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Best Headphones for the Holidays: Headphone Shopping Guide #2

A great-sounding pair of headphones are something that every girl and guy should own, but probably don’t – thereby making them the the perfect holiday gift for practically everyone you know.

Below are a few of the more impressive headphones and earphones that’ve entered into my life recently. If you don’t see something you like, also check out this extensive headphone shopping guide we created earlier this year.

V-MODA ‘Crossfade LP’ headphones

$130 – $199 on Amazon

The Crossfade LPs are the perfect gift for any girl who likes to wear her ‘phones like a fashion accessory, or probably should because that’s hot.

These are the most stylish and comfortable headphones I’ve owned to date. They’re not cheap – but they don’t look it, either; they come available in 5 slamming colors and feature braided fabric cabling, 24k gold plugs, plush foam ear cushions and steel frame. The LPs don’t fold up, however they do come with a hard travel case that’s packed with all the accessories you could ask for including a smart phone-friendly cable with built-in remote and microphone. And if you get the pearl white model like I did, they may or may not make you look or feel a little like Lindsay Lohan. Whatever that’s worth to you.

The sound quality might not live up to the expectations of a serious audiophile, but it’s very close – it’s good enough to impress the vast majority of music lovers whose music collection favors pop, dance and hip hop. Tegan & Sara also sound really good on these, don’t worry I checked.

See the full Crossfade LP range.

Urbanears ‘Medis’ Headphones

$49.99 on Amazon

The new Medis headphone range is truly like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Their brightly colored rope and plastic construction kinda make them look like a novelty or child’s toy, however the sleek packaging and decent sound quality will be enough to assure your gift recipient that these are a solid pair of mid-range headphones and not something you picked up at the Rite Aid on the way to the party.

The Medis are a compromise between over-ear and in-ear ‘phones. Their most defining feature is the ‘EarClick technology’ – a fancy name for a rubber lever that anchors the ear piece into the opening of your ear without invading your ear canal. The design takes a little while to get used to, but once you do they fit as comfortably as traditional in-ear models (or more so) and sound just as good. Also unique is the cord, which features a mic and remote for your smart phone and is constructed from matching woven fabric, a touch which appears to be hot on the headphone market right now.

These come in 12 neon colors, check out the full Urbanears range.

Wicked Audio ‘Wicked Empire’ Headphones

$17.91 – $29.99 on Amazon

My 15-year old self is ecstatic about the latest phones from Wicked Audio. They sport an obvious punk inspired design, which is fitting ’cause coincidentally (or not) they perform their best when pumping rock, punk and metal at loud volumes. Various Wicked Empire models are available, all with hardcore names like “Bones” and “Ace,” and earpieces that have been decorated with 8 balls and skulls and other symbols of teenage angst and rebellion.

The audio quality exceeded my expectations considering the retail price. They deliver a clear sound that doesn’t distort or get muggy, not even when turned up to eleven. The only potential con is that they’re designed with a traditional thin black cord that make me nervous about failure. Not the buds, though – they’re fitted with a chrome finish and rubber tip, and seem solid enough to withstand your everyday badass punk rock wear and tear.

See the full Wicked Empire range.

Sennheiser CX300 II Precision In-ear Headphones

$37.71 – $79.95 on Amazon

There is nothing sexy or fun about these headphones. They lack special features and flashy accessories, there’s no microphone or remote or other bells or whistles. Even the packaging is completely dull. However, they sound excellent. The ‘precision’ part of the title is apt, these ‘phones amplify all genres clearly and with absolutely no muffling or distortion. I think you’ll be hard pressed finding a better sounding pair of in-ear headphones in this price range.

Note: The CX300 has a traditional build that’s proven to be durable for everyday use. However, I’ve discovered that if you tread on them while walking at a confident pace then they will most definitely break. So try not to do that.

See the full range.

What headphones have impressed you lately? Share the details below, the more recommendations the better!

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. I agree about the V-modas. They are very cool and have a decent sound. But you know that over-the-ear headphones can lose it effectiveness and comfort with people who wear glasses? And that most fashion headphones are not made for people with small heads? Can’t really say those things about these V-modas. Though I didn’t worse them for longer than 20 min a time. Can somebody give me $150 please?

  2. When I first tried the Sennheiser CX300 IIs (Tegan and Sara of course) I creamed my pants. They might not look sexy but they sure do sound sexy (you can HEAR Tegan’s cute smile).

  3. Grado Prestige Series SR-60i Padded Headphones. $79 on Amazon, but with the sound of a $200 pair. Seriously, I can’t say enough great things about these headphones.

    • AGREED. I even got them for $60 through an Amazon seller, they had only been used a couple of times and came in mint condition as far as I could tell. I love love love them.

  4. I feel like a toolshed saying this…

    But the Dr. Dre Beats Solo headphones are pretty righteous, guyz.

    I put on them on and was so surprised. Tried them out with a few different types of music–fantastic. If I had $200 to just throw on headphones, I’d probably buy those.

    Please don’t take away my gay card.

    • Don’t worry, if it’s only your first offense you’ll probably just get put on progaytion.

      • You’re punny. I like you.

        Also. Does it come with a hot dykey progaytion officer? Are there handcuffs if I commit another offense? Important questions.

    • I’ve wanted to try the Dr Dre Beats for a really long time, I’ve only heard good things and so I think they’ll be my next purchase. I’d probably sacrifice the gay card for rad sound.

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Beats line of headphones, other than the fact that they’re over-marketed and probably shouldn’t be the world’s image of ‘audiophile’ headphones.

      From the research I’ve done they’re absolutely phenomenal with modern pop/hip-hop, which, for most people, is all they need. Their lackluster performance when piping out classical or acoustic music (or anything NOT pop/hip-hop, for that matter) is Beat’s biggest negative.

      For those who love them, they’ll be awesome purchases. For those who don’t…probably not so much.

  5. I’m asking for headphones for the holidays so this is great. Anyone have any suggestions for noise-cancelling headphones that might make my commutes on the subway a little more appealing? Ideally $100 or less?

    • I use the Klipsch Image s4i mentioned in the previous headphone buying guide, and they’re pretty darn awesome. Good price too, especially if you’re in the States. They’re in-ear so if you make sure you seal them in tightly they seal off almost all noise. I’ve ignored tons of people standing next to me talking by accident. :o Be warned though those things feel real flimsy and since they cost me 100 bucks up here in Canada I’m terrified out of my mind that I’ll break the cable and I have to be super careful handling them when I’m on the bus.

    • Try anything by Etymotic – they’re well known for their excellent isolation. I have the MC5, and it’s impossible to hear ANYTHING while music’s playing. They’ll run you ~$75, which is a pretty good deal.

  6. Alright, maybe this is a douchey place to ask this question, but I have really tiny ears – like, when I tell people this, they’re always like, “have you tried the smallest size of the rubber/foam inserts yet because I have a niece who has really small- WHOA. You really DO have tiny ears.” at which point they ask me if I’m part leprechaun… but. I LOVE in-ear headphones.

    They just don’t ever fit into my ears properly.

    Am I SOL?

    • Is it your whole ear that’s tiny, or just the inner canal? If the latter, try the Medis – they don’t actually fit into your ear canal. They can also be adjusted to a smaller size.

      • whoa.

        This. Changes. EVERYTHING! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR INTRODUCING ME TO THESE (why didn’t I read harder the first time I read this article #thepicturesweresopretty)

        • I just got these and the small actually fits in my ear, though it definitely took some wrangling around with them to figure out how to put them in properly.

  7. I still have my iGrado headphones, which I got for Christmas last year. I have had to send them back to get fixed twice(!!!) since the last time I mentioned them. Incidentally, that was in the same thread where I complained about how it was always the left headphone that breaks. So, naturally, my left headphone stops working a week later.

    What I’m trying to say is that Crystal’s posts about headphones are cursed.

  8. I’ve never owned a pair of headphones that cost more than $15. Maybe that’s why they all only last three weeks?

  9. This is kind of a silly question, but I figure this is the best place to ask it…

    I’m looking for a pair of over-ear headphones (like the first ones pictured), but there is one minor problem… Both of my ears are pierced, wicked a lot, from the top of my industrial all the way down to my stretched lobes. Is it possible to find headphones in this style that would fit over all the metal in my ears without totally squishing them? I’ve only shopped around a little because I’m too embarrassed to tell explain to the nice salespeople at BestBuy what, exactly, I’m looking for, and why. Any help would be awesome!

    (PS I’ve had good luck with in-the-ear headphones, but I want big ones that make me feel like I’m INSIDE the music, you know?!)

    • I’ve heard that the Ultrasone DJ1 Pros are popular for their big cups, but have never tried them myself.

      The V-Moda Crossfades have much larger cups than the sennheiser and audio technica over-ear models I own. My ear barely touches the padded barrier – but they aren’t pierced. However they fit comfortably on my girlfriend, who has multiple piercings including a 1 or 2 cm stretched lobe… unfortunately that’s the best indication I can give you.

      Maybe someone else here has a similar problem?

  10. i just want to say that american eagle now sells headphones. this is a thing that makes me laugh hysterically but i think that’s because i work there. le sigh.

  11. If you guys want to wow the crap out of someone, and have cash to spend on say, Dr Dre Beats, YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GET THE BOWERS & WILKINS P5’s!!!!! They are totally the BMW of heaphones, and your audio geek indie lady will love them. Comfortable, durable, not too bulky, and AMAZING sound, no EQ enhancers so they leave it true to the hard-working mixing engineers. They don’t have active noise-cancellation, but the just from the design they eliminate the cacphony of noisy drunken Celtics fans, and it also means you don’t have to replace the batteries. All in all an epic win.

    • This is EXACTLY what i wanted to say and now I don’t even have to write it, eheh. I decided on this rather major investment to replace my WEsc a couple of months ago, and the sound+comfort are amazing. Also, they look like something from bang&olufsen, which would’ve been cool in the 90’s, before the new generation of Apple. I feel so old now, probably because i turn 26 in a few hours, argh. Anyway yes, B&W, although i’m just a wee bit afraid they might be fragile…

  12. If you can’t afford a lot of the pricier cans, I cannot recommend the Sennheiser HD 202’s enough. I’ve had these for almost two years, and the sound is incredible for what you pay ($22.32 on Amazon). They sound much more expensive than they actually are. They’re great for casual listening and travel. If you’re a serious audiophile, they probably won’t work for you, but for everyone else (especially among the consistently broke), seriously, one of the best deals in the world for headphones.

    • Panasonic’s RP-htx7 in red are the ones pictured on the front page and also very affordable for the quality. Very light weight and you can pick them up online for like 30 bucks. I recently switched to in-ear Earjax Lyrics (gift), but these had worked out great.

  13. i have the v-moda ear buds and they are by far the best headphones i’ve ever owned. and they have the rope cord deal, too.

  14. check out headphones from ifrogz seriously cheaply you can even customize them sound is wicked and they are bomb, ifrogz :D check it !


    Seriously…given the opportunity I will sit down and read about them for hours and hours. Autostraddle Headphone Gift Guide day is practically a holiday for me due to all of the audiophile geeking out!!

  16. I am looking for some headphones that have a lifetime warranty. I know deep down inside that they are going to break.

  17. The correct answer for headphones is actually the Sony MDR V6. They maybe don’t look as snazzy and those, but they sound like a dream at an affordable price.

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