First of all, and I'm sure you hear this all the time, I'm a newbie to audio.
Currently I have a pair of HD280 Pros that I enjoy. Typically I listen to them through a receiver which is connected via stereo splitter to the 3.5mm jack on my desktop. I realize that that isn't an ideal setup by any means (i.e. no DAC, all that) but it works at the moment. I also listen to them straight from my phone. I know that that's probably unheard of around here, but I'm holding off on buying a dedicated amp (or DAC/amp, depending) until I decide what headphones to buy next.
I'm currently a senior in high school and, being detail oriented, when I think about college I think much more on the little aspects of it. In this case, I'm pondering what my music listening situation will be. I'll be living in a dorm for at least the first year or two. I'll listen to all my music from either my phone or a laptop (in all likelihood, the next MBP Retina that [hopefully] comes out when Haswell does), so I'll likely need a DAC/amp. However, that still leaves the question of which pair of headphones to use.
Now, as far as musical tastes go, I like a lot of stuff. My personal favorites at the moment include Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, (old) Green Day, indie-type stuff (Young the Giant), Michael Buble (no homo, he's great), and classic rock when I feel like it (i.e. Led Zeppelin). I rarely, if ever, listen to rap, and I do occasionally plug in to some electronic music, but when I do it's much more trip hop-y (like Massive Attack and the like). I'm not a bass hound; when I want to hear bass, it's rarely of the "thwump thwump" variety. If it's intentionally present (the intro to Floyd's Welcome to the Machine is a good example, as is Angel by Massive Attack), then I like to hear it, but as far as pounding bass lines go I'm not all that into it. Additionally, as much as I liked it in my younger years, I hardly ever listen to heavier rock or metal (e.g. Disturbed, Linkin Park, Metallica, or, god forbid, Cannibal Corpse/Slayer/Iced Earth or any other genres related to double bass drumming and shouting about mythology).
So, with all of that out of the way (and, really, I congratulate you if you've made it this far), I'd like some advice here.
I've been looking at Beyerdynamic's DT770s and 880s, both of which in the consumer flavor. That gives you an idea of my price range, and perhaps an idea of what I'm looking for sound-wise. They both seem to be fairly well balanced, with the 880s pulling ahead as far as accuracy and neutrality go. The 770s seem to have been reported to be much more bass-oriented and darker sounding than the 880s. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'm not looking for 'phones for one genre. For example, the 770s might sound great while listening to some of my rock collection, but as soon as I want to listen to some jazz they might not produce some of the trumpeting highs or detailed treble in the piano. That said, I'm really wary of buying a set of cans that sound "sterile;" my 280s already do a good job of being "monitor" headphones, and I don't really need another pair that just "reproduces sound." I'd like them to have some form of character. Sitting down and listening to music can still be an enjoyable experience with my 280s, but I need to have them EQ'd or I literally imagine a flat line in my mind the whole time.
An additional consideration is the design characteristics of the headphones. The 770s are closed while the 880s are listed as "semi-open," whatever that means. My concern isn't so much that outside sound will leak in, it's more that the sound of my music will leak out and cause an annoyance to my roommate. I'm not half deaf, nor do I wish to be, so I don't listen at a particularly high volume level. I've read that the 770s can dampen in the range of 10-15 dB while the 880s are from 4-10 (sorry, I don't have a source for you on that). If I'm in an environment that requires me to not leak, like a classroom or library, I could use my 280s. That said, I feel like if the 770s are good enough, it'd be nice to just have one pair of general purpose, around-campus headphones that I can just keep in my bag with a DAC/amp and listen wherever I want.
Anyways, I hope that what I'm looking for isn't impossible to accomplish in the $200-$300 range. I'd get a DAC/amp (perhaps an E17), but I really doubt I'd go so far as to get a desktop amp (like an E9) because I'd be on the go a lot.
I really like music; it's much more an experience for me than most of my buddies or relatives. I like to be able to listen to a different part of a song each time I listen to it, and because of that I'm always getting a little more spoiled each time I step up my "equipment." Perhaps I've caught "the bug" . Then again, I'm not a millionaire, so I try to stay reasonable.
p.s. obviously my source files are lossless (typically flac) almost without exception.
many many thanks to those of you who read even half of that short novel and can give me some directional advice.