ON-ear: best headphones?

hi guys, long time no see. I recently found my good ol’ Plantronics Audio 90 headset that i used for so many, MANY years as my only headphone, before getting into the “game”. I was curious how it would sound on my high end gear, and i have to say: i’m pleasantly surpised! Getting used to the sound didn’t take long, i guess there still was a matching compensation-profile for the frequency response stored somewhere in my brain. What do you call that - auditory memory? Anyway, i digress. The point is: i really like the soft pads this headset has, i like the sound, and it’s on-ear. I already own a couple of on-ear HPs like the KPH30is, B&W P5 / P5v2 / P3, Sennheiser 424 and i like all of them. Some things stick out for me for on-ears: 1.) they can be annoying to wear, 2.) they can be really pleasing to wear 3.) they are rather small and light, so more portable 4.) the connection between your ear and the HP driver seems more “intimate”, since the bass vibrations etc. are being transfered directly to you outer ears, compared to over-ears, where it’s more the air pressure from the driver that tickles… Long story short - i think on-ears really have something going for them that over-ears don’t. And that made me asking:

What are your recommendations for, or what do you rate the “best” ON-ear headphones available from a technical standpoint? As long as it’s not completely broken, you can even leave the frequency respone out of the equation, bc i always apply EQ…

Thx.

I haven’t compared it to any other on-ears really, but before I got into the audiophile hobby, I owned some Sennheiser HD25s (Plus) that I liked, so maybe add that to your list of headphones to look into?

Definitely should try Grado, start small.

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I ordered a pair of Marshall Major IVs on sale as a gift for someone and tried them on expecting to hear a compressed bluetooth sound. Looked at all the reviews and thought they were exaggerating and hadn’t heard better. They sound nothing like Sony/Bose wireless headphones, they stomp them. Whoever tuned it is clearly a nitpicker who is into the whole guitar pedal/drum scene. If I could put that tuning/driver into my backup HD 598s I’d have both the comfort and slam I want.

Fiil CANVIIS wireless headphones. Excellent sound quality, ANC, and app support

The ON ears I own, ranked in order of favorites:

Grado GW100 - My favorite on ear, favorite bluetooth headphones, and currently one of my favorite headphones overall… sound awesome and bluetooth to boot, lightweight, retro look, open back grado sound signiature but they have good BASS and theyre the only Grado’s without an attached cable, Since getting them I use these the most, probably even more than my wired cans because I can walk around with no cable, really impressive bluetooth cans sound better than many more expensive wired cans imho, good bass and mids, not the hugest soundstage but good enough as expected from an openback

Audeze SINE - built really well, designed like a bmw, sound great, closed back intimate, planar magnetic, so quite resolving, comfortable to wear… I picked these up really cheap on Black Friday, when I look at the Meze Liric, I get a similar vibe in build quality, not sure if its actually leather but the back of these seem to feel like its a stretched black leather, very high quality feeling

Koss Porta Pro headset with boom mic and yaxi pads - these are my favorite headphones for all purposes (I use them for work calls + music and gaming), sound great, open, the mic is awesome, mic sound quality is better than any of my other headsets I have owned including the airpods max, sony xm4, bose qc45, they look and sound better than plantronic or jabra headsets I have tried imho

Koss KPH30i - sound great, weigh almost nothing, easy to take with me, comfortable, somehow I still find I use these more than the KPH40 or KSC75 with Retrospekt headband

Koss KPH40 yaxi pads - similar to the KPH30i but but warmer to my ears, metal headband

Koss KSC75 on Retrospekt metal headband yaxi pads - with the headband the fit is exactly like the KPH40, sound is a bit brighter, but more open and more resolving maybe but I kindof prefer the KPH40 sound tbh

The Koss ones are all somewhat similar imho but I use the porta pro the most because I am on calls all day for work

Beats Solo Pro - Okay they are beats, but I feel pretty nice, these are built really well, they are small and look pretty nice imho, they dont have any creaky feeling like other plastic headphones, feel like an apple product and I find the headband and pads really comfortable, and if you are in the apple ecosystem, they pair like airpods, turn off when you fold them, no cheap buttons, the plastic is very high quality with a nice memory foam headband that has no creak whatsoever, just seem really well built and tightly designed, I find the leather earpads pretty soft and comfortable and they are bassy and fun, intimate sound thats pretty clear, not muddy or overdone in bass as you would expect from Beats. If you want a really intimate rich sound close up on vocals and deep bass, these can be fun to listen to. My set is the Ivory white color with gold, they look pretty great imho


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I’m gonna be really straight on this pick your flavour of koss basically most other stuff isn’t great out there.

Considering the price of the KSC75’s and the measurements how good this earphone sounds at this price SMACKS everything until you get to something like ER2SE.

Just excellent all round pick the treble really shines with barely any breakup the follows the curve so we’ll the resolution in this department… Isn’t really matched by any headphone, on ear unless you buy specific iem’s with perfect conditions such as deep insertion etc.

KPH30i certainly great if you could only have 1 to do it all, semi open, when music is played they block most noise when nothing is playing you can hear your surroundings really well so great for commuting, with seal and clamp the earphone doesn’t need as much energy and doesn’t distort at low frequencies like a KSC75, quite flat through the mids and bass region with really good air frequency attributes sounds like nearly no masking.

This all summises to when you hear this headphone its retarded clear soundings. The resolution of the Koss KPH30i is ASTOUNDING!! it is so good its nutts

The KPH40i due to more clamp has some tasteful mid bass boost which is nice if that’s to your taste that’s the main difference between that and the 30i.

So that’s what I’d recommend.

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This might be my new on ear king… I can get why these have been so popular for decades now… They have a really full and rich sound - they are quite strong on clamp so that might not work if sensitive to clamp, but I kindof really like on ears, that clamp actually adds that kindof plucky nice bass, that makes them punchy, energetic and immediate, and yet they have all of the range and clarity as you move up, sounds are separated well and resolving, even though they are closed you get a sense of space, it is overal neutralish still like some other Senheisers - I get why DJs like this so much, it has that clarity and punchiness in the beats and yet vocals and highs are clear and present.

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My on ear collection:


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I have a pair of AKG K451s that I really like. They sound something like a pair of KPH30is with more detail and better technicalities all around. They also come with their own compact carrying case that’s perfect for chuckin’ in a backpack and with two cables (one w/ mic and one w/o). You can find them used for peanuts in a very good condition.

I also like the Sennheiser HD-25s. There’s a reason they’re so well liked and popular. The HD-25s are just a very solid, serviceable pair of on ears that can be modded a million different ways too.

That said, if you’re down to put some cash into it, the best pair of on ears that I have heard are the ETA O². Some higher end Grados I have heard like the GS3000x have the edge in some technical areas, but they are much more expensive and I’m not the biggest fan of their tuning. When my friend let me hear his ETAs, I was surprised at how good they sounded and the open, well-defined presentation.

Edit: P.S. Their Mini Closed headphones are pretty good too, but they’re over ears.

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How was the tuning of the O2, will check it out. Always interested to support the small shops making cool new and experimental stuff!

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Very much a linear, monitor-like sound. It’s not the most “fun” or exciting tuning, but there is good clarity, layering, and detail. Apparently they come with two sets of grills that alter the tuning and I have only heard them with the black grills. They don’t have the biggest soundstage, but they do represent space well and the stage does have width, depth, and height.

Sorry I can’t get anymore specific than that, but I only listened to them for maybe half an hour. I was sufficiently impressed that I have considered buying them even though I generally don’t use on ears much. I ended up grabbing their Mini Closed headphones just to support the company because I like supporting new headphone makers that I think have potential and my girl uses them all the time when working on her video production and editing.

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