I've been trawling this site obsessively for a few weeks now trying to narrow down a set of headphones for a gift. I've kind of got a short list, but I thought I'd throw it out there as I'm a complete noob to the world of headphones (I've been using a pair of $10 Sony earbuds for ages...and now you know). I'm buying for my boyfriend who's not an audiophile per se, but who has a definite listening profile.
He commutes a lot for work, sometimes upwards of 5 hours a day in blocks of 1 - 1.5 hours on public transport, so there's definitely need for isolation both against intruding sound and against leakage although passive at most, really. I think active noise cancelling would be overkill especially as he does a lot of walking too, and I'd rather him not mowed down. He does listen to a lot of rock (not going to lie, there's a lot of hair metal on his playlist), but he's really big on audiobooks and lectures which is the thing that's thrown me for a loop. The gamut of quality for audiobooks is really insane and an unforgiving set of phones might not be the best match, but again, I'm not entirely sure of how that works. I'd imagine a bright sound would be good because you wouldn't want the narrator to sound like he's swimming in pudding, but I know that especially with poorer recordings, or ones ripped from cassettes, background hiss and sharp s, t, and z consonant sound can really be a huge issue. He uses a Creative Zen X-Fi2 for playback.
I know that technically an IEM would be a good match, but he's really not keen on having things in his ears at all. Right now he has a pair of Panasonic RP-HTX7s and he's never complained about the sound, and comfort-wise they seem to be fine, but the cable has been destroyed and is patched together right now with a bit of isolation tape. Which brings me to my next wish -- I'd love love love for there to be a detachable cable. We have a cat who we should have named Houdini who loves to teethe on cables and is notorious for finding and destroying cables even if they've been hidden away. I'd rather be able to swap out a cable if we have a little accident. I would like to stay in the price range of the Panasonics though, and from what I've seen on this site, it is possible to get a higher-quality sound while still staying in budget.
I've looked through several lists of over-ear rec lists here and I've been tempted by Superlux offerings, as they seem to hit the great sound/price/range of models with detachable cables, but many recs seem to label the sound as "unforgiving" which I'm worried about when it comes to audiobooks. Plus, a lot of the closed back models seem massive -- much bigger than the RP-HTX7 which seems like a strike against commuting-friendliness. The Superlux HD661s might be a possibility (or maybe even the HD631s, but its hard to find info on the size), but again, I'm worried about the compatibility with the audiobooks. Also, he has a massive head so something with a mega clamp might not be ideal. He had no comfort complaints about the RP-HTX7 as far as I heard (and I keep bringing up those phones, not because I've got some kind of fetish for them, but because they're the only ones I can compare his preferences to!)
So, yeah, TL;DR... seeking advice for:
Good for rock and audiobooks of various ripping quality
~€30-€60 (ish...flexible to a degree on this. I'm ordering to Italy.)
No vice-grip reputation
Somewhat portable (not necessarily foldable or anything, just not way massive or brick heavy)
Edited by applescrumping - 7/13/13 at 5:03am