We're all used to carrying our music around with us these days, whether it be on iPod or mobile phone. But it's very rare to get a decent set of headphones in the same box as a portable music player of any kind, so it's well worth investigating a better class of headphone altogether - and you don't need to spend a fortune.
We looked at half a dozen different options with a variety of features that should make choosing an iPod upgrade that bit easier, and not a one of them for more than £70.
Creative AURVANA Live!
Creative's Aurvana Live! headphones have a sleek look and a stylish black gloss, cupped ear design. Creative claims the ear cups have been specially shaped for sound projection aiming to increase the clarity of what you hear. They are also a good shape for fitting around the ear with sufficient padding for comfort and a surprisingly effective degree of noise isolation. For an upgrade to a personal music player they are on the large side, but they remain comfortable to wear and size is soon forgotten once you've begun to appreciate the design benefits.
I really underestimated the playback quality on these headphones and was delighted when I discovered the clarity that's available at high volumes and the improved bass on some of my more demanding (ie metal) genres. Vocals generally sounded crisp and clear and distortion was reduced compared to many standard ear buds but I noticed a distinct lack of treble on several tracks and felt that the AURVANAs focused more on the bass output, which is admittedly impressive, but should be only a part of the picture.
This is a really good set of headphones for the price, and delivered well with many different types of music, equaliser settings and locations. The main drawback is not being able to hear what's going on around you when you're on the move, which I found a bit disconcerting. The treble can get a bit hazy when overpowered by bass but they're a good all-rounder for the price and give a good amount of bang for your buck.
Okay, so they're not as obviously portable as some of the other 'phones in this test but different users will need different style headphones so if you're not averse to a bit of bulkiness around the ears, these are well worth considering.
Comfortable with good noise isolation Minus points
Treble can be hazy during demanding periods
Grado's IGrado is an open back set of neckband headphones that for me just felt terribly uncomfortable to wear. They're large, rigid and look rather cheap compared to the quality of some the other cans in this test.
Fortunately, they make up for their design limitations with a more than decent sound across the spectrum. The one disadvantage is that they produce it everywhere, leaking sound like a sieve, which is perhaps not that surprising since they also look a bit like one. They're fine for home listening, but less ideal for the daily commute.
The sound they convey features a great midrange which will deliver the bulk of your music extremely well, while the bass is also quite full. Despite this however, the disadvantages of comfort and design weigh heavily against this. For sound quality alone, these headphones are great but I was unable to wear them for long periods due to how uncomfortable they feel.
Price Comparison: Price: £40 Mpre info:Grado Type: Open back neckband headphones Weight: 90g Sensitivity: 99dB SPL
Clear, crisp sound Minus points
Uncomfortable and tend to leak noise