Help for a novice who wants a decent set of headphones

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dean Bu, Apr 13, 2002.

  1. Dean Bu

    Dean Bu Auditioning

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    Ok, I just got yelled at by my wife for the last time for blasting music while she's trying to sleep. I need to buy a good set of headphones, but I'm a complete novice on the subject. I'm not cheap, I'm willing to spend a couple hundred bucks if I have to. I need some suggestions that I can look up on the web and then decide what is right for me. I will be using them mostly for standard CD Audio, with a little DTS/Dolby Digital and DVD Audio mixed in. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Please give manufacturer and complete model numbers and estimated street price in your recommendations. Thanks in advance, I need your help!
     
  2. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Well, if you're willing to go the big bucks route, you can get some pretty nice ones intended for sound mixing. Try http://www.bhvideo.com
    I personally use a set of Sony headphones that ran around $40 intended for high-end discman use. They're what I can afford, and they do the job
     
  3. Ken Seeber

    Ken Seeber Supporting Actor

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    Headphone prices and styles vary quite a bit, so it depends on exactly how you'll be using them.
    A couple of great pairs of headphones are the Sennheiser HD-580 or HD-600. They're essentially identicle, except for the material that the housings are made of. You can find the 580s for $200 with no trouble. The 600, which is considered by many to be one of the best headphones on the market, cost $300 most places. If you hunt around you can buy them from a European site like www.musicians-gear.com for about $250.
    I have the HD-600s and love them, but they are an open design and therefore bleed some noise. If you're going to be in a different room from your wife, this shouldn't be a problem. If she's sleeping right next to you, it will.
    The last pair of headphones I owned were made by AKG, which doens't get mentioned around here much. They are a comfortable sealed design, which will hold the sound in a little better than the Sennheisers. The K-240 is used in a lot of recording studios and should cost you well under $150. The K-501 is closer to the Sennheiser HD-580, and will cost about $150.
    All of the AKG headphones take some power to drive them, so are best with a home system. A portable DVD player won't do it.
    A lot of people also swear by Grado, but others find them uncomfortable. They're also an open design and will leak sound. The Grado SR225 are very nice and list for $195.
    Check out www.headphone.com to have a look at these models, then try to audition them in person if you can.
     
  4. Mark Larson

    Mark Larson Supporting Actor

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    HeadRoom is a good site. However, if you want really good performance, you might consider including a headphone amp in the price.
     
  5. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Ken, good information. I appreciate it as I would like to buy a pair of decent headphones someday. Sennheiser makes some great headphones, and I would love to get a pair of the HD-600s, but I won't use them enough to justify the expense. What would you suggest in headphones for under $100? I realize they won't perform like the Sennheisers, but they don't necessarily need to for me. I mean, I don't want something that is going make my ears bleed, obviously, but I don't need the last word in headphones either. Thanks in advance.
     
  6. Shiva Singh

    Shiva Singh Extra

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    The HD-600 or 580's are great headphones. I own both and can say that they are both worth the cost. You can get the Hd-600's at www.meier-audio.com for under $250 shipped. They have great headphone amps there as well.
    If you want closed headphones, then you should research the etymotic er4 series of headphones. They are in ear types so they are not for everybody, but they are widely regarded as one of the best headphones period. They sell for $270 most places. You can also get the er6 model for $130, but it doesn't perform as well.
    For under $100 you can get the Sennheiser HD495 ($95) which are good for the money. They are supposed to sound similar to the more expensive Sennheisers.
    For good headphone sites, check out www.headwize.com and www.head-fi.org and their forums. They often have good deals on used headphones there as well.
     
  7. MarkO

    MarkO Second Unit

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    The Sennheiser 580 and 600 are my first choices. If you listen to alot of rock music the Grado in youre price range would be an excelnt choice. If you want the Senns a little cheaper try the 530s available at audio advisor for 119.00 with the dsp amp.
     
  8. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Mark and others,
    I was just on J&R Music World's web site (www.jandr.com), and I got an e-mail quote of $297 for the Sennheiser HD-600s. Audio Advisor is high. J&R also gave me an e-mail quote of $197 for the HD-580s, which is about the same as Audio Advisor.
    Shiva said:
     
  9. Kelley_B

    Kelley_B Cinematographer

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    I have the Sennheiser 495's that I got for $24 because of a pricing error at Cicuit City, but I would have easily paid the $100 for them now that I own them. Easily best pair of headphone I have ever used.
     
  10. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    Hey guys,

    aren't the Sennheiser 590's (msrp 249.00) supposed to be a little better than the 580's? I remember reading a really stellar review of the 590's a few months ago. J&R quoted me 199.00 for them, but I have seen them at other internet dealers for as low as 170.00. Maybe J&R will price match the others?

    Reg
     
  11. Dean Bu

    Dean Bu Auditioning

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    Thanks for all the input folks. I've gotten a pretty solid recommendation of the Grado 225s from a friend of mine (long distance). But a lot of folks seem to like the Senn 580's as well, I assume the 590's are only slightly better. I want to stay under $200, so the Senn 600s are out of my range. My musical tastes, no flames please, are mostly rock and roll, Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Talking Heads, etc. It seems like the Grados get recommended more for rock and roll listeners. Since my taste in music leans toward rock, are the Grados the better choice for me? Any additional input would be appreciated.

    [edit]Though I just saw a dealer with a dutch auction of the Senn 590's on eBay for only $140. That might be too hard to pass up.[/edit]
     
  12. Shiva Singh

    Shiva Singh Extra

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    The Sennheiser HD-580 was first, and the improved version of them are the HD-600's. The other 500 series of phones are based on a new design and sound very different. The 495's are said to sound very similar to the 580's. There are dozens of other models made by sennheiser, but I can't reccomend them because I've never heard them and many comment that they are not as good as the models I've mentioned.

    I've seen the 580's sell for under $150 from time to time (auctions and used) and would reccomend it over any other Sennheiser except the 600. Meier-Audio is in Europe, but most people at the headphone forum buy the 600's from him because he's an active forum member and his price better even after shipping.

    You should really read reviews and try to listen to the headphone before you buy if possible. Just as with speakers, headphones can sound very diffrent.

    The Grado's are O.K., I have tried a couple of models but never really liked them. They are good for rock, but I personally prefer the 580's to any Grado model I've heard(tried the 325 model). I still own a pair of the 60's (lowest model) but haven't used them in over a year.

    A quick search of the forums I listed earlier will answer just about any question you would have. If you find a headphone and wonder how it stacks up to others, chances are some forum member has already compared them.
     
  13. Dean Bu

    Dean Bu Auditioning

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    So you're saying the Senn 590's are not a natural progression from the 580's, but a completely new design that doesn't have the same sound as the 580's? I see that the same dealer is auctioning 580's for $139 as well, so your recommendation would be to go with them over the 590s?
     
  14. Marc Rochkind

    Marc Rochkind Second Unit

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    Aside from the headphones themselves, there is the issue of getting a surround-sound effect from movies with a Dolby Digital or DTS soundtrack. There are a few choices:

    1. Get a receiver with Dolby Headphone. I don't think any are available yet, but the forthcoming Denon 5803 (I think that's the number) has it.

    2. Play only DVDs with a Dolby Headphone soundtrack. Pretty much limits you to Pearl Harbor.

    3. Get the Sony MDR-DS5100, with its own amplifier/processor. Takes optical input straight from the DVD player. You don't even turn your receiver on. I have been using the previous model of these for a couple of years, and they're great. Have their own wireless headphones.

    4. Get the Sennheiser RS-65 or RS-85 with a surround processor, but not one that processes DD or DTS. I have no idea how effective the surround effect is.

    The only choice I can personally recommend is #3. Right now, #1 and #2 are impractical (although I think Dolby Headphone will be on many receivers in a couple of years).

    The above are just some additional ideas in case you care about surround sound in addition to the quality of the headphone.
     
  15. Ted Kim

    Ted Kim Stunt Coordinator

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    Dean,

    I recommend seeing if you can listen to the Grado's.

    I own Sony 7506, the Grado SR-80 and the Sennheiser 535. My favorite is the Grados, sure it's a little colored and to my ears has some peaks in the prescence region but it also sounds very alive. Sounds great for rock and pop. The others sound more neutral but its all about taste. If you are going to get Grados, try them in the store or a place where you can return them, because the comfort issue is a big dividing line. Some people don't have a problem, others do. The reason I got the SR-80's is that they are a reasonable easy load to drive. I haven't had any problem driving them with various sources at home or work. Keep in mind how important flexibity is with you. The 225's and Sennheiser 580's will sound poor without a decent amp.

    One last thing, ubid.com frequently has Sennheisers available. I was able to get my 535's for $40 shipped -- that was a real steal.
     
  16. ThomasG

    ThomasG Auditioning

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    One thing to keep in mind is that there are different types of headphones that may or may not provide what you need, which is quiet from your wife's perspective. I don't know how close she is to you when you're listening, so this may not be a big issue, but generally, there are 3-4 styles of headphones:
    Closed: The driver is sealed from the outside and there is minimal sound leakage in or out.
    Open: The driver is not sealed, which means that ambient noise is not isolated from the listener and the people around the listener hear just as much as the listener (although it doesn't sound the same). For various reasons, these usually sound the best for the money in the $50-$500 range.
    In-ear (two styles of these):
    Earbud (ala Sony buds that you see at Best Buy): low listening volume, decent isolation both ways. Typically mediocre sound quality
    In-canal: Really, really low listening level and excellent noise isolation both ways. Some of these sound phenomenal for their size too.
    I have a couple really old, crummy sets of headphones and recently decided to upgrade to get better sound isolation. I went with a pair of Etymotic ER-6's (~$130), and they sound incredible. They reduce outside sound by about 20dB. I can't hear people talking to me in a normal voice and they certainly can't hear anything from my headphones, even if they put their ear right next to mine. Etymotic makes 3 models of these in-canal phones. I got the cheapest set (ER-6). They are easily driven off just about any source. They also have the ER-4p and ER-4s. The ER-4p is a higher-quality, high-sensitivy model that is easy to drive. The ER-4s is a lower-sensitivy model that requires a decent headphone amp but they supposedly sound better with an amp than the ER-4p does without. The ER-4p is not intended to be used with an amp.
    If you are in a different room than your wife, open cans would probably be best since they sound very good and are more comfortable for long listening sessions than in-ear designs. If you are in the same room, consider either closed cans or the Etys.
    I really can't recommend the Etys enough, and if you go to www.head-fi.org, you'll find a lot of people that agree. In general, that place is the headphone equivalent of this place. It's a tremendous source of information.www.head-fi.org
    www.etymotic.com
    Oh, and someone said earlier, HeadRoom is a great store. Quick delivery and good prices.
     
  17. Michael St. Clair

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    I strongly suggest checking out the BeyerDynamic DT770 and DT250-80 for in-bed use. They are among the best sealed phones you will find.
    Open Sennheisers are guaranteed to wake my wife up.
    This guy has free world-wide shipping and the best prices I know:
    http://home.t-online.de/home/meier-audio/index.htm
     
  18. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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  19. Reginald Trent

    Reginald Trent Screenwriter

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  20. Leo

    Leo Second Unit

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    Just to add some info, the Sennheiser 580's (which I highly recommend - I've had some for over 5 years now) are 300ohms and tend to require an amplifier to drive them effectively. Most headphone outputs are insufficient to drive the 580's nicely. A nice headphone amp is the Creek OBH-11. Comes with a wall wart, and takes a line out from your source.

    Also know that depending on the music you listen to may better dictate you headphone choice.

    Some other pluses of the 580's are:

    All parts are user replaceable - cord, ear pads, bands, etc. Also you can upgrade the headphone cable to some third part cables - I haven't done this and can't speak to it. But whatever your choice, I recommend you take some of your own music and do some listening. The first thing I can say you'll notice is how comfortable the 580's (over your ear soft pads are delightful).

    If you have any questions, let me know.
     

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