How a Musician Chooses Headpones

Your pick for the devices used to pump music into your brain is a very, very subjective one. Since no two people hear music in exactly the same way, it’s all down to personal preference.

As someone who uses headphones on a professional basis almost every day (albeit in a studio environment), I have long been a fan of almost anything in the Sony MDR series. Not only do they sound good in my head–flat frequency responses with tight bass, true mids and well-defined highs–but they’re durable and can take a lot of abuse. I’m also a fan of curly cord instead of straight cords.  Here in my home, I have two pair in my studio and another in my office. And when I do radio shifts, I won’t leave home without my MDRs.

And I should point out that I buy all my MDRs myself. No endorsements or corporate entreaties whatsoever. Every pair has been paid out of my own pocket. I’m a loyal customer.

Which brings me to this article from Medium. How to musicians choose headphones? (Here’s a hint: Don’t pick a pair just because they’ve got a Beats logo on them.)

Jimmy Iovine had a great, although somewhat predatory, insight: that if he positioned headphones as a fashion accessory, people would pay fashion prices for them. The real product, in other words, wouldn’t be the headphones themselves, but their aesthetic and social currency. As I heard Jimmy explain many times while I was signed to his label as an artist, he had in fact started with the idea of selling sneakers, but then realized that he should sell “speakers, not sneakers.” It worked. People bought lots of them.

Yet these people didn’t believe that they were paying a massive premium for design, hefty packaging, and marketing; they thought that they were buying a tool to hear music “the way it sounded in the studio!” As computing has gone mobile, so too has the majority of music listening, and people love music so much that they’ve proven willing to spend hundreds of dollars for headphones three times as large as their phones in pursuit of exhilarating listening experiences. I don’t blame them. Great music deserves to be consumed on great playback equipment. Unfortunately, most people aren’t currently enjoying great playback, and certainly not using Beats or many of its high-priced copycat competitors.

In order to prevent you from making this mistake, I want to share here a few things to consider when buying headphones.

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “How a Musician Chooses Headpones

  • November 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    The “continue reading” link appears to be missing. Also the headline could use an “h”.

  • November 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

    The “continue reading” link isn’t active. I assume .Sony MDR series’ is best then, right?

  • November 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I tried many headphones in recent years and settled on a pair of Grado’s. Some complain about comfort with Grado, not for me. Like Alan said, it’s a subjective subject, so try them out and buy what makes you happy. My only advice is buy from a hi-fi shop, they will carry what is good, not just what looks good.


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