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If you want to watch movies, listen to music or do a little gaming on the go, a decent headset or pair of earphones is essential. The problem, though, is that there are just so many!
Plugin, bluetooth or those odd wireless things that Apple make people use now, where do you start?
To help, we’ve picked 5 of the best.
Best Wired – Sennheiser HD206 – $40
Sennheiser have a long and illustrious reputation as makers of very decent studio equipment. More recently they have expanded into home use, and their range of HD headphones is outstanding. Incorporating many of the features of headphones 3 or 4 times the price, the HD206 is an over-the-ear type of headset. They’re not subtle because of it, but they are so good that it won’t matter.
Amazingly lightweight and comfortable, they have a level of sound quality that will beat anything else at the price. Unlike many premium manufacturers, who farm out their budget products to 3rd party makers, these are genuine Sennheiser quality. There are compromises, of course.
The fake leather around the earpiece could be better, and they do have a slightly plasticky feel. Truly though, for the price you won’t do better.
Best In-Ear – Soundmagic E50 – $50
$50 might sound like a lot of money for in-ear, bud type earphones, but don’t walk away just yet. Soundmagic are a Chinese manufacturer who have taken the west by storm in the last 5 years. The E50 are the next step up from the E10, one of the best selling in-ear headsets in recent years. The E50 have excellent build quality, with an all-metal housing on each earpiece, and look pretty smart as well.
Unlike many in-ear buds, these are very comfortable even for long use. The cable is twist-resistant and the whole thing just feels like a high-quality, premium product. Best of all is the sound. The custom-designed driver in the earphones brings out every detail of the music, whatever the genre, and is unrivalled in its class.
Best Bluetooth – Soundpeats – $30
Over-ear bluetooth headphones have been around for quite a while, but earbud-type products have been more elusive. The main reason is that large products can store a lot of battery power, and small ones can’t. Now, though, we are at the stage where even tiny in-ear designs like the Soundpeats can give nearly 10 hours of playback time.
Incredibly hi-fi for a product type that was always about convenience more than quality, the Soundpeats are a remarkable technological achievement. Designed for those on the go, they are sweatproof and have a necklace-type design so they hang around your neck when not in use.
Soundpeats throw in several size of ear buds and fins so you are guaranteed to find a combination to fit you. There’s an inline microphone, and volume and previous/next track buttons. Dollar for dollar, these might just be as good as it gets.
Best On-Ear – Grado SR60e – $80
Straddling the line somewhere between over-ear and in-ear, on-ear headphones just sit right on the ear itself. Although this isn’t ideal from either a long-term comfort angle or for sound leaking, it hasn’t stopped manufacturers turning out some great products.
The Grado SR60e is one such product. American designed and made, this entry level product in the company’s Prestige range hits far above the average. You do get some sound in and out that you don’t want but, otherwise, these are great headphones.
They are also extremely light and weigh just about the same as your smartphone.
Best Noise-Cancelling – Sony WH-1000XM2 – $350
Here’s the thing. Noise-cancelling headphones used to be terrible. Sound quality was sacrificed in order to soundproof your ears from the rumble of a road or a plane’s engines. Now, though, quality and build go hand in hand. The problem is that good noise-cancelling headphones ain’t cheap.
Prices for something half-decent start at about $150 but, if you’re serious enough about your music to spend that much, then go the extra mile. The Sony WH-1000XM2 might be $350, but you really get what you pay for. Almost total noise-cancelling, fantastic audio reproduction and a massive 30 hour battery life make for some very good headphones.
In a nice touch from Sony, if high-frequency sounds appear, such as those over a a speaker system like those on a plane, then those sounds are allowed through. Similarly, there is a quick touch feature which removes all noise cancellation so you can speak to someone without removing the headphones. Again, useful for bus and plane rides.
It is a lot of money but, if you need noise cancelling on your subway journey to work every day, they will pay for themselves in no time.