At the $250 list price, Scosche's IEM856md and IEM856m canalbuds aren't cheap, but they offer great, well-balanced sound with no glaring weaknesses. Their substantially lower street prices make them potentially great values.
We tested four desktop amplifiers, each with a built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC), aimed at turning your Mac into a quality desktop audio system.
Shure's SE315 features design and ergonomics that are as good as it gets for in-ear-canal headphones without stepping up to custom models, and audio quality is excellent. The company's $60 CBL-M+-K-EFS cable option adds headset functionality.
The $75 MEElectronics A151 is a canalphone that uses balanced-armature technology to provide accurate, balanced sound. It's a strong performer, especially given its price.
HeadRoom's Micro Amp and Micro DAC together make very good headphones sound even better, and do so in a small package that’s perfect for use on your desktop as the heart of a computer-based audio system.
If you're a closet bass-head—or you just appreciate visceral reproduction of lower frequencies—but you've been depriving yourself because you don't want to sacrifice the bass detail and higher-frequency performance of good canalphones, the Atrio could be your new favorite.
Jays’ a-Jays Four offers a nifty design, mixed ergonomics, and a relaxed, smooth sound, along with an iPhone-compatible inline remote/mic module. The company's t-Jays Three gives you an attractive design and great sound but at a price that makes it more expensive than a number of quality competitors.
The NS200 is a thoughtfully designed set of canalbuds that will appeal to minimalists.
The Vibrato, the successor to V-Moda's Vibe II, offers clear design improvements over the Vibe II, as well as over its V-Moda sibling, the Remix. It also bests the Remix when it comes to audio quality. However, the Vibe II, which sounds very similar, is still available from some retailers at a substantial discount over the Vibrato and may be a better value, even if it's missing a few of the Vibrato's features. You may also prefer some of our less-expensive favorites.
The ts02 is a great headset with a beautiful design, a warm and relaxed sound, a great microphone, and a unique emphasis on envrionmentalism. There are a number of very headsets at similar prices that compete well with the ts02, but for some people, the ts02's environmentally friendly design and packaging will take precedence over relatively minor differences in sound quality and style.
For $40, the Atomic Bass 2 offers strong bass; pleasant, warm sound; and headset functionality with a great microphone. It may also be a particularly good fit for listeners with small ears.
Etymotic Research's mc3 offers great detail that will immerse you in your music for hours. Bassheads should steer clear, thanks to a lack of bass impact, but the mc3 has become my go-to headset, and the option to get custom eartips for the relatively low price of $100 is compelling.
If you like Etymotic’s canalphones and spend a lot of time listening to them (or would like to), the Custom-Fit tips are well worth their $100 price and a bargain compared to competing options.
The Vortex offers a unique combination of huge bass, good midrange and highs, and excellent design. As long as you don’t mind some bass bloat and you’re not too dependent on the microphone, it's worth a look.
Altec Lansing's bargain-basement Muzx Mesh MZX106W, a set of canalbud-style headphones, won't win any awards for sound quality, but it offers surprisingly good performance given the price.