Originally Posted by dermott
When it comes to headphones I am interested in planars like the HE-500 (or 400). I had to get rid of my Maggie MMG speakers, but I loved the way they sounded and I am curious to see how that technology translates into headphones. As for dynamic headphones, I have liked the sound of Beyerdynamics in the past (short listening in store DT990). The T1 sounds like an end game headphone like HD800s or LCD3s, but the pricetags of those are a little more than I would like to consider spending.
I picked up the Pro-Ject as an impulse purchase to see if my old Sen HD595s would sound better that out of my Onkyo receiver. It is definately a step up for a very modest price, so I am now curious how much better it can get. Between the receiver and the Pro-Ject, the most noticeable difference is the clarity of the dedicated amp. Acoustic guitar work and vocals being the most apparent, but that everything seems to be more separated and you can hear all the parts rather than just the wall of sound coming from the receiver output. The only thing I prefer about the presentation coming from the receiver is the warmer, less stringent presentation. Being that I can hear these differences with my HD595s, my thought was that the amp is the most crucial component when providing the characteristics I am loooking for (clarity and separation without sacrificing warmth and comfort.
Interesting to read through this. You're in a somewhat different position since you have experience with the Maggies. Did you get a chance to listen to any other headphones? I would personally suggest you look into the following headphones as well as the beyerdynamics (similar in price range to the DT990, differences in sound though):
AKG K701 / K702 / Q701 (all more or less the same headphone)
Mad Dog Headphones (planar magnetic)
Hifiman HE-400 (planar)
Hifiman HE-500 (planar)
Couple of notes on these headphones:
The AKG K701 / K702 / Q701 will soon be replaced with the K712 headphone. If you're ok with buying used, I'd expect a lot of these headphones to be dumped on the market and they will be a real steal. The old K701 are some of the most open headphones around in the sub $500 range in terms of a "speaker like" presentation.
The Mad Dogs are basically the cheapest entry into what I consider good planar headpones. They are kind of the buzz around head-fi atm, and they are really good headphones for $300.
The Hifiman HE-500 are also excellent, but they are pricey and you'll probably need a better amp / dac than what you're running to get the most from them.
I think your DAC is fine for now for all of these headphones, but it could be something to upgrade down the road, if you decide you're really into this and liking it a lot. For many new headphone listeners upgrading their DAC won't yield much of a difference up front. If you get, let's say a pair of DT990 and an Asgard2, and in 6 months time you upgrade your DAC, you'll notice the little differences it will give.
Pin pointing what can give a really open sound is kind of a balancing act. The headphones, DAC, and amp all play some roll. If someone held a gun to my head and said prioritize them I'd say 1.headphones, 2. amp, 3. DAC. However, many people can make valid arguments for any arrangement of the three, but in the mid-fi area you're looking into, I'm sure that's where it sits.