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Best Headphones/Amp Combo for Classical Music (especially Opera); Budget: $2000-2500 - Page 2

post #16 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by hifimanrookie View Post


But if u want best of the best..the only way for classical music is to go for the high end models of stax with dedicated multi thousand dollars costing amps..

Your post is irrelevant to the OP, OP want's the best classical system he can get between $2000-2500, not what's the best Stax setup he can get for classical music alone, if he wants best of the best, I've read that from David Mahler's comparison thread the $15-22k HE90 does wonder's with classical music. For Stax alone I've heard the SR-007 MKII's before and they are beautiful sounding (bit dry sounding at times) at the retail price about $2200 or bit more, a used one from the F/S section for either the MK1 or 2 can be had for less but they don't pop up as much as say HE-500 or LCD2's do. Grab an amp for that and it's already over the the $2500 limit. Even if the OP went for the cheap Lambda frame model's, say SR-507 which are pretty good + the best SRM model amp for it will still drive a bit over the $2500 not to mention the SR-507 are sort of dull and boring last time I auditioned one, but has great detail retrieval, even if he went for a GES or another DIY alternative KGSSHV etc it will still cost over $2500. As I said Staxes are a different story.


Edited by DefQon - 11/13/12 at 7:55pm
post #17 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by DefQon View Post

Your post is irrelevant to the OP, OP want's the best classical system he can get between $2000-2500, not what's the best Stax setup he can get for classical music alone, if he wants best of the best, I've read that from David Mahler's comparison thread the $15-22k HE90 does wonder's with classical music. For Stax alone I've heard the SR-007 MKII's before and they are beautiful sounding (bit dry sounding at times) at the retail price about $2200 or bit more, a used one from the F/S section for either the MK1 or 2 can be had for less but they don't pop up as much as say HE-500 or LCD2's do. Grab an amp for that and it's already over the the $2500 limit. Even if the OP went for the cheap Lambda frame model's, say SR-507 which are pretty good + the best SRM model amp for it will still drive a bit over the $2500 not to mention the SR-507 are sort of dull and boring last time I auditioned one, but has great detail retrieval, even if he went for a GES or another DIY alternative KGSSHV etc it will still cost over $2500. As I said Staxes are a different story.

Ur right..my apologies..i got a bit overboard..but..if money is no concern.i think stax is theway to go..but in this case..a bit offtopic. As i stated before..get a he5le instead with a high quality dac/amp..whether tubey or ss
post #18 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dyaems View Post

what about some 2500 usd stax system?

 

The Stax 4070 will be maybe the best candidate as a used this price range, but the Stax amps are not cheap and can go easy over of what the OP want to spend.

post #19 of 59

IMO and this is just IMO

 

A pair of HE-6s with his current or a top quality speaker amp will top a lower tier to mid tier stax setup.  Only the 007 and 009 on top stax amps would beat a top flight HE-6 setup.

 

Remember IMO...

post #20 of 59
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for all your responses. I really appreciate them.


I went by my favorite hifi store on Wednesday only to find out that they had nothing but Grados. I spent most of my time listening to the RS1s connected to either the Lehmann Linear or the Cayin HA-1A tube amp. The source was a McIntosh MCD 301 Cd/Sacd player. I was quite impressed by the RS1s when connected to the Lehmann Linear. The sound could have been just a touch warmer but overall I found it to be extremely enjoyable. The combination worked very well, both for my new and old recordings; no problems there at all. The Cayin, on the other hand, I didn't really like. Yes, the sound had a nice weight to it, but I didn't like that the sound at times almost took on a liquid quality. Interestingly, my old recordings sounded quite a bit worse with the Cayin; the hiss of the recordings was definitly more prevalent. Overall, I liked the RS1/Linear combo so much that I would have bought it had it not been for one fact: the RS1s are extremely uncomfortable. I can't see how anybody would want to wear these for more than an hour. Having the sound emanating so closely from your ear certainly has the appeal of immediacy but having basically metal grills jammed against your ears simply isn't a pleasant experience. Thus, the RS1s are out for me. What else is left?


From everything that I've read, my current frontrunner is the Sennheiser HD 800 paired with a Violectric V200. Many Head-Fi members seem to really enjoy that combination. I'm hoping that a slightly warmer SS like the V200 will take some of the edge off the HD 800 without really compromising the overall sonic picture. There doesn't seem to be any store near my house where I could listen to this particular combination though. I have found a place where I could listen to the Sennheiser HD 800 and the Beyerdynamic T1, but the only headphone amp that they have is the Nuforce Icon. I'm not really sure whether listening to those headphones with that amp will be very helpful. At least I'll be able to see how comfortable they are.


Concerning the Hifiman headphones, I certainly find the speaker amp idea very appealing. The problem with that option, however, is that nobody can tell me whether pairing, e.g., the He-6 with my particular amp will sound any good. Another significant problem is that I can't find any stores nearby where I could check them out, so it would be even more of a stab in the dark than the HD800/V200.


 

post #21 of 59

As you're in Europe I'd suggest you look at an amp that hasn't had a lot of attention on head-fi so far, the Icon Audio HP8 mk2. I have the upgraded SE version and I'm very, very impressed. It might be an interesting alternative to products such as Woo etc which will likely be expensive to import.

 

I listen to a lot of classical music, mainly lossless rips of older CDs which are sometimes themselves remasters of classic recordings from the 50s - 70s, and this amp has been a revelation. What has particularly surprised me is that it has real synergy with my old HD580s, which have never sounded better. I'm actually beginning to think I prefer this combination for classical music to other options such as my Violectric v200 and LCD2-r2 - something I would never have expected. It's very neutral, but at the same time extremely musical and involving.

 

I'm also wondering, as it pairs to well with the Senns, whether the same amp might be even better with the HD800.

 

I'd also endorse what others have said about Stax but think you need to spend really big to get the full benefit. I haven't been especially impressed with the lower priced Stax systems i've heard.

post #22 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by avrosse View Post

Hi folks,


I'd love to expand my stereo speaker system to include headphones. My current system looks like this:


Densen B-410 cd player / Oppo BDP-95 blu-ray player -> Densen B-110 integrated amplifier -> Verity Rienzi loudspeakers


As mentioned in the title, I'm looking for a headphone setup to listen to classical music, especially opera. The Densen cd player would serve as the primary source for my headphones setup. My budget is $2000-2500 for the headphones/amp combo ( ~1000 for each of the two components). After having studied David Mahler's battle of the flagships and a bunch of forum threads, the following headphones have piqued my interest:


Sennheiser HD 800
Beyerdynamic T1
Hifiman HE-6 or HE-500
Grado RS1
Any comments on these? Other suggestions?


 

 

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by avrosse View Post

Thanks so much for all your responses. I really appreciate them.


Overall, I liked the RS1/Linear combo so much that I would have bought it had it not been for one fact: the RS1s are extremely uncomfortable. I can't see how anybody would want to wear these for more than an hour. Having the sound emanating so closely from your ear certainly has the appeal of immediacy but having basically metal grills jammed against your ears simply isn't a pleasant experience. Thus, the RS1s are out for me. What else is left?


From everything that I've read, my current frontrunner is the Sennheiser HD 800 paired with a Violectric V200. Many Head-Fi members seem to really enjoy that combination. I'm hoping that a slightly warmer SS like the V200 will take some of the edge off the HD 800 without really compromising the overall sonic picture. There doesn't seem to be any store near my house where I could listen to this particular combination though. I have found a place where I could listen to the Sennheiser HD 800 and the Beyerdynamic T1, but the only headphone amp that they have is the Nuforce Icon. I'm not really sure whether listening to those headphones with that amp will be very helpful. At least I'll be able to see how comfortable they are.

 

 

 for classical, the rs1 would be the poorest choice. small soundstage and too colored. the Hifiman might be a bit uncomfortable as well especially if you didn't enjoy the grados too much. people tend to find the Hifimans a bit heavy and awkward.

 

 

 

T1/HD800 with the WA2, your search is over. the V200 would also be a good option, but be aware that its still an SS amp and can still be bright on some recordings.


Edited by Dubstep Girl - 12/1/12 at 8:35pm
post #23 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dubstep Girl View Post




 for classical, the rs1 would be the poorest choice. small soundstage and too colored. the Hifiman might be a bit uncomfortable as well especially if you didn't enjoy the grados too much. people tend to find the Hifimans a bit heavy and awkward.



T1/HD800 with the WA2, your search is over. the V200 would also be a good option, but be aware that its still an SS amp and can still be bright on some recordings.
+1 for violectric v200
post #24 of 59
Thread Starter 

Thanks again for all your input. You’ve all been so helpful.

 

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to listen to various headphone setups and wanted to share my experiences with you. I’ll also go into what items I’ve decided to purchase and the thought process behind them. There’s a tl;dr section at the very end for those of you who just want a brief summary.

 

Sennheiser HD 800, Beyerdynamic T1, Audeze LCD2 and AKG K 701

Connected to Violectric V200, V181, V100

I decided to go to the Lake People’s (Violectric) headquarters in Konstanz. Everybody there was extremely nice and helpful. They really took their time to explain their philosophy to me and answer whatever questions I had. Seeing where they actually produce and test the amps was pretty cool as well. They had all kinds of headphones to try out with their amps, but I only tried out the four listed above. The source was a Pioneer CD player used as transport and connected to the V800 DAC. To sum things up, I wasn’t really convinced by the V200. The fundamental problem for me was that it was both too bright but also too warm depending on the headphone used. The vocals and detail on the HD 800 were great but the sound was too bright and had little weight to it. The first movement of Beethoven’s 5th, e.g., had little impact. Conversely, the LCD2 made a very cohesive impression with good weight and impact but there simply wasn’t enough treble. The T1 was somewhere between the LCD2 and HD 800, having no clear drawbacks but it also didn’t really shine in the ways that the other two did with their respective strengths. I only listened to the 701 for a short time because I found it to be clearly the weakest of the four. Concerning the differences between the various Violectric amps, I found the V200 to be far better than the V181 and V100 in basically every respect. The V181 was slightly better than the V100.

 

So what was I to do? I liked both the HD 800 and the LCD2 but found them to be too far on each side of the spectrum. I figured it would probably be a good idea to try the LCD2 with a more neutral sounding SS amp and the HD 800 with a warmer sounding tube amp to bring both of them closer towards neutrality.

 

Audeze LCD2 and LCD3

Connected to Lehmann Linear

I had the opportunity to demo this setup for a whole week at my house. Simply put, the LCD3 blew me away. It has to be one of the best sounding headphones on the market today. It is mind-bogglingly good. What I like most about the LCD3 is how natural it sounds. It comes extremely close to the sound that I hear in concert halls and opera houses. It combines the detail of the HD 800 with the lushness of the LCD2, producing a beautiful, musical and natural sound; simply amazing. The LCD2 also performed very well, the Linear was a better match with the LCD2 than the V200, but in my mind the LCD3 is leagues above the LCD2. A common figure that is thrown around is that the LCD3 is only 20-30% better than the LCD2. I couldn’t disagree more with that statement. To me, the LCD3 is easily twice as good as the LCD2 and is absolutely worth paying double for. Concerning the pairing of the Linear with the LCD3, I think there are better matches to be found. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good, but the Linear made the LCD3 sound just a touch too bright. I would suggest pairing it with a slightly warmer SS amp (innerfidelity.com seems to swear by the Burson Soloist) or a neutral-to-slightly-warm sounding tube amp.

 

Comfort

Given what I’ve said about the LCD3, shouldn’t I be purchasing it? The major problem I have with both the LCD2 and LCD3 is that they are way too large and heavy. I always lie down on my sofa when I’m listening to music. The Audeze headphones are so large that I can no longer turn my head to the left or right when I’m lying down, regardless of how far forward I move them on my head; listening to them feels like I’m wearing a neck brace. I experienced this problem even though I have a rather firm pillow, which my head doesn’t sink into (with a softer pillow the problem is only worse). The weight of the Audezes is also a problem; they are so heavy that I couldn’t listen to them sitting up for any extended period of time. Initially, I had thought that the weight of the cans at least shouldn’t matter when lying down, since most of the weight is passed on to the pillow, but in reality, I could still feel how heavy the headphones were. Apart from size and weight, I also wouldn’t say that the Audezes are particularly comfortable (the LCD3 has much softer padding than the LCD2, which makes it better). I probably should mention here that I have a medical condition that affects my neck, so I’m certainly more sensitive to these types of issues than others, but I still think that the Audezes are a big problem for people who want to listen to music lying down. If the weight doesn’t bother you, and you listen to music sitting up, then all of this is obviously a non-issue.

 

Alternatives? (Revisiting Grado RS1 connected to Lehmann Linear and Cayin HA-1A)

Having demoed the Audezes at my house, I was made aware of the need to find a high end headphone that is both light and has a much smaller profile. This basically meant that the Hifiman He-500 and He-6 were out as well as the Stax SR 007 Mk2; the HD 800, even though they are light, are probably also out due to their size, but I’d like to try them out once more before totally removing them from consideration. My experience with the Audezes led me back to trying out the RS1 again; they are very small and light after all. Contrary to the experience during my first audition, I was able to get them into a position that was fairly comfortable (not great, but not bad either). I listened to them again on the Lehmann Linear and the Cayin HA-1A tube amp. This time around, I also noticed that the Cayin’s Ohm setting was incorrect; changing it significantly improved the sound of the amp (playing around with ultralinear and triode mode also helped). In the end, I actually preferred the Cayin over the Linear for the RS1, but I didn’t really like the RS1’s non-neutral tonality. The RS1’s tonality problem led me to seriously consider the Alessandro MS-Pro, which according to most is a far more neutral version of the RS1. The other cans I’m still seriously considering are the Beyerdynamic T1; they’re only a few millimeters larger than the HD 600, which I already own and work for me. IEMs would of course be another option, but I think I first really want to try getting over- or on-ear headphones to work before I go down the IEM route. I’d greatly appreciate any other suggestions you might have.

 

Amps & Tonality

One key thing that I noticed when listening to headphones, as opposed to loudspeakers, is that I’m far more bothered by brightness. To me, bright headphones just don’t sound natural, whereas I don’t really mind bright loudspeakers all that much. As a result, I quickly concluded that I should get a tube amp, especially considering that the MS Pro and T1 aren’t particularly warm. I did enjoy the Cayin HA-1A the second time I heard it, but it is only rated to 300 Ohms, so it wouldn’t power the T1. Everyone seems to love the Woo Audio WA2/T1 combo, but the WA2 doesn’t seem to work quite as well with MS Pro. In the end, I decided to go with the WA6SE. Would I probably prefer the warmth of the WA2? Yes, but the WA6SE gives me great flexibility, which in my circumstance seems to be critical. Once I receive the WA6SE and my new Naim Dac (see below), I’ll audition the headphones I mentioned above as well as whatever other ones I can come up with on my new system. Basically, I’ve decided to build my system from the bottom up. By doing this I can then focus on nothing but the headphones themselves and don’t have to worry about all the interdependencies and synergies going on in my hi-fi system.

 

Source

When I first heard the LCD3/Linear combo at the hi-fi store I wasn’t too impressed. The source was a Rowen tuned NAD CD player (565Bee I believe). There was a clear lack of musicality and a lack of body and weight. It just didn’t sound right. I decided to take them home anyway (in addition to the LCD2, which sounded much better on that CD player) and try them with my Densen B-410 CD player. WOW! What a difference. All the problems that I had in the store were gone. I then compared my Densen with my Oppo 95 using the LCD3. That comparison really highlighted the problems of the Oppo’s internal DAC (sabre 32bit) for me, being too bright and overly analytical. The differences between these three players were far larger than the differences between, e.g., the Lehmann Linear SS amp and the Cayin HA-1A tube amp. I didn’t expect such large differences between sources that are somewhat similar in price. I had been thinking about getting an external DAC for some time anyway, so I decided to go ahead with that now. After auditioning a bunch of DACs, one emerged as the clear winner for me: the Naim Dac. The Naim, with my Oppo as the transport, through my Verity loudspeakers is just awesome. The soundstage is huge without losing any body or weight and details are massively improved; it just forms such a beautifully lyrical and cohesive sonic picture. I couldn’t really ask for anything else. I guess I’m primarily getting the Naim as an upgrade for my loudspeaker system, but I’m certainly also planning on using it with the WA6SE.

 

Inferior Quality Recordings

Interestingly enough the problem I was initially most concerned about is a total non-issue. On no headphone system that I tested was the inferior quality of my old recordings, performances from the 50s by Callas, Bjorling, etc., a problem. Sure, with some headphones or amps, e.g., the HD 800, I noticed the problems more, but even there I was still able to enjoy the performances without getting distracted by the recording quality. I could imagine that if you paired the HD 800 with a neutral-to-bright SS amp it could become an issue, but that setup wouldn’t sound good even for well-recorded music. As long as a system isn’t ridiculously bright, I think you’re fine.

 

tl;dr

I have not yet been able to find the ideal headphone/amp combo. During my auditioning process, I was reminded how interdependent hi-fi systems are, so I’ve decided to remove some of the variables from the picture by building my system from the bottom-up. I’ve ordered Naim’s external DAC (my Oppo 95 will serve as the transport) as well as the Woo Audio WA6SE. Once I receive these two items, I’ll do another round of auditioning, but this time I can focus on nothing but the headphones themselves. I’ve come to see that I need headphones that not only sound great but are also fairly light and most importantly significantly smaller than the LCD2/3. The Alessandro MS Pro and Beyerdynamic T1 (T1s are right on the edge in terms of size and weight), as well as the HD 600 that I already own, seem to fit the bill. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I’ll let you know how things turn out. Thanks again for all your help.

 

Best,

Joel

post #25 of 59

Thanks for sharing your journey. It's always fascinating to hear how others hear things and how their tastes evolve and match with the equipment.

 

Right now my big rig is a Nuforce DAC-100 feeding into the Nuforce Icon speaker amp, powering an HE-6. 

post #26 of 59

If you haven't already, take a look at the Schiit Mjolnir. QUITE impressive for the price... Preferred it over the V200 on an LCD-2. I have to admit, the HD800 and V200 sounded pretty fine together. I thought the HD800 and Mjolnir didn't match as well as the V200.

post #27 of 59

I think you've made a good choice with the Woo, and your methodology makes sense to me. Had the 6SE been a bit cheaper to import into the UK it would have been a strong contender for me too. Once you have it, I recommend you re-audition the HD800. I really like the HD800 with my tube amp for the kind of music you listen to. I find the tube amp/HD800 combination much more convincing than the v200, now I've lived with it for a bit longer. Also, like you, I tried the LCD2r2 but found the lack of high end sparkle very disappointing. The LCD3 is out of my price range. Instead, I actually found I preferred the sound of the HD580/600 to the LCD2, but the HD800 is another step up from them, particularly with well recorded classical music.

 

I've found that I can tame the HD800's treble spike by using the very subtle EQ control that Fidelia (the playback software I'm using with my MacBook Pro) offers. I prefer using the computer as a source over a CD player (in my case the Meridian 588) for that reason, but the original recordings are mainly CDs. I have also found that I prefer the sound from my Audio g-d Reference 5 DAC to the output from the Meridian CD player's built-in DAC. I imagine your Naim will be even finer.

 

Aside from tinkering with cables, I've no doubt I could refine my system's sound still further, most likely with an up-market OTL tube amp, but find my current set up very satisfactory.

 

Good luck with your system and headphone listening.

post #28 of 59

IMO:

 

HE-6 -> LCD-3 -> (HD800 = T1) -> HE-5LE -> HE-500 -> LCD-2.2 -> HD650 -> (K701 = HD600)


Edited by preproman - 12/16/12 at 8:09am
post #29 of 59
Quote:
Originally Posted by preproman View Post

IMO:

 

HE-6 -> LCD-3 -> (HD800 = T1) -> HE-5LE -> HE-500 -> LCD-2.2 -> HD650 -> (K701 = HD600)

 

 

id have to agree with that, would be nice for me to hear the he-500 soon tho.

 

i'd say the K701 with a proper amp are right on the hd 650s lvl, the hd 650s just being a tad bit better, but the 650s scale better than the k's

post #30 of 59

For classical/opera, and with a good amp and front end, the HD600 is a better choice than the HD650 IMO - its neutrality is a real virtue.
 

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