Blue unveils latest headphones with built-in amplification, plus a wireless pair

Blue might be a company best known for its microphones, but in the past few years it has launched some ambitious headphones as well, many of which featured built-in amplifiers for higher-quality sound, no matter the source. The company is keeping that tradition going with the announcement of its two newest wired headphones — the Ella and Sadie — and the new Satellite, which offers both a built-in amplifier and noise canceling.
If you’ve seen the company’s previous headphones, both the Ella and Sadie headphones will look fairly familiar, thanks in part to the race car-inspired, multijointed headband used by both. That said, what’s inside these new headphones is a departure, especially in the case of the Ella.

“Ella is a planar magnetic headphone with a twist — it delivers both superior detail and musical impact,” Blue Microphones CEO John Maier said in a statement. “Typical planar magnetic headphones sacrifice impact to achieve higher levels of detail, leaving a sound that’s more clinical than emotional. And traditional dynamic headphones are great at delivering the power and punch that most of us are used to but can’t transmit the detail planar does. Ella is the first headphone that combines the best of both worlds to offer both punch and precision.”

The Ella features a built-in 250-megawatt “audiophile amp,” and is the first planar magnetic headphone to do so, according to Blue. The amp powers the 50mm x 50mm drivers, which are self-tensioned for fast response and accurate sound. To ensure that the headphones sound the best they can, they are hand-assembled in small batches.

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The Sadie headphones swap out planar magnetic drivers for 50mm dynamic drivers, bringing down the price, but that doesn’t mean these are low-end. Like the Ella, these headphones feature a built-in amplifier that Blue says takes the burden of powering the headphones off of the source, allowing any laptop or mobile device to easily power them.

“Sadie is the exciting evolution of Blue’s commitment to creating premium headphones,” Maier said. “We broke the mold with Mo-Fi, and Sadie advances that concept even further with refined custom-tuned drivers and a further streamlined unique design. It’s like wearing a premium hi-fi system on your head.”

While the above two models are wired, the Satellite drop the wires — opting instead for Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX — but keep the built-in amplifier. This pair also makes another addition: adaptive noise cancellation. This may be nothing new in headphones, but Blue has taken a unique approach in how its noise cancellation works.

“Satellite bridges the gap between high-fidelity sound and portable listening, making it possible to enjoy a true audiophile experience anywhere,” Maier explains. “Traditional noise-canceling headphones use one pair of drivers for both audio and ANC, which compromises your sound quality. Satellite uses separate, dedicated ANC drivers so that our dedicated audio drivers and audiophile amp can deliver high-fidelity sound for no-compromise wireless listening.”

While the Blue Mo-Fi — the first headphones to use this design — were on the heavy side, Blue has redesigned the headband to make its newer models lighter. All  three new headphones offer three operating modes: Off bypasses the amplifier, while On turns it on, and On+ is meant to boost the low-end of older music.

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Both the Ella and Sadie will be available this month. The Ella headphones retail for $700 and will be available from Amazon, Best Buy, and Fry’s, while the Sadie will sell for $400 and be available from Best Buy, Fry’s, and other authorized retailers. The Satellite headphones have no official release date, but will head to retailers later in 2017. All of these headphones will be on display at CES 2017 at the Blue booth in South Hall 1.