Hello - am new to head-fi, these forums and never considered myself to be much of an audiophile (many of you might call me a noob). I've been absorbing as much as I could from the last several days, preparing myself for my purchase of new headphones. Rather than continue to lurk, I want to quickly share some "noobish" experiences related to my quest and eventual purchase, which would primarily be used at the office.
My musical tastes are all over the place and although raised with an appreciation and "musical" aptitude (incl. vocal training, piano and classical guitar lessons for several years), I was intimidated by some of the technical terms tossed like soundstage, forward sound, separation. After having auditioned a number of different products and talking to someone who could take my layman explanations and tie them to official (and scientific) terms, my experience became a lot easier. So for other first timers, you have to try to have a chance of understanding what it all means.
Also, I expected finding something that would be an effective all-rounder might be a challenge. My tastes are all over the place and were recently described as "a good taste in music," because I shared a common appreciation for the likes of U2, Ting Tings, Barenaked Ladies, Saint-Germain-like Acid/Lounge Jazz, 70's Funk). "Fidelity" I think he called it. After telling him what I liked (hearing vocals and not being distracted by the music) and what I didn't like (harsh trebles hurt my ears, unnatural / muddy bass), the direction to recommend was easier.
After a few different units, I came to the AKG K240 MKII and quickly knew I had found the right headphones. They have handled everything I have thrown at them (using the iPad and mixed-quality tracks as a source). Although I like bass to an extent, they hit where they need to and are not exaggerated (either in power or duration). Also, high-hats/cymbals don't hurt my ears, although I can clearly hear them.
To offer a few comparisons, I also tried:
ATH-M50 - As others have said, found the vocals were too subdued (recessed midrange?) and was struggling to hear the vocals in many tracks (Little Fluffy Clouds by The Orb is one example). Bass also seemed rather artificial (listening to some live tracks from Live was unbearable). I liked how I was completely isolated from the going-ons around me, but felt a little too removed from the environment. The owner is big on guitar work, analyzing music to death, and working in isolation, so I can understand how these might work for him.
Grado SR-60i - way I would describe the experience is being enveloped by the music, but not lost in it. Sound quality wise, I had to turn the volume up quite a bit to hear it, and when I did, there was no bass at all (example - intro to Renegade from Styx). I understood why this was the case, though (because they are open backed and all of the distractions from the office could get through).
Problem I had with both of the above (and other cheaper headsets in the past) is that I felt like I was being distracted and couldn't concentrate on work while listening. With these AKGs, I can listen and work freely without any hardship.
Also allowed a colleague to try them a short while after returning to the office with them. He's been having similar troubles finding a good all-rounder (tested with some different choices of music, including some country tracks I might dare to call bluegrass, piano jazz, Evanescence and Eddy Vetter). Suffice to say that after 15 minutes of testing, he's also sold on them and is going to order a pair).
So thank you to all who's input I've perused and reviews read - I expect this may become more of a hobby than originally expected.
Edited by FortyRock - 5/17/11 at 1:24pm