It's been another great year for headphones, with plenty of new devices to choose from, many of which combine brilliant style with great audio. All of the contenders in the best headphones category offer excellent sound but many are also fashion statements in their own right.
From the bold AKG-Y50's and all-encompassing Audio Technica ATH-M50x's, to the top-quality Sennheiser Urbanite's and exceptional Sony MDR-1A's, there is some stiff competition once again in this field.
To be in with a chance of being nominated for this category, the products had to be over-the-ear headphones, and after a great deal of considering and conversing, we have selected the below as our five nominees in the Best Headphones 2014 category.
Every manufacturer seems to be after a slice of the headphones market and AKG's approach with the Y50 on-ears is very savvy indeed. The level of build and audio quality the AKG Y50 deliver for their £80 asking price is astounding. Comprising metal, leather and glossy plastic in just the right amounts, it's the kind of construction many big-name competitors would charge twice as much for.
READ: AKG-Y50 review
Super comfortable to wear straight out of the box, the AKG Y50 on-ears sound great too. The abundant use of the oversize AKG logo may put some off, and the mid-range could do with a little more snap, but at this price point, the AKG Y50 on-ear headphones represent budget brilliance with few to no equals.
The Audio-Technica M50x headphones don't offer stacks of premium materials for the £120 price point and there aren't snazzy features like noise-cancellation, but for an all-encompassing, ultra-comfortable natural listen with the focus firmly on audio quality, they are a great contender.
Sometimes products exceed expectations, and the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones are one such example. The audio experience really shines through, delivering a loud, clear and natural listen throughout the full frequency range - whatever your preferred musical genre. Irrelevant of the use of plastics, the cushy earcups and padded headband make for a comfortable wear, and for the money, the ATH-M50x are an exemplary pair of over-ear studio monitor headphones.
Philips Fidelio M2BT
The Philips Fidelio M2BT on-ear headphones are the successor to the earlier Fidelio M1BT and they bring a few small tweaks in build quality by adding a fibre headband, along with NFC for simplified pairing with compatible devices.
The big sound from these small cans defies expectation but the mountain of bass will be a little too much for some, while the wireless connection isn't foolproof, causing the occasional audio glitch. Small in scale, attractive and not shy of bass, there's a lot to like about the Philips Fidelio M2BT's and they do a fine job of offering quality audio.
The Sennheiser Urbanite on-ear headphones don't scrimp on sound, style or build quality and while they don't offer a neutral listen, they deliver a bright, colourful and bassy one that doesn't over-stretch things to offer a balance that is just right.
The sheer quality of audio from these well-designed cans makes them worth every penny of their £150 asking price. Some competitors would charge twice as much as that and yet deliver nothing more in terms of style, build or sound quality.
The Sony MDR-1A headphones are smaller, lighter and more affordable than the company's "prestige" MDR-1R headphones and as they are capable of delivering high-resolution audio, whether you listen to YouTube streams, standard MP3s, or like to dabble in 24-bit WAV files, they'll have you covered.
READ: Sony MDR-1A review
From the moment you plug them in and pop them over your ears, everything sounds exceptional whatever your musical genre of choice. Bass response is top drawer, punchy without being over the top, while mid-level and higher frequencies are crisp and clear. The term "prestige" isn't used in the MDR-1A's product title this time around, but based on the audio experience we've had it might as well have been. These are exceptional headphones for the price.
Voting for your favourite
Voting in the 11th annual O2 Pocket-lint Awards is now open so you can let us know which one of these great devices you think should win the Best Headphones 2014 award and give us your verdict on all the other tech across the 13 select categories.
Winners will be announced at the exclusive event in London on 27 November in association with O2 and Hotwire. For now, keep an eye on the O2 Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2014 hub for all the latest on how the voting works, who the elite judges are and the O2 Pocket-lint Gadget Awards shortlist.