Posted on Wed, 26 Nov, 2014
Posted by Peter


If you’re a music lover (and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, the likelihood is you are) you want quality audio to follow you wherever you go, right? There’s nothing quite like a long, solitary walk with your headphones on and music blaring, or snuggling up on a train and drowning out the buzz of your fellow travellers with your desired soundtrack. The only thing that can make these sensations even greater is the quality of the headphones delivering the audio.


Comfort, sound quality, durability, overall usability and – of course – portability are all contributing factors when determining  what is a ‘good’ portable headphone. There are a great deal of them to chose from, and it’s a very important decision to make. But never fear, Audio Affair are here. And we have deduced which are the best headphones for the travelling audiophile, so you don’t have to. The following are loved by both us, our very astute customers and critics alike, so you know you’re in safe hands.

Remember, all prices stated were correct at the time of publishing and may be subject to change.

1. Grado iGrado – £49.90


Yes, we’re starting with a wild card. Super contemporary, super stylish and great for the music lover who has spent all of their hard-earned pennies on their music! The iGrado are an absolute bargain, offering lightweight and comfortable headphones which don’t skimp on the sound for a fraction of the cost of its competitors. They feature a vented diaphragm – a common feature of a hi-end headphone as well as UHPLC copper voice coil wire and connecting cord. The behind the neck headband assures maximum comfort and style, and allows for multi-purpose activities, including light sport. Perfect for the street and the commute, these headphones have proven themselves in the market by offering a surprisingly full and rich sound which stays exactly where it should.

Why do we like them?
It’s all about the sound with these bad boys. It’s really quite remarkable. At this price range you probably won’t have very high expectations, but even if you raise the bar – these Grados will soar over with ease. Yes, these are in no way hi-end. But boy, they sound like they are.

Why do they like them?
‘Open-sounding and clear, these iPod upgrades are unbeatable at the price. We’ve admired the Grado iGrados for some time. They’ve proved consistently tough to beat and always punched well above their price. (What Hi-Fi? Magazine)

2. PSB M4U 1 – £219


And so we enter the hi-end of the portable headphone. Who here is a fan of the PSB loudspeakers? If you are familiar with them, you know that they are pretty well known for their true, ‘same room’ sound, making them a popular choice amongst music professionals and hi-fi aficionados. Well, that true-to-nature ‘same room’ sound exists in headphone form. The M4U 1 encompass everything that is good about the sound of a PSB speaker, but in a comfortable (and gorgeous) headphone casing. Featuring gyro-suspended, self-adjusting ear pads, RoomFeel technology and even an in-built microphone (for phone calls), so features are covered. These ‘phones are luxurious, iconic and sound as good as they look.

Why do we like them?
Aside from the (extremely impressive) overall look and feel, these come in three colour options. Baltic Grey, Black Diamond and Monza Red. We’re not sure what a Monza is, but it sure looks pretty.

Why do they like them?
‘Clean, lively treble…energetic sound…they’re an upbeat, unfussy pair of headphones that should find many fans’ (What Hi-Fi? Magazine)

3. Beyerdynamic T51i – £249.95


The T51i are a double-threat in portable hi-end headphones: stunning sound brought about by Tesla Technology and a practical Apple remote and mic for extra practicality and usability on your travels. The T51i offer virtually unrivalled sound in portable form: deep bass response, rich, full bodied mid and clear, detailed highs. Everything an audiophile would expect from even a hi-end loudspeaker, but with the added benefit of portability. Careful attention has been paid to the overall design too, a flexible and fully adjustable headband supports fully swivelling ear cups designed to fit even the strangest-shaped head.

Why do we like them?
The key is in the detail with these headphones. The Apple remote is an excellent addition, especially if you’re using these with an iPod, iPad or iPhone – but most of its features will work with Android and Windows too, so it’s a benefit most can enjoy.

Why do they like them?
‘Delivering superb levels of subtlety and rhythm in its portable build, the T51ps are one of the best sounding headphones in its class.’ (What Hi-Fi? Magazine)

4. Sennheiser Momentum – £259

Available in both black (with extremely cool super car-style red-stitching – yes we like that sort of thing) and a much more demure brown, these luxurious headphones encapsulate everything that makes modern portable audio technology great and good. Constructed out of the finest quality metal and sheep leather, Sennheiser’s ‘passion for perfection’ is apparent. Much like its minimalist design, Sennhesier have approached the sound engineering with a very purist mentality: clean, uncoloured sound is always best. Nothing unnecessary leaves room for the true sound to shine through – and it’s quite magnificent.

Why do we like them?
Whether you’re a flash and funky black and red, or a cool and understated brown, we can’t see anyone preferring the sound of another. These phones are nice to touch and even nicer to hear. And they’re very easy on the eye too!

Why do they like them?
‘Smooth, punchy, refined all-rounders – and great-looking too […] their refreshingly balanced sound and great design makes them worth every penny, easily putting them among our favourite on-the-go headphones.’ (What Hi-Fi? Magazine)

5. Focal Spirit Classic – £299


In accordance with tradition, we’ve saved the very best for the very last. As far as portable headphone go, you won’t find a pair that more serious about the sound – and the sound alone. Minus the frills of most portable headphones, but with plenty of additional thrills, these hard-wearing and beautiful sounding headphones are a pretty sure-fire bet if sound quality is what matters most. They offer high-dynamic and truly faithful music reproduction, insulating the wearer completely against any background noise. Their memory foam ear cushions ensure that nothing gets in and nothing gets out. A completely immersive audio experience for both the comfort of your own home and the busiest of public areas.

Why do we like them?
They’re a true audiophile’s headphone, made for the road. Nothing much more to say than that.

Why do they like them?
‘Great, nuanced sound and pretty good versatility makes them a solid buy for those with picky ears.’ (Trusted Reviews)

If you’re looking for something a little more stable and waterproof (say, for the gym) we have a massive selection of sports earphones. And a lovely little blog on them too. And of course, we have several hi-end options for you too, if you want something very special for home use.