Looking for those perfect noise-reducing, mini-headphones
November 14, 2002 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Looking for those perfect noise-reducing, mini-headphones What do Wyclef Jean, Wilco, Jethro Tull, Blues Traveler, Everclear, Nikka Costa, Weezer, Pete Yorn, Tricky, Sum 41, Herbie Hancock, Barenaked Ladies, Oasis, and Phantom Planet share ? Apparently the love for Shures E-Series mini-headphones, briefly mentioned in todays NYT (reg req). The professional musician's alternative to the effete Bang and Olufsen and the monster Bose. Can personally no longer live without them.
posted by Voyageman (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
agreed. also, from the b&o site:

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Please visit Microsoft to obtain the current version of Internet Explorer.

posted by modge at 8:26 AM on November 14, 2002

I haven't used the Shure in-ear phones, but I've used the Etymotic ER-6. I didn't really like them. I felt too disconnected from reality (they provide a TON of isolation from the outside world,) and it felt like the sound was being injected straight into my eardrums.

Putting them in reminded me of the scene with the ear-burrowing bugs in The Wrath of Khan...

They probably have the highest fidelity for portable wear, though.
posted by zsazsa at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2002

Ad or not, Voyageman just helped me cross one more off my Christmas list. Thanks!
posted by spilon at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2002

Waaaay too much for headphones. To go along with this, could someone post a thread about how vinyl LPs are better than CDs? I never get tired of that one.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:28 AM on November 14, 2002

Vinyl LP's are better than CD's because they are ... uhhh ... bigger ... and ... uhhh ... more black. And, errr.

I give up.
posted by ralawrence at 8:38 AM on November 14, 2002

XQUZYPHYR: Says on the site the prices range from 100 to 500 bucks. Pretty damned pricey if you ask me.
posted by freakystyley at 8:38 AM on November 14, 2002

Is it just me who is totally squicked out by the headphones you stick in your ears? It's getting harder and harder to find the old-fashioned dorky ones, so I may just have to lean to deal with it...
posted by JoanArkham at 8:48 AM on November 14, 2002

Do all the models really block outside sounds well? I have semi-cheap in-ear headphones, and I hate having to turn up the volume super-high so I can hear something when I'm on the subway.
posted by panopticon at 8:56 AM on November 14, 2002

What the heck does 'squicked' mean?

On topic, these headphones are ultra dope. I want some of my own.

Regarding the subject of 'ads' on MeFi, if it's an interesting product, why not say so? I'm against using the board as a blatant promotional tool, but I'm betting Voyageman doesn't work for Shure.
posted by maniactown at 8:56 AM on November 14, 2002

I enjoy wearing headphones while drinking a refreshing Pepsi Blue, myself! someone was going to say it

JoanArkham: I'm a big fan of the little headphones you clip over your ears. Twenty bucks, the sound quality is good enough for my tastes, and you don't have to stick anything directly in your ears.
posted by turaho at 8:57 AM on November 14, 2002

You're mixing apples and oranges with the Shure and the Bose. The Bose headphones use microphones to monitor ambient noise and then attempt to cancel it by amplifying the inverted noise signal through the 'phones. The Shure headphones attempt to block the noise through the quality of the sleeve-to-ear fit.
posted by timeistight at 9:02 AM on November 14, 2002

Hee, squick.
posted by Karmakaze at 9:04 AM on November 14, 2002

i'd rather have this this
posted by goddam at 9:04 AM on November 14, 2002

Just in case anyone is taking this thread seriously: before you spend upwards of US$100 for noise cancelling earphones, be sure to check out the Sony Fontopia set that are half the price. Decent range, decent quality and all but eliminates the ambient noise sitting just behind the wing on even the most ancient 737-300...

Carry on snarking...
posted by JollyWanker at 9:08 AM on November 14, 2002

I left a pair of those B&O A8 headphones in a cab a week ago friday. Goddamn was I pissed off Saturday morning. I'll check into the Shure's but more than likely I'll be buying another pair of the B&Os.

(And if you're in Toronto and found a pair, lemme know. :)
posted by dobbs at 9:23 AM on November 14, 2002

I really like the etymotic ER 6 Isolater, I got mine from headphone, They're a bit more expensive then the cheapest Shure's, but they're silicone, (so compfy), and are designed for 15-20db of noise squishing. Its what I use them for, since I rarely perform on stage. Etymotic's also strictly a performance in-ear company.
posted by stryder at 9:30 AM on November 14, 2002

Bone Fones! Been looking for them for years. They would rock for skiing and cycling. Next stop E-Bay
posted by BentPenguin at 9:40 AM on November 14, 2002

What do Wyclef Jean, Wilco, Jethro Tull, Blues Traveler, Everclear, Nikka Costa, Weezer, Pete Yorn, Tricky, Sum 41, Herbie Hancock, Barenaked Ladies, Oasis, and Phantom Planet share ?

A pressing need to make sponsorship money before their careers come to a crashing halt.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:49 AM on November 14, 2002

aren't these dangerous? i prefer open-ear headphones so i can hear it when a damn bike messenger is going to mow me down or when someone is yelling "car coming!" (or on a plane, "all your hostages are belong to us!")
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:01 AM on November 14, 2002

A pressing need to make sponsorship money before their careers come to a crashing halt.

Right. I don't think they all share that trait. Unless I missed a whole season of "Behind the Music."

Is this really an ad? Seems like Voyageman found a product that does something he enjoys and wanted to share it. It's not like the Spiderman thread. Accuse me of reductio ad assholism, but if he posted about a 100% effective AIDS vaccine that only one company made, would that be an ad thread too?
posted by yerfatma at 10:05 AM on November 14, 2002

i'm not sure what all the rancor is about, it doesn't feel like an ad to me. i think it's an interesting product and was glad to have a bunch of resources to explore.
granted, i'm a bit of a music/sound geek, but surely i'm not the only one?
posted by dolface at 10:09 AM on November 14, 2002

OOhh the horror. Me-Fi is being tainted by the foul stench of commerce.

I thought these products were pretty interesting and have enough of a technological edge to be a FPP. The constant carping about the worthiness of posts does not contribute much to the quality of a thread. If you don't like headphones or "product" posts don't read them. It was pretty clear in the post what was contained within.
posted by monkeyman at 10:11 AM on November 14, 2002

Right now I use Sony's w.ear MDR-Q33LP/S for my MP3/CD player and my minidisc player. I use Philips SBC HP550 for my PC. My next pair will either be Grado SR60 or Sony MDR-E888LP.
posted by riffola at 10:20 AM on November 14, 2002


don't fuck with Wilco
posted by matteo at 10:35 AM on November 14, 2002

E Series earphones are designed so that the cables pass behind your ears — out of sight and similarly out of the way. Perfect for your active lifestyle.

Why, that -is- perfect for my active lifestyle! And hopefully Tricky got really fired up by no-one buying his last album or his career truly is over.
posted by robself at 10:42 AM on November 14, 2002

these are really nice, but i agree with zsazsa... they feel like a band is trying to push their amps through your ear canal.
posted by the aloha at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2002

I'd still like to hear from someone using cheap noise-canceling earphones. I work in a cubicle and could use them.
posted by mecran01 at 10:46 AM on November 14, 2002

I commute on New Jersey Transit and the damn announcements have been lous enough recently to cause internal bleeding. Stopping up the old ear-holes would help with this. Noise cancellation would help with the rest of the noise. But I do fear death by bus if I kept them on in New York [freakin'] City.
posted by Songdog at 11:05 AM on November 14, 2002

If you want noise-cancelling headphones, all you need is a little parafin wax.
Any brand will do.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2002

don't fuck with Wilco

right on Matteo! ;-)
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:27 AM on November 14, 2002

well, i thought tricky's last album as at least better than the one before it. he will never again approach maxinquaye though, unfortunately.
posted by ejoey at 11:30 AM on November 14, 2002

riffola- why the SR60s and not 80s? I remember trying them out, albeit in a store, and the price difference being minimal relative to the quality diff. Not so much sound quality as comfort actually. The SR60s are brutal, at least on my head. Need something to replace my AKG-240s (too high impedance. Only thing that drives them well is my mixer, and carrying them around with an iPod is ridiculous).

FWIW, on the ad issue, I liked this post.
posted by jeb at 11:44 AM on November 14, 2002

I use the fairly cheap Sonys. They cut outside sounds by about 40-50%. Still enough to hear what's going on around you, but quiet enough to keep the music clear.
Earplug phones are not for everyone though. (And they ARE different form those which just sit AT the ear canal rather than actuall plug INTO it.) Many earphones audio quality can also be very affected by the music device you're using. Some phones don't sound well with certain players. Check online groups for others using your player to see what they recommend.
posted by HTuttle at 11:56 AM on November 14, 2002

Actually, my band looked into getting in-ear monitors last year. The Shure offering started at about $400 a set. (For the hideous E1s nonetheless, which look like something that shipped with a 1970's transcribing machine.) Needless to say, we stuck with traditional wedge monitoring. $99 for the E2c is excellent, I think we'll finally make the switch to in-ear monitoring.
posted by danherwig at 12:32 PM on November 14, 2002

I don't know about you, but I think these headphones would go great with a nice, refreshing bottle of PEPSI BLUE. Yes, Pepsi Blue, that cool, refreshing drink... so much better than that other cola, because, you see, IT'S BLUE! Yes, PEPSI BLUE and expensive, noise-reduction, in-ear headphones -- the perfect combination for people on the go, JUST LIKE YOU! So let's all settle back and relax, with a nice tall bottle of PEPSI BLUE... available from your grocer or local convenience store. Just stop in and tell the man behind the counter that you'd like to try the bluest cola there is, PEPSI BLUE. And moms : don't forget to stock up and buy a case or two for the holidays! Nothing says I love you like a cold, refreshing bottle of PEPSI BLUE... oh, and those headphones. They say love, too. Love that PEPSI BLUE!
posted by crunchland at 12:40 PM on November 14, 2002

I currently use the Etymotic ER4-P (for listening, not for monitoring) which I love. One thing I would mention is that in-ear designs tend to produce an effect called microphonics. With most outside sounds blocked out, you hear the headphone wires rubbing against your shirt, the sound of your footfalls, your breathing, etc. Since I take the subway to work, it's only really pronounced when I am walking to and from the station. Microphonics bother some people so much that they will only use Etymotics when they are sitting perfectly still. I can't speak to whether the Shures exhibit the same effect, but their design suggests that they would.

People who are interested in further unbiased headphone information should check out the community over at www.head-fi.org. there's a wealth of information there, and community members are always willing to answer questions.
posted by b.pilgrim at 1:01 PM on November 14, 2002

jeb, I just never thought about getting the SR80 until after I posted that comment here. I was reading up on the SR80 and realised it wasn't too expensive and did provide a better sound, also it's padding is exactly the kind the RS1 uses, whereas the SR60 uses a different pad. I am actually now going to buy the SR80 sometime next week. I called up Grado a few minutes back, too bad they don't sell the headphones directly. So I'll probably get it from one of the various audiophile stores in Manhattan.
posted by riffola at 1:15 PM on November 14, 2002


I've yet to see an inner ear design headphone out-do these. I'd be interested to try out the shure though.

Personally I own these puppies.

I didn't pay what headroom is asking (actually about half) but paired with a good headphone amplifier and a quiet environment the sound quality is astounding.

freakystyley, 100-500 is a lot but when you compare the sound quality you get with a good pair of headphones next to what it would cost to get a similar quality speaker setup it is very, very cheap.
posted by velacroix at 1:32 PM on November 14, 2002

I use the ridiculously cheap Sony h.ear from Radio Shack for $10. The sound is pretty great, good lows and mids for headphones.
posted by jonah at 1:48 PM on November 14, 2002

velacroix --

IMO, it's a better deal to get the ER-4P and the 4S conversion cable. You end up with two headphones for a lot less money than it would be to buy both separately. Since both phones excel at different things (the 4P is easier to drive direct from a portable, the 4S is more refined), it would be nice to have the option of listening to either.

I did some looking about Shure, and found this discouraging thread. Granted, the guy dissing them is from Etymotic, but I trust him. He's earned the respect of the entire head-fi community, which is not an easy thing to do.
posted by b.pilgrim at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2002

I love my AKG 401s -- if you're in the market for a set of open phones you should audition those. Great detail, nice wide soundstage, and they're so comfortable that I literally forget I'm wearing them. An hour after the music I was listening to has ended I'll go to scratch my ear and be like, wow, I've still got these things on.

Also, what Maniactown said. Totally appropriate post, IMHO. Lots of music lovers here, and probably lots of people like me who use headphones every day. It's not like Voyageman threw down a post about the latest Extreme Doritos flavor or something.
posted by boredomjockey at 2:11 PM on November 14, 2002

I've got AKG240s and AKG141s. They rock, the 240s more so. Better than Sennheiser's offerings the past few years, IMO.

A dollar invested in headphones is at least ten dollars invested in speakers. It's well worth paying a couple hundred dollars for good headphones!

I think I'll have to look into the Etymotics for motorcycle riding. I wear earplugs when on the highway (the noise level in the helmet is otherwise literally deafening). Hopefully the Etys will allow the important noise (sirens, horns, squeals) through, but block the windnoise.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:30 PM on November 14, 2002

riffola (and jeb) - Regarding Brooklyn's finest (Grado headphones): Y'all are on track. Avoid SR60s. I love music, but I'm no audiophile. I had to return two or three pairs of SR-40s not because they were unlistenable or uncomfortable, but because the wiring failed and they just lost the connection. Finally, they upgraded me to SR60s. These sound great, of course, but they're like putting flat, hard, scouring pads on your ears. I'm glad that the Grado folks worked with me, though. Good service at the very least.
posted by micropublishery at 8:53 PM on November 14, 2002

For active noise cancelling, I experimented with the Aiwa HP-CN5 at just ~$50. Great background noise reduction, but they're not comfortable at all. So I fell for the Sony MDR-NC11 in the next round of the experiment. A true waste of money because the active noise cancelling did nothing at all. A real shock at ~$150 compared to the $50 Aiwas. So, for anyone who has tried the Bose, are they worth the price and the size for airline travel?
posted by SteveL669 at 8:59 PM on November 14, 2002

For what it's worth, I have the B&O earphones and love 'em. They're even more expensive than these though - I think they clocked in at $150. The big benefit is comfort: you can wear them for hours and hours without either sore ears or that weird head-cold feeling the in-ears give you.
posted by josh at 9:01 PM on November 14, 2002

Sounds like the folks at Head-Fi don't much care for wireless headphones. Does anybody here have any advice? I'm not an audiophile but I hate losing the groove just because I have to take a leak. Thanks.
posted by muckster at 9:11 PM on November 14, 2002

My Grado cans are absolutely flawlessly beautiful sounding, and the only thing I like as much as them is my Aiwa noise-cancelling ones, for when I'm on the airplane. I wouldn't sit at my desk without the former or sit in a plane without the latter. (The latter were courtesy of everyone's favorite mefite.)
posted by anildash at 9:35 PM on November 14, 2002

velacroix, the big Sennheisers are my phones for home (& work). Very comfortable and non-fatiguing for endless listening. I haven't found anything else as airy and pleasant to listen with (but a bit cumbersome for using out and about).
posted by HTuttle at 9:54 PM on November 14, 2002

Muckster, the Amphony H1000 looks interesting, but you probably might want to do some research on it. Here's a review of some under $100 wireless options.

micropublishery, I am planning on going to Harvey Electronics tomorrow to try out the SR80. I've read about the Alessandro-Grado phones, but I am not sure whether the MS1 is actually better than the SR80. It's supposed to be more neutral sounding than the SR80 and SR125, and is priced at $99, while the SR80 is $95, and the SR125 is $150. Some audiophiles think that the MS1 is as good as the SR125. Probably still end up buying the SR80.
posted by riffola at 10:19 PM on November 14, 2002

I've heard people talk about the amazing noise reduction you get by sticking a pair of Sony Fontopias in your ears (connected to your music, of course) and then popping a pair of the Aiwa noise-canceling phones (not plugged into any audio source) over them. You get the passive noise reduction of the Sonys combined with the active NR of the Aiwa phones. Apparently it's like being in a completely silent room even when you're on a plane. Might have to try that this holiday season...
posted by kindall at 11:18 PM on November 14, 2002

By the way, I also have a pair of Grados SR-225s that I use at the office (when I have a job) and at home. Highly recommended.

However, if you're going to buy headphones and are on a budget, don't listen to the SR-225s at the same time as the SR-80s, because you'll buy the SR-225s even if you didn't mean to spend that much. ;) I did. In fact I took home a pair of 125s because the store didn't have the 225s in stock, and hoped I'd learn to live with them and save a few bucks, but even after two weeks I still lusted for the 225s, so I went back and got them. God bless Magnolia Hi-Fi's return policy...

On the other hand, the difference between the 225s and the 325s I didn't find worth paying for.
posted by kindall at 11:23 PM on November 14, 2002

Oh, nice -- those Shure earphones come with an ear wax removal tool.

posted by boredomjockey at 12:37 AM on November 15, 2002

A. Liked the B&Os just fine until they developed a stress break in the line in, after a year of daily but by no means strenuous use. Considering the snootiferous way one gets treated even by deigning to walk into a B&O retail outlet, and the ¥13,000 pricetage (a little north of $100)...heck with it, and them.

B. Those Fontopias suck. They'd be value for money, except the sound quality was unacceptable, especially at the low end.

C. I listen to my iPod, sometimes, for three-four hour stretches - especially when flying transpacific. I'll be looking into the Shures.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:42 AM on November 15, 2002

Or, as long as you're setting yourself up with the latest technology, you could go all the way and get yourself a dedicated ear wax management kit. Apparently such things exist.

I feel like I've just discovered a new world.
posted by boredomjockey at 12:44 AM on November 15, 2002

ear wax removal tool

Squick! Squick! See, that's what I'm talking about!

I've been to too many punk rock shows and industrial club nights to appreciate the nuances of $500 headphones, I'm afraid. It's off to the Shack for me...
posted by JoanArkham at 4:58 AM on November 15, 2002

However, if you're going to buy headphones and are on a budget, don't listen to the SR-225s at the same time as the SR-80s, because you'll buy the SR-225s even if you didn't mean to spend that much.

No, no, do listen to the SR-225s!

Budget be damned, splurge. The things will last a lifetime, and the additional pleasure you'll get is worth the extra expense. Eat Kraft dinner for the month to make up for it!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:29 AM on November 15, 2002

The Harvey Electronics store on 45th between 5th and 6th Ave.s only had the SR80 demo. I tried it out and loved it. So I bought it. I know I will want to upgrado soon, but the reason I wanted either the SR60 or the SR80 was for my portables. Now I am going to start saving for the RS1. Although realistically I think my next pair will be the SR225 or SR325. The SR80 does sound amazing. Songs I know by heart sound refreshed. I can't believe all the money I've wasted buying cheap Sony, Aiwa, and Philips headphones and earphones over the years.
posted by riffola at 2:32 PM on November 15, 2002

They were damned expensive, but I must say I love the monster Bose noise-cancelling headphones...have had them for just over a year now. Very good headphones (better than my old Sennheisers were), quite comfortable. I use 'em on planes, the NYC subway and sidewalks (wouldn't wear them on a bike, though), have used them for video editing in busy noisy chaotic newsrooms, and regular home use. They're great. And no, I have no connection to Bose other than being a satisfied (and now substantially poorer) customer.
posted by Vidiot at 10:05 PM on November 15, 2002

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