It was a smart cat that got themselves into the headphone game first. Back in the day, we rocked $9.99 Sanyos plugged into the Discman, but these days, you can’t go ten feet without seeing someone in a pair of $400 cans. The only trouble is, how are you expected to know if they’re any good or not? Let’s take a look at three of the most popular and see how they measure up.
Dr. Dre and his Beats line pretty much started the celebrity headphone game, so it seems right to start here. Beats sells these as their top of the line product, designed to be worn in the studio and on the street. The sell is that you get the same quality of headphone on your head, that Dre uses in the studio. It’s pretty convincing, but does it measure up?
The construction is solid, and the styling is pretty much on point. These feel like a real heavy-duty pair of headphones, so you might not think twice about dropping the $250+ these things cost at retail. There’s also a port that lets your friends plug in so you can all hear the same music.
As for music quality, it’s fairly sharp. The lows come in clear without a whole lot of distortion. But we have a bit of trouble hearing the high end snaps that we like to hear in some pop and dance stuff. While the look is on point, we’re going to have to say that it’s a definite try before you buy on the Beats Pro. Some people like the thumping bass, but we can’t say we’d tell our dad to pick up a pair if all he’s going to be doing is listening to some Bach on it.
Cop or Drop: Your call.
As soon as one person enters the headphone game, everyone got to. Not that that’s a bad thing. Skullcandy has been around nearly as long as Beats. These guys started their grind putting out all those wild coloured headphones – you know the kind your little sister used to rock back in high school? Once they made their cash though, they expanded into higher quality offerings, and right now they’ve got James Harden as the face of their campaign, telling us he rocks these.
For the build? It’s a little worse than the Beats, if we’re being totally honest. The plastic feels cheapish, and though you can get them in NBA team colours, the whole design isn’t great. What’s good, is the butter soft earcups, and cue control gadget that lets DJs mix sound from both ears, into one ear. Great if you’re spinning a set… but how many of us really are?
The sound quality is a bit different from the Beats… but not by a lot. That’s what you’d expect for the price though. You get those same wicked bass drops, but the mids somehow sound a bit richer this time. The highs are still a bit stilted, so we’re running into the same problems. What’s more, these things can run sometimes even a bit more expensive than the Beats Pro. Is it really worth all that extra cash just so you can say you’re not rocking the same headset as Lebron? Probably not.
Cop or Drop: Drop
Now we’re getting into pure sound nerd territory. Audio-Technica’s been doing headphones for over 50 years now. These guys aren’t looking to do ad campaigns with Lebron, or have Blake dunk over their headphones. These are the pieces that you see sound mixing students hustling in, late in the studio on a Saturday night, making sure this beat sounds just right.
As for design, it’s pure function over here. They’re built solid, and have nice solid earcups that do a nice job of passive noise reduction. There’s no flash on the outside either, but that’s not what these are for. And if we’re being stone cold – they’re a bit bulky. Walking around in these can’t be easy.
No, the Audio-Technicas are for a pure listening experience. The lows are primal, the mids are rich, the highs are crisp. These are for the kind of cat who loves to sit at home, lay down with the hi fi and headphones on, and just tune out.
Cop or Drop: Cop.