Question Of The Week: What Is The Perfect Pair Of Headphones?

I snapped this picture of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen when he was particularly flummoxed by his headphones.

I’ve been buying headphones for 30 years now, have owned more they I can possibly remember and still haven’t found the perfect pair. I must chew through one or two sets a year in a never-ending, desperate (and futile) search to find the right acoustics, feel and functionality. I’ve tried in-ear buds, over-the-ear hooks, full-sized cans and wireless. Some sound great but fit horribly. Or the fit is perfect but the sound too tinny, or the controls don’t quite work. The truth is, I hate headphones, especially because I hate being tethered to my stereo. It’s like wearing a leash. But in an open office, everyone at NPR Music has to use them.

My favorites for a while were the reasonably priced Sennheiser PX 100s. They don’t fall off or out if I go running with them, they’ve got a great bottom end and fold up nicely to stow in your backpack. But over time, the foam pads get gross (if you sweat while wearing them) or stretch out and need to be replaced. I also found that if I wore them for more than an hour or so, which is easy to do at work, they started to get a bit uncomfortable.

The Klipsch S4 earbud headphones (kind of expensive) have a great sound, but I couldn’t hear myself when I used them to talk on the phone, and I hated the muffled rustling sound they made if I worked out with them. They also crapped out and quit working after a year. So did the Bose AE2s (pretty expensive) I tried. The moderately priced Sennheiser CX380 Sport headphones weren’t terrible, but the sound lacked oomph and there weren’t any controls or mic to talk on the phone.

I’ve dropped so much money on headphones.

There have been many others, but the pair I’m currently living with are the simple earbud headphones that come with the iPhone 5. The reviews have been mixed, but I think they’ve got a good, full sound and a great mic for talking on the phone. And they don’t cost a fortune if I ever need to replace them. That said, the controls seem to lock up a little in cold weather and the only way I can keep them from falling off is to wrap the wires around my ears before popping in the buds.

Suffice to say this won’t last and the search for a better pair will likely never end. If you love the headphones you use, tell us about them in the comments section. What are they, what do they cost and what makes them the perfect pair?

Robin Hilton (NPR Music) / March 26, 2013

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