Every generation has an “it” item. In the ’80s, it was a dooky chain. In the ’90s, a pair of fresh Air Jordans. Now, everyone wants a set of newly minted headphones. For some of us, the bigger and shinier, the better. But for those of us who give equal value to function and form, here are a handful of sets that deliver when it comes to sound, size and value.
1. Soul by Ludacris SL300 Hands down, the best of the bunch for big stereo surround sound, with supreme ear comfort and stylish looks. The ear cups articulate, the noise cancellation is a nice touch, and the option to turn up the intensity (for when you’re alone) or bring it down (for when you’re on an airplane) is genius. Cost: $299.95 at headphones.com Extras: Bling, baby! They come with a dust cloth for wiping off fingerprints. Comfort level: ***** Bottom line: Great for nearly everyone except for the ultimate audiophile. Also requires two AAA batteries, but the extra sound quality is worth it. Best for: The label fanatic
2. V-Moda True Blood Revamp High-Fidelity Trade those no-name earbuds for professional-grade earphones. Not only does this particular model shill for True Blood (and come with a cool “bloody” motif), but it also sounds as good as its larger counterparts and takes up less space while crisply interpreting bass, mid and high notes. Cost: $99 at v-moda.com Extras: A gold-plated plug and a Kevlar-reinforced cable Bottom Line: Efficient Comfort Level: ** Best for: The music guru on the go
3. AIAIAI Tracks These Danish picks are minimalistic and come with removable earpieces that don’t cup, but sit on top of, the ear. There is some assembly required, which is odd, but they perform well. But move too much and they’ll slide right off. Cost: $97 at aiaiai.dk Extras: Cloth carry case fits easily inside purse or book bag Comfort level: ***** Bottom line: Euro-cool Best for: The hipster
4. Nixon Nomadic Mic These headphones are stylish, androgynous and sexy. The band is made of synthetic leather for you vegans out there. Memory foam ear cushions don’t cancel all outside noise but are ultracomfortable. For the real spin masters, an alternate cord is attached to hook up to your pro tools. Cost: $120 at nixonnow.com Extras: Very cool swivel earpieces and carry case Comfort level: ** Bottom line: Looks expensive Best for: The business traveler
5. Urbanears Plattan Sometimes you just want “cute” headphones with better-than-average sound. This Swedish option fits the bill. They have good bass, don’t distort too much at a high level and are a departure from the more “manly” headsets on the market. Cost: $60 at Nordstrom.com Extras: Swivel earpieces Comfort level: *** Bottom line: Supercute Best for: The fashionista
6. TDK Life on Record ST-800 High Fidelity These are the Aston Martins of headphones: fine leather, comfortably articulating ear cups and an equalizer to adjust bass and treble to your preference. Cost: $179.99 at bestbuy.com Extras: Two cord options and the equalizer Comfort level: **** Bottom line: Status headphones Best for: The CEO