InnerFidelity's "Wall of Fame" Ear-Pad Sealed

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Ear-Pad Sealed Headphones
This type of headphone is lightweight and compact, as well as offering some isolation from outside noise making them a natural solution for portable listening. Ear-pad sealed headphones are also often use by audio professionals for location recording, ENG (electronic news gathering), and DJ work.

Sound quality and isolation with these types of headphones is often a hit and miss affair; getting a good seal while being placed on the folds and ridges of the outer ear can be quite difficult. Also, designing for good sound can be a challenge with the small, sealed acoustic enclosures with this type of can. While often cooler than full-size headphones in warm environments, the need for a good seal will often require significant pressure against the ear which may be uncomfortable for lengthy listening sessions. Full-size headphone are usually more appropriate for all-day listening.

At their best, however, sealed, ear-pad headphones can sound very good, provide excellent isolation, and can make for an excellent choice when portability and compact stowage are required.

Sennheiser Amperior ($349)
WoF_photo_Senn_AmperiorThe latest in a 25 year long run of HD 25-1 variants, the Sennheiser Amperior is simply outstanding in the field of sealed, ear-pad headphones. The new milled aluminum ear-cups provide a significantly stiffer enclosure behind the driver, and make for a more transparent and grain-free listening experience.

The sound of these cans is excellent, giving a slightly forward but overall very well balanced sound for a headphone of this type---probably the best I've heard. The bass is punchy and very well extended; upper mids are slightly forward, but overall clarity and naturalness is very good; treble is slightly uneven and a bit sparkly.

The split headband of the Amperior ensures an extremely secure fit, making these headphones ideal for people who are very active during listening. The left earpiece will swivel forward or back to allow one-ear listening. Drummers and DJs will love these headphones.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Beyer Dynamic DT1350 ($295)
WoF_photo_Beyerdynamic_DT1350I think the Amperior above is slightly more neutral and coherent sounding, but I just love the warmth and virtually bottomless bass these little headphones convey. Getting the DT1350 to seal on the ear properly can be a little difficult, but efforts are well rewarded with excellent bass and isolation from outside noise. Similarly, the overall balance of the DT1350 can be a bit odd until a good seal is achieved.

The treble response is a bit shelved down, and I'd like to hear a bit more sparkle out of these cans, but for those listening to recordings that can sometimes be a bit strident, these cans are easy on the ears. Highly recommended for rock and metal.

Like the Amperior, the DT1350 is light weight and very secure on the head, making it an excellent headphone for those very active while listening. Both earpieces swivel for one-ear listening.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Bowers & Wilkins P5
WoF_photo_BowersWilkins_P5 A headphone seemingly made to go with fine scotch, cigars, and vintage motorsport, the B&W P5 is an elegant design in chrome and leather with nary a glimpse of plastic to be seen. Its opulent goodness doen't stop with it's looks either: the sound is warm and smooth, with an ample and punchy bass, relaxed treble, and creamy mids between. Great for casual listening to movies, music, and phone calls on portable phones and tablets.

The cord is thin with a convenient length of about four feet; detachable under the nifty magnetically attached ear-pad cushions; and includes an Apple compatible, three button remote with mike. The headphones fold flat, and a quilted fabric carry pouch is included for ease of transport.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear ($229)
WoF_photo_Sennheiser_MOEWith a bass that can be a bit overwhelming at times, the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear might not please some audiophiles, but for the average premium headset purchase these headphones are a real treat. Most listeners will enjoy the bass and mid-treble emphasis as an exciting sound, add the extremely good looks, comfort, and build quality, and you've got a very nice headphone to strap to your head.

The Momentum On-Ear does not have a folding mechanism, but the headphones are fairly compact in size, and the included velour firm-sided case is slender enough to fit easi;y into a briefcase or desk drawer. The Momentum On-Ear comes with two 1.7 meter cables; one plain, and one with Apple three-button remote.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

V-MODA M-80 ($230)
WoF_photo_VMODA_M80One of my favorite recommendations for a small, portable, general purpose headphone. The V-MODA M-80 sounds very good, is extraordinarily well constructed, and is very tastefully designed. The accessories that come with these cans are outstanding. Two cables are included: one with a three-button remote and mike cable for iDevices; and a cable with one-button remote and mike for Android devices. Also included is a very nicely finished, hard-shell carry case. Ear-piece metal badges may be customized with your own logo for a small additional charge.

The sound of the M-80 is quite good, delivering a slightly forward sounding listening experience. The bass is likewise good, but does require a good seal to achieve. Upper mids/low treble are slightly and refreshingly forward, the mid- and upper-treble don't have quite the resolution of the previously mentioned and more expensive headphones, but but neither are they strident or harsh.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Sennheiser HD 25-1 II ($199)
WoF_photo_Senn_HD251IISimply the world's most sought after DJ headphone, the HD 25-1 II is famous with very good reason: they're indestructible and sound terrific. At slightly more than half the price of their aluminum counterpart, the Amperior mentioned above, and with nearly as good sound quality, the HD 25-1 II is a great buy.

The sound of these cans is very good, giving a slightly forward, but overall very well balanced sound for a headphone of this type. Though it's a tad more grainy and sharp sounding than the Amperior, the HD 25-1 II remains among the best sounding cans in this category. The bass is punchy and very well extended; upper mids are slightly forward, but overall clarity and naturalness is good.

The split headband ensures an extremely secure fit, making these headphones ideal for people who are very active during listening. The left earpice will swivel to allow one-ear listening. Drummers and DJs will love these headphones.

I can't mention these headphones without pointing you to a very cool U.K. site that custom paints HD 25-1 II and other DJ headphones. See blog photos here for Custom Cans.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Onkyo ES-FC300 ($149)
Onkyo has done a bang up job with their first entry into the headphone world. The ES-FC300 is marketed as a sealed, on-ear headphone, but they're rather large and almost make it into the over-ear category. Punching well above their weight, they are a slightly warm and nicely controlled sounding headphone. This is a very good student headphone.

The headphone is mostly aluminum construction, and is available in white, black, and purple. Also available is the ES-HF300, which is identical to the FC300 with the exception of a nicer, oxygen-free cable. Also included is a travel pouch.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Noontec Zoro ($99)
WoF_photo_Noontec_ZoroThis Beats Solo look alike absolutely slays the competition from Dr. Dre and crew. While similar in looks and build construction, these dandy little cans really deliver fabulous sound for a headphone of this type and price. Though the isolation is not good enough for heavy-duty commuting and travel needs, it's adequate for general purpose home and office use.

The cable has a three button Apple-compatible remote, is removable, and a bit flimsy. I'd suggest a replacement cable from V-Moda.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

AKG K 81 DJ ($79)
WoF_photo_AKG_K81DJA very nice entry-level DJ headphone, the AKG K 81 DJ has very good sound for a headphone of this type. Bass notes are punchy and reach into the lowest octaves; mids and treble are somewhat uneven, but better than most at this price. I find these headphones a great choice for those wanting a strong bass for hip-hop and other urban music listening.

Very good isolation, comfort, and efficiency make these a perfect portable can for walking around town. Earpieces on these headphones fold flat and rotate inward for compact trasport and storage, and apear sturdy enough for everyday rough-and-tumble student use and backpack transport.

AKG's K518LE is essentially the same headphone with a fancy paint job.

Retired Wall of Fame Ear-pad Sealed Headphones

Philips Citiscape Downtown ($99)
WoF_photo_philips_CitiscapeDowntownThe 2012 Consumer Electronics Show saw Philips introduce a herd of new headphones, many of which were very good indeed. Chief among them, in my opinion, was the Citiscape Downtown, which is among the very best sub-$100 headphones one can buy.

This very fashionable headphone is a treat to the eyes, certainly, but beauty is more than skin deep here. These cherry cans have great bass impact and extension, and are strong throughout the mid-range. They possess a slightly polite, laid-back treble which is gentle on the ears without forgoing enough detail to be satisfying. Comfort is excellent with these lightweight cans; isolation is very good; and are efficient enough to play loud on portable players. Perfect for plying the sidewalks of the most cacophonous urban landscape.

The Downtown comes with a one-button Android compatible mike and remote, and the tangle-free cable is spectacularly effective at resisting knots. Currently available in cream, brown, and purple, I think these are one of the nicest headphones for the ladies I've seen.

Full InnerFidelity review here.

Philips O'Neill Bend ($69)
WoF_photo_philipsoneill_BendThis headphone was retired due to the Noontec Zoro sounding quite a bit better and being nicely styled at the same price.

Whether on snow or concrete, if you like zooming around on some kind of board these may be just the headphones for you. Built with extreme durability in mind, the headband and earpieces are virtually indestructible. The headband has roughly textured areas on either side that prevent goggle straps from sliding around.

The sound is also quite good for a headphone of this price/type, with a strong bass and general warm tilt throughout. Highs a nicely rolled off and will make listening to raucous music gentler on the ear drums.

This is a great headphone for 8-14 year old boys known for their ability to break bowling balls.

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