Wherein A Headphone Hater Tries A Life With Cans

prime minister

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Work has me travelling for the next few months, so I'll be without my stereo for a while. As my accommodations won't allow anything that could fill the room with sound, headphones are my only option. While I do enjoy my AirPod Pro 2, and they sound dramatically better then the first Gen versions, for relaxed music listening, something in my ears isn't quite what I want.

So, headphones seem the best option. But, I just don't like the modern take on headphone use. That is, a separate streamer, amp and wired headphones. Just seems like more hassle then I want to deal with. If only, there were headphones that didn't require all of that stuff to make them work. Hmmmm.

Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. There is now a huge assortment of wireless Bluetooth headphones available, many from big names in audio. Sennheiser, Bang and Olufson, Bowers and Wilkins, Bose, Sony, etc. Prices range from the low double digits up to the far side of $1000. Of course, wired cans go dramatically higher.

Now, there is some good and bad in that description. The good being the wireless part, the bad the Bluetooth side. While Bluetooth is incredible technology for phone calls and connecting your phone to your car, I've yet to hear a Bluetooth setup that did audio well.

And, sadly, I do have a disease. It's called audiophilia. This means that sound quality that the average person would find not only acceptable but fully enjoyable, I find lacking. Decades of training myself on high end gear has left me unable and unwilling to accept mediocre quality audio. At least, when I'm trying to lose myself in the music. Poor sound quality becomes a distraction. It pulls me out of the music, especially on tracks that I know intimately.

Finally, money is an issue. Once this work journey comes to an end, I doubt I'll be spending much time listening to them again. So I've set a goal for myself of a price in the $500 usd range. Darko says that a good quality $500 headphone system will sound better than a couple of thousand dollar regular system in an untreated room. Is this true? We shall see.

Of course, there will be learning in this for me. Not just the technology, but also how to listen to, and enjoy, a headphone system. It seems obvious, but listening to cans is a different experience, and one I'm not at present trained for.

So join me now as I jump head first into the world of headphones. The journey will begin with the Sennheiser Momentum 4.
 
It'll be nice to see how you do. Just me, neither headphones nor car stereo are worth the annoyance. Quiet compares favorably.

When in a hotel room for the night, I suffice with youtube music vids on a laptop, by accepting the crappy audio in favor of entertaining video. For example, I can't get thru a Widespread Panic studio recording on the big rig, but can really enjoy a concert vid lying in the sack. I suppose, though, that even in that situation, decent audio could easily win out. A full symphony would be nice, time being in excess.

Too, I'm not convinced that Bluetooth audio can't cut it. So, yeah, let's see how you go.
 
Headphones are a pain, and noise in the car is horrible and annoying.
Car has like nine speakers. I dont they have ever done more than:
In 300 metres, turn right, In 300 metres, turn right.


Joe
 
Flying below the radar is a wide assortment of Shure in-ear headphones, some of the best I’ve heard and owned, still do. I’ve owned five pair of headphones from $1000 Sennheiser to $275 Grado, neither of which sounded as good as the Shure. The Grado were fun, the Sennheiser were “meh” despite their pedigree but the bottom line is I don’t like headphones. That said, I was a road warrior for for almost 30 years with LOTS of flying while maintaining my audiophila complex.

i detested the free airline headphones, didn’t like Bose and couldn’t abide carrying around yet another piece of luggage with some large wired headphones so I bought the Shure. Very good sound with a decent level of noise reduction, although they make NR models now. They were relatively pricey but certainly under $500, I believe they still are.

Jus’ sayin’ ;)
 
Flying below the radar is a wide assortment of Shure in-ear headphones, some of the best I’ve heard and owned, still do. I’ve owned five pair of headphones from $1000 Sennheiser to $275 Grado, neither of which sounded as good as the Shure. The Grado were fun, the Sennheiser were “meh” despite their pedigree but the bottom line is I don’t like headphones. That said, I was a road warrior for for almost 30 years with LOTS of flying while maintaining my audiophila complex.

i detested the free airline headphones, didn’t like Bose and couldn’t abide carrying around yet another piece of luggage with some large wired headphones so I bought the Shure. Very good sound with a decent level of noise reduction, although they make NR models now. They were relatively pricey but certainly under $500, I believe they still are.

Jus’ sayin’ ;)
If you remember the Shure IEM name I’d be curious, not to derail the thread. I’ve found I get better sound straight out of my phone with in-ears than big cans. Makes sense I guess. Less mass to move. I was using a nice pair from Campfire Audio but they broke.

As for the bigger headphones PM and I have been discussing this for awhile offline and I’m curious where it goes. I have a pair of Audeze LCD2 that I’ve had for like 12 years that have maybe 25 hours on them. I just can’t get into the in the head experience and when I travel I bring my Sony Bluetooth headphones Wx-1000m3 or something or a pair of Focals that I bought as home-recording monitors.

The Momentums should be great. I bought my dad the previous gen ones. They sounded quite nice.

I don’t deny this stuff can sound amazing. I just personally don’t find the experience as …involving? It’s so isolating. So maybe it’s too involving?
 
If you remember the Shure IEM name I’d be curious, not to derail the thread. I’ve found I get better sound straight out of my phone with in-ears than big cans. Makes sense I guess. Less mass to move. I was using a nice pair from Campfire Audio but they broke.

As for the bigger headphones PM and I have been discussing this for awhile offline and I’m curious where it goes. I have a pair of Audeze LCD2 that I’ve had for like 12 years that have maybe 25 hours on them. I just can’t get into the in the head experience and when I travel I bring my Sony Bluetooth headphones Wx-1000m3 or something or a pair of Focals that I bought as home-recording monitors.

The Momentums should be great. I bought my dad the previous gen ones. They sounded quite nice.

I don’t deny this stuff can sound amazing. I just personally don’t find the experience as …involving? It’s so isolating. So maybe it’s too involving?
Welcome back, John! It's good to see you again. Always enjoy your expert opinions.
 
Hardwire is best four sound quality, but curious to see what you find in the wireless realm. Tuned in!
 
Maybe I can help.

I think old transistor radio’s earbuds got smart and headphones got sophisticated. It’s a different stereo world.

I shamefully say that I continue to use the old 2014 Bose QuietComfort 25 wired headphones. I’m not a Bose fan but when it comes to headphones, they know what it takes. They have similarities to a fruity phone company. If Bose dropped their prices $100 & maybe gave some specs, they would sell plenty more. But about my old QC25. It does everything competently. If you read the years of positive reviews, you’d be overwhelmed.

The QC25’s are classics. When others die, they continue on. Old but sophisticated tech keeps them going. So I don’t have to spend $350 every couple of years, they are powered by a simple AAA batteries that gives them 35 hours of use. I made mine hybrid: uses a Li-Ion AAA battery that has a circuit to reduce power to an unwavering 1.5-Volts.

For fantastic Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), the QC25’s design uses several microphones both inside and out that are controlled by a microprocessor. Recently, my son locked himself out of my house. He rang the doorbell, called on both phones, banged on the door and yelled. Despite my ‘phones moderate listening level, the ANC was switched on. I couldn’t hear him. They also work well if you want a deep sleep. They work good.

Run out of power, they still work. Not great but better than dead.

Music is like rum & Coke. Full-bodies, clean mid-octaves and gentle sparkle. It swarms me with cuddle music. Not accurate. But then, full-fidelity is in and accuracy is back-seat. This is definitely cuddles music with clarity and deep (not loud) low-end impact.

Did I say the QC25’s are wired? They were in 2014. Easy to update and still has strong third-party support. Mine have a low cost wireless adapter. Made by “Yocowoco.” Yeah; that’s the name. It sounds just as good as wired. And looks like it belongs. Need pads or new head-band? All of them are still supported by third parties and found at very low costs. Again - beats throwing away $350 every couple of years.

I think Bose & Sony are battling for the ANC trophy. They are neck & neck.

One wireless headphones is nipping at their heels at low cost. Check out the Anker Soundcore Life Q20. Around $40. I bought it on a whim. Unfortunately, runs on non-replaceable Li-Ion battery. But ANC is quite good: not Bose or Sony class but really well done.

Like the smaller earbuds?

Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds with ANC are down to around $200. Was close to $300. Again effective ANC. Good low end and vocals but tends to downplay upper octaves. The older WF-1000XM3 with ANC sounds more accurate but discontinued. Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro with ANC are close.

Prices are going down. In a couple of years, they will be the price of calculators.

Another bargain is the “Skullcandy Dime” series. Around $20. But no ANC.

You can use older ‘buds like my “1more Triple Driver.” Modernize them with a wireless adapter. I use the “1Mii ML100.” About the size of a car alarm key but very thin. Looks basic but has high performance. High-fidelity, very good connection range, rare to no dropouts, and plenty of un-distorted volume. Easy to pair. 15-hours battery time. Uses modern USB-C. Has two simultaneous BT connections. Real on/off switch and volume buttons. BT 5.0. Mic. Plug it into your favorite and get fidelity. All for around $14.50.

I have more ‘phones & ‘buds. Mostly cheap ones but not all of them. Never will – way too many of them now. But, I have choices. It is nice to work in my backyard and carry my Hi-Fi music in my head.

Well, I talk too much so, I post little.
 

This :beat

”The other differentiator is the fact that users can create their own Personal Sound Profile by completing a Mimi Hearing test through the Nothing X app, to create a unique sound profile. After that, users will experience audio adapted to their unique hearing ability, as availability in multiple other TWS earbuds and headphones, including those from Skull Candy.”
 
My neighbor gave me a set of ANC BT OTE Toshiba sfrom his electronics store as a gift. The sound is meh. but they are servicable for treadmill work at the gym. I also have some erratic Senneheiser, AKG, and Sony on ear or OTE phones I could use with a BT dongle or my old Note 2 phone via headphone jack, as my current phone doesn't support wired connections. My hearing aids make in ear buds unusable, plus I don't like the way it traps the body sounds inside my head
The only time I use the phones is traveling or in public places like the gym. For a private space. I think I'd prefer a BT speaker like the JBL Flip 5 which seems to be a favorite around here.
 
I somehow accidentally turned spatial audio on in my AirPods and …um… I really dig it. I’ve never really liked headphones at home despite having a couple of pretty slick headphone setups… they’re travel companions for me, as well as providing a bit of drive at the gym.

While flying yesterday I was noticing that Qobuz sounded better over my AirPods than usual. Then when I turned to look out the window, the soundstage stayed straight ahead. Which resulted in me moving my head around randomly trying to figure it out, and the lady seated next to me to think I’m a total weirdo.

It’s not purist but I don’t really care for that kind of thinking applied to my headphones anyway. It was fun, trippy, and worked surprisingly well in getting me to think only about the music. It didn’t sound overtly effected though the midrange was more emphasized than usual. Reminded me of the Dolby setup in my car (which I also use at all times ….fakes a centered soundstage for the driver).

I liked it so much that I’m considering the over-ear AirPods Max.
 
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