New Headphones at IFA 2014: Sony, Sennheiser, Roam, Pioneer, Philips, and more

IFA 2014, as expected, brought up lots of new technology, and among them we had new headphones and new headphone related products! The big headlines so far: Sennheiser’s more direct attempt to grab a share of the Beats/Celebrity/Fashion headphones market while the Momentums go in-ear… Sony makes a concentrated High Definition Audio move with the MDR-Z7 headphone and XBA-Z5 earphone and a new high-definition (up to 24/192) Walkman. Sony also refreshes the MDR-1* line with a normal headphone and one with a built-in DAC… The Beats Fallout continues, Steven Lamar launches new $300 Roam Ropes… Pioneer adds another DJ headphone… Philips went on the attack new van Buuren on-ear DJ headphones and two M-series on-ears and one noise-canceller… More Philips, they revealed the world’s first headphone with a Lightning connector, the M2L…

Latest Update: Fri 9/11/14: added Philips M2L Lightning Cable headphones…

Sennheiser Goes After Beats and Celebrity Headphones with Urbanites
Sennheiser made yet another big move to take on the Fashion and Celebrity part of the market by introducing a new line of more bass-focused headphones to go after the Beats and friends. It is the Sennheiser Urbanite line. It is currently made of two models, the Over Ears which have “XL” added to their name. They are expected to arrive in December with a $250 starting price. They come in seven different colors but the differences between them have a twist – some of them come with an iOS mic/remote cable and some of them (such as the Galaxy model) come with an Android mic/remote cable. The cable is detachable, so I don’t know why they didn’t include two cables in the box? The same seven colors and the same Galaxy – Android situation is happening for the On-Ears which go for $200 but are getting here much fast, they are expected to ship September 8.

The On-Ears have 18 ohm impedance and 16–22000 Hz frequency response, 118 dB @ 1 kHz & 1 Vrms SPL, 260 grams in weight. The Over-Ears XL differ on weight (obviously) and 110 dB sensitivity instead (compared to the previously mentioned specs that is).

Momentums go In-Ears for $100
Fans of in-ear headphones should not feel left behind! The Momentum line-up has a third member now, expanding into the world of in-ears with the new Momentum In-Ears with a starting price of $100. They are available in either an iOS version or a Galaxy (Android) version. You can get a close look at them starting at the 29 second mark of the Sennheiser video embedded right below…

Sony goes on the High Res Audio attack with MDR-Z7 and XBA-Z5
Sony perhaps had the most product-ive IFA in 2014 by announcing a variety of different products but also making a statement about the important of high resolution audio. They link this to the “feel the air” theme of two new headphones, the MDR-Z7, which, as the name hints, has 70mm drivers, and the XBA-Z5, with a hybrid 3-way driver unit. Both of course showered with HD audio. The 4 minute video below from Sony shows some of their engineers talking about these two new models (English subtitles). US audiophiles should not feel left behind, the MDR-Z7 is available for pre-order for $700 at Amazon.com and so is the XBA-Z5 – feel the air as your wallet empties 🙂

Sony refreshes MDR-1* line with 1A and 1ADAC (yes, built-in DAC)
The MDR-1R headphones have already fizzled out as “latest models” with the 10R released shortly after. But now Sony is back with the new MDR-1A. Just like their predecessors, they are closed-back over-ears, with 40mm drivers. They have 24 ohm impedance and 105 dB/mW sensitivity and weigh 225g without cable. They are available for pre-order for $300 in either silver or black.

That’s not all. There’s a Lannister twin here! The MDR-1ADAC, and as the DAC in the model name suggests, this headphone has a built-in DAC that can handle up to 24-bit files. It charges via USB with an eight hour battery life estimate. It has two USB inputs, one for charging. The earcups fold. I did not find this at Sony Style or Amazon, so it may not be coming to the USA (or perhaps not yet). A two minute YouTube video from Sony Europe has a brief overview.

More New Sony Headphones
There are many Bassheads and there are many fans of the convenience of Bluetooth. At one of the intersections of the two stands the new MDR-XB950BT/B headphone. If you were not sure it is a basshead headphone, they call it “Extra Bass”. It supports apt-X and AAC and NFC with up to 20 hours of battery life. Keep in mind, for apt-X, your music source needs to also support it, otherwise you will get the lowest common denominator connection. It is coming to America, it has a $200 price and it is available for pre-order at Sony’s Store.

Irritating audiophile purists from a different angle is the new MDR-ZX550BN, this on-ear headphone marries Bluetooth with Active Noise Cancellation 🙂 It has 30mm drives and promises battery life of up to 29 hours with up to 90% digital noise cancellation. Needless to say, the numbers don’t mean much unless you put them to use in real world situations. It is coming to America with a $130 price and available for pre-order in either blue or black.

Sporty in-ear bluetooths are another trending category, so it’s not surprise we are getting the new MDR-AS800-BT. It supports apt-X and AAC and has two “wearing modes” (Easy and Secure). NFC is here as well. Battery life estimate is only up to 4.5 hours, so this is definitely not for 9-5 non-stop music playback. It will be available in three different colors with a starting price of $150 and available for preorder.

In a similar category as above is the new NWZ-WS613BLK sporty bluetooth in-ear/earbud and 4GB MP3 player combo. You load it up with music on a PC or Mac and can set up playlists or use Bluetooth. It is waterproof up to 2 meters and can take calls (via Bluetooth). It supports apt-X and AAC. Not a lot of details are available on this yet but it starts at $160.

Sony reveals a new high definition Walkman Media Player – the NWZ-A17SLV
Neil Young was able to use his prolific career as a doorway to promoting his Pono audiophile music player and service. Piggybacking on the increased awareness (and potential for popularity) are electronics companies and one of them is Sony which has another attempt at trying to convince the average consumer to pay more attention to their music quality. That’s a long and winding way to there’s a new Walkman media player, the NWZ-A17SLV that supports up to 24-bit 192 kHz audio files. Plenty of audio formats are supported, mp3, wma, aac, FLAC, WAV, ALAC, AIFF, etc.

This is a dedicated media player, no Android here, which means a smaller screen 2.2″ QVGA (320×240 pixels). It has 64GB on-board storage but also has a microSD slot that can take cards up to 128GB. High definition audio needs more space, so that’s a big plus. Battery life estimates given in the specs are up to 30 hours (FLAC 24/192) or up to 50 (128k mp3) – with Bluetooth OFF in both cases. With lower quality streams (obviously), it also supports Bluetooth and NFC.

Microsoft, the time is right, bring back the Zune!!!

The price listed is $300 but Sony’s store is not currently accepting pre-orders. Here’s a short video produced by Signal by Sony…

I don’t know if these are different model numbers by region or have different specs, but Sony UK talks about the Walkman A15 and the NWZ-A10.

Beats Fallout: New Roam Ropes for $300
Steve Lamar, former hedge fund manager, felt wronged and locked out of the whole Beats situation, but that’s another story for another day. Fast forward to now, and he has a new company with a new pair of $300 earphones, the Roam Ropes! There are two color schemes, orange (ROA-UZX-ORN1-C496OE) and graphite-black (RRA-UZX-RPS1-C499BK). They currently have a late November 2014 release estimate. As part of a campaign to fight cancer, the company will be donating $100 from each pre-order to the “Stand Up to Cancer” campaign. That’s 33% of the sale price!

New Pioneer DJ headphone, the HDJ-C70
Pioneer has another new headphone for DJ, the HDJ-C70, which is scheduled to be released in Europe in October for 180 euro. It has 40 ohm impedance, 7-32K Hz frequency range, 40mm drivers, detachable cables (screwdriver included to change between the two included), carrying case, and things like that. You can find more details at Pioneer Europe and also at the 150 second YouTube video embedded right below…

Philips on the attack with multiple new models
DJs were part of the Philips IFA announcement group. In collaboration with DJ Armin van Buuren they have a new model, the A1-PRO on-ears with a European price of 100 euro respectively. They have replaceable cushions and rotating arms.

The now older Philips M1 on-ears have a new generation: IFA 2014 brought us the second generation, which Philips calls the Fidelio M1MKII, which unpacks to M1 Mk (Mark) II. They have 40mm drivers and a 200 euro price for the European market.

A second on-ear model, the Philips Fidelio M2BT offers Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X and AAC and NFC, and despite the faux-open-back style, this is a closed-back headphone with 40mm drivers. The European price is 250 euro. Not sure if/when/how-much in the US market.

Bose may continue to have a stranglehold on active noise cancellation, but that doesn’t mean other companies have given up. Philips is revealing the new Philips Fidelio NC1 with 40mm drivers and a 250 euro European price.

Philips M2L – the first headphones with a Lighting connector
Nope, it wasn’t Apple, and it wasn’t their recently purchased Beats Audio the first company to announce headphones that connect to iPhones/iPads with the Lightning connector. It is Philips! They revealed their new Fidelio M2L headphones (L for Lightning connector). The headphones have 40mm drivers, 24-bit DAC, and a 250 euro European price. Not a whole lot of details are available yet.

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