alternatives to Beats headphones

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alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 8:47 am

Since we are all aware that Apple is buying Beats for $3.2 billion, I have a question.

Assume you are listening to music on an iPod or similar device. Given a budget of $300 or less, what are the best headphones that satisfy these conditions: noise cancellation (e.g. Bose QC15) and high fidelity (not necessarily audiophile since audiophile = $$$$$)?
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:06 am

http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-AT ... B000ULAP4U

Lots of factors in picking headphones/audio equipment. Nice thing about these headphones is that they are pretty damn good and they still don't cost a ton. You also don't need some crazy equipment to drive them or anything.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:13 am

Active noise cancellation is generally considered undesirable, because it produces some white noise which sort of 'colors' the music you're listening to. Passive noise cancellation (isolation) will result in less artificial 'coloration' of the sound.

The headphones that DancinJack linked to are very highly regarded (in the price range you mentioned), and are probably overall the best you could get. However, there are other headphones (particularly IEMs) in your price range that would be much more isolating. If that's a serious concern, look at Etymotic's in-ear IEMs.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:34 am

ineffable wrote:Active noise cancellation is generally considered undesirable, because it produces some white noise which sort of 'colors' the music you're listening to. Passive noise cancellation (isolation) will result in less artificial 'coloration' of the sound.

The headphones that DancinJack linked to are very highly regarded (in the price range you mentioned), and are probably overall the best you could get. However, there are other headphones (particularly IEMs) in your price range that would be much more isolating. If that's a serious concern, look at Etymotic's in-ear IEMs.


FWIW, I have a pair of Etymotic IEM's and they're great. Not the most comfortable pair of in-ears i've ever had, but they do have great isolation and they sound great.

And thanks for explaining isolation vs active noise cancellation. I meant to, and just didn't.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:37 am

Has anyone heard of Grado? I just found these and these and I did find a later model of those Audio Technica headphones here.

Any more ideas will be appreciated. Also, I am avoiding in-ear buds because I find them uncomfortable.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:57 am

Yeah, Grado's aren't a bad choice either. I don't think they do as good of a job at isolation as the ATH-M50 though.

You really need to try things out for yourself though. Usually companies have a return policy or "try-out" period.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 10:39 am

I've got Sennheiser HD 280 Pros ($100 over ear), Klipsch Image One ($150 on ear), and Sol Republic Jax ($30 earbuds). All 3 are great, but if I was thinking for exclusively mobile, the Sennheisers are out. Too big and unwieldy for that type of thing, but they do sound great. Mine are almost 15 years old now and the band pad looks a little worse for wear, however they don't sell replacement band pads, just ear cups, of which mine look fine. The Jax are great for when space is an issue, but they are $30 ear buds, not $100+ earbuds. They do the job and sound decent enough. I like these a lot because they're the first set of earbuds I can use without my ears turning bright red and giving me agonizing pain due to my little tiny ears. The favorites that I have are the Klipsch. Compact enough to take with you everywhere, despite being 'on ear', I have tiny ears and they are essentially 'over ear' for me. Sound is great without being too bright as well. They've about 2 years old now and still look like the day I bought them despite beating the hell out of them.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 1:27 pm

riviera74 wrote:Has anyone heard of Grado? I just found these and these and I did find a later model of those Audio Technica headphones here.

Any more ideas will be appreciated. Also, I am avoiding in-ear buds because I find them uncomfortable.


One thing you might want to consider is sound signature. Grado makes headphones that are generally best for rock music. I forget exactly what they do, but the sound signature they produce is oriented toward rock. The ATH M50 headphones are more balanced (which may or may nor be what you want); they're more typical 'studio' headphones that should sound good with anything. Some people don't like the more balanced signature. You have to get a feel for what you want.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 1:38 pm

Why is everyone assuming the OP doesn't have a use for active noise cancellation when s/he listed a specific active cancelling product s/he would like to match? Perhaps the OP takes frequent airplane trips?

Besides, active cancellation can be turned off when you don't need it, whereas too much passive isolation can lead to sweaty ears.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 1:55 pm

ludi wrote:Why is everyone assuming the OP doesn't have a use for active noise cancellation when s/he listed a specific active cancelling product s/he would like to match? Perhaps the OP takes frequent airplane trips?

Besides, active cancellation can be turned off when you don't need it, whereas too much passive isolation can lead to sweaty ears.


No one assumed that, at least I don't think so. We just thought isolation is a better alternative for the most part.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 2:19 pm

Some redditor has some timely, relevant, and concise advice here:
http://www.reddit.com/r/gadgets/comment ... howhatwhy/
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 5:04 pm

Re Grados - I disagree about them being rock oriented - they are pretty middle of the road without heavy emphasis on any section of the audio spectrum.

They are not closed and allow in some ambient sound - I wouldn't suggest them for a plane - buds are much better at closure - some are excellent - like the Etymotics

The Grado series have plenty of bass but it not likely to be distorted if your source is good.

For me, my Grado 325s do great with the Wailers as well as with individual instruments in jazz. Grado 60s fine too
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 5:12 pm

i use these while im working, and they block out noise pretty well.....in fact if im cutting stuff on the chop saw or circular saw i use these to limit the hearing damage....

http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-502544 ... B001EZUQ5E

they do have a lil thump noise when u bump the cable but for the price i think they sound great
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 5:30 pm

I use Klipsch in ear headphones. Noise isolation is excellent and the sound is great.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 5:55 pm

riviera74 wrote: Given a budget of $300 or less, what are the best headphones that satisfy these conditions: noise cancellation and high fidelity (not necessarily audiophile since audiophile = $$$$$)?

riviera74 wrote:Also, I am avoiding in-ear buds because I find them uncomfortable.


There are plenty of circumaural, "closed" (if you need noise reduction), high quality (both physical build and audio quality) models from Sennheiser/Audio-Technica/Beyerdynamic in this price segment. Just search around, visit local shops which sell these or get them from a reputable online store with good return policy to try them out in person and see which particular model is most comfortable to you and which has the particular sound "signature" you would personally prefer :wink:

Just a personal advice - try to avoid headphones with "active noise cancellation". They might negatively affect the sound quality (this is pretty subjective, though), they add extra points of failure and "passive" noise reduction on many headphone models might be "good enough" for your needs (for example I was pretty satisfied with some "closed" circumaural Sennheiser models when I used to fly very often on a different international flights).
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 6:22 pm

riviera74 wrote:Since we are all aware that Apple is buying Beats for $3.2 billion, I have a question.

Assume you are listening to music on an iPod or similar device. Given a budget of $300 or less, what are the best headphones that satisfy these conditions: noise cancellation (e.g. Bose QC15) and high fidelity (not necessarily audiophile since audiophile = $$$$$)?

http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-HD25-1 ... ords=hd-25
^Not active noise cancellation, but they work well enough for those talking heads on ESPN.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 8:44 pm

Definitely keep an eye on the sensitivity spec; many portable devices have rather wimpy output amps that won't be able to drive many full-sized headphones cleanly. I've got a pair of the ~$100 Sennheiser HD-280s that sound rather good when provided with plenty of power and a mild bass boost, but fall on their face when driven off an MP3 player or generic portable CD player.

Here's a good place to start.
http://www.goodcans.com/HeadphoneReview ... /iPod.html
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 8:56 pm

ludi wrote:Why is everyone assuming the OP doesn't have a use for active noise cancellation when s/he listed a specific active cancelling product s/he would like to match? Perhaps the OP takes frequent airplane trips?


from personal experience, i have never, ever found any active noise cancellation system that was even as remotely effective at removing background noise as in-ear, noise isolation earphones.

and i'm talking about cheap-ass $40 in-ear plugs vs $300+ active noise cancellation headphones. On the street, the $40 plugs win every time. The expensive headphones had better fidelity when indoors and it was quiet... and the noise cancellation wasn't needed. So... yeah. IMO, noise cancellation is a pointless technology at the moment, and unless there are several revolutionary advances, simple noise isolation works much better.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 8:58 pm

willyolio wrote:and i'm talking about cheap-ass $40 in-ear plugs vs $300+ active noise cancellation headphones. On the street, the $40 plugs win every time. The expensive headphones had better fidelity when indoors and it was quiet... and the noise cancellation wasn't needed. So... yeah. IMO, noise cancellation is a pointless technology at the moment, and unless there are several revolutionary advances, simple noise isolation works much better.

the OP stated s/he doesn't want IEMs
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:12 pm

i'd still recommend OP give it another try, though. comfort in IEMs really just boil down to the tips. Not sure how many he's tried, but if the silicone tips don't work, try foam ones. if regular foam isn't great, try memory foam. I played around and ended up buying comply foam tips separately, in multiple sizes, and found one with a perfect fit.

Given a $300 budget, i'm betting $100-150 in IEMs and blowing $50 in an assortment of tips will get him something comfortable, and still sound better than any $300 noise cancellation.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:24 pm

I've been meaning to post something to this effect in the deals section but if you're in the market for fancy headphones keep an eye on Massdrop. It's a group purchasing site: the more people commit to buying one of their items, the lower the price. They really have a thing for audiophile gear and at any given time have at least one and usually several high end cans.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:28 pm

willyolio wrote:i'd still recommend OP give it another try, though. comfort in IEMs really just boil down to the tips. Not sure how many he's tried, but if the silicone tips don't work, try foam ones. if regular foam isn't great, try memory foam. I played around and ended up buying comply foam tips separately, in multiple sizes, and found one with a perfect fit.

Given a $300 budget, i'm betting $100-150 in IEMs and blowing $50 in an assortment of tips will get him something comfortable, and still sound better than any $300 noise cancellation.

IEMs definitely have their place in the consumer and pro audio audience, but long term comfortable use isn't one of them. The higher SPLs they produce also damage your hearing quicker.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 9:58 pm

Thank you for all of your suggestions.

Even though I am not looking for in-ear earbuds, I am certain others would like to replace their (really cheap) earbuds with higher quality ones. Any recommendations for them?
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sat May 10, 2014 11:24 pm

chµck wrote:The higher SPLs they produce also damage your hearing quicker.


that's what the volume knob is for...

in fact, it's the exact opposite. due to the fact that they block out background noise, you can play things back at much lower volumes and hear clearly, whereas with other systems you have to turn up the volume to drown out the background.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Sun May 11, 2014 1:34 am

DancinJack wrote:Yeah, Grado's aren't a bad choice either. I don't think they do as good of a job at isolation as the ATH-M50 though.

You really need to try things out for yourself though. Usually companies have a return policy or "try-out" period.


Grado headphones have ZERO isolation, the only closed/sealed/any-isolation-at-all headphone was the limited run "Bush Mills X." Grado headphones are an open headphone design. This means there's nothing blocking outside noise, likewise there's nothing preventing your audio from escaping out. Basically, if your intent is to use these headphones on the go then Grado isn't going to work.

The OP seems to be looking for a closed headphone. Closed headphones offer at least some level of isolation, with specific pairs providing more than others. For instance, the Audio Technica ATH-M50 you mention offers a moderate to high level of isolation. Making them good for use in noisy environments.
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Re: alternatives to Beats headphones

Postposted on Mon May 12, 2014 7:21 am

I've been eyeing a pair of V-Moda crossfade m100's for a while. They're supposedly have bass like the beats but better mids and highs. I like the boom mic option they have for FPS's and the fact they fold up well. I'm not sure how well the block out noise, though. If I ever come up with the $300 to buy a pair I'll let you know :roll:
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