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Decent passive isolation over-ears recommendation

  1. clarejh
    Hi all,

    This is my first proper post, please bear with me!

    I currently use some Grado SR325e with my Dragonfly Red and Macbook Air. Music taste fairly varied: Post #10144

    I'm pretty happy with the setup, and I enjoy the "Grado sound", but am now in the market for some headphones that significantly reduce external noise. I live in London, and the combination of traffic, sirens, planes, noisy neighbours at times can raise my blood pressure!

    My partner has some AKG Y50's, and we sometimes like to use a headphone splitter with our hi-fi amp when watching movies, so matching volume levels is preferred.

    So, here's what I've tried so far:

    1) Bose QC25 - was really impressed with the comfort and (obvious) isolation, but I found the sound quality a bit lacking - couldn't put my finger on it. I guess these are essentially cheap headphones, with the money going towards the ANC technology. More than I want to spend considering the sound quality - Argos in the UK has them for £140. I don't need wireless, and no way am I spending £300+ for the QC35s and their like.

    2) AKG K52 - not bad at all for their bargain basement price, comfort good, absolutely zero passive isolation in spite of being closed back.

    3) AKG Y50 - My partner's cans. These passively isolate really well, considering they are on-ear. I find the bass a bit boomy at times, and I have concerns over build quality. My partner is already on her second pair after they broke after a year's use.

    4) Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 on-ear wired - quite enjoyed these sound wise, but isolation not so good.

    5) Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 over-ear wired - loved the sound on these and isolation not too bad, but not as good as the Y50s.

    6) Sony MDR 7506 - isolation about the same as Momentum Over Ears, sound pretty good but sound a bit "Dry" - I guess these are for studio use really, and they need more power to drive. Hated the cable.

    7) Audio Technica AH-M40x - sounded very muffled compared to my Grados and found the clamping force way too tight, so didn't leave them on long enough to test the isolation! I'm assuming the M50x would be similar with more of a V-shape sound?

    So, I would love some recommendations given the above, maybe some brands or models I haven't tried yet?

    I have tried Beyerdynamic 880 and 990 PROs in the past (not for isolation) but really did not get on with their sound signature - the highs were way too sibilant and artificial sounding, mids a bit recessed, so this has put me off trying the closed 770 or 770M - am I assuming correctly that the sound signature would be similar, with more bass?

    Another option I've read about is buying some cheap in-ears such as the Sound Magic E10 and combining them with a cheap pair of industrial ear protectors when needed. However, I'd rather not go that route; I sleep with ear plugs every night, and I'd rather not have something in my ears during the day too!

    I'm tempted to "bite the bullet" and go for the Bose again. I just want to make sure there weren't other passive options that would give me better sound quality than the Bose for similar price.

    Many thanks for reading.


    Last edited: Jun 5, 2019
  2. clarejh
    Please talk me out of the Bose! :)
  3. Pewterlocks
    Bose, bad. Repeat after me, Bose, bad.
    They have a great marketing dept. The product as a whole imho is as you state tends to muddy the sound and I found that it was somewhat muffled as well.
    I have a pair of the Sony Wh-1000xm2 which I find have really good ANC, quite comfortable on my big head as well as great sound,imho. Since Sony has released v3 the price of v2 may have dropped as I got them for $350 Canadian about a year ago. Not sure what that would be in pound sterling, but they are worth checking out,

    P.s, if you don't want to use the ANC they come with a pretty good stock cable and they still cut out external sounds somewhat. I know who wants the sounds of the world interfering with our self inflicted solitude. Lol
  4. clarejh
    Ha! Yes, it is something of a conundrum...

    The M2 Sonys are almost the same price as the M3s here in the UK. I can't justify that cost for isolation purposes - would rather get some HD600s for that money.

    I know I will get better sound without ANC, and I don't need wireless. For the money, the QC-25s seem to be the best value for this purpose.

    I suppose I really have to decide whether to prioritise sound quality or noise cancelling.

    I still have a feeling that there are some passive cans I have not tried, that isolate as effectively as the AKG y50s, yet with a less boomy/bass heavy sound? Preferably over ear, but I would consider on-ear.

    Any other suggestions welcomed.


  5. Sgt. Ear Ache
    i just got some Takstar Pro 82's and find they do a very nice job of blocking the noise out, they sound great, are super comfortable and have the added advantage of being ridiculously inexpensive.
  6. mattiav
    Meze 99 Neo’s?
  7. clarejh
    Thank you both for these suggestions. These are brands of which I am unfamiliar! I will check these out - I'm not sure how widely these are available in the UK, so trying them in person may be difficult.

    Another headphone I quite enjoyed not mentioned above, was the AKG K240 STUDIO. This was the first studio AKG I tried, and if they were closed back, I'd keep them! I loved the comfort, and the sound was decent, if lacking in bass a little. This is why I was so disappointed with the K52s - on paper they seemed great, however the isolation was non-existent, in spite of AKG's marketing blurb for the range:

    "This exceptional level of audio isolation is due to a new acoustic chamber, which sits between the ear cup and the hinge that connects to the headband."

    This is same claim is made for the K52s, the K72s and K92s. Based on the K52s, I'm in no hurry to try the others in the range, I'm assuming the lack of isolation would be similar.

    I've just found out about AKG's reasonably new studio closed-back range, including the K275. Does anyone own these and could comment on their isolation and general sound?


  8. clarejh
    So, I did some more digging, and the Sennheiser HD-25s and HD-280 PROs come up tops in both sound and isolation - anything other suggestions before I pull the trigger?

    Thank you.

  9. JP the Elder
    I understand your problem. I had open back Grado’s and Sennheisers that just would not work well on the Chicago El train.

    Have you considered my two favorite closed back reasonably priced models:

    Audioquest NightOwl $299 usd from headphone.com

    Oppo pm3 (if you can find them).

    My favorite for noise isolation is the periodicaudio.com Beryllium (Be) iem. $199 or $299. There are several reviews on head-fi. I wrote one review and bought 2 Be. I found the best comfort and isolation from Comply foam tips - just find the right size by getting a S/M/L pack for testing.

    Happy Hunting! Let me know what you end up doing.
  10. davidcotton
    If you don't mind on ear and a bit of a clamp how about the venerable sennheisher hd25-II's?
  11. clarejh
    Thank you for these suggestions. I have heard of both of those but they don't seem easily available to me. I'd prefer to purchase new if possible. I also don't want IEMs as I sleep with earplugs every night.

    Yes - HD25s are on my list.

    I'm slightly confused by all the different versions. Is the current HD25 (£124, no suffix: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sennheiser...ords=hd25&qid=1560861336&s=electronics&sr=1-3) basically the same as the HD25 Basic (£185, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sennheiser-HD-Closed-Headphone-headband-Black/dp/B00009ZSYG) ? That's quite the difference in price - is it simply because they are harder to find or are the older model sonically better?

    It's those or the HD280 PROs - has anyone compared the isolation between these two?

    Also considering AKG K275s but I can't find any comparisons with similar headphones in terms of isolation.


  12. clarejh
    So, I went for the new model HD 25s. I have to say I was surprised by these - great sound for closed on-ears. Very lively and energetic. Bass more pronounced and punchy on certain tracks, good mids (although not Grado forward) and pleasing highs. They do sound a bit boxy at times, but for my intended use I think they'll be excellent, and will double up as portable cans too.

    I also purchased some HD600s to try but that's another story! :)



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