Q: I purchased the $79 Grado SR60e headphones you recommended and am very pleased. Unfortunately, the open-back design leaks too much sound to be usable in crowded public spaces. Do you have a recommendation for good quality, closed-back headphones at a reasonable price?
A: I recently recommended several excellent closed-back models such as the $399 Oppo PM-3 (ppodigital.com), the $249 Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 (audio-technica.com) and the $149 Koss Pro4S (koss.com). I'd start there if you consider the prices to be reasonable.
If you are looking for something priced closer to your $79 Grados, check out the $66 Modern Portable Super 66 (modernportable.com). Because I wrote about their earphones recently, I tried to find something else to spotlight today. But I couldn't find anything nearly as compelling or pleasing anywhere close to the price. The company also behaved in exemplary fashion servicing any customers who received defective earphones a few months ago, providing prepaid return labels for those who wished to return them and later allowing customers to upgrade to the higher-end model for the same price. Given it was a $20 product, the lengths they went to surprised and impressed me.
The Super 66 design objective was to bring high-quality headphone sound to the masses by attempting to duplicate the sound of $300 audiophile headphones while selling for much less and including the ability to make phone calls and work wired or wirelessly with Bluetooth. To ensure quality, the headphones are produced in a highly regarded factory that also manufactures for a well-known audiophile headphone brand. The $66 price led to the name. The company is extremely confident about the Super 66 and has a 45-day money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied, the company will even pay for return shipping.
The headphones are stylish, well-made and exceedingly comfortable, but do they achieve the goal of sounding like $300 headphones?
The answer is, "It depends." There is a wide range of quality at the $300 price point. The best $300 headphones certainly have superior sound, but compared with $300 Beats headphones, the Super 66 sounds better. This may surprise the general public, but not audiophiles. They know the best $300 audiophile headphones come from companies such as Grado and Sennheiser.
That being said, when describing the Super 66, it isn't necessary to qualify the comments by saying they sound like headphones that sell for X dollars. They just plain sound good. They don't have any fatiguing quirks or deficiencies, so you can listen for hours without tiring.
I compared the wired connection with Bluetooth and found both to deliver good sound quality, but the wired connection was a little smoother, cleaner and richer. The wired connection is also useful for watching video because the typical audio/video sync problems of Bluetooth are avoided.
With the genuinely good sound, attractive design, desirable features and comfort for a mere $66, it adds up to a great buy and a potential holiday hit. I asked about coupon codes, and there are product bundles that provide discounts up to 15 percent. There's also the "Refer 6" referral program. If you buy six Super 66 headphones or refer friends who buy a total of six among themselves, you get another Super 66 free.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadviceblog.com.