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I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Not being That Guy whose music you hear on the subway because his earbuds are cranked so loudly that you might as well be wearing them

Some people buy too many shoes or collectible figurines. I buy headphones.

I currently have four pairs: two full-sized pairs for home and office use, and two portable pairs for riding the train and walking.

From left to right:

I just got the B&W P5 at Apple’s Black Friday sale (for $72 off) to replace the PX 200-II, but when we were in a very quiet room later that night, Tiff could hear my music a bit too clearly from a few feet away.

I was worried that my music may be annoyingly audible to nearby train passengers — after all, one reason to buy closed headphones is to avoid that — and I really don’t want to be That Guy.

So when I got home, I devised a test to compare all of my headphones and see if the P5 leaked too much sound for social comfort. But I don’t have an SPL meter, so I improvised:1

And got these results:


Listen (MP3)

Obviously, the open DT 880 leaks far more sound than the closed models, which wasn’t a surprise.

The other results are pretty good news for the P5: surprisingly, the big 280 Pro that I thought was completely sealed from the outside world leaked just as much sound as the P5 and the PX 200-II, which isn’t much but is audible in very quiet rooms or at very close range.

And none of the closed headphones were as quiet at close range as I thought. Sorry for all of the Phish, Topherchris.


  1. This wasn’t 100% scientific: in addition to whatever nitpicky details I’m not thinking of, since they all take different amounts of current to yield the same output volume, I had to estimate consistent volume levels across all of the headphones. 

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