InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame" Ear-Pad Open
Know for their light weight, good sound, cool comfort, and ability for you to remain aware of your surroundings, ear-pad open headphones serve well in the quiet of the home and office listening for the phone or kids, and while running and active outdoors to let you remain aware of sounds around you.
This type of headphone pairs perfectly with portable players, and many have special folding features that allow them to be stored in a very small amount of space---perfect for briefcases, backpacks, pockets, and desk drawers.
Sennheiser HD 239 ($119)|
These compact little gems are a great example of how Sennheiser is able to nail a category and make it look so easy you almost take it for granted. The HD 239 is a perfect office headphone: easy to take on and off; easy to hear the phone ring; easily slips into a drawer; and sounds very good for a headphone of this type.
The sound quality is superb with surprisingly good bass extension into the lowest octaves, and marvelous coherence from bottom to low treble. Only a slight sharpness and grain to the mid and upper treble pull these away from truly excellent sound. I wish these came in a headset version.
Sennheiser PX 100-IIi ($89)|
One of my all-time favorite headphones, the PX 100-IIi sounds terrific, and in this latest iteration sounds better than the Grado SR60---my long-time favorite headphone in this category. While the sound is very good, the really great thing about these headphones is their ability to fold up like a pair of sunglasses to easily slip into a shirt or backpack pocket. To my knowledge, along with their sibling sealed headphone the PX 200-IIi, these are the smallest headband headphone when folded.
While not extending quite as far into the bass, and not having quite the refinement of the HD 239, their compact size, comfort, and ease of transport make them an ideal headphone for moving about while retaining awareness of your surroundings.
The PX 100-II is available both with and without smartphone remote and mike, and is available in a sealed version (PX 200-IIi) to provide better isolation from environmental noise.
Grado SR 60i ($79)|
I've been recommending this headphone for some 20 years now. While I think the above two headphones now best it in sound quality, and it's rather larger size make it less convenient in normal use, the Grado SR 60i is a classic and remains a favorite among headphone enthusiasts due to its ability to be easily modified. I highly recommend these cans for folks looking to get started in the hobby of modifying headphones, and point you to the Head-Fi Grado SR60 modifying threads here and here, and my InnerFidelity article on Grado pad modification and measurements.
Koss Porta Pro ($49)|
For almost thirty years now, Koss has produced this low-cost, compact headphone. Literally one of the first headphones designed for portable players, the Porta Pro has stood the test of time largely on the merits of their amazingly good sound at a very low price. (It certainly wasn't on its styling.)
Its ugly duckling looks and the fact that your hair can get caught in the headband occasionally are overwhelmed by the benefits of the Porta Pro's extraordinary light weight and very compact size when looking for a headphone for running and action sports outdoors. Their open design will permit you to remain aware of your acoustic surroundings, and the light weight design prevents them from jostling on your head during vigorous activity.
Full InnerFidelity review here.
Koss KSC75 ($19.99)|
Using the same drivers as found in the Koss Porta Pro above, the KSC 75 marries good sound with the convenience of a clip-on headphone. Ideal for ladies who don't want to muss their hair and action sports enthusiasts who wear a helmet during activity, these ear-clip headphones are surprisingly secure, comfortable, and very good sounding---especially at this very low price.