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Best headphones for classical music

post #1 of 176
Thread Starter 
Hi,
I'm looking for good quality over-the-ear headphones for listening to classical music. Right now I'm totally lost between all the different choices. For now, here's what I already know:
1. There are headphones that emphasize either bass or treble, but I need ones that actually sound good in the whole range of frequencies, because I want to hear every tiny detail of every instrument (I like symphonical orchestra kind of music)
2. Some headphones require extra amp to operate properly... I am not sure I want to buy ones that do, because I don't have an amp and that would mean extra money to spend. However, if I understand correctly, those that require an amp have higher impedance and thus make the sound more natural and minimize dissortion. I really want the sound to be crisp clear and as natural as possible, without any dissortion. This is still a hard decision for me, though.
3. Gread headphones require great money - and I don't think that I can afford real studio grade headphones, but I want to squeeze out as much as possible from the money I do have.

And here's a rough list of features I want in my headphones (I may as well have forgotten something):
1. VERY clear and natural sound
2. Good sound quality in all the frequencies, not only bass or treble (that can be customized a tiny bit with a software equalizer, right?)
3. Affordable: my current budget is about 300 dollars, but I might add some more if I really think it's worth it...
4. Sound quality is a definite must-have for me and I give all the priority to it, but it would also be great to have some portability, like folding the earcups so they can lay on my neck, or even better, folding it all into a small space so it can fit in somewhat small pouch. However, this is optional, as the most important feature for me is great sound quality
5. Comfortability - this is not a priority requirement either, but it's definitely a must - it shouldn't press on my ears or make me feel uncomfortable in any other way. I can sit there listening to my FLAC collection for hours, and I would not like it to make my ears hurt because of some crappy earcups

My friend recommends me to buy Sennheizer, but I'm not sure their high-end models are affordable enough for my budget... And also, I have noticed massive discounts on Amazon right now specifically for this kind of headphones, so you can offer something from a higher price range as well and I will try to find a discount for it.

Thank you very much in advance smily_headphones1.gif

EDIT: Due to half of my things unexpectedly breaking (like always, the worst time possible!), I had to tighten the budget even more to $150-$200

So far, I have narrowed the choice to these:
Audio-Technica ATH-AD500X, ATH-AD700X, ATH-AD900X
Sennheiser HD555, HD558, HD598
And maybe something from the Grado line (SR60e, SR80e, SR125e)
Now I just need to figure out if it's worth getting the more expensive models, and Sennheiser vs. Audio-Technica. Again, what I want is very clear sound without any emphasize on bass, and no amp requirement (or a cheaper headphone, if you can find an amp for it with total price of the cans+amp being about $150)

EDIT 2: I already ordered the AD900x from Amazon, thank you for all the help you gave me, I really appreciate it!
Edited by pauliunas - 7/29/15 at 3:47am
post #2 of 176

What will feed and power these cans?

post #3 of 176
Do you want open or closed? If closed is ok then I can recommend the Beyerdynamic DT660 pro. They are highly regarded for classical music, see this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/559542/i-truly-believe-these-are-one-of-the-best-classical-music-headphones-ive-ever-heard

They seem to meet all of your requirements, and right now they are only $204 on Amazon.
post #4 of 176
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KG Jag View Post

What will feed and power these cans?


 


Well, as I said, I don't really have an amp, so they should connect straight to my PC motherboard, or, alternatively, I could buy a portable amp if it fits in the budget (I want to listen from my smartphone too, but only sometimes)
post #5 of 176
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by waimak View Post

Do you want open or closed? If closed is ok then I can recommend the Beyerdynamic DT660 pro. They are highly regarded for classical music, see this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/559542/i-truly-believe-these-are-one-of-the-best-classical-music-headphones-ive-ever-heard



They seem to meet all of your requirements, and right now they are only $204 on Amazon.

 


Actually, I have never tried open headphones... But I live in a flat, so I have silent moments quite rarely. So I guess closed is better for me, unless open back is like 500% better...
Well, thanks for the tip smily_headphones1.gif but also, I want to totally max out the quality for my budget (which can still be adjusted) so I want to at least consider some $400-$500 models, if it's at all worth it.. By the way, I will listen to lossless FLACs, so we're not talking about tin cans for heavily compressed mp3 (at least I hope so!)
post #6 of 176
The DT660s punch well above their price point. I use ALAC and CD as my formats of choice, so I am not recommending cheap headphones that will sound terrible with a quality source. Have a read of what David Mahler says about them in the thread I gave the link for.

If you can use open back give the Sennheiser HD600s a try, but they may be too open.

You could try the Alpha Dogs,which are on run-out special, but I tend to use my 660s in preference for classical. Beyond that I can't recommend from personal use. Good luck!
post #7 of 176
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by waimak View Post

The DT660s punch well above their price point. I use ALAC and CD as my formats of choice, so I am not recommending cheap headphones that will sound terrible with a quality source. Have a read of what David Mahler says about them in the thread I gave the link for.



If you can use open back give the Sennheiser HD600s a try, but they may be too open.



You could try the Alpha Dogs,which are on run-out special, but I tend to use my 660s in preference for classical. Beyond that I can't recommend from personal use. Good luck!

 



Thanks again, I will probably get the 660s. Alpha Dog is still a little too expensive with $600 full price and $500 with discount, unless it gets some more discount... But what about the extra equipment? I often see people on forums using equalizers, amplifiers, etc. - do I really need all of these? I mean the music is lossless, so maybe it needs some post processing to squeeze everything out of it. Or can I just do it with software for Windows/Android?
post #8 of 176

With no amp--and only computer on board sound--I recommend the open Sony MDR-MA900.

 

You might consider getting a good sound card or good external DAC or DAC/amp--either now or in the future.

post #9 of 176
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KG Jag View Post

With no amp--and only computer on board sound--I recommend the open Sony MDR-MA900.



 



You might consider getting a good sound card or good external DAC or DAC/amp--either now or in the future.


 


Well, I just realized that a DAC would probably cost more than the headphones... However, the thread reviewing the 660 says it's a very good option for portable use, without any DAC or amp:
"If you’re looking for a full-size headphone to listen to classical music right out of your portable player, then there is no better choice than the Beyerdynamic DT660."
I might consider buying a DAC in the future as I do understand that it will improve the sound quality, but I don't think I can afford one right now...
Oh and I have decided that I actually need closed-back headphones, because I won't sacrifice uninterrupted listening for that extra space feeling... Thanks for the suggestion, anyway
Edited by pauliunas - 6/17/15 at 12:09pm
post #10 of 176
Thread Starter 
By the way, I own the Logitech G430 gaming headset and it comes with a USB dongle which supposedly creates the 7.1 surround. If I turn it off, it can act as a simple DAC with mic input. I don't know if it's any better thn onboard audio, though...
However, we also have a quite old and dusty, but at the time the mpst expensive media center. The problem is that it only accepts CD or cassettes, no USB. But I can still use that one until I get a DAC, anyway...
Thank you for the help choosing, guys smily_headphones1.gif
post #11 of 176

etymotic IEMs should be really great for classical music.

 

their analytical sound makes every violin and piano come to life.

post #12 of 176
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ckorweng View Post
 

etymotic IEMs should be really great for classical music.

 

their analytical sound makes every violin and piano come to life.

Well, I don't think in-ear phones can deliver what I want... I already have some Sennheizer, which the sales person said were the best they had (in a pretty big electronics store network)... It still sounds like a tin can when listening to orchestral music. Sure, they're more than fine for piano and some other solo instruments, but for orchestral music (my favourite) I definitely need something more than that, including a wider stage (maybe even semi-open)

post #13 of 176

Not having a DAC or an amp is a serious limitation with orchestral music, where soundstage and instrument separation play a huge role. The best closed headphone I can recommend is the Shure SRH940 which can be driven by portable devices, is solid on all frequencies and is very analytical. I haven't tried the DT660 so I can't comment on them, though my personal preference for orchestral (and indeed all genres) are the DT880s which are superb - unfortunately they definitely require an amp. If you opt for the DT660 make sure you choose the right impedance, low impedance Beyers can be questionable depending on the model. I would also suggest not ruling out IEMs, Sennheiser do not make the best in ears unless you go for their top models (over $1000), and major electronic stores are generally not the greatest place to shop for headphones anyway. A pair of Audiofly AF140, Shure SE425, or any model made by Earsonics are likely to give you significantly better sound than a closed back pair of headphones, at least when driven portably. I personally never used closed backs for classical music of any kind; open headphones were really made for orchestral in particular. A good pair of IEMs shouldn't sound tinny, they provide outstanding detail retrieval, and have surprisingly good soundstage - particularly the Audioflys and Earsonics. I also strongly recommend getting a good quality source/amplification - Fiio makes some very affordable options. So my recommendation would be to get something like the Fiio X3ii or Fiio E10k, and then the Shure SRH940, Beyer DT660 or a quality pair of IEMs.

post #14 of 176

While a little higher than your budget, I'm having great enjoyment with the AKG K712 Pro (I think around $350-$400 on amazon?). I'd say I'm a pretty big fan of classical music and the AKGs seem to do the job very well. In my personal experience, they're super comfortable for long term use and not at all fatiguing. If possible, I'd definitely recommend giving these a test drive.

 

I should note I'm driving them with a headphone amp (Asgard2).

post #15 of 176
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys... I should also note that we have a Technics EH550 which I could use to listen from CD (or tape cassette, but that doesn't count) at least in the beginning. However, I would appreciate the possibility to fit all my music in one or several USB drives for compact storage, instead of having a full chest of CDs. Asgard 2 is way too expensive for me as it must fit in the same budget, including the headphones+DAC, so maybe I'll get the Fiio E10K or X3II... Can't decide for now, as the X3 offers portable listening but is a little pricey. Or I could connect it to my smartphone as it has USB OTG, but only if it doesn't drain the battery too quickly (which already hardly survives a single day).

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