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Headphones with Westone-like house signature

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hello. I've been on this forum for awhile and have been through quite an amount of headphones considering my age aka the amount, or lack thereof, of money I have. I've found what I presume to be my perfect portable CIEM, the Westone ES3X (and the ES5 I presume due to it technically being an upgrade). Fits well with any genre I listen to. Fits best with female vocals, which are pretty much my main priority. For those of you who don't know, Westone IEMs seem to generally have an emphasis on mids. The ES3X are overall balanced with amazing clarity/airy-ness asides from the warmth/emphasis on the mids. Bass hits low but are not overpowering, yet hit with authority in songs that require/request it (which are most that I listen to). Treble is NEVER sibilant. Even when I hear the "SS" in songs, it does not fatigue or hurt one bit. They also have surprisingly decent soundstage and great imagery.

 

Do these sound like any circumaural headphones? I mainly listen to vocal trance with both female and male vocals, and various forms of EDM (from trance all the way to chill-out and heavy genres like dubstep / electro-house). Instrumentals, specifically pianos and OSTs like many of Hans Zimmer songs, are also a priority, and I love soundstage / imaging.

 

I've tried (in my recent quest to find the headphone I've liked):

 

HE-400: Main problem with velours is the weakness in female vocals, shrill highs, and lack of depth in soundstage/imagery. With Alpha Pads the female vocal part is somewhat remedied though still lacking by a fair margin to the ES3X and the depth in soundstage is more-or-less fixed and is essentially perfect for me. Realistic yet large and intimate and has amazing clarity/air. Bass is perfect, though I'm fine with slightly less too, sub-bass wise. Mid-bass / punch seems to be balanced, but sub-bass seems to be emphasized. Treble also seems to further amplify my tinnitus for some reason.

 

Mad Dogs: Too congested sounding/feeling. Literal vacuum seal for me. Mids were also not as what my expectations were. Overall seemed balanced though and somewhat retained the signature of the ES3X, though everything seemed too.. closed in / cluttered.

 

Others I've looked at:

 

K702 Annies: Seems to be great in the mids and soundstage by general consensus. Treble, I could not form a general consensus on. Some people say they were shrill, some say balanced. I also can't compare well as I haven't seen any comparisons to the HE-400 or the Mad Dogs w/ Alpha Pads, which are my two main point of references. Bass-wise, I'm scared they'd still be too weak because a 3dB boost doesn't sound like much considering how everyone says the Q701's are still lacking in bass quite a bit. And by lacking people make it sound like they don't have any, therefore I'm presuming they have the bass of AD700s (aka, none). I also don't want to demo because every site I've seen where I can get them for sub~$400 have a 10% restocking fee, whereas with other demos I generally just pay return shipping.

 

 

Price range is any really, though I'm looking more-so for one to use now (say around the $400 range) and I'll go end-game when I start working. End-game seems to be HE-500s for me or LCD2.2s / 3s. I'm also looking to get at most the Asgard 2 for amping as of now, though was looking more at the M&M combo.

 

And I know I'm comparing apples to oranges (in two ways, CIEM vs full-sized headphones and $800 CIEM vs $400 headphones), but hey, doesn't hurt to ask / to see if a $400 HP can compete with CIEMs.


Edited by AyeVeeN - 4/17/13 at 10:08pm
post #2 of 5
Thread Starter 

Shameless bump.

post #3 of 5

I listen to a lot of female vocals these days. Lots of Neko Case, Melody Gardot, Loreena Mckennitt, Wailing Jennys. I'm thinking of the over-ear headphones I've had that I felt represented them best.

 

If you don't want any sibilance with the high end and want great bass, try the LCD2 or LCD3 right now. But these are not the absolute best at having a big soundstage. But the LCD3 were better than the LCD2 (rev 2) for soundstage in my opinion.

 

I'm tempted to recommend the Grado PS500 but there will be a bit of upper mids shout. not a ton, but there's some. Plus bass drops off below 50 Hz. grado is hit or miss for people but I'm loving the PS500 right now. Oh, it's also on-ear. probably not a great recommendation.

 

A really good option to get most of what you want is the Koss ESP-950. Great mids, good bass punch, not sibilant. Excellent 3D soundstage. But the fact it uses a separate amp might make it a little cumbersome for your setup.

 

The HE-500 should be less sibilant than the HE-400 and overall better quality but I have not heard it. (I did hear the HE-5LE a couple years ago and thought it was very, very good)

 

Then, at the top for my taste but it comes at a high price, is the Stax SR007. Might be out of your price range for a little while. But that was the best I heard I lot of music from headphones.

 

edit: I feel silly for forgetting these. the Sennheiser HD650 tick most of your boxes and are easily found used for $300. They have a more open soundstage than the Mad Dogs but more midbass bleed into mids. If you want less of that midbass, the HD600 have you covered although I preferred the HD650 between the two.

 

And you'll need that asgard 2 asap for any of these options. (ESP-950 excepted)


Edited by LCfiner - 4/17/13 at 10:47pm
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. Yeah LCD2.2s / 3s seem to fill a lot of my requirements asides from the soundstage issue. Probably going to see if I can get into one of the head-fi demos.

 

The HD650 I definitely wanted to try but the prices right now are just weird. Was one of my top choices. I don't enjoy thinking about the fact I was able to snag them for $330 new a year ago and now the lowest is like $400. Would like to demo before buying though hence the fact I don't want to risk buying used. Are you capable of comparing the HD650s midbass / subbass to HE-400s and probably the Mad Dogs too? I found the Mad Dogs sufficient, though a slight bump would've been great. HE-400s are of the best I've heard in the bass department thus far for full-sized, but my ES3X edges it out in my opinion. Also hows the detail/clarity/air on the HD650? For HE-400s I like the fact how there seems to be actual black space in-between instruments and there's absolutely no muddy-feeling, whereas, for comparison, the Mad Dogs felt as if they were more squished together.

 

HD600 I was afraid of it being too bass-light, from what I've read.


Edited by AyeVeeN - 4/17/13 at 11:17pm
post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by AyeVeeN View Post

Thanks for the reply. Yeah LCD2.2s / 3s seem to fill a lot of my requirements asides from the soundstage issue. Probably going to see if I can get into one of the head-fi demos.

 

The HD650 I definitely wanted to try but the prices right now are just weird. Was one of my top choices. I don't enjoy thinking about the fact I was able to snag them for $330 new a year ago and now the lowest is like $400. Would like to demo before buying though hence the fact I don't want to risk buying used. Are you capable of comparing the HD650s midbass / subbass to HE-400s and probably the Mad Dogs too? I found the Mad Dogs sufficient, though a slight bump would've been great. HE-400s are of the best I've heard in the bass department thus far for full-sized, but my ES3X edges it out in my opinion. Also hows the detail/clarity/air on the HD650? For HE-400s I like the fact how there seems to be actual black space in-between instruments and there's absolutely no muddy-feeling, whereas, for comparison, the Mad Dogs felt as if they were more squished together.

 

HD600 I was afraid of it being too bass-light, from what I've read.

 

I never owned the he-400 but I had the mad dogs (with shure pads) and the HD650 at the same time. I felt that the Mad Dogs were more flat and even with no midbass bleeding that I heard from the HD650. The HD650 had a larger, wider soundstage but I thought that individual instruments were slightly diffuse and hard to pinpoint their location in comparison to the MD. The Mad Dogs has a smaller stage but had this great pjnpoint precision for sounds. 

 

At the time, I preferred the smaller, more precise soundstage of the Mad Dogs with it's slightly leaner tone. But I could swap back and forth with the HD650 depending on the song. If it wasn't for comfort reasons (the HD650 clamp my head like a vice) I would still have the HD650.

 

I don't have a lot of songs with subbass. never really tested those a lot. They both represented the deep rumble in the background of the Emiliana Torrini song "Birds" quite well. that was all I checked.

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