Top 5 headphones

We round up the 5 best pairs of headphones on the market

Whether you're looking for noise-cancelling headphones to shut out the ruckus or a pair of discreet in-ear monitors — we've got you covered, rounding up five of the best pairs of headphones that have passed through our test centre.

Best noise-cancelling headphones: Sony MDR-NC500D

The shiny and attractive over-the-ear Sony MDR-NC500D headphones act as a veritable cone of silence, working hard to block out ambient noise. The ear-cups are a bit tight and the high price tag is an even surer route to a migraine, but these are some of the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market.

What's Hot: Stylish and scratch-resistant exterior, comfortable padding, battery pack for extended use, good sound quality, noise cancelling works exceptionally well.

The Final Word: The Sony MDR-NC500D noise-cancelling headphones do a fantastic job of blocking out repetitive ambient noise. When listening to music they also acquit themselves well, with clear sound and a pleasant character.

Best in-ear headphones: Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi

They may be small, but the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi in-ear headphones have it all — from rich, warm bass to crystal-clear mid-range and treble. By forming a seal with your ear canal, the Triple.Fi headphones help block out ambient noise and ensure excellent bass reproduction. Ultimate Ears even provides a variety of rubber and foam tips to ensure a proper seal, which is important for getting the most out of in-ear headphones.

What's Hot: Exquisite audio, strong bass, incredible detail, great extension on highs.

The Final Word: If you're after a high-end pair of IEMs, you will be hard pressed to find better than the Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi headphones. Their sound signature is more detailed and less bass heavy than their main competitor, the Shure E500s, but they are every bit as impressive.

Best open headphones: AKG Acoustics K701

The AKG's Acoustics K701 open headphones are excellent, with incredible clarity and punchy bass. You may find them more suitable for jazz, acoustic and classical music than rock and roll tracks, however.

What's Hot: Great treble notes, incredibly smooth sound, detailed mid-range, tight bass.

The Final Word: AKG's K701 headphones are some of the best on the market. They aren't as bass-heavy as some of their competition but the low-range notes are still impressive and when combined with the detailed mid-range and sweet highs, you get a fantastic, smooth audio experience.

Best closed headphones: AKG K272HD

If you're after flawless clarity in your treble and realistic bass reproduction, then the AKG K272HD closed headphones are very hard to go past. In fact, the only problem with these headphones (if you can call it a fault) is that fact that they're too clear — any audio errors in damaged tracks or low-quality MP3s will suddenly become obvious to you.

What's Hot: Balanced and even sound, transparency exposes every hidden instrument

The Final Word: These headphones are fantastic for listening to high-quality audio. They're balanced, even, and reproduce all frequencies admirably. Their only stumbling point is that they're too good at exposing the inadequacies of compressed MP3s and poor recordings.

Best of the best: Sennheiser HD 800

It's a tough call, but we've made it — the Sennheiser HD 800s are the best headphones you can lay your hands on. They cost a whopping $2499 — and that’s before you buy a dedicated headphone amplifier to power them. But if you're willing to sacrifice the equivalent of a round-the-world plane ticket then you'll be listening to fantastic treble, mid-range and bass.

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.

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David Ramli

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