c&p from the M100 thread since I think this is good info for anyone reading in here and curious like I was.
So today, I went to a HiFi store and sampled the following:
- HiFiman HE-400
- Sennheiser HD800
- Denon AH-D7100
- Shure SRH1840
- Audeze LCD2
- Grado RS1i
- Grado PS500
All off of a Burson Conductor (an $1800 amp) using my iPhone 5s as a source.
I spent about 2 hours auditioning all of them, using music from a variety of my styles (metal, rap, electronic, post-rock, post-metal). I had a credit card in my hand and was ready to purchase something. You know what happened?
...I went home with my M100's. It was a 115 mile drive and I really, REALLY wanted for one of them to floor me and turn into my new "at-home" pair and the M100s remain my portables. Unfortunately, there just wasn't anything on that list that particularly impressed me. The HE-400's sounded really nice, but the low end was lacking. Say "accurate" all you want, the point was that I had to focus really hard for the low frequencies. The LCD2 was better, but hardly impressive. The RS1i... I don't even know who would enjoy that. It was ALL treble. The PS500s were close to being a winner, they sounded burly and aggressive, but the frequency just COLLAPSED under about 50-60Hz.
Out of the above, the best two were the HD800s and the D7100's. The problem with the former was obviously price ($1600 for the cans plus a big amp to power them), and the latter just felt like the M100s with a bigger soundstage. It wasn't a significant improvement and didn't add much beyond more "air" to the sound. Yes, I understand why some people love the Audeze's. If you list to delicate music, these are sublime. I tested some acoustic and piano tracks and it absolutely sounded like I was sitting beside the instruments. Unfortunately, for more energetic music, all that stuff lacked the "oomph", and the ones that could keep up with the M100's didn't add enough to warrant purchasing a new pair and amplifier.
Again, keep in mind, this isn't rationalization. I had the money ready to go. I had heard so much about all of these that I wanted to have a high end setup, but I sat there, more than a little underwhelmed, kind of chuckling at the fact that I could run the M100's straight off of my iPhone and get a more lively experience (at the expense of clarity and openness) than headphones that cost more than twice as much. I admit that this is partly because of WHAT music I used (320kbps mp3, mind), and if my listening habits trended more toward "live" type recordings of orchestral or acoustic instruments my experience would be different, but... I actually stayed a lot longer than I meant to because I refused to believe that the M100s were keeping pace or surpassing these expensive products.
My enjoyment of the D7100s leaves me wondering what the Fostex TH600/900 or the OLD D7000's sounded like, but I know right now that I have no real interest in open-back or planars. The HD800s, admittedly, sounded SUBLIME (and were way more comfortable than they had any right to be), but until I have $2000 that I need to get rid of I'm not going that route.
So here's the take home: if you have the M100s and you love them (meaning, you're not trying to EQ away problems you have)? You're not gonna find anything under $1000 that can pull you away. The Shure SRH1540s were actually pretty dang good, but... didn't seem like any appeal over them. The main appeal of the two I liked were that they were "bigger" and so they had all the power but a wider soundstage and separation. I honestly couldn't tell if the speakers were better or if it was just due to the M100 cups being cramped.
Got a couple neat pics though.