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ADVICE: How to make the jump into the (not anymore) high-end? – join if you enjoy loooong reading…

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,
Yes, it's another "what should I buy" thread, and yes, I know there's a fixed topic for that, but the fact is it's a mess. It’s very hard to get more than one or two advices before the next poster asks for something completely different. That being said, please move/merge it if it's a problem over here.
Some time ago (before Beats =P), I discovered this crazy place that is Head-Fi. Read a lot, learned a lot, laughed a bit, and since then dreamed about the day I'd finally get one of those “high-end” cans everyone talked about. You guys helped me buying my first IEM then (now discontinued Philips SHE-9850), which I love and use every day. I couldn't be happier.
I then kept dreaming about full-size phones, dedicated amps, magical DACs and stuff, but for some rea$on everything was unreachable at the time (I'm from Brazil, by the way). Well, it seams like those are not high-end anymore (never thought there would be $1,000+ cans!), but at least now I can aford one ;)
Well, last month I bought an Apogee Duet 2 to try recording a couple songs with a friend (I’m learning piano), and found out it sounds absolutely great. Then I thought “why not?”, and decided to finally build my desktop setup, using it as my DAC/amp combo. Now obviously I need some cans. And some help. So, where to begin…
- Standard CDs (44.1/16) --> XLD --> ALAC --> iTunes + BitPerfect --> USB --> Duet 2
- I think the Duet 2 (specs here and review/measurements here) is good enough as a DAC (I mean, people actually record music with its conversor, right?), and would guess as a quality amp too, so I'l stick with it. The exception would be if it isn't powerful enough to drive high impedance cans; in this case I'll probably go with the O2 amp, if there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Around $400 - give or take - which pretty much means any “mid-fi" cans. Obviously I don't need to spend every penny, the less the better. I don't want to spend 2x more for a 3% sound improvement, if you know what I mean.
- Full-size cans, not on-the-ear. They have to be comfortable, preferably above the average. The only phones I have to compare in this area are my PS3 Wireless Headset, which I find ok, although they do touch my ears a bit. So something a bit bigger would be better (defnetely not smaller).
- Open or closed, I don't mind. I'll only listen to them in my room, which is fairly quiet at night, apart from the ceiling fan :(
- Good durability, since I'll order it from USA and will not be covered by warranty. Replaceable cable/pads are obviously nice.
- I won't mod anything in any way (not even remove foam and such), nor will buy aftermarket cables.
- I'd like to avoid anything made of real (animal) leather, I just can't agree with animal exploitation (becoming vegetarian myself).
- I’d really like to stick with one of these brands, which are well-known around here, and thus easier if I want to resell it for any reason: Senn, Beyer, AKG, Shure, Denon, Philips, Sony, B&W, Grado.
- I mainly listen to rock, especially alternative (Dire Straits, Radiohead) and indie (The Killers, Strokes), folk (from Jack Johson to Beirut), lo-fi (Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel), a bit of OST, a bit of Classical, and obviously everything that has piano on it (from Keane to Norah Jones to Chopin).
- Don't care about: hip-hop, electronic, metal, mainstream pop.
- I listen to music I like, no matter if it was recorded at Abbey Road or at someone's basement, so most of my records are far from being flawless. Most are from '90 and later (no, I don't like Beatles – go figure).
- I want to 'feel' the music, not analyse it. I'm not an engineer trying to find flaws on an album, I'm the guy that wants to close his eyes and feel like he's just there, feeling whatever the song is supposed to make him feel. That being said, it's always nice to hear fine details, as long as it doesn't make my favorite albums unlistenable. I want something that makes my music sound as if it is supposed to in real life. I guess the keyword is… 'euphonic'?
- I really enjoy my SHE-9850 overall signature (review here). The only thing I don't really like about it is treble, which sometimes sounds a bit sibilant and "distorted" with some recordings. So I'm probably after some phones that will be an improved, even more refined version of it, keeping the same basic signature. A wider soundstage would be nice too.
- I'm not aware of any stores around here where I can listen to phones at this price range (most only have Bose or Beats), so I'll unfortunately have to buy based mostly on other’s opinion.
- These are the cans that I can buy online and try (7-days money-back): K240, K702, Q701, HD650, DT770, DT880, DT990, SRH840, P5. Any other will have to be imported from USA, and can’t be sent back if I don’t like it.
- After lots of threads, blogs and reviews, I’m leaning towards HD600 or HD650. I’m considering getting the HD650, it seems to be pretty comfortable, well-regarded, and very close to the sound I’m looking for. My concern is that I often see people calling them veiled, muddy, boring or too laid-back, and I can’t really measure how much that means, since I don’t have any reference despite my IEM. On the other hand, HD600 is usually considered very neutral, and I’m worried that I’ll find it too lifeless or something like that (and I think it's ugly, but oh well…).
If possible don’t say just “get X”; say why you think it would or wouldn’t fit my needs, what’s its strength and weakness. If you can, compare one to another. I really enjoy reading, so the more the better ;)
Thanks a lot, and sorry for any English mistake! :)
post #2 of 50


post #3 of 50

Get the HD650, you won't be disappointed. The senns veil thing is a myth (just like elves, gremlins, and Eskimos). They're great for all music types and very comfortable. Plus if you don't need portable cans then open-back is the way to go. Get them and get ready to have your world flipped upSide down. 


Dont get grado. 

post #4 of 50
Grado is a good choice, but he wants comfortable. Sennheisers are a good. choise or maybe a he400
post #5 of 50

I was worried about the HD650 veil before I got them, too. I definitely do not want a boring sounding headphone or something too muddy. But after deciding on the HD650's after a deal popped up, I don't think they're veiled or without detail at all. It's just that the treble is laid-back. The details are still there, but they're not in your face and they aren't fatiguing at all. They've turned me away from Grados, which I now think are far too harsh and unpleasant to listen to. Plus, the HD-650's are much more comfortable, and unlike a lot of other nicer cans, they're lightweight. I tried a friend's HD600s and found them overly bright for my tastes, but I think he might have EQ'd a U-curve into it.

post #6 of 50

I think your barking up the right tree with the HD 600 or the HD 650.  I have the HD 600 and had the opportunity to compare both back to back about a year ago (at the time I had Senn's HD 555)  I ended up going with the HD 600 because I felt it struck a better balance between warmth and excitement.  I listen to everything from folk, to classical, to prog rock etc.  To me the HD 600 was the clear winner as It could sooth me with some sweet jazz one minute then get me headbanging with Metallica the next.  


The 650 definitely was more suited to less complex music like acoustic, vocal or small jazz sets.  In these areas it probably beat the 600s.  You state a preference for indie rock and alternative.  I find the 600s right at home with these genres.  Unfortunately I don't remember how well the 650s performed for comparison.  


If I had to choose all over again I would still get the 600s, the more prominent treble and less prominent bass hump suit me much more.  


Let me wrap up by saying both of these phones are considered warm and will wrap you in a musical cocoon for hours.  The final decision between the two comes down to how tightly wrapped you would like to be.  Think of the 650s as a smooth milk chocolate, still chocolate but with some sugar added for sweetness.  The 600s are more of a mild dark, closer to a straight 100% dark chocolate but still sweet enough to enjoy the rich flavor without any of the bitterness.

post #7 of 50

I enjoyed my HD650 with alternative and progressive rock as well as the female vocals you've listed and think it's a good choice for those genres where the midrange is presented slightly more prominently, while not being depending on skull thumping bass (plenty of well controlled bass) or sacrificing too much treble.  New HD650's may have higher clamping force from the headband, but after a bit of use, they become very comfortable for most head shapes.  

post #8 of 50


Edited by mrbigsby - 3/3/13 at 12:10pm
post #9 of 50

I'd echo the above suggestion of the HD650 or the HE400.


The HD650 is a very pleasing / easy to enjoy sound that does a number of genres very well.  The drawback I felt was that it is not agressive and feels more laid back, however if you have nothing to compare it too and are not going back and forth between headphones, this is an issue I don't think someone would even notice.  If nothing else, it's a good place to start.


I only heard the HE400 briefly but was very impressed.  The sound signature seamed geared toward 'fun', not as laid back as the HD650.  And since you did not list HiFi Man as one of your preferred brands to buy, the HD650 seams to be a better fit.

post #10 of 50



I'm thinking


Hifiman HE-400

Beyer DT880 250ohm

AKG Q701

Sony MA900

Sennheiser HD600


Very best,

post #11 of 50

I listen to much of the same music as you (indie and classic rock) and I think that the HD600/650 would be a great choice. The 650 has a bit more bass emphasis, but I like the HD600 a bit better. It's slightly warm and that might cause some people to call it veiled, but it smoothes over a lot of flaws and almost everything is listenable (even poorly recorded tracks). It's a great all-rounder. If you mainly listen to rock, I'd say the 600 is better than the 650, since you won't need the bass emphasis.


Personally, I also love my Audio-Technica AD2000, but that might be a bit out of your budget (and it's not as forgiving; the HD600 might be the most forgiving mid-fi headphone).


EDIT: A lot of people like the "Grado sound," but I've found that it's a love it/hate it type deal. I hate Grados (and they have peaky treble, which I don't think you'd like), so I wouldn't recommend it.

Edited by HeroicPenguin - 3/1/13 at 2:46pm
post #12 of 50

The HD650 are crazypants comfortable and very light.  Even though I've moved to the HE-500, I still use the HD650 for multi-hour video-gaming sessions.  Keep in mind, though, that I don't have much experience with different brands.  I went from Grado SR80i to Sennheiser HD650 (and stayed with them an an E9 for about two years!) to the HiFiMan HE-500.  In DACs I went from E7 to HRT MusicStreamer ii+.  In amps, I went with the FiiO E9 and then bought (and heartily regret) the JDS Labs O2 when I jumped up to the HE-500.  I just bought a Schiit Magni and my HE-500 are finally hitting on all cylinders!  Even on Spotify, I'm hearing things that are making me jump and dance and just grin like an idiot.


If there's ANY way you can save up a little more scratch or go used, can you consider the HE-500?  The HE-400 MIGHT do it for ya, and I have no experience with them.  HiFiMan are know for having quality problems, however.  Your safest bet is the HD650 or HD600.  Light, comfy, a total revolution from low-end cans, and although they're not quite amp-sluts, they do work with a great many different amps.

post #13 of 50

To the OP, all high end Grado's headbands are covered in real leather, just tought you should know.


And about Sennheiser's famous ''veil'', i used to own HD600s wich i tought sounded fine, until i compared them to Grado's RS1. The difference wasn't subtle, the Grados sounded more detailed, so, as far as i'm concerned, the ''veil'' is real, but it depends on personal experience, i guess.


My suggestion to you would be the Audeze HE400, i had the chance to hear them about a year ago, so it was a while back, but i remember thinking that they're a best buy in their price range.

post #14 of 50
Originally Posted by stacker45 View Post

My suggestion to you would be the Audeze HE400, i had the chance to hear them about a year ago, so it was a while back, but i remember thinking that they're a best buy in their price range.


audeze has a new headphone? confused_face.gif (u do mean the hifiman he-400 right?)

post #15 of 50
Originally Posted by Dubstep Girl View Post


audeze has a new headphone? confused_face.gif (u do mean the hifiman he-400 right?)


Wow!, color me embarassed, good to see you have your eye on the ball, and yes , i do mean HiFiman, thanks redface.gif

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