They’re your best friends on the road, it’s the one single thing that can keep you from going completely mad on that 14 hour flight or 12 hour bus ride through the winding mountains on seats that are far too small for you. They can keep you from feeling quite so alone and far from home, and finally they let you scream at whichever agent fucked you this time with both hands free to drag your bags up that fucking hill to your room. Your Headphones are the only thing in your kit that are above all other things the most used, abused, and important.
It’s a highly arguable thing when it comes down to it, so many people will get offended if you tell them that their zillion dollar Bose over-ear noise cancelling super-head sets are just unreasonable when it comes to space. Beats for example, are poorly made oversized pieces of shit and people over pay for Dr. Dre’s name on the side. I mean if there is a name to over pay for I guess Dr. Dre is probably better than fucking U2 or some other egregious, ear assaulting overrated garbage of a band.
When you’re in this kind of pickle, that’s when you turn to you villainous pal Edmond. I’ve done all the research and bench tests, I have drug nearly every mid to top tier headphone you can imagine around the planet and can tell you the best place to invest that hard earned currency without getting fucked, or at least getting fucked the least. With that said, its an unfortunate state of wire technology in which we live. All headphone companies have the ability to coat their wires with Kevlar strong nylon, woven shielding that could survive damn near anything; short of a plane crash, bolt cutters, or in the rare case, substituting your headphones for piano wire for that unexpected strangulation that pops up from time to time. Unfortunately for the poor souls like us that live under the sons of bitches in power of the audio industry, it is in their best interest to make products that while sound good, wont last through the real life punishment you’ll be putting them through, especially the punishment of traveling.
To give you some perspective on my experience, I have traveled for years have spent a small fortune on headphones. Like all things in my kit I am reduce most things to dust from my very special form of abuse from my straightjacket travel techniques. I have had everything from the earpods that apple includes with your phone nearly every mid to top tier level overpriced in ear headphone you can imagine. I stick with in-ear headphones, I haven’t moved on to wireless anything and don’t plan to, thinking about one more thing to charge and the space its charger will take up in my kit gives me a fucking headache. In-ear headphones fit in your pocket, they don’t fold up or require a giant case that has to fit inside your all too precious carry on space. I have found that an in-line wire remote and microphone are crucial for phone calls while lugging your bags around through unfamiliar streets or airports. Just as a general rule, I believe in buying something once, buying quality rather than buying something cheap and often.
My adventure into finding the right headphones started with the Klispch Lou Reed x11i’s, featherweight, milled aluminum chassis; tangle free, in ear headphones. Klispch products are renowned for the science that goes into the quality of the sound, I appreciate the research and skill that they put behind every product and you can really hear the difference. The x11’s were (they’re no longer manufactured & have been replaced by the x12i, the exact same headphone without Lou Reed’s signature) lightweight, super comfortable, good quality noise isolation, and finally Three-Button Remote and Microphone. At the time I dropped $400 on them and was really pleased with my purchase, right up until about the 4th month on the road when they literally started falling to pieces. The milled aluminum chassis have a small rubber piece that protects the wire coming into the earpiece, which rubber split and eventually started to wear the wire down at the junction. The wire itself has the cheapest shielding, that actually starts to degrade and get sticky to the touch. Eventually the wire at the split from single to double started to show bare then again in multiple places on my $400 headphones. I called Klipsch and they don’t offer their 1-year warranty unless you buy from them direct (usually an additional 25% in price). So in the end, fuck Klipsch if they market something as “most durable” and cant survive 4 months, they’ve lost my business. To make matters worse I found a headphone wizard in Brooklyn that does full wire replacements on nearly every headphone made today, with the exception of the milled chassis Klipsch products. He’s a little strange, his website sucks but if you’re in need he really is the headphone wizard: www.headphonerepair.com
With that I went on the hunt, in the mean time I used my back up earbuds, I refuse to use the Apple earpods just because I don’t like the feeling of taking them out and feeling like my ear has been raped in prison. My backups are cheap skull candy, that is usually tangled in the bottom of my bag in case I get stuck without for whatever reason. My hunt for durability and quality led me next to the Sennheiser Momentum, hoping that their flat cables would solve my woes for less than $100. Within the year they were in the garbage, wires again had failed me. I could go on with all the headphones I have broke over the years but the point here is to show you what actually works.
I turned to reliable sources like Wirecutter, Tech Radar, Wired and all the other nerdy shit I read on the Internet. The problem with every review on every product you can read about on the Internet is that they don’t do any kind of endurance testing. They get fuck loads of free products and give everyone a good review so they can get more products the next year and they never leave the office. So it doesn’t really do much good for the people that will be putting them through the ringer on the road, at work and in the real life outside the tech spunk-bubble office. I hope it’s apparent by now that I don’t get paid to review shit.
Now ill end this long-winded rant with my review of what I have found to be the best quality and most durable headphones you can buy. Since you’ll need a guide to get you through my blathering and fucking complaining above. Just to recap what we are looking for:
- Audiophile quality sound
- Ultra durability
- Possibility to rewire
- In-line remote and microphone
- Decent warranty
- Good design never hurts
The first pair of these headphones that I bought lasted 2 years and some change until I dropped them in the bush somewhere in Africa, chasing after a photograph. The Company is called RHA and they’re based in Scotland. Just at first glance you can see that these have a more weight and robust quality to them and that immediately lured me in.
Once I got the fuckers in my ears they blew the Klipsch headphones out of the water. Richer bass, near perfect clarity and noise cancelling that makes the world fade away and leaves you with sound that is pure and unmolested. After the tragic loss of my first pair I upgraded to the T20i’s.
I’m not an audio science kind of guy, I like vinyl but I have no idea why other than it sounds better, it is pretty much the same as these headphones, the science is beyond me. The basics are like this: they use what they call a Dualcoil driver, basically two independent vibrating coils that produces the highs and mids, then a second that creates the bass and lower mid tones. The result is rich as fuck sound that will take you back to listen to every track you’ve played out in the last ten years to hear it for real.
What’s more, to make it more personalized to the music you prefer there are changeable tuning filters to adjust to the type of sound you listen to most. I mostly listen to rock n roll and use the bass filter that pretty much goes across the board, from dub-step to vinyl rips of the Rolling Stones.
RHA has it all. 3 year warranty, in-line remote, microphone, injected steel chassis, a wide array of ear tips for every mutated ear canal, the durability to survive straight jacket travel, and noise cancelation that will tune out the scumbag in the pajamas next to you on that 15 hour Lufthansa flight. All for $250 as of this writing.