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Looking for Headphones with Style and Substance

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

So, I've been lurking around head-fi for a while now and I've seen several of the "beginners guides to finding the right headphone", but I feel as if the headphones I'm looking for are sort of unique.

 

Ideally, they'd be a pair of over-ear headphones. 

 

SQ should be pleasing. I'll be using the headphones for monitoring, but I'll also be using them for casual listening...I'm hoping that isn't an impossible combination. I'll just say that for my case monitoring is less important than my casual listening.

 

I'd also like headphones that are attractive looking. If it weren't for the under-par SQ, and over-marketed logo, I'd go for a pair of Dr. Dre's Beats. But, I have a thing for sound. I tried the beats in the apple store at one point, and I was pretty disappointed. So, I'll stray away from those, but if there are some headphones that share the beats sort of minimalistic "one-piece" design, that would be nice.

 

Sound Isolation is also important, so that's why I'd definitely opt for a closed-ear set. I don't need actively-cancelling headphones with batteries or anything like that, but just un-complicated isolation.

 

Probably one of the bigger things (which kind of ties in with style) is that they don't look huge on my head. Most audiophile-grade headphones are huge and I'm not looking for that. Ideally, the headphones will fit slimly and snugly on my head.

 

Oh yeah, and price point. Up to 200$, street price.

 

So, in a nutshell:

 

1) Good SQ. OK for monitoring, but better for listening and enjoyment.

2) Attractive-looking "one-piece" minimalistic design. 

3) A good noise isolation seal.

4) Not huge on my head.

5) Up to 200$

 

As for what I've seen already:

 

 

I really liked the way the T1 Daft Punk Headphones looked (can't say anything about sound), but seeing that they were never properly brought to the market, I can't get my hands on them.

 

The Incase Sonic Headphones also sparked some interest, but some details bother me, such as the alleged over-enunciation of high frequencies and funny looking wires that are sticking out of both sides.

 

I've also taken a look at the AKG Q701's, but they're a little on the pricey side. And, they don't really fit that whole "not huge on the head" thing.

 

So, that's what I'm looking for. If you have any ideas, I'd love to know!


Edited by Y260 - 9/8/12 at 6:30am
post #2 of 12

Good noise-isolation seal rules out a lot of the upper tier.

 

Good aesthetics also rule out quite a number of the upper tier.

 

And "do not look so huge" rule out the rest.

 

It looks to me like you are looking more for a pair of portable on-ear headphones rather than full-size.

post #3 of 12
Quote:

So, in a nutshell:

 

1) Good SQ. OK for monitoring, but better for listening and enjoyment.

2) Attractive-looking "one-piece" minimalistic design. 

3) A good noise isolation seal.

4) Not huge on my head.

5) Up to 200$


I've also taken a look at the AKG Q701's, but they're a little on the pricey side. And, they don't really fit that whole "not huge on the head" thing.

 

The thing about the Q701 (and th K702 it's based on, and the original K701) is that they use the basic AKG headband design, so that alone will look huge. Add to that the "3D" earpads that have a bulkier sideto angle the headphones - ergo they won't sit as flat on the side of one's head as much as, say, the Sennheiser counterparts. That's because the AKG's are big on soundstage - and by that I mean both in design requirements plus the result.

I'd much rather you look into the K550, which is basically their attempt at making a portable, sealed K701. The only parameter it fails in is that online it still costs more than the Q701. I think prevailing online prices nowadays are $299+shipping.

post #4 of 12

Hmm the k701 is basically the opposite of everything you described. Huge, non-isolating, mechanical looking, over $200.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

Good noise-isolation seal rules out a lot of the upper tier.

 

Good aesthetics also rule out quite a number of the upper tier.

 

And "do not look so huge" rule out the rest.

 

It looks to me like you are looking more for a pair of portable on-ear headphones rather than full-size.

Ah, ok. Do you know of a pair of on-the ear headphones that would meet my difficult requirements? I've taken a look at the V-Moda M-80's, but they lack the "one-piece" design I'm looking for. I hear sound is pretty incredible though.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

The thing about the Q701 (and th K702 it's based on, and the original K701) is that they use the basic AKG headband design, so that alone will look huge. Add to that the "3D" earpads that have a bulkier sideto angle the headphones - ergo they won't sit as flat on the side of one's head as much as, say, the Sennheiser counterparts. That's because the AKG's are big on soundstage - and by that I mean both in design requirements plus the result.

I'd much rather you look into the K550, which is basically their attempt at making a portable, sealed K701. The only parameter it fails in is that online it still costs more than the Q701. I think prevailing online prices nowadays are $299+shipping.

Thanks for clearing up the whole headband dilemma. I liked the Q701's because of their design, but then they are pretty large headphones. I googled the K550 and I can't say that they look all that portable. They're very sleek and minimalistic though, and I had no idea they existed so thanks for the recommendation.


Edited by Y260 - 9/8/12 at 1:59pm
post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Y260 View Post

Ah, ok. Do you know of a pair of on-the ear headphones that would meet my difficult requirements? I've taken a look at the V-Moda M-80's, but they lack the "one-piece" design I'm looking for. I hear sound is pretty incredible though.

 

Well, V-Moda M80 is a good start.

 

Alternatively, you may also want to take a look at the following:

 

1) Audio Technica ATH-ES7: I consider these best in price bracket... since you can now get them for approximately $60 - $120. They have just enough of everything, and their midrange is very detailed. They'd give K701 a good battle, and I think the K701 only wins out in soundstage and instrument separation.

 

2) Audio Technica ATH-ESW9: I also consider these best in price bracket, since you can get them for around $150 - $200. If you like tube amp sound, then these will give you that sound... but without the amp. They have very smooth and lush midrange, plus they skillfully mask away any compression artifact present in your music. In short, they exist solely to make your music sound good.

 

3) Bower & Wilkins P3: These are brand spanking new. Very aesthetically pleasing, and sound very good. I just had the chance to check them out yesterday, and I was pleasantly impressed. They follow in the ESW9 example, but instead of the tube sound, they have a slight hint of metal. You may prefer it as it makes vocal sounds slightly more detailed compared to the smooth tube sound.

 

4) Sennheiser HD25-1 II: These have been a long time enthusiast favorite... and they still are, despite competition from the likes of ESW9. They truly deserve their reputation, by the way. If you like plenty of sparkle to your music and some good bass, then these are more than capable of delivering.


Edited by Bill-P - 9/8/12 at 7:04pm
post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Y260 View Post

Thanks for clearing up the whole headband dilemma. I liked the Q701's because of their design, but then they are pretty large headphones. I googled the K550 and I can't say that they look all that portable. They're very sleek and minimalistic though, and I had no idea they existed so thanks for the recommendation.

 

The cups are still large, true, but they wrap around your ears. What makes them more portable than other full-size circumaural cans is that the cups are flatter, and add the minimalist design it keeps the physical profile to minimize bulk around the user's head. Not as sleek as the Ed 8 of course, but since I don't have $1200 for that, I'm going for either the K550 or the Spirit One this Christmas.

post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

 

Well, V-Moda M80 is a good start.

 

Alternatively, you may also want to take a look at the following:

 

1) Audio Technica ATH-ES7: I consider these best in price bracket... since you can now get them for approximately $60 - $120. They have just enough of everything, and their midrange is very detailed. They'd give K701 a good battle, and I think the K701 only wins out in soundstage and instrument separation.

 

2) Audio Technica ATH-ESW9: I also consider these best in price bracket, since you can get them for around $150 - $200. If you like tube amp sound, then these will give you that sound... but without the amp. They have very smooth and lush midrange, plus they skillfully mask away any compression artifact present in your music. In short, they exist solely to make your music sound good.

 

3) Bower & Wilkins P3: These are brand spanking new. Very aesthetically pleasing, and sound very good. I just had the chance to check them out yesterday, and I was pleasantly impressed. They follow in the ESW9 example, but instead of the tube sound, they have a slight hint of metal. You may prefer it as it makes vocal sounds slightly more detailed compared to the smooth tube sound.

 

4) Sennheiser HD25-1 II: These have been a long time enthusiast favorite... and they still are, despite competition from the likes of ESW9. They truly deserve their reputation, by the way. If you like plenty of sparkle to your music and some good bass, then these are more than capable of delivering.

Thanks for the recommendations. The P3's are elegant and very low-profile, but they lack the one-piece headband style I'm looking for. The more edgy detailed sound of the P3's that you described sound interesting though. The HD25-1 II sparked some interest, and I looked to try them on when I went to Best Buy last night, but I quickly found that Best Buy is at a much lower tier on the headphone market. All I could find were cheap Panasonics, Skullcandies, and Beats. Being that I live in Hawaii, there are few electronic stores so I might just end up Amazoning whatever I decide on. I'd really prefer to try them on before I buy them, but I imagine that customer reviews can give me a good idea of comfort. Anyway, unless anyone has any glaring recommendation that I'm missing, it may just come down to the M-80's.

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

The cups are still large, true, but they wrap around your ears. What makes them more portable than other full-size circumaural cans is that the cups are flatter, and add the minimalist design it keeps the physical profile to minimize bulk around the user's head. Not as sleek as the Ed 8 of course, but since I don't have $1200 for that, I'm going for either the K550 or the Spirit One this Christmas.

The Spirit One is very nice looking. I wish there was more of a market for these high quality, minimally bulky, full size headphones...

post #11 of 12

Phillips fidelio L1?

post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Y260 View Post

The Spirit One is very nice looking. I wish there was more of a market for these high quality, minimally bulky, full size headphones...

 

Personally, there is enough of a market for those categories - what's lacking in some ways is the SQ for headphones that already fit those parameters. I mean, it's much easier to sell headphones that people can and will use any/everywhere than reference-grade cans that will require a quiet room, if not amp as well. For example, for those with home or car audio speaker set-ups, it's more likely they'll pick up the Spirit One not just because of marketing and familiarity with the brand, but also because they might not want to have to spend $399 on an amp to drive $399 Sennheisers. The Spirit One is their go-anywhere-with-the-Focal sound headphone, and a lot of people will also be attracted to its design much more than - say - the HD800 or K702.

If anything, it's not really Sennheiser and AKG (well, OK, there's the HD25-1 and the K550...) that the Spirit One competes with, but Beats. Car audio enthusiasts for SQ will inevitably go for Focal; those who use Audiobahn will inevitably get Beats. But between them are kind of like younger "swing voters" between registered Democrats and Republicans - how does Focal get their attention? Then again, IF a rapper can have a polarizing effect on musical preferences, then everyone who doesn't listen (exclusively) to rap and/or techno, if the Spirit One can be made available in Mac dealers or other mainstream gadget stores (I literally heard a hipster voice go, 'too mainstream' in my head when I typed that), then maybe Focal has a good chance to not lose money over this investment.

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