The 50 Best Headphones You Can Buy (Part 9)

10/19/2012 9:20:42 AM

Ratings: 5/5

Price: $135

Description: Audio-Technica ATH-ES55

Audio-Technica ATH-ES55

These rather stylish on-ears require a good day or so of running in before they sound their best. Give them that time and they’ll reward you with an open, natural sound, despite the commute-friendly closed-back design. They’re detailed, transparent and dynamic, too.

Best for universal smartphone use – Beyerdynamic MMX 101 iE

Ratings: 5/5

Price: $142.5

Description: Beyerdynamic MMX 101 iE

Beyerdynamic MMX 101 iE

You’d be forgiven for thinking these are the DTX 101 iEs with the addition of a mic, but these sound better than their impressive siblings, with greater weight, detail and dynamics. They lack volume buttons on the remote, but that makes them compatible with more phones.

Best for proven ability – Goldring NS-1000

Ratings: 5/5

Price: $135

Description: Goldring NS-1000

Goldring NS-1000

They’ve been around for years, but the NS-1000 noise-cancellers continue to impress with a clean, crisp and open sound, and their effectiveness at blocking unwanted background noise. We loved them at $225 so they’re something of a bargain now. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even find them cheaper.

Best for weighty bass – Audio-Technica ATH-WS55i

Ratings: 5/5

Price: $120

Description: Audio-Technica ATH-WS55i

Audio-Technica ATH-WS55i

The original ATH-WS55 headphones boasted lots of bass, but it was rather bloated and overbearing. Audio-Technica did some tweaking, and came back with the 55i, which keeped the weight and depth but adds tautness and control to deliver a full-bodied and rich, but also punchy and exciting soundstage.

The famous ‘sonic colanders’ – Grado iGrado

Ratings: 5/5

Price: $67.5

Description: Grado iGrado

Grado iGrado

If sound quality really is all that maters and you’re after a portable pair of headphones, the iGrados are the way to go. Detail levels, cohesion, authority and refinement are simply outstanding for the money. But please do bear in mind that the open design means they leak sound and your music will be clear to everyone around you.

Best for bass-loving iPhone owners – Audio-Technica ATH-CKS55i

Ratings: 4/5

Price: $90

Description: Audio-Technica ATH-CKS55i

Audio-Technica ATH-CKS55i

Got an iPhone? Like your bass big and chunky? These are for you! They don’t master on detail or definition, but they know their way around a dynamic shift and deliver warm, textured bass that’ll have you grinning from ear to ear.

Best for keeping it lean – Etymotic MC5

Ratings: 4/5

Price: $90

Description: Etymotic MC5

Etymotic MC5

The opposite of the Audio-Technicas above, these Etymotics offer a supremely energetic, detailed and precise sound that’s lean in the bass but big on rhythm and agility. There are plenty of eartips in the box to ensure a snug fit, and there’s even an optional custom-fitting service to get them tailored for your ears only.

Best for a balanced delivery – Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE

Ratings: 5/5

Price: $82.5

Description: Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE

Beyerdynamic DTX 101 iE

From subtle dynamics and fine detail to punchy rhythms and twinkly treble, the DTX 101 iEs have the range and balance to turn their hand to just about any style of music. Of particular note is a bass delivery that while not the deepest, is authoritative, solid and great at filling out the vocals. Make sure you run the cable over your ears to reduce wire noise.

Bluetooth on a budget – Slick Distributions SD50

Ratings: 4/5

Price: $45

Description: Slick Distributions SD50

Slick Distributions SD50

$45 is cheap for any pair of headphones, so it’s an amazing price for a pair of Bluetooth on-ears with full controls for your smartphone. True, the SD50s have sonic flaws in the form of little muddiness in the bass and some vocal muffling, but they’re still very listenable, and given the price and features that’s an achievement all of its own.

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