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A Neutral or even some mid-centric portable headphones recommendations and thoughts. Plus some views based on what I have tested thus far.

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Here is my plan and budget:

I’m hoping to buy a portable and a non-portable at home high quality headphones plus amp (top consideration thus far is the Filo 18 that is portable enough to drive a headphone if needed and still provide high quality and a great DAC for at home listening from my computer and TV/movie watching).  Originally had $125 saved for the amp, planed on spreading $125 for a portable headphone (but willing to boost it to $200 if the quality and value is there), and saved up $250 for the at home non-portable open headphones.

I’m looking for a portable headphone that will be used with my with my Ipod classic (and possible amp if needed).  IEM is not possible for me due to having ear wax problems and I had to go to an ear doctor before to clean them out when my IEM stuffed them up making loss hearing in one ear for 2 weeks.

Areas that I’m looking for in my headphones: Clarity, Soundstage, Comfort (I wear glasses and MANY headphones are designed in a way that hurts or feels funny for my head and the clamping power is way too much for many as well causing sores thus this is a necessary area if I want to listen to music for 4 hours long if I want), and based on what people have wrote about the headphones I have already auditioned and found myself liking based on the music I put in a playlist to test them I’m looking for a neutral or mid centric.  I’m not a basshead.

I listen to: Broadway, vocals, acoustical, movie and theater soundtracks and classical songs and scores.


I’m using this tread for mostly portable ideas and thoughts and info but I will write that for the non-portable open headphones my top picks based on testing and reviews are:  AKG K701 and K702 (didn’t like the Q701 from my testing but loved the K701 out of all the open headphones I tested), Sennheiser HD 558 (very good and comfy and great sound and value for $135 at best buy currently), HD 598, have not heard yet the K702 65 anniversary addition (I’m curious if they sound different from the K702)


Portable considerations that I have tested thus far and loved/liked:


AKG K240:  I know these are semi open headphones thus outside sounds will leak in but that doesn’t bother me (it might be for the best to hear my stop coming up on the subway or traffic on the streets of New York for safety reasons).  I was afraid that being semi opened I might bother people with my music but in testing them I could not hear my music outside of the headphones unless I pressed my ears to the outside of the headphone open areas.  Very comfortable and it fits my head without a clamping feel and is lightweight as well.  The sound is fantastic with one of the best if not the best clarity for the price (seeing it sold for $80 on Amazon and it’s MKII version for $110 which I read is the same as the AKG K240 but with two cables and additional velour pads for even more comfort and enjoyment and I’m willing to pay for that), a very nice sound signature to my likening, and of course I didn’t know the true meaning of “Sound-stage” till I put these on (my first open type headphones ever and now it’s hard to go back to closed at all).

The bass doesn’t cover the mids and is not overpowering like many other headphones but just right for me.  They hit majority of the marks I’m looking for and the MKII K240 are the top consideration portable headphone right not during my researching and testing phase.  Some songs however I felt needed a amp (which I was already considering with the Filo 18) thus unlike many of the headphones below these are harder to “drive” I guess.


Sony MDR-1R:  Fantastic comfort, the headphone presented a sound signature to my liking and I felt it had great clarity and decent soundstage.  Con is that it sells for $299 but I have found it selling also for $179 brand new online.  No amp needed.


Skullcandy Aviators:  Would of not even considered them as I’m not a basshead and disliked all the skullcandy headphones I listened to but one day auditioning at shops I decided to go in with a open mind and I’m happy I did.  One of the most if not the most comfortable and light headphones I have put on.  The pads are small but my own ears and face are smaller than average and they just fit in with perfect comfort and fit my head very well.  They don’t feel like putting on a vice grip and that is a big bonus for me.  I don’t care about looks but they are stylish.

Nice soundstage for closed headphones, decent clarity verses what I was expecting, a sound signature that I’m looking for with mid more pronounced, boosted and clear (looking for a mid-centric or neutral/natural headphones and these while not neutral still supported majority of the music I listened to)  and very nice highs but possible sibilance (when female singers pronounce S sounds the s seems to linger for a mille second) and the low end is more to my preference not getting or covering up the mids which for many is lacking but for my personal preference and music is just right.  I wear glasses and other headphones felt like I would feel sore after 30 minutes but the comfort and lightness of these headphones makes me feel I could wear them all day and even forget about them a bit due to how low weight and comfy they are.  The black ones currently cost around $75 on amazon which is fantastic value to me based on what they give and if they even pop up at $60 I would defiantly get them to wear if not for my portable phones but to have something I enjoyed and can listen to while researching and testing candidates for primary portable headphones (aka a secondly back-up to have once my select portable headphones bust which I hope won’t happen for a long time as I hope for strong build quality and value in time/price ratio).  I also like the removable cable as usually it’s the wire that causes death for majority of my headphones/iems).  I understand due to how they are made they are more fragile than other headphones but I hope to be careful with all my headphones to help ensure long term life.  Also I found based on research that all headphone purses are a gamble even when buying from more respectable brands in lifespan and possibilities of a defect.  Something I buy at $75 and breaks after 2 years would sting less and feel I got my moneywise worth than something I but at $200 with the same lifespan.  It is not the best in clarity and many instruments are recessed/roll off (still learning the lingo a bit) but for the price, comfort, and what they give and sound signature to my liking the value is very high for me.  No amp needed.


The ones above based on reviews and personal testing stood out the most for me.  Here are some others I tested and my quick feelings on them.


HD25-1 II: On ears vs Over the ears which I what I’m looking for plus costly but the sound and clarity was fantastic.


K267 TIËSTO:  Felt great and had a great soundstage for closed headphones and fantastic clarity and nice sound signature.  Pricy however and read disappointing reviews about its built quality/lifespan with many breaking in short time periods.  Sad as I really did like it.


Sen HD380: Better than the 280 that I didn’t like and enjoyable and clear with ok soundstage but a bit tight for me and just remember liking the others a little better.


Beyerdynamic DT 770 (With a good and powerful DAC/Amp the 250 ohms seems to be the best pick for HQ music and sounds I think) first auditioning them they didn’t impress me for how much they cost but that might have been an lower ohm version but I can’t recall as the second one I tested at another store was better with clarity and good soundstage and comfy padding.  However they are very expensive for my portable budget.  Found them heavy and bulky to wear compared to above.


Skullcandy Master Mix (more neutral then sol x3 that I tested at best buy with ok soundstage and good clarity but plastic headband and compared to Aviators that sounds the same but more for the highs/bright for the Aviator which I found that I preferred while the Master Mix focus more on low end but both aim for neutral with some coloring and has good mid-range)


Audio-Technica M50 and its removable cable version:  To bassy for me when I first listened to them but in another store I tested them at they sounded far better but still a tad more with the low end then I liked but I can hear why people do like these headphones.  The removable cable version is a bit more comfortable to me but still expensive being new.


Sony V6 and 7506:  Had high hopes and comfortable but when I put them on I found myself preferring the above headphones a lot more.  The sound while being called “monitor headphones” still sounded colored and some songs sounded not that great (partially female singers) to almost painful sadly.


Shure 440 remember them being ok but didn’t stand out to my memory compared to the others plus they felt like I was wearing a vice grip on my head and thus low on comfort for me.



Other headphones I have to try as I have read decent/good things about and in some similar topics people recommended as well (the first three I have high hopes for):

AKG K 550


NVX Audio XPT100

SOL XC Master mix ? (I liked the X3 for decent soundstage and clarity and feeling of a decent built construction but prefer less bass and more midrange and second the highs.  Read about them and how they compare to the X3 and they seem like they focus more on what I’m looking for but have not found them to  auditioned them yet.  Also hoping to find them for $100 or less for better value and I read target had them on sale for such price but not anymore.)

Ultrasone HFI-680

Beyerdynamic DT-1350-80

Sennheiser  595

Denon AHD2000 (read great things about its quality however I don't know if I would be able to find it 200 dollars or under plus I believe its discontinued adding to the difficulty)

HFI-680 (netural with mids strong I read) ($130)

HFI-780 (highs with some bass I read) ($230)

Shure 840


Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9A

AKG 22

K167:  Read it was the same as K267 which sounded fantastic and lighter but sadly even less built quality (and based on reviews the built quality/lifespan of the K267 isn’t that great)





On the ear people have recommended to me recently:


Sony X10

post #2 of 10

You might like KNS8400 for its fantastic clarity. Comfort is a little above average. Soundstage is ordinary. Overall sound is smooth with a crisp treble. Note: the detachable cable will probably bear noise and need replacing. I think K450, Q460, and M50x cables work.


Another to consider is SRH840. Soundstage is impressive. Clarity is fine. Comfort is well below average because it has a heavy headband, but you can mod that. Overall sound is somewhat warmer than neutral and pacing is steady and elegant.


Have a look at this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/715636/neutrality-for-200-or-less.

post #3 of 10

if you mentioned the Shure 840, and you want something "more", then think about the Shure 940.

post #4 of 10

If I were you, I would rather minimize everything into a DAP + headphone and an amplifier if you wish to farther improve your rig. It's much simple instead of getting so much headphones and having to switch around everytime for different occasion. That's one of the problem I have with my collections but I switch them around everyday.

I suggest;
FiiO X3 -> Bang & Olufsen H6 / PSB M4U1

The FiiO X3 supports USB DAC so you can use it as an DAC too.

Hope it helps
Billson smily_headphones1.gif
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I live in New York city so I'm fortunate to be in an area where alot of headphones are available for me to test.  I don't like making blind purchases thus from those tests currently I'm going to write off the Shure's due to how much clamping force they had and hurt my ears with glasses because of it.


Currently the AKG K240 MKII (selling for $110 on Amazon) as my top pick for portable headphones with Sony's MDR-1r as 2nd place (but only if I can get it at the $179 or under mark or else it's not in my consideration anymore) and The Aviators as honorable mention for the cheap value and decent "spare wheel" headphones for the super fantastic comfort and sound signature I found enjoyable but only if I can get it at $75 or under as well.  I recently found and tested the Beyerdynamic Custom pro one and I did like it alot for good clarity but felt the sound-stage wasn't as wide as some others and the comfort factor to be just ok.


Bellow are closed headphones that based on this thread and other threads like it from people who test and love neutral and mid-centrist headphones and comfort with glasses the bottom four I have high hopes for the most and would love to test them.


AKG 550 (Amazon has these for $230)

Bang & Olufsen H6 ($399 on Amazon)

PSB M4U1 ($300 on Amazon)

KNS8400 (and $140 on Amazon)


Spreading over $200 on anything has me worried (I don't make alot of money so I always save up and do tons of research and if possible testing beforehand).  For the four above I have hopes for but yet to be tested does anybody know of locations that might have these four?  I know of B&H has alot of headphones (some I tested at B&H before but not sure if they have these), J&R had a section but has closed for redevelopment and won't open till summer of 2015, I saw Best buy is selling the PSB online as part of the "Magolia" thing they have but I have not seen them in the stores.  Does anybody know where in New York I can test these four and be able to compare them to my top picks thus far (inducing the open K702/K701 for home use that I tested and loved)?



Also for the amp vs DAP idea I love that idea but right now I'm comparing many things to and against it.  The filo 18 amp has been described as a neutral which is what I'm looking for (not warm like many others) and powerful, well made and has a fantastic sound-stage compared to the others plus the ability to use as a DAC for other things for $160.  Con is basically carrying it around plus my ipod or future smartphone possibilities (which this DAC would help as well).  It comes with strong bands to help attack it to the player but that is still some bulk (not not a big bother for me).  The two DAP Filo is selling is very impressive (and once my IPOD kicks the bucket and I'm not using my smartphone as the new player then the X3 and X5 would be my top picks for replacement).  Cons so far is the higher price tags $220 for the X3 (but it also comes with a 64GB card and two cables thus that helps give it a very nice value help) and the x5 selling for $350 (with no extra stuff like the X3) on Amazon.  The X5 has a slightly better DAC TI PCM1792A vs X3's WOLFSON WM8740 but the E18 amp has a DAC of TI PCM1795 which is highly rated and better than the other DACs Filo offers occurring to reviews.  X5 also can take two 128GB cards for 256 GBs total vs X3 one 64GB cards max (my current Ipod hold 80GBs and I found myself loving being able to listen to my full collection of music with the large hard drive offers to me but now I hit the limit for it as well and need a larger GB total to hold more music & that doesn't even count the FLAC music which needs the larger storage thus the X5 has a huge advantage here).  Lastly the X3 according to what I read makes the sound warm unlike the more neutral E18 amp/DAC (unknown right now about the X5 sound signature).  I need to do further research on the X5 to see if it has a warm sound like majority of Filo's products or a neutral sound and wide sound-stage like the E18 (and if it does it might be my top contender then but I would also love for the price to fall to $300 and under as well).

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Also the NVX Audio XPT100 (selling on Amazon for $79) as well on the list making it:


AKG 550 (Amazon has these for $230)

Bang & Olufsen H6 ($399 on Amazon)

PSB M4U1 ($300 on Amazon)

KNS8400 (and $140 on Amazon)

NVX Audio XPT100 (selling on Amazon for $79)

post #7 of 10
For K550, make sure you don't have a small head because the headband is medium to large and can't be made small.

XPT100 is an easy to like choice. It's a little dark sounding but smooth and pretty neutral. Very isolating because of its deep earpads, but it's bulky and doesn't fold.

KNS8400 is comfortable and folds. It has something of a mid-range emphasis, is a little bass light, and has a crisp but not hot treble. If you find the treble irksome, you can darken the sound by putting adhesive felt behind the earpads (among other ways). Remember what I wrote about the cable.
post #8 of 10
I used to be a neutral hunter, but later on, I accept the fact that, nothing is perfectly straight. Our ears may not even receive it straight even if the headphone FR is straight. The added slight warm gives warm and the added highs makes everything more detailed. But then again, that is my preference + modern recording tend to sound " loud" so bright sound signature may not be ideal anymore for certain case. IMO.

The X3 supports 128GB max. Both the 64GB and 128GB technology are similar except that 128GB offer larger storage space but I could be wrong. Since the X3 is warmth, you can get a thinner headphone to match with it make it "neutral". For that, I'd say SRH-940 or K550. The K550, however, may not be ideal for people with small head although I have no problem with it myself.

You can possibly demo a B&O H6 at Apple Store. Or visit B&O store directly. It's really a good headphone, a step up from my beloved AKG K550/PSB M4U1. I demoed it twice at different time and finally decided to buy it. Never have I regret buying it except that I am spending more time with it than Annie.

>$200 headphone aside. For less than $200, the SRH-840 is a pretty good choice. The creamy mid range known by all Shure headphones xD if you wish to go lower in price, there is also the MDR-7506 worth considering. Excellent headphone. Very clean and detailed sounding. Pair it with something warm and it will make your music more fun IMO xD nothing wrong going lower in budget. Lower end headphone tend to have better price ratio to performance than higher end headphones IMO .

Hope you find the right one smily_headphones1.gif
post #9 of 10
Senn HD518s. Damn good phones for 130 bucks or thereabouts.
post #10 of 10
Originally Posted by vkalia View Post

Senn HD518s. Damn good phones for 130 bucks or thereabouts.

I think they are too muddy but IMO 

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