The 7 Worst Headphones I Reviewed in 2017

Another Listicle to close out the year!

I review headphones based on my own whims at the time, since I don’t accept review units.

Sometimes my whims don’t work out very well.

Click the name of each headphone below to see my full review.

Click here to read my other list where I picked good headphones instead of bad ones.

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7. Pioneer SE-MS5T

These were the most boring headphones I reviewed all year.

In fact, I frequently forget that I even owned them for a couple of months.

They have a similar sound signature to the excellent HRM-5’s, but nothing else about this pair of headphones is all that fun or interesting.

The retro style is a little bit exciting…but everything else is strictly average and blah.

I forgot they were in my closet after a few weeks and I sold them without a single regret.

The more robust feature set of the HRM-5 is absolutely worth their price premium if you find yourself interested in Pioneer’s headphone lineup.

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6. Microsoft Xbox One Stereo Gaming Headset

These are like, one notch above bad. They are of a minimum acceptable quality, which was probably the goal. They’re the definition of “okay” as far as gaming audio products go.

Normally, I wouldn’t expect much more than that for the $49 or so that these often go for…but in that price range, you can now get the excellent RIG 400, HyperX Cloud Stinger, and Astro A10.

All of those are better than this headset.

You can get a bundle of these that includes the stereo headset adapter, and that’s useful if you have an older Xbox controller.

But the sound here is weird and muddy. The comfort is average and the isolation is poor. The build is meh. The pair at my local Best Buy has been broken for months.

You can easily do better and you probably should!

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5. Shure SRH-440

Okay. Technically I reviewed these on the last day of 2016. But I’m including them here because I can.

The Shure SRH-440 has one of the most tank-like builds I’ve ever seen in a pair of headphones.

Unfortunately, that causes as many problems as it solves.

While I could easily throw these down several flights of stairs without breaking them, that tank-ness makes them almost impossible to wear for long sessions. They just kind of clamp and press into my ears and head, and they’re perhaps the least-comfy studio headphones I’ve ever worn.

I still haven’t tried Shure’s other more expensive models which apparently fixed these comfort issues, and I still want to do that.

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4. Creative Aurvana Live!

“Wait Alex, I thought you really enjoyed these in your original review?”

I did. Mostly for their sound quality. But then the plug on my unit broke out of nowhere, revealing a poor level of build quality tucked just beneath the surface. And I’m still weirdly sour about it.

In fact, the more time that goes by, the more bitter I am about it. I’ve done some research and found that other folks have had build quality issues with these.

And the small pads and middling isolation are not going to be for everyone. The sound performance and the styling are the strongest points of these headphones…but knowing what I do now, if I were reviewing them today, I might not be so effusive about them. I did mention all of these drawbacks in my review, but I was still taken in by their sound performance for the price.

I don’t always get everything right. Far from it!

You’d probably be better off with an MDR-V6, an NVX XPT100/Brainwavz HM5, or a pair of M40X’s on sale.

But I still like the look of the CAL! and I still love the way the wooden versions look too. I’ll probably revisit this one sometime in the future, but I’ll have to get over the sting of the build letdowns first.

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3. Sennheiser PC350 SE

This gaming headset is based on the Sennheiser HD 380 Pro.

But it has a big, inflexible build with ear cups that are so huge they wouldn’t seal correctly on my head. This killed the bass response on this pair, for me.

The more expensive Game Zero uses a similar design but has softer and more flexible ear pads, so I imagine those will have an easier time sealing on most heads.

Sennheiser builds a lot of great gaming headsets with good microphones that are stupidly permanently attached. The 350SE is not a good one.

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2. Status Audio CB-1

Speaking of build quality let downs…these next two entries are two of the worst-built headphones I’ve ever used.

The CB-1’s are a tremendously frustrating pair of headphones. Their packaging was great. Their sound quality was great. Their comfort was great.

Their build quality was stupid and ridiculous.

I get that this is a cheap pair of headphones. I get that it offers a lot of things at its ~$59 price point that other headphones just don’t do. But it’s clear that big weird sacrifices were made in the build to get there.

Why are the sliders so cheap and plasticky? Why are the ear cup rotation gimbals spring-loaded to snap back to their neutral position? How is a pair of headphones with absolutely zero metal parts so big and clunky? Why is the headband pad weirdly perforated? Why does such a big pair of headphones have such a tiny adjustment range for different head sizes? Why does Status advertise these as using angled pads when they actually use flat pads? Why is it so hard to deactivate the cable-locking mechanism?

Just don’t. Don’t buy these. Get something better. The sound and comfort here are good. Everything else is a NO.

1. Turtle Beach Stealth 700

The only Turtle Beach headset I’ve owned that didn’t have profound build issues was the Elite 800. I also tried to buy the Elite Pro this year…but I got two different pairs with a bent mic plug, and decided to call it quits.

The Stealth 700, like most Turtle Beach products, is built out of comically cheap and thin plastic that feels bad. Just like my CB-1’s, my pair had an adjustment slider that was totally smooth and non-clicky and broken, and that ear cup would just fall out of the headphones with little provocation.

It’s a shame, because the sound quality and the feature set of the Stealth 700 was great.

If Status Audio and Turtle Beach got their build quality issues sorted out, these would both be winners. That’s what makes them my most personally disappointing headphones of the year.


I don’t like to write bad reviews. I don’t enjoy disliking things I was interested in and spent my own money on. But sometimes, it happens. I still try to find the good in everything…but none of the products listed above should be your first or second choice.

Happy New Year. I wrote this while listening to my DT770 Pros. Obligatory headphone selfie is below.

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Written by

I do radio voice work by day, and write by day and night. I studied film and production. I love audio, design, and music. Also video games.

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