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HolidayBuyer's Guide

AKG K812 Over-the-Ear Headphones

Beyerdynamic DX 160 iE In-Ear Headphones

Hifiman RE 400 In-Ear Headphones

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Over-the-Ear Headphones

Grado SR325e Over-the-Ear Headphones

Beyerdynamic T 51p On-Ear Headphones

Shure SE846 In-Ear Headphones

KingSound KS-H3 Electrostatic Headphones

NAD Viso HP50 Over-the Ear Headphones

Jerry Harvey Roxanne In-Ear Headphones

Style plays a major role in Beats' overwhelming success, but millions of Beats owners will be in for a pleasant surprise when they buy their next headphones.

In fact, I've picked 10 headphones across various price points that I personally prefer to Beats. First up is the AKG K812.

The K812's uber-spacious quality is addictive (well, they do retail for $1,499), and once you get used to it, other headphones sound closed in and claustrophobic.

Caption by / Photo by AKG

This Beats buster makes a lot of bass, but it's not thick or muddy. The DX 160 iE ($120) bass definition is excellent, and this headphone's sound clicked with rock, jazz, electronica, and classical music. Midrange detailing is excellent, but treble clarity is somewhat lacking.

Caption by / Photo by Beyerdynamic

The Hifiman RE-400's sound is so well-balanced and pure, you might not at first realize how good it is. Its unforced clarity is easy to listen to for hours on end, probably because there's no boosted treble or trickery of any kind; the RE-400 ($99) just goes about its business sounding accurate and natural.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

While Audio-Technica claims there's no difference between the sound of the original ATH-M50 and the updated version, we think the new ATH-M50x ($239) sounds clearer with more detailed bass, midrange, and treble.

Caption by / Photo by Audio-Technica

The SR325e ($295) looks a lot like Grado's traditional designs, but the sound-producing elements are refreshed, so an Audiophiliac review is in the works. This open-back design produces a more spacious sound than most closed-back headphones.

Caption by / Photo by Grado

The Sennheiser On-Ear Momentum, Bowers & Wilkins P5, and V-Moda XS are all really decent sounding headphones, but the Beyerdynamic T 51p ($289) sounds better and it's more comfortable to wear.

Caption by / Photo by Beyerdynamic

The Shure SE846 ($1,250) is a brilliant design, one that marries state-of-the-art engineering with a rare musicality.

Caption by / Photo by Shure

For audiophiles craving ultimate transparency, the KS-H3 ($875) will be a mind-blowing experience. Voices, acoustic guitars, pianos, horns, and percussion instruments sound more like themselves than they do over other headphones.

Caption by / Photo by KingSound

The Viso HP50 ($299) scores big on comfort and sound, with just the right balance of bass, midrange, and treble that flatters all types of music.

Caption by / Photo by NAD

The Jerry Harvey Roxanne ($1,649) is, hands-down, the best-sounding in-ear headphone you can buy. The review is in the works.

Caption by / Photo by Jerry Harvey Audio
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