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Four full-size headphones for affordable audiophile luxury

R. Matthew Ward | Aug. 14, 2013
Your ears deserve better than the cheap cans you've been using all these years. Luckily, $300 or so can buy world-class quality.

Sennheiser supplies two cables: One includes an Apple-style, three-button inline remote/microphone module, along with a hinged plug that can be configured as a straight or L-shaped plug; the other has no remote/mic module and a lower-profile plug. Each cable attaches to the left earpiece using a clever locking connector. The remote/mic module is fairly large and has big buttons, but they're almost flush with the remote's surface, which makes them more difficult to press than they could be. Whichever cord you don't use fits in a small nook of the included semihard case, where it shares space with a 3.5mm-to-1/4-inch adapter. That case is well-designed and protective, but significantly larger than the M-100's case, since the Momentum does not fold for travel.

The Momentum sounds great. It doesn't deliver the extraordinary detail and clarity of AKG's K551, nor do you get the exceptionally smooth, natural sound of Sennheiser's well-regarded (and until recently, flagship) HD 650. Instead, the Momentum's audio signature has aspects of both models, along with bass response that will keep most listeners quite happy (though it's more prominent than I consider strictly necessary). And though its presentation of detail doesn't quite achieve the world-class level of the K551, the Momentum beats its competition in the high-end, portable-style market (which includes the aforementioned B&W P5), sounding every bit as smooth and luxurious but with more clarity, more detail, and better balance. And it performs nearly as well with weak portable devices as with fancier sources.

The Momentum's performance is so good that I recommend it to almost anyone who can afford to pony up the $350. The two small exceptions are audiophiles who want more-neutral bass output, and those who demand the transcendent experience of world-class headphones paired with a dedicated headphone amp and DAC—and are willing to sacrifice visual appeal and portability to get it. Everyone else should be very happy with the beautiful, convenient, and lovely sounding Momentum.

Velodyne vTrue
Until recently, Velodyne focused exclusively on its impressive subwoofers. The company made its debut in the headphone world with the vPulse (4.5 of 5 rating), a set of canalbud-style in-ear headphones. When I reviewed the vPulse, I was impressed by its ability to produce huge bass without overwhelming the midrange and treble frequencies. The company brings that same "big bass without compromises" approach to the $400 Velodyne vTrue Studio Headphones (4.5 of 5 rating). The company has a number of other full-size models, including Bluetooth wireless models, available now or on the way, but the vTrue is the company's flagship offering.

The vTrue's earpieces are constructed from forged aluminum, and they're gorgeous—but also quite heavy. Thankfully, the vTrue's ample earpads and above-average headband padding, both finished in a lovely brown leather, decrease the impact of that weight. The vTrue's cables and earpiece grilles incorporate a bold blue cloth, and the combination of aluminum, brown leather, and blue fabric makes for a distinctive look: The vTrue stands out even among the other very attractive models here, evoking the look of an ultra-high-end luxury car.


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