The headphones of CES 2016
The best way to start the year as a techie is with eyes glued to what’s going down in Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show.
For the audiophile things have kicked off in style with some of the most stylish headphones we’ve seen in a long while from brands including Sony, Audio-Technica and Gibson Innovations.
Wireless, and especially sports wireless sports headphones, seem to be the flavour of the month, but have no fear there are also some quality wired cans sneaking out from behind the bright lights of Vegas too…
Here’s our pick of the best CES 2016 headphone announcements so far.
Audio-Technica has introduced its latest audiophile-grade Art Monitor series of over-ear headphones. The closed-back series comes with four new models, priced from wallet-testing down to surprisingly affordable.
The top-of-the-line ATH-A2000Z is a titanium-encased beauty, with newly designed 53mm drivers attached to them, sporting carbon-coated diaphragms to to produce the clearest, most detailed top-end sound they can. Both the ATH-A2000Z and A1000Z have the audiophile standard of separate, four-core cables for the left and right channels. The lower-end ATH-A990Z and A550Z headphones still sport the same 3D wing support to allow them to comfortably rest on your head, but come with much more reasonable price tags.
The new Art Monitor series is out this month.
With a mix of impressive sound quality and great value, the original Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 headset was a bit of a hit. The company has now announced a new active noise cancelling sibling, hence the NC suffix.
Audio-Technica is promising a 30-hour battery life for its 360º active noise cancelling tech, which should get you through even the most stressful of long-haul flights on a single charge.
The new ATH-MSR7NC going on sale this month.
ATH-SR5 and SR5BT
The new SR5 range has been designed as a more affordable option to support the higher-end MSR7 cans. Featuring the same 45mm True Motion drivers, the SR5s are able to still deliver the sort of detailed, distortion-free audio you need for the burgeoning hi-res audio scene.
The Bluetooth version is using the 4.1 iteration of the wireless technology with AptX support to offer CD quality bitrates. The ATH-SR5BT also uses NFC tech to allow speedy connections with compatible devices so you can just tap and go. Audio-Technica is promising a 38-hour battery life, which is seriously impressive.
The ATH-SR5 and ATH-SR5BT will both be available in March this year.
It may be doing the Kuai headphones a disservice to call them just that. Kuaiwear’s Kuai is more of a full biometric fitness training device that you just happen to stick in your ears.
The Kuai combines a heart rate monitor, pedometer, sports watch, portable music player and even virtual coach: you can download training plans and have a faux fitness coach bark encouragement directly into your ear-holes.
The little device packs its biometrics and accelerometer into a relatively lightweight design, with a seven-hour battery life and waterproofing up to three metres.
The Kuai is available to pre-order now for and is expected to ship later this month.
The new Philips Flite range of headphones from Gibson is designed to offer ultra-light, low-cost, portable audio without compromising on sound. There are three models in the range: Aerolite, Everlite and Hyprlite.
The Aerolite and Everlite headsets are over-ear versions and come with 32mm drivers and foldable headbands to make them as compact as possible.
The Hyprlites are in-ear headphones with 12.2mm drivers. The earbuds feature compact bass-tubes to enhance the low-end frequencies.
The over-ear Aerolite and Everlite headphones will go on sale in April, with the Hyprlite earbuds following in June this year.
Philips HX1 and HX5
The new HX range of headphones come with LEDs on the sides which pulse in time with the music you’re listening to. Which is sure to be a visual feast for everyone around, though not for you. Apparently all it takes is the press of a button for the LEDs to start pulsing.
The HX1 in-ear headphones come with 8.6mm drivers and the HX5 over-ear model is rocking 40mm drivers, though both come with specially designed BassReflex ports for that added sonic thump.
The HX series owes not a little to the craziness of Gibson Innovations’ NX Nitro line of weird-speakers. We checked out the NX9 at IFA last year, innocently pressing the NX Bass button and ruining several important executive meetings by blowing everyone’s eardrums out as the speakers went into overdrive.
Gibson has also announced another two models added to the wireless Philips ActionFit range, the RunFree SHQ6500 and higher-end WirelessFreedom SHQ7800.
Both are Bluetooth compatible but the RunFree set only has IPX2 sweat resistance (ewww) while the more versatile WirelessFreedom headphones come with an IPX4 rating for more extreme waterproofing, as well as three different wearing styles (ear-hook, fin or earbud).
Philips wireless ear-buds
There have also been three new Bluetooth headphones in the Philips range announced at CES. There are the new MyJam FreshTones BT, Upbeat Metalix BT and Upbeat Metalix Pro earbuds.
They’ve been introduced as “lightweight and comfortable, designed for the urban warrior” which has us a little concerned as to what exactly the target demographic is for these new wireless buds.
Sony h.ear wireless headphones
Sony has announced two new pairs of headphones to go into its h.ear range.
The new h.ear on Wireless NC set uses active noise cancelling to block out unwanted noise via a set of microphones based both on the interior and exterior of the cans themselves.
They also use a feature called Automatic AI Noise Cancelling to monitor ambient noise and dynamically adjust the level of noise cancelling being used. Sony is promising up to 20 hours of continuous playback from its new wireless set.
The 40mm drivers in the new h.ear on headphones are capable of delivering frequencies up to 40kHz and come with titanium-coated diaphragms to deliver on the promise of hi-res audio.
Sony has also unveiled the new h.ear in wireless ear-buds, with 9mm drivers built-in microphone for hands-free calling.
These wireless Bluetooth headphones are new additions to Sony’s EXTRA BASS series, for those who really need, well, extra bass.
The MDR-XB650BT headphones have been designed to deliver deep sound frequencies at any volume level via their relatively small 30mm driver units. The EXTRA BASS sound technology is exclusive to the range, as is the EXTRA BASS diaphragm which helps ensure a realistic deep bass note.
The latest Sony headphones support both aptX connectivity as well as NFC connection and touch controls.
Harman and Under Armour
UA Headphones Wireless Heart Rate
Harman International and Under Armour have got together to release two new pairs of wireless headphones at CES this year. Both are designated as sports headphones and both are engineered by audio heavyweights, JBL.
The new Wireless Heart Rate headphones come with – you guessed it – a heart rate monitor. The in-ear buds are also rocking Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity, an IPX 5 rating making them sweat proof, but are limited by a miserly five-hour battery life.
UA Headphones Wireless
The straight wireless edition of the new UA Headphones range is essentially the same, but comes without the added draw of that heart rate monitor. They only use Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, but that isn’t going to limit you too much, and they come with a slightly healthier eight-hour battery life.
The standard UA Headphones Wireless edition will be available by the end of February with the Heart Rate headphones coming on sale later in the year.