June 5, 2004
Headphones have become an essential accessory to music
enjoyment as well as an affordable alternative to high-end speakers. While headphones come in a variety of prices, good quality
headphones can be found in the $200–1200 range.
This market is dominated by Sennheiser, but
lesser-known trademarks such as Grado (Germany) and Stax (Japan) can be found at
The two criteria for selecting the best headphones
are quality of sound reproduction and price. Specifications do not tell the
whole story. It's best to do a listen test with your favourite recordings. If
this poses a problem, you may not be in the right store.
For those with limited budgets, the
Sennheiser 500 series offers superior sound for $200–400. For the highest
quality, the 600 series uses Sennheiser's best design and components and
starts at $600.
Cordless headphones allow for more mobility.
Although the Sennheiser cordless (model RS-85) uses the same components as
the 500 series, the sound quality is limited by its resident 900 MHz
||Grado's philosophy is to reproduce the natural sound, and
it is recommended by many high-end stores. Its "Prestige" series is the
most accessible; three models are available at prices from $220–450. Grado
built its reputation on its "Reference" series; two models are priced from
$700. The design of the latter, however, does not provide enough comfort
for long hours of listening.|
Forget magnets and the cones. The Stax
headphones are based on electrostatic membrane technology, which is
gaining renown for not deforming the sound. But this is a more expensive
technology, and the basic model starts at