I made a thread last night in the portables forum but got minimal responses. perhaps it's the way i worded the thread...
anyways, I want to buy a new set of headphones for a upcoming trip where I will have many free hours everyday to listen to music...something I haven't had the luxury to do for a past few years. Since I'm working on a tight timeline (need to purchase by end of this week), I've decided to take the matter into my own hands. By utilizing some store's great return policies, I just made a few orders for some different headphone I think might fit my bill. I will spend a few days auditioning them side-by-side to find the set that fits my needs.
Music is my passion. I grew up listening to it, practicing it, performing, creating it, and even at one point tried to make a career out of it. Although now 31 years old, I don't quite have the same amount of time to dedicate to it as I did when I was 21, I still try to find ways to enjoy it every opportunity I can. In the car, at the airport, on the airplane, etc...Because I'm constantly on the move around the globe and many times am in an noisy environment, I needed something that would easy fit in my pocket yet block out as much ambient noise as possible. For these reasons, I've used various IME's for a few years (er4p to e530pth to triplefi.10), both amped and unamped. I used to carry around a custom cmoy hybrid amp with an ipod, but since the release of the iphone, I began using my iphone as the source unit and listening to the earphones unamped--less stuff to carry around especially since post 9-11 airport security is a hassle sometimes.
the triplefi.10 have worked great for me in the past couple years but with some shortcomings, primarily too much bass and painful after a couple hours. I know I can get them re-shelled or even get other custom-molded IME. However, I really do prefer the open sound of bigger cans vs. the tightly focus sound of IME and honestly, also want to try something new. The only set of full size headphones I've owned in the past are a set of AKG K240 which I used as studio monitors when I had my own mini recording studio years ago, so I'll admit, along with the 3 sets of IME's + 1 set of full size headphones, my experience is very limited. I do have many years of experience in Home audio and mobile audio however and know what music is supposed to sound like and know how I like to listen to music.
Find a set of full size headphone that still sound good unamped with my iphone. I will use an amp when I can, however, because don't want to compromise too much for those times when I cannot use one. Price is not a factor since I know I will be using these for a few years and I don't mind spending a few extra bucks if it allows me to enjoy music but my wife would probably make me sleep with the dog for a while if I go more than $1500...good thing there are not many 'portable friendly' option above that range. Light weight + collapse-able are added bonuses but not necessary prerequisites. Criteria from most-->least important: sound (warm, laid back, with decent but no overwhelming bass), comfort (leaning toward circumaural with BIG cups), noise suppression (enough for airplanes would be nice), size, built (i'm very careful with my toys so they don't need to be built like a tank), price, aesthetics
I've spent the past two months reading reviews and trying out different headphone every opportunity I could. That being said, there are not many places I can demo different headphones, let along compare them in a relatively quiet environment. However, based on several I've heard individually and reviews I've gathered on head-fi and other online resources I've narrowed my selection down to these (listed from lowest to highest price)
1. Denon AH-D1100 ($120): I heard them at an airport dutyfree shop and liked them enough to almost buy them, so I've included them in this comparo
2. Audio Technica ATH-M50S ($149.95): Although I've listen to other AT headphones and didn't really like them, many reviewers complement these so much I've decided to give them a try...hell, if I end up with $149.95 headphones I've got some extra money to spend on something else
3. Beyerdynamic T50P ($299.95): To be honest, my two top contenders are the T50P's bigger sibling, the T5P and the Ultrasone Edition 8. However, many reviews say the T50P are among the best for true portable phones I've added them to the line-up. Although these are not true full size over the ear headphones, reviews say they are comfortable and do a good job at keeping the music in and the noise out.
4. Beyerdynamic T5P ($1295): Auditioned other Berydynamic headphone and liked the sound. The tesla technology is supposed to make these the pinnacle of portable headphones so naturally these are one of my top choices.
5. Ultrasone Edition 8 Palladium ($1699): I could not find a set of the standard E8's from a store with a good return policy so I went with the more expensive Palladium. If I end up liking these the best, I'll likely return these Palladium plated cans for the regular E8's and save a few hundred bucks...that being said, I really think these are over priced and I'm hoping I'll end up choosing one of the other headphones after my review. Plus, the driver is titanium plated and I tend to stay away from these based on my past experiences with titanium tweeters in home/car audio. But these had great reviews as well so I've got to try them out
As I mentioned, my experience with good headphones are extremely limited so I've actually also purchased a set of Grado RS1i to use as the measuring stick. I auditioned a set of SR325is and enjoy the sound. Although for my taste they were a bit too "peppy" I really enjoy the openess/airiness in sound stage as well as the excellent separation. All the reviews tell me the RS1i is supposed to take all that too a higher level.
This is be a highly subjective test since I like listen to music a little different then the guy next door. I will do a preliminary subjective sound test, amped and un-amped by using some of the music I've recorded prior to breaking the headphones in. When listening to them un-amped, I will use them both indoors and outdoors (probably at a mall) to see how sell they do in noisier environments. Then I'll break them in for another 40~50hrs and test them one more time after which I'll need to decide so I can start sending the rest of them back before my wife see's the massive credit card bill. I will also rate the size, comfort, and built quality as compared to each other.
Your comments and suggestions for testing procedures anything you can contribute regarding your own experiences with the above headphones (and others you think I missed) will help me a lot.
Thanks for reading! The headphones all should arrive by February 8th...very excited! :)