Ear buds are the most convenient way to take your sound with you, but they are usually uncomfortable, especially for extended trips. But there are some nice options for lightweight over the ear headphones, such as the industry standard Koss Portapros. I recently picked up a pair of Sennheiser HD 218i phone, and they are working out to be a good compromise for travel. I already own a few pairs of Sennheiser headphones – the HD 228, HD 299, HD 280 and HD 380 models, and they are really a phenomenal value.
The HD 218i headphones have a compact over-the-ear design, and fold flat to make them a little more portable for travel. They are only available in black (as far as I can tell), and come with a 1/8-inch (3.5mm) Apple-style jack on the end of a 4 foot (1.2-meter) single-sided cable. It does not look like the cable or the vinyl ear pieces are replaceable, so these will probably not last for the rest of your life.
These cans are very lightweight (under 4 ounces), and with the padded headband and swiveling ear cups they are super comfortable. They are springy enough to stay on at the gym or while walking, but not so tight that they hurt. I have worn these for hours on end (including a few 10 hour flights) with no problems.
Neodymium magnets are used for higher output, and specs-wise, there is nothing unusual going on with these dynamic headphones. They have a frequency response of 19,000 to 21,000 Hz and they are capable of putting out 108 dB. Total harmonic distortion is supposed to be less than 0.5% with 100 dB at 1000Hz. These phones have 32 Ω of resistance, so they are loud enough for travel, (32 ohms is as high as I would want to go with headphones for an iPod).
The biggest difference between these and the other low-end Sennheiser headphone is that these are designed for use with Apple products. There is a module built into the cable that has a microphone and controls for volume, play/pause, and skipping to the next track. It works very well, and I have used it with iPods, my iPhone, and my newer Macbook Pro with no problems at all. Pretty much none of these features will work on an Android phone, so keep that in mind.
I have burned them in for around 100 hours, and they loosened up quite a bit and sound much better than they did out of the box. I use them or traveling on planes and at the gym, and though they do not have big ear cups, they provide pretty good isolation and not much leakage to annoy my neighbors.
Sennheiser says that the HD 229 phones “bombastic bass-driven stereo sound” and are “optimized for iPod, iPhone, MP3 and CD players.” Well, they sound good with my iPhone and my laptop, but I would not say the bass performance is excellent. I did try them with a few different headphone amplifiers and they really perked up, but that is not really the sort of use these phones were designed for.
They do, however, have a nice crisp tone with good enough bass. I hear some mid-range resonance, and they are not nearly as good as any of my over the ear Sennheisers, but they were never supposed to be as good. The HD 218i are cheaper, more portable phones so I did not expect miracles. All-in-all, they are a good value.
The Sennheiser HD 218i headphones have a list price of $64.95 and they sell for around 30 bucks on Amazon. For the price range and portability they are very good, but if you want heavy sound, spend another 50 bucks and get a pair of HD 228 Pro headphones (but they will be bigger). But, if you crave portability and comfort, these are a great value.