List your state of art headphones for smart phone use!

I am looking for over the ear headphones that can play at a satisfactory volume and do not drain the battery.
I currently have Sony Pro MDR 7520 headphones that list at $500 and are on Amazon for $275.
They are comfortable and fairly good for the price.
I use an Audioquest dragonfly cobalt D/A with my iPhone, iPad, and laptop.
If I moved up to $1000 or more what would be much better?
Are earbuds an alternative at all?
At home I use Stax L700 and get very close to SOTA sound quality with a Stax tube/fet driver amp.
I do not expect the same Stax sound quality.
Can I get close to my home headphone quality?
I just got the Hifiman TWS600

Really amazingly transparent mid-treble. The bass was non-existent at first but has started to fill in. Very comfortable. I've tried the Fiio FH5, and these are hugely better in fit and sound. Not to mention, those are not wireless.

With the right foam ear pads they have been really awesome. Full day's battery life in the ear buds for me and a portable charger that extends the battery life to a week. This is what I'm currently using:

These have better noise isolation and a firmer fit but still very comfortable.
The Fiio FH5 looks interesting.

I do not want wireless bluetooth, due to poor sound IMO.

I want to use the Dragon Fly cobalt D/A converter, which I like.
I have the Fiio FH5 and have used it with two different portable amps.

The Hifiman wireless spanks it in all ways.

Bluetooth is not even CD quality!

Have you ever even heard Tidal lossless ?

Your ears are not to be trusted IMO.
I paid 1K$ for Massdrop Empire Zeus earbud.

That is the best piece for smart phone with nice dynamics, nuanced details and high efficiency.

I had been happy with it for more than 4 months of use.

I also have Stax 009S driven by Carbon amplifier.

Empire Zeus sounds almost 90% as good as Stax 009S.

I don't know about state of the are but my iBasso IT01 IEMs and AQ DragonFly Red combo sounds really good through my iPhone. I'll probably grab a Cobalt if I see a deal on one but I'm happy with the Red.
Easy. These guys are the pro's.
You can not control the frequency response without isolating the ear canal. These are the only plugs that do that effectively. They also have a 31 dB noise isolation factor, better than any head phones. Most people use these as their only headphones. No weight on your head. No sweating under the seals. They are also tough as h-ll. There are kevlar strands in the wires. You can hang yourself and you won't hurt them. If your wife accidentally throws them in the blender with your strawberry daiquiri they will send you a new pair at 1/2 price. Great Company! 

Best of breed build and performance

Pick your model .... highly recommended 


Dealer told me that Sir Paul McCartney outfitted his whole band and road crew with M&D’s.

I think I will stick with my Sony studio professional headphones which are comfortable and have a frequency range of 20 to 80kHz.
Earbuds drive me crazy.
Well Hello @don_c55


Assuming you were replying to me, my name is spelled Erik. It’s right there in front of you.

Bluetooth is not even CD quality!

Bluetooth has come a long way, and the sampling rate and bit depth are not NOT the only or main determinant of final audio quality.

Have you ever even heard Tidal lossless ?

Been a subscriber for years.

Your ears are not to be trusted IMO.

Because I don’t subscribe to the same technical prejudices? That’s an interesting notion. I’m an iconoclastic, technically well versed empiricist who has a history in audio going back to theater sound manufacturing in the mid 1980s. I’m a frequent contributor here as well. Who are you?

I’ve also been a Fiio fanboy for a long time, and have used:

  • LG V30 with quad DACs built in
  • Fiio X5
  • Fiio Mont Blanc portable amp
  • Fiio BTR3
  • Fiio FH5
  • AKG K712 (current desktop)
  • ESS 422H
  • Shure E4 IEM (ancient, but good)

The Hifiman Bluetooth IEM’s spank the FH5 in three major ways, in all combinations for these two reasons:

  • Midrange-treble air
  • Comfort / ear seal
  • Convenience

They are a lot closer to my ESS or AKG’s in terms of air and ambience and realistic portrayal of music. The FH5 sounds like IEM’s. They don’t convince me they are anything else. They are not better than the Shure E4s which I wanted to replace.

I spent a couple of weeks at the office wearing the FH5 with the Fiio Btr3, looking like a prototypical dork with a calculator on his belt. The Hifiman not only sounds better, fits better but also has a much longer lasting charge in the ear buds than the Btr3.

Which by the way, is pretty good. Significantly better than going direct with my ESS headphones. One thing I have noticed though is that if I am using the AptX coder the phone drains faster than with the TWS600 which does not use it.

Side note: I’ve also owned Master & Dynamic MH40s for about 48 hours. They were dull as dirt and terribly uncomfortable. Not nearly as good as the most basic AKG headphones.

The FH5 and M&D have 1 big thing in common: They are made for tiny people. I have a large head and large ears. The tiny but wide stem on the FH5 made inserting them feel like I was doing ear surgery. Takes a lot of effort to get the same seal and sound quality compared to my E4s. The Hifiman is even easier with these ear tips:

So you can sit there and point to bit rates, compression rates, codec flow charts, single drivers vs. multiple, dynamic vs balanced armatures, etc. and while I can geek with any of you about them, the truth is these are better sounding IEM’s despite the perceived benefit of wires and / or aptx coding that the FH5 enjoy.

So, you may not believe that I know anything about this subject matter, but I hope I have shown why I believe I have a pretty broad range of experience in this matter, not as much as headphone reviewers, and why my opinion of the Hifiman TWS 600 won’t be shaken by the debate over wired vs. bluetooth.

Please buy and enjoy what you like. I only share to be helpful.


Erik (with a K)
Since this came up separately I wanted to share my own experience with the Master & Dynamics.

I owned the MH40’s for 2 days before sending them back. I never send stuff back. Even the FH5’s which I am still upset at myself for buying I didn’t send back. Oh, forgot, half the ear tips on the FH5s were too small in diameter for the headphones.

Anyway, the MH40: Compared to the AKG K712s I use at my desktop, DULL AS DIRT!! Seriously lacking in mid and treble energy. I can't tell you how many reviews I read which said this model had a bright or crisp treble. BS.

Next, the fit. Don’t talk to me about these being well engineered. They aren’t. They use 1 metal band with a little foam and leather across the top to hold them together. It looks great, as a handle on fine luggage, but if it touches your head for any period of time you’ll feel it.

I also disassembled one headphone to look. It is just a driver in a plastic cup. So no, not really well constructed at all. They LOOK great, and who knows, maybe this is an issue where they deliberately make low end headphones sound crappy so you go up in the brand, but no, for the money and spend, the basic $100 AKG studio gear will be much more transparent and open, and you can wear them for hours without noticing.

Oh, and those tiny ear cups!! Why do my ears need to get squeezed like that?

So sorry fans. I really really really wanted to wear these at work. They looked great and would do a lot for my style. Nope.
Do headphones get any better than the Koss Porta Pros? 

Not heard Stax, not heard HD600s but out of all the ones I have heard up to 4/5 times the price none of them have spanked the Pros when it comes to sheer joy and life in the music. In fact some of them have been real dullsville efforts.

I'd love to hear some Grado woodies (if only half the stories are true!) but they wouldn't do for portable use.  

Mr Speakers Aeon Flow closed

Pros: Very low leakage. Decently isolating. Have low enough impedance to be driven to decent levels by the amp in a phone. Sound world class when paired with a headphone amp with some guts. Wire based headphone band very innovative and takes torquing/twisting with ease.

Cons: Don’t fold down nicely to fit anywhere. Ear pads are fragile enough to maybe not want to travel with.
I agree with mijostyn re: the Etymotic Research ER-4. They are very small, light, portable, relatively inexpensive, durable, noise-isolating, and (most importantly from the audiophile perspective) they sound quite good. I use them with an Audioquest JitterBug and the DragonFly Red when I'm on extended airplane flights (fortunately, not that often) and when I'm sitting outside reading or staring into space. Better yet, they actually stay in place and sound good when exercising (e.g., a half or full marathon). Only problem: microphonics (noise from the cords) unless you're stationary.
Not sure if state of the art but have given me literally 100,s of thousands of miles of service.
In fact when I watch my fellow travelers all unpacking their  bulky over ear phones and looking for charging ports I can’t help but chuckle.
I drag out my pocket this tiny black pouch with my own phones inside and plug and play.

Klipsch R6, still using my original from 6 years ago and I am a Delta Million Miler and I hammer the heck out of them.
I did buy a pair of the R6 mk2 but not even opened them yet.
All phones I have used them with have more than enough grunt to satisfy me, makes watching an in-flight movie more tolerable too.
Ultimate bass maybe a bit shy but mids and treble are superb.
Oh and 6 hour flight comfortable guaranteed!
Uber, my Shure E4 - the same.

The main reason I started looking for better was just that being so old, I got curious, especially at the multi-driver IEM’s out there, and of course, wanted the convenience of bluetooth.

I would have stuck with Shure but the buyer reviews were mixed for the reliability, so tried the FH5 with press that made them sound like state of the art, and finally the Hifiman pair.

I’m keeping the Shures as my back up pair, the Hifiman go in my daily work bag and everything else is going into a box I’d like to be buried with so no one else knows of my mistakes.
My new favorites are JH Audio Roxanne custom fit IEM. They are molded to your ear so they seal perfectly and are extremely comfortable. Dynamics, Treble, Bass are all excellent. I replaced Audeze LCD-3 and Foster THK900Mk2 and haven’t looked back.
For casual iPad and cassette listening the vintage Sony Walkman ultra light headphones are excellent. I recently reported my disappointing results 😩 with higher end HIFIMAN ear buds, even after more than 250 hours of break-in. No bass. For that reason I’m out. I like the inexpensive Grados with CD and cassette due to their full natural and dynamic sound - but not until foam and ear pads are removed.. My new favorite for CDs is the SONY MDR-v700 sealed headphones. But whatever headphones one uses their performance can always be improved by careful system tweaking.
and everything else is going into a box I’d like to be buried with so no one else knows of my mistakes.

Thx Erik!

Made my day, glad to see somebody else honest enough to admit they are capable of making a mistake.... or three!
ERIK with a K,
1) Bluetooth is a distant second to "wired" in sound quality, and not close to SOTA, which is the subject of my post.
2) Earbuds can fit in the pocket for travel, but do not beat headphones for sound quality, and are never close to STAX.
3) You must have never heard STAX headphones which was the sonic baseline in my post.
Some other fine professional headphones.

For critical listening. Value for money.

Sennheiser HD25
Shure SRH840
Beyerdynamic T51P
Do headphones get any better than the Koss Porta Pros?

Not heard Stax, not heard HD600s but out of all the ones I have heard up to 4/5 times the price none of them have spanked the Pros when it comes to sheer joy and life in the music. In fact some of them have been real dullsville efforts.

I'd love to hear some Grado woodies (if only half the stories are true!) but they wouldn't do for portable use.  
Egrado sound a little better than koss porta pro.Better dynamics and midrange has layers of sound of instruments.Works fine with portable players
@extravaganza, yeah Grado is definitely on my want to hear list.

Not sure if I'm brave enough to wear them each day on my 25 minute stroll to work. My Porta Pros in red get the occasional odd stare as it is, but I love the sound, and the comfort.

I'd guess that 9/10 headphone users/commuters I see are still using in -ear phones but all my experiences with them have uncomfortable and unsatisfactory. The slightest movement of the earpiece has a dramatic effect on the bandwidth, and keeping that oh so right fit seems to be beyond me.