Headphones Or Earbuds?

Most of us listen to music in places where speakers just won't do, but we all have different preferences for how we go about doing that. Some like the big sound and presence of over-the-ear headphones, while others like the portability and isolation afforded by in-ear monitors.

What do you use to listen to music when you have to listen alone? Big? Small? Cheap? Expensive? Noise-cancelling?


    Bowers and Wilkins P5 in isolated environments, and the Bowers and Wilkins C5 while at the gym/running

    Shure SRH1440 Cans are the real deal. None of this pumped up artificial bass like you get with other cans. It's like having Boss companion speakers in your ears, the highs are beautiful, the mid range is just where you want it to be and the bass, while present, is never overbearing.

    I've tried numerous 'in ear' headphones and despite spending upwards of $400 on then, have never been truly impressed.

    And avoid Sennheiser at all costs. Unless all you listen to is Deadmau5.

      Do you mean "Bose companion speakers"? If so, then I hate to break it to you but no Bose speaker ever made has anything approaching a natural sound. You won't find them in any studio, anywhere in the world. They colour the sound in a similar way that a loudness circuit does - boosting the lower mids to make it seem punchier. Their sound is very distinctive and really easy to pick, which is the absolute worst thing you can say about a speaker.

        But if a person enjoys the sound made by a speaker is that not make your comments moot? The only reason you tell others about how good your choice in speaker is because you probably could have enjoyed listening to a 'lesser' set of cans if it were not for your ego that convinced you pay more. Now your main priority is bragging to justify your choice to yourself rather than simply sitting quietly somewhere enjoying some tunes.

        No highs, no lows, must be Bose! My dad actually had a set of the original 301's I think they were when I was a kid and I thought they sounded great, but I was a kid so I was probably wrong. I'm a fan of big speakers with big drivers so they just aren't really something that I would look at anyway.

        In answer to the question though, I'm all for headphones. I have a set of AKG K240 MKII's that I use for music, K44's that I use for tracking acoustic guitars (cheap and not great, but a click track is less likely to bleed than my K240's due to the open backs) and Razer Carcharsis' that I use for games (I like the over the top bass and headset). I do have some Sennheiser earbuds that I use if I'm out in public, but they are nasty.

      I have the SRH940 and they are superb driven from high quality source and amp. I imagine the 1440 will be superb too but I can't justify open headphones in my situation.

    Cans over in ear, buds just don't do high dynamic, high bit rate music justice.
    Grado 325i for listening to music at home, Beyerdynamic DT1350 headphones with a Fii0 E17 amp/dac and ipod classic for tunes on the move, lastly a pair of Sennheiser RS180 Wireless Headphone for late night gaming sessions.

    I think around the $80-$110 mark is spot on for in ears, anything more and you don't see any further benefit, most sets lower sound terrible and die a quick death from regular use.

    I've personally had the Klipsche S4i, Ajays 4, and Nokia Purity over ears, and while the Purity over ears definitely sound better, I'm just not able to carry over ears around everywhere with me or exercise with them. The Ajays 4 were and Klipsche have a similar sound, but the Ajays build quality feels higher with no signs of wear after a year and they were $20 cheaper to boot.

    As you can tell in line remote and microphone are an important feature to me. Nothing could annoy me more than having to take my headphones off, pull my phone out of my pocket, and answer a call when I could of just used headphones all along.

    How about one foot in both camps.
    I have a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7's which are primarily used at work, which are great, with the one downside being the need for a AAA battery, which is a rechargable.
    For in-ear monitors I have a pair of Shure SE-425, which I combine with a Fireye Mini when using the iPhone (general use). The Fireye gives the Shures the extra bit of warmth they need.
    Of the two the Shures are the better, they are stunning in sound quality and isolation. The downside for me is that when people talk to you, you have no choice but to take them out, which is nowhere near as easy as taking off over-the-ear cans.
    When at the work PC both headphones are driver via a HRT HeadStreamer DAC/Headphone Amp.
    Both have their place, and I couldn't do without either of them.

    Sennheiser HD518's I got them after they were getting incredibly positive reviews online. Really balanced sound. Love them.

    Matters about your environment and your listening habits. IMHO

    If your listening to get pumped up in the gym or running track chances are you just want good ergonomics and something that wont fall off your head. The listening pleasure probably isn't worth accounting for as the vast majority of people play music to either keep a set rhythm or to get pumped up. IEM's are the weapon of choice here as they provide a decent sound, but easily fit into a work out routine. Also they are easy to clean and stash in your gym bag.

    My choice is the Ultimate Ears 700

    For commuting and work situations you probably want a versatile headphone which is over ear and closed back. This provides some major benefits; firstly you won't annoy everyone else around you by having sound pour from your cans. Secondly you are isolated from the world around you so you can sit back and relax. These headphones should be collapsible and have a sound signature that compliments your current play lists. I chose Ultrasone Ultrasone HFI 580 and at work I connect it to a Nuforce iDO DAC/AMP combo.

    For the at home audiophile this is the time where you will get to appreciate all the subtlies of your music. Now depending on your buget I would definatly walk into a dedicated headphone store and try before you buy. For the ultimate experience I would be looking at a full set up including DAC, AMP and headphones. Initially this seems an extreme way of doing things but like any investment if it worth doing its worth doing it well. After trying the full range of headphones at my local store Addicted to Audio I found the best phones for me were the Ultrasone edition 10's or the Grado PS1000 these are both amazing sounding cans and give you a very simmilar experience to listening to $80,000 home audio speaker setups.

    The great thing about excellent headphones is they last between 20-30 years if properly maintained. For a large inital investment you should have hours of listening pleasure and unlike TV's iPads or computers you won't have to upgrade to next years model every year.

    Marshall minor buds. Sweet sound for buds.

    This is more of a looks versus sound thing for me.
    I've sort of a love-hate relationship with ear-buds. While I know headphones give you superior audio when getting the right gear, unfortunately they make me look like a complete tool wearing them in public, while I see so many other (lucky face-cut) people who do wear them and they just complete their looks and style and give them superior audio.

    So I always get ear buds so I feel I won't look stupid in public (big deal, haters gonna hate, get over it).
    I have recently bought Bose IE2's. Which are a real awesome alternative to those crappy iPhone Ear Buds. They don't slip out of my huge ears, and give me near to enough the sound quality I need, or at least better than some of the others. I used to have Gecko Sound ear buds, (australian company) which were already a giant step up from iPhone buds, but when I got these Bose's I quickly binned
    those too.

      Dr Stef, it's quite natural for anybody to feel a selfconcious when wearing largish cans. When I got mine in the office it seemed everyone was looking at me in a wierd way.

      I guess it's a style thing on so many fronts, if you have a look that supports it go for it. Otherwise just rock them out at home, nobody will judge you there :P

    Sennheiser HD (forget model number right now - were about $600 retail 5 yrs ago) for serious listening; Balanced, clear.
    Shure SE315; For travelling - block out the most of the airplane 'humm' and screaming babies. Really quite a polished sound for an IE. I like the over-all balance too from these, though using my iPhone as the input source is not ideal; Sometimes rock my old MD players on shorter trips.
    Bose IE2; Kick-about pair that just stay in my bag for general use. Pretty good sound, but high's not very crisp and can become 'muddled' with intensive tracks. Very comfortable in the ear.
    Jabra Sport; For when I'm go running of the evening. The sound is far from audiophile, but they serve their purpose extremely well. Comfortable, light and tough.

    Over-all, if I had to choose just one pair, I'd probably have top go with the Shure's. But, nothing can really beat a pair of over the ear headphones as it's all down to physics: the size of the cones and air displacement etc. Headphones (comparatively) will always produce a clearer waveform, deeper and crisper lows and allow the ear to 'hear' the sound.

      HD 25-1. I've had my pair for about 5 years and have not come across anything that sounds as good. Problem is that they are production headphones so are not very comfortable for extended listening.

    FYI, Earbuds are NOT the same as IEMs.
    IEMs, imho, are the best 'all-round' headphone. Sceptics of IEMs likely haven't ever inserted them properly or played around with the various tip options, or persevered long enough to get pass the uncomfortable stage. I have been using IEMs for years (Etymotic, Ultimate Ears, Magicsound, V-Moda etc) and finally persuaded my wife who had resisted them all this time to give them a proper go. It took us a while to find the right kinda barrel+tip combo but she was in heaven. She couldn't believe how good her music sounded (using her Cowon D2 mp3 player), it was like she was listening to the music the way it was intended for the first time (she said). She is a complete convert and won't ever go back to buds or cans.

    I see IEMs winning on so many fronts, sound quality (buck for buck when compared with cans), isolation, portability and even comfort (cans have always hurt my ears after an hour or so whereas once u break through the IEMs immediate discomfort u can wear for hours without pain. I clean 5-6hrs a day and have them in the whole time, no discomfort, couldn't do that with cans). IEMs don't look as daft for out and about, and you can exercise with them (something u can't do with cans).

    The ONLY cons for IEMs is that sumtimes they take a minute or two of fiddling to get a proper seal and also that to get a pair right for YOUR ear can take time, money and patience/faith.
    I still use cans when doing short things like a quick game of cs:s tho :D


      I've had different models of Shures for the better part of a decade now and they are superb if driven from high quality source and amping. Currently run SE535Ltd and they are sublime. As good as many headphones in the same price bracket.

      3 weeks ago I took the plunge and got ear impressions done and ordered Westone ES5 five BA driver customs. Still waiting for them... it's agonising.

    Atomic Floyd Superdarts. $300 with a fantastic range. Expensive, but pure pleasure to listen to and to be honest I find them very aesthetically pleasing, and that is imp

    I hate listening to music on headphones, it ruins the effect completely. However, my AudioEngine A2s are attached to the bulkhead so if I decide to put my selfish needs ahead of musical purity, I have a pair of Sony MDR G74s. They sound fine but the reason I really like them is that they have tangle-free, nylon-sheathed cords.

    In the studio I use a pair of AKG K99s. They are under $100 but when I was looking for new headphones, they sounded better than anything under $400 to my ears and were much more comfortable than most of the supposedly pro level cans I tried.

    I've never bothered with ear buds, I have enough trouble with ear wax without using something to tamp it down against my ear drum.

    open-ear cans for quite home use
    noise cancelling cans for planes
    and earbuds in public... so i dont look like a douche

    I'm so glad no one has said Dr Dre's!

      Hang on... Wait for it...
      I use Beats.
      I tried a set in Harvey Normans a year or 2 ago and bought them then and there. I had only ever used cheap shit like the buds that come with iPods. So, it was quite a leap forward for me. Still use them, still love them.

        What colour are yours? Mine are black, the most fingerprint prone ones. Now they're covered in carbon fibre di-noc. http://ghettotech.netne.net/stuff/3.jpg

      Why oh why must there be such snobbery towards Beats. Firstly I will confess I own a pair of Studios amongst my 4 different sets of in ears and cans. Why Beats? Why 4 pairs? All for the same reason that some of us like Metallica or Jay Z or Chopin. Different sounds appeal to us in very different ways. Whilst I agree Beats have been used too much as a status symbol and are arguably overpriced they do have a certain appeal for the right type of music. Also to all those saying that being able to recognise Bose sound immediately is a bad thing obviously have never adjusted an equaliser to their own preference ever before or else they wouldn't be saying that a "natural" sound is critical. I like heavier bass in most of my music listening unless it is classical you on the other hand may prefer a more crisp and clean sound. That is our choice and I don't feel belittling others for preferring one over another is the right way to go. But all in all this is a great discussion and will be very helpful to those who are struggling to find the right type for them.

        Just wondering since I have never tried Beats cans, is there generally a massive difference between them and say AiAiAi, V-moda or Skullcandy? They seem to be catering towards a similar street ware market. Also I see a lot of people bopping away in the city and on the bus with them on.

          There is quite a difference - well to me anyway. Beats are notorious for their exaggerated bass, but that isn't actually the case. The Tours and Solos might be, but from Solo HD onwards they have nice mids and highs. The bass is still very prominent, and of course, they are still very overpriced. On the upside, they are one of the less ugly cans around.

          AiAiAi's are also quite nice and balanced. They naturally isolate noise very well, and the rubberised design is very tough to beat in terms of toughness. V-modas (the circumaural ones) have better sonic properties than Beats, but are favoured more by the gamer crowd. And as for Skullcandy, they're a bit of a hit-and-miss. Some are good (Aviators, for example) while others are terrible (such as the G.I's).

    The eternal war has begun again.

    Sennheiser HD280-Pros for extra antisocial use. A bit muddy and very high clamping pressure but they could up well and offer fantastic isolation.
    Sennheiser IE80s are my new everyday pair however. WOW, isolation is still great, they're easily portable and I'm hearing elements of my music that were hidden till now.

    I just use earphone when I'm traveling, and when I want to watchan epic movie, I us good quality headphones, as long as they get the job don it really doesn't matter what you use.

    Beyerdynamic T70 @ Home.
    Etymotic HF5 @ Work.

    Total win.

    Others I've tried and sold:

    Allessandro MS Pro (Grado RS1 rebadge)
    Sennheiser HD650
    Beyerdynamic DT250
    Audio Technica AD900 (great headphones)
    Brainwavz M2
    Shure SE425

    Sadly, Beats by Dre Studio :(
    I regret every minute of using them because I always feel that I will never get sufficient satisfaction from them but given the price they're sure to be good but they're not.

    ITT: Everyone sounds like the start of American Psycho when he's describing his morning routine.

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