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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 9, No. 9

High-End Headphones

June 5, 2004

Version française...

Headphones have become an essential accessory to music enjoyment as well as an affordable alternative to high-end speakers. While headphones come in a variety of prices, good quality headphones can be found in the $2001200 range.

This market is dominated by Sennheiser, but lesser-known trademarks such as Grado (Germany) and Stax (Japan) can be found at specialty shops.

The two criteria for selecting the best headphones are quality of sound reproduction and price. Specifications do not tell the whole story. It's best to do a listen test with your favourite recordings. If this poses a problem, you may not be in the right store.


For those with limited budgets, the Sennheiser 500 series offers superior sound for $200400. For the highest quality, the 600 series uses Sennheiser's best design and components and starts at $600.

Cordless headphones allow for more mobility. Although the Sennheiser cordless (model RS-85) uses the same components as the 500 series, the sound quality is limited by its resident 900 MHz cordless technology.

Grado's philosophy is to reproduce the natural sound, and it is recommended by many high-end stores. Its "Prestige" series is the most accessible; three models are available at prices from $220450. Grado built its reputation on its "Reference" series; two models are priced from $700. The design of the latter, however, does not provide enough comfort for long hours of listening.


Forget magnets and the cones. The Stax headphones are based on electrostatic membrane technology, which is gaining renown for not deforming the sound. But this is a more expensive technology, and the basic model starts at $1,150.

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