My leading contenders:
- Etomytic in ear buds (very portable but not sure about health aspects of buds that go in teh ear canal)
- Grado Prestige line
- Sennheiser, so many models, which one? Open back of some sort probably, must be comfortable, portable a plus)
- Audio technica open back, similar considerations
- Beyerdynamic DT880 (this would be my high end choice for comfort and sound though not so portable)
Currently I am using Realistic Nova 45s from the early 80's, which IMHO were quite good in their day and still sound pretty good, but of course I think I can do better.
These are not very comfortable though these days in that these have a thin sheet metal frame and thin pads, which I suppose I could replace or supplement.
Interesting I'm finding that Realistic Nova 45s must be pretty rare headphones in that I see no correct images of them on the internet. They were one of my top 5 gold standard Realistic audio products that I sold in bunches ($30 retail in early 80s I recall) to lucky customers that could appreciate them back in the day.
What is your budget?
I have owned MANY pair of headphones (started out with headphones moved onto speakers) and they all differ a little but if you pick a top model from a well know brand (Sennheiser, AKG, Dennon, Ultra Zone, Ultimate Ears, Beyerdynamic, etc) you really can't go wrong.
My only issue with most headphones is the highs. I have always felt the highs are lacking on headphones. Sennheiser 650s are nice in the mids but very soft on the highs and clamp my head a little bit. Denon AH-D5000 are very comfortable, closed and sound a lot like the Senns with a touch more treble and should be added to your list.
Grados are fun, I owned a few of their top models at one time. They can be very bright and are good at low levels but playing them loudly always ended my listening sooner than later. They also lack low end bass but have good bass punch in the 80hz range.
Etomytics block a lot of sound but they have no bass, really no bass. They need to be put very deep into the ear to get any bass. They are not good for moving around because the cord is very microphonic. If you go the IEM rout get ones where the cord goes over your ear (you can put the cord in front of your neck if you want) it will dampen the microphonics.
Beyerdynamic DT880, I demoed these back to back with my Sennheiser HD650s a long time ago. They are a little lighter in the bass then the Senns and have a more balanced top end. I liked the mids better on the Senn because they had more presents and just sounded right.
I have sold all my headphone and only kept two pairs... Sennheiser HD-650s and Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10vi. The Sennheiser were my first highend love and I guess I like them in-spite of their flaws...
Then there is the Ultimate Ears. What can I say, they sound almost as good as full size headphones. They are detailed with good bass and clear mids, they get good bass with out being drilled deep into your head (like the Etomytic). They have better extention on the highs than Shure I had (for got the model). They are good for bedtime and I wear them at the gym too. Not sure what your budget is but custom IEM would be a quick end to the highend headphone gig. My only issue with the Ultimate Ears is they dip a little in the mids and need to be turned up to get my heart pumping but I really like them and could not see my self with out a good pair of IEM.
If you want anymore details on any of these headphones let me know and I can go into amps and what not.
Thanks for all that useful info.
I was not aware of the Ultimate Ears. They sound interesting. I will get more use out of a pair of good portable in ear phones than larger traditional on or over ear designs most likely, in that I have a variety of tabletop and portable devices I might use them with.
Let me research some more and come back with some more questions as needed.
I've been leaning towards the B&W P5 headphones of late for their combo of build quality, comfort, sound, and value, especially if had used.
Any thoughts on those specifically?
The Squeeze Radio does not seem to have a lot of power to spare for most smaller phones I have tried so far, so I am a bit concerned that limits options a bit.
I do not need SOTA phones at this point, so I have pretty much ruled out most phones that would tend to cost more at this point.
Did you give up on IEM at this point?
I have heard the B&W P5 headphones at the Apple store off of an iphone (mine with losses files). So take my comments with a grain of salt. They were built very nice but I found them pretty uneventful. They sounded pretty run of mill to me. They did not have any glaring flaws but they did not shin at all. I run my Ultimate ears off my iphone most of the time and they sounded MUCH better. Lower bass (cleaner too) more detailed and better impact from top to bottom. For $300 there are better headphones than the P5.
When looking for headphones that are easy to driver look at how many ohms they are, and the sensitivity. The lower the ohms the easier they will be to drive but the louder the noise floor (hissss) will be from the source too.
If you are not against on the ear headphones and need something easy to driver, Grados will fit the bill. They are sort of like horns to me though, a little colored, a little bright, but have great dynamics and impact to off set the flaws. The Grado RS-7 is the one headphone I wish I did not sell.
A brand called Alessandro (link below) takes Grado headphones and modifies them to be a little more flat. They keep all the good points of Grado but make them a little more tonally balance. I owned the Music Series Two before I bought the Grado RS-1. But the Alessandros also fall on the bright side of neutral but are a lot of fun. Built quality like all Grados is pretty iffy though. Alessandro High-End Products
Headroom (www.headphone.com) is an assume site with reliable reviews of the headphones they carry. You can also overlay frequency graphs of different headphone phones they cary on their site. They measure them in-house.Their own line of amps holds their own too.
Also Head-fi.org is a very helpful and knowledgeable headphone forum.
You may also want to look at the Denon AH-D2000. They are only 25 ohms and pretty efficient. But like all headphones a real amp would improve the sound (more dynamic, better bass) but you may have luck straight out of your Squeezebox. I have never heard the AH-D2000 but they are suppose to be 95% of the Denon AH-D5000 at 1/2 the price, that I thought sounded very nice. For what it is worth Head-room (www.headphone.com) has a 30 day trial period so you could exchange them for something different if they do not work out of the Squeezebox.
THanks for the info.
I have been getting by with the Nova 45s pretty well, so I am taking my time.
Still not sure which way I will go other than avoiding big bulky over the ear types.
Having reviewed the options, and given my limited usage needs for these,I may test the waters with a pair of Klipsch Image S4 in ear phones.
These get almost universally good reviews for both sound and comfort. They are also only 18 ohm which should work well with the Squeezebox radio.
My expectation is that these should be at least as good or better (but a lot different sounding) than the Nova 45s in regards to sound quality, plus will hopefully be unobtrusive and comfortable enough to wear in bed and fall asleep to.
As a bonus, they should be a step up on my daughter's ipod as well when I use that on occasion at the pool or when running of biking, etc.
Th Klipsch are ordered and on their way.
I'm very interested to see how these stack up with what I have (30 year old Realistic Nova 45 on-ear open back phones with Titanium drivers that these are targeted to replace and also 20 year old rock solid sounding Stax sr80 electret "earspeakers" that I run off my 2 channel a/v system in the family room via Roku Soundbridge from the same music server that the Squeezebox Radio connects to in the bedroom).
HEy, the Klipsch came a day early.
Good deal on Amazon. I ordered a CD along with it and the cost still came to less than what I would pay at the local BEst Buy (that name is a misnomer these days I find in that there are some Best Buys but plenty of really bad ones as well).
Got to try them out last night.
The fit and comfort level for use at night prior to going to sleep is very good, much as advertised.
The sound quality is very solid. Nothing radically earth shattering, but not too much to take issue with either.
Bass levels are much better with these in ear phones than the on ear open back Nova 45s, which is probably their weakest area, though many may not mind.
Good deal so far. Fits my needs well. We'll see if I get teh bug to upgrade down the road.
Glad you found a solution. I have actually heard the Klipsch S4 too. In there price range they hold their own. They have one of the better fits on the market too. The comparable priced Ultimate Ears are pretty tipped up in the bass for the consumer market and do not sound as good. As you get into higher priced IEM the Ultimate Ear bring greater clarity, transient attack, treble extension, and are more tonally balance while maintaining good bass.
So I've been living with the Klipsch now for a few months and they are working out fine in that application. Could I do better sound wise? Probably. Am I tempted to spend more? Not at present in that this setup gets only limited use usually just to help fall asleep at night.
One a related topic, I was reading PSB recently entered the headphone market with an entry coming in at ~ $400.
I've liked PSB speakers when I have heard them.
Anyone heard the PSB phones or have any commentary on them?
I am waiting for my friend to give me her Klipsch S4's. I usually don't like in ear cans because they are uncomfortable, but these have had numerous good reviews for the last couple of years. If you get them, post a review!!!
I also heard the B&W P5's at the Apple store and found them also to be uninspiring. I'm sure it had to do with the iphone as source and the store noise, but I still felt that you could spend less money and get the same quality from Grado and Sennheiser. They were detail and warm but seemed veiled and restrained.
Look into a new old stock of AKG 701's; they look great, are reviewed as a "reference" headphone and they can be had in the $200's.
I like the build quality and fit design of the B&Ws. Haven't heard them enough to comment on the sound, but I suspect they are contenders.
There are soooooo many head and ear phones out there these days to choose from......
B&w build quality for the P5 was top notch and my favorite part of my experience .
I noticed in another post that you are experienced with Ohm speakers. Someone is selling the 3xo here and they are somewhat near me. Do you have any insight into those?
I currently am using Snell Type Q monitors and would like more bass without sacrificing the snell's level of detail.
3XO is an older model with somewhat higher efficiency than most OHM Walshes.
With a 80X+ high current SS amp or better, bass extension should be very good in the price range these typically go for used, near full range class, better than most any monitor type speaker.
Overall sound refinement may not be quite up to snuff with the better modern speaker designs, including OHMs, but 3XO should offer good value overall used and a different kind of sound from most box designs that most either take to for good or not.
I've had my Shure SRH940s for 2 weeks now and am really liking them. What got me started was while waiting for my Centrance DACmini I dove into the various headfi forums and someone had the tenacity to compare the $300 Shures to the $1500 Sennhieser HD800s They were almost the Senns equal and that was good enough for me to try them.
At first I didn't know if they were too analytical but now that I have the DACmini, I'm keeping them. They have a beautiful midrange and airy, extended highs with tons of detail that don't distract. The bass is there in pitch and definition but a mite lacking in body and tone but the adjustment period has been easy for me. Now my main rig sounds a bit congested but I know its an illusion that occurs from extended listening from the headphones.
Give them a try: you might like them. There is over 114 pages of posts about them over at head-fi.org: quite the controversy.
Yes, the Shure's continue to be an option I might consider as a step-up from the Klipsch down the road if I decide to make a bigger investment in this.
After a new round of reading and auditioning, I just added a pair of Sennheiser Momentum circumaural/over ear Headphones.
Ended up on these because:
1) I've always liked the whole Sennheiser line for many years. Had HD 424s years ago that I preferred over the other big names taht are still around.
2) I wanted something closed rather than open to keep the sound in especially in bed at night, reasonably portable, versatile and relatively easy to drive well that comes close to the best sounding open-back audiophile in-home headphones that most people might own, including my Stax, which are a totally different but high performing beast. I do tend to prefer open back phones in general. CLosed not open eliminated a lot of common audiophile choices.
3) Momentums sounded as good as anything I heard out there and many regard them as Sennheisers best "portable" phones + they are closed back.
Might add a portable headphone amp still. We'll see....
Audio Technica ESW9 on ear wood cup portables ($50 less than cost of the Momentums, which I acquired on amazon for a decent discount) were another very strong contender that I could live with.
Nice choice Mapman - I have a pair of these and am enjoying them very much.
The Momentums sound reminds me a lot of the sound of my old HD424s, but way much more flushed out and with bass to die for that teh older phones were never able to muster. Its definitely that "Sennheiser" sound.
This is a very nice product that shouts "quality" in all regards. VEry comfortable, compact and stylish looking as well!