Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek, hair and makeup: Laura Dee Shelley

Six Headphones for Different Needs

  1. Listen Up
    1

    Listen Up

    An earful on six pairs of headphones to meet a range of musical needs.

    All-Around Excellence
    Grado GS1000i (pictured)

    $995; crutchfield.com
    If you plug these into your iPhone, you’re a moron. But connected to a serious home system, the experience rivals a roomful of speakers. The GSs are (partly) crafted out of mahogany and surround the ear with space for air and sound to circulate. Think of them less as speakers and more as two tiny concert halls with a headband to connect them.

    Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek, hair and makeup: Laura Dee Shelley
  2. AKG K391 NC
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    AKG K391 NC

    Great for Airplane Travel

    $199.95; us.akg.com
    AKG’s earbuds feature the same noise-canceling tech as the ubiquitous Bose pair but in a more stowable package. The rechargeable battery can be topped off via USB port, and the earbuds come with an attached microphone and three-button remote compatible with iPhones, iPads, iPods, and MacBooks.
    Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek
  3. Bowers & Wilkins P3
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    Bowers & Wilkins P3

    Everyday On-Ear

    $199.95; store.apple.com
    If earbuds aren’t your thing, these may be your move. Bowers & Wilkins has been making high-end audio equipment for nearly 35 years, and the P3s are the company’s midprice model for everyday use. These headphones don’t so much encapsulate your ears as sit on top of them, which means more ventilation. They’re not the most isolating headphones, but if you’re wearing them while crossing the street, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

    Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek
  4. Velodyne vPulse
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    Velodyne vPulse

    Big Sound in a Smaller Package

    $99; velodyne.com
    Velodyne knows from bass—the company made its name in subwoofers—but it’s designed a line of earbuds that sound great whether you’re listening to Kanye or Enya. The vPulses include a microphone so you can use them with your smartphone, and the flat cable keeps things relatively tangle-free. They’re also available in three colors, freeing you from the white-earbudded masses.

    Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. Monoprice Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi Noise Isolating Earphones
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    Monoprice Enhanced Bass Hi-Fi Noise Isolating Earphones

    Use Them and Lose Them

    $7.57; monoprice.com
    If you’re looking for a basic pair of earbuds, buy half a dozen of these and use them as if they were disposable. They are less than eight bucks and sound totally fine. While they can’t match some high-end models that go for $100 or more, they’re as good, if not better, than mediocre name-brand models that cost $35.

    Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek
  6. Sennheiser RS 180
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    Sennheiser RS 180

    Best for Wireless Home Theaters

    $329.95; en-us.sennheiser.com
    These wireless headphones are made to work with your TV and other home-theater equipment. The transmitter base (also a charging dock for the headphones) sends out a signal that can be picked up from as far as 320 feet away. Additional headphones can be linked to the same transmitter—great for new parents rocking a newborn to sleep while watching Road House on TBS.

    Photographs by Aaron Dyer for Bloomberg Businessweek, hair and makeup: Laura Dee Shelley