Value for money

Tue, Mar 20, 2012, 00:00

Headphones

Bose Quiet Comfort 15 €349.99

We fell in love with these as soon as we put them on. They may not look as cool as some of the other headphones on the market but the noise reduction technology in the cans means that background noise fades away in a heartbeat and allowed us to enter an oasis of calm. The sound from these is genuinely amazing – as good as we have ever heard – but silence is also pretty special. Particularly if you want to get some sleep on planes or in a boring business meeting. The truth is you will struggle to find a better set of headphones anywhere but if your finances are anything like Pricewatch’s, you will also struggle to find the cash to pay for them. At €350 a pop these will be prohibitively expensive for most people. The noise-cancelling system requires batteries and when the battery dies it takes the music with it although Bose says you’ll get 35 hours from a single AAA battery.

Verdict: Brilliant if you can afford it

Star rating: ****

Sennheiser HD 203 €39.90

This company makes a lot of very good headphones at prices which are affordable. When it comes to value for money, these finished on top. The sound is very good – although not as good as the Bose headphones – and the noise-isolating design is effective in reducing ambient noise. And they should be within most people’s price range. They seem sturdy enough and are very comfortable. They are on the bulky side and struggle to compete with some of the pricier rivals from an aesthetic perspective. The wire, at nearly 10ft, seems ridiculously long to us although it is perhaps designed for listening to audio at a desk rather than on the move. Aesthetics aside, if you want good sound at a good price these are very hard to beat.

Verdict: Great value

Star rating: *****

Creative WP-300 €99.99

The unique selling point of these headphones is their wireless nature – they use Bluetooth technology to stream sound from enabled devices – and while being freed from wires is a good thing, it is not entirely problem-free. The battery life of these headphones is just eight hours after which it takes them an hour to recharge and while that might not sound like a long time, it is forever if you’re racing to catch a bus. They also only work with Bluetooth-enabled devices which is grand if you’re listening to music on your phone or tablet but not much use if you’re using a more old school iPod or PC. The audio quality is good, the bass notes are powerful but don’t leave your teeth rattling and the sound across the range is nicely balanced. They are not the most attractive headphones and did not sit that well on our ears, although perhaps Pricewatch has freakishly big ears.

Verdict: Both liberating and limiting

Star rating: ***

Monster’s Beats by Dr Dre €299.99

Hmmm. Okay so these headphones, designed by the hip hop legend who has his name all over the branding, do look sort of cool and while they have reached an almost iconic status over the last three years, with the distinctive red “b” on the ear piece and the red cabling, they are still quite ridiculous. They are undoubtedly comfortable, with a whole lot of padding around the ears and the sound is also very good. They also come with a mic so you can talk on your iPhone when a call comes through while you have them on. But there’s a but. A big one. The price is outlandish. They are six times dearer than the Sennheiser headphones and no better in terms of sound quality. We can’t help but wonder how much of the cost price is going to cover the marketing spend.

Verdict: Don’t believe the hype

Star rating: **

Apple Earphones €30

Speaking of iconic, there few things which are more iconic right now than Apple products. These are the cheapest of the brands reviewed this week and while audiophiles frequently mock them for their fadiness and possibly inferior sound quality, we thought they were grand without being in any way special. The remote control and mic in the “control capsule” on the cable is handy enough and allows you to adjust the volume by answer and end calls. The buds did not sit all that well in our ears and frequently popped out – particularly when we were engaged in any class of exercise which makes them mildly annoying. While the sound is grand, it isn’t a patch on the more high-end options. These are a whole lot more portable than the others mind you. And they do come from Apple and it’s not on to criticise Apple products, is it?

Verdict: Okay

Star rating: ***