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Get your ears on and enjoy some music at work

Alex Snyder

President Skroob
May 1, 2006
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Alex
Something else worth checking out.
Alex Roy (of The Drive and Cannonball record fame) has founded something called Noho sound.
Pretty neat operation - I wish I was closer so I could get more involved in some of the events they do.

https://www.nohosound.com

I know where I'm going first with my lottery winnings! </leaves to buy lottery ticket>
 
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Alex Snyder

President Skroob
May 1, 2006
3,154
1,979
Awards
1
First Name
Alex

The legend is available to buy again: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx and they're only $199 ....instead of the usual $499.

And if you want $10 to spend on Massdrop, use this link: https://www.massdrop.com/?referer=TW2SFJ

I don't know if y'all have figured this out yet or not, but I'm a headphone junkie. I love tuning the world out to enjoy the music. And, at work, I prefer to concentrate on things without ambient distractions.

@Jeff Kershner will try to convince you I'm crazy due to the number of headphones on my wall. However, the justification is a wide array of musical tastes, where each genre sounds best with the right cans over one's ears. My point in bringing this up is to say I have a lot of different over-the-ear options and that these Sennheiser HD 6XXs would be my choice if I could only have one pair. They play everything well.

However, you will need a separate power source (amplifier) if you do get them.
 
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Alex Snyder

President Skroob
May 1, 2006
3,154
1,979
Awards
1
First Name
Alex
After typing that last sentence it occurred to me that a little education on ways to enhance music might be useful.

There are 3 types of headphones:

  1. In Ear Monitors - those white things that come with your smart phone are the most common.
  2. On Ear Headphones - yup, you guessed it, these sit on your ears. Imagine those 1980s foam-padded Sony Walkman ones.
  3. Over the Ear Headphones - in the modern world, these are the most common of the ones people buy.

They come in 3 flavors:
  1. Open back - this gives the "largest" sound (sound stage) but anyone around you can hear what you're listening to. Most high-end audiophile headphones are open back. A really good pair can help you tell where a particular instrument was in relation to the recording device. These are also excellent for playing multiplayer shooting game because you can figure out the direction someone is coming from. The easiest way to tell if headphones are open back is the grills on the side of the ear cups.
  2. Closed back - if you like Rap and EDM this is what you want. Beats headphones are closed for example. Closed backs reverberate bass. They also isolate most of the noise to your ears, so your coworkers don't have to listen to your tunes or eclectic online video watching.
  3. Noise Cancelling - these will always be closed back. There are many variations of noise cancelling too. This is good if you're trying to tune-out everything and be a really nice neighbor on the airplane.

External devices:

Outside of the thing playing the music, movies, podcast, etc. there are ways to enhance the sounds. I'm going to skip the insane audiophile "butt-dyno" items like cables and clean electricity signals. I'm also going to skip equalizers and pre-amps. Let's focus on the two common devices in the digital age.

  • Amplifier - the most common pairing with a good set of wired headphones is one that boosts the power. A good pair of headphones benefits significantly when the entirety of the driver can be pushed at the speeds it was designed for. Some headphones require less power (designed for a phone for example) while others absolutely require amplification.
  • DAC - Digital to Analog Converter. If you are playing music from a computer, tablet, or phone the digital audio has to be converted to an analog signal for speakers or headphones. In that conversion the sound can be enhanced and tuned. Apple, for example, puts a lot of effort into it's conversion software to the point where many audiophiles do not see a need for a DAC when playing from an Apple device. Many PCs do require some sort of "assistance" in a dedicated sound card or external DAC. You don't need both in a PC.

That's about all anyone needs to know to understand the equipment to have a very pleasing audio experience. Of course, one can get a Bluetooth pair of headphones and call it a day. There is a small handful of decent Bluetooth choices.

If you put a nice pair of headphones together with an adequate amp you might have to listen to every song you've ever heard again. It doesn't take a ton of money in comparison to other audiophile items (like speakers). It is hard to beat the Sennheiser HD 6XXs with an O2 amplifier for less than $300.
 
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Alex Snyder

President Skroob
May 1, 2006
3,154
1,979
Awards
1
First Name
Alex
Because my opinion on the available noise-cancelling and Bluetooth options weeds the list down to be fairly short I'm going to share it. The point of doing that is to potentially help a future reader make a purchase decision.

Noise-cancelling options mostly sound like garbage. They do not represent the music in a way that is pleasing to my ear and I get annoyed with the background "hiss" that many make. Bose, for example, hisses. I can't stand that. They're super comfortable, but almost hurt my ears. Bose is absolutely not the best in audio quality unlike their marketing suggests. Beats is another example of a brand that I stay away from. For the record I have owned a few Beats and I do own a few pairs of Bose head phones. In fact, I still use a decade-old pair of Bose IE2s that I really like. I have the top of the line Bose noise-cancelling IEMs that I can tolerate on a plane when I'm travelling as light as possible. They serve no other purpose than that because they sound terrible. My wife really enjoys her Bose cans. Most of their stuff just isn't for my ears. Just goes to show you that everyone has different ears.

The most under-rated product Apple ever made are the AirPods. These are absolutely my favorite "convenience-factor" headphones. I love them for phone calls and listening to podcasts. They're okay for music. Steve Job's desire to make music as neutral as possible still shows in the products Apple produces today. These are not noise-cancelling.

For the ultimate in Bluetooth + Noise Cancelling we only have three contenders. Choose any of these based on what's comfortable to you and you will be very happy.

Sony WH1000XM2 (Amazon link) - not much to say here. They're excellent in comfort and do a very decent job in the sound quality department. I've heard they're not the most reliable with the touch controls, but that's a small price to pay.

Sennheiser PXC 550 (Amazon link) - I own these. I tried them side by side against the Sony's and found the sound quality to be better in these. The sound is highly customizable in the included app. I have yet to find the bottom of the battery in them. My only gripe is over the size of the ear cups. Albeit insanely comfortable, they're just a tad small for my ears. I have to adjust them from time to time. The touch controls are fantastic. They always work.

Nuraphones (Amazon link) - I want these. I have not tried them, but have heard very good things from people who share my same tastes in audio equipment. In terms of comfort it seems to be 50/50 because these are in-ear monitors that are also traditional over-the-ear headphones. By separating the inner part of your ear from the outer part they're able to do some incredible things with bass. Outside of that these things "read" the inside of your ear to figure out how to tune the sounds to be most pleasing to you. During Amazon Prime Days they were $100 off and I regret not taking advantage of that discount.

This is all my opinion. Your mileage will vary.
 
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craigh

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May 19, 2011
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Craig
I am always on the hunt for new earbuds.
I have 5 pairs of over ear headphones, but I burn through in ear ones every few months.
I've been buying cheap MPOW ones for a few years now - lower audio quality, but good ear fitment, bluetooth and battery life.

I'm holding out for the new AirPods in hopes that they'll be waterproof, as my requirements for in ear headphones are far more based on functionality than quality. I want headphones I can put on when I wake up so I can listen to podcasts until I arrive in my office 1+ hour later. They need to not fall out on the motorcycle, not get wrecked in the shower and have as few free flowing wires as possible.