It used to be that if you wanted superb audio, you'd have to shell out top dollar for a pair of clunky over-ear headphones. That's all well and good when you're sitting at home on Sunday night, quietly enjoying a glass of Scotch and listening to Schwarzkopf and Ackermann's 1953 recording of Strauss's "Vier letzte Lieder", but what happens when you're on the go? After all, if you're going to pay $1,000 or more for something, shouldn't you be able to show it off?
Sennheiser's IE 800 in-ear headphones have been heralded by many audiophiles as the best combination of sound and portability on the market. Hidden inside their sleek scratch-resistant ceramic earpieces are a pair of 7mm extra-wideband (XWB) transducers -- the smallest available in dynamic ear canal 'phones -- that work from a range of 5Hz to 46,500Hz without phase distortion. For those who don't speak audio, the audible range of frequencies for humans generally runs from 20Hz to 20,000Hz, meaning the IE 800s offer crystal-clear sound across the entire range of human hearing. In addition to their incredible hertz range, the IE 800s also sport another groundbreaking innovation: dampened two-chamber absorbers (D2CA). According to Sennheiser Senior Acoustic Engineer Axel Grell, these negate the resonance that occurs when you put an earphone in the ear canal, leading to a smoother high-frequency production and allowing a listener to hear real heights.
Sennheiser's engineers also went to great lengths to produce a durable product that addresses real-life peccadilloes; for instance, they've learned from over 60 years of acoustic experience that top-quality, on-the-go headphones require easy-to-change, easy-to-clean eartips. A proprietary product, these eartips come five sizes to a pack, ensuring that even people with very small or very large ears (you know who you are) are catered to. The IE 800s also feature two meshes to protect internal components from earwax and a Kevlar-reinforced cable that makes rips and tangles a thing of the past.
In a sad case of being too smart for its own good (or rather, too good for its own smartphone), the IE 800's sound quality actually outpaces most portable hardware at present. We're willing to call this the best kind of problem. There have also been complaints about its short cable, which can place your neck dangerously close to a spinning record. But hey -- if you can afford a pair of $1,000 headphones, you can probably afford the extension.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers