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Different headphones good for different genres? Jazz/Classical?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I was curious as to how different genres are affected by different qualities in headphones. I've read a lot in the past few days about bass, mids, highs. I don't know what this stuff means in terms of instrumentation. 

 

The reason I ask is because I am considering buying a new set of headphones. I currently have HD-555 Sennheisers with the foam mod. I really like them, but they leak too much.I was looking at the Denon AH-D2000s as these are closed headphones. I hear they don't completely stop sound, but they're a lot quieter than the hd555s.

 

I have read more than once that the Denons may not be as good for jazz and classical instrumentation, and even some posts suggesting that my HD555s might be better even though I bought these for $100, 1/3rd the price of AH-D2000s. I don't want to waste my money.

 

I just want headphones that are more closed than the HD555s and sound good with jazz and classical music. I don't know what to look for in headphones with this criteria. I don't know what the HD555s classify as, so I have no frame of reference (are they relaxed or analytical or warm I have no idea. I just like how they sound but I don't even know if they're good).

 

I guess essentially my question is: If I'm looking for headphones that would sound great for jazz and classical mainly, am I looking for "strong treble highs", "mids", "lows", "soundstage", or an even balance of them all?

 

Thank you so much


Edited by compoopers - 2/9/12 at 6:51pm
post #2 of 15

The AH-D2000 do not isolate worth anything, and would not be my first pick for classical or jazz. Look at the higher end AKG, Sennheiser, and perhaps Sony offerings. If you need quiet, that's a bit harder. Kenwood's closed-back headphones isolate some, Beyerdynamic offers more (but we're probably talking over your price range), perhaps Ultrasone as well (although I doubt you'd like the Pro900 or any other Ultrasone for classical or jazz, but who knows).

 

Have you reviewed this?

http://www.head-fi.org/a/describing-sound-a-glossary

 

It's hard to give you an absolute suggestion - if you just want something "better" you will probably get a mountain of suggestions. It would probably help to narrow your criteria a bit, and hopefully someone who really listens to jazz will also chime in. 

 

 

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the reply. I will try to get studying.

 

Mainly what I am looking for is something that can accurately represent what the band sounds like as if it was like it was happening again. I want accuracy but I also of course want it to sound good (before I get in over myself with tedium). To give reference I have been using the HD 555s and have had no problems or qualms with the sound. I recall reading that HD555s are well balanced, warm headphones, but I'm not sure.

 

The reason I am looking to upgrade in the first place is because I need less leakage. I love my 555s and honestly I'd just keep using them but if it were me on the receiving end, I would get pissed at a roommate who used them late at night because they leak so god damn much, even at the lowest volumes you can hear them.

 

My price range is preferably 300 or less but I can stretch if it's really worth it. I don't have any amp or DAC but I could invest in them if what's needed isn't too expensive.

 

I just want good jazz sound.

post #4 of 15


Alright, well, to save you a few years of frustration: you will never re-create live-sound acoustics (especially with headphones).

 

Now that we've taken that off of the table, let's address what we can fix: leakage.

 

The biggest problem you'll run into in switching to a closed-back headphone is a smaller/worse headstage - you also tend to pay more for the sound quality (at least in my opinion). At around $300 there's not a lot that comes to mind that won't leak; the Denon may address the problem but they are an entirely different sound signature (they're very much a "v-curve" headphone with sucked out mids - not to the insane levels of some other v-curve headphones, but that's what they are). There's a Kenwood that costs a bit more (KH-K1000), isolates a bit better, has very good mids, but (I'm assuming you live outside of Japan) it's a special import item, so you're basically stuck with them for better or for worse (you can resell them at a loss, of course). I like the Kenwood over the Denon, but it isn't my top-pick as a headphone.

 

Beyerdynamic makes a few closed-back models, I've only heard one of them (the T70) - it wasn't bad but I don't consider it to justify the $500-$600 price-tag when contrasted to the Kenwood (the Kenwood are smoother and have more low-end presence, the T70 are somewhat more accurate). 

 

Going into the land of things-I've-never-heard-but-would-consider-if-I-was-in-your-shoes:

 

- The Beyerdynamic DT770 (which costs less than the T70, and looks to use the same housings (it has different drivers and I'm assured it sounds quite different)) should isolate fairly well (again, based on the T70). It will probably be a night-and-day difference from the HD 555 though. 

 

- The Audio-Technica ATH-A900 are supposed to be good for jazz and don't cost a whole bunch, but will probably not fit you if you have a tiny head. 

 

- The Sony MDR-CD900ST are supposed to be something exceptional in terms of tonal balance and detail retrieval. Some reviews have compared them to the AKG K701 or Denon AH-D7000. They are, like the Kenwood, a JDM product. The upside is, they cost a lot less. They're designed to be studio monitors.

 

If it was me, I'd probably try the A900s first - they're probably the cheapest option I've mentioned and you can buy them from places like Amazon.com and HeadRoom (which let you return items if you're unhappy); if you hate them for whatever reason, then look at something else. If you decide on the Beyerdynamic models, and don't intend to purchase an amplifier, look for the 32ohm variants (for the T70, that's the T70p; for the DT770 you just want the one that says 32 ohm). The Audio-Technica and Kenwood (And there is speculation that the Kenwood are actually a re-branded Audio-Technica, but I've never heard a general consensous on which model; the ATH-A950LTD, A900LTD, and A900 Ti are usually the top picks) are both 40 ohm models, the Sony is something like 60 ohms but should still drive from anything (don't take this to mean impedance determines all - look at efficiency as well (and you'll find that everything here is silly efficient). If you're going to buy an amplifier, the Fiio E9 is a good choice if you have wall power available and intend the thing to be set-up at a desk. If your computer/whatever sucks at producing sounds, there are USB external solutions, and PCI/PCIe internal solutions, that would be equally suitable. An example would be the Asus Xonar DG (internal) and the Fiio E7 (external).

Quote:
Originally Posted by compoopers View Post

Thank you for the reply. I will try to get studying.

 

Mainly what I am looking for is something that can accurately represent what the band sounds like as if it was like it was happening again. I want accuracy but I also of course want it to sound good (before I get in over myself with tedium). To give reference I have been using the HD 555s and have had no problems or qualms with the sound. I recall reading that HD555s are well balanced, warm headphones, but I'm not sure.

 

The reason I am looking to upgrade in the first place is because I need less leakage. I love my 555s and honestly I'd just keep using them but if it were me on the receiving end, I would get pissed at a roommate who used them late at night because they leak so god damn much, even at the lowest volumes you can hear them.

 

My price range is preferably 300 or less but I can stretch if it's really worth it. I don't have any amp or DAC but I could invest in them if what's needed isn't too expensive.

 

I just want good jazz sound.



 


Edited by obobskivich - 2/9/12 at 7:58pm
post #5 of 15

Heya,

 

The D2000 is fantastic for classical and jazz. Especially some newer jazz with a lot of the fun, fusion stuff. And also a lot of orchestral music is really intense on the low end and the Denon really does well there. I happen to enjoy both genres on my Denons. Great sound stage, very comfortable, and the sound leaks out a little, but it's more that than the opposite (not as much leaks in). They're not strictly isolated, but they're quieter than open-air headphones when you're wearing them.

 

If you want some alternatives, check out the AudioTechnica A900X. I would put you on that headphone based on your wants and description without hesitation. Then there's also the AKG K272HD and AKG K550. Also take a peak at the Shure SRH940. The Beyer DT770 would also be worth a look (the premium version, not PRO).

 

Very best,

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, thank you for the excellent, interesting input.

 

I'll keep looking for opinions. It's so hard because I think everyone is looking for different things, so when you read one happy customer vs one unsatisfied customer review it's polarizing. I am a trumpet player and pianist so by nature I love jazz and everything about it and all I want to do is to get as great of a jazz sound as I can.

 

I think I'm definitely still considering the D2000 as my top choice as of now, but I'll keep an open mind. 

 

Plus maybe it would be fun to get something that benefits from an AMP/DAC. I have no knowledge of those at all but they seem like fun to mess around with.

 

And so my audiophile career begins...?


Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post


Alright, well, to save you a few years of frustration: you will never re-create live-sound acoustics (especially with headphones).

*sigh* I suppose I needed to hear this sooner rather than later!


Edited by compoopers - 2/9/12 at 9:01pm
post #7 of 15


An amplifier or DAC will probably do very little for you, but it depends on what you're starting with. What do you plug the 555s into? 

 

The Denon are not a bad headphone (and will probably represent some improvements over the 555), and if you keep an eye out you should be able to snag them for less than SRP (which is $350). Treat them gently, and they should last forever. If you intend to be more active with them, I'd look elsewhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by compoopers View Post

Hey guys, thank you for the excellent, interesting input.

 

I'll keep looking for opinions. It's so hard because I think everyone is looking for different things, so when you read one happy customer vs one unsatisfied customer review it's polarizing. I am a trumpet player and pianist so by nature I love jazz and everything about it and all I want to do is to get as great of a jazz sound as I can.

 

I think I'm definitely still considering the D2000 as my top choice as of now, but I'll keep an open mind. 

 

Plus maybe it would be fun to get something that benefits from an AMP/DAC. I have no knowledge of those at all but they seem like fun to mess around with.

 

And so my audiophile career begins...?

*sigh* I suppose I needed to hear this sooner rather than later!



 

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Currently I plug my 555s straight into my headphone jack (I don't use it for portable use) with no DAC or amp. I guess that means it goes to the onboard sound card which is probably cruddy.

 

I definitely will not purchase the AH-D2000s for over 300 dollars. I've seen them once or twice for 250, and very often for 275, so I'll probably get it when I see them at that price or lower

post #9 of 15


It isn't explicitly "cruddy" - if there's no buzzing/humming/whining noise coming through on the 555s, it's probably fine. DACs and amplifiers tend to be fairly transparent when run in-spec. The D2000s are not a hard headphone to drive. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by compoopers View Post

Currently I plug my 555s straight into my headphone jack (I don't use it for portable use) with no DAC or amp. I guess that means it goes to the onboard sound card which is probably cruddy.

 

I definitely will not purchase the AH-D2000s for over 300 dollars. I've seen them once or twice for 250, and very often for 275, so I'll probably get it when I see them at that price or lower



 

post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 

I see. So are you saying that although amps and dacs are useful for certain headphones because of the way those headphones are designed, not all headphones (like my 555s or the d2000s) would benefit as much from it?

post #11 of 15


Not quite. I'm saying that if a given DAC or amplifier is properly suited to whatever it's intended to drive, it will be equal to any other properly suited device. So that means there's a huge list of potential candidates that will work with your headphones or whatever else (a DAC normally drives an amplifier or some other sort of line-stage). Determining if the device is properly suited is generally not all that complicated. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by compoopers View Post

I see. So are you saying that although amps and dacs are useful for certain headphones because of the way those headphones are designed, not all headphones (like my 555s or the d2000s) would benefit as much from it?



 

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Ohhh. So correct me if I'm interpreting you wrong, but since the D2000s are not hard to drive, a wider range of DAC/AMP combos would work with it than something that is harder to drive, which would need more special hardware?

 

This is all so exciting. There's one good thing about not knowing a lot; there is a lot to learn.

post #13 of 15


Yes and no. Something like the HE-6 will have less conventional amplifier options available, simply because it demands so much power, but any DAC will still work. There should be no issues regarding "amp and dac pairing" - the DAC should give you line level that the amplifier should take. If one is too hot or sensitive, that's silly. The D2000 will plug into more or less anything with a headphone jack and work, and probably 90% of those devices will be suitable. I'd also caution you to evaluate claims of something being "hard to drive" to at least some extent; headphones that a few years ago were regarded as "very hard to drive" (like the K701) are now no longer regarded as such (in light of something like the aforementioned HE-6). 

 

Here's the InnerFidelity measurements for the three mentioned:

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/AKGK701.pdf

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/HiFiMANHE6.pdf

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/DenonAHD2000.pdf

 

What we're interested in is how much power (and what kind of impedance) the headphone demands to reach a given SPL. Less power creating a higher SPL means more sensitive, which means we need less robust amplification. In the case of the D2000, you're talking about a fraction of a milliwatt to reach a fairly high output level (90 dB is louder than you'd want to be exposed to for any serious length of time) - compared to the HE-6 which requires substantially more power to get to the same SPL. This doesn't inform a thing about sound quality, just how much power is needed to "get you there." Something like the Fiio E9 (which I mentioned earlier) will drive most any dynamic headphone on the market; technically it should drive the HE-6 but I'm skeptical (especially when the manufacturer of the HE-6 sells an amplifier that does 5W/ch as a companion product). The K701 sits somewhere in the middle of all of this; it needs more power than the Denon, but still comparatively very little power. 

 

We can also look at impedance and how that influences FR, here's a great basic example:

http://www.afrotechmods.com/reallycheap/soundcard/sennheiser.htm

 

Before you get too happy about adding series resistance to address the above problem, that can impact FR as well:

http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm#resistancehigh

 

A dedicated headphone amplifier will more or less sidestep these problems, assuming it's done right (as it will present a relatively high impedance load to whatever is driving it, and a relatively low output impedance with a decent amount of power behind it to whatever it's driving). Many devices fit into this category. More money gets you more precision, but there's a point where more precision may cease to matter (and this is both in relative and (eventually) absolute terms (and that "eventually" doesn't have to be at some insane price point)). 

Quote:
Originally Posted by compoopers View Post

Ohhh. So correct me if I'm interpreting you wrong, but since the D2000s are not hard to drive, a wider range of DAC/AMP combos would work with it than something that is harder to drive, which would need more special hardware?

 

This is all so exciting. There's one good thing about not knowing a lot; there is a lot to learn.



 

post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 

Wow, I see I see. Interesting information.

 

I actually have heard of the E7 and E9 before, but I was a bit confused as to their functions. It appears that the E9 has a "dock" for the E7. What is that for, what does it do?The E9 is an amp, and the E7 appears to be both a DAC and an amp... how come they couldn't fit a DAC into the fatter E9 but they could into the E7? Seems like they're ripping me off and forcing me to buy both...

post #15 of 15


No, no "ripping off" going on here - the E7 is designed to be a portable amplifier and audio controller, the E9 is a more robust amplifier designed for desktop use. You do not need both. I use the E9 by itself, it works just fine. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by compoopers View Post

Wow, I see I see. Interesting information.

 

I actually have heard of the E7 and E9 before, but I was a bit confused as to their functions. It appears that the E9 has a "dock" for the E7. What is that for, what does it do?The E9 is an amp, and the E7 appears to be both a DAC and an amp... how come they couldn't fit a DAC into the fatter E9 but they could into the E7? Seems like they're ripping me off and forcing me to buy both...



 

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