The Best Headphones [Best Of]

Best Headphones

The earbuds that came with your $600 iPhone are junk, and if you bought an iPad, Apple didn’t even include a pair in the box. It’s time to upgrade.

Trouble is, there are all kinds of cans out there. How do you know what set is right for you? Some people (like me) seem to have a pair for every situation. For everyone else, here’s our guide to the best.

The Best Portable Headphones

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Koss Porta Pro KTC$80

Lightweight, folding, comfortable and great-sounding, the KTCs add an inline remote and mic to the classic Porta Pros. Even if you’re happy with the crappy Apple earbuds, you should toss them out and buy these instead. It’s worth it. As our own John Brownlee says: “These are Cult of Mac’s favorite headphones. You should buy them. Preferably now.”

The Best Earbuds For Big Bass

Moster Turbine 2

Monster Turbine$180

If hip-hop’s the name, and bass is the game, these Monster classics are for you: your ears will feel like they’re standing next to a concert speaker stack.

If you like a balanced sound, of a comfortable fit, though, go elsewhere: one thing the Turbines are not is subtle.

The Best Noise-Canceling Headphones

Able Planet 1

Able Planet NC1100B$350

These cans do a fine job of canceling out background hums and thrums, but it’s what happens after the noise has been dispatched that makes these headphones stand out: The sound is fantastic. Open, clear and accurate, but without being cold, the highs are clear and the bass full. And that’s before you even switch them on. They’re not cheap, nor are they particularly portable, but for no-compromise sound, these are the ones you want.

The Best In-Ear Headphones

Eeeeeeers 2

Eers PCS-250$300

Eers makes custom-fitted, canal-sealing earbuds which you mold yourself with the included jig. The result is something that cuts out sound about as effecively as active noise-canceling cans, and leaves you in peace to enjoy the sweet sounding music the dual drivers pump out. Bonus: you can listen at about half the volume you’d typically use.

The Best Headphone Mic Adapter

Griffin Smart Talk Headphone Adapter With mic Control d

Griffin Smarttalk — $Varies

The Griffin Smarttalk is a classic, and — if you can find it — still the best. The adapter adds a mic and remote to any headphones, and has a clip so you can fix it to your jeans pocket for quick access to the play/pause/answer button.

It’s also tough, with a strong plastic body and a woven cord cover. The only thing missing is an inline volume control, but that’s a small problem. Tip: check you local Apple Store. Amazon is out of Smarttalks, but my Apple Store is well stocked.

Best Budget Over-The-Ear Headphones

Panny

Panasonic RP-HTX7 — $70

Retro style and a low price will bring you to these headphones, but a comfortable fit and great sound for the price will make you stay. The RP-HTX7s (which can be found for a lot less than the RRP listed here) were the cool over-the-ear headphones to be seen in way before Dre and his Beats crashed the party.

Best Headphones For Good Music

Laredo

California Silverado$199

Many headphones are optimized for hip-hop, with big bass drowning out more subtle sounds. California Headphones makes headphones that sound better with rock, or pretty much anything that requires a good, rounded out sonic range. Our own reviewer Alex Kahney was impressed not just by their sound but by their solid construction — machined metal earpieces and plug-in, thread-covered cords.

Best-Looking Headphones

Incase Sonic Cover b

InCase Sonics$150

If Marty McFly had wanted some headphones to match his 2015 sneakers, he would have chosen the Sonics. Yeah, they sound good, but these cans are all about the style, with smooth shapes and soft textures that verge on making them a plush toy. They even come with a fur-lined case — pimp-tastic.

Related
  • Flyphoenix

    I’m just gonna stick with $25-$30 dollar headphones.

  • rocksinger

    WTF…I owned and returned no less than 6 sets of Monster Turbines and the only problem is quality control…there is none. The hassle that Monster put me through and the time spent on the phone has made me one Monster of a HATER.

  • Mark Andersen

    A quick Amazon search shows the Able Planet NC1100B’s at $87.48 $350 is their list price but they are a TON cheaper now it seems.
    http://www.amazon.com/Planet-NC1100B-Harmony-Cancelling-Headphone/dp/B004MX5EBG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340825219&sr=8-1&keywords=Able+Planet+NC1100B

  • RyanTV

    I’ll keep my JHAudio JH16Pros, thank you.

  • Siriusly

    Any recommendations for a bluetooth pair of headphones?

  • rshuck

    For most of these, at the price points they occupy, I agree. Koss PortaPro definitely. But the California Silverado? It’s a KickStarter project that may not even get fully funded. Normal people can’t get these right now. They also haven’t been reviewed by any reputable headphone-specific sites/blogs yet that I have seen.

    They also made the following, highly suspect and VERY untrue claim:
    “According to California Headphones, there is nothing worthwhile on the market between the $39 and $149 price points.”

    I could AT LEAST name 10 headphone models in this range that would likely put the Laredos to shame. Grado, Sennheiser, AKG all make models in this price range that are extremely good. California wants to make fashion headphones that don’t sound like the ones that are currently out there. That’s a GOOD thing since Beats/SkullCandy/etc are mostly terrible. In that, the “fashion headphones” category, they may very well end up to be the best. In the audiophile quality category, they have a whole lot to prove before they can make claims like that.

  • rshuck

    A quick Amazon search shows the Able Planet NC1100B’s at $87.48 $350 is their list price but they are a TON cheaper now it seems.
    http://www.amazon.com/Planet-NC1100B-Harmony-Cancelling-Headphone/dp/B004MX5EBG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340825219&sr=8-1&keywords=Able+Planet+NC1100B

    I love how that URL says “Harmony Cancelling Headphone”

  • bjonbjonbjon

    Dropping claims like these w/o research is very irresponsible, there are far too many other headphone/earphone companies that will beat these products that u mentioned out of the park by a mile.

About the author

Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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