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Hifiman HE-560 vs LCD-3 vs HD800 vs K812 -- quick impressions

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 

Having heard some old-time goodies like Sennheiser HE-90, Stax Omega II and Sony R10, and owning 5 pairs of AKG K1000 currently, I have not been particularly impressed with the previous generation of flagship headphones (HD650, K702, DT880, some woody Audio Technicas) for playing classical and jazz recordings. But in the past few years I have been out of touch with the new generation of flagship headphones, especially the orthodynamic breed, and hence I decided to drop by a very nice headphone store in Taipei to do a quick comparison between Hifiman HE-560, Audez LCD-3, Sennheiser HD800, and AKG K812.

 

The Music Hi-Fi Co. store in Taipei is incredibly freindly and well-stocked (all kinds of goodies there), probably the leading retail store in Taiwan for hi-end headphone products. I did my listening on an Eddie Current Balancing Act (PX4 version) and Burson Conductor (solid state). Both amps were very nice and showed me the same thing--I now believe orthodynamic drivers have surpassed dynamic drivers in full-size headphones. To make the story short, I would rank them in this order: LCD-3 > HE560 > HD800 > K812. 

 

Within 1-hour listening session, I relied on a violin sonata recording to check tonal balance, treble smoothness, and airy details. A Japanese drum (huge ones) album was used to evaluate bass extension and impact. I have often read that the greatest strength of orthodynamic drivers is in the bass department, and I totally agree, although this is only the first time I have heard them. I would rate LCD-3 > HE560 >HD800 >K812 in terms of bass extension and impact, and that was rather obvious to my ears.

 

But I don't really listen to bass-heavy music that much, and what I really cherish is tonal purity in classical recordings. Again, I am really surprised that LCD-3 > HE560 > HD800 > K812 when it comes to the correct portrayal of fine violins, to achieve brilliance without being dry or edgy. 

 

Nevertheless, HD800 is the most comfortable (HD800 > K812 > HE560 > LCD-3) and open sounding of these four, and K812 is the easiest to drive (K812 > HD800 > HE560 > LCD-3). So dynamic drivers still have their advantages in some departments. But in terms of tone quality, I have to say that even HE560, which is kind of engineering for speed and pop music, is still a more refined classical headphone than HD800. Although HD800 has a more open sound and amazing comfort, it is more expensive than HE560, and I ended up buying a pair of HE560 on the spot. In all fairness, K812 is also fine sounding and has the AKG house sound (yes I am a fan), but I am not sure if its ease of drive is so important for hi-end open headphones and its price tag seems kind of high compared to HD800. 

 

Having been out of touch with the headphone market for a few years, I am glad to discover that orthodynamic drivers have been developed to amazing new heights. Still, this is just my personal preference, and I was never a big fan of electrostatic headphones, except for the HE-90 Orpheus. I can't compare from memory to say if LCD-3 is better than HE-90, but I am really glad to see that orthodynamics have joined the battle for hi-end headphone sound. This will help push dynamic and electrostatic headphone manufacturers to invest in better designs. And I also miss the electrostatic-dynamic hybrid, AKG K340, and perhaps there is some room for technical development there. 

post #2 of 47

I clearly preferred the HD800 over the LCD-3, for its open sound and large sound stage. It's not only open vs dark sound, as I prefer my Stax 007 Mk1 over both the HD800 and the LCD-3, and it's a bit darker than the HD800 even with the modded ear pads. I think younger people or those with intact HF hearing make peace easier with the LCD-3, and I envy them for that, since it's a nice fluid presentation with no grain. The K812 may be as good as the HD800, I heard them on separate occasions, and they are quite similar (from memory), except the AKG may be a bit more fluid and musical, and it's more consistent sounding across various amps. However, the HD800 has more potential to scale with good amps. With all the Hifimans I had the problem that I heard a zingy coloration through them, perhaps that is gone with the HE560, which would make it one of the best headphone bargains available.

post #3 of 47
Thanks so much
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose View Post

Having heard some old-time goodies like Sennheiser HE-90, Stax Omega II and Sony R10, and owning 5 pairs of AKG K1000 currently, I have not been particularly impressed with the previous generation of flagship headphones (HD650, K702, DT880, some woody Audio Technicas) for playing classical and jazz recordings. But in the past few years I have been out of touch with the new generation of flagship headphones, especially the orthodynamic breed, and hence I decided to drop by a very nice headphone store in Taipei to do a quick comparison between Hifiman HE-560, Audez LCD-3, Sennheiser HD800, and AKG K812.

The Music Hi-Fi Co. store in Taipei is incredibly freindly and well-stocked (all kinds of goodies there), probably the leading retail store in Taiwan for hi-end headphone products. I did my listening on an Eddie Current Balancing Act (PX4 version) and Burson Conductor (solid state). Both amps were very nice and showed me the same thing--I now believe orthodynamic drivers have surpassed dynamic drivers in full-size headphones. To make the story short, I would rank them in this order: LCD-3 > HE560 > HD800 > K812. 

Within 1-hour listening session, I relied on a violin sonata recording to check tonal balance, treble smoothness, and airy details. A Japanese drum (huge ones) album was used to evaluate bass extension and impact. I have often read that the greatest strength of orthodynamic drivers is in the bass department, and I totally agree, although this is only the first time I have heard them. I would rate LCD-3 > HE560 >HD800 >K812 in terms of bass extension and impact, and that was rather obvious to my ears.

But I don't really listen to bass-heavy music that much, and what I really cherish is tonal purity in classical recordings. Again, I am really surprised that LCD-3 > HE560 > HD800 > K812 when it comes to the correct portrayal of fine violins, to achieve brilliance without being dry or edgy. 

Nevertheless, HD800 is the most comfortable (HD800 > K812 > HE560 > LCD-3) and open sounding of these four, and K812 is the easiest to drive (K812 > HD800 > HE560 > LCD-3). So dynamic drivers still have their advantages in some departments. But in terms of tone quality, I have to say that even HE560, which is kind of engineering for speed and pop music, is still a more refined classical headphone than HD800. Although HD800 has a more open sound and amazing comfort, it is more expensive than HE560, and I ended up buying a pair of HE560 on the spot. In all fairness, K812 is also fine sounding and has the AKG house sound (yes I am a fan), but I am not sure if its ease of drive is so important for hi-end open headphones and its price tag seems kind of high compared to HD800. 

Having been out of touch with the headphone market for a few years, I am glad to discover that orthodynamic drivers have been developed to amazing new heights. Still, this is just my personal preference, and I was never a big fan of electrostatic headphones, except for the HE-90 Orpheus. I can't compare from memory to say if LCD-3 is better than HE-90, but I am really glad to see that orthodynamics have joined the battle for hi-end headphone sound. This will help push dynamic and electrostatic headphone manufacturers to invest in better designs. And I also miss the electrostatic-dynamic hybrid, AKG K340, and perhaps there is some room for technical development there. 

Thanks so much for sharing your findings. smily_headphones1.gif
Certainly it is, and would be for any audiophile, to A-B these remarkable cans. I am a proud owner of the HD 800's and I certainly would like to add to that down the road. smily_headphones1.gif
post #4 of 47

Interesting Impressions. What's the gear used with the different headphones tested here ? :smile:

post #5 of 47
Thread Starter 

An upscale-looking CEC CD player (model unknown) was connected to Eddie Current Balancing Act (balanced headphone output) with KR PX4 tubes installed. A rather sizable TEAC CD player (model unknown) was connected to Burson Conductor using TRS headphone jack. The difference between tube and SS amp was certainly smaller than the difference between headphones. But this is not to say that amp-headphone synergy is not critical for the enjoyment of particular music genre.

post #6 of 47

Thks. You're lucky to have such amps for your test :)

post #7 of 47
I s
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sorrodje View Post

Interesting Impressions. What's the gear used with the different headphones tested here ? smile.gif

I second that. Love to know what amps/DACS were used. smily_headphones1.gif
post #8 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose View Post

An upscale-looking CEC CD player (model unknown) was connected to Eddie Current Balancing Act (balanced headphone output) with KR PX4 tubes installed. A rather sizable TEAC CD player (model unknown) was connected to Burson Conductor using TRS headphone jack. The difference between tube and SS amp was certainly smaller than the difference between headphones. But this is not to say that amp-headphone synergy is not critical for the enjoyment of particular music genre.

That Burson is bloody amazing. Super high end amp. Beautiful.
post #9 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nephilim32 View Post


That Burson is bloody amazing. Super high end amp. Beautiful.

 

Powerful amps and orthodynamic headphones have raised the bar of headphone listening, IMHO. As competition intensifies and the market expands, we can certainly expect even better headphones. How about revisiting the diffuse-field listening concept of AKG K1000?

post #10 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by zolkis View Post

...all the Hifimans I had the problem that I heard a zingy coloration through them, perhaps that is gone with the HE560, which would make it one of the best headphone bargains available.


 



The "zingy coloration" with the HE-6 is still there with the HE-560 with many amps, including the EC and Soloist used in above comparison. I called it hardness or glare, which is amp/cable dependent. It is there in spades with the soloist and in smaller degree in the EC, especially when the volume is cranked up beyond 1 o'clock. For the HD-800, the sibilance/harshness also remains in both amps, although in a smaller degree with the EC.

Both the EC and Soloist are a lot kinder to the LCD3, which is inherently less picky when it comes to amplifier and cable. I am not saying this to show my preference for a particular pair of headphones over another. I have all of them and I love them all but I do not think that one is necessary better than the other overall. They all have their strengths and weaknesses in different areas and are better suited for different types of music and mood.

So I am not surprised by the above outcome of the comparison of these headphones. The Soloist is not a good amp for the HE-560 or HD-800 as many of their flaws (brightness/harshness for the HD-800 and hardness/glare for the HE-6) areexacerbated. The ED is a better match and thus a bit fairer to all three headphones. Unfortunately the coloration with the HD-800 and HE-6 were only reduced but not completely gone. I still hear hardness/glare or the "zingy coloration" as you put it in the HE-560 sound and some sibilance/harshness in the HD-800 sound.

To get a more meaningful and direct comparison of these headphones, I used amps that match optimally with all three, the LCD3, HE-6 (HE-560 unavailable then) and HD-800. So far, of the amps I have listened to for over a year--I distrust short-term AB comparison. Long-term listening is the only way to compare these things, in my nopinion-- the HeadAmp GS-X Mk2, Bakoon HPA-21, Woo WA5 and EAR HP-4 emerged as great matches for all three pairs of headphones (with cables that also compensate for the strengths and weaknesses of these cans). Even under these near-ideal conditions, I would be hard-pressed to say which of these headphones are the clear overall winner. Just like the farmer from Iowa, they are all out standing in their own field.
post #11 of 47
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin_Time View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zolkis View Post
 

...all the Hifimans I had the problem that I heard a zingy coloration through them, perhaps that is gone with the HE560, which would make it one of the best headphone bargains available.

 



The "zingy coloration" with the HE-6 is still there with the HE-560 with many amps, including the EC and Soloist used in above comparison. I called it hardness or glare, which is amp/cable dependent. It is there in spades with the soloist and in smaller degree in the EC, especially when the volume is cranked up beyond 1 o'clock. For the HD-800, the sibilance/harshness also remains in both amps, although in a smaller degree with the EC.

Both the EC and Soloist are a lot kinder to the LCD3, which is inherently less picky when it comes to amplifier and cable. I am not saying this to show my preference for a particular pair of headphones over another. I have all of them and I love them all but I do not think that one is necessary better than the other overall. They all have their strengths and weaknesses in different areas and are better suited for different types of music and mood.

So I am not surprised by the above outcome of the comparison of these headphones. The Soloist is not a good amp for the HE-560 or HD-800 as many of their flaws (brightness/harshness for the HD-800 and hardness/glare for the HE-6) areexacerbated. The ED is a better match and thus a bit fairer to all three headphones. Unfortunately the coloration with the HD-800 and HE-6 were only reduced but not completely gone. I still hear hardness/glare or the "zingy coloration" as you put it in the HE-560 sound and some sibilance/harshness in the HD-800 sound.

To get a more meaningful and direct comparison of these headphones, I used amps that match optimally with all three, the LCD3, HE-6 (HE-560 unavailable then) and HD-800. So far, of the amps I have listened to for over a year--I distrust short-term AB comparison. Long-term listening is the only way to compare these things, in my nopinion-- the HeadAmp GS-X Mk2, Bakoon HPA-21, Woo WA5 and EAR HP-4 emerged as great matches for all three pairs of headphones (with cables that also compensate for the strengths and weaknesses of these cans). Even under these near-ideal conditions, I would be hard-pressed to say which of these headphones are the clear overall winner. Just like the farmer from Iowa, they are all out standing in their own field.

 

Great comments. Thanks for sharing. Any thoughts on Beyer T1? 

post #12 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferbose View Post
 

 

Great comments. Thanks for sharing. Any thoughts on Beyer T1?

The Beyerdynamics Tesla T1 has a voicing that is similar to the Grado PS1000's, U-shaped,  though not nearly as pronounced--I have heard the PS1000eonly for only a few weeks so I cannot comment yet of this newer model.  The T1 is a totally different anmal from the HE-560/LCD3/HD800.

 

The does not have a deep bass but has an emphasized bass/mid-bass (somewhat bloated) and another hump around the middle of the treble region (sibilance) and then is rolled off sharply in the very high frquencies.  So the midrange can sound a little recessed.

 

Overall, the T! has a very musical sound with good details, though only so-so transparency, and excellent sound stage (second in width only to the HD800 and the PS1000 but perhaps deeper).  The T1 is not great at any one type of music but is good for manykinds of music.  

 

The best "affordable" amp for the T1 is the same as for the PS1000:  the $750 MAD Ear+ HD Tube amp, with a forward and lush midrange and is rolled off on both ends of the frequency range, is  a perfect match for the T1.. Otherwise you have to go to very high-quality amps (especially for SS designs) to get the best out of the T1.

post #13 of 47
Quote: Ferbose (Click to show)
Having heard some old-time goodies like Sennheiser HE-90, Stax Omega II and Sony R10, and owning 5 pairs of AKG K1000 currently, I have not been particularly impressed with the previous generation of flagship headphones (HD650, K702, DT880, some woody Audio Technicas) for playing classical and jazz recordings. But in the past few years I have been out of touch with the new generation of flagship headphones, especially the orthodynamic breed, and hence I decided to drop by a very nice headphone store in Taipei to do a quick comparison between Hifiman HE-560, Audez LCD-3, Sennheiser HD800, and AKG K812.

The Music Hi-Fi Co. store in Taipei is incredibly freindly and well-stocked (all kinds of goodies there), probably the leading retail store in Taiwan for hi-end headphone products. I did my listening on an Eddie Current Balancing Act (PX4 version) and Burson Conductor (solid state). Both amps were very nice and showed me the same thing--I now believe orthodynamic drivers have surpassed dynamic drivers in full-size headphones. To make the story short, I would rank them in this order: LCD-3 > HE560 > HD800 > K812. 

Within 1-hour listening session, I relied on a violin sonata recording to check tonal balance, treble smoothness, and airy details. A Japanese drum (huge ones) album was used to evaluate bass extension and impact. I have often read that the greatest strength of orthodynamic drivers is in the bass department, and I totally agree, although this is only the first time I have heard them. I would rate LCD-3 > HE560 >HD800 >K812 in terms of bass extension and impact, and that was rather obvious to my ears.

But I don't really listen to bass-heavy music that much, and what I really cherish is tonal purity in classical recordings. Again, I am really surprised that LCD-3 > HE560 > HD800 > K812 when it comes to the correct portrayal of fine violins, to achieve brilliance without being dry or edgy. 

Nevertheless, HD800 is the most comfortable (HD800 > K812 > HE560 > LCD-3) and open sounding of these four, and K812 is the easiest to drive (K812 > HD800 > HE560 > LCD-3). So dynamic drivers still have their advantages in some departments. But in terms of tone quality, I have to say that even HE560, which is kind of engineering for speed and pop music, is still a more refined classical headphone than HD800. Although HD800 has a more open sound and amazing comfort, it is more expensive than HE560, and I ended up buying a pair of HE560 on the spot. In all fairness, K812 is also fine sounding and has the AKG house sound (yes I am a fan), but I am not sure if its ease of drive is so important for hi-end open headphones and its price tag seems kind of high compared to HD800. 

Having been out of touch with the headphone market for a few years, I am glad to discover that orthodynamic drivers have been developed to amazing new heights. Still, this is just my personal preference, and I was never a big fan of electrostatic headphones, except for the HE-90 Orpheus. I can't compare from memory to say if LCD-3 is better than HE-90, but I am really glad to see that orthodynamics have joined the battle for hi-end headphone sound. This will help push dynamic and electrostatic headphone manufacturers to invest in better designs. And I also miss the electrostatic-dynamic hybrid, AKG K340, and perhaps there is some room for technical development there. 

Thanks for sharing the impressions, I'm particularly keen on 3 of the headphones mentioned above - more so on the LCD-3... I can't help but wonder if it would be a drastic step up from my current LCD-2 (which I do like very much btw)...

Quote: Justin_Time (Click to show)
The "zingy coloration" with the HE-6 is still there with the HE-560 with many amps, including the EC and Soloist used in above comparison. I called it hardness or glare, which is amp/cable dependent. It is there in spades with the soloist and in smaller degree in the EC, especially when the volume is cranked up beyond 1 o'clock. For the HD-800, the sibilance/harshness also remains in both amps, although in a smaller degree with the EC.

Both the EC and Soloist are a lot kinder to the LCD3, which is inherently less picky when it comes to amplifier and cable. I am not saying this to show my preference for a particular pair of headphones over another. I have all of them and I love them all but I do not think that one is necessary better than the other overall. They all have their strengths and weaknesses in different areas and are better suited for different types of music and mood.

So I am not surprised by the above outcome of the comparison of these headphones. The Soloist is not a good amp for the HE-560 or HD-800 as many of their flaws (brightness/harshness for the HD-800 and hardness/glare for the HE-6) areexacerbated. The ED is a better match and thus a bit fairer to all three headphones. Unfortunately the coloration with the HD-800 and HE-6 were only reduced but not completely gone. I still hear hardness/glare or the "zingy coloration" as you put it in the HE-560 sound and some sibilance/harshness in the HD-800 sound.

To get a more meaningful and direct comparison of these headphones, I used amps that match optimally with all three, the LCD3, HE-6 (HE-560 unavailable then) and HD-800. So far, of the amps I have listened to for over a year--I distrust short-term AB comparison. Long-term listening is the only way to compare these things, in my nopinion-- the HeadAmp GS-X Mk2, Bakoon HPA-21, Woo WA5 and EAR HP-4 emerged as great matches for all three pairs of headphones (with cables that also compensate for the strengths and weaknesses of these cans). Even under these near-ideal conditions, I would be hard-pressed to say which of these headphones are the clear overall winner. Just like the farmer from Iowa, they are all out standing in their own field.

I guess it all comes down to optimal system matching huh... I'm wondering if you have heard any of the above headphones with Audio-GD amps/DAC? Curious on how well these would sound when paired together.
post #14 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaizer-J View Post
  Quote: Ferbose (Click to show)
 

Thanks for sharing the impressions, I'm particularly keen on 3 of the headphones mentioned above - more so on the LCD-3... I can't help but wonder if it would be a drastic step up from my current LCD-2 (which I do like very much btw)...
  Quote: Justin_Time (Click to show)
 


I guess it all comes down to optimal system matching huh... I'm wondering if you have heard any of the above headphones with Audio-GD amps/DAC? Curious on how well these would sound when paired together.

 

 

++++++++++

 

No, I have not had any experience with these gears. I use the Oppo 105 or the PS Audio PerfectWave Mk2 or analog (SME30/SME V/Koetsu Urishi; Jeff Roland preamp) as my source

 

The LCD3 is a liitle better than the LCD2 in just about every department.  Don't let the big price difference fool you, though.  At this stratospheric level of performance, a few percent of improvement can easily double the price--think about wines rated 95 and 98.  Similar price difference (~$50-$75 vs $100-$300).

 

For matching equipment with the LCD3, it is not that difficult as these cans tend to be forgiving of flaws in the source, amp or cable.  As a rule of thumb though, I would look for gears that are transparent with quick trasient attack (for tighter bass and more details) and big soundstage.  OCC Silver cable is recommended. With the LCD3, I prefer SS lamps ike the HeadAmp GS-X Mk 2 or the Bakoon BHA-21.  But other SS amps the Violelectric (smooth and relaxing) or the Schiit Mjolnir (exciting with lots of sparkles) will also do an excellent job at one-third of the price.

 

I have not tried "affordable" DACs so I do not know how they would work with the LCD3. 

 

post #15 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin_Time View Post
 

The Beyerdynamics Tesla T1 has a voicing that is similar to the Grado PS1000's, U-shaped,  though not nearly as pronounced--I have heard the PS1000eonly for only a few weeks so I cannot comment yet of this newer model.  The T1 is a totally different anmal from the HE-560/LCD3/HD800.

 

The does not have a deep bass but has an emphasized bass/mid-bass (somewhat bloated) and another hump around the middle of the treble region (sibilance) and then is rolled off sharply in the very high frquencies.  So the midrange can sound a little recessed.

 

Overall, the T! has a very musical sound with good details, though only so-so transparency, and excellent sound stage (second in width only to the HD800 and the PS1000 but perhaps deeper).  The T1 is not great at any one type of music but is good for manykinds of music.  

 

The best "affordable" amp for the T1 is the same as for the PS1000:  the $750 MAD Ear+ HD Tube amp, with a forward and lush midrange and is rolled off on both ends of the frequency range, is  a perfect match for the T1.. Otherwise you have to go to very high-quality amps (especially for SS designs) to get the best out of the T1.

Thanks for the great comments! T1 surely needs to be properly amped, there's of course also this thread http://www.head-fi.org/t/523955/best-amp-for-beyerdynamic-t1


Edited by Yeswecan - 7/13/14 at 11:18am
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