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I need advice for buying some nice bass-heavy headphones

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hi all

I'm new to these forums, I was referred by a friend who considers himself an audiophile. So let me begin by telling you my story so that you can understand where I'm coming from and what I'm looking for.

During a trip to an Apple store I decided to try out the headphones they had on display. Namely I tested out the Studios and Bose Quite Comfort 15s (I think, they may have been QC 2s). I thought the sound quality from both was amazing. I have never invested in a pair of headphones for more than $50, but I was getting tired of my Skull Candy Heshes, which I bought for $35 btw and became extremely happy with the bass they produced. They had a strong thumping bass and I liked that the headphones actually vibrated by head a little when turned about 70% of the way up. But these QC15s and Studios sounded far better in comparison. Their bass was more 'refined' I would say in that it wasn't all thump, it could also better produce low, rolling bass. Of course the mids and highs were a giant leap forward as well (from what I was used to).

So when I got home I decided to do some research on finding some high quality headphones. Not necessarily bose or beats but some great sounding ones that provided great bass as well. After reading through lots of Cnet reviews (which may have be the most noobish place to find reviews, please don't judge me) I found that the sennheiser hd555s seemed to be what I wanted. So I ordered those from Amazon for around $150 shipped (and amazingly I ordered them at around midnight and they arrived at 10am same day! Of course I chose 1-day shipping, but it was only $4 extra), and when they arrived I immediately put them to the test.

Now I do the majority of my listening from either these Logitech Z-4s through my PC or though some Skull Candy INK'd buds hooked up to my Zune HD:



I love the sound the Logitechs can produce, the bass is phenomenal and I've thrown epic house parties powered only by these things (2 sets of them tho), and the INK'd buds also have the bass that I'm looking for.

The sennheiser hd555 were very dissapointing to me. I understand they are open backed an all but the bass I want just wasn't there. The SQ may have been great and all, but I couldn't hear the great quality over the lack of bass (hahaha get it?)

So I decided to go ahead and send those back. I realized that when reviewers experienced in audio say some headphones are great they may be talking about the ability of the headphones to reproduce authentic sound or not blend the sound into one muddy puddle. That's great and all, and while I would like good reproduction in my headphones, I need bass like the Studios and INK'd buds.

(now take a deep breath)

I bought the Beats by Dre Studios. Yes I paid $300 hard earned dollars for them. Now I've read many posts here about the 'trash' that the studios are, and I must say that if they are trash then I might like garbage, the bass was EXACTLY what I wanted. However the mids and highs weren''t as good as I think I remembered from the kiosk. My roommate has some Panasonic HC 500s and they have better audio quality than the Studios I currenty have (I don't know about the ones in the kiosk, they may have sounded better), but their bass was lacking.

Now I'm going to ask you all to do something that may be difficult for some of you. I want you to imagine that all the headphones you can think of that currently cost less than $300, now cost exactly $300. I am asking this b/c I want to spend that much on headphones. I want the best I can get for $300, I don't care if a set that costs $100 sounds better than the Studios for their price.

Please try to subside your hate for Beats by Dre, and please don't just post something like "ATH AD700". Please only provide advice if you have physically placed the Beats by Dre on your head before and can compare them to other headphones you have also placed on your head. Please don't tell me what other people think or what you've heard about the Studios, I have read many threads here and I know that they are overpriced for their quality.

So I have 3 questions:

1) Do you think I need to burn-in the Studios to get the mids and highs to sound like I remember?

2) Do you think I simply need an amp? Because I've heard that the kiosk powering the Studios may have an epic amp. And if it does, what pocket amp would be suitable.

3) What other comparable headphones could I buy instead of the Studios (remember under $300, but once under $300 I don't care about the quality/price ratio)? These headphones need to be portable in that they need to end in a 3.5mm jack, need to not leak sound (i use them in libraries, so no open-backed), need to have reasonably short cables, need to be comfortable(the Studios were extremely comfortable) and need to not scare away all the hotties.

Thank you for bearing through all that. Hopefully the length of it scared away all the trolls :)

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!!!

post #2 of 11
I've listened to the Beats several times and didn't like them for the same reasons, though I think they have too much bass bloom, too. I'm not much of a basshead, but something like the Denon D2000 might be more of what you're looking for. Other bass lovers seem to like the Beyerdynamic DT-770 and several Ultrasone models, but I couldn't tell you which ones. But I'd start reading up on those and I'm hoping a few others will show up here with recommendations.
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks Uncle Erik. I have read that the D2000 may be what I want from my friend, I've also heard the ATH-M50s might in the same range. I think the D2000s may be what I want. however I've heard from someone who's compared the M50s directly to the Studios that the M50s don't have as much bass, not sure if it was the range of bass or the amount but anything less is too frightening for me to risk.


I've also read that Ultrasone models are nice as well. I'm just hoping there's someone who has heard both and can explain the difference I hear in my Studios versus the kiosk versions as well as describe how an alternative to the Studios sounds relative to the Studios (greater/less range of bass, better separation or soundstage, etc)


EDIT: I've also heard that the D2000 may need an amp. I do a lot of mobile listening and would prefer to not need an amp. If you've listened to the Studios with the volume at 100% from any mp3 player then you'll know what the maximum I'm looking for is. I need it to be on the verge of causing pain, not because I listen to them like that, but I don't feel like I should ever need to turn the volume to 100% to hear the music like I want

Edited by Vinaaga - 8/6/10 at 3:57pm
post #4 of 11

Hmm it's always hard to give any recommendations about great sounding headphones with lots of bass because they are in the far minority, usually cheaper headphones have more bass but Beats are an exception though. Now I'm sure Sony XB500 for $50 would satisfy your bass cravings but if it would be good enough upgrade for you I'm not sure, it beats the crap out of the Skullcandy Hesh for sure and there are people here that really like XB500 and XB700 (should be noted though that while XB700 sounds a bit more like some real hi-fi ~$150+ stuff, the bass quantity and impact is a bit less, it doesn't offer that much punchy bass like XB500 does). D2000 might be one option but I'm not even sure if it got enough bass for your needs. At least I'd buy a XB500 to replace the Skullcandies if nothing else xD but it could be possibly even be a replacement for Beats as well but it depends what kinda sound you like. XB500 has quite aggressive sound signature, rolled off highs giving a lot smoother sound signature but it requires EQing to sound really great, they are kinda the opposite of the highs of Beats I could imagine. Hmm I wonder if there wasn't one guy already that exchanged Beats for XB500 and were happy with them.


ATH-M50 isn't very bassy IMO, I sold mine cuz of that. I didn't like the recessed mids of Beyer DT770 Pro/80 either and the bass quantity was also slightly less than my old HD 212 Pro & AKG K 518 DJs and both Sony XB500 & XB700. I think what you're probably looking for is bass quantity & impact that of Monster Beats Studio, Sennheiser HD 212 Pro, AKG K 518 DJs, Sony XB500, now I don't know exactly how D2000 compares to these in bass quantity & impact and type either but many bassheads like them.

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 8/6/10 at 4:17pm
post #5 of 11

You should read this thread that has been very active for a month on Bass.



post #6 of 11

First, you paid $150 for HD555s? Yeesh.


As for a bassy phone, a popular reccomendation these days is the audio-technica ATH M50.

They provide bass while still having good SQ, many users here like them now.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks wizard. Great suggestions. I going to head out to day and test several pair for myself, as well as see if I was just imagining the quality of the beats i heard at the kiosk. Ill be sure to look into the AKG K 518s, XB500s, and D2000s.


Ive had a pair of Sennheiser HDs before and while I will admit they sounded amazing, the bass wasnt what I wanted to be. Im sure it will work for most people but I need to feel it, not just hear it. You think the HD212 will have more than the HD555s?


And thanks ExpatinJapan. I did see that thread and had read through it a bit, and will continue to, its just that I wanted to be selfish and ask for specific advice realated to the Beats. I feel like if i bring them up there Ill just get run out of town :)


A lot of people seem to be able to suggest headphone that either do or don't have bass. However if bass was the end all be all Id be fine with the Beats, the trouble is the beats have great bass, but everything higher, while crystal clear and not what I would consider muddied out by the underlying bass, doesn't sound as refined as I think it should. So I don't just want some heaphones that have comparable or more bass, if they have comparable bass then its important that they emphasize the mids and highs better (while also fitting the portabilty requirements)

Edited by Vinaaga - 8/6/10 at 4:28pm
post #8 of 11

Well it would be a lot easier to give advice if you would be more specific how you think the mids and highs should sound like but for you it's a bit hard to tell as you're not so experienced with different headphones so, so terms like aggressiveness, laid-back, smooth etc you might not know exactly what is meant by that I suppose. :p But not many headphones have the bass quantity of Beats, that's for sure. Now if you also need them for portable use then Beats might even become your best choice in the end.


But to answer some of your questions if HD 212 Pro has more bass than HD 555 then it's night and day difference but I honestly cannot recommend HD 212 Pro because of the relatively poor sound quality, bass is fine for a basshead but mids and highs don't cut it for nearly any1 I think, severely recessed mids, very bright thin sounding highs that lacks detail. AKG K 518 DJs again sound better than HD 212 Pro, mids are a lot fullier, highs are smooth, yet clear, it's got a very warm sound signature with LOTS of punchy bass altough not so much very deep bass. But the comfort is the main issue of these, they aren't really that comfortable unless you stretch them so the clamp becomes loosens up but otherwise they look great are very light and quite small and would suit well for portable use. Now XB500 then again has this leaking sound issue so it won't work if you need to use them in public where other people would get disturbed about the noise, otherwise they are somewhat similar to AKG K 518 DJ but they have even slightly more bass, especially deep bass but also punchy 100Hz+ bass. The mids sound even greater and fullier than on the AKGs and sound unbelievable good for a $50 headphone. Of these XB500 are clearly the best pick by far as long as the sound leaking wouldn't be an issue for you (ie you're not gonna use these on a bus/plane or whatever). I haven't heard Beats myself but I have a feeling AKG K 518 DJs aren't a replacement for it, sound quality wise, XB500 could probably be though.


However it would probably worth checking out at least the Denon D2000 to see if there's enough bass for your taste (but these also seems to require an amp to get decent bass out of them too) if you're able to demo it and then also XB500 cuz I'm sure you'd be suprised how great these sound for a silly $50 but beware they need EQing to sound optimal, a bit too smooth un-EQd (need more highs and less upperbass to get the best possible clear sound). AKG K 518 DJ could be worth a shot I suppose if you're able to demo them but I'm not really that much of a fan of them that I'd really recommend them, they are great for portable use no doubt though. Altough ATH-M50 does sound great for the price, there's a risk after you're used to the bass of Beats that you think M50 is too bass lean as well. For me they were and I'm a very spoiled basshead (which I concider a good thing as I'm far more easily satisfied even with less expensive solutions ^^).

Edited by RPGWiZaRD - 8/6/10 at 5:04pm
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks Wizard! That sort of response is exactly what I was hoping for: full of detail comparing headphones you are familiar with. Normally someone would just say 'X brand has great bass,' but how headphones sound relative to one another is whats important and helps someone understand how something sounds.


With that said hopefully after I visit the nearest audio store I'll be able to offer better details since I will have heard a few other headphones (if I haven't already found the pair I'm looking for while there). From what you've said and what I've been able to gather elsewhere, the XB500s and AKG k518s may have what I need. However its not that I want more bass then the Beats, there is sort of a minimum level of bass I need and the Studios exceed that. Ideally the headphones needs to contain everything from deep rolling bass to heavy punchiness (I feel that if I say I want the headphones to vibrate on my ears a little then the bass quantity I'm looking for is communicated). Once that minimum has been achieved, only then do can I proceed to care about the rest of the sound quality.  The main (and rather only problem with the beats, other than the price) is that I think the higher frequency bass range is emphasized so much that it sort of blends with the mids.


And does anyone have any idea if the amp in the kiosk could be important. I still think those in the kiosk sounded absolutely perfect, but I don't know if they just had been burned in already, or if the ipod was playing some special remastered and uncompressed music

Edited by Vinaaga - 8/6/10 at 5:17pm
post #10 of 11

Two things, firstly the Sennheiser HD212 Pro although they have good bass they are hands down the most uncomfortable headphone I have ever had the misfortune to own as they are downright painful after an hour. And they are overpriced imho.


Which brings me to; Koss Porta Pro....dude seriously, I got them for £20 new from Amazon, and the bass to me is as good as the Sennheiser 212 Pro but the clarity and general sound quality and detail to me is even better and comfort wise I know people have said the Koss is uncomfy but they obviously haven't put up with the 212 Pro's (i have, so i can take anything lol! :P) but to me their comfort isn't an issue I mean fair enough you always know you're wearing them but I have them on clamped mode and they never hurt my ears. But at the same time they are in no way the comfiest headphones I've owned. But the SQ and bass is excellent.


Koss Porta Pro to me is the standard and defacto cheap and cheerful headphone which is unreservedly recommended to anyone wanting great sound quality at a cheap price. 


Only question I have is how does the DT 770 Pro (250ohm) compare to the Koss in terms of SQ clarity and bass unamped ? £20 headphones up against a £100 headphone is hardly a fair fight and that's what I'm hoping for because I miss comfy over ears but I need good bass not necessarily too dominant, Koss bass or similar for me is largely spot on.

Edited by Thommohawk - 8/6/10 at 5:52pm
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

So I made a trip to the local audio shop. The place had lots of musical instruments and accessories, but a small headphone selection. They had the M50s tho so I went ahead and decided to buy those ($175 after taxes).


The M50s offer the 'space' that I think was missing with the Studios. Not only is there more physical space (because the M50s cover the ear rather then sit on them) but the music doesn't sound like its all coming from down a pipe. The Studios, while sounding better than many cheaper headphones I have used, have the problem where the music all sounds like its trying to fit in the same little tunnel to reach my ear. Because of this its hard to listen to just one instrument or distinguish a range of frequencies. While the Studio's bass isn't so string that it makes everything else muddy, the bass is still fantastic, the fact that the bass is so strong makes it hard to listen to the other sounds. When I say the bass doesn't make it muddy, what I mean is if I were listen to the same track without bass on the Studios I would hear the mids and highs the exact same (the bass doesn't interfere with them), but they would still sound like they were all fighting for the same bandwidth. On the other hand, the M50s make the mids and highs sound free and unconstrained by each other. I think that the freeness may simply be contributed to the fact that the M50s actually put space between the ear and the music, but nevertheless the mids and highs are hands down better than the Studios. After listening to the Studios I realize that it may be the noise cancellation or just the way that they are built that causes this, but I don't think its possible for headphones designed to fit they way the Studios do to ever sound as spacious as headphones that fit over the ear IMO.


The bass is definitely not as strong in the M50s as it is in the Studios I must admit. But that may be because the Studios seem to emphasize bass in the higher frequencies, so that while the bass is nice and strong it also seems ever-present, as if every song had some bass note playing throughout the entire thing. That effect is great for songs that have bass playing through out the entire thing, but some songs have a really great kick that is meant to be separate from the other music so that it adds variety to the track. The Studios don't do it justice because they seem to add bass even when its not there (not literally) so when the kick comes it can't make the star entrance it was meant to make. 


All that said, my roommate thinks the Studios sound better than the M50s, he has the pair of Panasonics I mentioned in the OP and he admits that it may just be his preference for noise cancelling headphones.


So as a sign off and one last word of wisdom to anyone who was searching for info about the Beats by Dre Studios and comparable headphones: the Studios are great headphones, but they sort of cramp the music. The price is justifiable if you like the way they sound. They have a great carrying case, a nice detachable cable with an inline mute button and mic that worked with my Droid just fine for taking calls (better then I expected even). However, if you think the music sounds less spacious than you would like, then you should know that its not just you, and you may want to look into some of the headphones suggested here. I was satisfied with the M50s, and while I may opt for some others in the future, I like these more than the Studios in terms of everything (especially durability) except for the convenient inline mic, and I will be returning the Studios.


Thanks all you guys for the input and advice!

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