In-ear headphones are good, but sometimes you just need something more substantial
On and over-ear headphones aren't the most convenient things in the world, and as such many will turn to in-ear options for things like the daily commute or hitting the gym. But if you want that all-encompassing experience and the best sound quality possible, you're likely going to want a good set of cans.
To help get you started if you're in the market for a new pair we've rounded up some of Mobile Nations' finest headphone wearers to tell you what their favorites are and why.
You can find a great set of headphones across the price spectrum, and we've got options from the relatively inexpensive to the downright luxurious.
DJ Reyes - Skullcandy Navigator
When sitting at home at my desk, or couch, I prefer to reach for over-the-ear headphones rather than in-ear ones and my preferred choice is the Skullcandy Navigator. I can adjust them exactly to how I want them on my head and they're ever so comfortable too, thanks to the memory foam ear pieces. I wear glasses and I can wear these for a lengthy period of time without feeling like my glasses are slowly being used to crush the sides of my head.
Apart from comfort, the Navigator has decent sounds too. Nice 'bassy' tones good enough for me. It's got a 1.2 metre cord which is definitely a plus and they're detachable too. There's also an in-line microphone plus volume keys whic always come in handy if I need to take a call. I can't go without a pair of headphones without an inline microphone.
This model has been around for a while but they're comfortable and meet my sound needs exactly the way I want.
$100 - $300
Derek Kessler - Bang & Olufsen B&O Play H6
Simply put, the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 headphones have fantastic balanced sound. Too many headphones these days have terribly distorted sound profiles that pump up the bass way too much and even play too much with the high trebles. I want to hear my music how it was meant to be heard, how the musicians recorded it and how they worked with the studio to master it. And for that, I turn to my H6 headphones — clean, crisp, and balanced.
On top of that, the B&O H6's are impressively lightweight. Unlike some other manufacturers *cough*beats*cough* that have been accused of adding weight to their headphones to make them feel premium, the H6 headphones embrace being lightweight. This makes them easy to justify packing and even easier to wear for hours and hours. My only real knock is the lack of noise cancellation — I've got a pair of Bose QC25 noise-cancelling headphones that I use for flying; they don't sound as good, but they're great for the droning noise of a jetliner.
And then there's style. Sure, it doesn't impact how they sound, but if you're the least bit style conscious you want your headphones to at least look decent if you're going to wear them in public. B&O's gear has always been simply stylish. Like their sound, the H6 headphones have a clean and tidy look to them, but you can still pick from a mix of colors to find the pair that match your personal style.
Sure, there's no upper limit to how much you can spend on headphones, but that's a game of diminishing returns — at a certain point you start spending exorbitant amounts of money and only getting marginal improvements in return. At around $300, the Bang & Olufsen H6's hit the sweet spot — they're pricier than some may consider spending on headphones, but they're not yet at that point where you're pouring money down the drain in search of the absolute best audio quality.
Simon Sage - Sennheiser Momentum
I've been using a pair of the first generation Sennheiser Momentum headphones for a couple of months now, and I've been pleased with the results. Generally I've got headphones on all day long, so comfort is a high priority. To that end, the Momentum headphones are extremely light and have a wide range of adjustability. While contact along the top with the head is minimal, the insulation around the ear is thick without adding too much pressure. That means you get all of the sound without anything leaking out (or in, for that matter). In terms of audio quality, the Sennheiser Momentum is very well-balanced. There's sufficient bass without going overboard, good volume, and crystal clarity.
The wiring side deserve some recognition too. The headphone jack has sturdy construction with an articulated joint. This makes me feel confident about longevity, as the jack is common place for wear-and-tear to do the most damage. Higher up is an in-line microphone and media playback controls. These support both Google Now and Siri prompts. The one catch is that you'll need to buy a separate cable for Android volume control.
Personally, I don't like going on the move with a big pair of headphones, but for those that do, the Sennheiser Momentum comes with a hard carrying case and spare cable which can be easily swapped in should your wire get damaged.
These headphones are a little on the older side now, which means you can get a pretty great price for them. Based on my experience, I would consider splurging on the second-generation Sennheiser Momentum headphones, especially since you can get those with the Android cable in the box, or as a wireless version.
James Falconer - Bose QC25
The Bose QC25's are my favorites for many reasons:
First, they're comfortable and the materials used are quality. Put them on and they stay put, and are very easy to adjust.
Second, they look great. I went with the white and tan combo, and they really do look sharp. Other color combos are available, and Bose does run limited editions from time to time, so keep an eye open for those if you're interested.
Third, they're actually quite compact. I always carry these in my backpack, as they take up very little room. Very handy when traveling or on the go.
Fourth (and speaking of travel), there's nothing better for noise canceling in my opinion. If you travel by plane a lot, you MUST consider these. You don't realize how loud the engine noise is on a plane until you put on the QC25's and turn them on! The noise cancelling makes a big difference, and helps me focus on work, reading, or get a more restful nap while in the air.
Daniel Rubino - Bose QuietComfort QC15
When flying I always go for noise-canceling headphones as the engine noise has shown to cause or enhance fatigue when traveling. I already have enough stress when flying that the loud constant humming of the jet engines is something I like to avoid.
Bose has a great reputation (plus they are based only a few miles from me) that I prefer their style and technology. Over-the-ear can be tricky as usually I have experienced discomfort after a few hours at the apex of the skull. I have never had that issue with Bose, which even after 5 or 6 hours still feel just as comfortable on my head as when I first put them on.
Make no mistake: they are not cheap. But they will the only over-the-ear headphones you need to buy making it a worthy investment. Don't try to save yourself $50 and go for the next-best thing, just try these on instead.
Jerry Hildenbrand - OPPO PM-3 Closed-Back Planar Magnetic Headphones
I'm one of those people who puts too much thought and too much money into audio equipment. I demand a certain level of quality from the music I purchase, as well as the equipment I use. I've been a longtime user of Sony studio over-the-ear cans (because of the wonderfully flat audio profile and excellent sound quality at moderate volume) but recently I found my next purchase — OPPO's PM-3 'phones.
They aren't exciting when it comes to they way they look. They fit well, but I've tried others who fit just as well. I'm impressed by the weight, but that also isn't why I'm saying the PM-3s are the best. It's all about how they sound to me.
They are true audiophile equipment, with a modest (for high-end audio equipment anyway) price tag. Isolation is excellent, even with the relatively light weight and easy fit — you don't have to have cans squeeze the hell out of your head to get immersed in your music with the PM-3s. Your music sounds fantastic. Everything is balanced, with just a bit of roll off at the high end of the spectrum. Bass and mids are damn near perfect, and distortion is nowhere to be seen at normal (read: LOUD AS HELL) listening volumes. If you have high quality music files, and high-end equipment to drive them, you won't be disappointed.
I've tried hundreds of pairs of headphones. The folks at my local Crutchfield and Musician's Friend know me by name. The OPPO PM-3s sound as good as models costing thousands of dollars. If want more from your music, a pair of PM-3s and a good amp/DAC combo is a great way to get it.
Lory Gil - Logitech UE 9000
Logitech is known for making great quality speakers and they did not disappoint me when it came to over-the-ear headphones. The bass booms inside my head when I'm blasting heavy beats, but it also brings the noise when I'm shredding metal. The highs and lows are perfectly balanced and music come through crystal clear at low and high volumes. When I've got the volume down low, I can hear what's going on around me, which I appreciate when I'm riding my bike on city streets.
The ear cup has a nice thick cushioned soft leather padding. The headband is tight enough to feel secure without hurting my head. A lot of over-the-ear headphones are too big for me, but the UE 9000 fit perfectly. There are on-board controls for playback and volume right on the outside of the ear cups when I'm listening wirelessly. Or, if I want to connect to my iPhone using the 3.5mm cable, I have the added bonus of a working microphone for taking calls.
Logitech's UE 9000 are, by far, the best over-the-ear headphones I've every used.