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I've been using Bose Quiet Comfort headphones for a number of years now. They've seen better times, and I think it's time to get new headphones. I think they were pretty good, but I am wondering if I should get a more serious set. Specifically, I was looking at Sennheiser, but am open to any other company.

  • What should I be looking for in headphones that I would be using at home and at work to listen to music?
  • How much is reasonable to spend?
  • What are my options?
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I have heard good things about (Grado)[gradolabs.com/], though I myself have had a pair of Sennheiser headphones for over a decade. For my next pair I will probably try Grado, based on their reputation. For what it's worth. :) –  Brian M. Hunt Mar 22 '12 at 19:44
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2 Answers

In my efforts to try to strike a balance between price and performance, I finally settled on a set of Koss UR40 headphones. They are over the ear (surround the ear) headphones. They run in the $25-$40, depending on where you get them. I picked them because they seemed to get good reviews, I had owned other Koss headphones in the past that I liked, and I wasn't going to be upset if something happened to them as I took them from home to work to ...

Sound wise, I am very happy with them. Bass response, including the bottom end, is there, accurate, and not boomy. High end response (10+kHz) is nice and crisp without sounding over boosted.

In the past, I had a set of Bose Quiet Comfort headphones that my previous employer "loaned" people complaining about the noisy work environment. (When I left there, I had to give them up, although I really liked them.)

Comparing the Koss UR40 to the Bose is an interesting task: $40 headphones vs. $250+ headphones. In terms of noise cancelling, the Bose win hands down. The UR40 lets in a fair amount of ambient noise. The Bose, well... that's what has made them famous.

In terms of the reproduced sound, it hard to say which I liked better. To me, the Bose always seemed like they had a loudness circuit in them. By that, I mean the low end and top end seemed to be boosted a bit. The sound was good without sounding boomy, and I really liked it. While all of the frequencies are there on the Koss UR40, they response seems flatter, and I find myself dialing in my own loudness. [That's really my preference for the loudness sound. On a truly flat sound system, I do tend to boost the very bottom lows and tweak up the highs. I like to feel what I listen too, and I do love bright shiny things.]

The other difference I found was in what I would call room presence. (I'm sure there's a better name for it.) When you listen to something from a pair of speakers placed in the room, the acoustics of the room at something -- a little delay here, a little more response here, etc. When listening on headphones, you don't get the interaction of the sound in the room. I sometimes call it "flat" or "shallow" -- there is no depth to the sound. When I was using the Bose, I don't remember noticing that nearly as much if at all. When I use the Koss UR40s, I do notice it. I am guessing that there is some extra electronic magic going on with the noise cancelling on the Bose to help solve that issue.

Speaking of Noise Cancelling: When we were offered a choice of headphones to combat the noisy work environment, I listened to several different brands of noise cancelling headphones. All of them, including ones from some very well respected manufacturers, left made me feel queasy and slightly spacially disoriented after wearing them for 1/2 hour. In a couple of units, I could actually hear very high frequency remnants of the noise cancelling algorithms. (Yes, I do consider myself to have "Golden Ears" :)) The only exception was the Bose Quiet Comfort headphones. Of the 80 or so of us who tried headphones, only a couple of us had that response, so YMMV.

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Do you enjoy listening to music on your Bose headphones? If so, stick with them. If not, what don't you like about the Bose headphones?

I listen with a set of AKG K-240 mkII headphones. They are more comfortable than my previous favorite, the industry standard Sony MDR-7506. I've also got a set of Sony V700-DJ headphones, but those are just painful. At the office or when traveling, I prefer in-ear devices like the Etymotic ER-6i.

As far as budget goes, how much do you want to spend? Personally, I find that the sweet spot is between USD $100 and $200. I'm not able to notice a difference above $200, so I don't spend more than that. Under $100 you can find some good deals (I got my ER-6i pair on sale for $50 or so) but build quality can suffer.

Your options are everything out there. You can constrain your options by setting a budget range, or picking closed vs. open, on-ear/in-ear/over-ear, etc.

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