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Headphones: How much to spend?


Zen Traveler
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The last headphones I remember owning were a pair of Sennheiser wireless that I don't think I  paid $200 for. I am going to be without my main HT for a month or two but will still have a 55" monitor and AVR/4k player/Youtube with time to kill. What's the cheapest I can get away with (wired and wireless) to still get decent sound? Thanks. :)  

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If you don't want to spend a fortune, the Sony studio monitor wired headphones may be a good bang for the buck.  I've had the Sony MDR-V6 for over 15 years, and while not really high end, they do well enough.  That model was discontinued (although still available through Amazon).  The replacement is apparently the MDR-7506 and goes for about $100 (I've not actually listened to those).

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On 3/11/2021 at 11:46 AM, Seadog said:

...  The replacement is apparently the MDR-7506 and goes for about $100 (I've not actually listened to those).

Thank you for this recommendation. Does anyone else have a favorite and at what price point is there noticeable improvement in SQ?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I´m a fanboy of GRADO Headphones.May the SR80e ( approx. $ 140 ) will fullfil your audible demands ? They´re fine for home audio as well mobil smartphone applications. If you want to spend more than a 225e ( approx. $ 250 ) would be another option. I myself own a Grado 325e combined with the earpads from the Grado GS 1000. Those earpads can be purchased seperately for a few $$ and increase the wearing comfort considerably and can be used for all Grado models.   But they´re all coming along with headphone cables . 

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Last year HiFi man had some pretty good sales right after Christmas.  I bought an open box HE400i for I think around $130 and the prices were so good I also got the HE350 for something like $80.  Both are great for the prices paid -- it was less than $220 for both shipped.  The HE400i is regulary $450.  It's now on sale for $159 but appears to be out of stock.  Check their website for other items on sale:

 

https://store.hifiman.com/index.php/he-400i.html

 

https://store.hifiman.com/clearance-sales

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

@Zen Traveler  

 

Excuse me for chiming in here.The question is not what a good headphone costs, but how high your individual listening requirements are and how much you are willing to spend for them. Nevertheless really good headphones start in the $ 400 class. IMO.  

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2 hours ago, MicroMara said:

@Zen Traveler  

 

Excuse me for chiming in here.The question is not what a good headphone costs, but how high your individual listening requirements are and how much you are willing to spend for them. Nevertheless really good headphones start in the $ 400 class. IMO.  

Good point. I guess at some point I will find an Headphone aficionado and see if they are nice enough to let me do an AB test. :)   

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@Zen Traveler      here´s an overview , describing the different available headphone technologies ..FYI .....a lot to read about them ....hope it helps for a final decision ....

 

 

Closed headphones

Closed headphones are the most common of those headphone types. They are designed for a high level of sound isolation, i.e. with their completely closed rear housing, they ideally allow sound to pass neither through to the outside nor through to the inside. The closed air volume inside the headphone cup also means that less sound pressure is lost to the outside and a little more pressure is built up in the bass range. As a result, closed headphones are often perceived as having more bass than open headphones - ideal, for example, for the powerful transmission of "fat beats" in modern musical styles such as electronic and hip-hop. On the other hand, closed headphones tend to give the music a little less plasticity than open models, in which the sound can simply unfold more freely and which can therefore generally offer a better spatial sound. A closed cabinet can also cause resonances and reflections that distort the sound image. In addition, the dominance of the bass range in closed headphones can cause further sound differences.

 

Closed headphones also sit firmly and securely on the user's head. The slightly higher contact pressure compared to open headphones can be somewhat uncomfortable when worn for longer periods, depending on the model. Compared to the open version, another disadvantage of closed earpieces is their lower air permeability and the resulting lack of heat exchange at the ear. Due to the poor air circulation, accumulated heat can develop under the ear cups during longer listening sessions - sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, depending on the model - and lead to sweating.


Because they dampen external noise much more than open systems, closed systems are suitable for undisturbed, concentrated recording in the recording studio or for DJing. Many closed models are now also equipped with active noise cancelling (ANC) for even greater isolation from the outside world. Otherwise, the music with closed earpieces is usually not audible at all or only minimally audible to outsiders. In addition, they usually require less power than open earpieces. For all these reasons, closed earpieces are also better suited for mobile use with increased ambient noise - but of course only where there is no need to pay attention to ambient noise. Thus, caution is always advised with this design in road traffic.

 

 

Open headphones

 

Open headphones are designed for the highest possible sound fidelity and so that the sound generated inside the listener can also penetrate to the outside through a permeable housing rear wall. This is usually perforated or consists of coarse-meshed grids or slits, thus making the shell housing permeable to air. In this way, it is possible for the right ear to hear the sound from the left ear concha quietly in addition to the sound from the right ear concha, and vice versa. This makes the sound of open headphones a little more natural, transparent and plastic than the closed version. Thus, open headphones are characterized by a very good spatial representation of the music, which especially benefits jazz and classical orchestral pieces as well as live recordings and appeals to audiophile users. In addition, models of this design have less distortion due to resonances and reflections, to which the closed counterpart is more prone.

 

In addition to the forementioned sound advantages, open headphones are characterized by a good heat exchange and air circulation, which means that the user does not sweat as much as with the closed design due to the lack of accumulated heat. Open headphones also rest loosely on the head, have generously sized, soft and often replaceable ear pads and usually work with less contact pressure than closed systems, which keeps their already high wearing comfort high even during extended listening sessions.


Since sound travels almost unimpeded from the outside to the inside and from the inside to the outside with this design, open earpieces are particularly suitable for listening to music in quiet surroundings - such as in the living room at home - as well as for mixing and mastering in the recording studio. Because ambient noise from outside is hardly attenuated and the sound of the music, on the other hand, is clearly audible from outside, open earpieces are not suitable for use in recording rooms or for concentrated music listening in noisy environments. They are also unsuitable wherever bystanders could be disturbed by the music, such as for use on public transport. They are also less suitable for use with mobile devices such as smartphones or digital audio players due to their high power consumption. For these reasons, with the exception of a few models, there are hardly any open Bluetooth headphones on the market.

 

Semi-open headphones


The semi-open intermediate genre dares the balancing act between both extremes, so to speak: Semi-open headphones have proven to be a hybrid of open and closed systems, combining the advantages of both variants. The goal of this design is therefore to ensure better sound isolation both internally and externally than open headphones are capable of, and at the same time to achieve better air circulation and heat exchange than closed models. In other words, semi-open headphones should provide better external shielding than open models, but without sacrificing their advantages over closed headphones. To achieve this, designers usually use damping materials within an inherently open design, as well as a slightly tighter fit. This allows low frequencies to pass through to the outside and thus be represented more authentically, while high signal components are predominantly shielded from the outside. Semi-open headphones are thus also classified between the open and closed construction methods in terms of sound authenticity. In addition, semi-open systems, like open models, are designed for long-term wearing comfort.

 

Compared to the other two types of headphones, semi-open headphones are a much less common design on the headphone market, possibly because users usually choose between the best possible shielding from ambient noise (closed headphones) and the most spatial representation possible with high sound fidelity (open headphones), depending on their requirements. Semi-open models are "the best of both worlds" for those who are looking for a compromise solution between open and closed headphones and tend to enjoy their music in peace at home, but sometimes also on the go.

 

Noise Canelling

 

This type of headphones is also called active noise cancelling headphones or ANC headphones for short. Active because here a small computer uses microphones to perceive outside noise that hits the headphones and eliminates it through anti-noise.

 

 

 

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Noise Canelling

 

This type of headphones is also called active noise cancelling headphones or ANC headphones for short. Active because here a small computer uses microphones to perceive outside noise that hits the headphones and eliminates it through anti-noise.

Without any caning, I like this technology.

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On 4/14/2021 at 7:09 PM, tigerwoodKhorns said:

So I gather the above are these kind of headphones? 

On 4/13/2021 at 5:28 PM, MicroMara said:

Closed headphones

Closed headphones are the most common of those headphone types. They are designed for a high level of sound isolation, i.e. with their completely closed rear housing, they ideally allow sound to pass neither through to the outside nor through to the inside. The closed air volume inside the headphone cup also means that less sound pressure is lost to the outside and a little more pressure is built up in the bass range. As a result, closed headphones are often perceived as having more bass than open headphones - ideal, for example, for the powerful transmission of "fat beats" in modern musical styles such as electronic and hip-hop. On the other hand, closed headphones tend to give the music a little less plasticity than open models, in which the sound can simply unfold more freely and which can therefore generally offer a better spatial sound. A closed cabinet can also cause resonances and reflections that distort the sound image. In addition, the dominance of the bass range in closed headphones can cause further sound differences.

 

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12 minutes ago, tigerwoodKhorns said:

Sennheiser are open back. 

I saw the description and couldn't decide if they were what I posted above or these:

 

On 4/13/2021 at 5:28 PM, MicroMara said:

Semi-open headphones


The semi-open intermediate genre dares the balancing act between both extremes, so to speak: Semi-open headphones have proven to be a hybrid of open and closed systems, combining the advantages of both variants. The goal of this design is therefore to ensure better sound isolation both internally and externally than open headphones are capable of, and at the same time to achieve better air circulation and heat exchange than closed models. In other words, semi-open headphones should provide better external shielding than open models, but without sacrificing their advantages over closed headphones. To achieve this, designers usually use damping materials within an inherently open design, as well as a slightly tighter fit. This allows low frequencies to pass through to the outside and thus be represented more authentically, while high signal components are predominantly shielded from the outside. Semi-open headphones are thus also classified between the open and closed construction methods in terms of sound authenticity. In addition, semi-open systems, like open models, are designed for long-term wearing comfort.

 

Compared to the other two types of headphones, semi-open headphones are a much less common design on the headphone market, possibly because users usually choose between the best possible shielding from ambient noise (closed headphones) and the most spatial representation possible with high sound fidelity (open headphones), depending on their requirements. Semi-open models are "the best of both worlds" for those who are looking for a compromise solution between open and closed headphones and tend to enjoy their music in peace at home, but sometimes also on the go.

I didn't see the "open back" category but now I gather they are the above since they are partially (or Semi-open). If so, these look like what I would want to have with my laptop and occasionally plugged into my AVR.

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