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been >10 years since I last shopped, but want durable ~$100-150 wireless headset with accurate sound, won't sweat in >43-48°C (100-118°F) ambient, etc

Hi...

 

It's been a while (like 11 years or so iirc) since I've shopped for something like this, but I think I'm interested in improving my headphones experience.  (I've been using variations of JVC Marshmallows - currently have an HA-FX38 - for quite a few years now, replacing them a few times a year as the cord breaks.)

 

I'm basically wanting to spend somewhere around $100 or so (maybe $150?) on a decent quality wireless headset.  I may consider upping my budget a bit of I'd be getting something quite a bit better for not spending a whole lot more, but $250+ or so would be a pretty tough pill to swallow.  However I may consider spending that much for something that's very durable, can last many years or a few decades, etc.

 

I'm wanting wireless, so I don't have to deal with cords breaking so much, and I can have more freedom to move around.  I'm not sure that I want bluetooth though, as I want to be able to use these with equipment that came out in or before the 1980s or 1970s, as well as my modern PC, phone, etc.

 

I don't want any fancy "gimmicks" on the sound (like geared for specific types of games), but I do want a fairly wide response and fairly accurate sound, at least as much as possible without breaking the bank.  (Some musical instrument recordings I listen to go down to 16 Hz, a few even reach 8 Hz.  I don't want something that "muddies" the bass with an artificial "boost' around 100-200 Hz.  Also I don't want a "shrill" treble, I prefer something more accurate.  My hearing, last I checked a year or few ago, tops out at or slightly below 16 kHz, and goes down to about 10 or 12 Hz I think, small possibility of maybe reaching 8 Hz but i'm not really sure.)

 

I'd much prefer good passive sound isolation over active noise cancellation.

 

Last time I used full-sized headphones (some Panasonics I had gotten at Fry's maybe 15 years ago for around $40 or so iirc), my ears would sweat quite badly, especially when I used them outdoors in summer.  (It's not totally uncommon to have temps upwards of 100-108°F / 38-42°C) at times here.  Also I'm thinking of moving to another city sometime, with Phoenix being under consideration as well as a few other desert locations that don't have cold climates - like if it's 100°F it's "cold" :P.)

 

I think I'm leaning toward something like wireless in-ear monitors, but idk what good ones would also have a microphone.  (I want to be able to use that mic for talking in games or on streams if I start streaming piano music.  I have a separate mic I'll be using for the piano.)

 

Or are modern full-sized headsets much better for use in hot environments than they used to be when I was last trying them?

 

I feel I'm leaving a lot of details out though. :/ 

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You’re gonna have issues with wireless dropping audio quality significantly, most of not all wireless being closed back which means they’re warm and Bluetooth may cause issues with kit. 
 

I’d look at some open backs along the lines of the Sennheiser HD 598/9’s with a mod mic if you want one. They’re wired but fit everything else you want. 

Dirty Windows Peasants :P ?

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That's a lot of requirements on not a lot of budget, also thanks for the mention of our ModMics @Lord Vile

 

The short version is you can either do some of the things you want at that budget / requirements.

 

First, lets talk about sweat and using them outside at 100 deg f weather... You're gonna sweat, over ear headphones are going to make it worse. Simply put, you either have to use on-ear headphones or open back headphones, neither of which are going to provide good noise isolation. So that's decision number one, which is more important? You could also, as you say, go into wireless IEMs, but good wireless IEMs are expensive and you may not like how they feel or sound. It'd certainly suggest trying them, but if you're at all like me you're going to dislike how IEMs sound (Wired or unwired).

 

IEMs with good mics basically don't exist as far as I know as well.


The ModMic advantage (Shameless plug but Lord already brought it up) is you can attach our high quality mics to basically any pair of headphones and detach it when you don't need it (E.g. when you are outside). One model is wireless, so if you want to go full wireless you can, however, it's going to break your budget. Also, while the battery is excellent (12 hours), it's not replaceable, so it isn't going to last you 10 years. 3-6 would be my guess, depending on use.

 

In short, you've got some decisions to make on what is most important here: Noise isolation or ear-heat. Wireless or budget. IEM (and crappy mics) or headphones.

 

Some example combos

Wireless: Sennheiser BT350 + ModMic Wireless = ~$240. Over budget. Decent noise isolation and sound quality, plus aptX Low Latency on both devices. Not going to be great in hot weather though.


Open Back Wired: Philips SHP9500 + ModMic Uni = ~$130. Awesome combo from audio quality standpoint. Should be much better in hot weather than your past experiences (I don't know if wearing headphones in that heat is ever going to be described as comfortable). No noise isolation. Wired.

Director of Marketing for Antlion Audio, creators of the ModMic.

More info at www.ModMic.com

Ask questions, I'm friendly!

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Thanks for the input @Lord Vile & @AAJoe.

 

Hmm... Well I would definitely want the sound isolation of closed-back headphones.  I like to have a high "signal to noise" ratio, in that what's around me isn't interfering with what I'm listening to, and I would like to be able to do that without having to crank up the volume to dangerous levels.

 

I'm not sure where these rank among other headphones, but I was looking online at a couple models from Etymotic that claim 35-42dB isolation.  I wouldn't be going for the top ER4 model that's like $300, but would consider a step down from that, along with other brands as well, like Shure, Sennheiser, or a few others.  Most of them are wired, though, and the few wireless ones I was seeing seem to use the belt-clip receivers and shelf/rack-mount transmitters that are more often used in live sound / stage environments.

 

If I was going to be sitting in one place all the time, I'd consider wired, as long as the cables are detachable / replaceable.

However, I do want to be able to move around the room and nearby rooms (or if possible the entire house or even the yard, with the "base station" attached to my PC or stereo system.  Where I'm living now, the house is about 2100 sq ft, and the yard is about 1/2 acre, about 90 x 270 ft or so.)  Having wired headphones would very easily get tangled, especially since the room where my computers (desktop & laptop) are (along with our wifi router, etc) is quite cluttered.  (My laptop, which is my current daily driver, is on the desk near the camera - you can see a little corner of the side of the desk, and a printer on same, in the photo just beyond the doorway near which I was standing to take the photo.)

Spoiler

IMG_20200813_062659.thumb.jpg.db4ea83e306e756f5829caccd556167e.jpg

 

The Sennheiser HD598 is about 3x my budget or so.  I hadn't really thought of a mod mic, but thanks for mentioning it, I'll have to do a bit more research but it might be something I could consider.  (Didn't Linus do a video on that a while back?  Or was it one of the other tech tubers?)

 

 

Yeah, I know it's a bit tight on the requirements vs budget.  I could maybe slightly relax a couple things.

 

I probably won't be using them in 100-degree weather all the time, maybe only a few times a year, idk.  (Maybe good quality $100-200 in-ear headphones like some I've mentioned above might help with that?)  If I go with full-sized headphones, I feel I get better isolation with circumaural, so my ears fit completely within the ear cups.  I've been leaning more toward the in-ear options though

 

For me, noise isolation would be quite important.  I don't want to damage my hearing any more than I may already have.  When I was younger I used to be able to hear musical instruments way in the background of a mix (where the sound engineer didn't try to make everything the same level but pretty much left things alone) that some other people didn't even know were there.  I probably still can to some extent, it would help to have not-junk headphones. :)

 

Of course I'd like decent sound quality as well.  I don't want anything fancy like artificial coloring of the sound - accuracy is much more important to me.  Even if the source leans more toward the bad side, I'm fine with hearing that, I WANT to hear that so if it's something I'm producing I can know to try to fix it.  On the other hand, I don't want the headphones to make it worse than it actually is.  As I said, accuracy is key for me.

 

ModMic or something similar is definitely under consideration.  Since I'd mostly be using that for speech (not music) I'd probably be okay with a mic that's not "high end", but idk if there's any wireless mic around $50 or so (so I can spend more of the budget on the headphones) that are still "good enough".

 

I think I'd probably choose noise isolation over ear heat, since I don't anticipate a lot of use in hot environments.  Would be nice to have that option though, hence one of the reasons I was wondering about in-ear headphones.

 

Wireless would be really nice. "Budget" to me is like $15-$25 (or <$7-10 for earbuds), "high-end" is more like $150-$250 or more.  (Yes, I know there are setups that are thousands of dollars, but people buying those either make like several million a year, or are spending a higher portion of their income on headphones than I would, or are buying on credit, or whatever.)

Finding something around $150 would be nice, but I could go up to like $200 or a bit more, especially for something that's good quality among other things.

 

I'm guessing the mod mic wouldn't work with IEMs?  Or is there a way to attach it if you don't have "full size" headphones?  (I'd have to be able to use it hands-free.)

 

The BT350 + MMW looks like an interesting option, I might have to research that a bit more.  I might be able to stretch the budget a bit to make it fit.

 

A few others I was maybe initially looking at, in the full-sized headset category, include ones like the Cooler Master MH670, Corsair Virtuoso RGB, Kingston HyperX Cloud Flight models, Logitech G533/G935, maybe a Sennheiser model or 2 or a couple other brands.  Was looking at a couple reviews of the G935 and they were generally saying it had decent sound, but was a bit lacking in isolation.

Also I don't really care about RGB, or 7.1 surround (in headphones, but in speakers would be nice), or aesthetics all that much.

 

In any case though, considering what I'm anticipating spending on these, durability and longevity would be very high ranking of importance.  Basically I want them to last long enough, so that if you average it out over time, they're much cheaper-per-time overall than my cheap earphones.  Generally I've been replacing my $10-$15 earphones about once every 4-6 months, although sometimes they last longer.  My dad has a pair of the same model that he's had for probably 5 or more years I think - if the longevity improvement calculation / expectation could be based on that, it would be nice.

 

I've been hoping that  there's at least been some improvement in the $100-250 price range since I was last using full-sized headphones about 15-20 or so years ago. :) (Although maybe it wouldn't quite be the same level of price-to-performance improvement as things like video cards have had in that time frame. :D)

 

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First, to answer the ModMic specific question: No you can't use them with IEMs (sadly) - Just too heavy :)

 

Now... I want to bring up an important learning point that is... mostly pedantic. It's not because I am an audio snob, but rather I want to make sure you have the right adjectives to describe what you are after:

 

Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) is not connected to noise isolation. 

The short versions of what they are is: SNR is the measure of electrical noise in the headphones vs. the noise that is supposed to be there in the recording. Basically, what does the headphone sound like if you play NOTHING and crank the volume up (This is an oversimplification for any MORE pedantic audio nerds out there). 

 

Noise isolation is how well the headphones block out noise from the real world, such as my wife telling me to do the dishes. If I can not hear her, she has not asked.

 

Next: Accuracy ... is... elusive. The common misconception is that if you had a "Flat" sound signature, the graph of the sound of the headphones would also be flat. This would be true if you are a robot. I assume, however, you are not a robot. Without diving into the science that I don't entirely understand, the basics are the shape of your ear changes they way things sound, so if you want to hear "as if you are a real person and not a robot" you may want headphones that are more akin to the Harmon curve. Or maybe not, it is hotly debated and I am not a scientist, but the point is flat or "reference" is nowhere near as simple as it first seems - and the real bummer here is... no gaming headset is going to deliver anything even close to what people tend to look for as reference or flat. Not that I know of anyway. 

 

Also, I really, REALLY question the durability of headsets. This is not some "Antlion Audio" shill speech. I worked in games for 13 years before I joined Antlion and I'd burn through a headset every 1.5 years or so. When I joined Antlion 4 years ago I picked up a pair of R70x. They're still basically in perfect shape. (Prob time to replace my earpads). So yeah, I paid 3x what a headset would cost, but they're more comfortable, better sounding, and are about to pass the breakeven point on price.

 

So, if I had to pick from the headsets you listed I'd consider the Cloud Flights and move on with my life. I don't think you're going to get a reference sound (which is very hard to do in wireless anyway). I don't know how long they'll last. It'll be cheap though! :)

 

And again, I am the wrong person to ask about IEMs so anyone else may be able to chime in and help more with any reference grade IEMs that are wireless.

Director of Marketing for Antlion Audio, creators of the ModMic.

More info at www.ModMic.com

Ask questions, I'm friendly!

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