Hopefully the thread will help other newbies like me and serve as a guide for where I might move forward in the hobby. I'm new to "head-fi" but not new to hi-fi. I've been into home theater and 2-ch audio for about a decade. I started out with Paradigm's entry level speakers and ended up with Gallo Ref 3.1s. I had multiple dedicated 2ch setups during that time as well as "merged" HT/Stereo systems. The system I was most happy with was when the Gallos were a separate 2ch system with an Eastern Electric pre-amp, a beefy Forte amp, a LiTe Audio NOS DAC, a budget Music Hall turntable, and a ROKU serving up FLAC files. Highlights in between included variations of that front end with Magnepan and Omega Hemptone speakers. I have gone to the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest several times and have heard a lot of other high end gear. I lead in with this explain both that I have some hi-fi experience but am also a headphone newbie.
About 3 months ago, I ended up selling off my entire HT and Stereo setup. Don't be sad, it was a deliberate decision after many months of contemplation and wasn't due to any financial hardship. I still have a surround system in my family room, but not a dedicated home theater. But I can't always use the system when and how I want, its in the FAMILY room, after all. So my interest in a decent headphone rig was piqued.
So I'll jump right into my gear list and then explain how I got there. I currently have:
LiTe Audio DAC AH!
Headphones (in order of pruchase and a little background)
Grado SR60 (Bought in college when I had a DISCMAN! I find the headband painful but since I'm not using them I decided to get a little more aggressive with shaping it to my head... haven't listend to them much since I did that.)
Shure E2c (Bought with my first iPod in 2004, find them uncomfortable after 30 minutes, unusable unless I order parts, tips have hardened after 7 years ;))
Etymotic Reserch MC3 (Bought for sound isolation on flights, thought I had lost the Shures, found them later. Find them uncomfortable after 30 minutes.)
In between here I bought a pair of Klipsch IEMs hoping they would be more comfortable. Same issue, returned them after a week
Bose QC15 (Bought for noise cancelling, not audio quality. I find them very comfortable and effective for watching movies on flights)
AKG Q460 (Bought for work, wanted small, affordable, comfortable, efficient, non-IEM, non-open headphones. For that purpose they really hit the mark)
AKG K271MKII (Bought them after likeing the Q460s so much)
My sources are all media file players if you notice. I currently have about 200 albums in ALAC format, another 200 albums in lossy format and another 200 partial albums from iTunes downloads.
This whole journey started when I picked up the Q460s for work. Everything before that was much more budget constrained, when I was in college or first working and had less money. Now I work in a very lively office which I love but it can sometimes be distracting. I don't like earbuds, I find non-custom IEMs to be dreadfully uncomfortable as you can see above. So I when I bought the Q460s I realized I really miss listening to music since I sold off my stereo. If you are looking for a pair of easy to drive, compact, comfortable, 10x better than the throw in the box ear-buds, I'd highly recommend these!
But, I decided amost immediately I would order a larger pair of cans for home (wanted to be able to leave these at work rather than car them back and forth, also I know they're not very high fidelity in the literal sense of the word). So I scoured this site and headphone.com looking at specs and reviewes. I wanted a sealed can so I can sit in my family room while others are watching TV and not be disturbing them and vice versa. I also have had so much comfort issues (Grado band and IEMs) that I was very keyed into the designs. I also liked the AKGs I had just bought so I was a little biased towards that brand. So I setteld on a pair of AKG K271MKIIs with the hope that in the short term I could drive them directly from my iPhone. I burned them in for 8 hours had a listen, burned them in some more, repeat... I liked them but also realized that they were too inefficient to drive directly from the iPhone. I was just going to return them as you can see here (http://www.head-fi.org/t/571418/need-more-efficient-full-sized-cans-k271-mkii-good-but-not-enough-headroom#post_7748783) but I decided inability to reach a high enough volume and and lack of dynamics/bass punch were the only things keeping me from enjoying them (they souned fine plugged into my PC speakers which had anough juice to power them but that kept me tied to my PC and still wasn't an ideal amp) So, I decied to order an E7 instead. This solved the volume problem for sure. I'm still evaluating the sound of both the headphones and the amp at this point but I anticipate keeping both if for no other reason than they are so affordable.
So that brings me to the future. I want to play with the Grados some more and see if I can get them comfortable to give me another option. I've toyed with the idea of ordering custom molded tips for the Etymotics but want to make sure they would fit on higher end Etyomotics before I do so. And I want to hook up one of my Apple TVs to my DAC and get a full size amp that ideally could power about anything (thinking about the Schiit Lyr).
Any way it goes, this should be an interesting journey. If you have either questions or input, I'm happy to hear it.