The Best Headphones?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by Waluigi, Sep 6, 2003.

  1. Waluigi macrumors 6502

    Apr 29, 2003
    I'm looking to buy a pair of ultra high end headphones for my new G5. I'm looking for something that will give me the best sound quality possible, and also have a chord that is at least 10 feet long. Price is not an issue. Any suggestions?

  2. P-Worm macrumors 68020


    Jul 16, 2002
    Salt Lake City, UT
    I like the Bose Quiet Comfort ones. They block out a lot of external sound.

  3. beez7777 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 5, 2002
    Notre Dame
    i have a the bose quietcomforts, and i really like them. the quality of sound is top notch, and the noise cancellation works pretty well. they are really comfortable to wear, as well. they fit nicely over my ears. i'd definitely reccommend them.

    you can try them out at either an apple store or a bose store if you have one near you.
  4. jxyama macrumors 68040


    Apr 3, 2003
    no offense, but bose is not the best for sound quality, esp. the "quiet" ones.

    i recommend grado. they make excellent headphones, even at a pretty low price (~$80), can't imagine what they would sound like if you are willing to go high.

    as for the cable, you might want to simply invest in a high quality extension cable. (that will prevent all of the headphone cable from being exposed to elements...)

    Grado Labs

    you'll need to look around the web for a dealer. i have the sr 60. it was about $65 and absolutely the best headphone i've ever owned. sound will be amazingly different from all other headphones. it reproduces the mid- to high-range perfectly and base is there without being overwhelming. (which i find many of the bose headphones do.)

    the design is probably a little retro-ish. but i assure you the sound quality is superb. the foam is very comfortable. the only "problem" i've had is that this is an open can so many people around will hear your sound if you turn it up.
  5. Ambrose Chapel macrumors 65816

    Ambrose Chapel

    Jul 24, 2002

    i second grado. i tried the bose triports and thought they were awful. my grado SR-60s cost 70 (half the bose) and sound amazing. 6' cord i think.
  6. crazytom macrumors 6502a


    Jul 23, 2002
    I've always liked Fostex T-20's, but then again, I'm pretty partial to them as studio headphones. I haven't tried out a bunch of them.
  7. amin macrumors 6502a


    Aug 17, 2003
    Boston, MA
    My ears are not good enough to warrant buying these, but my friends tell me these are the best:

    I have also been told that the Sony MDR-R10s are excellent, though much more expensive than, and from what I am told not as good as the RS1s.
  8. legion macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2003
    Truly, if price is no issue, electostatic headphones are the way to go (but I think you'll suddenly find price an issue :) ) If you've got the money (and they are at least worth the demo to see what you've been missing, though you may leave envious) is the Stax SR404 with Stax SRM006t amp (total a little over $2000) If you go to the Stax's best headphone tube amp, that'll be $2700 alone before including the SR404 headphones. (see below why amps are necessary)

    For more conventional, what kind of room will you be in??? The best sound is from open or semi-closed (the sound is more transparent), but if you are in a slightly loud room where you have no control over your listening environment, you'll want to go with closed headphones (though they tend to emphasize bass response)

    Grado's are great with the RS-1 ($700) and the RA-1 amp ($350) making a good set (see the amp discussion below as to why it is necessary)

    A really good all around headphone that is reasonably priced is the Sennheiser HD600 ($450.)

    Remember two things about high-end headphones,

    A) You'll need a headphone amp to drive the drivers in the headphones. A computer will not supply enough power and, much like high-end speakers, the sound is much better if the headphone has plenty of "reserve" power. There are a lot of great headphone amp companies, depending on your budget (I'd probably recommend PreSonus as a fair priced maker to match the Sennheisers)

    B) You need to break the headphones in before listening to them (for all dynamic headphones-- doesn't apply to electorstatic headphones.) Have a test cd of varying music playing through them for at least 24 hours before listening to them the first time (for stiffer drivers, I'd increase this to about a week) Just plug the headphones in, set them at a medium volume with the amp (which also needs a breakin period) and let the cd play in a loop for the duration of time.
  9. Waluigi thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 29, 2003
    I'm going to be in my computer room that has 5 computers, a tv, desk, and couch.

    I was looking into the Sennheiser does it compare to the RS-1? Also, does open-air mean that people around me will hear everything, or is it relatively quiet?

  10. legion macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2003
    With an open headphone, others will be able to hear (not in the same dynamics as you) what you are listening to. There are a few benefits to open headphones: first off is that the low freq and high freq seem more balanced and you feel like you have a larger soundstage, the second is that open headphones will be more comfortable if you are listening for long periods of time (with closed, there is "heat" build up that usually leads to some discomfort.)

    Since your listening room has a lot going on in it, I'd definitely go closed or semi-open. Between the Grados and the Sennheisers, I prefer the sound of the Grados. The RS-1 has a "richer" sound where as the HD600s sound more sterile (though on the same lines, it seems more accurate to the sound.) What kind of sound do you plan to pipe through these most of the time? For rock and roll, etc.. I'd go with the RS-1. For jazz, orchestral, and female vocals, I'd go with the HD600 (Reason being the a lot of the audio production on these sounds goes into tameing the sound to accuracy whereas with rock, it is mostly overproduced using "the wall of sound" technique and benefits from the rich sound where bass and lower mids are emphasized) In the end, it's personal preference and you should demo them like you would high-end speakers. Go to a reputable dealer to at least demo them because both headphones need to be properly broken in (if the guy starts pulling out a set of headphones out the box for you to listen to, he doesn't know what he's doing.) The Grados will take longer to break in than the HD600 (just something to be aware of-- it doen't affect the quality in either way) and despite what either claims, you _will_ need a headphone amp for either one, otherwise the sound will be lame and you might as well have picked up $30 headphones at your nearest Best Buy (and you'll be disappointed at the money you've spent) Also, you'll find headphone amps match well with certain headphones so when you demo, it should be as a set (interchange amps and headphones until you find the sound you like best and take a few cds with you with as much variety as you listen to (and don't forget audio from DVDs)
  11. HasanDaddy macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I have the Sony MDR-NC20's, as well as the Bose Quiet Comfort 2

    I just bought the Bose at Denver Inter Airport

    First off, for the money, the Sony MDRNC20 is an AWESOME deal!! Excellent sound quality, great noise cancelling on airplanes and other noisy places, and VERY VERY comfortable fit

    The Bose is VERY expensive, but here are its pros:

    1. It really does have great sound quality (although, the Sony is very similar)

    2. Its noise cancelling is AMAZING --- if you are on airplanes a lot, then this is the headphone to go with

    However, the Bose has dissapointed me, in that, I don't think its very comfortable....... I sometimes find myself getting small headaches after wearing it for more than an hour, mainly because the phones press against my ears very tightly (I could also have a big head?)

    For that reason, I may return the Bose and revert back to Sony

    So my overall analysis ---

    The Sony is a great, great purchase!

    The Bose is also very good (provided that it doesn't give you headaches)....... however, try the Bose out before buying them --- they are available to try out at all Apple Stores and most airport terminals

    --- and take it from me, they will perform awesomely in airplanes!
  12. WinterMute Moderator emeritus


    Jan 19, 2003
    London, England
    I have the Stax SR404s, and they are without doubt the best headphones I've ever used, I also have a second pair of stax's, with a damaged driver, but I'm not sure which model.

    We use Sennheisser HD600 in the office at the Uni, and they are very noisy to everyone else, its almost like strapping speakers to your head. They sound very nice, but you really can't use them at volume in a quiet environment.
  13. irmongoose macrumors 68030


    Dec 3, 2001
    Sometimes Tokyo, sometimes California
    Why do all the great headphones look like crap? I mean, the Stax SR404... they look like war-time water cans, and the Gradio RS1 looks like something from a nuclear plant... ugh.

  14. legion macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2003
    I'll agree the Stax look like crap, but there is no way to make electrostatic headphones look good because they don't use dynamic drivers (which are smaller and circular) However, when you even began to look in that price range, the owners really only care about one thing: sound quality. You probably wouldn't be carting those around with you and those who do know of electorstatic speakers would be impressed. Sennheiser used to make an electorstatic headphone that was a bit of the "let's make this the ultimate and ignore cost"; it ended up costing close to $15K and they did sell a few. They look like strapping speakers to your head because in essence that's exactly what they are.

    As for the Grados, the're actually very pretty in person (especailly the wood.) It looks a little like fine furniture meets new technology. They do, however, stick out a bit when on.
  15. yujini macrumors member

    Aug 20, 2003
    LA, CA, USA
    I would say instead of the sennheiser HD600 go for the
    HD580. The price difference is very big (you can get the HD580
    for around 150 online), the quality difference is small.

    Most people won't notice the difference between a HD580 and a

    The HD580 is the best price/performance headphones you can buy IMHO.

    If you don't like headphones and want earphones instead,
    I recommend the SONY MDR-E888 earphones (which go for around
    70 dollars) or the B&O earphones (which are around 150).

    Bose though the sound quality isn't bad (pretty good) I'd say they have the worst price/performance equipment available.

    You can always get good quality extension cables so I think the length shouldn't be a problem.
  16. legion macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2003
    Agreed, the difference between the sound quality of the HD580 and HD600 is fairly small.

    For in-ear monitors, Shure or Etymotics is the way to go (the quality of the E2 from Shure surpasses, IMHO, the Sony's and B&Os and though they are officially priced at around $100, you can get them for $80 easy.) The Etys E6 don't seem to measure up, but the 4P (which wouldn't need a headphone amp) sound great though they suffer from micro phonics (cord movement generates sounds.) The Shure E5 is outstanding (2 drivers and a crossover for the freqs), but they run $500, so unless you need in-ear monitors (which throughly suppress outside noise by about 25dB), it be better to go with regular headphones. When I have ear monitors on, you pretty much have to throw something at me to get me to hear you (really, really great sound dampening; this can be very hazardous when you need to hear otherthings (ie, don't use these walking on streets 'cause you probably won't hear cars approaching, etc; they even block out subway sounds)

    As for brands mentioned, Grados and higher-end Sennheisers are great (the lower end Sennheisers sound like some other company must be making them) Other good brands are AKG (the K271 at 180 street (250 regular) are as as good as headphones twice their cost and they are really effective closed headphones), Beyerdynamics, Sony higher-end (once again, the lower end is disproportionality bad; the Sony 7509 is great).

    Bose, IMHO, sounds muddled throughout the frequencies and don't even measure up to any of the above. (once again, just my opinon) They tend to overemphasize mid-ranges and there is not accuracy in the high-ends and the low frequencies seem loose.

    The Sony and Seinhesser earbuds/in-ear monitors don't seem as respectable as the companies' regular 'phones.

    Just more options...
  17. shecky Guest


    May 24, 2003
    Obviously you're not a golfer.
    you know the saying:

    "no highs, no lows, just Bose"
  18. legion macrumors 6502a

    Jul 31, 2003
    Never heard that saying, but it does seem right on.

    The only Bose speakers that have interested me (and here only for movie watching) are the 900 series. They present a large soundstage (due to the "direct reflect (TM)" system, but it's true of any bipolar/tripolar system) and the frequency accuracy is still a problem, but for movies it does give you a strong mid-range prescence which is important. In the end, I went with a similar bipolar speaker strategy from Definitive Tech, who have the same large soundstage but with better frequency response. (They make my smallish living room sound like I'm watching movies in Mann's Chinese nee Groumans)

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