Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Over the years I've been through dozens of pairs of headphones. From those big cans in the 1970's with mad curly wires to the discreet in-ear models of today.

I remember those days as a happy carefree singleton spending hours each night (sometimes with a small, like- minded group of friends) listening in quiet reverence to the latest batch of vinyl. I'd always had good separates hi-fi systems so headphones never really mattered.

Then along come partners and kids. No more quiet reflection in front of the hi-fi when there's bloody TV on, nappies to be changed, homework to be completed etc. so headphones became an important part of any self-respecting music fan's set up.

Vinyl came and went for me, CDs replaced those and after a while I decided to take a few years out and digitise my entire collection. iTunes was a revelation to me and my first iPod truly did change my life. But it was always those gorgeous looking buds that let the whole deal down. I experimented with a few different models and was as happy as I could be at the time.

Then I bought my iPhone. Once again, everything changed. I bought the largest capacity model and began to create playlists that allowed me to make some kind of sense of the huge amounts of music I add to my library on a regular basis.

When I upgraded to the 64 GB iPhone 4S I knew I needed the best 'phones I could get my hands on. After lots of trying out stuff from the Apple store in Sheffield, I eventually bought a set of professional in-ear monitors from a US company called Westone. They're commonly used by musicians on stage instead of the old front line monitors.

They're beautifully made, braided cables, sturdy connectors and the in ear portions are clear plastic so they look brilliant. But sound quality is everything and my god these are astonishing. They are dual drivers, a separate woofer and tweeter in each unit which elevates the clarity, soundstage and precision to heights I'd never thought possible from a humble pair of headphones.

Ok, so these things didn't come cheap. I contacted the company direct and got a discount but they still came in at around £100.

The thing is though, if you're going to buy an iPod, iPod Touch or an iPhone then you really should invest in some better 'phones. Sure, those little white buds look cool but they're not for a second doing your precious music any justice.

Go to your local Apple store and browse. Ask those lovely people questions - tell them your budget and they'll help. You can buy, try and if they don't suit you they'll be happy to give you a refund. Check the internet, there are loads of resources out there - just remember that we all have different ears so good solid research is paramount.

You can easily spend £30 and get some 'phones that will blow those stock Apple buds out of the water. Spend a bit more and you will seriously begin to rediscover albums you've had for years and think you know inside out.

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