Top Picks Headphones

Headphones
Onkyo ES-HF300 Headphone: $179
When you think of Onkyo the first thing that comes to mind is AV receivers, so it may come as a surprise that the company makes headphones. The ES-HF300 actually marks the company’s debut in this bustling category—and what a debut it is. Calling them “near perfect, audio expert Steve Guttenberg wrote: “The ES-HF300s proved to be a remarkably transparent-sounding device; no other headphone near its price can touch it for clarity or resolution of fine detail. Stereo imaging and depth are exceptional for a $179 headphone.” (November 2013, Read Full Review)
Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Headphone: $199
Don’t let the ATH-M50’s modest looks fool you (although you should check them out in white or red if style is important). They are solidly built by a company that’s been around since 1962, covered by a generous two-year warranty, and sport supremely comfortable oval cushions that produce a tight seal around your ears. Most important, they deliver open, easygoing sound with substantial—but not overdone—bass. Reviewer Steve Guttenberg wrote: “The uninhibited dynamic oomph on an action film like Avatar was impressive. After a few minutes, you forget you’re wearing headphones." (May 2013, Read Full Review)
NAD Viso HP50 Headphone: $299
Long-time NAD fans will be pleased to know that the venerable hi-fi brand makes full-size headphones that sound every bit as good as its speakers. Headphone maven Steve Guttenberg wasted no time getting right to the point in his review: “The NAD Viso HP50 sounds as smooth as silk, with excellent detail retrieval, a big soundstage, and bass with the perfect balance of speed and low-end oomph.” What’s more, these 'phones look great, sport custom-built drivers, and are comfy to wear. (June 2014, Read Full Review)
Philips Fidelio X1 Headphone: $299
Philips showed that it was serious about headphones when it revamped its lineup in 2012. The impeccably designed Fidelio X1, with its leather-wrapped headband and sinfully comfy ear cushions, is the company's best model to date. Noting that the “bass is awesome,” reviewer/headphone connoisseur Steve Guttenberg wrote: “The X1 is easy to listen to for hours at a time, because it’s one of the rare headphones that makes everything sound good.” And its open-back design won’t seal you off from the rest of the world. (July/August 2013, Read Full Review)
Sony MDR-1 Headphone: $300
Does comfort trump sound when it comes to headphones—especially ear-covering full-size models? Probably not but it comes darn close. The MDR-1 strikes a perfect balance between plush comfort and sweet sound optimized for iPods and iPads. “The Sony MDR-1R is brilliant at its chosen mission of making mobile devices sound as smooth and listenable as possible,” wrote Reviewer Mark Fleischmann. “I plan to get a lot more casual use out of my pair. Feeling good is good.” (SoundandVision.com, Read Full Review)
HiFiMan RE-600 In-Ear Headphone: $399
Is it possible to achieve big, transparent sound from super tiny, lightweight ear buds? In the case of the RE-600 it is. Besides serenading your ears with a wide open soundstage and natural tonal balance, the 600 is crazy comfortable. Comparing it with the comparably priced UE 900 from Ultimate Ears, reviewer Steve Guttenberg concluded: “It was clear from the get-go that the RE-600 was more transparent and produced a bigger, yet more precisely focused soundstage.” These in-ear marvels deserve a place on your short list. (SoundandVision.com, Read Full Review)
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 Headphone: $399
Are you drooling over the gorgeous lambskin headband and ear pads yet? Wait until you slip them over year ears. The BeoPlay H6 ’phones sound as good as they look, according to reviewer Steve Guttenberg, who points out something you may not know: B&O has been making headphones since the ’70s. Who knew? All that experience is abundantly evident in these latest headphones, which besides looking and sounding great, feel great. Listening to the rip-roaring dynamics and enveloping orchestral score of Hans Zimmer’s “Man of Steel” soundtrack, Guttenberg wrote: “The BeoPlay H6 put me inside the music.” (October 2013, Read Full Review)
Bowers & Wilkins P7 Headphone: $400
Legendary speaker maker B&W continues its evolution as a world-class headphone maker with its first over-the-ear headphone, the P7. From the sheepskin leather headband and magnetically attached ear pads to the over-sized 1.5-inch drivers, build quality is as impressive as its sound quality. Compared with the previously released on-ear P5, the P7 delivers more expansive sound. As headphone guru Steve Guttenberg put it: “Soundstage dimensions expand, dynamic contrasts grow wider, and the bass plumbs deeper, so when I switched back to the P5, the sound felt a little cramped.” (May 2014, Read Full Review)
Shure SRH1540 Headphone: $499
With its carbon-fiber ear cups, aluminum accents, Kevlar-reinforced cable, and “sinfully comfy” Alcantara cushions, Shure has struck just the right balance of rugged build quality, elegant design, comfort, and performance with the SRH1540. Comparing it with the B&W P7 he reviewed a few months earlier, headphone guru Steve Guttenberg wrote: “The Shure is less immediate and detailed, but sweeter and rounder, with a more spacious soundstage.” If that’s not enough, the 1540 is covered by a generous two-year warranty and comes with a travel case. (SoundandVision.com, Read Full Review)
V-Moda Vamp Verza Headphone Amp: $598 (Metallo case, $101)
For most of us, the smartphone is a constant companion and a sort of electronic swiss army knife that puts almost any form of entertainment and communication at our fingertips. Problem is, it can’t excel at everything and audio quality usually gets short shrift. Verza is certainly not cheap but it will upgrade your phone’s audio so you can enjoy high-resolution music without having to reach for an iPod or other dedicated player. (SoundandVision.com, Read Full Review)
AKG K712 Pro Headphone: $699
AKG has found the perfect balance of sound and comfort with the beautifully hand-crafted K712. Reviewer Steve Guttenberg described listening to the 2012 remaster of the Beach Boy’s classic "Do It Again" as a breath of fresh air. “The soaring harmonies and the band’s funky groove never sounded better. The K712 Pro’s neutrality just lets the music speak for itself, which is a surprisingly rare commodity in headphones.” Add to that earcups so comfy that you forget you’re wearing headphones and you have a winning combination. (April 2014, Read Full Review)
Sennheiser IE 800 In-Ear Headphone: $1,000
Yes, the IE 800s are pricey, but if you’re looking for a no-compromise personal music experience they are meticulously crafted with a two-piece Kevlar-reinforced cable, comfortable to wear, and—most important—one of the best sounding set of in-ear headphones you can buy. Our resident headphone guru Steve Guttenberg wrote: “The IE 800 makes nearly every recording sound better than I thought it would. That almost magical ability to render iffy MP3s or ragged-sounding CDs palatable is, in and of itself, astonishing.” (January 2014, Read Full Review)
Shure SE846 In-Ear Headphone: $1,000
State-of-the-art engineering and rare musicality in a comfortable set of earphones with removable, snap-in cables is what you can expect from the SE846. You even get three sound-shaping filters so you can tailor the sound. Smitten with their performance, headphone maven Steve Guttenberg wrote: “The SE846 is a high-resolution device, so it reveals nuance with rare precision…The sparkling percussion on David Chesky’s The Zephyrtine ballet score, in 192-kHz/24-bit audio, perfectly demonstrated the SE846’s airy transparency. I’ve never heard better sound from a set of earphones.” (SoundandVision.com, Read Full Review)
Audeze LCD-XC Headphone: $1,799
Yes, these are real-deal high-end headphones. They’re built like mini tanks with ear cups made of exotic Bubinga wood and use advanced planar-magnetic drivers that will send shivers up and down your spine. As headphone maven Steve Guttenberg put it, “Dynamic impact is astonishing, and you never get the feeling you’re approaching the limits of what the LCD-XC can do. If you take your private listening time seriously, you need to check out these game-changing ‘phones. (July/August, Read Full Review)
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COMMENTS
idaman@q.com's picture

I use you guys for buying electronics but I notice that you never do recommendations of these larger sizes that are under $3000.00.There has to be some good units out there and I am not interested in 3-D and could live without smart features if I can get a best picture at a down to earth price.

kathleen's picture

Has anyone heard of - AZON DEAL UPDATER (google it)? They have a little gold box on the site that spits out any discount promo codes for any product on Amazon. Bought my Samsung HT-E6500 lower than the discounted price. Don't think too many people know about this.

Aschinck's picture

Good afternoon guys.
As a worker in the electronic industry i often look at your top pick to see if some of my products would find a place in it. Recently i realize that for a buyer your list is kind of shitty. First most of the model are 2-3-4 years back. Would it be possible to have a top pick of 2014 and then 2015 product so we can keep a fair track?

thank you

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