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Headphone Upgrade - AudioTechnica (ESW-9 vs. A900X vs. ES10) vs. Beyerdynamic (DT770Pro 32ohm vs. T70P vs. Custom One Pro), etc... - Page 3

post #31 of 37
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by toonsnstuff View Post

It looks like you are a picky buyer like me, which is good when there are so many choices!


I might have some points that come a little late, now that I see your list, but here we go...


I have both the ESW9s and D2000s. In terms of bass, they are both great, but you are going to need an amp for the D2000 if you really want powerful bass. The ESW9s on the other hand work great straight on my iPod, although I now use a Fiio E07K for a portable amp, but it is not needed if you don't want one. From what I have read the ES10 is not as warm as the ESW9 and might be a little more reveling if you aren't playing the best quality files. I think if you can find either for a decent price on the used market I would grab them (I got my ESW9s from ebay). If you are doing a lot of moving around though, I felt neither pair stayed on my head that great, still very comfortable.


Another suggestion are the Sony MDR-1R. They are a little larger than the ESW9s but stay on my head very nicely when I am walking about. Even easier to drive than the ESW9s and more bass, but lose some clarity in the mid range. The highs are smooth, but cant't compete with the ESW9s, which sound amazing with female vocals. They are about $300 but I got mine on ebay for cheaper. The included cable has iPod controls as well. 


I know selection is hard, but if you are up for buying and selling on the used market you can try many headphones and lose much money reselling. 

I'm not as picky as I am indecisive. The main thing for me is for the headphones to be the most revealing, crystal clear, comfortable, look good, and semi-portable (I think even my Denon AH-D750's are portable enough).


I wouldn't really consider the Denon's anyways, since: 1. I already have a pair of Denon's so the sound signature might be a bit similar 2. All the Denon's are Made in China nowadays, even the ones that cost over $1000, where as a $150 pair of Beyerdynamics are made in Germany and a $150 pair of AT's are Made in Japan. I don't respect Denon as a company since they want to line their pockets a lot more than AT or Beyer or other companies that choose not to outsource.


The Sony MDR-1R is likewise outsourced to Thailand. However, the MDR-SA5000 is Made in Japan and is only $500 new (maybe $200 used) but it is unfortunately Open Back so won't work for me...


Looks wise the ES10 is number one for me, especially with that Titanium housing, looks stunning, but the ESW9 looks good too, they both have a rich look about them. I feel that Audio Technica with the E series is so amazingly affordable considering the materials they use and the fact that they are made in Japan with more expensive labour. They use Titanium, Real Wood, Real Leather (not pleather), etc... And from what I hear they are super comfy and portable (although can break easier than others).


As you say maybe I should start by buying used and cheap. Maybe I should see what I can get as the cheapest. The problem is that I can get the Custom One Pro and A900X NEW for the same price or cheaper than the DT770 Pro 32ohm or ES10/ESW9 USED... I know they are inferior and I would just rather buy the best I can afford straight out, so we will have to see what I can get from eBay and the classifieds here. Already found some ESW9s, a lot of them in fact. Just wish I could try them out so I don't have to resell them if I don't like them....


BTW does the recabling actually do much to the sound? I guess this is subjective, but there are a lot of forum members that recable. Also even though I would prefer headphones that don't need to be amplified, I am sure that ALL headphones will sound better amplified, that said I might actually buy a headphone amp eventually for the office such as a Schiit (since they are made in the USA, look amazing, and have great build quality and are affordable).,.

post #32 of 37

I can see where you are coming from with made in China but as I own the D2000 and MDR-1R, I can say they are both solidly built (although the 1R feel a little to much like plastic). I think the DXK line is the last of good Denon cans, there new stuff looks like they sold out a bit like you say... Fiio products are also really good as they are one of the few affordable China made well, but I digress...


I don't think you will be unhappy with the ESW9s, I purchased them without trying them out and was not disappointed. There is something to be said about wood cans. In terms of being fragile, I would take them to campus each day in my backpack in either the supplied soft case or a semi hard case I found, and no issues yet. Do note though, the headband is a pleather material not the sweet lambskin on the pads. 


I started in the used game, mostly ebay, you can get great stuff around the $180 to $220 price range. 


In terms of recabling, there can be a difference yes. Whether the SQ is better thats subjective for sure. My first pair of ESW9s were stock, and then I found some on here that had been recabled, so I got them to try it out (I also wanted a longer cord to use with my desktop amp). I noticed vocals were a little clearer and the punchy bass but lost some of the impact they had before. I tested them side beside then sold the original pair to my roommate. If anything, a recable adds a nice touch of personalization. The person I had bought them from had also added some better stuffing in the cups, which may have had more of an effect.


My ESW9s don't need really need amping. An iPod sounds fine, but just a little bit makes a difference. For example, from my iPod to using a Fiio E07K as the amp there is a noticeable improvement. 


1. Less distortion at higher volume levels.

2. Greater bass impact (less distortion here too)

3. Better soundstage


However, when I step up to my E09K or even my Yulong D100 there is a less dramatic difference. If you want to go US built then the Magni + Modi combo from Schitt would be a great starter DAC/AMP combo. For $200, and what I have read, it is competitive with similar combos in that price range, and they look great. Once I sell some gear, a Schiit product is next on my list. 

post #33 of 37
Thread Starter 

Hello All,


I ended up trading my KEF Q10 Bookshelves for a pair of Audio Technica ESW9's. They were a refurbished pair from an authorized dealer that I got used, but look like new. To be honest, from my initial listening I am not all that impressed. Here is a short review and comparison with my Denon AH-D750's. I did these tests using the same media (Mostly Chillstep/Melodic Dubstep), played from the same players (iPod 5G and Nokia N900), etc...


1. Build Quality and Materials - EXCELLENT A+ WAYYYY better than what is seen in the pictures. The leather is luscious and the plastic is of a high quality, the wooden cups are great, etc... This definately goes to the Audio Technica's.


2. Comfort - About on par with the Denon's. The clamping force can get a bit annoying but my ears actually hurt less with the AT's as the earpads are comfy and cover the ear. In fact even though they are SupraAural they feel like the are Circumaural or somewhere in between!


3. Sound - I don't know why or how a $150 pair of Denon AH-D750s can defeat them but they do to my ears. The Denon's have much much much less distortion and are a bit more sensitive. I thought the Denon's were hard to drive, but I only needed to put them to 1/4 level on the iPod and they sounded better with my Nokia N900 and the higher voltage output .The AT's on the other hand sound about equal on both and the volume needs to be set a little higher on both. The sound seems VERY COMPRESSED AND CLOSED to me... I hear more than I did with the Denon's (this may be due to the better isolation as well), but the overall soundstage seems a bit more closed and compressed.


4. Bass - I am no basshead, but I am used to speakers that can deliver a lot of bass, almost as much as a subwoofer. The Denon's have a lot less bass, but the bass seems more accurate and less punchy. I think the AT's bass is just punchy but doesn't really go deep enough for me. I want to feel the bass, not just hear it, and to be honest it's not much of an improvement over the Denon's.


5. Mids - I was told that the mids are luscious, but they are just meh for me. I think the vocals seem to be a bit distorted and muffled in comparison to the Denon's. They don't seem "Real" but more like they are coming from an old tape player.


6. Highs - Quite recessed and I thought the Denon's were "Warm Sounding..." I don't mind a warm sound but not to this extent. The Highs just seem compressed, and they weren't that great in the Denon's. They seem to extend higher here but at the same time somehow seem compressed. The highs are wear the "Clarity" comes through for me and because they are so recessed the cans don't sound "Clear and Open" enough... I don't like brightness as it can hurt my ears and I am sensitive to high pitch sounds, but the AT's don't lack the high pitch sounds, it just feels like they compress them. This is where my ADS speakers really shine, they just sparkle in the highs and this is what I really wanted in headphones.


7. Isolation - Even though they are SupraAurals, they sit so nicely on the ear and isolate the sound WAY better than the Denon's.


To sum up they are just not even nearly clear or transparent enough, the sound seems a bit distorted/muddy compared to my Denon's (which are also muddy to my ears) and the bass is too punch and not deep enough (and there's not enough of it in the first place). Maybe I am expecting too much from Headphones when comparing them to $2000+ speakers. These did not touch me at all. When I listen to my ADS speakers, they give me goosebumps as if the band is standing in front of me, when I listen to these I can hear that I am listening to a 320KBPS MP3. Overall these headphones remind me too much of my KEF Reference speakers - Great Build Quality - Meh Sound...


I am not sure what I should do at this point... I could sell or trade them for some other headphones but I still need suggestions. Basically I need: More clarity, less distortion, sparkly highs (without hurting my ears), way more bass (at low volumes) but less punchy and more deep, a bit less clamping force (hurts my neck eventually), but with the same build quality, I need all these things at low levels, I listen to only 3-4 volume bars MAXIMUM on the iPod, etc...


The ESW9 for me has the build quality of $1000 headphones with the sound of $100 to me... Maybe I should give it some time, but overall my first impressions aren't that great or maybe a headphone amp/dac combo will improve the sound a lot, but that extra money I could invest in better phones too... I would be sad to let them go, due to their aesthetics and build, but I really want something that sounds more like my ADS speakers. I just feel it's not that much of an improvement or upgrade over my Denon's, on some points it actually sounds worse than my Denons and I feel like I have to turn them up a bit to get even a small decent amount of bass and clarity... What headphones would have what I am looking for in my price range? AT ES10's? A900X? DT770Pro 32Ohm? Custom One Pro? T70P? Maybe getting semi-closed like the DT880? I am sure I would like the Ultrasone's and would probably get them if they were made in Germany. Others?

Edited by baronkatz - 8/5/13 at 12:16pm
post #34 of 37
Thread Starter 



I went to CAS this past weekend and got to try out a lot of Headphones in the HeadMasters section. I met with a number of amazing people including Drew Baird from Moon Audio. It was loads of fun and here is my summary. This might help make my decision easier:


Ultrasone HFI-550s: There was a nice guy who let me borrow his HFI-550s to listen to. The soundstage sounded wider and clearer with more bass and better isolation than my ESW9's. They have a cheap look about them (as they are the entry level ultrasones) but they sounded like some of the best cans I have ever heard! They weren't too bright at all for my taste. If these sounded that great I wonder what the Ultrasone Pro's or Signatures sound like?


Beyerdynamic T1: Obviously being open back headphones they sound a lot better than any of the closed back that I heard. Doesn't really matter how good they sounded because I can't really get them for the office which is what I need them for!


HiFiMan and MadDog headphones: Both of these didn't impress me that much. Meh


Fostex TH-900: Great sounding cans but WAY out of my price range and I didn't like the looks to much.


Beyerdynamic T50P: The WORST headphones I heard that day. Not only were they uncomfortable but they sounded like $20 headphones to my ears... Closed soundstage, everything sounds compressed, just horrible.


STAX: All of them sound amazing. The BEST headphones I have EVER heard. This is really the sound I have been looking for. Unfortunately, all of them except for one model are open back and all of them, including the closed back model, are incredibly expensive and require expensive amps to drive them, etc... They ooze quality in both the looks and sound.


Audeze: These sounded great, maybe my second favourite after the STAX. Magneplanar's and Electrostats are the way to go if you have the money and don't need isolation.


V-Moda: My second LEAST favourite headphones, these sounded pretty bad. They reminded me of just some generic consumer brand cans that you can buy anywhere and kind of looked like they focused more on a cheesy video-game style design rather than sound.


GRADO: I liked them way better than the Beyer T1's. They were uncomfy and ugly, but the sound is really the best I heard from openbacks that day besides the electrostats/magneplanars,


Seinheisser Momentum: Sounded great but made in China, have a cheap feel and look to them...


I also tried my ESW9's with some amp/DAC combo's and WOW. The difference is NIGHT AND DAY:


Schiit: What a bunch of friendly guys. I tried the Modi/Magni combo and the sound was GOOD. I think the amp itself didn't do much, it wasn't until I connected it through the DAC that it started to really shine through... The same went with all the other amps I tried. I felt the DAC really changed the sound more than the amp. I preferred the bigger DAC/Amp combo such as the Valhalla and the Lyr. I LOVED the tube amps and the sound they produced more than the solid state. unfortunately the Modi/Magni is the only one in my price range.


Other Amps: Tried a Sony I didn't like that much, tried a few other portable DAC/Amp combo's and they were ALMOST as good as the Schitt's but not as good. Either way ALL OF THEM made the ESW9 sound better than normal, and by a big margin, maybe 50% better to my ears... Like listening to a different pair of cans!




Anyway, I am enjoying my headphones for now, BUT I still would prefer to upgrade. I think I will keep these as they are a fun pair of cans as Drew mentioned. I asked him if the ES10s would be better for me and he said that they are not that much different in sound so if I want an upgrade for the type of sound I want he suggested the Beyer T7Ps... It's too bad there were none for me to try...


Basically I want the sound of the STAX in a closed headphone for a few hundred dollars! :-) Or as CLOSE as I can get to it...

Edited by baronkatz - 8/12/13 at 1:31pm
post #35 of 37
Thread Starter 

UPDATE: I've purchased a pair of T70Ps which according to Ken Rockwell are the most open and revealing sounding closed headphones. My initial observations aren't that great:


1. They have no bass whatsoever, I just don't hear any bass at all from them, even with the higher voltage from the Nokia N900 which usually drives my ESW9s with a good thump.


2. Brightness is high but not as bad as I thought it would be. However, Sibilence is horrible... I get a headache after listening to these for a half hour.


3. Comfort is not as good as the ESW9As, the form factor actually presses on my jaw worse than the ESW9s, on top of that they keep sliding off my head when I look down and my head is fairly big.


4. Build quality is better than the ESW9s, but material use is much cheaper, besides the aluminum hinges, the rest of the headphones are cheap plastic, velour instead of real leather (as used on the T5P), etc... For the price I would have at least liked sheepskin or lambskin as I got on the ESW9s which were half the price!


5. Balance - people say they are evenly balanced, but this would only be the case if I could hear the bass. As of right now, I think they are just highs and mids. Boring, very analytical... Great if you are in a recording studio testing out recordings from a jazz band to look for flaws, not so great when you are using MP3s or even listening to FLACs which have recording flaws, etc... Also not exciting at all, so bland, just feels like bleh. I don't care that they are revealing, they lack any sort of excitement. Again this is like my old KEF Reference Model Ones compared to the ADS L690s I got later, The L690s were half the price, and sounded about 10x better and more exciting. Especially for electronic music! I think the T70P might be good for people who only listen to Jazz or only Vocals, nothing else...


6. Isolation - Way better than the ESW9A but the velour pads leave much to be desired...


So now I am thinking to trade both the T70P and the ESW9A in for a pair of Ultrasone Edition 8s or Ultrasone Signatures if someone would be obliged? I like the form factor of the Ultrasones better, they are more portable, and the block out sound better. Also I think they would work way better for EDM such as Dubstep, Chillstep, Trance, and even TripHop. They have more bass, and are more exciting and fun. I heard that the JVC DX1000s and some Fostex and others are good, but they are HUGE....

post #36 of 37

Enjoying this slightly bizarre thread


What happened next ?


BTW My Prima Luna amp and Quad Electrostatic speaker are both made in China, and are of much better build quality 

than Quad ever made in the UK, and my Prima Luna is now 8 years old, and still faultless

post #37 of 37
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by KT66 View Post

Enjoying this slightly bizarre thread


What happened next ?


BTW My Prima Luna amp and Quad Electrostatic speaker are both made in China, and are of much better build quality 

than Quad ever made in the UK, and my Prima Luna is now 8 years old, and still faultless

I ended up getting a pair of used Ultrasone Edition 8's way above the initial price range with a Centerance Dacport 24bit/96khz portable dac/amp. Here is my feeling:


Pros: Isolation - these are the best isolation I've ever had from a portable can, period. It's almost like wearing a pair of headphones at a shooting range.

3D like sound with excellent stereo separation - due to the driver position/S-logic

Portability - not as good as my ESW9's but those don't isolate at all, so for how well they isolate this is great.

Build Quality - why don't they build ALL headphones like this? The headband is totally metal all the way through, much harder to break than the Denon's, etc... in the same price range which shatter so easily.

Radiation protection - not sure if this is just marketing hype or not? Didn't realize that wired headphones gave off radiation, thought it was only wireless...

Comfort - The clamping force is just right, the earpads and materials are luxuriously soft and supple, and you can wear it for hours without your ears hurting. I work it for 11 hours straight on a plane ride and there are not better headphones I have experienced for this purpose.


Cons: Bass - it has a strong emphasis on sub bass but lacks all other bass. Unfortunately with most music, sub bass is very rare so it's like hearing bloating in some parts with no other bass.

Brightness - This isn't as bad as in Beyerdynamics but still a bit too high pitched for my taste. Wish the highs didn't extend that much.

Metallic - I would prefer paper drivers if they still made them over these titanium or whatever they use these days, makes everything sound harsh.

Balance - It's really a strong V-Shape or U-Shape, Not very neutral at all.

Cheap Cord - This is so annoying, it's like putting a cheap plastic buckle on a handmade Hermes Birkin Bag, so tacky!!! I think they bought this cord at the .99 cent store! :-(


Overall the T770 Pro's I own sound A LOT more open than these and have a much more crystal clear sound to me (better soundstage, although it is at the expense of grain). The bass is also a lot better in the T770Pro's (although not the sub bass). If only the T770Pros were more attractive, portable, and not as HARSHLY bright as they are... My ears hurt after a few hours of listening to them. Also the drivers feel like they are too far away from the ears, forcing you to turn them up a lot, which leaks out sound, especially when taking them off.


Unfortunately my search continues. In regards to your speakers, I am sure the quality is OK for the Chinese ones. I am a stickler for quality and attention to detail, but besides that, I don't buy Chinese goods for many reasons: the economic race to the bottom, trade deficit, cheap slave labour (factory owners + western "design" companies (not manufacturing as they don't make the product if they outsource) make millions whilst the workers get a pittance), collapsing of manufacturing techniques, etc... Quality is very much individual. Lotus (I own one and am the president of the local club), are all handmade in the UK, but even Proton/DBR Hi-Com (Lotus' Parent Comany) didn't want to outsource manufacturing to Malaysia since they respected the craftsmanship that goes into that. Many people might not think it's as reliable as a Honda, but that doesn't mean it's not as well built, in fact it's a lot better built because of the materials used, the attention to detail, the fit and finish, etc... This is lacking from many Chinese products, besides all the demographic/moral affect that outsourcing has.


To top it off all the best quality products are NOT made in China. Most high-end manufacturers don't outsource: Meridian, Genesis (Car Amplifiers handmade and even hand soldered boards in the UK), Beyerdynamic (even the midgrade), Audio Technica (even the midgrade stuff), Canon (Most Canon manufacturing has returned to Japan, even the lower-mid stuff, partly because of lack of quality control in China), Arriflex, Panavision, Aaton, Hasselblad, Leica, etc... China does have some decent manufacturing in some areas, but it's few and far between. Nearly all the highest end products are made in the developed world by skilled craftsmen, etc... Not to mention STAX, Audeze, and the other highest end headphones. I stopped respecting Denon a while back (besides the fact that they have $2000 headphones which are made in China for nothing when I can get $200 Audio Technica or $150 Beyerdynamics that are made in Japan and Germany respectively which makes it a better deal), they just have the poorest build quality: the plastic looks cheap and they break apart so easily, doesn't matter if they are the $2000 or $200 Denon's and that's really sad because they do sound decent!

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