Last Headphone Post for the Year

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I know how incredibly subjective all of this nonsense is, and that I’m not an audiophile, so I don’t even know what to listen for, and probably couldn’t hear it if I knew. But, still, I can’t resist, since Lois found a bag of my old headphones today, so I broadened the test. 😉

Everything was tested with my iPod Nano, listening to the last minute of Hold It All At Bay by Girlyman from the Joyful Sign CD, ripped at 96kbps. Initial volume (and kept there unless otherwise noted) was at roughly 1/3 of the Nano’s maximum.

First up, the Grado SR80. Gorgeous sound, set the standard for the rest to live up to. While there was absolutely nothing to complain about, I was (mildly) surprised that it didn’t sound as loud as I expected it to, compared with my recollection of last week’s test of the iGrado.

Next was the ancient Sony noise canceling MDR-NC20. I have owned these for at least 10 years, probably one or two more than that. I popped in a fresh AAA battery. First, I listened without the NC turned on. This is a feature that I miss on the Bose Quiet Comfort 2, which requires the NC to be on in order to listen.

They sounded dramatically worse than the Grado. I then listened again with the NC turned on. This time, they sounded way better. Not as natural (in the least) compared to the Grado, which was still better, but the difference with NC on or off was night and day. I am sure that it was not that the background noise was ruining the non-NC listen, so I conjecture that the NC circuitry boosts the bass.

While the Sony’s sound good with NC on, it’s most definitely not a natural sound.

Next were a pair of street-style Creative headphones, which came with my ancient Creative Zen Jukebox MP3 player. They sounded reasonable, but a little thin, and a little light on the bass. All around though, for a theoretically cheap pair of headphones, they weren’t all that bad.

Next up, a low-end paid of street-style Koss headphones, that were included with some other CD or MP3 player. No model number that I could find on them. Thinner sound than even the Creative headphones, so while acceptable, not worth listening to if anything else is handy.

I then tried the iGrado again. Wow. The Nano appears to be able to drive the iGrado much more efficiently as the volume level was significantly louder than with any of the other headphones, including the SR80’s. The SR80’s were still warmer sounding (see, I can make it sound like I have a clue, which I really don’t!), but I was impressed with the sound the iGrado produced (not that I wasn’t before, but I imagined that the SR80’s would beat it badly).

I couldn’t resist, I pulled the Bose back out to check them out one last time. Turned on the NC, and listened. At the fixed volume, they were too thin. I cranked it a bit, and the sound was reasonably good. I’d rate the sound (at the higher volume) as better than the Sony, but nowhere near as good as either Grado. I will likely continue to travel (by air) with the Bose, since they completely surround the ear (unlike the Sony) and therefore are better suited for blocking out sound on the plane.

So, why bother doing this test? Aside from wanting to remember how I felt now, should I ever get the urge in the future, or buy a new set, it was a perfect excuse to listen to the last minute of Hold It All At Bay by Girlyman roughly 10 times in a row! 😉