What was your most disappointing headphone experience?

When the hype is absolutely unreal its hard not to get swept up in it. Sometimes this can lead to good things, other times it can lead to regrets. What was your most disappointing experience with a headphone, whether it was a purchase you made, at a headphone show or otherwise?

This thread has the potential to devolve pretty fast into a mess so just a couple of simple ground rules before posting.

  1. No bashing brands or stores. This thread is strictly about your experience with a headphone or headphones, not with that brand/store.
  2. No opinion is wrong. Everyone has their own particular sound signature, comfort-zone, etc…
  3. This thread is controversial by nature and your feelings may get hurt by someone disliking your favourite headphone. Please engage in civil discussion instead of resorting to name calling.
  4. That’s it!

For my experience, it was with the Ultrasone Signature Pro. We were at Canjam Socal 2017 and at that point I had never heard an Ultrasone headphone yet. But from what I had read and seen, it seemed like I was going to absolutely hate the headphones and was oddly excited for that experience. Tyll’s famous Ultrasone Edition 10 review was also fresh in my mind.

When I put on the Signature Pros I was waiting for shrill highs and a jumbled mess. Instead, what I got was a whole lot of nothing. It was just utterly meh. The headphones did not elicit any emotions from me, they were just kind of there on my head. Which resulted in a rather boring experience. I had hyped the headphones to be terrible in my head and instead they were OK. I know it wasn’t the Edition 10 that I was listening to but I figured from my reading that the headphones all sounded fairly similar. And I was disappointingly wrong.

On another note, I’ve been using a Bose QC35 on and off for the last couple weeks and I got to say, even though the ANC on it is good, its still not great and it certainly isn’t good enough for the trade-off of in sound quality. I also found them to be extremely uncomfortable which was the bigger disappointment as I kept hearing that they were the comfiest wireless headphones out there.

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I retired my QC and Sennheiser HD 4.50 btnc sets after flying with the Thinksound ON2. I concluded passive noise canceling beats active at this point.

I should to stop touting the ON2 or someone will accuse me of being a shill for Thinksound. Not the best but enjoyable.

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The most disappointing headphone I’ve ever heard was probably the Ether C. I didn’t really know what to expect but I wasn’t a huge fan of my Mad Dog or Alpha Dog, but since the Ether C used a new driver, I had hope.

Honestly, I’d take the Mad Dog over the Ether C every time. It’s not the worst headphone I’ve ever heard, but it’s definitely in my top 5. I didn’t think it did anything right; the bass texture was kind of loose but also lacking in quantity and the treble was kind of shrill. But the worst part was easily the midrange—the timbre is so glaringly off that I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; instruments sounded outright wrong, and this was obvious within just a few seconds of listening. I did give it more time, but my opinion only worsened. As a sanity check, I gave it to a friend who doesn’t have too much experience with headphones and I didn’t even count five seconds before he started cracking up and said, “Are these broken?” So we got another pair. Same thing.

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Almost all experiences with earbuds are bad ones for me. I have small ears so finding comfortable earbuds is nearly impossible! The ones that hook over your ears are usually too big. The ones that go in your ears, no matter what silicone sizer is included, is also usually too big - plus! After a few minutes, those hard pieces of plastic hurt the inside of my ears. A lot of times the over the ear models are huge and sometimes also don’t adjust down enough to stay on my head.

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CanJam NYC 2017. I had been loosely following press and reviews on the Audioquest Nighthawk and Night Owl for a few months prior, so I was pretty excited to try them out. I put on the NIghthawk and thought it wasn’t bad. Perhaps it sounded muffled because it’s open back and the crowd was getting loud. It was running off of a Dragonfly Black so I switched over to the Red. Still muffled, just louder. Similar experience with the Night Owl. It’s just not the sound for me!

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They did have a lot of hype leading up their release but I think I remember their release date getting pushed back a couple of times They are definitely not for everyone.

A pretty common complaint is that vocals sound muffled and the treble recessed so you are definitely not alone with your experience!

Such a polarizing headphone (or headphones in this case). I didn’t love them at first, and the sound isn’t what I usually gravitate to, but they grew on me over time.

I love the headband design and wish more designs went in that direction. Really comfortable for a guy who wears headphones all day

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One of the worst experiences I had recently was with the V-moda Forza Metallo Wireless. I needed a somewhat discrete set of earbuds I could use at work and I liked how the neckband would sit comfortably behind my shirt’s collar. The sound was decent for a bluetooth set and they didn’t have any problems with connectivity, they had a decent battery life, the call quality was clear… but the cable below the earbud started fraying and shorting out after only a few weeks usage doing nothing crazy. I exchanged them for a new pair hoping it was just a fluke but then the new set started having issues with the volume controls not functioning properly. I then exchanged that pair for a wired set of V-moda ZN earbuds which worked well for about 4 months before the protective coating on the cable started detaching from the cable and the headphones started shorting out in one earbud.

Lesson learned: avoid V-moda earbuds. I do give props to their tech support team for helping me through multiple issues but three quality control issues in under 6 months is simply too much for nearly $200 earbuds.

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Totally agree about the headband design. It was one of the most comfortable I’ve ever tried and one of the best things about it, which is probably the nicest things I’ll say about it.

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Early on while at CanJam in Chicago (2009 I believe) I tried on a high end pair of Grado headphones… Can’t remember if it was the PS or GS 1000 with my uncle, connected to a high end amp. Turning things up and playing back the music, we both winced, similar to Tyll in his video about an Ultrasone.

“Those sound like treble torture devices” was his conclusion. I agreed. Now I like brightness more than I used to and just want the bass audible, but at the time there was no way I’d ever enjoy a pair like that.

I’d be curious to see what I think of their sound now.

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Bar none, AKG K701s were the most disappointing. The bizarre, exotic head strap broke almost immediately and they didn’t sound appreciably better than the HD595 set I was using at the time. Eventually the cord failed and I gave up on them.

I’m with you, only in reverse. I have a large ear and a more normal one. (I must sleep on one side?) Anyway, if I find a 'bud that fits one ear it will bother the other.

I was an Apple rep. when V-moda first popped onto the scene and reviews tempted me to drop $49 to try improving my travel buds. They fell apart in a month; as in unassembled into their constituent parts.

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Hi, Ultrasone really were a very bad experience… 9 in particular.

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Grado SR80 (i, e, ?). They are very efficient, but sound too thin for my taste.

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Shure SRH940 - they are so neutral and bright it wasn’t a lot of fun listening to them.
Sorry if you like them, but they weren’t a good fit for my taste.

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I bought a pair of the 200 dollar beats headphones and took them back the next day

for the price they sounded great to me. The Grados , not the beats.

I’m amazed that anyone likes the Nighthawk. I owned a pair, briefly. They just sound wrong to me, I guess it’s the combination of rolled off treble and recessed, distant mids. I thought maybe I could fix these with EQ, but they were just too weird.

Most disappointing headphone experience?
Pretty much anything sold by Best Buy. Beats are awful. They had a whole rack of unlistenable cans.

Worst that I actually own? The ones that come with Dragon Voice.

Surprisingly, Plantronics makes a high-end telephone headset that isn’t too bad, except I am at work and listening to music would ruin my productivity.