Jan 19, 2010
There are those among us (you know who you are) who consider themselves audiophiles. This topic is for you.

Whilst reading a recent thread, I saw this quote:

Hardcore audiophiles will tell you to stay (far) away from Bose. :)

I was puzzled. When my grandmother bought a Bose sound system years ago, it filled the room with sound. The sound was really, really rich. I got the impression that Bose was one of the better brands. She bragged about it to everyone.

What is it about headphones that distinguishes them from one another? Is it just how much you pay for them? What they are constructed of? It seems every time I hear the word "audiophile," it involves the implication that you must pay hundreds of dollars for a good pair of earphones and rip all your CDs to FLAC. I just want to know-- what really makes a good pair of earphones, or a good sound system... or is there even such a thing?

Note that I am not picking a fight; I am honestly curious. What makes something sound-related "good"?


Apr 26, 2011
Not a true audiophile here, but for a lot of headphones, you're mostly paying for the brand.

(Things Like WESC, Skullcandy etc) They usually aren't the best around. Stick to Sennheiser, and it'll be alright :p


Nothing good will ever come of Exophase.
Sep 21, 2006
Cleveland OH
I recently bought a pair of Shure SRH840s to replace my Sennheiser HD280 Pros which I broke. The latter cost me around $70 a few years ago (either 2007 or early 2008), these cost $150. Quite pricey in comparison - the main driver in my decision was price to aggregate rating ratio, and the SRH840s were getting reviews that were comparable to a lot of headphones that were much more expensive.

Now I'd like to point out that despite spending this much money on headphones I'm far from what you'd consider an audiophile. I can definitely tell the difference in quality between these and the HD280s, but the difference is a lot lower than it was when I made the last jump (some < $50 Sennheisers, don't remember), so I can't say it has scaled with price here. It's always cool to hear a little bit "new" in the music, but at the same time higher quality headphones brings out the artifacts in lower-quality audio. I actually don't have speakers, so without headphones I couldn't do my usual media stuff at all. But I also don't listen to a huge library of music (I mainly listen to game music and some techno/trance/whatever) so my priorities may have been a little off.

Still not at all displeased with my purchase. There are also some big perks not related to sound quality - with this pair I got a set of backup cuffs (which is great because my HD280 cuffs were incredibly torn up and looked awful), a carry bag, better isolation, a somewhat more comfortable fit, a detachable cord (the HD280s did have a replaceable one so it's not a huge deal, but the nice thing about an externally detachable one is that it's easier to replace if it goes bad. It also appears to be overall of a higher build quality. Granted, I ultimately broke the HD280s my throwing them at the floor, not by any natural wear, so in my case spending more money on durability might be a bad idea XD

So what really makes good headphones? You can glean a lot of electrical performance data from them, ie dynamic characteristics (frequency response) and noise characteristics (total harmonic distortion), and resolution (sensitivity), but looking at manufacturer specifications or even user-generated plots tells you surprisingly little. In the end the best you have to go on is reviews. The one thing you do want to look out for is nominal impedance, to determine if you need an amp to run it from low-drive portable electronics.

I think that quote rings true though.. I haven't used Bose personally, but all of the reviews I've seen indicate that Bose is simply terrible for price/performance of headphones. They're known for noise canceling but they're even more expensive there and I tried one out at a Bose store years ago and it barely canceled a thing. Not worth the money.
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Soldier Paste
Nov 5, 2009
Bose is a walmart brand, its the mcdonalds of food, the GeneralMotors of cars, the iphone of phones, the ipod of audio players. old people only buy bose because its the only thing advertised of its kind, they dont know about the sennheisers, the technicas, the koss', bose is right up there with skullcandy and Beats by Dr.Dre, the Dell of PCs, the Windows of OS', its what people know, and the high prices for these products are more to make up the cost of advertising than actual quality


Well-Known Member
Jun 11, 2010
South Australia
What makes a set of headphones 'good' is so subjective that it's almost ridiculous. Some people consider any headphones that emphasise bass and low-end to be good for that reason alone, whereas others opt for phones that do not distort the sound at all. Ask any audiophile what the ideal heapdphone is and you'll get a different response depending on how they value the lows, mids and highs in relation to each other. Soundstage is also a factor, but very difficult to pin down (I must admit to being a sucker for any audio equipment with a great soundstage).

About the only thing that can really be objectively tested for is clarity (through the things exophase mentioned in his penultimate paragraph) and bass response. Other than that things are not only subjective, but people will often say that an uncomfortable set of phones give bad sound as well. In general, Speakers > Open Headphones > Closed Headphones > Earphones, though that varies with price, obviously. I stay away from speakers on open headphones because I do most of my listening either on public transport or while studying at university, though I hear that the sound for open-variants is much better for the price.

In relation to the bitrate you rip your music to, I definitely believe that there is a noticable difference from 192-320-lossless kbps, but there are so many other factors that for most people it will not be worth it. For a start, you need a player that gives decent audio quality out (so ipods, and thus 90% of music listeners are out), a decent set of headphones, and decent bitrate music for it all to be worthwhile. A good example would be how buying an HD reciever for your television will improve your picture *in theory*, but to really make use of it you'll also need an HD television and various other accessories.

Sorry, that turned into quite a ramble - I've had a long day.