So I just joined because despite reading reviews and browsing the head-fi boards for months, I'm an incredibly indecisive person and just. cannot. narrow down my choices/make a darn purchase. I could really use your help, even though I know coming to an audiophile board and asking for opinions on low-budget headphones is like going to a car enthusiast board and asking which model year of used Toyota Corolla to buy. Anyway, here's what I'm looking for, in an incredibly long-winded format:
- Sub-US$100 price point. I am an incredibly clumsy person and am also really hard on my electronics (on accident, like that time I tripped, dropped, and stepped on my cell phone, or when I was trying to remove my last pair of super cheap supra-aurals from my backpack but didn't realize they were trapped under my textbooks, and snapped the headband in half). IEMs tend to last me about a year and then fail (even if in perfect physical condition), and anything with a headband even less. If I break this pair of headphones in the first year or two, I don't want to cry too much about it, though I'd really like to own these headphones for the next five or six years. Note: I'm not looking at the MSRP here. I mean "costs less than $100 through Amazon Prime".
- Closed back, circumaural. I anticipate a lot of library use for 5+ hours at a time, which means comfort is important, as is passive noise isolation. But if I happen to wear them out in public (infrequent, as I don't take public transportation), I want to be able to listen over the city streets.
- Clear, somewhat neutral sound. I really dislike prominent highs, they give me a headache, but I've also been using a pair of those Bose IEMs with the fins from Costco as a stop-gap and I think they are too recessed - I have to turn the sound up really loudly just to hear voices and distinguish what they're saying through the background music. Which reminds me - I'll be listening to a LOT of tv and movies through these headphones. A lot. The kind with talking and dramatic music in the background, not explosions. I also listen to a lot of classic broadway musicals, with female vocalists. And I plan on doing television/film editing through these headphones, plugged into my school's editing lab with a 1/4" adapter. However, the flip side is that I listen to a lot of EDM (e.g., Skrillex, Nero, that one "Clarity" song) when I'm studying, and so I tend to enjoy some wub-wub like the best of them. And when I'm listening for enjoyment, I listen to a lot of '90s alt-rock, which means guitars. I'm not a gamer, though, so it's okay if the soundstage isn't pinpoint-accurate, at least.
- Highly portable. This has been a sticking point with a lot of the headphones I'm interested in, such as the Creative Aurvana Live, for two reasons. 1) I don't care about the actual size of the actual headphones when in use (caveat: my mom has an ancient pair of AKG K240's she uses for tv, and those are too big for me both aesthetically, and physically (the headband doesn't stay small enough and the earcups are too large)) but I'm pretty sure that for my wallet's sake, I need a pair of headphones that folds up really nicely, or folds flat and has a decent protective case. The exceptions that I've been considering are V-Moda Crossfade LP's (they come with a hard case and a bunch of other nice things that I need anyway) or the Philips/O'Neill SHO9560 "The Stretch" (because they look cute and I'm vain and they could probably take a beating). I know neither of those is ideal from a sound profile perspective, though, but I keep coming back to them and batting my lashes at them anyway. The V-Modas are the only headphones over $100 I am considering, due mostly to their stellar Amazon reviews. 2) I also have been avoiding studio monitor headphones because 6.5'+ of cord is just too much (I'm bloody 5'2") - though studio monitors-esque are probably fine if they've got a removable/replaceable shorter cord.
- Un-amped performance. I'm not buying an amp or a DAC. I'm just not. I'm a lazy consumer. So these headphones need to work well off-the-shelf, driven by my Macbook Pro, or my 2nd gen iPod Touch, or on occasion by my really crappy Motorola Atrix 2. My cell phone and the computers in my school's editing lab don't have EQ settings, so I don't want a pair of headphones that "really great when it's EQ'ed out!". I'd prefer headphones that are "pretty good" by themselves. That means if you want to suggest "lifestyle headphones" (other than Beats, obviously), be my guest. I don't want to deal with the hassle of modifying the headphones if it goes beyond added covers that I can buy cheaply online. I don't listen to music very loudly - I use it at the lowest volume that can still accomplish my purpose (hearing the sound).
- I have a relatively small head - it's long vertically, but narrow width-wise, and I generally use headphones about zero to one click down from the smallest setting.
A couple headphones of the many I've eliminated so far:
Philips Uptown (reviews seemed to indicate sound quality was so-so, and everyone kvetched about the awful volume toggle)
Koss ProDJ100 (the cord is 8' long?!)
Sony something-something-7506 (cord is long, apparently the earcups degrade, they're kind of ugly, I'm a little vain)
Any of the XB models or AKG models (they look pretty big, my ears are taller than they are wide)
If I've forgotten anything, please let me know :P. If you head-fi'ers have suggestions for what my unicorn could be, I'd love to hear it! Especially in time for any labor day sales :D.