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Help finding the right headphones

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

I've been looking for the right headphones for a while, and it's really hard to find the perfect balance between sound, style/design and price.


These headphones are to be used on my Android phone and on my Macbook Pro using both OS X and Windows. When at home, i use a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (USB audio interface used to connect instruments to the computer) as DAC and mini amp. Since my computer headset broke, I've been using my wife's Creative Aurvana Live headphones on the laptop, which sound quite well given the small price tag. It is however time for me to find the perfect headphones for myself.

Sound: I prefer a sound, that is somewhat balanced in regards to bass and treble but with a bit more emphasis on the mid-range. A warm and lively sound would also be preferable, yet with a good amount of detail.


Music genres: 95% rock with a preference to melancholic, arty/experimental, rhythmic or guitar heavy tracks. I can however listen to anything from classical to dubstep.

- Melancholic Rock: FX Pink Floyd, Ben Howard - "Oats in the Water" & Dire Straits - "Brothers in Arms"

- Arty/experimental: FX Tool & System of a Down

- Rhythmic: FX Eminem, KT Tunstall - "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree", Walk on Earth - "Man Down" & U2 - "The Fly"

- Guitar heavy: FX Michael Jackson - "Dirty Diana" / "Give in to me" & Black Country Communion - "Cold"


Style/design: Cool macho/rockish/stylish, that can fit well to tight jeans and a leather jacket for example.


Price: My funds are quite limited, so i expect to spend around 1000 - 2000 Dkr ~ 133 - 267 € (~ 100 - 200 $ i guess given that electronic equipment is much cheaper in the US). The price is not set in stone however, and i usually end up spending double the amount I initially planned. But the value for money should be decent.


My road so far:


First i considered the AKG - K452, due to great reviews and incredible value for money. But i couldn't find them in any physical stores, and with all the big macho headsets people are wearing now a days, I wasn't sure that this headset would suit me aesthetically.


The next ones i considered, was the BeoPlay H6. Danish design at it's best, praised balanced airy sound and nice details such as the daisy-chain feature, to connect another set of headphones and share your sound. I fear however, that the sound will feel a bit lackluster, and the price is quite a barrier to overcome.


Then i considered the Marshall Monitor. Somewhat mixed opinions, but some have claimed that they have gotten incredible sound out of these headphones. I found the design really cool, and as a life-time guitarist, the style suited my identity quite well. I went to the only audiophile HIFI store around to test them out. The first thing i did was to remove the so called F.T.F inlays, yet the sound was still lacking both treble and clarity. After a lot of equalizer tweaking, i got a somewhat decent sound out of them, though the sound still resembled standard headphones at 1/3 of the price. As a side note, they were really unpleasant to wear around the neck.


I quickly tried the AIAIAI TMA-1 Young Guru, which increased the sound quality immensely, but the bass was so extreme, that I felt like having a subwoofer in each ear. According to reviews, this should be the more balanced monitor version of the TMA-1, which seemed very strange to me.


I went to try the highly praised but expensive B&W P7, and what a relief. By far the most balanced sound so far, and though the sound wasn't as lively and intense as i could have wanted, it was absolutely beautiful without any tweaking and with such astonishing clarity and detail. The design was gorgeous and they fit really well around the ears as well as around the neck. When the music was intense, these headphones delivered incredible depth, but when the intensity receded, the sound was a bit tame though still very beautiful and clear. In time, I turned the mid-range up a bit to give them more presence and intensity.


I spotted the NAD VISO HP50, which i knew nothing about at the time. I really disliked the design and especially the very wide headband, but an unknown headphone from a well renowned HIFI company, had to be tested! I was blown away by the sound. It somewhat resembled the B&W P7, maybe not quite as detailed, yet a bit more lively and with a much cheaper price tag. Maybe they should consider putting up mirrors in HIFI stores near headphone stands, because i would probably have bought them straight away, if i had been convinced that the design would actually suit me when worn.


I tried the AIAIAI TMA-1 Young Guru again, and once more my head felt like it was about to explode due to the extreme bass. When I removed as much of the lower frequencies as possible with my equalizer, i really started to enjoy the intense sound from these headphones. The bass still vibrated through my entire body, but it gave a really strong musical presence, and at that point i could clearly hear, that the midrange and treble were perfectly balanced to my liking. Though a bit too HIP-HOP, i actually liked the design quite a bit, and the comfort was incredible both when wearing them on the head and around the neck. Being forced to tweak equalizers to the max in all setups, just to be able to use these babies, doesn't seem very practical however.


So where do i go from here, keeping in mind, that i will probably not be able to find other stores, where i can test any of my other considerations.


Based on MacedonianHero's Comparison, KEF M500 might suite me sound wise, but the lack of isolation and the futuristic design really puts me off. Based on my final experience with the Young Gurus, I might actually like the V-MODA Crossfade M-100. They sure as hell look cool, but they seem unpleasant to wear around the neck, and they might be too bass-oriented for my liking. Then there are the highly praised Beyerdynamic DT-1350 with or without facelift, but would i actually prefer a bit more colored sound? Should i maybe go for the Sennheiser HD25-1 II, though they are not as stylish as i could have wanted? While writing this, i stumbled upon ljokerl's 111 portable headphones reviewed. Based on this post, the Audio-Technica ATH-ES10 could also be a possibility. They look quite alright and apparently sound great, but they're quite pricy and favors bass over midrange, which is probably not to my liking, though it's really hard to tell without actually hearing them.


Sorry for the extend of this inquiry, but it's hard to restrict ones thoughts when they start rolling. Now i will start to read thoroughly through ljokerl's experiences, which wasn't easy while writing this. Any advice from the passionate reader, who actually reached all the way to the end?

Edited by Core79 - 3/12/14 at 4:56pm
post #2 of 2

It seems you've done your research quite well.


What are you specifically unsure about? Which headphone did you like the best out of what you auditioned, and how would you change it? (Using that best headphone as reference)


When you wrote the sound preferences, i felt like you just described the hp50. But since you're still unsure, be as specific as possible!

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