Originally Posted by Deceit
Hello Head-Fi. I've never given high-end audio equipment much thought because I've always been more keen to spend more money on PC-related gear, and not so much on audio. I think most of it went into expensive displays, actually... but as of right now I'm ready to take the plunge into the wonderful world (or so I've been told) of Head-Fi. I don't want to bore you so I'll get to the crux of this post.
First, it's hard to say exactly "what I am looking for." My understanding of audiophile terminology is quite amateur, even though I do have the glossary open on another page.
Second, I'm hoping to end within a budget of $250 - 300 USD. I can go higher, but since I don't actually know what "high mid-range" or "really high-end" headphones sound like, I probably won't be missing out on much. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.
Third, my musical tastes. They primarily revolve around a weird collection of electronica (mostly trance and industrial), metal (mostly very heavy post/avant-garde/sludge/doom, power/symphonic/melodic death), classical (a lot of Baroque & Romantic era stuff, a little less Classical, some more modern e.g. Beethoven, Wagner, Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff).
The way I understand it so far, is that certain characteristics of certain headphones are actually anathema to one another, e.g. a "dark" sounding headphone cannot possibly be "bright" as well. Correct me if I am wrong.
Where does this leave me? I suppose it's simple enough to say that I love the midrange, and I love bass. Hell, I love everything as I've been trained as a classical pianist for the past 14 years or so of my life. I love things that are natural sounding, and I suppose I feel comfortable in saying I love a "big soundstage" even though I don't even know what a "big soundstange" sounds like comparatively to a small one, because more than anything I AM A NOOB.
Now, I've been looking at different headphones. I've learned a bit by just lurking and doing my own research, quietly. I've found the HD 598 to be reasonably priced, but apparently the DT 880 Pro 250 Ohm are also selling for the $250 price, for some reason. All the other 880s are $300+ as far as I know. I'm also considering the Hifiman HE-400, because planar magnetic headphones just seems like a really cool technology, and I love cool technology. Now, that's not to say I will spend an extra $150 just so I can say "I have orthodynamics," because that would be insane.
Before I ramble on any longer I will just quit right now, and await any input you guys may have. Sorry if any of this is confusing or psychotic. Off I go then...
Edit - for Amp/DAC I will get the Magni/Modi combo.
K, first off, great choice on the amp/DAC. Seriously, the Magni/Modi is a godsend combo for $200 that will literally power almost any headphone on the market. You're good there. (Yes, I have heard this combo).
Second off, I do want to chime in as I have some similar tastes in music, and I've heard the DT880, HD598, and HE-400, among others in your price range. As for music, I particularly love Trance and Metal - most of my metal is melodic death.
K, you say you love: midrange, bass, natural sound, big soundstage. That's a tall order for your price range, to be honest. Each offering will excel in a couple areas, while another offering will excel in others. Here are the options you listed and some of my impressions with each:
- Neutral bass presence with good extension. It's not a bass-heavy headphone, but it is accurate.
- Neutral mid presentation. It's not forward, so the mids will not jump out at you. But I wouldn't say it's recessed either. It is pretty even-handed.
- Elevated treble presentation. Gives the edge needed in aggressive music, and lends a detailed, airy sound to the headphone.
- Soundstage is great. Soundstage is roomy, has great shape and envelops nicely. It's not super-deep, but its height and width and spaciousness is so pleasant to these ears.
- Great with a host of genres. I think it sounds great with Trance and Metal! I personally don't feel you need a lot of bass presence for Trance, but rather airiness and spaciousness to work with the ethereal feel that Trance has.
- ALSO, it is SUPER COMFORTABLE! Don't discount this! It adds to the overall enjoyment of a headphone.
- Things to consider: It's a fairly bright sounding headphone. Neutral bass, mids, with bright highs = sometimes you might be craving for more bass. Sometimes the highs can sound a touch edgy with bright recordings, as well.
- Flat, even-handed bass presence that extends really deep. It is elevated though, so this is a much "bassier" sounding headphone than the DT880. Bass quality is wonderful - tight and fast.
- Mids are...bad. Well, I think so. Honestly this is the biggest turnoff of this headphone, to me. Many people seem to love the mids on these, and I have no idea how. They feel very recessed, and rather sandwiched between the thick bass presence and the peaky highs. If you love mids, I can't in good conscience recommend this headphone.
- Highs are...pretty good. They have a rather bright peak that sounds just weird next to the recessed mids. It adds shimmer, but just doesn't fit with the overall tonality, imo.
- Soundstage is decent. It has OKAY depth, but has nice height and width. The soundstage presentation on the DT880, however, sounds so much more natural to me.
- Resolution and separation are fantastic! A common trait of planars. This just means it sounds nicely layered, lacks "congestion" and is very clear sounding.
- Tonality is just weird! I could not get into this headphone. Its elevated bass, recessed mids, and peaky highs make for a very unnatural presentation, in my opinion.
- Things to consider: Strange tonality (to these ears). Fairly heavy headphone that some find uncomfortable. A lot of metal is recorded with elevated bass and highs, leaving the mids recessed. Well, with this headphone those kinds of recordings will sound...bad. Just something to consider.
- Now this headphone I haven't heard in some time, but I can tell you this at least. It simply does not work with aggressive music, i.e. rock, metal, etc. It is a smooth sounding headphone that just seems to blunt every musical genre it touches. For a lot of genres this is nice, but not for metal. No.
- I do remember the soundstage having great depth though!
- Ridiculously comfortable headphone! Rivals the DT880 in comfort, in my experience.
- Things to consider: Haven't heard this in a while, so take this with a grain of salt! But just know that my own experience with it has been such that I would never want to buy it for the types of music I enjoy.
So, really I'd recommend the DT880 from the ones you've chosen. Your Magni/Modi will drive it with ease!
If you want to look into other options, I would recommend looking into Grados and maybe the HD600. The HD600 also does a lot right. It has a natural sound with a neutral presentation that works with most genres. It is just a touch smoother than neutral, which, like the HD598, can seem lackluster on metal. But I still manage to enjoy it with metal. I'd take the DT880 over it though.
Grados are polarizing because they're 1) On-ear design, which can be uncomfortable 2) Not neutral. 3) Bright highs that some find too forward. But, they are so fun sounding for the genres you've mentioned! I personally find the SR60i ($80) or SR80i ($100) with L-Cush pads ($20) is an incredible value that you might think about adding to your setup for the purposes of variety. They are very fun-sounding headphones that work really well with metal. I even really enjoy them with Trance! Pick up the SR80i if you want the more aggressive of the two (slightly more bass and treble). Grab those L-Cush pads either way as it will improve the sound substantially!
Can't speak to classical music, as I don't listen to it!
As always, take all with a grain of salt. These are my suggestions based on my experiences and my personal tastes and preferences. But thought I'd share!
Edited by Biscuitz - 4/19/13 at 8:47pm