Let me start by thanking the many Head-Fi members whose posts I have been avidly reading for some months. This website truly is a valuable resource. I decided to post my own topic, as I have scoured most of what is available on this site regarding the headphones I am considering for my workplace. I would like some further input from the group regarding my specific situation.
I work in a tighly packed "cube farm", in something less than a half cubicle of space. I spend most of my days interviewing attorneys by telephone, researching legal info, then writing marketing websites for those attorneys based on my interviews and research. I spend 8-plus hours per day sitting less 10 feet from eight of my co-workers. There are probably 60 workers in a 4,000 square foot space that comprises my section of the office.
As you might expect, ambient noise is a problem. So is being a source of ambient noise. Sound volumes in my immediate area range from dead silent when everyone is typing/researching to unbearably loud if a nearby coworker is conducting an interview or hosting a conversation over the cubelet walls.
It is a difficult situation, and most of my co-workers cope by wearing closed headphones and/or noise-cancellation headphones (mostly Bose) to isolate themselves from their surroundings. Until now, I have been able to get by with my stable of low-end Sennheiser portables -- PX100, PX100-2 and HD 238. Although these are "low-end" cans, I think they are fantastic for MP3s. I have even brought in my upper-midrange Sennheiser HD 560 Ovation-IIs from time to time. They are 60 ohm, but can be driven adequately by a portable source.
My most frequent source at work has been a Dell Lattitude E6420 laptop (my work laptop) without an amp. Sometimes, I've substituted my Zune HD. While at work, I almost always play MP3s at between 160 and 320 kbps (XBox/Zune subscription and eMusic downloads, mostly). I listen to rock, prog, metal and pop almost exclusively. I also listen to a lot of folk music that uses brass and fiddles. I rarely play classical or jazz.. Also, I know what a decent source sounds like, even if my laptop is lackluster -- I use an Audigy soundcard in my computer at home, and I have an 80's vintage Denon stereo. My primary use for these phones, however, will be at work, running from a laptop, Zune or smartphone, possibly with a portable amp.
My collection of open-aire Sennheisers have pleasant characteristics and have suited me reasonably well, but they do lack somewhat in sound. Further, they all leak sound to varying degrees. As a result, I've been thinking of upgrading to a higher quality headphone in the $150 to $350 range that I can use exclusively at work, or when travelling. A new coworker with sensitive hearing has forced the issue: she sits four feet from me, and can hear noise coming from my current headphones, even when I turn the sound low. It drives her crazy. Given her objections, my choices are basically A) don't listen to music, B) tell my coworker to shove off, or C) find a new set of cans, preferably closed. Since A and B aren't really options, I'm writing this seeking recommendations for C).
To date, I've auditioned (at store kiosk displays and using my smartphone) most of the mid-range Sennheiser over-the-ear closed cans -- including the HD 202-II, HD 428, HD 380-Pro, HD-219 and a few others. These cans all sounded like I was listening to music through a cardboard box. They were incredibly comfortable, but I couldn't get over the flat, dull, boxy sound. The one closed Sennheiser I *did* like, the HD 219, is a cheap headphone that sounds similar to the portable open HD 238, which I own.
(By contrast, I *adore* my open HD 560-IIs -- fairly neutral but not clinical -- and other higher-end open aires like the HD 580, which are also extremely comfortable, but sound "right" to me. I say this only to give you an idea of the sound characteristics I enjoy.)
I've also auditioned several $200-400 range Bose, Audio-Technics, Pioneer, and Denon, all closed. Did not like the sound of any of these. (Bose sound "cardboardy" and the others too bright). I also tried the B&W P3 and P5. I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality, fit and the smooth (albeit warmly colored) sound. I've never had the opportunity to hear Grado, so sorry I can't comment. I gather that I might like the sound of Grados should I try them. But that is probably another discussion.
I should also mention that I am *very* interested in hearing the closed HD-25-1-II and Amperior, as I suspect I might love the sound while appreciating the isolation. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a shop in my area (Minneapolis) that has either in stock or available for auditioning.
Other relevant info: I wear glasses. I don't like in-ear monitors. My main complaint about closed phones is sweat. I don't like vinyl earpads (sweaty ears) and prefer velour, if possible.
Given this information, I'd like some advice. The bulk of the Sennheisers are out, despite my affinity for this brand. Even the 380-Pro, which isolate wonderfully, sounded dull and lifeless to me. The H&Ws I tried seemed to isolate adequately (especially the P5), and the sound was good enough for my needs. Unfortunately, the leather pads aren't my favorite. The P3s would be perfect (pads are comfy) but they leak a little bit of sound at high volume.
From reviews I've read, the Amperior *seems* like what I'd need -- supposedly "reference" sound, velour earpads, good isolation, a brand I'm highly familar with -- but I've never heard it. In fact, I've never heard a closed Sennheiser that I'm wild about. Given the weird variations in sound quality between low, medium and high end Sennheisers, I'm not sure which "Sennheiser sound" I'd be buying,
Can any of you veterans help me fill in the blanks? Do the HD-25/Amperiors sound like any of the headphones I've mentioned? Is the clamping force brutal, or just noticeble? What are they like after an hour, or three, or 12? Do they fatigue the ear? Is amping a necessity for these, or merely advised?
Your input is appreciated in advance. : )