First off, I'd like to say that working with rock stars must be rubbing off on Jeanette Coffey from UE, because she is herself a rock star. She's friendly, helpful and communicative... and I'm not just saying that because I won the UERMs in the raffle at the Bay Area meet six months ago. (In fact, UE as a whole were very easy and friendly to work with.) That said, now that I've had a good amount of time to spend with the UERMs, I'll have to pitch in my thoughts that I love everything about them. The fit, isolation and neutral sound to them are everything I could hope to have out of custom earphones.
So, naturally, my first destination at the LA meet was to say hi to Jeanette. I didn't play with the UEPRMs, but I did do some listening to the UE-11 and UE-18. I imagine the extra bass to the UE-11 would be welcome on my daily Bart rides, but I found it to be too bass heavy for my tastes in general. The UE-18 was another story. I *love* the sound from them. Very detailed and full. Also very cool of UE to once again offer a 30% discount and free impressions. If not for my little ones (day care/preschool is expensive), I'd have more money to blow on this stuff. Hopefully UE will continue this practice 'til when my finances free up again.
Between my HD650 (as full-sized open cans) and the UERM (for in-ears), I feel free well settled in those camps. I still feel like my full-sized closed headphones and my amplification are lacking. That said, my primary goals from this meet remained similar to the goals from the SF Bay Area meet: 1) see if there are full sized headphones that I love more than the HD650, 2) check out amplification for said HD650 and 3) check out full sized closed headphones.
Due to aforementioned budget contraints, I've had my eye on the Schiit stuff for a while. I'm bummed they didn't know they had a second table, so they only brought the Lyr+Bifrost. I've had my eye on the Valhalla since hearing it at the Bay Area meetup. Now with the mods that allow tube rolling (and moreso that Jason says that it sounds even better), it's even more tempting to go that route for my HD650. Buying an Asgard to go with it for the other headphones I own is also getting tempting, per my discussions with Jason and Rena (who were both great to discuss with and get ideas from). The Lyr did sound really good, but it might not be the best match for what I'm looking for in particular.
I did spend some time with Donald North listening to the his Stratus and Sonett amps. A bit beyond my price range at the moment, but we did listen to the Beck "Sea Change" and Santana "Abraxas" MoFi CDs through them with my HD650 and with a few cans he had with him. The sound and detail was amazing... he's doing some really good stuff. The more expensive Status was the clear winner between the two for the HD650, but the Sonett was no slouch. In addition, I plugged my UERMs into the Sonnet, which also sounded phenomenal. As an added bonus, I learned that the Beyer 770 80Ohm is a very good headphone (one of the ones he had on his table).
Did some playing around with tubes with CEE TEE. We started with his setup for his HD800 with the Super 7 and started changing tubes to play with the sound to brighten things up and add details to the HD650. I'd call it a success.
I have the Denon AH-D2000, which I like (but don't love). Had a listen to the new Denon AH-D7100, which I found too bassy sounding (wasn't impressed) and the Fostex TH-900. The Fostex was pretty much a perfect version of the AH-D2000. They still had the really comfy fit, and the sound was great. They pretty much fixed everything I don't like about the AH-D2000.
Meanwhile, I had a listen to the Fostex T50-RP, which quite frankly sucked. Then I listened to a pair modded by LFF with HM5 pads, and *WOW*. A world of difference. The modded T50-RP sounded fanstastic and were very comfortable.
So, to sum things up on the closed headphone side, I found that I liked the DT770 80 Ohm (~$200), the modded Fostex T50-RP (parts plus ~$350) and the Fostex TH-900 (~$2k). I'll be pondering things and considering one of the first two in the not-too-distant future (as $2k is a little out of my range at the moment).
Now on to open headphones, and I'll keep it brief. I did not find another pair of headphones that I clearly liked more than the HD650... and certainly not for the price. For my tastes, only the LCD-2 and LCD-3 seemed to slightly best the sound of my HD650, but at many times the price and with less comfort. The sound signatures of the Audeze cans were very similar to the HD650, so I still feel that the HD650 is the headphone to get... especially if you can get 'em for $350 new, like I did.
I did listen some to the Hifiman HE-400, which sounded quite different. And while there were some aspects of the HE-400 that I liked a lot, I'd still choose the HD650 over them. The HE-400's bass was very smooth and impactful, but it felt like the drums got buried. The HD650's felt active and lively in comparison.
One more aside is that I saw someone strolling around with the Audio Technica ATH-M50 around his neck. I recently picked them up and found them somewhat uncomfortable until I put the pads from the Shure SRH-840 on them. Not only does it make the ATH-M50 way more comfortable, but also more comfortable than the SRH-840. The guy tried them on and basically said that he felt that he didn't have to replace the ATH-M50 anymore... just add more headphones to complement them. That felt pretty good.