The HD800 may sound similar to you right now, but they scale way higher than the K701. I'm confident you'll hear this for yourself as you upgrade your audio chain.
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Sennheiser HD800 Appreciation Thread - Page 374
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The HD800 with a good amp will give you more than a 5-10% increase. Though the 903 I've heard is no slouch.
Well after one week of ownership, I am quite pleased. I have been playing them all all day while I am at work beginning the break-in process;but between listening and playing they probably still have only about 60-70 hour of use. I am guessing the headphones should be "broken in" in the 200-300 period. My pre-purchase rig was a Grace Design m903 and AKG K702s so I did do a lot of A/B ing between them and the HD800s. BTW, serial numbers are now up in the 178xx range for those of you you track such esoterica.
I think that they are as many of you know fantastic headphones for someone seeking a magnifying a sonic magnifying glass into the recording studio or recorded space. If find them very much in the school of the AKG K702s which at 1/5th the HD800s price are truly remarkable headphones. I find the Sennheiser's are buying me more bass information, detail information; both sonically and spatially and they also are more comfortable to wear. On a qualitative scale, I would say the extra cost sonically is getting you that last 5-10% of information sonically and spatially that is not presented by the AKGs. Such is the cost/benefit curve once you pass the asymptote which I would say the AKG's lie on. The last bit of information always costs you a disproportionate sum (diminishing returns).
I will be curious to see what a different amplifier will be able to do beyond the Grace Design m903 with them. I suspect the difference is similar to what I found with the AKGs. I might find that last 5-10%. I am still on the fence to go with a nice tube amp like a DNA Stratus 2A3 or a balanced SS amp like a AMG Audio Sigma/Beta 22. I think either might be a step up from my m903. Unfortunately, neither of these amps are readily available for auditioning like headphones (I compared the HD800s to the LCD-2s with library loaners). Both choices have 4-pin XLR balanced outs, so a custom cable will be in order as well.
We're are likely saying the same thing. What I call the last 10% is likely what we spend our time discussing around these parts. Some folks might describe them as much more than 10% better. I think the differences that are meaningful to us are very much about the details of realism that lie here.
The AKGs are very good. I was just trying to say the HD800s where in the same sonically revealing, monitoring school of headphones. They are definitely better than the AKGs in a number of ways. I suspect as you say, they can be even more revealing under better amplification. I do wonder how much better though?
The m903 is a good single-ended, solid state amp, with low output impedance and fair power at 300 ohm (200 mW). Mike Grace designs high-end monitoring equipment and the m903 is the third generation product. That is why I am looking at the two amps that I am. Tubes will definitely be different and the Beta 22 is both balanced and has more power bandwidth.
If I were you, sure I'd start with using that, but eventually it'd be ideal to upgrade lest you want your source holding back the new amp. The HD800s are microscopes and I feel every little upgrade counts.
Edited by Shahrose - 10/6/12 at 12:58pm
I am not sure that I follow you? Are you taking about recordings or my DAC?
DAC + transport, and I'm not saying what you have now is bad. But, I see you're aiming for a high-end setup with your amp and headphones. It's only fitting you have a source to match so your chain's not bottlenecked.
Edited by Shahrose - 10/6/12 at 1:58pm
What do you mean by transport?
Regarding the m903 DAC it is excellent. Take a look at some performance data.
I do not believe that it is a "bottleneck" in any sense. It has balanced outs as well. So I guess that I am more confused than anything. There are very few units that out perform it in the consumer realm, hence my confusion.
Edited by iim7V7IM7 - 10/6/12 at 2:35pm
I agree, the 903 doesn't seem like it could be much of DAC bottleneck in any dynamic headphone system. But perhaps Shahrose could tell us why he thinks it is, from personal experience of course.
I was going to post a response, but decided not to. I think it's better I don't veer far off-topic. If you're happy with what you have, then all the power to you.
(You can PM me if you'd really like to know my opinion).
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