Joan Myers writes: What headphones do you have? I'm in the market...
To which I responded:
For what use? Home, on the go, Bluetooth, music? Truth be told, I have about 10 different pair that I use for various purposes.
Myers: I need good ones for a movie, on the go, for my Nexus 7. I spend too much time in airports and motel rooms…
This is probably more information that Joan was asking for, but it gives me the opportunity to share my favorites. Just like different cameras for different purposes, so it is — at least for me — with headphones. I'm not a super-finicky, no-expense-is-too-much audiophile, but I am a picky listener and have been ever since I was a consumer electronics buyer for a larger retailer back in the 1970s. I've probably owned 100 sets of headphones in my life, and here is what I use today.
For airplane travel and ultra portability: Well, this one is a compromise. If money were no object, I'd probably use Bose noise cancelling headphones, although they are bulky as all get out. Instead, I've settled into a set of in-the-ear noise cancelling headphones, JVC brand, model HA-NCX78. In-the-ear designs are not my favorite, but I find these pretty comfortable even on long flights. I tried and rejected a dozen competitors before I found these. Great sound, substantial noise reduction, long-battery life (1 AAA), and comfortable. A little fussy to get the wrap-around-the-ear part on and off — which is why I don't like using them at home — but on the plane I typically put them on and leave them on for the whole flight. About $50.
Best sound for travel, but not on the plane: When I travel overseas and weight is a crucial factor, the JVCs are my go-to noise cancellation headphone on the plane, but I'll also carry a Bose MIE2i wired headphones for use elsewhere. They are small, but what a fantastic audio quality! Audio quality almost as good as my best quality, full-size headphones. I could be tempted to use these around the house except for the in-the-ear design which does get uncomfortable after a while. These are great for travel, but when weight and packability are not an issue, nothing beats full sized headphones. Like everything Bose, more expensive than they should be at $130. I also use these in the field when I'm doing on-site recording for multimedia projects. Super handy to have in my pocket.
For Bluetooth wireless comfort and great sound: Sony DR-BT101. I wrote about them back in Aug 2011 and they are still my most used headphones. Amazing sound. Too bad they don't collapse for easier portability while traveling. Long battery life, easy Bluetooth pairing, and very comfortably light weight. I can't recommend these highly enough — if you can still find them. About $200 now, but I think I paid about $50 back when they were readily available. They've now become sort of collectible — that's how good they are.
For Bluetooth wireless convenience and good (but not great) sound: Probably the headphones that get the next most use in my life are Motorola S305. Lightweight and more portable than the Sony BT101. I choose these for rougher use — in the glove box of the car, when I'm riding my bicycle to and from work, etc. The behind-the-neck design works great when I'm wearing a hat. Less than $40. BTW, these are phone-capable Bluetooth, too, so I can listen to music while I ride and still answer the phone when it rings. Very convenient. I often use these for Skype conversations, too.
Audio mastering and uncompromising quality: I have an old pair of Sony MDR-V900 studio headphones that I use at work for audio mastering the LensWork Interviews and super-critical audio work. Bulky, but extremely comfortable. The very best, fully balanced audio of any headphones I've ever owned. They are no longer made, but a very close sister is the Sony MDR-V900HD is probably the same thing with updates. About $200. I can wear these all day without a problem either physically or aurally.
At home, for video and uncompromising audio quality: Quite a bit little less expensive than the V900 are the Sony MDR-V6, specifically made for digital audio. I have no idea what that really means, but these are just great headphones at less than $75. The resolution in the bass end of the spectrum is the best — even better than the more expensive V900. No muddy bass lines here, and that really cleans up certain types of music. Try Sting or Alanis Morissette with these guys and you'll wonder why you didn't buy a pair ages ago. Not quite as comfortable as the V900 — the V900 foam earpads are larger rest on your head without touching your ear, whereas the V6 foam pads are smaller and just touch your ear. They're still comfortable for a movie or an evening of music.
Bottom line: I have a few others, too, but these are various models I use with regularity. If I were to buy just one pair of headphones only, I'd choose first between the key options — in-the-ear or standard size, wired or Bluetooth — based on which is most important in my anticipated use. For me, that's just to difficult of a choice so multiple designs fit my lifestyle best.