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HolidayBuyer's Guide
Headphones

Beats EP, a Beats headphone an audiophile could love

Could it be true? Beats makes a headphone for the audiophile crowd? The Audiophiliac thinks so!

This isn't a belated April Fools gag: I really like the Beats EP.

The company's cheapest new on-ear headphones were recently reviewed by CNET's David Carnoy, who really liked their sound for the money. I agree. When he handed me a set for a quick audition I was pleasantly surprised by the EP's sweet sound. Not only that, the build quality is much improved over the first few generations of much more expensive, but creaky plastic Beats. The EP's price is right, just $130, £90 and AU$140, but you can find it online for as little as $90, £60 and AU$128!

Looking around on the Beats website I couldn't find info on technical specifications such as impedance, the size and type of drivers, sensitivity, weight, etc. I guess Beats doesn't consider those details relevant for consumers. The on-ear, closed-back headphone comes in your choice of four colors -- black, blue, red and white -- and it has an iPhone-friendly in-line remote/microphone for making calls, adjusting volume and skipping tracks forward and back. The flat cable isn't detachable and it terminates in a straight 3.5 mm plug.

The EP's sound is instantly likeable: It's rich, sweet and non-fatiguing, and the headphone does a decent job isolating you from external noise. Comfort is OK, but I did find the ear pad's fit a little too snug. That's true for most on-ear designs, the EP's comfort is no better or worse than average.

To put the EP's sound in perspective I brought out my V-Moda XS on-ear headphones. The XS is a more transparent, livelier and exciting-sounding headphone, the EP is a warmer sounding design, but when I stopped comparing one headphone with another, I didn't think the EP's sound was too soft. It was easier to listen to with overly compressed and harsh sounding recordings. Whereas the XS' sound can grate on your ears as it lets all the harshness through, the EP tames it to a degree.

The EP really clicked with Jesca Hoop's lovely, mostly acoustic "Memories Are Now" album. Her vocals, guitars and hand percussion sounded as natural as can be. That said, if you crave maximum resolution of fine detail the XS would clearly be a better choice. The massive synth bass lines coursing through Mac Quayle's "Mr. Robot" soundtrack had more punch with the XS. EP's bass was pleasantly plump, with acceptable definition -- it's a Beats headphone after all. Acoustic instruments fared best with the EP; like I said the EP is a very listenable headphone.

Still, if you prioritize clarity and a more open, spacious sound I'd go with the V-Moda XS or Grado SR 125e headphone over the EP.