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Upgrading from DT990 (250ohm) -> T1, LCD-2, HE-500?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 



I've been lurking for a while and really enjoyed your forum and the reviews posted here.


Currently I do most of my listening on a DT990 250ohm, I have mainly two use cases:


1.  High-end desktop -> Spotify -> Fiio-10 amp -> Headphones

2. Macbook air -> Headphones (no amp, mostly movies and some music)



About scenario 1:

When I'm on my desktop I'm usually working or idling on the computer and really get into the zone by listening to my music. I realise the amp would not be ideal for the headphones I listed, and I expect that I will need to upgrade the amp once I've decided on what phones I'll get. The environment is quiet, so noice isolation or sound leakage is not a concern.


About scenario 2:

In the second case I'm wondering if I can use high-end phones. I mean I'm not going to use an amp with my laptop. Its not the end of the worlld if I can't use my new phones with the laptop, I'm not going to sell my DT990 as I love them way too much, and I also have Audio Technicas ATH-ANC7 noice cancelling phones which I can use. I have to say I prefer the DT990''s un-amped to the ANC7's which essentially have an integrated amp due to the powered noice cancelling circuitry, the sound might not be as good as when I'm on my desktop but its good enough. Don't get me wrong though, I do like the ANC7 but given a quite listening environment the 990's will always be my first choice. 

Note that I listen with low volumes, so I'm wondering if the T1 could actually be driven well enough un-amped so that I could still use it. I'd like hear if someone has experiences comparing an unamped 250ohm headphone to 600ohm headphones. My assumption is that the two other headphones would be hard to drive from the laptop, but I'm a noob at this so your expertise is of course appreciated :)



What I'm looking for in the new phones:


I suppose I'm a bit of an odd bird at these forums. I don't consider myself to be an audiophile. I'm not interested in what the sound technicians intended me to hear. I listen to crappy electronic music - there are no real instruments that would sound incorrect. There is no air between the strings. The music is fairly bass heavy, I do enjoy the bass of my 990's but I'm easy to please so I'm sure all of those headphones will have things I like. (I do admit I listen to classical music too, especially Bach's cello suites but its not really that important for me, I'm no expert on classical music so I'd expect any of those phones to have at least an adequate performance for that - I don't demand perfection)


About the models I'm considering:


I have to admit I haven't listened to any of those models. At first I was also having HD800 high on my list, but after reading again and again how analytical it is I kind of figured it might not be for me. As said I have no interest in listening to how the record was produced - I just want to enjoy the sounds. 


There is a store nearby where I should be able to listen to the LCD-2 and maybe the HE-500. I guess this the LCD-2 would be a pre-favorite in the way I've heard it described. I understand these two phones might be a bit harder to drive, so I'm not sure if I can borrow them home given my cheap amp might not do them justice. I could of course try to borrow them both and an amp. This would probably be the best case so I could listen to them without hurry. I just recently added the HE-500 to my list, as it was unknown to me but I just read some really good reviews that especially said it was great value.


The 990's made me a Beyer fanboy, and I'd be ready to buy the T1 without listening to it in advance, it seems highly unlikely that I would be dissapointed. However I wonder if I might enjoy the LCD-2 or HE-500 more. 



One more thing, I'm not in a hurry anywhere. On the contrary, my spouse has specifically forbidden me to buy new headphones at this time (why can't she understand that I need a fourth pair of >€100 headphones?). Most likely I'll look for a barely used pair for cheap, or try to find one at a sale. I'll worry about the amp once I've purchased new headphones. Since its very likely that I'll try to get the phones cheap its not even the end of the world if I decide my old system was good enough, as I'll probably get almost all of my money back and have the luxury of enjoying a high end product while I try it out.


I also have a practical question. If I go to the store to try out the headphones would it be best to bring my own CD with me? I haven't used CD's for years but I suppose I could go and buy something. Just thinking that its a high end store so they'll probably frown at me if I try to connect my phone to their systems to listen to Spotify (and most likely it would affect the sound). Or perhaps it would be best to bring my laptop and ask for a USB DAC since that would actually be similar to how I'd listen at home.


Sorry for being a noob :)

post #2 of 5

Always listen before you buy when possible.  You will look more like you know what you are doing if you bring your own music.  If you have music you listen to on a portable player bring that in and hook it up to a decent amp and give the headphones in question a listen.  Keep in mind that a good amp may allow the headphones to sound their best which will tell you what the headphone is capable of sounding like.


The best purchases I have made have always been after conducting extensive listening tests.  The purchases I typically return or sell are those that I bought on a whim using someone's music from which I have not listened.


The LCD-2 and HE-500 sound similar.  The HE-500 is more like the Sennheiser HD650 while the LCD-2 is a bit more fun sounding.  Both are going to sound different than your DT990 which is honestly a very colored sounding headphone.


Here is a chart showing the DT990 and the K712 Pro.




See how the DT990 dips in the midrange?  This generates a really uneven sounding headphone.  The K712 Pro is a headphone that competes very well against the HD600/650, but sounds more speaker-like and lifelike to my ear.


There is no perfect headphone, but the K712 Pro is something that I have found that is so darn close that I am extremely satisfied with it.  You may want to give a listen too.


Start with the T1, move to the LCD-2 understanding that is sounds a bit more fun and energetic in the midrange and treble compared to the HE-500, and if those do not give you a wow factor move to the K712 Pro.


The HD800 is a great headphone in its own right, but to my ear it is slightly bright sounding and a tad big.



post #3 of 5



I know that reading around here will have you thinking you need a $700~$1500 headphone, but honestly, don't get caught up in that. I say this because you're willing to shell out for it, but then try to hook it up to an E10 or straight into your Macbook. This tells me a lot. Plus you candidly stated that you're listening to electronic music ("crappy" as you described, I have no idea if you meant the genre or the quality). You're not going to get a good experience buying something very expensive to then put it into a system where you're not properly driving the device, and the media you're rendering with it is.... crappy. This is a very poor way to spend money on audio equipment.


Almost all of these headphones your'e looking at are going to immediately sound like they have less bass. The DT990 is much more bassy in the mid-bass area than these headphones (even the LCD2). Keep that in mind. Higher end equipment does not exaggerate bass like the DT990.


You're going to need an amplifier to deal with the 300~600ohm impedances of some of these headphones. And for the orthos (HE500/LCD2/etc) you will need amplification too. A simple solid state amplifier will be good enough, but it does add to the cost and to the foot print of your setup. Don't go into the "I'll buy the headphone first..." thing, without considering what you're doing. What's the point of buying a high end headphone and then not powering it properly? You're not going to hear what the thing can do. You're just going to feel it on your head and maybe hear something out of it, but it will be quiet, not dynamic, and remind you what $1000 feels like when you don't have it anymore, and you'll be right back on your Beyers wondering why you did it.


Definitely go listen to the headphones if you can.

Take YOUR music with you. You want to know what it will sound like with YOUR music, it's quality, etc.

Pay close attention to what they're powering the headphone(s) with. And ask to listen on a different source that is more comparable to your E10 or nothing. Listen to the difference.


Very best,

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks NA Blur & MalVeauX! I'm sorry for not replying earlier, been feeling ill the last few days.


NA Blur, you are certainly right that it would be best to try out those headphones before buying. Was just thinking that if I can say get a slightly used T1 for €500 then if I don't like it I'd probably have no issue getting €400 for it after using it for a month. I guess the main problem would be getting a decent amp, and then having to sell that too. Dunno. I've seen T1's on sale for €700 but I don't see too many of these high end phones for sale barely used, especially ones that would be cheap enough. I have to say I'm pretty good at picking up bargains, and I see two used LCD2's for sale nearby so I might be able to pick one up if I wanted. (But my spouse has forbidden me to buy any new headphones, so lets keep it our secret if I have to do it ;))


I took a look at the chart you posted, thanks :) But I wasn't really sure what to look for. In my eyes the 990's line looks straighter - so I assume I don't really know how to interpret the chart.. 


The HD800 has certainly been in my list of headphones which I'd want for a very long time, but I've read about so many persons telling how its so neutral but how they don't want to listen to it. I've read some similar things about the T1, while so many people say that the LCD2 might not relay the music as it was recorded but its fun to listen too. So I don't really mind if a headphone isn't speaker-like. I think MalVeauX pretty much nailed it in his post. After reading that I'm kind of wondering if any of those head phones I posted would even be an upgrade given my use. 


MalVeauX, such a solid post! I do think you are correct in your assumptions and you pretty much convinced me not to go out and buy anything. I certainly won't be buying anything without listening to it first. Luckily there is a store fairly nearby where I understood I could listen to the LCD2's (and 3's I suppose). But I think I'll listen to them just to see if I'm missing something by sticking with my 990's. I mean I really enjoy the 990's, once they stopped squeezing my head they became surprisingly comfy. They do have the most bass of all my phones, but I don't think its annoyingly bassy like some cheapo headphones I've tried. 


I guess my main reason for wanting headphones I notice how much I'm missing when I'm listening on my other devices. Say I go for a drive and put some music on through my bluetooth connection to the car stereo. Now car stereo's aren't usually that good, but mine is a few notches worse and there is so much missing from the music even compared to my BT handsfree set. With the AT ATH-ANC7 phones I think the music will generally sound good, but I still miss the differences I notice with my 990's. So I'm thinking is there something I'm missing by not having even better phones. But I do get your point MalVeauX that since the noise I listen too is probably not of a very high recording quality and the exaggerated bass will probably do more good than harm paying 10x the price doesn't sound like such a solid plan anymore. Especially since it means I'd have to limit my listening to my desktop. Also I've been a bit worried about people saying the LCD2's don't last too long, while I've heard the 990's have been manufactured for a very long time and people still using 10+ year old models. I'd so hate to pay >$500 for head phones that would break in a few years.

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

I went to try out the LCD-2's today, the store also had the HE-500's available so I was able to try them both. Unfortunately I ddin't get my macbook to power the FiiO - I figured it was due to not having a power source for the Macbook but it must have been some technical glitch since I just remembered that I tested it at home and didn't use external power when connecting it to my DT990's.


I liked the HE-500's. Its a good sounding can, and felt sturdy and comfy. I think I made a mistake by first listening to the LCD2 though, since it just felt like second best even though I thought it was a good headphone.


I really enjoyed listening to the LCD2's. Can't say exactly what it was that I enjoyed about the sound, but I kind of felt I would like to stay there for a long time listening to it. I was there for about an hour, so figured the attendant was getting a bit annoyed at me though so didn't stay all day. The LCD2 is a bit heavy for me though, I could certainly notice that I'm having something on my head. The model I had was the one with bamboo and leather. I also felt my ears starting to sweat, and it was nice switch them for a cool set of HE-500's for a while. That said I do think they were comfortable and felt well made, but I can notice them being on my head a lot easier than my current DT990's. I wish I had taken my cans with me for comparison, but I was travelling light and I don't have a travel case for them.


I have mixed feeling about them. They are without a doubt good sounding headphones, but they look a bit fragile. I have two small children and they have dropped my 990's on purpose. I would expect the LCD2's to be at my desk for the most time, but still if I drop them I wonder if the wood will fracture. I would also want my phones to last a long time, preferably a decade. My 990's feel so rugged, and if they break they aren't very expensive to replace compared to the LCD2's. 


I also really like my 990's, so as MalVeauX said its probably not a good use of money for me to buy the LCD2's. If they would cost like 300 euros I'm pretty sure I'd get them. But for 1k eur, and most likely the price of a decent amp, I just don't think I get all that much in return. I even wonder if I'd use my 990's for extended listening sessions since its not too uncommon for me to use them for 6 hours at a time while at the computer and I find them very comfortable now that they no longer squeeze my head like a vice. I think I might be able to pick up a slightly used pair of LCD2's for around 700 euros but again it doesn't really feel like I'm getting enough in return. Perhaps if I listened to some other music the difference would be more noticeable, but I just didn't get such a wow-effect from them that I got when I first started listening to my 990's. 


When I left the store I pretty much thought what a great purchase the 990's were for about 140 euros, I mean I got so much quality compared to what I get for putting many times that amount in a set of headphones. 

Edited by Pappabetalar - 9/18/13 at 9:11am
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