Dr. Perry Alexander

The University of Kansas

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A couple of updates to my headphones list. Bought a couple of pairs and disowned a pair.

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 were, 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. Newest in the stable are Focal Elegia and a pair of Sennheiser earbuds. Now dead in the closet are my Power Beats. Read on…

The Grado SR-2 cans continue to my reference headphones, but my Focals are giving them a run for their money. I use the Focals at work paired with a Benchmark DAC1 which has a nice headphone amp and the SR-2s at home with my Pro-Ject Pre-box. The Grados are my favorite open-backed headphones. 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 at home.

The Focals are my favorite closed-back headphones. Ever. Soundstage is not quite as large as the SR-2s, but it’s not fair comparing open and closed back headphones. Closed-back will always be a bit more confined. However, they are awesome. The bass is outstanding and the cans are perfectly neutral. The Grado’s are edgy and forward - which I like - and cannot be called neutral. Different and equally awesome sounds. Also got the Elegias at a substantial discount. That always helps.

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 bass. However, bigger implying they are difficult to carry and impossible to exercise in.

Enter the PowerBeats and Cambridge Audio buds. 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 it can’t be horrible either. After a year or two with the PowerBeats, I consider them the worst phones I have owned. They do work brilliantly with the Apple infrastructure. However, they frequently discharge in the case rather than charging and at times only one bud forms a link with the device I’m using. Now the left bud will not discharge completely and only stays connected for about 10 minutes. Do not buy these buds.

Replacing the PowerBeats are Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds. Now this is what earbuds should aspire two. Solid as a rock, always connect properly, and the sound is glorious. I continue to be astonished by the bass. Yes, I do have to connect to them manually, but who cares. They always work and sound great. Bye-bye PowerBeats forever.

The Cambridge Audio buds 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!