Well, after a few months of being satisfied with my rig, I felt the upgrade itch once again. Curse you, Head-Fi! I swear, this place is an addiction. :P
The primary genre of music that I listen to is metal, and I absolutely love my Grado SR325is for metal. However, I also enjoy some electronic/trance music from time to time, and the Grados just don't quite have enough bass oomph for trance. I used to own a set of Beyerdynamic DT770/250, but I sold those a few months ago since I found them boring and lethargic, even amped. My Sennheiser HD595 are OK(ish) for trance, but they lack the bass depth and hit that really makes this type of music engaging. So, it was back to the drawing board.
My absolute must-haves for this set of cans were a powerful, impactful, tight bass with as little blubber as possible and a dynamic, in-your-face type of presentation.
After a bit of research, I had almost settled on the Ultrasone HFI-780. However, there was one major drawback with them: they're closed. I heavily prefer open cans to closed cans because I find that they're more comfortable for long listening sessions. They make my ears feel free, rather than feeling like they're locked up in solitary confinement. So the search continued...
Until I found the HFI-2400, that is. Unfortunately, due to the lack of reviews around here, I wasn't able to research them as thoroughly as I normally do before I make a purchase. So, do I take the blue pill and stick with the tried-and-true HFI-780, or do I take the HFI-2400-plunge-into-the-unknown with the red pill?
Boy, am I glad I took the red pill! The HFI-2400 were exactly what I was looking for.
So, for any of you who are in a similar boat as I was, I'll offer you my impressions. (You may notice that I compare and contrast them with my SR325is a great deal. This is mainly because the Grados are my favorite cans, and I use them as the basis against which I compare all of the other headphones I listen to. Yes, I love them that much!) I really wish that I could offer a side-by-side comparison to the HFI-780, but alas, it's just not in my budget.
What's In the Box?
The cans come with a velvet(ish), cinch-top carrying pouch (meh), a detachable cable (sweet!), and a demo CD completely in German (mein Deutsch ist schlecht). The CD is full of binaural recordings that, ironically enough, sound better to me on my Grados and Senns than they do on the Ultrasones. That's not to detract from the quality of the Ultrasones, though, because these are some really great cans (as I'll get to in a bit).
These are probably some of the comfiest headphones I've ever worn (however, being a guy who finds Grados comfy, that's probably like sitting in a La-Z-Boy after snoozing in a lawn chair). They've got just enough clamping pressure to keep them stationary on my melon, but not so much that I feel like part of the sledgehammer routine at a Gallagher show. The pads are soft and seat themselves very nicely around my ears. Visually speaking, they have the appearance of being heavy, but they're actually lighter than one might think. All in all, you're not likely to forget they're on your head (like I have with the HD595), but they're not at all bothersome.
My listening rig consists of the following:
Dell Studio XPS 16 Laptop (Ubuntu 10.04 + Amarok) > KECES DA-151 MkII USB DAC > Little Dot I+ (Voskhod 6ZH1P-EV tubes) > HFI-2400
My music collection is mostly FLAC or 256kbps+ VBR MP3.
I've pumped approximately 10 hours worth of music through them so far. If my impressions change with continued listening and burn-in, I'll be sure to provide the updates.
The highs are clear and crisp, without even a hint of sibilance, but they're not as prominent those on my SR325is. Many people might find this to be a positive thing, since one of the most common complaints I hear regarding the SR325 is that the highs are piercing. I, on the other hand, love the SR325 highs because they make the cymbals come alive, as if I'm standing on stage with the band. To get back on track, I don't necessarily find the highs lacking on the HFI-2400, but I feel that bringing them a little more forward could have taken the highs from great to fantastic.
The upper mids are clear and smooth, yet recessed, while the lower mids sound a bit more rich. Overall, the mids have a very detailed presentation with a pleasing texture. There's not much to write home about here, but that's OK with me in this instance because I wasn't really looking for much in the mids department. What I was really looking for was...
Wow. The bass on these things is phenomenal; it's deep, punchy, and alive. There's maybe a slight hint of blubber from time to time, but it's only momentary and doesn't detract much from the rest of the spectrum. The bass is much fuller and tighter than what I recall hearing from my DT770 (which I no longer have available for a side-to-side comparison), and is in a completely different league from the HD595 and SR325is. I can feel the low notes that I could only hear on my other cans. The bass isn't overbearing for rock and metal, but it's more than I would personally want, and it's exceptionally well-suited for trance music.
These cans are actually pretty forgiving with lower quality recordings, and tend to smooth out some of the edges on overly bright recordings.
Electronic music really comes alive through the HFI-2400. The tight, punchy bass establishes a fantastic groove, and the mids and highs spin and swirl around on top of it in a really enthralling musical light show. They don't quite have enough speed for faster genres of metal (which is where my SR325is really shine), but their sound fits very well with electronic music, especially trance. They've got an engaging and dynamic presentation that's more of an experience than a listening session; they toss you right down the rabbit hole and into the fantasy world. I could listen to these all day long.
Edited by MetalGeek - 12/2/10 at 7:15pm