Mark Harris
10 BEST HEADPHONES - The Independent, 9 Feb 2004

Immerse yourself in music with a pair of high quality headphones. Technology expert Mark Harris sorts the cans from the can’ts…

Stax Classic System II £750
You know you’re in true audiophile territory when a company calls its headphones ‘earspeakers’. But if anything deserves hyperbole, it’s these unique electrostatic headphones from Japan. They require a dedicated drive unit (included) and high quality source components, but get the set-up right and the Classics sound simply perfect, with crisp, detailed top notes and a hugely rich, natural range.
Stax (01844 219000;

Nike-Philips psa[duro £25
While the words ‘sweat-resistant pads’ are unlikely to raise your pulse, anything that makes a gym visit less boring deserves bonus points. These behind-the-head sports ’phones have a rear cable exit for stability and jogging comfort, and sound infinitely better than listening to your neighbours grunting through their routines.
Philips (0870 900 9070;

Sennheiser PXC-250 £90 --- BEST BUY
You won’t find a better sounding or more practical pair of travel headphones than these noise-cancelling beauties. Not only do the supra-aural, closed ear pads effectively mute train, coach or plane noise, they’re also comfy enough to use during those inevitable transport delays. The durable, lightweight steel design folds down for easy storage.
Sennheiser (01494 551 551;

Pioneer HDJ-1000 £130
The tightly-closed backs and loud 107dB output from these headphones will help superstar DJs in their professional duties, such as ignoring drunk punters requesting Atomic Kitten. They’re lightweight and comfortable enough to see you through a whole set, and have swivelling ear-pads for when you need to show off and do some live mixing.
Pioneer (01753 789500;

Panasonic RPHC50 £30
It’s a loud world out there and short of telling everyone to shush, your best bet for sonic relief is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. A built-in microphone captures ambient sounds and generates anti-noise waves, allowing you to enjoy your tunes in peace. They work best with deep, bass sounds, however, so don’t imagine you’ll be able to ignore those bleeping mobiles completely.
Panasonic (08705 357357;

Sony MDRDS5100 £280
For late night movie watching, nothing beats these cordless headphones from Sony. A home cinema decoder in the base unit beams Dolby 5.1, DTS or DTX audio data from your DVD directly to the open-back headphones. Sophisticated psycho-acoustic technology then reproduces the effect of a full six-speaker surround sound set-up, inside your head.
Sony (0870 511 1999;

Grado SR60 £80
These American headphones have been around for a few years (and look the part), but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the pure power and range of their delivery. They come with a minijack for use with portable players – try them once and you’ll never go back to tinny in-ear headphones.
Grado (020 8324 9400;

Grado RS2 £425 --- BEST LUXURY BUY
Give your ears a pampering with these audiophile headphones. They have an air chamber made from hand-crafted mahogany for superlative frequency response and sound anything but wooden. High quality UHPLC copper cabling and a vented diaphragm ensure that the open-backed design produces smooth, full-bodied and warm tones.
Grado (01284 701101;

AKG K-105 UHF £75
Traditional, wired headphones are fine if you still perfectly still, within a few feet of your hi-fi. But those of us with either dancing shoes or two left feet can find the cable restrictive and even hazardous. These radio-frequency wireless headphones deliver superb sound quality up to 100 metres from your sound system and have a 10-hour battery life.
Harman Pro (01707 668065;

When it comes to audio quality, many of the cheap earphones supplied with portable CD and MP3 players are only one step up from a tin can and a piece of string. Your first move should be to buy a pair of decent in-ear ’phones like these Bass Boosters, complete with neodymium magnet drivers and an ergonomic, ear-friendly design.
Sony (0870 511 1999;

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