Au­dio­phile Naser Al Wasmi ex­plores the hype sur­round­ing five very dif­fer­ent sets of head­phones

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It’s fair to say that no other head­phones have been as po­lar­is­ing as the ones from Dr Dre’s multi­bil­lion-dol­lar brand. The punchy bass that so squarely de­fines the iconic “Beats” sound has en­dured, to the ire of many lis­ten­ers. Users ei­ther love that “slug-to-your-chest” au­dio im­pact, or hate the fact that the im­pos­ing bass all but drowns out the nu­anced mid-range of the mu­sic. In-house en­gi­neer­ing has done lit­tle to sti­fle the o -heard crit­i­cism that the acous­tics do not jus­tify the price tag. If your playlist is com­prised pri­mar­ily of hiphop and elec­tro mu­sic, though, you’ll find the low-wave acu­ity of Beats head­phones ac­tu­ally pumps new life into clas­sic tunes. Yet in its lat­est Solo it­er­a­tion, the brand recog­nised that it isn’t winning over any au­dio­philes, so in­stead it de­liv­ers its sig­na­ture sound wire­lessly in a Blue­tooth ex­pe­ri­ence that is prob­a­bly the most seam­less in class. With 40 hours of bat­tery life on a sin­gle charge, a W1 chip that fully in­te­grates into your Ap­ple ecosys­tem and in­tu­itive on-board con­trol but­tons, Beats Elec­tron­ics ac­cu­rately iden­ti­fied what makes its premium head­phones con­ve­nient. With hun­dreds of celebri­ties seen don­ning B-branded sets, Beats head­phones have be­come sta­ple ur­ban wear, and this new pair, which comes in eight colours, will def­i­nitely win you some street cred. The build qual­ity, how­ever, is medi­ocre. Plas­tic com­po­nents, and a com­fort­able yet no­tice­able ear cup foam, which makes you want to take them off at least ev­ery hour, are dis­ap­point­ing fea­tures. Say­ing that, if you love Beats, then this is its finest Solo yet. Dh1,100;­by­


Sony’s ex­per­tise in man­u­fac­tur­ing a wide range of prod­ucts shines through in the MDR-1000X’s nonau­dio-re­lated as­pects. The de­sign is un­der­stated and ma­ture, and prac­ti­cal­ity shines through in o -over­looked com­po­nents. The leather on the outer shell makes the prod­uct feel premium, although the dura­bil­ity of the ma­te­rial is yet to be proven. The de­sign will en­sure that hair never gets caught be­tween the ear shells and the head­band. How­ever, com­ing in at slightly more ex­pen­sive than the Bose Quiet Com­fort, these head­phones make al­most no case for why con­sumers should favour the Ja­panese brand. If any­thing, the ex­tra fea­tures in the noise­can­celling sys­tem in­di­cate a fail­ure in de­sign. It forces the lis­tener to in­put in­for­ma­tion, while the Bose op­tion just blan­kets all noise. To un­lock the de­vice’s hi-res ca­pa­bil­ity would re­quire a com­mit­ment to a Sony ecosys­tem, which is a big ask, given the com­pany’s out­dated tech. Also, when com­pared to the QCs, I no­ticed a slightly heav­ier bass on these. Fan­chil­dren are sure to chime in on how much bet­ter QC’s tech­nol­ogy is. Ad­mit­tedly, the MDR-1000X is a great start and Sony is likely to build on this maiden en­try into noise-can­celling tech­nol­ogy. Dh920;


In the mid-range realm, no head­phones come close to the magic ex­pe­ri­enced thanks to the QC35’s abil­ity to trans­port you from that un­com­fort­able plane ride, punc­tu­ated by a screech­ing in­fant, to a fo­cused lis­ten­ing ses­sion. The sound stage and im­pres­sive crisp­ness on these noise-can­celling vir­tu­osos are tuned to de­liver you right in the mid­dle of the au­dio spec­trum. Bose, over the years, has be­come the noise­can­celling cham­pion, hon­ing the tech­nol­ogy to the point where the ex­pe­ri­ence is slightly shock­ing. Of course, Blue­tooth head­phones will never be as good as a wired de­vice. The Blue­tooth on this de­vice is great – it’s not go­ing to de­liver the kind of sound that will blow any­one away, but it will come pretty close. An­other wire­less tech­nol­ogy fact: big­ger is usu­ally bet­ter. Speak­ing of which, the space in­side these ear cups is sur­pris­ingly large and the head­band is cra ed from su­per-so Al­can­tara. These touch­points, dis­trib­uted over a sur­pris­ingly light 230 grams, mean that, for the first time in my long head­phone-wear­ing life, I never want to take these off. Ever. Dh1,285;


The Ger­man brand’s de­vo­tion to au­dio fidelity man­i­fests it­self in an un­der­stated but true-to-form lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. You get breadth with Sennheiser, and in its mid-level Mo­men­tums, lis­ten­ers don’t need to read the geek sheet to un­der­stand why they sound so clean. Here the com­pany isn’t ex­plain­ing why its gold-va­por­ised ce­ramic trans­duc­ers de­liver an ul­tra­high-im­pulse fidelity, as in the Dh200,000 HE-1. Here you just need to be pa­tient – the bass isn’t go­ing to punch you so hard that you’ll mis­take it for qual­ity. In­stead, Sennheiser wants to at­tract lis­ten­ers who ap­pre­ci­ate more fi­nesse and less brute. In terms of en­gi­neer­ing, the prod­uct mim­ics Bavar­ian in­dus­trial sen­si­bil­i­ties. So, the Ger­man touch is there, but per­haps a lit­tle too much. If there were to be any crit­i­cism, it’s that these head­phones are bal­anced to the point of be­ing bor­ing. De­sign-wise, the com­pany has im­proved on com­fort, but the band’s brushed metal de­sign still makes it a lit­tle rigid for long ses­sions. And while the au­dio bal­anc­ing has cre­ated a real treat of a lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, it takes a lis­tener with an eclec­tic style to ap­pre­ci­ate the range. Dh1,500; www.


It was a pair of Philips head­phones that first made me un­der­stand how much bet­ter it was to have mu­sic around the ears, rather than in­side them. Of late, the com­pany has fo­cused on mak­ing a name for its shavers – it in­tro­duced the elec­tric ra­zor in 1939. How­ever, around the same time, it be­gan man­u­fac­tur­ing home ra­dios, gain­ing in­sight into the com­plex world of sound en­gi­neer­ing. The 3060s are air­port head­phones, but they’ll out­per­form both the Dh80 price tag and the iPhone ear­phones you for­got to pack. What sets them apart from other Dh100-range head­phones is the warmth of the bass, which shines through, sound­ing big on low-wave heavy songs, which is un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of bud­get sets. The crit­i­cism comes when play­ing so er mu­sic, which sounds springy, even muted. How­ever, the vo­cals will al­ways be vi­brant and real. What also makes these sur­pris­ing is just how comfy they are. The so , ro­tat­ing ear shells rest easy on even the most awk­wardly shaped heads, plus there’s that low price. So you can break free from scoop­ing ear­wax and en­ter a world where mu­sic trav­els the way it’s meant to. earpho set Dh10 wa sh b m w rea sur th ea th he pric w it’sm Dh80;

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