The Good Life

Greatest sounds of music

The beauty of music lies in the beholder’s headphones. And if you are an audiophile, brands such as Audeze and Focal have you covered for all your needs

High-end headphones now come with game-changing technology, handcrafted aesthetics, and a sound with unrivaled purity. Brands including Audeze, Focal-JMLab and HiFiMAN Electronics offer best-quality over-the-ear headphones in the market.

The flagship model of Audeze, the Audeze LCD-4 headphone, is a planar magnetic headphone par excellence. This technology ensures nearly zero resonance and negligible distortion for an accurate waveform. Priced at Rs.276,000, the headphone has large, ultra-thin nano-grade Uniforce diaphragms with Double Fluxor Magnet Arrays that double the driving power, making the model perfect for music with heavy bass. The headphone has a frequency response of 5Hz-50kHz with a sensitivity of 98 dB/1mW.

The material used in the company’s LCD series is also used to make circuits in NASA. The realisation about the material’s versatility is what led to the inception of this US-based company. For another series, Audeze has collaborated with a BMW Group subsidiary to bring headphones with cutting-edge industrial design.

Along with a mesmerising audial experience, LCD-4 is also comfortable to wear for long hours, and has a sophisticated appearance to make you look stylish even while you’re nodding your head to your favourite song. According to the company, “It takes four weeks to create the beautifully-finished 30-year-old Macassar Ebony wood rings, a dense finely-textured hardwood with a very smooth polish.”

To ensure you get a headphone that is best for your needs, Audeze provides a 30-day trial return policy with no extra charges. Headphone Zone in Mumbai and Ferrari Video in Chennai are the official Indian distributors that sell Audeze audio gear.

Now one headphone doesn’t fit all music genres. If your playlist consists of songs with mild bass, then you can go for Focal Utopia. Priced the same as Audeze LCD-4, Utopia is the “world’s first audiophile headphones with open-backed full-range speaker drivers.” The headphone uses carbon-fibre yoke and true lambskin leather ear cushions.

According to Rob Boffard, editor of The Master Switch, a website that writes about audio gears, the secret weapon that makes this ultra-light, ultra-stiff headphone a powerful gear, is its Beryllium drivers. These lightweight drivers are what give Utopia precision in its sound.

Describing the experience of listening on Utopia, Boffard says, “The elements of a song are laid out like diamonds on black velvet. Everything is in its own place, perfectly positioned — so clear and lifelike. It’s as if you’re in studio with the musicians, watching them work, mere feet away.”

The headphones weigh approximately 500g, with a frequency response of 5Hz-50kHz, and a sensitivity of 104dB SPL /1mW at 1kHz. Another Focal model that you can use for home and on-the-go is Stellia. It is priced slightly lower than Utopia and comes with a frequency response of 5Hz-40kHz.

Another brand that offers similar features with an ergonomic design and aural purity is the HiFiMAN Susvara, at Rs.415,000. Available exclusively at the Headphone Zone store, the Stealth magnet technology of the headphones, along with incredibly thin diaphragms, reduces the sound distortion levels. Only 450g in weight, the headphone has a frequency response of 6Hz-75kHz and a sensitivity of 83dB. Susvara also has the ‘Window Shade’ look on its outside that is dexterously designed to avoid any resonant frequencies.

If you find more comfort in a pair of in-ears, then Noble Audio’s Khan is a powerful gear in the form of a tiny, wireless arrangement of six drivers and tri-level hybrid technology. “The company has used three different driver technologies in the model: a 10 mm dynamic driver for lows, four balanced armatures for mids and high-mids, and a 10 mm ceramic piezo electric super tweeter. The interesting thing about the piezo and the dynamic is that they sit on top of each other,” according to Raghav Somani, CEO and founder of Headphone Zone. The hand-assembled headphone costs Rs.1,67,000. 

Headphone Zone is India’s first exclusive headphone retail brand, and the only Indian distributor of most of these high-end audio brands. The group has an offline (Headphone Connect) as well as an online (Indian Audiophile Forum) platform, where self-professed audiophiles and newbies discuss audio gear. “Over the next few years, we’re going to try and work out many more ways of getting people to sample quality audio products: Be it basic free stock earphones, or high-end planars that will transport you to the Royal Albert Hall,” says Somani.

It is difficult to put the soul-touching aural experience on these headphones in printed words. To test which gear suits the blissful notes of your playlist the most, you can walk into the store’s Experience Studio and try on any headphone of your choice.