Atomic Floyd SuperDarts
For a pair of earphones that cost $299, you would expect them to deliver a sound experience that impresses you every time you use them.
You want the sound to be crisp and punchy, smooth and deep, soothing and yet startling. You want the high-end to tingle on your ear drums, with every sonic vibration adding extra detail to the soundscape.
And the Superdarts manage all this with aplomb.
The solid stainless steel earbuds each contain dual drivers, which means two mini speakers in each ear. This is an expensive way to build an earbud, but it undoubtedly delivers better sound, with each driver individually handling a separate part of the sound spectrum.
The SoftSeal silicone eartips create a good level of noise isolation to eliminate external noises too, and the Kevlar cable is so tangle-free you'll spend ages trying to trick it.
The headset is Made For iPhone, which can be picky at times when it comes to Android phones. The remote button may work, but the volume keys certainly won't... although the placement is very good and picks up voice well.
So the Superdarts are pretty good then. They're brilliant, in fact. You just need to decide whether you can afford the price.
If you can't, you can content yourself with the knowledge that you'll never know how good your music could have sounded. And if you can? Your ears will love you for the rest of your life.
The brand known for its amplifiers dives into our headphones run down with a set of odd-looking buds - the Minors are by far the largest buds on test.
The fit is achieved by twisting the unit into the ear using a range of tips that slot into the various extrusions on your ears, and while this is novel, it can quickly get uncomfortable.
It also lets a lot of noise leak in, so unless you're dead against in-ear options, these might get tiresome after a while.
That said, for the price the sound quality is immense - the drivers we assume are stuffed into those large frames are certainly pumping out crystal clear sound and the inline microphone is also one of the most audible to those on the other line on test.
They look weird, but sound great - but beware, unless you're fine with a lack of noise isolation and slightly uncomfortable fits, these might not be the best for you.
Sometimes you don't want to spend thousands of pennies on new headphones - although technically you still would be for the Jabra Rhythms, at least its fewer coins you'll need.
Jabra promises to have tuned each pair of ear buds especially for different types of music, and while none of them really hit anything approaching a really impressive sonic performance, the Rhythms are the most acceptable of the lot.
The buds fit relatively well, although we had issue getting a tip that really fitted well from the three on offer - and the inline microphone really works much better than you'd expect from the price.
There are loads of headphones in electronics shops for around $20 that offer a really substandard performance - so in that mini league, the Jabra Rhythms are clear winners.
Headphones that don't sound terrible, and won't make you cry tears of frustrated anger should you lose or break them - the Rhythms are decent quality and super cheap too.
If you're fed up with the mountains of cash festooned about your person, or want a pair of headphones that, you know, are actually quite good, then these iPhone upgrades to Sennheiser's powerful IE8's are a decent option,
They'll work with most phones as a hands free too, although like most the volume buttons won't function, and certainly offer a deep and tight sonic experience, with solid, and more importantly rich, bass levels combined with a much stronger performance at the high end than most headphones on test here.
You can even tune the headphones using a small screw - although we found that unless you're desperate for swathes of bass you'll be better off holding this at the mid-to-low setting.
You also get a whopping 10 tips to experiment with for your cash, so you'll always find something to fit in your ear - and while the plastic casing doesn't feel in the least bit premium, it's lightweight and handy for making the headphones portable.
A quality pair of headphones that are really only worth considering if you've got a lot of cash to spend - the sonic range is impressive and the range of tips are really helpful in finding the right fit, although be warned: the speaker section that sits in your ear is a bit larger than others on the market.
A pseudo-successor to the insanely popular CX300 set, Sennheiser is looking to corner the market in inexpensive upgrades to your bundled headphones.
The MM50s are what you'd expect from such a purchase, with a snug fit in the ear and a decent level of clarity for the cash - bass heavy if we're being critical, but not terribly so.
The quality of the headphone cord is average and feels a little spindly - we didn't have any trouble with it breaking or cracking in our tests, but don't pull on the wire too heavily when yanking them out a bag.
For the price, this is a decent upgrade to the inbox headphones you get in the box - audio clarity outstrips the value for sure.
The X10i's from Klipsch represent a real investment in your listening experience, as even with a recent price drop they're still a pretty costly affair.
However, unlike most of the anonymous black buds on offer, these come with a cool stylised aluminium 'tail', which is designed to be an acoustic dampener.
We could chat for ages about the audio quality - the best way to describe it would be 'natural sounding' - giving a wide range of sonic ability without needing to overcompensate for any track. In terms of a set of buds for all occasions, you can't go wrong with these.
But it's the fit in the ear that we love. Not just because of the ridiculously light 10g weight, but the smaller dimensions and angled frame means they sit almost perfectly in the ear and, while not the most adept at noise isolation, feel the most comfortable for long-term use.
Slightly pricey, but not out of the price range of most - and the sleek and easy to find inline microphone is among the better we've seen on test.
Price: $149.95 (plus US$150 for custom tips)
In a world dominated by background noise, there's only one thing that can save our music - custom earbud tips.
That's right - while the HF3 range is sonically one of our favourite on test, nothing beats the fact you can get your own set of customised earbuds and never have to worry about the sound of the tube disturbing your listening experience again.
We fully recommend getting the custom tips as while you might have to pay around $300 total, it properly realises the power of these strong and lightweight buds. With the inbuilt tips, sound is generally quite good; but with the silicon moulded options, the entire range could be felt and more importantly the bass was improved no end.
If money was no object, we'd recommend these headphones above all else on test, and not just because of the option for customised buds.
With a well positioned microphone and strong build quality, there's a lot to love here, even for the price.
Denon AH-C 560R
We weren't sure what to expect when we picked up the Denon options, and we have to say that what we were given didn't exactly blow us away.
In fact, it's hard to say anything particularly unique about the Denon 560R's, as while we weren't upset by the bass or high levels, the sound quality was just a bit... average. Roughly what you'd expect for a $169 pair of headphones, but without the wow-factor others have managed to deliver.
The fit was snug enough though, and you'll find these among the more comfortable to wear - the range of ear buds was impressive and offered good noise isolation - although we did experience a fair level of noise leakage.
One of the big problems we did have with these buds is the microphone - the buttons are easy to hit, but it was nigh-on useless as a hands on microphone on the street. One to stay away from if you want something with pizzazz and to actually use it as a hands free kit.