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Tell me why I don't like my HE-400s

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Ok, I didn't mean to blaspheme. I do like my HE-400s, I just don't always *love* them.

I first got them a week ago and the 'wow' factor was stunning with what I started with. Sam Cooke? I nearly fell out of my chair. Joao Gilberto? Jaw-dropping. Curtis Mayfield, Waylon Jennings, Yo-Yo Ma, Nick Drake, Jimmy Smith -- all amazing.

But when it comes to rock? Jeesh. On records I'm very familiar with (Zeppelin, The Who, Gov't Mule, Los Lobos, Soundgarden, Mastodon, Neil Young, Rage Against the Machine, Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, U2) all of a sudden drums seem buried and guitars are too polite. Even vocals seem to lack punch in these contexts. Same for my New Orleans brass band collection and James Brown/funk -- snares and kicks don't pop they way they should and horns are too laid back. (And for what it's worth, large bombastic orchestral pieces like Hans Zimmer soundtracks also seem restrained.) Even the jazzier end of my listening spectrum seemed flat if it was guitar-and-drums centric.

Now I should point out that I'm not allergic to hi-fi. My stereo setup includes a Rega turntable and old Denon CD player in to a nice Marantz feeding Linn speakers. Not breaking records but solid, and certainly does better with the records I mention. As for other headphones, my HD650s seem to have more utility for this genre despite being somewhat laid back. (My old Grado SR225s are naturally better in some ways for rock but I was looking for a fuller sound -- the Grados sometimes seem like they lack body.)

So my first question is, how do I describe what I'm looking for? I don't have the vocabulary to know what my sound signature is, but I could well believe that it's not neutral. So what is it?

Secondly, can anything be done for me with the HE-400? Amps are a Schiit Asgard and Nuforce HDP and I also have a DIY cable DAC (Burr Brown PCM 2702). Would an upgrade (or a downgrade) help me here? (Was thinking about an HRT or Centrance DAC but want to make sure I get this figured out before randomly buying things.)

I suspect the answer is that these headphones simply sound the way they sound. In which case ....

Question 3, what should I buy that will give me the great rock sounds I'm looking for? Upgrade the Grados to RS1? Beyer? How should I amp?

Thanks for any and all input!
post #2 of 13

I would say that harder rock(basically stuff with distorted guitar chords) is the weakest genre on this headphone. It has to be mastered really well in order for it to sound good. Although the way you describe it sound odd. You seem to be saying that drums, guitar, and vocals sound recessed. So do only the keyboard and bass stick out?

 

I personally don't think you should mess around with amps in order to distort the sound signature just the right amount to synergize with a certain genre. Try messing around with a good equalizer first(and get new headphones if that doesn't satisfy).


Edited by chewy4 - 11/26/12 at 1:48pm
post #3 of 13

You could alternately try the Audio-Technica AD2000, which would be a sonic contrast against the HE-400 - especially in the percussion aspect. The AD2K and percussion are like: very_evil_smiley.gif

 

And if you think Grados lack body, then you should hear the AD2K. It's a contrast against that too.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/574882/5-year-re-review-audio-technica-ath-ad2000


Edited by Asr - 11/26/12 at 1:49pm
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Climber View Post

Ok, I didn't mean to blaspheme. I do like my HE-400s, I just don't always *love* them.
I first got them a week ago and the 'wow' factor was stunning with what I started with. Sam Cooke? I nearly fell out of my chair. Joao Gilberto? Jaw-dropping. Curtis Mayfield, Waylon Jennings, Yo-Yo Ma, Nick Drake, Jimmy Smith -- all amazing.
But when it comes to rock? Jeesh. On records I'm very familiar with (Zeppelin, The Who, Gov't Mule, Los Lobos, Soundgarden, Mastodon, Neil Young, Rage Against the Machine, Black Crowes, Queens of the Stone Age, U2) all of a sudden drums seem buried and guitars are too polite. Even vocals seem to lack punch in these contexts. Same for my New Orleans brass band collection and James Brown/funk -- snares and kicks don't pop they way they should and horns are too laid back. (And for what it's worth, large bombastic orchestral pieces like Hans Zimmer soundtracks also seem restrained.) Even the jazzier end of my listening spectrum seemed flat if it was guitar-and-drums centric.
Now I should point out that I'm not allergic to hi-fi. My stereo setup includes a Rega turntable and old Denon CD player in to a nice Marantz feeding Linn speakers. Not breaking records but solid, and certainly does better with the records I mention. As for other headphones, my HD650s seem to have more utility for this genre despite being somewhat laid back. (My old Grado SR225s are naturally better in some ways for rock but I was looking for a fuller sound -- the Grados sometimes seem like they lack body.)
So my first question is, how do I describe what I'm looking for? I don't have the vocabulary to know what my sound signature is, but I could well believe that it's not neutral. So what is it?
Secondly, can anything be done for me with the HE-400? Amps are a Schiit Asgard and Nuforce HDP and I also have a DIY cable DAC (Burr Brown PCM 2702). Would an upgrade (or a downgrade) help me here? (Was thinking about an HRT or Centrance DAC but want to make sure I get this figured out before randomly buying things.)
I suspect the answer is that these headphones simply sound the way they sound. In which case ....
Question 3, what should I buy that will give me the great rock sounds I'm looking for? Upgrade the Grados to RS1? Beyer? How should I amp?
Thanks for any and all input!

 

It's because of HE400's laid-back (or recessed, whatever you wanna call it) upper mids.

 

That specific colouration is responsible for making music more holographic and voices more "projected", and boosts imaging and separation, relative to a neutral sound.

 

It however also causes the intimacy and engaging parts of music (female vocals, guitar, etc anything with a significant upper mids presence) to be lost.

 

The cheapest definitive upgrade that retains much of HE400's technical finesse but also gives you the nice bit of upper mids is of course HE500. I do find HE500s sounding a bit more "headphone-y" though because it doesn't have that unique colouration that HE400s have.

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post

You could alternately try the Audio-Technica AD2000, which would be a sonic contrast against the HE-400 - especially in the percussion aspect. The AD2K and percussion are like: very_evil_smiley.gif

And if you think Grados lack body, then you should hear the AD2K. It's a contrast against that too.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/574882/5-year-re-review-audio-technica-ath-ad2000

A borderline esoteric recommendation (probably because I've only been neck-deep in headfi for a month or so) -- I like it! Unfortunately a little out of my price range right now. I suppose RS1s are in a similar ballpark new but a quick search seems to indicate they come up used more often?

Thanks for this. Will definitely be on the lookout.
post #6 of 13

You pretty much described the HE-400 right there lol. Honestly speaking (when am I not honest?), rock is lame on the HE-400. I have the SR225i as well and the SR225i is sort of a polar opposite of the HE-400. But with that said, I'm planning on moving on with the two headphones. Trading in the HE-400 and the SR225i for the HE-500 and RS1i as the two headphones were just experiments for me. Both brilliant headphones for the price, but there's always something better for me biggrin.gif

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

It's because of HE400's laid-back (or recessed, whatever you wanna call it) upper mids.
Ah, a very useful tidbit. Helps to know what I'm hearing.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

The cheapest definitive upgrade that retains much of HE400's technical finesse but also gives you the nice bit of upper mids is of course HE500. I do find HE500s sounding a bit more "headphone-y" though because it doesn't have that unique colouration that HE400s have.

That might be the answer because I do love the HE-400s for so much other stuff ...
post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by planx View Post

You pretty much described the HE-400 right there lol. Honestly speaking (when am I not honest?), rock is lame on the HE-400. I have the SR225i as well and the SR225i is sort of a polar opposite of the HE-400. But with that said, I'm planning on moving on with the two headphones. Trading in the HE-400 and the SR225i for the HE-500 and RS1i as the two headphones were just experiments for me. Both brilliant headphones for the price, but there's always something better for me biggrin.gif

Sounds like we're in nearly the same boat. Looks like I'll be fighting you for used ones on the FS forum biggrin.gif
post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Climber View Post


Sounds like we're in nearly the same boat. Looks like I'll be fighting you for used ones on the FS forum biggrin.gif

 

Quite... Every time I listen to the HE-400, it keeps reminding me of the HE-500's mids and treble and I just can't live with that... Same with the SR225i. It sounds great the way it is, but in the back of my head it keeps reminding me of the RS1i.

post #10 of 13

Not listening to the right kind of rock, guys

 

Now tell me that the darkness on the HE-400 doesn't compliment that. 

 

They are lame for metal and more energetic stuff though, I'll be the first to admit that. Rather get a sr325is for that sort of stuff.

post #11 of 13

I find HE400 to be exceptional at progressive rock; more-so than HE500s.

post #12 of 13

Really the He 400 doesn't like rock to well... I enjoy my Dt 880 pro 250 [which is apprently inferior to the He 400] quite a bit with... well everything! I do ofc have a tube amp and I on Eq it for Edm adn Techno.

 

But how does the He 400 compare to the dt 880 with rock... that might be a good direction for you to go

post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asr View Post

You could alternately try the Audio-Technica AD2000, which would be a sonic contrast against the HE-400 - especially in the percussion aspect. The AD2K and percussion are like: very_evil_smiley.gif

 

And if you think Grados lack body, then you should hear the AD2K. It's a contrast against that too.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/574882/5-year-re-review-audio-technica-ath-ad2000

 

I'm now a very happy AD2K owner.  RS1 and HE-500 on my wishlist to audition this year but man, really digging these ATs.  Thanks for the tip!

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