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Help me decide the best headphones to buy

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by anupam kumar1, Mar 10, 2013.
  1. anupam kumar1
    Let's get straight to the point. I have the following requirements:
    • Good Active Noise Cancellation - I am a student, and travel. I would like my headphones to give me a zen type of feel when I turn on noise cancellation on, even when I am not in the mood to listen to music.
    • Need to wear it for long periods of time (6-8 hours at a stretch) - I may or may not be listening to music during that time, but I would like to have my headphone block out most sounds and not make my ears sweaty, uncomfortable, claustophobic etc.
    • Sound quality should be good - I listen to classical/orchestra style (Think O Fortuna or Welcome to Jurrassic Park or Legend of Zelda theme!) and occasionally to Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Bob Segar & Pink Floyd and I don't want to disturb others and don't want to hear others as well. I am willing to invest in amp system in addition to the headphones to improve the sound quality.
    • Wired/wireless is not an issue, looks are not an issue only performance matters, nothing else. And, also, I don't want to keep reinvesting in AAA batteries often.
    • Price budget - upto $350 US (amp system + headphones + any thing else)
    I have been looking around this website form past 3 hours and have narrowed it down to 
    1. Bose QC15
    2. PSB M4U 2
    3. ATH-ANC7B
    4. UE6000
    5. AKG K490/5 NC
    I am my no means a headphone veteran. So if you think any other headphones that would fit better, then please suggest them to me.
    Need your suggestion guys! And the general verdict is that Bose QC15 is the best hands down, when it comes to noise cancellation.... So if I go with Bose QC15, what amp goes best with it to get great sound quality (Let's say AKG level awesomeness!)
  2. obobskivich
    Based on the first point alone (and I stopped reading beyond that), Bose QC15. Hands down best ANC you're gonna get, and the sounds is pretty good too. No need for an amp either - they're a line sink from the device's perspective. Further, amps do not magically transfigure things. Only rub is that they use batteries, but that's *most* ANC headphones. The QC3 use a Li-Ion cell, but I haven't personally tried them, so I can't comment on the sound or otherwise suggest them.

    If you just need good isolation (do you understand the difference between ANC and good isolation?), I'd also look at some of the decent monitor headphones on the market, as they'll block out a reasonable amount of noise and not use batteries.
  3. Tsujigiri
    Yes, Bose has good active noise cancellation, and that's pretty much it. You can get much better sound quality for the price, but you'll have to find a way to make passive isolation work for you. IEM's are the best for that; are you open to using those instead of full sized headphones?
  4. obobskivich
    I'd regard the QC15 as being competent at their price-point, at least compared to other closed headphones. Something along the lines of the HD 600 or K701 may be "better" for a given listener, but they offer zero isolation, and are not easily powered by a number of portable sources; so they're an improper choice for this context. Compared to other closed headphones (especially modern examples) around $300 however, the QC15 hold their own. Especially where isolation is a concern. I would regard them ahead of any ANC headphone I've yet heard (including a few that cost more), and honestly on-par with a number of other closed cans at around their price (especially modern "jump on the $299 bandwagon" products). They are certainly a colored headphone, and if you're coming from the perspective of bright-as-the-sun "audiophile" headphones being "best" then they will certainly sound a bit off (they're smooth, laid-back, midbass/mid driven, with somewhat muted highs).

    It's also important to remember that performance is not a linear proposition in this context.
  5. anupam kumar1

    I understand the difference in principle, but not in experience. If you were to be sitting in the library and you would want to drown out the droning sound of a fan and an A/C unit, which one would you use ? Would you say that AKG or PSB M4U2 would do the job as well as Bose to drown out in this specific situation ?

    I forgot to mention this, but no I am not wanting to go with IEM. I already have UE700. They are good and light and comfortable and all and I can wear them all the time, but, here is the thing. I sometimes forget that I have them on and I move around forgetting that earphone is connected to my laptop and I yank the chord off. So far no major damage has occured, but I want to be aware and feel that I have something on. But, I don't want it to be uncomfortable. Besides, I feel awkward about IEMs. Everything feels so "closed up" and claustophobic (I get used to that in about 15 minutes, but still the first 15 minutes are uncomfortable.)
    I want to get the best for the price. I am willing to trade off a little in terms of features. Bose QC15 is the best - There is no disputing that - concerning noise cancellation. But, what about the others. AKG for instance. I have seen a reviewer saying that the ANC is as good as bose QC3. And the sound is way more superior. So I regard that as a fair trade-off. i.e Get the second-best ANC + great sound quality. See what I mean ? ... 

    How do you mean ?
    Also how would say QC3 fairs againsts QC15 in terms of noise cancellation ?
  6. Tsujigiri
    I meant that if you want the best sound quality, passive isolation will be a better option than active. ANC won't cancel out very much; it only works within a certain frequency range and only for certain types of sound. I've heard the QC15 and the new supra-aural one, and both did really well at cancelling out some sounds. But most noise is outside of their capabilities. For an example, they silenced the higher pitched hum from my refrigerator, but were pretty useless at cancelling out even the vacuum cleaner. In my opinion ANC isn't all the helpful.
    Obobskivich, I really don't think they're competent at their price point. Based on the sound alone, I'd say they're worth maybe $50 at best. They're extremely muddy and distorted sounding to me. True, many headphones in that price range call for amplification, but even those headphones unamplified sound far better than the Bose ones do. The Beyer DT770's cost about half as much, are very comfortable for long periods of time (OP said he doesn't want his ears to get sweaty, which the Bose will do), have decent passive isolation, and mop the floor with the Bose headphones in terms of sound quality. Anupam also said he can buy an amp, so he could get a Fiio E12 and still come in far under budget.
    If you're open to supra-aural headphones, the Sennheiser HD25 II and Beyerdynamic DT1350 will isolate very well, and are more suited to portable use.
  7. obobskivich

    ANC will work on frequencies below around 1khz, everything over that is going to be passively attenuated (and in that regard, the AE2 and QC15 are about evenly matched (that is to say, good)). The ANC is very good at removing the noise from air handling, jet engines, computer fans, and that sort of thing, but it won't do a whole lot to remove instantaneous noises (like say, if someone were to shatter glass, or loud talking/yelling). The QC15 will still "muffle" everything (just because they're decently isolating as sealed headphones), but if your goal is to knock-down people talking or other noise along those lines, the AE2 will probably do about as well (as will a number of other closed headphones). Remember, the original design goal here was to remove engine noise for aircraft passengers/pilots.

    I haven't heard the PSB or the specific AKG you've mentioned, but from other ANC headphones I've heard (Klipsch, Parrot, Beats, Sennheiser, etc), the Bose are in another category in terms of how well they work. Tyll's measurements of the PSB show them being considerably behind the Bose in terms of isolation performance (roughly 10 dB difference broadband); no idea how they sound though.

    Well, here's the thing (and this is the point I've tried to make twice now), there is no linear, 1-10, "sound quality" variable (despite what a lot of people insist/want). There's only "better" or "worse" for you and your situation - speaking just to isolation, the QC15 are going to be about as good as you're going to get in a full-size headphone at any price. And that's basically what you asked. Speaking to sound quality preference, well, that's a personal question. What do you like? What do you dislike? This preference discussion becomes more relevant when you say "the sound is way more superior" or whatever else, it's about as informative as me telling you the square root of Neptune is tomato paste times poodle. It really doesn't tell you anything. :xf_eek:

    No idea - I've never even laid hands on a QC3, nor have I ever found a decent review of the QC3. In general, pillow-pad headphones are very hit or miss when it comes to their sound, and I'm guessing the QC3 are no exception to that.

    I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree and chalk it up a difference of opinion - to me, Beyers are just clash-trash clap-trap. And if you knew anything about me, you'd know I don't play The Price is Right unless Bob Barker is hosting. :p

    I agree with your point on the ANC (as I'm guessing you've already deduced) - it's good for certain applications, but not for others. Unfortunately there seems to be an unrealistic expectation/understanding (I blame Beats, but that's another discussion) that ANC will just remove all noise from all situations and produce "quiet" - when in reality it can only act upon certain kinds of noise. There are high-isolation headphones (Vic Firth makes a few pairs, so does Howard Leight), which will absolutely get you to that "quiet" point, but they generally sound pretty terrible (usually they're thin, boxy, and blanketed), and aren't very comfortable (but they aren't meant to be high fidelity products, they're meant to protect your ears and provide you with audio for communications or monitoring).
  8. p a t r i c k
    I've started flying quite a lot (NB this is in aeroplanes, I'm not doing it just by myself) and this has caused me to become interested in ANC headphones a bit.
    I saw a review in headfonics.com about the AKG K495 which was a bit interesting:
    However I think that I will continue to use my AKG K550s which have very good insulation (although with an annoyingly long cable for portable use).
    I have never used ANC headphones so I don't know how they compare with well isolated headphones.
  9. headphone man07
    Hang on a minute, you say you want noise-cancellation, you don't know much about headphones and you don't want to keep buying batteries (I'm not criticising)? I would suggest taking three large metaphorical steps away from the perilous realms of ANC. Now; if you don't want others to hear your music and you not to hear other peoples, try typing in etymotic hf5, also download their awareness app. However, if you don't like shoving things inside your ear canal then have a look at fischer audio fa-003/yoga cd-880/Brainwavz Hm5/Lindy premium hifi headphones. They look massive and are lightweight and any clamping issues can be sorted out with a few books or so. Amp wise the Etymotics do NOT need or want amping, however the fischer audios may benefit, however, I have reason to believe that a cheaper way to sort this out is with a sansa clip or sansa clip+, a cheap but well respected and very (overly?) recommended product from sandisk. Looks ugly but books and covers e.t.c. Finally I would just like to give you my respect audiophile wise, because you only care about sound, sound and only sound; looks and headphones are two different things, and I wish more people thought like that, although I can see why people would turn to fashion headphones.
  10. anupam kumar1
    Hey guys. Just wanted to give you guys an update.
    I went ahead and bought the AKG K 495 NC cans. Amazon ... Got it for $299 USD ... I think it's a pretty good deal. Here's the link if any of you are interested.
    I am at the library now, with ANC on, and man this is bliss! The moment I take off my headphones I hear a loud rumbling of the AC, people whispering, typing away on their keyboads, footsteps when people walk by... But while I have my cans on... It all magically disappears! 
    The sound quality...It's magnificant! It's feels so natural. When now when I compare them to my Bose AE2 and IE2 and I realize how different Bose's sound is. I just finished listening to Carmina Burana (lossless version) and I could feel a much more large depth and width than my Bose would provide. 
    I have been wearing this for the past 2 hours and I am okay. Sure the headphones are heavy, but they certainly are not uncomfortable, atleast not to me, or I probably have a higher tolerance for heavier things (My cell phone is nokia N900, probably the heaviest smart phone ever). So, to me the "discomfort complaint" seems invalid. But, this is a subjective matter. 
    Quiet frankly I am enjoying the silence. The only thing I hear periodically is the ruffle of papers. Just now my friend tried to whisper something to me, sitting across the table, and I couldn't hear a thing...hehe :) 
    Thank you guys, specially patrick for the review link. Also, thank you obob, headphone man7 and tsujigiri for suggesting a huge array of alternatives... I have made a list of all your suggestion and will try them out systematically in the future. And Thanks headphoneman for the kind words, deep respect back to you.
    I wonder how much better the ANC for Bose is ... Because AKG's NC is pretty damn good to tell ya the truth. Thank's to the ANC ... It is very clear to me that I have a case of Tinnitus. :frowning2: I wish I knew how to make the high-pitch ringing go ... 
    Do any of you have it too ? How do you cope with it ? Have you seen a doctor and are taking any medication ? 
    Thanks again guys...See you around. I ll be frequenting this site a whole lot more often now :)
  11. headphone man07
    what mp3 player do you use? download an app for Flac and get EAC, put all your cds on EAC, encode to flac and put on player
  12. anupam kumar1
    I have a fujitsu t902 lifebook tablet-laptop, with my music library on it.

    I take the laptop everywhere I go because it's so mobile and convenient. Yeah, I realize the difference between flac and 192/320k mp3 ... The difference becomes more apparent when I listen through these cans... and yeah I use EAC to rip my music off my CDs when I am on windows , cdparanoia when I work with linux

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