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Help with headphone selection


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#1 of 28 OFFLINE   MattCPT

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Posted June 21 2005 - 09:30 AM

I'm looking to buy a headphone for use when traveling and for home. I suspect that I'll use the headphones 70% of the time when traveling and 30% for home. This may change if I find that I enjoy the headphones almost as much as my speakers(not likely but I don't really know because I have never had "good" headphones). I'm debating between buying the Grado SR60($70), or the closed design of the Sennheiser HD 201($20) or the AKG K 26P($40).

I would buy the Grado without question just from the reviews that I've read, but I have never owned headphones with an open design and I'm not sure if it will disrupt people on a plane. If I can hear my music without it being to loud for others than the Grado will be my choice. Can anyone who owns these let me know if they are acceptable for travel or should I stay away from these.

If not the Grado then going by the review on headphone.com I will by the Senn. or AKG. If anyone is familiar with any of these headphones I would appreciate your advice.

Thanks in advance,
Matt

#2 of 28 OFFLINE   Joey_V

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Posted June 21 2005 - 10:04 AM

I have heard the HD201 and compared it to my reference - the HD650. The HD201 is VERY clear and BALANCED across the spectrum. The HD201 is very light and easy on the ears. Although the Grado60 may have better sound - by that I mean more bass slam - the grados are very uncomfortable as they rest ON TOP of your ears and NOT around it (as the 201s do).

If I were you, I would NO DOUBT, get the Sennheiser HD555 if you can spend a little more. Best of all the headphones you have posted, IMO. The HD555 (which I also have) were compared to the 201 (by me) and the difference is quite apparent. The 555 is cleaner down low and is very well received by a good headphone out (like off a receiver or a dedicated headphone amp).

The HD201 will serve you well as portable can and the HD555 will serve you well as a home can.

HD201 @ buy.com is 17$.
HD555 @ bestbuy.com and newegg.com is 149$ BUT on ecost is only 79$ (refurb). Keep in mind that Sennheiser is VERY good with their refurbs since they replace all pads, headbands to the point of which the cans themselves are just like brand new. All original packing materials too!

http://www.ecost.com....=1&incimage=on

I'll stop by later if you need more info/help.



Bass is much better (same extension but more body) and seems a bit quicker on the rise and decay (start and stop). Midrange on the 555 is clearer across the spectrum and the voices are definitely a notch above the 201.

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#3 of 28 OFFLINE   MattCPT

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Posted June 21 2005 - 12:42 PM

Joey,

I looked at the HD555 and they look to be a great competitor with the SR60. I can see your point about the HD555 possibly being more comfortable than the SR60. I have never tried either of them, in fact I have never heard a pair of "good" or "great" headphones. I have and old pair of Panasonic home(dad's old set) and Panasonic portable headphones (came with a Cd player). I have found that they both cause listener fatigue and that is probably why I have never spent money on a good set. The padding on both of the headphones has dried up and fallen off.

After doing all this research on headphones I'm beginning to realize that I would use my headphones at home a lot more often if I thought that they sounded great and didn't cause fatigue. There are many times, especially later in the evening, that I don't play music because I don't want to be bothersome to my wife (I listen at moderate to loud levels). If I had a good pair of headphones I would likely listen more often. Of course I would miss the 5.1 surround of my SACDs and DVDs.

Do you think that either the HD555 or SR60 would be suitable for use on a plane? I'm not looking for great noise-cancelling, only great music without being rude to the person next to me. The HD555 looks to be more comfortable but possibly more cumbersome due to it's size.

I may need to buy a separate set for home and travel use as I had previously. I'm leaning towards the HD555 (refurbished) for home and the 201 for travel. I would love to buy just one for both but I'm not sure that is going to work. I hope the HD555 sounds at least as good as the SR60, I have seen so many rave reviews about them that I feel like I'm missing out on something great.

Thanks for your help

#4 of 28 OFFLINE   Joey_V

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Posted June 21 2005 - 05:38 PM

Both are open type - which tends to give more air to the sound and keep the resonance to a minimum. These would not be ideal for plane travel because not only will you hear everything going on outside your little space, but the lady next to you will hear your music.

For planes, you may need a little more isolation - a closed headphone would suffice. Perhaps the HD201 will do some good on the plane. If you want more stringent noise-isolation properties, you may need to go to the in-ear models.. like the shure or the etys (but I dont like sticking things in my ear.... very uncomfortable and has a rather stuffy sound).

For me-
Home: HD555
Travel: HD201

One thing you have to know about Grados is that they have lackluster quality control. There have been many instances in which the plastic wasnt molded or shaped properly with little shavings sticking out. Their packaging is very shoddy - kind of like a kellog's cereal box. For me, if I were to spend my money, I wouldnt want something cheaply made.

The grados sound good, but I feel that the Senns are better.

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#5 of 28 OFFLINE   Joey_V

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Posted June 21 2005 - 05:42 PM

Oh one more thing.. keep in mind that there is NO WAY a headphone can mimic the soundstage of a speaker system since there is no way that your opposite ear can hear the sound from the opposite headphone driver (or vice versa)... unlike with your speakers. However, EXPECT better details, improved midrange, and perhaps better vocal dynamics with the headphones relative to the speakers - unless of course you own some high-end speaks.

I listen to my Sennheisers so I may not bother others, too. I find that headphones display music a little more differently - it is much more involving. I feel like I am right on stage with the band... rather than watching them.

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#6 of 28 OFFLINE   Robert Hoffman

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Posted June 22 2005 - 01:22 AM

Grado's are not the best choice for flying. I'd definitely recommend getting two pairs (or one nice pair with a closed design).

#7 of 28 OFFLINE   Dustin B

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Posted June 22 2005 - 02:17 AM

Open headphones aren't an option for noisy travel environments. Not because of disturbing others, but because you need to listen to them at too high of a level to drown out your surroundings.

I'd recommend looking into the in ear canal models mentioned above. Specifically the Etymotic ER-6 or the Shure E2C. These will provide upwards of 20dB of isolation when inserted correctly which will allow you to listen at much lower levels hearing all the details of the recording.

You have to be really careful with longer listening sessions and headphones. You often don't notice the level is high enough that a 4 hour + listening session could cause some hearing damage. Not needing to turn the volume up to compensate for external noise makes this much less likely.

I've heard the ER-6i and they sound very nice. Very similar to the Grado SR-60. Another option with the in ears is a set of custom ear molds. Adds another $100 or so to the cost, but doesn't get much more comfortable than something designed specifically for you ear.
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#8 of 28 OFFLINE   BradJudy

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Posted June 22 2005 - 03:22 AM

Quote:
Oh one more thing.. keep in mind that there is NO WAY a headphone can mimic the soundstage of a speaker system since there is no way that your opposite ear can hear the sound from the opposite headphone driver (or vice versa)


A couple of notes on this: There are two ways this can be done with headphones. The most common way is to use a crossfeed which puts some of the right sound into the left channel and vice-versa. This function is available on several headphone amps.

The second way is biaural recordings (i.e. recordings made with two microphones placed where ones ears would be - often on a headset/hat and designed to be listened to with headphones). While hard to find, I think the results require a lot of money and work to match with speakers (particularly in dealing with room interactions). Listening to a biaural recording on a decent set of headphones is the most realistic (e.g. 'being there') audio experience I have ever had.

BTW: I love my Etymotic ER-6s for traveling. Perfect for anyone who flys regularly since they sound great, isolate a good amount and are very compact. I have been told that the ER-6i is a bit nicer sounding.

#9 of 28 OFFLINE   Dustin B

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Posted June 22 2005 - 07:28 AM

Thanks Brad, I forgot to mention cross feed circuits. One other thing to note about them, they make longer listening sessions with headphones bearable on top of sounding better. Around the 2 hour mark I'd get a headache without the crossfeed circuit on.
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#10 of 28 OFFLINE   MattCPT

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Posted June 22 2005 - 02:44 PM

I'm going to order the Senn. HD201 for travel since the reviews are good and the price is excellent. As far as home headphones I must say that I'm leaning towards the HD555 over the SR60. I will give the HD555 a try tomorrow or Friday but I don't think I will be able to compare them to the SR60 before buying because the closest dealer is 40 minutes away. I'd rather not drive that kind of distance to make a comparison.

I know that sound is very subjective but has anyone tried both the HD555 and the SR60 to make a comparison? I would be interested in what you thought. Joey, you are obviously familiar with the headphones that I'm considering (especially since you put the thought of the refurbished HD555 in my head), but have you done a direct comparison?

I had read some reviews about the earbuds in the past, and they seem to be a great option, except that I am easily annoyed by things being put in my ears. I just don't think that they're for me.

Also, where would I find info about cross-feed circuits. I have never heard of these but they sound like they could be worth looking into.

Thanks again to all that have helped.

#11 of 28 OFFLINE   Joey_V

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Posted June 22 2005 - 04:21 PM

Have I done a direct comparison with the Grado SR60 and my HD555? No.

Have I heard the SR60 - yes, my friend owns one.

I still say HD555 over the SR60. Better build quality, better comfort, better sound (my opinion).

I find the SR60 to be very upfront (awesome WOW factor) but it fatigued me after about 30 minutes.. not so with the HD555. I could listen for hours.

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#12 of 28 OFFLINE   MikeLi

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Posted June 23 2005 - 12:02 AM

There really is no such thing as a noise cancelling set of cans that work good for a home or studio set of listening cans. So may different types. I have Koss and upper end Sony's for home use. I didn't like graddos. Also tried 4 different pair of phones, 1 of them the in ear type for flying and hated them all. They were either uncomfortable or didn't keep enough of the sound out. My business partner let me borrow his Bose Noise Cancelling II cans and I fell in love with them. Don't hurt the ears, can sleep with them on and easy to stow and they don't sound half bad coming from a portable player. When I got back I immediatly went down and got a pair of my own. They are over priced probably but I would have paid twice as much as I really liked the comfort and the sound was not bad. I get to fly first class due to business a lot. I get to see a lot of folks with these that I am sure make 100 times what I make for a living but all say the same thing. They love the Bose phones.

#13 of 28 OFFLINE   Joey_V

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Posted June 23 2005 - 09:20 AM

I'm sure the Quiet Comfort II are good in the sense that it blocks sound - but they dont sound as good as headphones along the same price range.

That being said, they do cancel noise very well and this is certainly A PRIORITY when on a plane while SQ being second in this instance.

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#14 of 28 OFFLINE   MikeLi

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Posted June 23 2005 - 10:42 AM

Joey.. you hit the nail right on the head and thats why I said earlier there is no such thing as a good set of noise cancelling phones that will do double duty as a good home set. They are very good for portable devices and traveling work very well but for home when I use headphones I surely don't use them. Great post!

#15 of 28 OFFLINE   DavidNighorn

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Posted June 23 2005 - 11:13 AM

I have found the Senn HD-212 to be very good for traveling. This is a closed design that rejects plane noise very well. There is a bit of bass emphasis but I have found that this works well on planes. I would not use these same cans in a home/office environment. The bass accentuation would drive me insane.

David

#16 of 28 OFFLINE   MattCPT

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Posted June 24 2005 - 05:12 AM

Well, I finally purchased the HD201 for travel. I have a couple trips planned in the next few months and I couldn't be without a decent set of closed headphones. Does anyone know if a pair as inexpensive as these require a long burn in period?

As far as the SR60 vs the HD555 I haven't made any progress. I attempted to give the HD555 a try but NONE of the 10 local dealers stock this set. I also called the only Grado dealer within 1 hour and they told me that they don't stock ANY of the headphones but they would be glad to order them. Why would I give my business to a dealer that is 40 minutes away and doesn't even stock the product for trails? I spent more time reading reviews of the two headphones on CNET, audioreview, goodcans, headphone.org etc... and it seems that the opinions on the sound of HD555 vary greatly. Everyone agrees that they have excellent soundstage, and a warm characteristic, but some say that they are uninvolving and are only good on movies, classical and jazz. They say that they take the life out of rock. I'm not sure if the reviewers gave them burn in time first. The SR60 seem to be universally accepted as punchy, possibly bright, but fun headphones that can be less comfortable and more fatiguing.

I don't know if I want comfort with lack of brightness (sounds appealing) or lively with good impact (also sounds appealing).

I guess I will first use the HD201 for movies and music at home and see if I long for better headphones enough to take a chance on either of the others. I have even considered being upfront with an online company, and ordering both sets with the agreement that I will pay for shipping to return the loser.

#17 of 28 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted June 24 2005 - 05:37 AM

I'm a big Grado fan, having had the SR-60 for several years and now enjoying the SR-80. But, they aren't the most comfortable design, and don't seal out external sounds. And, frankly, if the turboprop can still be heard, the accurate sound loses its luster.

#18 of 28 OFFLINE   Joey_V

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Posted June 24 2005 - 05:37 AM

The HD555 dont lack brightness - I can tell you that much. Also, being uninvolving is a mind-set NOT an inherent problem with the headphones. I tried to be "not fun" with my 650s - I can do that. I'll just sit here and not involve myself with the music. I can sit here and be "not fun" with my HD555 or with the $700 Sony SA5000.

It doesnt matter which phone it is, but any can has the potential to be fun or not-fun. It is completely up to the user. The problem with the people who review the 555 as not fun is not that they are not fun, but they are looking for a more upfront sound - but arent getting it since the the 555 drivers of the 555 are further from their ears relative to the grados. Thata all.

The 555 are more reference than the grados.

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#19 of 28 OFFLINE   MattCPT

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Posted June 24 2005 - 07:02 AM

Joey,
You have a good point about the listners perception of "involving". I'm leaning towards the HD555 and MAY even buy them new for $105 instead of the refurbished.

Thanks for your input.

#20 of 28 OFFLINE   MikeLi

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Posted June 24 2005 - 07:47 AM

That hit me pretty funny.. I had never seen refurbs for headphones before. I guess who ever was the first user blew out their ears due to blowing out a speaker huh... haha. I worry about my teens sometimes. Both have pretty good cans but sometimes I can hear them say up in the front seat of the car if they are in the back. Try to warn them so they don't get tenittis later on in life like me but do you think they would listen.....