Decent Headphones For the Holidays | Bleader

Monday, November 30, 2009

Decent Headphones For the Holidays

Posted By on 11.30.09 at 12:36 PM

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As a sorta-audiophile, I get sad when I see people with expensive mp3 players using the stock, mediocre earbuds, especially iPod earbuds. You may know someone like this! There are better options. I can't guarantee that any of the following are the best that certain amounts of money can buy, but I've used and liked all of these.

Grado SR60i
  • Grado SR60i

Home/office: Grado SR60is. Currently $79.00 at GoodCans. I have the SR60s, which were recently upgraded. They're worth the money, though if you listen to bass-heavy music the headphone nerds at GoodCans suggest the slightly more expensive SR80s. If the look is too bland, there's always the RS1i if you have an extra $695 lying around.

Update: In comments, cinchel makes the good suggestion that if you want to buy Grados locally, check out Saturday Audio Exchange. I haven't shopped there in awhile, mostly since the refurbished '70s Rotel receiver I bought there several years ago is still running great, but they were knowledgeable and friendly when I bought it. I do like to go there and drool when I'm in the neighborhood, though; they have the Grado SR60s listed at $69 on their Web page.

These are probably better home/office headphones, and only office-worthy if you don't work right next to someone. They're totally open, which means they let sound in and out - which is a good thing for sound quality, since closed headphones create interference patterns - and thus aren't all that great for mass transportation or library use.

Koss PortaPros
  • Koss PortaPros

Bang for the buck: Koss PortaPro, $27.43 at Amazon. Legendary cheap headphones with a great bass response, very good for hip-hop. These are also open, so they'll leak sound in and out. If you do most of your listening on the El or planes, look elsewhere. I think they look sort of nerdy cool, but YMMV. More fragile than I'd like, but the sound quality is awfully good for the price. GoodCans has more.

Koss KSC75
  • Koss KSC75

Running: Koss KSC75, $16.43 at Amazon. Again, great headphones for the price, similar to the PortaPros except more exercise-friendly. Also open, but if you're running or walking that's not necessarily bad. Modifiable for allegedly superior sound quality, though I haven't tried it.

Shure SE110
  • Shure SE110

Mass Transportation: Because I spend so much time on the bus and train, I use Shure SE110s ($79.95 at Amazon). They've got a clear sound with a good bass response for in-ear monitors, though it requires regular fiddling with the fit, and, well, cleaning out the earwax (a well-designed gadget is thoughtfully included). I don't particularly like noise-canceling headphones, so you're on your own there. Earbuds don't fit in my ears, so no advice there either.

Bonus Cheap mp3 player recommendation: The Sansa Clip ($24.99 and up on Amazon) and the Sansa Fuze ($58.50 and up on Amazon) have developed good reputations with audiophiles. The former is really cheap and small; the latter is bigger and more expensive, but holds more music and is expandable with a microSD/microSDHC card. Both are compatible with the uncompressed FLAC format. I have the former and have been impressed with it, though the screen is very, very small.

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