The best headphone brands are often touted as Apple Beats or a noise-cancelling unit from Bose, but that’s not necessarily true. As a seasoned audiophile, I’d be doing you all (and myself) a disservice if I didn’t come clean about the truths of the 2018 best headphone brands and debunk some of the myths surrounding some of the lesser known companies.
The Truth About 2018 Best Headphone Brands: Misconceptions, Facts
So, which better company to start with than one of the leading headphone companies in the world – Apple Beats. According to AP, the company (Apple) generates $25 million every hour of the day, according to their reported earnings last fiscal year. Wow! Misconceptions surrounding Beats is that these headphones are the best because of their widespread popularity and ability to bring the bass. However, just because the bass is packed on doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good – but celebrity endorsements could probably make you think otherwise. Regardless, Beats headsets can rock your world and rattle your brains with a low-end that lacks depth, but shatter your hair cells. If interested in overzealous bass to get you through the day (or workout regimen), Beats can do the trick, but if you’re looking for precision, elsewhere is best. A pair of Beats Studio 3 Wireless with decent noise-cancelling and a plastic-y looking frame runs for $349.95 and includes a single-year warranty. Ditch the trendy name and look towards audio-experts like Sennheiser and Sony to offer more durable, better sounding cans.
Moving right along to Apple Beats counterpart, Apple. Their AirPods have taken the truly wireless earbud market by storm. Looking like the ends of an automatic toothbrush, these itty bitty cans are becoming more mainstream. Misconceptions regarding Apple products, especially their earbuds, is that they provide good sound. No, they don’t. It’s actually quite basic. So when it comes to TWS earbuds, the trusted Apple name can take it far. Facts are, AirPods don’t sound that great, as they are just wireless forms of Apple Earpods. However, they support one of the longest battery lives (if not thee longest battery life) I’ve seen for a pair of TWS earbuds – 5 hours on a single charge. That’s a thumbs up. The other positive is their relatively low-price of $159 as opposed to the $250 average in the market. I’m assuming the low price is due to the low sound quality, tehehe! But that’s the good, the bad, and the ugly on Apple.
Bose is another big name with big bass, but it boasts better noise-cancelling than the aforementioned Beats. How was that alliterative sentence for ya? Anyway, this brand also carries an international presence and is a go to many travelers looking to invest in a quality pair of cans. That being said, here are the facts. Bose is still one of the leading names in noise-cancelling headphones. The ultra-comfortable QuietComfort 35 (now available in a 2nd gen with adjustable noise-cancelling) provides listeners with a blanket of noise-cancelling that is practically unmatched (until the recent launches of close seconds Sony WH-1000xM2 and Sennheiser PXC 550). Many people looking for Bose are often in search of a healthy bass line – rounded, punchy, and full. I find that Bose can offer these qualities, but misses precision. If you can do without accuracy, a Bose headphone is a worthy option.
Sony is another beloved brand in the basshead community. This brand knows how to bring on the bass without over-modulation. Even over a wide-spread array of headphones, earbuds, and speakers, Sony’s standout characteristic is commitment to quality. Their recent dive into the noise-cancelling world with the Sony WH-1000xM2 showcases that this brand can maintain high-resolution audio with distinctive bass even when engaging in complex tech like ANC. Sony continues to impress with their reputable line of high-resolution players and DACs which gives them a worthy spot as an internationally known headphone brand. Those are the facts.
Sennheiser is a German audio brand that is very popular in the audiophile community. With headphones ranging from impressive in-ears (HD1 Momentums) up to incredibly lightweight, open-back audiophile cans (HD 800S), Sennheiser has something for everyone as long as you’re a fan of audio with a slight boost in the bass. While the brand may seem a bit costly, it’s well worth it. You aren’t necessarily paying for the name, but rather the years of investment in producing superior quality audio. Models like their PXC 550 piloted innovative energy-saving technology with state-of-the-art features like swipe controls and adjustable noise-cancelling in a comfortable frame for a mere $350. Sennheiser also provides 2-year international warranties which makes this company a brand worthy of your investment. If looking for a new headphone, Sennheiser makes for a sound selection.
Audio Technica is a Japanese brand that is well known in the audio industry, as well. With their mics being used at the GRAMMYs and their flagship Audio Technica M50X considered a top studio headphone since its release in 2014, AT is a reputable brand to spend your money on. Audio Technica headphones err on the side of warm which makes for a pleasant and fun listening experience rather than critical. Audio Technica also issues 2-year international warranties with their headphones. Another win! Though, anyone looking for a more a balanced sound may opt for a different brand.
Pioneer DJ – The common misconception may be obvious for this brand, but no, you do not have to be a DJ to wear, like, and appreciate the company’s headphones. Pioneer headphones offer a balanced sound while commonly reaching into an extended frequency response for full, immersive playback. Some facts: The advantage of purchasing a DJ headphone are the DJ perks like fully rotatable (is that even a word?) ear cups and durable, head-shaped headbands – not a half circle, but rather half of an oval. Lastly, these cans are very affordable while delivering quality.
Grado is an exceptional make of headphones that shouldn’t be overlooked when considering an open-back pair. Even though their most expensive cans don’t require an amp that doesn’t mean they can’t provide the absolute best in audio playback. Made from the finest wood and metals, Grado open-back headphones are available in a number of models that offer varying degrees of clarity and rich, open sound. Even the $80 model astounds (SR60e). The only real vice concerning Grado headphones are their somewhat shallow and small ear cups comprised of simple foam. However, their ear cushions are available in different sizes and can be easily swapped around.
Skullcandy is the budget-friendly option for everyone although their popularity grew among a young and active generation. These headphones are loud and bring the bass. Misconceptions are that this brand only provides cheap models that break in an instant which isn’t necessarily true – you just need to know what models to look for. For example, the Hesh 2 was one of their most durable headphones that offered pretty good sound at a $100 price tag. That’s hard to find. I will admit that across the brand, there could be more detail, but if bass is your thing, Skullcandy won’t disappoint.
Do you have any insider knowledge on the 2018 best headphone brands? Drop it down below!