Firstly, thanks to Larry for generously opening his home for more Head-Fi nonsense than usual on a Saturday! It's not often that you're in a room capable of auditioning 8+ headphones from the same source at the same time.
Unfortunately Kerry was only with us for a short while but his DIY amps were ridiculous... whatever one was driving his 404's (GES I assume) was better than the Gilmore KGSS, which is already pretty much the best match for the 404's that we had there.
First, I had my way with Dave's rig and just had a dynamic holiday, comparing the HF-2's, AD700's, AD2000's, HD600's, HD800's, DT880's, and K701's and throwing in the 404/KGSS as kind of a "zero" since that's a fairly neutral rig. I made several interesting conclusions:
--I put the AD2000 versus K701 battle to rest...the AD2000 truly is better than the K701 in every respect, and heck, the K701 is the clear loser in almost any competition, even with cheaper 'phones. I hate the K701's. I have surprised many people with how much I hate these headphones, and probably will continue to because I think they suck!
--Audio Technica's Air line at least and Grado's line follow similar trends...the AD700 really isn't all that dissimilar from the AD2000 like the SR-60/RS-1. In this case, though, it's an even more depressing comparison because there is just no way the AD2000's are worth even close to 10x the price of the AD700's. Furthermore, the balance of the two 'phones is nearly identical, so users of the AD700 looking for a "fixed" high end and better bass will not find any increase in bass...to the contrary, if anything. The AD2k's Achilles heel is its light bass.
--The HD600 ain't all that bad. The Headroom Home (Maxed, Balanced) can really make it sound good but it can't remove that "veil" which I can't say I ever truly observed until today. Furthermore, the HD600's are already fairly dark headphones and this just solidifies my theory that the HD650's are a complete waste of time and any HD650 v. HD800 arguments are invalid because the HD800's much more closely resemble the 600's. The HD600's Achilles heel is its darker sound which is far less lively, and its lack of impact and punch, which is why you buy a dynamic in the first place!
--The DT880 600 ohm headphones are a force to be reckoned with. With the Headroom Home set to high gain, they can really, really sing, and when they do, they easily eclipse the HD600's, AD2k's, HF-2's when it comes to most everything but their Achilles heel, rock. The DT880's just do so, so, well with one of my favorite genres...pipe organ music! They reproduce it so well that I'll have to buy these some day...I'm set on that.
--I really like the HF-2's because they're excellent all-around headphones but this rig highlighted that Grado "coloration" people talk about, like on the RS1's. The mids are just ever so slightly changed and it's hard to describe...you'll either love it or hate it, but Grados are the best method of reproducing guitars (esp. amplified) in my opinion.
--I was able to put the myth to rest about the AD2k's being the best headphones for rock. Seriously, they are just no competition for the HF-2's. If Grados are good at one thing, it's crunchy guitar rock-and-roll, and the AD2k's lack of bass just makes them far, far less gratifying despite their smoother high end that is capable of separating instruments better. The HF-2's not only have more bass, it's much more impactful and drums just have so much more oomph and snap with them. PRAT at its most!
Moving into the realm of high-hi-fi audio, the O2 mkII's are interesting electrostats that I now know that I would never own because the sound just doesn't appeal to me for some reason, but they do sound much better out of the Stax 717 amp than the KGSS, which, it turns out, really only sounds good with the Stax 404's. I really did enjoy my time with the 404's...they're just not bad overall stats, like the Grado of stats while at the same time sounding nothing like a Grado.
The HD800's are interesting headphones and I still have mixed feelings about them even after spending the better part of a day comparing them to almost everything important. My main problem with them is that they are just too bright to my ears. I'm sure a lot of people would agree that they are the most detailed dynamics ever made (and our micro-meet conclusion overall is that they are specifically the most stat-like dynamics ever made), however, I would not want to listen to these for more than about an hour because I'm pretty sure my ears would be ringing from the fatigue. I feel like the HD800's are just so, so close to greatness. They're really, really detailed at times but the high-end is only razor-flat for so much of the frequency spectrum because sibilance is still a problem with these and some cymbals are a real doozy and just make me cringe inside. The bass is great but there needs to be more of it, and it needs to be deeper. I don't care what the measurements say...the DT880's have far, far better bass and deeper at that on my organ recordings (remember, organ is the only instrument that goes from 16 to 16,000 Hz!), and that's probably in part due to the balance of the headphone. This is a top-shelf headphone but if I had one, I would still choose to listen to, most of the time, a "lower-end" 'phone like the 404's, which doesn't have nearly the details or spaciousness or realism at all, but has a darker, less strident sound.
Getting to the main part of the story, what did we hope to accomplish in this meet? Larry wanted to put away the myth that the HD800's are better than the HE90/HEV90 (The Orpheus). We accomplished this goal so easily that it just absolutely surprised me. If anyone thinks their HD800's sound better than the Orpheus, frankly, they must have an Orpheus setup that is in need of repair, because even Dave admitted its superiority (I'm sure he'll share later), and he owns these things. Furthermore, the HE60/HEV90 combo is still far superior to the HD800. We agreed on this very soundly. I was listening to the HE90's and Dave was listening to the HE60's comparing them to the HD800's with a concerned look on his face and I excitedly said, "You have to try these...if you like those, you'll like these even better", and he said, "No, no, this is already bad enough!!" The difference between the Orpheus and the HD800's is simple...the Orpheus has a sound that is at once, less bright and grainy (I don't use that term lightly, but the HD800's sound grainy by comparison) than the HD800's, and at the same time, so much more detailed, full, lush, and realistic that any attempt to find superiority in any aspect of the HD800's sound failed for my part, and this was with multiple tracks and multiple CD's. It is impossible to describe just how much the Orpheus dominated all other setups at the meet, especially when we were using a bunch of Dave's high-fidelity recordings at the end and comparing until we dropped. The HE60's are already a gigantic improvement over the HD800's in terms of sheer detail and soundstage, and then the Orpheus is simply eargasmic, to say the least!
Other conclusions: The HE60's sound much better from the HEV90 than any other amp. We don't know why, but it's probably because the HEV90 is a ridiculously good amp. Good luck finding one.
That's all for now. What a meet! I got more information out of this meet than any other I've ever attended before. A few minutes in silence comparing a few 'phones is worth its weight in gold.