A rant on headphone construction and comfort. · Oct 15, 07:52 AM
There is a great deal of variance in headphone styles, most major manufacturers have their own construction designs, but there is some crossover here and there where obviously “generic” structures have been used. Now I don’t mind this much when the design is good, but why is it that some manufacturers insist on extremely poor choices?
I’m looking at you, Beyerdynamic and Ultrasone. The entire full size range from Ultrasone uses the same headband design, which is shared by the Beyer DT440, 660 and 860 models. Someone, somewhere must have chosen this particular headband design, but I get the feeling they took about 5 minutes to do so.
Well, 2 reasons. First; it’s uncomfortable. The headband has a very small pad at the top, and the headband and combined ear cups together are quite heavy which means the entire weight of the headphone is distributed over a very small surface area at the top of the head, so after about 5 minutes it gets quite uncomfortable.
The second reason is build quality. Anyone who picks up a headphone that uses the headband design in question will be able to feel instantly that it’s not as solid as it looks. If you gently flex and twist the headband a little you can hear it creak under the strain, and I can honestly say that our initial sales of all headphones that use this headband were plagued by returns because the headband would crack and break, usually in multiple places, sometimes straight out of the box (fortunately it’s covered under warranty).
Apparently they’ve changed the material used in construction and this has been “fixed” but honestly, I’ve stopped promoting any headphones that use that particular headband design if I can avoid it, because I don’t want to have to deal with angry customers.
So why don’t the manufacturers do something about it? My guess is cost. They’ve probably bought a few thousand of these headbands and don’t want to dump them all in the bin (which is where they belong, in my opinion).
Well, it’s your loss, Beyer and Ultrasone, because I’d love to promote your products more heavily, but until you fix the comfort and durability issues I’m not going go. At least Beyer have plenty of models that do NOT use the crappy headband design and it’s limited to 3 of their products, but Ultrasone’s entire range uses it.
While I’m waving my arms in the air, AKG need to do something about the headband on the K701. It’s the only thing I don’t like about them, being a little too hard and not soft enough, so it leads to a sore head-top fairly rapidly. Fortunately there’s enough space there to stick a little extra foam, and it’s the only real thing worth complaining about as their build quality is fantastic otherwise (plus their sound quality alone lets me forgive the comfort issues I have).
Now I’ll return to Beyerdynamic again to say that their DTX700, 800 and 900 are truly fantastic sounding headphones for the price, but they have, yet again, cheap designs overall. The ear cups are too small, and the headphones themselves feel cheap and plasticy. Fortunately they are actually built a lot better than they feel, and we don’t get any returns, plus while the ear pads are a little too small, they’re still reasonably comfortable. But the thing is, it really wouldn’t take much to turn these “good” headphones into “great” headphones. A cheap feeling construction does not instil confidence in customers, and the ear pads are just an odd size. Why, Beyer, Why?
Finally, many people complain about cables breaking. The thing is, cables don’t break by themselves (except some of the Shure models, but apparently they’ve addressed that issue now), so something has to be causing your cables to break. It’s either you, your dog, or your chair. Look after the cable and it will last a lot longer ;)
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A rant on headphone construction and comfort.