Sony's XB500s provide further evidence of why spending a bit extra on over-ear headphones pays in the end. It's not that they're rubbish, but they just don't come close to the higher-priced models tested here. Also, they lanyard style cabling – a wire from each earpiece – and these are fixed, unattractive and far from satisfying. One the plus side, the cables are flat so do avoid knots.
If bass is what you're after, then these do what they say on the tin. Described as "extra bass" the bass is quite pronounced and it would be daft to criticise them for this design quality. As nice as it is to be able to have a superb low-end response though, the XB500s labour the point too much, neglecting higher frequencies in the process. Sound is too unbalanced for my liking.
Despite that, the XB500s are very snug, with faux-leather pads acting as huge pillows on each ear. They offer effective noise isolation too and remain comfortable during long listening periods. For under £60, I'd feel rotten marking them down too much and having heard some of the dodgy-branded equivalents; they're not so bad for the price. However, they just lack refinement on the grand scale of things.
Reg Rating 60%
More info Sony
V-Moda Crossfade LP
V-Moda is a new player in the headphone market and apparently, the company has been touring with various DJs and musicians in a bid to improve its take on acoustics and ergonomics. The Crossfade LPs are the company's first attempt at over-ear cans and the four years research that went into them are evident, to a degree.
The look is somewhat gothic, with metal plates on the sides and a hexagonal shape, which appears pretty cool at first glance. They come in a fancy case with everything neatly tucked inside and the inclusion of detachable fibre weave cables, among them one with a built-in mic and mobile phone control, which is a bonus.
The leather padding offers a pleasant fit, but I found they hurt my ears after about half an hour of listening. This wasn't due to the design itself, but more likely a result of the penetrating sound they deliver. The Crossfades are very noise isolating and don't leak huge amounts of sound either, but it's all a bit too bass-heavy. Even though there is also a crisp top-end, it doesn't quite balance things out enough, but at least it does reflect a decent frequency range.
These sound great with hiphop and dance music, but look like they should be ideal for heavy metal and punk. They're not bad, but leave a lot to be desired. Originally, I think the Crossfades were overpriced, but costs have dropped considerably and they can now be picked up for half the RRP, if you shop around. If you can find yourself a bargain and need noise isolation then they could be worth it. ®
Reg Rating 75%
More info V-Moda
Ten... over-ear headphones
THREE FIGURES for FUCKING HEADPHONES? Are you having a laugh?
In the real world, <£20 is cheap and nasty, £30-£50 is decent quality, but you're paying for it, >£50 is very good, but pricier than I'm generally willing to go. £330? £550??!!??!! You'd have to so rich that price tags have literally no meaning to you or stark raving insanse!
It's all a con
There was a story recently about someone disassembling Sennheiser HD 555 (about 70 quid) and finding the working parts were identical to the 595 (about 140 quid) except they jammed a bit of foam in to muffle the sound slightly. So if you have access to a screwdriver you can double the value of your headphones by removing it.
One thing that really really gets me is the crappy quality earphones that you get with apple products and other pmps and the amount of people that happily use them..
They sound terrible! Even a £10 pair of buds from HMV is a 10x improvement over the crappy free ipod earphones..
When commuting in london I regularly see obviously well off people well dressed with ipads and so on, and they're using the shitty free apple earbuds to listen to their music.. They've spent 500 quid on kit to listen to music on and have crap earbuds.
After all when buying hi-fi the recommendation typically is you spend 50% of your budget on amp and sources, and 50% on speakers.. these people have spent 100% on source..
Its almost like spending £500 on a decent blu-ray player and then hooking it up to a 14" black and white crt TV.
Personally due to the amount of background noise while commuting and the fact I'm not loaded I have spent around £60-70 on a half decent set of in ear buds. I would probably only spend the money on the ones listed above for home listening which I don't do much of.
Even so when friends see them and ask how much they cost the reaction is usually "£60 for earphones?!!"
I just don't get it.. I spend more time (1 or 2 hours a day) listening to these earphones than I do my home hi-fi setup, in terms of £s per hour of usage my earphones cost a fraction of a penny per hour..
sorry, rant over.. bloody apple consumers, all style over functionality...
Not even on old MP's expenses
would I pay those prices - and I've got Quad speakers!
What's it worth to you?
If all you listen to is the highly compressed and low dynamic range stuff in noisy environments and/or are only interested in making you ears bleed then I'd agree with you. I use a 4 year old 2nd gen Nano and a pair of ~£40 Sennheiser iems on the train quite happily (though not at eardrum bursting levels).
On the other hand when I'm listening to high quality flac at home with other good quality hi-fi gear I'm not going to use a cheapo pair of headphones just to save a couple of quid. I'm no rabid audiophile but if you would spend £2-300 on speakers why not £1-200 on headphones? I use mine (Grado, why were they overlooked?) for extended periods while photo editing in the evening so as not to disturb the neighbours and the level of detail expressed rivals that of my speakers. They are still the cheapest part of my hi-fi rig too.