Last night over drinks, a buddy of mine who is a professional mastering engineer -- meaning he mostly listens for a living -- prepared to gush over his brand-new work headphones. When I asked him if they were Beats Electronics brand cans, he scoffed. Twitter is buzzing along with business websites over yesterday's announcement that Apple has acquired Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine's Beats Electronics for a staggering $3 billion. The downside of this news, at least for Beats -- although, probably not really -- is that it calls renewed attention to the actual quality of the company's trendy headphones, with most analysts surmising that Apple is far more interested in Beats' nascent streaming music service than its hardware. Here are five commercial headphones that put Beats to shame:
Bowers & Wilkins P7 - These are sleek black leather, like BMW upholstery for your ears. But besides my friend's assurance that they sound like heaven, their flexibility and durability are impressive. At around $400 and professional quality, they're probably most comparable to the Beats Pro line.
Sennheiser HD650 - They may look a bit clunkier than Beats, with their big speaker-bedecked earpieces, but their sound quality rivals the Beats Pro.
Bose QuietComfort 15 - If you're looking to block out the world around you, these noise canceling headphones from audio giant Bose are ones to beat.
V-Moda Crossfade - I have a DJ friend who swears by these. While similar in sound to the Beats Pro -- bass heavy -- these are still said to be clearer and produce more distinct highs and mids.
Apple EarPods - How's this for sad irony? Findthebest.com rates the standard Apple earbuds that come with most iPhones higher in quality than Beats fashionable Urbeats despite the fact that they typically cost a third of the price.