Don't Leave Home Without Headphones

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As the weather warms up and you pack for your next vacation, there's one thing you shouldn't forget: noise-reducing headphones.

With just about a week of time off with the inlaws under my belt, I have spent more than my fair share of time balancing noisy beaches, crowded rental houses and boisterous family meals. For sure, peace and quiet comes at a premium. That's why it's worth it to buy good headphones to help you stay sane, especially if you have to work during your vacation.

Active noise control headphones are the flavor of the headphone moment. First made famous by Bose in the late '80s, Sony (SNE), Nokia ( NOK), Denon and Sennheiser now flood the market with these units. All of them share a similar technology: they create a personal quiet zone by bathing your ears in mostly inaudible sound waves that keep distracting noise from getting to your ear drums.

My family and I tests some of the popular high-end headphones available. Here's what we found:

Monster Cable Beats by Dr. Dre Studio High Definition Headphones ($350)

With LeBron James, Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas sporting these cans, and heavy-rotation Dr. Pepper ads featuring the good doctor himself, Monster Cable's Beats by Dr. Dre line is the buzz leader in active noise-reduction sets right now.

While these headphones offers nice isolation technology and a dramatic design, they aren't the most advanced headphones ever made, as claims the company. These headphones weren't the favored pair among the judges, including my 17-year-old singing niece, 13-year-old musically addicted nephew and his parents. Some people will crave the cool look of these headphones, but for the same money, you can get more clarity and features from other headphones.

Sennheiser PXC 450 ($350)

The Sennheiser PXC 450s offer crisp sound for active noise-reduction headphones. Still, they're nowhere near the top tier in terms of pure headphone performance. That honor lies with the Sennheiser HD 800s. But the 450s offer a legit audiophile experience that do a nice job with what passes for today's encoded digital music. I was also impressed with the built-in pass-through microphones that let you hear when you want to. But the 450s are not issue free. They look like bad props from Battlestar Gallactica. But dollar for dollar, the 450s give you best-in-class sound.

Denon AH-NC732 ($299)

The Denon AH-NC732s headphones are much lighter, but still offer solid performance. They're trim, easy to carry and have a nice over-ear fit. They offer enough noise-reduction oomph to make even a flight to Australia tolerable. I like how the batteries are carried inside the headphones, and the unit came with nice touches such as long and short cables to reduce headphone spaghetti. If you're looking for the value buy for high-end headphones, this is the play.

-- Reported by Jonathan Blum in New York.

Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.

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