Hello, my name is David and I’m an audiophile. I’ve been afflicted by this disorder since I was a teenager, and I have no plans to seek therapy for it! Some are content watching TV on a 12inch black n’ white, others are content listening to music on their iPod/iPhone with Apple’s cheap-o stock earbuds…but due to my severe case of ‘AD’ (audiophile disorder) I am not one of those people. So before I get shocked by an ‘AD’ intervention from a small group of close friends and family members, let me hurry up and get some headphone reviews out there:
Bose QuietComfort 15 – Some minor tweaks in noise cancellation from the QC 2′s keep these as a major player in sound quality and comfort…but I like to call these the ‘Starbucks headphones’
PROS: Very clean, crisp sound with nice mid and high range, and smooth cozy bass (especially great for meditation music, jazz, and watching Netflix movies on your laptop). The ear padding and build are so comfortable you can fall asleep in them. This rare sound/comfort combination allows you to wear these headphones for hours without fatiguing your eardrums…as this should always be one of the most important factors in choosing a new pair. The noise cancellation is excellent, and I really consider these to be “novelty” headphones for airplane travel, meditation, laptop movies…or tuning out other humans while listening to podcasts and playing poker at the casino on a Friday night!
CONS: They’re not the greatest sounding phones for the rock genre, distortion, layered guitars, or anything that requires a deep pumping drum/bass to get its full effect…and they could use some more bass, period. If you’re on a tight budget, you should not save up to buy these as your only set of headphones. Even if you only listen to jazz music, the QC 15′s are still overpriced at $300. They’re also too big to carry around in a jacket pocket, so you’ll need to lug around the large man-purse styled case that’s included.
NOTE: The QC 15′s are very difficult to rate. They perform beautifully in some areas, but poorly in others. I don’t know anyone who feels $300 is a fair price, but they continue to sell. It’s really just like Starbucks coffee. People keep lining up for their Caramel Macchiato’s, but I don’t see too many smiles at five bucks a cup.
Bose mobile in-ear headset – Women and children will no longer shriek in disgust at the embarrassing earwax residue on your earbuds!
PROS: They have very good value ($115) compared to the quality of other “in-ear” mobile headsets in the price range. The unique buds are designed to rest on the outer canals of your ear…so more comfort, and less earwax!!! The sound is very smooth with plenty of bass that doesn’t exist in so many other earbuds, and you get very little ear fatigue after long hours of wear. You can also hear all the intended panning, dynamic, and ear candy at low volume, and they perform well across many genres.
CONS: Sold as a mobile headset, it’s the “mobile” part that has a couple issues. Don’t plan on having long conversations thru these buds around any noise whatsoever – you need total silence for them to perform well on calls. (see NOTE) The lack of a volume control button on the cord is a big bummer as well.
NOTE: These buds really shine in quiet environments…but they lose much of their appeal around noise due to the very minor noise cancellation.
Dr. Dre Beats Solo – Time.com rated these one of the Top 10 Gadgets of 2009, and they were the only headphones on the list.
PROS: They have a hot, pumping, energizing sound. (I like the Solo’s for rock, pop, and of course hip hop music) The Monster branded cable with ‘ControlTalk’ is the best around for taking calls, adjusting volume, pause/skip, etc. They have good noise cancellation without use of any battery/charger. Fold-up portability into a small-ish case fits nicely into a coat/jacket pocket….or your new leather man-purse!
CONS: I know some people dig it, but they’re just a touch bass heavy. This leads to a slightly muddled sound, especially in the music genres other than hip-hop. They are kind of clunky and have a little bit of a tight fit that you start to feel after about an hour of usage. You also hear some sound vibrations while walking that I haven’t noticed in other headphones. I’d also say that about 20% of the price tag is for the Dr. Dre name alone…they’re too expensive at $200.
NOTE: You should always take care of your headphones, but you’ll need special care with your Solo’s as I’ve heard and seen numerous reports of them breaking in the headband and folding mechanism.
Bose QuietComfort 3 – Bose’s most expensive set of headphones ($350) are also their worst…go figure!
PROS: They are comfortable, portable, and easy to take on and off.
CONS: I don’t know how else to describe it other than the listening experience is unnatural. Your head feels trapped between the murky world of two unbalanced magnets, and the noise cancellation really leads to an odd reproduction of sound. This then causes a negative tiring effect within your ears. The cost to quality ratio on these headphones is one of the most skewed that I can recall.
Dr. Dre Beats Tour – If you can jam these buds in your ear hard enough to stay in place, you might be able to hear their below-average sound!
PROS: Again, the Monster branded ‘Control Talk’ cable is strong and useful. (I wish the Bose In-ear buds had this feature)
CONS: I tried all of the included ear-piece sizes, and none of them fit with any real comfort. If you have to force an earbud into your ear within a millimeter of your brain for it to sound OK, that’s not a good thing! The one size I got to stay put in my ear canal did not stay put for long. This is due to the weight of the cable pulling the buds down. Even if they sounded great there are too many hassles with the ‘Tours’…but they sound well below average and surprisingly lack any deep bass. At $190 list price, you should slowly back away from these if you see them at the store…and then run violently in the opposite direction.
NOTE: When the ‘Tours’ first came on the market, I saw a bunch of people wearing them at the gym where I work out. I still see those same people today when I work out…and every single one of them have dumped the ‘Tours’ for another pair.