Newbie here. I’ve been checking out the forum for a few days and glad I found it. You guys offer a world of information when it comes to headphones. I’m still undecided after reading multiple threads though.
I listen to a mix of music, POP, R&B, Jazz and some Hip Hop via my iPad while commuting mostly and sometimes when at home. I like crisp highs with smooth bass.
I would like to stay below $200 and narrowed my choices to the following (without an amp, not in this order).
V-MODA Crossfade M-80 Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Grado Prestige Series SR80i Sennheiser HD 558
Can you guys offer your opinions on my choices and please suggest others that you see fit.
What I mean is - they're open-back cans, and will be terrible choices for commuting or mobile use - you'll drive everyone around you crazy, and you'll probably have to run the volume up so high you'll blow your head off just to hear your music.
With the other two - I personally really don't like the ATH-M50 because I found the bass to be overly boomy, the top-end harsh and sibilant, the soundstage non-existant (it's a "wall of sound" presentation), and the fit fairly uncomfortable (heavy, clampy, and sweaty). Overall not a headphone I like or would generally suggest. I have no experience with V-MODA as a brand and I'll let someone who does comment on whether or not those are a good option or not.
So that basically kills everything on your list (the SR-80 are actually a fine choice, sonically, they just aren't a good choice for mobile use).
Headphones I would suggest instead of the M50 would include:
- Koss TBSE / DJ100 (actually I'd suggest the DJ200 since I know you're plugging these into an iDevice, and they come with KTC (let me note that I have no idea if this matters for iDevice owners, I just know that the DJ200 are "big" for Koss because of KTC, which targets iOS, so I figure it's worth mentioning them)).
- Bose AE2 (or I guess AE2i - same reason as above)
- Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9A (pricing is allover the place with these, and remember they're heavily counterfeited, so go with a legitimate retailer)
- Koss Ruk50
Now which one you pick basically comes down to your aesthetic sense (which one looks best), and functional considerations on your part. The Bose will offer the best isolation and comfort, have a wide soundstage and good imaging, good extension, and a very smooth and laid-back sound that makes them easy to listen to. The TBSE have a more intimate presentation, sweeter mids, and provide a somewhat more musical presentation. The ESW9 are more colored, darker, but have fantastic voicing and bass texture, despite a fairly small (some would probably say congested) sound-stage. The Ruk50 are probably the runner-up for isolation and comfort, and provide a fairly rich and mid-bass driven presentation that will heavily favor electronic and dance music while doing alright with rock or jazz.
From a sound quality perspective, the ESW9 are probably the "best" in terms of fidelity, but all are good. Given that you listen to a wide range of music, there's no clear "winner" (I think the ESW9 will do best for jazz, the TBSE for pop, the Ruk for hip-hop, and the Bose will fit more as a "jack of all trades, master of none"). None of them will require an amp, but they will all benefit from quality equipment and media (as to be expected).
I don't have an absolute "top choice" for you, I think all four will do well, and it really comes down to your personal preference. I know that three of these are available at Best Buy for demonstration (at least the two locations near me have them); the Ruk50 are the odd man out (and seem to have gotten a lot less press and coverage than their recent release would warrant).
I'll finally add that the ESW9 or AE2 may attract a lot of attention to you (the AE2 because they're Bose, the ESW9 because of their looks), so if that's something you'd like to avoid, they might not be good candidates.
I can expand on my impressions of any of the above as you'd like.
Thanks for your response. I will take a listen to the ones you suggest. I already listened to the Bose AE2's the other day. They sounded ok to me but that was with nothing else to compare them to. I would like to listen to a few more. The Koss's look nice.
I have not come across the same complaint you mention about the Audio-Tecnicas. A lack of sound stage is something I may not be able to stomach.