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by Leo Jakobson | January 29, 2015
In some ways, the difference between an average set of headphones and an outstanding one is like the difference between mono and stereo. Here are four great sets that enclose your ears for better sound and keep out ambient noise.

Bose QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
 are one of the most popular incentive merchandise awards. Introduced in September, the newest generation, QuietComfort 25, features a smoother frequency response across the full sound spectrum as well as Bose TriPort technology for deep, detailed bass. Sean Garrett, vice president of the Bose Noise Reduction Technology Group, says, "We improved nearly every dimension -- greater noise reduction, lifelike audio, a striking new profile, and a new earcup pivot to fold up smaller than ever." It gets up to 35 hours of use off of a single AAA battery, and works as standard headphones without power. An inline remote and mic make it easy to take calls with compatible smartphones. It is available in black and gray or white and tan. $299, www.incentiveconcepts.com

Made in Japan, Sony's MDR-Z7 Hi-Res Stereo Headphones use 70-mm aluminum-coated Liquid Crystal Polymer driver units for great wideband frequency response ranging from 100 kHz highs to 4 Hz lows. They come standard with a pair of four-wire, silver-coated oxygen-free cables for faithful sound reproduction. Precise build, ergonomic design, and pressure-relieving urethane cushions wrap your ears for a comfortable acoustic seal, providing powerful bass response and long-wear comfort. $699.99, www.sony.com/motivation

High-end audio firm Bowers & Wilkins is a British company best known for its traditional speakers, which top out at $70,000 a pair and are used in top recording studios. Its top-of-the-line P7 model features an advanced drive unit and removable sheepskin leather ear pads. They fold for convenience, and come with a customizable case. $399.99, specialmarkets@bwgroupusa.com

Exclusively from Capitol Sales, the JBL Synchros S700 headphones are based on JBL's professional stage monitors, and deliver powerful audio with show-stopping clarity, using a rechargeable lithium-ion battery to power the company's LiveStage digital signal processing, which delivers live performance sound quality. The S700 features 50-mm drivers, JBL PureBass performance, and it comes with a pair of three-button cables, one with an in-line iOS mic and the other with a universal mic. Precision crafted from cast aluminum, woven cordura, and steel, they feature leather ear cushions, and are available in Onyx or Glacier. $349.95, www.capitolsales.com