Among the lesser sung hymns of praise to progress in the audio field is the kudos due the new breed of stereo headphones. As a class, this recent group offers better performance at a lower cost than did earlier headphones. They also are lighter in weight and more comfortable to wear.

Here is a rundown on units that I have sampled in recent months. All use the so-called "open back" design which means they do not fully isolate the wearer from fairly loud sounds, such as a telephone ringing. Despite this, the reproduced signal comes through amply clear and loud. All may be plugged directly into the headphone jack found on receivers, amplifiers or tape decks without the need to change existing speaker hook-up wiring.

The figures for weight and response are my own measurements. The weight in each case does not include the connecting cord. The response figures are those I judge to show a given model's ability to cover the most linear range. In all cases, both lows and highs extend beyond these figures, but with reduced amplitude and/or increased distortion. Prices may vary somewhat in different locales.

The yacutex HTS-1 weighs a mere 5.5 ounces and costs $50. Its most linear response runs from 60 Hz to 14kHz.

Weighing 7 ounces and priced at $59, the AKG K-140S responds best from 50 Hz to 15 kHz.

The Bang & Olafsen U-70 spans the range very well from about 40 Hz to 16 kHz. It weighs 11.5 ounces and costs $85.

The Beyer DT-220, at $65, is smooth-sounding from 50 Hz to 15.5 kHz. Its weight is 9 ounces.

The newest model from Koss to the HV/X. Priced at $70, it covers the range smoothly form 40 Hz to 17 kHz. It weighs 7 ounces.

A miniature "woofer" and "tweeter" are used in each of the ear cups of Lafayette's model F-780. Weighing 8 ounces and priced at $45, it spans the range nicely from 50 Hz to 15 kHz.

Panasonic's EAH-520 uses a duo-cone (a small treble sub-cone over the main diaphragm). Its best response runs from 45 Hz to 15 kHz. Price $65; weight, 9 ounces.

The SAE model 7000 weighs 10 ounces. Price is $50, and it covers the range from 40 Hz to 16 kHz very nicely.

The Toshiba HR-X1 uses an electret element (all the others are dynamic types). Its best response range is 50 Hz to 18 kHz. Weight is 7 ounces; price, $65. Supplied with it is an adapter that adjusts sensitivity for different signal sources.

From Yamaha, there's the model HP-1 which weighs 9 ounces and costs $65.

Its best range is from 45 Hz to 15 kHz.

All these are very good headphones, and the prospective buyer should audition as many as possible, making a final decision on the basis of how they sound to him, how they feel on the head, and how much he cares to spend. On factor may be more important to some users than others: Headphones typically produce less volume from tape decks than from receivers or amplifiers. For those who may be using headphones fairly often to monitor directly from a tape deck, the models I have found that sound the loudest are the Beyer DT-220, the Lafayette F-780, the Panasonic EAH-520, the SAE 7000, the Toshiba HR-X1 (with its adaptor switch set for "low") and the Yamaha HP-1. However, all the headphones will provide more than ample volume when plugged into a receiver or amplifier.