Please help me find my ideal headphones.
June 21, 2010 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find my ideal headphones. My price range is up to $200.

Important to me:

I listen to a wide variety of music, so I don't want a pair that's perfect for one genre but awful with another. Something in the middle is going to work best.

I want a closed circumaural design.

Importantly, and the reason I'm asking here in the first place -- I'm a woman and my head is on the smaller side. I need a pair with a smaller band. Adjustable is simply NOT a guarantee they'll fit. The pair I have now is adjustable, but the band is still too large, meaning the cups smush my ears and any movement of my head makes them slide around. They're actually painful to wear for any length of time. (These are Sony MDR-V700.) Unfortunately, online reviews seem to assume I'm a man with an average sized head and rarely address this concern.
posted by Kutsuwamushi to Technology (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro cans. Wide band, but incredibly comfortable with almost no noticeable pressure on my ears — and I have an ear full of piercings so my old Sony phones were always painful. They cost about $110, and I would have got them about $20 cheaper if I had time to shop online.

Any decent music store (not Sam Goody, but something like a Music Center or the like) will have a rack to let you try on different headphones and listen to music through them.

Unless you have sensitive hearing, you may not notice too much difference between the sound, but you'll definitely get a sense of the comfort level from different designs.

Once you know what you like, you can go shopping online for the best price.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:05 PM on June 21, 2010

By "Music Center" I meant "Guitar Center". I have no affiliation with them, etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:07 PM on June 21, 2010 has a lot of reviews, but I don't know if head size is addressed...
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:23 PM on June 21, 2010

(Sorry, hit "Post" too soon) I can say, as far as personal experience, that based on that website's recommendations I got a pair of Grado SR100's a few years ago and I've always been extremely happy with them. However, I have a medium-large male head and I've got the band adjusted about 3/4 of the way toward the smallest setting.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:28 PM on June 21, 2010

I bought a set of Shure E210s and they have been a revelation. It is honestly like finding out that I've only been listening to half of my music all this time, and the bad half at that.
posted by mhoye at 4:31 PM on June 21, 2010

I own, and recommend Sony MDR-7506 (Amazon link) headphones. They have great range, block out environmental noise, and are comfortable to wear almost all day.
posted by axismundi at 4:47 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I trust head-fi's guide for all my headphone buying advice. The forums are also very good.

For my money, I'd get the HD280 and call it a day. They're supposedly pretty tight, so they should be okay on a small head. There's a thread there with some head-size-specific advice and it seems to confirm this (scroll down for the posts by the user sc53).
posted by yaymukund at 4:51 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have a pair of Sony MDR-V6es, which are the same as the MDR-7506 mentioned above, only they don't have a gold-plated plug. They strike me as having a pretty large band.
posted by zsazsa at 5:15 PM on June 21, 2010

These are quite amazing.
posted by bearwife at 5:20 PM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: Another vote for the Sony MDR-7506. I have a small head and find them much the most comfortable and easy to adjust. I have had a few pairs of Sennheiser HD headphones but found them too large. The 7506 phones adjust by way of a metal strip inside a leatherette headband, so if you find them loose you can simply bend the metal to give you a snug grip.

In terms of audio quality they are a little 'boring' and add nothing to the music, whereas many other headphones optimize to give you an Exciting Listening other words, some engineers idea of what you probably want the music to sound like. I like my audio input uncolored: I do production sound for film/video and the 7506 is closest to what I hear when I take the headphones off and just listen with my ears. This is probably the reason almost every other sound mixer I've ever met uses them too; it just happens that when I started mixing production sound I already had a pair of these and was pleasantly surprised to discover they were the right ones to be seen with.

The fact that the V700s are a poor fit is no surprise, nor is it a good indicator of anything. Although the 7506 is an old design that keeps selling, companies like Sony feel they have to put out new models in every major product line on a regular basis to be 'current' so a lot of their other models are just different for the sake of being different. Most other phones give me ear fatigue after a few hours; some do it after a few minutes. In the case of noise canceling headphones, it's only a few seconds.

I have my hearing tested regularly and at age 40 my sensitivity is still in the 97th percentile. Draw your own conclusions.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:22 PM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

An awesome amount of previously.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:32 PM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: Strongly recommend the Goldring NS-1000. They're terrific, and the band is pretty small.

As with most high-end headphones, if you're using an iPod or something similar, you'll need a headphone amp to make them sing. These are good.
posted by eugenen at 5:55 PM on June 21, 2010

I have Ultrasone 2500s and Sennheiser 595s. Price range is pretty close but Ultrasones have an order of magnitude better sound. To be fair, 595s are somewhat cheaper and are reputed to be a fairly crappy model while hd600s are the good ones, (but out of your price range). OTOH 2500s are open, not closed, but Ultrasone 750s have a very similar sound and price and are closed. I have a smaller than average head and both headphones are comfortable although Sennh's are both lighter and more comfortable than Ultrasone. Ultrasone 2500 were $230 when I got them about 1.5 years ago so hopefully now they're only a bit over $200.

2nd, it's great.
posted by rainy at 8:02 PM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: @rainy, she wants a closed can. The HD595's are open, and Ultrasones look to be open too. is the place to go for any headphone question. That said, the Sennheiser HD280 Pro recommended above would be a good choice. According to this thead, the HD280 should be suitable for a smaller head.
posted by paulg at 8:17 AM on June 22, 2010

...wanted to add my additional vote for the HD280....
posted by kenbennedy at 9:08 AM on June 22, 2010

If you can find them, try out a pair of Sennheiser HD590s. A quick google search showed some new in your price range and some re-manufactured ones for under $140. I have had a pair for several years and been very pleased with them. I think headphones are a very personal choice so try to find some place that will let you try them out before you buy.
posted by Tashtego at 10:58 PM on June 22, 2010

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