For those who need an in-line remote and microphone (for use with a smartphone), the Onkyo ES-CTI300 are where it’s at, though they’re $199.
If you need a mic: Onkyo makes some fun-sounding headphones that have a version with an in-line remote and mic. They’re $199, but if you want a something a little more fashionable and a mic for calls, they might just be worth the extra cash.
Honorable mention (with a huge caveat ): Open-backed headphones aren’t for everyone. But we were really impressed with the sound of the Grado SR80e. They don’t have much low bass, and they definitely have limitations in their use, but in the right environment they are lovely to listen to.
A step up: Want to step it up a notch? The PSB M4U 1 have a greater depth to the sound, delicate high end, and rich, clear bass—worth every penny of the $299. If you have it to spend, they’re fantastic.
Are you using headphones with an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and experiencing crackling sounds or problems with Siri? We can help with that .
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How did we choose a winner?
First, I read reviews. Lots of them. I kept notes on which headphones received good reviews both in professional magazines and on Amazon, Crutchfield, other stores, and enthusiast sites like Head-Fi .
I emailed professionals in the field for their picks,
like Steve Guttenberg of CNET and Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity. Then I researched what new headphones had been released since we had our last panel and looked to see what Wirecutter readers had requested that we check out. Then we brought all of the new and requested headphones in so that our panel could hear them back-to-back. We tested 16 pairs in total, including our previous winner.
Since we had such a great performance from our $88 retail Sony MDR-7506 last time, we expanded the price range to include headphones with a retail value from $70-$190 in the hopes of finding another hidden affordable gem.
Too many to fit on the test kitchen table: 16 headphones in all.
The faceoff panel consisted of: Brent Butterworth. Wirecutter A/V writer with decades of experience in the field with publications such as Sound & Vision Magazine. Home Theater, About.com, and many others; John Higgins, a session musician and music and audio teacher at Windward School ; Phil Metzler, a musician/keyboardist in the band Just Off Turner ; and me, Lauren Dragan, a writer for Wirecutter and Sound & Vision and a professional voice actor with a dual bachelor’s degree in music and audio production. Our previous panel also included Geoff Morrison, writer for Forbes and CNET and editor at The Wirecutter. With the decades of experience, variety of sonic preferences, and cranial and ear shapes between us, you can be sure that if we all like something, it’s pretty darn fantastic.