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headphone reviewsOwning a quality pair of headphones is very important for anyone who wants or needs to listen to music by themselves on a regular basis. In fact, they’re more important than the device actually playing the music itself, whether it be a home stereo system, an mp3 player, or a smartphone. A decent pair of headphones can make up for a trashy player.

However, headphones do not have to cost a fortune. Sure, audiophiles who can detect the slightest flaw in playback will need to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars acquiring all the equipment needed to deliver that perfect experience. But the majority of us, who are proudly anything but audiophiles, can spend a small amount of money on equipment that will suffice. And with no Dr. Dre Beats in sight.

Please note all the prices are as listed on Amazon.com and were correct at the time of writing.

Audio-Technica ATH-M30

headphone reviews

The ATH-M30 from Audio-Technica are closed-back stereo headphones designed for home users and studio engineers. The cushioned headband, large soft earpads, and lightweight design should ensure comfort even after long use. Sound quality is superb but these aren’t listed as being noise-canceling. Build quality is great, with a robust feel throughout.

Tech: 40mm driver, 20-20,000Hz frequency response, 100dB sensitivity.
Price: The list price is $119.99 but these can be bought for around $45.

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Sennheiser HD203

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The HD203s from Sennheiser are closed-back stereo headphones designed primarily for home use. These are quite comfortable for short periods of time but can start to annoy after being worn for longer periods. Sound quality is good, with clear, clean, and subtle definitions between the low, mid, and high ends. Build quality is good if not a little plasticky.

Tech: 40mm driver, 18-18,000Hz frequency response, 115dB sensitivity.
Price: The list price is $49.95 but these can be bought for around $38 on Amazon.

JVC HARX700

quality headphones

The HARX700s from JVC are closed-back stereo headphones again designed mainly for use at home thanks to their bulky nature. These are very comfortable to wear even for long periods, although your ears will become warm and sweaty. Sound quality is fantastic, although some users suggest they need breaking in to truly shine. Build quality is just fine.

Tech: 50mm driver, 8-25,000Hz frequency response, 105dB sensitivity.
Price: The list price is $59.95 but these can be bought for around $32 on Amazon.

Sony MDR-XB300

quality headphones

The MDR-XB300s from Sony are closed-back stereo headphones that are big and bulky but ultra-comfortable as a result. The ear pads are very soft to the point you can forget you’re wearing headphones at all. Sound quality is great, but these are all about the bass at the expense of the low and mid ranges. Build quality is solid, and these should last a long time.

Tech: 30mm driver, 5-22,000Hz frequency response, 100dB sensitivity.
Price: The list price is $49.99 but these can be bought for around $32.

Koss PortaPro

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The PortaPros from Koss are collapsible stereo headphones that sit on, rather than over, your ears. They have been on the market for many years but still hold their own against new contenders. These are the only small, portable headphones on this list, but both the sound quality and build quality are good enough given the type of user they’re being aimed at.

Tech: 30mm driver, 15-25,000Hz frequency response, 101dB sensitivity.
Price: The list price is $49.99 but these can be bought for around $32.

What About The Rappers?!

headphone reviews

I wrote this article after researching headphones to purchase for myself, and I ended up buying one of those listed above. What really struck me was how expensive the named brands are, and by named brands I mean those named after rappers. Dr. Dre Beats are everywhere, but for several hundred dollars you’re getting headphones that are arguably only equal in quality to ones many times less expensive.

If you need to be seen to be wearing headphones backed by Dre, Ludacris, or RZA then that’s up to you, but you need to be aware that you’re not necessarily getting the best bang for your buck. I enjoy mocking Apple fanboys every time they spend a fortune on a computer that’s available in another form for a lot less money, but they look positively sensible compared to those buying headphones purely for the name that’s written on the side.

Conclusions

The five pairs of headphones listed here will all serve you well, and there are many more at around the same price point that will suffice. Push your budget closer to $100 and the options grow considerably. As always when buying new hardware of any kind be sure to read a range of reviews from different sources, and if possible also head into a store to try those on your shortlist out for yourself.

Image Credits: Five Wun o Clothing, Poolie

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