Hey Guys, as you probably know from the subject title already, I'm a newbie here. I scanned through all the forum categories, and I think this is the correct place to post this. I'm currently in the market for a new pair of headphones. Willing to spend in the $300 "range." I currently have a pair of Panasonic HTX7's, and I'm looking to replace them, as there are a few annoynaces I'm having with it (See Below). I don't have a headphone place around town (Austin) that I can try out the ones I'm considering, so would like your help. If you know of a way I can test out headphones side by side (like Zappos, where you can buy different shoes, try them out side by side, and return the ones you don't want ot keep), let me know! Note: I am not an audiophile.
A little about what I listen to:
I listen to everything, from Alternative/Rock (Radiohead, Oasis, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins, Metallica etc.), to Instrumentals (Hans Zimmer, Nobuo Uematsu), to Top 40 (Mariah Carey, John Mayer, Taylor Swift, Bryan Adams, Christina Aguilera), to Hip Hop (Rhianna, Kanye West), to New Age (Yanni, Enya), to Singer/Songewriter (Jack Johnson, Priscilla Ahn), to Oldies (Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel), to Dance/Techno, to Jazz/Blues. Really, there isn't anything I don't like to listen to. I want headphones that can really make voices clear and crisp in intimate songs, separating out instruments, etc., but also headphones that can handle out some good clean thumping bass in dance/techno songs, hiphop, etc.
A little about the music setup I have:
I usually listen to my music in the office, on a computer, listneing to MP3's or Spotify, so my source files are not of the highest quality (not lossless, not CD, etc.). I don't want much sound leak as I'm in the office, and I don't want a super cord or one with coils, as I will use these while travelling too. Also would be listening to hours at a time, so comfort is paramount. I sometimes travel as well and listen on the plane, and my source is the iPhone or MacBook Air. The headphones should also be able to handle movies in a airplane situation. So Noise Cancellation would be a plus, or headphones that have good natural (passive?) isolation. I do not want headphones that would require a separate amp to get something out of it, as my sources are computers, mp3 players, and smartphones, so the cans have to drive themselves.
These are qualities I look for in a headphone:
Design/Style - I appreciate great aesthetics when it comes to tech gizmos. Sometimes, I even sacrafice a little functinoality or quality for style. Not necessarily for others to see. I'm 29, I don't need anything to look 'cool' or 'in'. I just appreciate looking at sexy gear. Which is why I have an iPhone 4s, even though I prefer the flexibility of the Android OS better. And why I have a Macbook Air, even though gaming would be far superior on a Windows computer I build.
Comfort - As stated above, will listen to in the office, so I need to be able to wear them for quite a while without ears getting hot all the time, or sore.
Sound Quality - Has to be versatile, has to give me goosebumps, has to have good bass for fast songs, good clarity and separation for slow songs/instrumentals.
Durability - I will not be only keeping these at a desk, as I will occasionally travel with them, on a plane, etc. Do keep in mind that I baby a lot of my electronics, I never damage my camera, I don't have a case for my iPhone as I have never dropped a cell phone, etc. etc. So it doesn't have to be built like tank.
Form Factor - They do not HAVE to be foldable, but it would be preferable, if they could at least swivel to fold flat or had a carrying case, for portability. Also, do not really like the on ear feel (unless you know a set that can be worn for long periods of time), much prefer over ear.
A little about headphones I've tried and my thoughts on them, so you can better guage what's best for me:
Panasonic HTX7 - These are my current pair. I'm starting to get fatigued with them as I can't listen to them for more than half an hour without my ears overheating and the cartilage hurting. They just aren't that comfortable, with the clamping force, etc. Also, I'm hungry for better sound. The bass is just OK, and this particular bass performance sometimes gives me a headache. Love the retro style though, and I have it in white. I love white.
Beats Studio - I actually bought a pair a couple years back when Apple had the "test out headphones and return w/ no questions asked" policy and took them on 1 week trip to see how I liked them. At that time of my life, I didn't feel like spending $300 on headphones was the smartest choice, so I returned them. I love the style of these headphones (in white), and I love the comfort. I don't feel pressure wearing them. I don't remember, but I do feel like listening to them for more than an hour might have overheated the ears a bit. I loved the bass coming out of these, I loved how clear voices were, nothing sounded muddled to me. I know there's a lot of hate on this board for these cans, and well, I want you all to help convince me and direct me to the right path. I understand the 'right' headphones is different for everyone else. So hopefully the above description of my listening needs helps. The durability issues of this headphone worry me. Also worried about sound leak. But I have to say, when I listen to certrain tracks, I get goosebumps, because I feel like the sound envelops me and is all around me, instead of being one directional/dimensional.
Beats Solo - Sound was nothing to write home about, everything sounded muddled together, bass wasn't that strong.
Sennheiser HS-202 - Bass was strong, but not clean. Headphones were extremely uncomfortable, and my ears easily got hot. Sound was muddled, one dimensional.
Koss PortaPro - Not comfortable, sound was tinny to me.
Grado SR80 - I tested this out in a hifi equipment store, and they put me in up in an isolated listening room with CD audio source. Even in this situation, I wasn't very impressed. It seemed to lack any 'color' if you will. No bass, and voices and instruments didn't particularly 'stand out' to me.
Bose Around-Ear (Old Version) - These headphones are really comfortable. That's all I can remember about them. Design was sleek too.
Vmoda Crossfade (Original) - These headphones are comfortable. The design to me is just OK. It seems a little too aggressive, and less sleek/modern. I get more of a 'gamer' vibe out of the style. The sound out of these were good, but I seemed to want more clarity and separation. It felt a bit muddled.
B&W P3 - Love love love the design of these, especially the white ones. I hate that the cord comes out of both ears though. Also, after testing them out, bass seemed to lack for me, and it seemed like sound just felt one dimensional, not that it was all around me.
B&W P5 - I don't like the design as much on these compraed to the P3's. The leather to me doesn't seem as sleek. Sound? Didn't seem all that much different than P5 for me. Although, this was a while ago so memory is a little shady.
Sony 7506 - I heard a lot about these, and gave em a try. My friend had a pair with the Beyer pad mods on them. They were comfy. Didn't really prefer the style, and didn't like the long coiled cord. And although sound was crisp and clear, bass was lacking and overall sound seemed to be lacking oomph.
Sony V700 DJ - I used to really like the design of these cans, but not so as much anymore. They felt on ear, so weren't all that comfortable, and overall build quality seemed really cheap. I can't comment much on the sound, it didn't seem like anything special.
Headphones I'm considering:
Beats Studio - Of all the ones I've tested (see above), these have sounded the best (to me). The music seems to be all around me and goes through me, with a great beat on the songs that demand it. Would love to know if any on this list are a better fit for me, considering my preferences. I'm starting to wonder if I'm preferring these to other cans I've tested because they drive themselves with batteries and such, and others require amps to reach their potential, or if I'm just an idiot, or that I've just tested out the worst cans.
Sony MDR-1NC - These are the ones I'm lusting after the most right now, in terms of design. Love the black/red model. I have only read some first impressions from the one thread that's going on, but I haven't been able to glean much info about it, other than that they are super comfortable. The little brother, the MDR1-R seems to be getting more attention. I want to know if the batteries run out, if I just use it w/out NC, if they sound just as good as the MDR1-R. Then in that case, I can listen to it with no NC artifacting when I don't need NC, and turn on NC when I do need it. Not that I can tell the different I don't think, again, not an audiophile.
Sony MDR-1R - Love the design, just like the NC version, and it's cheaper. I'm just worried that maybe I would prefer to have "S-Master Digital Amp" built in. And wondering how well the passive noise isolation works, if it's really worth the extra $ for the NC version.
V-Moda M100 - Not a huge fan of the design, but seems very durable, and seems to be a set that's developed with a lot of your input, so I want to know how it stacks up in this list. I do like the matte black look though, with the orange cabling. I also wonder if prolonged use might cause pressure, as the cans seem, in it's natural state, to be clamped all the way.
AKG K550 - Haven't seen these in person, images make these cans look pretty sleek, and pretty robust. I'm not sure if these would seem too big, and know nothing about how they sound, or how comfortable they are.
Incase Sonic - These *look* comfortable, and the design is decent. I know nothing else about them though, other than they seem to be a good value.