In college, I held a part time job and my first big purchase was a pair of headphones, Sennheiser’s HD595. I wore them everywhere. In summer, I’d wear them as I walked to class. In winter, they would serve a dual purpose: headphone and earmuff. I just loved the sound so they stayed on my head. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have taken them everywhere, but even after the braving the heat and cold, they still sound great.
Their sound quality, stage presence, and clarity make them great for all kinds of music as well as gaming. Though they’re fairly big, they’re incredibly comfortable. The padding and the velour material around the ear make you forget that you’re wearing headphones during long sessions. For “audiophile” phones, they’re fairly easy to drive. Most of the time, they’re connected directly to my computer’s audio-out port, which is more than sufficient to produce good quality sound at any volume. However, as I walked to-from class during college, I found that plugging them into an iPod usually resulted in less than stellar sound quality. It turns out my PSP produced much better quality, so I switched to that.
As you can see from the picture, there’s a black grating covering the majority of the headphones, a trait found in “open” style headphones. With open headphones the diaphragm that vibrates to produce the sound is exposed to air. This improves sound quality since the sound waves don’t bounce around inside the ear piece, but it lets the music bleed into the environment. The upside is if you use them while walking around outside, you can hear road noise. While they used to be my default cans for pretty much everything, I decided to be kinder to them so they’ve been relegated to home use only.
After I graduated and got a job, I realized that I couldn’t really bring these headphones into the workplace. For one, the open design means I would be disturbing my office mate with my music. Another problem is that the head band and ear cushions give you a bad case of “headphone hair”. So my beloved cans were out of the question for work. After a bit of research, I came across the Audio-Technica ATH-EW9 headphones. These are clip-on style headphones that hang on your ear by the wire and soft rubber hook. The sound quality out of these is pretty amazing, though not quite as good as my H595’s. The only thing lacking is the bass — that’s not to say there is none, they’re just mid-top heavy compared to the Sennhesiers. They hang on your ear like glasses which took a bit of effort to get used to. But once you get them sitting on your ears just right, it’s easy to forget that you have them on because they’re so light and well padded. The closed design also means that I don’t disturb others. Another perk for the office is that these headphones sit on your ear rather than over your ear (supra-aural as opposed to circum-aural). Because of this, they let a little outside noise in, so I can still hear other people around me.
Point being, there are great headphones for every purpose and you can still get amazing sound quality in a small form factor.