I have a problem. I am an addict. It started simply enough last year. I decided I wanted a new pair of headphones since my wife had appropriated my Beats Solo 2’s to use during her workouts. I began by reading reviews online of dozens of different headphones. This very quickly led to analysis paralysis. I read a lot of very negative commentary about the entire Beats line with regard to their sound quality. I want to say that I am certainly not an audiophile. I could not tell that the Beats Solo 2’s had extra bass when listening to music. Typically I like harder/metal type music. My mine usage for the Solo 2’s was wearing them while walking my dog.
We typically walk 3-4 times a week for about an hour to an hour and half. Typically I listen to podcasts while we are walking. This means that sound quality really isn’t all that important. I mean, how good does the sound really need to be when listening to a guy ranting about any given random topic? Every now and then I did listen to MP3’s (notorious for not having the best audio quality) by Iron Maiden, Ghost BC, Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Sixx A.M., Motionless in White… you get the idea.
I eventually decided on the Audio Technica ATH-M50X’s. I chose these because they have good build quality and detailed balanced sound. These were purchased in April 2016 for about $120 on Amazon. I was very happy with them (I am actually wearing them as I type this) until the summer of 2016. That’s when I decided that wearing these outside while walking the dog was simply not very practical. I live in South Carolina and it gets pretty hot and humid here. The search for in ear headphones began at that time. Back to the reviews and the subsequent analysis paralysis.
I read a bunch of reviews and all that I can really remember from that time period was reading that in ear monitors (IEM’s) did not sound as good as full size over the ear headphones. This made sense to me, especially after listening to the ATH-M50X’s. The problem was that I couldn’t decide if I wanted wired or blue tooth style IEM’s. So I ordered both. I ordered the Jaybird X2 wireless and the Etymotic HF5’s which are wired. To make a long story short the Jaybirds sounded great but one side crapped out the first time I wore them to the gym and got them sweaty. I was not impressed. I was however impressed with Amazon’s return policy and my very quick refund for Jaybirds. I have absolutely fallen in love with the Etymotics. They are a fantastic sounding pair of IEM’s at a very reasonable price. I paid $110 for them at the end of June 2016. The Etymotics are like any other IEM with regard to a good fit equaling good sound. They came with a set of triple flange style earbuds that were a perfect fit. Then one day in October one of them broke. I ordered a pair of comply foam aftermarket ear buds which were sensational and extremely comfortable. These have been my go to IEM’s and used for any type of travel or outdoor activity.
Once I had these two pair of headphones (ATH-M50X’s and HF5’s) I decided to give Spotify premium a shot and see what that was all about. I figured for 10 bucks a month you can’t go wrong. A year later and I am still using the Spotify service. The only problem was that it got me interested in listening to higher quality tracks than typical MP3’s. I began to get interested in lossless files. This was a huge mistake. It led me to me next pair of headphones.
In August of 2016 I welcomed the Shure SRH 1540’s into my life. They are without a doubt the most amazing headphones I have ever put on my head. I read a bunch of reviews that raved about sound, quality and comfort of the Shure’s. I had to order them sight unseen as I could not find a pair near me to try out. I was very confident in the Amazon return policy so I didn’t see a real issue with buying them simply to try them. Now that I have I can simply say that if they broke tonight… as in right now, I would order another pair within minutes. They are literally that good. I will not try any other headphones in that price range though as I am scared I may like them as well and as you can see this headphone thing can get out of hand quickly!
Last week I decided I wanted a pair of wireless headphones. I have been going to the gym for about a month now. I go 5-6 times a week and do both cardio and some weight lifting. I got sick of wires rather quickly and decided to give blue tooth headphones another try after my sad Jaybird X2 experience. I went with the Powerbeats 3. I read the reviews (again) and decided that the water resistance and blue tooth capability were worth what I knew would be a reduction in sound quality. Everything I read was trying to convince me that Beats were overpriced and the sound was too bass heavy. I got the headphones and began using them to walk the dog and go to the gym. The silicon earbuds that come with the Powerbeats were not as good as the comply tips I had been using with the HF5’s so I ordered some for the Powerbeats as well. When walking the dog I actually heard more traffic while walking the dog and sound leaked in while I was at the gym. Music also sounded a bit tinny as well. Podcasts on the other had sounded great. I suppose that is because most podcasts have mediocre sound at best anyway. After about 3 or 4 days the comply tips came in and I used them on the Powerbeats. The difference in sound quality was literally night and day. I simply could not believe the difference. The tinny sound disappeared completely. There was no more sound leaking in while walking the dog or at the gym. In addition I have not lost blue tooth signal once while working out or working. I had read some negative comments about the Powerbeats causing tracks to skip by themselves or stop playing. I have not experienced either of those problems yet.
So there you have yet. My small but growing collection of headphones is a source of great joy to me. I have heard so much more in the music that I thought I knew well for the past 30 or so years. Do yourself a favor and upgrade from the crappy $20 headphones that you have been using. You don’t have to go crazy like I did. I think if you spend around $100-150 you will be amazed at what technology can do for music these days!