Make any music lover happy this holiday season with one of CNET's top picks for audio and headphones. You and yours can throw a dance party with a portable Bluetooth boombox or just escape the relatives using the latest noise-canceling headphones. If you're looking for great audio tech, start here.
It's clear from just a few listens that the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 are among the best headphones available that cost less than $200. At around $160 online, they're an excellent bargain. Highly recommended, particularly for those looking for full-size headphones.
Though the Sennheiser RS 170 is one of the least expensive wireless Sennheiser models, I enthusiastically recommend it (even to persnickety audiophiles) for its wide stereo image projection and impressive maximum volume levels. It may not be the best-sounding set of wireless headphones from Sennheiser, but the RS 170 is very much worth the price for budget-minded shoppers.
At $199.95, the Harman Kardon Classic headphones are fairly pricey. But when you combine their impressive fit, finish, and sound quality, they actually seem fairly reasonably priced compared with the competition.
The vPulse headphones manage to do something many sets that accentuate bass fail to do: sound pleasing. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to users of iOS products. They fit fairly comfortably and sound excellent for the money, particularly if you're a bass lover. That said, if you're a non-Apple smartphone user looking specifically for a set of earphones that can be used for making calls, I'd pause before buying the vPulses.
If you're looking to spend less than $100 on a pair of headphones, you have some good options. The Grado SR60is are slightly less expensive, but my money would go to the more detailed SR80is. The two sets sound worlds apart despite their mere $20 difference, with the SR80is sounding much more exciting and exposing more of the upper register with zingier cymbals and breathier vocals.
I really liked the design of The Stretch TR 55LX, but was less enamored with the sound quality. That doesn't mean these are bad-sounding headphones; they deliver a good bang for the buck, but you get more design and comfort than performance. If you can live with that (and the bad pun ahead), they're certainly worth considering at a price point that won't stretch your budget.
The Sonics are light and comfortable to wear for hours at a time, and though they don't feature active noise cancellation, Incase clearly understands the aural benefits of achieving a proper fit. If you only have room in your budget for one set of $150 headphones, the broad appeal of the Incase Sonic earns my endorsement.
The Monster Inspiration is an impressive pair of headphones. They're comfortable, seem well-built, and offer rich, detailed sound and bass that, while not superdeep, is tight and punchy. I can't call this model the ultimate $250 pair of headphones, but I do think a lot of people who are looking for full-size headphones will like it, especially those who are trying to avoid headphones with overpowering bass.
The Logitech UE Air bears the Ultimate Ears (UE) moniker previously reserved for the company's in-ear headphones. Operating on Apple's AirPlay streaming media platform, the UE Air captures music wirelessly from iOS-powered devices and iTunes software without sacrificing fidelity. An ambitious price tag ($399) may drive you to consider cheaper Bluetooth wireless speakers instead, but the UE Air is worthwhile if room-filling sound is your top concern.
The Logitech UE Boombox is just as capable in a backyard dinner party as it is being used as a standalone desktop music player in a room. Its generous 6-hour rechargeable battery and sleek handle let you cut the cord completely and enjoy music anywhere around the house, and its relatively durable chassis is easy for anyone to navigate. Throw in the ability to connect up to three devices simultaneously (with only one actually playing music, of course), and I recommend the Logitech UE Boombox for anyone shopping for a versatile, simple speaker that looks just as good as it sounds.
The Big Jambox is a great-looking speaker that feels well-built and is thoughtfully designed. Of course, the drawback to going bigger is that you can't carry this one around so easily and tuck it into a laptop bag or purse. But it is portable and the upside to its larger dimensions is it sounds a lot better and plays significantly louder. It really can be a mini party box when called upon, whereas the original Jambox plays fairly loud but it won't play over a lot of people chattering away in your living room.