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Sound Opinion: Headphone Showdown

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Given the widespread use of iPods and other portable music players it would seem that headphones are mostly used so as not to disturb others. And while that is one purpose for these direct to your ear mini speakers, headphones can just as easily be used to block the ambient noise around you, and more importantly to provide rich full quality audio when large speakers are unavailable. Of course you’re never going to get the same results with a pair of tiny ear buds that come with many new electronics, or even those plastic headphones that are sold at the pharmacy.

Quality headphones are much like any consumer electronics product. There are plenty of semi-disposable models available, but true audiophiles and music aficionado know that with this quality comes price. It is also just as important to note that while one-size may fit all ears, the same cannot be said when it comes to uses. There are plenty of general all-around headphones, but many are designed with specific types of listening in mind. We’ve compiled a few headphones that will have immersed in fine sounding audio.

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For audiophile: Sennheiser HD-650
Quality products will never go out of style, and Sennheiser’s top-of-the-line open headphones feature a design that will work aesthetically whether your listening room is post modern chic or classical revival. More importantly these provide clean and crisp sound, with excellent bass response, whether you’re listening to Rachmaninoff or Miles Davis. Made of high-tech components including specially developed acoustic silk for high-fidelity audio playback, the headphones’ drivers are handpicked in pairs to ensure left/right-matching tolerances. The elliptical cones fit snuggly over the ears and remain comfortable for extended periods, while a nine-foot user-replaceable cable doesn’t have you feel quite so tethered.
$599.95, www.sennheiserusa.com

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For the retro hi-fi fan: Panasonic RP-HTX7 Retro Piano Painted Headphones
If digital displays, sounds-processors and simulated surround sound aren’t exactly your thing, and you prefer the warm sounds of vinyl records, reel-to-reel recorders and tube amps than you might think that today’s headphones have a form that doesn’t quite match the function. But that’s doesn’t mean you need to hunt down old mono headphones either. Panasonic’s RP-HTX7 evokes the look of “Yesterday,” with high quality piano painted closed earcups and leather style headband. Available in five colors the design may be a throwback, but these phones feature a modern 40mm driver unit that delivers rich highs and deep bass for a variety of musical styles. Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
$55, www.panasonic.com

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For those looking for peace and quiet: Bose QuietComfort 3
While not as small as earbuds, these sleek headphones are compact enough to fold flat and fit in a slim carrying case so you’ll always be ready to get a bit of peace and quiet. Powered by an internal rechargeable battery, the QuietComfort 3 can pump out the audio for about 20 hours, making them ideal for use with mobile audio devices during your daily commute or throughout the workday. They can also be paired with many music-enabled mobile phones through an optional cell connect cable. The on-ear design utilizes a memory foam that conforms to your ears to passively block outside noise, while also remaining quite comfy throughout your day.
$349, www.bose.com

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For the club DJ or traveling man: Technics RP-DJ1200
You don’t need to be making personalized mixes, or even spinning records at a dark club until the wee hours of the night to appreciate the features of the Technic’s DJ headphones. While there are many headphones made for traveling, most aren’t rugged enough for the serious road warrior or comfortable for extended periods of time. That’s why these club-friendly headphones with their folding swing arms might be a better option. These are sturdy yet comfortable, and can fold into multiple configuration for standard use over both ears, and one-sided monitoring when necessary. Best of all they fold up for compact storage in your travel bag when you’re on the go, whether that is a cross country trip or just a night spinning. With a 41mm driver unit, the RP-DJ1200 features a wide frequency response from 8Hz to 30kHz, and can deliver clear sound at high volumes whether you’re cranking up the classical, classic rock or acid jazz.
$179.99, www.panasonic.com

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For the home theater movie mogul: LTB WR-51 Cinema 1
Stereo headphones are great for music and good for movies, but to really get the full cinematic experience you need surround sound. The LTB WR-51 Cinema 1 headphones offer true 5.1 six-channel audio reception and deliver it wirelessly up to 30 meters – transforming any seat in the house, or even backyard, into the sweet spot for movies, TV and sporting events. The WR-51 uses 2.4Ghz digital radio transmission, with three selectable RF channels to cut down on noise and interference, and features integrated a Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic decoder in the receiver. Multiple speaker units in the headphones replicate the sound form front, center, rear and subwoofer channels, and the results might just have you turning your head.
$350, www.wtbaudio.com

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For those looking to block the outside world: Shure SE420 Sound Isolating Earphones
Blocking the outside world isn’t hard with Shure’s Sound Isolating Earphones, which use an internal crossover to send the different high and low frequencies to dedicated drivers, so that the lows, mids and highs remain distinct and defined. The Shure SE420’s Hi-Definition MicroSpeaker, with Tuned BassPort technology delivers fine sounding audio, while a “fit kit” with six pairs of sleeves ensures a personalized, secure yet comfortable fit for maximum sound isolation. These in-ear headphones are available in both black and white to match your style, but the best part is that these can help tune out ambient noises so you enjoy your music without outside distractions.
$349.99, www.shure.com

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