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Please, don't tell me which one, tell my how and why! (Full-size and IEM)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

It’s official, I am going crazy now. I have been reading night and day Head-Fi threads for the past two weeks and I am now on the verge of the asylum.


First, please, don’t make this thread another brand or model recommendation. There is too much of this and it is part of the problem. I am looking for advice in how to make my own choice, not what should be my choice. I know, the simple and only true answer is to listen to them and make my own opinion. Well, I am kinda isolate and if I am willing to buy two or three of them only to finally keep only one, I need at least to pin point these finalists.


Music taste: Everything, and I really mean everything. Of course, probably 80% of my listening converges to 20% of my collection (Jazz, pop and classical). But I also appreciate good rock, ethnical, gospel, heavy metal, electro, lounge, drum&bass, even Christmas music.


Source: Mostly CD, FLAC and MP3 320, on an excellent belt driven CEC TL51XR, excellent Vector amplifier and… a Galaxy S Phone on the road (ok, this is minimal, at least is has a [EDIT] Wolfson DAC). No dedicated headphone amp yet.


Background: Lots of live listenings (from crappy jazz bar to concert hall and everything in between), and also a certain amount of live playing in small gig (jazz band, orchestra, pop band and musical comedy, at the bass, the guitar, the piano or the drum). In a nutshell I know how a violin, a Les Paul or a hi-hat should sound… on stage and in the public.


Experience with earphone: None


Here is my problem. When I am at a live concert or show or gig, I either listen to the whole music, sinking its harmony, its melody, its rhythm OR I am focusing on only one musician, listening to what she or he does and how she or he does it. Our listening processing allows us to do this. I can choose to listen to the whole scene, or put one section in my face. A marvelous brain we have.


In conventional HiFi speaker room system, I know that some good settings allow this focus/un-focus process easily. You can choose between an analytical mood and a fun/musical mood. And the really good ones (I had the chance to listen to 50k to 100K systems) , tend to draw us back to the magic of the music naturally. Focussing to a musician or the technicality of the HiFi system is certainly easy and clear, but demand an effort of concentration since the appeal of the music is very strong. When it is very hard to analyse a system since we forget about the analysis along the way. But again, you can focus on one musician since it is so easy to discriminate and the air, the tone and the micro signals are all there.


As much as I like an analytical listening, I dislike a system that only offers this and can’t immerse you in the pleasure of the music. Also, I don’t like a spectacular system (well, maybe for the first 15 minutes), I like a true system where the tone of the instruments is true. Stadium soundstage, no. Air between instrument, yes… but not if it looks artificial.


I know my way in speaker room system. I am lost in earphone. All the review seems one way or the other. V shaped response curve, inverted V shape (where you both have something too much in your face) or flat (dull). Is my quest an utopia? Does a fun fast flat earphone exist? Is it possible to recreate this with earphone? Then is my quest an utopia for say a maximum of 250$ (amp less, just to taste the water and see if earphone is for me.. before I invest more in this)?  Also, should I go for the convenience of an IEM or for the $, a full headphone will give me more?


I have read lots of recommendation up until now but it seems like I won’t find my way until I have listen to 5 or 10 of them. I now hope you will cut this to two or three. Not by naming them remember?! By educating me with the proper vocabulary and the way it applies to my quest.


Mission impossible? Thanks everyone!

Edited by girlystephanie - 2/15/12 at 1:02pm
post #2 of 6


Two words.


Jerry Harvey.



post #3 of 6

As for full-sizers, I think a great choice would be the Fischer Audio FA-003. I lust after the same thing you're speaking of and have an extensive collection of live recordings (over 1000 CDs), and under $300 I have not yet beat them. The soundstage is perfect, especially for coffeehouse close-in recordings, and allows the soul of the music to still flow whether you want to hear the synergy or the singer alone. As for sound signature, the FA-003 has a flat sound signature, but it's not overly analytical. It colors the music rather pleasingly, giving life to it without over-accentuating anything. Feed it Michael Hedges or the Dave Matthews Band, and it'll make love to guitar. Give it Patricia barber, and the jazz bass will astound you.


I've experienced many TOTL headphone rigs, and the whole analytical thing ruins live recordings for me. Under $300, I find the FA-003 the best bet for an emotionally-involved yet still accurate experience.


Good luck on your quest, good patron of music.



post #4 of 6
Originally Posted by Gwarmi View Post


Two words.


Jerry Harvey.




That does not meet the $250 requirement.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the clarification purrin. Please note that I have increased my budget to 1.2k since this post. But this should include an amp and a dac.


I didn't bought anything yet. I am in an ex-path and it is impossible to do some listening session. I have been corresponding with a few headfiers that gave me very valuable knowledge. Please feel free if you want to chip in.

post #6 of 6

So I'm still a little confused, do you want a full sized can or an IEM or both?

But basically what you've described is that you wish for something that's musical and with a wide soundstage and clarity.

The musical aspect could be something with a mild mid bass hump which gives the music that little bit more of a beat and makes you enjoy it better.

The wide soundstage is how well the instruments separate and (in some sense) can make it easier to analyse the music and composition.

Clarity, well it's self explanatory


As to recommendations, it really depends what kind of Jazz, I listen to stuff like Chris Botti and Peter White (trumpet) I find that the HD650 does pop and my kind of Jazz quite well but it lacks the high end frequency sparkle of say the AD900 or K701 for strings or piano. If you're into club jazz with the prominent double bass low then try the denons (the only one i've tried, the D600 i didn't find it to my liking).


To summarise, HD650 for jazz (trumpet) and pop, AD900 or K701 for classical. I cannot think of anything which would match all 3. Of course you will need to add in an amp for any of these recommendations.


Experience is the only real way to know what the headphones sound like.


for IEM equivalent Westone 4 or Earsonics SM3 or Heir 4i would match the HD650 closely and Shure 535 for the K701


hope it helps

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