Headphone Roundup: Maximize Your Audio Experience
Whether you prefer your media in a lossless FLAC format or as a compressed MP3, your listening experience is only as good as the pair of headphones you’re using. When finding the perfect set of headphones, there are a handful of criteria to base your choice on, such as lightweight hi-fidelity for the audiophile, the mobile convenience of wireless, or sturdy surround sound for the gamer/movie connoisseur.
Hi-Fidelity: For the Ideal Listening Experience
Let’s jump straight to the chase. When you want your music to sound the best, you know you need a solid wired connection and superior noise cancelling technology. That’s exactly what you get with the Bose QuietComfort 15, a comfortable set of headphones with nearly unrivaled sound quality. The QuietComfort 15s do run the misfortune of requiring batteries to operate, though, and active noise cancelling isn’t for everyone (the price can be a “beat” steep as well).
Fortunately, Bose also makes an excellent isolating headphone known as the AE2, which is equally as comfortable and offers similar sound quality for a more affordable price. But if you don’t mind throwing down some serious cash, the Sennheiser HD 800 is currently the best the industry has to offer.
On the Go: Lightweight and Wireless Headphones
When you start looking at compact headphones, sound quality is often the first thing sacrificed, but if you’re not the type to compromise, the Shure SE535s are for you. The only real downside they have is the price, but it’s worth it. The sound quality is absolutely sensational; even the bass (which if often mediocre at best for ear buds) comes through deep and rich.
For those of us who may not be willing to drop a few hundred dollars on a pair of headphones, the Klipsch Image S4i makes an excellent alternative, costing well under $100. The sound quality suffers slightly, but still outshines everything in its price range by a fair margin.
For those that don’t much care for a tangled mess of cords or prefer the freedom to roam about the house while listening to the stereo without disturbing others, wireless headphones are the way to go.
The Sennheiser RS 160 is a great choice, offering excellent comfort and managing over 20 hours of playback on a single charge. While sound quality can often suffer significantly from distortion in the airwaves, the RS 160s have been optimized to eliminate this almost entirely, resulting in a very clean listening experience.
Surround Sound: HD Movies at Their Finest
When it comes to surround sound headphones, your choices are somewhat limited. Generally, you’ll have to limit your search within headsets (headphones with included microphones). For those interested in some surround sound gaming, this is great news, as most of the headsets are geared specifically for gaming. Logitech’s G930 is a fairly well rounded 7.1 channel headset that makes for excellent surround sound gaming but also works well for surround sound movies due to its wireless connection. Unfortunately, its USB connector is suitable for computers only, so most Blu-Ray Players will be incompatible.
A more compatible (though also more expensive) alternative is Turtle Beach’s Ear Force PX5. It too is a wireless headset, capable of True Dolby 7.1 channel surround sound and features a digital optical input, making it suitable for most Blu-Ray Players and home theater setups.