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If ever I wrote one of those "What's In Your Bag?" opinions, the list would be lengthy, but as sure as pen, paper, wine gums and Blackberry would be there, a pair of headphones would too. I'm ALWAYS using headphones. As well as listening to music on the train or at the airport through my laptop, I also use headphones when I'm at home alone fairly regularly as I prefer to listen to films through headphones. You get the feel for the background noise so much better and you become more absorbed in the dialogue.
My "Customer Requirements"
As I'm sure you're already aware, there are various types of headphones on the market:
Over head - ear pieces connected by plastic bar that sits on top of your head
Behind head - same as above but connection usually sits behind your head
Over ear - connected only by wires, usually held in place on your ear by hooks or straps
In ear - small ear pieces that sit inside your ear, connected only by wires
What am I looking for in headphones? Well.
I don't like over head headphones. The bit that sits on top of your head messes your hair up. If you use hair gel / wax the plastic connector gets really gunky. They're usually clunky, unwieldy and not very portable. If you do carry them around a lot, they quickly fall to bits because they get battered in your bag. The sound insulation isn't fantastic and you have to keep adjusting them to fit your head size if other people use them. Behind head devices are better in some respects but still suffer from not being very portable.
Worse still, for me, are in ear devices. I've yet to find a pair that sit in my ears comfortably. Perhaps it's my ears, but within an hour of using any such headphones, my ears get sore. I also find that they drop out easily. The sound quality is often rubbish too, and I've never found any that have genuinely noticeable bass.
So, for me, over ear wins through. They're very easy to take on and off and don't interfere with your hair. The sound quality is good, but not intense, because of the comfortable position in which they rest on your ears. They're also light and very portable and quite resilient to being bashed around.
Features of the RP-HS71 Headphones
These headphones are great. Shall I tell you why?
They're inobtrusive to look at, but still kind of cool, if that makes sense. Fabricated from silver plastic with a black circular design on the back they look modern but don't completely dominate your head.
They're really comfortable. Each side has a round speaker, roughly the size of a rounded fifty pence piece, which is then foam-covered so that it sits nicely on your ears. They're held in place by a hinged plastic grip that fits over your ear and rests against the side of your head - you really won't notice they're there at all. Once in place, you can move around as normal and they sit in place. (Obviously, if you leap around, this won't apply, but then if you leap around you'll probably hang yourself on the lead anyway.) They're very light and take up very little room.
My favourite groovy feature is the lead, which retracts in and out of the left-hand ear piece. This almost entirely removes the capability for the headphone lead to get tangled when not in use, as the lead is safely stored inside the headphones. What's more, you just stick the jack point into the hole and the lead is automatically retracted. How lazy is that?
The sound quality is also very good - crisp, clear and louder than your average headphones - with others, I find myself winding the volume control up, but with these ones I find myself winding down to avoid being deafened. The bass level is fairly good too - certainly for the price, anyway. I also find that the design insulates noise too - I can sit listening to music on the train without disturbing anyone with that nasty "headphone music" noise.
My main criticism of the headphones is that the over ear hook is rather flimsy by design. With regular usage, the hinge attaching the hook to the ear piece can become rather flimsy and eventually tends to break out of its casing. This doesn't just happen after an impact - over time, they get looser and looser until they simply fall to bits. In the last year, I've been through three pairs - once the arm gets really loose, you can't really get them to stay on, so you may as well bin them and start again. Whilst this isn't ideal, with careful usage, storage and transportation I think they are probably OK. Nonetheless, for high usage, you can't escape the fact that they might not last that long.
Secondly, the lead that goes from the connector to the headphones isn't that long when it is extended to its maximum length. I'm not sure that the lead would extend far enough to reach a CD / MP3 player if it was carried in a courier / record bag that was dropped to bum / waist height, and if it did, it would be pretty tight, which would restrict movement. The headphones seemed best designed for fairly restricted spaces.
Price and Availability
You can expect to pay about £25 for a pair of these headphones in the high street although you can find them cheaper online. I normally pick them up in Dixons, Currys or similar. This puts them in the top bracket (pricewise) of general use headphones, but I do think that this paid off in the quality of sound and comfort. (The former is probably the most noticeable when compared to cheaper models).
Summary and Overall Verdict
I do like these headphones. They're the best that I've ever owned in terms of practicality and within the price range, they're also the best for sound quality. The durability issue is a genuine concern, but the benefits will still offset this for me - hence, the reason I just replace them and carry on.