The Search for the Best Portable Cans

There are times when I think that an IEM, universal or custom, isolates too much. What I mean is that sometimes I still want to interact with the people around me while listening to music at the same time. To do that, I need cans that actually leaks a lot of noise. Zero isolation. Don’t you too? There are times when you want to listen to music while talking to your buddies, and your IEMs will never let you do that.

So I’ve been starting a serious venture into portable cans. I’m not even talking portables like the Audio Technica ESW-9 or the Sennheiser HD25-1 either because they still isolate pretty well. I’m talking something in the class of the Sennheiser PX100 and the Koss Portapro. Yes, something that plays music quite well, yet still enables me to hear people talking provided the music is not too loud.

While I was really impressed with the Koss Portapro LE that I reviewed a while ago, I found that it the sound is not exactly “right” for me. I also reviewed the Sony MDR-570LP not too long ago, and while it sounded very nice, it actually has quite a decent isolation.

What’s next?

I bought a Sennheiser PX100-II because I was curious on how the successor to the famous PX100 would sound. The PX-100 is probably one of the most famous headphone, and even after Sennheiser introduced the PX100-II, they still retained the old PX100 and offered it as the PX80 just because people love the PX100 sound so much. Anyway, glac1er has wrote a comparison of the PX100 to the PX100-II and we should publish it as soon as we’ve finished taking the photos for the comparison.

On the other hand, I’m really loving the AIAIAI Tracks headphone.

AIAIAI is a company based in Denmark, and from first impression, it seems that their products are designed to look nice, but who know’s what about the sound? Perhaps a classier looking Skullcandy type of cans? I have to admit, I bought the Tracks because I dig the design. But you know what, I’m actually loving its sound! I don’t think the audiophile circle thinks too highly about portables, simply because everyone is so busy trying to get, or enjoying the latest multi driver custom IEMs. But seriously, IEMs are great when you want to be alone, but not so when you want to hang out. Anyway, I think the AIAIAI Tracks are really awesome, and you can’t accuse me for being paid by AIAIAI to say that because I’m not (heck they didn’t even have any loaner to send out to us because they said that their product is selling so well, and so I have to buy it myself), and a review of the Tracks will definitely come up.

Glac1er, our Stax guy actually prefers the PX100-II over the AIAIAI Tracks. I can’t see why. Being a Stax guy, he loves good clear treble and the Tracks definitely have this more than the PX100-II. I want to call him a Senn fanboy, but it’s tough. He doesn’t own any Sennheiser cans, and his love has always been on Staxes. Oh well. Wait for the reviews to come out and see which portable would suit you better.

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11 Comments

  • Reply April 8, 2010

    YpoCaramel

    You might want to look at something a bit different – the Final Audio Design FI-DC1601SB. It's a IEM that does not really isolate and according to reports, has a big soundstage. But pricey and I think Japan only.

    • Reply October 21, 2010

      Mike

      Yea those Final Audio Design earbuds have been getting a lot of buzz lately. Any comments on the sound signature?

  • Reply April 8, 2010

    bprabawabr

    Don't forget the Yuins and maybe Crossroads HRs.. The iGrado is also a contender for those wanting a clearer signature (and don't wear glasses) 😀

    • Reply October 21, 2010

      Mike

      Main problem with the earbuds is that they don't stay still, even when I'm only walking. 🙁

  • Reply April 9, 2010

    aaa

    i think the standard Koss Portapro n the ksc75 can be a good contender for sub $50 portable cans..

    • Reply April 9, 2010

      Mike

      Hi, it's been a while since I've heard the Portapro and KSC75. I've never been hooked up to the Portapro and KSC75 sound when I heard them. The Portapro LE was better, but again it's too warm and too much emphasis on the bottom end for my taste (the LE version is much warmer and is quite different than the standard Portapro).

      They are definitely good and quite legendary cans though.

  • Reply April 13, 2010

    jendol

    mike,

    i think that px100 is such a legendary simple portable headphone that will always have its special place for all of us. we may have many other headphones and IEMs yet many of us, including me, will still keep our px100. as for AIAIAI Tracks, well I just have to try it first.

  • Reply October 18, 2010

    donunus

    About the guy liking the px100 vs the aiaiai… I haven't heard the tracks yet but from what I remember with my stax 2050 system(202headphone and 252amp), the upper treble was kind of dark and rolled off.

    • Reply October 18, 2010

      Mike

      Yes the px100 had that kind of a signature, but depending on the recordings you like to play, that signature can sound great.

  • Reply October 21, 2010

    donunus

    I agree with the px100s sig. I have owned 3 px100s and it has been a love/hate thing because the mids can get really seductive at first then the annoying uneveness of the treble shows itself grrr… Fix the unevenness, add more extension to the top and bottom frequencies… That would be a great portable headphone! V-Jays? Are You the One??? I guess I'll have to see for myself since i'll be getting mine in a few days.

    • Reply October 21, 2010

      Mike

      Do try the V-Jays and the AIAIAI Tracks. If your budget allows for $100+, the PX210BT is probably my #1 portable headphone today. Even if they made it without the bluetooth feature, the sound signature is awesome. Great bass, yet not overly laid back and dark like the classic Senn signature. Mids are more forward, treble more present.

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