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Blue - better known to us as Blue Microphones, maker of our favourite podcasting microphone, the Spark Digital - has launched what it's calling a revolution in headphones: Mo-Fi Powered Hi-Fi Headphones. The basic idea is to put a headphones amplifier into the headphones themselves, matched to the drivers, in order to improve sound quality on any source (especially lower-powered devices like smartphones and iPads). Coupled with comfort enhancements, Blue is hoping the new headphones will appeal to audiophiles of all types, including DJ/producers who need to monitor their music for extended periods of time from all sources at the highest possible quality.

The headphone amplifier idea is not new (hi-fi buffs have used them for years), but incorporating the amplifier into a headphone design is. The amp will run for 12 hours on a three to four hour charge, and you also have the option of turning it off when you're monitoring from a high quality source, which would probably include decent DJ mixers and controllers, for example. There are two "on" modes, one with a bass boost and one natural.
While they definitely look different, they have been designed for long term comfort as well as sound quality.
While they definitely look different, they have been designed for long term comfort as well as sound quality.

Do we need this?

It's an interesting concept. From a DJ/producer's point of view, whether they'd work in a DJ booth (or whether you'd even want them to over a more DJ-focused pair of headphones) is one thing, but for long-term studio monitoring and also music discovery from smartphone and other less optimal sources it might just turn out that there is a noticeable difference in quality with these. Certainlly the manufacturer is also pushing the comfort factors in the design, too ("ear shaped" cups and a tension adjuster on the headband, for instance).

We don't know whether all of this will actually add up to an appreciably better headphone experience than the best conventional designs yet, and won't till we get to review them, but hopefully we'll be able to do just that pretty soon and then give you a more detailed opinion.
More broadly, innovations like this are helping to encourage the often compromised sound quality of digital files and sources to be moved back up to where many feel they were before digital's bandwidth, storage and compression necessities caused a noticeable drop (128kbps MP3s, anyone)? That by itself is to be commended and bodes well for digital music quality forward from here.

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