I have recently had the opportunity to test all of these headphones and I thought I would take a few moments to share my thoughts on them.
About two years ago i tried the Bose headphones for the first time and they rocked my world, they were the first noise isolating in ear headphones id heard and before that i had been sporting the original ipod ear buds for and similar quality gear for years. I was in love and I even went as far as to get some molds of my ears made and fitted to achieve maximum comfort and sound quality.
About two months ago some one decided they needed my headphones more than i did and that was the end of my bose, on the bright side i went on a journey through four different pairs of phones and have strong opinions of all of them. I will rank them from least favorite to favorite.
I have spent between 1 and two weeks listening to each type of phones, i have gone through a wide range of music but the staples for the comparisons will be Victor Wootens A Show of Hands, The Beatles, Dr. Dres 2001, Radio Heads In Rainbows and a choice selection of Bach and Mozart.
5~ Etymotic ER-4p $179.99
I had such high hopes for these headphones. They were the first pair I got as a replacement and I was dissapointed from the first note. These headphones claim the be the most precise phones around, and they probably are but if your into bass of low end THESE ARE NOT FOR YOU. It was laughable how weak the bass response was, I really tried hard to love these phones but i just couldn't. The highs sound great and they performed best on the classical tracks, the sound is very bright. They also block the most outside noise of any phone tested, i found that they let a fair amount of sound out though so people around me could hear very well. The cord also felt kind of fragile and transfered a lot of noise to the ear. Not at all worth the money i paid for them, i tested these phones with out a headphone amp.
4~ Klipsch Image S4 $84.99
Again I had high hopes for these headphones, but over all i was pretty unsatisfied with them. The high end mid range sounds crystal clear and amazing but the bass response leaves a lot to be desired. They felt underpowered and no matter what i listened to i felt that some thing special was missing, the music sounded empty and hollow. Another problem I had here was the fact that the provided tips refuse to stay in my ears. No matter what i did i couldnt get the phones to seal properly or stay in my ears, even when sitting down. This may be part of the reason for the poor low end, nonetheless I was pretty unhappy with the phones, the metal carrying case was also kind of a pain in the ass, it reminded me of the case that old school zebra gum came in and was easily dented. I will be the first to admit I am hard on my gear and i dont feel the case would have made it more than a month, the packaging also left something to be desired.
3~ Monster Beats by Dre $149.99
Finally a set of phones that I was decently happy with. These headphones have some really strong points, my favorite feature being the flat cable. If you can stand a fire engine red cord it was wonderful, hard to tangle and easy to fix. The highs and mids were very nice and these phones were a bit warmer than the previous two. I started to notice a personal trend with these phones, I like deep sounds with rich bass. My one complaint with these phones is that the low end wasnt all there. I was shocked because monster claims that Dre had a hand in designing these and i dont know why he would let such mediocre low end slide. The fit and finish of these phones was of the highest quality and the packaging was clever and a joy to open. They came with a selection of 5 different silicone tips and i was easily able to find one to fit my ears.
2~ Bose Tri Port $89.99
I am probably a bit biased but i still love these phones. The reviews I have read would put them at the bottom of this pack but that goes to show that you need to try things for yourself sometimes. These headphones sound great from lows to highs but sometimes the low end is over played and the highs get a little lost. The quality of these phones is very high as well, a pair of mine did actually break out of warranty and bose was nice enough to replace them for free with no questions asked. I think these are probably the best value for the price and I continue to recommend them to most of my friends. Another positive thing here is that these phones really dont bleed that much sound the the outside world, meaning that you are the only one to hear your music which is nice in quiet places. I dont really like the shape of them and the tend to stick out of the ears a little bit and they are not truly sound isolating meaning that you can hear a lot of outside noise.
1~Monster Turbine 159.99 (179.99 in best buy)
These are hands down my favorite of the phones i tested. With the exception of the Bose these were the only phones that made me smile ear to ear as soon as i put them in and i basically love everything about them. They boast a rich and full sound, the lows boom and the highs are precise and deep. They are comfy accross all genres of music and I have not heard a not of distortion yet. They have the same selection of tips as the Dre phones but sadly dont come with the flat cord. The quality is top notch as well, these headphones make it hard for me to stop listening to music once i get started. When compared directly to the Beats by Dre they match everything on the high end but have so so much more on the low side. I strongly recommend these to any one who is passionate about sound quality and prepared to spend a little bit of money to get it.
I hope that this information was helpful and Ill be glad to answer any questions to the best of my ability!
Another note is that i spent countless hours on line looking for information on all these phones but in the end it was much easier and much more fun to order a pair and try them out, best buy carries all of these phones but the Etymotic and they have a kick ass return policy as well.