High Quality, High Isolation Cans?
January 12, 2012 9:23 AM   Subscribe

I need high-quality headphones with good isolation and good sound quality, for use in a cube farm with an annoying air handler hum. Any recommendations?

I work in a cubicle farm that has an HVAC system running pretty much non-stop 7a-6p. For the past four years I've been using some Sennheiser PXC-250 noise-canceling on-ear cans, but the cord is going bad, and I'd like to switch to passive noise-canceling. A friend let me try some Sennheiser 550s and they sound amazing and are just barely in my budget if I stretch it a bit, but they're open-back, and I'm worried they'd not isolate the annoying humm in this space even if they do sound spectacular. I'd like to go either "so high-quality that I will not want another pair of headphones for home use" or "good quality, and cheap enough that when I have more budget, I can pick up some open-back cans for home use too." I listen to a mix of folk, folk-rock, alt-rock, jazz, blues, and occasional heavier punk stuff. Vocal reproduction is very important to me, but I don't want to sacrifice bass to get it.

Any recommendations? What sounds great and will block out the obnoxious humm?
posted by Alterscape to Shopping (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I JUST (as in, they arrived through the post today) bought myself a pair of Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10s. They are amongst the top of their class in the "below £500" category.

The best thing is, they are going super cheap on Amazon at the moment. I am guessing that UE are getting rid of a bunch of end of line stock before they release something new.

An unbelievable bargain. A year ago these would have been closed to £300... At present, £109 including postage.


I am very happy indeed. My last pair were UE 700s and although I adored them, the cable got screwed up.

A great thing about the top end UEs is that the cable is completely replaceable for about £20. Win

(sorry if you are US based. My links are UK, but I am sure you can find equivalents yourself)
posted by bollockovnikov at 9:31 AM on January 12, 2012

Sennheiser HD280 Pros are the best value gold standard for over-the-ear. I haven't tried those UEs bollockovnikov mentions but just about any Shure, Etymiotics, or UE in-ear monitor will be superb for blocking noise and giving great sound.

I use midrange Shures (older SE300s) at work and couldn't be happier - I also use SE425s to travel. Their warranty (and service) is spectacular and I'd recommend Shures for that alone.
posted by kcm at 9:57 AM on January 12, 2012

Best answer: The Sennhiser HD-280 and Sony MDR-V6 (or the sibling, the MDR-7506) are my usual go-to recommendation in this approximate category.
posted by box at 9:58 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get some quality studio monitoring headphones. These are remarkably good for around $50.
posted by monospace at 10:03 AM on January 12, 2012

Seconding the Sony MDR-7506.
posted by doctord at 10:04 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd like to go either "so high-quality that I will not want another pair of headphones for home use" or "good quality, and cheap enough that when I have more budget, I can pick up some open-back cans for home use too."

For what it's worth, I recommend the second of those options.
posted by box at 10:46 AM on January 12, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the recommendations. Ended up going with a factory refurb MDR-V6 set for less than a new MDR-7506. Will report back re: satisfaction once I get them!
posted by Alterscape at 12:53 PM on January 12, 2012

HD280 Pros and MDR-7506 are both great recommendations -- as far as anyone can tell, the MDR-V6 and MDR-7506 are precisely identical except for the cords (straight vs. coiled) and the color of the stickers. I've owned them both in the past, and they're perfect for this use. Only warning is that the HD280 actually gives some people headaches because they grip your head so firmly. Stretching of the headband may be in order.

I will also second the Ultimate Ears triple.fi 10 recommendation. That's what I'm using now -- they occasionally drop to ridiculously low prices on Amazon, especially on Black Friday. I got mine for $95 a year ago when they're usually $400, although they are fairly low now.

One additional note about the triple.fi -- there are two versions, the 10 (which is the one usually on sale), and the 10vi (which is much more expensive, but has a microphone, remote button, and straight plug). If you're using them with an iPhone, other smartphone, or iPod Touch, the 10vi is very useful to have. There are dire warnings on the UE support site about not replacing your cable with one from a different model. The reason those warnings are there is that it's trivially easy to buy a 10vi replacement cable for $30 and turn your 10 into a 10vi. The 10vi current costs about $250 more than the 10 on Amazon, which is why UE would really rather you didn't do that.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 12:57 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Senn HD 280 Pros. I love these things. I've had 'em for 5 years and they just bring everything to life and cut most everything out from around me.
posted by zombieApoc at 4:30 PM on January 12, 2012

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