Over-the-Ear Headphone Shootout – A GearFest Video

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Last week Judie and I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a few pair of the over-the-ear headphones I have reviewed over the past year. With prices ranging from just $149.99 all the way up to $379.95, these headphones cover a good deal of ground. Moreover, one pair offer active noise cancellation while another can be used in either wired or wireless modes. In other words, these headphones don’t all sit nicely in a single product category. At the same time, if you are in the market for new headphones then you are likely going to purchase just one pair, and — here’s the good news — there wasn’t a dog among the options we blind-tested.

So what did we look at? We checked out the

In the first round, I tried my hand at identifying the various models based on comfort and sound. I did a pretty good job, but I mistook the Harman Kardon NC headphones for the AKG k551 headphones. Not a bad mistake to make considering the fact that both pair of headphones are all kinds of awesomeness in both the sound and comfort department.

As expected my top choice for sound and comfort were the Harman Kardon NC headphones. I liked them when I did the review and my appreciation for them has continued to grow in the months since.

Then it was Judie’s turn to check out the various headphones based on comfort and sound only. I was struck by the fact that she used pretty much the same adjectives to describe both pair of Scosche headphones. Her top choices came down to the runner-up Harman Kardon NC headphones and her top choice, the Phiaton Bridge MS 500. I wasn’t surprised since when I was initially reviewing the Phiatons I knew that — without a doubt — Judie would be claiming these for herself. She did.

What most stands out as I look at both of these videos is the fact that there is a wide range of prices and features represented among these five different headphones, and yet all of them a somewhere on the continuum of good to great. Any one of them would serve most anyone quite well.

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3 replies

  1. Recently I did my own little comparison of over-the-ear headphones, and I’m a bit surprised that none of the three I tried were part of your list. I tested the Parrot Zik, the Logitech UE9000 and the PSB M4U 2. Originally, I was looking for something Bluetooth and active noise-cancelling, so I could fly with them.

    I found the controls for the Zik to be a bit too gimmicky and found the headband to be uncomfortable for my fat head when listening for more than an hour. But I thought they sounded great when powered with noise-cancelling enabled, but they sounded pretty bad when unpowered. I liked the looks, but ended up returning them because I didn’t want to spend that much, but with that much compromise.

    I thought the UE9000 didn’t quite sound as good as the powered/NC-enabled Zik, and the Bluetooth controls were a lot simpler and easier to use. The comfort was pretty good, but they were more bulky than the Zik. I thought the sound quality when with the cord, unpowered was very similar to powered but no NC; very listenable. But once the NC was enabled, I thought it was too bassy; I wasn’t as happy with the sound. The killer was that using it as a Bluetooth device meant the NC was enabled – no way to go wireless without NC. So, I also returned them.

    I kept the PSB M4U 2, even though I was looking for wireless cans. I loved the sound, very neutral. It sounded like I was listening to very good speakers. I found the sound to be the same whether it was unpowered, powered or NC-enabled. Both powered and NC-enabled gave the sound a bit more oomph, but I find unpowered is how I use them most of the time. To me, there is no difference between powered and NC-enabled, other than less ambient noise. I also found them to be the most comfortable of the 3 headphones I tested.

    • Cool comparison to have done and a really smart way to go shopping for a new pair of good//pricey headphones. I wish we had had any or all of these three on hand for this video look! I’ve tried the Zik and happened to like what I heard when I did. At the same time I didn’t use them long enough to be able to comment on the comfort. I’m hoping to get a chance to review the UE9000 and PSB M4U 2… I’ve heard really good things about the PSBs especially. I’m always impressed when powered and unpowered offer the same sound quality.
      Thanks for adding this additional depth and a few more cool headphones from which people can choose.

  2. Oh right. I also wanted to say that after watching both videos, I wished I had also tested the AKG K551 and the Harmon Kardon NC. Again, not wireless, but I think the comparison with the PSB M4U 2 would have been interesting.