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High-End Headphone Round-up

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Welcome to the third and probably last of our full-sized headphone round-ups, covering established classics that - whether new or old - are widely considered to be the best in their price-range. This time we're looking at what some of you might call high-end models, but in truth we should probably call slightly more expensive mid-range headphones, or even budget audiophile headphones, as £150 is still peanuts when you consider the money some Hi-Fi buffs will spend on serious dynamic or electrostatic headphones.

This time we talked to manufacturers and retailers, then scoured the expert web forums and online stores in search of the best headphones for around £100 to £150. Audio-Technica, Grado and Sennheiser all make another appearance, but this time we also bagged product from AKG and Beyerdynamic.

We don't expect these sets to be used much on the move; instead they'll primarily be listened to at home with an MP3 player, PMP, Hi-Fi system or PC. As these are fairly serious cans we also changed our test setup a little this time around, using three sources: the iRiver P7 PMP (unamplified), a second generation iPod touch with a line-out connector hooked up to an iBasso D2 headphone amp, and then a PC using the D2 as a headphone amp and outboard DAC.

As we found in the mid-range group test, it's difficult to pick a clear winner or even say definitively that one set of ‘phones is superior to another. A lot will depend on your own personal taste and choice of music, so it's arguably more important to look at build quality and comfort then explain the different qualities of the different headphones, and how they behave with a variety of music. Speaking personally, your humble reviewer could happily live with any of these sets as his main headphones for home listening, but I do prefer some models over others. Read on to find out which, and why.

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