I have too many pairs of headphones, not counting the pairs which have come and gone over the past fifteen years.. My current sets are

  1. Two pairs of Sennheiser Momentums (I and II)
  2. A pair of Sony MDR1a-DACs
  3. A pair of Marshall Major IIs
  4. A pair of Bose SoundLink IIs

I bought the first pair of Sennheisers because I wanted something above supermarket-quality headphones. I bought a second pair so that I’d have one at home and the other at school. The problem with the Mo­men­t­ums is that they have a somewhat uncomfortable headband and they’re designed specifically for use with an iPod, which means that with any other device, the volume control has no effect. The problem here is that the E17K has a very finicky volume control because that’s my principal DAC, the PHA-1A having a pitiful battery life and being unusable when it’s recharging.

This is why I bought the Sony MDR1a-DACs because I wanted something which had its own volume control. The only problem with these is that the control only works with the built-in DAC. However, the sound through them is superior to the Sennheisers, and they’re much more comfortable to wear, but they are another instance of a device which cannot be used equally across all audio ecosystems, favouring Apple or Sony kit. There is an analogue cable as well, and it’s anyone’s guess whether with the DAC or without, the quality of the sound is any different. They are at least comfortable to wear.

The Marshall Major IIs were not something I’d planned on, but I found myself at Pudong Airport in Shanghai, with my iPod Touch, but no headphones. I wanted to take the Touch to New Zealand, where it could be exposed to the normal Internet, but should’ve taken my Momentums with me. There at the airport, there was a shop (not even one of the techie places) where they were selling the Marshalls. I wanted something small and portable, and these were ideal. They also produce very nice sound which is comparable, I think, to the MDR1a-DACs even though they’re half the price. They are not, though, ideal for wearing for prolonged periods of time, especially if you wear glasses because the pressure they put on the ears. They also have a cheap plastic feel to them in spite of the price.

I bought the Bose SoundLink II headphones partly because I have none of that brand and partly because the Bose shop in Livat had gone sometime in early March 2017, and I was thinking how BSB (in buynow) had also gone, and how I might’ve missed out on so much decent gear. These are my first Bluetooth headphones, although they also have a wired connection. More expensive than the MDR1a-DAC headphones, but with sound that is, I think, closer to the Momentums. Where they seem to shine via Bluetooth is with Renaissance vocal music. By chance I was listening to music from the FiiO X5II through the Marshall headphones and then these ones, but these seemed to need the volume turning up, or they need running off an external amp/DAC.

My overall judgement is that headphones in roughly the ¥1,000-¥2,000 price range seem to produce excellent sound, but have nothing to recommend any one of them over the others apart from how comfortable they are to wear. The Bose and Sony headphones are more expensive because of Bluetooth and a built-in DAC, and brand name, but they don’t produce sound which is so much better than the Sennheisers or the Marshalls that it’s noticeable. Any of these pairs of headphones is perfectly serviceable, and they are merely four types out of a huge range of possibilities.

Life and whatever in the imperium sericum.

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