Clamp a pair of the latest over-ear, noise-canceling cans around your head and the nightmare of commercial air travel can become, well, pretty darn pleasant. Gone is the "suction cup" feel that plagued older sets, and they have better sound quality, thanks to sophisticated digital amps.
We asked San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner to spend a month on the road with four new pairs, listening during bus rides, plane trips, and in the locker room. Bonner is one of the NBA's biggest music fans – when he's not pre-gaming to some Springsteen, he's organizing pickup games with indie celebs like Win Butler of Arcade Fire, or getting the Walkmen to reunite for a benefit show.
To test the headphones' limits, he listened to Deer Tick's "Mange" to see how they reproduced the rock song's high end, A Tribe Called Quest's "Electric Relaxation" for bass, and Björk's "All Is Full of Love" for soundstage and separation. The tracks represent Bonner's diverse taste: "No one else in the NBA listens to the stuff that I do."
All headphones are rated 1 to 10.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70: 7/10
Bonner's rock selections sounded the best on these well-balanced headphones. "They're the most even-sounding of the bunch." He didn't like the fact that they require an AAA battery (like the Panasonics) and he found minor faults with their hybrid metal-and-plastic build. "They don't feel as solid," he said. [$200; audio-technica.com]