Recommendations for affordable, portable on-ear headphones for classical music and spoken word?
Jun 21, 2015 at 1:09 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5

thecatsgrandma

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Would be very grateful for recommendations for on-ear headphones – or extremely compact, foldable over-the-ear headphones – to use when out and about. Not aspiring to audiophile heaven – just looking for something that will allow as much as possible of the music to come through, given budgetary and other constraints. Am considering both current headphones and discontinued models available second hand.
 
Budget: Up to around £70 (c. 100 €/USD), maybe more if there's a very obvious leap in sound quality.
 
Current source: Mobile phone (Sony Xperia Z3), iPad, occasionally laptop. Mainly high-ish bitrate mp3s, BBC Radio 3.
 
Will be listening to: Classical music mostly, some jazz. But also spoken word – not always in my first language, so clarity of speech reproduction is really important.
 
Sound: Looking for clarity, as much detail as possible, accurate timbre, good intelligibility of speech. I'd say my ideal sound signature is balanced, natural and neutral – but is that actually an acoustic contradiction?  Don't need or want huge bass.
 
Main criteria:
1. Good sound quality, as above.

2. Portable. Must be be compact enough to slip into a shoulder bag, and ideally foldable.
3. Robust. Able to withstand careless treatment and jostling on public transport.
4. Detachable cable if poss.
 

Sound isolation is not paramount. I prefer to retain some awareness of ambient sounds, and promise to keep the volume down in public...
 

Have listened to the AKG K450, on the strength of many glowing reviews, and was very disappointed in the quality and clarity of sound. But maybe it was just a defective pair of headphones? Or maybe the small pads are just not compatible with my large ears?
 
I used to own the Audio-Technica ATH-ES55, which I found good-enough (not great, but ok) in terms of sound quality, but sadly, the (non-replaceable) cable broke when snagged. Especially in light of this, I'd like my new portable headphones to be solidly built and to have a detachable cable. 
 
Earphones are out of the question, unfortunately. I find earbuds fall out, and I just can't cope with the sensation of in-ear-canal monitors (I've really tried).
 
Thank you very much in advance for any suggestions!
 
Jun 21, 2015 at 6:26 PM Post #2 of 5

KG Jag

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Absent a closeout and if buying new, I suspect that you may have to increase your budget, if you want to check all the items on your list. 
 
If your were in the USA; could stretch your budget by $20; could give up the detachable cable; and were OK with foldable DJ style cans on the large side, I could recommend the K 553 currently being offered (in the last day of the drop) by Massdrop.  See:
 
https://www.massdrop.com/buy/akg-k553-pro-studio-headphone
 
Jun 22, 2015 at 9:40 AM Post #3 of 5

Beyakusenn

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  Absent a closeout and if buying new, I suspect that you may have to increase your budget, if you want to check all the items on your list. 
 
If your were in the USA; could stretch your budget by $20; could give up the detachable cable; and were OK with foldable DJ style cans on the large side, I could recommend the K 553 currently being offered (in the last day of the drop) by Massdrop.  See:
 
https://www.massdrop.com/buy/akg-k553-pro-studio-headphone

I would not recommend those for portable use. They are huge, they don't fold into a compact package and the cable is 3m (10 feet).
 
I agree that they are very good for their price and that they excel with orchestral music, but they are not meant to walk around with.
 
My recommendation would be the old model of the Sennheiser Momentum on-ear. It is very sturdy, it has a replaceable cable, it can be found for more or less $75 on Amazon and it sounds very good for it's price. It does have an accentuated bass, but that is the same for all on-ears I know below $200. You can usually bring the bass down easily with basic equalizing on your phone/PC.
 
Jun 24, 2015 at 9:13 AM Post #4 of 5

thecatsgrandma

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Thanks for the helpful suggestions.
The K553 does look like a great bargain, but as you say, I'm not in the USA, plus I'm particularly looking for something compact and portable (we already have full-size headphones for home use).
Will check out the Sennheiser Momentum on-ear.
Thanks again!
 
Jun 24, 2015 at 10:08 AM Post #5 of 5

SDBiotek

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At that price point, it will be a challenge to find a quality headphone that meets all of the requirements. The Sennheiser Momentum on ear is a great suggestion, however. The Sennheiser PX-200 folds down like a pair of glasses, and I've been using mine at work for several years. I think it may match your preferred sound, as it doesn't have as much bass as the Momentum on ear. The non-removable cables might be an issue, though.
 

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