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Which Summit-Fi Headphone For Me?

post #1 of 178
Thread Starter 

Hello Summit-Fi'ers.  This is my first venture into the "back room" of Head-Fi, many of you already know me and my opinions and tastes, some of your probably don't. 

 

I'm contemplating wading into one piece of summit-fi kit and wanted to get a bit of advice on what direction to go in that realm.  For those not familiar with my setup, I'm a huge fan of HD650, currently running with a Silver Dragon cable, and of HE-400, just upgraded to Blue Dragon cable.

 

Those two compete for 90% of my head-time.  And I do not want my summit kit to replace them, only to compliment them as sort of a "Sunday drive" kind of special treat.   I also have D5000 for my electronic music and for when I need a semi-closed can for a little more isolation, and I suspect D5k will remain my dedicated electronic music can no matter what I get for summit.  I'm a fan of my K702, but I find I listen to them less and less.  Yet I get surprised by them when I give them a spin.  I used them for the Cheskey binaural CD and was very impressed by them.  Yet I somehow still keep them at the bottom of the heap for some reason.

 

My primary music is jazz, classical, and world.  Electronic is for the Denons, and any other genres are a small percentage (bluegrass, pop, rock)  For world, I almost always pick HD650.  For Jazz I pick HD650 about 50% of the time, HE-400 50%.  For classical, contrary to most audiophiles that think that bright, over-emphasized treble sounds good for classical, I almost universally pick HE-400 for that genre.  The dark weighty tone sounds far more like a concert hall than any bright tinkly "airy" headphone that to me, like K702" sounds more like the conductors podium than a seat in the hall. 

 

My "end game" or mostly end-game source is a Squeezebox Touch feeding a Schiit Bifrost feeding a Schiit Lyr (with various tube choices) and also feeding an O2 for the Denons.  Yes, I'm well aware that is not a summit-fi source chain, and many summit-fier's will say that it's unworthy to feed headphones of that class with amps of that class.  However I'm also aware that most summit-fier's will say the headphone is more important than the source....so I'll start there.  I have an interest in Schiit's statement gear next year, but it depends on what it does as to whether I consider Lyr & O2 "endgame" or not.  I have a nice tube collection growing for Lyr so I'm not hugely interested in changing it out.  It's a nice little amp.

 

I'm fairly treble sensitive and K702 can fatigue me too easily.  So can D5k at times on the wrong albums.  For that reason I've mostly ruled out T1 and HD800, though part of me still wants to be talked into HD800.  Thin and nasal classical can be detailed but doesn't sound realistic to me.  Thus why HE-400 tends to win out over HD650 and K702 for classical for me.  I swear most audiophiles have never been to a live orchestra given the choices many suggest for classical!

 

So between LCD-2, HD800, (I'm unsure of T1, I hate hardwired cables from a durability perspective), LCD-3, Signature Pro....there's quite a bit of choice to make.   I've MOSTLY ruled out TH900, but I won't discount it.  I know it's very good, but I can't help but see it as a really expensive Denon Dx000, with that v-shaped curve and the same ergonomics and construction.  I'm not sure I want my summit-fi piece to be an overgrown Denon "v".  LCD-2 vs LCD-3....they seem so similar, but they seem slightly differently voiced in addition to whatever detail/speed improvements it has.  Those of you who have owned both...what would you consider the principal differences between them?

 

I wouldn't rule out LCD-2 + HD800....it's  possible to get both for the same price as a new LCD-3 if going used...maybe that would be a good route to go...  Or maybe LCD-2 is really all I'm looking for. 

 

So summit-fiers, help out head-fi-er looking for a taste of the elite! What would you suggest?

post #2 of 178
Koss ESP/950 - it'll do everything the 650 and 702 can do, only better, and all at once. It'll beat the Denons for extension, but perhaps not overall bass impact. Absolutely delicious with the music you're describing as well (although for true acoustic sets, I like my Grados better, but that's me). And they come with their own amp, and are pretty much a complete package. No need to spend thousands when the best costs less.
post #3 of 178
+1 for jumping into stats. From what you're describing it sounds like the SR-007 MK1 might be the perfect fit.
post #4 of 178
I really think you should go and audition if you have the opportunity to do so. Is there anyone in your local area you can visit?

You being you, I'd say steer well clear of the HD800 and the T1. The Audeze options might tickle your fancy. They are dark. You adore the HD650. Although you could go for the 007s...
post #5 of 178
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

Koss ESP/950 - it'll do everything the 650 and 702 can do, only better, and all at once. It'll beat the Denons for extension, but perhaps not overall bass impact. Absolutely delicious with the music you're describing as well (although for true acoustic sets, I like my Grados better, but that's me). And they come with their own amp, and are pretty much a complete package. No need to spend thousands when the best costs less.

 

Hey obobskivich, I intended to mention in my initial post and forgot:  First person that says stats gets smacked! :)

 

Actually the ESP/950 does intrigue me, and I haven't entirely ruled it out, it's something I've looked at before, but there's a few issues that keep me from swinging too heavily in that direction.  One is actually this comment from you about them that you've given the same advice to someone else.  I specifically don't want my "summit" can to replace my other cans but work in conjunction with them.   But that's a minor one, your advice is also intriguing.

 

The second is, as a big tube amp fan, the inherently SS-nature of stats (until you get into crazy expensive amps that I don't intend to buy) I think I would miss the joy of rolling tubes around and trying out different sounds.  And on my best headphone I'd hate to miss out on one of the big joys of the hobby. 

 

The third is, logistically it's a mess.  I already have two amps (Lyr, O2) running on a y-cable from the Bifrost.  Adding a THIRD amp for stats would be kind of a mess all the way around.  I'd have to tap a Y off one end of the Y and that would not be cool.   Additionally, if at any point I change primary amps, it's a change that all my headphones benefit from.  If I go the stat route, my best headphone will miss out on most source changes, and my upgrades for my other cans won't improve my best amp.  I think stats versus standard is sort of a "fork in the road" decision when you begin the hobby, and once you start investing on one side, you have to kind of commit to a changeover to go to the other.  Since I'm not interested in selling the gear I already have and like, it seems a bit silly to not continue with the same stack of gear and different cans rather than jumping to a seperate system all together.   It's like having a pile of Nikon lenses and a D50, then when you want to jump to the high end you buy a Canon 1D body.

 

I'm still intrigued by them and haven't ruled them out entirely.  But they have a feeling of struggle and impracticality for my setup. 

 

If I DO lean in that direction though, do they have a reputation for durabilty and reliability?  I COULD see maybe pairing them with LCD-2 to get two flavors for less than the price of LCD-3 or TH900.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by anetode View Post

+1 for jumping into stats. From what you're describing it sounds like the SR-007 MK1 might be the perfect fit.

 

At $2600 + a stat amp that seems like a remarkably severe stretch of the budget from the $1-2k range.  I've looked at the 507, but that's quite a bit below and I'm still not sure I want to go the Stax route.  I have no doubt it's a nice headphone, but for the kind of money it costs to get into that, I'm not interested.  Stax is pretty much off the table, along with Orpheus :)

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MomijiTMO View Post

I really think you should go and audition if you have the opportunity to do so. Is there anyone in your local area you can visit?
You being you, I'd say steer well clear of the HD800 and the T1. The Audeze options might tickle your fancy. They are dark. You adore the HD650. Although you could go for the 007s...

 

+1 on auditioning, always.  Unfortunately other than meets there's rarely a chance to try EVERYTHING that I have an interest in.  And I suspect I would like EVERYTHING in one way or another.  I've been at the audio hobby long enough to know I like EVERYTHING during an audition, I only learn to despise them after owning them a few months evil_smiley.gif

 

You're right, avoiding HD800 and T1 is pretty much what I'd planned to do from the beginning, but it's hard to not still be interested in them, particularly HD800.  Purrin's results for T1 were not highly encouraging.  The near-universal respect for HD800 even by those who wouldn't want to listen to them keeps them intriguing, as does the comfort.

 

Audeze is definitely on the radar.  It may be winning the round.  Though I haven't decided WHICH Audeze or which to pair it with, and certainly wanted to give a serious consideration to the competition.

post #6 of 178
The 950s, at least mine, are champs - I don't even worry about "down the road" - that's what the Lifetime Warranty is for. Some people have complained about squeeling or "popping" noises with the pads, but reseating them or giving the cups a light tap seems to solve it, and the pads are only $5 to replace.

Regarding tubes - tube buffer might be an option, I've thought about doing it with the 950s a time or two. And if you go with a STAX amp you can use it's passthrough, or go with the WEE + CEC dynamic amp (which has XLR balanced + speaker taps) and run everything from one set-up. More money, I know, and nothing I've ever tried (my dynamics don't need dedicated amplification), but worth thinking about. I think, based on what you've said about the 650s, the 950s are a good upgrade. As far as "I don't want it to replace" - you can't have better and retain something thats markedly inferior imho, "better and different" sure (e.g. I still have my MDR-F1, and they're technically outclassed by the other two, but they're also one-of-a-kind). I tried keeping the 580 and the 950 together, and after a while I felt the 580 was just a poor-mans 950, and ended up selling them; they saw no use. I don't know, maybe you'll like them side by side, but I don't forsee it.
post #7 of 178
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

The 950s, at least mine, are champs - I don't even worry about "down the road" - that's what the Lifetime Warranty is for. Some people have complained about squeeling or "popping" noises with the pads, but reseating them or giving the cups a light tap seems to solve it, and the pads are only $5 to replace.
Regarding tubes - tube buffer might be an option, I've thought about doing it with the 950s a time or two. And if you go with a STAX amp you can use it's passthrough, or go with the WEE + CEC dynamic amp (which has XLR balanced + speaker taps) and run everything from one set-up. More money, I know, and nothing I've ever tried (my dynamics don't need dedicated amplification), but worth thinking about. I think, based on what you've said about the 650s, the 950s are a good upgrade. As far as "I don't want it to replace" - you can't have better and retain something thats markedly inferior imho, "better and different" sure (e.g. I still have my MDR-F1, and they're technically outclassed by the other two, but they're also one-of-a-kind). I tried keeping the 580 and the 950 together, and after a while I felt the 580 was just a poor-mans 950, and ended up selling them; they saw no use. I don't know, maybe you'll like them side by side, but I don't forsee it.

 

HE-400 has pad popping or creaking....drives me positively crazy! 

 

I still haven't ruled them out, but I'm still probably looking away from that direction.  I have a source chain that I'm pretty happy with and while I COULD choose to upgrade it later, keeping conventional dynamic driven (ortho/dynamic) for everything lets that upgrade be an upgrade for everything.  And "different and better" may still be a better route.  I'm decidedly not looking to replace the 650s and 400's.  I like their distinctive sounds as they are. I'm looking to add to my options, not replace existing ones.

 

WEE+CEC starts getting into avenues I'm not interested in going.  I's a great suggestion!  And I haven't ruled out the Koss just yet (I HAVE however ruled out Stax and the need to reinvent the whole signal chain.)  But I'm still leaning away from it.  Plus none of my preferred dealers I like to support sell the Koss which is another down-side. But it's still teetering on the decision table.

post #8 of 178
It's not really creaking - the pads are perforated (Koss is one of two manufacturers (Ultrasone is the other) who does this with leather/pleather pads, and it can make some "rustling" noise if they shift on your head - apparently if you tear up the pads they make horrible noises, but unlike Ultrasone, they're cheap to replace). Hard to explain honestly - the 950s are the only headphones I've worn that do it. Buying the Koss is possible both from the manufacturer direct, or Amazon - I haven't seen them elsewhere. redface.gif

Based on what you've said, I'll refer you to my other "end-game" answer: the Grado RS-1 (or GS-1000 if you prefer). They will absolutely compliment the HD 650 (as they complement the 950; they're basically polar opposites), and will work with your dynamic drive chain (not that they need it, but they'll certainly take it). Very musical, very fun, very alive, and very distinct. Better but not "improvement" better, if that makes sense. And don't worry about the treble - it isn't harsh or clashy like modern "audiophile" cans that set out to put ten-penny nails through your eardrums to make sure you "get it."
post #9 of 178
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

It's not really creaking - the pads are perforated (Koss is one of two manufacturers (Ultrasone is the other) who does this with leather/pleather pads, and it can make some "rustling" noise if they shift on your head - apparently if you tear up the pads they make horrible noises, but unlike Ultrasone, they're cheap to replace). Hard to explain honestly - the 950s are the only headphones I've worn that do it. Buying the Koss is possible both from the manufacturer direct, or Amazon - I haven't seen them elsewhere. redface.gif
Based on what you've said, I'll refer you to my other "end-game" answer: the Grado RS-1 (or GS-1000 if you prefer). They will absolutely compliment the HD 650 (as they complement the 950; they're basically polar opposites), and will work with your dynamic drive chain (not that they need it, but they'll certainly take it). Very musical, very fun, very alive, and very distinct. Better but not "improvement" better, if that makes sense. And don't worry about the treble - it isn't harsh or clashy like modern "audiophile" cans that set out to put ten-penny nails through your eardrums to make sure you "get it."

Weird about the pads.  Part of me loves the idea of stats, and part of me still knows it's going to drive me nuts.  That's one reason I was unsure of TH900 too...I couldn't use it with my Lyr and use my tubes on them.  D5k picks up noise like crazy (though there's a few folks that don't have this issue...they're the exception, even Schiit says it's a no-go for Denon.)

 

Grado?  You're not the first person to recommend me the GS-1000.  While I'm not a fan of a "fun" sound for my top of the line and certainly not GRADO sound....I'm still intrigued.  Yet I can't help but think of it in the context of every Grado I've heard with the nails in the ear and can't quite get myself to like that.  If I wanted to suffer I'd buy HD700 wink_face.gif  Yet if you are recommending it, I'm  intrigued.   On the other hand, there's the comfort issue.  I HATE Grado pads.  They crush the ear lobe like none other. I'll keep it in the list for consideration though if you think they'd be ok without noise (like Denon) on Lyr.  I suspect even if I do get a statement amp of some sort I'll still love that little Lyr. 

 

Regarding stats.  Is there an amp you'd recommend outside the Koss (Stax-land and beyond.)  I'd still almost consider a 507 Lambda.  Not 407, not a big enough step from HD650 in my opinion based on sphinxvc's comments.  Better, but not the direction I'm looking at. 

post #10 of 178
Which Grados have you heard?

And no, I'm not suggesting any amp beyond the E/90. I like the stock one. There was a 507/950 comparison in the 950 thread - I don't have a link. redface.gif
post #11 of 178

what is a good price for a esp950? i swear i saw it went down to 600 something bucks but now its 1000... thats on amazon btw. how much is the stax 507? stax website doesnt even list prices

post #12 of 178
Quote:
Originally Posted by reddragon View Post

what is a good price for a esp950? i swear i saw it went down to 600 something bucks but now its 1000... thats on amazon btw. how much is the stax 507? stax website doesnt even list prices

it can be found for 699 easily on the internet. The problem with it is the build quality that everyone is complaining about I know about the life time warranty but shipping from Aus to Us is not a good idea for me. But I think I might follow MomijiTMO man up and pull the trigger. Let come back to our beloved hd 650 for now IEMCRAZY

post #13 of 178
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post

Which Grados have you heard?
And no, I'm not suggesting any amp beyond the E/90. I like the stock one. There was a 507/950 comparison in the 950 thread - I don't have a link. redface.gif


SR80 and SR225.  The experience with "Grado House Sound" was enough to encourage me to not try any more biggrin.gif  Nor the HD700.  I was never a big Beyer fan either. 

 

What's the difference between RS-1 and GS1000 by the way?

 

E/90 for Koss.  I meant if I go 507 for Stax I'd need something else. I still don't think I'm going with Stax.  I'm just keeping the options open.

post #14 of 178

If you are seeking a "Sunday drive kind of special treat", then you should consider the Koss rig.

 

I love mine, it sounds excellent as is. No other fancy amp is needed.

The highs are not piercing like some Stax can be, great mids, and have adequate bass (for a stat).

FWIW, I like nails in my ears. Check out my avi.

I've always been a treble-head, Stax are still my favorites.

post #15 of 178
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by livewire View Post

If you are seeking a "Sunday drive kind of special treat", then you should consider the Koss rig.

 

I love mine, it sounds excellent as is. No other fancy amp is needed.

The highs are not piercing like some Stax can be, great mids, and have adequate bass (for a stat).

FWIW, I like nails in my ears. Check out my avi.

I've always been a treble-head, Stax are still my favorites.

Definitely looking for a "sunday drive special treat".  HD650 and HE-400 are more than I would ever need for my daily "sit down and listen to a CD straight through".  The high end one is the "something to really blow me away sometimes...to know what it sounds like at it's best" sort of thing.  Something as close to live as there can be...or better than live.

 

I'm definitely no treble head.  K702 is as treble-headed as I get.  I prefer more of a lifelike balance.  HD800 intrigues me as a semi-treble-headed can.  Stax....well stats are unusual to begin with.  They can make treble work, I do realize that, and it's a shame about their pricing. 

 

But Beyer...no so much...Grado (or the ones I've heard....not a chance.) HD700, not with those peaks.  biggrin.gif  My ears do fatigue with too much treble...K702 can be difficult to get through a full album, and they're not even very peaky.

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