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RS2i HeadphonesVIEW THE  RS2i

Sight and Sound: Music to Your Ears

Hands down, these headphones were my favorite pair among those tested here. Handmade in Brooklyn, these boutique cans look like a throwback to the audio appurtenances of yesteryear. With their featherweight cured-mahogany air chambers, tensile headband and open-back design, the RS2is presented no issues when it came to extended listening. Their supra-aural design — featuring pads that sit comfortably on top of the ears, rather than enveloping them in an attempt to isolate the ear from outside sound — created a notably neutral acoustic environment.

Describing the experience of listening to music via the RS2is is slightly elusive, if only because these headphones don't attempt to impose a distinct sonic signature; instead, they're pristinely accurate aural lenses through which only the recording itself is transmitted, allowing one to perceive a lot more and a lot more clearly. Listening to Pierre Boulez's recent Mahler CD featuring the unfinished Tenth Symphony's Adagio, I could hear the string players from the Cleveland Orchestra breathing in time with the maestro's conducting of the aching opening measures. The music seemed to exhibit a depth and vitality that, in my experience, has only been associated with a live experience. The understated virtuosity of Cecilia Bartoli's charming performance of Clari's "Come dolce a me favelli" seemed to emanate from directly in front of me, as an actual full-throated voice instead of a recording.

For anyone who's spent a lifetime listening to music on sub-par headphones, hearing the RS2is can be a bit of an overwhelming experience at first — akin to firing up your new fifty-five-inch HD TV, only to notice that it lets you count every pore on your local news anchor's face. With continued listening, though, you'll come to expect nothing less, because you simply won't find anything better.