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Disappointed in my HE500s with Classical

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

As the title suggests, I've been a little disappointed in listening to classical music on my HE500s. I have them hooked up to a DA&T Amp/DAC and feed them with FLACs from a computer. So fare they have been outstanding with vocal music (Joni Mitchell's Blue is wonderful), with electronic (Jon Hopkins's Immunity is great, lots of detail revealed) and pretty good with rock (anything by the Stones sounds good).

 

But when I listen to classical (i've tried Shostakivich's 5th 4 or 5 times now, decent FLAC copy) then I'm a little underwhelmed. I'm not good at describing the listening experience, but I feel a bit distant from the music (is this what you describe as a veil?) and it doesn't feel like there is as much detail as there should be.

 

It could be that the HE500s aren't suited to the genre, it could be that the DAC/Amp is sub-par (although, as I say, it sounds great with other genres), I'm not sure. Just wondering if others could possibly comment and advise please? Many thanks..

post #2 of 16

Yes. I had the same experience with classical. A sense that there was a dead area in the frequency response that was killing detail; also a resonance that made every recording sound like it was made in a cave. I tried two pairs over long periods and just didn't like them. Plus they feel like a brick on your head. Not good. I ended up with a Beyer DT880 Pro which not only sounds better to me with classical but is vastly more comfortable. Plus of course a fraction of the price.

 

The HE-500 might be the  dog's doo-doo with popular styles but it's dead as a Dodo with classical.

post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Well, good to hear that it's not just me with this reaction. Slightly annoying that I ended up with a Dodo. I wonder if the fix would be to upgrade the amp (mine is as cheap as it gets) or to get a second pair of phones for classical? HD800s or the Beyers you mentioned. Wouldn't be an immediate fix though as the wife would kill me.. :-(

post #4 of 16

Unless your amp/dac is an absolute dog I can't see that changes there will make enough difference--or any, maybe. I'd give the DT880 in any of its iterations a go. If you have EQ cut the treble slightly, or don't bother if it doesn't worry you. The DT880 is a low risk solution. Get the HD800 and if you don't like it--and many don't--you're up the creek without a paddle. Don't want that--there's crocodiles up there.  :D

 

I've found that reviews and comments based on popular genres have little relevance when it comes to classical, which needs a different set of criteria. In future, listen only to those who listen to classical.

 

Here endeth the lesson.

post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by warth0g View Post
 

Well, good to hear that it's not just me with this reaction. Slightly annoying that I ended up with a Dodo. I wonder if the fix would be to upgrade the amp (mine is as cheap as it gets) or to get a second pair of phones for classical? HD800s or the Beyers you mentioned. Wouldn't be an immediate fix though as the wife would kill me.. :-(


The Shure SRH 1840 works excellent for classical music too if the HD800 is too expensive. If you pay attention to prices of shops, you might get lucky and get them only $450. They work with any DAC/AMP as they can even be driven straight out of your laptop computer with a descent results. 

post #6 of 16

I would say, read through this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/559542/i-truly-believe-these-are-one-of-the-best-classical-music-headphones-ive-ever-heard

 

And pp312 is right, the criteria for headphones that fit classical music well are different from those that do 'popular' music well.

In general, classical music profits from a neutral headphone (for correct timbre of the instruments) that sounds open and airy  to convey the space of the concert hall (a little tipped up in the 'highs' so to speak). You can buy a relatively cheap headphone that suites classical music well, you do not need to spend big money on the Sennheiser HD800. I would say do not as of yet, because it also demands investments in DACs and amplifier.....

 

Good luck.

post #7 of 16
I have found that the HE-500 can sound good with classical, but it's very picky about amplification.

Frankly, I've only got good results out of a single-ended EL-84 amp (with the right tubes). Try Gergiev's "The Nose" (Shostakovich)...

Even a top-flight solid state amp like the SA-31 doesn't really impress with the HE-500s!
post #8 of 16

I'd say even at its worst, the HD800 still shines for classical.  I think that it can sound amazing out of the right, expensive gear, but still quite good out of more budget oriented gear.  What makes it a good headphone is still apparent even out of the most basic amp.  For a really budget recommendation, I'd say that the DT660 is very good with classical.

post #9 of 16

The Beyers, specifically DT660 and DT880, present the strings section of the orchestra so well and are comfortable too. Some other mid-priced products are especially good for classical listening, such as AKG and Sennheiser. K70x is the most detailed at that price. HD6x0 should not be overlooked. Of the pair, HD600 is more neutral and HD650 has more bass. For chamber music, organ, and female vocals, consider some of the Grados which emphasize that frequency.


Edited by Claritas - 11/21/13 at 8:28pm
post #10 of 16

I had the HD650 for some years but was never entirely satisfied with classical; it seemed too closed in, and the strings often sounded harsh. The DT880 is the first phone I've owned that really does the strings right, without harshness. It's also very open and neutral. Having owned most of the mid-priced phones and a couple of the higher ups, I'd rank the DT880 unbeatable under $500 for classical and probably for a couple of other genres as well. Really, it's that good.  

post #11 of 16

If you listen to a lot of classical (non-vocal), the Q701's is well worth an audition.

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post
 

I had the HD650 for some years but was never entirely satisfied with classical; it seemed too closed in, and the strings often sounded harsh. The DT880 is the first phone I've owned that really does the strings right, without harshness. It's also very open and neutral. Having owned most of the mid-priced phones and a couple of the higher ups, I'd rank the DT880 unbeatable under $500 for classical and probably for a couple of other genres as well. Really, it's that good.  

 

I've been an AKG guy ever since I bought my first pair of headphones in the late 90s. But I'm less impressed with K70x than some of the older models. I bought K702 as a stopgap-cum-experiment, and I haven't decided if I want to keep it. I don't consider myself experienced enough with DT880 to be able to decide whether to buy it. HD650 is not for me: I agree that it sounds closed in, though maybe constrained is a better word. Besides that, I prefer a bass-light sound. And the veil, oh, I forgot I wasn't supposed to mention that. HD600, however, has none of those problems, and I've been considering it for the past month.

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claritas View Post
 

 

I've been an AKG guy ever since I bought my first pair of headphones in the late 90s. But I'm less impressed with K70x than some of the older models. I bought K702 as a stopgap-cum-experiment, and I haven't decided if I want to keep it. I don't consider myself experienced enough with DT880 to be able to decide whether to buy it. HD650 is not for me: I agree that it sounds closed in, though maybe constrained is a better word. Besides that, I prefer a bass-light sound. And the veil, oh, I forgot I wasn't supposed to mention that. HD600, however, has none of those problems, and I've been considering it for the past month.

 

I can tell you, that compared to the AKG K501, the Sennheiser HD600 sounds closed in and veiled. The AKG 501 has less bass weight, but sounds much more open and airy than the Sennheiser HD600. I have owned both for a long time.... 

post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by playitloud View Post
 

 

I can tell you, that compared to the AKG K501, the Sennheiser HD600 sounds closed in and veiled. The AKG 501 has less bass weight, but sounds much more open and airy than the Sennheiser HD600. I have owned both for a long time.... 

 

I've owned K501 for nearly 15 years and I've heard HD600 enough during that time to judge for myself. First, sounding closed/veiled compared to K501 is not the same as sounding closed/veiled. I completely agree with you that K501 sounds better in the ways you note, but HD600 sounds better in other ways. It has a fuller and more elegant sound (sorry, "elegant" is the best word I've been able to think of to describe HD6x0). It's a complete package in its own right. So is HD650, despite its obvious deficiencies. I don't want HD650, but it's very good and I recommend it to anyone who might prefer an even fuller sound with more bass. Maybe we can generalize: there's a trade-off between closed/veiled and full/elegant.

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claritas View Post
 
I've been an AKG guy ever since I bought my first pair of headphones in the late 90s. But I'm less impressed with K70x than some of the older models. I bought K702 as a stopgap-cum-experiment, and I haven't decided if I want to keep it.

 

Had a K702 years ago and hated it. Some people complain that it has a plasticky treble, but I would have said metallic; I really just didn't find it musical at all. Maybe I've just got funny ears.

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