The Swedish firm Urbanears is known for sleek, stylish headphones and earphones that not only look cool, but offer surprising good sound quality (which is more than can be said for a great many other “lifestyle” products). Now, Urbanears has launched its most ambitious headphone to date: the “DJ-style” Zinken headphone, which features a distinctive “turncable” reversible signal cable that allows the Zinken to present either a 3.5mm mini-plug or ¼-inch phone plug to amplifier at hand. What’s up with Urbanears product names? By tradition, Urbanears ‘phones are named for neighborhoods, districts, or regions in Sweden (many of them located in the greater Stockholm metropolitan area).
In keeping with the “DJ” theme of the Zinken, Urbanears was also previewing a new DJ App called the Slussen, where the app per se is free, but where the adapter needed to make the app work with smartphones and Urbanears headphones sells for a modest $14.95.
Key Product: Piston headphones ($50)
WESC (We are the Superlative Conspiracy) strikes me as being one part technology company, one part fashion company, and 100% hip, new, and now. As such, it is perhaps inevitable that WESC headphones will represent a compromise between sound quality and fashion statement. So it is with the firm’s new Piston lifestyle headphones, which come in an array of up-to-the-minute trendy colors. My view on the Piston was that it was more than a little reminiscent of Urbanear’s affordable Plattan headphone (also a fashion-worthy device). It remains to be seen, though, whether WESC’s Piston can match the Urbanear Plattan’s uncanny combination of stylishing Scandinavian good looks and surprisingly sophisticated sound quality. Time will tell.
Key Product: ADV “adventure” earphone ($199)
Westone is a powerhouse in the world of high-end custom-fit in-ear monitors and universal-fit earphones, but up to this point almost all of the firm’s products have been based on balanced armature-type drivers. With its new ADV “adventure” earphones, however, Westone has launched its first-ever dynamic-driver equipped product and one that promises to deliver Westone-grade sound quality in a semi-ruggedized earphone that can safely be used in environments where less sturdy ‘phone would be apt to fail (or would be prone to damage).
One interesting detail component introduced along with the ADV are Westone’s very clever (and patented) new “star-tip” ear tips. Unlike traditional semi-spherical (or bulb-shaped) ear tip, the star tips have fluted inner surfaces that look roughly like stars when viewed end on. The significance of the fluted surfaces is that they allow the tips to flex in asymmetrical ways to wrap themselves around the often irregularly-shaped contours of the wearer’s ear canals, so that it is possible for virtually anyone to obtain a good seal and without any undo pressure points. What is more, Westone takes earphone fit super seriously so that, where other manufacturers might offer only three sizes of tips with their ‘phones, Westone will typically offer five sets of tips (and several different types of tips, to boot). Plainly, these folks get the fact that there is a connection between wearer comfort and top-shelf sound quality.