I've been a head-fier for an indecent amount of time, and I've spent an equally indecent amount of money on this hobby of ours. The next 'step' on my proverbial ladder, however, is to enter Summit-Fi proper. Before I talk about why I opened this thread, I want to talk about the situation.
Apple Macbook Pro 15" Retina 2012 running Spotify 320 kB/s AAC streams and/or localised content ->
Presonus Firestudio Mobile w/ S/PDIF output ->
Cambridge Audio DacMagic ->
Stax SRM-323A ->
Stax SR-407 (leather pads)
That's my current chain. It's complex, it could lose an entire layer by removing the Presonus and moving to the Cambridge DAC if I so desired, but the Firestudio allows me to also route game/movie/TV/YouTube audio from my PC, audio from my TV and audio from my Apple TV for Airplay purposes. It runs standalone so the MacBook doesn't need to be part of the chain if I desire. Very, very useful feature set, in my opinion!
I also have a pair of Adam A5X monitor speakers and a Final Audio S200 active subwoofer for my speaker-based system, a strange combination but it works well. I'm mainly a headphone guy when it comes to core audiophilia.
I listen to a variety of music. Norah Jones, James Taylor, Radiohead, Steely Dan, John Mayer, Sting, Rickie Lee Jones, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Donald Fagen, Eagles, Venice, and so on. A lot of 70's-80's pop and rock, but some modern music as well. I also happen to like live audio recordings a lot (though not the YouTube kind...), which I think is of note.
On to the headphones. My biggest revelation in audiophilia came from electrostatic speakers that my father bought some time back (they failed fairly quickly, but I digress) - there's a smooth and almost otherworldly distinction that separates them from anything dynamic I've ever heard, as if they're in a class of their own. A couple years later I heard a Stax-setup for the first time, the SR-404LE in fact, and I fell in love again. I bought an SR-202 with a simple amp and used that until I upgraded to the SRM-323A and SR-407 setup I have now. And a week or two back I decided to listen to an SR-007 in a shop, using the same setup. I found the difference between my Lambdas and the Omega II MK II astounding, and it revealed many of the flaws and issues that the Lambdas and indeed most electrostatic headphones have. In other words, upgrade time.
Now however, I've been swayed by some things I've read online. Tyll Herstens for instance prefers the HD800 over the SR-007, and the HD800 gets a lot, lot lot lot of praise here. The Audeze LCD-2/3 get a lot of praise as well, but they're more bass-heavy and dark from what I've heard, which is not quite the sound signature I tend to like.
I have heard the HD800 a few years ago at the same meet where I heard the SR-404LE and found them dry and lifeless at the time. I don't remember the amp used, but they were unbalanced. I have however grown a lot in terms of knowledge and I fear my dismissal at the time was inappropriate. It is however not very easy to hear a properly amped HD800 near me, and I myself don't possess anything close to a suitable amp.
I am at a loss on how to proceed. The issue of cost plays a small role here, but I doubt there would exist a large difference even if I decide to keep the Stax setup I currently have. The SR-007, imported, costs about 1700 euros, and the Senn is about a thousand if I get a decent deal. That leaves a couple of hundred euros to spend on a decent amp, which makes even a lower-end balanced amp (and cable, I'd likely fit my own 4-pin XLR) a reasonable option.
The SR-007, when I heard it, sounded very strange to me. I mean that in a good way that also makes me doubt whether this is the right path. It sounded much more organic and natural than the SR-407, especially in the bass area. Now I'm no basshead, but when I heard what it could do in the lower end of the scale, I was astonished. It manages to do what electrostats usually can't - deliver a balanced sound that retains a lot of the "effortless open air" sound I love of electrostats. However, it also showed me that headphones can sound very different and still be extremely detail-rich and analytical, traits I do appreciate of them. That made me think about the HD800 again and whether or not it was worth seriously looking into, I still don't know for sure.
TL;DR: Have setup above. Just listened to SR-007. Great sound but made me doubt if electrostats are the perfect answer. Have heard but didn't like HD800, willing to give it a second chance. Worth it or am I being silly?