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Help with my jazz listening, please

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm sure I could piece together the answer to my request by compiling the answers you have all provided in other posts, but it would be much easier to just ask you all, so here goes:

I've been listening to lots and lots of jazz, from the 20s through the 60s, and find that my Grados aren't the best for this music--some of the early stuff, like Armstong's Hot 5 and 7 material, sounds too harsh, and Miles Davis's trumpet on the Plugged Nickel stuff can feel like an icepick piercing my skull. This isn't the case when listening through my speakers, so I'm pretty sure it is grado-related.

So, I'd like to spend no more than $400 for new headphones/amp for my jazz listening. I know $400 is a modest sum, so a little over (or under, of course) would be okay. I don't want to sink any more money into it, however, since I'll be buying a house soon and will, in all likelihood, want to sink even more money into some fancy speakers.

I'm not interested in portability--I'll be sitting in a big, comfy chair at home. So, how should I spend my money? Any advice explaining why your suggestion specifically helps my listening to jazz would be greatly appreciated.

post #2 of 10
The Senn HD-600 is simply spectacular for jazz and classical. However, it really needs an amp to sound its best. If your budget is $400, you might consider the HD-580 (about $150) with a good amp. Your jazz-loving ears will thank you
post #3 of 10
yup, a Senn 580 with a good amp. recommendation seconded
post #4 of 10
For fatigue-free jazz listening on a budget with the option of upgrading later, try
AKG 501 ($150)
+ Headroom Little ($229)

Comes in under budget, has crossfeed, the extra bass of the headroom crossfeed circuit matches well with the lean bass of the AKG 501s, and if you get upgrade feaver you can upgrade to the "more power" power supply and even a higher grade electronics module.

post #5 of 10
I second legoman.

Also, you may want to try the K401s, if you like a little bass. From what I hear, they have slightly more bass then the K501s, and slightly less-neutral highs. Theyre great for jazz, and dont require an amp. But won't run off of a portable. HeadRoom has these for $119 right now, too. Theyre also forgiving of poor recordings, especially harsh ones, since they have slightly recessed highs, and recessed upper-mids, which tend to be the culprit of harsh sounding material.
post #6 of 10
Beyerdynamic 770 Pro (newer 250 Ohm version) + Miles Davis Live at the Plugged Nickel = Jazz Heaven.

I don't feel the Beyer 770 Pros need an amp. There is very reasonable volume and bass stability from the 770s even from the headphone jack of my PC's CD drive. They are a very easy load with remarkable linear impedance throughout the frequency range. But if you want to buy a decent amp and interconnects, the 770s will reward you.

And believe me, they swing. Whether it's Bach or Miles. To my ears, most highly regarded headphones have an over-emphasized treble (you seem to feel similar about the Grado SR-60s) and too little bass response, slam and extension. And those problems in the bass seem to translate into a strangely attenuated presence area - up into the lower mids.

The Beyer 770s are a closed, ported design that is very different. With them, instruments have body, you can actually hear what Ron Carter and Tony Williams are doing there. The rhythm section plays WITH Miles or Wayne Shorter (BTW, isn't Shorter just great on these recordings?).

I have this feeling that "timing" is another way of looking at these bass and presence problems of so many headphones. And with the 770s, the timing, swing, rhythm, whatever you call it, is simply right. It is just difficult to keep my feet still, when I listen with them.

And the best thing is: they are almost never piercing, harsh or sibilant. Don't get me wrong: it's all there, their soundstage is as good and deep and precise as any I have ever heard from a dynamic headphone, and cymbals sparkle with the 770s, but they don't stick out. Many headphone lovers would call the 770s treble rolled-off, I guess, but then: many Head-Fiers recommend SR-60s. I try not to be too concerned with different frequency bands, because I don't listen to the details of the reproduction, I don't listen to the treble, the mids or the bass seperately, I try to listen to the music. I want to hear all the instruments playing together, harmonically and rhythmically. And to my ears, the 770 Pros convey this exceptionally well. To me, they seem to be more accurate in a very fundamental way. Whether you need slam for rock, swing for jazz, or transparency for symphonic orchestras: I have never been disappointed with the 770s. There has always been music coming out of them. I like that.
post #7 of 10
I vote for the Corda + Senn 580s from Jan. I think you are going to be hard pressed to find an amp that even comes close to the Corda in terms of performance in this price range (Heck, I prefer this amp to other amps that cost a good bit more). I also think the Senns are great phones and would probably be just what you are looking for. Jan usually also offers package deals so I would assume that the price will be lower then what the two items are listed for. If you can assemble the amp yourself you would save even more money. Jan has also been offering some really great deals on Beyer phones if you buy an amp/phone combo (he posted a few weeks ago about specials that he was running in the FS forum). I am not sure if he is still doing this but it would be very beneficial to look into it if you are considering Beyers.

Good luck
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your input.

I'll certainly take a look at the Senn HD-580s, Beyer 770 Pros, and the AKGs (both 401/501). Of these choices I've only ever heard the 580s and I wasn't so impressed (but the listening conditions and music were less than ideal), so I have high hopes for the others.

While an amp might not be required for the AKGs and Beyers, I might still like one, so any thoughts on sub-$300 amps, especially comparisons between them would be appreciated.

Finally, I agree with you, Tomcat, Shorter is amazing on the Plugged Nickel stuff. He steals the show quite often.

Take Care.
post #9 of 10
Originally posted by Galileo's Dad
While an amp might not be required for the AKGs and Beyers, I might still like one, so any thoughts on sub-$300 amps, especially comparisons between them would be appreciated.
I don't know about the Beyers, but the AKGs definitely need an amp to sound close to their potential.
post #10 of 10
Originally posted by Galileo's Dad
any thoughts on sub-$300 amps, especially comparisons between them would be appreciated.
I would vote for the Corda (DYI) hands down as far as solid state goes. I have listened to the following amps in this price range ... Headroom Little, Creek OBH-11, Creek OBH-11SE. I found that the Corda handily beats these amps.

As far as tubes go ... I think the only tube amps that could be had for this price would be the MG Head DT and the Opera Amp that has been mentioned on the forums as of late. I previously owned the MG Head DT (just sold it actually) and enjoyed it very much. If you wanna check the tube route out I do not think you can go wrong with this unit ... there has been some issues with quality control so be careful. The unit I owned worked perfectly though ... no humming or anything.

For what it is worth ... I actually have the MicroZOTL and it looks like I might have to part with it for a bit ... I plan on using the Corda during this hiatus and I am not really all that dissapointed ... I think the Corda is that good.

Good luck in finding the right gear for you
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