Being here in Japan close to Tokyo, one of my favourite pastime is trying out headphones and earphones at department stores around, namely BicCamera or Yodobashi Camera. The simplest reason is because there are a lot of choices and you can test all you want with your own music player almost as long as you want lol.
I for one, would prefer headphone over speaker mainly because of the spacial constraint and financial cost that speakers would consume, compared to the more discreet headphone. For instance, it's possible to get a decent monitoring headphone below 10,000 yen mark while a pair decent monitoring speakers would cost more than 10,000 yen. Plus, considering the space that speaker would take up, it's not really the wisest purchase as Japan's limited space (especially Greater Tokyo/Kanto area).
My personal choice would be Audio Technica, a well-established Japanese brand which eats up quite a large chunk in the headphone market pie. But to keep things in perspective, I'm eager to try out headphones from other brands. Some other I like including Shure, Sennheiser and certain Sony models. And no, I despise Dr Dre Beats at all cost.
Recently Audio Technica had announced a series of new headphones and earphones. including some exotic 50th anniversary editions. While they're mostly out of my reach due to the above-average pricetag, and being collector's item the price will naturally, shoots up.
The 50th anniversary's flagship headphone, W3000Anv, made of sakura wood from Hokkaido.
But there are other new models that are available within most consumer's purchase ability. A worthwhile mention here would be the TAD500, an open-air headphone related to Audio Technica's popular AD series, the Air Dynamic line.
My initial impression trying it out was pretty good, considering that I'm trying it out at quite a noisy environment, which normally open-air couldn't bring out it's potential as it's weak to the surrounding noise. Most importantly, TAD500 cost just below 6k yen, way cheaper than most of the AD series counterparts.
To put it simply, TAD is cheaper AD headphone, albeit the material may not be as solid as AD's, the sound quality is there.
Another I'd like to mention would be the king of Audio Technica's CKM series (in-ear earphone line), CKM1000. Launched at the same time as the 50th anniversary goods, although I only tried it briefly, but it's obvious that the sound it produces justified the pricetag.
I'm not sure whether it's already available elsewhere in the world or not, but even if it's not it's pretty likely to be available by next year should Audio Technica goods are available at your area.
As for myself, my most recent acquirement is this wooden headphone, W1000X.
Got it at a very attractive price, and to my surprise, it sounds quite well directly from iPod without going through any amplification. Normally higher-end headphones like these made of wood would require some extra push to bring out it's full potential. For the time being, I'd just play around and enjoy the gears I'm having right now.
Well that's all for this short update regarding audio.