As the saying goes, everything old is new again, and the same is true of headphones. The ubiquitous earbud of the aughties has been usurped by chunky, old school-style cans. No longer just for DJs and hip hoppers, these massive ‘phones are gaining serious ground with music lovers.
The reason for the switch? For one thing, the sound quality and ability to block out excess noise with over-the-ear headphones can’t be beat. While tiny buds might be great for when you’re jogging or hitting the gym, classic headphones are ideal for commuting, travel, or simply blaring tunes while at your desk. We’ve rounded up six of the very best ways to get your ears in tune.
PSB M4U 1
You know you’re in good hands when the company behind your headphones has been producing high-quality custom speaker systems for over 40 years. PSB is actually a Canadian outfit based in Ontario. They’ve recently launched two types of headphones, both of which offer unparalleled sound quality to bring out every note and nuance of your favourite music. The M4U 2 is about $100 more, but also offers noise cancelling and amplification features.
Either way, you’re still guaranteed incredible sound with PSB’s Room Feel™ technology, which should make you feel like you’re surrounded by a perfectly set up cluster of speakers. Add to that an adjustable band, cushy pads, and minimal weight, and you’ll be set for hours with the PSB M4U 1's.
Over-the-ear headphones sometimes get mocked for their clunky, chunky style. But Sennheiser’s line of Momentum headphones combine sleek design with incredible sound quality. In fact, the brand is actually inspired by the high-performance sports cars, with cushy leather covers, lightweight steel to minimize sound disruptions, and a super tough cable made from the same material as bulletproof vests.
If you’ve ever felt like you’re not getting the full picture when listening to tunes on your portable music device, Sennheiser Momentum earphones have an 18-ohm operating impedance to generate an incredible overall output - bringing out rich, warm bass notes right alongside those subtle accents.
V-MODA Crossfade M-100
If you want to relive the experience of attending a live show, the V-Moda Crossfade 100s deliver crystal clear sound that makes every track feel like it’s being performed at a private concert, just for you. How do they deliver this? Namely through a unique, patent-pending 50 mm dual-diaphragm driver that separates the bass to avoid bottomed out low tones and murky midnotes. And since they don’t require batteries, they also keep the sound as pure as possible.
These kickin’ cans also pack a one-two punch of keeping pesky outside noises to a minimum with analog noise isolation, while also keeping your tunes to yourself, thanks to limited sound leakage. If you also want a side of swagger with your headphones, you can also purchase interchangeable plates to switch up the look. Best of all, you can kick back and relax with a comfortable ergonomic steelflex headband.
Over ear headphones have an old school vibe for a reason - these classic headphones date back to 1991, yet they still deliver great sound at one of the best price points on the market. If you’re not too fussed about style, these basic black beauties use neodymium magnets and 40 mm drivers for crisp, uncompromised sound.
Not only that, Sony’s MDR-7506 headphones have a solid reputation for being comfortable and fitting just about everyone’s head. Reliably used in professional settings - like recording studios, film crews and more - if you’re looking for a dependable pair that won’t break your bank account, these headphones are the way to go.
Focal Spirit One
There are some big, consistent names in the headphones industry - but sometimes it pays to listen up to the new kids on the block. Case in point? Focal is a relatively new player, but their debut Spirit One over ear headphones sound timeless. Offering intense sound insulation without the bulk, these featherweight headphones only weigh 225 grams.
Given that Focal has 36 years of experience in the audio industry, these headphones provide clean, bright sound, thanks to 40 mm drivers and the use of unique, ‘space age’ materials like mylar-titanium. If you’re an Apple user, they’re also compatible with iPad, iPhone, and iPod, with a built-in remote that puts control over your tunes right at your fingertips (other devices may be partially or completely compatible as well). Add to that a sleek design and you’ve got a serious new contender.
Often credited with bringing back the over ear style, Dr. Dre’s Beats is one of the most popular mainstream headphone brands out there - and for good reason. Not only do they deliver tons of style (they come in eight colours!), they also have plenty of design features and solid overall sound quality.
The Studio line of headphones underwent a pretty massive overhaul in 2013, with plenty of enhancements like a rechargeable battery with 20 hours of play time, Adaptive Noise Canceling technology, and a lighter frame. While it could be argued that with the Beats Studio you’re paying for the brand more than the headphones themselves, audiophiles are in agreement that there’s still plenty to love with these sleek, crisp cans.
The advanced technology of most headphones today is pretty even keeled, meaning the average listener might not be able to discern the sound quality nuances that separate a $100 pair of headphones from a $300 pair.
Ultimately, one of the key factors to selecting your headphones is to find a pair that actually feels comfortable on your head. Over-ear headphones can feel cumbersome and bulky if you’re use to earbuds or smaller headphones, so it’s best to pick a pair that won’t feel painful after a few hours of wear.
Have a favourite pair we’ve missed or find this list helpful? Let us know in the comments below!