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Virgin - Needs Advice - Never had a Headphone

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I have a problem.  My system includes a McIntosh C2300 PreAmp, 2x McIntosh MC352, MartinLogan Prodigy and other “stuff”.  All this stuff has followed me around the world to various locations.  Wife of course has always hated the look of the 5.5 foot MLs.  Next assignment – London.  Hmmmm no matter who’s paying (employer) London Apartment life probably will not fit the MLs very well.  I now enter the world of headphones and have never been there before. 


Music types – classical – full symphonic, instrumental, vocal, solo instrument, chamber, piano - Classical  era, heavy on romantic through 20th century  – jazz vocal/instrumental.  I listen at “full” sound levels but not “damaging”, never "soft".  I listen as if they were in my room and/or I was there.  Natural reproduction across the sound spectrum is more important than some over emphasized part of the sound spectrum.  A kettle drum needs to sound like a tuned kettle drum not an unnatural thump. Ella needs to sound like she is standing in front of me and I can hear the sound coming from deep in her throat (that’s what the ML Prodigies do)


From what I have read the McIntosh C2300 has an excellent headphone amp and has a load of 16-250 ohms.  I plan to take my source player and my C2300, 2000 cds and that’s it.   I want to optimize usage of the McIntosh C2300’s output.  I do not want to purchase another piece of equipment (besides the headphones).  So even at the upper end (not the top end) I am baffled by type and of course the Ohm Load thing (if it even matters much with the C2300).  Open/closed doesn’t matter since I will be listen in my mini London man cave.


Without even knowing compatibility, sound characteristics etc., these are some of the ones I have been looking at (online) before I begin to track down even an audition.  Beyerdynamic T-1, T5p, Sennheiser HD800 Ultrasone Edition8, Denon D7000, Audio Technica W-5000,  Am I overshooting without adding more electronics?  Is AKG K-702, Sennheiser HD600/650 etc. a better match?  Where do I begin?  Can’t audition if I can’t narrow down.  Know nothing about “cans”.  Suggestions? ($1600ish is the limit but doesn’t mean I have to spend it).

post #2 of 8

I can't address all your concerns, but "ohm load" is basically the same thing as with speakers. Except speakers are usually between 4 and 8ohms, maybe some 16ohms, and headphones can be anywhere from 12 to 600ohm. If any amp isn't a "match" to a given headphone, provided it was generally well-designed, chances are it has a lot to do with this. Even if the headphone impedance falls within spec the problem is that's still a much wider range it would have to be compatible with compared to speakers.


If we're going to comply strictly with McIntosh's specs first, scratch a bunch of headphones in your shopping list - some of them have a 300ohm load, like the Sennheisers. The T-1 is very easy to drive due to its high efficiency so it should have the least trouble matching to an amp without lacking absolute volume and dynamics, but its still too far beyond spec at 600ohms, so we cannot assume as much immediately.


In any case, consider a few more things while shopping for your cans:

1) angled drivers (as on T1, HD800, and AKG K70x angled earpads) - simulate speaker angle relative to ears, usually helps soundstage to get deeper, more "out of the head" instead of "in the head" with too strong left, center and right signals; helps with imaging especially for classical

2) you could also just get some relatively harder to drive, usually non-dynamic driver design, headphones and wire them to the speaker outputs of your McIntosh. Hunt down a used K1000 (out of production), or try to get some Stax headphones bundled with the Energizer box (ie, its a transformer/converter) for the speaker output designed specifically to drive Stax electrostats). However you might find the bass lacking vs ML's which have a dynamic sub driver built into the speakers, and this also means you have to take one of the C352's with you.


3) There's also the Audeze LCD-2 or 3 - fairly efficient, stages and images well enough (also has the angled earpads), but you might find the treble too "dark" (I can't remember what ML's sound like though)


4) HD600 is a good balance of "smooth", "balanced", transparent and "natural" to me; some people think it smooths over a lot of bad recordings too much but not too much from what I've tried them with. Some with too much gain can get smoothed over, but really sharp treble/cymbals still comes through as such, and microdetails (throaty background to the voice, the wind from the mouth hitting the mic, etc) are reasonably audible, however that can depend on the source and amplifier (more microdetail, less bloom on my current amp's USB digital input, less microdetail and more bloom using an iPod Video and a bunch of portable amps). They're at 300ohms, so not too far from the McIntosh's spec, and on occasions when the power's out I could listen to them straight off a portable player, even a smartphone; they do of course sound different but I wouldn't characterize it as "unlistenable."

post #3 of 8
Btw, why not try the Magnepan MiniMaggies?
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

Btw, why not try the Magnepan MiniMaggies?

Thanks for the info – actually thanks to the site,


Was able to audition Ultrasone Edition 8, Denon D7000, Audio Technica W-5000, AKG K702 and the Sennheiser HD650 and HD800.  I also heard the Grado GS1000.  Of course all on different equipment at different locations and some friends houses.  Didn’t like the Grado at all.   The Ultrasones were great but I felt the sound stage (for me anyway) confined - the rest sounded great with some of my music and not so great.  I was able to actually hear the Sennheiser’s on a McIntosh C2300.  For me and as best as I could muster memory from the others in comparison – the HD800 were my babies to take home.  Getting a demo price at 33% off and full warranty also made me stop the looking.  It was one of those now deals, cash in pocket, no CC charges.  The Demos were in pristine condition – I venture to say probably hardly demo’d – how many people walk in everyday for $1500 headphones?  What has been said about the Headphone amp in the C2300 is true – unique and high quality – the best McIntosh has ever made.  With the 300 Ohm HD800’s I am at 65 and at my full symphonic listening level (on C2300s I don’t think in means percentage of gain – they use a proprietary dual volume dynamic control multiplexer). 


I don’t have all the fine wine vocabulary to describe the sound, except to me - the  HD800 sound stage, openness, accuracy is very close to what my MartinLogan  Prodigy hybrid electrostatics panels do – puts the artist, instruments in the right place and makes a tympani sound like the tuned instrument it is – Piano sounds like Mr. Steinway just tuned it - and Ella in the room or me in Ella’s night club.  The sound is coming through the C2300’s 12AX7 Gold Lions beautifully and I didn’t have to buy another piece of electronics. Marvelous.  The shop also as part of the deal let me give their Martin Logan CLX Art a full workout. for an hour.  They were amazed at some of the sound coming off the discs below, especially for some of the 55 year old analog tracks.  Some classical music will test the limits of anything.


Used a wide variation of the music I listen to.  Didn't use it all except on the HD800 and Edition 8.

Boston Symphony, Munch, Saint -Saens Organ Symphony SACD version –

Reference Recording RR, Utah Symphony Kojian, Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, Kojian –

Krupa and Rich (track 2 Bernies Tune) Verve –

Queen Greatest Hits New Remaster - 

Beethoven, Wellingtons Victory, Kunzel Cincinnati, Telarc -  

Ella Fitzgerald, Verve Compact Jazz, “track You’ll Have to Swing It – Mr. Paganini)

Porgy and Bess – Ella and Louie – Verve

CPE Bach  -Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Cello Concertos – Virgin

Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto 2 – Movement 3 – Pletnev

Martha Argerich – Debut Recital DG

Supertramp Crime of the Century

post #5 of 8

Great to hear you were able to listen to them yourself and were able to base your decision on that. Enjoy!

post #6 of 8

I know this is a headphone forum, but the C2300 has me a lot more envious than the HD800s

& Congrats

Edited by machoboy - 9/23/12 at 3:48am
post #7 of 8

I'm winging hear, but...


Why not consider buying buy a used Stax off ebay? If its problematic you should be able to get money back, and if you don't like the sound signature it should be easy to re-sell. And a Stax sounds like the best possible match to your tastes.


Edited to add: Sounds like a great deal on the HD800s!

Edited by scuttle - 2/8/13 at 9:33am
post #8 of 8

This is an archaic thread BTW............


Mr. Thread Starter (who seems to have dropped out of sight...............two posts!):

You seem to share some of my musical tastes!

And I'm a big analog recording fan.


I own a pair of Martin Logan Aeons.

For my ears, headphone listening is always a "second best" proposition.

Especially when I am listening to Classical music.


But I do agree with your choice in 'phones, the HD800 are pretty damn good compared to MLs!

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