First things first: This is my first post on head-fi, and I have very little idea what I'm doing. I have a modest 256-320kbps mp3 collection across many genres, mostly classical, electronic/trance, soundtracks, 80s rock, and a bunch of other stuff. I've spent upwards of $200 on in-ear phones to attach to various iPods over the years, because I have a somewhat coarse "garbage vs good" quality sensor. After recently upgrading my home theater to an Aperion Verus Grand Tower setup with an SVS PB12 subwoofer, I've been blown away with how good sound can get. Not just movies, but, like, real music. I have my own home, but with a wife and 3 kids, listening to music at the level of immersion I desire is problematic. Enter headphone research.
A week later, I'm talking with a buddy at work about this. I consider myself a minor gear head, but he's... round the bend. So I tell him I think I'd like to get some good headphones, maybe even a DAC and amp to go with it -- and the next week he brings in a grocery bag full of this stuff, and tells me to go have fun for a few weeks and see what I think:
DAC: Lavry DA11 (which I connected to my computer, running JRiver 18, via USB)
Amp: SPL Phonitor 2730B
- Beyerdynamic T1
- Audio Technica ATH-AD2000
- Audeze LCD 3
- Hifiman HE-6
- AKG K-1000
(I have pictures, but this is my first post so I may not be permitted to add them yet.)
I've been playing around listening to stuff over the last several days, maybe 6-10 hours in total. I thought I'd share initial impressions. I understand these are *very* initial impressions, and from what I've discerned from reading here and elsewhere, some of these headsets may not be ideal with the DAC and amplifier combination. Though apparently the Phonitor is pretty good, so who knows?
I apologize in advance for my lack of mastery over the vocabulary. I'm a newbie grappling with this stuff. :)
Beyerdynamic T1. I spent most time with this one initially. Its primary attributes seem to be space and precise positioning. It also seems very sensitive to the quality of the content. The hiss and pop of some older recordings were very apparent. There was also some sibilance (a slightly harsh "sss" sound) with some vocals. I tried these headphones first, and they were a revelation compared to the Sennheiser PC360 I have currently attached to my computer. I could hear so much more in my music. For the first few days, these were the only headphones I used. The industrial design is also unbelievably good and comfortable.
Audio Technica ATH-AD2000. After the T1s, these seemed immediately weak. The design was also not very comfortable. I tried to give them a fair go, but I just didn't like these at all. Tissue rejected after 15 minutes, and I've not gone back to them since.
Audeze LCD 3. 10 second initial impression on a live jazz album: damn, the T1's are *thin sounding* by comparison. Full, rich, fun, pleasurable with trance and rock selections. I went back and tried classical tracks on this and... oh. By no means terrible, still worlds better than anything else I'd known up until a few days ago, but the higher pitches seem downright muted by comparison, and much harder to locate. The space of the T1s was brought way in, and everything seemed closer, and more intimate. The mids and lower registers... oh, man. So good. Then I realized that this experience right here is why people own more than 1 headphone. All you crazy people with whole collections suddenly seemed slightly less crazy. Comfort-wise, these are nice -- but after even an hour of wearing them, the weight of the set was noticeable, and the cups themselves seemed less breathable as the others, resulting in slight ear fatigue. Perhaps you get used to it, once you become a crazy headphone person. :)
Hifiman HE-6. And then I turned to these. Now, I'm not certain of this, but I'm pretty sure that these headphones sound, to my hears, the best of the lot. I'm honestly not sure if they're as good as the LCDs in the mids and lows (probably not), or as clear and precise in the highs as the T1s. But it doesn't seem to me to be a case of better or worse. Just a different design target. It's hard to explain, but these handled all the music I threw at them well. They offer some of the space of the T1s, but they have some of the intimacy and richness of the LCDs.
AKG K-1000. These are *weird*. The sound is very nice, I think. But they're not very comfortable. I think the non-cup design is screwing with my sense of what a headphone should be. I am looking for an immersive, enveloped sense of involvement in the music, and these seem to give me some of that, while also being very, very open. If you're looking for this, these seem pretty damn good -- but I didn't spend a lot of time with them. They deserve more attention. However, I am informed that they're not made new anymore, so practicalities and desire to buy something new are limiting my interest here, as well.
Lavry DA11. It apparently has an adjustment feature which allows you to manipulate how wide or narrow the sound gets. I intentionally haven't messed around with this too much.
SPL Phonitor. I read very good things about this, but I have really no idea how much of what I'm hearing depends on this vs. the headphones themselves. I read the manual a little bit, and played around with the crossover feature, and liked the results. Seemed more like you're listening to speakers, which sounded good. However, I spent 95% of my listening time with all features de-activated, just to keep as clear a baseline as possible for my initial experience.
So that's it so far, after a week or two of initial playing around. My work buddy says he's got more stuff I can try out, and he thinks (based on my preferences) that I should really try a tube amp. From my reading here, I think he's probably right, but I still don't have a good sense of how much an amp really matters.
Anyway, I wonder if there's anything any of you would suggest I do to further refine my impressions and make the best use of this time I have with this equipment? If I can answer any questions, too, I'll be happy to do so.
Edited by planet - 4/7/13 at 10:56pm