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~$400 Budget for closed-back: Shure SRH1540, Meze 99Classics, (Beats Studio3?!), Fostix TH-X100, Sony WH-1000XM2

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  1. gadu
    I'm in the market for a new pair of over-ear, closed back headphones for use mostly while commuting and in the office while working.

    Since I'll have them on a lot comfort is important. I was initially looking at Wireless options for convenience (using for commute) but also in the office. But the more I look into it, there are some great wired options in this price range that would sound better. I'll also be using with new iPhone and dongles are annoying.

    Priorities are comfort (ill be using them a lot) and sound quality but I'll admit I'm a huge sucker for aesthetics as well. Isolation important to me as well.

    The more i look into it, the more I realize I'm probably looking for a U or V shaped sound, which seems like a more musical or "fun" experience.

    I also don't own an amp, so if any of these headphones borderline require one to drive them not sure I'm ready for the double investment at this time. (Although I literally spend almost all day listening to music so maybe it IS worth it?).

    I can get a good deal for used SRH1540 which bring them down into my budget which is why im including on this list.

    I'm aware Beats are probably the devil when it comes to quality headphones but they also recently released the Studio3 Wireless which from google searches seem to be well received. The battery life and much easier compatibility from the W1 chip interest me as an iPhone user (and they do look great), but better audio experience is still important to me so will probably have to wait until their released before making any decisions.

    These are my first pairs of headphones even close to this price, so would appreciate any sort of recommendations! Even if they're for headphones not on this list.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2017
  2. Tim Le
    The Oppo PM-3 is a great headphone, but it is a planar that likes a little more power. If you're looking for something to just plug and play into your phone, it's hard to recommend.

    Sony released the MDR-1000x last year, and a lot of people prefer it over the Bose QC35.

    Your timing is perfect though because they just released the MDR-1000x mk2 last week. The main thing is they increased the battery life from 10 hours to a whooping 16ish. I can't comment on sound as I haven't heard the newer version, but I was very impressed with the sound of the original MDR-1000x for a wireless headphone. The MDR-1000x mk2 is released at a lower price than the original, and I highly recommend it at $350.

    With that being said, the Oppo PM-3 with an external amp like the FiiO A5 or Oppo HA-2se will give you better sonic performance than the MDR-1000x mk2. It's just a toss up between sound and convenience.

    Hope that helps :)
  3. cossix
    If you can find a deal on the Senn PXC550, the smush every other wireless Bluetooth ANC headphone on the market. Best features and build quality hands down
  4. gadu
    As someone who's just discovering the world of high end headphones, what difference does an external amp make? (And while I will be using with my phone, I'll more often be using plugged not the newest MacBook pro, but I have no clue how much more power that provides.) Would any of these amps be inconvenient on the go like during commute or walking down the streets of NYC or is it easy to have on you?
    My main concern with PM3 is that I can maybe find a "funner" pair of headphones for when Im not actively listening to the music. Is that founded?
  5. serman005
    If you are looking in this price range and are a sucker for aesthetics, you ought to research the MEZE 99 Classics. It is gorgeous and sounds absolutely terrific at its price point. Maybe read about it and see what you think. It is possible it could work for you. I find the PM-3 to be overly polite for my tastes, FWIW. Sort of boring, actually. That is just my take and YMMV, of course.
  6. cossix
    I use the FiiO X3 player and A5 amp. It's definitely easier to deal with an external amp if you mount it to your player. Mounting it to a phone is a nightmare because it's bound to interfere with the screen in terms of rubber mounting rings.

    As for how the amp helps, it generally helps give the music a more dynamic feel. It also, obviously, allows you to play it louder if you wish. I find that my A5 also balances out the headphones and makes them sound more punchy in the lower frequencies. Also I saw the title now includes the Beats Studio. Stay away from those unless you want to deliberately overpay for a headphone which, based on sound quality, should only cost a hundred bucks
  7. Discman634
    You may want to throw the Focal Listen on your list. They are definitely not boring, and sound good straight out of an iPod. May not be the most comfortable headphone out there though.
  8. gadu
    Verrrry interesting, looked into it and you're right they have a unique (and gorgeous) look. Reviews seem to be split on whether they're comfortable or not, which would def be important to me but great suggestion that i'll look into more.

    Haha, I tried adding a emoji after the Beats because I knew it would be controversial. My initial reaction was exactly the same, as I've been very unimpressed with other Beats in the past. But looking into it, ive seen surprisingly positive reception (maybe Beats is better being Apple owned). Even people on this forum: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/beats-studio-3-0-releasing-fall-2017.854341/
  9. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Among those the PM3 would be the oddest one out with a close to flat response, especially in the bass region. It will reach down deeper than other headphones but at low levels and relatively high noise floor it will sound like a tin can.

    Sony MDR-1A has a wireless version as well as an ANC version. Either one would be better for your application since wireless will be convenient while ANC helps reduce background noise even more, though active noise cancelling isn't the most high fidelity solution (but you're not making a reference system here, so I wouldn't advise against it). Earcups are a little small so buy them from Amazon or try them out in a local store (any version) first.

    There's also the Focal Listen. Sounds good enough out of a smartphone. Same bit about earcup size though.

    Flat response doesn't actually take away the "emotion" of the music since they'll reproduce the music as it's recorded. So as long as the artist and the engineers aren't soulless then the music should come through as it should be, as close as possible actually.

    The problem is that qualitative analysis not grounded on objective reality, plus other issues, have made for that idea that a flat response system is soulless. The first problem for example is how everybody thinks the AKG K701 for example is "flat." It's not. It has a treble peak and bass rolls off relatively early. Add to that how they tend to have a loose fit on heads which tends to reduce bass response, they're open headphones which means more ambient noise gets through, and finally there's the lower sensitivity which means they're no listening as loud or to listen as loud as other headphones they have to crank up the amp more at which point the amp's closer to clipping, or it has audible (jut not immediately obvious) distortion and noise. On top of all that it images the bass behind the vocals more than any other headphone, including a few above its price range, so there are a lot of things working to make the perception that the bass is weak and therefore it seemingly ignores the beat of the music. Far from it. When I drive one with my Meier Cantate in a quiet room it's about as "dynamic" sounding as a Grado.

    Look into the MDR-1A series and Focal Listen. Or get cheap but high bang for the buck headphone (at work) and IEM (for commuting), like the Philips SHP9500S ($55 on Newegg; open headphones though so if you crank it up there will be a lot of sound leakage, and if the office is noisy you'll hear everybody) or AKG K550 MkII and KZ ZST ($20 from Amazon, $15 from Gearbest - but check shipping costs from both).
  10. cossix
    I don't think anything is better off being owned by Apple :p After Jobs passed, the company stopped innovating and started focusing on profit margins instead. I mean look at the new iPhones, 2 year old features and nothing new, yet people still overpay for them because Apple. In terms of the Studio, it's not a bad headphone. It's just wildly overpriced because you're paying more for the company's advertising campaign than for quality parts and R&D. It's half a fashion accessory and half headphones. There are plenty of other audiophile headphones in that price bracket that look just as attractive but have much better sound because the company doesn't have to inflate their price to offset their massive advertising costs. /rant
  11. Brooko Contributor
    @cossix - if you haven't heard the Beats Studio 3, you don't have a valid opinion, and also comments like this:

    aren't really helpful (or have you heard every Bluetooth ANC headphone on the market?). The OP has asked for assistance - lets try and give him some - without letting our own bias sway him.
  12. Music Alchemist
    The Audeze SINE is one of the best closed-backs I've owned. I may actually prefer it over the pricey Fostex TH900 and beyerdynamic T 5 p (2nd Generation).

    It's $449 (or $499 with the optional Cipher Lightning cable) but can be had for much lower prices on the used market.

    Although it's marketed as on-ear, it's over-ear for me and can be over-ear for anyone with the right aftermarket pads.

    It's also ranked at the top of this thread that compares many closed-back headphones in your price range:

  13. Brooko Contributor

    Thanks - you've given some good guidelines so far on what you want - so I'll summarise:
    1. <$400
    2. Closed back and over ear
    3. Comfort is a high priority
    4. Would be used during commute - so isolation (and perhaps ANC) also desirable.
    Can you give an idea of what sort of music you generally listen to, and what type of sound you like. Do you generally gravitate toward bassier / warmer sounding headphones, more neutral / balanced, or something brighter and more detailed? Is there anything you've heard which you really liked or disliked - so it gives the guys here a benchmark into what your own personal preferences are?

    As far as wireless / ANC headphones go - this might give you a start for comparative viewpoints : https://www.innerfidelity.com/category/wireless-headphone-reviews
    Tyll tends to like things slightly in the warmer side of neutral and is a little treble sensitive, so if you share his preferences, that will give you a good start.

    As to your question on amplification, shelve it for now. it depends on the headphone you are targeting and its individual requirements. be very careful of people telling you amps improve everything - you'll end up spending money for nothing. For a start, if you go the Bluetooth route, an amp is not required. And most portable headphones can easily be driven out of a smartphone (and don't need the extra power). When you decide on your headphone - we can talk about amplification then.

    BTW - welcome to Head-Fi
  14. cossix
    I've heard all of the Beats Studios in the lineup, and they're all overpriced and don't hold up against similarly priced headphones from professional audio companies.

    I've also had my hands on all of the Bose ANC headphones, and the HD1 ANC which compete with each other for best sounding/ best quality ANC cans and the PXC550 was better in sound, build, features, and comfort than all of those. I don't need to try every single headphone if I've tried the best. If you're an MMA fighter and you beat the top heavyweight champion of the world, that makes you the top heavyweight fighter. You don't have to beat every single fighter that he did.
  15. Brooko Contributor
    Go reread the rules of the forum. In THIS forum, you don’t have a valid opinion unless you’ve heard something. I should know - as a Moderator, we’re required to moderate according to the rules :)

    If you want I can find the section ......

    Oh and others would disagree with you on the Senns. I think Jude prefers the Sony’s and Tyll the QC35. So its all a matter of preference. How about before we tell the OP what’s best, we actually find out where his sonic preferences lie
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
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