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Advice on AKG / Senn / A Technica / Grado / Shure

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

First of all I would like to say that I'm new here, and also a newbie when it comes to headphones. I've spent the last day just reading on the forums and I'm amazed by the knowledge and width of info one can get here. Still I find it hard to pick the "right" headphones, as the price range in my country is somewhat different to that of the US, hence the "quality/price ratio" is also different.

 

What music I listen to: Rock, electronica, blues, and occasionally songs in just about every music genre there is (including classical & jazz). Sometimes I use headphones for gaming, but that's a low priority as I have a decent 5.1 speaker system connected to my PC.

 

As I said, I'm new to this, and so the only mentionable headphones I've owned is the AKG 518 DJ / 81 DJ. I was very happy with those until they broke, and I've recommended them to others on a low budget. (On a side note: I've read a lot about people complaining on their lack of comfort, but that's easily fixed by a bit of stretching and some HD 25 velour pads). I was just about to buy a new pair, when I started to look at alternatives somewhat more expensive - and hopefully with better quality. So far I've come up with these (price given is the cheapest new ones I can get in my country):

 

The AKG 518 LE - 80$ (only differ from DJ in design and cord length)
Shure 440 - 115$
Sennheiser 555 - 121$
Grado SR60 - 140$
AKG 240S - 150$ (they are not exactly portable and closed though)

 

Also, from what I have read here I should consider these (although it’s a price jump):

 

Sennheiser HD25-1 II and AKG 181 DJ - 215$ (shipping included)
Sennheiser 595 - 215$
Audio Technica ATH-M50 - 232$


The M50s are 130$ more than in the US = crazy. I actually save quite a bit by importing them (that may be the case for several of the others as well), despite the 25% custom fee. I guess I can also buy headphones from someone here on the forums to avoid custom, but then there's the issue with support, in case anything happens.... Any thoughts on this?

 

The 518s are closed portables, and look decent enough to wear them in public, something which I enjoyed while I had them. Some of those mentioned above don’t share these characteristics, and I haven’t decided yet whether I want an all-round portable headphone or one that’s "restricted" to use at home. Btw I should mention that I’ve ordered a Fiio E5, if that makes any difference.

 

If you want to add more headphones to the list, please do. I’ll look them up to find local prices, if available. Any advice or suggestions are much appreciated! 


Edited by Kaxro - 11/10/10 at 9:19am
post #2 of 18

I've tried the 555, SR-80 (close to the SR-60 I guess), M50 and HD-25-1 II and prefer the k240S. All the others have many negatives and the k240 has the fewest and are easily the most comfortable.

The sound quality probably isn't as good as the SRH-840 (that's similar to the 440 I'm guessing and why i'm referring to them) but has a better soundstage, more bass and is more comfortable. I myself would give up some sound quality for better comfort.

 

M50 is a good headphone, but the mids are slightly recessed and not very good to me for any type of vocal oriented music. It's also quite bad for classical and it has a fairly poor soundstage. It's not a headphone for everything, but that's rare. It's also a bad headphone for gaming and movies. I've tried it. Even the HD-555 would be better in that area. For just plain music I myself would probably go for the M50 instead if I had to choose between the two.

 

k240 has very good mids, good soundstage, a decent amount of bass and is dirt cheap. It's also the most comfortable headphone i've ever owned. It doesn't even feel like it's on your head! For classical and electronic music it's perfect. I actually bought a lot more classical CDs because of these headphones. They're also a perfect match with "Imogen Heap" (same with the SRH-840). I liked them so much I upgraded to the k601 which has much less bass.

 

The closest thing that might sound like the k240 Studio is the SRH-440, but those are supposed to be uncomfortable.

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for sharing your experience tdockweiler!

The k240s does seem like a good deal. In fact I had almost decided to buy one, when I had doubts about their portability and sound leakage. I currently use a pair of cx500s for travel which gives a muddy overpowered bass to say the least, so it would be nice to have some decent headphones for travel, library use etc. A picture of the k240s (see spoiler):

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
AKGK240S-Sm.jpg

 

They're not exactly modest in terms of size, but I will definitely consider them anyhow. The Shure 440 may be a good compromise though? Anyone know more about the comfort and sq of these compared to the k240s? Also since I've only had the 518/81 DJ before it would be nice to know how much of an upgrade 440 and 240s are. (Picture of 440 below).


Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
shure_srh440_1.jpg
post #4 of 18

At the prices available to you, I would say it comes down to the AKG 518 or Shure 440. Good prices and portability. Since you liked the 518, there's nothing wrong with picking up another one. A side advantage would be that now you have a broken one for spare parts.

post #5 of 18

Try the Ultrasone Pro/PL-650, they will be great for your needs.

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

Thanks for pointing that out Armaegis.
I did like the 518, but I haven't really tried anything decent I can compare them to. I might buy another pair of those anyway, so I can make use of the parts (i.e. velour pads) from the old ones. Concerning the 440, I found a brief comment by jjsoviet, comparing 518 and 440:

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjsoviet View Post

Actually, the SRH 440 is much like the 840, save for its slightly less details and clarity. It's easier to drive than the 840 (60% compared to 80% of iPod's volume) and sounds so good even without an amp. I think the SRH 840, from my short experience, will do better when amped.

From my demo of the SRH 440, it is very detailed for its price, and is more focused on the mids and highs. Bass is a bit lacking (maybe because I'm used to the K518) but it is still present and goes really deep. It sounds more transparent and natural than the K518 as well.

It seems like the 440 might be what I'm looking for. If I find that they are lacking bass though, would the Fiio E5's booster function be able to improve this?

 

Edit: I'll look up the price on those Acix, thank you.
Edit2: It seems like that model (and maybe Ultrasone in general) isn't very common here. I found two prices for PRO 650  around 380$ and a HIFI 650 for 250$. A bit too pricey for me I think.


Edited by Kaxro - 11/10/10 at 12:14pm
post #7 of 18

Where are you located? Do you have a guitar/music store nearby that will let you audition stuff?

 

The e5 does provide a boost to power and bass, but not a huge difference (this was in my early days of headfi with a Shure 840 and the e5). It might show a bigger boost on the smaller 440 though.

post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

I live in Norway, not far from a city. I don't know how many music stores there are, and if they will let me audition stuff, but I know at least one where that might be possible. However I doubt they have the Shures there. I'm going there tomorrow though, so I'll check to be sure.

 

Btw, I just noticed a guy selling his AKG 601 for 133$ not far from here. They are not closed though and I read somewhere that they are hard to power with a portable device. Do you have any comments on this? (Image of the 601 in spoiler).

 

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
64_1716244719.jpg
I'm not sure how much I like the grey and white look though 
post #9 of 18

The big AKGs are not what I would consider portable. They're comfortable, but have low isolation and don't hold onto your head very well when moving about. The K601 would be an excellent home setup though.

 

Portable devices are quite powerful these days. I can get respectable sound out of my Sextetts with my D10. Sure it's not as good as a dedicated home amp, but it gets the job done. The new iBasso P4 is incredibly powerful (rivaling many home amps) and has been getting very promising reviews if you really want to go the portable route to power heavy cans. The Headstage Arrow also seems to revew well with some of the heavies.

 

Have you seen Joker's thread review portables? You might want to check that out to see if there are any options you may have missed... http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/433318/shootout-54-portable-headphones-compared-ultrasone-hfi-450-added-11-09

 

You should have a lot of options amoung Sennheiser, Ultrasone and AKG since those are all European (German I believe... though I think AKG might be Austrian). I know Shure is hard to find over there.

post #10 of 18


I wouldn't suggest the k601 without a full desktop amp. For that price it may be worth getting anyway. I paid a lot for mine unfortunately and it's because they seem to be more expensive in the USA new. I still can't figure out why the k701 is now like $300-$399! k601 is even hard to find new for under $250. It doesn't make sense. Why on earth are headphone so much more expensive now? Even the HD-600 is $399 at most websites like Amazon. HD-600 is nowhere near worth $400.

 

The k601 is supposed to be even harder to drive then the k701. I used the k701 a few times with my Total Airhead and it's a mistake to do that, so I had them hooked up to my receiver instead. My new Asgard amp powers the k601 well. I'm sure some of the more expensive portable amps might power them, but for the price of some of them ($240 or something for the D10?) I'd rather get a cheap desktop amp like the Matrix M-Stage or Schiit Asgard.

 

EDIT: Btw the color on that photo looks a bit off. Mine are black plastic with gray pads. I prefer the look of them to the k701. There is actually a small ring around them that's very very dark brown. It looks black and it's very hard to tell what color it is. Actually maybe the lighting in my room is making it hard to tell!

 

Out of a portable amp, there may be a severe lack of bass. There is enough bass for me on my desktop amp. Even coming from my D2000, I'm not bothered by it at all. I have a feeling that many people who call the k601 very bass light don't have them amped well, but who knows. To me bass light is the RE0 or AD700

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaxro View Post

I live in Norway, not far from a city. I don't know how many music stores there are, and if they will let me audition stuff, but I know at least one where that might be possible. However I doubt they have the Shures there. I'm going there tomorrow though, so I'll check to be sure.

 

Btw, I just noticed a guy selling his AKG 601 for 133$ not far from here. They are not closed though and I read somewhere that they are hard to power with a portable device. Do you have any comments on this? (Image of the 601 in spoiler).

 

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
64_1716244719.jpg
I'm not sure how much I like the grey and white look though 

Edited by tdockweiler - 11/10/10 at 6:18pm
post #11 of 18


Quote:

Originally Posted by Kaxro View Post

I live in Norway, not far from a city. I don't know how many music stores there are, and if they will let me audition stuff, but I know at least one where that might be possible. 


Soundgarden and HI-FI klubben will let you audition AKG, Sennheiser and Denon. Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic and Shure are sold through music/guitar stores and online.


Edited by bar1 - 11/11/10 at 12:04pm
post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 

I went to visit the music store I mentioned earlier. As I was sure they were restricted to other brands, I was pretty surprised to see that they in fact had both the Shure 840 and 440 available. The guy in the store told me they just got them, and he opened a box just to let me try the 440. Lucky! My first impression when I paired them with my Sony A828 (no EQ, DSEE on, Clear Stereo on) was that what you have told me about them is correct. However my initial reaction was also that certain parts of the treble were (I'm not familiar with the 'pro' expressions so please forgive my inaccurate explanations) almost uncomfortably sharp compared to the soft sound I'm used to in the k518. I had no time to adjust the settings on my player, so I don't know whether that would have changed anything. Besides I might get used to it, and a proper burn-in might affect this too (?).

 

 

The songs I tested were:
Madrugada - Majesty (live at Tralfamadore) With a much higher bitrate than the version on Youtube of course. Note that this is one of my (if not the) favourite bands at the time so it matters how they sound. What struck me was the cheering from the audience in the start, and how much I could hear "where they were". I guess this is the definition of soundstage. The 440 is considerably better than the k518 on this point, imo. As far as SQ goes, I'm not really sure if I can conclude on anything, but they certainly sound different than the k518: more airy, perhaps more balanced, and with a more modest (maybe natural) bass.

 

Nickelback - Hero. I did not choose this tune because I listen much to Nickelback, but because I remember that they seemed good on the k518. I have no complaints on the 440's performance on this though, although I would say that the 518 add more 'punch' to it.

 

Chopin - Nocturne no.20 in C-sharp minor The 440 is obviously way better for classical music than the 518. As I expected.

 

 

I also got to test the AKG k601. I had to turn up the volume considerably, but I think the player actually handled them quite well. The sound was amazing to a newbie like me. Somewhat similar to the 440, but it seemed way more balanced and accurate. The guy in the shop also wanted me to try some AKG 450, I think it was, as he supposedly liked them. To be honest I thought they sounded very boxy in comparison with any of the above mentioned, although most similar to the k518.

 

As for the thread you mentioned Armaegis, I had a look at it, and the Koss Pro DJ100 caught my attention. It got a better score than k81/518 DJ, yet it is available at about the same price here. However, this comment quickly changed my mind: 


Quote:
Despite having impedance and sensitivity identical to the ATH-M50 and Denon DN-HP700, the Koss Pro DJ100 exhibits higher dependence on amplification than both - and it’s not just the need for power.


Seeing as I don't have (the money for) a good amp, the Koss wouldn't be the best option.

It's still a choice between the 440 and 518 I think...

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by bar1 View Post
Soundgarden and HI-FI klubben will let you audition AKG, Sennheiser and Denon. Audio-Technica, Beyerdynamic and Shure are sold through music/guitar stores and online.

I live near Bergen, so I went to Musik Magazinet. Luckily they had those brands there as well (except Audio-Technica).


Edited by Kaxro - 11/12/10 at 2:15am
post #13 of 18

If you like AKG sound quality you should also try AKG K271 MKII or if you want more pronounced bass try Beyerdinamics DT 770

post #14 of 18

I don't know if I'm a bit late, but I can vouch for the SRH 440s. They are pretty good headphones for the price.

 

As for the rumor of them being uncomfortable, I don't think I really agree with it. They are a fairly comfortable pair of headphones, and your ears might get a little sore afterwards (only if your ears are really big, though). Basically, you get what you pay for. Since I'm no expert (heck, I'm even a noob), I can't really compare them to anything, but they are a good pair of closed headphones. They aren't the most aesthetically pleasing headphone, but they sure aren't ugly either.

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 

@olegausany: Thank you. But I believe the k271 and the DT 770 somewhat exceeds my budget, as I have to pay almost 250$ for those here. Otherwise I definitely would've considered them. The only reason I mentioned the usually pricey k601 was that I could (or maybe still can) get them second hand at about 130$. At about 20$ more I could also get 242HD, 142HD or the k240s. If you have any additional thoughts on any of these models, please share them :)

@Desused: No, you're not too late, thanks for the advice. I'm still undecided as to what I'm going to invest in. I had the chance to lend a k518 LE this weekend, and I have to say that the sound somewhat surprised me. I couldn't remember the cans being that bass heavy. It might be that my old 518 DJ had 'loosened' up a bit at the end, hence the bass 'breathed' more (or I've simply forgotten how they sounded). Still, although I prefer the modest design of the 518, I almost definitely will get a more balanced headphone - like the 440.

 

Btw, I might get my hands on a (suspiciously) cheap AUNE Mini USB DA C , which tempts me to stick with my current IEMs for portable use and rather buy a decent set of open cans for home use. EDIT: The item was removed, so it's likely that it was a fake. Luckily I didn't pay him anything.
It's like every time I get close to making a decision, something comes up. Spending money as an unemployed student is indeed serious business beyersmile.png


Edited by Kaxro - 11/15/10 at 2:19am
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