This Sony Classic is Still on Top
There have been so many headphones in the past twenty years that it's really hard to separate the, uh, noise from the signal. There's no question that headphones have driven past the exit of audio quality, venturing into much more complex territory of branding, logos, and other non-audible elements of the user experience. But in terms of looks and audio quality, there's still a place for the sub-$100 Sony classic, the MDR-7506, and that place is on top.
Because they got it right the first time, the MDR-7506's audio quality from 1991 is still winning awards, snagging Best-of-Year and Editors' Choice awards from Reviewed.com 23 years after it was released. For a pre-noise canceling pair of headphones, MDR-7506 does a damn good job at reducing ambient noise, and boasts audio quality worthy of the "Professional" branding on the ear cups. Look at any picture of an NPR studio or recording studio, and you'll still see these on tons of ears. They've got some serious sound credibility.
Sonys utilize their credibility when it comes to how they look and how people perceive them. Since the branding and design is undoubtedly utilitarian — which is reflected in the reasonable price — these headphones project a no nonsense anti-branding look, which we appreciate. It's the same kind of tool-first attitude that makes us love diving watches. A product that does its job well will always look good.