Quality headphones for listening music at home

Ilya

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No home entertainment system is complete without a good pair of headphones! I figured it's time to start a thread about headphones. Surprised we didn't have one yet.

Curious what kind of headphones you guys use for music? How do you like them? Please share your thoughts and impressions.

Let me start by sharing my impressions about my latest purchase. I've been looking for decent headphones, mostly to listen to some music while I am working on my computer. I wanted higher-end headphones, but not necessarily audiophile-grade, something under $300. Headphones that would have clean and rather accurate sound but yet would be forgiving enough to tolerate less than perfect source (mostly my iPhone). Full-size over the ear headphones that would provide good isolation, but would be comfortable enough to wear for hours straight, without much fatigue. And I think I've just found exactly what I've been looking for!

MOMENTUM-M2.jpg


After doing some research on-line, after reading numerous reviews and discussion threads, and after trying many different headphones in stores I decided to buy Sennheiser Momentum M2. Just picked them up at a local Magnolia store for $299 (normally $349). This is a new model released earlier this year. I tried the previous version of Momentum too and it sounded great, but the ear cups were just too small for my ears. The new Momentums have slightly bigger ear cups that fit my ears perfectly and these headphones are also foldable for easier storage and transportation. The sound quality has also improved a bit based on what I read, though personally I didn't have a chance to compare them side by side using the same sound tracks.

I have just started listening to these, so it is certainly too early to post any verdicts yet, but my first impressions are pretty good! A rather confident and well-balanced sound. And a very comfortable fit! Like them so far!
 
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gadgtfreek

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I bought these, didn't wanna spend more than $100 because I do not use them a lot. It's mostly if I wanna stay up late with an adult beverage, some music or dvr's, and the wife heads to bed. Part of it was because as convenient as the headphone jack is on the remote of the Roku, I wanted something better.

They clamp down pretty will on your head, sound good, and are a bit heavy though. I bought an ext cable so I sit in my chair and plug them into the marantz.

http://www.head-fi.org/products/sony-mdr7506-professional-large-diaphragm-headphone
 

Ilya

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After spending some time with Sennheiser Momentum M2 headphones I admit, I have mixed feelings. Initially I liked them very much. Excellent build quality, comfortable fit and the sound is pretty darn good on most tracks that I played. But some tracks sound rather rough to me. Bass is overpowering at times: and that seems to be affecting the midrange too. Certain tracks sound not pleasant at all. Almost boomy and unnatural. Frankly I expected a more neutral sound from $300 headphones. Not sure what to think. Is Sennheiser going in the Beats direction? Or is it just revealing the imperfections of the source? I am so confused now.

To sort this all out, I decided to get a very different pair of headphones: AKG K550. Very popular and well regarded headphones. In about the same league with Momentum, but an older model and currently being offered at just $154.95 at Amazon. For the next few days I will be listening to both models switching back and forth. It will be interesting to compare the two.

K550.png
K550box.png
 
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Ilya

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After many hours of listening to (mostly lossless CD-quality) music from my iPhone and switching back and forth between K550's and Momentums, I think I have made up my mind and do have a clear winner! To my ears and for my music tastes anyway.

Let me first say, that both of these headphones sound great and can easily beat (pun intended) many of other headphones found in Best Buy or Guitar Center, even at a similar price level. At the same time, neither set is perfect, each has its weaknesses and limitations. You just need to decide which of these weaknesses you can live with and which ones are deal breakers. And that of course is very subjective.

Let's start with the build quality and ergonomics. Both companies have done a great job here. The new Momentums have an edge in portability: lighter, smaller headphones, folding design and a nice travel case is included too. Big points for using genuine leather for ear cups (and for making them bigger in this version)! Very comfortable! The K550's on the other hand are much bulkier. They fit fine on my big head, but I've read some complaints from people with smaller heads: hard to achieve a good seal.

K550s come with a good quality permanently attached cable. The cable is thick and rather long (3 meters), but it is soft and light, so there is no problem folding it and sticking in the pocket. On the other hand, the extra length allows me to connect it directly to my audio system with the included adapter. K550 doesn't offer any controls on the cable but I believe there is a K551 model that does.

The cable included with Momentum M2 has a mic and controls for either iPhone or Android (you have to choose the type when you buy). It is very thin and short. Looks and feels kind of cheap and delicate certainly intended for portable devices only. No adapter provided. The good thing is that the cable is actually detachable (using a proprietary locking connector), but replacement cables from Sennheiser are very expensive - almost $100 each! You can get cheaper third-party cables though.

And now the sound (the most important factor for me personally). These two headphones sound very differently! Momentums have heavier bass and somewhat sharper treble. Overall the sound appears richer. But oftentimes the bass is overpowering and the sound becomes somewhat boomy, affecting the mid range too: very noticeable on some guitar tracks and vocals. The M550s on the other hand might be somewhat lacking in bass extension (bassheads won't like them), opting for more control and precision. The bass is actually there and goes pretty deep (Kanye West's Love Lockdown sounds amazing!) it's just not as pronounced as with Momentums.

Personally, I do prefer the more controlled sound of K550's. Should something be lacking in their sound, I probably won't even notice that. But when there is too much of bass or when the mid range starts suffering with Momentums, I notice that right away and that distracts me from enjoying the music. But where the K550's have really won me over is in how open and how clean the sound is. Pretty amazing for closed headphones.

So, for me, AKG K550 is the clear winner! I would've chosen these headphones at their original MSRP of $350. But at less than half the price as they are offerd now, it's a no brainier!

I strongly believe that the sound quality is very subjective. Our ears are different; our music preferences are different; our tolerance to sound imperfections is different too. The only proper way of choosing speakers or headphones is to audition them! So if you are deciding which headphones to buy, stop reading reviews ( including this one ;) ) and do some auditioning instead. Reviews can help in narrowing down the choices and in pointing out some advantages and shortcomings, but only your own ears can decide what works for you and what doesn't.

-Ilya
 

Ilya

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Several years later, and the AKG K550, are still my favorite headsets! I did have to replace the ear pads, as they started to flake. A rather expensive OEM replacement, but I liked the headphones so much, that wanted to prolong their live. And I didn’t want to risk affecting the sound quality by using cheaper third-party pads.

Another over-the-ear set I use is Audio-Technica ATH-ANC900BT. These headphones have a different purpose though: they are Bluetooth and have active noise canceling. They can be used in a wired configuration too.
 

harshness

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AKG makes some really good equipment and the prices aren't insane. I'm not a fan of the fit of most models but the reproduction is good for monitoring.

My daily driver is a Sennheiser open-back over-the-ear model. They have no outside noise protection whatsoever. I also have a set of Sennheiser over-the-ear noise-canceling headphones that I use in the server room.

There's a lot that goes into picking the right set of "cans". For my big melon, comfort is very important.
 
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Howard Simmons

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My headphone of choice is the Hesh2 by Skull Candy. Bluetooth and hard wired. 2 year warranty that has run out since I've had them for three years and use them all the time. Noisy neighbors.
 
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Ilya

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AKG makes some really good equipment and the prices aren't insane. I'm not a fan of the fit of most models but the reproduction is good for monitoring.
I read that AKG headphones don't work for everyone, but for me they fit perfectly. Not too tight not too loose. The only headphones I can wear for hours.
 

harshness

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I read that AKG headphones don't work for everyone, but for me they fit perfectly.
And that's perhaps why many prefer one brand or model over another. Great sound doesn't sound so good if it hurts to wear the headphones.

I highly recommend that if you can't test drive your candidates, get them from somewhere that has a easy return policy.
 

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