2016 has been quite a year. From the Chicago Cubs winning their first world series in over a century to a whirlwind American presidential election, the year is nothing if not full of surprises. As 2016 nears its end we dive into the jolliest time of year, the holidays. For many of us that means traveling around the country or internationally to visit family and friends. Let us not forget this is also the season of giving, and for the audio enthusiasts in your life, this year has provided a bountiful harvest of gear. One also can’t forget all the downtime during travel and the vegging out after a massive reunion dinner that would easily be sweetened by treating yourself to your own shiny new pair of headphones. Let’s take a look at what makes these headphones this year’s most valuable players and find the best Christmas present for that music lover in your life.
Best Budget In-Ear For The Holidays
The Sennheiser CX275S is the kind of headphone that feels like a match for someone who may be on holiday vacation but still has work to do. With an integrated mic on the cable, these headphones will have you seamlessly switching between music and calls on your phone throughout the whole trip. With a super low price tag for the quality, these headphones come with a 2-year warranty from a brand known for top quality audio. In terms of sound quality, the frequency range is fairly neutral with a bit of a boost on the low end. The CX275S makes for a great gift including three sizes of caps to fit your recipient’s ear shape. These earbuds have amazing noise isolation so when you’re sitting around the living room with the extended family you’ll be able to block out heated political debates without drawing any attention to yourself. The only caveat is that similar to other headphones at this price point the cable is thin, so I’d recommend being careful not to snag or tangle it much.
Best Noise Isolating In-Ear For The Holidays
Moving on from the CX275S we come to the still very much affordable Westone UM Pro10. After a very politically charged year, these headphones come in red, white, or blue, perfect for all those in the States still feeling the election adrenaline. The UM’s are very portable with a detachable cable and fantastic noise cancellation. Westone rates the dB’s of passive ambient reduction at 25. Which makes them great once again for avoiding unsavory discussions with the ornery uncle or brother-in-law, while also being great for traveling bands or singers. UM stands for Universal-fit Monitor and was specially designed by Westone to benefit performers by isolating specific instruments or vocals. The malleable cable makes it easy to fit them around one’s ears. Compared to other headphones around the price point the Westone offer a very flat and neutral sound meant for monitoring.
Best Luxury In-Ear Deal For The Holidays
Everyone deserves to feel good during the holidays. After a year of ups and downs the precious time you spend with your loved ones and on vacation should be enjoyable. When you’re between great outings you can get top end sound quality for a fantastic price with the great deal pairing the Westone W60 and Bluetooth adaptor at $799.99. Westone never disappoints with the packaging and accessories and from the moment you open the storybook-esque box of the W60’s you are treated to a colorful array of five pairs of silicone tips and five of foam. Add in the three sets of gleaming shells, two detachable cables, and a sturdy plastic carrying case and you’ve got a complete package for any audio enthusiast. With six drivers the W60’s have a great soundstage and clarity across the spectrum, being notably strong on vocals. When you pair the headphones with Westone’s new Bluetooth adapter you can run around without fear of tangling cables or missing calls from the office. The adapter is water-
resistant so it can rest easily on the back of one’s neck during a workout with no worry. Being a middleman between your music player and headphones the adapter also does a great job at maintaining the quality and soundstage the W60’s bring to the table. Why not treat yourself this holiday season and pick up a W60 with the Bluetooth adapter.
Best Gaming Headphones To Get For The Holidays
For some of us, myself included, the holidays means reconnecting with old buddies and firing up some games. Whether you’re playing them in the same room or different states a good headset can make all the difference in keeping distractions away and communication clear. Enters the Sennheiser PC 373D. These headphones come with a USB cable and are designed for computer gaming use. Part of the 7.1 Dolby Surround crowd, the PC 373D have an open back to widen the arena of your game’s soundstage. Lined with velvet the headset is very comfortable for the hours-long sessions that can erupt. If you need to mute your end for whatever reason all you have to do is swing the mic up and it automatically shuts off. The 373D also comes packaged with software that allows you to choose from a few presets of sound EQ, one of them for example, setting a flat profile best for games where directionality and distance are the main key to survival. The surround sound is also controlled by a removable dongle with a 3.5 jack on the end. Christmas is around the corner and I know that these are definitely going to be the first thing in my shopping cart.
Best Budget On-Ear Bluetooth For The Holidays
At the extreme value side of the audio spectrum, we have the NVX XBTL6. Sporting an unusual design with their square driver housings the XBTL6’s might ever be a conversation starter for the audio curious members of your family. The headphones are comfortable for being on-ear and would be great for staying energized with holiday tunes around the house while preparing for guests or cleaning up between those ugly sweater parties you scoured every thrift store in the city for. And the best part is the headphones are wireless so no worries about switching between your phone and tv for music and home videos. In terms of audio quality the XBTL6’s are on the bassy side. For a price this low and with the utility of Bluetooth the gift-ability of these headphones is top of the charts for people who want to enjoy music without spending nearly the equivalent of next month’s rent.
Best On-Ear Bluetooth For The Holidays
Sennheiser has really been playing a strong game all year. While the NVX XBTL6’s are great entry level, budget Bluetooth, Sennheiser’s Momentum 2.0 is the wireless headphone that more audiophile oriented gifters and giftees will want to take a closer look at. The design of the 2.0 feels like a product of the 70’s seen through a futuristic lens, the frame thin and stainless steel with a leather headband ending in circular black cans. In an upgrade to the original Momentums, the earpads are improved for more bass and the hinges of the 2.0 easily collapse to fold while staying durable. The cans are covered in small buttons to control the Bluetooth functionality and even have a built-in microphone to send and receive calls. Another button activates the Noise Gard active ambient cancellation for decent isolation. These are the headphones for the style conscious traveler who doesn’t want to sacrifice detailed and punchy sound quality.
The New Kid on the Block This Holiday Season
Continuing on with gift ideas for the season of giving, I want to introduce the Sennheiser HD 579. Forged in the same tradition and design as the wildly popular 598’s, the 579 for the price is a force to be reckoned with. The familiar radically soft over-ear pads and headband that pair well with a warm cup of cocoa. Under the hood, these headphones pull no punches with audio quality either. In dense tracks, such as a Christmas orchestral piece, the 579 excels in bringing subtle instruments such as woodwinds to the fore while still empowering the horns to grand dimensions. Very full and rich sound. If your father or father-in-law is on the more conservative side of music these would be a perfect marriage of sound, comfort and sophisticated looks. He might even have to hide them before the whole family asks him to try them out and won’t let go.
The Beyer Bros. Coming in Hot This Holiday Season
Last but not least this year comes one of my personal favorites, the Beyerdynamic DT1770 Pro and DT1990 Pro. Working in video and audio I wanted a top quality headphone that wouldn’t break the bank and so earlier this year I opted for the DT1770. An upgrade to the already stellar 770, the 1770 has really delivered across the line for music listening, production, and gaming. I run it paired with the Chord Mojo DAC to tighten up the strong bass for a balanced frequency profile. Velour pads and a thick headband help ensure that the 1770 never gets irritating. The DT1990 shares many of the same qualities and looks of the all black 1770 but teases something more in the audio quality. With an open back design upgrading the 990, the 1990 really expands the soundstage. The 1990 makes the low end and mid pass pop so much it might make you start dancing in the middle of the living room before you even finish opening presents. Vocals and treble are well detailed and on par with the 1770s presentation. This is a great gift for that special someone in your life that loves pop and dance music that you can bet will love either of these two offerings.
This holiday season is guaranteed to be jolly if you pick up one of these headphones to gift to a love one or to gift oneself. So now when you’re cozying up to the fire or curled up in the plane seat you can rest easy from how amazing your music sounds. you could also feel the pure joy from knowing you’re about to make someone’s day when they tear open the wrapping paper. Armed with this list in your artillery and knowing the names on it you’ll find it easy choosing the naughty and nice.