Tech

Listen Up

For every action, there is a sound reaction—and these headphones let you hear it best.
BY FRANK VIZARD

STRESS RELIEF


Neuvana Xen

If music to your ears can help reduce stress, then Xen should be part of your wellness program. Developed by Dr. Richard Cartledge, chief of cardiovascular surgery at the Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Florida, Xen stimulates the vagus nerve—the major pathway between brain and body—with a small electrical current via the left ear that creates a calming effect. It operates in three modes: one that syncs with your favorite music (song selection and musical genre choices affect the frequency of stimulation), a second that uses programmed patterns, and a third that uses ambient noise obtained via your phone’s microphone. Cartledge recommends 15-minute sessions twice daily to reduce stress, improve sleep, and aid digestion. Some caveats: The wireless Bluetooth connection is a bit cumbersome, as you have to pair both the headphones and the Xen unit separately for each use. And there may be issues for those with pacemakers or sensitive skin, for example, so a consultation with a physician is advisable. $399, plus $4/month premium app fee; neuvanalife.com

INTENSE WORKOUT


Audio-Technica ATH-SPORT90BT

The ATH-SPORT90BT might be the standard against which all other fitness headphones can be measured. A switchable ambient noise control blocks out indoor distractions while allowing environmental sounds through for safe outdoor use. The headphones are water-resistant and washable, and wirelessly pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth, though the built-in 4 GB music player means you don’t have to carry a smartphone while working out. Voice alerts signal when features are activated or battery power is low. When not in use, magnets in the earbuds keep them secure around your neck. $159; audio-technica.com

LONG-HAUL TRAVEL


Sennheiser HD450BT

Headphones with active noise cancellation are de riguer for combating high-noise environments like airplanes. And while Sony and Bose have dominated this space, German headphone maker Sennheiser debuts the folding HD450BT model as an effective and stylish alternative. Users manipulate an equalizer on the phone app to optimize sound quality for speech content like podcasts, and although there is a wireless Bluetooth link, an old-school wired connection is available if signal interference occurs and requires a plug-in. $199; en-us.sennheiser.com

STUDIO PERFORMANCE


JBL Club 700BT

If you’re not comfortable with the in-ear fit of headphone buds, then a lightweight alternative is on-ear headphones like the new Club 700BT. Most headphones are tweaked to sound good rather than accurate, but JBL’s Club wireless headphones adhere to music studio performance specifications, and a Personal-Fi feature lets you plot an equalization curve like a professional musician. For extra versatility, you can converse with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Metal hinges ensure durability. $150; jbl.com

GRAMMY APPROVED

Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro
Apple’s Airpod in-ear buds spawned hordes of bee-sized competitors, and the best among them are identified by their technical prowess. Soundcore’s Liberty 2 Pro aligns a tiny Knowles balanced armature driver dedicated to mid- and upper frequencies with a circular, bass-specific driver. This coaxial arrangement is common in home and car speakers, but it is a first for wireless earbuds designed with feedback from Grammy Award–winning engineers. A phone app lets you customize the experience. $150; soundcore.com

CRITICAL LISTENING


HifiMan Ananda-BT

With large, comfortable ear pads, the wireless Ananda-BT is surprisingly lightweight for its size. It also reproduces sound differently than most dynamic models, using instead a planar magnetic tech that yields lower distortion. This approach favors minute sonic detail, stereo imaging tools, and an appreciation for instrument placement over deafening volume. The model is made for music lovers, and it also appeals to gamers (boom microphone included) wanting sound positioning to gain the slight edge required for victory. $999; hifiman.com

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