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My Budget Headphone Odyssey: HD555 vs. SRH440 vs. K240S vs. DJ100

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I, like many who seem to pass through here, am on a "simple" quest: to replace my old mediocre headphones (in my case, 20-year old on-ear Sony MDR-V400) with an affordable (~$100) higher-quality over-ear (circumaural) headphones to use all day at work. Like everyone, I am trying to find the "best" headphone in my budget but I also have the conditions that they are comfortable enough to wear all day with glasses and are suitable for office use (this is what's killing me -- I think I would prefer an open or "semi-open" design how much leakage is too much leakage?).

 

I am documenting my ongoing decision making process here because I am still undecided and would love to have feedback on few things and I have seen a lot of other people here grappling with the same questions so maybe this will be useful to others as well. So please pardon this lengthy post -- it's been a much more difficult task than I thought! Damn you head-fi!! ;)

 

Background

I have a large music collection (100k+ songs) that is mostly rock and jazz with some old school soul/funk, library music, vocals, country, blues, folk etc. mixed in. I don't listen to much electronica, hip-hop, and other contemporary bass-heavy music at all so I do not require headphones with exceptionally good bass response (in fact I found the M50s a little too bass heavy for my tastes).

 

So, after my initial research on the internet it seemed like the Sennheiser HD280 Pro was the most recommended can in my budget (http://www.goodcans.com/HeadphoneReviews/Reviewss/recommendations.html ; http://www.headphonereviews.org/ ; Amazon, etc).

 

 

Then I started reading a little more on these same sites and decided that the Sennheiser HD555 would be a much better value (still under $100 on sale) so that is what I asked my wife to get me for Christmas and they already been ordered. I read a review that said the leakage was not as bad as some claimed but I am still very unsure of whether these will be too loud for my co-workers; I also began to start reading the forums here and have even more doubts since the HD555/595s do not appear to be all that well respected among the head-fi illuminati!

 

BOSE AE2 Impressions

To make things infinitely more complicated, I was gifted a pair of Bose AE2 headphones after the HD555s were already ordered! I did not want or choose these headphones but here they were. Despite what I read in the forums here, I tried to give them an unbiased try. For what it's worth here are my impressions: very comfortable as everyone agrees. Sound is warm and pleasing BUT I definitely agree that they are lacking in clarity, especially in the mids (even compared with my old V400s!) and the bass response does not seem smooth but over-emphasize the sub-bass frequencies. Overall the sound makes me think of margarine: smooth but artificial. I almost wonder if they have added compression to make the sound "punchier" at the expense of clarity and accuracy. Also, build quality did not seem that good and they have very thin headphone cable that I can't imagine lasting long. 

 

So I started looking for replacements and auditioned the following phones at Guitar Center. Note my options were severely limited since I had to exchange the Bose phones at BestBuy :(

 

Budget Closed Headphone Comparisons:

 

Audio Technica ATH-M50: 

These were more expensive than the other cans I was considering and I personally found them to over-emphasize the low end for my tastes. Otherwise the quality was excellent as most head-fiers attest. I can see why "bassheads" love these phones.

 

Sennheiser HD280 Pro:

Compared to the two other closed headphones I auditioned I found these to be a little flat and lifeless. Maybe that's a sign of their accuracy and neutrality that Sennheiser is know for? Not sure but they didn't do much for me. Also, just as importantly I found these very uncomfortable with their clamping force and can't imagine wearing them all day. 

 

Shure SRH 440:

Read good things about these here and HeadRoom and I definitely found these to be the best of the closed cans I auditioned. These are what I ended up exchanging the AE2s for and have been burning them in (pink noise at night) and using them for the past several days. The clarity is great, the response across all frequencies seems to be very smooth to me with satisfying bass, clear mids and highs. The one criticism I've read that I agree with is that the 10k bump that gives many songs a nice sense of clarity and sparkle can add a little harshness to some tracks that are not as well balanced throughout the frequency range (some older 50s-60s rock recordings for example). They are comfortable enough for me to wear most of the day though they do pinch my glasses a little. I don't find them too heavy as some have mentioned. Overall I like these for closed cans (excellent isolation) and would recommend them to others looking for a good budget closed can that don't need extreme bass.

 

NOTE: I would have liked to also hear the Sennheiser HD448 phones but neither Guitar Center or Sam Ash had those and BestBuy doesn't carry them anyway so I wouldn't have been able to exchange them. But these seem like another closed can in the $100 price range that is worth considering. Also, the Denon AH-D1001 that appear to be very popular closed cans were not available when I looked.

 

AKG K240S ("Semi-Open")

Now my dilemma! While auditioning the above closed cans, I also wanted to gauge how much leakage an open can like the HD555 might have. None of the stores near me carry the HD555 or HD595 but the Guitar Center rep pulled down a pair of AKG K240s as an example. Compared to all three closed cans above the K240s felt and sounded FANTASTIC! I didn't really audition them long enough for a fair comparison of frequency response and detail but I loved the open soundstage, the comfort and the overall sound from the brief amount of time I listened. Also, the leakage did not seem to bad to me that I might be able to get away with it at work (but I'm still not sure). I attributed the SQ difference to "Open" vs. "Closed" and initially assumed that the HD555s would sound just as good if not better with the same amount of leakage. I found out later that the K240s are "semi-open" so might not leak as much as the HD555s. Looking for further confirmation on this. I also started reading the many Head-Fi posts related to all these headphones and am now thinking that these might be the best pick of the bunch, or at least a better open can than the HD555s. But then I see all the rave reviews elsewhere for the Senns!! And I can modify those to be equivalent to the HD595 for under $100!

 

So finally this is where I would really appreciate some feedback and advice between the SRH440s that I already have, the HD555s that I am getting for Christmas, and the AKG K240s that some people here seem to really really like. Reading some of the threads on particular models like these can really be convincing! Is the hype true?

 

 

QUESTIONS for Head-Fi:

- Are the open HD555 or K240 going to sound better than the SRH440?

- Do the HD555 and K240S phones have similar leakage or is the K240 significantly less? 

- Is either one acceptable for work (not worried much about isolation, just too much leakage)?

- Which cans do you all think is the best overall SQ for rock and jazz?

 

OPTIONS

1. Suck it up and keep the SRH440s that I am using now and seem just fine and meets my original requirements. Possibly exchange the HD555s for a FiiO e7 amplifier/dac or be responsible and just save the extra money. 

 

Pros: Good isolation, don't have to worry about annoying my co-workers, can be used for portable listening, studio recording, etc.

Cons: Least comfortable, quality not as good as open phones? What do you all think about that?

 

2. Keep the HD555s (do foam mod to make them comparable to HD595s) and return the SRH440s. Possibly try to finagle a headphone amp/dac somehow in the deal.

 

Pros: More comfortable and better SQ (again I haven't listened to these so I don't know but am basing this on what I've read)

Cons: Will probably annoy my co-workers most? No isolation. Not good for travel or other uses (but I do have other hps I can use for those purposes). 

 

3. Join team Groovilizer! Try to trade in the SRH440s and HD555s for the AKG240S and a amp/dac like the FiiO e7.

 

Pros: Very comfortable. Get to join Team Groovilizer, lol! "Best" SQ overall for rock and jazz? Don't know yet if this is true or not! What do you all think? May leak less than HD555s?

Cons: May annoy co-workers? Harder to drive and really require an amp more than others. May not be the best SQ of the bunch? More difficult and a little pricier overall than keeping one of the pairs I will already have. Not good for portable or travel.

 

Oh man, sorry for such a long post!! Would appreciate any and all feedback you have on the three options I'm considering, especially regarding the overall SQ of the three models I'm considering for rock and jazz and whether either of the open models is really going to be ok in the office (a little leakage should be fine, just not so much that it sounds like I've got a transistor radio on my desk!) Does anyone else use open headphones at work without a private office?

 

I will update when I get the Senns and have a better chance to audition the K240s!

 

Thanks!!

post #2 of 19

Thanks for the long post. Sounds like you and I may like some of the same sound signatures. I agree with you 100% on the Shure SRH-440. If I need a primary headphone for under $100 it'd be a good option. I feel as if they're only worth $70 though and not much more. The highs were kind of fatiguing for me. It's signature reminds me of the KRK KNS-8400 in a way. KNS-8400 just has slightly less bass and better mids.

 

I had the 555 for years and it's the headphone I've had for the longest period of time. I found them a bit boring at times and kind of too laid back. Even more so than my HD-600. I think people can find better headphones for the price, but it's still a good headphone. It totally depends on what type of sound signature someone wants. I never found them to have enough detail and the highs were kind of too rolled off from what I can remember. Comfort is really good though. I don't remember them having a very good stagestage though.

 

I also wasn't a huge fan of the M50's, but I had the older version that sounds a bit different. I ended up with the k240 Studio and I love it. Make sure to get the studio if you want to save a bit of money. They're easily found online for $80 as an open box. The MKII comes with extra pads and an extra cable. If you need those it's worth only $30 more.

 

To my ears the k240 is far, far better than the SRH-440 and HD-555. I'm trying to think of something those two do better, but I can't come up with anything other than better isolation, but that's obvious. I think the k240 also has the advantage of being more comfortable than the HD-555 due to zero clamping force. The negative is that they do need an amp to sound their best. They sound good out of my Ipod Touch, but I have to max the volume. My k240 is one of the few headphones that seems to be good for almost any genre. I honestly can't say that for very many headphones. k240 Studio even has a decent amount of bass, which is nice, but it's not bass heavy. Maybe the same amount as the SRH-840, but a little less. Oh yeah, I came up with something one of those might do better! I think the SRH-440 may have better imaging, but that's about it. It may be due to it's closed design.

 

Getting the k240 and a cheap amp would be my suggestion. Can't go wrong there. If you can find the SRH-840 for $130-$140 that's another option. SRH-840 have similar sound signatures, but the k240 is more comfortable and probably has the better soundstage. To me, the SRH-440 isn't anything like the SRH-840. SRH-840's highs are more rolled off, has more bass and better mids. Comfort isn't that good though. SRH-440 is more comfort. SRH-840's design is just a huge mistake.

 

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the detailed response -- that's really helpful information and I appreciate it. Definitely leaning hard towards the K240S now. There's someone at work that has a pair that I'll need make friends with and borrow for a day! Is the leakage loud enough that someone six feet away is going to complain (my listening level is not super loud and there's usually some talking and other ambient noise in the office that would help mask it somewhat).

post #4 of 19

I have owned both HD555 and K242HD, the K242HD is almost identical to K240s.

HD555 does nothing the K240's don't do better, they really don't compare, the HD555's are good for movies though.

HD555 is a fully open headphone, while the K240's are semi-open so the HD555's leak significantly more sound than K240.

K240's scale with better amplification, HD555 don't.

post #5 of 19

Based on your original post I'd also suggest checking into the Koss Pro DJ 100. If you liked the k240 Studio you'd also love these. They do everything the k240 does, but even better to me. The main reason I'm suggesting them is that they're on sale now for just $50 at Best Buy.

 

What's funny to me is that tonight I'm comparing them to my favorite SRH-840 and the 840 is losing out big time. No joke. I can't think of anything the SRH-840 is doing better and it's a $150+ headphone! Better mids, better bass (not quite more, but about the same), a better soundstage, imaging and basically everything. Even the level of detail is higher. It's quite sad because I was expecting the SRH-840 to be far better.

 

The SRH-840 is a headphone still that I love and can never sit and listen to and say I hate anything about them other than it's comfort. It's just not worth the price they're asking. $200? No thanks! They're worth $160 MAX.

 

To me, the DJ100 makes the SRH-840 ALMOST not even worth owning. The SRH-840 has one advantage that it's easy to drive.

 

If you can audition the SRH-840 there is a good chance you'd like the DJ100. What stinks though is they absolutely must have an amp. Something that's fairly good like an Airhead or even a receiver would work.

 

I seriously think that the DJ100 + say an Airhead is the best sound you can get for under $200. After that for me it's the k601.


Edited by tdockweiler - 12/10/10 at 4:52pm
post #6 of 19

AD700's or possibly the HD448, but I'm a little biased on that last one.

post #7 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnotherN00b View Post

Thanks for the detailed response -- that's really helpful information and I appreciate it. Definitely leaning hard towards the K240S now. There's someone at work that has a pair that I'll need make friends with and borrow for a day! Is the leakage loud enough that someone six feet away is going to complain (my listening level is not super loud and there's usually some talking and other ambient noise in the office that would help mask it somewhat).



I think for 6 feet you should be OK as long as the volume isn't that high.

post #8 of 19

I had the 440's, never heard the 555's, and I have the K240S's.  I really like those AKG's.  A lot.  I didn't like the 440's because I felt that they have a tilt of not enough bass to nice mids to too much treble.  I feel the K240S has more bass and is a more balanced headphone because of that.  I know that the K701/702's get a lot of love around here, but I much prefer the K240S to that model.

post #9 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Brown View Post

I had the 440's, never heard the 555's, and I have the K240S's.  I really like those AKG's.  A lot.  I didn't like the 440's because I felt that they have a tilt of not enough bass to nice mids to too much treble.  I feel the K240S has more bass and is a more balanced headphone because of that.  I know that the K701/702's get a lot of love around here, but I much prefer the K240S to that model.



Me too. Of course I'd glady take a k701 if it was cheap enough. Have you tried the k601? I bet you'd prefer that over the k240, but maybe not. It doesn't sound anything like the k701 to me. It's my current favorite headphone.

 

I felt the SRH-440 had enough bass for me and I didn't find it bass light, but close. I guess I still would like a decent amount of bass. SRH-440 also had too much treble for my ears, but I might have been able to deal with it. The mids were good, but nothing special. SRH-440 to me is just good but not great.

post #10 of 19

 See my sig.  smily_headphones1.gif  I had K601's and I didn't like those either, but I liked them more than the K701's.  Let's see, here's how I would personally rate the AKG's I've heard.  Best to worst:

 

K240 Sextett (MP) > K240S > K240DF > K240M > K501 > K601 > K701/702

 

(I need to change my sig.  Still have the K240S (Mk II) ).

 

If you do a search, there are different revs of the K501.  I have the V1 which has less bass than the V3.  I just got the parts I need to convert them, along with K601 and K701 pads to do a big ole listening comparison.  My quest is to see with any combination of pads and V1 and V3, if they can usurp the K240 Sextetts for me.  wink.gif

 

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback everyone. The Koss weren't even on my radar but for $50 I'll definitely give them a try! I still have $50 in store credit at BestBuy from the Bose I returned so that works perfect. Next week I'm going to do a four way comparison of the 440s, the 555s, the DJ Pro 100s and the K240S (if I can borrow them from my co-worker). I'll let you know how it goes!

 

Thanks again everyone! 

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

Bought the Koss Pro DJ100 headphones yesterday and convinced my wife to let me have my HD555s early (since I'm probably exchanging them)! So after burning in the phones overnight I'm ready for budget headphone death match round two! I don't have a headphone amp yet unfortunately so I'm doing my initial comparison using the headphone jack of my Harmon/Kardon AVR347 receiver which I'm hoping will drive the phones adequately. 

 

Budget Headphone Death Match Round Two: DJ100 vs HD555

 

DJ100

These are more comfortable than the Shure SRH440, winner of round one. The clarity is very nice and the bass is tight and controlled but perhaps a little weak compared to the HD555s and the 440s. I think the upper-mids might be pushed a little too far forward for me, giving a slight harshness to my ears. It almost seems like I can hear an artifact of the plastic driver housing, like a slight hollow plastic distortion in the high mids. Interestingly I think these may have sounded better directly out of my iPhone 3GS than out of my receiver!?

 

HD555

Very very comfortable! These have a warmer sound than the HD555 and are a pleasure to listen to but lack the clarity and detail of the DJ100. These definitley seem to have a better bass presence than the DJ100s but it seems a little muddy and loose for my tastes. These have not been burned in as long as the other HPs so I think that might improve with time. Overall these have more pleasing overall sound and full-bodied presence to my tastes though they do lack the clarity and detail in the mids compared to the DJ100.

 

So far the HD555s are providing a better, less fatiguing, well-balanced listening experience for me but I'm going to keep comparing them for couple more days. The SRH440s are at work so I can't make any direct comparisons to those yet. I'll update my impressions after doing some more burning in and comparisons.

post #13 of 19

The DJ100 based on my experience with my second pair needed a lot of burn-in to sound their best. My first pair seemed to be OK out of the box. I'm one that liked the slightly forward upper mids and I've found them to be very good for female vocals. Sometimes when I've experienced sibilance with them or found some songs a bit harsh sounding, I'd check the songs with another headphone and it's still there. Other headphones like the HD-555 and HD-600 will seem to tone it down a bit on the ears, and sometimes I don't want that. If the original recording is harsh sounding I don't want my headphones changing that. The Shure SRH-840 is very good in this area. Some of my Jpop seems to be very poorly mastered and tires my ears out on any brighter headphone that offers a lot of detail. The DJ100 is also very, very revealing of a source and it often makes some of my poorly mastered CDs and lower bitrate files sound like garbage.

 

You didn't find the SRH-440's treble somewhat fatiguing? I've found it much worse than my DJ100. Right now when amped with my desktop or portable amp, the DJ100's signature is very non fatiguing. It's a bright headphone though, but not as quite as bright as the 440 to my ears. There's a pretty good chance the harshness will go away after more burn-in. I could probably even guarantee it. I had this problem with my KRK headphone and it finally went away after 2 days of burning them in while I slept. I was soooo glad about that because the harsh highs felt like someone was stabbing me in the ears!

 

Right now my DJ100 is definitely more bass heavy than my HD-555 (had that for nearly 5 years) and my SRH-440. I've found that some people (like me at times) didn't get a proper seal with the default pads and it reduces the bass a bit. I'm now using the M30 pads and they help the bass a lot. I absolutely love the bass on these and there is a lot, but still not bass heavy. After side by side comparisons I actually feel that it has more bass than my SRH-840 when amped well. Definitely not as bass heavy as the M50, but that's a huge plus for me!

 

HD-555 to me is quite laid back and some people may prefer that, but not me really. It's a good headphone and I eventually upgraded to the HD-600. In the end I just got tired of that. It's strange because I know even consider the 840 to be a bit laid back! I didn't realize this until I compared them to my KRK KNS-8400 and DJ100.

 

The one thing that really impressed me with the DJ100 (other than it's vocals) is it's soundstage and Imaging. It's pretty impressive for a closed headphone. It's actually even better than my semi-open k240 Studio in that area! The level of detail and how clear everything is, is really quite impressive to me for such a cheap headphone. I even prefer them (and the KRK-8400) over my Shure SRH-840! Everything also sounds quite accurate and natural. The forward upper mids are definitely not for everyone though, but I like it.

 

Thanks for your comparison. I'd definitely be interested in any updates.

 

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

So I've comparing the DJ100, HD555 and SRH440 all day at work directly out of my computer's crappy on-board sound card and now out of my iPhone 3GS. I did more burn-in overnight so they all have at least 12-24 hours of burn-in. Without an amp I'm definitely finding the DJ100 thin compared to the other two. Clarity and detail are definitely there in the mids & highs but the bottom end is really missing (surprising given everything I've read) and they just don't sound full bodied compared to the other two. I really wish I had a good amp to do all the HPs justice! So far I'm finding the SRH440s to be the best of this bunch but not without reservation -- I am finding the treble fatiguing as you mentioned after comparing them with the other phones. I think I'd ideally like something between the HD555 which I agree is a little too laid back and "wooden" and the SRH440 which is more lively but a little too "brash." I'm hoping to borrow the k240s soon!

 

post #15 of 19

Are the DJ100's pretty flat?  I want to get my son a pair of headphones for Christmas.  He is taking music mixing and engineering classes in college and I want to get him something he can mix well with, both for school and his band.  My budget is only $100 or less because I'm also giving him money for a Marshall stack, which he wants more than the headphones.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tdockweiler View Post

Based on your original post I'd also suggest checking into the Koss Pro DJ 100. If you liked the k240 Studio you'd also love these. They do everything the k240 does, but even better to me. The main reason I'm suggesting them is that they're on sale now for just $50 at Best Buy.

 

What's funny to me is that tonight I'm comparing them to my favorite SRH-840 and the 840 is losing out big time. No joke. I can't think of anything the SRH-840 is doing better and it's a $150+ headphone! Better mids, better bass (not quite more, but about the same), a better soundstage, imaging and basically everything. Even the level of detail is higher. It's quite sad because I was expecting the SRH-840 to be far better.

 

The SRH-840 is a headphone still that I love and can never sit and listen to and say I hate anything about them other than it's comfort. It's just not worth the price they're asking. $200? No thanks! They're worth $160 MAX.

 

To me, the DJ100 makes the SRH-840 ALMOST not even worth owning. The SRH-840 has one advantage that it's easy to drive.

 

If you can audition the SRH-840 there is a good chance you'd like the DJ100. What stinks though is they absolutely must have an amp. Something that's fairly good like an Airhead or even a receiver would work.

 

I seriously think that the DJ100 + say an Airhead is the best sound you can get for under $200. After that for me it's the k601.


Edited by AirForceTeacher - 12/14/10 at 8:58am
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