Hunting for the Ultimate Headphones!

Over the last few years I've been on a personal quest to find the ultimate headphones - a quest that's got easier now that I'm older and have become less worried about looking like a dick in public (clearly demonstrated by my current beard) but nevertheless a daunting undertaking.

Key criteria would be:

  • Good enough sound quality for music writing in GarageBand.
  • Inline microphone for hands free.
  • Solid construction.
  • Jack plug slim enough to fit apple cases (many don't).
  • Cables that aren't too long and are thick enough to net get tangled too badly.
  • And, given that I'm a bit pretentious, look cool.

Headphone/earphones that I've tried so far include:

Sony MDR-710LP - not bad, no microphone though and too fiddly and fragile - currently being held together by half a pack of Araldite.

Etymotic HF5 - Definitely my favourite in-ear headphones, sound great and have an inline mic but suffer from a very narrow audio-opening which - no-matter how clean your ears are - WILL get clogged with wax at some point. Very cool that you can get custom silicone buds for them though.

Bowers and Wilkins C5 - Remarkable earphones as they simultaneously manage to be the: Most beautiful, most expensive and worst earphone/headphones I've ever owned. Was very excited when I bought them but sadly they're excessively bassy and they're not particularly comfortable either :o(. Real shame as the rest of the range is amazing.

Sennheiser MM30i - A great all-round set - brilliant sound but like all earphones they get a bit uncomfortable after a while and they do tent to get knotted up in your bag.

The Most Recent Escapade:

So - given the lessening of my inhibitions - I decided to shop around a bit again and this time look at on/over ear headphones instead. I considered quite a few options for example:

AKG 451 - Which receive rave reviews, tick most of the boxes, are currently available for less than £50 but are, sadly, slightly ugly.

Sony MDR-V55 - Which sound monstrous (in a good way) and are currently available under £40 but don't have an inline mic.

And the simply beautiful Sennheiser Momentum Over-Ear headphones which tick all the boxes but are as expensive as they are beautiful - retailing for around £250. The sound is crisp and detailed but - comparing them side by side with the V55s - I have to say I prefer the punchy sound of the Sony pair even if it is less refined.

So.... all was lost... there was no clear winner. But then I stumbled across a wildcard - this set from Philips (dodgy beard not included):

This set ticks all the boxes above. They have a mic, look cool, are solid and well made, fit an Apple iPhone case, have a flat flex which doesn't tangle and - most important sound crisp and detailed.

To be fair, they're not perfect, if I had to be critical of them I'd say:

  • They're not quite as punchy as the V55s (although this seems to be improving as they run in).
  • That they have a slightly embarrassing name - "Philips CitiScape Uptown".

Yes, the name did nearly put me off too, but... take into account that they're currently available for under £50 and for my money they're a bit of a bargain. Anyway... you can always refer to them by their model number: The "SHL5905FB/10" which is clearly much better :).


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