Over the past few weeks, I’ve been evaluating and re-evaluating the various headphone/earbud choices out there. I started with the new Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic. Then I took it up a notch by going to the V-Moda Vibe Duos vs. the Bose In-Ear Headphones. Now it’s time to move up to the next level that I affectionately call the “OMG!, they cost how much?” category. I have 3 sets of headphones in this category.
Let’s start with the Bang & Olufsen A8s
These have been a long time favorite of mine because of the their design. They are clearly the most adjustable and adaptable headphones I’ve ever tried. The over the ear arm really makes for a secure fit when you’re going to be active like jogging or working out. So these were the ones that were always in my gym bag. Although they sound great, the one problem with these is that the actual piece that goes in your ear is “one size fits all” and I’m here to tell you that one size definitely doesn’t fit all. These are slightly to big to fit down in my ear canal properly. I can get them in, but after about an hour my ears begin to hurt and I end up having to take them out. If they were to redesign the actual ear piece with different sized gels found in most modern day headphones, I would be completely sold and would look no further.
Bang & Olufsen prides themselves on selling high-end gear, but at out of this world prices. The average consumer would walk in their store, look around, see the prices and walk right back out. Although they sell uniquely styled gear, I really question if their stuff is worth the price? To date I’ve only experienced their headphones.Â
The Bang & Olufsen A8’s go for $160 on their site. The interesting thing was that I couldn’t really find them by just browsing their site, I had to actually refer to an old link. Perhaps they are either phasing these out or coming out with something new. What’s funny is I used to think $160 was outrageous until I started looking at the next few options below
Moving on up to the Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Headphones
If you do any frequent air travel, I dare say you’ll see more Bose Headphones than any other brand. Bose Quiet Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones areÂ legendaryÂ amongst frequent travelers. It’s almost like a status symbol. I have tried all 3 models, the original QC’s, the QC2 and even the new smaller QC3’s. As a glasses wearer, the QC3‘s were the worst. These are “on-ear” headphones and I just couldn’t take the pressure against my ears pushing against my glasses. Also Bose went from a standard AAA battery that you could pick up in any airport, to a proprietaryÂ rechargeableÂ battery. This decision was clearly made by someone who doesn’t actually travel on a regular basis. If the battery dies, you’re done. Not only does the battery power the noise cancelling feature, but it also is what allows sound to come through from your device. So dead battery means no sound whatsoever. I gave up on these and went back to the QC2’s. The Bose Quiet Comfort 2 Headphones offer the best blend in sound, comfort and noise cancelling that I’ve tried to date. There is one problem though and it’s their size. I find myself leaving these behind at home more and more these days because I just simply don’t have room for them in my bag anymore. When I have the room, hands down these are my favorites for the plane.Â
Bose sells the Quiet Comfort 2 Headphones for $299 via their site.Â
Next up are the Shure SE420 Earphones
I’ve always looked at the Shure earphones as “there’s no freakin’ way I’m paying that much for some earbuds!” Their earphones start at $120 and go up to $499! Yes $499, more than you spent for iPod or other device that you’re going to plug them into. Had I not gotten a pair of their SE420’s ($399) as a gift, I probably would have never tried these. I used them on my last flight home from San Francisco. Where Shure is different from all the other ones I’ve tried and reviewed to date is that they are “noise isolating” instead of noise cancelling. They pay special attention to the way they fit down in your ear to block out all other sound. I gotta admit that these are amazing. The sound was fantastic and I couldn’t hear the screaming baby 3 rows back (no I’m not against babies). What does $399 get you. First off you get a very well designed set of headphones with a very nice hard carrying case. You get a 3′ detachable audio cable, airline adapter for those international flight entertainment systems, and a ton of different sleeves for just about any ear/ear size. If you’re concerned about comfort, they have gone out of their way to provide a variety of different sleeves to fit every ear. I swapped a couple of different sets until I found the ones that fit me best. The SE420’s featureÂ Dual TruAcoustic MicroSpeakers, they use a dedicated tweeter and woofer to provide a detailed sound stage. Lows, mids, and highs are distinct and defined – for accurate reproduction of all the details of your music. Clearly Shure has put a lot not only into making these comfortable, but more importantly sound! Also because of their very compact size, they are much more likely to be in my travel bag than the Bose QC2’s.
Now the big question: are they worth $400 to me? Wow, I’m gonna still have to say no. I say no not because Shure didn’t build a phenomenal product that sounds great and fits great. I say no because I just personally think that $400 is too much to spend on earphones. I’m just not an audiophile. If you are looking for the perfect blend of size, sound and fit, these are the ones. If $400 makes you gag, you might want to investigate their other, less expensive models. I’m absolutely jazzed about owning these and they were the perfect gift because I would have never bought them for myself.
The Shure SE420 Headphones go for $399 from their site.Â Amazon has them for aÂ lot less!