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Help finding hi-end headphones for classical solo piano music

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I'm in the classical music industry and the great majority of my listening (90%+) is to classical solo piano music.  Until now I've mostly listened through speakers and rarely had to use headphones, but having a family and small child is changing that and pushing me more and more towards headphones.  I've only auditioned a few headphones so far and my reactions have been very extreme, probably bizarre compared to most of what I read about the specific headphones here.  I attribute this to my very specific needs and the nature of the music that I listen to.  I'm definitely not an audiophile as the music I listen to was often recorded over 50 years ago, but I still want it to sound the best it can, without any lack of clarity or unwelcome coloration from the equipment.  I'll be using these headphones both for personal pleasure and to do editing work so I feel that my needs are as follows:

 

1. neutrality (otherwise you can't judge tonal elements and whether any EQ is needed)

2. lack of hard edge on transients (makes listening tiring!)

3. lack of headphone-boosted hiss (there's enough hiss already on much of what I listen to!)

 

Things like sound stage, thumping bass, and amazing vocals would be of much lesser importance given my specific listening needs so that's probably another reason why my reactions are so different than the norm.

 

Whatever headphones I purchase will be played through a Chord Hugo so portability is not a factor.  My budget is essentially to find the sweet spot after which significant diminishing returns set in.  I could go up to $2000 but I'm very happy to spend much less.  Here's what I've heard so far and my extreme (hopefully not offensive to fans of these particular headphones) reactions.

 

Grado PS500 - I found these unlistenable.  Very darkly colored and lacking clarity.  I literally couldn't stand them.

 

Audeze LCD-X - This was a shock to me, but I also did not like these at all.  I also found these too darkly colored and lacking clarity.  In many ways my reaction was similar to the Grado but to a lesser degree.  It shocked me that I could be so unhappy with $1700 headphones.

 

Audeze LCD-3 - After disliking the LCD-X I listened to these with little expectation.  Again, I was shocked.  They sounded fantastic to my ears.  No similarity at all to the LCD-X.  Not darkly colored, incredible clarity and energy. 

 

So why didn't I buy the Audeze LCD-3  on the spot and be done with all this?  Because I find it hard to believe that I need a $2000 pair of headphones to satisfy my needs.  If that does turn out to be the case then I'm fine with that but I feel I need to listen to more headphones before I can come to such a conclusion (and as I mentioned I'd be happy to pay less if something less expensive satisfies my needs).

 

So here's where I turn to you guys with your wealth of experience.  I'm happy to listen to whatever I can find, but if my above reactions make sense to anyone perhaps you can point me towards some specific headphones that I can seek out to try.

 

Lastly, in case I don't already sound crazy enough, my initial desire was to buy closed back headphones, but I haven't been able to audition any so far because the high-end store I visited dismissed those as lower quality and doesn't carry any.  I was pointed instead to expensive open back models.  I wanted closed back so as to block out all outside (family) noise when I'm doing my listening (particularly during editing work) but maybe I'm asking for too much now?  Ultimately, if I love the sound I'll buy open back but if there's a closed back with sound I love I'd take that first.

 

Thanks a lot!

post #2 of 4

Walk into a store and they'll come up with any reason to make you dig deeper in your pocket (except us of course!) :rolleyes:

 

Closed backs can be amazing, I'd never dismiss them.

 

But open backs, despite being susceptible to a bit of environmental noise are generally more natural sounding, although differences can be subtle between the basic designs these days.

 

I have a Hugo and the beyerdynamic T1 is a real treat with it, neutral and effortless.

 

Or there's the old studio standard the AKG K240 (600 ohm) versions - these are semi-open and quite neutral although can differ through the years. Not available new but get them 2nd hand to save on dollars.

 

And the German Maestro 8.35D closed back - they're not at all pricey but very, very good.

post #3 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by FMNY View Post
 

I'm in the classical music industry and the great majority of my listening (90%+) is to classical solo piano music.  Until now I've mostly listened through speakers and rarely had to use headphones, but having a family and small child is changing that and pushing me more and more towards headphones.  I've only auditioned a few headphones so far and my reactions have been very extreme, probably bizarre compared to most of what I read about the specific headphones here.  I attribute this to my very specific needs and the nature of the music that I listen to.  I'm definitely not an audiophile as the music I listen to was often recorded over 50 years ago, but I still want it to sound the best it can, without any lack of clarity or unwelcome coloration from the equipment.  I'll be using these headphones both for personal pleasure and to do editing work so I feel that my needs are as follows:

1. neutrality (otherwise you can't judge tonal elements and whether any EQ is needed)

2. lack of hard edge on transients (makes listening tiring!)

3. lack of headphone-boosted hiss (there's enough hiss already on much of what I listen to!)

Things like sound stage, thumping bass, and amazing vocals would be of much lesser importance given my specific listening needs so that's probably another reason why my reactions are so different than the norm.

Whatever headphones I purchase will be played through a Chord Hugo so portability is not a factor.  My budget is essentially to find the sweet spot after which significant diminishing returns set in.  I could go up to $2000 but I'm very happy to spend much less.  Here's what I've heard so far and my extreme (hopefully not offensive to fans of these particular headphones) reactions.

So why didn't I buy the Audeze LCD-3  on the spot and be done with all this?  Because I find it hard to believe that I need a $2000 pair of headphones to satisfy my needs.  If that does turn out to be the case then I'm fine with that but I feel I need to listen to more headphones before I can come to such a conclusion (and as I mentioned I'd be happy to pay less if something less expensive satisfies my needs).

 

Currently my best closed headphone is the Audio Technica ATH-W1000X ($510) and the Beyerdynamic T70 ($450) is a close 2nd.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/151443041212?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

http://www.ebay.com/itm/121610922511?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

post #4 of 4
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