I'm shopping for in-ear headphones for use with a new iPod.
December 9, 2004 10:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for in-ear headphones for use with a new iPod. Recommendations? Reviews? [MI]

I'm getting an iPod, and I want a nice, portable set of headphones to go along with it. I use a Grado SR80 at home, and considered finding a pair of full-sized sealed headphones for travel, but I don't think I want to lug them around. I'm looking to spend $200 at the most, and am thinking about either the Etymotic ER-6i or the Shure E3C.

Any other recommendations or experience with the above headphones? (Oh, and I won't be using an amp.)
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE to Shopping (21 answers total)
 
Some info here
posted by scarabic at 10:26 AM on December 9, 2004


D'oh! Searched and missed it. Thanks.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2004


And here.
posted by rfordh at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2004


I absolutely love the Etymotic ER-6's I bought recently, and they work quite well attached to either of my laptops or my desktop machine at work, so they should work fine on an iPod without an amp. I do get better sound when they are attached to my yamaha amp at home, but it's a negligible difference.

If you don't care about your headphones being white, headphone.com currently has the ER-6's on sale for $99 (vs. $129 for the white ER-6i's).
posted by AaronRaphael at 10:37 AM on December 9, 2004


Slate did a roudup review on ipod 'phones a few weeks ago. I'm too lazy to google, but it was pretty recent.
posted by Mid at 11:27 AM on December 9, 2004


Sony makes a set of noise-cancelling headphones - model MDR-NC11 - they're ear buds and quite comfortable. With the NR turned on, music from any source is outstanding.

Also - check out some of the nicer models from Shure.
posted by TeamBilly at 11:29 AM on December 9, 2004


I'm very happy using my Etymotic ER-4P's with my iPod, and I've heard good things about the ER-6's (probably would have bought them had they been available at the time).
posted by RecalcitrantYouth at 11:51 AM on December 9, 2004


i think the etymotic ER-6i's are the way to go. I have both the 6's and the 6i's (had to have the white) but in the end I found that i also preferred the white one's because of the slightly different in-ear construction - they use a triple - flange ear tip which seems to fit more smoothly into my ears. I bought mine from minidisco.
posted by natala at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2004


I think I have weird ears because the Apple iPod white earbuds don't fit my ears at all. They hurt after a while and usually fall out. I have some Shure E3s that sound great but are kind of a pain to get in and out throughout the day. Do those Sony MDR-NC11 earphones stay in well?
posted by fionab at 12:21 PM on December 9, 2004


Here is the Slate review mentioned above. Their seach engine is a bit annoying.
posted by fionab at 12:36 PM on December 9, 2004


I have the Sony MDR-EX71SL earbuds mentioned in the Slate review. They are great and are actually $30 at Amazon (not $50 like the Sony store sells them for).

I guess you could spend $200, but I would feel silly.
posted by smackfu at 12:44 PM on December 9, 2004


Like natala, I have both the ER-6 and ER-6i's. I prefer the iPod-specific 6i's for their fit and slightly louder and ever-so bassier response curve. If you prefer a complete flat curve, go with the 6's.

I'd actually prefer it if the 6i's weren't white. They attract too much attention.
posted by Monk at 1:21 PM on December 9, 2004


I have the Sony's mentioned above and after about six months the right bud just stopped working. No stress noticed, nothing I've done has made a difference. YMMV, of course.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:52 PM on December 9, 2004


How much are you willing to spend? I was taught that in any stereo setup, about half of the money should go towards speakers, as its the only component that you hear. If you can afford them, good headphones make all of the difference.

You are right to be looking for in ear phones. They are really the only phones that an ipod can drive adequately without a separate amp. You may be abler to get volume out of other phones, but they will sound thin and tinny without additional power. The best are all canalphones that fit into your ear canal - not earbuds that sit next to your ear canal, like the stock ipod phones.

There are a number of manufacturers and a number of different price points. If you are willing , sensaphonic, ultimate ears, and a couple of others will sell you custom build phone from your own ear mold that will set you back upwards of a thousand dollars. These companies make a lot of the in ear monitors that you see musicians wearing on stage. Well out of my league.

There are two primary midlevel manufactures: Etyonics and Shure. Ety, the 6's are mentioned above, the 4s are their flagship, are supposed to be very precise -- but they do not have very much bass. if your tastes run towards classical and jazz, they are your best bet, but if you listen primarily to rock, electronica or rap (and its various iterations) you will probably be disappointed. Shure and its brethren are a better alternative.

Shure makes three different in-ear phones. The e2s are the cheapest - about $70 or so - and are considered to good for the money, with significant bass. They are however a bit muddy and due to the wide diameter of the plug, the most uncomfortable of the lot.

The e3s go for about $130 and the opinion of them is wide ranging some think they are a perfect compromise between bass response and treble - others, including me, think the sound really weak.

The e5s are the flagship of Shure's line. They cost about $350 and most people consider them to have great sound. The one complaint they sometimes get is that they are a bit pronounced in the mid-range, which weakens the apparent treble response.

I currently use Westone's UM2's which are very similar to the e5s (Westone used to make Shure's phones) but slightly cheaper, slightly more comfortable and without the midrange hump. You can find them for about $260.

After all this, let me send you somewhere else. The forums at Head-Fi are a great place to learn about your options. A relatively friendly place to ask questions too.
posted by rtimmel at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2004


Thanks for the info, everyone. The more I read about it, the more I want the Etymotic ER-4P. The price is really making me nervous, but I'm going to hold off for a bit to argue with myself about it. (I've already been told "hell no" by my fiance.)

If I can't convince myself, I'll probably go with the ER-6i, even though I kind of didn't want a white earpiece.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 4:18 PM on December 9, 2004


I just bought the Sony MDR-EX81's (reviewed here) and I love them. They're the newer version of the 71s. I bought mine at AudioCubes for $57, and they came shipped from Japan. Don't think they're out over here yet.
posted by swank6 at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2004


I have Shure E2c earphones. I can't speak to the E3cs, but the E2s are great--good sound, tight, clear bass, very comfortable, no microphonics, especially with the foam ear inserts. Great phones.
posted by josh at 4:45 PM on December 9, 2004


I used to have a set of the Sony white earbuds (the MDR-EX71SL) and I loved 'em. They sounded great, did a nice job of cancelling out the sound of the train en route to work, and the short cord was perfect for not getting all tangled up when using the wired iPod remote.

My big gripe about 'em, though, is that they fell apart after about a year. I got mine from a friend in Japan, don't know if that makes a difference, but they simply did not hold up to everyday wear and tear in Chicago/Seattle. The carrying case they shipped with was a total joke. I tend to be pretty rough on my gear, though.

I replaced the Sonys with (believe it or not) the Apple in ear headphones. The sound is definitely on par with the Sony's, though I do have to crank the volume a little more than I remember. They're comfortable, but don't fit quite as well as the Sony's did.

Can't beat the price, though. $200 on headphones seems silly to me, especially for listening to compressed music, but to each his own.
posted by jimray at 11:41 PM on December 9, 2004


Cheap, comfortable, effective, and I like 'em: Koss ThePlug, available for under $20.
posted by xiojason at 11:45 PM on December 9, 2004


I have had a pair of sony ex-70sl's for over a year and they have been excellent the whole time(I'm actually listening to them right now). No sound loss in either phone, stayed together perfectly, and the best part is that they are insanely comfortable. For the price at amazon ($30?) this would be the way to go initially. If they don't offer enough for your discerning ear, then step it up later. 30 bucks is nothing if you are gonna go for 200 dollar phones later. Definitely a sound investment at that price. I paid 55 to get the white ones from Japan but I would easily buy the 30 dollar ones if I needed new ones. Baby steps :)
posted by bakerwc1369 at 3:16 AM on December 10, 2004


I have some Etymotic 4P headphones and I really like them. The iPod doesn't drive them as well as I like, but it's good enough. I carry around my headphone amp when it is appropriate. I use open eared headphones when at work unless I really want to work without distraction, then I pull out the Etys. Travelling it's the Etys all the way.

They are expensive, but if you are nice to them they will last for a long time, and the iPod has probably got you hooked on the concept of easily portable music for years to come! I've had mine for almost 5 years now and all I've done is bought filters once for them. I'm still working through the original set of ear pieces (maybe that's gross though).

At the start, you may have some buyers remorse because you aren't used to the bass response on them. I recommend toughing it out. I got used to them and now really enjoy the sound of them, bass included.
posted by cmm at 4:32 AM on December 10, 2004


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