Need help - Conflicting needs/wants for newbie
Jun 10, 2011 at 8:34 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 23

mpkelley20

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Hi, I've visited the forum for years to get information on headphones but just joined today as I've run into an issue that I need help with.  I can no longer use my trusty Etymotic ER4P's according to my doctor as they are trying to eliminate any and all issues that might be contributing to my re-occuring ear infections.  Most likely due to allergy realted stuff but my doctor said sticking inner ear headphones with foam tips over an over again will introduce bacteria...blah blah balh...  I can't afford to swap tips on my headphones every single time I use them so I have been looking for a new solution.
 
What I would like in an earphone is quite simple to describe but harder to find.  I would like some type of noise isolation (I frequently fly and take trains everyday), something that doesn't leak music much to the outside world, be strong enough to power a portable mp3 player (Ipod), be either over the ear on on the ear style and have excellent sound quality.  Easy??
 
My home headphones are a pair of AKG Q701's that I got for free.  I like them but I need to run a separate amp with them as my home stereo system is not powoerful enough to drive them for some reason.  They are decent enough but due to the open style, they would be useless for me on a plane or train.  I also have an older pair of Sennheiser PXC 200 that I have not used in a long while.  Thse were nice but leaked music quite a bit as well.
 
I decided to look into active noise cancelling headphones and was convinced to try.........Bose.  I got the QC15 and was blown away by the noise cancelling technology but the music qaulity is not very good.  Everything blends together and I can't differentialte instruments very well with them (sounds very manufactured).  My music tastes are in the progressive rock and heavy metal genres.  Favorite bands are Rucs, Porcupine Tree, Opeth and I've been getting into some Dream Theater recently.  Also like to listen to piano music from time to time.....go figure...
 
I still have the Bose but also decided t try an on ear style made by Sennhieser.  I got the PXC 310 BT.  If they have noise cancellation built into them, I couldn't tell.  Did not like them. Actually thought the Bose sounded better.
 
So I am stuck.  I am still using the Bose but I am disappointed with the sound quality.  I've decided that maybe active noise cancellation isn't something i truly need.  Maybe I could find a very good closed style headphone that blocks out noice that way AND gives me quality music...
 
Where should I start?  I'm willing to look for soemthing in line with the price of Bose (or cheaper if possible!).  I usually do my own research on this stuff but I am thoroughly confused now based on the research I've done already. 
 
Thanks!
 
 
Jun 10, 2011 at 11:51 AM Post #2 of 23

mudo

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Well, I don't have much experience with closed phones, but I see noone answered yet so here are my thoughts.
 
What about the popular Audio Technica ATH-M50? Please note I never tried then but as I can read from some trusted reviewers they should meet most of your requirements: portable (albeit a bit bulky for some people), no amp needed (although they could improve attached to one), good pasive isolation, and have a good price. I don't know how your AKG's sound, but just be ready to find a totally different sound signature in the M50 compared with your Etys. Anyway if you opted for those Bose than probably you won't run away from beefy basses. Just read ljokerl reviews and this comparison from Mike at Headfonia, sure both will be helpful.
 
Jun 10, 2011 at 12:27 PM Post #3 of 23

mpkelley20

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Thanks for the reply!  The AKG's are probably the best sounding headphones I've ever owned.  And considering the Q701's are not as highly regarded by audiophiles like other AKG headphones, that probably goes to show you my current experiences with headphones.  I like great sound quality and I'm willing to pay for it...but I'm a realist and understand the fact that most of my music is being played in mp3 format over an ipod while on a train! LOL!!!  The AKG's were given to me as part of a review program I particpate in and they ended up being one of the hardest items ever for me to review as they are "above" me for my normal music listening habits.  Forced me to buy a poratble amp just so smaller devices can power it. I even use the amp when its hooked up to my home stereo to give it that extra boost. 
 
I will take a look at the Audio Tenchica's.  I've seen a bunch of reviews on their active noise cancelling models and most people complained about noise leakage.  However, even the Bose have that so I am no longer concerned about blocking out every bit of sound I'm listening to from the outside world.  Whoeveer is sitting next to me will have to deal with some death metal from time to time!
 
My choosing Bose was more due to other people telling me that they were not as bass heavy as earlier models and had the best active noise cancellation.  I agree they probably do but the music is very muddled.  No separation at all!  I've avoided Bose products since 1989 when I bought my first ever bookshelf speakers (Bose 301's).  Since then, I've been Bose free until now.  I would like to stay that way so hoping the M50's help or others can chime in.
 
Thanks!
Matt
 
 
 
Jun 12, 2011 at 4:14 PM Post #4 of 23

mpkelley20

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Read through those reviews and did some additional research.  The m50's look awesome but the size of them somewhat scares me.  Also, all the reviews say they can be found for just north of $100 but all I can find is $159 unless I go to Ebay.  As a compromise, the Sennheiser HD25's look like a candidate.  Reviews seem to put the M50 ahead of the HD25's with the excpetion of if you listen to certain types of music like Rock (which I do).  The size of them are smaller then the M50's so I would guess they travel better/easier.
 
Would I be making a mistake going with the HD25's over the M50's?
 
 
 
Jun 12, 2011 at 6:19 PM Post #5 of 23

mudo

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First and again, please remember that what I tell you about this two cans are just based on my readings, not my personal experience. I didn't try neither of them.
 
No doubt both headphones must have very good SQ in this price range, but AFAIR they have very different sound signatures: M50 is "V shaped" (big bass, mids a bit recessed and lively treble) while HD25 seem to be a bit more forward.
 
I think you should put first your own preferences and *after them* read a lot and look for the "best" phone you can that meet your criteria. For instance: I'm quiet sensitive to very excited treble, so I should avoid them. If reading reviews I see model "X" is the best I can get but I also see that it has a very forward sound, probably I would skip it. In fact right now I'm listening music with my Grado 225 and I'm going to switch headphones in 5 minutes because I like them but my mind gets very tired with them.
 
On the other hand if you are happy with the ERP4 (nice IEM's, but I had to sell them because I couldn't handle their signature) than probably you like a totally different type of sound.
 
About M50's price: eBay is a cheap place to get them and sure you can find them for the money people say. Just be careful to avoid problems/fakes.If I was you I would do a search here in the forum and locate the name of a seller with good reputation.
 
I'm also looking for a pair of closed headphones, but I'm neither a big fan of V-shaped sound so... I'm not sure what to do. Maybe Shure SRH-M840 is what I'm looking for but on the other hand people say they are not comfortable for big heads, and my ears get hot very quicky so a supra-aural model could fit me better and maybe if I try the M50 I fall in love with them even that on paper they are not exactly what I'm looking for... but... well... uhmm... ermm... we all have doubts :) If I decide to buy them probably I will open a new thread like this yours to ask :)
 
Hope other members can help you more with their own experience. Cheers!
 
 
Jun 12, 2011 at 8:38 PM Post #6 of 23

mpkelley20

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I like the sound from my ER4P's but I do find the bass a bit light unless I have the "perfect" seal which is very hard to get all the time.  The Bose QC15 I currently have have much more bass, not too much, but the mids and highs are very muddy sounding.  I'm not liking it.
 
As I mentioned the M50's seem to be a decent choice but 2 things I'm on the fence on with them:
 
1.  Size - They look huge.  Not that I care but I"m sure heads will be turning when I whip those puppies out on the train. 
2.  The type of music I listen to.  Mostly rock (progressive and HEAVY metal).  The reviews seem to point towards the HD25's for this type of music.  Of course, this issue would probably only matter if I get to try both and compare side by side.  My guess is either one will blow me away compared to the Bose I am using!
 
I really liked that Headfonia review because it had the headphones side by side so you can see differences in size.  That, along with looking up Youtube videos of people wearing the M50's is what stopped me dead in my tracks!  I originally posted my question here in the portable headphone section since that will be my main use for whatever I end up with.  Maybe someone can chime in with some thoughts on how easily the M50's or the HD25's travel on a daily basis ?
 
 
 
Jun 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM Post #8 of 23

mpkelley20

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Not sure what all of it means at various frequencies but what i can tell from it is that either set of headphones will produce greatly different sounds from my ER4P's (as you previously stated).
 
Based on size alone, I have ruled out the M50's as my daily commuting headphones.  Right now I am 95% sure I am going with the Sennheiser HD25 but am looking at the TMA-1's as a potential.  The TMA-1's seem to be getting really good reviews and seem to offer better soundstage than the HD25's but there seems to be a few issues with looser fitting headband and cable stuff. 
 
If I can remember back to my orignal needs.....wow things have changed a lot since then.....I wanted something to help cancel out noise and give me excellent audio.  The HD25's seem to offer the best noise isoaltion for this style headphone over its competitors and seems to offer me a somewhat similar sound profile as my ER4P's (well...more than the M50's I think!).  However, the TMA-1's.............The problem with this forum is that the more you reserach, the more confusing things get! LOL!!!  
 
At the end of the day, either set will be better than what i am using now.  The Bose are really starting to irritate me.
 
Another funny thing....I still want the M50's based on reviews.  While I use the AKG's for home use, I may pick up the M50's if I can find them for a great price. 
 
 
 
 
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:14 PM Post #9 of 23

mudo

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpkelley20 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
 
The HD25's seem to offer the best noise isoaltion for this style headphone over its competitors and seems to offer me a somewhat similar sound profile as my ER4P's

 
I could be wrong, but I also bet the HD25 sound closer to your ER4 than the M50.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpkelley20 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
 
The problem with this forum is that the more you reserach, the more confusing things get! LOL!!!

 
Yes... I feel the same. This is a very subjective hobby and that makes making decisions even more complex.
 
About AIAIAI TMA-1: It looks like they are very close to my taste, anyway it seems they have a completely different sound signature than the HD25 and the ER4. Anythingbutipod review says they have a sweet/soft/recessed treble and both mids and bass are very present (ala HD650). I probably like that,I love my HD650. But is this what you are looking for?
 
 
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:23 PM Post #10 of 23

helluvapixel

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Close phones are a hard commodity to find some that you will like.
 
Sennheiser has noise cancelling PXC450 ($250-350), I really found my Beyerdynanic DT770Pro 250ohm delightful, but you could try the 80ohm version (or get a cMoy amp). Bowers and Wilkins p50 ($300). A lot of folks praise the HD25s even though they have been around forever. Here's something worth reading for closed cans:
 
Closed can shootout by Headfonia.com
http://www.headfonia.com/closed-cans-shootout-m-50-esw-9-t50p-hd25-1-beats-studio-srh-840-srh-750dj-k181dj-and-dj1pro/
 
 
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:29 PM Post #11 of 23

mpkelley20

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Quote:
 But is this what you are looking for?
 
 
 
 
No clue!!  LOL!!!  Most of the terminology being used is new to me when reading reviews so I am not 100% sure I know what all of it means.  Based on what I "think", the HD25's may have more of what I want since they are more "forward" or "hot" on treble.  I tend to lean more on treble than on bass when it comes to hearing the music.  I want bass....don't get me wrong...but I don't want it to overwhelm the instruments themselves (the way the Bose muffle everything).  However, the TMA-1's seem to get better reviews on soundstage which is something I like.  I've also seem them described as being "darker" sounding.  I am assuming that is due to more of their subtle treble.  All which can probably be fixed by an EQ..
 
Price wise they are about the same. 

 
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:33 PM Post #12 of 23

AngryBaconGod

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Another closed headphone which sometimes gets considered along with the HD25 is the Phaiton MS400. It also has a smaller brother, MS300.

I would characterize the MS400 as a bit on the dark side, fwiw. Treble is recessed somewhat, and has a bit of a mid-bass hump. The MS300 are brighter and supposedly don't possess the same quantity of bass, driven by an iPod.

The MS400 is driven fine by the iPod out, and folds up to fit in a not too large hard case which should fit in most computer bags without issue.

The MS400 is on-ear, but large enough that many people's ears end up slipping inside the cup, making it effectively circumaural. As the MS300 are smaller, so they might actually be and stay on ear. Don't know, don't have them.

Also, if you have a iPod Touch, you can look into EQu or Equalizer apps to help tailor the sound of whatever 'phones you buy to be a bit more like the Etymotics, if you so desire.

 
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:38 PM Post #14 of 23

mpkelley20

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Quote:
Close phones are a hard commodity to find some that you will like.
 
Sennheiser has noise cancelling PXC450 ($250-350), I really found my Beyerdynanic DT770Pro 250ohm delightful, but you could try the 80ohm version (or get a cMoy amp). Bowers and Wilkins p50 ($300). A lot of folks praise the HD25s even though they have been around forever. Here's something worth reading for closed cans:
 
Closed can shootout by Headfonia.com
http://www.headfonia.com/closed-cans-shootout-m-50-esw-9-t50p-hd25-1-beats-studio-srh-840-srh-750dj-k181dj-and-dj1pro/
 
 
 
I tried the Sennheiser PXC 310 BT Noise Cancelling  (was trying to move away from the rather hot full ear coverage of the Bose QC15s) and I was not impressed with their NC ability.  Really, Bose has everyone beat in active noise cancelling so that is why i decided to maybe look for a closed headphone....try and get some noise isolation (not as much as my ER4P's but something) and better SQ.  I hear that the 450's do have incredible SQ but, like the 310's, their NC is not as good as Bose.
 
I read through that entire headphonia article a few days ago when Mudo posted it and that is how I got down to the HD-25 as a top choice.  I still like the M50's but they are just too nog for daily commuting (as are the DT770's)

 
Jun 13, 2011 at 1:48 PM Post #15 of 23

mpkelley20

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Quote:
Another closed headphone which sometimes gets considered along with the HD25 is the Phaiton MS400. It also has a smaller brother, MS300.

I would characterize the MS400 as a bit on the dark side, fwiw. Treble is recessed somewhat, and has a bit of a mid-bass hump. The MS300 are brighter and supposedly don't possess the same quantity of bass, driven by an iPod.

The MS400 is driven fine by the iPod out, and folds up to fit in a not too large hard case which should fit in most computer bags without issue.

The MS400 is on-ear, but large enough that many people's ears end up slipping inside the cup, making it effectively circumaural. As the MS300 are smaller, so they might actually be and stay on ear. Don't know, don't have them.

Also, if you have a iPod Touch, you can look into EQu or Equalizer apps to help tailor the sound of whatever 'phones you buy to be a bit more like the Etymotics, if you so desire.
 



Thank you!  Will check these out.  Another one to add to the list..LOL!!
 


Quote:
Why don't you use rubber/silicone tips instead of foam tips?
And a more strict regime in cleaning with anti-bacteria gel or wipes every time you have put them away and take them back on?
 



My ER4P's came with an entire kit with the rubber tips.  I tried them but I could never get a great seal with those style tips.  Didn't matter what size I tried...just couldn;t get them to perform as well as the foam tips.  While I don't like heavy bass, without a good seal, you get no bass!
 
I've been using the inner ear style for quite some time now and my doctor can't "confirm" that they are doing any harm.  It is more of a precaution due to my recent string of upper respitory infections and ear issues.  If they can find out what is causing it and get it under control, I will probably go back to using my ER4P's.  However, if I can find a good replacment, even better!
 
 

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