What are some great headphones for city walking?
March 16, 2010 2:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for headphones I can use while walking around town. Ideally, they will allow some noise to filter in (i.e., if I'm about to be run over by a bus!) but still allow me to hear podcasts and audiobooks clearly. Also, it would be great if they were compatible with an iPhone (mic and controls). I have trouble with two styles: earbuds (they are very uncomfortable) and over the ear loops, because they interfere with my eyeglasses. So far, I've not found anything remotely useful because I'm so picky. Thanks for any thoughts!
posted by scottso17 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
i use neckband style for a lot of my outdoor activities. they make them with a bud style speaker, too, but i find that there's too much wind noise with them.
posted by lester at 3:03 PM on March 16, 2010

I also dislike earbuds, and so I use these collapsible regular-style over the ear ones. I got mine for like half that price, though, because they were doing a special deal.
Despite normally finding earbuds uncomfortable and also disliking ear loops usually, I just bought these in white for hiking and running. They're actually super comfortable because they come with three size options for the in-ear parts, and they're really soft silicone. The ear loops are also rubbery and soft and don't interfere with my glasses or sunglasses.
posted by ishotjr at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2010

I use the vModa Vibe Duo, which integrates very well with the mic/remote on the iPhone. You say that you don't want earbuds, because they're uncomfortable. If you're referring to, e.g., the type of hard plastic earbud that comes with the iPhone, I'm with you 100%. But the Vibe Duos (and a lot of other models) have rubber gaskets in three sizes to fit your ear canal, and I find them very comfortable. Your ability to hear ambient noise is dependent only on the volume at which you use your iPhone. I expect you would have to listen very loud indeed for an audiobook to drown out Central Square.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:12 PM on March 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've heard good things about Airdrives.
posted by togdon at 4:01 PM on March 16, 2010

Seconding Sennheiser PX100s. Very good value for money, and comfortable, even on large heads, for hours. Reasonable sound quality, with bass that rolls off smoothly below about 100Hz, and highs that are crisp, without being overly bright.
posted by paulsc at 4:07 PM on March 16, 2010

Seconding the comfort and sonic clarity of vModa (Admiral Haddock's comment).
posted by Rain Man at 4:38 PM on March 16, 2010

Seconding vModa as a manufacturer. Their in ear headphones are seriously some of the most comfortable ones I've ever owned. I own the Vibe II, and absolutely love them. And they, unlike so many companies, will make good on their warranties. They also have the advantage of cloth covered wires, rather than plastic, which I find to be far more durable.
posted by strixus at 5:11 PM on March 16, 2010

N-thing Sennheiser PX100 (or PX200 if you want to hear a little less of the ambient noise around you). You should pay about $40-50 for the PX100... not sure how Amazon is getting away with their pricing on this.

A big step up from there is Grado SR-60, which is probably the best sounding sub-$100 open-air headphone, period. They're not nearly as portable/packable, but they're very comfortable and sound outstanding.

None of these has iPhone controls or a mic, but you can add those with a $9 adapter.

I also find earbuds and the typical in-canal-phones to be incredibly uncomfortable, but I eventually found that in-canal phones, with aftermarket comply foam eartips, are quite tolerable, block all ambient noise, and can sound great. The difference in soft foam vs silicone was huge for me. You won't hear the bus honking at you as you walk down the street, though (but you won't hear the baby sitting behind you as you fly across the country, either).
posted by toxic at 6:15 PM on March 16, 2010

As a luxurious but slightly dorky-looking option, I am completely thrilled with my new Bose noise-cancelling headphones. (I have the QuietComfort 15s, which are the nicest-sounding and also silliest-looking option, but there's a model with lower-profile ear pieces as well.) The enormous cushy around-the-ear pieces fit easily over my glasses, and while the noise-cancelling blocks the general roar of background noise that you get in public places, sudden loud noises like nearby cars or approaching sirens still filter through. I bought mine specifically so that I could listen to podcasts on the subway and on my gym's loud, creaky treadmill, and they're so great that I've had to search out more programs to fill all my new listening hours.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 6:41 PM on March 16, 2010

Late to this party, but my suggestion is cheap and sound pretty decent. I like them because they don't interfere with my glasses and are easy to take off and because they don't point sound directly at the ear.

Sony MDR-W08L.

I've been using this style for about five years now with my various iPods (80gb, Touch, old style shuffle - this won't work with the new shuffle obviously which is why I favor the old shuffle).

The allow plenty of noise through, but no much that you can't hear what you're listening to. Best of all, for the price they have great bass and don't sound tinny at all like more expensive (in the supercheap range, mind you) Philips and Panasonic headphones. I also like them because you can pull them off with one hand and keep them around your neck.
posted by smallerdemon at 10:52 AM on May 8, 2010

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