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Appeared on: Thursday, February 16, 2006
The Battle of the Buds


1. Introduction

The great news about all of the iPods and array of MP3 players currently available on the market, is that you can carry all your tunes in one handy device. Most provide excellent audio quality as well as ample storage. But Apple and other manufacturers have to cut costs somewhere. The iPod video and Nano are beautiful players, delivering top notch performance and sound – just not through those little white ear buds. Don’t fret though – the easiest way to drastically upgrade your music player is to upgrade the headphones.

That's where this review steps in. It is a roundup of some of the best headphones available out there, and will hopefully help you decide which are right for you. The roundup consists of some incredibly expensive and unbelievable earphone/headphone alternatives and some relatively budget priced models as well. While it may not be fair to pit $300 headphones against those costing 1/3 the price – the results may surprise you. We are not all in the market for headphones costing as much as the iPod itself – but that is certainly possible – as you will see. In a future review, I will look at real budget alternatives.

For now, each headphone will be thoroughly reviewed and then rated. At the end of this review, I will also provide my final conclusions which I hope will help you in your decision-making.

The Headphones in the roundup are:

 


2. Altec Lansing IM616 In-Ear Headphones

The IM616 is an in-the-ear headphone. This particular model was designed in collaboration with Etymotic who makes some of the best headphones in the business. They are engineered to provide an accurate music stream; these micro earphones assure smooth treble, clear and natural piano, crisp percussion and rich orchestral music. The earphones are shaped to comfort-fit like earplugs, capturing awesome bass within the ear. Importantly, this earplug design blocks out external sound, allowing lower level listening volume and preventing hearing damage and overload distortion from otherwise excessive noise.

Design :The IM616 is a very lightweight Earphone. The unit consists of a tri-flanged white rubber tip which fits over the driver. Underneath the tip, is a filter that catches ear-wax and other lovely junk that might interfere with the sound quality. The filter needs changing every so often, and Altec Lansing includes a pair of fresh filters and a handy ear-wax cleaning tool.

Obviously, if you keep your ears clean, you won’t encounter too much trouble. The key to these earphones is that you really have to put them in your ear canals. Once they are set deeply into the canal, you find that you actually turn the volume lower than what you might ordinarily use with other headphones.

Sound Quality: The IM616 produced accurate high frequencies. I actually heard more detail when listening to these headphones than I had ever heard before in my music. The highs were crisp, the vocals were smooth and the separation was unbelievable. Where these headphones were lacking, to my taste, was in the bass. Now, I have very, very small ear canals, especially on one side (as a result of ear surgery) so I had several members of my family try out these phones. My oldest son is a giant, and he heard loud, crisp bass. He has the biggest ears, so I guess that made the difference. These are high end phones with a high end sound.

Comfort: The IM616 began to hurt in my ears over an extended period of time but other members of the family who listened with them felt no discomfort at all. The plastic was a bit hard but they are very lightweight.

Over all Grade : A-

Pros: Great highs and detail. Lightweight, well designed and sturdy

Cons: Need to be shoved way into the ear canals. They are uncomfortable over extended periods of time. Lacking in bass.

vailable at www.alteclansing.com for US$149.00


3. Shure E4g "Gaming Edition"
Key Features: The E4g features High-Definition Drivers with Tuned-Port technology to deliver premium-performance, ultra-wide range audio complete with brilliant highs and extended bass. Optimized for compatibility with the Sony PSP TM and other portable entertainment devices, including MP3, DVD and CD players, the E4g incorporate the same precision components utilized in the original E Series to bring incredibly accurate sound, with remarkable isolation for the ultimate immersive gaming experience. Speaker Type: High-Definition Drivers with Tuned Port Technology
E4g Sound Isolating Earphones feature High-Definition drivers with Tuned Port Technology for incredible audio reproduction. The E4g's Tuned Port design improves airflow around the driver to deliver professional-grade sound with extended bass response.

E4g Technical Specifications:

Speaker Type: High-Definition Driver with Tuned Port
Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 109 dB SPL/mW
Impedance (at 1kHz): 29 Ohm
Cable Length: 1.42m (56 inches)
Net Weight: 31g (1.1 oz)
Input Connector: 3.5 mm (1/8") gold-plated stereo plug

Design: he E4g Earphones are also an in-the-ear design. What is a little unusual is that the tips (either silicon gel or foam) are actually angled to go into the ear canal. Shure packages the E4g’s with six different size tips and compressible foam inserts. So you are sure to find the right fit.

These headphones are designed as passive noise canceling phones. When inserted properly, you get the sensation that you are under water. Every movement you make, every move of the cord or your clothes reverberates – but the outside world is shut out completely. Shure also recommends that these phones be inserted upside down with the cord wrapped around the back of the ear. It took a little getting used to – but they eventually were easy to insert. There is a great video on the Shure website illustrating how to insert them.

Sound Quality:These headphones are a little different from the rest in that they are designed especially to take advantage of the low frequencies and dynamic range of portable gaming devices. Can they be used for music? Absolutely. The sound quality of these phones is not to be believed. The bass was full and tight. I was amazed by the low frequencies I was hearing with these headphones. The highs were clear, the separation was great and the vocals were smooth as can be. I did not hear the detail like I did with the Altec Lansing’s, however – but the over all sound seemed more balanced and full. To be fair, these are $300 Headphones and I would expect them to sound incredible for that kind of money!

When I hooked these babies up to the PSP, things just got better. The special effects in both games and UMD movies were incredible. It was like having surround sound inside of my head.

Comfort: I am leery of putting things in my ears. Because of the unique way these in-ear phones sit in the ear and because of the wide array of choices in sizes of the tips, I was able to find a very comfortable fit. It took a little while to get used to the sound isolation, but once I did, I found I could wear these phones for extended periods without feeling any discomfort.

Conclusions: I don’t know how to judge whether a set of headphones is worth $300 – but these are incredible. The bass, the detail, the fit, the quality are all outstanding. They just sounded amazing.

Over All Grade : A

Pros : beautifully designed, comfortable, great sound quality, fullest bass of any headphone (save one)

Cons : pricey, somewhat awkward to insert correctly

vailable at www.shure.com for US$319.00


4. Shure E3g

The E3g’s are the little brother to the E4g’s. They are smaller in size and lower in cost. They sit as the “middle child” of the lineup. Here is the official line from Shure:

Key Features: Utilizing the same technology as the original E Series, the E3g offers a sleek, ultra-lightweight design. Combining WideBand MicroDriver technology with incredible sound isolation for extended range audio with precision highs, the E3g creates a completely immersive gaming experience. Optimized for compatibility with your Sony PSP TM , the E3g is also an ideal upgrade for other portable entertainment devices, including MP3, DVD and CD players.

Sound Isolating Technology
The E3g's in-ear design works like an earplug to block background noise naturally. This enables you to listen comfortably at lower volumes, even in loud environments.

Speaker Type: WideBand MicroDrivers
The E3g's speakers are constructed with studio-grade components to produce exceptional audio clarity, delivering detailed highs and enhanced bass that allows you to hear parts of your music you've never heard before.

Personal Fit Kit
Because every ear is different, E3g Earphones come with a pair of disposable Foam Sleeves, three pairs (small, medium, large) of Flex Sleeves, and three pairs of Soft Flex Sleeves (small, medium, large) to ensure the ideal personalized fit.

Secure In-Ear Design
The soft, flexible sleeves in the Fit Kit, gently contour to the inside of your ear to create a comfortable, secure fit, so that the earphones don't fall out while exercising.

Lightweight Construction
Weighing only 28g (0.9 oz), the E3g are among the lightest earphones on the market.

Earphones Carrying Case
The E3g comes with a stylish, compact carrying case. The cable spool inside, provides a convenient, tangle-free way to store your earphones.

E3g Technical Specifications

Speaker Type: Wideband MicroDriver
Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 115dB SPL/mW
Impedance (at 1kHz): 26 Ohm
Cable Length: 1.45m (57 inches)
Net Weight: 28g (0.9 oz)
Input Connector: 3.5 mm (1/8") gold-plated stereo plug

Design: The E3g’s are similar to the E4g’s. They are smaller and lighter than the E4g’s, however. These earphones also sit inside the ear and are angled for a tight fit into the ear canal. Like the other Shure earphones, they are meant to be worn “upside down” with the cord around the back of the ear.

Comfort: I found these earphones even more comfortable than the E4g’s. Perhaps it was due to the fact that they were lighter, perhaps it was that they were a bit smaller. I found that I could wear these Earphones for hours on end with very little discomfort. The Sound Isolation is just as complete as with the E4g’s.

Sound Quality: These Earphones are more than $100 cheaper than the E4g’s, so I was trying to figure out how much sound you lose for a hundred bucks. Well, the answer is not a whole lot at all. I found the bass not quite as deep as the E4g’s and that was to be expected. The E3g’s employ a Wide-Band Micro Driver as opposed to the High Definition Driver with the tuned port used in the E4g’s. What does that mean? The highs were crystal clear. The vocals were smooth – not as smooth as the more expensive E4g’s – but plenty smooth. The Bass was very tight. While it wasn’t as deep, I found it a bit more “realistic” to listen to.

When hooked up to the PSP, the sound quality was just awesome. In short, I don’t hear a hundred dollar difference – but maybe the audiophile will find enough to justify the added expense of the E4g’s.

Conclusions: The Shure E3g’s are fabulous Earphones. They sit comfortably in the Ear and they sound incredible. The difference between the sound of these Earphones and lesser models, truly has to be heard to be believed. At US$199.00 MSRP and available for less than that on the web – these are more economical than their big brothers and fit into the “sweet spot” of most people’s budget.

Overall Grade : A

Pros: Very light and comfortable, great sound, reasonably priced

Cons: Bass is good – but not as good as the more expensive E4g’s

MSRP US$199.00


5. Shure E2g

The Shure E2g’s are the least expensive member of the “Gaming Edition” family. The “Official word” from the Shure web site is as follows:

Key Features: Utilizing the same technology as the original E Series, the E2g combines sound isolating sleeves with high-performance Dynamic MicroDriver technology to deliver full-range audio while blocking outside noise.

Sound Isolating Technology
The E2g's in ear design works like an earplug to block background noise naturally. This enables you to listen comfortably at lower volumes -- even in loud environments.

Speaker Type: Dynamic MicroDrivers
The E2g's speakers are constructed with studio-grade components, producing outstanding audio clarity that allows you to hear your music like never before.

Personal Fit Kit
Because every ear is different, E2g Earphones come with three pairs (small, medium, large) of disposable Foam Sleeves, and three pairs (small, medium, large) of Flex Sleeves to ensure the ideal personalized fit.

Secure In Ear Design
The soft, flexible sleeves in the Fit Kit gently contour the inside of the ear for a comfortable, secure fit so that the earphones don't fall out while you're exercising.

Low-Profile Earphone Cables
The E2g's cables pass behind the ear - out of sight and out of the way -- to provide a more comfortable, discreet fit.

Lightweight Construction
Weighing only 1 oz (30g), the E2g is lightweight and comfortable enough for any portable listening application -- packing a big punch in such a compact package.

Earphones Carrying Case
The E2g comes with a stylish, compact carrying case. The cable spool inside provides a convenient, tangle-free way to store your earphones.

E2g Technical Specifications:

Speaker Type: Dynamic MicroDriver
Sensitivity (at 1kHz): 105dB SPL/mW
Impedance (at 1kHz): 16 Ohm
Cable Length: 1.45m (57 inches)
Net Weight: 30g (1 oz)
Input Connector: 3.5 mm (1/8") gold-plated stereo plug

Design : The Shure E2g’s are the most economical Earphone in Shure’s lineup. That does not mean that they are “cheap” in any sense. The design is very rugged and secure. The E2g’s are meant to go deep in the ear canal – just like the more expensive E3 and E4 models. The E2’s are substantially bigger than the E3’s and E4’s. There are several different foam and silicon ear sleeves that you place on the end of the unit. Because they are bigger earphones, I did have some trouble using them as advertised on the Web site – which is upside down with the cables running back behind the hear. I found that the E2g’s did protrude quite a bit.

Comfort : This, is the Achilles heel of the E2g. The drivers are much bigger than the more expensive Shure models and they not only protrude out of the ear – they are tricky to get in place. I really liked the smaller, flexi-sleeves offered on the E3 and E4 models – but they are not offered with the E2g’s. The size of the driver is too big, so only the harder silicon sleeves and foam sleeves have openings wide enough to accommodate them. Getting them in my ear was tricky. I found the foam sleeves to be the only ones I could actually get inside my ears and they were not as comfortable to wear for long periods of time.

Sound Quality: On the one hand – it doesn’t seem right to include these Earphones in a review with earphones costing three times as much. However, after further thought – these more than hold their own and get high marks for value. Although the list price is US$109.00, everywhere I looked had the E2g’s for $79 -$99 and less on Ebay. That being said, I can safely declare that there is no way to get better sound from your iPod or PSP or other music device for under $100.00. The E2g’s have amazing bass – maybe even a slightly bit better than the more expensive E3g’s. The Detail in the high frequencies was also terrific. It was not tinny and it was not boomy – it was warm and balanced. Vocals were clear and full, for a wide range of musical artists. A true audiophile will certainly be able to discern between these and the top-of-the-line E4g’s from Shure’s line-up – but the average listener will have a tough time justifying the difference in price.

Conclusions: These are great sounding earphones and a dramatic step up from the stock buds of most players. Bass is deep, highs are clear, separation is fabulous. They are not as comfortable as more expensive earphones – but those with larger ears who tested them found them more than satisfactory. The build quality is great and they are definite Shure premium earphones and a Plebian price point.

Overall Grade : A-

Pros : Great sound, good bass, high quality

Cons: Uncomfortable for some, tricky to get in the ears properly


6. Audio- Technica Import Series ATH EC7 GM

This headphone is Audio-Technica's award-winning ATH-EC7 GM ear-bud/clip-on hybrid headphone. They are brand new to America – the Import Series are Japanese Headphones. The ATH EC7 GM (a very long name) blends innovative design and outstanding acoustic performance. These incredibly lightweight hybrids offer a three-position adjustable design for a custom fit. 15.5 mm drivers with rare earth neodymium magnets deliver deep bass, extended treble. Audio-Technica includes a protective wallet pouch. The Specs from the Web site are:

SPECIFICATIONS

Type Dynamic
Driver Diameter 15.5 mm
Magnet Neodymium
Frequency Response 10 – 24,000 Hz
Maximum Input Power 50 mW
Sensitivity 100 dB/mW at 1 kHz
Impedance 16 ohms
Weight 11 g
Cable 0.6 m (U type)
Connector 3.5 mm mini stereo, gold-plated
Accessories Included 1.0 m extension cord, ear-pad, protective pouch

Design : These are billed as “hybrid” earbud/clip-ons. What that means is that these headphones are premium ear-bud phones with an adjustable clip that goes over the ear. While the web site says they are “three-position” adjustable clips, I found that they were truly customizable to the shape of one’s ear. The ATH EC7 GM are very high tech looking headphones. They are lightweight and are designed to fit in a traveling pouch when not in use. One interesting thing to note about the design is that the cord is quite sturdy, but is much longer on the bud/clip for the right ear. There is an attachment to make the whole cord longer, but the discrepancy in the right/left cords was confusing to me.

Sound Quality: The ATH- EC7 GM quickly found their place next to the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro’s in the final head to head comparison of the premium buds. The bass was tight and strong – not as strong as the EG4’s – but more believable. The highs were clear and crisp – not quite as pronounced as the Altec’s – but very, very clear. The vocals and instrumentals were arguably the best of the bunch – wind instruments, horns and keyboards just sounded more accurate with these phones. Put all those things together and these were the winners in over all sound quality.

Comfort: The unique design of the ATH- EC7 GM’s took a little getting used to. Once I did, they went into place quickly and I found I could listen to these headphones for hours on end. They rested comfortable in the opening of the ear canal – more comfortable than Apple’s included buds, much more comfortable than jamming things in my ear canal, and the clip helps fit them very securely on my ears. These were, hands down, the most comfortable headphones I have ever listened with.

Conclusions: I have never worn a more comfortable pair of headphones. The sound quality was excellent – overall more balanced than any pair in this roundup. The bass was deep and crisp and the comfort was superb. These are not cheap either - US$249.00 list price at www.audiotechnica.com – but I have seen them for under US$120.00 on the web. For that price – they are a steal.

Overall Grade: A+ (I have never given one of these before)

Pros : Extremely comfortable, light weight, great sound

Cons: Different length right and left cords was a little awkward


7. Audio-Technica ATH EW9

If there was a headphone in the group that could earn a place in the Museum of Modern Art – this is the one. With wooden housing made of Japan's finest Hokkaido cherry, the ATH-EW9 clip-on headphones are show-stoppers. The sound is great, too: 28 mm neodymium magnets project powerfully. These dynamic headphones offer a secure, comfortable ear-fitting design and an innovative sliding axis for easy adjustment and a truly custom fit. Soft rubber support loops and large, lightweight ear hangers are engineered for hours of listening without fatigue.

The official line from the company web site is as follows:

Type Dynamic
Driver Diameter 28 mm
Magnet Neodymium
Frequency Response 14 – 24,000 Hz
Maximum Input Power 100 mW
Sensitivity 105 dB/mW at 1 kHz
Impedance 29 ohms
Weight 33 g
Cable 0.6 m
Connector 1/8" (3.5 mm) mini stereo, gold-plated
Accessories Included 1.0 m extension cord, protective pouch

Design: The ATH-EW9 take a different approach from the other headphones in this roundup. These are “over-the-ear” headphones with a very flexible, adjustable ear clip. They feature a much larger driver and a very comfortable foam pad which sits over the ear. There are several things that distinguish these over-the-ear headphones from others. First, the backing is an unbelievably beautiful Hokkaido cherry wood from Japan.

They look like works of art. Secondly, the flexible clips are very unique and adjustable. These headphones just scream out “Quality” and really need to be seen to be appreciated. The over-the ear design with the very spongy pads makes for a very comfortable fit (more about that later.)

My only qualm is the same as with the ATH-EC7 – the cords are of unequal length from the earpieces. An Audio-Technica rep explained to me that this is to allow the headphones to be comfortable when the iPod is worn on the side – however, it was still too easy to get the extra length caught in something. I would much prefer two equal lengths.

Comfort: Next to the ATH-EC7’s – these were the most comfortable headphones in the group. The soft cushions just felt nice. The lightweight design coupled with the very adjustable clips, meant that once adjusted, they could be worn for hours on end.

Sound Quality: The ATH-EW9’s sounded beautiful. Vocals and instrumentals were open, clear and detailed. The one area where they were a bit lacking was in the bass. I had thought that with a relatively large driver, a tighter bass would be heard and felt. While drums and electric bass could be heard – it was not as pronounced as in the ATH-EC7’s, the Shure E4g’s and no where near the Ultimate Ears’ Super.fi. 5 Pro.

That being said, if you don’t usually listen to Hip-Hop, Rap or Hard Rock, you might not be missing anything in the bass department and you would be gaining a very balanced, beautifully detailed sound.

Conclusions: The Audio-Technica ATH-EW9’s are not only great sounding headphones – they are works of art to behold. The Cherry wood finish is simply beautiful. I don’t know if the use of real wood adds to the “realistic” rendering of acoustic guitar solos – but instrumentals and vocals were a joy to listen to with these headphones. They are comfortable and wearable for long periods of time. The bass was a little lacking and their high price keeps them from getting the highest grade. They are available at steep discounts, however, from various web vendors.

Final Grade : A

Pros: Great looks, great sound, very comfortable

Cons : Weak bass, different length cords, expensive

The MSRP is US$329.00 from www.audiotechnica.com.


8. Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro

Ultimate Ears has been, until this point, a company that caters to musicians and professionals. Their web site states in the product description:


From the makers of Ultimate Ears ® professional ear monitor products comes the super.fi 5 Pro™ , earphones. Join stars like U2, Linkin Park, Madonna, Metallica, Rod Stewart, Big and Rich, Seal and many others in using Ultimate Ears' premiere earphone technology.

 

Retail Package Contents

Description:

High Frequency Driver
Precision balanced armature delivers clear, crisp high tonal range

Low Frequency Driver
For deep, rich bass without distortion

Audio Filters
Shapes the sound for maximum detail

Passive Crossover
Directs music to high and low range speakers for precise audio reproduction

Product Specifications:

 Speaker Type

Dual driver: low and high range precision balanced armatures

 Input Sensitivity

119dB/mW

 Impedance

21 Ohms

 Cable Length

48 inches

 Weight

With Cable Assembly: 0.6 oz.

 Input connector

1/8" (3.5mm) Gold plated

 Frequency Response

20 to 16,000 Hz

 Noise isolation

26 dB

Now that we have the specs, let’s take a closer look at how these earphones distinguish themselves from the pack.

Design: The Super.fi 5 Pro’s are in-the-ear headphones – similar to the Shure’s. While the Shure’s are designed to fit much deeper into the ear canal, the Super.fi. 5 pro’s don’t go quite as deep. That means that they protrude outward a bit more than other in-the-ear headphones.

The Super.fi 5 Pro’s are made of a very durable feeling plastic (mine came in black but white and gray are available as well) and are quite sturdy and secure. There are six possible tips to place on ends of the Earphones – just like the Shures. There were silicon tips as well as foam inserts.

The actual Ear tip is slightly larger on the Super.fi 5’s (we’ll talk about that more in the “comfort” section of this review.)

What distinguishes the Ultimate Ear’s from any of the competitors is the use of Dual Driver technology. When you look at the graphic, you can see that there are actually separate low and high frequency drivers in this little technological wonder.

Comfort: The Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro’s are a mixed bag when it comes to comfort. They were no where near as comfortable, for me (and this is a very subjective thing) as the Audio-Technica ATH EC7 GM’s. Initially, I had a bit of trouble getting these Earphones into my ears. They did not slip in nearly as easily as the Shures did. Then, being the wise man that I am, I decided to read the directions and visit the web site again. I found that I was putting them in incorrectly and they were really supposed to protrude straight out. While this felt a little weird at first, eventually it became comfortable. Given some restrictions on my right ear canal – I still have trouble getting the Super.fi 5 pro’s in all the way. The good news is that these earphones are not designed to go in nearly as far into the ear canal as the Shures do.

Once inserted, there is plastic coating on the wire closest to the actual earphones which guides the wire easily behind the ears. I found that prolonged listening with the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro’s was actually easier on my ears than with the Shures.

Sound Quality: For many readers, this is the be all and end all of any Headphone review. Well, as my 16 year old son said so aptly, “These blow the doors off of everything else.” He was right. While I still love the balanced sound of the Audio-Technica’s, there is no comparison to the sound quality of the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro’s – none whatsoever. In side by side comparisons (using a Monster Cable Splitter in my iPod Video) the Super.fi 5’s just blew away the competition. Even the Shure E4g’s with their bass enhancement technology sounded thin when compared to the Super.fi Pros.

The Bass was unbelievable (in a good way). It was the first time I could actually “feel” the bass in a canal-type earphone. The highs were beyond crisp – they were as clear as the Altec’s. Separation was amazing – it sounded like the music was coming from inside my brain. Vocals were realistic and detailed as well. Musical solos sounded like they were meant to sound. In short, these earphones actually sounded better than my very expensive Home Theater System.

Conclusions: The Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro Earphones are simply amazing. Their slightly bigger size might make them uncomfortable in your ears. If you have a chance to debut them somewhere to make sure they fit – do it. Even if they are a bit uncomfortable for you, as they were for me – the sound quality will soon make you forget any discomfort. Incredible bass, detailed high’s, dual drivers in a little earpiece – these things are the standard by which any Earphone should be judged. They retail for US$249.00 and I found them for under $200 at a few web sites – at that price there is nothing that can compare.

Overall Grade : A+ (read final thoughts as to how to decide between these and the ATH EC7 GM’s)

Pros: Incredible sound, sturdy build quality, reasonable price

Cons: Tricky to get into the ear canal, bigger than other in-canal Earphones, wires felt a bit cheap

MSRP US$249.00 from www.ultimateears.com

9. Final Thoughts

This turned into quite an education in earphone/headphone technology. The good news is that there is no reason to live with the less than adequate sound quality of the stock buds provided by Apple or other manufacturers. Like many things, you get what you pay for (with a couple of exceptions).

The key is to determine what kind of music you listen to most and then prioritize comfort, sound quality and price in deciding which to buy.

The Shure E2g’s were the lowest price headphones in this group and they are available for under sixty bucks on Ebay and other e-tailers. They offer the greatest Bang-for-the-buck of the group.

I was really impressed with the Audio-Technica offerings in this roundup. The ATH-EC7 is a work of art and an amazing sounding product. They were hands-down, the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn. While not as deep in the bass, they did offer beautifully detailed and well balanced sound.

There is no question, after much listening by me, each member of my family and several friends, that the Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 Pro’s are the best sounding earphone/headphone, period. The sound quality is superb. There are issues with their comfort – so I would urge you to try them at a friend’s or at a guitar shop if you can. If they fit well, you will not believe the things you will hear, that you never heard before in your music.

These are all “Premium” Headphones. You will hear everything better than you currently do if you use inexpensive earphones. The only caveat to beware of, is that you will hear the imperfections in your music. If you use compressed files at anything less than192 kbps, you will hear the imperfections and distortion. It isn’t horrible by any means – but beware. If you listen to CDs or DVDs, or use these on your PSP, you will not believe your ears.



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