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Bose vs Sennheiser vs Beats vs JBL vs Sony: Headphones Guide
When it comes to headphones, speakers, and earbuds, you’ll have to test them for yourself and see how they sound to you. There is no good or bad brand in that case.
With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the right pair.
Your choices are Bose, Sennheiser, JBL, Sony, and Beats among others. Let’s find out which of them you should consider buying.
- If you are on a low budget…
- You should buy headphones either from JBL or Sony as they have the most affordable pricing that starts at around $20-30 and offer great value for money.
- If you want to buy mid-range or high-end headphones…
- You should choose either Sennheiser or Sony. The former offers better sound quality while the latter more durability over time.
- If you want headphones with the best Active Noise Cancellation Technology…
- You should choose Bose or Sennheiser. The former is better in that aspect but also more expensive so consider the pros and cons before deciding.
- Do not buy Beats unless you test the sound and you prefer it over the alternatives. The brand has improved but has a long way to go until they reach the level of its competitors.
Bose is really a pretty intriguing brand since, in my view, their headphones don’t sound all that much better while they also cost more than Beats, Sennheiser, JBL, and Sony.
In fact, one of their big disadvantages is that the starting price is too high for most casual users. You’ll need at least $150 for an older model while the new ones cost over $250.
However, certain Bose headphones have some very amazing qualities that can make them well worth the money. Noise canceling is the most important of these features.
Bose headphones often have very low leakage rates and the capacity to cancel out any background noise, allowing you to fully concentrate on what you are doing.
Although noise cancellation is a feature that every over-ear headphones brand has, Bose is just superior in that regard, in my opinion.
The high-end versions also come with ANC (Active Noise Cancelling), which detects ambient noise and stops you from hearing it.
This can somewhat alter the sound signature of the headphones, however, in busy environments like airplanes or subways, this function can be useful to provide a small amount of isolation from your surroundings.
There are a few Sennheiser headphones that include high-quality active noise cancellation (ANC), but Bose has the most reliable and consistent technology in this area.
Bose Headphones Pros
- Bose headphones offer a high-quality, balanced sound with deep bass and clear vocals. (Pretty similar to what their speakers sound like)
- They have some of the best noise-cancellation technology available.
- Excellent ear comfort.
Bose Headphones Cons
- Bose headphones tend to be on the more expensive side, which can be a barrier to entry for some people.
- If you don’t like their bassy sound signature, their headphones may not be the best choice for you.
When it comes to headphones, Sennheiser is considered to be the greatest overall.
They provide a variety of designs, from closed-back headphones, which are the conventional over-ear models, to open-back headphones, which provide a considerably wider soundstage and the ability to listen to what’s happening around you.
If I had to highlight a disadvantage, I would say that portability is not the strong suit of the brand. Most of their headphones are quite large compared to Beats and JBL.
Their headphones range in price from $50 for the HD-206—which is, in my opinion, excellent for the money—to over $1700 for the HD 800 S, which many consider being among the greatest headphones in the world.
Sennheiser’s absence of a sound signature sets them apart from other manufacturers. You receive the audio quality that was actually captured by the musicians, podcasters, etc.
What I like about them is that they always offer musically accurate, and well-built headphones. They sound like they have a more punchy and dynamic bass while they retain the clarity on the high frequencies.
They are an excellent choice if you listen to a lot of hip-hop, rap, or R&B music. Keep in mind that you can gain a lot from an extra headphone amplifier if you decide to go with the open backs.
I would advise choosing Sennheiser if all you’re interested in is getting the finest sound for the cheapest price. If the sound isn’t the only thing you care about, continue reading…
Sennheiser Headphones Pros
- By a decent margin from the second best in this article, Sennheiser often offers the best sound for the price. Even the cheaper headphones have great audio quality.
- There are a lot of different products to choose from. You have a number of good alternatives, just not as many as JBL.
- The absence of a sound signature ensures that the sound you hear is an accurate replication of the sound that was initially picked up by the microphone.
- The build quality is superb and feels nice. However, when it comes to comfort, it really depends on you and how they feel on your head.
Sennheiser Headphones Cons
- The noise-canceling technology used by Bose is more reliable than that of Sennheiser headphones.
- Their aesthetics are not as appealing as JBL’s. In addition, there are not many colors to choose from.
- Sennheiser headphones are not as portable as what the other brands offer.
The original Beats that were sold under the Monster branding were terrible.
The overall audio quality wasn’t much to brag about and they had muddy, “exaggerated” bass.
Given that Monster was able to produce quality products, it didn’t really make sense to me.
At the time, I believed that some of their Turbine in ears actually sounded pretty decent.
Around the time of the Solo 2, they began to produce headphones with substantially greater audio.
Regardless, there are Beats models that have come out rather successfully after Apple bought them. I find the Beats Solo Pro to have a remarkably neutral sound.
Due to how they sound in comparison to their rivals, they don’t get suggested too often. I can see someone being impressed by them if they had no prior knowledge of what high-quality headphones sounded like.
I won’t suggest them either if I’m being really honest with you. They don’t exactly have a wide selection to choose from for you. Their price starts at $80 so you can’t really put them in the affordable headphones category either.
They just offer the neutral sound that most people would enjoy with some extra bass and a really stylish appearance, but they don’t really do anything noteworthy.
Beats Headphones Pros
- Beats headphones look very fashionable. They have many different colors available.
- They have an acceptable sound quality with a significant emphasis on bass, but there are no other notable features.
- Most of their models are fairly comfortable to wear for hours.
Beats Headphones Cons
- They are overpriced for what they offer.
- Their quality is not as good as the alternatives from other brands.
- In my experience, they occasionally let sound through. So, that will be a problem if you listen to something private.
JBL headphones typically have a dark, distorted treble that makes it feel like you’re listening through too much foam. They have average audio quality; it’s neither excellent nor poor.
I am not sure how to describe their sound signature. Their sound is both loud and sharp in my ears, yet there is something lacking.
The best thing about the brand, alongside Sony, is the variety of items to choose from. You can get headphones for as low as $25 if you are on a budget.
They do have pricey models with excellent sound, but I don’t expect to see any audiophile praising them as highly as they would, say, a Sennheiser.
It’s important to keep in mind that some of their cheaper models have “sound bleed” when you set them at high volume. That has mainly to do with the cheaper earcups.
Overall, they are comfortable but I wouldn’t really recommend JBL headphones to those who are willing to spend more money. Just go for Sony or Sennheiser instead.
I have also written an article on how to fix the different types of noise that JBL headphones may produce.
JBL Headphones Pros
- Easily accessible if you are on a low budget. Their variety feels like they have headphones for everyone.
- Value for money if you want to spend up to $50.
- They have a solid sound overall with a dark tone. However, it’s not that neutral so you may not like it as much.
- They are comfortable and lightweight.
JBL Headphones Cons
- Not the best choice if you want something premium.
- Decent sound quality but not as great as Sennheiser.
- The noise cancelation of JBL is not at the level of Bose, Sennheiser, or even Sony.
At the moment, Sony produces some of the world’s greatest headphones and has the finest price-to-performance ratio.
Today’s most common mid-priced Sony headphones produce a pleasant and crisp sound. They are a bit punchier and softer compared to Bose and JBL.
For me, they are sort of a jack of all trades. If you thought that JBL has a wide variety of headphones, well Sony is even better. You can buy an entry-level one for about $20 and the pricing goes up to about $2000 for the Sony MDR-Z1R.
The cheap ones don’t have that many features but you still get the reliability and durability of Sony.
Generally speaking, their headphones, no matter how expensive they are, will always give you the impression of a product that will just last forever. The same goes for their earbuds!
The noise cancellation that most of the mid and high-range models have is fine. I wouldn’t say great for all of them though. Sony has made a few sacrifices for its cheap versions so the NC there is just enough. Nothing impressive!
Sony Headphones Pros
- Best value for money option. If you feel confused about what to buy, you can just go with Sony headphones and be done with it.
- Decent noise cancellation for most models.
- Their headsets tend to be the most durable and reliable over time.
- Sony has the cheapest headphones line that starts at $20 while also offering some really premium options if you pay more.
Sony Headphones Cons
- The sound quality is not as great as in Sennheiser’s headphones but you can make a few sacrifices for the lower price.
The Bottom Line
Each brand has its own unique strengths and weaknesses that cater to different needs and preferences.
Bose headphones are known for their noise-canceling technology and good sound quality, while Sennheiser has the lead in sound quality as it provides the most balanced and natural experience.
Sony is a top contender and as I called them a jack of all trades with a wide range of models, features, and premium sound quality that will definitely satisfy you.
Beats headphones offer powerful bass and a stylish design, while JBL focuses on affordability and durability.