Sometimes You Just Need to Chill

The best of tool I have in my HiFi Arsenal to achieve chillness is a pair of headphones:


Having to sit tethered to your stereo is a great way to avoid all of those pesky life distractions; cooking, cleaning, working… you get the idea.

To boot, adding a set of headphones to your HiFi rig can extend your chilldom into the late night/early morning hours.

I decided to get chilly recently and do a comparison of my collection* of vintage and not so vintage headphones. Here’s a rundown ranked for your enjoyment:


Realistic Nova 10:


From the early seventies. Some realistic branded headphones were actually made by reputable companies. The Nova 10 is not one of those. These things are cheap lightweight plastic and uncomfortable! To boot they sound like poo! They’re lacking in both low and high frequency with just a punchy mid-range. I found some specs on these things online and they were, let’s just say unimpressive.

Zenith 4 channel:


These things are heavy and bulky but, because there are two speakers in each can, they are pretty comfortable. Used here in stereo mode, they are pretty muddy sounding and lack anything resembling a high-frequency signal. I’m keeping them around because they look neat and, someday, I will own a quadraphonic source that I can not enjoy through this horrible sounding headphones.

Panasonic EAH-20:


These headphones have slightly better high frequency than the last couple of pairs but the size of the earpiece is rather confining. There is a flat-screen just inside of pad that rests right on your ear. The plastic ear pads are hot and the speakers to sit so close to your ears that these things seem loud in comparison. Overall the sound of these cans is best described as congested, everything all stacked up on one another with no separation between the individual bits of music.

Koss K-6:


Circa 1971 now we are getting into some of the hi-fi headphones! The K-6 has a roomy earpiece with a curved cover over the top of the speaker that fits your ear really well. These have good bass response and mid-range but are still lacking in high frequency. Even so, this is the first usable pair of headphones I’ve tried today. Just OK.

Koss KO-727B:


Also from 1971, these headphones have a sound somewhat like an equalizer set to a :-). They accentuate the low frequency and the high-mids and have slightly better high frequency response than the K-6. To boot, out of all of these hard-shelled  can type headphones so far, these seem to isolate  external sounds the best. The 727 B are definitely a keeper.

Sony MDR-V600:


These have been mine since 1995. I mixed a lot of live concerts and radio programs with these headphones. They’re lightweight and comfortable. The first truly full range headphones I’ve tried today. They’re a little bit bass heavy but still give good detail… detail that was lacking in the ’70s Koss cans. I can now hear reverb layers, echo and other bits of material in the source.

Sennheiser HD 201:


These things are lightweight (under 6 ounces) and sit low profile over your ears. The sound is a bit thin compared with the Sony and they do lack a bit of detail but are more balanced on the whole. The cord with these is like 20 feet long so it also makes it easy to get positioned across from your stereo rig.

Sennheiser HD 650:


God I wish these things were mine! Unfortunately they’re just on-loan from a good friend (who now wants them back!) The generous earpiece is covered in a microfiber material that is super comfortable for extended listening. The first thing you notice is that the frequency response is flat, flat, flat! You don’t hear a booming bass or a sizzling symbol, the sound is almost too perfect! They are very detailed and you can hear things from the source material that you missed with most of the other headphones here. One thing that I’m having trouble describing is the bass response. It’s very percussive, not in a booming way, but almost like you feel the beat of a bass drum in a live setting. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard from any other speaker or headphone before. The only hesitation I would have in buying these headphones is that they need power! Trying them out on a portable source like a phone or an iPod was not enough to drive the headphones. I had to use an external headphone amplifier to match the volume of the other headphones. The other potential drawback is these cans have an open back so if you are listening to them in a confined space, everyone else gets to enjoy your music too! The final criticism, also having to do with the open back design, his these were the least sound deadening headphones here. I could hear a lot of things going on in the room that were silent with the other cans.

*Other than the Sennheiser HD 650, all of these headphones came from thrift stores and ranged in price from $1 to $3. So, if you are interested in adding some old cans to your set-up, keep an eye open there!

** as a source I played one of my go-to records, Dire Straits – Making Movies, on my dual 1219 turntable through a Fisher 400c reciever.