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18 Headphone Brands Ranked from Best to Worst

on May 07, 2014, 1:25pm

Like many newbies to the headphones scene, I initially thought the bigger, the better. Obviously I was sorely disappointed when I bought an enormous, over-the-ear, neon-colored pair and subjected my precious ears to shrill, grating noise — and no, it was not the Linkin Park album I was blasting. Over time, I slowly evolved and grew to become a more discerning audio equipment consumer, finding styles and brands to my liking, while also knowing which ones to completely avoid (sorry, Dr. Dre).

But if you want to save yourself the money and avoid that whole fiasco of trial and error, this new list touting the best headphones in the biz might be worth your time. After surveying nearly 3,000 headphones of all varieties, styles, prices, etc., TIME.com assigned one each a grade from 1-100 based on these two factors:

a) 75% expert reviews from tech-oriented publications like CNET, Wired, PC Mag
b) 25% specs and features like frequency and noise canceling ability

As expected, the list contains many of the industry’s big names, including Koss, JVC, Bose, Klipsch, and Sony. Also not surprising is the fact that the highly-promoted and celebrity-sponsored brands (Beats by Dre, Skullcandy) received relatively lackluster reviews. Meanwhile, brands consistently backed by studio nerds and audiophiles alike, such as Sennheiser and Audio-Technica, scored big. For what it’s worth, after blowing through countless shoddy headphones, I can vouch for #3 and #5 — they’re both deserving of their high marks.

Check out the graph of all 18 headphone brands, ranked best to worst, below:


01. Shure (90)
02. Grado (89)
03. Klipsch (84)
04. Pioneer (83)
05. Sony (80)
06. AKG (79)
07. Sennheiser (78)
08. JVC (75)
09. Audio-Technica (74)
10. Panasonic (74)
11. Apple (74)
12. Bose (73)
13. Philips (72)
14. Creative (68)
15. Koss (68)
16. Skullcandy (62)
17. Beats by Dre (58)
18. Plantronics (57)

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