My quest to the perfect headphones

I’m a fan of music, I like a lot a different genres. Nowadays, to listen to music, you need some mp3 player (usually your smartphone, PC or tablet) and headphones.
Yeah I know, you can use speakers too but I almost find it rude to impose the music you listen at to others. And since I have a baby at home, if I want to listen to music at reasonable volume, speakers of out of question.
I use speakers occasionally, either to start my baby’s musical education or to watch videos (TV shows, movies, Youtube). For that, I chose monitors because most PC speakers have too much bass. Since I don’t like impose my music and bass tend to leak from a room more than other frequencies, I recommend monitors. You can always use an EQ to push bass if you want.

And, both at work and at home, I use a dedicated DAC to listen to music. You don’t think you need a dedicated DAC until you’ve used one for 5 minutes. Once you go DAC, you never go back.
I don’t even use a fancy DAC, I use the FiiO E10. It has very good value, the only downside is that it’s very sensible to radio waves such as GSM or strong Wifi hotspots (not your PC’s wifi).

So, on the my quest to find the perfect headphones. For a long time, I’ve used Apple’s earbuds then earpods. As you know, they have poor sound but their the only headphones I could use a full day.

So I had a checklist of requirements:

  1. Can be used a full day of work
  2. Can be used in an open space
  3. Best sound possible

The first requirement is tricky for me because I have sensible and large ears than don’t like in-hear or on-ear headphones. So I need large over-ear headphones (earbuds don’t fit the third requirement).
On top of that, I need a closed model (going against the third requirement, open models have a better sound) because I don’t want to be beaten alive by my coworkers and because I listen to music to isolate myself from the ambiant noise in the first place.

So, here’s the list I’ve gone through:

  • First, I bought an AKG K619. It took me an hour to figure out I would never bear to use on-ear headphones for a whole day. My ears become red, very hot and they hurt a lot. The AKG K619 have a good sound, they’re just not for me.
  • Then I bought a Sennheiser HD 558. They’re perfect. The sound is incredible, they’re so comfortable I can wear them several hours without any fatigue or pain, they’re great headphones. But it’s an open model. I can’t use them at work. But I use them a lot at home when I’m alone in the room.
  • Then I went cheap with the Sennheiser HD201. Very good value, just not good enough. The cable is pretty bad by the way but you can’t expect much at this price.
  • I tried a last Sennheiser, the Sennheiser HD 449. They were too small, they were like on-hear headphones for me. I sent them back.
  • Then I heard about the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X. A lot of people say it’s the best headphones in their price range with a great margin. Guess what? They are but they’re also too small. Sent them back too.

At that point, I swore I wouldn’t buy headphones online before trying them on first. I went to a big store and looked around. I didn’t want some Beats because, well, they suck. They’re not worth half their price. I had a poor opinion of Bose too. But the more I looked around, the less I found suitable headphones for me. Out of curiosity, I tried a Bose sound-canceling pair, the QC 25 and I was blown away. The noisy, full-of-Christmas-shoppers store went almost completely silent. And even more surprising to me, the headphones weigh almost nothing!
But the price made me hesitate. Next to them were the SoundTrue. The sound was even better than the QC 25. The isolation was very good even without the noise-cancellation system. And they are much cheaper. The sound is pretty good, not HD 558 good but pretty good, especially if you don’t push the bass too much.
After some hesitation, I chose the SoundTrue over the QC 25 for another reason. The noise-cancellation requires a battery that’ll last from 20 to 30 hours. That’s not even a work week. And I read the sound is crap when you turn the active circuit off because there is an EQ in it. So, for using in a plane, I would buy a QC 25 without hesitation. But for use at the office, I chose the SoundTrue. They’re so light, it’s incredible. Ok, at the 3-hour mark, you can feel a bit hot but a few minutes break and it goes away.

So, the bottom line is, for some stuff you can’t shop online or gift them. That’s the case for headphones, at least for me.