I've been doing audio recording, editing, and mixing semi-professionally for a while now (not my day job, but more of a paid hobby?), and I've always been very much "into" audio gear/equipment from home theater stuff to "listening" speakers to true monitors, but headphones are perhaps the area in which I have the most experience (and is how I started down the money hole that is "high end" audio :/ ).
I use headphones every day, either for the aforementioned "professional" reasons or simply for pleasure listening, while gaming on PC or watching a movie (when I don't want to distract others, because I can't always watch films in my home theater)...
14 years of this has led me to the following opinions regarding what is good and what is not, experience-backed but still opinions.
EXAMPLES OF GOOD HEADPHONES:
- Audio Technica ATH-AD700, ATH-A700, ATH-AD900, ATH-A900X, ATH-M50(/S)
- Grado SR60/80, SR225/325, RS2i/RS1i, PS1000, GS1000 (I currently own and use all of the aforementioned Grado's, and the RS1i's, GS1000's, and PS1000's are 3 of my Top 5 Headphones Ever(tm))
- Sennheiser HD428-and-Up, although you have to get into the 6xx series to really get good sound (not a fan of Senn's myself, too much sibilance and over-emphasis on the highs)
- Sony (higher-end, MDR-V6 and up)
EXAMPLES OF TERRIBLE HEADPHONES:
- Apple anything
- BEATS by Dre (perhaps the most offensive headphones I've ever heard; honestly, go out and spend $20 on some Sony MDR-V150's at Wal-Mart and you'll have better headphones)
- ANYTHING from Bose
- ANYTHING "Gaming" such as Razer, Roccat, etc
- ANYTHING that is "surround sound"
- ANYTHING that uses more than one driver per cup
- ANYTHING that is "USB Only"
Now, some USB headphones are actually decent for online gaming, where audio fidelity is not important but exaggerated sounds are, and where you need to be able to communicate with others. That doesn't make them good headphones, it just means they are suitable for the purpose for which they were intended.
BEATS headphones, well, they are the most overpriced, ridiculous, awful-sounding, and poorly-constructed headphones over $20 I've ever had the misfortune of hearing. I dissected a set only to find that my aforementioned MDR-V150's are actually BETTER in terms of build quality and materials used.
WHAT MAKES BEATS SPECIAL?
WHAT MAKES THEM SOUND DIFFERENT?
- They simply have a software audio processor (the cheapest one available BTW) that artificially "boosts" Bass by ~30%. That means you have hardware-"equalized" headphones and nothing you can do to fix them!!!