Headphone Review

My trusty old headphones recently started to act up – a loose connection somewhere. Time to find a replacement!

My quest to find the perfect headphone has been a long one – I commute on the train for 2-3 hours everyday and listen to music during the journey

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There is a lot of noise pollution on the train. As well as the noise of the train on the tracks there is:

  • Passengers talking on the Mobile Phones
    Inane announcements from the Guard and Driver (never telling anything useful)
    People typing on their laptops – striking the keys so hard, it’s a wonder the keyboards still work
    People snoring and…
    the noise from other people headphones with the volume set too loud

Standard iPod headphones,

In order to hear everything, you need to have the volume very high to drown the noise out, As a result you end up contributing to the noise pollution! It’s not very good for your hearing either.

My first solution was a pair of Sennheiser NoiseGard??? Headphones at ??70:
These tick all the right boxes but had two drawbacks. The noise canceling feature works very well but:

  1. They are quite bulky to wear when you walking (and you look a bit stupid)
    With the noise canceling box, they are very heavy.

They did me well for a while and while I was never 100% happy, they were the best I could find. I waited for someone to release an ear-bud version and eventually, Sony obliged:
These worked fairly well except for one major drawback- they would not stay in my ear. They come with three different size grommet, but none seemed to suit my ears. Sitting still they would gradually fall out after about 15 minutes. Walking with them in was next to impossible. At ??100, I was not going to give the up easily, but in the end they were too much trouble – I used them for about 2 months.

Next up – Shure E4C Noise Isolating headphones – at ??150 – it was a lot to pay, but the reviews were good:
They come with an array of grommets and one set fits my ears!! (The triple flange one in the right of the picture)
With them in, almost all external noise is blocked out. They produce extremely good quality sound, and with the noise isolation, you only need to turn the volume up to half the level you need with standard iPod earbuds. No matter how loud you have them – they produce no noise pollution.

Fast forward two years to January 2007.
After lots of use – the left channel begun cutting out when the cable was moved – they had lasted well but now they had to be replaced.

In two years the price had gone up to ??250 – the cheapest I could find were still ??200.
I decided to give another, cheaper brand a try, the Bose TriPort IE at ??70
They are halfway between the iPod buds and Shure in terms of design. They sit in the same part of your ear as the iPod standard buds, but extend further into your ear. This is achieved with soft silicone “tips” which come in three sizes – the largest gave me the best fit.
The sound quality is very good and whilst they don’t have the sound isolating properties of Shure headphones, you do not need to have the volume as loud as with the iPod buds – Like Shure, they produce no noise pollution.

I missed the isolation of the Shure headphones – I’d forgotten how noisy the train was. But having spent the money – I was prepared to live with them.

One of my early reservations with the Bose, was the relative ease that the “tips” came off. Twice on the first day one tell off and despite being very careful, I lost one a few days ago. Without the Tips, all you have is a very expensive piece of wire -I could get replacement tips, but it was clear that this was not a problem that was going to go away!

So, today, I decided to trek across town from my office in Canary Wharf, to Tottenham Court Road and purchase the cheaper cousin of the Shure E4C, the E3C (priced at ??150)

Then a nice surprise – the store had sale and were selling the E4C half price, at ??110. (only the white version was on sale – they were still selling the black ones for ??250!)

They may be expensive, but they are definitely worth it.