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Should we really pay a small fortune to replace stock headphones?

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by shadowritten, Aug 6, 2005.

  1. shadowritten

    shadowritten
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    Title says it all, really.

    DAPs aren't cheap - but do new phones REALLY need to be equivalently as expensive when replacing the stock rubbish we get for our cash? Wouldn't a £15-£30 pair suit most of us adequately, given the conditions under which we're likely to be using our DAPs? :confused:

    My Sony MDR-J20s are heaven, for comfort and for sound. And for only £15.
     
  2. extremelydodgy

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    The included headphones are nearly always 'OK'. As far as the manufacturers are concerned, including higher grade phones will add to the price which will not be appreciated by the majority of consumers who couldn't give a flying **** about sound quality beyond the 'boom boom tizz tizz' level.


    And as for higher priced alternative ear/headphones, it depends on a combination of what you've tried, your sense of sound quality, your opinions as to the ultimate sonic ability of DAPs and your level of truly disposable income which will dictate what is a reasonable price to you.
     
  3. shadowritten

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    Couldn't agree with you more. Should've stressed that my point, however, is about how some may feel, shall we say, 'obliged' to spend a considerable amount on phones that would be perfectly justified for high-end HiFi use, but perhaps less so for music on the go, where ambient conditions are far from ideal.
     
  4. pjskel

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    Not sure I understand your "gripe".
    People who purchase after market 3rd party earphones may do so for a variety of reasons. One being the standard earphones sound bass light, another being they fall out of the ear easily.
    If they only ever use their MP3 player (or mainly) when out and about, then they're going to opt for in-ear types, which will seal the ear canal, and allow the bass to be fully heard.

    Others who purchase headphones - Stax/Sennheiser/etc, I imagine would prpimarily listen to their MP3 player in the home, and want to hear a better quality of sound.

    I think you'll find, that it's a very small percentage who actually use headphones or earphones that they've bought after buying the MP3 player. Most buyers stick with what they were supplied. I wouldn't use the forums here as any yardstick to measure the rest of the populous by.

    As for feeling obliged - nope, that'll be only those of us who are that way inclined. The majority are satisfied with what they've got, or ultimate sound quality isn't something in their vocabulary - the MP3 player is just a means to and end, and nothing more.
     
  5. Sasso

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    Its a shame that 'quality' isn't a farmiliar word in today's world. And if it is used, there is usually the word 'bad' in front of it.
    The only reason the majority of people use the stock headphones is because they don't know any better! They probably have not listened to music through better headphones, and think that if they buy another set of headphones it will sound the same. Once they see the light, if they care at all for their level of personal experience, then they will most probably go looking for better quality.

    Then there are the people who, to quote someone i know, "just need noise in my ears".
    And those who, like shadow said, dont give a flying firetruck. And those people are what's bringing the standard of quality down.
     
  6. Mike_manchester

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    To try to answer accurately, what i think is the question being asked...

    Yes, you are correct - having read many posts on this subject both here and elsewhere, i would suggest that many people consider that you get a quantum leap in sound quality in after-market headphones upto the £30(ish) mark. Thereafter it is possibe to continue hearing improvements, but the required spend goes up and up, as far as you are willing and able to go !!

    Whether you peg your spending at £50, £100 or £100+ is and has been hugely debated at length :)

    I think it is fair to say that the old "weakest link in the chain" argument seems to be as true for personal walkmans as for "proper" hi-fi and improvements in sound quality come about as a result of combining carefully made recordings of high quality with decent headphones.

    Speaking for myself (as someone who has been a "hi-fi head" proper in the past and spent more than i care to remember of audio gear), i am happy with 128kb recordings and £30 sony headphones for portable use. It is clear enough and musical enough for the sort of listening i use a walkman for and I havent heard *THAT* much of an improvement with higher bitrates or more expensive phones to make me bother with either.

    Personally i use Sony EX-81's - some people dont like the sound, some do, but i wont get into that here - for me they have increased the pleasure of walkman use many fold simply because they are extremely comfortable compared to any other similarly priced headphones.

    They hook *lightly* over the top of your ear and stay put whatever you are doing , so you dont need to jam them tight into your ear and the sound is clear and bright - works for me, i am very happy with them for portable use
     
  7. shadowritten

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    Mike, you've hit the nail squarely on the head. You said in your post what I failed to get across in mine (shame on me :nono: ). Thanks, mate! Have to say I broadly agree with everything you've said. :smashin:
     
  8. shadowritten

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    Two things: first, my post wasn't a gripe, more an open discussion about whether it's truly necessary for MOST people to upgrade to expensive cans. I take on board your views, and have to say that I agree it depends entirely on the individual's needs. Second, I realise now that 'obliged' was, on reflection, a poor choice of word! Mike has expanded very nicely (above) on what I was really getting at - thanks again, Mike!
     
  9. extremelydodgy

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    There are also functional considerations. For example, there aren't any cheap earphones which isolate to a consdierable degree. Once you're in possession of a pair of head/earphones which isolate a lot, if you travel around often that is certainly difficult to give up.


    I like to have a combination of sound quality, good isolation and portability as well as usability. You don't have to pay a fortune for this, but it helps if you have a decent budget.
     
  10. shadowritten

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    Out of interest (and in case I decide to upgrade) what sort of budget would say was 'decent'? I chose my phones not least because they're the 'H' type that slot beautiful into my ears and point the sound directly into my ear canals. I find this does a reasonable - though by no means perfect - job of isolating unwanted ambient noise. :smashin:
     
  11. extremelydodgy

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    I would say that you could have a very decent choice at about £80, and a better choice (especially regarding canalphones) if you were also open to those imported from the US. All the good entry level bargains are there from even the higher end manufacturers.


    Also just touching on the general tone of responses that tends to crop up in threads like this, as you may have experienced with the player thread on a similar note, although you're inquiring about this in a fairly open way but I really don't understand the guys who argue about this in a negative way from a position that to me is pretty indicative of relative ignorance (or maybe tin ears, I'm not sure). It's fairly common and I have to say it gets my goat sometimes.


    In my case, I spend the majority of my time with some of the very best you can buy in terms of headphones, speakers, sources etc (indeed, it's generally thought that it's not possible to buy a better headphone for any sum than what I've have coming in a few weeks) but also have experience of a lot of low-end items as well.


    So low-cost phones which work well are all the more heartily recommended, but in general you do get what you pay for. Portable DAPs are capable of pretty good quality sound, and the quality of the thing doing the presenting of said DAP (i.e. the phones) is a major factor if you like your music done well, as well as how they do it (isolation, efficiency, practicality, etc).
     
  12. shadowritten

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    Thanks for this, very helpful. Any US brands you'd care to recommend?


    Think I understand what you mean by this - hope I haven't misunderstood: you're saying it's okay to have an opinion about something, but experience of that something will be what makes an opinion about it valid or otherwise, yes?


    Now this DOES interest me! Do tell ...
     
  13. extremelydodgy

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    Google "Sennheiser Orpheus".
     
  14. Steven

    Steven
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    Well depends on your bank balance what a small fortune is... :rolleyes:

    My plan: I've got Senn MX500 (£15), Sony EX71 (£26), Sony EX81 (£26) and Panasonic RPHJE50 (£25). I got them over a one year period

    Over next 2 years I hope to get Shure E3c (£130) and Etymotic Er6i (£100+)
     
  15. shadowritten

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    That's a fair few pairs. Which is your personal favourite?
     
  16. shadowritten

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    HOLY MOLEY!!!

    These babies aren't cheap, huh? Christ! That's like a mortgage deposit! You're being loaned them just for testing, right? Please post in the appropriate AV Forum on what they're like - I'd love to know your thoughts.

    I'm speechless ...
     
  17. HD3

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    People seem to rave about the sure ear phones and a lot of expensive other, they often when I’ve been reading reviews on the net they don't seen all that great for two reasons;

    1: some are classed as "musicians" earphone which tend to be flat and produce exactly what the music should sound like which people often frind tobe boring.

    2: People often expect to get much more for MUCH more money, the difference between a £10 and £25 set of phones may give a 50% increase in sound quality. Now take that to the much more expensive phone (£100ish) so that’s £75 more and you'll only rate the sound quality increase by about 15-20%. So what I’m saying is that the lower end upgrade is far better value than the more expensive.

    For me i would love the £100 phones but to carry them around all day and risk breaking them is not a chance i want to pay. However i will pay up to £30 for a pair of half decent phone because it’s not the end of the world if they break.

    (P.S- % values are only and example)
     
  18. extremelydodgy

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    shadowritten, there's been plenty said about it in lots of different forums and articles about it, but basically what it does is to "get out of the way in the most complete way a headphone could". You stop paying attention to the system and just enjoy the music... and you can do this at pretty much whatever your level of audiophile anal retentiveness. An acquaintance owns a pair and it's been something that doesn't impress in a 'WOW' way so much but just felt right. I'd been waiting for the opportunity to buy one for a while.
     
  19. pjskel

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    That's why I put gripe in inverted quote marks - I knew you weren't having one, but it could've been interpretted as such. Sorry if that subtlety went over your head.

    Mike really hasn't said anything much that's definitive - it's mainly his opinion/impression or what matters to him. I've never had the impression that for £30 your MP3 player suddenly takes on a new persona - I obviously don't frequent the same forums he does, apart from this one.

    I think I'd be right in saying that what I said, is based on knowledge of people in general. The vast majority of the populous only care about quality, whether it be sound or vision up to a certain point. Beyond that, it's into the realm of fanaticism or obsessing.
    In other words, there's a point reached, where they deem what they have is sufficiently good for them to enjoy the music or movies, etc.
    We, who aren't happy until we've explored all or numerous options, are in the minority - there are only so many of us, and we again, are the only ones who talk with like minded individuals here on the boards. The majority are happily sitting watching TV or listening to their music and don't even know we exist.
    I too have done the audiophilia nervosa thing - and since leaving it behind 5 years ago, am enjoying music for music's sake more than I did when I was always listening for subtle nuances after changing cables or adding a new set of feet under a component or two. In fact, my best improvement in sound came from putting sound absorption and diffusion materials into the room. £800 worth of that stuff made more difference than £2.5k worth of cables and CD player!

    I don't know exactly what it was you were trying to convey even using the wrongly chosen wording of "obliged", but if Mike said it all for you, albeit more succinctly, then from what I read, you were saying nothing really. Either that or I'm missing something in Mike's post. Sorry!
     
  20. Supersonic

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    Do 'good quality' 'phones do anything for MP3 music anyway? Other than show up its sonic weaknesses, I mean?
     
  21. extremelydodgy

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    Of course. Beyond a certain level, it's easy to make out lower bitrates. Most flavours of MP3 though get 'transparent' beyond 256, as do many other codecs and at this point any improvement is paid for in bigger jumps. The source itself (the MP3 player) is also not that hot... although many are surprisingly good. With that in mind, better phones provide anything from a more accurate sound within the limits of the bitrate you're using, better 'staging' (wideness of the sound around your head), snappier bass, or just more practicality (isolating in-earphones for aircraft,etc) and other stuff which will probably bore most senseless.


    pjskel is very right in that most people don't obsess over quality. And it's also true that most couldn't put sound quality into abstracts and wouldn't know how to ask for it. And even I'm quite happy in many situations listening to low-end headgear. There's a time and place for it even if you're into the improvement that such acquisitions can offer on Mp3 players with the right material. As I said, around the £80 and at the upper end about £150 is about where you see the most activity and perhaps the most bang for the buck as far as the majority of pockets are concerned. If you're spending less, then £40 is another 'sweet spot' where products offering major improvement in practicality and/or sound quality are offered, provided you look hard enough... because you aren't going to find any by browsing through the Sony inventory (perhaps with the exception of the surprisingly not that bad new MDR-XDxxx series. But these aren't portable.).
     
  22. Steven

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    Senn MX500, good full sound, balanced, admittedly not the best, but for £15....

    Sony EX71, great fit. Really comfy - comes with 3 plug sizes. Have to use both channels to appreciate the 'phone sealing out background noise. Not perfect, but obviously noticeable. Not advisable when crossing the road. But, these 'phones are bass heavy. They even find bass when they're aren't meant to be any. Only fault. Oh, and the flimsy looking wires, though they haven't broken yet....

    Sony EX81. Like the younger brother EX71, but adds ear hooks, for greater fit, and "stayability", for want of a better word. No exaggerated bass, and overall, better sound. Seems to have a larger range, and is clearer.

    Panasonic RPHJE50. 3rd canal 'phones I own. Great sound. I can't decide whether these or the EX81's sound better. My mind changes daily. Don't but from Dixons/Currys/Comet for rip-off £30/35. Buy off e-bay, and save £5-£10, inc del. Thats what I did.
     
  23. shadowritten

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    What is the deal with the EX71s? All over the Net and in magazines (except the new What Hi*Fi Ultimate MP3 Guide, which gave them a :thumbsdow ), people are extolling the virtues of these cans. I owned a pair for a few days back in April, and try as I might, I just couldn't get a shred of bass out of them :( Took me long enough to get them seated correctly; whereupon my every movement managed to shake them loose! When they did stay in, I had to crank the volume to the max on my Zen Touch to get any listenable sound - though it was all tinny treble with nada down below, even with the custom EQ adjusted for bass heaviness. So back they went.

    Yet, many such as yourself, LFC_SL, are enjoying a great listening experience with these phones. And I'm a bit jealous! I've always trusted and got what I expected from Sony phones since the early 90s, and they're my cans of choice for everyday use (wouldn't want to risk wearing some real pro headgear just for the commute to work, and rarely use phones at home so I've no need to lash out serious cash - which was basically the point of this thread, actually, as I'm sure I'm not alone in reasoning this way). Maybe I should invest in another pair of EX71s, in case I got duds first time out :confused:
     
  24. Grey Area

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    Hmm, I can think of several possibilities:
    - You got a bad/damaged pair.
    - You somehow got US-made phones, which according to people on headfi.org are noticeably different (and worse) compared to those made in China - too much treble, too little anything else.
    - You have weird ears. ;) I wear my EX71s "upside down", with the wires pointing up and going over the ears towards the back. That way I can insert them deeper, and the friction between ear and wire prevents wire movement from shaking out the phones.

    Björn
     
  25. Uridium

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    From my Experience with EX71's you must put the biggest set of plugs on them that fit comfortably to get them to seal tightly into your ear otherwise they just sound really tinny. But once you get a tight seal in your Ear you cannot get better without spending £££@s more.

    Also hate to say it but I found the standard Ipod phones V good as well but refuse to wear Ipod phones!
     
  26. shadowritten

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    Quite possibly! ;) Interesting tip about the upside down fit, though - about the only thing I didn't try.

    So the US phones are different, huh? Can't recall where mine were from ...
     
  27. shadowritten

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    Tried all 3 sets, but no joy - even with the seal as tight as I could manage. What the hell was I doing wrong :confused:
     
  28. extremelydodgy

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    "What is the deal with the EX71s?"


    The thing about the EX71 is that they are the only widely available canalphone for the price they are. That makes it pretty much your only choice in most shops if you're after something which provides isolation and is handy... which the 71's are.


    However, they have more tin in their sound than Bolivia, and the bass is muddy and is just blown out of all proportion. Add that to a hiked treble which degenerates surprisingly soon and you have something which IMO is not exactly great value. Look all over the web and you'll also see reports of fairly premature deaths of the 71's.


    The posts which say the 81 sounds better also goes some way to indicate that many people can't tell sound quality... we get back to that subjectivity issue once again. The 71 and 81 have exactly the same drivers but the coupling difference (EX71 - jammed into ear, 81 - rest against canal) creates a sonic difference. You're hearing exactly the same driver but with a different interface. I didn't need the response plots of the drivers to tell me this.


    I think the EX71's are fairly well designed but the 'improved' EX81's with their non-formable earclips have taken a retrograde step for design. They only fit a certain range of ear sizes and shapes.


    Just going from the EX81 to even something like the PX200 will be a bit of a revelation in terms of sound quality.
     
  29. shadowritten

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    You'll know from my posts that I'm no audiophile - don't even know what it takes to be one - I speak simply from personal experience and opinion. But, if you can put it into layman's terms for the likes of me, how exactly is sound quality determined, and how would the average Joe tell the difference for him/herself?
     
  30. HD3

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    Surely not that bad! They have no tin compared to the sock earphone and the i-pod phone which are tin......which i why they are rated as being ok.

    I think they are great ear phone for the price, i'm yet to find some phones which match the sound quality at the same price.

    the Tin almost it this high treble, (well they are very linked).

    To be honest, i can't see a great problem with these phones. As i said earlyier in this tread you get a good upgrade for £10, (£15 phone vs the £25 EX's). But as you have said extremelydodgy theres not many other things on the market.

    Going back again to price, ear phones are a rip off in general. Sure phones are a much greater rip off than the EX71s considering all the materials are pritty much the same. All prices seem to work on the qualtiy/better sound factor.
     

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