Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Is it either resolution or bass? Quest for audiophile headphone up to 300€ for commuting and home use! Own PSB M4U2 Focal Spirit Classic ATH M50 WS99
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Is it either resolution or bass? Quest for audiophile headphone up to 300€ for commuting and home use! Own PSB M4U2 Focal Spirit Classic ATH M50 WS99

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,

 

First of all thanks for all the great reviews, I've been a very avid reader before I decided to post this.

I look for a closed back headphone which will be used 50% for commuting, 50% for at home listening and which offers good or very good isolation. I kind of look for the kind of headphone which offers good sound quality while on the go, but also enables me to listen to details of the music when I'm at home in the quiet.

 

I have owned Koss Porta Pro, Audio Technica ATH M50 & WS99, Focal Spirit Classic and PSB M4U2.

 

My quest so far:

 

Coming from Koss Porta Pros a few years back, I upgraded and used Audio Technica ATH M50s for nearly 3 years. I liked the sound, but also wanted to know what else is available in terms of sound quality.

I got a good deal on a pair of Audio Technica ATH WS99 last year, so decided to upgrade and clearly found that they surpassed the M50s in terms of clarity, sound stage and bass reproduction.

 

However, after one year of use, I notice that I tend to listen to loud on the WS99 due to their rather mediocre isolation (I think they are semi-open), which sometimes leads to ear pain.

 

Thus I did my research, read reviews on headphones up to 500€ (which I can’t afford!) and decided to settle with the 300€ price range.

 

I ordered a pair of Focal Spirit Classic which, sound quality wise, was a revelation for me (similiar to the step from Koss to M50s): It offered really great sound quality, I heard a big soundstage for the first time in a headphone, could clearly discern the instruments and also heard much more detail in every frequency without a clearly overemphasized part. Most strikingly, there was a sense of the layering to records, thus I could clearly hear the difference between a bad and a good production (which also made the phone much less forgiving than my previous ones). I think the resolution on these phones was REALLY good, especially in the mids.

 

Unfortunately, the first time I took the Focals on the bus, I noticed that the isolation is VERY poor! Due to the very natural bass representation (maybe a tad to reduced), I just heard the middles and highs which made the sound overly tinny. Furthermore, I noticed that after long periods of listening (4hrs+), I felt pressure on the middle on my head due to the distribution of weight. Thus, with a broken heart, I sent them back.

 

I did further research, read a lot on popular choices like the Sennheiser Momentum Over Ear (I have average ears which also fit in the Focals which are similiary small) and Beyerdynamic T51P, NAD VISO HP50 and PSBs.

 

I finally decided to settle on the PSBs and got a very good deal on a pair of former demo units of the PSB M4U2.

 

Although I like the sound quality, I’m slightly disappointed, since to my ears at least, its not much better than the WS99 I own. The bass is really nice, mids and highs are clear and its voice representation is really good. Also they isolate reaally good and work well with the ANC on buses, but somehow, they don’t wow me like the FOCALS did. The soundstage is quite congested and they lack the sense of layering which I described above.

 

So here’s my question:

 

Is there another phone I should give a try, which offers very high resolution without sounding sibilant and offers great sense of instrument seperation, soundstage and layering for a a maximum of 300€ (also used ones).

 

Also I wonder whether it is an either or thing: either great details and less emphasized bass (Focal, B&O H6) or great bass and less details (PSB M4U2, WS99)?

 

My sources are: Ipod Classic 6G, LG Optimus G, iBasso DX50. Files are always 320kbits and lots of flac. I listen to various kinds of music and want a good all around performer, although my main current interest is very detailed deep house (Pantha du Prince, Christian Loeffler) and Indie rock music (The Maccabees, Junip, Sufjan Stevens, Balthazar, etc.).

 

Other phones I tried:

 

Sony MDR1A: too boomy for me, I feel like the bass compromises detail in other frequencies.

Beyerdynamic DT770: boomy bass, but nice sense of soundstage. A little too big for portable use.

B&W P7: Quite good, but also a tad too overemphasized bass, also too expensive.

B&O H6: nice, detailled sound, but unfortunately same issue as with FOCAL, bad isolation, I could already hear too much of the surrounding noise in a rather empty Apple Store.

 

Other considerations: What do Sennheiser Momentum Over, Beyer T51p or JBL Sonos S700 ears sound like? Do the FOCAL Pros have a better isolation?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated! 

post #2 of 12
Hey
I can't answer your question but I gotta question for you. Have you had a chance to use ath pro700 ? Is that bass deeper than ath ws99 ? Have you had s chance to use vmoda m100 ? If so can you compare it with ws99. I don't have an amp and I will use it mostly at home but with an iPhone. I listen for long hours and I want it to be comfortable. I have a ath 50 so how deeper is the bass and overal performance ws99? Is it worth upgrading to ws99 bcos I don't want a similar experience as I am looking for much deeper bass? Let me know thanks
post #3 of 12

Check out Soundmagic HP150 and NAD VISO HP50.

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

@ EDMaddict: I've read that the HP50 has a very similiar overall sound to the PSBs, since both were designed by Paul Barton. Did you have a chance to compare both of them? I didn't have the Soundmagics on my radar so far, how do they measure in terms of resolution and soundstage?

 

@rrmanojkumar: Unfortunately I have neither heard the ATH Pro 700 nor the Vmodas, but according to most reviews I found, I think that the V-Modas have a little too extreme bass which also bleeds into the midrange. However, without having listened to them, I'm not sure about their sound, since they are very well received by Amazon customers and just not so good by audio websites and magazines.

ATH M50 vs WS99: A clear upgrade. Back when I heard them against each other, the M50 sounded much less detailled, as if someone would put a carpet in front of the music. The bass quantity may be less on the WS99, but it goes much deeper and is more refined. Especially electronic music sounds really great on these, like dubstep and house music, but they also perform great on rock and classic. Considering their current price in Germany, they are an absolute bargain (117€) and the better choice compared to the M50. However depending on your ear sice, they might be a little small and also their earpads are not as deep as in the PSBs, but rather shallow. I did find them more comfortable than the M50s though.

 

I also compared the WS99 side by side with the PSBs today. In passive mode, I would say that the PSBs have a tad more treble detail and overall resolution, but really that much, whereas the bass on the WS99 goes down deeper. With the PSBs i could hear a little more of the details in strings or fine noises in Christian Löfflers or Pantha du Princes electronic music. The WS99 have a little warmer overall sound in comparison, due to the nice bass, which sometimes feels like a subwoofer (theres really a sense of physical bass presence in comparison, maybe due to the semi-open design). This makes them feel like the music comes a little more thick all in all, but without the bass drowning details, also you could raise the mids in the eq if you want. In terms of soundstage I think they are both very similiar. In passive mode, I don't know if the PSB are worth the extra money, whereas they gain a little more detail and bass in active mode and I also like the noise cancelling. But yeah considering the overall price, the WS99 is really good for the money.

 

If you mostly use the headphones at home I would also suggest you try the Focals, their bass was also veery deep and very detailled, but just not so much in quality.

 

I also found a review which describes what I mean by the layering and stage which I miss in the PSBs compared to the Focal Spirit Classics:

 

"Finally, the Focals created smaller images than the NAD or B&W headphones, but with a greater, more explicit sense of depth. When I reviewed the Audio Fidelity vinyl release of Sade’s Diamond Life, I rounded up a number of CD editions to compare with it. In one, the real origin of which I wasn’t able to trace, Sade Adu’s voice in “Smooth Operator” transitions from being close up during the spoken intro to farther back and more reverberant for the rest of the song; the distinction was most apparent through the Spirit Classics. In the Mussorgsky recording, the NAD HP50s and B&W P7s placed the percussion instruments at the back, but the Spirit Classics laid bare more layers in the orchestra, which created better senses of dimensionality and of being immersed in an actual acoustic environment."

Source: http://www.soundstagexperience.com/index.php/equipment-menu/557-focal-spirit-classic-headphones

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the quick replies!

@EDMaddict
I've read that the HP50 sounds very similiar to the PSBs since both were designed by Paul Barton. Did you have the chance to compare them to each other? Is the soundstage and detail better?
How would you describe the soundmagics? I've read about the 200s and discarded them because of built quality issues.

@rrmanojkumar
Unfortunately I neither heard the V-Moda nor the Ath700. However according to professionals reviews, the V-Moda have a bery heavy bass which overshadows the rest and also distorts some songs, so I didnt care too much for them.
Ath M50(non x) vs WS99: The WS99 are clearly better in comparison. When I heard them against each other, it felt as if the M50 were covered in a piece of cloth. However it was not so much of a revelation as in between WS99 vs the Focals.
In comparison the bass quanitity is bigger on the M50, but it goes nowhere as deep as on the WS99 and also is not as detailled. Also the treble details was much better. The WS99 sometimes have a subwoofer like quality to them which is great for electronic music especially. Also you can feel the bass in your eardrums, probably there is more air movement, maybe because they seem to be semi-open and more air comes in. But they dont lack much sound and are loud enough without an amp. However, their ear pads are less deep which might be an issue for big ears.

I also had some time to compare WS99 to the PSBs today: I think they have a very similiar sound signature all in all, whereas the WS99 have a more powerful bass which adds to a body of the music and the PSB have a slightly better treble detail and overall clarity. With the active mode the PSB sound better, however, the WS99 also sound a little better when amped (but perfectly do well without, too).

Considering the huge price difference, at least in Germany, I think the WS99 are a bargain for the offered sound quality (120€ vs 330€). However I do like the noise cancelling on the PSBs.

Also, I found a quite good description of what I mean by the sense of depth and layerinf which the PSB lack in comparison to the Focals on soundstageexperience:

"Finally, the Focals created smaller images than the NAD or B&W headphones, but with a greater, more explicit sense of depth. When I reviewed the Audio Fidelity vinyl release of Sade’s Diamond Life, I rounded up a number of CD editions to compare with it. In one, the real origin of which I wasn’t able to trace, Sade Adu’s voice in “Smooth Operator” transitions from being close up during the spoken intro to farther back and more reverberant for the rest of the song; the distinction was most apparent through the Spirit Classics. In the Mussorgsky recording, the NAD HP50s and B&W P7s placed the percussion instruments at the back, but the Spirit Classics laid bare more layers in the orchestra, which created better senses of dimensionality and of being immersed in an actual acoustic environment."
post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by svemo View Post

Also I wonder whether it is an either or thing: either great details and less emphasized bass (Focal, B&O H6) or great bass and less details (PSB M4U2, WS99)?

Emphasized bass always has to be emphasized over something else: mids or highs.

What you might try is a headphone amp like the FiiO E11K with bass boost EQ with a more neutral headphone. Then you can boost the bass when you like smily_headphones1.gif
post #7 of 12
You guys are awesome thank you so much that helps a lot. How about beyerdynamic custom pro one ? Is it better than ws99 ? The have a new version of custom pro one plus out. Let me know your comments. Thanks.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

@cel4145: Thanks for the recommendation on the Fiio amp! I wonder, does an amp make a big difference compared to my iBasso DX50 (which already has a high gain setting)? Because I tried to boost the bass, but for the use outside in the bus, to make it more audible in a loud environment.

 

Also I feel I should slightly rephrase my search:

I can perfectly live with less bass quantity like in the Focals which come with great detail thanks to this.

However, I would like to have cans that offer that great detail at a good or great isolation.

I think this is where it gets tricky. It seems to me, that for a the commute use, most manufacturers add the bass emphasis too make it sound better even if there is not such a good isolation, I guess the MDR1 from Sony are a great example for this, whereas the PSB are rather balanced all in all, but don't have so much detail.

 

So are there any headphones out there, which do offer great clarity and isolation at the same time and at this price point?

 

@rrmanojkumar: unfortunately I haven't tried that one either.. maybe someone else has?

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by svemo View Post

@cel4145: Thanks for the recommendation on the Fiio amp! I wonder, does an amp make a big difference compared to my iBasso DX50 (which already has a high gain setting)? Because I tried to boost the bass, but for the use outside in the bus, to make it more audible in a loud environment.

You have the DX50? Yeah. You should be able to boost the bass with that. I wouldn't count on the E11K making a big difference over the DX50 (although I have not compared them). I have the FiiO E12, which does give extra volume over my DX50. But if you don't need that, I wouldn't bother. Just boost the bass. Or if you want fine EQ adjustment, rockbox the DX50 and learn how to use parametric EQ.
post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks I think I will try that, maybe also the rockbock hack, since I think the EQ on the DX50 is quite hard to control due to the touchscreen control..

Also after a few more hours, I think that the sound of the PSB M4U2 is quite good after all, maybe I was overly harsh due to my good memories of the Focals.. Nevertheless, more stage and especially depth would have been nice.

I wonder whether Sennheisers, AKGs or Beyers offerings would have that..

post #11 of 12
If you really like a big soundstage, get you a closed headphone (or IEM) for commuting, and then an open headphone for at home. Open headphones typically have much better soundstage than any closed headphone.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Yeah I think I will do it that way and invest in an open back headphone for home use soon (I was very impressed when I heard some Grados a few years back)! Thanks for the recommendations and tips though!

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › Is it either resolution or bass? Quest for audiophile headphone up to 300€ for commuting and home use! Own PSB M4U2 Focal Spirit Classic ATH M50 WS99