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Gadgets & Home Improvement

If you can't blast it, can it

These 4 headphones balance size, design and versatility across a broad price spectrum.
The Business Times - June 23, 2012
By: Christopher Lim
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If you can't blast it, can it Sennheiser HD 700 rn$1,399rnrnWHEN Sennheiser's flagship HD 800 headphones launched three years ago, it polarised fans of the brand with both its sound and design.rnrnIt sounds bright and so ruthlessly revealing that poorly recorded recordings

Sennheiser HD 700
$1,399

WHEN Sennheiser's flagship HD 800 headphones launched three years ago, it polarised fans of the brand with both its sound and design.

It sounds bright and so ruthlessly revealing that poorly recorded recordings become unlistenable, and its metallic industrial design is a far cry from the rounded plastic of yore.

The HD 700 deftly straddles middle ground between the uncompromising edginess of the HD800 and the restrained Sennheiser house style exemplified by the former flagship, the HD 650.

The earcups are open-backed, which gives wearing comfort and airy sound at the expense of noise isolation. But the 1.6kg headphones are far smaller and lighter than most open-backed competitors, and sit on your head like they are barely there.

They still require a headphone amplifier to sound their best, and won't fold flat, but are as portable as these types of headphones get.

In fact, as an overall package, the HD 700 outperforms its $2,099 bigger brother in terms of musicality, versatility, design and wearing comfort.

The Sennheiser HD 700 will be available either late next month or in early August from Sennheiser retailers.

Focal Spirit One
$399

THE Focal Spirit One is a bit of a giant killer in that it gives great bang for the buck in a package that looks and feels premium.

They are closed-back headphones that provide some noise isolation without making your ears feel too stuffy.

There's a decent amount of bass and moderate mid-range reproduction of things such as vocals, but treble clarity is where it really impresses. It's got detail and sparkle that's very hard to find at this price, and absent from brands targeting the hip-hop market.

A removable cloth cable is a nice touch that prevents tangling, and incorporates controls for Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. What's more, it folds flat in a rigid case for travelling. The Focal Spirit One is available from Focal retailers, such as Robinsons, Isetan and AV One.

Bose OE2i
$269

BOSE may be the default choice for many travellers looking for noise-cancelling headphones, but not every Bose fan needs to shut out noise to that degree, nor wants to pay the premium for those fancy electronics.

That's where the OE2i shines. It's smaller and lighter than Bose's noise-cancelling models, folds flat in a rigid case, and comes with controls on the cable that work with Apple gadgets and computers for tasks such as making calls and controlling playback.

It sounds decent, with a mid-range emphasis, but is more about portability and convenience than outright sound quality.

A version without Apple controls, the OE2, is available for $50 less, but if you do happen to use Apple gadgets, the extra expense is worth it. The Bose OE2 and OE2i are available in black or white from Bose retailers, the Atlas Experience Audio Visual Boutique, and Bose at Millenia Walk.

Razer BlackShark Battlefield 3 Collector's Edition
$149.90

URBAN headphone styling's all the rage these days, with brands such as Monster, Skullcandy and Soul by Ludcris pushing colourful style as much as substance.

Gaming chic, however, is a relatively unexplored look, so donning the Razer BlackShark Battlefield 3 Collector's Edition - with its stripped-down aviator styling and orange trim - will make you stand out without looking garish. It works with many gadgets such as iPhones, and the removable rotating boom microphone works well for calls although there are no remote controls for volume, etc.

It's voiced like most urban-style headphones, with more emphasis on bass than treble. Unsurprisingly, the BlackShark works best in its native habitat of games, although bear in mind that they are stereo, not surround sound.

The Razer BlackShark Battlefield 3 Collector's Edition will be available next month from Razer retailers.

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