While the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones enjoys a massive following of loyal fans, not every Apple enthusiast wants Beats headphones. In fact, some music lovers see Beats everywhere — in all their glorious colors — and would simply prefer a good set of headphones that are anything but Beats.
No worries. There’s always a handful of people that would rather not wear what everyone else is wearing, would rather not use what everyone else is using. Plus, when it comes to a personal sense of style and fashion, the Beats look isn’t for everyone — never mind the heavy bass and audiophile-cringe-inducing acoustic qualities.
To each their own, though.
The world is littered with Beats alternatives, but unfortunately some of the options come with cryptic names that are hard to remember — strings of seemingly random uppercase letters with numbers followed by a lowercase “i” from manufacturers most people have never heard of. In fact, if you look at some of the names of alternative headphones out there — like “AH-D600” or “ES-HF300” — it’s not surprising that Beats was able to quickly cultivate a following. Sure, the star power of Dr. Dre brought awareness, but buying Beats is less about a specific model than it is just picking a pair of “Beats.” Genius marketing and simple customer alignment — no wonder Apple dropped $3 billion to buy them.
However, you’re here because you want a good pair of headphones and you don’t care what the name or brand is. That’s good. That frees you up because most of these options below will satisfy most people, so you’re fairly safe shopping based on price, style, or features — like noise cancelation or foldability.
So where do you start looking if you’ve decided — preemptively — to go with a Beats alternative headphone?
10 Beats Alternative Headphones
Full-size, over ear headphones can have closed backs or open backs and they are intended to fit over and around your ear. While open backs might deliver better sound, open backs are bothersome to everyone else around you because they can hear your music, too. Closed backs reduce this side effect, plus they help isolate your ear from background noise so you can focus on the music. (Because you probably don’t want to share your music with whomever happens to be near you, none of these Beats alternatives have open backs.) The headphones below are great alternatives to Beats Studio or Beats Pro headphones.
1. Sennheiser Momentum
The Sennheiser Momentum headphones get rave reviews for overall sound quality for a variety of listeners while boasting a sophisticated premium look. Soft leather ear pads and an adjustable design provide excellent comfort for hours. Comes with two cables, one that includes an inline mic for use with an iPhone/smartphone while the other does not. Also comes with a snazzy leather carrying case. Color choices are black, brown, or ivory.
[Check out the Sennheiser Momentum at Amazon.]
2. V-MODA Crossfade M-100
The V-MODA Crossfade M-100 headphone provides fantastic range for a wide variety of listeners and music types while offering a vaguely wicked industrial style with sharp angles and steel. For a splash of color, you can swap out the matte black, shadow, or white silver cover plates with metallic red, orange, or even purple. It’s got an inline mic for smartphone use, as well as an optional boom mic for gaming or Skype calls. Includes dual-inputs for mixing two sources at the same time or daisy chaining the headphones with friends. Comes with a form-fitting case, plus it’s partially foldable for better portability.
[Check out the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 at Amazon.]
3. Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones offers a slight update to the also popular ATH-M50 predecessor. The “x” version is essentially the same as the previous ATH-M50, but it comes with three detachable cables, one short, one long, and another coiled. These headphones fold for easier packing and come in black, white, and stylish blue with brown leather. The only downside is that the ATH-M50x does not include a cable with an inline mic for using with your phone. (If you want to save about $20, you can still find the ATH-M50, which sound as good but have a non-detachable cord.)
[Check out the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x at Amazon.]
4. Sony MDR7506
If you’re on a tight budget but are looking for great sound in a reasonable price — and fashion is less important than sound — the workhorse Sony MDR7506 professional headphone has been pleasing customers for years. It’s plain, doesn’t include an inline mic, but for most people, it might deliver the best sound-to-value ratio going today.
[Check out the Sony MDR7506 at Amazon.]
What’s the bottom line here?
The first three headphones above will thrill most everyone with their balanced sound qualities. Choose the Sennheiser Momentum if the upscale premium leather and steel look suits you. Choose the V-MODA Crossfade M-100 for edgy style and the sweet Skype/gaming boom mic option. Choose the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X for a solid classic construction. Choose the Sony MDR7506 if you’re ready to hear new levels of crisp detail without breaking the bank.
And what about Bluetooth wireless headphones that rival the Beats Studio Wireless headphone? Try the Sennheiser MM 550-X . . . but beware that customer satisfaction levels for all wireless headphones take a step down over their wired counterparts.
Mid-Size, On-Ear Headphones
Mid-size, on-ear headphones are just what you would expect — they have a smaller form factor that rests upon your ears, usually with soft cushions that help seal in the sound (but not as well as over-the-hear models). These also let more outside noise in, which might be ideal for use where you need to pay attention to your exterior environment. These headphones offer great alternatives to the Beats Solo 2 or Mixr headphones.
5. Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear Headphones
Not surprisingly, much of the goodness in the Sennheiser’s full-size Momentum headphone translate pretty well to its Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear version. The design is similar, smaller, and not quite as luxurious. Works great with iPhones with an inline mic, plus comes with a case. Choose these over the full-size versions if you want to error toward better mobility and a smaller form factor for wearing around town.
[Check out the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear at Amazon.]
6. V-MODA XS On-Ear Headphones
Similar to the larger V-MODA M-100, the V-MODA XS offers the same edgy design quality with excellent overall sound and some exterior noise blocking. Includes dual inputs as well as daisy chaining. Uses memory foam ear cushions, a kevlar reinforced cable, an inline mic for your iPhone or other smartphone, as well as an optional boom mic for gaming or Skype. Also includes a cool compact exoskeleton hard carry case. Plus, it’s been tested to MIL-STD-810G military durability standards.
[Check out the V-MODA XS at Amazon.]
7. Bose SoundTrue On-Ear Style Headphones
The Bose SoundTrue offers understated style that’s not particularly inspiring, but the sound makes up for the basic look. Super solid contender, inline mic for smartphone use, memory foam cushions, foldable with a case.
[Check out the Bose SoundTrue at Amazon.]
Choose any of the above three based on price and the look you like best.
Noise Canceling Headphones
Noise canceling headphones use a microphone to listen to incoming ambient noise then generates a conflicting sound wave that is 180-degrees out of phase with the ambient noise, effectively erasing it before your ear can process it. Noise canceling headphones usually use AAA batteries to power the noise canceling system, but if they die, the headphones will usually work normally without the noise canceling in effect.
8. Bose QuietComfort 25
The Bose QuietComfort 25 Headphone boasts one of the best noise-canceling systems, eliminating airplane, office, or even city street noise. The overall look is tame, but the quality is great, as is the sound. The inline mic and remote is developed specifically for the iPhone but are also compatible with other smartphones. Comes in black or white.
[Check out the Bose QuietComfort 25 at Amazon.]
9. Monster Inspiration Noise Canceling Headphone
The Monster Inspiration Noise Canceling Headphone offers a rectangular sort of stylish, retro look that comes with two interchangeable headband styles — and dozens of optional headband overlays you can slide in to customize your look. Comes with three cables in inline mic and controls that work great with smartphones. Folds for travel.
[Check out the Monster Inspiration Noise Canceling Headphone at Amazon.]
10. Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70
The Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 QuietPoint offers noise canceling with plenty of cushion, including memory foam. An integrated mic and volume controls work with smartphones. The price is competitive, too. Folds and rotates to fit into an included case.
[Check out the Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 at Amazon.]