Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
After reading a bunch of reviews about six months ago, I picked up a set of Monoprice 8323's. I've been moderately happy with them, with a couple of caveats. Though sound reproduction seems pretty good to my non-audiophile ears, the soundstage feels very small...there's no sense of space at all. More significantly, the headband has started to crack on both sides. I've probably got about a week's worth of use left in them before the cracking makes them no longer fit firmly on my head (I've slid the worst side inside the top part of the band, but the other side is getting worse). One feature I do like on this set is the removable cable.
I'm a grad student on budget...while a set of cans costing actual money will be in my future at some point, that point is not now. The Monoprices are cheap enough that I could just pick up another pair, but I'm thinking I'd like to try something different. Ideally, I'd not be looking above the USD$50 range, but could probably go a little bit higher if it would result in a significant improvement (music is one of the few things keeping my sanity intact, at this point).
I work in my home office, so sound isolation is a not a huge deal...I'd be interested in giving a more open set a try. Most of the budget recommendations I've found are responses to people looking for closed models, so posting the question here.
I use headphones mostly so I can turn up the volume and zone into my work without disturbing my wife in the other room, or so I can listen at night. If she's watching TV, either one or both doors can be closed to reduce the sound bleeding in. I often wear them for hours at a time, so comfort is quite important.
Musically, I listen to mostly rock (from classic and prog to eclectic modern acts, including some fairly heavy) and classical, with some jazz, metal (mostly avant-garde or experimental), EDM (psytrance), and ambient. I game a bit when I have time, and there am looking more for immersiveness than competitiveness. Most of my classical listening is pipe organ, so solid and non-muddy bass reproduction would be much appreciated. Sources are mostly properly ripped FLACs, with about 30% of my collection still in MP3 or OGGs of various quality (and my tolerance level for bad rips has been steadily decreasing over the past few years). For now, the 'phones will be driven off the onboard sound card on my desktop.
As mentioned, I'm looking for a fairly inexpensive set of around-the-ear headphones with a better soundstage than the 8323's. A headband designed to avoid stress fractures would also be desirable. Any recommendations will be appreciated.
Sounds like the Takstar HI2050 could be someting for you to consider:
Thanks, peter123, they look quite interesting. I wonder, though, about availability? The best price I could find (by about $30, putting them a bit over $50) was for getting them shipped from China, which makes me a bit dubious. I'm sure it's probably fine, but I'd suspect returns would be a serious issue if there were any problems. I'm also concerned about the comments that suggest they may be a problem for those with large heads. My hat size is US 7-3/4 (metric 62), which means I can wear about half of the XL hats out there, the rest being a bit on the tight side...with returns being dicey, I'm not sure I'd want to risk a fit issue without the ability to try them.
The CAL! is currently just under $60 at Amazon. It ifs one of only a small number heaphones that is worth having at a low price point. It is also very efficient, which means that most anything will drive it. It has a plug togeher cable that allows easy use from portable and at home devices. It is much more accurate and balanced than the Monoprice.
You're in almost the identical situation that I was in just a week ago. I'm a second year grad student who was looking for a pair of headphones to use while at home when I can't use my desktops 2.0 setup while my wife is sleeping in the other room. I also game, but not competitively at all (skyrim, starcraft 2, portal 2, etc).
I ended up choosing between the Samson SR850, superlux hd668b, and the CAL! (rebadged Denon HD1001). I posted on this exact thread about a week and a half ago and after I saw that the CAL had dropped in price, I purchased those (having had good experiences with denon stuff in the past).
I have had them for a few days now, and while these are the only pair of over the ear headphones that I've ever owned, I can tell you what I think of them. I listen to mostly electronica, but occasionally other genres as well, and I'm driving mine through a Fiio E10 just FYI.
The CAL! is pretty comfortable, and even though I'm not "used" to headphones like this they don't bother me at all. I think the longest I've ever had them on consecutively so far is like 2-3 hrs, and while my ears were warmish, they weren't uncomfortable (they're a very light headphone with low clamping force).
The sound on them is pretty good. The bass is a bit overemphasized on mine, but its not muddy in any way, it is simply more prominent. They are very clear, and have worked great listening to everything from The Glitch Mob and Grammatik to Joe Satriani. The soundstage is also pretty good in my opinion but once again I don't have anything else to compare it with so I understand it might not mean too much.
Anyway, good luck with whatever you do. The upside is that if you're looking for something more comfortable than the 8323 that also has a larger sound stage, you're in luck. Those are the two things that many other headphones seem to have over them.
Thanks, KG Jag and ocnlogan. I did make an effort to read some of this thread, but 24K of unthreaded replies through a forum interface made more than a bit of that rather impractical. Bring back NNTP!
Given the extremely favorable opinion that many on Head-Fi have for the CAL!, it was one that I had thought about a bit. If the soundstage is relatively good, that's probably enough to push me over the edge. Though, ocnlogan, I also particularly appreciate the mentions of the other models you were considering.
Is there a chance that the bass prominence in your setup is due more to the E10 than the headphones themselves? How much should I consider getting an external DAC? It wasn't really something I'd given serious thought to...would there be enough improvement that it would take my listening experience to another level with a set of cans like the CAL!? Or would I be better off waiting until the dissertation is finished up and I'm earning actual money again, and then purchase something a step or two up the food chain?
I'm mostly using Linux (aside from gaming), and I know that support for extended features on internal cards (like various recommended Xonar models) can be a bit dicey...is the situation any better for USB? I've got two sets of computer speakers that I use, a Logitech X-540 5.1 setup on my main machine and a set of Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX speakers on the box intended as a music server. I love the sound of the Klipsch relative to the Logitech, but there's some sort of a shielding issue the music server box (I can hear drive activity through the speakers), so it's mostly being used to serve the files which are then played from my desktop. The 5.1 is really only useful for gaming (well, and a few Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree surround DVD-As), so that's the set staying attached to the main box. If attaching a USB DAC to the music server could provide a clean signal to the phones and the speakers as needed, that would be a clear win. Oh, but I guess that I'd still have to swap the headphones over to the main box if I wanted a late-night gaming session. So many factors to consider!
There's probably some well-studied cognitive fallacy that makes me willing to consider spending $60 for a set of headphones and $75 for a DAC, when I'd scruple at the idea of spending $135 on 'phones alone right now.
Definitely leaning toward ordering the CAL!
Edited by undertow - 1/21/13 at 11:56am