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March 2, 2012 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Audio filter: My beloved Sennheiser HD 202 desk headphones died last weekend. What should I replace them with?

I prefer to keep a desk set of headphones for listening to things at my computer, but the aforementioned Sennheisers finally went out in one ear. I really don't want to spend more than $50 on headphones, but I'm reading a lot on sites like Head-Fi that the best deal under $100 are the Grado SR60i's, which are $80. I've thought about buying another pair of HD202s, but I suspect that I may be able to do better. The 202s took on a muddy quality that I didn't notice until I plugged in my new walking-around headphones (some Audio Technica ATH-FC700s, which are tight but good for being mobile and recommended) and was surprised at how much cleaner they sounded.

Because they are desk headphones, I'm not worried about portability, looks, or durability too much. I just want them to sound good (there is quite a bit of bass and electronic music in my life, if that's a factor), be relatively comfortable, and be a good value.
posted by koucha to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you need something that blocks out external sound too? Will your music annoy others if the headphones are open like the Grados?
posted by MonsieurBon at 5:37 PM on March 2, 2012

If they were that beloved, can't you just get a new pair of the 202s? They seem to be around $30 online.
posted by thorny at 5:40 PM on March 2, 2012

Response by poster: @MonsieurBon: Blocking external sound is not so important. I have family members who have complained that I was dead to the world with my Sennheisers on.

@thorny: Like I said, I have thought about that, but I'm open to other options and potentially better sound at a comparable/better price. Perhaps "beloved" was too extreme of a word. I apologize.
posted by koucha at 5:58 PM on March 2, 2012

If you're looking at the Grado SR60i, consider the SR80i, at just under $100. I've had a pair of the SR80 for several years and have been fairly pleased with them.
One thing, as pointed out by MonsieurBon, they are open (as in not sealed) so you will be able to hear everything around you along with the music, and those around you will be able to hear that you are listening to music, but not necessarily exactly what the music is.

For staying under $50, I've heard that the iGrado is pretty good.
posted by nickthetourist at 6:01 PM on March 2, 2012

Note that the HD202s probably sound "muddy" because they have a flat frequency response, while most consumer headphones have boosted highs and lows, which most people find to sound "better". I use HD280s, and going from them to Bose headphones... Well, I find the Bose to be tinny-sounding. I used to like them, though.

Have you considered the 280s? My lab has a dozen pairs that get heavy use. I've never seen a broken pair. They'reom touch under on Amazon now.
posted by supercres at 6:14 PM on March 2, 2012

I had an older version of the Grado's, the Sr-80, and recommend them over the 60s, because of the deeper bass and slightly thicker sound. I really enjoyed them for the past 8-10 years: very detailed mid-range, the open air design makes the sound very transparent and wide while you still hear background noise (and your environment can hear you. not ideal when listening to Childish Gambino or Tyler the Creator, but I digress). With metal (guitars + double bass= eargasm) and trance/house/electronic their sonic qualities can really shine, but they wouldn't be my first choice for hip-hop, classical, opera, or poorly recorded music because the bass could be lacking, or the treble too peaky and unforgiving for long-term listening (2 hours before I get fatigued with these.) The pads also pinched my ears/glasses. Expect the foam earpads to crumble after years of exposure to moisture and compression...

I replaced the earpads for $7 and gave the Grado's to my brother, who loves them with care. Then I bought a DJ-quality $200 set of Sennheiser HD25-ii for myself after querying the Head-fi forums (I need durable, noise-isolating, deep-bass, & decent impedence) and $50 Koss PortaPros for my sister and got instant jealousy. Yes, the HD25s will get louder and isolate sound better, and wont need to be super-glued like after knocking them around, but the PortaPros sound better balanced than the SR-80's, at least 95% nearly as good as the Sennheiser's to my ears for less than a quarter of the price, plus they are more portable if you need it, and have a better tote-bag (pleather vs nylon.)

tl;dr Koss PortaPro! Retro Goodness Fer Cheap, Yo!
posted by Giggilituffin at 8:20 PM on March 2, 2012

I replaced my 202s with 201s.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:31 PM on March 2, 2012

I have a pair of the Sennheiser 280s mentioned above, they're pretty indestructible as far as I can tell. I've had them for about 10 years and they've suffered a ton of abuse, and near daily usage the last 3 years. The only issue with them has been some of the plastic has come off the headband, but it hasn't seemed to affect them negatively, they're just a few grams lighter now. They are pretty sound isolating though, so if being dead to the world is an issue, they probably aren't right for you.
posted by borkencode at 9:39 PM on March 2, 2012

KOSS are always good value for money, so 2nding them.
At the price you want, it'd need to be second-hand, but anything by STAX is great.
Finally, Seinnheiser's wireless headphones are excellent (again, 2nd hand)
Good luck!
posted by Prof Iterole at 3:10 AM on March 3, 2012

I can highly recommend the Grado SR-60, with the Sennheiser 414 ear pads. It produces a very good sounding, very comfy pair of headphones. Before I tried these I was a fan of the sound, but not the comfort of the Sr60s. The SR80 pads made it sound even better, but were even more uncomfortable. The 414 pads make it super-comfy and a real pleasure to use.

Some people mod them and put a hole in the centre. I haven't bothered because it's too damn comfy to mess with, though if you're intrigued, they're cheap enough to pick up a spare pair to try.
posted by Magnakai at 3:21 AM on March 3, 2012

I really love my AKG K240 Studios, which you can find under $100 or spend more for the MkII that supposedly has better earpads.

After a couple great years with Sennheiser 555s which were extremely comfortable but a bit warm for my taste, the K240s sound quite flat to my ear. And the auto-adjusting suspension is always comfortable. I'll probably get the MkIIs' velour earcups soon as the original pleathers are about dead, but they have lasted a good five or six years.
posted by a halcyon day at 8:56 PM on March 4, 2012

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