Looking for a bit of inspiration and expert advice when buying headphones for someone this Christmas? Then don't worry, you've come to the right place. Here we've selected a nice mixture of five quality headphones for you to take a look at. If what you're looking for isn't here then try our Group Test: what are the best headphones feature.
Each of the products featured here has been put through its paces in our Test Centre, and we’ve provided tinyurl links to the full reviews on our website. This is useful if you want to know more about a particular product or compare it with some similar, perhaps cheaper, alternatives.
Sennheiser HD 25-1-II by Adidas Originals
£200 inc VAT
Sennheiser has teamed up with Adidas to create a set of headphones that combine sound and style for the DJ market. The pair has got the style side of things spot on, and these headphones aren’t lacking in sound quality either. The playback is loud and clear for everything from Simon and Garfunkel to Gnarls Barkley.
The bass rubbles down as low as you dare to go, while higher-pitched noises are clear and crisp; there’s not a hint of distortion in sight (or sound).
£99 inc VAT
If you live in a city and don’t drive to work, there’s a strong chance you listen to something that grinds your gears during the commute. Perhaps it’s some clown talking on their phone too loud, or just the general soul-destroying noise of the Tube. If you want to do something about it, look to the noise-cancelling iGo City.
Switch on the AAA-powered noise-cancelling tech and external chaos becomes a distant whisper. So good is the effect, we failed to notice the office fire alarm sounding during our tests.
When you do get around to rocking some tunes into the headphones, the iGo starts to earn its money: it’s just you, the iGo City and up to 97dBs of music. The sound quality ?is loud and confidently clear. ?A great set of headphones, and reasonably priced, too.
£135 inc VAT
We’re surprised that Etymotic isn’t a more widely known brand. ?It was the company to devise the canalphone, an earphone that slips into the ear so intimately that it forms an airtight seal and shuts out practically all outside noise. The earphone works so efficiently that overall distortion is far lower and volume can be kept down on the personal stereo. Canalphones also prevent the kind of sound leakage that otherwise makes you the pariah of public transport.
The Etymotic is no one-trick pony, though. The hf3s have a microphone for use in conversations on mobiles, with a three-button in-line remote to answer calls and control volume.
Sound quality is firmly in the high-end audio class. A solid foundation is formed from deep, extended bass – apparent as a firm kick to bass drum in rock and jazz, and a good presence in live recordings.
They perfectly recreate the atmosphere of a performance, with sweet, detailed treble. ?This is evident in the dulcet chime of a steel-strung acoustic guitar, letting you hear the finer strokes of the guitarist’s strum.
Vocals are clear, and sound natural and well balanced in a mix where lesser earphones struggle.
Altec Lansing Muzx Ultra mZx606
£80 inc VAT
With their idiosyncratic earpiece design, the Muzx Ultra mZx606 in-ear headphones look like tiny black pistols that fire music directly into your brain. There’s a smart-looking remote high on the right cable; it blends in nicely with Altec Lansing’s black-and-gold theme.
Sound quality is excellent, justifying the relatively high price tag. Beginning with some prog rock, we found the Muzx phones surprisingly loud. The sound is rich and warm, with good breadth across the spectrum; the bass feels punchy, without overshadowing any of the upper notes.
The earphones really came into their own with our disco sample, mustering a bass kick with plenty of impact. Female vocals were clear, with good clarity on the singer’s enunciation, and there was a pleasing rendering of some fire effects. Classical piano was also a triumph, allowing the ear to separate the different dubs of the piano and producing a realistic sound.
steelseries Siberia V2
£56 inc VAT
If there was an award for headphones most suited to a Star Wars Stormtrooper, the steelseries Siberia V2 would win it. These aren’t cosmos bimbos, though, and when it comes to delivering quality audio the Siberia isn’t found wanting. We listened to some modern rock while playing around with the EQ settings, and the headphones’ impressive response to our fiddling sounded clean throughout.
A leather cushion surrounds the ears, but held in tight to cancel noise these headphones can quickly become uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the Siberia V2 is a good set of headphones for the money.