Headphones are a must-have accessory, whether you’re an on-the-go listener, an armchair audiophile, or just a considerate cubicle jockey. There’s a wide variety of headphones on the market, and many are perfectly designed to suit one purpose but fail miserably in the wrong situation. And there’s also no shortage of headphones that just plain fail, period.
Top List of Headphones
So here’s a quick list of headphones to give you a heads-up (pun intended) on some recent and excellent cans, and especially what they’re best and worst at.
Beats by Dr. Dre — if your headphones goals are bass, bass, and more bass (and maybe looking fashionable), Beats may be your best bet. The latest model is called MIXR, and they’re marketed as a ‘studio reference’ design, but don’t be fooled — they still mainly pump out lots of loud bass. A more tried-and-tested model is the Monster Beats Solo HD, a nice compromise between cost, detail, and (of course) extra bass. The closed-ear design is good news for co-workers and fellow travelers, and they’re a natural choice for DJing or any personal listening where block-rockin’ beats and style are the goal.
Sennheiser — chances are, the only style points you’ll win is with nerdy audiophile types, but if your focus is squarely on the sound, Sennheiser is the name to look for. For a measly 25 bucks, the HD 201 and 202 models are a steal considering the quality they deliver (there are countless models of headphones that can’t beat the detail and accuracy for 2, 5, or 10 times the price!). However, if you have the cash, seek out the HD 518, which have enough detailed accurate sound quality to annihilate anything else on this list. And then there’s Sennheiser’s high-end headphones range… but no, you’re not ready for that, grasshopper.
The Cool and Funky Headphones Section
V-Moda — let’s get one thing clear, V-Moda is a ‘lifestyle’ (i.e., ‘fashion’) company, not an ‘audio’ company. Having said that, V-Moda makes some high-quality headphones for people who like to be seen in them, and the Crossfade LP series is legendary among DJs and fans of DJs. The latest V-Moda to drool over is the limited-edition Crossfade LP2, which offers a luxurious design, serious volume, and decent detail — ideal for name-droppers and needle-droppers alike. The hip coffee-shop, office, and commuting user will find that V-Moda generally beats Beats by a hair in both quality and price.
Grado — this low-key Brooklyn-based company makes a wide range of high-quality headphones, but the company’s iconic model is the SR-60, renowned for its detail and clarity for an amazingly low price (and I’m not unbiased, they’re my personal headphones of choice). The updated SR-60i is more commonly available, and the SR-80i is slightly more expensive with matched drivers for (arguably) improved sound. Any of these headphones are ideal for when you want to hear every detail of your music, but would prefer not to spend another hundred (or thousand) dollars for cans of comparable quality. The SR series is totally wrong to run in or to show off to the hip crowd, and you won’t be doing any favors for your office and commuting companions (due to the open design, a LOT of sound leaks out).
Skullcandy — pure fun, edgy style, and (relatively) reasonable price make three good reasons to overlook a somewhat less-than studio-quality sound. I bought a pair of Skullcandy earbuds to run with, mainly because they were cheap, black, and had cute little skulls on them. Between you and me, there aren’t many earbuds that do much better (although if you were a stickler about sound quality, you could pay five times as much for Ultimate Ears UE-350’s, or about 10-15 times for the outstanding Yuin PK-1’s). As far as their actual headphones range goes, the inline amps on the Skullcrushers make them a good choice for ultra-bass listening (gamers and home theater people will especially appreciate the extra oomph) at significantly less than you’d pay for Beats or Crossfades — but deeper-pocketed fashionistas may want to give the pro-level Mix Master and/or the recent Aviator series a try.
SeanTR is an avid music lover who’s never far from a pair of headphones, and currently working on his third air-guitar single. When he’s not choosing what his daily soundtrack should be you can find him contributing to ATTSavings.com