Better sound through research

Tue, Apr 29, 2008 @ 18:14

I have never really looked at myself as much of a music aficionado, but for some reason, I am very picky about my headphones. And my primary metric for evaluating them has always been comfort. I have had a number of different headphones throughout the years, some worked out, some didn’t.

Instead of simply saying that I bought a new pair of incredible headphones both from a comfort and audio clarity perspective, I am going to regale everyone with a trip down headphone memory lane.

I was a big fan of the Koss brand of stereophones and a quick check of their website shows me that they are still making my two former sets. I think my first real foray into around-the-ear headphones might have been the Koss UR-20. These were good headphones, which would really hug your head… perhaps a bit too much. The sound was good and it was a single sided cord. I believe you can still kind my pair at my parents place, likely in a pretty sad state as I recall the covering deteriorating off the ear pads. I soon replaced these with a second Koss offering, the UR-18. These headphones I really liked. Unfortunately the family dog at the time didn’t care as much for them, and in a burst of excited energy managed to cause some damage to the wiring. I tried to find a replacement pair, but was unable to at the time.

Then came my time in Europe, traveling around for school made toting a larger pair of headphones a bit prohibitive. So for a while I made do with my iPod headphones, which I’d had for a couple years at that point. Unlike some people, they fit me fine and I had no issue with them. However, once in Spain I finally decided to cave into my desire for richer sound and I bought the Sennheiser HD 201. These were definitely my longest lived pair, still going strong after 2+ years of listening and dragging them all over Europe and North America.

That was my headphone history, let me bore you with a bit about my headphone present. Since moving to Vancouver I have been searching for a decent set of headphones to listen to at work. I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I figured that earbuds would be best, but my iPod headphones were a bit too short for my liking. I tried to buy a pair of JVC earbuds, thinking that one meter would be sufficient. It wasn’t. So I returned them and began my period of drifting in and out of Futureshop, Staples, Best Buy and the Source. Nothing seemed to appeal to me. Eventually I settled on a pair of Skullcandy in-ear headphones with a 1.3 meter cord. They did the trick, length-wise, and the whole in-ear concept was interesting, certainly blocking out the noise on the bus. But after a couple of weeks I lost all interest in them, not wanting to stick them in my ears anymore. I was back to my original issue. Today I said that I would just go to Futureshop (easy walking distance from work) and get a set of something that looked decent, something around-the-ear but not too expensive.

I ended up with a pair of JVC HA-V570 and I got them back to the office only to discover that they are awful. They are of the ‘on-the-ear’ design, one which I can’t stand. I can do around the ear and in the ear, but my comfort zone ends there. So after work I went back and returned them, finally caving into my early desire to pick up a pair of the sexy Bose Around-Ear Headphones. Some may think I’m crazy for spending almost $200 on headphones, and maybe I am. But when I got home tonight I gave them a small listening test. I’ve always been more than happy with my Sennheiser pair, but when I compared the same high-bitrate audio on the two pairs it was like night and day. I know that Sennheiser makes high-end audio equipment, but my €25 HD 201’s aren’t in that league. So this will free up my Sennheisers to come into work and I can enjoy mind-blowing clarity with my audio at home.

Fantastic.