Tag: Noise Cancelling

Sony’s Comeback: XBA In-Ear Headphone Series

Once the unanimous titan of general consumer electronics, and a pioneer in personal music players with the introduction of the Walkman, Sony is a company that grew accustomed to being at the top. Since its glory days, Sony has endured great hardship in virtually every sector of the consumer electronic market including headphones.  Completely flanked by competition from marketing giants like Beats Audio, Monster, and a slew of other game-changers, Sony has all but been forgotten. Yet, for a company that has not turned a profit since 2008, Sony is still kicking and unleashing what is of late their most impressive effort to recapture the ears of audiophiles.

With the release of the XBA series in-ear headphones, Sony reminds consumers of the innovation and quality that defined the brand not long ago.

XBA Micro Balanced Armature Technology:

Of course, Sony did not invent the balanced armature driver. In fact, it has been around for many years now and has been deployed by various reputable companies such as Westone. But what sets the XBA series apart from the rest of the balanced armature in-ear headphones is that Sony has developed its very own collection of drivers specifically tuned for music reproduction. Unlike others who get their drivers from nondescript balanced armature suppliers, Sony has employed the expertise of their own technology development core to create the XBA 1, XBA 2, XBA 3, and XBA 4.

The number attached to each of the XBA suffix signifies the number of specially crafted micro-balanced armatures built into the respective in-ear headphone, with the XBA featuring one balanced armature driver and the XBA 4 equipped with four. Now, if the XBA series were just packed with a bunch of drivers, this development would be quite unimpressive. But as mentioned earlier, these balanced armature drive units have been tuned to specific frequencies and, wherever there is more than one driver, a passive crossover system ensures that each driver reproduces the sounds it is best tuned to handle.

Borrowing the most detailed of the collection as an example, the XBA 4 features four balanced armature drive units: one full range driver,  one tweeter, one woofer, and one super woofer. With virtually every audible frequency range separated and individually performed by a specialized unit, each frequency range sound separate and clear. Do not expect to find
any muddling of bass and mid frequencies with the XBA series. Moreover, because of the passive crossover, the XBA infuse true and perceptible depth to the soundstage for a reproduction that is simply astoundingly convincing.

XBA Noise Cancelling:

Smallest Noise-Cancelling In-Ear Headphone in the World

Yet another impressive technological design innovation in the Sony XBA series is the excellent integration of noise cancellation. As of September 15th, 2011 the XBA-NC85D became the smallest and lightest noise cancelling in-ear headphones in the world. Because of the incredibly small size of the micro-balanced armature design, Sony has been able to integrate the DNC noise cancelling components and rechargeable battery directly into the sound chamber. Unlike every other noise-cancelling in ear headphone on the market that generally have the DNC noise cancelling processors encased in a “wand” that is connected to the wires leading to the chambers, the XBA-NC85D are just as compact as any other in-ear headphone on the market.

Endowed with a single Sony micro-balanced armature, the XBA-NC85D performs with excellent clarity and fidelity. Offering similar sound characteristics to the standard XBA series, these do not skimp on sound quality in any way.

Will the Phoenix Rise?

Certainly, Sony’s woes as a once-mighty technology giant will not be solved by these remarkably well crafted in-ear monitors. Nonetheless, while they are still around, Sony has definitely flexed their muscle and challenged skeptical audiophiles to reexamine the viability of Sony products. For one, I am completely impressed by the quality of these in-ear monitors and are, beyond a doubt, on my list of most important headphone releases of 2012.

Whatever Sony’s Future, PLEASE Bring Back the Walkman Alien!

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New Unreleased Monster Headphones, The Next Generation

With the introduction of the artist-branded headphone, Monster (the company formerly known as Monster Cable) made a tremendous splash in the music and fashion worlds. The enormous success of the Dre Beats and other models can be taken as preamble to the next movement of the Monster brand that promises to take the design aspect  of Monster headphones to new heights. Whatever your stance on the performance of the Monster brand, even some of the most ardent audiophiles must admit that the new line-up of Monster headphones are aesthetically original. Three of the more distinctive models are the the Infinity, the Diesel, and the Tranquility designs.

First among this innovative list are the Inspiration headphones. The Monster Inspiration headphones are the brands first over ear headphones to feature active noise cancellation and a distinctly streamlined construction. Aside from being the first of Monster headphones to feature active noise cancellation, the Inspiration will also be equipped with an in-line microphone capable of answering and ending calls. Stylistically, the Inspiration will offer a range of headband modifications that are anticipated to feature a broad range of styles and concepts. Moreover, the Inspiration will be available in a sharp Titanium finish, Pearl White, and Silver limited edition.

An even more adventurous design, the Vektr headphones feature an intricately jagged geometric patterning that resembles modern architecture.

Designed with Diesel, the Italian clothing brand, Monster’s Vektr headphones boast of titanium-coated drivers. The Vektr also features a collapsible design that allows them to be compactly and safely stored. Like the Infinity, the Vektr also feature an in-line microphone that allow users to use the Vektr for phone conversation.

 

Lastly, the Tranquility series aims to do exactly what its name implies: calm you down. The Tranquility series has so far been lauded as an audiophile grade set of headphones with a folding design. The remarkably sleek and thin construction is paired with sound isolating ear cushions and features active noise cancellation powered by a rechargeable battery. Furthermore, the Tranquility features dual 1/8″ (3.5mm) input and output plugs to easily connect the Tranquility.

With the impending separation of the Dre Beats from Monster, the relatively newly formed headphone company is seeking to further define itself in the world of headphones by creating completely distinct and original designs. These three anticipated models are a good projection of the direction Monster intends to take as a growing and developing manufacturer.

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Able Planet Headphone Test & Linx Audio Demo at CES 2012

Able Planet Hear the Difference ChallengeWe made a break for the Able Planet booth at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 being held at the Las Vegas Convention center. Why? So we could let our ears try out some sweet gear. Able Planet scheduled us to arrive at noon for a presentation that they were keeping hush hush so we were a little scared at first. They had us sit in a chair with two signs pointing at us that said “Hear the Difference Challenge”, at this point we relaxed and let excitement take over. We were the first to get to participate in the “A or B” headphone listening test they had setup which would let us fully understand how their Linx Audio technology sounds in action.

Linx Audio bumps up the high frequency harmonics which bring out the clarity in music, especially difficult to hear words and syllables. A great side effect of this is that your perception of loudness increases when in fact the loudness is not increasing at all leaving you with crisp audio even at lower volumes. Able Planet described it like the difference you hear when you play a “C” note on a piano, as opposed to a “C” Chord. The “C” Chord demonstrates the impact of adding harmonics to the audio signal.If that isn’t good enough for you, Linx Audio also removes distortion and undesirable sound to further increase the clarity of your music. The real question here was, “Does it actually work well?”, and we had just the method to find out.

Hear the Difference Challenge

Let the test begin! They had two pairs of headphones, one A and one B, and one of them was packed with Linx Audio. Every 10 seconds they switched the headphones on us and we were not allowed to look. Both headphones sounded great at first, but after a few more swaps we started noticing a subtle but large difference in sound. It was apparent in the test that the Linx Audio technology really bumped up the sound quality, especially with Carlos Santanna behind the strings of his guitar in the recorded track we were listening too. Linx Audio technology has won numerous Innovation Awards and we understand why: Great Sound Quality.

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