Headphones to take a licking and keep on ticking
August 26, 2009 11:47 PM   Subscribe

What are the sturdiest headphones you've ever owned?

My younger brother has asked for headphones for his upcoming birthday. He tears through headphones at an alarming rate - about four pairs a year. He's a high school student, and he keeps his newest pair at the bottom of his backpack, sleeps with them on, and abuses them in a variety of other ways. I'm not sure which brands and models he's torn through so far.

I'd like to buy him a pair of headphones that will keep working for more than a month or two. Hopefully they'll sound OK and won't cost more than 50$. He'd probably prefer on or over the ear headphones to earbuds.

I've seen this thread, but the discussion mostly focused on making sure the headphones wouldn't damage the kids' hearing.
posted by Rinku to Shopping (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I'd recommend just buying 4-6 pairs of some cheap Coby earphones such as this or this. I use them daily and have no complaints. They've generally lasted more than a couple months. Lost one set, my bike ate another.

Also, they're very comfortable - unlike every other earphone/headphone I've used, they don't eventually cause pain.
posted by unmake at 12:29 AM on August 27, 2009

For less than $50, you're not going to find anything terribly durable. What part of a pair of headphones does he usually break?

For cheap headphones, I've very much liked the last two I've had: the Sennheiser PMX60 and the Sennhesier CX300. The former are of the over-the-ear variety, with a solid band that goes behind the neck; the latter are earbuds. Both sound quite good for the price, and I haven't managed to break that CX300 (I did wreck the PMX60s by stepping on them). I tend to dislike earbuds as well, but the CX300 has much more of a cushion and is actually pretty comfortable, and blocks out noise pretty well.
posted by sinfony at 1:28 AM on August 27, 2009

I have these and think they fit the bill perfectly for the following reasons:
1) They fold up so you can put them at the bottom of a backpack or whatever and they'll be in a ball instead of a big delicate arch.
2) The speaker parts snap off rather than break off so if they do come off you can just reattach them.
3) When they do break as all headphones eventually will, koss has a "no questions asked" lifetime warranty where you can just send them back + $6 or so for postage and they will send you a new pair. (I have done this)
4) imo they also sound quite good and look pretty badass.
posted by 12%juicepulp at 2:30 AM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had a pair of Koss Pro/4X's back in the day and they were made of pretty stern stuff. I'd be willing to bet that the PortaPro line mentioned by 12%juicepulp, having stood the test of time since 1984, is worth a try.
posted by EnsignLunchmeat at 5:18 AM on August 27, 2009

Koss makes some decent ones although the sturdier ones go for at least $100. They sell a cheaper pair for $50 although they may not be able to stand up to too much abuse.
posted by JJ86 at 5:59 AM on August 27, 2009

Grado SR60. Nearly every stereophile I know will attest that they're easily the best bang for the buck (~$65). I own a pair and have put them through the ringer. They are tough and produce a killer sound. The earpieces swivel 360 degrees so they can fold flat and take up minimal room in a bag.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:02 AM on August 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Grado SR60. It's as indestructible a headphone as you'll find in that price range, although they list for $79 not $50. The SR60 will also sound better than anything in this price range. The Koss PortaPro isn't bad, but I doubt that it would last as long as the SR60.
posted by paulg at 6:52 AM on August 27, 2009

Sennhiser HD280s are pretty indescructible (they're also huge DJ-style earphones), but they're a little pricier than you're looking for. DJ headphones in general are pretty durable, but it'll be hard to find actual DJ headphones, as opposed to things that look like 'em, for fifty bucks.

It might be better, though, to buy him a hard case to keep his headphones in (or, as b1tr0t suggests, talk to the kid about taking care of stuff). I don't know that there are any headphones that will stand up in the long term to the kind of abuse you describe.
posted by box at 9:16 AM on August 27, 2009

3rding the Grado Labs SR60. I've used mine for 8-10 hours a day for a decade with nary a problem.
posted by torquemaniac at 10:14 AM on August 27, 2009

I've had these for maybe 5 years of travelling, commuting, and daily abuse. They sound great for sub $100, they fold up, and the headband is made of a flexible memory metal which won't snap. I think they might be discontinued, but it might be worth checking ebay as they are the only outside-use headphones I've had that didn't break after a few years...
posted by lovejones at 10:59 AM on August 27, 2009

Response by poster: I actually gave him Grado SR60s this christmas. They too were destroyed in short order. That's the pair I use, though, and I agree they're great headphones.
posted by Rinku at 11:37 AM on August 27, 2009

Sennheiser's bottom tier PXC 100 are cheap and sound pretty nice. They're open air so they don't block outside sound. They used to come in a hard plastic travel case that would take quite a beating and protect the headphones. I don't see the case on that page but that doesn't mean they don't come with it anymore.
posted by chairface at 2:23 PM on August 27, 2009

I have a pair of old Sony MDR-V6 headphones that are big and bulky but still totally solid, except the plastic crap they coated the wrap-around-head-piece-part with is falling off in flakes. Sorta annoying but I really don't care that much, it is purely cosmetic.

But the electronics seem to work great, I've replaced the pads once and they are basically good as new. They sound pretty damn fine too, I've gotta say.

I honestly don't remember when I got these, or how I got them--I think I stole them from my dad (jeez, I really owe him one if so...)--but I know I've had them hanging around for at least a decade.
posted by dubitable at 3:51 PM on August 27, 2009

Oh, and--at the other end of the spectrum, I've got some cheap-as-hell Skull Candy Ink'ed earbuds which have lasted me a good while too, and I think they sound pretty damn good--and are quite comfortable--for the money ($10-20 a pair depending on color...I would say get these before Coby-branded crap--Coby sucks...trust me, I go through headphones like water too...).
posted by dubitable at 3:54 PM on August 27, 2009

Sorry, didn't see the "would prefer over-the-ear" part of your question at first...still, if he is willing to consider earbuds at all I would suggest looking into the skull candy ones.
posted by dubitable at 3:56 PM on August 27, 2009

Oh (and I swear this is my last post!), but I gotta agree with those suggesting he take better care of his gear. Destroying a pair of Grado headphones through a lack of care is quite a sin, IMHO. Those things are sweet.

The most well-built gear can be trashed through negligence. He really should learn that if he cares about music, because if you care about music you will start collecting nicer and nicer (and pricier and pricier) stuff to either perform or play recorded music on, and you've gotta take care of that stuff (if you're not absurdly wealthy, at least, I suppose...but that's lame...).
posted by dubitable at 4:01 PM on August 27, 2009

Seconding dubitable. My Sony MDRV6s take a licking and keep on ticking. I use them outdoors constantly, and they are off and on a lot, stuffed in bags a lot, and generally subjected to abuse. The current pair has lasted at least 3 years, and still sounds great. The tolerances are a little loosened up, though. I have to adjust them more often lately.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:41 PM on August 27, 2009

But on reflection, I think MRV6s are too good for this purpose and second cheap Coby crap.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:42 PM on August 27, 2009

If he destroyed a pair of Grados, and quickly, just give him a pile of cheap crappy headphones, like unmake suggested. He can't care that much about quality if he treats them like that.
posted by sinfony at 1:04 AM on August 28, 2009

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