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Seeking Advice on New Cans (DT880, Q701, 650s)

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Greetings All

 

I am looking for some input to help narrow my search for a new set of full size phones

 

My Parameters and Gear

  • I am looking to spend something under $500 and would prefer to land under $400 if possible
  • I listen to a wide variety of genres and sources
  • Genres include (in no particular order) pop, rock, classic rock, metal, 80s, big band, old standards, classical, opera, country and electronica (all in fairly equal ratios)
  • I particularly enjoy crystal clear vocals (think solo female) and a realistic stage (can't stand when it sounds like the singer is physically located in my head)
  • Sources include CD, single layer, SACD, vinyl, and lossless digital through the PC (I admit to owning a fair bit of VBR and some 320s as well)
  • This pair of headphones will be used far more often with my PC and digital recordings
  • With the PC I run an Asus Xonar STX (which is a surprisingly good card by the way) - out to a Schitt Audio Valhalla headphone amp

 

 

I bought a pair of Focal Spirit Ones sight unseen - based largely on my experience with their car audio separates (I used to compete nationally and love their gear).  Though they sound nice (I would say a bit bright for my taste - but overall a fairly neutral blend from one end of the range to the other, assuming you can get the pads over your ears), they are uncomfortable.

 

The trouble is that I have a big head (my wife has been calling me a fathead for years - I just always thought it was a figure of speech - but I digress).  In any event, they are uncomfortable - the pads are small for my ears, the band is tight for my head, and the sound is a bit bright and tiresome (some of the latter may well be because the seal is crap, given the fit, so the bass struggles to keep pace with the highs).  Don't get me wrong, I'm not dumping on the Focals.  My small headed friend ordered some as well and he absolutely loves them.  They just don't work for me.

 

One other big deal - my skin eats synthetic leather in a matter of a couple months.  So the pads have to be cloth of some kind.  I know - it sounds nasty but it's just something in my body chemistry that destroys most soft fake leather-like coverings (please tell me I'm not the only one with this issue).

 

In any event, I was thinking of Beyerdynamic dt880s, AKG q701s or maybe some Sennheiser 650s (if I can match cost to value - it's the upper limit of my range) but wanted to see if there were other suggestions or if anyone had any thoughts on the ones mentioned.  Any input is hugely appreciated.

post #2 of 18

I think the HD650 are the best choice from the above 3. They are good with all genres, is very comfortable/big, and I think meets your sonic preferences. Im pretty sure all three of these would meet your soundstage preference (just about every open headphone Ive used), all three have cloth/velour material on the ear pads. I think you will find the DT880 too bright. 

post #3 of 18

I would actually recommend the HE-400 if you are willing to explore beyond those 3 headphones. HE-400 is superior both in technicality and sound quality to all 3 of those headphones.

 

But if you have to stay within those 3, then I would second HD 650 based on your choice of music.

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 

First off - thanks for the input.  I have always been passionate about audio but I'm knew to these boards and I don't consider myself anything other than a tourist when it comes to headphones - so the feedback is very much appreciated.

 

Bill-P - I am not locked into any particular brand or model.  Actually, I'm quite open to pretty much anything.  My greatest hope here is to find some recommendations so I can go audition some live.  The big thing is trying to narrow the field so I can find a shop with the right assortment in stock so can try the ones I know I want to try all at the same time.

 

alv4426 - thanks for the overview.  I did not know that about the DT880s.  I was actually thinking from other threads that the AKGs might be the brightest of the three, so it's good to get some input on the 880s.

 

 

[EDIT] Just looked at the data on those HE-400s.  Quite interesting.  I had not come across them before.  I'm guessing I'll be pouring through some threads on here to learn more.  Don't think I've ever listened to anything in a headphone with planar tech.


Edited by rainmakr - 9/13/12 at 7:22pm
post #5 of 18

HE-400 are steal for their price and if you want to make sure you getting deep high quality for jazz or classical as well as fast tight punchy well controlled bass for other genres you should chose HE-400 over HD650

post #6 of 18

I understand the HE-400 is a good can, like many others, but lately I think people have been recommending it so often one can only be skeptical of fanboyism. Yes it's a planar magnetic that sells for a very cheap price. But planar magnetic cans are nothing new, and isn't always flat out better than dynamic driver cans. I never heard one, so I can't criticize of course. But I doubt the HE-400 has - for instance - a better soundstage performance  than many of the dynamic driver cans.

Edit: just saying that one should be careful with hype. The K701s and M50s were highly recommended back in the days but  now they are very high on the "headphones that you regret the most" poll. If you consider the K701 = K702, they were actually more regretted than even the HD595s. The NuForce Dac-2 was again another example, until Nwavguy pretty much destroyed its reputation. This isn't to say the He-400 will not live up to the expectation. 

 

But I digress. TC, the HD650 will be your top choice among those three. The main reason is that it has the most upfront vocals; the DT880 sounds recessed in comparison and the Q701 has a nice midrange but it sounds a bit thin, and skewed towards the upper mids (too bright). Of course the latter two also suffers from harsh treble, which even many fans of the cans will acknowledge. Owners of the cans get used to it over time, and I did as well, but I just could not stand how unnatural the treble made live recordings sound. But this is just my experience. 

 

To add my $0.02, I prefer the HD-598 however. It is not only more versatile with genres (the most diverse I've ever heard), but also more comfortable (lighter, less clamp, velour pads). The HD-598 isn't something that is exactly mind-blowing with one particular genre, but it manages to sound above average with everything, which is something that most cans can't say. But then again, I haven't heard the planar magnetic/ electrostatic headphones :) Maybe I will sell my $12k cello one day, and get myself a pair of SR-009. 

 

The soundstage is superior on the 598 and the HD598 is amazing with female vocals. I wish the male voices were just as upfront, but looking at the frequency graph, the HD-598 is pretty neutral in that region, so maybe I just want to hear it differently from the way it was recorded. Treble is present but not a dominant presentation of the spectrum; it manages to have energy without fatigue. Bass doesn't extend as well as I want it to, but in terms of quantity, it's a neutral amount. Actually it's a little less than what I want, but more than the Q701 and almost as much as the DT880. With the HD650, no comparison, but I prefer the faster leaner bass of the 598.

 

 But the problem is the Schitt Audio Valhalla would not be a good pairing with the HD-598, and is recommended you pair it with a low output impedance solid state amp. Does your Sonar STX come with one? I recommend you try them all out: HD598, HD650, and HE-400. Abuse the Amazon return policy. 


Edited by Lord Voldemort - 9/13/12 at 9:51pm
post #7 of 18
 
 
 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lord Voldemort View Post

I understand the HE-400 is a good can, like many others, but lately I think people have been recommending it so often one can only be skeptical of fanboyism. Yes it's a planar magnetic that sells for a very cheap price. But planar magnetic cans are nothing new, and isn't always flat out better than dynamic driver cans. I never heard one, so I can't criticize of course. But I doubt the HE-400 has - for instance - a better soundstage performance  than many of the dynamic driver cans.

Edit: just saying that one should be careful with hype. The K701s and M50s were highly recommended back in the days but  now they are very high on the "headphones that you regret the most" poll. If you consider the K701 = K702, they were actually more regretted than even the HD595s. The NuForce Dac-2 was again another example, until Nwavguy pretty much destroyed its reputation. This isn't to say the He-400 will not live up to the expectation. 

 

But I digress. TC, the HD650 will be your top choice among those three. The main reason is that it has the most upfront vocals; the DT880 sounds recessed in comparison and the Q701 has a nice midrange but it sounds a bit thin, and skewed towards the upper mids (too bright). Of course the latter two also suffers from harsh treble, which even many fans of the cans will acknowledge. Owners of the cans get used to it over time, and I did as well, but I just could not stand how unnatural the treble made live recordings sound. But this is just my experience. 

 

To add my $0.02, I prefer the HD-598 however. It is not only more versatile with genres (the most diverse I've ever heard), but also more comfortable (lighter, less clamp, velour pads). The HD-598 isn't something that is exactly mind-blowing with one particular genre, but it manages to sound above average with everything, which is something that most cans can't say. But then again, I haven't heard the planar magnetic/ electrostatic headphones :) Maybe I will sell my $12k cello one day, and get myself a pair of SR-009. 

 

The soundstage is superior on the 598 and the HD598 is amazing with female vocals. I wish the male voices were just as upfront, but looking at the frequency graph, the HD-598 is pretty neutral in that region, so maybe I just want to hear it differently from the way it was recorded. Treble is present but not a dominant presentation of the spectrum; it manages to have energy without fatigue. Bass doesn't extend as well as I want it to, but in terms of quantity, it's a neutral amount. Actually it's a little less than what I want, but more than the Q701 and almost as much as the DT880. With the HD650, no comparison, but I prefer the faster leaner bass of the 598.

 

 But the problem is the Schitt Audio Valhalla would not be a good pairing with the HD-598, and is recommended you pair it with a low output impedance solid state amp. Does your Sonar STX come with one? I recommend you try them all out: HD598, HD650, and HE-400. Abuse the Amazon return policy. 


I currently own Xonar STX but no longer use it for music listening and still have my not sold HD650 but used them together for about 14 month and can tell you they are not good pairing as well as many others ( I heard many different combos so know what I'm talking about) but after I heard HE-400's deep sub-bass for just few minutes straight out of the box I no longer was able to come back to HD650 so they are for sale.

 
post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

Lord V - thanks for the thoughtful breakdown.  A lot to chew on there and some really helpful input on the 598s vs. 650s.  The Amazon comment made me laugh as well.  I do have to admit that I'm intrigued by the HE-400s the more I read about them.  I must say they look a bit like something I'd assemble in my own garage - but the same can be said for most of my hi end home gear (and funny enough I'm actually building some amazing paper mache horns in my workshop right now - my second set in fact - but I digress...)

 

olegausany - do you (or anyone else reading this) happen to have any experience with the HE-400s vs. the HE-4s?  I've just started looking for reviews comparing the two.  Also - are you running your audio from the Xonar to an external DAC and Amp or some other setup.  I've had the Xonar for a while now - recently added the Valhalla and thinking about going to an external DAC - but then what use is the Xonar at that point?  I can just use the digital out on the MOBO if I go that route.  Are you doing something different?

 

One other thing, I can pair with a different amp if needed.  I've got the Schitt - but I can sell some gear and get other audio S**t if necessary.  I just want to limit my spend on the headphones themselves if possible.

 

Thanks again


Edited by rainmakr - 9/13/12 at 11:01pm
post #9 of 18

I am relatively new to head-fi.  Had owned some ath-a700s for a few years.  I just wanted to give another thumbs up for the hd650s.  I was really blown away when I first threw them on.  Found that rock music really came to life.  Finally the middle I had been missing with all my other cans.  Even with the unfortunate underpowering my amp provides, I still find it hard to take them off.  They really make me want to listen to that next song.  I am also utterly intrigued by the HE400s.  It is deff on my to buy list along with the Q701.  Also they are really comfy, they do not exactly melt away to complete oblivion, but what big headphones do?  I believe all that you listed and have been suggested would be great. Best of luck on your decision. 

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by rainmakr View Post

Lord V - thanks for the thoughtful breakdown.  A lot to chew on there and some really helpful input on the 598s vs. 650s.  The Amazon comment made me laugh as well.  I do have to admit that I'm intrigued by the HE-400s the more I read about them.  I must say they look a bit like something I'd assemble in my own garage - but the same can be said for most of my hi end home gear (and funny enough I'm actually building some amazing paper mache horns in my workshop right now - my second set in fact - but I digress...)

 

olegausany - do you (or anyone else reading this) happen to have any experience with the HE-400s vs. the HE-4s?  I've just started looking for reviews comparing the two.  Also - are you running your audio from the Xonar to an external DAC and Amp or some other setup.  I've had the Xonar for a while now - recently added the Valhalla and thinking about going to an external DAC - but then what use is the Xonar at that point?  I can just use the digital out on the MOBO if I go that route.  Are you doing something different?

 

One other thing, I can pair with a different amp if needed.  I've got the Schitt - but I can sell some gear and get other audio S**t if necessary.  I just want to limit my spend on the headphones themselves if possible.

 

Thanks again

I'm intrigued by the HE-400 as well. Intrigued by most of the planar magnetic cans actually. But I think at a certain point, one must also consider getting a good pair of speakers rather than headphones. 

post #11 of 18

Having heard and own all of the above, in my humble opinion, I'd recommend the DT-880 for what you do.

The HD 650 is pretty laid back, they have more bass than the HD 600 but not as nicely extended as the DT-880. Furthermore, the HD 650 is slower than the DT 880 for rock and pop.

The DT-880 to my ears sound more natural and neutral. The HD 650 are more colored.

The DT-880 have more details and nice imagine, the HD 650 are a bit more transparent.

 

I would not recommend the HD650 for anything with fast pace, for anything else they are excellent.

 

The Q701 is another class of its own to my ears, not better than the other 2, just different. Nice sound stage, clear treble, excellent midrange, but amping is a bit tricky and the bass is seriously lacking compared to the DT-880 or HD 650.

 

The HD598 is another excellent cans all around, but it's a level below the 3 above.

 

Another suggestion from me is the HD-600, it stands in the middle of the DT-880 and HD 650.

 

I can't remember if the DT-880 pair well with a tube amp, they sound excellent with my schiit Asgard, which is the best amp for money you can get under $600

 

The best judge, however, is you. Amazon has an excellent return policy, and if you have Amazon prime, you can get them within 2 days. I concur with Lord Voldermort that you use try them all out.

You can look at the headphones in my collection, and trust me, the moment you put them on and hit play, whatever people say about them won't matter anymore.


Edited by Han Bao Quan - 9/14/12 at 1:11am
post #12 of 18

Weird... I actually find HD650 faster than DT880 for bass tracks. My DT880 600 Ohm has particularly slow bass.

 

Though you are right in that DT880 has more bass texture and extension. HD650 has more slam (impact), though.

 

Neither of them holds any candle to the HE-400 in my opinions. The HE-400 has bass that hits really hard and extends into infinity. Midrange is insanely accurate and detailed down to a fault. High frequencies are very sweet and fluid... revealing information without sibilance.

 

To those who are looking into the HE-400, I sincerely, HIGHLY recommend them, and not just because of fanboyism... (I don't even own a pair), but because of experience.

 

They sound literally like you have two full-size speakers attached to your head. Everything is as "speaker-like" as I can hear.


Edited by Bill-P - 9/14/12 at 1:51am
post #13 of 18

OP

 

I own DT880's (600ohm) , K701's, HD600s - I had to choose between the HD650 and HD600, so I have spent quite a bit of time with the 650 before deciding.  I haven't heard the HE-400 so can't comment on them.

 

My set-up is mainly PC to an Audio-gd NFB-12, and then on to a Little Dot MKIV.

 

I also listen to a fairly diverse range of genre - from classic and alternative rock, right through to classical and opera.  I have a special affinity to blues and jazz, and am particularly fond of female vocals.  Like you - I also have a reasonably sized 'noggin'.

 

My own impressions on the 3 you were looking at ......

 

DT880 is extremely comfortable, quite flat (mild U shape), very detailed - can sometime be a little dry - but responds well to tube warmth.  I really enjoy mine with the LD.

K701 (IMO) - expansive sound stage, very clear, quite flat, no mid-bass hump - so bass can seem a little light, really nice mid-range - especially with tubes.  Unfortunately the bumps on the headband can get uncomfortable after a couple of hours - necessitating frequent adjustment.

HD600 - excellent imaging and timbre, soundstage is not as deep or wide as K701, but to me is very accurate, has less 'apparent detail' then both K701 or DT880 - but the detail is there, it's just not as upfront.  Is probably the most natural sounding of the 3 - despite having more mid-bass.  I find them very comfortable - although at first I did find them very 'clampy'.  You can mitigate this by extending them fully then lightly bending the carbon extenders (not the actual headband!) - or just get used to it over time.

 

The reason I chose the HD600 over the HD650 was that they were more natural sounding, slightly quicker, and had a little more upper mids and high emphasis (not a lot - but enough to make a difference). I found the 650's were more laid-back, bassy, and coloured.  The 600s just rang truer to me (YMMV).

 

With your set-up and preferences, I would actually suggest the HD600 over the HD650 - they are a great all-rounder, and should suit all of your genre choices.  I'm pretty sure the Valhalla was originally voiced with the Senns in mind anyway - you could check with Jason.  Funnily enough they recommend on their site that the Valhalla pairs better with the Sennns and Beyers - not so much with Planars / Orthos.  Again YMMV.

 

Anyway - HD600 would be my recommendation based on your original post.


Edited by Brooko - 9/14/12 at 2:44am
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooko View Post

OP

 

I own DT880's (600ohm) , K701's, HD600s - I had to choose between the HD650 and HD600, so I have spent quite a bit of time with the 650 before deciding.  I haven't heard the HE-400 so can't comment on them.

 

My set-up is mainly PC to an Audio-gd NFB-12, and then on to a Little Dot MKIV.

 

I also listen to a fairly diverse range of genre - from classic and alternative rock, right through to classical and opera.  I have a special affinity to blues and jazz, and am particularly fond of female vocals.  Like you - I also have a reasonably sized 'noggin'.

 

My own impressions on the 3 you were looking at ......

 

DT880 is extremely comfortable, quite flat (mild U shape), very detailed - can sometime be a little dry - but responds well to tube warmth.  I really enjoy mine with the LD.

K701 (IMO) - expansive sound stage, very clear, quite flat, no mid-bass hump - so bass can seem a little light, really nice mid-range - especially with tubes.  Unfortunately the bumps on the headband can get uncomfortable after a couple of hours - necessitating frequent adjustment.

HD600 - excellent imaging and timbre, soundstage is not as deep or wide as K701, but to me is very accurate, has less 'apparent detail' then both K701 or DT880 - but the detail is there, it's just not as upfront.  Is probably the most natural sounding of the 3 - despite having more mid-bass.  I find them very comfortable - although at first I did find them very 'clampy'.  You can mitigate this by extending them fully then lightly bending the carbon extenders (not the actual headband!) - or just get used to it over time.

 

The reason I chose the HD600 over the HD650 was that they were more natural sounding, slightly quicker, and had a little more upper mids and high emphasis (not a lot - but enough to make a difference). I found the 650's were more laid-back, bassy, and coloured.  The 600s just rang truer to me (YMMV).

 

With your set-up and preferences, I would actually suggest the HD600 over the HD650 - they are a great all-rounder, and should suit all of your genre choices.  I'm pretty sure the Valhalla was originally voiced with the Senns in mind anyway - you could check with Jason.  Funnily enough they recommend on their site that the Valhalla pairs better with the Sennns and Beyers - not so much with Planars / Orthos.  Again YMMV.

 

Anyway - HD600 would be my recommendation based on your original post.

Agreed the HD600 has a better soundstage than the k701 (well Q701 is what I listened to). It's a little smaller for my taste but the placement of instrumentals is far more realistic, whereas with the K701s you get a very left or very right imaging, with no coherent center. It's a lack of depth in other words. Very wide with not much height or dimension to it. 

 

The DT880 isn't what I consider a pair of neutral cans (treble is still a little too overemphasized) but they are really comfortable. Somewhat inferior midrange performance in comparison to the Q701. You can hear the midrange better on the Q701 because it's only skewed towards the upper mids but the DT880 has the bass and treble that both veil the midrange. The HD600 does sound a bit "veiled" in the midrange as well, but that's mostly because of its smoothness rather than a lack of clarity or frequency balance. The Sennheisers would sound just as detailed I think, if they were designed with emphasized treble as well. The HD800 is a proof of that. 

 

Oh and also agreed that the HD600 is a better all-arounder than the HD650. In fact, it's possibly one of the best all-arounders out there. I think the HD-598 is better though: http://www.head-fi.org/t/601061/mid-fi-shootout-hd600-hd598-focal-spirit-one-philips-fidelio-l1 . Never really understood the bias of the HD-598 not being in the "same class" as the other headphones, merely because of its model number or price. Other than slightly inferior bass/ treble extensions compared to its brothers, it's a fairly good can with little distortion and close-to-neutral frequency. 

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 

Some fantastic input - and my thanks to everyone who posted above.  

 

Han Bao Quan - I totally agree on the Asgard.  First time I auditioned one I knew I was going with Schiit.  I went with the Valhalla because I'm a lifelong tube fanatic - love the warm, fluid, immersive vibe you get from the right tube setup.  Good to hear that the 880s pair well with the Asgard.  As Brooko pointed out, it certainly does seem that Schiit keyed on Beyer and Senns in their designs.

 

Brooko - thanks for the heads up on the Valhalla limitations / preferences.  It was not an issue when I bought the unit (given the headphones I had at the time) - so it wasn't something I'd really considered.  I'm going to reach out to the folks at Schiit next week to get their thoughts and I will report back.  I'm thinking I might move up to the Lyr or over to the Asgard, to give myself more options.  A 6W tube amp for headphones seems extreme (given that some of my hi-fi tube amps are rated as low as 16W) - but I'm willing to give it a shot.  I will also definitely be adding 600s to my audition list.

 

So, as it stands right now - I'm going to talk to the folks at Schiit to get their input.  Then I'll make a decision on the amp.  I am definitely moving up to a Bifrost at some point - but that's simply not in the cards at this moment.  So I'll be running from the PC, using the DAC on the Xonar for now, and then out to the amp.  I will then begin auditioning headphones.  I know now that I want to give a listen to HE-400s and 500s, Senn 598s / 600s / 650s, and DT880s.  I've pretty much ruled out the HE-4s and I am less sold now on the q701s (worried about comfort and about them being too bright or harsh sounding).  That gives me a solid list right in or around my budget (the 500s being a stretch of course).  I'm not in a fantastic hurry - would much rather get it "right" - or as close to "right" as I can for a one-size-fits all genres approach ;)

 

Will report back here as things progress.  Once again, thanks to everyone for the help and input.  One of the most friendly and helpful forums I've ever posted on.

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