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After what seemed like a never-ending amount of work and perhaps an over-ambitious undertaking is finally finished.
Our look at a selection of over/on ear headphones, under $200.

 

Headphone-B-Guide-Under200-Title.jpg

 

Click here for the results: http://www.avlife.com.au/content/av-life-headphone-buyers-guide-under-200/

This has also been completed for over/on ear headphones, under $500 which will be published next week.

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Hello Marc

 

yes, this must have taken a lot of time and effort to see through.  Thank you.

 

Scoring systems have the advantage of allowing for reproducibility but also encourage people to quibble about a point here and there.  For my part, I care not at all about how headphones look.  Was the aesthetics a large part, or a small part, of the rating?  In other words, if you were to remove the aesthetics scores, would the placings remain the same?

 

(I guess what I'm asking here is that based on the 75 points that was on sound alone, do the placings remain the same?)

 

best

 

TDD

Edited by ThirdDrawerDown
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I'll expand on that and explain in more detail tomorrow (a long day!) ... I am very open to feedback and constructive criticism as we can certainly always improve on the methods.
 

I'll outline the method used. I won't say it's right or wrong, but it was a way I came up with that seemed to work. Thanks for great feedback guys.

The Under $500 review is also complete, but I have to write it up still. I would like to follow that with "Ultra-High End" in the new year, which will be fun. I do feel I need to brush up on the tech and skills before I tackle that though.

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Thanks for that............but they didn't say if they were open or closed designs.

 

From memory only one pair are open, or considered open as they technically do have an open chamber. The Grado's. In the Under $500 there are a few more open pairs.

Thanks for pointing it out, I should probably point that out on the relevant headphones.

 

The request sent out was originally for "over ear" headphones in each of the price points. As they started arriving however I realised that I would simply have to bundle on/over together. The category itself seems to have a lot of overlap and they all get lumped in the same. I also received "in-ear" from many suppliers which I excluded from the shoot out. I'll individually review those.

 

I don't claim to be an expert (I can hear good from bad however) and this test was certainly educational for me, and I hope what I am trying to do can do can assist others.

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Hello Marc

 

yes, this must have taken a lot of time and effort to see through.  Thank you.

 

Scoring systems have the advantage of allowing for reproducibility but also encourage people to quibble about a point here and there.  For my part, I care not at all about how headphones look.  Was the aesthetics a large part, or a small part, of the rating?  In other words, if you were to remove the aesthetics scores, would the placings remain the same?

 

(I guess what I'm asking here is that based on the 75 points that was on sound alone, do the placings remain the same?)

 

best

 

TDD

 

Still awake so I'll expand on this now. As mentioned, I am very open to suggestions and feedback on the process used. I would like to refine it before embarking on an ultra-high end headphone shootout.

 

Sound Quality was judged out of 75 points.

Sub Bass (20-80Hz), Mid Bass (80-260Hz), Mid Range (260-3khz), Highs (3kHz+) were each scored out of 15 points. 15 is considered perfect. The reason this is not out of 10 is to put a heavier weighting on the score, in comparison to other judging criteria.

 

Overall Linearity was scored out of 10. Dynamics (headphones ability to remain composed at higher volumes than normal listening levels) was scored out of 5.

The above made up the sound quality component, out of a total available 75 points.

 

Further subjective judging criteria (each out of 10):

Comfort, Visual Appeal, Included Accessories, Features.

Potentially there are 40 points available here, but in reality I knew that most would only score 1, 2 or 3 for features and included accessories, and of course out of 10 each for Comfort and Visual Appeal.

 

In order to calculate Value for Money, I lent on a mate for a spreadsheet formula, that looks at overall SQ score, vs/compared to RRP, with the best receiving a 10, and the rest receiving a score in relation to the best value headphone - in this case the Sennheiser HD 439, only 2 points less than the Ultrasone HFI-580, but quite substantially cheaper ($199 vs $119.95).

 

This allowed a score out of a potential 50 points (Comfort, Visual Appeal, Included Accessories, Features + Value for Money), which resulted in most headphones receiving a score in this area between 20 and 25 points. So ultimately the score available is 75 (sound quality) + 50 (other criteria), for 125 points in total. However as no pair of headphones (even in our next Under $500 category) is really going to get close to 50 points in the secondary areas (non SQ), I didn't think it fair to list the overall scores out of 125. Our winning headphone (in this category) would only achieve 88 out of 125 possible points, and our runner up 87 of 125 possible points, which in my opinion doesn't do them justice when read like that. If that makes sense?

 

It did allow us to give a clear "Best Value for Money" award however based on the results, which the Sennheiser HD 439 (2nd Overall) clearly takes home.

 

As mentioned, not sure if this is the best possible way of reviewing the headphones back to back. It's simply the system that I came up with, heavily weighted on the SQ ability of each pair, which in my opinion is the most important. Hopefully I'm not opening a can of worms by being as transparent about the method as possible. But if it can allow feedback and suggestions on how it can be improved then I am certainly all for it.

 

This shootout, at least in this category is pitched (and timed strategically for Xmas), at mum's and dad's whose kids may be wanting a pair of headphones for Xmas, and they are googling trying to find out their best options. It's not designed as a complex review looking at construction methods, materials, or even the components (we haven't listed the manufacturers specifications etc.). With the Ultra-High End shootout I would like to do, a lot more thought and testing will need to go into the judging criteria. It's also completely subjective (I guess the majority of all audio reviews are), but both "judges" concurred on the SQ listening tests throughout the reviews.

 

I hope that gives more insight into how these results were produced. :)

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I won't comment specifically on the results, but I do wonder about people's obsession with buying 'the best'. I've owned plenty of decent headphones and I am much less concerned about the specific ranking of them than I am about the relative strengths and weaknesses. What this actually results in is a single determination of whether I like a set of headphones enough to keep them and use them or whether one or more of their weaknesses would force me to part with them.

 

In terms of the headphones reviewed, I owned a set of the Sennheiser HD439 and thought they were really good value for money. I gave them away because of all of my other headphones, they simply didn't get any head time. Would I recommend them? Well, that depends on what the user was after...

 

I liked:

- price

- sound

- cord not being microphonic

- availability

- brand

- portability

- weight

 

I didn't like:

- poor noise reduction (despite being sold as a Noise Reducing Headphone)

 

 

So, if you wanted them to block out noise while commuting or in the office you would be very disappointed. A much better overall option for SQ and noise control is the Audio Technica ATH-M50, which can be had for $159

http://www.addictedtoaudio.com.au/AudioTechnica-ATHM50-Pro-Studio-Monitor-Headphones

 

If, on the other hand, you want to walk into JB Hifi and buy a set for your kids to listen to in their rooms and budget is a key factor, the HD439 should be near the top of your list.

 

On that basis it would also have been worth mentioning that the Grados do not block out any external noise at all and would be most unsuitable for using while out and about, and that people around you will get to share you music so they probably aren't much chop for libraries or work.

 

Perhaps it is worth thinking about who might be the consumer and what features or attributes they might value and pitch the review at that. For example, we know teenagers don't care about SQ but they do care about brand and image - else, how do you explain the Beast by Dr Dre(adful) fad.

 

Another issue is availability. I have been into headphones for many years and I have only heard of and seen half of those brands. I don't know that reviewing headphones that can mostly only be found online is really targeting mums and dads for xmas buying.

 

There is some incongruity between the words and results. You state that you are being very critical of what is otherwise remarkable sounding headphones when finalizing the comments about the Grados. Using the word remarkable to describe a headphone ranked in fourth place is hefty praise indeed. I fear that the superlatives will dry up before you get to second or first place. But, yeah, really I found myself wondering remarkable in fourth place. I wouldn't call the HD439 remarkable and they were in second place. In my personal experience I wouldn't call the Grados remarkable - a bit bright, yes, but remarkable, no.

 

Hopefully, you will take this in its intended spirit - as constructive feedback. I really appreciate the effort and I am excited to see some local reviews. Perhaps complicated scoring systems should be left to the Eurovision song contest and Ice Dancing, and reviews should stick to telling us the good things and bad things about the product without attempting to score those good things and bad things. As a smart man said, Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler

:thumb: :thumb:

 

As a final comment, I would recommend the relatively new ATH-AD700X as the best I've heard with an AU$ retail of less than $200. Theyare often recommended as gaming headphones because they sound great and are really comfy.

 

EDIT : I mean the AD-900X rather than the AD-700X mentioned above.

Edited by fordgtlover
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I really appreciate that feedback, it's very constructive and certainly offers suggestions for improvement. I think you highlight my choice of words really needs to be considered, in complete agreement with you on that when I read back through it now.

 

I love shootouts, as they give the opportunity to review in batches and find the strengths and weaknesses at once, however it really is much easier to get into far more detail and be more comprehensive when reviewing individual products (of which we have plenty now sitting here in the office). The time required to produce what you read there is quite unbelievable. Extremely time consuming and it could be easy to overlook some things and brush over others; which I certainly don't want to do.

 

I still have to write up and compile the results of the Under $500 category, so will keep your suggestions in mind when I do that next week.

 

Thanks again for taking the time to provide that feedback. I've certainly taken it on-board. :thumb:

 

Einstein said some pretty "remarkable" things didn't he? :)

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From memory only one pair are open, or considered open as they technically do have an open chamber. The Grado's. In the Under $500 there are a few more open pairs.

Thanks for pointing it out, I should probably point that out on the relevant headphones.

 

The request sent out was originally for "over ear" headphones in each of the price points. As they started arriving however I realised that I would simply have to bundle on/over together. The category itself seems to have a lot of overlap and they all get lumped in the same. I also received "in-ear" from many suppliers which I excluded from the shoot out. I'll individually review those.

 

I don't claim to be an expert (I can hear good from bad however) and this test was certainly educational for me, and I hope what I am trying to do can do can assist others.

 

It's the isolation factor.

All the headphone I have for listening, are open..........the closed ones are used for recording.

This also applies for portable listening.

As we know............most 'other' people have poor taste in music so why should we be subjected to it?

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Another issue is availability. I have been into headphones for many years and I have only heard of and seen half of those brands. I don't know that reviewing headphones that can mostly only be found online is really targeting mums and dads for xmas buying.

 

Of course, Marc can only review those headphones which manufacturers/suppliers/distributors send to him, so Marc (AVLife) are limited to what is provided to them, not necessarily what they would like to review.

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I won't comment specifically on the results, but I do wonder about people's obsession with buying 'the best'. I've owned plenty of decent headphones and I am much less concerned about the specific ranking of them than I am about the relative strengths and weaknesses. What this actually results in is a single determination of whether I like a set of headphones enough to keep them and use them or whether one or more of their weaknesses would force me to part with them.

 

In terms of the headphones reviewed, I owned a set of the Sennheiser HD439 and thought they were really good value for money. I gave them away because of all of my other headphones, they simply didn't get any head time. Would I recommend them? Well, that depends on what the user was after...

 

I liked:

- price

- sound

- cord not being microphonic

- availability

- brand

- portability

- weight

 

I didn't like:

- poor noise reduction (despite being sold as a Noise Reducing Headphone)

 

 

So, if you wanted them to block out noise while commuting or in the office you would be very disappointed. A much better overall option for SQ and noise control is the Audio Technica ATH-M50, which can be had for $159

http://www.addictedtoaudio.com.au/AudioTechnica-ATHM50-Pro-Studio-Monitor-Headphones

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Of course, Marc can only review those headphones which manufacturers/suppliers/distributors send to him, so Marc (AVLife) are limited to what is provided to them, not necessarily what they would like to review.

 

Indeed. I recognise that as a challenge. There is no doubt that free stuff is a double edged sword, and it remains as true in this situation as any other that beggars can't be choosers. So, if it's free you take what you get. Alternatively, if you want to review specific products you have to pay, or perhaps even ask some friendly SNA'ers for a loan.

 

I appreciate how difficult something like this is (I have compared many products in my day job), but if your reviews aren't relevant, you will quickly fade into obscurity.

 

I'm no expert; I am merely an amateur with an opinion. Marc will take or leave my opinion as he sees fit. :thumb:

Edited by fordgtlover
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