Looking for wired, portable, over-ear headphones that last.
March 15, 2017 11:10 AM   Subscribe

  • Not wireless. No batteries. Must be wired.
  • The wire must be detachable from the headphones.
  • The over-ear parts must rotate so that the unit can be packed flat for travel w/Laptop.
  • Must sound good. Must be well built. I want them to last for 5+ years.

  • Things I don't care about:
    - Noise cancelling; I can take it or leave it.
    - Microphone. I'm ordering a USB microphone to handle video conferences.
    - Price. I'll go up to $1000 but they better last.

    The last three pairs of ~$100 headphones I've bought haven't lasted a year. One was Marshall, one was no-name (but branded Lamborghini), one was Sony.

    posted by jeffamaphone to Technology (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
    Oh yeah, no Beats.
    posted by jeffamaphone at 11:11 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]

    Well this might sound crazy, but then I saw your $1000 budget and this might work for you. The best pair of headphones I've ever had I am still using after 10+ years, are Ultimate Ears UE-11s (that was the top of the line model when I bought them in 2006-7). They are basically the monitors that musicians use instead of wedge monitors on the ground. However, they are in-ear rather than over ear, and I know you specified over, but they are just amazing and I think you should consider it. I have 4 friends that have them as well, and they all agree they are amazing, they all say it's the best audio they have ever heard and only 1 out of the 5 us had one side break in 10 years and he was able to pay a couple hundred bucks for a replacement.

    This is at least the facts for the headphones I have, I'm less familiar with their current offerings.
    Pros :
    - Incredible audio, sounds better than most high end stereo setups. They have 4 drivers.
    - The are passively noise cancelling by completely filling your ear canal, this exceeds the abilities of active noise headphones I have used.
    - They have a plug you can remove from each side that allows you to hear outside noise reduced by a -10db filter. I remove the plugs when I am snowboarding with them, and put them back when I am on an airplane.
    - They are incredibly light and will not fall out of your ear as they built from your ear mold. If you get your mold done right you will quickly forget you are wearing them. They are great for sitting on a plane or running. skiing whatever.
    - They have detachable cords, and they provide multiple cord lengths which is great.
    - They are very customizable, you can pick what color. Mine are clear and have my initials on them.
    - They are very compact, the case is half the size of a deck of cards.
    - They are customized to you no one can borrow them, no use to potential thieves if at least they know what they are.
    - They are amazingly durable, I've had mine for at least 10 years. I'm a big clumsy dude, normal headphones maybe last 3 months with me. I go through 2 phones a year, that's how hard I am on stuff.

    - Very expensive my UE-11 Pros were $1150, but they have other models that are cheaper
    - In ear when you want over (my apologies if I'm wasting your time with this comment, I just can't say good enough things about these headphones - it's probably my highest satisfaction I've ever had with any purchase).
    - You have to go to an audiologist and get a mold made of your ear canals, and there is some turn around time while they make them. I think they store your molds for ever, so if you ever lose them etc, you don't have to do that part again.
    - You can't share them with people.

    Ultimate Ears for Audiophiles
    posted by ill3 at 11:35 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]

    I use a pair of v-moda over ear, noise isolating (but not cancelling) headphones that I think are great. They do fold up for portability, though not flat, and are well-built. I've had them for about a year with daily use. I'm not an audiophile or anything, but am quite happy with the sound.
    posted by Jacob G at 11:52 AM on March 15

    I've had my Shure SE215 for about 5 years, it's holding up very well and hits all your checkboxes.
    posted by TrinsicWS at 12:20 PM on March 15

    I would suggest Senheisser as a brand, though I'm not especially familiar with their current lineup. I love my Bose QC35 and they have a detachable wired version but I wouldn't trust them to last 5 years.
    posted by masters2010 at 12:31 PM on March 15

    I've been using these Sennheisers for my electronic drum kit. Good sound quality, and good isolation (so you don't hear the stick noise). I've had them for at least 4 years. Replaceable cable, fold up flat.
    posted by monospace at 12:35 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

    Former Tumblr coder and thus independently wealthy Internet personality/software devleoper Marco Arment has a headphone problem, and blogs about them frequently and in a way I find useful.

    His most recent update, from right at a year ago, called out the B&O H6 2nd Generation model as particularly great from sound and portability perspectives. Retail is $300, which is well under your price point. At this point, if my Sennheisers died, I'd buy these.
    posted by uberchet at 12:59 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

    I've had my Bose headphones for more than 5 years. I love them and they're holding up great. I treat them well, and zip them into their case when I put them in my bag.
    posted by BlahLaLa at 1:29 PM on March 15

    If sound quality was your top priority, there are several headphones within your budget that check all your boxes, except for the requirement for folding flat. My favorite headphone in that price range is probably the Focal Elear. It has removable cables, metal housing, and very comfortable ergonomics. I think anything that folds flat will occupy a lower tier in terms of sound quality. That being said, most headphones in that price category require external amplification to sound their best. I think ill3's IEM suggestion may be a better way to go if you value portability.
    posted by strangecargo at 1:33 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

    I ended up with V-Moda Crossfade M-100s to replace my V-Moda LPs. The ones Jacob G links is the On-Ear, not the Over Ear, which I tried first (look at how tiny and sleek they are!) but all On-Ear headphones inevitably make my ears hurt and they were no exception, so I returned them and went for the big over ear version.

    I'm no audiophile, so I can't speak much about audio quality, but I am rough on headphones. Like, constantly forgetting I placed them on the table and walking away so they get yanked onto the ground, dropping them onto freaking concrete, cords getting yanked out all the time, accidentally stepping on them. So V-Moda's what I end up getting because they are built like tanks but so comfortable I can wear them almost all day every day, which is the other reason I wanted wired headphones--no battery life to worry about.

    I managed to beat up my M-100s to where one side stopped working, but because they were under warranty I sent them in and they fixed them and sent them back to me. (My previous V-Moda LPs lasted four years and were still playing on one side? Which is pretty impressive given my complete abuse of them.) Additionally, even after the two year warranty is up, I can buy a replacement at 50% off.

    The one problem for your specifications is that while the ear cups do fold up for compact travel storage, they don't fold up flat. But I can get them small enough to fit in a small purse, so they might still be okay. Alternatively, they come into their own sleek protective carabinerable case you could clip onto your laptop bag.

    One nice feature about them: they have dual AUX in. That is, you can choose either the left or right side to plug your audio cable into.
    posted by foxfirefey at 2:31 PM on March 15 [1 favorite]

    A couple of point - first, the best resource for these sorts of questions is head-fi - they will have years of archived discussions on anything headphones. Second, you price tag and you desires work at a bit of cross-purposes. $1000 gets you started up into the rarefied air of high-end headphones (but of course, by no means the high end of the high end). That means that you are looking at headphones that are optimized for sound, not ruggedness. The expectation is that you will be listening to these in a climate controlled listening area and plugging them in to a dedicated headphone amp - there is no thought going into flattening and throwing them into a laptop bag.

    That said, as mentioned above, Sennheiser makes excellent headphone and are noted for their solid build and warranty. Also look at Grado, another company that makes solidly build headphones (though they are all open air so no sound blocked either in or out). As also mentioned above, if you like and can wear them, many of the iems are very durable - made for professional musicians that travel every day - replaceable cables , the works. Take a look at Westone's professional monitors, for example. Also, for ultimate durability, there are monitor cases that are all but bullet-proof
    posted by rtimmel at 3:23 PM on March 15

    These Monoprice headphones, for reals. I have them. They take a decent amount of abuse, they have a detachable cord, and they sound great and even better with a headphone amp. And they are cheap as hell (around 16 bucks, at the moment). Seriously, even headphone nuts like these. Google 'em if you don't believe me. Really, I love mine, and the first pair I have lasted me about three or four years till the crossbar thingie snapped, but that was my own stupid fault.
    posted by old_growler at 8:20 PM on March 15

    My Bose AE2 are 5+ years old & still in excellent condition (I've had to replace the ear pads once). They meet all of your requirements, still available to buy. There is a newer replacement model but I haven't tried it.

    I wear headphones most days at work, these are closed-back so don't leak sound & upset colleagues. I've been very happy with the audio quality, although I'm no audiophile.

    I think I'd spring for the noise-cancelling version if these do ever give up, but really these have been great for my needs.
    posted by paulash at 3:07 AM on March 16

    Way inside your budget and seconding monospace above, the 380 Pros by Sennheiser are great. I owned the 280's before, and they never failed-- ended up donating to a friend when I got the 380's.

    The ear cups /eventually/ start deteriorating under high-use and many years, but luckily everything is replaceable, so you can just reorder ear cups as needed (in fact every part can be ordered). They fold flat or into a ball and sound just great.

    If you're using them for iPhone/portable music-- I'd recommend getting a more lightweight cable though, the coiled one it comes with has a surplus of gravity and is impracticable if you're a 'headphone wire under t-shirt' person, I ended up getting this one which was compatible, if it's more for desk use-- this cable might be better, though I don't enjoy the texture of the wrapping.
    posted by Static Vagabond at 5:57 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

    I've had these Sony headphones for about 3 years and they're amazing. They meet all of your qualifications, aside from a battery for the noise-canceling function - but without the battery, they work as normal without the noise-canceling. I've noticed no change in performance over that time, the sound quality is very good, and they still look new (I travel with them regularly).
    posted by hootenatty at 12:01 PM on March 16

    I have the wireless version of the Bang & Olufsen H6 and absolutely love them. And if anything, the wired version is supposed to have even better sound. They can be somewhat polarizing (you either like the "warm" B&O sound or not) but if that sound works for you, they're awesome.
    posted by duien at 5:57 PM on March 16

    Thanks all for the great advice. I actually bought the Monoprice headphones since they're all of $26 and actually seemed legit. The sound is pretty good (for $26) and it checks all my boxes. They aren't the most comfortable things on my big ol' head, but I'll give it some time. They do seem like they may have some weak construction points on the headband, but I can replace them nine times and still break even with the B&Os. If I decide I don't like these I'll have to go try out the B&Os. Thanks again!
    posted by jeffamaphone at 3:11 PM on March 22

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