$100 cans from Amazon

  1. huilun02
    I'm looking for the best $100 headphones off Amazon (because the price/selection in my area sucks and Amazon is the only US seller that can reliably deliver)

    Of course different sets fits different taste and type of music, so here are my preferences:

    • When outside I use earbuds instead of those that sit inside the ear canal (Creative Aurvana Air)
    • I cannot stand the dead silence of total noise isolation. I don't care if others hear my music
    • Genre I listen to is orchestra, EDM and modern synthwave (usually with vocals)
    • Want to hear fine details from high pitch to rumble of distant thunder without anything overpowering.
    • Wide soundstage and I want to be in the music, instead of the music in my head
    • Must be able to work with my phone without additional amp
    • Mic, inline controls, wireless or built in DAC not required. Prefer comfort for long listening sessions
    I know $100 is not a lot, but its something I'll have to make do with. Hopefully I can take it with me on my holiday trip which is before my next paycheck. I have my eye on the Grado SR80e which from reviews seem to be what I'm looking for.

    Thanks :)
     
  2. ladon
  3. huilun02
    Yes the SHP9500S looks very appealing too. Saw reviews comparing it to the SR60 and they say its better in every way. Especially with regards to comfort. Being over-ear would be more comfortable in long sessions but I dont want to compromise on the listening experience. How does it compare to the SR80e and HD558? Also thanks for the mic suggestion although I probably won't need it. Headphones just for listening to music at home. Phone I'm using is a V30 and OnePlus 3T.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  4. huilun02
    Just wanted to say I bit the bullet and ordered the SHP9500S after looking at past reviews and comparisons. They seem to consistently praise it for being the best all-rounded performer at its price with a slight quirk in the upper mid range. I also noticed "Grado" sound being widely recognised and referred to as a characteristic of their products. Decided not to go for that as I want to avoid the risk of disliking the outlier. Also the SR80e being on-ear loses out points in the same area where the SHP9500S excel - comfort. Thanks for nudging me in the right direction :)
     
  5. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    That's an extremely tall order for $100. Or not. It's not a tall order, it's totally impossible.

    Biggest problem: you're not going to get anything but "music inside your head" imaging for $100. You're not even just going to get that for $300. Sure, there's the AKG K701, but even if you can get loud running it off a smartphone, it's going to sound like a tin can. With the Grado the best you're going to get is hear the cymbals and the drums to the left and right somewhere outside your ears - vocals will still be in your head along with the drums in the center, along with the guitars, etc. At best you're going to have to listen with some kind fo surround simulation DSP but even the best gaming virtual surround programs can't magically make a gunshot at 10m away in-game sound like it's actually coming from 10m away, much less tweak music to sound like the sound is coming from transducers that are far away from your head.

    Second, regardless of whether somebody has to tell you to turn it down because they're the ones who care about not hearing your music (regardless if you care or not), your other problem is ambient noise. There's a reason why people want that dead silence when listening. You hear more of the outside noise, you can't hear the details, regardless of whether it's "high pitched" or "the rumble of distant thunder," so you have to crank it up. That means the audio chip in your phone has to work harder, so you get more distortion and noise, which can also get in the way of the high pitched and distant rumble details, which can then broadcast your music to someone who cares about not being able to hear your music (which doesn't give a rat's arse about whether you care that they hear it or not), etc. On top of which, not only is it harder to hear sounds that are imaged farther from the listener in the recording, but when you crank it up, that effect is offset by all the sound getting pushed forward, which in headphones, means inward toward your head. At best, you get cymbals that are slightly by your ears, outside the skulls, but at high volume it will be like a cartoon monkey waking you up by banging two of them together. Basically, that's a damning downward spiral in more ways than one that will just set you farther and farther from your already impossible for $100 objectives.

    Designing a headphone that can do all your performance objectives already has compromises between imaging, neutral tone, and sensitivity, much less get this all at $100.
     
  6. huilun02
    I'm not looking for headphones that are perfect in any way. Just wanted to describe my listening preference and things I want to avoid, so I can get specific suggestions for the best fit instead of "you can only get what you want at $X"
    And surely a good set even at this price shouldn't be worlds apart from the best, else we would not have $100 products to buy at all, let alone getting great reviews and commendation.
    The set is just for enjoying music without missing out details in the recording. I know an open back set will have to compete with ambient noise, but that does not mean it has to sound like trash.
    Maybe you could direct me to the models of headphones that you think would suit me and be a good buy? Even if you don't want to suggest anything within my current budget.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018 at 1:56 PM
  7. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    It's kind of hard to sort out what "not perfect" is. You have to specify which attributes you listed are most important because as with any design, there will be compromises. You get some, you can't get others. How much you get and don't will vary depending on the price since RnD costs to try to get as many as possible will be higher.


    Think of it this way: Lifan and Tata exist alongside Maserati and Audi. That's an even more extreme example than the comparison between an SR80 and LCD-2, which is kind of more like a Mazda 3 and a Honda NSX.


    Here's the thing though - what kind of detail? Because with the SR80 you get boosted parts of the midrange and treble, as well as upper bass. That can sound like you're getting more detail, but that results in auditory masking, because you hear the boosted frequencies more, especially in the bass where you have the boosted upper bass followed by an early roll off in the lower bass frequencies. Overall, you'll get some perception that there's a lot of detail in the high frequencies, but you'll barely hear very low frequency bass.

    That just gets worse if you use these in public. Even if you don't care if other people hear your music, you'll have to crank it up even more just to hear everything over the ambient noise.
     
  8. huilun02
    Ok I dont think this discussion will help my purchasing decision at all unless I can provide enough info to already know what to get.
    I just want to make the best out of my $100. Doesn't help if all I am told is "no, bad idea, problem, no" without a hint of a suggested model.
    Its alright I already placed my order with the best judgement I can muster. Hope it doesn't let me down!
     
  9. ladon
    Good to hear, hope they work for you. If they don't, amazon actually has a decent return policy with HP, I did have to inquire about it myself. Don't quote me but it sounded like with most HP if you absolutely hate it, you may return at no loss (within 30 days); yes they even said they will provide return label at no fee. Of course you waste time and effort repackaging, still a decent deal.
    The SHP9500S is next on my list "try when I am bored" due to their relatively low cost. I recently received my HD600 and just like you made my pick at risk based purely on reviews and opinions; so far I like them a lot.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018 at 3:01 PM
    huilun02 likes this.
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    That's the thing. though. At the lower price points even with lowered expectations given there's a narrower range of what headphones can be good at, or in some cases some are specifically designed for something specific (at under $100, boosted bass can be common, but those that do tend to suck with everything else). However, if you can't tell exactly which attributes you can't compromise on, best thing to do is just go ahead with one (albeit note that expectations shouldn't be too high) and then it can be somewhat easier to go from there now that you can specify what exactly do you like and not like about them and what you'd want to improve on and what you can't give up.
     
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