AF’s Weblog

September 24, 2012

Monster Beats Pro Review

To read the full detailed review see:  Monster Beats Pro Review

Thanks to its partnership with Dr Dre, Monster’s Beats Pro have become a grand success. But are we really talking about a new reference product here or just a fad? That’s the question…

There’s nothing strange in an audio and hi-fi cable manufacturer launching a range of headphones, that’s what you usually call diversification. But what’s really surprising is that the manufacturer’s most expensive headphones are endorsed by famous hip-hop producer Dr Dre and that they are a smash hit in spite of their $400 price tag! Within a few months, the Beats Pro and their less expensive variations have become a popular reference: you can see them on many heads on the street, despite their price and their “pro” flair. We must admit that the Beats have that something extra: they are lookers! Compared to the old-school designs from the 80’s that still influence some AKG, Sennheiser and BeyerDynamic headphones, Monster tried to create a pair of headphones with a different look (available in black or white with a small, red “b” on each ear cup) and different high-quality materials, like brushed aluminum for the headband and real leather for the earcup cushions.

The beauty and the beast inside

Monster Beats Pro

It seems Monster has learned a lot from Apple’s marketing strategies: the Beats Pro come in a nice-looking, heavy box with all the necessary accessories. Besides small guides, the package includes a soft cover and even a small antibacterial cloth for cleaning the headphones. All details of the packaging and the accessories have been painstakingly considered and the same applies to the headphones themselves. Among the good ideas introduced with the headphones is the locking system of the red cable, which enables you to plug it either to the right or the left earcup. The other end of the cable features an angled minijack and even a small rubber holder for the 1/4″ jack adapter. A very good idea, considering how easy it is to forget where you put it…

Watch out for counterfeits

Being a fashion phenomenon, the Beats are the most counterfeited headphones in history, according to Monster. This might explain why you see them everywhere in spite of their hefty price. The manufacturer is very clear in this respect: the only way to get authentic Beats headphones is to buy them from an official dealer. They also advise against products sold on eBay (or the like) because up to 99% are counterfeits.

The headphones are quite heavy, which will please some and displease the rest, but they feel pretty comfortable on my head and give an impression of roughness with their thick brushed aluminum parts. Both earcups can be folded, which is convenient for transportation and for DJ-style listening. The adjustable headband and earcups allow the headphones to fit every head.

In short, they look great, are well manufactured, well thought-out, and sold in a beautiful package (following Apple’s footsteps). The only negative thing is that Monster doesn’t include spare earcup cushions, probably because the cushions of the Beats Pro are washable… Time will tell if this strategy is right!

Now let’s take a closer look and a listen…

Conclusion

Monster Beats Pro

The Beats look great and even if the bling-bling of its white leather won’t be to everyone’s taste (a black version is also available), the high quality materials, the listening comfort, the provided accessories, and the packaging justify the $400 price tag. But when it comes to the sound, the conclusion isn’t as easy. The overemphasized lows and tiny highs make the Beats quite pleasant to the ears, but they also make them an aberration for your wallet, at least for studio applications. In fact, they can hardly compete with similar products from AKG, Beyerdynamic or Ultrasone. Monster applied a successful marketing strategy consisting in making headphones fashionable, while implying that the sound is good because the price is high thanks to a cleaver endorsement strategy…

In this regard, Dr. Dre is certainly one of the best hip-hop producers ever. I have a huge respect for the man and his work, but I would like to know for what kind of professional applications is he using these “professional” headphones that neglect so many nuances and details of the audio signal due to an overemphasized low-end. In the end it all comes down to marketing, which makes me wonder if Bon Jovi ever drove the Volkswagen Golf that holds his name…

Advantages: 
  • Original look compared to competitors
  • Well thought-out headphones, good manufacturing quality
  • Accessories

Drawbacks:

  • Unbelievable value for money
  • Super-ultra-overemphasized lows
  • Crippled highs

To read the full detailed review see:  Monster Beats Pro Review

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July 27, 2012

AKG K 702 Headphones Review

Filed under: Headphones — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:12 am

To read the full article with other editor’s conclusions see:  AKG K 702 Review

Let’s end this week with another famous name: AKG and their reference-class K 702. Our opinion about its little brother, the K 271, was pretty balanced: it has a very detailed high-end but a too weak low-frequency range. What about the K 702?

Red Led’s Conclusion

AKG K 702The K 271 mkII didn’t quite satisfy us but its big brother really seduced us. The low-end is still a bit shy but it sounds very well and very detailed; much better than the K 271. These headphones actually redress the main disadvantage of the K 271. They are certainly the most linear headphones we ever reviewed and the dynamic range is just amazing. They reproduce every detail of the signal very accurately, which makes them perfect for mixing. Moreover, the K 702 are light and comfortable. They feature replaceable ear-cup cushions and a replaceable cable thanks to the mini-XLR connector. If we consider that a good pair of headphones shouldn’t emphasize the lows, these are the ultimate headphones for you. My own personal revelation among the headphones reviewed.

Advantages:

  • Well-balanced sound
  • Weak but accurate low-end
  • Very wide dynamic range
  • High-end reproduction is detailed but not sharp
  • Mini-XLR connector
  • Light and comfortable
  • Ear-cup cushions and cable available as spare parts

Drawbacks:

  • If you like fat lows, don’t buy them

To read the full article with other editor’s conclusions see:  AKG K 702 Review

July 23, 2012

Ultrasone Pro 2900 Review

Filed under: Headphones — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 10:34 am

To read other conclusions by our editors see:  Ultrasone Pro 2900 Review

The Ultrasone Pro 550 didn’t convince us when we compared headphones under $150. But the brand is famous for its high-class headphones. So what about the Pro 2900, the flagship in the Ultrasone product range?

Los Teignos’ Conclusion

Ultrasone Pro 2900Ultrasone certainly brought some fresh air to the market of pro-audio headphones with original products that are very appealing compared with the standard tools from Beyer, AKG or Sennheiser. In fact, the sound signature of this Pro 2900 will surprise many users with its extreme low-end and sharp high-end. But you’ll quickly come to understand that these features are real advantages because this pair of headphones emphasizes exactly the information that is inhibited by the other headphones. I’m not sure of whether these are the ideal headphones if you’re looking for absolute sound neutrality, however they are already a reference.

Advantages:

  • Reproduction of very high frequencies
  • Reproduction of very low frequencies
  • Accessories and packaging
  • A strong personality without competitors
  • Technology reducing electromagnetic radiation

Drawbacks:

  • Commitment to a sound signature that won’t be every user’s taste
  • Ear-cup cushions tend to unscrew too easily

To read other conclusions by our editors see:  Ultrasone Pro 2900 Review

July 16, 2012

Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro Mini-Review

Filed under: Headphones — Tags: , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:26 pm

To read the other opinions and the full article see:  Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro Review

Our Headphones Week continues with the Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro, the big brother of the DT-770. Having the DT-770 as a reference, we had high expectations for the DT-880… Verdict!

Red Led‘s Conclusion

Beyerdynamic DT-880 ProThe first advantage of the DT-880 Pro is their price: these headphones are the cheapest in our test. They inherit all the features of the DT-770 Pro, which we really liked last year, and they even fix some disadvantages we noticed then. In fact, the low-frequency response is much smoother than with the DT-770 (no troublesome dip @ 80Hz anymore). The high-frequencies are still very detailed, sometimes almost tiring. The headphones offer perfect comfort but they are not foldable and they are rather bulky. The DT-880 Pro take after the DT-770 Pro and straighten their main defect. Very good value for money.

Advantages:

  • Price
  • Comfortable
  • Wide frequency range
  • Ear cup cushions available as spare parts
  • Smooth low-frequency response
Drawbacks:
  • Tiring in certain situations
  • Cable not replaceable

To read the other opinions and the full article see:  Beyerdynamic DT-880 Pro Review

July 11, 2012

Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000 Mini-Review

Filed under: Headphones — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 6:31 am

To read the full article with other opinions see:  ATH-AD1000 Mini-Review

Second headphones review: Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000. The ATH-M50 impressed us when reviewed headphones under $150… But what about this up-market product? Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000.

Los Teignos’ Conclusion

Audio-Technica ATH-AD1000These headphones are comfortable and guarantee an excellent high-frequency reproduction. In terms of sound signature and performance, the ATH-AD1000 nearly reach the quality of the AKG 702. The problem is they are a bit more expensive than the AKG while having some disadvantages, like the non-detachable cable. As a consequence, even if there is no reason to advise against these headphones, there is also no reason to recommend them.

Advantages:

  • Comfortable and light
  • Very good high-frequency reproduction
Drawbacks:
  • Irreplaceable cable and no exchangeable ear cups
  • Not as good as the K702 but more expensive?
  • No accessories
  • Too expensive compared with similar products

To read the full article with other opinions see:  ATH-AD1000 Mini-Review

July 9, 2012

Sennheiser HD650 Mini-Review

Filed under: Headphones — Tags: , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:42 am

To read the other conclusions and see the full review see:  Sennheiser HD650 Review

It’s Headphones Week at AudioFanzine and this Sennheiser HD650 review is the first one in a series of five reviews. Five different headphones will be reviewed by three of our editors, Los Teignos, Red Led and Will Zégal.

Los Teignos’ Conclusion

Sennheiser HD650The high-frequency range is so weak that I first thought the ones we received at AudioFanzine were faulty. I checked the problem and unfortunately the headphones were not faulty! Throughout the whole session, I had to regret always the same things: in many situations, the HD650 are not capable of reproducing important details of a mix, for instance attacks, reverb tails and other subtle signals. And although they give good results in the lows, the Ultrasone are a serious competitor in this respect. To keep it short, I don’t recommend the HD650 for professional tracking, mixing or mastering. For consumer applications like home cinema, these headphones will seduce audiophiles who will praise the “deep” lows and the “silky” highs while drinking a cup of tee. Unlike the HD25, which offer a lot of good things and are a real reference product in their price range, we can hardly find any positive features here. The HD650 are much too expensive considering their performance. Even for half the price, these headphones are still not a good choice…

Advantages:

  • Nice looks
  • Sturdy construction
  • Fat low-end — typical Sennheiser
Drawbacks:
  • No accessories
  • Ear cup cushions not replaceable
  • Where are the high frequencies?
  • Heavy — you’ll always know when you have them on
  • Bad value for money

To read the other conclusions and see the full review see:  Sennheiser HD650 Review

April 25, 2009

Making a Studio Pt.1

Studio Considerations

The magic of the recording studio has often mystified even the most seasoned professionals. With all the knobs, switches and buttons on various gear and large format consoles, no wonder confusion sets in to most non-techies. Many people, especially artists, composers, producers, and engineers, will end up putting together their own studio for writing and preproduction, with some eventually deciding to take the plunge and create a full-fledged recording complex that is capable of recording major albums. This series of articles will try to shed some light on the considerations to take into account when making a studio, be it a small home studio or a professional recording studio.

Ouverture

Is bigger better?

Is size important? Some may say it is so but this is not always the case. The dimensions of the studio are very important. A room too large may become over-reverberant or full of unwanted echoes. A room too small may sound tight and unnatural. It is important that the room size and room sound is relevant to the type of music you are recording. You don’t want to go into a very small tight room to record BIG rock drums. Although, big room sounds can be achieved by adding external reverb effects to simulate rooms at a later time when necessary.

It is best to find the room that suits the sound you are trying to achieve from the beginning of the recording process. The smaller the room, the smaller and tighter the sound will be; this is not necessarily a bad thing. Small tight rooms can be good for vocals, guitars and percussion if you are going for a tight clean sound. Larger rooms have more air for the sound to travel in, so it will be in fact a bigger more open sound. The sound has a longer travel time for the sound wave to move, therefore the reflection from the walls will take longer to bounce back creating a bigger more spacious sound. The decision of size and sound has to be made early on before the recording starts. One advantage that a larger room will have is the ability to be scaled down by closing up the room using modular baffles or gobos (go betweens). Gobos are structures that are partitions, that help to block sound by placing them in between the musicians, instruments, and microphones. Placing the gobos around the microphone at a close distance will help a large room with too much ambiance sound smaller. This will eliminate the reflections coming off of the walls that are further away.

Ouverture

Small rooms can produce big heavy tight sounds with the absence of the decay from the reverb that is caused from big rooms. Sometimes a large room can sound like it’s washed out, or far away. With a good engineer any room can sound amazing with a little adjusting. A poor sounding room can be manipulated to sound good, although it requires much more work and time. Deciding on the proper room size for your needs is critical to the sounds that get re-produced. This will highly dictate the type of sound the microphones will pick up.

Clapping your hands in a room can give a good representation of what a room will sound like. The reflection coming off the walls will be picked up by a simple hand clap. The true test is to try out some instruments or vocals and position them in various sections of the room until reaching the optimum sound quality. If one side of the room sounds bad try a different spot or move around into a corner until the sound is improved.

Experimenting with different sections of the room also keeps the sound fresh when recording many instruments. If the acoustic guitars are recorded in the center of the room, when the time comes to record the electric guitars you may try recording them in a corner of the room for a different room sound. This gives clarity on the final mix creating separation and providing more distinction on various sounds.

If you are starting your own studio, remember that the bigger the studio the higher amount the bills will be. The benefit is that larger studios can charge more for their studio rates.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Check List: Part 3

Plan de groupeA Sony CD Recorder

CD RECORDER

Records and plays back compact discs. Gives the ability to record stereo mixes and playback these mixes on other CD players. CD standard for consumer playback is a sample rate of 16 bit and a sampling rate of 44.1kHz. Sony, Tascam, Alesis, and Yamaha all make good studio CD recorders.

Plan de groupeStuder 24 Track Analog Tape Machine

TAPE MACHINES

Recording machines that use analog or digital tape for recording and playback of music. Some purists in sound recording prefer the sound of analog tape. There are many digital tape machines used for recording both music and video.

CABLING

Literally miles of various cabling could be needed for a single studio. Common cables in sound reproduction are XLR balanced mic cables and Unbalanced 1/4 inch instrument cables.

MONITORS / AMPS

Speakers in the studio are referred to as Monitors. Powerful clean amps are needed to run monitors. Many monitors are self powered, which means that they have built in amplifiers. Monitors usually consist of high frequency tweeters, low frequency woofers and cabinets that contain the speakers and components.

Plan de groupeActive Studio Monitors

HEADPHONES / DISTRIBUTION

By using a set of earphones this allows communication between the control room and the studio, also allows pre-recorded tracks to be heard during the overdubbing process. Headphones are also referred to as cans.

INSTRUMENTS / KEYBOARDS / DRUMS / GUITARS

These are more of the tools of the craft. You may have all the best studio gear in the world, but if the instruments sound bad you are starting in the wrong place. Anything could be considered an instrument if it makes noise that could possibly be recorded on a record.

AMPLIFIERS

This is often referred to as an amp. Amps increase the amplitude or volume of electrical signals from sound waves. These are used in powering speakers. Guitar and Bass amps can be used for many other applications such as running a vocal or snare drum through them.

Plan de groupe

MICROPHONE STANDS

A wide variety of sizes and styles are needed for a proper studio. The mic stand helps to get the microphone placed properly for the best sound quality possible.

STUDIO FURNITURE

There are many types of racks and furniture designed to hold consoles and outboard gear. The interior decoration of the studio completely sets the vibe of the working environment.

To Be Continued…

That’s the end of part one. For part two, we’ll be discussing electricity, A/C requirements, separate rooms, location, and more…

To read the full detailed article see Making a Studio Part 1

February 4, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo New Headphones from Audio-Technica

Filed under: Headphones, namm 2009 — Tags: , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 8:55 am

Short tour of the new Audio Technica headphones.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

January 29, 2009

NAMM 2009: Video Demo Radial Engineering H-Amp

Filed under: Amps, namm 2009 — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 2:36 pm

Short but sweet presentation of the new Radial Engineering H-Amp by Peter Janis.

To watch all NAMM 2009 video demos visit us on Audiofanzine NAMM 2009.

August 26, 2008

Audio-Technica review: ATH-ANC3

Filed under: Recording reviews — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 4:03 pm
Audio Technica ATH-ANC3

Audio Technica ATH-ANC3

For travelers who want to listen to their favorite music without bothering others or being bothered, using an ordinary pair of headphones doesn’t always give you total isolation. So then came along in-ear headphones (that go directly into the ear canal and therefore isolate the listener). Then, after that, noise-canceling headphones, featuring electronic circuitry that reduced extraneous noise, appeared on the scene. Audio Technica now offers headphones with both these features, but is it enough to provide total isolation?

Read the full test of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC3 on Audiofanzine.

I personally bought them and use them everywhere now, from plane to the street. It’s such a comfort to listen to music in the silence! 🙂

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