With more and more listeners adopting over-ear headphones for a more critical listening experience that earbuds generally don’t provide, the industry keeps innovating and evolving their already countless options. For many, wireless headphones are still viewed with suspicion, as being plugged in means there are fewer instances that might compromise performance. But many headphones provide both options. Also relevant is whether closed or open-back iterations offer the better sonic experience. And, of course, aesthetics are of paramount importance. We recently attended NYC‘s CanJam and found five new over-the-ear headphones that look as good as they sound.
The new HifiMan Deva ($299) eschews the more popular dynamic method of sound reproduction favored by most headphone makers in favor of a planar magnetic tech that devotees cite for its precise sonic detail, low distortion and an appreciation for instrument placement over just sheer volume. They feature a standard wired connection for easy listening, but wireless mobility comes via an innovative module that attaches to one earphone. Given that open-back designs sometimes bleed sound, the practical application may be just the freedom to walk around your home untethered. That same module includes a built-in one-watt-per-channel amplifier that will lift the music over street noise. Battery life is about four hours. The open-back design has a sophisticated, industrial look that hints at this overall versatility.
High-fidelity sound gets a beautiful look with three new audiophile quality headphones ($1199 to $1899) from Audio-Technica that feature eye-catching wood finishes. Meticulously crafted in Tokyo, the woods—Kokutan (striped ebony), Asada Zakura (ironwood) and flamed maple wood—look great, but also serve a more technical purpose. Their density suppresses unwanted resonances that would hinder sound reproduction. Despite this sonic attribute, the headphones are surprisingly lightweight.
Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper
The copper detailing on the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless Copper headphones ($699) marks these headphones as a high-quality experience. The German company has been making audiophile headphones for years but they are now being specially tailored to your ears thanks to a smartphone app that modifies the sound following a hearing test. The app also can keep track of daily usage. Battery life is about 30 hours.
One of the appeals of open-back headphones is the sense of spaciousness they deliver so that it seems like the musicians are spread around the room rather than simply being in your head as with closed-back designs. Andover’s PM-50 planar magnetic headphones ($500) capitalize its open-back design by delivering a very detailed, low-distortion soundscape that may have you glancing around the room looking for specific instruments. The walnut housings for the each ear provide a solid acoustical enclosure while offering a pleasing, somewhat organic look.
PSB M4U 8 Headphones
If you crave a high-quality listening experience while on the go then the foldable PSB M4U 8 headphones ($399) are a fine addition to your travel kit. The M4U 8 includes noise-cancelling tech for eliminating unwanted sounds like aircraft engines and uses a Bluetooth connection to keep you untangled by cords. Two microphones ensure call quality for those inevitable interruptions and power is supplied by plane-friendly rechargeable AA batteries rather than lithium ion. But perhaps the most appealing feature is the sonic sorcery called Roomfeel that’s designed to replicate the energy and warmth associated with listening to loudspeakers.
Images courtesy of respective venues