Just had a wonderful meet here of some long-time Canadian GTA members. Lots of great equipment and people were in attendance.
IMO, the most impressive setup was the AKG K-1000 (bass-heavy version) being run off an Audio-GD Reference 1 DAC with Pricklely Pete’s mods, and powered off an Audio-GD Phoenix with upgrades as well. It was the only headphone that had a larger, more speaker-like soundstage than the HD800, and since it didn't touch your ears it gave a really strange sensation of the sound emanating from nowhere. I felt I was listening to a very good set of near-field speakers. It was also fast, balanced and natural. The HD800 were a bit more detailed and extended, but it wasn't a big deal. I think the K1000 isn't really better than the HD800 in terms of SQ; it's the feeling of nothing touching your ears and the holographic imaging/speaker-like bass that makes it unique and enjoyable.
One caveat also: I didn't get to try the HD800 from the same setup and maybe it was the setup making it sound so good, but I have a feeling a properly-driven K1K will still be more enjoyable (for me) than a properly-driven HD800. Keep in mind, my HD800 has a $400 OCC 7N silver cable on it too, while the K1K was in its stock form.
The Audez'e LCD-2 were good (and I tried them out of some monster setups), but they weren't better than the silver-recabled HD800s IMO. Their treble/air and sparkle was lacking in comparison, but the lower-midrange and bass were excellent, and a bit more involving than the HD800. The presentation was very different from the HD800 in that they were much more up-close. It felt like the musicians were around you instead of in front of you. It was different in that regard, not better or worse.
In terms of comfort, the LCD-2s were better than I had anticipated, but their weight, as expected, became unbearable after about 30 minutes. I'm glad I stuck with the HD800s. (I know some people at the meet didn’t have as much of a problem with the weight as I did).
The Stax O2 Mk1 were pretty good, but they were being powered by a "crappy amp" (in the words of its owner Djarum). I know the O2 Mk1 are said to be amp sensitive and ideal with the BHSE, so what I heard was only a fraction of their potential.
Other equipment present was the PS Audio Perfectwave DAC and the Dynahi, both of which impressed me. The Phoenix also sounded great but I don't know if it was the amp or the Ref 1 DAC that was making it sound good.
The Joe Grado HP2s were the best Grados I've heard. They actually had a good soundstage and were balanced/quick. In this meet I heard the Grado HF-2 at their best...so good that I thought they were in the same ball-park as the HP2. How? I believe it was the amp synergy. The DNA Sonett just brought them to a whole new level...toned/tightened the bass and expanded the soundstage with better tonal balance. The HP2s were better, but didn't embarrass the HF2's. It's a curious thing because I distinctly remembering being a bit disappointed by the HF2s at the last meet (powered by different amps...WA6, MAD Ear HD+, M^3, Glite).
Anyways, I still don't think Grados are for me. I've heard the best they had to offer, and while they were good, I still came away preferring the K-1000, HD800 and LCD-2 to them.
The HE Jades were nice too, but were under-amped in the setup I tried them and they sounded like a lower-end version of the 800s there. They were a bit strident too up top. charliex urged me to test them in a proper setup downstairs, but time didn’t allow me that opportunity. I only heard them from the same low-end amp from which I heard the O2 Mk1s (source was the PerfectWave for both).
Edited by Shahrose - 9/24/10 at 6:06pm