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spec

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John Potter and I briefly discussed headphones in a private message (PM) but I thought it would be a good topic for open discussion.

In general, there are two broad types of headphones:
traditional headphones and earbuds, earbuds having become more and more popular because of their convenience when on the move.

Earbuds come in two broad categories: on-ear and in-ear, with in-ear being, by far, the most common type now.

With traditional headphones there are also two broad categories: on-ear and over-ear (circumaural) and these are further divided into open-backed and closed-backed (isolating) types. Apart from a few instances, HiFi headphones are open-backed to give an open airy sound.

I have no experience with the more technically advanced and specialist earphones: noise cancelling, WiFi (Blutooth), virtual reality (VR)...

As a kid, I had a pair of WW2 military headphones, which were gradually replaced, over the years, with better and better phones.



Then, in the 1970s, I splashed out on a pair of Peerless PMB6 headphones, which I used until about 1997 to listen to vinyl and reel-to-reel.

upload_2016-12-30_13-11-5.png

In 1997 I really pushed the boat out and got a pair of Sennheiser HD600 phones for around £300. They were a world apart from any of my previous phones and, to make the best of them, I also got a DAC/headphone amplifier, Mini Matrix DAC, and listened to MP3 and FLAC files stored on a PC.

The HD600 phones were destroyed in an accident so I got a pair of HD650 phones to replace them and, recently, just got an even better DAC/headphone amplifier: Audiolab M-DAC.

2016_12_30_Sennhiesser_HD600_v_HD650.png

But with the introduction of mobile (cell) phones and other mobile devices that could store digital audio files, I investigated earbuds.

The first pair of earbuds were bouht from a local store for about £5. When I tried them out, I could not believe how bad they sounded- they were simply awful in all respects and were literally painful to listen to. Speech was all but unintelligible too, and sounded like a grass hopper scratching its legs together. I tried a few other plastic-pack earbuds and found them all to be dire.

So I got a pair of MediaDevil EB01 in-ear buds which were reasonably priced and got decent reviews on Amazon UK. Those earbuds were incredibly bass-heavy, but after running in for about 40 hours they improved considerably. They made a huge wall of sound and were great fun to listen to and they even sounded clear with speech: audio books. Unfortunately, after about six months, one of the buds failed.

upload_2016-12-30_11-39-26.png

I then decided to go for better quality and, for around £70, got some Sennheiser Momentum M2 IEG in-ear buds, which are beautifully made and sound pretty good too (also after being run in).


And for Xmas 2016 I just got a pair of SoundMagic E10C in-ear buds which got good reviews and are reasonably priced at around £39. The E10C buds are not fully run in yet, but they are starting to sound nice- quite dynamic. The E10C buds are intended for carrying around in my jacket pocket.

upload_2016-12-30_11-45-48.png

Like me, are headphones now your main method of listening to music/audio books?

spec

LINKS
(1) http://www.whathifi.com/best-buys/headphones/best-in-ear-headphones
(2) http://www.whathifi.com/products/headphones
 
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Ian Rogers

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I can't wear huge headphones... For some reason my blood supply is affected and I get horrendous earache.. The ear phones that come with IPhones or IPad's are usually the best for comfort and sound...

About three years back I bought a HTC smartphone with beats audio!! Those were fantastic earbuds...Unfortunately for some unknown reason, earbuds do not last... The wiring is always going to be a problem...
 

spec

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Hi Ian,

I know what you mean- headphones are a very personal thing, but the HD600/HD650 headphones are huge and over-the-ear, but increditably comfortable. Sometime I forget I have them on.:cool: Certainly the most comfortable phones you can get.

The most uncomfortable phones were the WW2 type- how radio operators/aircrew/tank crews managed to wear them all day long is a mystery.:arghh:

I'm not really at one with earbuds. The on-ear type just fall off. The in-ear buds are better but less comfortable. You do get used to them though. The Sennheiser Momentum M2IEG are a weird shape and at first they were very uncomfortable and tended to fall out. But once I found out how to fit them properly they are more comfortable and, of course, they sound pretty good. And, after a bottle of van rouge they are even more comfortable.:)

As you say, headphones take a bashing and don't last that long. You can get spares for some versions but, in the main, earbuds especially are not repairable.

spec
 
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Dr_Doggy

Well-Known Member
I find the smaller buds fit in my ear more comfortably, but still ears get sore after full days of having them in. I always choose the ones that wrap around the ear like a hearing aid, my PC headphone and PS3 Bluetooth head set both have this feature. the PC ones have a larger bud which sits on more of the outer ear, and with the hook on the Phone BT ones i can just pull the bud out when its not in use or not much background noise, when it gets noisy and i need to hear thats when i push it in, the rest of the time it just sits around my ear and is very light so i barely notice it at all.
As for quality, IDK, not that articulate, but have no complaints.
http://www.aliexpress.com/store/pro...amer-with-Microphone/1560166_32383430847.html
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Hot...ne-Microphone-Mic-VOIP-Skype/32236650659.html
http://www.a4c.com/product/motorola-hx550-bluetooth-headset-black.html
 

spec

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I find the smaller buds fit in my ear more comfortably, but still ears get sore after full days of having them in. I always choose the ones that wrap around the ear like a hearing aid, my PC headphone and PS3 Bluetooth head set both have this feature. the PC ones have a larger bud which sits on more of the outer ear, and with the hook on the Phone BT ones i can just pull the bud out when its not in use or not much background noise, when it gets noisy and i need to hear thats when i push it in, the rest of the time it just sits around my ear and is very light so i barely notice it at all.
As for quality, IDK, not that articulate, but have no complaints.
http://www.aliexpress.com/store/pro...amer-with-Microphone/1560166_32383430847.html
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Hot...ne-Microphone-Mic-VOIP-Skype/32236650659.html
http://www.a4c.com/product/motorola-hx550-bluetooth-headset-black.html
Hmm, interesting,

I have never tried those wrap-around earbuds- they seem like a good idea.

One of the things about phones in general is how well they seal to your ear- a poor seal messes up the frequency response, especially the low frequencies.

That's one of the aspects I like about the HD600/HD650 phones- they just sit over your ears and there is no messing about.

spec
 
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Hello spec
For one awful moment I had visions of you poking about in your ear with a cotton bud.
My eldest daughter bought me some JVC headphones for Christmas years ago. The material around the edges is long gone but the foam is still hanging on. Lug holes (ears) are strange beasts, everyone hears things differently and headphones, etc. are a classic case of one man's meat is another man's poison. One thing that annoys me is the output from a PC headphone socket is attenuated to a 'safe level'. Too safe if you ask me. I have even plugged mine into the outlet from the PC speaker amp. There should be some attenuation of course, maybe 20W a side? Maybe not. I have to admit I do find the in ear ones irritating, I have never tried the on ear ones. I'll have to try some.
Thanks again spec.
 

spec

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Hello spec
For one awful moment I had visions of you poking about in your ear with a cotton bud.
My eldest daughter bought me some JVC headphones for Christmas years ago. The material around the edges is long gone but the foam is still hanging on. Lug holes (ears) are strange beasts, everyone hears things differently and headphones, etc. are a classic case of one man's meat is another man's poison. One thing that annoys me is the output from a PC headphone socket is attenuated to a 'safe level'. Too safe if you ask me. I have even plugged mine into the outlet from the PC speaker amp. There should be some attenuation of course, maybe 20W a side? Maybe not. I have to admit I do find the in ear ones irritating, I have never tried the on ear ones. I'll have to try some.
Hi John,

The leatherette on my PMB6 phones wore away after a few years, but like your JVC phones, the foam underneath was fine. You can get a whole range of replacement ear-pads from Amazon and eBay, or you can do what I did- replaced the leatherette with fine real leather. I also stuck on a bit more foam padding before sewing the leather on. The PMB6 phones looked better, sounded better, and were much more comfortable- they were on-the-ear types. Also, the ear-pads never wore out again.

I have recently been given a pair of Grado SR125 phones with disintegrated ear-pads so, one day, hopefully, I will remodel the ear-pads as I do not like the original design. But the phones sound quite good- very bright, detailed and dynamic.

The loudness of phones depends very much on the phone's impedance and efficiency. My laptop is very subdued with the PMB6 phones especially but it would blast your brain with the MediaDevil ear-buds.

In general, computer, especially laptop, audio power outputs are pretty poor. My Android phone is far better, and a half decent headphone amp is in a different league again and a proper DAC/headphone amp is something else.:cool:

spec
 
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spec

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Of course, headphones have their pros and cons. One of the big pros of traditional headphones, as opposed to ear-buds, is that they are, by far, the cheapest and simplest route to a good sound, especially the nirvana of a low, flat, fast bass, which is difficult and expensive with loudspeakers but can be realized at a reasonable cost with phones.

I heard a pair of Fostex TH600 headphones a while ago, which were superb- I would say that the TH600 phones are the sweet spot in terms of audio quality/comfort/cost (Fostex manufacture many of the phones on the market).

The E10C ear-buds, mentioned in post #1, have now got around 40 hours on the clock, and are sounding much more coherent, without loosing their detail.

spec
 

KMoffett

Well-Known Member
I had a pair of Sony Ultra Lightweight MDR-W08L Vertical In-The-Ear Headphones that came with a small arm-band radio. They are really amazingly great on the computer, and bought another pair on Amazon for my wife for $15 with shipping (2013). Mine went bad, so I thought I would get another pair.
Now Amazon has them for $87.55. (One left)
Overstock for $148
Head-fi for $70
Sony had discontinued that model. I found a China copy on eBay for $25 and ordered them, but they were not nearly as good as the Sony ones.

Ken
 

spec

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I had a pair of Sony Ultra Lightweight MDR-W08L Vertical In-The-Ear Headphones that came with a small arm-band radio. They are really amazingly great on the computer, and bought another pair on Amazon for my wife for $15 with shipping (2013). Mine went bad, so I thought I would get another pair.
Now Amazon has them for $87.55. (One left)
Overstock for $148
Head-fi for $70
Sony had discontinued that model. I found a China copy on eBay for $25 and ordered them, but they were not nearly as good as the Sony ones.

Ken
Sony used to be my go-to company for most electrical items- TV, radio, etc and they made some excellent earphones, as you say, which one of the chaps in our lab had.

When our 27 inch CRT TV bit the dust I naturally thought about a Sony replacement. But by that time, Sony had taken their eye off the ball and their sets were no longer market leaders- we ended up getting a Pioneer plasma TV.

Then when my beloved Sony radio got destroyed, I automatically bought another Sony radio- the sound was so bad that I had to take the radio back and get a Pure One Classic radio.

Now, I now longer regard Sony as a premium brand, even though they are still expensive. What a shame.:sorry:

spec
 

JLNY

Active Member
I wouldn't consider myself much of an audiophile, but my main headphones for the last few years has been a pair of Bose AE2 headphones. Very lightweight and comfortable, and the sound is quite good. I often wear them for hours at a time without issue. Having used them daily for the last 5 years or so, I've almost literally worn them to pieces at this point, but I like them so much that I just re-solder the connector when it goes intermittent, and I have replaced or stitched up the ear pads more than once. I might have to try out Spec's trick of replacing the leatherette with real leather.

I'm not as much of a fan of earbuds, as they tend to make my ears sore after prolonged use. Strangely, the best earbuds I've ever used were actually the headphones that came with a "Sansa Clip" MP3 player. Outwardly, they look like completely stock-standard cheapo on-ear earbuds, but the frequency response and articulation is some of the best I have heard from an earbud. I picked up a second Sansa Clip from a clearance at a store near me just so I could have the spare headphones.

On the rare occasion that I use a headset for gaming, I have a pair of "HyperX Cloud Revolver" headphones. Slightly pretentious name aside, the sound quality is good, albeit quite a bit bassier then my Bose headphones. I've never really tested the mic rigorously, but I've never had any complaints, either. That said, I find they are a bit too heavy for daily use. Oddly, these headphones use a tight, curved strip of metal across the top to hold the headphones in place, but this means it resonates slightly, and will clang like a church bell if you-- or someone behind you-- taps on it too hard. Probably not 100% recommended. Just because using metal gives the "feel" of quality does not mean it is the best material to use in this particular case, perhaps.
 

spec

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HI JLNY- very interesting.

Bose gear is excellent... and pricey.:) I have tried a few Bose phones and found them to be very comfortable, as you say, with a highly involving sound.

One of the nicest systems I ever heard was a four speaker Bose set up at an audio show- I wont say how much the system cost though.:arghh:

To repair your ear pads you need fine soft leather or suede. I think the leather for my recover came from a pair of ladies gloves that cost $1US from a charity shop. I had done some leather-work before, but even so, you should find it dead easy. Leather stretches a bit and you just form it around the foam. If you have any trouble just heat the leather a bit. The secret is to put a very light coat of thin contact adhesive on the reverse of the leather and foam to hold the whole assembly together.

Use strong fine yarn rather than the normal thread for sewing.

I didn't expect much from my hack repair, but the pads turned out really good- people even asked me where I got the ear-pads from.:) I told them that the pads were custom made,:smug: which wasn't far from the truth.

A light coat of lanolin every year keeps the leather supple.

The HD600 and HD650 have got velvet covered ear-pads. If you want decadence and ultimate comfort, that is the way to go. But not so bullet-proof as leather.

Yes, bass-heavy regga phones are great fun with the right music: reggae, techno, dance.

I have been listening to the E10C buds now all day and after about 50 hours total of loud music they have just clicked into place.:cool:

The best material I know for running in audio gear is Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' album.

spec
 
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KMoffett

Well-Known Member
My wife gave me a pair of Bose Soundlink Bluetooth headphones for Christmas. She was not willing to give back the Sony MDR-W08Ls when I couldn't find cheap replacements for mine. They are great...but I still think the Sony ones were fantastic for cost and audio quality. Did I mention that I have some hearing loss. So will never purport to be an audiofool. ;)

Ken
 

audioguru

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Did I mention that I have some hearing loss.
Why not fix it?
I developed normal high frequency hearing loss for my age (71) that tone controls or EQ could not touch. Then I got hearing aids so that my fixed hearing is like when I was 18 years old.
At 69 I survived a heart attack and got fixed with two stents in the arteries of my heart so that I can run around today like when I was 18.
My eyes developed cataracts then I was blind. I got the lenses in my eyes replaced so that my vision is better than when I was young.
My teeth? Never mind, their replacements work fine.
I still have half of my hair and am not ready for a tupee yet. Doesn't Trump wear a wig?
 

JimB

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AG were you the inspiration for this 1970s TV programme...


JimB
 

spec

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My wife gave me a pair of Bose Soundlink Bluetooth headphones for Christmas. She was not willing to give back the Sony MDR-W08Ls when I couldn't find cheap replacements for mine. They are great...but I still think the Sony ones were fantastic for cost and audio quality. Did I mention that I have some hearing loss. So will never purport to be an audiofool. ;)

Ken
Hearing loss does not mean that you can't still perceive good quality audio. Most people, as they get older, loose the high frequencies a bit, but the brain/ear combination is very complex and not fully understood and frequency response is not the main factor.

I think I may have heard the Sony phones you mentioned, but at the time they were out of my price range.:eek:

spec
 

ronsimpson

Well-Known Member
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In general, there are two broad types of headphones:
1) Those with one side not working. (most common)
AND
2) Those with both sides not working.
AND
3) Some times I can find a pair that actually work.
 

audioguru

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AG were you the inspiration for this 1970s TV programme...
I think there are a lot of us bionic men around today. The number says I am old but I don't feel or act like I am old. My old neighbour got new knees that work fine.
 

Rich D.

Active Member
I use ear buds reluctantly when I have to. Many years ago I got myself used to over-the-ear headphones and I am happy with them, I find earbuds uncomfortable, the way they stick in my ears and don't seem to stay put, and I am always a bit nervous about how clean they are and can they do harm - I suppose they don't given the millions that are using them these days, but I still worry.

The older "cheap" headphones from the 70's were pretty foul, they were heavy and sounded not so good, but they did expose me to a very controlled stereo image and got me hooked. Later in the 70's I got to use my brother's Sennheiser headphones and they were a phenomenal improvement in both sound quality and comfort, but they were not sealed and others near by could hear the tsst,tsst,tsst of your music. Not being sealed meant also that you can hear conversation, the phone ringing, etc. as long as you didn't have them too loud. Alas, they were very expensive and out of my budget.

In the 80's I discovered some pretty good models from Koss. They sounded really good and as a bonus Radio Shack was selling them, where I bought a few. They also continued to sell replacement foam pads for many years afterwards. They were not sealed though but they were good for enjoying music and non-professional recording.

As I started doing more recording it became necessary to use sealed headphones. When I worked at an audio manufacturer they used several pairs of good headphones I was exposed to. AKGs were popular, but my favorite were Audio Technica. They were lighter and more comfortable, and sounded excellent. I could then afford better phones so I began using them myself. I have a pair for possibly 20 years now and never had to replace the wire, ear pads, plug, and there is no broken bits of plastic on them that always seem to happen to headphones after a while of heavy use. In short they are still "new", even though I used them for both recording and mixing down for decades. What I like about the AT headphones is that they seem to imitate my studio monitors very well, and a mix on one sounds pretty much the same on the other.

I also bought some Sennheiser's on a whim to see how good they were. They sound pretty good, but are not as comfortable as the AT phones. They seal a little better so I use them for drum recording, which is a challenge for any headphone to reduce external noise. These Sennheiser's have that dreaded coiled cord, so it is constantly pulling back at your head when you are more than about 3 feet from the headphone plug. (NOT comfortable to me.)

Meanwhile, there are some Sony models that are pretty popular with professional users, and I've used them at work plenty of time. They have excellent sound quality and a wide response, the bass is astounding, but I find them a little too bright and not natural. They seem to be EQ'd more for ear candy - good for listening pleasure but not for critical listening. I also tried a pair of Sony wireless headphones. I wanted to use them for recording/mixing work because the wireless feature would really help me move around efficiently. They sounded fine but they suffered from too much random noise from the radio link, even if only a couple of feet away from the transmitter. I was constantly wondering if the crackling was my audio. With so many devices and connections in a recording/mixing signal path, that is a real concern, and I have to be on the lookout for dirty connections, clipping and distortion on recording devices, effect processors, and microphones. I sadly now only used them for recreational listening, but this last year the battery died and I haven't figured out how to open the headphones up! Sennheiser made wireless models that were available at the exact same price, and I always wondered if they had better S/N ratio over the wireless connection. The two brands had nearly identical specifications.

Both the Sony models and the AT models I have use thin, non-coiled wires. I recently bought two more AT headphones for group multi-track recording. These also sound great and none of them has broken yet and I've had no complaints from others yet.

So if somebody out there is looking for sealed, over-the-ear headphones, I would have to recommend Audio Technica wired headphones. They are about (almost) $100 US. They are light enough for me and I can wear them for hours, many times I have.
As for earbuds, Meh.
 

spec

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That was a pretty comprehensive post Rich and very informative. You couldn't put some model numbers to your phones.

Yes, Audio Technica make some excellent phones and are one of the few manufacturers to manage to combine a good sound with isolation. The Audio Technica ATf5 and ATF 3 were my favorite moving coil cartridges in the vinyl days.

spec
 
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