Q: I considering buying two pairs of Super 66 headphones (one as a gift, the other for myself). I want good comfort and clarity, and Bluetooth is not absolutely necessary. What else would you suggest, priced up to $250?
A: I can recommend four other sub-$250 favorites covering an extensive price range.
When I first saw the $39 Riot Audio headphones online, my immediate thought was someone is already cribbing the Super 66. I bought a pair, and what I found was not a cheap imitation, but some quite good headphones from a different company that is undoubtedly sourcing them from the same Chinese factory. They share the same thickly padded adjustable headband that makes the Super 66 so comfortable, but with different earcups that resemble the Koss Pro4S discussed below. They do not have the Super 66's Bluetooth connectivity, but a removable microphone cable is included for hands-free phone calls.
Although there are similarities to the Super 66 physically and sonically, there are distinct audible differences. The Riot's vocals are slightly recessed in comparison, and the bass is kicked up a notch or two. The extra bass isn't terrible, but one of the things that make the Super 66 noteworthy is the evenly balanced sonic character. Adjusting the volume keeps the bass under control, and I think most people won't mind these minor sonic shortcomings given the price. Of course, if you prefer extra bass, you are all set. The value is undeniable, and you certainly won't find better sounding, more comfortable or better made headphones for $40. riotaudio.com
Next up is the $79 Grado SR60e. Grado's SR60 series has long been considered the point where true audiophile sound begins. The sound isn't the last word in detail, but it is smooth, warm, natural and incredibly listenable. The open-back design provides airiness and doesn't isolate you from the outside world. All Grado headphones are handmade in the USA. gradolabs.com
The $149 Koss Pro4S headphones, with accurate sound that is also bold and lively, have many fans in the audio press. Of everything discussed here, the Pro4S nails the sweet spot between price and sound quality, perfect for those who want a truly premium sound experience without spending a fortune. Koss provides a lifetime warranty on everything it sells, and if you register on their site you get 15 percent off, bringing the price down to $126.65. koss.com
At the top we have the $249 Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7. Befitting the price, these headphones deliver rich, accurate sound, top-quality construction and first-class packaging and presentation. The package also includes a headphone pouch and three different cables, including one with a microphone for making calls from your smartphone. audio-technica.com.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.