2015 Editors’ Choice: Headphones $400 or Less

Equipment report
Categories:
Headphones,
Headphones
|
Products:
Bowers & Wilkins P3,
Bowers & Wilkins P5,
Grado Laboratories Grado SR60i headphones,
HiFiMAN HE-400,
PSB M4U 2
2015 Editors’ Choice: Headphones $400 or Less

Grado SR60i
$79
One of the great audio bargains, the SR60i has the signature Grado midrange excellence. It also delivers just enough midbass warmth to satisfy, though for bandwidth, low-level detail, and neutrality, you can do better if you pay more.


Bowers & Wilkins P3
$199
B&W’s P3 on-ear headphones are compact, ergonomically satisfying, and beautifully made. Neutrally balanced and harmonically correct, it has a midrange our reviewer described as “a thing of beauty,” staking out that elusive middle ground between “too warm and rich, and too lean and analytical.”

Bowers & Wilkins P5
$299
The P5’s balance is attractive, especially if you value a clear midrange. Its treble is also better than most. Instruments and voices are conveyed with a smoothness and level of detail reminiscent of the way things sound in life. Seductive-sounding, comfortable, easy to drive, and relatively portable.


HiFiMAN HE-400
$399
The planar-magnetic HE-400 is quite well balanced, and unusually open and transparent for its price. It’s also better than most at revealing subtle inner details in the music. The effect is like a “junior” version of the firm’s superb HE-500. Can be driven by an iPod but sounds best when pushed by a good portable amp.

PSB Speakers M4U 2
$400
Designed and developed by PSB’s Paul Barton, the M4U 2 is one of the cleverest, most wellthought- out, and best-executed headphones on the market. It boasts a wonderfully extended and neutral tonal balance, with voicing that deliberately adds a touch of bass lift to emulate the low-frequency “room gain” most loudspeakers enjoy. Very good, though not class-leading, in clarity and dynamic swagger, the M4U 2 also offers active noise-cancelling to suppress background noise. If you only plan on owning one headphone for all possible listening contexts, strongly consider this one.

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