Sony and Focal Bring Home Big Victories at 2023 Headphone Shootout


(March 1, 2023) Known for its popular television and projector shootouts, Value Electronics held its first-ever Headphone Shootout, yesterday, in New York City.

A judging panel consisting of eCoustics' Ian White, Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity's Carlo La Raso, Autonomic's Michael de Tigris, Brian Stout of Woody's Sound, AVPro Edge's Gavin Johnson, and Shane Lee of Shane Lee Reviews were asked to judge models from five different price categories. Three of those categories consisted of over-ear designs, while the other two were of the in-ear variety. Each of the headphones featured in the shootout are the participating brand’s top model available in the United States.

Using state of the art switching, distribution, and test equipment supplied by AVProStore and a Technics SL-G700MK2 Network SACD/CD Player, judges were asked to assess, comfort, ease of use, and overall sound quality. Elements of playback performance, including dynamic tonal range, audio fidelity, audio detail, and clarity, were judged through a series of test signals and real-world content supplied by Qobuz.

Judges scored models on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best. According to final tallies, scoring was exceptionally close, particularly in the $1,499 - $1,799 Over-Ear category.

Here's a recap of the winners (marked in bold), organized by price and category type:

$149 - $249 In-Ear Headphones:
  • Sennheiser IE 200 $149
  • Technics EAH-AZ60 $199
$279 - $299 In-Ear Headphones:
  • Bose QuietComfort II $299
  • Bowers & Wilkins Pi5 S2 $299
  • Sony WF-1000XM4 $279
$349 - $399 Over-Ear:
  • Bose 700 $379
  • Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2
  • $399 Sennheiser Momentum 4
  • $349 Sony WH-1000XM5
  • $399 Technics EAH-A800 $349
$699 - $799 Over-Ear:
  • Bowers & Wilkins Px8 $699
  • Denon AH-D5200 $699
  • Focal Bathys $799 Sony MDR-Z7M2 $799
$1,499 - $1,799 Over-Ear:
  • Denon AH-D9200 $1,599
  • Focal Clear-MG $1,499
  • Sennheiser HD 800 S $1,799
  • Sony MDR-Z1R $1,799

Scoring across all five categories reveals that judges were least enthusiastic about the $149 - $249 In-Ear category, with the Sennheiser IE 200 scoring a 6.8. In comparison, winners in each of the other four categories received at least an 8.0 or higher. Scoring was tightest in the $279 - $299 In-Ear and $699 - $799 and $1,499 - $1,799 Over-Ear categories, with models scoring between an 8.0 to 8.6. The highest score of the event, and the only score over 9.0, went to Focal's $1499 Clear-MG, which scored a 9.1 for Clarity and Detail. Full scores can be seen below.

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