For "silent" headphones, you will need in-ear monitors like those from Etymotic or Shure or others. These can range in price from about $125 to nearly $1000.00 Ety 4s would be mid price but are pretty decent quality. Ety 6 would be mid-fi. Source is same as any other rig. HP amps cover an entire spectrum, tube and ss, with many diff sound signatures. SS units include Headroom Home and Max. Ray Samuels SS units are also well reviewed. Tube units include those from Singlepower and RKV at the high end, Melos SHA (pre) with NOS tubes has a well regarded HP jack and is a pretty worthy contender that can serve double duty. There are 2 web sites that focus entirely on this subject, head-fi.org and headwize.com. Good luck. BTW, best HP rigs I have heard and owned) are not contenders because they are open design.
Start here...CD > iTunes (Apple Lossless Compression) > iPod > Headroom Total Airhead portable amp > Shure E3, E4, or E5s (or Etymotic ER4s).
1. Source- CD, SACD/DVD-A
2. Amp- Creek, Channel Islands, Musical Fidelity, Headroom to name but a few. Upgraded power supplies offer a big improvement.
Wow, a little too broadly stated for me to address in much detail. Give a price range and people can be a bit more helpful.
But if absolute silence for your partner is required, in the low to moderate price range I would recommend an ipod with Etymotic ER 4P earphones. The ipod will run you $300 to $400, the ety's another $250. If you want to go way up in quality on the source and headphone amplifier you of course can, but even then Etymotic and Sure earphones are probably the only thing that will make it truly silent for your partner if you are going to be in the same bed at the time. The ER 4P's sound very good (WAY, WAY better than stock ipod ear buds) but for long listening they are not that comfortable.
But if you buy an expensive rig, you can always invest in a second pair if headphones (for when absolute silence is not essential) that will be more comfortable. If paired with a nice source and headphone amp (ABSOLUTLY NOT with an ipod alone), my default place to start (for good reason) is a pair of Sennheiser HD 650's. They run around $310 or so on ebay.
Forget the headphones, get separate bedrooms. I guess we won't see the "Audiophiles make better lovers" bumper sticker any time soon.
Stax does (or at least did) make a closed version of the their earspeaker. It's probably shown on the website at Yamasinc.
I would secound Swampwalker with the ear canal type headphones. They work great and sound fantastic. Couple sites to look at are Headphone.com and Headfi.org. Headphone sells package deals and overall are great to work with. On headfi.com you will also find alot of DIY that make great stuff like portable amp etc.
Get a pair of Etymotic ER 4P's. I use these in bed next to my wife all the time...she can't hear a thing, and I hear only the music. I use my ER4P's with an iPod video, and the synergy is very good. I have experimented with using a portable amp, and even using my ER4P's from a high-end headphone amp (my SinglePower PPX3), and the sound from the ER4P's isn't improved that much. For me, they are different from other headphones in the sense that "lowly" amplification works just great for them.
The only way for your wife not to hear a thing is to use canalphones (Etymotic, Shure, Ultimate Ears).
Slight different angle: suggest her to use ear plugs to help lessen the "problem" plus your use of the recommended mentioned equipment. Could be better than the separate rooms options.....it's really up to your particular situation to choose the better solution.
I forgot I am talking to a bunch of engineers...very particular and precise.
O.K., let me try again. This set-up does not have to be absolutely silent, just sorta quiet. You know, like if I prop a pillow between us, I can probably get away with it. I'm talking Miles & Evans stuff - quiet, mellow.
So, starting with the headphones, then to what they plug into (amp?) then music source (IPod?).
Then I want to be able to cram all this stuff into a fanny pack and use it while I wax my car. Let's say the whole shooting match for $1000 or less. Possible?
Sony Discman with Denon closed headphones, waaayyy less than a thousand. Haven't tried Dakiom's headphone stabilizers but I might.
...to add portability (and the most overall flexibility), start w/ the first recomendation in my first post. I started w/ the E3s and thought them very good but the E4s were a definite improvement. The iPod will impress. If you decide that in-ears are not your choice, simply substitute traditional cans. All can be had for way less than $1000.
Very possible to get very high quality at that price. Check in at head-fi.org for all the details. Maybe Ray Samuels portable amp with Etymotic 4s which at new cost would still leave you several hundred for a source.