Headphone and Earbud Recommendations?
November 12, 2013 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions for headphones and earbuds to purchase for myself.

Ok, since I bought my first mp3 player (around 2003), I have been attached to the hip (ears?) with whatever mp3 player I own/use at the time. To say that mp3 players have changed my life is an understatement. I have an mp3 player (currently an iPhone, Nano and Shuffle) that I use ALL the time - when I am home cooking, cleaning, relaxing, etc, I listen in the car (through an aux jack), I listen to my shuffle working out at the gym, I listen to one while out walking, etc. I simply love them. AND, over the past 5 years, I have shifted to music to the 'spoken' word (podcasts, audiobooks, NPR, etc). I simply love it.

Having said that, I seem to go through a lot of earbuds. A pair only seems to last me about 9 months before the sound tends to stop in one of the buds. So, I am always picking up pairs of earbuds to use. So I am always on the look out for a new pair that would help me. I used earbuds 90% of the time, but I would like one (1) good pair of over the ear headphones to also have at home to listen to music. Here are some specs:

- I listen to mostly the spoken word right now (audio books, podcasts, radio programs like NPR, etc).
- I do have a large selection of music (I have at least 500 cds that I am slowly transferring to mp3), so I do love music and listen to music a bit.
- My musical tastes vary, but it mostly is with rock, classic rock (not into rap, hip hop, so pounding bass isn't required).
- I am not an audiophile (probably apparent from this post!), but I do appreciate sound quality
- I love ear buds, but have small ears, so the Apple stock ear buds are too big and uncomfortable for my ears.
- I would love to also have a pair of ear buds that can be used at the gym (sweat proof?)

Right now, I have a couple of cheap pairs of in-ear ear buds that I use at home and in the gym. They are mostly priced around the $20 mark and they only tend to last around nine months. I have used various models - JVC, Ultimate Ears, Koss, SkullCandy (the SkullyCandy Ink'd were my favs, until they changed the design and now I don't like the fit). I have paid over $60 for a pair of in ear buds, only to have them die as well. I am worried that if I lay down $75+ for a pair of in-ear ear buds, will they still die on me in nine months? Am I better off just buying cheap pairs and considering them disposable? Or should I lay down for a more expensive pair and hope they last?

I also want one "good" pair of over the ear headphones, that I can use at home while listening to music. I don''t need noise cancellation and my budget would certainly be less than $200. I am leaning towards Audio Technica ATH-M50s. I had a pair of Grado SR60i's, that can HIGHLY recommended on many online review sites, but they are "on ears" and leak music and I just didn't like them.

So that's it. If you need any more info, simply ask. Otherwise, I am looking for a running list of suggestions of both in-ear buds and headphones that I could pick up in the future.

posted by dbirchum to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Wirecutter has recommendations for the best in-ear headphones for under 30 and under 100. They have recs for various over the ear headphones too.
posted by leesh at 6:02 AM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have similar earbud requirements. The best ones I've ever had were a set of higher-end Shures that I got on closeout. They lasted 2 years before I accidentally crushed one of the buds, during which time I had no electrical problems at all. Unwilling to pay the $100+ for similar replacements, I did a bunch of research and settled on the Beyerdynamic DTX 71. I've only had them a couple of months but so far I'm very happy and they seem quite robust -- heavier than average wires with good strain relief, comfortable, very clear sound and no excess bass.
posted by jon1270 at 6:11 AM on November 12, 2013

Best answer: I, like you, go through more earbuds than I'd prefer. I've only dabbled into (~50$) midrange earbuds, but noticed no real improvement in durability over the stock Apple earbuds. I'll probably go with the $15 Panasonic model chosen by The Wirecutter the next time I need a pair.

As for the over-the-ear phones, I'd highly recommend the Sony MDR-7506. I didn't know this, but they're also The Wirecutter's selection for $150 headphones. And they're only ~90 bucks. I love them.
posted by jeffch at 6:26 AM on November 12, 2013

I have Etymotic Research earbuds, and they're pretty great. These are the ones I have (recommended by Cool Tools), which are the older version of these. They have different sizes of the actual in-ear part, so you can pick whichever one fits best. My current ones are 3 years old, and they were only replaced 3 years ago because my dog decided to eat them. I do not treat them gently - they get thrown around my bag/pocket, crumpled into piles on the floor, used daily on the subway, used while running, used in the rain, etc. I've gone through more mp3 devices than headphones since switching to these. I did lose one of the in-ear rubber parts about a year ago, but you can buy a bag of 10 or so replacement tips for around $12.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:11 AM on November 12, 2013

Seconding the Etymotics!

I had the ER6is and used them for two years. I really abused them almost daily until one of the ear buds started to wear. Their warranty support is REALLY good though and will happily replace them for you.
posted by cacofonie at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2013

I think there's a big gap between £15 earbuds and £100 earbuds, with not much worth it inbetween. High-quality earbuds are without a doubt significantly higher quality than the low-medium level phones commonly purchased.

If you really want to get into it, there's a brilliant, exhaustive guide over at Headfi.

I think it's worth noting that earbuds, especially cheap ones, die from a loose connection on the earbud. One leading cause is people struggling to untangle them after fishing them out of their pockets. Even if this is done carefully, there can be unnecessary strain on the connections. To this end, I always highly recommend learning to store your earbuds properly. I have personally used this method on many different earbuds with great success.
posted by Magnakai at 7:17 AM on November 12, 2013

I will say that I am also a big fan of Etymotic in-ear headphones. I have the "cheap" mc5 (around 50$ on sale at Amazon) and they have held up great for the last year that I've had them. The awesome part is that they provide *really* good isolation from the outside world so you can actually appreciate the nuances in the sound without cranking up the volume which not only causes distortion but can hurt your hearing. They come with a selection of ear inserts so you can find the one that fits best for your ears.
posted by scalespace at 8:22 AM on November 12, 2013

I was going to say Grados, but you don't like 'em :D

For in ears, may I suggest looking at the Shure SE line of in ears (I have the Shure SE215).

Those are very, very well built, and the cables are replaceable. They have plugs that connect the cable swivel at the connection point too.
In addition, they come with a whole range of fittings, so you can find one that will fit your ear canals.

I use these as one of my references for mixing, and they do very well. They are very detailed, and I guess, because of that, not as exciting as some sony in ears I've used in the past, so YMMV.
posted by TrinsicWS at 8:40 AM on November 12, 2013

I have both in ear and on ear phones from V-Moda that have lasted years.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:07 AM on November 12, 2013

Earbuds: These Monoprice earbuds are very cheap, and have a reputation for delivering sound of much more expensive gear. I'd say they're worth a flier. Maybe they only last you a year, but at $6, heck, buy two or three.

Circumaural headphones: For delivering very good quality sound and a sturdy build at a reasonable price, jeffch's recommendation of the Sony MDR-7506 is excellent -- They are very well-known and highly-regarded. (Note that the Sony MDR-V6 is essentially identical to the 7506 -- get whichever you can at a cheaper price.)
posted by Alaska Jack at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2013

Seconding the Monoprice headphones linked above. I have a pair, and they sound spectacular. I don't like the fit - they fall out of my ears[*] - so I can only use them at my desk. But they're cheap, and sound great.

[*] Yes, even after looping them around the front in the "correct" way. I have weird ears.
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:06 PM on November 12, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the recommendations and suggestions!! I have been going through them all today and making of list of in-ear headphones to purchase.

As for the over the ear headphones, I had no idea that the Sony MDR-7506's even existed! Interesting. The Amazon positive reviews are insane. I figured that the Audio Technica M50s were the ones I would get, but after reading The Wirecutter reviews and the Amazon reviews on the Sony's.....I might have to get those. PLUS, they would save me a decent amount of coin!!

Anyone here have any experience with both the Sony MDR-7506 and the Audio Technica M50s??
posted by dbirchum at 4:31 PM on November 13, 2013

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