Headphones for Audiophiles

| 15 February 2013

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You see football players wearing them, athletes getting into the zone wear them, hip musicians are never seen without them, and anyone who wants to be trendy and in the groove wears them.

The growth in the premium headphone sector over the last five years has been quite astounding. Spurred on by the MP3 revolution, high quality headphones today have not only become a fashion accessory but also a status symbol. The growth has been driven by Dr Dre’s Beats headphones. They were launched in 2008, appealing to a younger audience who wanted to blend fashion together with technology and high end audio. The rest is history…

According to retail data released by the NDP group in the US, sales of premium headphones costing over $100 grew by 72% in 2012 and premium headphones now make up 43% of all headphone sales.

Driven by international trends, the R2500 – R4000 headphone market in South Africa is also showing similar growth.

This week we look at some of the hot headphones available.

The House of Marley founded by the late legendary reggae singer Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley, is carving an interesting niche in the accessory market. “Inspired by Nature in Beauty” is their payoff line for their premium over the ear headphones, the Destiny collection. This brand appeals to the eco-friendly revolution as it is made of recycled aluminium and stainless steel. Even the packing comes from recycled material. The sound quality is impressive and the noise cancelling technology really does a good job in isolating external noise. When you hold them up initially they look a bit bulky but once you put them on, the soft leather covered headsets fit snugly over your ears. It has a fabric covered cord that helps reduce tangles and is engineered to cut down on static. I found the sound quality to be a bit bassy, but I suppose it all depends on the music genre you listen to.

Score 7/10 Cost R3000

Monster was the company that manufactured Beats By Dr. Dre until last year. Noel Lee started the company in a garage in 1979. Since then it has grown to a multimillion dollar company selling expensive cables to making high end headphones. The latest in their range are the Monster Inspirations. They are beautifully built and have a really sexy design and certainly look aesthetically pleasing when they’re over your head. They come with a range of different colour bands that interchangeable in order to personalise your headphones. I tested the noise cancelling edition and found them to block out noise really well, especially on a flight. The sound quality is not bad at all, deep bass and they handled the higher frequencies nicely although it can sound a bit tinny at times. It has great accessories and cables included as well as a microphone feature so they can be used with a phone.

Score 7.5/10 Cost R3000

The German company Sennheiser has been making high quality audio equipment since 1945 and their products are exceptional. The Momentum headphones they’ve introduced to the market are designed to appeal to audiophiles and the younger segment of the market that is looking for hip and trendy. The design is classy; the headphones feel light and the soft leather ear cups fit really comfortably when worn. Even though they are not noise cancelling headphones, the closed circumaural headphone design cuts out ambient noise so well you feel you are in a sound proof room. The sound is what really blew me away. It is almost perfectly balanced; I describe them like a fine, smooth, well balanced 18 year old single malt whiskey. The sound is absolutely gorgeous, warm with not too much bass. It also comes with an additional cable that has an integrated smart remote and microphone for easy management of tracks and calls.

Score 8.75/10 Cost R4000

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