Personal audio is a hot topic these days. But no matter what type of device you use to play music for private enjoyment—cell phone, portable audio player, or full-blown home rig—you’ll need a pair of headphones. During 2017, we have found a few models that deliver great performance at a variety of price points, which we present to you here—the best headphones we’ve reviewed this year.
The models below are ordered by list price, from least to most expensive. Two are in-ear monitors (IEMs), while the other three are over-ear designs. Two are wireless Bluetooth models, and one also offers noise cancellation.
If you’re into private listening, be sure to check out AVS Forum’s best headphones of 2017.
1More Quad Driver In-Ear ($200)
1More’s quad-driver IEMs quadruple-driver IEM’s earn an AVS Forum Recommended 2017 nod for great performance, overall good design, and durability. With these quad-driver IEMs, 1More has another winner on its hands. The value proposition is perhaps not as extreme as with the triple-driver model, it’s still exceptional in a world that’s awash with mediocre headphones at its price point.
Periodic Audio Be In-Ear ($299)
I’ve listened to dozens of albums and likely thousands of songs through the Periodic Be IEMs. Artists cover the gamut from Pink Floyd to Bassnectar to Dead Can Dance to Elvis to Biggie Smalls to Carl Orff to Beethoven. It would be silly to pin these IEMs down as being “good for rap” or “good for jazz.” They are good for music. Period.
I’m a bit baffled about why all the Crossfade 2 models don’t have aptX Bluetooth. It’s the only feature I missed, and given that the Rose Gold model only costs $20 more, it should have been an easy feature to include with the other colors. But, it made little difference, since I found “regular” Bluetooth to be very listenable, and the connection was strong even if I walked 15-20 feet away from my phone. Moreover, the corded performance of the Crossfade 2 is uncommonly good for closed-back cans, regardless of price.
The ultimate compliment I can bestow on any pair of headphones is that I forget I’m wearing them and get lost in the music. If I can obtain that in headphones that offer wireless listening, slick styling, and high build quality, then I’m happy. The V-Moda Crossfade 2 made me very happy.
You might ask, if the Crossfade 2 is so amazing, can you really spend more and get better? Of course you can, as long as you accept the law of diminishing returns. Still, I find it remarkable how close these cans can get to an “ideal” sound—at least to my taste. If you combine the excellent build quality, stylish looks, and deep-bass performance that is genuinely superior, it becomes abundantly clear that the V-Moda Crossfade 2 is something special.
With good headphones, I quickly get lost in the music. B&W’s PX headphones offer a combination of comfort, noise isolation, and fidelity that allow me to get lost in the tunes while enjoying a walk to the park, and I truly appreciate that.
One sign of a truly great audio system—portable or not—is its ability to reveal the truth about a recording. Listening on the HiFiMan Edition X V2 promotes musical discovery by revealing what’s great and not so great in each track. Whether you are listening to new music or revisiting familiar favorites, you will discover things with these headphones.
They perform surprisingly well powered by a cell phone. But, when fed just a bit more power using a dedicated portable device like a Walkman, they make the leap to profound. And plugged into a dedicated DAC/amp system at home, they become an epicurean delight.
Only you can judge if rarefied performance is worth the price of admission. If you have a weak spot for truly great fidelity, approach a demo with caution. Otherwise, you could find yourself trying to figure out how to justify buying a pair.