Aug 1, 20173062 views

Best headphones on the go?

I'm an audiophile noob, but want to get some good headphones for walking to work, and taking to and from home / on airplanes etc.
I am currently using HiFiMan HE-350 at work, and have cheap IEMs I use for working out. I think I'd prefer some light, over ear headphones for walking around and with my iPhone, but I find the HiFiMan a little too heavy and awkward when moving around (but maybe it's just the cord?).
What would you recommend for portable, high quality headphones?
bradr, Aaron2472, and 7 others

Try Fiio FH1 for $75
KOSS has reasonable models which all come with life time guarantees. I believe there are some currently dropped! The sad thing is they are rarely thought about with all the other brands on the market. KOSS has been around for many years and has withstood time.
Try the E-Mu Purplehearts
Walking around is different than most other applications you mentioned. For flying, train commute, office environment, etc, isolation is desirable. But for walking around, you really need to be able to hear cues from your environment like oncoming vehicles, etc.
I have Sennheiser HD 700's (recent MD purchase:) and had (gifted away) 598 SE's at home; used to have older Bose NC for air-travel (lost), now replaced by Sony MDR-NC500D's; but if buying again for air-travel (hi-level constant noise) I would get the Bose QC 35's.
But,, if you are looking for walking around mobility, put down anywhere, audiophile quality (wired), closed but not noise canceling; you are in an in-between, hybrid, audiophile/mobile can market. I have never tried them, but it looks to me that there is an unsung sleeper in these road-worthy, HD audio quality metal cans: Review/blog: Ignore the bass-boost thingy, they had to do that because marketing told them too... doesn't deter from the base quality of the cans, and you can use it for 'kicks' when you want.
Or,,, just go retro for fun:
Koss Portapro's. $40. Lightweight. Right angle connector. Lifetime guarantee. No brainer.
Well I just picked up a set of m40x's for exactly this purpose. There's a bundle on Amazon that includes a short cable and also got a pair of zmf cowhide pads to solve the comfort issue. You now have a neutral set of closed cans that are very comfy and have incredible sound isolation. Plus they feel really well built in a could take a beating and still keep going type way.
Go buy those Porta Pros lol
I don't see one set handling all things well. I'd want buds for walking, as you really should have some awareness around you. Office/home, you can go nuts with a tube amp and a big set of cans. Airplane, you want portable, but noise cancelling. Bose 35s kick ass here. I actually work in a noisy office next to the industrial area, and started bringing my 35s to work. While not the best headphones, they are the best at making the world go away and I don't have to blast my music to hear it.
I recently got some symphonized NRG 3.0 earbuds that are great! I got them during Amazon prime day at 15€ but are normally worth 60€ i say while not cheap they are really worth every penny they are the best headphones I've ever gotten
Monk plus earbuds are what I've been using recently. They sound pretty good and are five bucks from their website. They're kind of big flat earbuds, so they don't fit a lot of ears, but if they fit you, they sound quite good. (amazing at the price)
Yep, completely agree! I just got mine yesterday, and I love their sound (for the price, of course). The fit though, could be better for me. I wish they came with earhooks.
None of these comments even bring up Koss headphones. Koss is king for portability on-ears in my mind and even for budget or just for on-the-go in general.
MassDrop is making an amazing move and doing the "MassDrop x Koss PortaPro X" or whatever the name is and that's because the portapros are literally the best sounding on-the-go cheap options. They're the same price as Apple EarPods that I use even now because Apple's design allows for solid impact with bass depth and with good detail despite mids being muddy with upper-bass and low-mids kind of just getting messy at some points.
Koss takes this and throws it out of the window with the KSC75 and the PortaPros. I modded my KSC75 to practically be the same as Portapros with a headband and changed out the earpads for pleather workout sessions but decided to go back to the foam since it's just super neutral, warm and beautiful with stock pads. PortaPros are (supposedly) the same drivers as the KSC75, so doing a headband mod with have the same results as what they're selling but I think MassDrop's revision really is appealing since they address build concerns and make it ~$10 cheaper with how they're already around the same ballpark as good IEM/Buds.
KSC75 are $12-15. PortPros are ~$40.
Massdrop is taking the best of the modded KSC75 I did and the cheaper improved PortaPros for the mid-range of those at.. like $37 iirc?
Their sound is like this: Bass->Mids are EXTREMELY detailed with absolutely no loss or dip or boom. It's just solidly neutral and warm and is a slow descent into highs. Once highs kick in, they're the tiniest bit sibilant if you really kick up the volume, but they're tuned in a way they still have notable sparkle and shine with clarity that won't fatigue you since it's weirdly tuned down with detail. The soundstage is completely narrow, though. It feels like it's really only left->right and what's in front of you (but not fully in front of your face) and doesn't really have any depth with how it travels in echo into your ear canal. That's just because they're on-ears that don't really have any seal or full-open design. But it's sufficient and feels like on-the-go buds with small drivers. Not much more you can ask for $15. I don't have a solid opinion on Portapros since I haven't listened to them in a while, but I've heard they're similar with more bass.
Try out Koss with whatever small budget range there you feel. You really won't be disappointed since it's equivalent to a dinner with friends or a night out. And they're THE BEST on-the-go I own that only get beat out by Apple Earpods for the same price.
(Side note: I haven't tried KZ ZS5, and those are supposedly the best on-the-go IEM for budget. Screw people who like Monks because they shred my ears with their bad plastic design. )

I would +1 most of that, but will note that the KSC75 has a different diaphragm from the portapro, and they do sound different beyond just how tightly they're held to your ears. The KSC75s are a little harsher and more sibilant in the treble, but awesome for the price. The portapro are a little less tinny.
Definitely a very good portable headphone, though if you're listening in very noisy environments, they're not ideal.
I recommend you any comfortable open back headphones so you don't get crushed by a car on the way to/from work because you didn't see or hear the incoming traffic - maybe an Audio Technica AD700x. But they are atrocious for airplane use. For airplanes you'll need a good ANC - maybe a Bose QC25/35 or Sony MDR-1000X - or at least a good closed back for isolation.
If you have the money to spend I'd recommend the Bose quiet comfort 25's. They are very lightweight, wireless, good sound quality, and noise cancelling. They have a very good battery life and don't take too long to charge. The only issue is the price. They are quite expensive but seem to fit your lifestyle perfectly. That's what I recommend.
Here's a link:
These are not wireless
well, I can tell you one thing: you won't be able to actually enjoy the good quality you get if you're walking on the street. There is way too much noise around you, so just use something that's comfortable for you and isn't as awful as skullcandy. If you want to enjoy audiophile grade headphones, better do it in silence or use bulky over-ear headphones that block external noise. The latter option is not suitable for walking outside, it's very dangerious.
Status Audio CB-1s are fantastic, they're probably one of the best options for an otg over ear headphone (they're also ridiculously cheap on Massdrop drops), if you want to go higher end, Oppo's PM2 and even better the PM3 are fantastic and are built beautifully. I've also heard some pretty impressive things about the Audio Technica MSR7s. If you don't mind a bigger headphone, the AKG K553 Pro is wonderful as well. I've heard good things about the Hifiman Edition S, they may leak a little bit of sound, due to their odd design though. The Audeze isine 10 is great as well, especially if you want some planar IEMs. If you want some bluetooth, noise cancelling cans, the Sony MDR1000x is great too, it won't sound as good as the others mentioned above, but it still sounds great, this is probably the best choice for travel IMO .
TL;DR: Focal Listen
I tried using my M50x on the go, but my LG G4 didn't get them loud enough, and they don't have enough bass for me. And using the EQ to increase the bass just made everything else less loud instead :-D
I bought a DAC/amp combo with EQ for that reason (Sound Blaster E5), but the G4's Bluetooth is absurdly bad (at least on mine), and with cables this was too much of a hassle. So I only used the M50x at work through the E5 with the EQ running to boost the bass. Software based solutions on the Mac either cost money or had their own issues of sound cutting out.
After two years, the fake leather on the padding (earpads and headband) starting disintegrating, and they looked pretty hideous as a result.
I went to an audio store and said I would like to get a new pair of closed cans in the <$1000 range (I didn't really want to spend that much, but if something had blown me away, I would have). They showed me two models for $800 which I didn't consider better than the M50x, and one for $1200, which was maybe a tad better - but not $1000 better. Then they showed me the open-backed Focal Elear and I was in awe. Sounded just like actual speakers - amazing.
But they are open, so not good for the office or public transportation. Checked what else Focal has to offer and found the Focal Listen. Reviews were positive, some also suggested the Meze 99 Classics, which are gorgeous.
So I went back to the audio store and compared both to my M50x. Both sounded better to me, didn't lose the wonderful highs of the M50x, but had enough bass, and were more comfortable.
Then I discovered something I never heard before: on the Focal, I could pinpoint the source of the instruments, while with everything else, it sounded more like instruments and voices are coming from a larger surface.
So I went with the Focal Listen! I love them. The headband is a little uncomfortable, and the microphone is crap, but the sound is absolutely gorgeous.
I tried about 20 headphones last Saturday, for up to $2000 each, but didn't like any of them better. mrspeakers has a more natural sounding bass, Sennheiser HD800 a lovely sound stage, but nothing sounded better to me overall (the HD800 have less bass).
Also very nice: the Focal are very efficient (32 ohms, 122 dB sensitivity). Now I have great sound straight out of my phone! So happy.
Best $249 I ever spent. There's now also a wireless version for $299 or so, have not tested that.
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One thing I like better about the M50x is that you can rotate the ear cups by 90º in either direction. That is really useful when you have to put the headphones on your neck since you can still freely move your head. The Focal instead restrict your mobility when you do that. In terms of storage, the Focal fold down nicely, so no complaints there. Both come with a little pouch, not a hard case. The Focal one is a little smaller, slightly padded (look like neoprene to me), and has a zipper, while the M50x's pouch has fake leather, no padding and just uses drawstrings to close (at least on mine, I have the M50xBL with different colors). Looks nicer, but protects the headphone less.
I can't speak to the Listen!, but I've been very happy with the Focal Spirit, which was their original foray into headphones. They do many things well, and I think you'll find them superior to your hifiman phones in almost all ways. I certainly do...
I currently use a pair of Active Noise Cancelling Sennheisers, and I am quite happy with them. They are in-ear type, though. I did not believe good ANC was possible with in-ear headphones, but my CXC-700's have done an excellent job so far. They were not as expensive as some other ANC headphones out there, but I cannot consider them cheap either (since we have to pay a lot of taxes here, it should be cheaper there).
I'll second the ATH-M50X, they're my go to for travel/work/commute right now. Love them and I love the dbrand skin customization ability.
If you're looking for IEM, I can't recommend the Shure se215's enough either. If theres ever a question of "will i need headphones later in the day", then they go straight into my pocket or get clipped to/inside a bag. Definitely two great options.
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I'm in literally the same boat lol. Still have a couple bumps, nothing obnoxious but a friend of mine had a lot when he did his. It seems pretty hit or miss.
lol good to know i'm not alone
Hey Bradley, as someone just sort of coming to the end of my own noob phase, and picking up on the airplane/travel part of your question, I'd suggest taking a look at something with active noise canceling. I fussed with a bunch of different iems, but even with the best seal, I could never get the kind of results that I did with active canceling, particularly in environments with lower frequency sounds (airplanes in particular). Like you, I have high sound quality ones at home. You won't get the same audio quality for sure, but in practice I feel like I get better sound performance in noisy environments with them vs a passive seal. I got a pair of refurb qc25 at a killer price direct from Bose and I never travel without them. Qc15s are very good too. Just try before you buy, as some people are very sensitive to the feeling of pressure with active cancelation.
After getting sucked into audiophilia by some Sennheisers, I've decided that I will never again own a pair of headphones/IEMs that don't have detachable/replaceable cables. As for what I listen on when on the go, I always end up choosing my Noble 3 universal IEMs. Open back headphones sound amazing at home in a nice, quiet room. They sound awful when you are surrounded by awful sound... like when you're on the bus/train or where the noise of people or traffic exists. Since IEMs completely isolate the outside noise, they (in my humble opinion... others may disagree) provide the best sound in unpredictable noise environments. Massdrop has collaborated with Noble to bring us affordable balanced armature driver IEMs. I have not listened to them, but if they are anything like my Noble 3s, they are as close to unbelievable as anything you can stuff in your ear canals. I still haven't been able to decide whether my Sennheiser HD 650s or my Noble 3s are the best sounding music delivery systems I own. I'm not sure whether the Massdrop x Noble X universal IEMs live up to the Noble 3s (they have two BA drivers each, one for mids+highs and one for lows, while the Noble 3s have 3 BAs each, one each for highs, mids, and lows), but The Wizard just doesn't do anything that sounds bad so you should feel safe getting a pair next time they are available.
A pair of closed back, over-ear headphones would be the next option. They should isolate most noise to a good degree, though depending on their construction they may not be able to block low-frequency noises (like the rumble of a large truck/bus's diesel engine or a train passing by) as well as it blocks the mid-to-high frequencies. There have been some good suggestions here already. If you prefer a more V-shaped sound signature (great for electronic/hip-hop/dance/pop music), I would also suggest the V-moda Crossfade M-100. They are built like a tank, so they can handle life on the road, but they have a satisfying, fun sound with the types of music I just mentioned. They can be found for significantly less than their MSRP, but if you go buy them for MSRP from their website you can get a free set of custom-engraved plates in your color choice. I was tempted to get them, but ended up joining the Fostex T-X0 drop instead.
Good luck with your search (and my condolences for your wallet)!
M50X is the way to go. Sounds better than the M40.
Replace the earpads by the Brainwavz sheepskin leather ones (or maybe the angled hybrid) and you have a good set.
If the looks are important, buy MG version or buy a DBrand skin.
if you you want something on the go; you will never get the qualty that you have at home. what i do is a Bluetooth reciever combined with a portable amplifier. then my m40x i delivers better sound then normal Bluetooth headphones but sfill leaves a lot to be desierd. always happy to be home.
I use the audio technica ath-m50x as my over the ear and Shure se215 as my IEM. They're both some of the best price to preformance ratio headphones you can get. ( honestly not sure why no one has said m50xs they're probably one of the most known pairs of headphones lol)
I literally recommended the exact same cans and IEM to scroll down and see your post lol.
Not sure if they're still being made, but the AKG K451 Is very portable, removable cable, really good audio and have lasted me 4 years with no issues.
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Ah sorry didn't spot that
Philips L2 - Bass heavy, very clear sounding. Rank 1st $60 -$80 V-Moda M100 - Bass heavy, need XL pads to be comfortable. Rank 2nd $100 - $200 Audio Technica M40X - Not as good as the two above but very close. More balance, still have bass. Rank 3rd $80 to $120 I owned All
Audeze sine are by far the best option
Either those or the isine 10
If you decide to replace your IEM rather than going over-ear, I suggest the Etymotic Research HF-5 with Shure Olive tips. They have the clearest and balanced tone of any IEM I've used and sound nearly identical to my ER4. Not sure about portable over-ears, though. Never had much luck with them. Have fun!
Sennheiser HD-25-II fan here. They are used by many sport and news casters and many people in the ENG field. Nigh indestructible, modular design and great sound. Soundstage a bit narrow. No sound leak and good external noise damping.
I actually use the Audio Technica ATH-m40x's with an shorter aftermarket cable and 90° plug. I produce Trance music and dj a radioshow from my laptop. That typically occurs anywhere from home, to work or on a bus between. Their isolation is good, and for me a flat response is needed; so far I'm happy. They collapse well and store nicely in my backpack.