Headphones are a minor addiction for me which means I have more of them than any normal person should conceivably own and what’s worse is that I’m still searching for the perfect pair. In reality no such thing as the perfect set of headphones exists or ever will, but there are an awful lot of great sets out there. I find it interesting that the really expensive ones rarely seem so wonderful. Among the expensive brands I’ve tested are the Ultrasone’s and the top end models from most of the pro audio manufacturers. My favorite headphones so far are the Shure SRH1540’s which sound fantastic and feel great when worn. They are also the one set of expensive headphones I would seriously contemplate purchasing. Since I’m too cheap to actually buy these things I make do with the ones I already have, all of which are pretty great sounding headphones in their own right.
Practically every serious audio engineer I know has a set of Sony MDR-V6 or MDR-7506 headphones (they issue them with your audio engineer license, right?). At a student workshop where I was volunteering, Roger Nichols touted the Sony’s as his favorite headphones and the ones he used when he had to mix with headphones. That’s a pretty good endorsement for Sony’s long-running headphones.
Then there are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50’s which sound very transparent, fold up nicely, and finally (since the x series) come with multiple removable cables, one of which even fits nicely into phone and tablet cases. I could easily see myself cutting mixes on these things, and in fact I do most critical headphone listening on these cans now.
Finally are the set sitting on my head right now, which are the Shure SRH840’s. They are heavy, kind of fold up but not really, have only one removable cord, and don’t sound quite as transparent as the AT’s. They do have one of the most comfortable headbands on the market and their weight is distributed nicely. I hadn’t listened to these in a while and had forgotten how nice they sound and what a pleasure they are to listen to for long periods of time. These were the headphones I used to wear when I flew because they seal well and their weight keeps that seal in place to help block out most of the obnoxious and tiring sounds intrinsic to commercial aircraft. Unfortunately there’s only so much noise these headphones will seal out and if you’re sitting too close to an engine or are on an extra-noisy plane then they don’t work as well as noise canceling headphones. Eventually I migrated away from the 840’s to the AT’s for most audio work but never really lost the soft spot in my heart for them, so it’s very, very nice to be listening to them again. Ahhhhh…