These Absurd TWS On-Ear Headphones are like if someone combined the AirPods and AirPods Max

Although most people would call these headphones an abomination, I kind of think the ADV. Spider TWS on-ear headphones are the good kind of weird. They come with drivers as big as the ones you’d see on headphones, but are designed to be individual earpieces like most TWS earbuds. The result is almost Princess Leia-ish, with two cans attached to each ear, giving you a TWS earbud experience but with the power-packed audio punch of much bigger headphones. And the headband on top? Well, that’s extinct now, just like the headphone jack…

Designer: ADV.

TWS earbuds offer a distinct benefit – they’re ridiculously compact, and don’t have wires or cables that get tangled or broken. However, they don’t match the sound output of larger headphones. On the flipside, larger headphones have MUCH better audio output, but they’re significantly bulkier than TWS earbuds. ADV.’s Spider headphones try to create a bizarre but funky compromise. In what I can only describe as subtractive design at its best, these TWS on-ear headphones remove the one thing giving wireless headphones their bulk – the headband. By making large earpieces with ear-stems (like the kind you see on hearing aids or spectacles) , the Spider TWS on-ear headphones let you strap great audio directly to your ears. No headband, no bulk, no problem. Plus, these headphones don’t need a case either the way TWS earbuds do. Just slip them into your pocket or bag and you’re good to go. With TWS earbuds, the case does three distinct jobs – charging the earbuds, protecting the earbuds, and allowing you to quickly differentiate between the left and right earpiece. The lack of a case with the Spider headphones means it becomes slightly more difficult to tell the left and right wearables apart… but a clever design detail fixes that. A red ear stem on the right earpiece lets you quickly identify which headphone is which, letting you quickly and correctly wear your TWS headphones every single time.

Channeling the retro vibes of classic Sony or Koss headphones, the Spiders sport a familiar aesthetic. But under the hood, they’re packed with modern tech. At the heart of the sound experience lies a 30-millimeter dynamic driver, a well-regarded size for delivering clear and balanced audio across genres. The 30mm drivers deliver a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz (encompassing the full range of human hearing), and an impedance of 32 ohms, which means they should work well with most devices without needing a dedicated headphone amplifier. It’s worth noting that the headphones currently only support the SBC Bluetooth codec, a widely compatible option, but not the highest fidelity one. The headphones boast an impressive sensitivity of 105 decibels, ensuring they can get plenty loud without distortion.

Connectivity is handled by Bluetooth 5.2, ensuring seamless pairing with most smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Gamers will appreciate the inclusion of a low-latency mode, which minimizes audio delay for a more responsive experience. Perhaps the most compelling feature for everyday users is the lengthy battery life (which is another benefit of that large size). ADV. claims the Spider TWS can deliver up to 28 hours of listening on a single charge, making them ideal for long commutes, workdays, or travel adventures.

What’s most bizarre about the ADV. Spider headphones, however, is its price tag. You’d expect it to be in AirPod Pro or AirPod Max territory, given its size and novelty, but the TWS on-ear headphones start at just $35, which is quite the steal. The headphones are currently available for preorder on Drop.com’s website, with shipping estimated in July.

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Headphone jacks on smartphones are making a comeback for your listening pleasure

There are some heated discussions right now about how a YouTuber may have single-handedly killed a startup, but big companies do that every time. In 2016, Apple may have put the audio industry on notice when it banished the headphone jack from the iPhone forever. Of course, the 3.5mm connector is used in more than just smartphones, but this change caused a ripple that pushed wireless audio technologies to innovate and improve. Although it’s becoming more common for smartphones to rely on Bluetooth headphones and speakers, many audiophiles still swear by wired equipment to deliver high-fidelity lossless sound, and it seems that there’s a growing trend of bringing the venerable headphone jack back to smartphones to satisfy these audio cravings.

MOONDROP MIAD01

It isn’t enough just to have a 3.5mm headphone jack and expect to have high-quality audio output. You still have to make sure that the digital-to-analog conversion process is just as good, usually with some help from dedicated hardware designed for that purpose. Hi-Fi audio equipment maker MOONDROP knows that only too well, which is probably why it’s making an ambitious attempt to corner a niche market with an upcoming MIAD01 smartphone made specifically for discerning audiophiles.

Designer: MOONDROP

Aside from a few teaser images, details on this “Hi-Fi” smartphone are still pretty slim other than the mention of 3.5mm+4.4mm interfaces. The latter of the two is known as “balanced” output used by high-impedance headphones and speakers, resulting in even better output quality. It’s not yet known, however, if the phone will have two headphone jacks or have a single 4.4mm port with a 3.5mm adapter. Either way, it’s something that music lovers on the Android side of the smartphone camp will want to keep an eye, or an ear, out for.

nubia Music Phone

Although technologically less ambitious, ZTE subsidiary nubia is putting a different twist on enjoying music on smartphones. The nubia Music Phone does have two headphone jacks, both 3.5mm, but their main purpose is to simply connect two wired headphones at the same time. It brings back the social aspect of listening to music by sharing your favorite tunes with a friend or loved one while still keeping it private among yourselves. Of course, the fact that you can connect high-performance headphones is definitely a plus as well.

Designer: nubia (ZTE)

The nubia Music Phone also puts a fun and quirky spin on that activity with a design that will appeal to music lovers. It has a large speaker on its back, in itself already an oddity, and it’s made to look like a turntable together with dual camera lenses. Its colorful designs just scream vibrancy and playfulness, characteristics that will pull at the heartstrings of a younger crowd.

ASUS ROG Phone 8 Pro

It isn’t just audiophiles who will appreciate good sound output, however. Poor audio can also break the immersion of a mobile game, especially as these titles become more sophisticated and more resource-intensive. While most of its features naturally revolve around graphics and processing, the ASUS ROG Phone 8 Pro doesn’t skimp on the audio side of the equation, whether it’s the “multi-magnet” dual speakers or hi-res 3.5mm headphone jack.

Designer: ASUS ROG

More than just doing the bare minimum, the ROG Phone 8 Pro boasts 384kHz/32-bit audio quality from that wired connection. It also implements spatial sound for headphones and provides listening profiles for different situations. It’s definitely one of the very few premium smartphones these days that have a headphone jack, something that hardcore mobile gamers will surely appreciate.

Sony Xperia 1 V

Speaking of high-end phones, Sony hasn’t completely given up yet on the smartphone market, and neither is it turning back on the features that differentiate its remaining devices. It bears an unusual ultra-wide, ultra-tall screen aspect ratio which Sony claims to be the best format for watching videos. It also shows off its display-making prowess which it also uses on a bigger scale on TVs.

Designer: Sony

The entertainment and electronics company naturally also knows that video is only half the battle. The phone also has a headphone jack to support hi-fi lossless audio output through wired headphones and speakers, something you’d expect from a device designed to deliver a cinematic watching experience on mobile.

TECNO Camon 20 Pro 5G

It’s almost ironic that mid-range and lower smartphone tiers are the remaining bastions of the 3.5mm port, probably as a form of cost-savings on more expensive wireless technologies. At the same time, however, some brands continue to support the feature even on their higher-end models. That’s definitely true for last year’s TECNO Camon 20 Pro 5G, which combines stylish design with a well-balanced set of features, including that headphone jack.

Designer: TECNO

Among TECNO’s flagship Camon line, the Camon 20 Pro has the distinction of winning a few design awards, thanks to the unique geometric patterns on its back, including an uneven hexagon shape for the camera bump. Unfortunately, it will also now have the distinction of being the last TECNO Camon to include that 3.5mm port, as the brand seems to be finally shifting this family of smartphones to a wireless future.

Final Thoughts: Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Just because smartphones no longer have headphone jacks doesn’t mean that it’s obsolete technology. Many aspects of the audio industry and the wider multimedia industry still rely on wired connections, and the 3.5mm connector and those like it continue to offer a standard and space-efficient solution. At least for now, wires still have bigger bandwidth and more reliability, even with potential losses when converting between digital and analog.

Wireless audio is thankfully still improving, but it might take some time for it to be a more common technology that can deliver the needed high-fidelity lossless audio transmission. In the push for thinner phones, it’s this aspect that has unfortunately been sacrificed, even if it came at the expense of consumers as well. It’s a good thing, then, that there are still some brands that try to cater to audiophiles, music lovers, and gamers, and we might even see an uptick in these devices as more people become more aware of the critical role that good sound quality plays in an immersive experience.

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Symphony headphones boast a mini vinyl player to toggle the music playing experience

Vinyl records bring a more immersive listening experience when stacked against the more modern digital formats. This is attributed to the superior music quality, since there is no data loss and the music plays as intended by the composer. And who can deny that distinctive sound and the warm tone teleport audio lovers to a different realm?

Some premium headphones paired with high-end equipment can come close to the quality of vinyl. So a concept artist decided to fuse the two audio parallels into one gadget. These are the Symphony headphones that bring the distinct feeling of analog audio to your ears. Of course, they match the whole experience with immersive sound delivery, and we are already yearning for them to someday come alive as a real pair of headphones.

Designer: Przemysław Wolnicki

The unusual user interaction blends modern technology with the nostalgic charm of the vinyl records. On the outside of each of those cans is a mini vinyl record for controlling the music. Rotating the record makes the song seek forward or rewind backward, while the subtle movement of the needle toggles the current track being played. The tone of the playback can also be adjusted with the player needle which is so damn cool.

This modern headphone design is fused with the nostalgic element of vinyl players most dramatically. There’s no complaining about the luxury and premium looks in this design. The designer has chosen brushed stainless steel for a very audiophile-centric appeal and those elongated bars on each of the head cups remind me of the concept hypercars. The use of see-through glass material further adds to the charm of these dope headphones. Something that Nothing would be inspired by for their next pair of headphones. So, what do you think, are these cans worth all the attention?

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Mixed reality headset bucks design trends for a complete audiovisual experience

Thanks to the Apple Vision Pro, mixed reality is back in the news along with the hardware that will enable people to experience them. We have yet to hit the Holy Grail of headset design that will allow people to wear these devices on their heads for long periods, but brands like Apple and Meta definitely have that goal in their sights. MR headsets are getting lighter and slimmer, but that will always come at the cost of sacrificing some functionality that has to be offloaded to some other product you will have to buy and use separately. This concept design, however, goes in the other direction and tries to actually include everything you need for a more believable mixed reality experience, including the oft-neglected audio for your ears.

Designer: Dohyuk Joo

It’s harder to fool the eyes, which is why most of the focus in developing these mixed reality headsets is on the optics. But we don’t experience the real world with just our eyes, and a more immersive virtual world will also need to do more than just feed us visual data. Just like in the real world, audio is either taken for granted or at least takes second place only, but this headset design tries to balance the scales, even if it means going back to the days of bulky headsets.

WavVision, whose name tries to embody the combination of sound and sight, attempts to be an all-in-one mixed reality solution for our eyes and our ears. In a nutshell, the headset includes over-ear headphones to deliver audio, particularly spatial audio, that would complete the immersion of existing in a virtual space. This wouldn’t be the first headset to attempt that combination, but it is definitely one of the few that make it painfully obvious. The Meta Quest 3, for example, does have built-in speakers but uses an open-ear design that simply directs the audio waves toward your ear.

In addition to having over-ear cups built into the design, the very form and construction of WavVision go against the dominant trend in this niche market. The frame is made from thick steel plates bent to loosely follow the shape of the head. It’s a material that suggests quite a bit of weight and sharpness, which is the opposite of what headsets today are aiming for. It gives the design a distinct industrial aesthetic, which is intentional but also questionable.

One of the reasons why headsets don’t include dedicated headphones is because the audio experience could probably be delivered by more dedicated hardware that’s specially designed for performance as well as comfort. Building that part into the headset only weighs the product down, both literally as well as in terms of costs. Conversely, an integrated design ensures a unified appearance and, at least theoretically, a more complete experience. Admittedly, few of the mixed reality brands today seem to be paying that much attention to the audio aspect, but if Apple will be playing this game for long, it will undoubtedly dip its toes in that area sooner or later.

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The Nothing X AIAIAI Headphones combine transparency and modularity into one incredible design

Although unofficial, the Nothing x AIAIAI’s headphones show how two company’s visions can align for one brief and beautiful moment to create a design that’s gorgeous to look at, and great to use. The Nothing X AIAIAI Headphones are a masterclass in iconic design, mirroring the uniqueness of individual details seen in the AirPods Max… except, this time, with the transparent flair of the London-based tech startup.

Designer: Ma Yc

Ma Yc’s headphone concept borrows the best that Nothing and AIAIAI’s design languages have to offer. For AIAIAI, there’s the classic TMA-2 Wireless design, comprising modular parts that can easily be replaced and swapped out on the fly. For Nothing, however, there’s the absolutely drop-dead beautiful transparent housing that you can see on the cans, on the ear stem, and even on the ear cushions. Ma Yc’s choice of transparent cushioning on the headrest instantly sets this headphone apart as memorable… quite like the AirPods Max’s tensile fabric headrest.

The headphones come in two color variants – a black and a white, quite like the rest of Nothing’s lineup. The design is almost exactly a tribute to the TMA-2 wireless headphones from AIAIAI, featuring slide-out cans, removable ear-cups, and detachable aux cables that connect the headphone’s elements together. Modularity has never really been Nothing’s mission statement, but to be honest, the aesthetic and modular design of AIAIAI’s headphones translate rather well onto the Nothing brand, making this a collaboration for the books. Let’s hope Carl Pei’s reading this…

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Gundam-inspired headphones boast flexible listening configuration

Headphones are a staple for modern lifestyles, whether it is about listening to your favorite music while working, plugging into your podcast list, or simply killing time gaming on the couch. You’ll find hundreds of impressive designs and virtually the best audio technology crammed into these must-have accessories.

Finding a pair of headphones that resonates with one’s audio requirements and style statement is every audiophile’s dream. Of the countless headphones we’ve come across and tested ones that we have access to, it ultimately comes down to how well they’re designed. Take for instance this CES-worthy piece that’s a concept but still keeps my hopes alive it’ll be up for pre-order someday!

Designer: Kostas Dakanalis

Bearing a form factor that’s completely unrivaled, this concept design for headphones looks inspired by the Gundam mecha. While gaming headphones from the likes of Razer, Asus, HyperX, Turtle Beach and Steel Series have tamed the conventional design norms, this pair of cans is at another level. Those winged streaks on each earcup lend the pair a distinctive personality and also have a useful function.

These wings are connected to the central rotating dial that determines the equalizer being used currently. Also, depending on the settings chosen, rotating the dial can turn them from a closed back to a semi-open or completely open configuration. Audiophiles who are in the hobby of collecting headphones of every type possible will have solace in this single pair for multiple listening moods. The cool ambient lighting of the pair complements this.

Of course, we don’t know what hardware specifications they come with, but the sci-fi design and flexible design configuration make them super lucrative. Just imagine sporting one of these in an e-sports tournament or even in your home setup. They perfectly complement your geeky desk setup if you are into bias lighting and RGB lights.

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Urbanista reveals second generation headphones and earbuds that solar charge for infinite playtime

When venturing out to buy wireless headphones or earbuds, the primary consideration is their battery backup. This one feature holds high merit for those who travel a lot. A pair of cans or buds that can be free from this constraint, or at best, have limitless battery power at their disposal is the way to go and solar-powered function makes this possible.

Urbanista hooked on to this idea with their impressive Los Angeles headphones and the Phoenix TWS earbuds. Then adidas followed suit with their solar-powered RPT-02 SOL headphones. For audio lovers who want to stay away from the hassle of charging their headphones or earbuds time and again, these products make complete sense.

Designer: Urbanista

Riding on the success of the over-ear headphones and the Phoenix earbuds, the Stockholm-based company has announced the second generation of both these audio products. Just for the record, both of them are currently in development and expected to launch sometime in mid-2024. The good news is, they are going to cost slightly less than the first-generation versions. Los Angeles headphones will carry a price tag of $179 (vs $199 for the original version) and $129 for the Phoenix earbuds compared to the $149 of the earlier version. For those who are eager to have a first look, the audio accessories by Urbanista will be demonstrated at CES 2024.

Similar to the predecessors (the current versions on sale), they employ the latest version of Powerfoyle solar charging material to charge the batteries. They absorb natural sunlight as well as light from artificial sources indoors to charge the battery. The amount of charge will depend on the intensity and duration of exposure to light but it will be impressive, offering at least a week of non-stop listening to infinite music if you live in places that have a good share of sunlight all year round. In case they run out of juice, the conventional method of charging them via the USB-C ports is also there.

The Los Angeles headphones typically will give ample juice for four hours of listening daily on a 10-hour low-light charge with 50 days before another charge is needed. The second-generation Phoenix on the other hand will offer around 16 days of playtime with similar parameters.

They come with better-designed components for improved efficiency, so we can expect them to stay charged for longer. The design of both is more streamlined and the Active Noise Cancellation is now adaptive meaning it applies the ANC depending on the amount of noise in the ambient environment.

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Master & Dynamic MW75 Neuro headphones analyze brainwaves to optimize your work-life balance

Master & Dynamic can satisfy the most finicky audiophiles with the highest-quality audio solutions. Already on the high spectrum of the headphones industry, the NY-based company now wants to break the shackles and venture into the new age of music listening experience.

They’ve collaborated with Neurable, a tech company focused on bringing neuroscience to everyday gadgets for user’s well-being. The result is a pair of cans that are smart enough to know when you are stressed or need to focus on the task at hand. In a way these headphones are not just about listening to music, rather they are about optimizing your mental state for peak focus or stress relief to get you through the day.

Designer: Master & Dynamic and Neurable

Dubbed the MW75 Neuro, these high-tech wireless headphones provide precise statistics and graphs for analysis, so that you can plan your day to maximize productivity. This is of course done via the accompanying app that highlights the most productive times to the moments of stress. On their own, the MW75 Neuro can mute notifications, enable Do Not Disturb mode and activate the Active Noise Canceling mode if it determines your brain has too much fluff to filter out in a period of focus tasks. All the fancy tech will be housed in the padded earcups of the headies and they look and feel almost like any other luxury headphones.

As clear from the name, these advanced headphones are based on the brand’s acclaimed MW75 headphones that have class-leading audio performance courtesy of the 40mm Beryllium drivers, ANC capabilities thanks to the 4 microphones that toggle the ANC levels based on the environmental sounds and stellar 28 hours battery life with ANC turned on. The MW75’s Master & Dynamic wants to usher into a new era of BCI-enabled wearable technology with these cans, and this is a clear sign of where the industry is heading toward, taking the next big leap in audio.

As Jonathan Levine, Master & Dynamic founder & CEO put it, “The greatest advancement of audio technology over the last decade has been the migration from analog to Bluetooth wireless devices. Moving now into brain sensing thrusts the industry into a new wave of innovation. We’re proud to lead the charge with Neurable.”

The Neuro variant will be available in four colors (Onyx, Argent, Olive, and Navy) for early adopters in the first quarter of 2024 for a price tag of $649. That’s only $50 more than the standard MW75 version which increases its likelihood of being picked up by geeks who want to experience more than just sublime audio. The M&D headphones will be a game changer for professionals who strive for a balanced work-life regime and audiophiles who are too obsessed with the technical and specifications!

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Stussy’s special edition Beats Studio Pro headphones boast a retro elemental design

If you are looking for a stylish and versatile pair of ANC headphones, then Apple-owned Beats Studio Pro could be your choice. The cans go neck and neck with the Sony WH-1000XM5, and just edge over in design and ergonomic comfort. Even though the Studio Pro dives in the same waters as the AirPods Max, they don’t impede on the prospective buyer base of Apple’s headphones.

Released in July 2023, the cans have a new design profile as Apple has collaborated with streetwear brand Stussy for a limited-edition version of the Studio Pro. The Apple-owned label has joined forces with other big names like Olive & June and Kim Kardashian in the past for special edition versions of their products, and this one is yet another example.

Designer: Beats by Dre and Stussy

The design of this special edition Studio Pro is inspired by the 1990s culture of owning electronics. The warm beige color and deep blue hues along with the inline logo get its design cues from the urethane skateboard wheels. The sublime finish is reminiscent of the resin and fiberglass material used in surfboard manufacturing. The cans come with the same hardware as that in the stock Studio Pro – the 40mm driving unit and the signature acoustic performance. This is complemented well by the adaptive Active Noise Cancellation, transparency mode, spatial audio (with dynamic head tracking) and a battery life of 40 hours.

The Stussy Beats Studio Pro headphones are going to be up for grabs from the Stussy online store, select Dover Street Market locations and select Stussy chapter stores from December 15. Priced exactly as the stock Studio Pro’s available already at $350, the special edition headphones will surely be out of stock before one can blink an eye.

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Next-gen Logitech G Astro A50 X headphones boast HDMI passthrough switching between gaming consoles and PC audio/video

Gone are the days when passionate gamers used to swear by only a single gaming console. In fact, in the current age is not uncommon to find gamers have a multi-console setup to keep them covered for all the gaming frenzy the tech world has to offer. If you are from this camp then switching your headphones to connect to the PlayStation or Xbox seamlessly is still a craving.

That’s about to change with the Logitech G Astro A50 X Lightspeed wireless gaming headset designed for this very purpose. Unlike Bluetooth multipoint connection available on most flagship headphones, this one employs HDMI connection routed to a base station to do the seamless switching of audio and video to the TV right from the headset with the touch of a button.

Designer: Logitech

The high-resolution audio headphones designed on the original A50 are the fifth generation of the popular Astro A50 console gaming headsets. That no-nonsense switching between PS5, Xbox series X|S and PC is attributed to the in-house Logitech PLAYSYNC technology. The headphones are as good as they get when it comes to satisfying demanding audiophiles and gamers. The 40mm PRO-G Graphene Driver and 24-bit LIGHTSPEED Wireless technology deliver crisp audio performance that’ll make you hear every minute detail.

This flagship gaming headset with an impressive 24-hour battery life (on a single charge) boasts super comfort with an open-back design that promises long hours of gaming without breaking a sweat. The hub of the headphones is the base station that supports 4K 120Hz HDR, VRR and ALLM. Players can mix the game chat and in-game audio to the preferred levels with the on-ear controls and adjustable sidetone. The headphone base also supports multi-connection Bluetooth so that you can take up calls, listen to music, or attend Discord chats without even moving a muscle.

Logitech is also mindful of the environment, hence it gets Carbon Neutral certification too. The A50 X’s body is made out of 35% post-consumer recycled plastic and the paper packaging is sourced from FSC-certified forests. For $350 the headphones are value for money given it’s also a 3-in-1 HDMI 2.1 switcher with wireless audio output and Bluetooth input. You can pre-order them right away in  Black or White finishes with shipping promised by the end of this month.

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