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AKG Q701 VS Beyerdynamic DT880 250ohm - The Kodhifi shootout

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

I have spent the last month or more with the q701 and it's had about 300 hours of break in now so it's finally time to see how it  stacks up against the DT880 250 ohm. The format of this shootout will be 3 songs, chosen for their clarity, dynamics, and quality,  they lend themselves well to critical listening and are full range. One go on each headphone and a final go, hot swapping between  the two at a normalized volume.

Test equipment was Foobar2000 into an Audioengine D1 USB DAC in 16/44.1, going into Fiio E9 at 1/2 volume, low gain.

1. Take you away by Angus and Julia Stone

DT880 250ohm - The pick noise of the guitar is dry and resonant, very clear. Vocals at the beginning (female) are textured, you can  hear the slight hiss of the recording engineer punching the vocals in and out. The piano kicks in just at the edges, warming up the  midrange nicely. Stereo image of the guitar on the left, vocal center, is believable and open. 2nd voice comes in on left and exists  in it's own space, not center, not left, seperate from guitar on left and voice in center. Bass is warm and not boomy. Highs are  ultra clear with no hint of coloration, silky smooth. The sound is just the right amount of warm. Everything is crystal clear and  flattered by this headphone. No resonances, ultra transparent without becoming clinical and uninteresting. There is quite literally  nothing I would change about this sound, to my ears it is as perfect as I could hope for.

Q701 - opening guitar pick noise is there but slightly warmer. Vocals at beginning (female) kick in and sound a little softer. Hiss  as vocals are punched in and out is still audible. Piano sounds very warm and comes through slightly more in the mix. Her voice is  missing a little in the high frequencies which gives an illusion of warmth. His voice kicks in on left speaker and is very clearly  defined in the mix between left guitar and center female vocals. The drums kick in and snare sounds a little thin. Her voice sounds  a little colored, like a notch valley attenuated somewhere in the middle of her range. Male vocal is very clear and doesn't suffer  from it. Snare hit sounds slightly colored, very subtle. Bass is a little looser and more dominant in the upper frequencies above  80hz. There is coloration here in the midrange but it is slight, highs are present but lacking something. Imaging is good and there  is a lot of air around instruments like the snare.


back and forth - it's obvious now that the q701 is coloring the sound a bit. If you swapped them with my eyes closed I couldn't tell  you in 3 seconds which was which, but in 10 I could every time. It's subtle, maybe a 2 or 3 db in very thin little spikes or peaks  of frequency. The over all quality between the two is very close but every time I put the 880's on it just sounded sweeter over all  and the high frequencies were so clear without being colored or sparkly.


Winner DT880 250ohm.



2. Dolphin - Alexander Rybak
 
Q701 - Violin is very clear. Stereo image of backing vocals is very natural. The violin chops mixed in are cutting but pleasing.  Vocals come through very clear in beginning. Bridge cuts to acoustic, every instrument is in it's place in the mix, the very slight  percussion of spoons or drumsticks against shell is very clear and I hear the echo of it from room acoustics. The bass is slightly  boomy but sounds good. There is a lot going on in the mix, there is a synthesizer doing resonance peaks buried in the mix that comes  through very well. The Pizzicato comes through a little lacking in high frequency but sounds okay. The over all impression of the  song is it's missing a little warmth, seems to be lacking around 200-300hz. The dulcimer at the end comes through very well in left  phone. The cymbal hits at the very end sound wishy washy, lacking in high frequency detail. The percussive spoons or whatever sound  very clear though.


DT880 250ohm - Violin is very very clear, I hear the squeak of his fingers on the strings. The bass hits come through very deep. His  voice sounds much clearer, the high frequency detail is excellent. The violin cuts sound slightly less distinct. The percussive  sound is buried a little more in the mix. The violin doesn't sound quite as dry and seems a little more buried in the mix. The  synthesizer sweeps are very clear in the higher frequencies. The bass overall is a little less noticable but deeper, pleasant. There  is a synthesized bass, or a french horn or something doing the bass line in some parts of the song and it comes through clearer. The  pizzicato comes through very clear, the dulcimer sounds about the same. Overall the song is easier to hear what each instrument is  doing, it sounds very clear. The cymbal hits still sound a little wishy washy, probably the song not the phones. Overall the vocal  sounds slightly deader imaging wise, but that just makes it sound like he's singing very close to you so you can't hear the room  acoustics as much.

back and forth - The violin cuts in the beginning sound colored on the q701. The vocals sound much clearer and real on the DT880.  Some of the resonant frequencies in the violin sound too loud on the q701. The bass is also a little less clear on the 701. Putting  the 880's on is like boosting 12-16khz by 3db without sibilance. It sounds very clear. There is a little more echo in the 701, the  880 is a more intimate experience. I suspect some of the difference in the midrange between the two is caused by the 701's earpads  putting the drivers a little farther from my ears.


Winner - A tie. They both bring something different but equal to the song.



3. L'estate: Allegro Non Molto by Jacques Loussier Trio

DT880 - The double bass is very present and subtle, the piano image is a wonderful stereo, the double bass even at the high  frequencies sounds very clear and intimate. The drums sound far away but clear, lots of room ambiance here. The cymbals are  incredibly clear but far away. The jazz bit picks up, the brush work on the snare is incredibly subtle and lively, it's one of the  best parts of the song. There is a lot going on musically with just the 3 instruments, lots of subtlety and inflection and the 880's  soak it all up. Imaging is a little intimate, not as spread out as on speaker. Bass is deep, drums are high, piano is warm and  inviting. Then they pick up the pace, the ride cymbal work comes through very clearly without cutting too deep, if I had to describe  it in a word - balanced. I can clearly hear the difference between the bass kick and double bass notes. If I had to find any fault  it might be a little bit of thin ness between 2000-8000hz. It sounds a little scooped. I can clearly hear the strings hitting the  ebony board on the bass, I can hear his fingers rubbing and plucking on the strings. The bassline in this song uses higher notes  sometimes than you would ever hear a double bass go, it is exciting. In a nutshell this is exactly what this song should sound like.  I've never heard it better.


Q701 - The bass comes through a little boomy, it seems to rattle a little or make the air shudder just a bit, it's the recording  though. It's just less noticeable on the 880. The piano imaging is pretty good, it sounds a little more mellow though than the 880.  The drum cymbals sound just as echoey and far away but a little less bright, slightly veiled. The brush work sounds like this is an  older recording, like I'm listening to an old jazz record, it's not a bad thing. The midrange is more pronounced in general. The  piano is more forward and I find myself listening to it more than the bass, which is a little boomy and unfocused. Now we come to  the more exciting part of the song. The piano carries it more than on the 880, The cymbal work sounds more focused though and comes  through louder and a little clearer. The overall sound is very warm, the highs veiled but not particularly colored. I can hear a  little coloration in the splash cymbal though. Now we are the part where the bass uses the high notes, it actually sounds clearer  than the 880, I can hear the finger work fairly well about as equal as the 880. He has calouses on the middle finger that sound  different than the index finger. :) The high hat sounds a little washy. The other cymbal work sounds okay. Over all the ambiance and  imaging are superb.

back and forth - Putting the 880's on is like pulling cotton out of my ears. It simply sounds fantastic. The Q701 sounds a little  colored, definitely more veiled and doesn't really add much going back and forth. I keep finding myself smiling when putting the  880's back on. The Q701 sounds a little dryer and the brushwork is more subdued. The piano sounds about the same between the two.  The kick drum is a little more powerful on the 701.

Winner - The 880 hands down.







Over all I would have to stick by my original opinion that these two headphones are in the same league. If it were possible for them  to feel the same on my head and you blindfolded me I wouldn't be able to tell in a few seconds on some songs, but I would always be  able to tell, and some songs it would be an instant difference.

Over all the 880s felt like pulling cotton out of my ears. The imaging was slightly better on the Q701's but so slight it could just  be my imagination, the 880's are semi open but sound as open as the 701's to my ears.

I find the 880's to be more comfortable as well. The foam is softer, the velour softer, and they don't cover as much of my head as  the Q701 which reaches all the way to my jaw bone and as high as an inch or more above the tops of my ears. The headband is also  more comfortable on the 880's.

Verdict: The 880 is the better headphone in terms of sound and comfort. The Q701 can be slightly better situationally with certain  tracks but the 880 is a consistant performer on every track you can throw at it.

Considering that the 250 ohm version of the 880 goes for the same price on Amazon as the Q701, you would be mad not to get the 880.  If you already have the 880 and you are looking for a second set of cans then by all means look at the Q701.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/9/13 at 8:31pm
post #2 of 21

Very nice write-up. Only if you had the HD650/HD600s, then you would have the mid-fi trio...

I haven't heard the Q701 but I've owned the K701 and currently own the K702/65. I also was able to demo the DT880 but that was two years ago and I've forgotten much of what they sound like.

 

The Q701's are supposed to be slightly warmer than the K701 but not by much. The K702/65 is supposed to be very similar to the Q701 with a tad more bass and body. So even though I haven't heard the Q701's, I can easily imagine what they sound like. I would definitely agree that the Q701's are colored- since I actually think the K701's are on the warmer side.

 

On the other hand, if there's anything I still remember about the DT880s, it was their treble. It was a bit sibilant for me. The K701, which is supposedly the brightest of the lineup, was never sibilant for me. And I think that explains why you think the Q's are 'veiled' in comparison in the treble. Did you have any sibilance issues with the beyers? What about fatigue?

 

I assume the Beyer's are the pro version (the one going for ~$230 on Amazon). The Premiums are still $350. Is there a difference between the two models? And would a more powerful amp make a difference and maybe even tip the scale in favor of the Q's? Very curious to know.


Edited by viralcow - 2/9/13 at 9:52pm
post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by viralcow View Post

Very nice write-up. Only if you had the HD650/HD600s, then you would have the mid-fi trio...

I haven't heard the Q701 but I've owned the K701 and currently own the K702/65. I also was able to demo the DT880 but that was two years ago and I've forgotten much of what they sound like.

 

The Q701's are supposed to be slightly warmer than the K701 but not by much. The K702/65 is supposed to be very similar to the Q701 with a tad more bass and body. So even though I haven't heard the Q701's, I can easily imagine what they sound like. I would definitely agree that the Q701's are colored- since I actually think the K701's are on the warmer side.

 

On the other hand, if there's anything I still remember about the DT880s, it was their treble. It was a bit sibilant for me. The K701, which is supposedly the brightest of the lineup, was never sibilant for me. And I think that explains why you think the Q's are 'veiled' in comparison in the treble. Did you have any sibilance issues with the beyers? What about fatigue?

 

I assume the Beyer's are the pro version (the one going for ~$230 on Amazon). The Premiums are still $350. Is there a difference between the two models? And would a more powerful amp make a difference and maybe even tip the scale in favor of the Q's? Very curious to know.

 

Highly possible.  The K7xx family respond very well to different amp circuits.  The original  K701 being the most neutral, and least colored of the bunch.

The OPs FiiO in stock form uses OPA2134 op amps in a 3 channel configuration (L/R/G presumably), with what looks like a solid state buffer section.  I always found the 2134 an OK chip, nothing really special about it in my builds, yet nothing terrible either. I replaced the 2134 in my 18V cmoy and entech DAC with a 2107, and like that better.  The K7xx headphones could probably benefit from some OP amp rolling in that E9.  


Edited by kramer5150 - 2/9/13 at 11:13pm
post #4 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by viralcow View Post

I assume the Beyer's are the pro version (the one going for ~$230 on Amazon). The Premiums are still $350. Is there a difference between the two models? And would a more powerful amp make a difference and maybe even tip the scale in favor of the Q's? Very curious to know.

 

 

There's absolutely no difference other than clamping pressure, but that alone is enough to make a noticeable difference to the sound (probably increasing bass). However, the arms are easy to bend out to decrease pressure. Given that, I wonder why people pay so much more for the Premium version.  

post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post

 

 

There's absolutely no difference other than clamping pressure, but that alone is enough to make a noticeable difference to the sound (probably increasing bass). However, the arms are easy to bend out to decrease pressure. Given that, I wonder why people pay so much more for the Premium version.  


My 880 is not the pro, just the normal one with the DT880 badge held on by 2 little rivets. I listened to the Q701 for a month straight to get comfortable with it's sound just to see if the 880 sounded better because it was what I was used to, or if it really did sound better.

 

The Q701 and K701 are not comperable in sound, the frequency response is different enough to be considered a different headphone than the K version.

 

Listening to the 880's with a flattened EQ curve and no EQ, I never find the highs to be sibilant in either, just crystal clear, silky smooth, extension on up to angels heights .

 

Also when I talk of the Q701 being colored, I'm not talking about it's veiled highs. I'm talking specifically that in some frequency ranges that overlap with vocals, it produces a sound that isn't true. Like someone jacked up the EQ. This was unlistenable when they were out of the box and now it's not very bad, but doing side by side comparisons it's noticable.

 

The 880 is more accurate no matter what you throw at it where as the Q701's inaccuracies can be flattering to certain types of music.

post #6 of 21
Quote:

Also when I talk of the Q701 being colored, I'm not talking about it's veiled highs. I'm talking specifically that in some frequency ranges that overlap with vocals, it produces a sound that isn't true. Like someone jacked up the EQ. This was unlistenable when they were out of the box and now it's not very bad, but doing side by side comparisons it's noticable.

 

 

 

 

Wonder if it could be that peak at 2khz. Very sensitive area, unlike the one at 5khz, which is similar to the 880.

 

 

Incidentally, what is "a flattened EQ curve and no EQ"? I'm confused.

 

 

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post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post
Incidentally, what is "a flattened EQ curve and no EQ"? I'm confused.

 

 

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I was saying that if I listen to it with a flattened EQ (reference EQ curve) there is no sibilance. But if I listen to it with no EQ, there is also no sibilance although the highs are more forward.

 

I'm not sure what is coloring the sound. I find the 2khz bump to be flattering to most vocals. This is more like a very narrow, but very deep 'notch' or 'peak'. I get it more in female vocals than male. My guess is it's the dips from 3-5khz.

 

Sinesweep detects big drop offs at 3520 and 8000-9500hz. This is probably a result of HRTF, which is usually calculated out of measured results. The one at 8900 is particularly bad, dropping out almost to nothing and it's not even across speakers, IE pans to right.

 

The 880's on the other hand have 2 very thin peaks at 3 and 7k that are also likely HRTF but they are peaks, not dips and they are much milder than the 701's.

 

I put 880 on left ear, 701 on right, swept frequency and they track perfectly up to about 1khz, from 1-10 there are some areas where they pan, mostly to the 880 which supports my idea that the 701 drops out on certain frequencies which is probably what I'm hearing as 'coloring' .

 

The 880 colors the sound very slightly and I'd never have realized it without comparing a reference EQ for it. It's not until I here the reference curve that I realize that while different it's more real with the curve on. The net effect is there is some slight boosting from 8-12khz and it's not very flat so it can benefit from a curve that keeps the dynamics while trying to maintain 0db linearity.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/10/13 at 5:43pm
post #8 of 21

Sorry to be obtuse, but I'm still not quite getting it. What is a "reference EQ curve"?

post #9 of 21

What you should do is try them with the O2 or Magni and ODAC if you can. As much as I like the E9, (I have one) it's slightly colored, but barely audible and only when doing A/B comparisons with the Magni. It's supposedly ruler flat, but not as transparent as the Magni or O2, but who cares? It's even hard to detect what I have connected to it. Not sure why.. The E9 does sound good with most everything i've tried though. It's slightly warm itself compared to the Magni. I thought this was impossible!!

 

The mids are actually a bit fuller on the Q701 with the E9 compared to the Magni. There is nothing wrong with the E9 at all, but if you want to see which one is the most accurate, then that's the way i'd do it. Magni + ODAC is pretty good. I haven't tried the Modi yet though. The Q701 is actually much more revealing once I got the ODAC.

 

Another thing, it's hard to know which one is more colored until you're the person who was in the studio or have a ton of other flat headphones for reference.

 

I do agree that there is some slight coloration in the Q701, but not like I care. I didn't buy it for studio use and it's neutral enough for me.

 

It does add some warmth to some recordings that shouldn't be there, but just slightly. The K601 is more accurate when it comes to this, same with the KRK KNS-6400.

 

I don't mind a touch of warmth in a headphone. I got tired of the cold and analytical sound of the DT-880. It may sound even worse with say the O2+ODAC. It's a good headphone, but I got tired of feeling as if I was putting my music under a microscope.

 

Based on my experience any inaccuracies of the Q701 are caused by some coloration from a DAC or amp. I'm glad I got rid of my HRT MSII and upgraded to the ODAC. People kept telling me it would suddenly turn "cold and analytical" but this couldn't be any further from the truth. Now it always sounds very balanced. Almost as smooth sounding as the old HD-598, but even better.


Edited by tdockweiler - 2/10/13 at 11:34pm
post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by tdockweiler View Post

 I got tired of the cold and analytical sound of the DT-880. It's a good headphone, but I got tired of feeling as if I was putting my music under a microscope.

 

 

 

You must have a very different DT880 to the one I have. (Pro).

post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post

 

You must have a very different DT880 to the one I have. (Pro).

 

I no longer have the DT-880, but I had one for about a year. Ended up trying all 3 and prefer the 32ohm version I think it was. My nit-pick with the DT-880 is I'm not a fan of it's mids at all.

What's amazing about the DT-880 is how there is such a massive variation between all my tracks. With some headphones (such as the HD-600/650) they're almost ALL good without much variation. This isn't a negative, but it really made me weed out my garbage tracks for the DT-880.

 

Some tracks sound amazing and then others sound lifeless and bore the heck out of me. Nothing wrong with that. I get that now with my Q701 a lot. Ever since getting my ODAC and upgrading my power supply on my amp.

 

Also..how warm or "cold and analytical" the DT-880 was mostly depends on the recording. If the recording is warm itself, then it'll sound that way. The DT-880 didn't seem to make anything warmer than it should be an was pretty accurate to the recording.

 

Some of my recordings sound so thin and trebly on a very accurate headphone. Even the Q701 and my DJ100. Not so much on the HD-650..

 

I think to get the Q701 to sound as analytical as the DT-880 you'd need an O2(or Magni) with ODAC and then maybe a cheap $10 cable upgrade (low capacitance).

 

When I had the K702 and DT-880, the K702 even sounded like it had a touch of warmth compared to the DT-880. I certainly wouldn't call the K702 warm, but the Q701 is to me.

 

My OLD K702 had this weird peak in treble somewhere that drove my ears bonkers. Even switched up my gear and no luck so I side-graded to the DT-880 for awhile. Of course then I tried the Q701..

post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 

I'm running both phones through the same setup, if it were the source I would hear it in both. Your ears might tell you different, i"m sharing my impression of both headphones. The differences are slight as I said, but many little things taken as a whole change the experience. I've never thought of the 880 as cold, thin, or analytical.

 

The q701 can't get as reference flat as the 880 unfortunately. There are a few products out there that will give you reference curves for your setup for a price and the 701 is about 1/2 point shorter than the 880 for how close to reference you can get with eq. I imagine this has more to do with the rapid roll off above 10khz than anything else. Fixing the coloration should be a simple matter of pink noising them but it's honestly not that bad.

 

Think of the difference between the 2 as like a television. The 701 is like a tv that has a warmer and slightly softer picture, some people like that, it hides flaws, looks nice. The 880 is like a 6500k calibrated set that goes to very high resolution, right at the boundary, without much noise. Because it's more neutral and detailed it is ready for any kind of material. Because the 701 is colored slightly it will be good for some material, not so much for others.

 

Your mileage may vary but these are my impressions and I have a pretty good ear for detail and about 15 years of studio and recording experience.

post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post

Sorry to be obtuse, but I'm still not quite getting it. What is a "reference EQ curve"?


Okay so real world, no audio device is going to be as flat as a ruler. The frequency curves of a speaker or headphone will have peaks and valleys and vary in level. The level of sound in db at 1khz establishes the reference line. Anything louder than that goes over the line, anything quieter goes under. In a perfect world the line would be perfectly flat from 20hz to 20,000hz at 0db. Because of driver limitations, resonances in your ear canal, enclosure construction resonances, etc, that will never happen.

 

Then came the DSP. What you can do if a headphone is pretty close to reference curve, is make an equalizer setting that will correct the frequencies where a headphone goes over or under 0db in order to make the frequency response as flat as possible.

 

When I talk about using a reference curve on the DT880 I'm talking about one of these complimentary curves that make the 880 ruler flat from 20hz to about 10khz, and from 10-18khz it varies by no more than 2 or 3 db.

 

In a nutshell your equipment gets you 90% of the way to reference, and your signal processing gets you the other 8%, it will never reach 100% flat.

 

 

The difference in what you hear is that everything sounds very neutral or 'analytical'. This is good for mixing a track, not quite as exciting listening to music. Some people don't like that kind of sound, they want a headphone to distort the source but in a pleasing way. There are such things as musical and complimentary distortions. In fact if you think of the human voice, it's all about distorting the signal. Your vocal chords make a sound thats nothing like a human voice. It's the shape of the throat, the size of the cavity, distance between tongue and roof of mouth, etc and using your lips, and tongue to shift the sound, and it comes out very pleasing and natural, a human voice.

 

Personally I am okay with a headphone coloring the sound, I like bass for instance. What isn't okay is when it colors it in an inconsistent or unflattering way. For instance the DT880 is not flat, there is a lot of bass from 100hz to 20, a bit of peaking at 10khz, but it does this gradually with no sudden peaks or dips in volume in the all important midrange. It's okay for a frequency response to look like a curve or a hill top. It's not okay when it looks like a seismograph.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/11/13 at 12:25am
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodhifi View Post


My 880 is not the pro, just the normal one with the DT880 badge held on by 2 little rivets.

 

Isn't there only two versions of the DT880, the Pro's and the Premium's? I am confused.

*edit* ah okay. It looks like you have the Premiums. Those are more expensive- going for $350 at Amazon atm. The Pro's are the cheaper ones at ~$230.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodhifi View Post
 
 Your mileage may vary but these are my impressions

 

 

 

Not much of a YMMV, since it sounds like you and tdock agree that the Q701's are slightly colored in comparison to the DT880s. tongue.gif At this point it's a matter of personal preference. I might have to get the DT880s as my next cans to see for myself.


Edited by viralcow - 2/11/13 at 12:32am
post #15 of 21

@tdockweiler:

 

Your comments are very interesting but I would always have to disagree with you about the DT880 sounding cold and analytical; that's far from what I hear. I owned the HD650 for three years and I don't find the 880 any colder, just leaner overall, and certainly capable of more detail. It's a better phone IMO, but being less warm is always going to be less flattering (or concealing, as the case may be).

 

@Kodhifi:

 

I do get the idea of reference EQ, and pretty much understood that that was what you meant. I think I got confused by the sentence "Listening to the 880's with a flattened EQ curve and no EQ", which I took to mean that you were doing both at the same time. (???). Perhaps it might have been better to have put "Listening to the 880 with a flattened EQ curve and then with no EQ". As you see I'm very easily confused. wink.gif  

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