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Friday, 27 January 2012

Funky Filthy Headphone Roadtest

If you are here at Funk and Filth, then chances are you have good taste in music, and probably like to listen to your tunes all over the place. So arises one of life’s great questions: which headphones should I choose to accompany me upon my daily wanderings?

My last pair of headphones departed this world one morning when they got sucked up inside the Dyson, breaking the headphone cord and ruining the Dyson as well. That was an expensive morning, and serves me right for trying to be clean and tidy!

So this was when I realised the dilemma of choosing and purchasing a new pair of cans. You don’t want some cheap piece of rubbish, but then again we don’t all have 300 notes lying around to spunk on some top of the range technology. Plus, whilst its nice to have the best available, there’s the problem of walking around with a few hundred quid hanging round your neck – any mugger worth his salt will recognise an expensive pair and may feel inclined to request you to hand them over to him.

With this in mind, Funk and Filth got hold of some reasonably priced headphones from some of the biggest brands, and tried them out on your behalf. How nice. Being Funk and Filth, only a certain sort of tune was going to be suitable for testing out our samples.
It had to have bass to test the low end.
It needed to have vocals to test the upper end.
It needed to be well produced and good quality (320kbps).
And it needed to be something I could listen to over and over again and still love! So, we went for the DJ Frenzy Re-Bounce of Zedd’s Slam The Door. With a big pounding bass line and those nice plinky plunky bits it was perfectly funky. Plus it has swear words in it, so it must be cool. Here it is for you to download for free on its own, or as part of Frenzy’s pretty damn awesome Reckless mix.

Now I could go into the technicalities of weight, frequency, impedence, magnet type etc for each, but I’m guessing most people will just be interested in how much they cost and whether they are any good or not. So here goes:

Bose AE2 - £119.99
Things started off well as I grabbed for the Bose. They felt very light, but still premium, what you would expect for over a hundred quid. Sound quality was generally very good and crisp, but I wasn’t as blown away as I was hoping I would be by the Bose. The fact that each cup swivels is always a bonus.

Beats by Dr Dre Solo - £149.99
We know Beats look cool, especially the Studio range, but we are focussing here on the more affordable Solo range. The bass, as you would expect, was very meaty, but this almost gave the tune an unnatural sound, and possibly even sounded as though the sound was dispersed a little unevenly between left and right channels. Having just put down the very expensive feeling Bose, the Beats felt comparatively cheap in my hands.

Sennheiser PX360 - £99.99
Really good over ear fit (I’m assuming at this point that I have normal size/shape ears!) which meant the best noise cancellation out of the whole lot. The bass wasn’t quite as full as I’d heard on the previous two sets, but the sound quality was really crisp. They swivelled as well. Got to love a swivel!

Sennheiser HD448 - £79.99
Sound quality was pretty much spot on all round, and this set even had better sounding bass than its more expensive Sennheiser brother. Felt really nicely put together in my hand and, in my opinion, the best looking set out of them all.

Skull Kandy S6HEDZ-116 HESH - £47.99
Clarity of sound was not exactly brilliant, but the bass was good and powerful for a relatively low cost pair. They looked really funky as you would expect from Skull Kandy (I picked up the black and blue pair!) and felt secure on my noggin. No swivel though, tut tut.

Sony MDR-XB500 – £49.99
These were amazingly comfy to wear, probably because they have enormous amounts of cushioning yet are still nice and lightweight. Sound was really good all round too, surprisingly so for one of the cheaper sets, and the bass rumbled nicely. They did feel a little on the cheap side, but then look at the price, they are a little on the cheap side.

Sony MDR-XD200 - £24.99
As you would expect, being the lowest cost pair I looked at, these felt very cheap and brittle. The sound, however, was surprisingly good, but I did get the feeling that they wouldn’t last very long under a consistently funky, filthy pummelling!

Philips SHO9560 - £99.99
These look pretty cool, but don’t exactly feel premium to hold. They also lacked the bass of the other similarly priced headphones, but otherwise had a real clarity to the sound.

So, what is the verdict?
Well, I was decidedly unimpressed by the Solo Beats, especially as they were the most expensive ones being looked at, although I know the Studio range is another thing entirely. The Philips, the Skull Kandy and surprisingly even the Bose were also nothing to write home about. So taking everything into account: look, feel, price, clarity, bass, I think it comes down to a head-to-head between the Sony MDR-XB500 and the Sennheiser HD448. Both of them thumped out Frenzy’s funky bass and x-rated vocal sample really sweetly, and both looked and felt like you were getting more for your money than you actually were. But in the end, I think the HD448’s looked and sounded just that little bit better, and would be worth shelling out that extra score for – even if they don’t swivel!

Thanks to our friends at Comet who supplied the headphones, and for anyone who is interested, the device used to play the tunes was an iPhone 4S.

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