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Headphones for Hackers (priceonomics.com)
144 points by omarish on Feb 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 181 comments

I've listened to Grados, various Sennheiser, etc.. and they're all fine. Good even. But there's just one thing I don't get about the "headphone scene".

I've done various things as a musician over the last 15 years, and the cans you see EVERYWHERE are the Sony MDR-7506. Period.

If it is good enough to mix and master, if it is good enough to monitor professional vocalists in the studio, it is good enough for you! These cans represent the music as it was intended to be heard. (And, subjectively, they sound fantastic.)

There seem to sometime be arguments about "reference" vs. enjoyment, and things being "too neutral" in studio cans, but I dunno. The cynical side of it seems (to me) to be a sort of hobby-justification for spending more than $99 on a pair of headphones.

Granted, taste matters and comfort matters. But arguments appealing to some kind of vague "quality"--I just don't buy it. The studio spent $50,000 on their mixing board. If they needed to spent $500 (vs. $100) on their cans, they'd do it. But they often don't.

Professional users have very specific requirements and their preferences shouldn't be taken as a general recommendation.

For years, we used the Beyerdynamic DT-100s, which sounded absolutely awful but suited a professional environment well. They were ultra-rugged, provided good isolation from outside noise, were completely rebuildable with 100% parts availability, had a modular cable and provided a good reference in the mid-range frequencies which are most critical for broadcast. You'd never mix a record using them, but they were excellent for musicians or cameramen to monitor with. Similar logic applies to speakers like the Yamaha NS-10 or the Auratone 5C - horrible to listen to, but they provided a useful reference for specific tasks.

The MDR-7506/7509 headphones are very popular for similar reasons to the DT-100s, although they sound much better. Here in the UK they're not especially popular in music, though they are used extensively in broadcast. Open-backed headphones like the AKG K701 or the Sennheiser HD650 sound very much better, but they're bulky, fragile, don't block out noise and leak sound out, which is a critical failure if you're sat in front of an open microphone.

The Sennheiser DT-25s are another example - probably >50% of DJs use them, but they'd be a terrible choice for most users. They sound good, are very rugged and provide superlative isolation from noise, but they're miserably uncomfortable. DJs are quite happy to trade comfort for isolation as they only use their headphones intermittently, but for users who aren't trying to monitor in a noisy nightclub it's a bad call.

There's little point in spending more than a few hundred dollars on headphones, but they're very specialised tools and you should select carefully based on your personal requirements.

I'be done A/B with the Sony's and the Sens and I can attest that they sound very similar. I went with the Sony's. However, I must say that the sound is nowhere close to my Grados. If you want closed-back headphones with a nice balanced, transparent sound and good sound stage, you're going to have to spend much more than $100. After doing a lot of research, I can recommend the Beyerdynamic DT-770's with a decent headphone amp ($50) as probably the best deal on closed-backs that are durable, beautiful, and rival sub-$200 open-back phones.

My biggest complaint with the Sony's/Sens', aside from lack of detail, is that they have a lot of sibilance, which becomes fatiguing after an hour or two. I wear my Grados whenever I can (but can't when other people are around due to sound leakage).

The DT-880s are semi-open.

Yikes, I meant the 770's!

If you don't want to give money to Sony, the Sennheiser HD-280 is nearly identical. Same sized ear pads, nearly identical bandwidth/specs, same coiled cord, same price. Made in Ireland for some odd reason.

Durable too. Mine have lasted 8 years so far.

I own the MDR-7506's and a pair of Senn. HD6xx. I agree, the MDR-7506's are very good, and they were my only 'phones for years. I also cannot find a measurable difference between the two pairs.

That said, after using both for months and months, I can tell you that I prefer the Senn.'s. The MDR's are good, and in good per dollar they certainly win. But, I find the Senn.'s more comfortable over long periods, and less fatiguing to my ears.

This is, I believe, because the open 'phones let my ears breath, and because the sound on the Senn.'s is clearer/crisper. I wind up turning the volume up more with the MDR's, subconsciously seeking the clarity of the Senn.'s, which is more fatiguing for my eardrums.

I tried 7506's (I think?) and found them really bright and fatiguing - kind of the Genelec of headphones.

But as others have pointed out, you're optimizing for a different variable in the studio. First of all, you'd never mix or master on headphones unless you're testing to see how your mix sounds on headphones. So at that point, you probably want cans that translate well to "average" headphones, and it may well be that the Sonys do. Think about NS-10's, or even Auratones - they're not great speakers, they're just a common reference point that everyone knows.

And for tracking, you really don't want flat response; you want cans that'll reinforce the musician's ability to hear themselves, the headphone equivalent of a presence peak. Isolation is critical - no headphone bleeding. But the most important quality for tracking headphones is ruggedness; they are going to get abused, and they need to be easily repairable but rarely need repairing.

All of which is to say: being universal doesn't imply being the best-sounding or the most-comfortable; it implies being optimal for the needs of a recording studio.

I've been happy with my Sony MDR-V6, which I think are almost identical the the MDR-7506. $100 on headphones seems pricey if you're used to earbuds, but these sound great, travel well, and should last forever.

Wikipedia on the MDR-V6, MDR-V600, MDR-7506, MDR-7509HD, and MDR-CD900ST: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_MDR-V6

The only difference is the magnet in the drivers as far as sound is concerned, but more importantly the 7506 has a 'pro' very long coiled cable while the V6 has a shorter, straight cable.

From what I understand, the V600 is not in the same league, but you should check that at Head-Fi.

My V6 has a coiled cable; it looks like the one pictured at http://media.headphone.com/productphotos/large/0020550006_52...

Whoops, I guess I was just wrong about that. It was the only reason I bought the 7506 over the V6, but I guess I was misinformed somewhere along the line.

I have always read that the only important difference is more bass emphasis in the V6's as compared to the 7506's, which have a very flat response.

You're probably thinking of the V600 which has heavier bass and swiveling earcups for DJing.

Besides brand there are some other things that one should look at like the cost and also whether headphones offer a natural means of listening. Remember ther is part of your health that you want to check.

Also, if you get or already have MDR-7506, I strongly recommend getting the velour pads! They are made by beyerdynamic and are really for DT-250 but fit fine to MDR-7506.

Since I didn't find a product number to give you, here's an amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Beyerdynamic-Velour-Earcushions-MDR750... that lists them currently unavailable though, but just to give you easier time finding them from some other retailer.

bayerdynamic DT-770 is another popular choice in pro-use (just anecdotal evidence). My experience is that they are slightly more bass-heavy than Sony MDR-7506, but the sound is very equal otherwise. Also their round shape did not fit my head as well and caused pain on long sessions. Overall I see that some might prefer them over MDR-7506.

I came here to say just this. I've had similar experiences, and have loaned my 7506's out to sound engineers on the road when their cans broke. As pro audio gear, they're also designed to be repairable. Having spent a few dollars on replacement ear pads, I have a pair of 7506's that have lasted 10 years.

My first MDR-7506's had very soft rubber on it's cord, and eventually it broke. Changing the coil requires soldering and I and another person who actually had experience could not get it done, the wire resisted all attempts somehow... So not as repairable in my mind, but it is obviously somewhat relative term. Still bought new ones and the cord has been fine, if someone is wondering. Would prefer if the cord could be changed by just plugging a new one in however :)

Nothing beats the Sennheiser HD-280 as an awesome pair of hacker headphones. For ~$80 you get terrific sounds, great noise reduction and amazing comfort.

I've tried previous iterations of the Bose QC line but I was disappointed by a) the battery requirement, b) the sound quality (poor and muddled by active noise cancellation) and c) the build quality---my pair died after a year and those things never did anything but sit at my desk.

I'm going on five years with my HD280s and I don't have a single complaint.

edit: I should add that I do end up using my iPod earbuds a lot. I should really buy another set of HD280s for work.

Same here, I've been using the same pair of HD280s for years, and they've been absolutely wonderful. The only issues I can think of are:

1) They're heavy, so they cause cranial irritation.

2) The padding at the top has come loose, though that's easily fixable with some glue or tape.

3) They're not wireless. This is the biggest thing for me. After getting some LG Bluetooth headphones to use with my Android phone for listening to music on the go, wired headphones are really starting to bug me. However, wireless isn't practical for the hours-on-end of music listening that goes on while working, since the battery would probably run out (not sure about that though - the LG's are supposed to last 10 hours).

I love my 280s. However, lugging them around is a bit of a bother so I usually leave them at my desk.

When I'm on the move, I pack in-ear buds. Skullcandy makes the best: inexpensive and really great bass. My favorite are the Titans (http://www.amazon.com/Skullcandy-Titan-S2TTCB-047-Black-Chro...) but even the entry level Ink'd are a huge step above any other buds at that price point.

And people actually use the white Apple buds? I can't even keep those in my ears as they just fall out constantly.

When I'm coding the last thing I want is bass. My goals in that situation are:

a) Block out everything around me. b) Play music that helps me concentrate.

I find that bass is counterproductive WRT #2.

As for the Apple earbuds, they fit me and I can wear them for about an hour before my ears start to hurt. I keep them around when I need to be on-the-move. Personally I've never been a big fan of Skullcandy.

I do have a pair of Etymotic ER-6i canalphones. I don't use them unless I'll be using them for a while at a time since taking them in/out is a bit of a process but the sound quality is superb and they do a terrific job of blocking out my environment. They're magic on a plane.

Sennheiser in ear buds are the only thing that make mass transit survivable. The almost completely block out ambient sound, and I can listen to podcasts enven in loud environments.

The only caveat is that buds, especially when thrown into jackets and pant pockets, only last 6 months to a year, but are completely worth the 40$.

Really? Sennheiser makes some really open in ear monitors (IEMs) and buds. I've found them to not be so good for traveling.

I used to have Shures, then Etymotics, but the Etys broke. Now those made a plane sound like a quiet car ride.

I have a pair of shure se315 and, I love them. They block out ambient noise really well, and have a really nice even response. I would recommend them if you want an IEM with an even tone. Only downside is they are a bit on the expensive side.

Skullcandy? They are exactly that, and they sound terrible. "Really great bass" should have been your second hint.

> you get terrific sounds, great noise reduction and amazing comfort.

I've been using 280s at work for a few weeks now and I'm not really digging them. At home I have Shure SRH-440s, but replaced the stock pads with pads from the 840s (about $20 off amazon). They're monitor headphones so the response is meant to be flatter; the net result is notably quieter bass that sounds more "present" than pounding your ears. At first I disliked it but once you start listening for a bit you grow to appreciate it.

I have this exact pair with those pads. Really great but they get warm after a long while as all over-the-ears models do. Great sound though and very portable.

I love my 280's, but I have trouble hacking with them unless I leave one ear partially off. Their around-ear noise-canceling design puts the music front and center, and I prefer to hear the music in the background farther away when hacking.

That said, they've lasted 3+ years extraordinarily well, far better then the Sony MDR-7506's I've seen die in that time frame.

Meh, for closed over the ear headphones I prefer Beyerdynamic's DT 770 Pro. The only problem is that they put quite some pressure on your head. You have to like it and best should test them for an extended period of time before you buy them. For me it's not an issue.

Agreed, though I've always thought the pressure from the DT770 was fairly light - maybe I'm just used to heavier stuff. Isolation from outside sound is about as good as you'll get short of specialized headphones, or ones using active cancellation.

What I like most about them is that they don't touch my ears at all, so for me as well there's no long term discomfort whatsoever.

The HD-280's are great headphones, but the HD-380's are a significant upgrade. Better bass response and more open sounding. They sound extremely similar to my HD-595's.

After a bit of research the 380's do indeed seem to have a good rating. I believe both the 280's and 380's are collapsible but the 380's have an easier to replace cable.

Very good reviews online but a bit hard to get in shops (UK), most places seem to order them in.

You're right, the 380's do have an easier to replace cable. They're readily available from online retailers. I bought mine from DV247.com after reading Marco's review (http://www.marco.org/2012/01/27/sennheiser-hd-380-pro-headph...).

The headband on mine broke within the first 6 months from taking them on and off all day. Great sound, bad quality.

I was able to reinforce them and they are better than ever.

I'm a longtime Head-fi member, first set of workplace cans were HD-280s about 10 years ago. This article is a decent start, but there are many better options in these respective price ranges. Head-fi is there to help - http://www.head-fi.org/

I've moved considerably upmarket over the years and won't talk about the rest of my setup, but my main cans now are Ultrasone Editions 8s. They're very pricey (retail $1500 for the basic model, but you can get them used under $1k if you spend enough time on the Head-fi classifieds). They're considered by many to be the best sounding _closed_ cans out there, and they actually isolate almost as well as good iems. Plus they're very light and comfortable at 260 grams.

So yeah, that's quite a bit of money and I am certainly an audiophile. OTOH, I use them an average of 4 hours a day and bought them used, so when the time comes I can sell them at little to no loss. I get a great deal of enjoyment out of my rig and it helps me to do my work, so I consider it a good investment. Same with my Knoll Life Chair. YMMV. I actually made a profit on limited edition headphones in the past, purchased a used pair of Audio-Technica L3000s for $1500 in 2005, sold them for $2000 in 2007. Today they tend to go in the $2500 range.

I've been using some Denon D-2000's for my work usage for a while. Were about $250 when I bought them 5 or 6 years ago, looks like they run closer to $350 these days.

They're closed, but not super-isolating, a good tradeoff between not leaking sound, and being able to hear my phone ring.

They're very comfortable, more so than other phones I own (At home I have a couple different pairs of Grados, Beyers, and AKG 301s).

They also drive well of a standard headphone output, when many audiophile grade phones (the AKGs and most higher-end Sennheisers, for intance), don't.

HD280 is the best bang for the buck. I've bought 5 pairs now for other people!

Could not agree more. No-frills styling (i.e. kinda fug but durable plastic), extremely comfortable for long periods of time, over-ear doesn't leak a lot of sound into your surroundings, nice low-end punch, and otherwise flat enough for basic multitrack mixing work.

While I agree on all of the other points, they are most definitely not extremely comfortable. Especially if you have a larger head, you'll feel like your skull is in a clamp quite fast.

Other than that (and the headband cracking) those are one of the best headphones I've ever had.

I've had my pair for a couple years and love them.

BUT, they were poorly tested. Both sides have broken where they slide out of the headpiece to extend.

Spent $5 at home depot and with a bit of drilling they are now reinforced and back together.

Are those meant to be casual listening phones, monitors, reference?

They straddle between casual and reference. You really can't get solid reference/monitor in a closed phone. For open phones,a good starter reference would be the AKG701, but that is difficult to drive and anemic down low. For true ref tt seems you have to move up to things like the Senn HD800/Beyer T1 to get near ruler flat frequency.

For monitor use, and by that term I'm talking about actual pro-audio where isolation is a plus, really the high end custom IEM (IEM = in ear monitor) is where it's at.

But as with most things, be careful what you wish for. A true reference can be boring unless you're using well mastered source material. Most pop/rock/electronica doesn't fall into that category, and with that notion it's best to listen to a bunch of cans and let your ears be your guide.

The components in my chain cater to my preferences. It's not the most uber-accurate, but for my purposes emotional engagement is key - it let's me tune out from my environment and focus on my work.

AKG K701s are not difficult to drive - 64 ohm is not that much - but they leak sound so bad, I don't think I'd ever recommend anyone using those in an office (unless you want to hear everything around you or listen to music at deafening volume in which case everyone around you is forced to listen to it as well).

JH-16 Pro Customs... nothing else, all day, every day!

Wow, I didn't even know they made custom IEMs, vs. just custom earmolds for the standard Etymotics, Shure, UE, etc. IEMs. This is like a whole additional level of audio geekery :)

You're asking the wrong question. Nearly all "audiophile-class" headphones are used for what most would consider casual listening. The distinction you want is "fun" vs. "neutral," and depending on who you ask you'll get very different answers on preferences.

My god,"hacker" is really used under every circumstances on that website.

Next: frying and sauce pans for hackers. Hack your eggs.

PS: The only music I listen to while working is the beat of my fingers on the keyboard.

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Etymotic. They're earbuds, but they sound pretty great. However, I have heard that to sound their best they need an amp.


They do, and a healthy bass boost. They isolate like no other though. The only other IEMs that I've used that come close are Shures.

Yeah, I was going to menton Etymotic as well.. easily my favorite in-ear isolating headphones.

I have the HF3s and while of course they sound better with an amp (I use a FiiO E7 at home), it's not necessary. I use them without one at work and while walking around and they're still great.

I've had my ER4's for eight years now. They're the only headphone I've heard that sounds almost exactly like my beloved NHT 2.5i speakers. After listening to the Etymotics, virtually all other headphones sound wildly inaccurate, and the ones which claim to have great bass response just sound muddy and distorted.

I am shocked that the Sony MDR-V6 cans are so low on the list. Those headphones are legendary and there is still none that can top them in the price range (got mine for $65 on Amazon). Sennheiser is great, but I cannot put the 280 over the V6 after having both, and this is coming from a bass head.

The MDR-7506 are the pro version of the V6 -- largely because they come with an exploded diagram and all the parts are kept available.

I love mine too, but only after I replaced the pleather pads with velour pads. I liked the soundstage and smoother high end of the 280s, but they just weren't comfortable. Wish I had a door on my office so that I could use Grados...

ive had mechanical issues with every headphone ever. V6 has a flimsy folding hinge mechanism with tiny plastic tabs that break off, Beyer 770's cable has split in half and frayed open several times, and earbuds 3.5mm connectors with crap strain relief that lose connectivity after a few dozen pocketing cycles of your phone/musicplayer.

i just use cheap throwaway earbuds in girly colors on commute and FM radio for music into solid Advent loudspeakers that have been going strong since the 70s

I have multiple MDR-V600's. Great combination of easy to find, cheap(ish), doesn't require a pre-amp, and good sound.

Edit: Oh and they are comfortable. Which for long listening is essential to me.

I still use the V300's; I've had them since middle school and they're still ridiculously comfortable. The pleather's started to fray, but a new pair is only like $40.

This is a bit of a spammy article but I'll throw in my two cents: I want a set of very durable earbuds with microphone. VERY DURABLE. I want the Toughbook of earbuds. I want the cord to look like an orange outdoor extension cord, as thick as my thumb. For some reason earbuds which get stuffed in my bag are always damaged within days, the wires are simply too flimsy. (Yes, I know everyone else has developed elaborate wrapping systems to try to protect their earbuds. I prefer buying more durable ones in the first place.) Anyone make such a thing?

Look at the Sennheiser X i series: http://www.sennheiserusa.com/sport-headphones-earbuds-Sennhe...

I've been using the Sennheiser MX series earbuds for years. They're waterproof, durable, inexpensive, and have good sound quality for the price. Regular earbuds fall out of my ears and these are the only ones that stay in.

That said, I've been using the MX680i's for 4+ months and I'm disappointed compared to the MX85's I had before. The insert that holds them in your ears isn't nearly as good as the old style. I often have to adjust these and they fall out at times. The MX85 never fell out.

The mic and controls are good though. I use them for calls daily. The volume buttons don't work on Android devices but the play button does.

It doesn't fit your description, but the Etymotic hf2 has stood up to normal use just fine for me. Maybe I'm more careful with it than you want to be, I don't know.

...and then buy the cheapest pair of Sony earbuds that come with one of those spinny cases:


"ironbuds" fills your robust need. here's their kickstarter page.


I just bought the V-Moda remix earbuds, in large part because they seemed to get good reviews for durability. I haven't had them long enough to make my own judgement though. Also, they have a LOT of bass, which I love.

I use the JVC HA-FX1X earbuds, which has a ridiculously thick and resilient "2.0mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type)".


Can you dedicate a compartment of your bad to the headphones? My Koss KSC75 have pretty flimsy cords, but I shove them in a small zipped pocket of my bag and they're fine.

My Etymotics ($~300 MSRP, $~200 online), were used every day at my desk for about four years, taken home on weekends for bike rides, traveled to various locations around the world, and one wire finally gave out in Japan after five years of near-daily use. Etymotic repaired and updated them for $50. My typical packing method is to just wind them around my iPod.

My Shure e2c aka scl2 -- $100 on amazon or so -- have survived 4+ years of daily use, and my storage method is to wind the cord around my hand and toss them in my backpack. The wire is pretty robust. One of the connections to the earbuds finally gave out and my repair bill was $50 with rapid shipping. I assume they'll survive another 4 years so $150 for 8 years is a bargain. Here's a link to their repair prices:


The data sample sizes are too small to draw any real conclusion, but it's pretty obvious what's going on.

Audiophiles care about sound quality more than anything, and spend time researching what kind of cans fit their personal listening preferences as well as listening environment. They spend money on headphones because music and audio quality is their passion/hobby.

Hackers, for the most part, have more money to spend than the average "consumer", but music and audio quality isn't necessarily their hobby. If those Bose ads are everywhere and the mini-stores are in airports, or if everyone and their mother has "Beats" labeled headphones/earphones, then they're more likely to just spend whatever their budget is on Bose or Beats, because since it's not their passion, they are less likely to research.

So we end up with hackers paying more for worse listening experiences than audiophiles. I bet car enthusiasts get a better deal on buying used cars than audiophiles. And chefs pick out better produce than car enthusiasts.

Is this really interesting?

It is to me. I was very surprised that programmers pay ~$100-$200 for padded over-the-head headphones. Perhaps this is just ultra-typical. The styles are very interesting, although unfortunately they don't provide that data directly; the brands are also somewhat interesting.

Keep in mind, I say this as someone who is apparently quite atypical. I have converted to neckphones -- headphones which wrap around your neck while wearing them -- as things which occupy my permanent ensemble. It's partly because I wanted to be able to quickly drop and resume music listening while cycling, but to be honest the padded headphones feeling around my neck died in high school for me, and hasn't been resurrected. They were too sweaty and you couldn't really wear them around your neck comfortably and sleekly while you were in a situation where you wanted to pay attention. Thinner traditional headphones are good for that, earbuds are horrible for that.

I feel like the story is missing the details, though. I could write a blog I suppose about all the neckphones I've used and their relative advantages, but honestly it seems like my basic problem is "I expect to accidentally sit on my headphones once or twice per year and they must be cheap, so that I think of them as expendable." That's not really in this article. ^_^;; I've used Sennheisers, I have a pair of Sonys now, but I must remark that at least for neckphones, after several frustrating experiences with other brands my brand loyalty today belongs with Philips. So I am even more atypical; they don't make the graph at all here. ^_^;;

I feel some extra pride because it's a Dutch company, but still: the last Philips neckband headphones I bought, the SHS5200s, lasted me almost an entire year for (if I'm remembering this correctly) 15 euro, with beautiful sound that, unlike my present Sony's, didn't leak sound to my office mates. They ultimately wore down because they had a straight headphone jack, not an L-shaped one. (The headphone ports on both my old and newer laptop were/are on the front, and therefore fatigue the cord when I'm reclining with my laptop on evenings and weekends.)

The only reason I'm ranting about them, and I promise I'll stop, is that the SHS5200s actually solved the problem of cord-extension breaks. And it's retrospectively such a simple engineering fix: just don't make the audio wire load-bearing. Use a piece of elastic to "bunch up" a little bit of wire, when you accidentally hyperextend your cord, the elastic is what responds. It's a brilliant little thing.

The reason I'm saying all of this is just that, in my role as hacker, these are the little things which I value most. The sound quality needs to be pretty beautiful, yes, but there are other practical problems like being able to comfortably keep them around my neck when I'm walking around town.

If you're thinking about getting those grados be forewarned they have huge noise bleed that your coworkers are not going to appreciate. They sound fantastic and are really reasonably priced but I leave mine at home for hacking in solitary only.

Some relatively inexpensive headphones that many folks on Head-Fi speak highly of:

Samson SR850 (very similar to/rebadge of Superlux HD668B): widely available for $50 - $60 (Superlux equivalent worth look at too: http://www.head-fi.org/t/546556/superlux-express-train)

Sony MDR-V6: $70 - $80

JVC HA RX700: $37 at Amazon

If you want to spend more, the ATH M50's are widely considered great "bang for the buck" at approximately $160.

(all prices US$)

I use MDR-V6s at work. Probably the best money I've spent.

The cord is really long (so, not hard to route around equipment), the build quality is great, they have good isolation, and the frequency response (especially towards the lower end--important for the electronic stuff I listen to to sound right) is superb. I can wear them--comfortably--for six-eight hours at a stretch.

I must be in the minority but I never found the huge cans to be comfortable. The weight becomes annoying, and they cause my ears to get warm and sweaty after extended wear. Earbuds are alright, but they never fit in my ears properly and fall out too easily. I don't particularly fancy full-on in-ear headphones either.

I finally settled on using the Sennheiser PX-200 II headphones: http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-PX-200-II-Headphones/dp/B00...

They have good sound isolation, are extremely light, and very comfortable to wear for long periods. The volume dial on the cord is a nice added bonus as well.

cause my ears to get warm and sweaty after extended wear

This is what open cans are for ;)

You can also sit very still and will your pulse lower. With practice you can lower your core temperature at will.

That's a trick I've yet to learn. The other problem being that I prefer to stand and move a lot when working ;)

I've been exceptionally happy with the "Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO" ($179). It has lovely padded ear cups and I wear it all day. With the sound off, it even acts as reasonable ear muffs helping to reduce distractions. The sound is great for classical and operatic works. A disclaimer -- I'm not an audiophile.

I second this: The DT770 are very comfortable to wear, and being of "closed" design both isolate yourself from the environment and prevent your sound leaking out annoying your coworkers. Currently they are my favourite headphones! Strongly recommended, sound quality is excellent.

If you want a little less isolation, the AKG K240 MKii are a good choice, but your coworkers might complain that sound leaks out (semi-open design). Their padding is fake-leather (but you can get fuzzy replacement pads) that tends to get sweaty after longer use. Sound quality is also very good.

DT770s are one of the "standard" studio monitoring headphones, and seen pretty often among touring sound techs (esp the M version which is the one meant for drummers due to higher volume and isolation).

I've used a pair of them since 2005 for office work and for serious front-of-house mixing. They sound great and hold up great.

I can second these headphones. They are one of the best values for your dollar that you can get right now. They're also particularly good for electronic music (they have quite good bass).

Is Sennheiser really that hard to spell? Quick Germanic spelling tip - if it sounds like "eye" it's "-ei-", if it sounds like "ee" it's "-ie". So the last letter of the pair is the phonetic sound it makes.

Or, as my German teacher used to say, "if the i does the walking, the e does the talking (and vice versa.)"

Emglish speakers make that mistake all the damn time. I have learned to ignore it and not be annoyed by it anymore.

The best headphones for the price in my opinion are the Sennheiser HD 555's. They are by far the most comfortable affordable headphone. Although they are open, which means they let sounds in and out easily. But closed headphones are not usually comfortable for hours of wearing. I have the Denon 5000's, and probably use the HD 555's more often.

Don't buy Bose headphones. They are not worth the money.

I love my HD555 heaphones too. Fortunately, I work from home, so there's no one to annoy with the sound bleed.

Generally speaking, I won't recommend Bose equipment because of the poor cost/quality ratio, but their sound cancelling headphones actually work really well for their intended purpose. I've not used a set that works better, although I think they do some kind of funky sound enhnacement, because some music just sounds strange when using them. Regardless, I consider their primary function drowning out background noise (like on a plane), and in that regard, they're unbeatable.

My $0.02. The Bose QuietComfort 15 (over-the-ear, closed, noise canceling) are fantastic to code with. With no audio playing, low bassy sounds are entirely cancelled out unless extremely loud. Highs are reduced in volume, but still come through. Add earplugs and the highs almost go away too. Lastly, turn on some music or pink noise and you're not going to hear a thing.

Bah, real hackers make their own (passive) noise canceling headphones :) Here's mine: http://media.aeminium.org/~slug/2008/headphones/P1010608.JPG

For $18 + headphone speakers, can't beat the price. Worked so well I made two to keep at different locations and also carry one when flying. There's an instructable too http://www.instructables.com/id/Jackhammer-Headphones/

The difference to mine is that I drilled a hole to pass the wires and used hot glue to make sure there's no way sound can come through there.

That's awesome. I actually have a set of ear muffs, different brand. Compared to the Bose QC15's, they let in a lot more bass, where the noise-canceling gets rid of that. Coupling them with earplugs works really well though.

They're less comfortable to wear since they squeeze your head harder than headphones (maybe I could adjust mine by stretching the metal headband with two vice's or something), and they have a bit more weight. But for $20 instead of $300, and hack factor, you win hands down! :)

Bose needs more love.

I have a pair of their older on-ear model (replaced by the OE1). At the time, they were the most readily available pair of head phones where the main cable separated from the head phones. Most of my headphone failures over the years were from the stress at the device end of the cable. I have fixed this a few times but it's easier to get a replacement cable. So for the 199 I spent on the Bose, these are the best value for money head phones I have so far.

Also they are more portable than most head phones, pretty comfortable, and they use a single cable rather than a y-cable.

Simply because Bose provides poor value for money. They have some good products but they're overpriced. They charge you extra for the brand reputation they've spent millions on cultivating in the unwashed masses.

I am somewhat of an audiophile (sound engineer for various bands, musician, etc) and have really come to love a few different headphones for different reasons.

Right now I have a small array of headphones:

While mixing for bands I use AKG K171's

While walking around town, I use my AKG Q460's

At the gym I use Bose Triport In Ears (forget the model #)

At work (in the office) I use my Q460's, but plan to upgrade eventually to Audeze or Ultrasones.

At work (at home) I use my AKG Q701's.

There is a lot of variation in the sound, but my philosophy is this: 1) general listening, use any over-ear, closed-back phones that sound good with an iPod. 2) Mixing, you need something with great isolation, but never buy "noise-cancelling". 3) If you're alone and don't want to bother neighbors, a good pair of open-back cans will give you amazing sound and a ridiculous sound stage. 4) Gym, just something comfortable and decent sounding. 5) At the office, good sound, closed back for minimal bleed.

Keep in mind for many of the higher end cans you'll need a good amp and DAC to get the most out of them.

I've found a so-far lasting zen with the Sony MW600 headphones.

They're quite a bit different. In ear noise isolating. Surprisingly comfortable.

They are bluetooth headphones. 12 hours talk time. Doubles as a headset and FM radio.

I pair my laptop to them and listen music. When a phone call comes in the MW600 automatically switched to the phone for me to answer. When I get off the phone, sound is back to the computer and I can work again.

It. just. seems. to. work.

I can wear the headphones all day and walk around without having to unplug when I get up or leave.

The best part is the small things

1) one less cord to dangle to the computer and get in the way when I'm typing. One less cord to plug in my ear for a headset.

2) Don't like the headphones? no big deal, unplug the sony headphones from the dongle and plug in any ones you like and enjoy the bluetooth audioness of it all. Works fine with both my iPhone and Android.

3) $45.


I've got a pair of Sennheiser HD-25 SP-II headphones (they are monitor headphones and spend a fair amount of time whacked into the front of a Korg Trinity). I paid 30 GBP for them in 2004. I've replaced the cable once for 20GBP after repeatedly running over it with a desk chair for 5 years and replaced the earpads once for about 10GBP.

I would not swap them for anything.

They run rings around headphones which are 5-10x the cost. Rumor has it they piss on 1KGBP headphones. They sound much better than HD280s as well (I've had some as well). The frequency response is pretty much 100% linear. They are very comfortable. They block out pretty much everything. Most importantly you just cannot hear any static/noise on them at all.

They are godlike.

Unfortunately they change hands for a hell of a lot of money now otherwise I'd grab another pair :(

These are my choice for coding too, very good balance of sound isolation and quality. Very solidly made too. Hard to find in Hi-fi stores but music equipment places carry them (popular for monitoring & ENG work.)

Not sure that they beat high-end phones though. I have some HD650s at home, and trust me, they are nicer to listen to (but being open, would annoy the hell out of my co-workers.)

My father has some HD650s and I found that they make my head too hot :(

I've had a pair for the past 2 years, and whilst they sound good, and are portable, they're not super comfortable. HD25's just clamp too much (which is required for them to sound so good and be on-ear).

I think anyone looking to use headphones for extended periods at their desk should be looking for something extremely comfortable.

I'll add myself as a data point:

When at the Picplum office: Sennheiser HD-650's ( http://paulstamatiou.com/sennheiser-hd-650-headphones ) hooked up to a FiiO E10 USB DAC. My cofounder has HD-555's hooked up to a (much more expensive) Peachtree Audio Nova amp. These HD's are open air so you can definitely hear what we're both listening to. We might have to switch to closed once we start growing the team so we dont annoy others.

As for when I'm on the go, I have Etymotic hf3 earbuds with comply P-series foam tips. These sit very deep in the ear for maximum isolation though they can be uncomfortable to those not used to this style of earbud. You must also change the foam out every 3 months for a good fit.

I use ATH-M50 when directly driven by a non-amp, Sennheiser HD600 when home alone, and Beyerdynamic DT770 or DT770Pro (250 Ohm) when amped, or for pro-audio. I really dislike the "standard" Sony MDR-7506 due to the earcup material; the Beyerdynamics feel a lot better to me, but the Sonys fold a lot better.

I use Etymotics ER4S at the gym or when shooting (or on helicopters), and Ultimate Ears 10vi for portable, airplane, etc. use. I think the etymotics seal better in the ear, plus they are lower profile, so I can wear them underneath either a passive earmuff hearing protector, a set of Pro-Ears Pro Tacs, or an aviation headset (usually just in one ear, so I can listen to the vehicle audio too).

If they really wanted to indulge in bullshit science they should've correlated headphone brand and model to exit valuation.

Heroku should have a badge in their footer 'powered by Beyerdynamic'

They seem to have missed out on Pioneer cans ...

I have the Pioneer SE-MJ71 steel wheel series headphones. I've used Pioneer headphones for a long time as a DJ, they have excellent response and range and for daily wear work perfectly. One thing I have noticed is that when I am wearing them while working that you need to pump very little volume into them (slide the volume slider all the way down) to get large and expressive sound. I've thought about getting an external volume control in line with the 3.5mm to be able to control it even better.

At home I also have an older Sennheiser headset that I don't use nearly as much anymore because the foam has deteriorated so bad that the plastic casing is pressing into my head when I have them on (which frankly is uncomfortable). I've wanted to get a replacement for a while. The one thing I absolutely love about the Sennheiser cans is that they came with a REALLY long headphone wire, and can be unplugged from the headphones and from the computer (So when I've accidentally stepped on the cord or spin around in my chair I don't send stuff flying!). They have gone through years of use, I've had them since I was 12... I am now 25. If I could get new foam pads for it I would do so in a heartbeat.

> If I could get new foam pads for it I would do so in a heartbeat.

That shouldn't be too hard, unless you have a very rare model:


I've got a pair of Sennheiser HD-490 Live's which use the same ear cushion as the HD-495 and I can't find any place online that sells them.

It may just be time to bite the bullet and purchase a new pair of headphones. It is not like they haven't given me my moneys worth and then some!

Here is an online store in NZ, maybe they'll ship to you:


An ebay listing:


There may be others.

Good luck!

I tried out the "audiophile" headphones by Grado on display at a neat little audio store near MIT[1].

While the sound quality was phenomenal, they were really loud outside the headphones, meaning I wouldn't be able to wear them at a quiet workspace. Does anyone know if other audiophile headphones have that issue?

[1] http://www.qaudio.com/

The term you're looking for is "open" vs. "closed" headphones. "Open" headphones are generally considered to have better sound quality for the price if you're listening in an empty quiet room, but they

a) leak sound to the room b) let sound in from the room

Ah, I see. Thanks very much!

I have a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones at work and a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones at home. I love the sound of both (and neither have broken yet), but the Sonys are far more comfortable. The problems with the Sennheisers is that they are very, very snug, and the top padding presses down into my a head a bit.

Audio-Technica ATH M50 is one of the best closed headphone. ~$150

> Surprisingly, almost no one wears their headphones all the time while coding.

The author should try reading Peopleware. Here's an excerpt from Chapter "Bring Back the Door":

"In response to worker's gripes about noise, you can either treat the symptom or treat the cause. Treating the cause mean choosing isolation in the form of noise barriers -- walls and doors -- and these cost money. Treating the symptom is much cheaper. When you install Muzak or some other form of pink noise, the disruptive noise is drowned out at small expense. You can save even more money by ignoring the problem altogether so that people have to resort to tape recorders and earphones to protect themselves from the noise. If you take either of these approaches, you should expect to incur an invisible penalty in one aspect of worker's performance: They will be less creative."

Wait, people write books with paragraphs like that, and then other people buy them, and read them, and think it makes sense?

"Your workers will have to find their own solutions(necessitating creativity) therefore they will be less creative"... hrm

Any debate about the quality of various headphones is pointless, as Priceonomics has already indisputably answered that question among the models listed.

If you remember back to their post about phone price deprecation (http://priceonomics.com/phones/#cell-phone-depreciation), you might recall their statement that, "... we firmly believe that resale value is the best objective indicator of product quality." In this current article, they state that "... the popular Bose QuietComfort 15 stood out as having the best resale value."

There you have it: incontrovertible proof that the Bose QuietComfort 15 is the highest quality headphones in the sample set.

Bose is a scam. Everybody who knows audio equipment knows this. Period.

I worked for Bose for a summer in college (they're great to MIT).

The pro Bose stuff (used in venues) is great -- it's well engineered, durable, and sounds good for pro gear. All pro speakers basically suck for audio quality compared to good home equipment -- that's not what they optimize for. They also do a great job of audio simulation of venues (which is what I worked on; it's like raytracing for sound, so you can audition different speaker designs in a potentially-unbuilt building), and they do a great job of vehicle audio engineering. Their aviation headsets are also really popular with pilots (I prefer David Clark just because they're classic, but the Bose are quite popular).

It's just the consumer/retail equipment which is boosted-midbass, and high priced. Everyone I knew in the Pro side of bose had Sennheiser, AKG, or Grado headphones and some other kinds of audio equipment at home (NHT being particularly popular). For what Bose is, Cambridge SoundWorks is half the price or less.

Surely you can't argue with Priceonomics' "objective indicator"!

I find that often when I wear headphones, it makes the noise of co-workers more annoying. Without the headphones, I can hear distracting conversations, but I also hear other assorted office sounds, and the wind outside.

With the headphones, I hear music, but I can still hear some of the conversations, but none of the other noise.

Since the conversation doesn't fit in with the music, and I'm missing the other office noises that at least make me subconsciously think of the conversation as background office noise, it ends up forcing itself to my attention more than when I'm not wearing the headphones.

Anyone know if active noise canceling headphones would help much? I've read that they don't do that well on canceling conversation.

I find with my active noise canceling phones it works best to play a white noise track in the background. The white noise track ensures that even during the gaps in the music or periods or low volume that I don't get distracted by conversations.

Excellent advice!

I just discovered this entirely by accident, because I grew tired of killing sox every time I played another audio source (and restarting it afterward).

Also, turning off the white noise is very uncomfortable once you've become accustomed to hearing it all the time.

What about headsets (with an integrated microphone)?

Do many hackers (in startups or elsewhere) not need a mic? My use case is usually gaming but use cases like remote collaboration, calling people with a VOIP solution, recording voice for use as sound assets all seem like they would be common enough use cases.

Do most of us prefer separate solutions like a webcam integrated or desktop mic?

If not, what headsets are good? I've been getting by on relatively cheap headsets but the cords almost always fray and need replaced inside of year. I'm reluctant to spend more than $100 on a 'high quality' set like the 'Sennheiser PC 360' without experiencing them directly, but the reviews help. What are the good options out there?

Based off what I've seen, the best solution seems to be to pick up the headphones you want, then get one of these:


I prefer the Blue USB mics. They're still pretty cheap (I paid $40 or so each for a couple Snowballs on sale), and you get a lot better audio quality (mic positioning, if nothing else). Andrew Warner uses one for his podcast, which is why I originally got mine. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/413696-REG/Blue_SNOWBA... is one.

TripleFi 10vi has a replaceable headset cable. Also works with most customs -- using the cable on my JH16's right now.

Bose QC-15 at home. They're great for over ear headphones, I wear glasses and they are not uncomfortable at all even after hours of wearing.

A set of apple in ear buds that I leave at work.

Let me put in a word for the MB Quart QP805HS. I bought one off of eBay on a lark for $80, and when I got it I was absolutely blown away by the sound -- it beat the pants off my Sennheiser HD-590.

The QP805 is a closed-back design, and despite the 300Ω rating, plays just fine off a laptop or iPod. It's reasonably comfortable, with good isolation.

They show up on eBay from time to time (I see a couple there now). If you want amazing sound for less than $100, I don't know anything better.

The Pioneer HDJ headphones (http://www.amazon.com/Pioneer-HDJ-2000-Reference-Professiona...) rock, as well as the less pricey Audio Technica ATH M50s (http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-ATH-M50-Professional-Mo...).

The ATH M50s are the first pair of proper over-head headphones that I've owned. I think they sound fantastic with just my iPod, desktop or laptop (via headphone output) and they come alive when connected to my amplifier. I own a pair of Shure SE115 which work very well to block outside noise.

I do recommend at least trying to physically examine a pair of over-ear headphones before buying them. A music shop will probably have monitor headphones and they should be okay with you taking them out of the box. I was also considering Shure SRH840 but they were so heavy I just went with the ATH M50s. Great headphones are worth owning if you have high quality music and an effective delivery system.

I have a variety of ear buds and cans from AKG. However when I need real silence, it's not good enough. And simply turning up the volume can be damaging to your hearing.

So get a set of proper ear muffs, they are not expensive. I use HL Leightning's (http://www.howardleight.com/ear-muffs/leightning) in combination with ear buds on low volume. The world could end and you wouldn't notice it.

I can't believe no one has mentioned Plantronics and their model 995H. They are wireless, double as a mic, have great sound quality and have controls for audio playback. $100 at the official site and I'm sure cheaper somewhere else.

I spent some serious time researching this topic last year and for the money this set was by far the best option. For the money, they are the best.

Wireless with built-in mic wins FTW. They aren't a set for audiophiles but the sound quality is excellent.

I went through a search for quality headphones that can also work for Skype calls a while back. I ended up going with what is marketed as a gaming headset. While I'm not a gamer, I've found the SteelSeries Siberia V2 to be pretty great.

The pull-out mic is by far my favorite feature.


Happy to see someone else mention steelseries. The headphones I love are the 5H V2 though. They sound great to me, but more important for long sessions is that they are fantastically comfortable. Not only do they fit completely over my ears but the foam is marvelously soft and supple, unlike anything I've seen on other headphones.

Agree on the need for the mic (isn't that a big draw of iPhone buds?), but those are so bulky!

I need something pocket-sized for hacking on the go.

Any suggestions for high-end buds with an in-cord mic a la iPhone buds?

Personally I use a pair of Shure SE-215-K in-ear monitors with the "Shure CBL-M+-K" cable that includes in-cord mic and volume adjustment. That cord will work with any in-ear monitor in the Shure SE line. I highly recommend this route if you're looking to spend within in the $150 to $500 range.

They are bulky for traveling. I use these at my office, and just use iPhone earbuds for when I'm on the go.

Check out Etymotics.. they have a few. I really like my HF3s.

I really love my Bose AE2s -- as far as I can tell, they're QC15-esque minus the active noise canceling, and they sound quite excellent.

Main reason I bought them though was comfort. It seems that there are very few pairs of headphones that don't make my ears ache after a few minutes. The AE2s are the only headphones I've ever used that feel perfect on my ears. (Granted, I haven't tried on many $100+ pair...)

<bunch of text eaten by HN's silly link expiry mechanism>

Used to have Bose noise canceling. Worked well but was too bulky. Plus flight attendants wised up.


I have since switched to an Etymotic Research ER6i. Lightweight, in ear and works pretty well at muffling outside noise. Now if having something in your ear bothers you, these won't work. Else definitely give them a spin.

tl;dr Bose before. ER 6i now. Like them. Recommended.

“Even when I'm not listening to music, people don't bother me when I'm wearing them.”

I've never found this to be true. In fact, I find it less annoying if I don't bother wearing them and deal with the interruptions rather than put mine on and have someone come up to my desk every 10 minutes.

That being said, the article is spot on. The only way to get into flow in an open office situation is to minimize ambient noise.

We solve this by having most everyone use jabber to communicate, so minor interruptions are less frequent since they are shifted to IM.

Coincidentally, I just went out today and bought a pair of Bose QC 15's at lunchtime after someone from our customer service department was moved into the next cubicle. You can imagine the constant chatting.

These phones worked surprisingly well for blocking human voices, which is something that they weren't designed for and are not known for.

Add a little low-level music and I was in my own little world.

A friend of mine did a mid-range headphone review a while ago that was pretty informative. Note that he's critiquing as a musician and using these for mixing, but the advice should work for listeners as well: http://istolarsky.tumblr.com/post/8308373256/headphones

Sennheisers were standard issue at Google for a long time, I wonder if we could normalize by the number of Google hackers.

I'm surprised to see Klipsch do so poorly. Their Image X10s are my favorite earbuds of all time, especially for classical.

Agreed, I love my S4s. They are the perfect in-ear headphones for the office and gym. Not to mention a great deal at ~$80.

Fully agree. X10s are so comfortable & tiny that they almost feel like an implant, without compromising sound quality or noise isolation. It's amazing how much bass such a miniature speaker can produce, when fitting properly.

Only disadvantage is that people don't realize you are wearing headphones and you don't hear them yelling at you.

I tried the Custom 2 and didn't like them at all. The right eartip wouldn't stay in my ear, the cords were easily damaged, and they were incredibly bright. I like a bright sound, but this was ridiculous.

I greatly prefer Etymotics.

Sennheiser's are too open air for the workplace imo, I keep those for home. At work I prefer high quality earbuds such as SE530's (Shure) since they're passive noise isolation which blocks out literally every sound there is in the office. I hate active noise canceling so noise isolation is the best!

Apple In-Ear Headphones are actually pretty good for the price. I can leave them in all day without discomfort. They come with 3 sizes of silicon/rubber ear pieces. http://www.apple.com/ipod/in-ear-headphones/

Their survey doesn't let me select Yamaha as a brand. For years I've mixed with Yamaha RH5Ma headphones, so I've grown a soft spot for them. Most consider them a bit harsh like NS10s, but I find most professional recordings to be to warm and need harshing up.

Again it depends with the type of head phones that you want. whether noice cancelling, sports headphones, HIFI head phones. Think about Audio Technica ATH-AD700 for hackers. Its rely pocket frendly and offers a natural listening experience mmmmmhhhhhh........

I swear by Sennheiser CX-300s - they are cheap, easily replaceable and work very well for my non-discerning ears.

Plenty of bass (compared to Apple earbuds at the very least) and shut out all exterior noise to the point of being dangerously approached from behind while working.

I'm happy with my trusty Nokia BH-503 Bluetooth stereo headphones - I could never go back to wired ones, unless I really need high fidelity. Wish there was more choice on the market, though - Bluetooth headphones are really under-appreciated...

I really like my Technics RP-DJ1200's. They sound just as good as the mid-range Senheisers, but they don't break when you forget that you have them on and walk across the room. And they fold up so that they don't take up much space in my bag.

I have the RP-DH1200's (aside: why does Panasonic insist on such similar product names?) which I think are a lot more comfortable, at least on my head.

Both of them are DJ headphones so they aren't likely to win any prizes for fidelity. However, I think DJ headphones are a decent choice for coding since they are optimized for high isolation. You just need to find a pair that's comfortable to wear for long periods of time... and that's different for everyone's head and ears.

The use of headphones implies I'm listening to something while working, which most of the cases is actually very disruptive to me. I like my $1 earplugs which allow me to work and learn in perfect quiet and focus on the task at hand.

Cans are too uncomfortable for me and I don't like the Apple ear buds. I like ear buds with the rubber piece that forms to your ear hole, without it a lot of low-end is lost and everyone around you hears the high-end.

I actually prefer the logitech g930 headphones for working. They provide "good enough" sound and an excellent mic for the times that I need to be on the phone with customers or in a voice chat with a remote co worker.

The Wirecutter is an excellent no-nonsense website to use for purchasing suggestions: http://thewirecutter.com/leaderboard/headphones.

I got a pair of Fostex T50RP headphones. Very balanced, extremely durable, mostly closed $80-100 and if your willing to modify them, they can create very good sound. Out of the box they are fairly decent too.

http://www.playderecord.com/images/P/sonymdr7506.jpg This is the best headphone ever made. I've 3 of those.

And if you're spending big money on good cans... buy an amp. You'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm running a NuForce Icon with Senn HD650s (a Woo WA6 on the way, yes!). Definitely the way forward.

general advice: be sure to give any pair of headphones a test drive before making the purchase. you should be able to find a wide range of headphones at a local sound specialty store or local distribution center.

i'm currently using the denon ah-d2000's while programming. if comfort is a high priority for you, i highly recommend you check them out.

however, even though these denons have the perfect balance of comfort, noise isolation, and sound clarity for ME, make sure you choose a pair that is right for YOU.

Plantronics GameCom 377 headphones are inexpensive and are comfortable for my big head. I'll never, ever buy anything other than open-ear headphones again.

AKG all the way.

I'm a big fan of the AiAiAi TMA-1. Sound great, look great... and solid as a rock.

I've been using my Audio-Technica ATH-M35's for a few years now and love them.

Sennheiser HD 595s or Audio Technica 900s (if open air is an option).

Please don't actually buy HD 595s. The audio driver is exactly the same as the one contained within the HD 555s, the only difference besides the price tag and model label is that they just stick an (easily removable) sound dampener inside the 555s. Buy some HD 555s and mod them, you'll save yourself some money on a pair of fantastic cans.

More details on the modification process can be found here: http://mikebeauchamp.com/misc/sennheiser-hd-555-to-hd-595-mo...

Do they test the drivers and put the better ones in the more expensive headphones? Or do they just make two different headphones using the exact same driver?

As far as I can tell, it's the same driver. I bought a replacement driver for my 555s and the packaging it came in said HD-555/595 driver.

Wow! I had no idea. That's an interesting business decision on their part...


I would punch a coworker that was using Grado SR-80s or Sennheiser 555s or anything open at work, as they leak so much sound and not everybody sitting near you wants to hear your music. Keep those at home. I'm surprised the SR-80s scored so well!

I love the Beyerdynamic DT-770 personally. Closed ear, comfy, great sound.

My workplace has become absolutely impossible without headphones, so I recently went on a search for something better than what I had on hand, and ended up with three pairs. Specifically I wanted closed 'phones so that I don't drive my coworkers as insane as they drive me, but I didn't want noise cancellation.

* Shure SRH-640. Amazing sound, but a bit heavy and annoyingly prone to creak every time I move my head a millimeter. I keep these at home for light use.

* Beyerdynamic DT-235. By far the tinniest sound of the three, light and comfortable for short period, but boy do they make my ears feel hot after a while. I might start taking them on planes; otherwise I don't use them.

* KRK KNS-8400. A noticeable step below the Shures in quality, but still better e.g. than the HD-280 which I've also tried. No creaking and comfortable even for long-term wear. These are my every-day phones at work, even though the extra-wide headband does look kind of goofy.

I'm no audiophile by any stretch of the imagination, but even I can tell that some of the popular brands are absolute crap. It's too bad more people haven't heard of brands like Beyerdynamic and KRK, because they actually do make much better-sounding 'phones at prices that any geek should consider quite reasonable.

For a real geeky good time, go to http://www.headphone.com (no relationship except that I bought the Beyerdynamic and KRK from them) to check out the frequency response curves and such.

I second the recommendation for any Shure IEMs or cans, and add Senn HD25-IIs for portable use (closed back, high sensitivity, small, light, short cord, built like a tank, German :D ) and Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros for awesome isolation and all-day comfort for your desk.

I'm running a Behringer USB DAC (because it's the cheapest thing that has optical out) via TOSLINK into a Behringer Ultracurve DEQ2496 (using that as my DAC) running balanced XLR into a Henry Engineering Matchbox HD (found used on ebay for $30 mis-listed as "usb headphone amp" lololol -- they're ~$200 new) running unbalanced RCA into a SOHA tube amp that I built. All the stuff that requires mains power is on a OneAC isolater that is built to reduce hum on telecom gear.

And that's my work desk :)

> but boy do they make my ears feel hot after a while

I love the sound of over the ear headphones. Also, I get way too hot. (I also swap shoes for sandals, Mr Rogers style, once I get to work. Can't program with hot feet.)

I alternate between Sony and Shure SE 215 earbuds when I need to work heads down. The Shure's are really effective.

I was hoping someone else would mention the Shure earbuds. They really are amazing. They manage to block out all of the noise around me, except for one particular co-worker...

Be careful if you buy beats from dre on Ebay or Amazon. They are one of the most counterfeited product out there. Probably because the ROI is so high.

This is the case for many popular headphones because a lot of them are priced low. This almost happened to me, but luckily I was too suspicious of a $90 drop in a pair of $150 monitor headphones. Once I did a google search, I found a thread that mentioned many fake ones and showed people how to check if a pair they got was real.

Same with sennheiser products on ebay.

Ive been using a pair of broken samsung earphones for a month or two. Only one earphone works and the other is completely crushed but hey it does the job... sort of.

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