I am looking to make an upgrade to my computer audio system. While I enjoyed the DT-990s, especially its sound quality, my sensitivities to uncomfortableness prevented me from fully enjoying the experience. I often have to adjust the position of the headphones every 15-30 minutes due to my top portion of my right ear receiving pressure from the right earpad. Thus I am looking to purchase a headphone pair with large, more spacious earpads, with a comfortable and light headband, not too heavy in weight, and will last for several years. I am looking specifically at the mid-fi range of headphones. I have previously used the HD-558s before giving them as a gift to a family member, so I will add a few remarks about them in my specifications.
Here are my audio setup, my preferences, and contenders:
Headphones- DT 990 Pro 250 OHM
Amp- JDS O2
Soundcard- SoundBlaster Z
I am not sure if an external DAC is necessary in the future or not. The O2/ODAC combination was simply too expensive to test since the SB Z has a built in DAC. However, with my musical preferences, an external DAC may be beneficial to get the most out of my music.
Gaming (non-PVP games at this point) with an immersive sound quality. I want to feel like I am physically there when playing.
Orchestra Movie Soundtracks (such as Star Wars, LOTOR, etc…), Orchestra Music, and perhaps other genres in the future. Perhaps some music with an emphasis of bass. I am not too fond of vocals though.
The occasional movie and some video clips here and there.
Earpads- My ears are aligned symmetrically with my right ear being slightly higher than my left ear. While my left ear comfortable with a pair of headphones on, there is some discomfort with the top of my right ear. This is why I most likely need headphones with larger earpads. I also looking for earpads with softer materials, not stiff at all. The DT-990s have very soft velour earpads, so anything as soft or softer like those earpads are a bonus.
Weight- For whatever reason, I have experienced some neck discomfort while wearing the DT-990s. I am not sure if it is the clamping force itself or the weight itself. It might be feasible to look for a pair with less clamping force. Also I suspect I should avoid heavier headphones as well, or at least those that unevenly distribute its weight. However I do not want the headphones to feel too lose, as if they were falling off my head.
Headband- Since I am shave/buzz my hair, I am looking for headphones with very comfortable and light headbands. Headphones with foam/plastic underneath the headbands (such as the Sennheiser’s) do not feel very comfortable on my head. They feel rather stiff. The DT-990 headband also feels somewhat restricted as well. So I am looking for a pair of headphones with a lighter headband that is more flexible, a bit loose, and are not very constricting.
I did enjoy the energetic sound from the DT-990s with its bass. The HD 558s in comparison were too distant/“laid-back” and seemed rather murky/unclear to my ears. I would prefer a more “fun” sound signature closer to the DT-990s than the HD 558’s, but the DT-990’s sound signature does not sound right while watching video clips and any non-sci-fi movies. The sound effects just seemed unrealistic. Perhaps they were a bit too colored for be a main headphone? I most likely would prefer a brighter sound signature vs a dark signature.
My price range for my new pair of headphones is $300-500. With needs to upgrades, games, music, hardware, and more, please do not recommend headphones out of this price range. There is no point in buying such headphones without the money to purchase the media to use the headphones. :)
AKG k712 Pro- These look to be the most comfortable headphones for my preferences. They are very light, have large, soft earpads and a thin headband. I never have tried memory-foam earpads but many have stated they are very comfortable. They are high praised for gaming purposes based on Mad Lust Envy's Headphone Gaming Guide. They have an augmented bass versus the other K/Q 7xx models. AKG headphones look to be strong candidates for listening to orchestra music. They fit very well within my budget and the O2 amp has enough power to drive them. However, they are not as described as a “fun” headphone, rather more neutral. Some Head-Fiers have stated that they benefit more from a more powerful amp. Despite these concerns, it looks to be the best match for my needs.
Sennheiser HD 600/650- These seem to be the favorites amongst most members on Head-Fi and have been around for over a decade. These have to be very high quality headphones within the mid-fi range. Like many Sennheiser headphones, they have rather spacious earpads and do look somewhat soft based on images I have seen. However, I have heard their sound signature is rather “laid-back” and can be somewhat dark. The headband has foam material underneath the headband that may be uncomfortable for my bald/shaved head. The HD 558 headband was uncomfortable for me. That does not match my preferences for sound signature but I have them as candidates due to their popularity and their longevity.
HE-400i- This a very new phone released by Hifiman. They are supposedly an improved version of the HE-400, with not only improved SQ but also lighter and more comfortable than its predecessor. The He-400s are described as a “fun” headphone, and as an upgrade from the DT-990s by many, so it may be a good match for my sound preferences. I am not sure how comfortable these will be overall as the HE-400 received many complaints of being heavy and uncomfortable. However, I have read that the HEs have excellent sound quality. They may be a bit outside of my budget and harder to drive, but they are certainly worth a look in my opinion.
Let me know your thoughts of the “contenders” I have listed, if you believe there are other headphones I should be looking at, and if I should plan on purchasing an external DAC in the future. Thanks. :)