We don't quite know how to tell you this but...Dr Dre is officially a billionaire.
In May, Apple agreed to dish out three billion dollars for Beats Electronics. Three billion. We know they're good headphones but that's some serious moolah.
To make sure Apple really are getting their money's worth, our panel tests five big-selling sets to see which headphones really sound the sharpest...
Kerrang! Radio presenter, new music mogul and metal DJ. Has toured with Metallica.
Professional sound engineer. Mixes music for a living for the likes of chart-toppers Rudimental.
German audio specialists Sennheiser have been making headphones since 1968. You’ll see their pro level cans on every mixing desk in every sound studio today.
Baker: “They’re pretty comfortable, but I hate this cushiony material on headphones. It gets all sweaty and itchy and horrible. Plus I’d end up looking like a dick with tufts of hair poking out of the size adjusters.”
Curtis: “They don’t sound terrible, but they don’t set my world on fire. The bass is pretty good, though not so much at lower volume. We can hear bleed from these ones too, which is something I’d be conscious of because I know how annoying it is.”
We applaud Sennheiser for shying away from your run-of-the mill plastic headsets, but they don’t look or sound as solid as you’d expect from the masters of sound.
AKG K267 TIËSTO
Dutch mega-DJ Tiësto – one of the biggest and highest-earning names in dance music – has teamed up with audio brand AKG to bring us these high-priced, high-end headphones.
Curtis: “They’re flashy and designed to stand out. The problem with these is that if you don’t like Tiësto, you’d feel like a bit of a nob walking around with his emblem on your ears. But they do fold up nicely and they’re comfortable.”
Baker: “Massively disappointed. They just sound like standard anything headphones. When you look like that and you’ve got the Tiësto logos, it raises the bar, but what’s the point if they’re going to sound like shit? You’re just paying for the name.”
A classic case of style over substance. The sound quality is actually decent, but at that price you expect something special, and the Tiëstos don’t deliver.
BEATS BY DRE STUDIO
Dr Dre: Producer, rapper and now, thanks to a certain brand he started back in 2008, officially the highest earner in Hip Hop. From popstars to sporting heroes, anyone who’s anyone has got to be seen with a pair of Beats on their noggins.
Baker: “They’re a statement, but I also think they look like a bog standard pair of headphones that have been marketed very well. The cup that goes over your ear feels really soft though…”
Curtis: “As much as I hate to say it, they are very good. The bass response is good – at low volume as well – and they’ve got a nice all-round sound. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Almost exceptional, only with one massive flaw: they’re battery-powered (for noise-canceling and added richness). So if you run out of juice, there’s no more music. That’s a pricey oversight.
Audio-Technica made its name manufacturing microphones for everyone from Olympic opening ceremonies to the US. Their headphones are starting to make waves with pro audiophiles.
Baker: “I don’t know if from a fashion point of view you’d wear these out and about, but they look like professional headphones that professional people use. Plush padding, really light – I’d happily wear them.”
Curtis: “Out of all of them, they’re the flattest sounding, so the bass isn’t artificially accentuated – good if you’re a DJ or an engineer. The sound quality’s good at low volume, and not harsh at higher volumes.”
They don’t fold, they don’t come with a fancy carrying case, and they’re a bit plasticy, but you’ll struggle to find a better sounding pair of headphones for even twice the price.
With annual revenues over $72 billion – more than the GDPs of several European nations – Sony is one of the richest, most powerful companies on the planet. They also make headphones.
Curtis: “Sleek, discreet, and they feel pretty sturdy. Worlds apart from the flashiness of Beats or Tiëstos. The polished metal is a nice touch of quality.”
Baker: “Fucking impressive clarity – the bass sounds amazing. Sometimes you lose quality when you turn the volume up or down, but these sound really good. I was not expecting them to be as good as they are.”
The Japanese electronics giant has fallen out of fashion recently, but these bad boys bang out some incredibly rich sounds, and are well worth splashing out on.
Words by Dan Masoliver
Photography by Marco Vittur