Headphones with cables in the test - these models are really good

Headphones with cables in the test - these models are really good

Wired headphones will still be popular in 2022 - for good reasons. xiaomist editor Stefan shows you his three personal favorites from the categories of in-ear, over-ear and on-ear.

Wired headphones: these are the advantages

First of all, the question arises: why should you buy wired headphones these days when everything can apparently be replaced by wireless Bluetooth models? Well, exactly this "apparently" is the whole point. Wireless headphones offer a number of benefits that still apply:

Cable headphones do not need their own power supply (battery) and draw their energy directly from the player (e.g. tablet) via a jack cable. Bluetooth headphones, on the other hand, have to be charged regularly - until at some point the (often permanently integrated) battery dies and no longer charges at all. Cable headphones sound better - or at least they have the potential to do so. Why is that? Music transfer via Bluetooth is digitally compressed and therefore lossy, but music transfer via cable is not. With particularly high-quality models and good recordings, this can make a decisive difference in the sound quality . Even today, you will only find wired headphones in professional recording studios. Wired headphones do not introduce latency . From the jack output of the source, the analog music signal travels over the cable to the transducers in the headphones at lightning speed - without any significant delay. Anyone who plays an electronic musical instrument or DJs knows the problem: Even the lowest latency (with Bluetooth transmission) has a disruptive effect. The topic can also be relevant to hardcore gamers. Therefore, in case of doubt, the same applies here: Cable is king. Cable headphones are usually a little cheaper than Bluetooth models with a comparable sound. No battery, no digital-to-analog converter (DAC), no amplifier components - wired headphones don't need any of that. This leaves the manufacturer with more budget for better drivers and materials (e.g. ear pads). Cable headphones are retro and hip again . Just as fashion keeps returning to past decades, there is also (seldom) a return to the world of technology. The resurrected vinyl record or exorbitant prices for used tape machines are examples of this. When it comes to headphones with a cord, it's best to look around in hipster strongholds like Berlin-Mitte: The current "Y2K style" (more information on Desired) also includes the good old Apple Earpods with the white cable.

What should I look out for when buying wired headphones?

The checklist for buying cable headphones is pleasantly short and straightforward:

The right plug : The most widespread is the "small jack socket" with 3.5 mm - it is usually the analog headphone output on cell phones, tablets and laptops. On mixing consoles (or DJ mixers) you sometimes come across the large jack socket (6.35 mm). Cable headphones can also be connected to devices without a jack socket: Either they already have a corresponding plug (Apple Lightning or USB-C) or you can plug in a suitable adapter (external headphone amplifier) ​​that has a 3.5 mm socket.

Length of the cable: Depending on the intended use, you should consider the correct cable length when purchasing. If you use your headphones to watch a film and plug them into the receiver on the television, you theoretically have to bridge the whole living room. Fortunately, there are also inexpensive extension cables available.

The right resistor : The decisive factor is the "impedance", which is specified in ohms (Ω) . It expresses how easily (= low value) or difficult (= high value) the headphone model can be driven by an amplifier. Mobile devices such as cell phones, MP3 players or tablets are often equipped with somewhat inefficient amplifiers, so a headphone impedance of 32 ohms or less is recommended. High-impedance headphones can sound too quiet on weak smartphone jack sockets. On the other hand, professional headphones with 250 ohms can be plugged in at the mixer in the studio or at the external headphone amplifier, as there is enough power available.

The best wired headphones: this is how I chose the recommendations

We have explained here how we test at xiaomist and why you can trust our judgment :

Long before the first Bluetooth models came onto the market, I was concerned with headphones (at that time, logically, all of them with cables): A lot of sample listening, a few bad purchases, but also a few hits - headphones are a science in themselves. In the following I will show you three models that I can personally recommend with a clear conscience and that have also been positively rated by the global trade press.

Benefits:

Detailed and clear sound. Compact metal housing. Angled jack plug. Integrated remote control and microphone (headset function)

Disadvantage:

Treble can sound sharp at high volume

Most of you are probably familiar with the Apple Earpods, which have been on the streets around the world since the first iPod: completely white, including the cable. The E11C from Soundmagic basically offers the same (jack plug, remote control in the cable, headset function), but is overall a corner better.

It starts with the sound, which is precise, detailed and powerful right away. This is miles away from the spongy or even muffled sound that comes from some cheap in-ears. The tuning of the E11C could, however, take some getting used to for some: Suddenly, subtleties can be heard in the music that were not even noticed before. The bass holds back elegantly, but is profound and expressive - this is also an audiophile quality feature.

The construction of the well-made metal housing is pleasantly compact, and it sits securely and comfortably in the ears. The cable is rubberized and therefore a little prone to tangling in your pocket. If you fold it neatly when not in use, there are no problems. The remote control controls both Android devices and iPhones.

I've been using my E11C on an iPad Mini (5th generation) for around 2 years, so far I haven't noticed any broken cables or other processing weaknesses. Simply a good and reliable in-ear for music, film and video calls. If you don't need the remote control, you can also use the Soundmagic E11 (without "C") and save money in the process.

Alternatives

If you don't like the Soundmagic E11C, then I recommend the Sennheiser CX 300S or the Beyerdynamic Soul Byrd. Both are technically and in terms of price comparable.

Benefits:

Very good sound quality with great bass. High wearing comfort, Made in Germany

Disadvantage:

Cable not interchangeable

Whenever I have to recommend a "large headphone" (an over-ear model with a large housing), I call it the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro . This model from Heilbronn has been in use in studios all over the world for decades (!).

The robust workmanship and the comfortable seat still set standards today. The sound is - as the professionals demand - ideally neutral. At most, the bass range gives kick drums (techno, house) a small portion of extra power, which increases the listening pleasure, but does not impair the overall impression. My colleague Robert wrote down his experiences when switching from the "Billo headset" to the studio standard:

Important to know: The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro is available in different versions. They range from 32 ohms (ideal for cell phones), 80 ohms (Macbook Pro, external amplifier) ​​to 250 ohms (studio).

alternative

If you don't like the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro because you have had bad experiences in "Heilbronx", then I recommend the Sony MDR-7506. This model also has a solid fan base among media and music professionals.

Benefits:

Good sound quality High wearing comfort Cult for over 30 years

Disadvantage:

Opinions differ on the design. Hardly any isolation from ambient noise and from the outside

Anyone who feels as though they have been transported several decades into the past when looking at these headphones is absolutely right: the design of the Koss Porta Pro Classic originally dates back to 1984 and has practically not been changed since then. One of the reasons is probably the proven wearing comfort: The headphones are on-ear, which creates significantly less heat build-up compared to over-ear models and is therefore comfortable to wear for a long time.

A small disadvantage of the airy design: ambient noise easily penetrates to the user, just as loud music can be overheard by the person sitting next to you. The sound can be classified as neutral - not an audiophile high-end with the finest nuances and a three-dimensional stage, but rather a solid coordination with round highs ("warm sound"), successful mids and a well-dosed bass component. The contact pressure can be adjusted with the slide control on the side.

alternative

If you don't like the Koss Porta Pro, then I recommend the Sennheiser PX 200 II - but unfortunately this is no longer available in stores. So I keep my own copy like a treasure. On the other hand, the Sennheiser HD 35 is still available - actually "TV headphones" that can also be plugged into cell phones with a jack socket.

The best wireless headphones are presented in our detailed buying guide:

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