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Old 11-30-2007, 10:04 AM   #1
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Ask Headphone Questions Here.

Hi Folks,

I really don't want to turn my participation here into anything remotely professional, but a number of people have figured out who I am and have PM'd or emailed me with questions---which I gladly answer. However, in a effort to reduce the number of times I have to answer the same questions over and over, I thought I'd post here and take your questions regarding headphones and keep it in one place for all. (It also means I can do a little posting here on work time ... legitimately.)

On with the show:

So, I'm the CEO of HeadRoom (www.headphone.com), we're a ---some would say "the" --- audiophile headphone company. Mostly we sell very expensive gear to high-end audio and headphone enthusiasts. For example, we make a headphone amplifier that costs $5000.



Of course, that wouldn't do you a whole lot of good on your bike, but you get the idea: we're HARD_CORE headphone geeks.

I thought it would be a good idea to go through the recommendations for headphones that work well under helmets. As a catagory, they're typically called in-ear-monitors (IEMs), but we call them ear-canal-headphone on out site because "Ear Monitor" is a trademarked word and the butt-heads that own the mark don't like it when we use the common word.

The one many of you are likely to own is the Etymotic ER6i.



These are pretty good little cans, if you've got a pair and they're working for you, you should probably just hang on to them because you'll have to go pretty far up the food chain before you'll get a big enough pop from the improvement that it would be worth the money. The downside of these little headphones is that the do stick out a little bit from your ear and may be a problem under a helmet; though they don't stick out nearly as far as the more expensive and better sounding Etymotic ER4P or Ultimate Ears cans. These go for $86.99 on our site.

There are other sub-$100 IEMs out there, but none sound as good or deliver the value of these, IMH-and quite well informed on this particular subject-O.

Over $100, there are two cans worthy of your attention, the Shure SE310 (which we sell for $199)



and the Q-Jays. ($179)



The Shures are extremely well designed and the ergonomics are stellar. These cans sit nicely tucked into the "bowl" of your ear (concha, for those who care). The downside of these cans is that they are a bit thin in the bass, so a lot of folks get a little dissapointed with them if they're into contemporary music.

The Q-Jays ($179) are probably the way to go for most folks. They are AMAZINGLY small and virtually dissapear into your ear canal; no problem under helmets here! The more important thing is that they sound GREAT! Not "audiophile" great, but fun as hell. These may very well end up being my riding cans.

Lastly, if you've got the wad in your wallet for it, the Shure SE530 is a spectacularly good sounding pair of headphones; and the ergonomics are terrific as well.



We don't like to upsell people here (you just end up with more returns if you do ) but this is one product where we sort of make an exception. We've had lots of experiences where we get a walk-in customer with a couple of hundred to spend; we show them their choices; and then we mention the top-of-the-line Shure SE30 headphone. They stick it in their ears, and the shout, "These are friggen great. I want them. I don't care how much they cost." If you really dig quality tune, you may want to cry once on these. Just sayin'.

Now, a couple of random bits of advice:

The best sub-$100 headphones: Grado SR60. ($69) Butt-fugly, but amazingly good sounding, even right out of an iPod.



The Grado SR-60 isn't seal, so you can pretty much hear what's going on around you. The best cheap sealed can: Beyerdynamic 231. Still a little fugly, but you can't see them when they're on your head, damit!



Last recco: If you listen to music on your computer a lot, do yourself a favor and get on of our BitHeads. ($149) It plugs into the USB port of your computer and gets that audio conversion done right and out of the noisy environment in a computer.



We also have a version of this product for use with iPods and such so you can use big cans on portable layers. It's called the AirHead! And I named the thing before I had my R80G/S! I must be an Airhead!

Some of the products mentioned above will show higher prices than I mentioned, simply put them in your shopping cart and look for the link that says:

Do you have a coupon or promotional code?
Click here for a list of our current promotional codes.

Punch the "click here" and see if the cans you want have a discount code; punch the code into the box; hit the "Update Totals" button; and you cart will have the lower price. If you don't bother with all that, don't worry, we always give the lowest price regardless.

Normally, out discounts are for one product only of for a very limited time on amps for people attending trade shows or something. But, I've also added a new coupon code to our list that isn't visable. Just type in FYYFF and you'll get an additional 3% discount on anything and everything you're buying and it's good for the next year. Sorry it's not much, but our prices are pretty good and margins are slim on a lot of the headphones. You can sometime find better pricing, I'm just trying to get my ADV Bruthas a little closer.

If you decide to buy somewhere else, don't feel guilty or anything, but do come to our site for real information and not a bunch of marketing bullshit. We know that lots of folks come to us for advice and buy elsewhere. We've actually been able to use that fact to negotiate lower discounts on some headphones than our volumes warrent, so we like the traffic even when we don't get the sale. But like I say, we're at or within 5% of the low price on most products ... at least against actual authorized dealers.

Lastly, I know about headphones for audio. I don't know much about headphone with micropones, or Bluetooth head-sets. But we're beginning to work on that. If you have any questions, fire away. If you have any comments on how you've wired up your head for sound on the road, and would like to tell me about that, I'd love the education.
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Old 12-01-2007, 03:20 AM   #2
levain
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Wow. Thanks for doing this. My wife might want to get those Qjays for me for christmas!

A couple questions.. I've got Ety ER6i's right now. I've always thought they were great at noise reduction and comfort, but, sound quality was not all that great. How is the noise reduction on the Qjays? It sounds like they will sound much better than the ety's, but, that's only good if they also work as well as earplugs! Once in your ear, do they stay put? I've just been amazed how well those ety's work. They never pop out of my ears. The shures that I usee before were always popping out!

Thanks
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Old 12-01-2007, 04:37 AM   #3
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Sound quality issue

Thanks for the information. Since I'm very new to this site I hope I don't ask a question thats already been answered. Several years ago I had an Autocom system installed on my BMW LT and speakers installed in my HJC Symax helmets, (1 for the wife of course). I love the way the Autocom system works but the sound quality coming from their speakers just suck.

As an experiment, I had a friend help me take some speakers out of a set of Radio Shack headphones, connect then to the Autocom stuff and only got marginal improvement. Recently, I upgraded my helmet with some speakers from J and M. Again, only marginally better. I have complained directly to Autocom for selling an expensive system and having crap for speakers but they just ignore me.

Do you sell or can you recommend a speaker or in ear product that will produce better sound? My main issue is with lack of base. I should say that I'm not opposed to pulling out the Autocom and replacing it with another system (like Starcom1 or whatever) if I need to find a system compatable with high quality speakers. I intend to install a Garmin Zumo 550 to clean up my dash, have a system that supplys GPS, XM and plug the whole thing into a comm system for myself and passenger.

Thank you in advance for any help or advice.
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Old 12-01-2007, 06:16 AM   #4
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I currently use the Etymotic ER-6i while riding and they provide me with good sound and good hearing protection. It would be even better, if Etymotic or someone else offered a Bluetooth option for the earphones, but it must fit under a helmet, i.e. the earphone wire would run to a small BT receiver that you could keep in an inside pocket, so you don't have to have a wire connected to the GPS on your handlebars...

Is there anything like that? Maybe just a BT receiver that you could keep in your pocket and plug the ER6i to it?

Thanks for your very informative intro
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Old 12-01-2007, 08:25 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams
A couple questions.. I've got Ety ER6i's right now. I've always thought they were great at noise reduction and comfort, but, sound quality was not all that great.
I agree; I hear them as being a bit astringent and grainy sounding. (Us audio geeks have lots of words for the way something sounds; but it's still like "danceing about achitacture", the words are a bit meager and vague, sorry.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams
How is the noise reduction on the Qjays? It sounds like they will sound much better than the ety's, but, that's only good if they also work as well as earplugs!
Great question, but I don't know. They just came in last week and my bike looks like this at the moment.



But I do have to go to the hardware store in my Land Cruiser, and that's plenty loud to test them out, I'll stop by the shop and pick them up, and report back later. However, if you shove your finger into your ears you get 23dB isolation---the bone conduction audio is at that level and you can't do anything to quiet that with the ear canal. So, if you put in any ear-canal-headphone and get a seal, you get about 23dB isolation. The Q-Jays should get that.

Quote:
Once in your ear, do they stay put? I've just been amazed how well those ety's work. They never pop out of my ears. The shures that I usee before were always popping out!
The Ety flanged tip stays put well, and Shure's earlier products were hit and miss on a number of fronts. Which model did you have?

The new Shures are ergonimically the best; the strategy of having the wires go up and forward over the top of the ears and then around to the back of your head tightened by a keeper is the right one. It prevents microphonic noised from traveling up the cable, and, if the earpiece is designed well, it keep them in position more securely.

I think the foam and little round tips work best, but they have to fit well and go in deep. They should go half way to your eardrum, there the ear canal skin lies directly on bone. If the tip seals here, the noise isolation is best, and the "occlusion effect" is least. The occlusion effect is when you block the ear canal at the outer end and crunch on cips or sing and it's very loud. This happens because the skull vibrates and as it wiggles your ear canals wiggle. Because the ear canals ear sealed at the end, the canal wiggles slightly change the size of the internal volume of your ear canal and your ear drum makes up the presure difference---and your ear drum is amazingly sensative.

Bottom line, the new Shures usually stay put better and are more comfortable than the Etys. Big note: everybodies ears are different, you have to try them and mess with the different tips, and be used to putting them in so you do it right, before you really know which are mose comfortable for you. Sorry, that's experience that's not easy to get.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShimrMoon
Thanks for the information. Since I'm very new to this site I hope I don't ask a question thats already been answered.
Hey, it's a new thread, ask away. That's why I'm giving long answers now---so I won't have to answer as many later.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ShimrMoon
I love the way the Autocom system works but the sound quality coming from their speakers just suck.

**snip**

I have complained directly to Autocom for selling an expensive system and having crap for speakers but they just ignore me.
Don't get me started on the issue of the non-existance of regard for audio quality in the consumer electronics world. Really, don't get me started. But don't be too hard on Autocom either, there only as ignorant as almost EVERYONE ELSE!

Quote:
Do you sell or can you recommend a speaker or in ear product that will produce better sound? My main issue is with lack of base.
If your buy good (>$150) ear-canal-headphones --- and get that fit and seal right! --- the sound quality will blow you away. When you get the sound quality really right, you'll find you don't need as much bass.

There is are two problems with ear-canal-headphones (ECH, ok) when it comes to bass, though:

You've got to get the seal and fit right or you get virtually no bass. (I'm not going to say it again---you've got to get the seal and fit right.)

The other thing though is the one that won't go away. When you hear bass in real life, you hear it through your eardrums, but you also hear it through chest compression, nasal cavity compression, and bone conduction. With ECH you don't get any of that, so you sense a lack of bass impact.

There are two headphones out there that are almost perfectly correct in their ability to reproduce accuratly at the eardrums what you would normally hear: the Etymotic ER4S, and the Shure SE310. Both are universally somewhat dislike for their "lack of bass." The bass isn't actually lacking, however, it's just that you don't get that other visceral stuff. I actually like these headphones because I'm trained to just listen and can ignore the lack of bone conduction, but most people want a little more bass slam.

The Q-Jays, Etymotic ER4P, Shure SE530 and 420, and Ultimate Ear 5Pro. have elivated bass levels to try to compensate for this artifact. The 530 is expensive, the 420 needs an amp, the 5Pro and 4P won't fit under a helmet. I think the Q-Jay is going to win this one --- or it should. I can't wait to play with them more.


Quote:
I intend to install a Garmin Zumo 550 to clean up my dash, have a system that supplys GPS, XM and plug the whole thing into a comm system for myself and passenger.
I'm looking at the 550, too. Sorry, like I said, I'm really not to well versed in the GPS/comm stuff yet. I'll work on that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gadget Boy
I currently use the Etymotic ER-6i while riding and they provide me with good sound and good hearing protection. It would be even better, if Etymotic or someone else offered a Bluetooth option for the earphones, but it must fit under a helmet, i.e. the earphone wire would run to a small BT receiver that you could keep in an inside pocket, so you don't have to have a wire connected to the GPS on your handlebars...
My friggen thoughts exactly! Seriously. For portable audio with cell phone applications, I've been thinking about this for quite a while. For me, the problem is that the BlueTooth standard for audio is low bit rate and won't pass full cd Red Book audio. That's changing, however, as the recent new BlueTooth standard does include full bandwidth audio. I'm sure many product will begin to appear. Other than that general statement, I've got some homework to do and I don't think I can help you out ... other than to say I think you're exactly right. Maybe 7 years from now we'll have some high-end version of such a product. (It'll be able to attach to a motorcycle if I have anything to say about it ... and I do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GB
Thanks for your very informative intro
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Old 12-01-2007, 04:41 PM   #6
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I checked out the Q-Jays in my Land Bruiser (as the Ozzies would say) and I could hardly hear a thing; they seal just as well as any of them.

They also sounded even better than I thought they did. These are real winners.

Here's what's in the box.

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Old 12-01-2007, 06:58 PM   #7
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Wow! Thanks for all the info. You really know your stuff.

Those Q-jays look great.

As for the ety sound. I just always felt that they sounded kinda flat. One dimensional. They're fine for motorcycle use, though. I mean, what can you expect with wind roar etc. It's a noisy environment. Still, they don't sound nearly as good as the Shure EC2's that I had before. Those sounded awesome, I just couldn't make them work under a helmet. If these Qjays fit as well, or better than the ety's, AND sound great, I think you've got a winner!
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Old 12-01-2007, 08:01 PM   #8
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Very cool! Went a little crazy when I bought my 580's and built the Pimeta with the Tread PSU.

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Old 12-02-2007, 08:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WSikorski
Very cool! Went a little crazy when I bought my 580's and built the Pimeta with the Tread PSU.
Very cool! I don't want to crap my own thread with info that's really not relevant to headphones for motorcycles, but it's worth noting that the headphone hobby has some ver cool DIY aspects.

There really couldn't be a simpler example of analog electronics than a heaphone amp. But theirs enough complexity there that someone interested in analog electronics could spend an entire hobby learing and refining their understanding of how electrons get around. I know of two cases where teenage boys got interested in building headphone amps and went on to go to MIT to study electronics. The headphone DIY community is very tight and helpful, especially to young folks learning electronics. We often get kids dragging thier folks to meets.

Want to get into DIY headphone audio? Here's the place: HeadWize!

A deep, deep site.

Want to see the very best DIYer in the world? AMB by Ti Kan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Williams
Still, they don't sound nearly as good as the Shure EC2's that I had before. Those sounded awesome, I just couldn't make them work under a helmet.
The ergos on the E2C were retchid! I think you'll find the Q-Jays far better fitting, AND far better sounding than the E2C.
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Old 12-02-2007, 09:19 AM   #10
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sub 100$ headphones

the sony fontopia. found them @ best buy for 40$, the fit well underneath the helmet, and there is someone on ebay selling replacement booties for a few $ which i like better. the sound on a bike, is acceptable since there are too many other noises happening around, a 200$ set of headphones doesn't seem necessary.
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Old 12-02-2007, 10:18 AM   #11
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Wicked Obviously further testing is needed

The Q-Jays look like they would stick out of your ear and maybe rub/bump against the helmet? Please do another test drive in the Land Cruiser, but wear your helmet this time, and let me know if they rub at all. Thank you.




(very nice thread!)
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Old 12-02-2007, 02:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beechum1
the sony fontopia. found them @ best buy for 40$, the fit well underneath the helmet, and there is someone on ebay selling replacement booties for a few $ which i like better. the sound on a bike, is acceptable since there are too many other noises happening around, a 200$ set of headphones doesn't seem necessary.
Well.....

As you point out, the Sony Fontopias don't seal like an ECH. They are a glorified ear buds. Not to say there aren't good ear buds (Yuin PK1), but getting a good seal on a truly isolating ECH is critical. The wind noise on a bike is BIG. If your're not shutting out as much as you can, you'll get a lot of noise. If you get a lot of noise, you have to turn up the tunes to hear them clearly. And if you're turning up the tunes over road noise to be clear, you're going to be listening too loud.

This is a HUGE issue folks: DON'T LISTEN TOO LOUD! OK, we all know it will fuck up your hearing. I have tinitus significantly in my right ear. It sucks! Especially in my business! But it sucks anyway. I don't like going to sleep at night with my ear ringing. I don't like that when the kids are naturally themselves in the car, and start yelling, it kills my ears and I want to kill them. I don't like that when I lay on left side at night to go to bed I can't hear the Zen water fountain my wife has in the bedroom. DON'T FUCK UP YOUR HEARING! Wear earplugs on a bike, or ECH headphones that block out enough noise that you can enjoy the sound at a reasonable level.

I don't know too much about helmet speakers, but I bet if you're using them they: A) Have to be turned up loud to hear clearly, and 2) Sound like shit. ECH headphones or ECH headset with microphone seem to me to be the way to go. Believe me, I will be looking into this.

Sorry man, I don't mean to crap on your cans, but I swear, you can do SO much better if you're willing to spend a bit over $100. And if you want to go under $100, the new Shure SE110 would be the way to go---they'll get rid of a LOT of road noise, but they'll only sound twice as good as your Sony's. The cans I mentioned sound a whole nother dimension better.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ridin gaijin
The Q-Jays look like they would stick out of your ear and maybe rub/bump against the helmet?
I can understand how you can still be skeptical. But it's only because it's hard to get a sense of scale on how small these things really are. Lemme fix that.





And this photo, rather frightening, but accurate.



I tried them in my helmet, no problem.



(There goes another hobby to work. Sigh. Well, I aim to serve: Mi casa, su casa.)

Quote:
(very nice thread!)
Thanks, mate. I worry about fucking up my new hobby with work, but I do know a lot of relevant info in this reagard ... and I want to contribute to the community. This is a natural for me ragardless of how boring to me.

Wait! I'll add that I'm going to be looking for killer tunes on my bike, and I want answers to these quetions probably more the most here do.
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Old 12-02-2007, 04:24 PM   #13
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Great thread. I have a pair of the Grados. You are quite correct, they look and feel like complete shite but the sound quality is outstanding.
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Old 12-02-2007, 06:23 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Putts
The other thing though is the one that won't go away. When you hear bass in real life, you hear it through your eardrums, but you also hear it through chest compression, nasal cavity compression, and bone conduction. With ECH you don't get any of that, so you sense a lack of bass impact.
Ever try adding a set of ECHs for the nostrils?

Or an idea that might encounter less sales resistance - ECHs and helmet speakers/subwoofers for the bone conduction

To look at it from the other end of the telescope, do you know of any efforts to address these areas in noise reduction?
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Old 12-02-2007, 08:27 PM   #15
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The Q-Jays are looking good. How would you rate in sound quality to the Shure 310s. Subjective, I know, but my e2cs went south a while back and need replacing.

I'm a member on the Head-Fi forum and am very familiar with headwize and Tangents site.

Currently own: Senn HD580, HD 280, PX200, CX300, Sony EX71, Denon C350, Shure E2C.
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