Andover Audio’s PM-50 headphone is likely one of the few however rising variety of headphone fashions constructed round extremely high-resolution planar magnetic drivers (50mm, on this case). This $500 over-the-ear, open-backed mannequin does a high quality job of distracting and diverting the listener—not less than for some time—from the isolation and tedium that comes with enforced social distancing.
New and favourite music and films appear vividly alive, current, and extra in your face with these entertainers balancing in your head. The PM-50 have a readability, airiness, and spatial positioning ability set so exact and three-dimensional I can shut my eyes and really feel like I’m within the recording studio, membership, or live performance corridor with the performers.
This overview is a part of TechHive’s protection of the best headphones, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you need to take into account when purchasing.
Planar magnetic defined
Planar magnetic headphones (and their shut relation, electrostatic headphones) have been round for greater than 4 a long time, courting fastidious, deep-pocketed audiophiles. The secret of their success are thin-film planar magnetic flat drivers—membranes interwoven with electrically lively wires. These are pushed/pulled at very shut vary by evenly spaced magnets to maneuver air and thus make the sound waves detected by our ears.
As this driving drive is evenly distributed throughout all the floor of the diaphragm, it’s each faster reacting and fewer vulnerable to distortion than the extra typical cone-shaped headphone drivers, that are rocked backwards and forwards from the slim finish of the cone by a single donut-shaped magnet and voice coil.
Most listeners and mainstream headphone makers have by no means brushed ears with planar magnetic music makers as a result of this stuff are simply too darn advanced and (till not too long ago) too costly to construct. Andover Audio’s Boston-designed, made-in-China PM-50 are hardly an impulse purchase at $500, however their specs are spectacular: Frequency response vary of 15Hz – 50kHz, and driver sensitivity of 102dB/1mW. Their 32-Ohm impedance ranking means you need to be capable of pair them with nearly any audio supply, together with a smartphone or moveable digital audio participant. They performed good and loud for me even when plugged right into a Roku distant management’s headphone jack.
Pretty, however fatiguing to put on
The PM-50 additionally look the a part of dear telephones, too. The earpieces are decked out in real walnut hardwood enclosures that slide up and down a critically grippy, padded steel headband. The package consists of two units of swappable pleather-wrapped earpads. There’s a thinner set providing a extra detailed, ahead sound (my choice), and a thicker set that lends a bit extra bass heat and detachment from the music.
A 3rd “loose fit” earpad possibility, due out within the fall, will provide a bigger circumference pad and ear opening “to accommodate a small amount of users who may want a roomier fit,” an Andover Audio spokesperson stated. That would come with me, summing up my most vital criticism about these puppies. For higher (at first) after which worse, this stuff actually grip laborious, with the highest of the pads catching (moderately than surrounding) the highest of my average-sized ears.
Adding insult to harm, that springy steel headband presses the arms of my eyeglasses into my temples. All’s high quality sufficient for about two hours of listening, however then stuff begins to harm, and I want a trip. I hope that third set of pop-on earpads resolves the issue.
The 13.5-ounce weight of those cans—15 ounces with the cable—would possibly cease some folks of their tracks. The open-back Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro which are my on a regular basis laptop station playmates weigh simply 8.5 ounces. The sound leakage that happens with open-back headphones is just not an issue for me; it is likely to be for you.
Oh, and I found one different oddity. Wearing the telephones and listening to music whereas folding bedsheets, the static electrical energy created by my chore set off just a little sparky sputter within the drivers. Don’t attempt that at residence.
If the Andover model is as new to you because it was to me, you would possibly prefer to know that it’s lead by former Cambridge SoundWorks common supervisor Rob Mainiero, a longtime advocate of sharp, worth pricing. The firm was based in 2012, and its crew minimize their cuspids at Acoustic Research, a/d/s, Apogee Acoustics, Bose, and Harman.
For my listening exams—relying most frequently on content material from the high-res music-streaming service Qobuz, streaming from an iMac by means of a Meridian Audio Explorer2 DAC—I used to be grateful for the PM-50’s generously lengthy (5 toes, 8 inches) cloth-wrapped Y-cable with gold terminators. The cable size allowed me to maneuver my listening location from my laptop desk chair to a close-by couch. The cable terminates with a 3.5mm plug, and there’s a 1/4-inch adapter within the field. Come summer season, extra-obsessives could have the choice of swapping out the inventory cable for a $100 OCC (Ohno Continuous Casting) mannequin.
Being a lifelong James Taylor devotee (and in want of musical consolation), I’ve actually obsessed, repeatedly, on listens to his well-recorded and kindly reassuring album American Standard. With tasty musical path by jazz cabaret guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli, the set celebrates the good showtunes and pop hits of Taylor’s formative youth in gently grooved and kindly personalised performances.
Think “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” (from Guys and Dolls), “Teach Me Tonight,” and “Pennies from Heaven.” While the PM-50 first put a smile on my face whereas listening to a mid-fi Amazon Music stream of the set by means of a linked iPhone X, the interpretive nuances, growls, and vocal humor that JT brings to the get together actually got here alive when the headphones have been jacked right into a CD participant after which by way of Qobuz’s immaculate 24-bit/96KHz presentation.
The PM-50 additionally proved revelatory on two new guitar wizard albums: Al Di Meola’s second set of flamenco and raga-driven interpretations of Beatles tunes, Across the Universe, sounded hyper florid and percussive on these articulate headphones. And Pat Metheny’s long-in-planning From This Place, a set that makes use of orchestral preparations in such a delicate, non-schlocky style I barely observed the string enhancements once I first performed the set on loudspeakers and lesser-grade earbuds. It took the PM-50 for my soul to be psychedelicized.
Planar magnetic headphones should not identified for heavy bass response, however it was adequate on this instance to place the burn on neo-soul crooner Jose James’ contemporary set No Beginning, No End 2, and to get the home rockin’ anew, a mere 36 years later, with Bob Geldof’s comeback fronting The Boomtown Rats on Citizens of Boomtown. While largely nostalgic for the nice ol’ road preventing and glam rock sounds,Geldof and firm are even making an attempt rap and dabbling in home music on the floor-thumping “Get a Grip.” The PM-50 made the most effective of this odd scenario.
While old-school headphone makers like Yamaha, Fostex, and MB Quart gave up on planar magnetic headphones eons in the past, upstart manufacturers like Audeze, HiFiMan, and Andover Audio are beginning the revolution once more. With extra time on our palms to attempt this stuff out (Andover offs free 30-day returns for any motive), perhaps now could be the second so that you can give them a pay attention. Odds are good you received’t be disenchanted.