How loud are open-air headphones?
February 20, 2005 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Seeing as I managed to snap the tip of my headphone jack off inside the computer, its time to upgrade. I've been doing my research, and I've narrowed it down. My burning question now deals with open-air vs sealed headphones.

All the review sites say that open air headphones are better, but you have to be careful about bothering people around you with noise leakage. The headphones are for work, and I don't listen to my music at extremely high volume. In the past I've had the pad-on-your-ear type that cost $20 and noise leakage has never been a problem before. My specific question - are the types I've had in the past open-air, and would the lack of a noise problem with them indicate that I should be fine with a nicer pair?

FYI, I'm specifically looking at the Sennheiser 497, if people have any model-specifc information / raves / horror stories.
posted by true to Technology (7 answers total)
Don't use open-air headphone at work. The 497s are great, but I really would be pretty peeved if I sat next to you in a cubicle all day and had to listen to your music.

A closed headphone equivalent in price/quality to the 497s would be the Sennheiser HD 212 Pro, although I'd personally spend an extra couple of dollars and pick up the HD 280 Pro. Money well spent, in my opinion.
posted by Jairus at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2005

The headphones you've had before probably lay somewhere between open and closed/sealed: probably a "vented" arrangement. They're open enough to get decent sound at a cheap price, but closed enough to not bother people that much. The open Sennheisers are very open. If anyone is around you at all, they will hear what you're listening to. Real sealed headphones are practically inaudible to others more than a foot or two away from you. If you're concerned about not annoying those around you, I'd recommend a pair of closed phones. If you're going to be listening in private, open will probably get you better sound for the price. Very good sealed phones: Sony MDR-V6, Beyerdynamic DT-250, Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.

Recent AskMe thread about headphones for work -- note many recommendations in this thread are for open phones, like the Grados.
posted by zsazsa at 10:21 AM on February 20, 2005

I've got a pair of open-air Sennheisers (HD 590), and they sound _great_--much better than the sealed ones I've used--but I could never use them in a work environment. If I'm using them late at night in my home office, they can even bother my wife in the next room if she's trying to sleep.

One larger point on phones, though--you should be careful about what wearing really obvious phones generates as an impression. Especially with the perfectly good more discreet in-the-ear styles that are available, wearing a big set of cans on your head really tends to say "I'm trying to screen everything out". In some cases, that may be perfectly acceptable, or even commendable, but in other cases--even when it's OK to listen to music--really big phones can come across as rude or anti-social. Just a thought.
posted by LairBob at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2005

I have the Sennheiser HD 212 Pro and it is really, really nice.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 10:44 AM on February 20, 2005

hd 280 is good stuff. not only is the sound superb, but it is quite nice to wear in awful winter weather. at work I use some nominal sony cans that $WORK supply, but I am seriously considering buying another 280 just 'cos it sounds so much better. the isolation effect is also quite lovely.
posted by dorian at 11:01 AM on February 20, 2005

I like my 497s, but some people find them uncomfortable to wear.
posted by kickingtheground at 11:40 AM on February 20, 2005

My 497's were a bit uncomfortable to start with; once they loosen up a bit though they were great. My biggest complaint with them is the cable's too fragile, and replacements seem to be very difficult to come by (in the UK at least). They also feel cheap and plasticy, and my set is developing cracks along the band. Nice if you need to be able to hear what's going on around you; not so great if you're expecting them to take much of a battering.

I replaced them with a set of Technics DJ-1210's which are far, far better constructed; they're closed, great for isolation, and have a nifty swing-cup system so you can keep one ear open (they were recommended to me by a DJ). They rest on the ear though, so may take more getting used to.

Both of these are low impedance (32 ohms), which might be important if you're driving them directly from a soundcard.
posted by Freaky at 8:48 AM on February 22, 2005

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