The Coronavirus disease 2019 (also known as COVID-19) has made it necessary for many of us to shelter in place and work from home, some for the first time. I’ve worked from home for a long time, and of course, as an audiophile, music is an essential part of my workday. It makes my daily tasks a lot more pleasurable. There are tons of ways to bring music into your home office, but if you want it to sound good, you need these essentials!
DROP X SENNHEISER HD 58X Jubilee: In open-plan offices, you usually want a set of closed-back headphones to shut out the din of co-workers. But at home, you typically have a little more quiet.
If that’s the case, I recommend you pick up a nice pair of open-back headphones like the $150 DROP X SENNHEISER HD 58X Jubilee. Open-Back headphones usually have a wider soundstage where the music sounds like its playing out beyond the earcups, making you feel like you’re at a live event.
The HD 58X Jubilee have 150-ohm drivers similar (some say the same) to the ones from the $500 Sennheiser HD 660 S headphones, which gives them refinement way above what’s usually available at this price point.
The sound is warm and sumptuous, which means they have nice extended bass along with sweet highs and a liquid midrange. Vocals are nicely done, sounding very natural and engaging. They’re also fast and dynamic, making just about any music sound amazing, but Acoustic and Jazz are out of this world.
You can also drive these sensitive headphones with a smartphone (as long as it has a headphone jack), but to get the best sound out of them, you need…
Where to buy:
The DAC/Headphone Amp
iFi Zen DAC: To make your headphones (especially full-size cans) sound their best, I recommend you get a combination DAC/Headphone amp like the $150 iFi Zen DAC. Most people working from home use their laptops to play music, but the built-in DAC or Digital to Analog converters in most computers are not of the highest quality.
This new budget headphone amp from iFi offers an audiophile quality Burr-Brown DAC chip, paired with a powerful internal amp that will drive your headphones much better than the weak amp circuit coupled to the headphone jack of most laptops. Those jacks are for utility, not Hi-Fi sound.
The best part of the Zen DAC is the price point, never before have you been able to get such a great full-sized desktop headphone amp with built-in file conversion for so little money. It handles common PCM files, along with hi-res DSD and MQA files for TIDAL Masters playback.
This thing will make all but the most power-hungry headphones sing, and it has a two-lever gain control so you can match the power with full-sized headphones, or sensitive IEMs. The sound is clean and neutral out of the box, matching well with warmer headphones.
If you have a flat sounding headphone, you can engage the Truebass setting and the ZEN DAC will add just a bit of warmth without destroying clarity. This is an amazing device.
The only thing you should look out for is the lack of a power adapter in the box. I power it from the USB on the laptop, but if you want to connect a phone, you may need to order the matching adapter because the phone may not have enough juice.
Where to buy:
The Wireless Headphones
Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper: Let’s face it, not everyone wants to or can afford to be tied down to the desk. You may have a job where you need to move around a bit. In that case, a wireless audiophile headphone like the $599 Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper will be your best bet. They have an amazingly crisp, clear sound that rivals the best wired headphones.
When I reviewed them, I was awestruck by the build quality, comfort, and sound coming from the Amiron Wireless Copper. At first, I was wondering if there was any Bluetooth headphone worth $750, but they sold me the first time I took a listen (Now they sell for even less). The battery gives 30 Hour playback, and they have the aptX HD Bluetooth codec for CD-Quality sound.
They may seem pricey at first glance, but look at it like this, you are basically getting a top of the line Beyerdynamic hi-fi headphone with a built-in DAC/Headphone amp and it works without wires! Plus, it also comes with a wire so if you want to use it with an amp like the ZEN DAC above you can! Two headphones in one!
They are the best Audiophile Bluetooth headphone for the money, especially if you’re into a balanced sound signature. The only one that can compete is the ANANDA-BT from Hifiman. They are more well rounded, especially in the low-end but they are about $600 more than the Beyerdynamic cans. Unless you’re into thumping bass, I would get the Wireless Copper.
Where to buy:
Click Here To Buy: Amazon-beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper Hi-Res Bluetooth Headphones (As of this writing, there’s a $50 off coupon on the product page)
The Noise Cancelling Headphones
Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Over-Ear Wireless Bluetooth Headphone: If you’re from home with others, especially the kiddies, you may need some peace and quiet to get your work done. That’s where a good pair of noise-canceling headphones come in.
If you’re looking for a spectacular pair of active noise-canceling headphones at a fantastic price, then your search should stop at the $399 Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Over-Ear Wireless Bluetooth Headphone. It has best in class sound, better than models from Bose or Sony, along with highly effective noise canceling. Some say better than Bose!
The PX7 has a wide-open detailed sound that the other two brands can’t touch. If you put sound quality at the top of your list as I do, then the PX7, with its CD-Quality aptX HD Bluetooth codec, is the headphone you should buy.
The addition of aptX Adaptive will fix any audio/video sync issues you may have encountered with older headphones.
It also has three levels of high-quality Noise Cancelling, including an ambient mode that will let you hear what’s going on around you without taking the headphones off. This is an excellent feature to have when you want to listen to a quick announcement from the flight crew during a plane ride.
When using ANC, you get up to 30 hours of playback time, which is among the highest on the market.
Where to buy:
Click Here To Buy: Amazon-Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Over Ear Wireless Bluetooth Headphone ($50 off as of this writing)
SVS Prime Wireless Speaker System: If you’re not into headphones, then a nice pair of desktop speakers may fit the bill.
The $599 SVS Prime Wireless Powered Speaker System is an All-In-One system that impressed me a lot due to its crazy value for the money. It only costs $599, and for that meager amount, you get two gloss finish bookshelf speakers, 200 watts of amplification, a ton of inputs/outputs, and a built-in DTS Play-Fi streamer.
To put that in perspective, a good standalone DTS Play-Fi streamer like the Audiolab 6000N Play (which happens to be on our Recommended Gear list) costs $599 by itself. That’s before you pick up an amp or speakers.
Play-Fi opens the door to thousands of songs from streaming services– provided you have a paid subscription– or music stored on a local network drive. You can also plug in a compact disk player or transport if you want to go old skool.
When I reviewed these speakers earlier last year, I was shocked at the large scale sound emitted from these relatively compact speakers. The two bookshelf speakers disappeared from my stands, the soundstage was wide, and the bass was respectable for a system with two 4.5 inch midbass/woofers.
The sound is engaging with sweet (though slightly rolled off) highs, nice mids, and punchy bass. No matter what genre I put on, I enjoyed what I was hearing.
This package gives you a ton for your money. If you are looking for a budget-friendly all in one hi-fi system, you need to check these out. Highly Recommended!
Where to buy:
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