What are the best fullsized headphones for an ipod?
February 4, 2008 12:16 PM   Subscribe

What are the best full sized headphones for around $400 that are capable of being driven by an ipod

im looking for a set of full sized headphones open or closed that are capable of been driven by an ipod for around the 400 - 500 dollar mark as an upgrade from my excellent Grado SR80's

I think ive got it down to 2 pairs the AKG K 701 and the Sennheiser HD 650

Which of these 2 could be driven by an ipod? is there any other models worth considering?
posted by toocan to Shopping (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Sennheisers are pretty much the gold standard for cans but you won't have much luck with running them off an iPod.

Do you have to go with cans? Canalphones give the best bang for the buck with sources like an iPod. I love my Etymotic Research ER6i phones, and the Shures get great reviews as well.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2008

Frankly, I don't think an iPod will put out a signal the quality of which could justify $500 headphones. It's overkill.
posted by uncle harold at 12:28 PM on February 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Use wise i have m-audio sound card which i use at work which i will use with the headphones but i also do a lot of walking and I need a decent set of cans that will do both although it is important to me for them to sound as decent as the ipods flawed jack will allow (i may get a lineout and headphone amp down the line)
posted by toocan at 12:29 PM on February 4, 2008

Last I checked, the iPod was perfectly capable of handling high bitrate compression, and even lossless compression.
posted by mkb at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2008

Sorry, meant to continue that last comment.

If you do want cans, look at the AKG K701s, iLounge really liked them, and they retail at $400.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:31 PM on February 4, 2008

mkb, it's not the source data that's the problem. It's how the iPod gets that data into an analog signal out to your headphones. The only way of getting good audio out of an iPod is to use an external DAC & amp, which means sticking something in the data port & reading the actual files out of them.

Nthing the Sennheiser suggestion though. I bought a pair of EH2200s 5+ years ago, which I don't think they make anymore and are definitely not close to high-end (they were ~ $80 then) , but they're still going strong and have terrific (if a little boomy) sound. I've used the HD280s, and the sound's been incredible.
posted by devilsbrigade at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2008

I'm no monster cable audiophile, but if you want to use your ipod to drive fancy headphones iMod will soup-up your ipod for you. I have no idea if this is sonic-snakeoil, I just thought you could be interested.
posted by JulianDay at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Effigy2000 at 12:42 PM on February 4, 2008

I would also go with an under $100 pair of in-ear buds such as the Shure or Etymotic. The quality coming off the iPod just doesn't justify anything bigger or better.
posted by sophist at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2008

My first generation iPod drives my old MDR 7506s fine. I think they're pretty decent cans, but I'm no audiophile.

If you want to spend that much, you could get four of them.
posted by timeistight at 12:57 PM on February 4, 2008

Ignore everyone telling you that iPods can't have great sound. I have the Sennheiser HD 595s. They sound great, almost as good as their big brother. Most importantly, my iPod is perfectly capable of driving them. A lot of the high-end cans won't work well without an amp simply because they draw too much power. The 595s, in my opinion, are the best Sennheiser headphones to use with an iPod, though the AKG K701s are a fine choice as well.
posted by smorange at 1:03 PM on February 4, 2008

The HD650s are considered preferable to the K701s for portable devices since they have lower impedance and higher sensitivity. The K701s are great phones but you need a serious amp for them to sound decent. Lots of discussion at the head-fi.org forums.
posted by sockpup at 1:06 PM on February 4, 2008

But, yeah, smorange is probably right. The HD595s are the best choice unless you want to get a headphone amp as well.
posted by sockpup at 1:19 PM on February 4, 2008

Response by poster: how do the Beyerdynamic DT880 compare to the sennheiser's ?
posted by toocan at 1:28 PM on February 4, 2008

I have the Sennheiser 595s at work, with my iPhone (and iPod before it) driving them. They sound great, and are damn comfortable to wear all day.
posted by cschneid at 1:33 PM on February 4, 2008

I have Sennheiser HD595s as well. They're awesome (:

I use them with an ipod touch, as well as a firewire soundy-box thingymajig. And they are really comfy as well as sounding good.
posted by ambilevous at 2:28 PM on February 4, 2008

If you like the Grado sound, why not get whatever Grado cans are in that price range? Looks like the SR325i is the sweet spot, actually, at around $300. And they are easily efficient enough to be powered by an iPod.
posted by kindall at 2:34 PM on February 4, 2008

To be honest, I think the best upgrade from Grado will be another pair of Grado. I've got SR125, which are excellent, though not much of a price jump from the 80s.
posted by 6550 at 4:22 PM on February 4, 2008

Pardon me for saying this, but it's the truth:

Spending $400 on a pair of headphones that will be playing mp3s on an iPod is a tremendous waste of money.

Everyone who's said this is correct. Sennheiser HD 595s will sound great on an iPod. They will sound no greater than your current Grado SR80s, though. Seriously.

It's not a question of whether the thing can drive the headphones. It's a question of whether the quality of the source warrants the quality of the reproduction. I've tried a bunch of headphones with my wife's IPod, and all ranges of Sennheisers, Grados, and other quality headphones sound great, but you can't tell the difference between "iPod with $1000 headphones," "iPod with $500 headphones," and "iPod with good $100 headphones." Since you won't be able to tell the quality difference between the $500 and the $100 headphones with an iPod (and I double-dog dare defy you to be able to in a test at an audio shop) you should stick with what works.

I actually usually recommend the SR80s as the best quality headphone for an iPod. I think it's the best you can get that's audible. But you should go to a high-end audio shop and test around. Bring your iPod and ask to try some pairs of headphones.
posted by koeselitz at 4:22 PM on February 4, 2008

Running an iPod with Sennheiser HD 595s would be like driving my Rectilinear floor speakers with an ancient 8-track player.
posted by koeselitz at 4:28 PM on February 4, 2008

For everyone harping on the fact that he wants to use high-end headphones for an iPod, look at his follow-up post. Then get your bold on.
posted by craven_morhead at 4:32 PM on February 4, 2008

Where will these be used? They're both open-back headphones, which won't be very good for usage in noisy environments or for that matter in very quiet ones, as they'll leak sound.
posted by heeeraldo at 4:44 PM on February 4, 2008

Koeselitz is right, toocan.

The amp and d/a conversion in the ipod just won't take advantage of higher-end equipment.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:24 PM on February 4, 2008

No one here touted the Bose quiet-comfort 2? Fantastic set of headphones and excellent noise cancelling too
posted by skybolt at 9:58 PM on February 4, 2008

You can get better headphones than any made by Bose for $50. Bose uses extremely low-quality components and shoddy construction with shiny packages and good marketing to make money off of peoples' ignorance. They should go out of business. Hucksters. And this is obvious with even the most cursory listening test.

And, reading the follow-up (sorry I missed that, toocan) you could probably go with those HD 595s. I can highly recommend them as a good mix of low-cost and high-quality. Though I know your sound will be coming off that m-audio card, I still don't know what your source is; if you're playing MP3s, then you're unlikely to get anything out of the card that's worth buying much better headphones, but if you're using an m-audio card I'd assume that you're playing CDs through it. I'd recommend those HD 595s.
posted by koeselitz at 7:19 AM on February 5, 2008

Koeselitz is right again.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:15 PM on February 5, 2008

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