The Galaxy Note 9 is one of the best phones in the market if you're interested in wired audio. While the industry as a whole is gravitating to wireless audio, there are plenty of fantastic options available if you like plugging in your headphones. The Sony MDR-1AM2 (opens in new tab) stands out in this category for its incredible sound quality and comfortable fit.
The successor to the highly rated MDR-1A is here. The MDR-1AM2 comes with a new 40mm driver along with aluminum-coated liquid crystal polymer diaphragms, and the sound quality has also been improved. Bass is lively and energetic, and the mids are similarly clear and detailed. The MDR-1AM2 is comfortable to wear throughout the day and the sound quality on offer makes it one of the best options in this space in 2018.
Bowers & Wilkins' flagship over-ear headphones look magnificent, and the premium design is backed by exquisite sound. There's a generous amount of Saffiano leather on the earcups, brushed aluminum on the headband, and the drivers are angled by 15 percent to effectively funnel sound into your ears. The bass isn't too overwhelming, the midrange is wonderfully clear, and the highs are balanced. To top it all off, the P9 comes with an Alcantara carrying case.
The first-gen Sennheiser Momentum didn't have many flaws, and the Momentum 2.0 retains most of the same features while introducing a design with larger earcups for a more comfortable fit. The collapsible design also makes them more portable, and thankfully, Sennheiser didn't alter the sound signature too much: the Momentum 2.0 sound fantastic.
For a neutral sound
The MDR7506 debuted all the way back in the nineties, and for over 20 years it has been a mainstay in recording studios around the world. A lot of that has to do with the neutral sound signature, and when you consider the fact that these headphones can take an astonishing amount of abuse, it's easy to see why they're still around.
Unlike dynamic headphones — where a magnet pulls on a coil connected to the diaphragm — planar magnetic relies on a thin diaphragm with magnets on both sides. What this essentially means is that you get less distortion and a more natural-sounding bass. The sound quality is what makes the Monolith M565C truly stand out, and for under $200 it's a steal. The closed-back design also makes them ideal for your daily commute.
Budget on-ear pick
Grado is a fan-favorite for its retro designs and uncompromising sound. The SR60e delivers a tonal balance that's unmatched in this category, and the overall sound signature isn't as bass-heavy as most mainstream headphones. The open-back design doesn't make it a great option for your daily commute, but if you prefer great sound quality for under $100, nothing else comes close.
The versatile option
The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x is a stalwart in this category, and for good reason. Its combination of portable design and excellent sound quality makes it the go-to choice in the sub-$200 segment. The bass-heavy soundstage makes it a particularly great option if you listen to a lot of EDM and pop, and the lightweight design ensures you don't feel uncomfortable even after wearing them throughout the day.
Etymotic Research's in-ear headphones are available in two flavors: an ER3SE Studio Reference model that has a neutral sound signature and the ER3XR Extended Response edition that delivers a more pronounced bass. The IEMs come with detachable cables that let you switch them out, eartips that provide great noise isolation, and impressive sound.
The Momentum IEMs feature a colorful design makes them stand out and the flat cables ensure they don't tangle. Where these truly excel though is in the amount of sound they put out. Like the over-ear Momentum, the IEMs deliver impressive sound. If you're in the market for affordable earbuds with great sound, look no further.
Great in-ear headphones
As the name suggests, the Quad Driver contains three balanced armature drivers and a single diamond-like carbon driver that delivers a balanced sound. The earbuds feature a kevlar finish that makes them durable, and they offer a decent amount of bass with a tight mid-range and clear highs.
Although Samsung doesn't use a Quad DAC arrangement like LG, the manufacturer has done a great job eliminating stereo crosstalk and enhancing the dynamic range on the Note 9. This translates to less distortion in everyday usage, which makes the Note 9 a great option for wired audio.
That also means that the Sony MDR-1AM2 (opens in new tab) is perfect for the Note 9. Sony has retained most of the elements that made the MDR-1A a fan favorite while adding improvements in key areas that allow the headphone to stand out.
Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.