I am a budding audiophile who recently joined this forum to get some help on a pair of headphones. I consider my ear to be good and I notice lots of detail when I listen to music from a good pair of speakers or cans.
- I've been recording music as a hobby for a number of years using an E-MU 1616 audio interface. My ear was shaped the most by classical music and computer written, tracker-style electronica. My tastes are widely eclectic with perhaps emphasis on classical, chiptunes, vocal-driven pop (think björk, michael jackson, stevie wonder, motown), progressive rock and avante-garde instrumental music.
- For home use I have a set of AudioEngine 5 speakers but for cans I never used anything but an old $50 pair of Sony monitor phones, now destroyed and replaced by a cheap pair of in ear phones. I am seeking a quality replacement.
- When I am out I use a COWON J3 with a pair of Klipsch Image S-4s. I find their sound accurate and very balanced for the price, but a little too warm. The warmth would be good if matched with an expansive/expressive soundstage but it's not there. I frequently find myself adjusting the EQ for a "colder" and more isolated sound.
I know no set of phones will be perfect but here is what I am looking for:
- My general price range is $150-$400 but I am willing to spend more if it equals reward.
- I'd prefer phones that don't need expensive amping for reasons of potential portability, power consumption and space limitation.
- The phones will be primarily for home use, but finding a closed-capsule device with good noise-isolation and an expressive soundstage is a bit of my holy grail, as I could then use them at my job too. If this is not possible I am open to purchasing two sets of phones or compromising on some factor, but I'm trying to avoid a too-noisy phone.
- My ear is attuned to the bright and fast over the bass-heavy. But I don't want emphasis on the treble or any frequency to the point of inaccuracy or lack of versatility. I want something with a lot of detail.
What I have tried so far:
I've gone to many shops in NYC to test out cans. I've tried Sennheiser HD650s, beyerdynamic 770/880s, Custom One Pro,
Audiotechnica M50s, Grado sr60i, 80i, 225i, 325i, several AiAiAi phones, AKG 702s, and numerous others.
I found the M50s to be reasonably balanced, but not as bright or detailed as some of the more expensive phones. The highs don't exactly sparkle, but the sound is by no-means muddy. It's going for an in-your-face, punchy sound that I'm sure lots of people find musical. My main complaint was the narrowness of the soundstage.
AKG 702s seemed to have fine detail but they seem fragile and need lots of expensive amping. Without taking them to a very nice set-up I could not tell how much the sound would open up and bring reward. I detected some significant comfort concerns because of that weird nub on the top band. I could not get an accurate feel of their imaging, but the reviews describe them as catering to my tastes.
The Sennheiser HD650s had a very warm, expansive and accurate soundstage, a little too much emphasis on the lows (I did not have them amped). I probably liked this phone the most out of all that I tried but the total lack of portability, and need for an amp are big drawbacks.
beyerdynamic is hard to get a feel for. The soundstage is very analytical and pleasing, especially with the 880 (which seems like a fairly bright phone). But at times there seemed to be a disturbing lack of warmth and cohesion in certain recordings-- Bordering on the unusual and I am tempted to say non-musical. The custom one pro's seemed to be a bit bassier but the mids really seem drowned out to my ear.
The Grado sr225i was the phone that seemed to have the best detail in the highs and mids for the price point, which appeals to my ear. It pulls this off while feeling warm, bright and non-fatiguing. But it's build/design does not feel comfortable at all! Also the sound is not very deep or expansive and seems to be designed to approximate an old-school analog aural experience.
Conclusions and Advice
There are many other phones I'd like to test such as AKG 550s or Q701s, Sennheiser HD580s, AudioTechnica's other high-end models, beyerdynamic T50p, etc. But even in a place like NYC testing options are limited and difficult to access! I am not sure if If anyone has resource suggestions (beyond the obvious like B&H and Sam Ash) it would be greatly appreciated.
Does anyone have any advice on what other models I should steer to? Anything that can be confidently suggested?
And is shifting to the very high end (Audeze LCD2) a practical strategy to satisfy a discriminating ear or utterly unnecessary beneath the professional level?