Four of the finest pairs of headphones

From over-ear pieces made in Italian Saffiano leather to waterproof bone-conduction headphones, our tech guru gives the lowdown

Bowers & Wilkins’ P9 Signatures are made with Italian Saffiano leather
Bowers & Wilkins’ P9 Signatures are made with Italian Saffiano leather

Revolutionary ear buds It’s a rare treat when a company comes up with something as startlingly new as this. It’s rarer still that, even in its very first iteration, it is also genuinely life-enhancing. Here One (£249.99) from Doppler Labs is a set of ear buds of the independently powered, truly wireless kind that everyone has been waiting for. Far more than traditional headphones, they are a two-way headphone set with a microphone in each earpiece that, in combination with an app, can be used to reduce extraneous noise, amplify speech and adjust the sound at a concert or in a cinema to suit you. Doppler describes this as “layered listening”, which is absolutely right. Here One can be tuned to filter sounds, making it possible to, for example, listen to music on your bike and still hear essential traffic sounds. Find out more about Doppler Labs Here One here.

Doppler Labs Here One headphones, £249.99
Doppler Labs Here One headphones, £249.99
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Premium over-ear headphones These gorgeous premium headphones from Bowers & Wilkins may cost £700, but they are actually mid-priced for the quality on offer. The P9 Signatures are a superb piece of engineering and electronics, which also sound, look and feel (from their Italian Saffiano leather to their foldable aluminium arms) quite marvellous – pure, undiluted luxury at every level. The sound caressing your ears comes from B&W’s own-design piston diaphragm speaker drivers and is grown-up and balanced, quite conservative and unenhanced, but incredibly faithful – and eminently suitable for all kinds of music, but especially, I have to say, serious classical material. Read Jonathan’s full review of the Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signatures here.

Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signatures, £700
Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signatures, £700 | Image: Hugh Threlfall
From left: 3D Sound Labs clip-on module, £79, and the 3D Sound Ones themselves, £179
From left: 3D Sound Labs clip-on module, £79, and the 3D Sound Ones themselves, £179 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

Immersive 3D sound These headphones (£179) from small French company 3D Sound Labs cleverly turn regular stereo recordings, including film soundtracks, into remarkable immersive 3D sound. They do this by tracking your head movements on nine different axes – like a virtual-reality headset just for the ears. The effect is more than subtly different from ordinary stereo headphones: when you turn your head to face a new direction, what you hear changes accordingly. The 3D Sound One headphones currently work with Windows PCs and iPads, but not Macs. 3D Sound Labs has also brought out a £79 clip-on module to add to your favourite existing headphones so that you can enjoy the experience with familiar headgear. Find out more about the 3D Sound Ones here.

AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones, about £110
AfterShokz Trekz Titanium headphones, about £110 | Image: Hugh Threlfall
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Bone-conduction headphones These Aftershokz Trekz Titanium (about £110) are the best bone-conduction headphones I’ve come across. Made by New York state company Aftershokz, they sit fairly comfortably around the back of the head and pump out a tremendous amount of sound – enough to seem really quite loud – without blocking your ears or being more than nominally disturbing to people nearby. The secret is the design of the headband, which exerts sufficient pressure on the skull without feeling like a clamp. As well as being waterproof, though not sufficiently so for swimming, there are also microphones so you can make and receive calls and exploit the abilities of Siri and Google Now on the move. Read more about Aftershokz Trekz Titanium here.

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