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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Monoprice 8323

RHA MA450

Velodyne vPulse

Noontec Zoro

Phonak Audeo PFE 132

HiFiMan HE-400

Beyerdynamic T-70

Sennheiser RS 220 wireless headphone

FitEar ToGo 334

JH Audio JH-3A amplifier/headphone system

Audeze LCD-3 headphones

The Monoprice 8323 Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style Over-the-Ear Pro Headphones are, hands-down, the best full-size, over-the-ear headphones you can buy on the cheap. I doubt anyone will think the mostly black-plastic pair of headphones has a luxury design, but the 8323s aren't the least bit flimsy or poorly made.
Caption by / Photo by MonoPrice
I haven't covered too many inexpensive earphones in this blog, mostly because I prioritize sound quality, and precious few under-$50 models cut it. The RHA MA450 really stands out in this crowded market, not just because it actually sounds pretty decent; the look and feel are outstanding, and RHA sells the MA450 with a three-year warranty. Reid and Heath Acoustics products are designed at its research and development center in Glasgow, Scotland.
Caption by / Photo by RHA
Velodyne makes subwoofers -- great ones, in fact -- and the brand is now following a string of speaker manufacturers venturing into the headphone market: Klipsch, Polk, PSB speakers. The vPulse is the best-sounding under $100 pair of in-ear headphones I know.
Caption by / Photo by Velodyne
It's impossible to keep up with all of the new headphones crowding the market, but great-sounding headphones are still pretty rare. The Noontec Zoro is the rarest of the rare, an audiophile-oriented design that's affordably priced. It's one of the best-sounding full-size $100 headphones you can buy.
Caption by / Photo by Noontec
Headphone manufacturers are hip to the fact that most people prefer headphones with pumped-up bass, so they rarely make truly accurate-sounding headphones. But what if you could buy a pair that gives you accuracy and extra bass when you want it? The Phonak Audeo PFE 132 ($239) is such a pair of headphones.
Caption by / Photo by Phonak
Though the $399 price tag exceeds the reach of audiophiles on a budget, the HiFiMan HE-400s are the best-sounding full-size, home headphones I've ever tested.
Caption by / Photo by Hifiman
I usually prefer open-back, full-size headphones, but I really loved the closed-back Beyerdynamic T-70 ($595). The clarity is addicting, and closed-back headphones are what you need if you want to block environmental noise. The T-70 is an awesome set of headphones, and it's one of the most comfortable over-the-ear models I've ever had the pleasure of testing.
Caption by / Photo by Beyerdynamic
The Sennheiser RS 220 headphones ($595) are the best-sounding, audiophile-grade wireless headphones you can buy; a full review is in the works.
Caption by / Photo by Sennheiser
Priced at $1,349 this handmade-in-Japan in-ear pair of headphones is the most expensive of its type I've heard, but it's worth it. The FitEar ToGo 334's clarity is off-the-charts amazing, and the stereo imaging is the best ever from an in-ear pair of headphones (review to come).
Caption by / Photo by FitEar
The JH-3A ($1,748) is a complete amplifier/headphone system from Jerry Harvey Audio. The system includes a pair of JH 16 headphones that are custom-molded to your ears. Each earpiece has eight drivers (bass, midrange, and treble drivers). The amplifier sports analog and digital inputs with up to 24-bit resolution and 96kHz sampling rates. The sound is extraordinary.
Caption by / Photo by JH Audio
During the course of writing the Audeze LCD-3 headphone ($1,945) review I brought them to a recording session to use as monitors, and they blew my mind. As impressive as the LCD-3s were at home -- and they were exceptional -- it was great to have the opportunity to hear the sound of a blues band playing live in the studio, and then hear their music over the LCD-3s. I have never heard a set of headphones that got even remotely close to the sound of live music the way this one does. Audeze's LCD-2 headphone ($995) delivers 80 percent of the LCD-3's sound. Both models are made in the U.S.A.
Caption by / Photo by Steve Guttenberg
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