Bose QuietComfort 15
QuietComfort is an apt name for these superb headphones. For not only does the over-ear design provide a snug cocoon, the noise-cancelling aspect of these cans is second to none here. While in your own little world, you can enjoy a fabulous sound. Listening to Delphic's Remain, vocals have intimacy, there's impressive detail and clarity, and bass has punch and depth. Very hard recordings can edge towards brightness, but on most tracks these really are a class above the rest.
A comfortable set of headphones, the NS-1000s are also excellent at cancelling out background noise - only beaten here by the top-of-the-tree Bose QC15s. Sonically it's a clean, clear, crisp and open sound, with plenty of detail revealed that more than justifies the price tag.
These Sennheisers have been our favourites cans for two years on the bounce, but they don't win here. Why? Well, not only do the Bose QC15s sound better, they're more adept at noise-cancelling. But the PXC-450s remain a great buy. There's a volume control and a talk-through button on one ear, the latter silencing your tunes in one touch. Sonically, they're dynamic and detailed - and smoother in the treble than the QC15s - but the Bose cans beat them for space and insight.
Monster Beats Studio Headphones by Dre
The Monster Beats Studios are stylish and solidly made, but we're not sure they quite cut the mustard compared to the best here. Flush on the ear and capable at isolating noise, they're less gifted at cancelling typical background frequencies. But there's much to like in the sound: Vampire Weekend's Holiday sounds lively, delivering a dynamic sound, although it lacks a touch of poise.