Good headphones (nothing more, nothing less)
October 7, 2013 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I (project manager) work together with my wife (film editor) in a shared office. I like music while I work and she doesn't. One of us needs to be able to hear and respond to the real world, while the other needs not know it even exists. What headphones would be best placed to provide a high level of audio isolation, given the nature of sound in film editing (sometimes quiet), be comfortable for long periods and have a good audio range?
posted by a non e mouse to Technology (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
BeyerDynamics are really comfortable and these are closed/isolated.
posted by destructive cactus at 3:26 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

For questions like these, I usually consult The Wirecutter. I currently use the in-ear $100 recommendation they made three years back, Shure 215's, and am exceedingly happy with them, but it appears technology has moved beyond.
posted by incessant at 3:29 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

The HD380 Pro headphones are almost surely the best phones based on your criteria.
posted by lattiboy at 3:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use the oldie but goody Sony MDR7506. In terms of comfort I can wear them for hours at a stretch, and quiet enough that I can concentrate with a printer right behind me...
posted by tooloudinhere at 3:36 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

The 7506's tooloudinhere points to are a standard for music studio's, are very comfortable, and sound good, although they may not give you the isolation you want if you really need them to cut out a lot of sound.

If isolation is your main focus, you'll want to look into in-ear headphones (sometimes called in-ear monitors), which act like earplugs and headphones combined.

Your budget will go a long way towards helping you decide, so how much are you willing to spend?
posted by markblasco at 3:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should add, that durability is a major plus (I've had headphones over the years, the connections of which tend to be quite fragile and nigh on impossible to re-solder once broken - replaceable leads, or somesuch option would be good).
posted by a non e mouse at 3:50 PM on October 7, 2013

Response by poster: In terms of outlay - I don't want to unreasonably limit the spend as too great a trade-off. I consider this an investment in our relationship ;)
posted by a non e mouse at 3:53 PM on October 7, 2013

I have friends & co-workers who swear by the beyerdynamic DT 770 pro, especially for comfort (velour ear pads) and fidelity.

The 7506's & the Sennheiser HD 280 PRO's are both live-sound-industry standards, I've used and liked both. IMO, the Sennheiser are a little better at detail and comfort, both physical and listening comfort.

I'm currently using a pair of Shure SRH 840's, which I think are actually my favorite so far, and both they and their cheaper version, the SRH 440, have detachable/replaceable cables.

All of the above are available in the U.S. for $200 US or less, if that gives you any help in pricing.

Probably any of the suggestions in the thread so far would work - hopefully there's somewhere not far from you that would have some in stock for you (or your wife) to try on, or order them from somewhere online that will at least give you 30 days to return them (maybe minus a small re-stocking fee).
posted by soundguy99 at 4:08 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

For in-ears, these Shure 215s are the best damn earphones I've ever owned. They foam tips are kinda meh, but the rubber ones hold up amazingly well, and they cabling has held up to a couple years of heavy daily use, droppage, rolled over by my chair, etc. Plus they seriously block out everything around me - people have been known to stand beside me and have entire conversations with me and I've been oblivious. The 215s are on the budget end of the Shure line, so if you wanted to go up in quality, I'd still recommend Shure's in general, perhaps looking at the 425 or 525 as the high end versions of the 215.
posted by cgg at 4:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Came here to post the sennheiser hd280 like soundguy99. Comfortable, indestructable, and the wear bits like the ear cups/headpad and of course cable are readily available as replacement parts(and replaceable in the first place).

They're also cheaper than a lot of the competing models from other brands, while basically having the exact same specs(barring exaggerated "response to 5hz!" garbage)... and seem to have better build quality than the newer models from sennheiser. Seriously, you could get two sets for the price of a lot of the other recommendations.

All the stuff being recommended here is great, but i think a lot of it is kinda just overkill when it comes to outlay. Especially considering that for example the 32 or 80 ohm dt770s while kickass are over $200. My hd280s survived college party houses, the road, daily transit use, and i don't even know what else(I once found them COVERED in... some kind of soup and food. took the cups off, wiped off thoroughly and kept going). Sound isolation has also always been great.

I also have a friend who swears by the sonys recomended above, or the V6/v600 variations of the same model. They're extremely high quality and also nearly indestructible, but don't really block out much surrounding noise unless you're blasting music on them pretty loudly.
posted by emptythought at 4:29 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I always recommend head-fi for my headphone decision needs. Here is their latest guide for full size headphones.
posted by rtimmel at 4:31 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pros that I've had for about 6 or 7 years and they're still working beautifully. They aren't the best headphones I've ever heard in terms of sound quality, but they're very good, and definitely the best I've heard in the price range. I also find them very comfortable, which is unusual for me because I have a big head that doesn't accommodate headphones very well.
posted by primethyme at 4:32 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for over-the-ear headphones, I'll add yet another vote for the Sennheiser HD 280 PROs, which are comfortable, durable, reasonably priced, and sound fantastic. They also block sound well in both directions.

I don't have any suggestions for in-ear headphones - I find them uncomfortable - but if sound isolation is your main goal, a good pair of in-ears will beat out any over-the-ear headphones.

A couple of ergonomic considerations:
  • Does your wife wear glasses? I find that any over-the-ear headphones plus certain pairs of glasses can get uncomfortable after a few hours, as the ear cups press against the arms of the glasses.
  • The fit and comfort of in-ear headphones depends on the shape of your ear canal. I've tried several, including the Shure 215 recommended above, but never found anything I'm comfortable wearing. They're also not particularly shareable, so it's not feasible to try out a pair for comfort before shelling out.

posted by Turbo-B at 4:41 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use a pair of Howard Leight Sync earmuffs on my daily commute on BART, possibly the loudest public transit in the world. These are like construction earmuffs plus reasonably-decent headphones together in one. When you put them on it's like going underwater, but with music! They seem indestructible and cost like $25. I'm sure that serious audio headphones made for serious, eyebrow-furrowing audio listening would sound seriously better, but for the price and not having to hear the BART screech these do an awesome job for me and I am sure you would find the same in your situation.
posted by gyusan at 4:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Turbo-B - She doesn't wear glasses - but I'd have to say that absolute blockage of external noise is the highest priority hear (here). I just had a quick update chat with her (even though she's actually wearing headphones at the moment) and she'd prefer over the ear. I once tried on a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones that made a perfect seal around the ear, which I figured made a lot of sense. Would ear buds be better at isolating external sounds?
Thanks for all these responses - really appreciating this.
posted by a non e mouse at 5:03 PM on October 7, 2013

I've also had a pair of HD 280 Pros for just about 8 years now, and they've made it through college, they're on their third office job, dozens of flights, and at least a thousand hours of use.

Some people complain that they fit a little tight on the head, so I would probably recommend trying on a pair before purchasing.

They're pretty good at blocking out external sound, passively.
posted by Precision at 5:23 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I never thought I'd be a Bose proponent; I still hate their speakers.

But I have to say: The Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Noise Canceling headphones are the shit.

First of all, the noise canceling is GREAT. I've taken these on many plane flights, and I never have a problem falling asleep.

Second, the sound quality is really quite good. Comparable to high end Sennheisers (and I have bought many pairs of them).

Third, yes they are comfortable. (These fit OVER your ears. I wear glasses so that's important to me -- not to have them pinch my ears against the glasses frames).

Fourth, so far, they have been comparably durable. I have gone through many pairs of Sennheisers, to the point of failure. So far, I've only had one pair of QC15's. I wear them to the gym, I travel with them, etc. So far, no failure.

The only downside is that they run through batteries faster than other noise canceling headphones, but I think that's not a huge problem.

You may be able to try them out if you have a Best Buy nearby. That's how I stumbled onto them. I never would have thought to try them out otherwise -- like I said, I hate Bose speakers, always thought they were overpriced crap. But when I tried out these headphones, I was very impressed right away. And I haven't been let down yet.
posted by mikeand1 at 5:40 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I use Sennheisers 380s and I sit and watch and listen to footage all day long. These sit better on my head than the 280s did.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:25 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote here for the Sennheiser 280s, though I too would caution that they can feel like a tighter fit on big heads.

Also, I'd second the recommendation to check out The Wirecutter for things like this! They usually have solid recommendations.
posted by Old Man McKay at 6:45 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just treated myself to the luxury of a pair of PSB M4U 1 over ear headphones. Freakin awesome!!! They come recommended by Wirecutter actually.

I have a big head so after 2 hours or so they start feeling somewhat tight. That's the only complaint. I suspect they'll break in like a good pair of shoes.

The sound quality and seal are fantastic.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 7:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote for 280s, if you really want over-the-ear.

But, for the ultimate in comfortable noise isolation, nothing beats a custom molded in-ear monitor. I have a pair of Alclair reference, and one of my office-mates swears by his Etymotics. Neither of us would go back.

I never really got used to in-canal plugs when I tried them, but I found that they were much more comfortable if they had Comply foam tips. This is a huge step up from silicone, but still nowhere near the comfort or silence of a custom fit.
posted by toxic at 7:53 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another vote for the Sennheiser 280s, which are the same thing I recommend every time this comes up, because I've been using them for years.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:39 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a film editor and I have used an old standard -- the Sony MDR-V6 -- ever since forever. Comfortable, durable, inexpensive, and excellent sound. It's an older model so there's probably a more updated version which is better, but for countless situations requiring headphones over the years, I've never felt the need to upgrade.
posted by MosheTovia at 11:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The most durable headphones I've had are Grado Labs SR60 (their cheap set). I've had them since 1998 and they still work perfectly! They are pretty comfortable and the pads are replacable. But not very sound blocking.

The Bose noise cancelling do a decent job of cancelling constant noise like airplane drone, but not great for blocking voices. Unless they've gotten way better in the last few years. And I had trouble wearing them for more than a couple of hours without my ears getting raw and sweaty. The sound quality was never as nice as the Grado set.

For noise blocking, in ear are the best choice. Love Etymotics, even the cheap ones sound good and have a wide tip selection available, so you can try them and not be out more than about $60. And as mentioned earlier, Ety does custom molds that fit their in ears like regular tips, so even if you have to replace the actual phones, you can move the earpieces over to a new set. MC5. The HF5 is the next model up and a little more comfortable as they're externally smaller. They take all of the same tips.
posted by monopas at 11:56 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone who answered this question. ALL your answers are being considered in our fruitful discussions about headphones and trade-offs - will maybe need to ask a further question about how to deal with the tyranny of choice.
posted by a non e mouse at 4:24 PM on October 10, 2013

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