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
- Two pairs of Sennheiser Momentums (I and II)
- A pair of Sony MDR1a-DACs
- A pair of Marshall Major IIs
- A pair of Bose SoundLink IIs
- A pair of Sennheiser HD599s.
which all seem perfectly decent.
My overall judgement is that headphones in roughly the ¥1,000-¥2,000 price range all seem to produce excellent sound, but probably have nothing sufficiently substantive to offer that places one pair hugely ahead of any other.
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.
Special mention: Bowers & Wilkins P9s
A colleague of mine who splashed out on a pair of these headphones lent them to me for a couple of days. The quality of sound from them is amazing,
offering a level of incredible clarity and detail which revealed various things that I’d never noticed. For example, there’s a synth riff in King’s Love and Pride which the P9s revealed that can be heard through my other headphones, but is indistinct.
Yes, I am a little tempted, but I’d have to listen to them all the time to justify that sort of expense, and I must admit I do like listening to music through my speakers. Also, the P9s are huge (you should see how they dwarf the Momentum on-ear headphones). Wearing them is like having a couple of small, high quality desktop speakers strapped to your head. They’re also heavy, which doesn’t encourage prolonged wearing.
They also confirm that it’s not really the amps and DACs which make the greatest difference, but rather the thing which produces the sound before it reaches your ears. After all, you can’t plug an amp directly into your head.