Now that Oprah’s named Beats by Dre as one of her favorite products of 2013, it’s probably time to consider other headphones. Sure, Beats deliver bold bass and a slick look, but there are plenty of other headphones that help you rock out in style. We look at the best of the bunch right here.
Sennheiser Momentum headphones line up well with the price and appearance of the Beats Black Studio model. Like the Black Studio, the Momentum comes in black, and black leather on the headband with red stitching evinces quality before you put on the headphones (brown is also available if you prefer a classic look). The Momentum provides more detailed sound than the Beats, but the bass isn’t as robust. It’s also one of the most comfortable headphones around. Soft leather on the earphones caresses your ears, so you can wear them all day without irritation. Steel sliders make it easy to adjust the earphones for a perfectly snug fit, and the red Kevlar cable is indestructible.
Buy yours here for $299.
Style’s a big part of Beats’ appeal, so any headphones you consider have to at least match Beats’ fashion factor. Employing a glossy finish on Grilamid®–the same material you find in high-end eye-wear–the Klipsch STATUS will catch more eyes than any Beats model will. And while passerby turns their heads, you’ll be bopping yours. The STATUS has sensitivity of 110 dB, so you can dial up the volume and maintain crisp, distortion-free sound. If you want to confirm your status as an audiophile, these headphones would do it.
Buy yours here for $250.
Philips Fidelio L1
The Philips Fidelio L1 are all about sound fidelity. Inverted titanium domes and ring radiator tweeters produce fine details and spread out the sound-stage, vented woofers enrich bass, and woven fiberglass driver cones broaden the frequency range. The Fidelio L1 look and feel as substantial as they sound. Philips uses aluminum parts in the same spots where the Beats have plastic, adding strength without weight. Memory foam on the earphones deliver a snug fit that keeps the sound in, and thick leather on the headband provides comfort. The Fidelio L1 prove that the devil’s in the details because the details make these headphones hella good.
Buy yours here for $158.
Sony generally doesn’t put its name on sub-par products, and the MDR-1R headphones are no exception. Using aluminum for the earphones and wrapping plush leather around the headband, the MDR-1R have better build than the Beats Studio. The soft leather pads on the earphones are replaceable, so you don’t have to worry about buying new headphones when the pads wear out. Sony also positions the drivers so that you perceive the sound as coming from in front of you, which is a differentiating feature. The MDR-1Rs excel in the bass range, where they provide rich sound that’s never punches or booms.
Buy yours here for $198.
Bowers & Wilkins P5
Bowers & Wilkins are relative newcomers to headphones, but the P5 helps the company stake an immediate claim in the audiophile segment of the market. When you put these on and press play, you immediately notice the details. You can hear everything–from the snare drum to gentle saxophone notes–with an in-the-studio level of clarity. The wide frequency range also maintains balance, and you’ll never get even the slightest hint of distortion. With rectangular earphones, the P5 also give you a retro look to accompany their cutting-edge sound.
Buy yours here for $330.
Bose QuietComfort 15
If eliminating ambient noise is your highest priority when shopping for headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 15 should be at the top of your list. Bose pretty much invented noise-cancelling headphones, and it rules the category again after yielding to Sennheiser in recent years. The QuietComfort 15 have built-in microphones to pic up background noise and circuitry to eliminate it. The superior noise-cancelling technology, however, does sacrifice some sound fidelity. You can get bass distortion at high volume, and the overall sound tends to be a bit bright. Still, you can’t do better than the QuietComfort 15 for noise cancellation.
Buy yours here for $269.
So what if you’re into the Beats Solo more than the Studio? What are the alternatives here? Well, you’ve got the Noontec Zoro for one. Coming in at about half the price as and looking similar to the Beats Solo, the Zoro delivers superior sound. Like all Beats models, the Zoro has a smooth headband and high-gloss finish. These headphones prioritize tonal balance over fuller bass, which is a departure from Beats. Weighing in at 5.3 oz. and folding up for easy storage, the Zoro take the minimization factor beyond price.
Buy yours here for $62.
The Denon AH-D1100 fly a bit under the radar in a headphone industry that flashier-looking models dominate. And for listeners who want big sound without paying extra for curb appeal, that’s just fine. The AH-D1100s’ plain-Jane look belie the generous bass they provide. Instead of focusing on flashy, appearance-oriented details, Denon decided to zero in on the ones that matter most to sound. You get 50 mm drivers that provide distortion-free listening and smooth bass across the frequency range. The earphones fold up for easy storage, and you get an 11.5-ft. extension cable for listening to your home-entertainment system.
Buy yours here for $99.
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50 is another great alternative to the Beats Solo. If big bass is a big priority, you’ll want to stick with the Beats. If you want unbeatable value, you’ll get it from the ATH-M50. They feature 40-mm neodymium-magnet drivers for well-balanced sound. The bass isn’t as full as some listeners might prefer, but you can’t cut dollars from the price without sacrificing somewhere. Fortunately, comfort is one area where Audio-Technica did not have to budge, and the ATH-M50 should feel good on your ears even after hours of listening.
Buy yours here for $135.
Yamaha PRO 500
With its high-gloss finish throughout, the Yamaha Pro 500 provides an apples-to-apples comparison with the Beats Pro. And although the Pro 500 looks similar to the Beats Pro, its sound is distinct. The drivers are set back slightly, but Yamaha significantly stretches the sound field by doing this. The Pro 500s’ bass response lines up well with that of the Beats Pro. With the Pro 500, you also get detachable cables, one of which features a microphone and three-button control for use with iOS devices.
Buy yours here for $300.
Focal Spirit One
With near-perfect tonal balance and an expansive sound-stage, the Focal Spirit One are audiophile headphones that occupy a similar price-point as the Beats Studio. Two vertical hinges help each soft p-leather earphone maintain a seal around your ears, keeping out most ambient noise. Inside, 40-mm mylar-and-titanium drivers produce the well-balanced tonal range. The Spirit One’s 42-inch cable detaches from the earphone and includes controls for your iOS device. A cushion on the inner part of the headband helps customize its fit, but the Spirit One could be a bit more comfortable.
Buy yours here for $279.
Logitech packs a rich array of features into the UE6000s. Laser-tuned drivers widen the sound-stage and help all of the details of your sound come through, giving you more engaging and pleasurable listening. You also get noise-cancellation, which you can turn on and off. It and a small amplifier run off batteries, but you can still listen to your music when the juice is gone because headphones don’t wholly rely on a power source. And breathable memory-foam cushions on the earphones ensure that your ears stay dry and comfortable as you listen for hours and hours.
Buy yours here for $100.
If you find the Beats’ signature glossy plastic too artificial, you might prefer the more natural appearance of the Griffin WoodTones. Featuring real wood on the earphones, these headphones offer solid audio performance to go with their refined appearance. And at a price-point well below that of the Beats Solo, the WoodTones deliver great value. The bass isn’t as robust on Beats models, but it’s a bit fuller than most audiophiles prefer. Still, the WoodTones give you great performance and classy style for under $100.
Buy yours here for $100.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Beats, how about a set of headphones from Beats’ ex-partner? Monster offers the Inspiration as a direct competitor to the Beats Studio. You can choose either the model with passive noise cancellation or spend an extra $50 or so for the one with active cancellation. Although the Inspirations provides an alternative to Beats, its focus on the mid-range frequencies is a departure from the bass-heavy Beats. Monster also throws in some nice extras,like a total of three detachable cables (including microphone-capability for iOS and Android devices), an extra headband, and a carrying pouch.
Buy yours here for $300.
Harman Kardon BT
Of the various Beats alternatives, the Harman Kardon BT is the best wireless one. These Bluetooth headphones match the robust bass of Beats and, with rectangular earphones, provide a distinctive look. The earphones not only look cool but also comfortably envelope your ears to reduce ambient noise. With your headphones, Harman Kardon includes a wire with a smartphone microphone if you do want to plug in, an extra headband, and a leather carrying case.
Buy yours here for $253.