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  #1  
Old 11-26-2006, 03:25 AM
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Default Isolation Headphones?

So I'm on the lookout for a great pair of isolation headphones ... so that when I'm cutting tracks my ears don't die from the volume of the drums/the volume I need to crank my headphones up to just to hear over my drums. So I'm wondering what people think are the BEST headphones for this.

As far as actual isolation headphones designed for this stuff, I've found around three models.

the Extreme Isolation Headphones from Direct Sound

Vic Firth's Isolation Headphones

Or GK Music's Ultraphones


The thing is, I really want to get a hold of isolation headphones that sound as good as headphones get. I'm currently using these headphones and I don't really want too big a compromise in sound. I know for a fact that GK's headphones won't sound half as good, for instance, because I used to own the Sony 7506s, which are the components used in the headphones.

So if anybody has suggestions or opinions regarding these headphones, or any others, that'd be great!
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  #2  
Old 11-26-2006, 05:47 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

The UltraPhones are the best I've found. The only possible drawback is their size, the cups are large. But I'm not particularly vain about that stuff.

BTW, I think the 7506 drivers are smooth and musical - they're my favorite non-iso phones as well.

If you have a serious objection to the Sony's and are somewhat mechanical, why not just buy the hearing-protector that GK uses (made by Peltor and available at Sears for maybe $30) and install the Ultrasone drivers in them?

Bermuda
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Old 11-26-2006, 11:20 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Have you ever thought of going In-Ears?

In my opinion:
- it looks better that wearing a pair of cans;
- you can shake your head without having the impression of having a few kilos of gear on it and being afraid for it to fall off;
- sound quality is, generally speaking, better than iso-phones;
- you don't get the that bass frequency exaggeration from outside sound sources that you do with cans due to their shape;
- isolation is better (-35 db for mine.)

Personally, the reason that made me purchase In-Ears was that the iso-phones I have used did not produce satisfactory sound quality (stay away from the Vic Firths - bass restitution is lousy!) and I would get headaches from having a headset on for hours during concerts or rehearsals.

Think about it, it might be a good solution for you.
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  #4  
Old 11-26-2006, 12:25 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

i use inears for gigs and stuff, for practising the SIH1 (just got them 3 days ago).
they isolate well, (says 24 db) and are okay to wear. they dont go around you ears but lie on them, anyway its comofrtable enough.

The soundquality isn that good, but good enough to play play-alongs and hear you metronome (i can easily hear it at lowest soundlevel)

i would not use them to listen to music, but they do what they're supposed to do, protect your ears!
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  #5  
Old 11-26-2006, 08:34 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drum-Head View Post
Have you ever thought of going In-Ears?
There are agruments pro & con, and it's a very subjective decision. I'd like to explain why I don't prefer in-ears. Note: this is regarding custom molds, not ear-bud type in-ears (which really provide little isolation in terms of what drummers want.)

Proper in-ears are expensive, and I'm not talking about the Shure ear-bud thingies at $200!

The molds provide great isolation, but there's a comfort issue for me... I'm very aware of the pieces in my ears and it gets very pre-occupying after a while.

Regarding comfort, it's wise to put a tiny dab of Neosporin on each mold before insertion, which not only improves the seal, but cuts down on irritation in the ear canal. But, after use or when handling, you have to wipe the molds and your fingers.

Soundwise, I don't prefer them either. I have Sensaphonic dual drivers, they probably technically spec out great, but I prefer the sound of the Sony 7506 in the UltraPhones.

My primary objection is the inability to communicate with someone on stage. With molds, it takes several seconds to extract the piece - especially when sealed well with Neosporin - and then it has to be re-inserted carefully. With phones, it takes a half second to pull the cup off your ear, another half second to put it back. It can even be done while playing. If you immediately needed to remove an in-ear - say, because a ton of feedback was coming through - you could do a lot of damage to your ear, as well as the equipment.*

The care required for in-ears is much greater than that of iso-phones. The wires are more delicate, and the holes in the molds need to be kept clean. Phones can take a lot of abuse, and if the cable pulls out for some reason, anyone with a soldering gun can make the repair. In-ears would need to be sent back to the manufacturer.

If something does happen to the in-ears, unless you have a duplicate replacement set available, you'd have to use iso-phones temporarily anyway, which may be uncomfortable and distracting. It makes more sense to start out with phones, and keep a replacement set so there's no interruption of sound or comfort.

Oh yeah... every few years, your physiology changes a little, and new molds need to be made for a proper fit. Iso-phones are forever.

There is one very obvious advantage to in-ears though, and that's their appearance - or lack of - compared to phones.

Well, that's my take anyway... I've done both and the pro's of phones far outweigh the pro's of in-ears.

Bermuda


* Sure, ideally, you'd just calmy, safely pull the the plug out. But when something happens, the first thing you wanna do is get the ear-piece out of your ear - ASAP! With headphones, they're off in an instant.
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Old 11-26-2006, 09:09 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
There are agruments pro & con, and it's a very subjective decision. I'd like to explain why I don't prefer in-ears. Note: this is regarding custom molds, not ear-bud type in-ears (which really provide little isolation in terms of what drummers want.)

Proper in-ears are expensive, and I'm not talking about the Shure ear-bud thingies at $200!

The molds provide great isolation, but there's a comfort issue for me... I'm very aware of the pieces in my ears and it gets very pre-occupying after a while.

Regarding comfort, it's wise to put a tiny dab of Neosporin on each mold before insertion, which not only improves the seal, but cuts down on irritation in the ear canal. But, after use or when handling, you have to wipe the molds and your fingers.

Soundwise, I don't prefer them either. I have Sensaphonic dual drivers, they probably technically spec out great, but I prefer the sound of the Sony 7506 in the UltraPhones.

My primary objection is the inability to communicate with someone on stage. With molds, it takes several seconds to extract the piece - especially when sealed well with Neosporin - and then it has to be re-inserted carefully. With phones, it takes a half second to pull the cup off your ear, another half second to put it back. It can even be done while playing. If you immediately needed to remove an in-ear - say, because a ton of feedback was coming through - you could do a lot of damage to your ear, as well as the equipment.*

The care required for in-ears is much greater than that of iso-phones. The wires are more delicate, and the holes in the molds need to be kept clean. Phones can take a lot of abuse, and if the cable pulls out for some reason, anyone with a soldering gun can make the repair. In-ears would need to be sent back to the manufacturer.

If something does happen to the in-ears, unless you have a duplicate replacement set available, you'd have to use iso-phones temporarily anyway, which may be uncomfortable and distracting. It makes more sense to start out with phones, and keep a replacement set so there's no interruption of sound or comfort.

Oh yeah... every few years, your physiology changes a little, and new molds need to be made for a proper fit. Iso-phones are forever.

There is one very obvious advantage to in-ears though, and that's their appearance - or lack of - compared to phones.

Well, that's my take anyway... I've done both and the pro's of phones far outweigh the pro's of in-ears.

Bermuda


* Sure, ideally, you'd just calmy, safely pull the the plug out. But when something happens, the first thing you wanna do is get the ear-piece out of your ear - ASAP! With headphones, they're off in an instant.
That's great Bermuda. It's nice to have an opinion from someone who does not like In-Ears for once.

I only have the Shure In-Ears with custom molds since the other brands were far to expensive for me (800-1000 Euros!!!)

Concerning two points though.

- Communicating with others:
It is possible to purchase a microphone that you wear around your neck and that you connect to the In-Ears. When someone talks to you, you just press the button and you'll hear what they say. The downturn is that it's an extra expense.

- In case of feedback, unwanted noise:
Didn't you use a limiter to avoid the unwanted/dangerous noise levels?

Thanks again for your point of view.


Regards,
Christopher.
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  #7  
Old 11-27-2006, 12:13 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drum-Head View Post
- Communicating with others:
It is possible to purchase a microphone that you wear around your neck and that you connect to the In-Ears. When someone talks to you, you just press the button and you'll hear what they say. The downturn is that it's an extra expense.

- In case of feedback, unwanted noise:
Didn't you use a limiter to avoid the unwanted/dangerous noise levels?
Re the communication, yes, you can use an additional mic. With an additional feed to your mix. Which then takes up an additional channel in the monitor board for each person who uses in-ears. And as you mentioned, the expense factor. Seems like a lot of hassle.

As for feedback, no that's never happened to me. I always had a post-mix limiter to prevent that. But not everyone wants to spend the money to deal with that. Ultimately, if everyone's using in-ears anyway, there wouldn't be feedback (since there would be no monitors.) But feedback can and does happen, and the idea of getting everyone to go in-ear to avoid it is a tremendous expense for most bands.

So apart from any fidelity or comfort or convenience issues, if someone wants to use in-ears and do it right they'll need custom molds, an extra mic and related mixer space, and a personal limiter to catch any post mix spikes.

Or, they could get UltraPhones for $219 and avoid all the hassles. While they're not immune to feedback, at least the remedy is immediate.

But I should point out that my decision to go from in-ears to phones - and I've used in-ears at two different times in the last dozen years and gone back to phones both times - is not a financial consideration... my tour-releated gear is covered whether it's $200 or $2000. I get whatever I need to do my job, and phones are absolutely the way to go.

Bermuda
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  #8  
Old 11-27-2006, 12:19 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Thanks for the input Bermuda. It is great to have an experienced working drummer to help out. :)

So there you Aahznightsky, the choice is yours.

Last edited by Drum-Head; 11-27-2006 at 03:14 PM.
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  #9  
Old 11-27-2006, 01:58 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

I have tried the Vic Firth's and I really didn't like their sound. Very dry.

I have the Sony 7509's, which I use at each rehearsals - we allways play with headphones. The sound is very very good. However their isolation may not be as good as what you are looking for.
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  #10  
Old 11-27-2006, 04:57 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

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I have the Sony 7509's, which I use at each rehearsals - we allways play with headphones. The sound is very very good. However their isolation may not be as good as what you are looking for.
To be fair, they - and most headphones - aren't intended to provide any real isolation. I initially used used them for a few songs in concert, and tolerated them. When it came to doing the entire show with phones, I made the change to the GK SuperPhones, and later the UltraPhones.

There are a few newer iso-phones, like the Extreme Isolation brand phones, but I don't know how they sound. The price is typically $100-125, so I don't have high hopes that they have both great sound and great isolation. But they might be fine in less critical situations.

I tried the MetroPhones, for about 1 minute. The isolation was fabulous! But the sound was atrocious, and the fit was very annoying. Also, they had a peculiar design whereby the cord was attached to the the underside of one earcup with an 1/8" jack that could - and did - easily pull out! Bad phones. Ba-a-a-aad phones.

Bermuda
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  #11  
Old 11-29-2006, 12:39 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Thanks for the input everyone. I guess mostly what I'm looking at is the Ultraphones.

Actually I just looked up Beyerdynamics, and they do have a pair of closed back headphones that might be applicable here. But, seeing as it only blocks about 18 db, maybe that wouldn't be enough. I'm not sure.
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  #12  
Old 11-29-2006, 08:26 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by aahznightsky View Post
Thanks for the input everyone. I guess mostly what I'm looking at is the Ultraphones.

Actually I just looked up Beyerdynamics, and they do have a pair of closed back headphones that might be applicable here. But, seeing as it only blocks about 18 db, maybe that wouldn't be enough. I'm not sure.
the db ratings are kinda subjective, and apply most accurately at certain, but not all, frequencies. But, it's all we have to go on.

The UltraPhones have a -29db rating, and the more isolation you can get, the better off you'll be.

Bermuda
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  #13  
Old 11-30-2006, 03:24 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Here's an extremely cheap alternative for you....

Just use regular ear bud headphones, and wear a pair of gun mufflers over them. Available at your local store for around $5. :)
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  #14  
Old 11-30-2006, 08:06 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Would isolation headphones (specifically the blue Vic Firth DB22ís that have a 22db reduction) work well for guitarists and singers as well? My whole band, after lengthy practices, complains about their ears. But of course they won't do anything about it. Since I care about their ears almost as much as I care about mine, I was thinking of buying these for the guys in my band for Christmas (they're not too expensive).

But where isolation headphones are great for drummers (i.e. we can still hear our instruments well enough, and often the drums actually sound better), is the same true for other instruments? Can a guitarist still hear his playing well enough? And I'm sure we all know what our own voice sounds like to us when wearing isolation headphones. Would that make it harder to sing?
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Old 11-30-2006, 08:50 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by aahznightsky View Post
Thanks for the input everyone. I guess mostly what I'm looking at is the Ultraphones.

Actually I just looked up Beyerdynamics, and they do have a pair of closed back headphones that might be applicable here. But, seeing as it only blocks about 18 db, maybe that wouldn't be enough. I'm not sure.

Okay, I will tell what I like and everyone may laugh but I have found this to work really well for both, practicing and recording.

I use a set of cheap, radio shack in-ear monitors (made by KOSS) with an extension cord. Then, I use gun range headphones for the isolation. Because they are designed to isolate loud noises, they are perfect. I usually run the studio headphone mix into my Behringer 802 so that I have the volume control, not someone else. I heard somewhere this was how Louie Londin used to do it in the studio. You can actually see me using the in the videos on youtube. This is probably why I am not deaf yet!


Mike

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Old 11-30-2006, 11:20 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Okay, a few things about the Vic Firth isolation gear that you guys might want to know. Of course, this is based on personal experience and opinion.

*Vic Firth Blue -22 Db headset.

The blue iso-phones main defect is that it modifies quite drastically the environmental sound - you'll have a lot of bass frequencies joining the party and a "boomy" sound.

In my experience, the problem with this is sound definition. When rehearsing with a band, you won't hear the others clearly, especially if you play rock or metal; the sound will be quite messy. To give you an idea, it's slightly as if you were listening to music that was in a room next to you. You can't clearly hear the sounds and the bass frequencies dominate the rest.

*Vic Firth Stereo iso-phones.

I had two problems with these.

The first problem was the sound quality of the speakers. If you ask me, I think it's horrible! The bass restitution is lousy, really. I found it quite bothering when playing along to music of having the band in the cans.

The second issue is in relation with the the first. These phones give you -24dB of isolation which is not enough in my opinion. Coupled with the bad sound quality I always found myself having to push up the volume quite high in order to play along to music or with the band in live situations. Being someone who is very cautionate with hearing protection I don't believe this is a good thing. Good iso-phones/in-ears should allow you to play comfortably without having to push the volume up to fight outside sound sources.

I hope this information might help you make your choice.


Regards,
Christopher.
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  #17  
Old 11-30-2006, 01:04 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

I understand Bermuda's chioce of headphones for live gigs and I tend to agree with him. There are many practical advantages to phones.

For individual and band practice, I prefer the Shure E2's with the foam insert over the Vic Firth headphones. They're not cusom fit but they're only a hundred dollars or so. I find that I don't have to turn the click up nearly as loud with the in-ears.

After six hours, the difference is noticeable. Much less ear fatigue with the Shure's than with the Vic Firth.

I have no experience with the extreme iso phones but the Vic Firth ones just don't provide enough isolation for me.
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Old 11-30-2006, 05:11 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skitch View Post
I heard somewhere this was how Louie Londin used to do it in the studio.
Is he any relation to Larrie Londin? :)

It's possible that the do-it-yourself remedies were necessary because there weren't good iso phones until the last 10-15 years or so. Larrie's been gone at least 10 years.

In the olde days, some guys used David/Clark aviation phones for isolation, however the drivers weren't designed for music. So at best, they got poor fidelity, and those phones were heavy and really gripped the head.

The plastic hearing protector & earpiece scheme provided better fidelity and comfort, and that would have been an excellent alternative to the bulkier phones. What GK (Gordy Knutson) did was take an existing hearing protector and physically mount great drivers inside, so there'd be a ready-to-go solution.

In any case, ear buds don't sound as good as good headphones. So while it's certainly cost-effective to get a Peltor headset ($25-30) and use Shure's basic in-ears, the sound won't be as good as the UltraPhones or other iso-phones, and there's still the issue of delicate wiring and an extra step or two on disconnecting & reconnecting.

Believe me, I like the idea of in-ears, that's why I tried them at two separate points in my career. If there were any real advantages, I'd still be using them.

Bermuda
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Old 12-03-2006, 09:52 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

I'm with Jeff here - although I totally understand your point of view bermuda.

I also use e2c's, although I use them with the clear soft rubber-type-thing inserts, I find they work fine. I've never found taking them in/out a massive problem - they are more hassle than earphones, but it still takes me such a short amount of time I've not found it a problem as of yet. Then again, when I'm doing gigs as big and technically complicated as you do I may well change my mind! I use mine for covers gigs with sequenced back tracks, click work and in studio occasionally, so nothing major as of yet.

The sound quality on the e2cs is great actually - again, it depends what you're doing, but I've had no problems with clarity and I'm happy with the sound I get so no need to change. As jeff said, the ear fatigue is a bigger deal for me - I found phones hard work when I used them - and I don't like having that weight on my head if I'm honest. I do find I have in-ears so much lower in volume than when I've used iso-phones that it's actually been easier to communicate with them still in - my ears stay trained for lower volume listening.

As I say, I guess it depends on your environment and personal taste - I mean weckl, jojo, and countless others use the Shure in ears, and many other guys such as yourself bermuda choose not to.
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Old 12-06-2006, 09:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
Is he any relation to Larrie Londin? :)


Bermuda

Yeah, he was Larrie's alter ego and secret identity! Sorry for the wrong name; it has been a long week!

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  #21  
Old 12-13-2006, 08:54 AM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul_Klein View Post
Would isolation headphones (specifically the blue Vic Firth DB22ís that have a 22db reduction) work well for guitarists and singers as well? My whole band, after lengthy practices, complains about their ears. But of course they won't do anything about it. Since I care about their ears almost as much as I care about mine, I was thinking of buying these for the guys in my band for Christmas (they're not too expensive).

But where isolation headphones are great for drummers (i.e. we can still hear our instruments well enough, and often the drums actually sound better), is the same true for other instruments? Can a guitarist still hear his playing well enough? And I'm sure we all know what our own voice sounds like to us when wearing isolation headphones. Would that make it harder to sing?
I don't want to sound annoying, but I'd really appreaciate it if someone in the know could answer my question. Christmas is, afterall, coming up quite soon :)
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  #22  
Old 12-13-2006, 03:12 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

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Originally Posted by Paul_Klein View Post
I don't want to sound annoying, but I'd really appreaciate it if someone in the know could answer my question. Christmas is, afterall, coming up quite soon :)
My comparatif of the Blue Vic Firths and the stereo black ones was supposed to be in response to your post. What else do you want to know? I'll try and answer.
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  #23  
Old 12-13-2006, 06:41 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

I see. I'm sorry I missed that. I don't really care what iso phones I get my band mates. I just want to protect their ears, as after every practice they complain about their ears ringing endlessly.

Since I know they work well enough for a drummer, I was just curious if they work as well for guitarists and singers, or if they would distort the sound too much for them to be able to pluck/sing as well.

Thanks :)
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  #24  
Old 12-13-2006, 09:36 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

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Originally Posted by Paul_Klein View Post
I see. I'm sorry I missed that. I don't really care what iso phones I get my band mates. I just want to protect their ears, as after every practice they complain about their ears ringing endlessly.

Since I know they work well enough for a drummer, I was just curious if they work as well for guitarists and singers, or if they would distort the sound too much for them to be able to pluck/sing as well.

Thanks :)
Like I wrote, the main issue is that they bring up the low frequencies a lot. If your band mates are not picky with their sound I guess it should be fine.

I got rid of them because in my opinion the drum sound it too messy to work with. My bass player could not stand them either...

I guess it is very subjective...

Can't you try them out at a store and hit on a few drums to make you own opinion? This would be the ideal thing.


Regards,
Christopher.
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  #25  
Old 01-04-2007, 03:30 PM
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Default Re: Isolation Headphones?

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Originally Posted by bermuda View Post
The UltraPhones are the best I've found. The only possible drawback is their size, the cups are large. But I'm not particularly vain about that stuff.

BTW, I think the 7506 drivers are smooth and musical - they're my favorite non-iso phones as well.

Bermuda

I second this. My GF gave me a set for Christmas, and they ROCK. Not only are the drivers in the headphones very good (at least as good as my Sennheisers), the isolation provided is perfect for me. I've worn them every rehearsal, regardless of whether I'm monitoring or not.

Not cheap, but it's like a helmet: How much is your hearing worth?

SRJ
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