So I work from lots of different places. Many of them noisy. I also happen to really, really love music. What does that mean?

I might as well get a new sweet pair of headphones (because the ones that come with iPhones are not real headphones).

So I do what most people do when they’re shopping for stuff.

I go online and read reviews.

And I thought I had the perfect headphones picked out: Beats Solo2.

Now Beats aren’t for everyone. You either love or hate the styling. I think they’ve done some brilliant marketing (London Olympics when they weren’t allowed to advertise so they just gave away free headphones to the athletes so they’d wear them on TV – they got a huge amount of airtime) so I’d be happy to put them on my head. Sure, the sound of the early ones were very, very bass-heavy.

But they’ve matured and become quality phones with great sound.

Or so I read.

There was a raving review from a site I really trust for reviews about the sound quality on the headphones and the comfort.

If you know me, you know I more than just like music. I’m pretty passionate about sound engineering for live music and recording when I have time to be (even have a home studio in my basement). Sound is definitely #1 priority.

But I also like style.

The mixture of the two seemed like they would be perfect.

Next step was to find where had the best deal on them. On sale at Best Buy. Perfect. I was tempted to just order them.

I’m so glad I didn’t. Here’s why:

The internet is full of subjective opinions from people that like different things than you or have different priorities.

And what someone else – even an expert – might love, you may hate. Or just not like as much.

Or you might have a different set of parameters.

For me, I listen to a lot of live music. And it’s very, very different than the highly-produced studio stuff that is most music these days.

In the case of the Beats Solo2’s, they sounded really good on the highly-produced stuff, but they were awful on most live stuff. Really muddy with the typically high-reverb live vocals getting completely lost in the mix.

But I never would’ve known that if I hadn’t gone and actually tried them myself.

That would have been a $200 mistake.

Remember that you’re a very unique individual and no one is like you. Over time, friends/family may get to know what you like or have similar tastes in some things, but that doesn’t really happen on the internet.

I ended up listening to 30-40 different sets of headphones – mostly in the $100-$250 range.

What I was shocked by?

How many bad, bad headphones there were for over $100. Or at least bad if you care about sound. Lots of stylish headphones were an absolute abomination to music. Terrible. Awful. No one should have to listen to them.

Or at least no one with my taste in music.

Moral of this entire long-winded story?

Whatever you’re shopping for online, if there’s any degree of subjectivity, get out there and try it yourself!

Don’t just believe what someone else says.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else – even an expert – says. If you try something and don’t like it, it’s not right for you. Try something else.

Yes, I’m a hypocrite because I say this and have done the complete opposite. But I’m learning!

It can be intimidating and you can think you don’t know what’s best, but it’s kinda fun to try stuff out and let yourself like what you like. And be confident in that.

So, I know you’re (likely not) dying to know.

Which headphones did I love in the $100-$250 price range?

I’ll only tell you if you promise to go and listen to them before you buy! And I’d say my weighting was 50% sound quality, 30% style, and 20% comfort. But these should sound great on any genre of music. If you only listen to hip hop, something with even more bass might be better. These could all do anything well, though.

I brought my own music to listen to music I knew which I highly, highly recommend. These are in no particular order, but the Audio Technicas were my favourite for sound :). Your mileage will vary.

1. Audio Technica ATH-M50x – $190 – Fantastic, detailed sound throughout the range with a healthy portion of punchy, clear bass that made music a treat to listen to. Style was neither a big positive or negative but they were cool. Comfortable. No mic for calls, though. Loved these. Wanted to listen to all of my favourite songs on them.

2. Monster Adidas – $110 (On sale at BestBuy from $200+) – Surprisingly good sound throughout the range. Full, clear, lots of bass. A little bulky and styling isn’t for everyone, but they were cool if you like Adidas. Mic and cable to share music with friends which is neat. May have skipped over them if I wasn’t making myself listen to every pair I could. Glad I didn’t.

3. Sennheiser HD-280 Pro – $110 – I actually own these but hadn’t stacked them up against other headphones. Great overall sound. Gives music a lot of energy and detail. Like the M50x’s but just at an 8 rather than a 10. No mic or gadgetry. Just great sound. Styling is very studio workman like. Dark grey.

4. Sol Republic Master Tracks – $170 – I thought I would hate these. Hadn’t really heard of them. Picked up a slightly cheaper pair and they were not good. But these ones were  similar to the other headphones above in being nice and clear throughout the range with a lot of low-end (bass) energy. They have style whether you love it or not. The band design is kinda cool. My most surprising listen for sure. Has a mic for your phone.

5. Beats Studio – $250 (On Sale) – These also sound great on everything and it’s not just the style that make them so popular. None of the mud of the Solo2’s on live music. Just crystal clear sound throughout the range while still maintaining the Beats oomph. Certainly not overpowering. They’re also very, very iconic looking so that’s cool. Has the mic for your phone. Also noise cancelling!

So, which did I end up buying? Hah, I’m a loser. None. I have the HD-280’s and they’re solid. I also have some custom-fitted in-ear monitors (musicians headphones) that kill all of these for sound and comfort. You don’t really see them so they’re incredibly stylish because of my incredibly stylish face.

Because I went out there and tried these, I found out that I was good with what I already have.

And that saved me a couple hundred bucks.

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