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A bit bewildered with headphones...

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I’ve been looking for headphones to use with my new MacBook Pro but am beginning to wonder if, with age, my ears no longer have what it takes to enjoy good headphones. While I’m no audiophile (we raised two kids so I couldn’t afford to aspire to that) I do appreciate the sound of quality audio systems. I have always liked the Bang & Olufsen sound but know that simply mentioning B&O equipment can cause others to fire up. I state this because I am still running my (pre-kids) 1977 B&O system. I found a sound I liked and have stayed with it. The headphones I used during the years of a kid-noisey home were B&O U70s. I recently dug them out to use with the laptop only to discover one side is dead, thus my quest for new headphones. I have an iPod shuffle I use for books and the earbuds that came with it are fine for that. I also have a 5th generation iPod I use for music, again it’s earbuds seem to me to be OK for what I’m doing when I use it. I’m usually on the go with either iPod so am not in a position where I am devoting my attention to the audio. I’m amazed by those concerned with audiophile sound while running or working out. With the laptop, while it’s certainly portable, I’m not walking, running, biking, driving, etc. so do want quality headphones. I’ve done my research and ‘test driven’ what I could. I’m not overly thrilled with earbuds (though Apple’s are comfortable enough.) I’ve tried my brother-in-law’s Etymotic Research ER-6is but don’t think I’d be comfortable with something wedged that far into my ear canals. I also want something that’s easy to put on and take off, so I’ve been leaning toward more traditional style headphones (though they certainly aren’t as portable in terms of tossing them in the laptop bag.) I narrowed my choices down to the B&O Form 2s and the Grado SR-80s. I tried the Bose headphones but felt like I was listening to music inside a sealed bubble. Also, I felt they lacked clarity. While I spent lots of time with the B&Os and the Grados I wasn’t able to A/B them directly as they were at two different dealers. I liked the cables on both - thick/protected, not wimpy wires as on most of the others I’ve looked at. Both were comfortable, with the nod going toward the Grados. I liked the openness of the Grados, but was a bit disappointed in how much sound leaked out. I’m not sure I have my lingo correct, but they didn’t seem to be as efficient as the Apple earbuds. I had to turn the volume up higher with them. In terms of music I listen to lots of styles (except for what my 20-something age kids listen to,) but primarily jazz. Ok, I’ll wrap this up and present my dilemma. While the Grados and the B&Os sounded very nice, I’m not sure they were $100.00 nice over the Apple earbuds. I wasn’t bowled over with either. Granted I’m not looking at the upper end in terms of headphones, but I was expecting more from both of these headphones when compared to my earbuds. Is the problem with tired old ears, with the source I used while testing (mp3s on my iPod,) am I expecting too much? Keep in mind these will only be used on the computer. With the kids out on their own, I finally have a room in the basement dedicated to my audio system so headphones are not needed when I’m listening in the ‘man cave.’ Do I get the Grados, knowing that they’ll improve over time or call it good and use the Apple earbuds? Thanks for 'listening.'
post #2 of 13
So, you don't need closed headphones for a degree of isolation? Open would be fine (or even preferred)?

I'm very happy with the cost-to-quality trade-off of the Sennheiser HD555s, but they are considered only entry level around here. The soft velour earpads and around-the-ear form make for a comfortable listening experience except in hot environments (any headphone can be hot then; I use in-ears -- canal phones or IEMs; I hate the way earbuds don't fit -- or the Sennheiser PX100s when it's really hot). They're non-fatiguing, which means some people find them a bit too laid-back (less up-front than the Grados, for example, but more comfortable, if that's an issue).

And congratulations on raising kids and retiring triumphantly to the man cave ...

Hope you find something that suits you.

[Edit: Hey -- first post! Not a bad start -- people who don't like to read much might be put off by the mono-paragraph format, but this isn't English class, and you stated your case well. As a parent, do you have the discipline to watch out for your wallet around here?]

[Another edit: "While the Grados and the B&Os sounded very nice, I’m not sure they were $100.00 nice over the Apple earbuds." That may be -- the law of diminishing returns applies to a lot of the equipment discussed in these forums. A $900 pair of headphones might not seem to be nine times better for you than a $100 pair. Better, but not nine times better.]

Phones (in order of purchase):
Sony MDR71, Sony MDR51, Etymotic ER6, Panasonic RP-HJ50, Shure E3C, Koss PortaPro 2, Creative EP630, Etymotic ER6i, Sennheiser PX-100, Sennheiser HD555, Future Sonics Atrio M5
post #3 of 13
post #4 of 13
good go for the first post,i did the exact same for my first 10 posts or so,i see what all my complaint were for now tho lol
post #5 of 13
hi! and welcome! too bad for your wallet!

keeping simple I would suggest to you the Koss Sportapro headphone. They are foldable, could easily go in your computer bag. They are based on the same driver as the KOSS KSC75, and they go for around 30-40$.

Their sound quality is very impressive and for your need I think will be a good start. If later on you want to pay more then you have the choice and also you have a comparaison base from which to go.

The Sportapro and the Portapro don't look like much, they even look cheap! But the sound coming out from those is incredible. They are part of the collection of many/most members of Head-Fi.

post #6 of 13
Hi ldawson. Welcome to Head-Fi, and "sorry about your wallet".
A new MacBook Pro. I'm jealous. I'm stuck with a PowerBook G4, which I use extensively as a source for music. I rip CDs to Apple Lossless, FLAC or 320 kbs CBR, and Cog (freeware) is my player of choice.

I share your frustration in using a laptop as a source. I intially used the earbuds that came with my various iPods, but was just not happy with the sound quality (although they were pretty comfortable for falling asleep to).

If you're thinking of going with B&O buds, I have the A8, which have great detail and fit (even with glasses). I still wasn't happy with them when connected to the PowerBook. The music had detail, but lacked any liveliness, transparency or punch. Strangely, didn't hear much hiss or hard disk spin.

Things got better when I found my old neglected pair of Grado SR60s. They were the only phones I could afford, and I didn't realize they were such a deal for $69 in the late 1990s. It was a great improvement over the apple buds.

I now have a set up I'm pretty happy with. I got an iBasso D1 amp to hook up to my PowerBook (via USB). You can also connect the D1 to your MacBook with a optical cable. The iBasso made the biggest difference in the world. The D1 made the SR60s really come alive. The difference is NOT subtle.

I think the weak link in using your laptop is the analog amp in your laptop. Get a digital out to the iBasso D1 amp, and the SR60s will astound you. Seriously. This leaves a great upgrade path, headphone-wise. Therein lies the problem with Head-Fi - endless possibilities, chronic upgradeitis.

The iBasso D1 will run you around $240 with shipping (www.ibasso.com). See the headamp forum for numerous reviews of this amp. If you don't need the optical in or standalone DAC capability, try the Corda Move (around the same price). Check out Meier Audio or Todd the Vinyl Junkie - both are Head-Fi sponsors.

http://www.leckertonaudio.com/ makes a headphone amp that connects via USB, but it hasn't been reviewed by Head-Fi yet. Leckerton audio will be sending prominent Head-Fi member mrarroyo a UHA-3 (did thy have a 1 and 2?) a unit for review in a couple weeks.

Going with the iBasso D1 and Grado SR60s, you get a great set up for a little over $300. By spending only $69 on the Grados, you get a taste of what things are like, and can continually update your headphones while keeping the same electronics (at least until they come up with something new, like next week...)
post #7 of 13
The SR80s are a bit more power hungry than the SR60s, but the sound is really close. So if you liked the 80s but don't want an amp the 60s might work for you.
post #8 of 13
I wonder if your perception of them being more power hungry is because of the bowls vs. comfies. Either way I suppose it means you still have to turn up the volume.
post #9 of 13
Grado 60's and 80's are fine. You might also want to check out the Senn 280's. Enjoy!
post #10 of 13
Grados are always a great can to start with. Entry level grados (sr-60s and sr-80s) have outstanding price to quality ratio. I love my sr-80s.
post #11 of 13
I agree with trickywombat - get the SR80/SR60 and the iBasso, then run for the hills and hope you never stumble on this forum again
post #12 of 13
May also want to take a look at the MS-1. If advancing age on the old ears is a concern, then the MS-1 may sound even better!

I'm in my 60s, and to me the MS-1 are a great set. They cost about the same as the SR-80 but use the same materials as the more expensive SR-125. They have a more neutral nature and can be used for quite a large range of musical styles.

And you have the choice between 1/8" and 1/4" plug, which can be quite handy.
post #13 of 13
Given you are going to drive them from a laptop which is low power and impeadence i'de go for the Grado's. However; you should really go for the sound you like irrespective of what others may say. One downside of the Grado's is that I dont find them very comfortable for long periods of listening as the pads sit on the ear.
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