headphones for my head
September 3, 2009 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Another headphone buying question: what is the style/make/model/etc for me?

I want to upgrade my standard-issue iPod headphones but I'm having a heck of a time. I really don't know what I want, and browsing sites like headphone.com are leaving me a bit paralyzed by choice. I don't mind earbuds, really, but I understand that the sound quality is never going to be as good as they are with other designs. I've had in-ear headphones in the past, too (Sennheiser and JVCs that look like these but possibly not that exact model in the case of the Sennheisers) that sounded great, but got pretty gross and gunky because of earwax no matter how clean I tried to keep my ears. I've also had bigger, over-the-ears headphones that I liked the sound of; however, the long cord drove me nuts when I was walking around and they were pretty clunky.

I usually listen to music on the bus or walking around and sometimes at my computer, and generally listen to rock. Very rarely I'll listen to classical. Ultimately, I'm looking for comfort and sound quality on a budget. I'm not sure if I am crazy about the behind-the-head ones, though, and I have big ears that make me worry about the clip-on ones. It is also important that they're compatible with a Canadian winter and play well with toques.

What do you recommend? I don't want to spend too much money-- maybe up to $40 at the outside--and if I can go pick them up locally in Canada (at Best Buy, The Source, Future Shop and so on) so much the better.
posted by synecdoche to Shopping (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I too hate earbuds and struggled with a portable solution. I like these Koss KSC75 ones that clip over each ear. I have tried other clip-ons and these are the only ones I have found comfortable...lots of "clearance" between the ear wire and the earphone, and they can be reshaped too. Plus, with their warranty, I beat my last pair to hell and when one of the wires finally broke I got a replacement set for the cost of shipping. I think the sound quality is good but I am no audiophile by any means.

In the US you can get them at Radio Shack. I think there's a store locator on the Koss site.
posted by cabingirl at 7:30 PM on September 3, 2009

Personally, I've always loved in-ear earphones because of size and portability. You ask a really difficult question because a lot of it is based on your own style and preferences. Go to Amazon.com, search for headphones and sort it by price and ratings. I just did that and pulled up dozens of good headphones.
posted by Wanderer7 at 7:49 PM on September 3, 2009

I've used a pair of Koss clip headphones, although they were an earlier version and they were very good. Easy to put in a pocket and good sound for the price.
posted by demiurge at 8:02 PM on September 3, 2009

I push people towards in-ear monitor (IEMs) style for any kind of mobile use for compactness, unmatched external noise isolation and sound quality. I am a huge fan of Etymotic Research products. The design specifically addresses the earwax issues w/ replaceable filters and they are shipped w/ several different styles of tips to help with properly fitting different ear shapes and sizes. The ER6i is their entry level product but if you can wait a bit the HF5 is very nice upgrade both in terms of design and sound quality and is frequently on sale at Amazon for $99 shipped. In my opinion, you really haven't experienced all the advantages of IEMs unless you have at least tried a pair of Etymotics.

The Apple branded IEM has been getting favorable reviews as a good value over at Head-fi

If you absolutely can't tolerate IEMs or afford the Etymotics then the Koss Porta-Pro is a long time favorite for an on-ear budget headphone and is substantially cheaper than any of the worthwhile IEMs.
posted by well_balanced at 10:29 PM on September 3, 2009

I had a pair of Sennheiser PMX60s that I liked. I ended up switching to the CX300s because earbuds do a better job of blocking out outside noise, but the PMX60 sounds good and is pretty comfortable.
posted by sinfony at 2:17 AM on September 4, 2009

I'm a big fan of Grado Labs cans. I got my SR60 headphones from 8th street music in Philly. They manage to avoid the ear canal, thus avoiding the gunk problem. And, I rather like the sound.
posted by Citrus at 8:45 AM on September 4, 2009

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