Top 10 Headphones for Xmas: Lucky Dip Edition

By Jack Flanagan

Getting the right headphones can be a chore. There’s no “perfect” piece of sound equipment; it’s all down to personal preference. Do you want style? Performance? What kind of performance: bass? Noise cancelling? Tailored to R&B or Dance? The list of options is almost endless.

Plus, at this time of year you’re unlikely to be buying for yourself. You’re not made of money. You’re saving up for those Korean night classes. You work as a barista for God’s sake. And – believe you me – anything short of a Camilla bracelet this Christmas and your mum will disown you.

Headphones are a great gift for anyone who isn’t properly into music. If you give a pair of Apple earbuds (covered below) to a music hardware afficiando, they’ll spit in your face. And I don’t blame them. But there are so many to choose from, and so many differences between each, how do you choose?

It’s best not to. However, if the person you need to buy a gift for isn’t into music then you’re in luck: they’re bound to have found the most basic headphones and just gone with it. This gives you carte blanche to buy any sort of headphone without fear of reprisal.

So here we give you 10 headphones and earphones which may or may-not be the best but, who cares right? Keep your eye on the ball. Korean night-classes.


Beats by Dr Dre

Coming in at number one (in nobody’s list) are Beats by the notorious Dr. Dre. The headphones have been slammed for being bass-heavy and massively distorting the sound of anything but R&B music. Is Dre herding audiophiles into his corale? Hardly. It’s difficult to find any positive feedback about these headphones on audio forums. Apparently they are fine for the “average listener”. Ouch.


Beats by Dr Dre designed by Alexander Wang

Brought out just in time for Christmas is this luxury line designed by Alexander Wang. If the price scares you, it shouldn’t. What should scare you is that there are no reviews of this product, so you may just be blasting a ton of money on something of unknown performance. What do we know? Wang wanted to “get my hands dirty” and “build a connection”. Hm. Not sure what implications that has for sound quality. But: Wang, though. I love Wang.


Apple earbuds + Mic

This is really only suitable if your friend is an Apple freak or it’s your mum and she really doesn’t care about music. These earbuds are notoriously awful – one reviewer even described the poor sound quality as “mesmerising”. The mystery of why a luxury brand seemingly intentionally leaves such a gaping hole in their armour has puzzled fanboys now for while. The opinion at The Kernel is that Apple is trying to be “holistic”, by throwing in (more or less) free headphones with their iPods and phones. But: given that, when ordering an iMac, a buyer has no choice but to get the best sound card, graphics card and a ton of iLife features, it seems weird that this, something very integral to the service, should be skimped on.


Sennheiser’s HD 25-1 II

These are DJ headphones first and foremost, and come highly recommended for that profession. Some of the advantages of a good DJ headphone however – durability and noise cancellation, primarily – will also suit people in noisy environments, e.g. office workers, mountain cyclists. Pretty pricy, but as good headphones go they’re not bad. DJ Tiësto uses them, if you care.


WeSC Headphones – Matte Conga

Wearing the weighty accolades of “the worse headphones I have ever had” and “like a nice pillow”, these headphones are cheap and predictably shoddy. On the flipside, they’re cheap and sexy. Make your choice. WeSC stands for “We are the superlative conspiracy”, which sounds a bit like The Kernel if I’m honest. That’s why these get our stamp of approval.


Bose QuietComfort 20i

Bose – known for being overpriced and never returning my calls – nonetheless do provide good products. It’s just the price-tag thas an overestimation of the value. They’re not even attractive. And so you’re left out in the ether without the celebrity clout of a Beats or the actual quality of a Sennheiser. Why get them? If you’ve got the money and hate a poor audiophile, give these to them and guilt them when they aren’t wearing them. Watch them squirm amidst a volley of over empathised bass and untenable mid-range.

Calvin Harris

Sol Republic Master Tracks XC headphones Studio Tuned by Calvin Harris

Another studio/DJ headphone, “tuned” by rehabilitated mole rat Calvin Harris. Very good quality and good sound. Better – certainly – on value vs. price over Bose and the Beats collection. They shine through on bass but don’t neglect the finer, mid-range, points of music. Reviews online are typically wholly positive. Your audiophile will thank you.

MOMENTUM On-Ear pink_front

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear

These are a bit cheaper and a little less good. BUT, major advantage, they’re pink, a colour depressingly absent from the market place so far reviewed (WeSC does them but we hate them). They are also very attractive generally. Specifically on quality: great mostly, mid-range okay, and comfortable. Your audiophile will be fond of you, but wonder where his XCs are.


Skullcandy Crusher

While the Skullcandy logo is attractive, the “modern” look is not. Hard-lines and chunky detail are not the fashion here or anywhere. If you thought quality would be its saving grace, you were wrong. They’re a ton more expensive than Apple’s earbuds and, by the sounds of it, not much better. Hate on your friends; buy them these.


PSB M4U 1s

The one bad thing about these headphones is the contention over style. I’m a big fan – I usually hate bulky detail like this, but the design is sleek and fresh. Others dissent, but you can read their reviews if you must. Sound quality is perfect, well-toned and doesn’t fall down in any places. It seems like the prefect finish: if you love your audiophile, if you want to truly wish them a merry Christmas, give them a M4U 1s.