There seems to be a lot of buzz and hype and time and peoplepower spent lately on reviews and discussions of headphones. Which are the best? Which are the worst? How much should one spend for a pair of buds? In-ear or not? Noise-canceling? Best value? The list of models has become endless, keeping pace with the questions people now have about them.
I myself have these...
They are the Ultimate Ears Super-fi 3's that I bought a few years back (before there were a gazillion options in headphones). That is not to say there have not always been options, but the proliferation of MP3 players, PvP players, Satellite radio, and multi-media cell phones/smartphones/PC phones have generated an unbelievable amount of choices in the last year.
The folks at CNET do a decent job of keeping track of everything in this "budding" category (see how I did that?) and typically have a post comparing various models like this one that covers cheap (under $25) models. Or this Top 5 list. Or this ridiculously overzealous "geek out with your iPod lossless audio" featurette.
I will admit my Super-fi's are nasty good (despite low bass levels) and you can hear even the slightest off-mic cough, sneeze or hiccup from an artist. But after all this is said and done- with all this coverage and focus on our listening pleasure- is it really worth the extra coin and aggravation (in my case, the jumble of wiring the Super-fi creates) for better sound quality?
Case in point... if I am just hanging around or clomping down to the basement to work out, or go outside for a run or even to the supermarket for groceries, I do not usually grab my good pair of buds. And, no, I do not reach for the standard iPod buds that game with my 5G iPod (broke those long ago). What do I use? These bad boys.
They are an older pair of Sony in-ear headphones I bought over 10 years ago for my cassette player and CD player (imagine that?). I do not even know if this is the exact pair I bought- it was so long ago and, though more knowledgeable about it now, I am not an audiophile and I will never profess to "get it" when it comes to the acoustical intricacies of said audiophiles.
I bought them back then because I did want a better pair of buds than the piece o' junk over-the-ear, super-fragile, plastic, uncomfortable, and cheap headset all old players came with. Do not forget, this was long before "portability" became ubiquitous in tech. But it was not so much about the sound as it was about convenience. And these puppies are convenient.
Even back then, Sony nailed the portability factor- the smaller buds, the strong yet flexible cord and the great winding case- so compact and transport-friendly, I am surprised more copycats were not made at the time. They are comfortable long before this was an issue. And they were not expensive, I think I paid like 20 bucks at the time. Simply put- they rock. Their sound is pretty damn good- not my Super-fi 3s good, but better than stock buds included with players nowadays. And this is after 10+ years of use and abuse. If I had a Top 10 Essentials list, my Sony buds would be on it before my Super-fi's.
Bottom line is, don't believe the hype. All the focus and attention of superior sound amounts to this: "Superior" is relative- at the end of the day how do you listen to your music?