The Upgrade Guide: Headphones

The Upgrade Guide: Headphones

Eric Chen
Oct 4, 2011

Two weeks ago, we checked out some home audio upgrade solutions for those looking to upgrade their home entertainment system. But if you're like us, living in an apartment and sharing walls with the neighbors, you probably won't get the best use out of a home audio system. In this case, headphones may be your best call for enjoying music and movies at home or on the go. Ditch those old iPod earbuds and check out what's in the market for some good ol' headphone upgrades.

In-ear headphones
Starting out small, these are the ideal solution for those on the move and wants portability. The in-ear design also offers great noise isolation, as well as secure fit. The small size does have a downside, they often can't rival the sound quality of headphones with larger form factors, especially in the lower end of the spectrum. So these may not be ideal if you want to hear the bass pumping on your favorite gangsta rap songs.

Our favorite in-ear headphones: Klipsch Image S4i for iPhone or Image S4A for Android ($99).
These headphones are the epitome of high quality tech meets market competitions. Which means these offer the best bang for your buck. The sound quality of these headphones rivals those that cost twice as much, and with extras such as a storage box and a cleaning tool we definitely did not feel ripped off when we bought our pair. We also loved that these are iPhone compatible, with its mic and volume control for the iPod and iPhones, which means we can enjoy our favorite tunes without missing a call. And Android users, fret not, Klipsch did not forget you and designed the Image S4A specifically for Android phones. Although lacking the volume control, Klipsch made an Android app for you to customize the button press action to perform different functions.

In-ear headphones alternative: Klipsch Image S4 If you don't need the remote function of the Image S4i or S4A, you can opt for its twin the Klipsch Image S4. They are identical aside from the mic and volume control, and the loss of those functions takes about $20 off the price.

Semi-open headphones
These over-the-ear style headphones sit on top of you ears instead of enclosing them, providing a better overall sound quality and a more comfortable listening experience. Although not as portable as in-ear headphones, these will still f
it in your bag without the weight and annoyance of the full-size headphones. We love these for listening to music around the house or on our train ride home.

Our favorite semi-open headphones: Grado Labs SR80i.
The Brooklyn-based company has really brought high quality sound to a more affordable level for consumers. Coming in at $99, these headphones provide a great overall range with high quality bass. With the 3.5mm connector, you will be able to plug these audiophile level headphone into your iPod, but will need a connector to plug them into your more high quality sound systems.

Semi-opening headphones alternatives: Bose QuietComfort 3. Known for their superior noise-cancelling technology, the Bose model sets the standard for over the ear headphones and a price tag to match.

Full-size headphones
These are the types of headphones for those that enjoy top-notch sound quality while sitting on their Eames lounge near their HiFi home audio system. They go around your ears and cup them like they are babies in the cradles, blocking out the world while you enjoy your music in peace. Of course, portability is of least importance in this class, so don't expect to drag these along on your morning run.

Our favorite full-size headphones: Aiaiai TMA-1.
Hail from Sweden we love these headphones for their simple and utilitarian design. The TMA-1 are designed for DJ's on the go but will definitely work for our everyday lives as well. Aside from great sound quality with a great overall range, we love how you can remove the cable from the headphones when traveling to avoid the mess of entangled cables in your bag. We also love how these headphones don't have traditional latches for size adjustment, which means less moving parts to break when you travel with them. Finally, we love the price, coming in at $190, you definitely won't be too concerned to throw these in your bags when you're on the go.

Full-size headphones alternatives:
AKG K 702: This "professional" level model headphones with velour covered cushions and real leather headbands, you'll be able to wear these all day long without getting too tired.

Incase Sonic Over Ear Headphones: Newly released, these prosumer headphones were designed not so much for the traditional stereo audiophile, but more for the Mac user who listens to their tunes primarily through their laptop or while in-transit with their iPhone/iPod. Extremely cushy suede earcups help isolate the listener to enjoy low distortion sound via low-mass titanium audio drivers, while the inclusion of an integrated microphone and remote control make the Sonic easy to use without looking at your iOS device or laptop. And the Sonic definitely wins high marks in the looks department, which never hurts.

Check out some of our tips and tricks on picking out headphones:

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