Some people buy too many shoes or collectible figurines. I buy headphones.
I currently have four pairs: two full-sized pairs for home and office use, and two portable pairs for riding the train and walking.
From left to right:
- Beyerdynamic DT-880, very “open” headphones which let a lot of sound in and out, sound amazing, and are very comfortable. But their sound is so audible (and annoying) to others nearby that I can only recommend them for situations in which no other people will be in the same room. (previously)
- Sennheiser HD 280 Pro, closed headphones that I would choose without hesitation if I could only own one pair of headphones and needed them mostly at home or work (especially work). (previously)
- Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) P5, portable “luxury” headphones, and the only ones I own with the iPhone-compatible volume-clicker/microphone thing in the cable. (It’s identical to the Apple clicker, but black. Must’ve licensed it from Apple.) UPDATE: Found a fatal flaw.
- Sennheiser PX 200-II, my lightest and smallest set and the only reasonably foldable ones, but they don’t sound particularly great and have a fatally annoying volume-knob module in the middle of the cable, and its clothing clip has already broken off. (previously)
I just got the B&W P5 at Apple’s Black Friday sale (for $72 off) to replace the PX 200-II, but when we were in a very quiet room later that night, Tiff could hear my music a bit too clearly from a few feet away.
I was worried that my music may be annoyingly audible to nearby train passengers — after all, one reason to buy closed headphones is to avoid that — and I really don’t want to be That Guy.
So when I got home, I devised a test to compare all of my headphones and see if the P5 leaked too much sound for social comfort. But I don’t have an SPL meter, so I improvised:1
And got these results:
Obviously, the open DT 880 leaks far more sound than the closed models, which wasn’t a surprise.
The other results are pretty good news for the P5: surprisingly, the big 280 Pro that I thought was completely sealed from the outside world leaked just as much sound as the P5 and the PX 200-II, which isn’t much but is audible in very quiet rooms or at very close range.
And none of the closed headphones were as quiet at close range as I thought. Sorry for all of the Phish, Topherchris.
This wasn’t 100% scientific: in addition to whatever nitpicky details I’m not thinking of, since they all take different amounts of current to yield the same output volume, I had to estimate consistent volume levels across all of the headphones. ↩︎