I'm relatively new to the audiophile headphone market.
I currently own:
Sennheiser HD 555
Sennheiser PX 200 II
Right now the only headphones I bother to amplify are the Q701s. My amp is a cMoyBB v2.03 from JDS Labs, and it makes the Q701s sound a bit harsh without bass boost on and a bit muddy with it on.
Here are my questions:
- Is it worth my time and money to invest in a better amp in the <$125 range? If so, which one should I get? I value clarity, balance, depth, and a nice soundstage—if I can achieve punch and presence at the bottom end without sacrificing crispness in my mids and highs, I'd like to.
I love the Q701s, but they leak like hell, which means I can't use them when I'm at work or when I'm studying in a library setting. The HD 555s have the same problem, and they don't sound anywhere close to as good as the Q701s. And the PX 200s sound nice (they have an exceptionally precise sound), and don't leak much, but their ear pads start to really hurt my ears after an hour or two of listening, as their combination of an on-ear style and an overly tight fit doesn't agree well with me. I'd like to purchase a set of high-quality closed-ear cans in the <$500 range, and am considering the following so far: AKG K550, PSB M4U 2, Sennheiser Momentum, AudioTechnica ATH-M50S, Polk UltraFocus 8000 NC, Shure SRH840, and Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro. I certainly wouldn't mind the convenience of around-the-neck carry I might get with the M4U 2, Momentum, or M50S sets, am especially drawn to the look of the Momentums and the K550s, and wouldn't mind the nice bonus of noice cancellation provided by the M4U 2s or the UltraFocus 8000 NCs, but I really do value sound above all. The three I'm most strongly considering right now are the K550s, the M4U 2s, and the Momentums, but if you more seasoned audiophiles achieve moderate consensus on a set not already in my "top tier," I'll consider your opinions strongly. See my comments in my first question to understand what I value most in my listening experience.
Would I be better off looking into IEMs? As I understand things, they have some great sound quality and sound isolation—but I doubt I can find any for less than $400 or $500 that will match up to headphones of equal value.