I’ve worked in advertising post-production for the last 14 years, having started, run, and consulted for multiple audio studios. I’m an audiophile and quasi-videophile, who has been installing home theater systems since fifteen years of age. But I’m not a snob. What I appreciate is gear and tech that balances price and performance. Instead of blogging about writing (I’d rather suck on the end of a shotgun barrel), I’d like to blog about tech that I think really improves our lives. The first installment: Headphones. I use them a lot. I use them to write. I use them to watch movies (small house, two kids) and a great set of headphones can be a sonic, eye-opening experience. For a c-note, you can buy headphones that rival loudspeakers (bookshelf, tower, or satellite/sub systems) that cost thousands of dollars.
Without a doubt, headphones are the best bang for your buck. Here are three that are worth your money:
1) Grado SR-80i (new model is the SR-80e). You probably haven’t heard of them, but Grado make some of the best headphones you can buy, and they range from $60 to around $1600. The SR-80i’s cost $100. And they are amazing. Balanced sound, spacious, and accurate. They aren’t particularly handsome and their open ear design leaks sound (so not great for airplanes, subway, etc), but what you hear through these cans are what the artist intended. Note: for rap or electronic fans, the bass is tight and controlled, not exaggerated. So depending on your preference, they may not be right for you.
2) Sony MDR7506 – $84.95 Audio recording studios buy these in bulk. Warmer than the Grados SR80i and more bass-heavy, they’re very inexpensive for a premium headphone, making them an excellent buy. These are studio headphones, and they look it. But they’re cupped ear design will block out sound, so they are better for travel.
3) Sennheiser HD-280 PRO headphones – $99.99. Bass hounds and they offer a ton of environmental isolation (great for airplane travel, but if you’re walking on the sidewalk, keep your eyes open because you aren’t going to hear anything coming). These are so good at sound isolation, I don’t think a noise-cancellation headphone is worth the money. Tight fit. I have a small head (because I have a small brain) and they’re tight on me.
Overall I prefer the Grados for their accuracy and open ear design (less sweaty), but with any of these headphones you will hear nuances to your favorite music that you have never heard before. And for 99% of you, there is no need to spend more than $100 to achieve audio nirvana.
In the next post, I’m going to discuss how you can get that $100 headphone to sound even better.