It’s time for new headphones. Again.
I’ve blown through two pairs of Beats Solo on-ear headphones in a relatively short period of time so I knew I wasn’t approaching that brand anymore. I do enjoy that they come in array of colors and I will concede that they provide great sound, especially bass, fair noise-reduction and they’re pretty comfortable, but one of the things that makes them great makes them a problem — they fold up for travel really well but I think the physical flexibility also makes them ephemeral. Or maybe I just beat the crap out of my Beats. And in any case, as I said, my love affair with them has come to an end.
When I’m going to spend a chunk of change on anything, especially an electronic device, I get rather absorbed in research. No joke – we’re talking days and weeks of obsessing. My go-to sites for researching headphones are Engadget and Sound Guys, and especially the latter because they also post a ton of video reviews of products which makes me feel more at ease (typically I hate vlogging but I like these guys). Cnet can be handy for research as well but I often get overwhelmed by their overly-cluttered interface. I also rely a lot on a few friends who always have great recommendations in this area.
I concluded I could get out of this for less than $200 and ultimately found myself considering three pairs of headphones.
It took me a little while to learn I actually prefer on-ear to over-the-ear (sometimes called “around the ear”). I don’t like bulky headphones and I always get warm when my ears are fully cupped over. Noise cancellation is nice but not practical at the office so I just aim for “noise isolation.” I obviously want to get quality sound. Some headphones promise an amped up bass sound — that actually doesn’t matter that much to me but I guess it’s a nice perk. In this price range, with the top brands, you can rest assured you’re going to get great sound across the board so then it becomes about other preferences like style, comfort and customization (if that’s your thing). I am now on the hunt for durability since I seem to put headphones through torture. I like when they fold up and come with a sturdy case. I don’t care if they’re cordless. In fact, I prefer a cord because I hope they’ll have a mic and then I can use them for phone calls.
Fun fact about me – when it comes to earbuds, nine times out of 10 you’ll find me wearing the left earbud in my right ear and the right earbud in my left. I don’t know why but it’s always more comfortable for me.
Sennheiser Urbanite On-Ear Headphones
For about $199 you’re getting a solid pair of headphones from one of the most respected, oldest brands in audio. I was drawn to these because they get a pretty decent review across the board and they come in a unique shape in a wide array of colors (I like the plum best). I came really close to buying these but in the end, I came back around to te durability issue. The carrying case that comes with the Urbanites is just a fabric pouch. In addition, I was concerned that the headband part was made, in part, with fabric, as opposed to leather or even plastic. I felt like I’d beat the shit out of these pretty quickly. I also read a couple review citing they’re not too comfortable to wear for long periods and knowing full well I’ll wear these all day, every day at work, I couldn’t risk finding that out on my own.
Bose SoundTrue On-Ear Headphones
The least expensive of the bunch at about $150. And who hasn’t heard of Bose when it comes to anything audio? Best Buy only puts a few headphone brands out to try in their stores; Beats, Skull Candy and Bose with maybe a few variances depending on location. So I could walk into the store and try them on. The around-ear model is more substantial than the on-ear which are really light-weight and seemed really flimsy to me. In some video reviews they twist and bend them to prove they don’t break but I’m just too skeptical. And in the end, once I put them on, I actually didn’t love the audio quality. I know it’s Bose, but maybe they sacrificed a little with these to make them more affordable than their usual headphones. And in addition – and I know this sounds weird – I feel like they look like airplane headphones.
V-MODA XS On-Ear Headphones
A friend told me about V-Moda, which is a really popular brand with DJs but not as well-known to the common consumer. They use words like “military grade” and “Kevlar” whenever they describe the construction of the headphones and sell every pair with not only a two-year warranty, but a buy-back program for when you want a new pair. They also have some cool customization options like colored, steel plates you can change out on the sides and even engrave. And despite all those heavy-sounding ingredients, they are supposed to be rather light-weight and are pretty unanimously reviewed as comfortable for hours and hours of wearing. Also unique to these – the output port for the cable exists on both sides, so you can move the cable from your right ear to your left ear. That’s kind of handy if you don’t always keep your phone in the same pocket. I like their “Mind the Gap” slogan which is in reference to the bit of sound you always sacrifice to the gap between the actual earpiece and your ear. These are supposed to kick-ass sound-wise and while I never considered it at all before, I thought it was cool they’re based here in Los Angeles.
Are you guessing which pair I’m choosing? I saved the best for last. At about $180, I think I am going with the V-MODA XS On-Ear Headphones. I’ll let you know how it turns out soon!