Star Power: 4 Celeb-endorsed headphones tested and rated

Wired

1. AKG Q460, 2. Monster Beats Pro (Detox Edition), 3. Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator, 4. Signeo SOUL by Ludacris SL150
Photo Credit: Jens Mortensen

When it comes to celebrity endorsements, headphones are the new basketball shoes. It’s time to separate the sound from the noise..

Photo: Jens Mortenson

1. AKG Q460

A man with 27 Grammys and a producing credit on the best-selling album ever knows a thing or two about sound. Plugging in these headphones from AKG's Quincy Jones line proves it.

 

 

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Despite being the only on-ear model here, the 460s were the most versatile. Listening to Thriller—what else?—was as thrilling as ever thanks to the tight, punchy bass and meaty mids. But there's enough dynamic range and nuance to make everything from Dizzy Gillespie to Daft Punk spring to life.

WIRED Detachable cable. Lightest headphones tested. Clever fold-up design and handsome hard-shell carrying case. Outstanding value.

TIRED Slightly flimsy build. Lacks the noise isolation of over-ear units. Instrument separation could be better. $169, AKG

Rating: 8 out of 10

Photo: Jens Mortenson

2. Monster Beats Pro (Detox Edition)

As you'd expect from the flagship of Dr. Dre's headphone armada, bass is the dominant frequency here. But unlike other Monster phones, these aluminum beasts also give highs and mids their due. The more balanced sound signature lends itself not only to laid-back G-funk but also to classic rock and even classical. Reference headphones they are not, but if you're after pleasingly colored sound, the Pros will keep your head ringing—in a good way.

WIRED Smooth treble and midrange. Built like a tank. Flip-up cup design for DJing.

TIRED Overcooked bass trades accuracy for impact. Chintzy drawstring bag. Nearly a pound of heft plus overly firm earpads. No in-line mic or remote. Way expensive. $499, Monster Beats

Rating: 7 out of 10

Photo: Jens Mortenson

3. Skullcandy Roc Nation Aviator

Skullcandy built its reputation on catering to the style-conscious—good looks over good audio. So it's surprising that Jay-Z's Roc Nation-branded Aviators bring some decent sound quality to the mix. Behind each translucent ear cup, a 40-mm Mylar driver produces crisp highs and a rich, pleasant midrange. Strangely, the Aviators are a bit bass-shy; the shallow and underrepresented Billy Squier drumbeat in Jay-Z's "99 Problems" would make Rick Rubin cry.

WIRED Teardrop-shaped earpieces are the most comfortable of the bunch. Hits an admirable style/performance balance.

TIRED Hip hop branding, but the flaccid bass is better suited to country. No detachable cord. $150, Skullcandy

Rating: 6 out of 10

Photo: Jens Mortenson

4. Signeo SOUL by Ludacris SL150

Luda's stated goal of fusing design with performance is boilerplate for celeb-endorsed headphones. He's got the former taken care of, but the SL150s don't quite measure up to his sonic aspirations. There's bass o' plenty, but it tends to be sloppy and overly boomy. When we cranked the volume on some grimy dubstep, we got unacceptable distortion at the low end. The Signeos fared better with the raw vocals and blaring horns of classic soul, but still not well enough. Somehow even Ray Charles and Al Green seemed distant and formal.

WIRED Good isolation. Stormtrooper white will turn heads. Sturdy case.

TIRED Ham-fisted bass drowns out detail. More fashion accessory than headphone. $199, Signeo

Rating: 5 out of 10

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