If you are like me and a lot of your day is spent listening to music that, realistically, the majority of the world hates then you are probably always listening to metal with headphones on. For some reason, it’s ok to be on a Subway blaring R&B or Rap, but you get dirty looks if a person 3 inches from your face can hear what is coming out of the cans you have on your head when it’s metal. Depending on your listening style, there are tons of choices and tons of different worlds for the user.
I will attempt to go into some details on headphones I have experience with, and try to keep things in prospective (price wise) for the average student, office worker or person who just wants to jam out while listening to their iPod, Zune or whatever else is your source.
Before reading on I would recommend the following page for information on types of headphones. I will be covering open, closed, and in ear. I will also try to find a variety of cheap/mid/expensive picks to give some choices for everyone.
Before breaking down each type of headphone, I want to briefly talk about the problems with metal music and headphones. It is a general consensus that metal music is recorded badly and because of this, the more expensive the headphone the worse the music sounds. Although there are caveats to this, it is typically true unfortunately. I personally bought and returned about 50 pairs of headphones over the last few months and have found this out the hard way. Metal music is typically recorded compressed for loudness it tends to lose a lot of dynamics. There are bands that will end up being ok, but if you’re a core fan don’t expect much. The better the headphone the more it picks up the compression and mess-ups.
I am not an audiophile that customizes my cans, but I will say one simple addition that I was reluctant to do, finally bit the bullet and am VERY glad I did. Buy a portable amp, specifically a FiiO E5, its only $30 and very small.
Bose are the best of the best. Bose are an audiophiles dream come true. The reality is, for the most part they are over-priced, extremely over-hyped and just out right not that good (sound quality wise). This is strictly my comparison, but spending $300 on a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones would probably under-perform every set that I will mention below minus the real cheap ones. I will say though, Bose Noise Cancelling product is one of the best though, just once the noise is cancelled what you get is meh. Bose is a real world true example of spending money on a brand name.
Price: $20 – Koss KSC75 – The gym pair. These headphones are the best loss price headphones around. They clip to your ears (wears like glasses), super lightweight and sound extremely good for $20 cans. Do some simple modding and these puppies sound even better than before. Also, when they break who cares, you spent $20 on them. Negative side is a lot of noise will get in and a lot of noise leaves them.
Closed headphones are your best full sized bet for work related listening. Ear buds and in ear will give you the same isolation but nowhere near the comfort or sound quality.
Price: $100 – Shure SRH440 – These $100 cans really shine in the price range. They are also neutral enough to let even some of the worst metal recordings sound tolerable without hearing every nuance.
Price: $150 – Audio-Technica ATH-M50 – An excellent all-purpose can. They will keep most noise out, most music in and are confortable to wear.
Price: $200 – Sennheiser HD25-1 II– This is my pick for the all-purpose, portable, durable, excellent sounding can. They sit on your ears (some people might have issues with that, I don’t) but they are also extremely good at keeping noise out and sound in. They sound good with bad drivers such as MP3 players as well. A solid bass, excellent mids and strong highs make this my favorite portable pair. This is what I bring with me everywhere.
Price: $200 – Ultrasone HFI-780 S-Logic – The price comes up but the quality does a lot as well. These puppies are actually really geared to electronic music, but I tend to like the sound it gives to most of the metal I listen to. Ultrasone are also a very popular, top of the line provider. These are a bass heavy listen, but I find them pretty forgiving with crappy recordings from the deathcore/metalcore world. Some reviews have said they are a painful set of headphones (to wear long term) but I have not really experienced this.
Open will give you the best sound around. The dynamics are amazing, just if you need to use these at work, on a train or anywhere with noise/place you can’t make noise they are not an option.
Price: $100 – Sennheiser 448 – Sennheisers are world renown and they live up to the hype most of the time. The only issues I have are these tend to be a little flat for my tastes. I like some bass in my metal and these are about as neutral as a sound gets (this isn’t a negative, just a personal taste). For $100 though, you can’t go wrong.
Price: $200 – Grado Prestige Series SR225i – Some of the best rock headphones made. This is probably my favorite pair of reasonably priced headphones. Every detail of every instrument is astonishing. Any album you have ever listened to WILL sound different.
Good for gym use, and shorter listening periods. I am not a fan personally since I have not found a pair to properly fit me for a couple years now (probably my own fault). Regardless, I have listened and used a ton of these and here are some of my favorites for the metal world.
Price: $80 – Klipsch IMAGE S4 – Great sounding in ear phones. They also deliver solid bass for an in ear experience. For a little more you can get a “water proof” rugged edition.
Price: $250 – Etymotic ER-4P – Nothing will match these for overall sound in the in ear category. I personally think they out shine some of the $300-$700 JH Audio pairs myself.
To sum all of this up, I really would love to see what people have listened with and their own metal experiences. I wrote this because there isn’t that much discussion out there for this type of listen and would love to get more input into this.