I'm looking for a new pair of headphones to replace the basic Apple ear buds that came with my iPod Classic and the number of options from various manufacturers are staggering. In an effort to try and pair down the options, I have come up with a prioritized list of use cases that will dictate which features the headphones must have, which features I would like to have but can live without, and which features I don't really care about....
1) Primary use would be for watching TV shows and movies on the TV in my living room, either late at night or early in the morning, while others are sleeping.
2) Secondary use would be for listening to stereo and multichannel music at home, either late at night or early in the morning, while others are sleeping.
3) Third most common use would be for watching videos, TV shows, or movies on either my laptop or iPad.
4) I don't do much gaming, but would consider it a bonus if the headphones are compatible with the multichannel audio used in video games.
5) If possible, I would like to be able to use the headphones to answer phone calls while at home. I am willing to forego this ability if there is a set of headphones that can’t do this which dramatically outperforms any headphones that can for use cases 1-4.
6) As a bonus, it would be nice if the headphones can be paired with or connected to my phone for listening to music on the go (i.e. riding in a car, on the metro, or on a plane). I have no intention of using these headphones at the gym or for going out for a run. I can use my ear buds for that.
Features I must have
Comfortable over ear design
Surround sound capability - 7.1 channel minimum
Surround sound audio quality - Best possible
Surround sound immersion - Best possible
Stereo sound quality - Excellent, full range capability with good (but not overpowering/muddy) bass performance. Doesn't necessarily need to be audiophile quality, but needs to sound good for the money. (I'm willing to spend up to $500)
Wireless connectivity – Must use a wireless transmitter for high fidelity stereo and surround sound delivery to the headphones. I don’t want to be physically tied to my AVR, such that I have to take the headphones off to move about the house. AFAIK
, Bluetooth is not capable of delivering multichannel audio.
Wired connectivity – Must be able to physically connect all of my potential source devices either to the wireless transmitter or to the headphones themselves (preferably to the transmitter). For sources that use multichannel audio, I would prefer to use a connection method that preserves the original quality and discrete channel surround sound, rather than down-mixing to stereo and then having the headphones use matrix processing to recreate it.
Features I would like to have, but can live without
Bluetooth 3.0 or better with AptX support for direct pairing between a mobile device and the headphones.
Built-in, hidden microphone in the headphones for taking phone calls and game chat.
Portability - ability to use it without the wireless transmitter. This could be accomplished either by including Bluetooth support in the headphones themselves (as mentioned above) or by having a 3.5mm jack on the headphones.
My source devices
7.1 channel AVR (supports all surround sound and music formats to date) - It can receive audio from all of my sources using either HDMI, Optical, Coaxial, stereo analog, USB, DLNA, Airplay, or Bluetooth. Outputs audio using either HDMI, stereo analog pre-outs, or ¼” headphone jack.
3D Blu-Ray/DVD/CD player (capable of either decoding or bitstreaming most current music and surround sound formats, including Dolby TrueHD & DTS-HD MA) - Outputs audio using either HDMI or Coaxial digital audio.
DirecTV Genie HD Satellite Receiver/DVR (Dolby Digital 5.1) - Outputs audio using either HDMI, Optical, or stereo analog.
Xbox360 - Outputs audio using either HDMI, Optical, or stereo analog .
Windows 8.1 Laptop (includes Blu-Ray drive, PowerDVD 12, and iTunes which has a copy of all of my music) – Outputs audio using either HDMI, USB 2.0/3.0, ¼” headphone jack, Bluetooth, or Airplay.
iPad 4th Gen - Outputs audio using either a lightning connector (which can be converted to just about anything with an adaptor cable), stereo 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth, or Airplay.
HTC Evo 4G Android phone (my current phone) - Outputs audio using either a micro-USB connector, micro-HDMI connector, stereo 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth, or (for apps that support it) Airplay.
iPhone 5 (my wife’s phone) - Outputs audio using either a lightning connector (which can be converted to just about anything with an adaptor cable), stereo 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth, or Airplay.