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We ALL like such threads: HELP! ~200$ choice 4 head-fi newbie, hi-fi oldie, wanting *involving* music!

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Hello everybody!


I was searching around about 5 hours and read dozens of threads like this one... but while reading, instead of getting clearer, the picture got more confusing. So I decided to open "my" own thread.


Short version: I want a revealing, direct, resolving, emotions transporting can. I want to "see" the Dee Dee with her voice, the London sympony's violins, Satchmo's trumpet or Mongo's bongos right in front of me when I close the eyes. I want the music to get to my emotions, even if its fatiguing on the long run - if the live version would be fatiguing too. As natural as possible. They must bring to my ear every detail 24bit/96khz or Vinyl can store. And they should suit my budget, maximum about 200$. Quite a bit of a challenge for you, guys ;-)


Surfing around this and other forums, I came over these cans that seem to fit my budget... but do they fit my taste???


  1. Audio-Technica ATH-M50S
  2. AKG K 701
  3. Superlux HD-660
  4. Superlux HD 668B
  5. Alessandro MS-1
  6. Shure SRH840
  7. Fostex T50RP
  8. Fostex TH-7B
  9. AKG K171 MKII
  10. Grado SR60i
  11. Sennheiser HD 438
  12. Grado SR80i
  13. Sennheiser HD 598
  14. Shure SRH840


So... choosing without trying is always difficult. What would YOU head-fi oldies recommend???


Here comes the long version for those who really want to know what I like when talking about stored music reproduction.


Somewhat, I am a headphone newbie. Long time ago I used headphones, and I appreciated for example the Jecklin electrostats that I was not able to afford, but I listened to them extensively at my parent's. But these cans might not fit my taste anymore, as it got much more mature since then.


Since a couple of years, I own a nice speaker-chain, including a decent turntable, DNM amps and french Rehdeko speakers (you hate them or you love them. I love them). And more recently a really nice audio-gd DAC that I feed with a modded squeezebox touch, often with 24bit/96khz files.


I definitively listen to all types of music - as long as it is well made. Loving Rehdeko means, that every little bit of the music is reproduced. Music may be fatiguing. Personally, I love them, because good music IS fatiguing. I would not listen 10 hours to live music - as it would be fatiguing. So, I don't want a Headphone that smooths the music to make it bearable for hours. I want it to transport as much of the emotions as there can be stored in a record. And emotions are fatiguing - this is normal. However, sound should be NATURAL. As close to live as possible. (Of course, NOT harsh, where live would not be harsh).


Technical history: I recently ordered a audio-gd FUN. It is my backup DAC for my backup equipment. It has analogue rca line input, so I got the idea to plug it onto the second RCA connection of my DAC, or the tape out of my preamp. So, all of a sudden, I have a Headphone output on my chain... And I want to give it a try using it.


However, I don't want to spend thousands on it. Let's say, my budget is limited to about 200$. Now, if the big deal is there for 220 or so, I would probably convince myself anyway... But if there is a nice can at 50$, I don't mind keeping the change.


Thanks a million for any useful advise !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Edited by ursdiego - 9/12/11 at 7:15am
post #2 of 28

You sound like quite the audio enthusiast.


Save for awhile longer.


The initial $200 spend will just trigger off a frenzy

of future purchases and you'll lose money in

the process or end up with a heap of

headphones you don't listen to because

you've upgraded time and time again.


The fact that you listen to 'all types

music' and appear to have a

discerning ttastes smells like future

trouble. No one headphone

does it all.


Some LCD2, HD 800, T1

owners with vast, diverse

collections may disagree

but no singular phone can

convey the 'emotion' as

you say from reggae to


post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 

Hi there, Gwarmi


thanks! Well. Maybe I exaggerated a bit with my wishlist... in fact, I do not intend to replace my speaker setup with headphones. They do not have to match the speakers either. Maybe, in a couple of years, I will do an upgrade.


Which one would your recommend, if the budget was open...?


However, regarding the character of the headphones... When talking about speakers, I often heard the same. Or you want a speaker for Rock, or for unplugged stuff, for jazz vocals or for symphonic classics... I am not sure about that. If a speaker setup (including amps, sources, etc.) have the ability to reproduce what is on the vinyl or file as close as possible, it does it for all genres.


However, I have often discussed with hifi enthusiasts who explained, that their speakers were particularly good for symphonic orchestras. When listening to them, my impression was always, that the made the sound flat, distant. However, this is what many hifi-classic-lovers want. But this is not natural. If you sit in front of a symphonic orchestra, it is loud, very dynamic, you can't listen to it and think of something else. When speakers do the same, they just reproduce what is on the disk. And that's what I want them to do... Interestingly, this leads me usually to like speakers that are more for jazz or even for rock lovers, according to hifi-vendors (of course not talking about disco-type speakers). But I like them most, also for classics.


Now... I think, for headphones it should technically be easier than for speakers to be "real", "natural", non-colored, just as close to the recording as possible. Right?


So... I still want a can that suits them all - but it might be too involving or "fatiguing" in the opinion of some smooth classics lovers.

post #4 of 28

I think the Grado SR80 with supplementary L-cush bowls

(they're a spare item used stock on the 225/325/rs2/rs1



Will set you up nicely. The SR60 offers up a bit

more bass quantity but I find the sound-stage

a little smaller.


You appear to like an engaging, forward

sound - you can do no wrong here.


SR60 or 80. MS1 is also technically

a Grado but is less engaging and

more 'flat' sounding, less bright.


Coupled with excellent recordings

the occasional harsh highs are

almost insignificant. They tend

to reflect what is on the

recording as you say.


The polar opposite of the

Grado sound would be

something in the

Sennheiser line like

a HD 650. Dark, laid

back - some would say

dull if they liked an

engaging sound.


Edited by Gwarmi - 9/12/11 at 9:18am
post #5 of 28

From your initial post, i was ready to recommend either the K701 or a SR225i. Both of them are very detailed, but the K701 is more laid back while the SR225 is more forward/engaging. Given your second post, I think you'll find the Grado's much more to your liking. The SR225i is the opposite of flat, and distant -- in fact most head-fi'ers agree that they are very in-your-face and position you in the front row, or even on stage with the band. A lot of people also find them bright to the point of fatiguing (which i don't), so these criticisms may reveal that the sound signature is exactly what you're looking for.


Go ahead and give them a demo. I find that most hi-fi speaker stores in my area carry Grados. 

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks, Gwarmi and Questhate. So, according to your comments, I am probably the Grado - type of listener. And after reading a couple of reviews on Grados, and given my budget, it's probably the SR80 or the SR225i that fit me best. SR225i seeming to be a bit more hi-fi... Or i save up for the RS2... I'll think it over and have a look over the bay to see if there is some good deal...


Thanks for your help!


Others are still welcome!

post #7 of 28

I seemingly was in the same position you were in a month or so ago. I thought I was going to get in and get what I needed and get out for ~$200. Well what I wound up with was a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-AD2000 open air phones and a pair of Denon AH-D2000's which wound up getting recabled and having custom wood caps done for them...and then let's not forget the DAC/AMP combo that I talked myself into getting. 


The biggest truth I see on this thread is that no 1 pair of cans is going to incorporate everything you need it to do (which is why I own a pair of open & closed as they span my genre and likes), however looking at your list you may be able to fill a majority of your listenings. 


Looking at your list you might want to also through a pair of Beyer DT880-600ohms and the Grado SR325i and do a little research on them both. Also, seeing how you want to "see, hear, feel" the music you might want a nice open can with an expansive/deep soundstage and good imaging. You might want to look in to the open air Audio-Technica line such as the ATH-AD700 or ATH-AD900 (the DT880's & AKG701/702 do well here too)


Good luck!

post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 

Hey, Evtron, now I was already convinced that I should choose a Grado... And you mix it up again ;-) Now... stuck in between of a Grados SR225i (rather than SR325i I guess) and the ATH-AD900 - that sounds quite convincing when reading about it... or a Alessandro Music Series Two which seems to be a nice compromise. Or laying back a bit and saving up for a Grados RS1i or RS2i... gush that's quite a headache !!!

post #9 of 28
Originally Posted by ursdiego View Post

Hey, Evtron, now I was already convinced that I should choose a Grado... And you mix it up again ;-) Now... stuck in between of a Grados SR225i (rather than SR325i I guess) and the ATH-AD900 - that sounds quite convincing when reading about it... or a Alessandro Music Series Two which seems to be a nice compromise. Or laying back a bit and saving up for a Grados RS1i or RS2i... gush that's quite a headache !!!

It is a labor of love I suppose :P - To be quite honest I don't really have that much experience with Grados although I've heard that the 325i really adds some exciting punchy bass and tones down some of the highs that they are known for and is a quite good all arounder. 


Regarding the ATH-AD900 it is an open air headphone. The sound-stage is incredible deep, layered and expansive. You can pinpoint each instrument and the sound really encompasses your head and just blankets you in euphonic surrealness. It really is a 3D audio experience like nothing I had heard before when I heard them for the first time. The open air line up of Audio-Technica are famous for this as well as their great mids. However, when you first put the headphone on and take a listen you are going to notice a serious lack of bass. It's not that it's non-existent but rather is dealt with differently. It's very present and tight and controlled but it doesn't have that boom. Burn-in usually creates a stronger bass over time and you can always EQ more in if you would like. 

That's a decision you would have to make. If you're more of a bass-head or want something where the sound is going to dance around your head. I have a pair of ATH-AD2000's but I think they are certainly out of your budget.

I'm really surprised that nobody has mentioned the Denon AH-D2000's. They are generally referred to as an almost perfect mid-range headphone and get a ton of praise. When you take them out of the box they just look super high end and astonishing. I remember when I got my first pair I literally laughed out loud and grinned looking at them. Here is an excerpt from a review of them from one of the guys here on head-fi


"musical textures sound tightly defined and ultra-vivid, the soundstage image is deeply expansive, instrumental separation is clear as a bell, and the timbral precision is eye-openingly impressive." What they say is incredibly accurate, these headphones have a great soundstage and it's hard to think about them as closed headphones when they are on your ears. They sound pretty good unamped, but they benefit greatly from amplification, and I highly recommend you pair this with an amp and dac. The bass is deep and strong, and these cans produce the most pleasant sounding bass of any headphone mentioned in this review. They sound amazing with just about any genre from rock to DnB, these headphones shine. If i had anything negative to say about these cans it was that i felt the highs were a bit lacking and i had to EQ them a bit, to bring them out but otherwise no complaints."


I picked up a pair about 2 weeks ago for $230 (a damned steal) and sent them out to be recabled and modded with wooden caps. If I were to recommend you a headphone they would most certainly be it. 


However if the open air Audio Technicas really catch your imagination with how the sound literally feels like it's swirling around you I would pick up a pair of ATH-AD700s used off the forum for $75 or so and see how you like it and pocket some cash.

Edited by evtron - 9/12/11 at 11:52pm
post #10 of 28
The Denons are a great general purpose recommendation for almost anything. The AT M50's are also good. I now live by the AKG K181 DJ as it is acoustically balanced with strong bass and lively natural treble that feel like you can locate the percussions placement. Way more fun sounding and realistic. Audiophiles will say they're colored but I say beautifully presented in a realistic natural fashion. The AKG drivers are soo dynamic it's hard to believe. I only use my Denons and ATs to check new songs and how they compare but I always favor my AKG K181. Everything I throw at these just sound so much better. If I had this set when I first started I would have never needed to buy any other headphone. You can save a lot of money as these cost only $120 now. My headphone search is over now as these hit just about every nail. Who would've thought a DJ phone was the ONE!
post #11 of 28

Here's some more fuel for the fire...


My 325i's are enjoying their new source - a brand new Arcam Solo rDAC.


The sibilance on some random tracks is gone and I'm back to using the standard bowls.


Man, it is sweet. Review should be in the source section in the next few hours.

post #12 of 28

+1 On Grados

post #13 of 28

Why the 600 ohm version?


Originally Posted by evtron View Post

... Looking at your list you might want to also through a pair of Beyer DT880-600ohms ...



post #14 of 28

The DT880 600 ohms sounds quite good :) However it cannot be bought for $200

post #15 of 28
Thread Starter 

Wow... you guys are really masters of confusing ;-) !


I am looking around on e-bay now for one of the most recommended here. That way, may budget might get me a bit further. Thanks a lot...


Evtron: How did you get those AH-D2000 at this price...???

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › We ALL like such threads: HELP! ~200$ choice 4 head-fi newbie, hi-fi oldie, wanting *involving* music!