It's been a good year for headphones, with a huge range of innovations and interesting technologies released to the market. We've picked our favourite five pairs of the year.
Winner: Sennheiser HD 800 headphones
As a pair of headphones, the Sennheiser HD 800 outclasses everything else we've tested this year by a significant margin. The perfect combination of incredibly detailed sound quality and reasonably good long-term listening comfort makes them the perfect headphones for marathon sessions with your $20,000 home audio setup.
What's Hot: Incredible sound quality, comfortable
The Final Word: Despite the price we were very impressed with the Sennheiser HD 800 headphones. They consistently handled every bass and treble note we threw at them, and the build quality is exceptional.
Runner Up: Sennheiser MM 450 Travel headset
Whether these are headphones or not is up for question. Technically we suppose the MM 450 Travel is a headset aimed at mobile phone users — indeed, we performed the majority of our testing via Bluetooth with an Apple iPhone 3GS. The Sennheiser MM 450 bundles Bluetooth wireless connectivity and seriously good active noise cancelling into a folding, portable set of on-ear headphones that are exceptionally well built. It's a pity they suck up battery power like nothing else, though.
What's Hot: Great noise cancelling for an on-ear model, good Bluetooth implementation, good sound quality
The Final Word: Sennheiser's premier Bluetooth travel headset has great sound quality considering its portability. Good active noise cancelling and a flawless Bluetooth implementation make it even more appealing.
Highly Commended: Sony MDR-NC500D headphones
Sony's MDR-NC500D noise-cancelling cans are exceptionally stylish. The accompanying lifestyle imagery featured a super-suave traveller on a plane wearing his Sony headphones — presumably to keep the deafening din of other first-class passengers out of his ears, with a little help from Sony's active noise-cancellation technology. We'd definitely rate the MDR-NC500D's noise-cancellation implementation as one of the year's best — oh, and the sound isn't too bad either.
Highly Commended: Logitech Ultimate Ears 700 canalphonesLogitech's mid-range Ultimate Ears canalphones came onto our radar for their impressive mixture of sound quality, passive noise cancellation and comfort (which, given that they're a traditionally invasive in-ear design, is a remarkable feat).
What's Hot: Great sound quality, minimalist design, good noise isolation
The Final Word: Logitech's Ultimate Ears 700 in-ear headphones retain the sound quality, noise isolation and design hallmarks of the Ultimate Ears brand. These in-ear monitors will suit the discerning listener and provide a high level of comfort.
Highly Commended: Creative Aurvana Air earphones
Creative's Aurvana Air earphones are great mix of style and sound quality. They may not be the most comfortable earphones we've ever worn but they do distinguish themselves with an award-winning design and a clean, detailed sound.
What's Hot: Attractive design for over-the-ear ear-buds, detailed and lively sound
The Final Word: The Creative Aurvana Air ear-buds are well designed and brilliantly constructed. Their detailed, rich sound is an unexpected bonus, but their high price tag places them squarely in competition with some worthy alternatives.