Headphones that don't bleed
May 3, 2019 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I love my Sony MDR-7506 headphones, because: great sound, super comfortable, high quality, 3.5mm w/ 1/4" adaptor, spring cable that doesn't turn into a big knotted ball. There's just one huge problem with it: Sound bleed. People in the next cubicle can hear my music. Is there a comparable headphone model with these features that keeps the sound between my ears for under $150?
posted by gwint to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You have a reasonable "Closed back" model of headphone. "Open back" models are much more frequently the culprit in a music leaking situation. The "cans" on your headphones are flatter than the older style and may be contributing to leak but it may simply be a factor of how loudly you're playing your tunes. Or it may also be a function of how tight the fit is against your head.

FWIW if sound Ieakage is the primary issue you may want to consider the type of headphone you're using. There are in-ear-canal models with flanges that work like earplugs that are well renown for sound isolation. Also bone conduction models are getting more popular too. Both show more promise for keeping music to yourself. But they obviously are not the same as your current flat can type.
posted by kalessin at 6:40 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

Those are good headphones, for sure. I'm kind of confused why there would be leakage with them -- they're full over-ear, they're closed-back, etc.

Could the issue be volume?

I ask because after years of being a serious partisan for in-ear monitors like Etymotics, I just picked up a set of Sennheiser HD 4.50s as a result of a make-nice store credit from Dell. They're bluetooth (but can also be used on a wire if you prefer), and feature active noise-cancellation. I've got a long plane ride coming up, so I thought "why not?"

They're pretty amazing. I'm taken aback, honestly. The ANC stuff is like magic, and results in needing to play music at a lower level because the background sound is drastically reduced. If part of your problem is the level at which you play music to drown out external sound, these might help a LOT.

Amazon has them for about $145. See here.
posted by uberchet at 6:48 AM on May 3

Yeah, I use those cans all the time and don't notice anyone saying there's a lot of bleed. They need to be properly fitted around your ears tightly. You may be listening to your music very loudly, or just have a bad fit, or as kalessin says it's time to consider an in-ear option.

I will say that my partner often wears SONY wireless headphones (WH-CH700N, about $140 or so) that sound great and have almost no noticeable leakage even when I'm sitting next to her. The pads are bigger and spongier and the fit is tighter than on the MDR7506 (and the sound is waaaay more processed and compressed, a problem with all wireless bluetooth cans, and especially noise-cancelling ones, you won't see wireless cans in a recording studio for a reason, and you will see more MDR7506's in studios than any other model of headphones ever made, there's a reason they are the universal entry-level standard for studio recording cans). So you are giving up audio quality to move from those Sonys to anything wireless or anything in-ear that doesn't cost more than the $100 or so those cans cost.
posted by spitbull at 6:48 AM on May 3

You can also try replacing the earpads on the MDR-7506 cans with better quality memory foam pads, as a lot of studio users do. There's a bunch of options to choose from (Amazon link). It might help marginally to produce a better seal as the foam holds to the precise shape of your ears once its used a while much better than the stock Sony pads.
posted by spitbull at 6:55 AM on May 3 [2 favorites]

Sorry to pepper the thread but as a long time user of MDR-7506 cans I want to also suggest you turn up the bass on your audio player. The great thing about those cans, and why pros use them to record and mix audio, is that they *don't overemphasize bass frequencies* the way almost all consumer-grade over-the-ear cans do, especially the popular noise-canceling and wireless models. Those Sonys are flatter than a rabbit under a steamroller. As a result, if you crave more bass (as many users of the Sonys do when they come to them from cans with the usual over-boosted bass) you may be turning up the volume louder to compensate (ah, the fletcher-munson curve, sigh). By bringing up the bass in the EQ you may find it more satisfying to listen to them at lower volumes.
posted by spitbull at 6:59 AM on May 3 [5 favorites]

As others have said, I'm surprised that the MDR-7506 is bleeding--they offer pretty good isolation. I also agree that IEMs, noise-cancelling headphones (with the goal of limiting the volume required for listening), or replacement earpads might be good options.

Headphone-wise, the Beyerdynamic DT-770 M 80 is made for drummers and sound engineers, and they offer about as much isolation as you'd get short of wearing ear protection.
posted by box at 7:04 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

How long have you had the ear pads? New pads will make a difference in comfort and the quality of the seal.

But also I’m gonna second what kalessin said about how leakage is more commonly an issue with open backs. Even with semi-open backs on my favorite cans the only complaint I got was the day I was listening really loud. How loud is your music? If you’re getting a noticeable amount of leakage with closed cans, either your office is exceptionally quiet or your music is, in fact, too loud, even taking worn out pads into consideration.
posted by fedward at 7:04 AM on May 3

If the volume is loud enough for sound bleed,you may be damaging your hearing. As a person who was born with poor hearing, it's really worth protecting.
posted by theora55 at 7:20 AM on May 3 [6 favorites]

Or go crazy and get some 3M WorkTunes brand ear protecting headphones. The Bluetooth model is like $75. I’ve never used them but reviewers say the audio is surprisingly good and the design is meant to protect the ears of industrial workers, so the ear cups are massive and very well sealed and they are engineered for maximum comfort. You won’t hear anything from the outside. But it should work the other way around too.
posted by spitbull at 8:28 AM on May 3

Headphone nerd here. Closed-back headphones can absolutely bleed sound depending on factors such as the material the pads are made of and the clamping force. You could try replacing the pads first and see if that makes a difference. Otherwise you could look at the Beyerdynamic DT770 or the Brainwavz HM5 both of which are highly isolating.
posted by mattholomew at 8:55 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

A lot of good advice here. These are pretty commonly used in tracking applications (where bleed is a big concern), so if you're getting a lot of bleed it's likely that either you have them up really loud, which as theora55 states can have potential consequences for your hearing, or your pads aren't seated right, in which case it's worth trying some aftermarket pads, of which there are a lot of options for this particular phone.

The idea about adding more bass through eq is a good one. Lots of people are used to the hyped bass response of Bose or Beats - these have a much flatter bass response, so especially if you're listening to anything mixed to be played in a club you're probably going to hear a lot less bass than expected.

That said those Beyers are great phones.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:10 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

I have been extremely happy with my Audio Technica m50s. The new m50x has a replaceable cable, so you can switch between straight, coiled, or bluetooth. I'll buy another pair once mine die, but it's been almost 10 years and they show no sign of giving out.
posted by TheCoug at 11:54 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]

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