A brand-new PC or console can be a costly investment in which complementary accessories can be an afterthought. Audio accessories such as headphones can be a great benefit, whether being used to produce and mix song tracks, make games more immersive or just for casual listening, there is a headset available for any need. While headphones can be designated a fashion accessory, for users who want function over form there are a few criteria that will need to be identified. There are a lot of marketing gimmicks when it comes to headphones, however, from experience, I have found the biggest issue to consider when shopping for new headphones is whether to buy open or closed back. Closed-back headphones are designed with isolating noise and insulating sound around the user’s ear. Open-back headphones ear-cover is perforated allowing air to freely pass through the headphone cups which allow exterior noise stimuli to be perceived by the wearer, but also allow a little more sound to ‘leak’ so others might be able to hear some of what’s playing through the headset. Both open and closed back offer pro’s and cons’ but will ultimately come down to user preference. 5 – HyperX Cloud Alpha – $100 HyperX launched the original Cloud headset back in 2014 to critical acclaim. The original HyperX Cloud was light-weight and out-performed headphones costing three times as much. HyperX released a family of Cloud headphones eventually culminating with the Cloud Alpha, the best headset HyperX has produced to date. The Cloud Alpha is incredibly comfortable for long gaming sessions as the headband and ear-cups are significantly padded. Some lesser quality headphones can feel tight or heavy after only a few hours, however, the Cloud Alpha maintains its quality comfort even after many hours of near-continuous play. The Cloud Alpha’s audio is great for gaming, as it is somewhat bass-heavy with no distortion. Mid-range sounds are crisp and clear however high notes are vague and muffled, which won’t affect gaming as much but could be disappointing contingent on the user’s musical preference. The Cloud Alpha is equipped with a microphone that has a moderate audio quality. Most users will want to pine for a dedicated microphone for better control over sound quality. 4 – SteelSeries Arctis Pro – $180 The SteelSeries Arctis Pro design is sleek, all black, minimalistic design. For the Arctis Pro, SteelSeries forgoes using plastic for an aluminum frame as well as including easily swappable, magnetic ear-cup covers. The RGB lighting is present around the ear-cups as well as the included microphone. The built-in lights can be synced up to SteelSeries Game Sense software with supported applications and games. The Arctis Pro features a ski-goggle like a headband that conforms to various skull sizes and can be adjusted via a Velcro strap to the wearers content. Sound quality is quite decent whether gaming or listening to music, with voice and sound effect clarity being very prominent. The Arctis Pro headphones have a thunderous kick to sound quality that will make playing prominent action games way more appealing. 3 – Audio Technica R70x – $350 The Audio Technica R70x is an open-back, light-weight style of headphones. The wing-style headband makes the R70x a comfortable proposition when shopping around for headphones, however, the light-weight design is due to a plastic composite that makes the R70x feel lower in quality to its aluminum-framed competitors in the same price range. Audio Technica’s R70x headphones have great low-end sound with a deep, live bass sound. The mid-range sound quality is also a high point for the R70x’s as they sound lush and nuanced. Unfortunately, on the high-end of the sound spectrum, the R70x’s suffer a bit as slight distortion can be heard as though the headphones are struggling to maintain the noise. Overall Audio Technica has created a headphone that has great sound quality that only the biggest of audiophiles will find fault in, though for the price, upping the frame from plastic to an alloy is a necessity upon its next iteration. 2 – Sennheiser HD 650 – $500 Sennheiser’s HD 650 headset is a pricey piece of luxury with its thick padded headband and plush ear cushions. The HD 650 headphones are comparatively weighty at 260 grams mainly due to their bulk which does not make them the best travel companion. Despite their size, they are extremely comfortable when worn and are open back, over-ear design. Surprisingly, the HD 650 has quite a bit more sound ‘leakage’ when compared to other open-back headphones. For the HD 650, Sennheiser has precisely configured the built-in audio drivers to limit distortion and provide an extremely forceful bass, harmonious and rich mid-range and decent treble. Unfortunately, the bass can sound slightly thick which will be fine for games but lacking when listening to bass-heavy music such as dubstep or newer Deftones albums. 1 – MASSDROP X AKG K7XX – $200 The AKG K7XX is an awesomely comfortable limited edition set of headphones. The K7XX is a great value as it is based off the AKG K712 Pro which retails for $499. The K7XX is an open back, over-ear style headset and has replaceable ear-pads for wear-and-tear. The K7XX has a net weight of 235 grams and the detachable three-meter audio cable has a quarter-inch adapter to allow for plugging into guitars and amps. The K7XX is base heavy and with the amp adapter, will be fantastic if I ever have time to get back into playing bass guitar. Casually listening to music via phones, tablets or PC’s sound superb, as each instrument and note is crisp and clear for easy listening. Gaming music and sound effects were outstanding, while voices were mostly fine; in a few games voice volume could sound soft. Build quality of the K7XX is on point, the ear-cups are gigantic which allows them to encompass the entirety of my ear making them extremely comfortable and contouring. The K7XX is built for audiophiles for all forms of media and at a competitive price. Conclusion Overall whether user’s want open or closed back, integrated microphone or no mic, there are numerous headphones that offer a wide range of features and decently competitive prices. Hopefully, this list will offer someone who may not be audio savvy on the path of becoming an audio engineer(probably). Luckily, we live in a time where there is no shortage of headphones and competition which will only benefit those of us in the market.