FiiO E6 Portable Headphone Amplifier Review

I sure did take my time getting to this review. My apologies. Nevertheless, here we go. A review of the FiiO E6 Portable Headphone Amplifier, $28 on and worth every penny if you have larger headphones or want to squeeze a little more sound quality out of your devices. You’re using an iDevice with a 30-pin dock, add on the FiiO line out dock adapter for just $7-10 more.

Apple Nano with FiiO E6 Amplifier

Apple Nano with FiiO E6 Amplifier

Right now you might be asking, “Justin, why would I buy the a headphone amplifier and line out dock connector?” Basically, everything sounds a little bit better and a lot louder and the benefits can be heard with even cheaper headphones. Here’s why.

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Klipsch X7i In-Ear Headphone

It seems hard to believe that it has been five years since Klipsch released the Image X10 in-ear headphone, the world’s smallest and lightest. Shortly after its release came the slightly larger and $100 cheaper Image X5 for $250 and then the Image X10i which added a remote and mic at $350. However there was never an Image X5i for people with iPhones

Klipsch X7i in-ear headphones

Enter the Klipsch Image X7i, a high-end, uniquely designed iDevice ready headphone for $200. Not only cheaper than the Klipsch Image X5 but beating it in features and style at the same time. Continue reading

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Preview

I heard about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 almost by accident one day. A friend was asking me for suggestions for a great set of affordable studio monitors and said he was interested in said headphones. My studio headphone experience was, and still is, pretty limited. Historically I have suggested people check out whatever Sennheiser studio headphone they could afford, namely the Sennheiser HD-280 Pro and HD-380 Pro, and of course the Sony MDR-7506. So I decided to give these a try.

Audio-Technical ATH-M50 headphones

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V-Moda Crossfade LP Review

The excellent Klipsch Image One headphones I reviewed last year have been my default headphones since I bought them. At $150 I feel that these headphones are the best option around. However, what happens when a $200 headphone drops to $100?V-Moda Crossfade LP

The retail price for the V-Moda Crossfade LP headphones is $200, a $50 premium when compared to the Klipsch option. But with the V-Moda Crossfade LP2s on the market, the originals are going for a song! With a drop in price that drastic, I figured it was time to see if these guys are worth the rock bottom $100 street price. Continue reading

You Don’t Really Need Noise Canceling Headphones

Just about every month I get an email, tweet or text message with the question, “What is the best noise canceling headphone for me?” This is especially true around the holidays and the beginning of a school year when people are traveling or hoping to actually start studying.

Noise canceling headphones are designed for use on airplanes. As such, they are set knock out frequencies 400-3,000 hertz. The headphones use a microphone to measure the ambient noise, a microprocessor simultaneously tells the speakers in the headphones to create the opposite phase of the same frequency.

An in-ear headphone will almost always sound better and provide more noise-isolation without degrading your listening experience. They are also cheaper, more portable, require no batteries and can fit so comfortably that you forget you’re even wearing headphones. I will provide a post of my recommended in-ear headphones soon.


This is great on an airplane or a car where the audio it is canceling is focused on those frequencies as they drone on. This type of noise canceling isn’t as effective in less predictable situations like coffee shops with clanging dishes, overhead music, conversation and espresso machines as background noise.

Sound degradation

Another reason noise canceling headphones aren’t always the best answer is the degradation in sound quality. People think that since they paid $300 for their noise canceling headphones, they should sound $200 better than their Sennheiser HD 448. Sadly this isn’t the case. Most of that money goes into the microphones and sound processors used for noise cancelation. You’re still getting $100 quality sound (which can be really awesome sound) but you’re not getting $300 sound.

Add on to that the negative effects of noise cancelation. Think of noise canceling like a food. Removing ambient noise with active noise cancelation is like taking the fat out of a cheese cake. Yes it looks like a cheesecake but it tastes flat and unsavory. Audio suffers the same fate. Processing, and especially over-processing, ambient noise reduction can dramatically degrade sound quality. Some headphone makers will boost frequencies to compensate for this, like adding extra sugar to un-ruin a fat-free cheese cake. But now you have another problem like boosted bass.


Another silly problem with most noise canceling headphones is that when the battery dies in your headphones, so does the sound. When Klipsch released the Mode M40 noise canceling headphones, one of the key selling points was the they worked with or without the battery. If you’ve got a set of Bose Quiet Comfort headphones die after 20-30 hours of use and backup batteries are pricey at $50 each.

More and more headphones are being made to work with over-the-counter AAA and AA batteries which helps in this problem. Other companies like Klipsch are incorporating a passive passthrough in the case that the batteries die and you’re unable to recharge or purchase new ones at the moment.

These batteries and processors also increase the weight which can be annoying after a while. Plus their passive noise canceling (pressing around your ears) grows uncomfortable on long flights.

These are things you should consider before investing in noise canceling headphones.

If you still want in on the noise canceling game, check out my recommended noise canceling headphones. I’ve broken them down in a post coming very soon.

Headroom Total BitHead Review

Two months ago I purchased the Headroom Total BitHead with the intention of both enjoying the sonic benefits it would provide me and to review right here. It is a device I have been dying to play with for years. That being said, unless you found this post by Googling the gadget, chances are you have no idea what this $149 device is or does.

HeadRoom Total BitHead
HeadRoom Total BitHead digital audio converter and headphone amplifier

The Headroom Total BitHead is a portable headphone amplifier and digital audio converter. It plugs into your portable music device using a headphone jack or into your computer via USB to provide you with a superior audio experience.

When plugged into a computer it uses the USB port for power, otherwise it runs on three AAA batteries. It’s important not to use rechargeable batteries or cheap batteries. That is covered in the Clipping section.

So you ask yourself, “Why would I need or want one of these?”

  • You have some fancy, high-impedance headphones that can’t quite get to the level of loudness or fullness you’d like and expect after spending hundreds.
  • Your portable music player’s audio output is weak and you want more oomph.
  • You listen to audio through your computer but hear interference from things like the hard drive or motherboard and need something to rid you of this annoyance.

This audio gadget resolves these issues. The high quality Burr-Brown digital audio converter (DAC) bypasses the noisy sound card in your computer. Onboard sound cards (like those found in cheap computers and laptops) are the most prolific offenders. Meanwhile, the (also Burr-Brown) amplifier boosts output signal; helpful for bigger headphones like my Sennheiser HD600s which simply can’t run off an iPhone with much gusto.

For those of you who want a quick answer on whether they should buy the Total BitHead. Yes, it is worth purchasing, especially if you have any of the three problems listed above. In some cases, however, it is a waste of money. To learn if it meets all its claims of magically better audio, my pet peeves on its design, when it is a waste of money and why it’s worth every penny, I suggest you keep reading. Continue reading

Zagg SmartBuds Review

 Zagg SmartBuds

For the Memorial Day holiday weekend, had a super sell. Just about everything in their store was 50% off or more. I am a big fan of Zagg’s InvisibleSHIELD screen protectors and ZaggWipes so I thought I would take advantage of their sale.

For whatever reason I didn’t order any InvisibleSHIELDs for my new iPhone or new iPad. Instead I purchased the Zagg Sparq 2.0 battery for Ryan’s Android phone. Its battery life is abysmal. I also picked up a pair of Zagg SmartBuds. I’m in the market for some good workout headphones that don’t cost the $350 my Klipsch Image X10i headphones cost and thought these would be a great alternative.

The normal retail price for the headphones is around $50 but the sale brought them down to $25.

Typically I only review products that I have purchased for myself and typically those products have been heavily researched before I make that purchase. Thus, most of my reviews are positive, glowing even. This is not one of those reviews.

If you learn one thing from this review it will be that the Zagg SmartBuds are perhaps the worst headphones I have ever purchased. Want to know why?

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