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Upgrading Portable Headphones (~$200)

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I currently have a pair of Denon AD-1001 and they suit me just fine. However, I'm both getting the urge to upgrade and noticing that they're taking quite a beating. More exactly, the hinges on the ear cups are a bit uneven from wear and tear in my bag. I've done a bit of research on a few portable headphones to move on to, but is it worth it to upgrade?





I want a closed headphone that's still portable that sounds good unamped (I won't be using an amp). I'm also concerned about durability (being a college student and having the ability to stow it into my bag) and comfort, although sound quality is still primary. I generally listen to mostly indie rock (The National, Arcade Fire, The Shins, etc.) with a bit of hip-hop every now and then. I would say I like a bassier headphone (the Denon is about right, although I would prefer a tighter and quicker and maybe lighter bass).


I've narrowed down my choices to four so far: I'm currently looking at the Sennheiser HD-25-II, Phiaton MS-400, Audio-Technica ESW-9, and the AIAIAI TMA-1, they're all around the same price.All of them have been lauded to various degrees here, so I'm still trying to decide between them. I have a few concerns about each:


HD-25-II: How much of a concern is the comfort of the headphone? I got the AD-1001 partially because I knew that they were very comfortable and they haven't disappointed. I'm also concerned about the forwardness of the sound - I like the Denon sound (even if the bass could be a bit less and tighter) and I'm not sure if the HD-25 will fatigue or not.


MS-400: These actually seem to be the best fit, but I'm not sure about durability. The sound seems to be somewhat similar to the headphones that I have now, which seems like a good fit.


ESW-9: These are gorgeous headphones, but I've heard complaints about the durability. I'll be carrying the headphones in my backpack a lot, so they have a take a bit of stress. I'm also not sure if the sound might be too warm and laid back for my tastes (apparently they're best for jazz and R&B and not really "rock" headphones). Some have said they are similar to the Denon sound signature though.


TMA-1: These seem to be FOTM and a bit dark, but I have heard good reviews. I probably won't be EQing the headphones though, so these probably won't work.


Sorry if this is a bit long, but I want to be thorough with my review. I guess I can summarize it into 3 points:


1. How much would this upgrade in sound have from what I have now?

2. If worth an upgrade, I would prefer a closed, portable headphone around $200 that sounds good unamped, but can be scaled up nicely if I decide to get an amp. Better if durable and comfortable, but less important.

3. I mainly listen to indie rock and prefer a darker sound, although the bass shouldn't be too strong.


Thanks and if there are other recommendations other than these 4, that would be helpful!

post #2 of 7

I have the MS400, and while it doesn't sound "bad" with anything, I've heard that the HD-25-II can be better, while having much better durability. Also, if you wear the MS400 for more than 15 minutes you'll want to inject heroin directly into your ears. And by that I mean it hurts your ears.

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hadn't heard anything before about the MS-400 being uncomfortable, but I guess that rules that out. I've been leaning towards either the HD-25 or ESW-9. I also want to know how much of an upgrade over my current setup this is. Anyone with thoughts?

post #4 of 7

I have very limited experience but I listened to the HD25-1ii for one 6 hour chunk. I have a descent sized head and it didn't start getting uncomfortable for me until four or five hours had passed (and that was the first time wearing; I think I could have gotten used to them). The unique design with the split headband really lets you adjust it for the fit that is best for you. And the sound is awesome!

post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

Anyone else with any more thoughts? Seems like the HD-25 is the best fit, but is it a big enough difference over the Denons that I have now?

post #6 of 7

Do not get the ESW9 if it's going to be banging around in your bag. The cups are made from wood and those can easily be damaged. The HD-25 is the best bet for portable headphones that can withstand a nuclear strike(very durable). You could always go the IEM route, but since you're asking for headphones, I assume you don't like IEMs

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Seems like the HD-25 it is. Still haven't had my question answered of it's much better than my Denon's or not, but I'm under the impression that it's better. Hopefully this will satisfy me for a while. Thanks!

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