes three hours.
This is the first set of Bluetooth earphones I’ve tried, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed being free of any wires. The wireless range of 30 feet isn’t exactly enormous, but it’s decent enough if you’re just using them in your office or a short distance from your home computer.
I found them particularly convenient when playing my midi-controller. Usually I would plug my earphones into my monitor speakers and spare my wife the pain of listening to me practicing piano, but it was always a little distracting having the earphone wire dangling nearby. The Bluetooth earphones eliminated that annoyance, but keep in mind that for this to work the battery in the earphones must be fully charged. If you start playing on your keyboard and the music sounds dizzy, the reason is a weak battery. Recharge the battery and before you know it you’ll be sounding like Keith Jarrett again.
The PX210BT headphones are lightweight and collapsible. They fold into a small pouch and can easily be be used when traveling. A nice inclusion is four different AC wall plug adapters, for international usage and travel charging.
After playing around with cheap headphones I came to the conclusion that many do with devices like this; you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent set of headphones without spending a fortune though. Case in point, the Sennheiser EH 150 headphones. For less than 50 bucks, you get a pleasant sounding, easy to wear, and quite comfortable set of headphones that while you might not want to use them exclusively with a high-dollar audio setup, they work great with your laptop or portable media player.
The well-cushioned padding will fit around most ears and allow for some pretty decent noise cancellation as well for those who spend a lot of time say on planes or trains. They are light, but don’t fold so whatever manner you transport them in, make sure there’s enough room to store them out of the way while not in use.
Pluses: Comfortable, decent sound, light, good noise reduction
Minuses: Doesn’t fold, so you need some space to carry them