Dr. Perry Alexander

The University of Kansas

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Love them or hate them, I spend quite a bit of my listening time using headphones (or cans for short). I have a ginormous high end system at home that I love, but it’s not particularly portable. Even if it work, I think it’s a bit loud for the office.

I’m going to write about the several pairs of headphones I own and when I use them. Grado SR-2, Sennheiser Momentum M2, Cambridge Audio Melomania, and Etymotic.

The Grado SR-2 cans are my reference headphones. I use them at work paired with a Benchmark DAC1 which has a nice headphone amp. The Grados are my favorite and most expensive phones. They have an edgy sound I like and are reasonably comfortable. They are not portable and cannot be used in a room with others. They are open backed phones meaning the earpieces do not have backs. Thus they bleed sound into the room. Luckily I have a solo office.

My favorite portable cans are the Sennheiser Momentum’s. They are not too expensive and come in at about $250. They are closed back and have Bluetooth connectivity. Also noise canceling. They are traditional cans in that they go over the ears. It makes great sense these are my favorite portables because they are the biggest of my portables. Biggest implying bigger coils and bigger base. However, bigger implying they are difficult to carry and impossible to exercise in.

Enter the PowerBeats and Cambridge Audio cans. The PowerBeats are an interesting combination of not so good sound and tight integration with Apple. They also will not fall out of my ears when I’m running. I don’t need great music when I run, but I can’t be horrible either. At this, the PowerBeats fill the bill pretty well.

The Cambridge Audio phones are much smaller and go in the ear. They fall out when I work out, but are fantastic for carrying around in my iPod bag. Thus they get used quite a bit over lunch at the Merc.

Finally Etymotic which are ear-plug in-ear phones. They are literally earplugs and block out everything. However, they do not use Bluetooth and can really bug your ears from time to time. The sound is remarkable, but I just can’t use them all the time - particularly unsafe for running or anytime you need to hear what’s going on around you. Plus, the wires are painful.

There you have it. A headphone for every occasion!