FOGEY 5 Over-ear Headphones

Jul 12, 2011 No Comments by

The Fogey 5 are the best five products in their class by virtue of expert and consumer review from at least 10 respected and authoritative websites.

For more information on which type of headphones/earphones best suits your needs and your ears see the Buying Guide.

Over the ear or ‘circumaural’ headphones are for people who are serious about music or gaming or who want to listen to the TV without disturbing the peace.  They could also be a boon if you’re a bit deaf.

Older, circumaural headphones that are not powered – ie are ‘passive’ rather than ‘active’ – will probably not work with an iPod; the iPod won’t generate enough sonic oomph to power them.  Bear this in mind if you see high-end 80s cans on ebay for peanuts.

Bose Quiet Comfort 15

Any headphone that features ‘active noise-cancelling’ (as these do) will have an integral power supply in the form of a weeny battery.  This allows them to produce a monotone hiss that counters external noise interference.  The QC3 headphones have a rechargeable battery; the QC15s do not.  Although that doesn’t stop you using batteries you’ve charged yourself. The QC15 are aimed squarely at Apple-istas in that they feature a mid-cable control with microphone for taking calls/muting music and controlling your iPod/iPhone/iPad.  Audio-snobs have always had it in for Bose; they think the products to be underperforming and overpriced thanks to the cost of Bose’s relentless marketing.  But at least the great unwashed, ignorant of more prosaic headphone brands, will know Bose and, therefore, that you are Mr Moneybags (even though, as we shall see, Grado make them look positively impecunious).  They were the “Best noise-cancelling headphone up to £300” at the What Hi-Fi? Sound & Vision awards 2010 and Cnet said, “When first using the headphones, we experienced a strong urge to relisten to our entire library of music — a welcome symptom of acquiring high-grade cans.”

Around £280
More info here
Buy Bose QC15

Sennheiser RS180

The only pair of wireless headphones to have made the Fogey 5.  Although this limits their potential uses – you won’t be listening to an iPod on the train, for example – it does free you up when listening to music or TV around the house because they have a line-of-sight range of up to 100 metres. The RS180s are also open-backed (the Bose, above, are closed), which means some of the sound will dissipate into the ether.  As discussed with the Fogey 5 of on-ear headphones, most audiophiles seem to prefer an open-back.  Some reviewers were non-plussed by the price and battery life (too much and too little) but over 50 user reviews on Google Shopping were consistently positive at either 4 or 5-stars.   The launch price in late 2010 was around £220 but they’ve come down a bit since then.

Around £180.
More info here
Buy Sennheiser RS 180 Open Digital Wireless Headphones

Grado PS1000

It’s obviously easier to be gushing about equipment you haven’t had to pay for (as will have been the case with editorial reviews of the PS1000s) but TF has to wonder at the sense in paying so much for a pair of headphones.  Having said that, men routinely spend ridiculous amounts on, for example, cars which puts female excess (handbags & shoes) squarely in the shade.  And while one could argue that the entire luxury industry revolves around questionable perceptions of value, Grado are, nonetheless, right up there with the likes of Patek Philippe, Louis Vuitton and Chateau Lafite in terms of quality, prestige and craftsmanship.  PS stands for Professional Series so if you are going to be producing or engineering the next Steely Dan album a pair of PS1000s will be a sound investment (pun not intended). “ They may cost as much as a big-screen TV, but the PS1000s are simply the best-sounding, most comfortable, and best-looking Grado headphones we’ve ever tested,” said Cnet.  “Powerful bass, wonderfully subtle-but-intense levels of detail and an incredible soundstage make this pair an unbridled joy to listen to, no matter what musical genre you throw at it,” said Trusted Reviews.  There were a few caveats: they weigh a chunky 500g, the headband could have more padding and there’s no travel case.  But thanks to a fairly low impedance (32 ohms) they will work with an iPod.

Around £1800
More info here
Buy Grado PS1000 Headphones

Grado GS1000i

Before the PS1000s came along the open-backed GS1000i were kings of the hill.  These ‘phones represent the entirety of Grado’s Statement series and the ‘i’ stands for ‘improved’ – over their predecessor GS1000.  “As with all the highest quality headphones, one is aware from the first few seconds of music that the resolution is in a different league from most loudspeakers, showing up musical details (and occasionally blemishes too) that had simply not registered before,” said Hi-Fi Choice.  TF could bamboozle you with talk of dynamic transducers, ‘ultra-high purity, long-crystal copper’ (used for the cable and voice coils) or ‘handcrafted Mahogany earpieces made using an intricate curing process’ but we think by now you get the Grado-picture.  Some reviewers bracketed these headphones with Sennheiser’s HD800 model – which cost a weeny bit less.

Around £1100.  More info here.  Buy Grado GS1000i

Denon AH-D7000

Sumptuous, top-of-the-range, closed mahogany backs, stronger magnetic circuit for the driver unit, microfibre diaphragm, acoustic optimiser, cloth-wrapped cable with high-purity (99.99999% OFC) 7N-OFC wire, gold plated connector.  Blah, blah, blah. So, there you have it – the spec.  As you may be aware, Denon makes all sorts of high fidelity bits and bobs so it’s perhaps surprising to see them featured here among the headphone specialists.  “Having only recently completed an Ultimate Group Test on upmarket headphones, we feel confident in proclaiming this one of the finest models around,” said Hi-Fi Choice (admittedly back in 2008 but innovation in headphones is glacially slow, so it’s not as though they’re outdated even now).  “There isn’t a single genre these headphones can’t handle, though they truly excel at rock, folk, acoustic, electronic and metal. Their clarity and detail is among the best in the world,” said Cnet.  And given the price of the competition, cheap too.

Around £650.  More info here.  Buy Denon AHD7000

Fogey Find

Goldring DR150

Headphone manufacturers like Shure, Sennheiser and Grado also have reputations founded on other high-end audio peripherals such as microphones and turntable tone arm cartridges.  Goldring are better known for the latter but it doesn’t take a tech genius to suggest that the market for such vinyl-orientated paraphernalia is going nowhere at warp speed.  So, diversity = survival.  Since 2006 Goldring has also been ploughing the ‘high-quality/good value’ headphone furrow.  The DR150s aren’t their top-of-the-range model (that would be the NS1000) but at around £50 they are probably the best value.  Dynamic open back,  QED designed detachable 3m silver-plated cable with gold plated plugs and reference 40mm drivers with neodymium magnet and titanium film diaphragms.

More info here.  Buy Goldring DR150 Headphones