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.
New Beats Studio: 9/10
Bonner liked the build quality and thoughtful features like the auto shutoff and the visible battery meter on these popular models but faulted them for a rechargeable battery that lasts for only 20 hours maximum. Their sonics spoke volumes: "Their amp is louder than all the others, and they're the tightest-sounding – from the bumped-up low end to the cymbals." [$300; beatsbydre.com]