Whether you put them on for pure musical escape or simply to tune out the daily grind, headphones are an essential accessory for all walks of life. We’ve sifted through the most recent releases to short list a handful of standouts from a wide variety of established and unknown names in the audio business. From high-tech and upscale to environmentally friendly to basic, the following five headphones are sure to improve any listening experience.
Sporting a subtler look than the previously released Major, the new Pitch Black series gets murdered out for a much lower profile. Accented with a bit of raw black denim, the small single speakers sound crisp and clear even when cranked all the way up. Plus they fold up for travel, drawing inspiration from the nomadic life of most Marshall loyal musicians. Priced at $120, these road-ready headphones are now available from Marshall online.
With large leather and memory foam earpads and lightweight aluminum earshells for acoustic precision, the Fidelio L1 is the most comfortable over-ear headphone we’ve worn in some time. The tilted speakers work with the ear’s natural angles for beautiful clarity and depth, making vocals and pitch unbelievably sharp. The bass hits plenty hard, and drivers seem sharply balanced to favor the calculated drawl and heavy beats of 2 Chainz and the cloudy acoustic voice of Spiritualized just as well. Visit Apple, where the Fidelio L1 sells for $299.
These wireless on-ear headphones connect via bluetooth for an untethered experience in a fresh blue finish. The understated silhouette, comprehensive on-ear controls and rubber-coated exterior combine to make the DJ Slim a solid option for slightly higher-impact activities. While the headphones seamlessly connected to an iPhone, we found syncing with the computer a bit difficult. Priced at less than $70, however, the DJ Slim still offers much more than most at twice the price.
Kevlar-reinforced, PVC-free cables, wood casings and recycled packaging place the ms01 earphones among the most environmentally friendly options on the market. Although the buds don’t pack the biggest punch in the bass section, everything else sounds clean and clear—especially at a higher volume. The lightweight, high-definition earphones are available from ThinkSound for $100.
Described by one CH team member as the best sounding earbud he’s ever heard, the hf5 has perfectly balanced bass and treble with the highest-documented noise isolation in the industry. Although the metal casings are a bit heavier, the increased durability and amplified drivers justify the extra weight. Plus they come with a variety of ear tips to ensure a comfortable fit. Order from Etymotic directly for $149.
Images by Graham Hiemstra