Q: You were right — the Helm Audio True Wireless 5.0 Headphones are the best earbuds ever! As an RN, I am ordering them at 50% off with Helm's special first-responder discount. I have purchased five sets so far. My husband uses them in his job as a big rig driver, wearing one earbud at a time, which is safe for his driving. The earbuds don't dislodge much, and they look cool compared to the white ones with tails the young people wear (so passe). Why don't you write about the first-responders special again? I am sure other readers and first responders would appreciate it.
A: I certainly appreciate your enthusiasm, but to set the record straight, I never exactly said the Helm earphones were the "best earbuds ever." Back in May, I did say they are some of the best-sounding earbuds you can buy for the price, and I still feel that way. The earphones are a stylish, uncomplicated, high quality product that just plain sounds good.
As you mentioned in your e-mail, the earphones are normally $129.99. Helm has a wonderful promotion where first responders, medical staff, veterans, teachers and active military receive a 50% discount when you validate your career at the id.me website. Visit helmaudio.com to learn more about the earphones and discount redemption. At $65 per pair after the 50% discount, you can do no better.
Wireless earphones are certain to be among the most popular gift items this year, so here are some others to consider for your shopping list:
• Hifiman TWS800, $299: These high-end audiophile earphones from an industry leader are well regarded by audio buffs for their clear, natural and accurate sound. hifiman.com
• Technics EAH-AZ70W, $249: One of my favorite earphones regardless of price, they deliver a premium experience that almost makes you feel like you're listening to speakers rather than something stuck in your ear. The sophisticated app allows you to control the amount of noise reduction and locate lost earphones. technics.com
• Audio-Technica ATH-CK3TW, $99: These earphones are comfortable and pleasant to listen to, with no drawbacks I can think of. I keep a pair of these in my gym bag so I can have good sound while I exercise, without risking the loss of something expensive. audio-technica.com
• Soundcore Life P2, $49: Another winner from Soundcore, the Life P2 gets you good sound and quality for under $50. soundcore.com
Q: Some of the turntables I am considering have an S-shaped arm. I do not like the way they look and prefer a straight arm. Is there a quality difference between them?
A: Assuming that they are designed and manufactured properly and the cartridge is mounted correctly, both S-shaped and straight tonearms perform well. A good S-shaped arm will be better than a mediocre straight arm, and vice versa. Except for DJ turntables, a straight arm will have an angled headshell (cartridge mount) to align it with the grooves, and an S-shaped arm will have a straight headshell.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.