The Apple Store, both online and in a physical retail space, is well known for its high quality goods, its level of polish and, it should be emphasized, the at-times intimidating prices of its wares. Thus it’s no surprise that the Apple Store sells headphones that are more expensive than even the highest capacity iPod. But does their quality match their price? For that we’ll have to see how well the ten most expensive headphones in the Apple Store have been received.
10. Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – $299.95
While noise cancelling is more often a trait of on- or over-ear headphones—like the remainder of those on this list—they can also be found in earphones as well. Like many high-priced headphones, the QuietComfort 20is use an internal, battery-powered mechanism to cancel out unwanted noise. The process is known as active noise control, wherein unwanted background noise—nearby conversations, traffic, the sound of a washing machine, etc.—is matched by an inverted noise of the same amplitude, cancelling it out. The device which outputs this noise control is normally quite cumbersome, but with the 20is Bose has made its components small enough to fit within the earphones. Reviewing the 20is, PCMag.com said that the earphones’ sound is pre-equalized and might not be for audiophiles, but that they’re of high quality overall, garnering the site’s Editor’s Choice award.
9. Sennheiser Momentum Headphones – $299.95
Sennheiser has a reputation for high quality headphones, and the Momentum set is designed to be luxurious as well, featuring a soft leather headband and integrated controls for various portal Apple products. It also comes with two audio cables so listeners can switch between one with a regular stereo connection and one with a built in smart remote and microphone. CNET praised the headphones in their review, noting that while they aren’t the most portable headphones they’re of excellent sonic and physical quality.
8. Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Over-Ear Headphones – $329.95
A redesigned, somewhat more streamlined version of Dre’s original Beats headphones, the Studio model features two phases of noise cancellation: the first is the standard noise control used to soften external commotion; the second increases the noise control’s power when you’re not listening to music so that most if not all sound is negated—ideal for a sensory deprivation experiment, perhaps. Tech website Digital Trends liked the Studio phones for the most part, though noted that the “treble is shrill and piercing at times” and an “odd thumping noise” could be heard out of the right channel under certain conditions.
7. Bose QuietComfort 3 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – $349.95
The QuietComfort 3s are essentially the big brother (brothers?) of the QuietComfort 20i earphones, featuring the latter’s noise cancelling technology on a larger, on-ear scale. In spite of their size they’re still quite portable, folding flat and fitting into their own carrying case. As well, users are able to recharge the noise canceller’s built in battery on the go with an included cable. Trusted Reviews liked the headphones overall, citing their excellent noise cancellation and a “fun sound,” but lamented that they suffered from “bloated” bass tones and lacked detail in the higher end frequencies.
6. Beats by Dr. Dre Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphones – $379.95
This pricier model does away with one of the more annoying aspects of any set of headphones: the wire. Whether it’s getting tangled up in itself or acquiring fatal wear and tear—thus rendering all the money you’ve spent worthless—the average headphone cable is something most users have to grin and bear. This premium Beats model is capable of transmitting up to 30 feet—twice as far as most headphone cords are long—and features the same noise cancelling technology and bassy sound that’s made Dr. Dre’s brand famous. Reviews for the headset are scarce, though as with any other pair of Beats there have been complaints about the amount of bass it puts out as opposed to midrange and treble.
5. Turtle Beach i60 Wireless iOS Media Headset – $399.95
Built specifically for Apple devices, Turtle Beach’s i60s essentially attempt to recreate a full surround sound experience in headphone form, capable of playing back sound in 7.1 using DTS technology. You can even use them as a headset for your phone, with microphones built into the device itself. And for an added bit of comfort, the ear padding is made up of memory foam. Guy Cocker of gadget site T3 enjoyed the i60s’ sound quality, comfort and extra battery life (10 hours), but docked points for an excess of buttons and poor wireless range, among other criticisms.
4. BeoPlay H6 Over-Ear Headphones by B&O Play – $399.95
B&O Play’s BeoPlay H6 headphones have a clean, even retro design that looks like they would be at home next to a ’70s or ’80s sound system, and unlike the bassier Beats by Dre series place an emphasis on clarity in the midrange. They’re constructed from “luxury materials”—leather head band and anodized aluminum—and feature a built in remote with microphone. The H6s have been largely positively received, though PCMag criticized their $400 price and an aggregate review at Head-Fi.org said that the best sound from these headphones could only be achieved through a proper amplifier as opposed to an iPod.
3. Bowers & Wilkins P7 Over-Ear Headphones – $399.95
If you say “B&W” fast enough it sounds like “BMW,” which is fitting as the P7s possess a similar combination of quality and comfort. For the former, these headphones use “loudspeaker-inspired” drive units to create a high fidelity experience for one’s ears, with better base and advertised improved vocals, bass and overall balance. For the latter, the ear pads are designed to mold themselves to the sides of the user’s head and even utilize comfy sheepskin leather. While not wireless like a fair number of the highest price headphones in the Apple store, they’re nonetheless quite portable, able to fold up “sunglass” style into a carrying case. In spite of their comfort and hi-fi sound, the P7s have been critiqued for being expensive and for not possessing the best noise cancellation, according to Trusted Reviews.
2. Parrot Zik Wireless Headphones by Starck – $399.95
The Parrot Ziks advertise up to 98% noise reduction through its four ANC microphones, which is in itself a decent promise to make to a possible buyer. But their bigger selling points are the touch sensitive volume controls built into the right headphone and their ability to automatically pause whatever music you may be listening to when they detect they have been removed from the ear. They also feature a “Parrot Concert Hall” effect, wherein sound isn’t heard directly from the left or right but from a forward direction, as if the listener is hearing a band or orchestra play in a live, physical space. Most outlets have enjoyed the Parrot Ziks for their comfort and sound quality, though their score has been tempered by occasional glitches and a subpar carrying case.
1. Beats by Dr. Dre Pro Over-Ear Headphones – $449.95
It’s no surprise that the most expensive set of headphones in the Apple store are a pair of Beats by Dre. Coming in close to $500, the Pro Beats are intended to be the ultimate portable listening luxury item, with solid construction, overstuffed earphones (which can be taken off and washed, no less) and an output mode that allows people in your vicinity to hear what you’re listening to. The Pro Beats have understandably gotten a lot of praise for their design and sound quality, though Digital Trends say they might be too physically heavy for some listeners and, of course, listeners may say the bass is a little too high.