It was tricky for me to form much of an opinion on the ‘phones, since they were on display in the midst of the Gibson (yeah, as in “Gibson Guitars”) tent, wherein a maniacal DJ was spinning discs at volume levels loud enough to wake the dead (somebody really needs to clue those Gibson folks into the concept of avoiding volume-induced hearing damage before they all go stone cold deaf!). Even so, I was very impressed with the passive noise isolation offered by the ES-FC300s as they did a yeoman job of suppressing the racket in the tent while doing a creditable job of actually playing music at sensible levels.
Key product: E3i Smartphone-compatible earphone ($149)
Last year, Paradigm began launching a range of affordable earphones and for CES the firm gave particular emphasis to its new E3i smartphone-enabled earphone, which is billed as offering, “sound tuned to our flagship Reference speakers”—a claim we may evaluate in greater depth in the future.
Key product: Ultra Focus 800 active noise-cancelling headphone ($349)
Polk Audio is moving strongly into the headphone arena and at the forefront of that move is the Ultra Focus 800 active noise-cancelling headphone. Indeed, a significant portion of the Polk display centered on demonstrations of the Ultra Focus 800 and in a very clever way. Polk was showcasing a number of indie musicians who performed from within a soundproof, glass-walled booth located near the center of the Polk stand. Outside, in the decidedly noisy environs of the main show area, Polk had set up rows of listening stands each fitted with Ultra Focus 800s. Show attendees were invited to sit down and listen to the performers, whilst the Ultra Focus 800s did a good job of blocking out noise and serving up an eminently musical sound. It was a fun way to show the benefits of a well-done noise-cancelling headphone.
Though many people think of Pro-Ject primarily as a turntable manufacturer, the firm’s CES suite demonstrated that Pro-Ject is now stepping into the headphone world as well. Pro-Ject’s entrees come in two forms: a pair of low-cost headphones called the Hear it One and Hear it Two, and a pair of stylish and compact mini-components comprising the Head Box S headphone amp and Head Box DS headphone amp/DAC.