I think it is fair to say that not everyone wants to carry around a set of full size cans on a regular basis, with few exceptions (You will have to pry my HD25’s from my dead hands!). With the increased amount of travelling recently, I figured it was a good opportunity to try out a few more travel friendly alternatives, and came across a fair few nice ways to keep your ears happy and wallet not empty! Here are some of my favourites:
Audio Technica ATH-CKM300
Found well under $50 in the right places, these IEMs are a great little bargain. Coming in a range of colours and variants with smartphone remote and inline volume control, they have a surprisingly full sound considering their price. Plenty of low end and quite crisp in the highs, they present a fun sound well suited to the tastes of the typical music junkie. They isolate well and come with a nice little carry case and a comfortable array of different ear tip sizes, right up there with the Sony hybrid tips.
I picked up my pair in Japan, and regularly find myself taking these instead of my considerably more expensive headphones for the work journey. Well worth the price!
At around $80, SoundMagic provide a nice little introduction into the Balanced Armature driver style IEM, which present a more relaxed and balanced sound which is great for long listening sessions. They lack a bit of bass compared to the above CKM-300, but make up for it in the smooth delivery of the whole frequency range.
SoundMagic provide both rubber and foam tips here, and the foam tips in particular are great for comfort. Another nice advantage is the ear-hooks to help reduce the microphonics of the cable, and combined with the tiny size of the actual drivers, these make for a discreet and great sounding headphone.
Audio Technica ES7
First off, these headphones probably are not for someone looking for a subtle way to keep your ears happy. One of the main features of the ES7 is the hyper polished metal ear cups, which look great but might be a little eye-candy heavy for those who don’t like to make a fashion statement with their headphones.
Once you put them on though, you realise the attention grabbing looks are backed by attention getting sound. Great for those who like their sound a little bassy, these over ear headphones are quite comfortable, and present a polished overall sound with some extra kick on the low end. The only downside is the noise isolation is not so great, but this isn’t always a bad thing when you are roaming the city streets, and need to be aware of cars and sirens around you.
Although replaced now by the Autio Technica ES-700, you still can find these online for about $120, making these a nice entry into the higher end over-ear headphones while still staying very stylish.
Hopefully this proves useful for those who are in the market for some quality headphones without breaking the bank, and without having to stand out as much as the majority of audiophiles rocking full size over ear headphones on the train!