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9 can shoot-out (NVX XPT100 to LCD-2.2F)

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by jodgey4, Jul 15, 2014.
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  1. jodgey4
    Welcome, and first of all, thank you to Saoshyant and my brother for lending me cans!
    Ordered ~by price:: Audeze LCD-2.2F, Hifiman HE-400, Heir Audio 3.ai S, Phillips X1, Sennheiser HD598, AKG Q701, Sennheiser PC 163D, NVX Audio XPT100​

    I lied. It's 7 for now, until my LCD-2.2F's come back. Also, sorry for the lack of pictures. If I find the time, I'll spice this up later.
    I've always wanted to do a huge comparison, and that dream only became possible with my good friend Saoshyant, who has graciously lent his HE-400's and HD598's to me in exchange for my LCD-2.2F's. He's a super nice guy, a thousand thanks to him! [​IMG] The X1's and NVX's come from my brother. I apologize in advance for ranting, rambling, technical mistakes... it's very late! I won't rate soundstage/imaging abilities, because I find most cans to sound about the same... nothing worth fighting over. Lesssgo!

    My tastes: Sup guys. Just for those who don’t me, my tastes are thus:: natural sound, extended bass, neutral FR (frequency response), coherency. This mostly comes from the fact that I’m a musician myself (mostly drums), so I know how things should sound, and when they don’t… I notice [​IMG]. Check out my profile for more info on my tastes, as well as what cans I’ve heard before. Also, I believe that some cans need burn in, but I’ve never heard changes after 20 hours of it… and I’m very aware of mental burn-in. You really get to see it doing a 7 (8 kinda) headphone review like this! Also, my ears are sensitive to the treble in HD700's, but nothing else. Keep that in mind for the HE-400's and Q701's.
    Sources: Samsung Galaxy S3, Xonar DGX, Audio-GD NFB-28
    Songs: Take Five – Dave Brubeck Quartet (my best known), Windows Are Rolled Down – Amos Lee (versatility), Come Away With Me – Norah Jones (vocals), Ride The Sky – Lightning Bolt (speed), Everlasting Light – The Black Keys (rock), The Facts – Afta-1 (deep bass in the ending), It Could Be Sweet – Portishead (warmth and smoothness), Dooms Night - Timo Maas Remix – Azzido Da Bass (EDM), various Aphex Twin tracks because I’ve been on a binge lately and know his stuff so well [​IMG]
    Also, some CS:GO.

    THE KING:: LCD-2.2F
    Muh babies. [​IMG]
    Comfort and Ergonomics: A-. I have the vegan pads, and they are the #1 most comfortable and best feeling pad I've tried. They should be on every can sold, ever. These are a bit heavy, the headband could be a little wider on top to compensate, and I find myself adjusting the headband back and forth about 1/2" every 30 minutes or so. You get used to the weight real quick, so unless you have neck problems, I wouldn't worry much.
    Bass: A+. This is why you buy these cans. No can in the world comes close to this. I perhaps even enjoyed the 2 bass more than the X, XC, and 3 because it was a little drier. The bass comes across as being bottomless (and somehow moreso with older pairs)... extension is my favorite thing to hear in bass. These are NOT basshead cans, and anyone who tells you otherwise deserves a smackdown, and needs to get out more. Lol. The bass doesn't quite blend as well with the mids as the non-Fazor model (Fazor kicks in around 300 hz), but Audeze still does the blending MUCH better than anyone else. On the 'classic' 2, talking about the mids and bass as separate entities would be incorrect, there's just endless smoothness between the two, perfect balance, and matched texture in both. All hail planar! Even with the Fazor, the balance is still there, just the mids start to open up in the soundstage, so you can hear that a bit.
    Mids: A. All the other Audeze's I tried I think had 'better' mids, but the dryness of the 2's coupled with the classic Audeze smoothness is something to be reckoned with. The smoothness just calms you all over when coming from the Q701's... while I was in my honeymoon period with the Q's... I wore them so much and liked them so much I didn't expect the 2's to do mids that much better... but as soon as I plop the 2's on my ears it sounds like vocals just got smoothed over with finishing-grit P600 sandpaper instead of the P220 of the Q701's. Female vocals like Norah Jones just come alive in a way that will haunt you on a late night. Again, everything's about the same as the bass, except the Fazor starts to open things up around 300 hz, which also adds better timing as shown by Tyll's measurements.
    Treble: A. Yeah, it's darker (though extended); But that's what I wanted from my first flagship so I'd never have a reason not to be using them. I get fatigued sometimes by bass, sometimes by treble... you just never know what'll get you on one day vs. the next. All I can say, is that while the treble may not sound as detailed and 'flagship' worthy as something like T1's or K812's... one must first remember that lifted treble gives an impression of higher detail levels. My Q701's can sound quicker and more detailed at times than my 2's, but upon careful listening, you quickly realize that it is an illusion. Something like the HD598's can fake 'more enjoyable' treble at times... but the 2's treble grows on you real quick. Cymbals just sound... like cymbals. No harsh 'zzzzzzz' of the HE-400's, no loss of stick control or speed of the HD598's, no aggressiveness and over-sparkle of the Q701's... things just sound natural. As a drummer, I can tell you how nice it is to be able to hear an old jazz record with some nice vintage Zildjian K's and wood sticks... it's just a sound everybody knows. Paiste's always have that glassy, bright, warm shimmer. Sabian's are quick and cold due to the way they treat the metal to behave softer. The resolution is good enough you can almost tell how worn the tips of the sticks are, and how thick a cymbal is. I will say though, to enjoy all these nuances, you kinda gotta focus since they are a bit shelved.
    Soundstage/Imaging: A. The Fazor works wonders on imaging. The soundstage isn't as wide as the Q701's, but they can give off the idea of depth and height. Mids seem to image the best, which isn't the most cohesive staging, but placement is the best I've heard besides upper level Audeze's and K812's.
    Strengths: Smooth, warm, uggggggh that bass, being AUDEZE. 'Nuff said.
    Weaknesses: I could personally handle maybe +1 db across the treble spectrum, and maybe a suspension headband. These are nearly perfect cans for me otherwise. Also, costs. Not everybody can drop $1k (though many might lose that on their path to the flagships).
    Scalability (amping): The Fazor makes these about as easy to drive as Q701's, or easier. That really I think should be stressed more about the Fazor. This means you can use more amps with less distortion. Instead of 1-4W requirements, it should be closer to 0.5-2W due to the increased efficiency. Still, adding an amp will do wonders for extension, smoothness, and removing distortion. A great DAC can help reinforce the positives of the Fazor.
    Summary: A+. Muh babies. [​IMG]. Audition them if you ever get the chance!

    Hifiman HE-400 – borrowed from Saoshyant [​IMG]
    Comfort and Ergonomics: B-. The stock cable was replaced with the Hifiman 6-strand silver plated copper cable… which has some mechanical noise when moving but is otherwise great in length and bendiness. Headband is a little uncomfortable due to being a little on the thin/unprotected side. Pads are not really my style (stock)… but I have no complaints. They stay cool, seal well, and my ears touch nothing. These cans are a little heavy and clampy. I also feel like the housing/grill are a little too thin, I think a more sturdy design would help focus the sound some more and remove some resonance/perceived distortion.
    Bass: B. Planar extension = awesome. It’s very balanced compared to the mids and treble ==> not a basshead can! The punch on these is unlike any I’ve heard. Find the right track, and every kick drum sounds like the mic is right where the beater smacks the head – which is a unique sound that is engaging and not unrealistic – but things tend to sound a bit plastic-y. In fact, my main gripe about the bass is that the punchy design can cause all bass frequency instruments to sound ploppy and like plastic. If there’s not much bass punch, like a more acoustic track for example, then more of the texture everyone talks about comes out… but it’s really not that common. The common comparison to LCD-2’s seems like a bad one IMHO. 2’s kick every butt out there I’ve heard!
    Mids: B-. So are they really recessed? Yes, only just enough to sound vaguely distant. What I do love is the speed in the upper mids (compared to something like the HD598’s)… to me, the combo of deep bass and supple upper mids are what make cans high energy/engaging. Think deep bass drum and the crack of a snare – awesome stuff. That gets butts movin’. While the upper mids are quick, snares do sound noticeably sucked out, from phat gated over-processed 80’s Coliseum snares to the thin snap of an old soul record. Female vocals seem relatively unaffected. There also seems to be some upper mid distortion compared to much of the rest of the range… perhaps modding would fix these. Lower mids are a little flat, but detailed and blend well. Coherency across the mids is actually pretty decent despite what the FR might have you expect.
    Treble: C. The ‘spike’, as far as I can tell, is where the zzzzzz sound is… making cymbals sound a bit fuzzy and loose. They are dark beyond that, without much interesting of note. It does add an amazing air for jazz, and on old records with nice K cymbals, smokeyness comes through quite nicely.
    Soundstage/Imaging: B-. Not bad actually, for gaming they’re as good as the 598’s, just trade a little depth for height. A pretty natural stage, if perhaps a tad closed.
    Strengths: A fun, super unique sound, with better mids than expected. Quite a bit of detail, and not a bad price.
    Weaknesses: Sucked out snares, fizzy treble, plastic sounding bass.
    Scalability (amping): A powerful amp really does wonders, plugging my S3 into my NFB-28 made it sound like there was a good DAC in line too… I don’t really understand how double amping worked so well, but you’ll miss a lot of openness, speed, and extension without a dedicated amp.
    Summary: B. The hardest to review, coherent beyond what I expected, punchy, but with some strangeness in every range. They take a while to grow on you. Best for medium volume listening, just enough to get that punch. I think modding these would be fun. People say they are great for EDM and jazz… a very strange combo, but I agree. Solid bass ground, quick detailed mids, and an odd treble that just works, save some stick definition on cymbals. I’m not sure if I’d personally pay $300 for them… but auditioning them has been a fantastic experience. Kudos, again, to Saoshyant!

    Heir Audio 3.ai S
    Comfort and Ergonomics: A. In ears… so very tip dependent. I use the double flange black tips. They’re easy enough to keep clean, detachable cable is actually kinda what got me into this hobby as all my previous cheapo in-ears’ cables would always fail, so I set out to find something of quality all around that would last a long time. This cable is exactly what a cable needs to be. Funny enough, these are my third pair, due to left side driver failures. I think I’m the only person to have been even close to this unlucky. I use these running, and they don’t always hold seal well, but that’s a personal problem. I lost my other tips to try, but the stock M reds held much better. Great for plane trips, better than NVX’s for sure.
    Bass: A-. FULL. WARM. YUM. The dedicated BA for lows isn’t slow though, which plagues many cans with this taste of bass. The bass is very seal dependent, but even if these do wiggle loose in the middle of a run, they kind of just take on a very appropriate analytical style sound… and you can hear around you. This is what I do at work, not too engaging to be distracting, and I don’t get caught unaware by my boss approaching so I can close out of Head-Fi in time.
    Mids: A-. There’s a V-shape, so mids are sucked a bit, but NEVER distant, thin, non-distinguishable, hidden, pushed back a layer… yadda yadda yadda. I really want to hear The Wizard’s 4 from Noble! Precision detail, speed, coherency, no strangeness between upper and lower mids (after burn-in that is…. Upper mids used to have a horribly echoey sound and I was really mad about it!). Pianos have some great tonality.
    Treble: A. Sorry for all the stuff only a drummer would know, but this is by the most relevant drumming description in this review – cymbals sound like they do from the drummer ‘s seat – live, energetic, sparkling, brassy, quick, with all kinds of stick sound. This is not how they are always recorded to sound… Joe Morello’s ride on ‘Take Five’ often sounds like a Zildjian A (classic, neutral sound) as I think it was recorded… but on these it sounds like a Paiste 602 like it really is… similar, but with a bit of extra glassy sound. NOT brittle because warmth fills in the body as well.
    Soundstage/Imaging: B-. IEM’s are always pretty closed, but these fill your whole head with sound, and nearly nothing outside of it. There’s enough detail to not sound closed-in or congested, but don’t expect the width of real headphones. When all the way sealed, imaging is pretty stellar.
    Strengths: Fun, warm, precise. The Wizard is a genius, the hype is pretty real. But… the Wizard and his crew are no longer with Heir. The service I did receive from them was the best of any company I’ve dealt with (audio or non), save Bottlehead.
    Weaknesses: There’s apparently better models at Noble… don’t tell my wallet or it may run away. Still an IEM though, so you won’t ever get the full experience of a headphone rig. If you’ve had cans and IEM’s, you know what I mean. Heir Audio itself, these days, is a problem to deal with. DO NOT BUY THESE. BUY NOBLE. If there’s demand, I’ll give more detail on that.
    Scalability (amping): My NFB-28 is a little too noisy for these IEM’s… but a good DAC always helps open up the image and provide cleaner extension. Using the NFB-28, I just got a more natural sound. I’m considering Leckerton’s intro portable USB DAC/amp as a good pairing.
    Summary: A-. Incredible value for an IEM, fun sound, no major flaws. Follow the crew to Noble, I have no doubt the $50 upcharge for the new models is worth it. Great at ANY volume, as the V helps compensate hearing at low volumes, and then higher levels are really engaging!

    Phillips X1 – borrowed from my brother, see below link​
    Comfort and Ergonomics: A-. Headband = awesome! The best I’ve ever felt! Good looking, too! Pads are a little too fuzzy (and non-detachable) for my tastes, and tend to pick up lint easily. I’d prefer something closer to the AKG’s in the fuzzy department.
    Bass: B. Not my style of bass, though still pretty incredible for an open can. I find them to be bloated, with an obvious one-note style around that 70 hz resonance point. It gets wooly, overbearing for even something like Amos Lee… and it gets boring for something like ‘Dooms Night’. ‘It Could Be Sweet’ gives me a headache at upper volume ranges. I suppose the elevation can help at lower volumes on some tracks, but then these sound too dark IMHO, like a worse version of a very poorly amped HD650. All that being said… extension is there - and for rock like The Black Keys or old soul and funk, the bass seems to be more under control. Again, not my style. Still, a very admirable attempt for open basshead cans!
    Mids: B. Warm, a bit fuzzy/slow, but nothing really to complain about. Similar to the HD598’s, really, but without the excess upper-mid speed issue.
    Treble: B- Boring, I guess? Not peaky, not elevated… Cymbals don't have good extension but are never obnoxious or choked.
    Soundstage/Imaging: Pretty big, for gaming, these are A+ for an engaging experience. Imaging is on the better end of all the cans here.
    Strengths: Warm, bassy sound, great for a lot of people. An incredible value, I’d say they sound pretty close to HD650’s, but are cheaper in the end.
    Weaknesses: Not really my style, as I’ve said many times. They make you want to upgrade either way... haha.
    Scalability (amping): Amping doesn’t do much at all, but seems to add depth and control. A dedicated amp is recommended, they’re a bit harder to amp than many say. They’re no planar, but underamping won’t do them justice.
    Summary: B-. I understand why so many love them… comfort, style, noticeable bass, warmth, openness. My brother loves them to death for all those reasons.

    Sennheiser HD598 – borrowed from Saoshyant [​IMG]
    Comfort and Ergonomics: A. Light! Awesome headband! Pads are a little underwhelming… they have such a classy, plush appearance, but feel just really standard. Also, the oval shape doesn’t seem to contour to my head perfect, which again, 5% more plush pads would help. Comes with two cables of different lengths, twist and lock is solid, you shouldn’t need to replace these.
    Bass: B. When placed up high on your ears paired with electro swing like ‘The Swing Of Justice’… I don’t think anyone could ever call these bass light. There’s a great fullness and warmth, detail, and surprising imaging. The bass doesn’t extend well, so the classic Sennheiser ‘mid-bass hump with rolled-off bass’ couldn’t be more accurate.
    Mids: A-. Easy going, detailed, relaxed… really something special. Not engaging for someone who only does ‘serious listening sessions’, but these cans are the ones I’ve been grabbing first all week when I come home and just want to relax at my desk. My only complaint is the upper mids are noticeably slow on Ride the Lightning. You’d need a colder can to compensate.
    Treble: A. SMOOTH like nothing I’ve ever heard! Honestly, this treble could compete with LCD-2’s for smoothness, detail, and easiness, plus it’s a bit elevated so you get to listen to it all the time. Probably my favorite treble of any can to date, save flagships!
    Soundstage/Imaging: A-. When placed right on your head, imaging is awesome. Soundstage is shaped like most full sized cans, and very relaxed.
    Strengths: Easy listening. I’ve really been surprised by these! You can wear these all day, and you’ll just feel… content. I’d love to try the 558’s.
    Weaknesses: Not the last word on detail, analytics, bass extension… but it all works really well.
    Scalability (amping): Easiest can (non-IEM) here to drive I think… and still scales up really well, better than the X1’s for sure. DAC + amp = natural sound, openness, detail, and extension.
    Summary: A-. I’d love to find the big brother to these. I’m hoping my recent acquisition of Q701’s can do that, as they scale up better. Let’s see what happens, below!

    AKG Q701 – just arrived today… I’ll be adjusting and adding and editing this, I’m sure!​
    Comfort and Ergonomics: B. Let’s start with the infamous headband. I haven’t had these too long, so if the headband bumps do end up becoming a larger problem I’ll edit this. Smooth would be better, but AKG’s suspension design is epic. Pads are what I’d call ‘reliable’, nothing sticks out, nothing great, nothing bad. Construction is a little light and not on the level of what I expected, but they appear well built.
    Bass: B+. I have not done the bass mod. I could see why one would though, they’d become super versatile! They do reach deep, ‘The Facts’ shows how these compare to the Audeze fleet. The Audeze’s have more control and definition, wetness, and subtle naturalness. I mean, Audeze bass is just something you need to hear. When I first heard ‘The Facts’ on XC’s (out of my phone, mind you)… the first deep hit came on, and I was immediately unimpressed. But by the time that first note ended… I realized that that was the probably one of the top 3 moments in audio for me. I stammered something stupid to the guys at the booth there, I know… ‘even out of my phone… these sound stupid’ I think is what I said, with a contorted, unbelieving face. That combined with the qualifier ‘stupid’ I know threw off the guys there, but then I broke out in one of the biggest smiles ever and they just kinda smugly nodded, like, ‘yeah, that’s what’s up.’ But I totally digress… on these, those ~37 hz hits are a bit stressed to reach, dry, without the dynamic control of something like the XC’s. I think the bass port mod would let this hit speak easier. I’ll have to come back to it. Otherwise, the bass is analytical, light on its feet, and dry. Despite the low-ish grade of B+… I really think this bass is reference level. I think Quincy Jones is a smart dude.
    Mids: A-. I’m having a hard time coming up with much to say… I think I need more time with these. Analytical, but charming. Dry, but natural and not dehydrated. No thinness detected, nor congestion. [EDIT:: Upper mids can be a bit thin sounding, which is unfortunate, but they're still really incredible!] More detail than HD598’s… and quicker for ‘Ride The Lightning’. I’m pretty sure the detail I’m hearing is not due to the treble balance, like the HD598’s. Pretty easy to listen to, with the gentle slope carried with the bass up to the treble.
    Treble: A-. Many say these are treble cans, but I say no way, Jose! They are neutral, not natural. The treble is dry, balanced, and accurate. Cymbals on ‘Take Five’ sound like they do on good speaker systems, or the K812’s. The detail is not forced, and I think these cans show more than any other I know what ‘extension’ means. AKG seems to do that well. From bottom to top, these do make sense for what QJ would probably want. I think the treble is what will grow on me the most… I’ll report back on that some time from now.
    Soundstage/Imaging: Wide, yes, but even on my NFB-28 which seems to really separate out left and right, there is still a very capable center image when needed. I haven’t gamed with these yet… so I’ll update that soon. I imagine they’ll be as great as many say… though really any of these cans will get you 95% of what you need for competitive CS:GO playing.
    Strengths: Analytical, dry… almost eerie in the way they are so clean and authoritative in their reference-leaning prowess.  I think I made a great choice in the end on these as a contrast to my 2’s, as that’s what I wanted. I’ll have a better idea once my 2’s are back.
    Weaknesses: None so far…
    Scalability (amping): I’ve only tried them from my AGD amp… this’ll be the first thing I update!
    Summary: A-. I think these are designed for people with audiophile elitist tastes for the technical performance of these cans… but I think once I do the bass mod I would feel comfortable recommending them to anyone on the planet [​IMG]. These are a good little bro to the K812’s, says I.

    Sennheiser PC 163D – as if anybody even knows what these are.​
    Comfort and Ergonomics: They’ve been my main headphones for probably a third or more of my life, and they still get use. I got them for an X-Mas (I think) because they were for gaming, had a mic, good price, and a USB soundcard. Thanks, mom & dad <3 [​IMG]. They’re on-ear… but they don’t clamp too hard, so you can wear these for 2-3 hours easy, with a 5 minute break in there to go to the bathroom or whatever and you’re fine. Being small = light. The thickness, plushness, and feel of these pads is my favorite of any I own. That’s probably due to the fact I’ve had them for maybe 7-8 years… but I really think they’re excellent. Cable is non-detachable, though seems to be holding up perfectly.
    Bass: A-. Believe it or not, the extension on these is totally admirable, besting many or most of the cans here! As an on-ear, too! There’s of course the Sennheiser mid-bass warm hump (though not as much as HD598’s), but no roll off… a killer combo for a natural sound. Those hits on ‘The Facts’, while clearly missing many of the giddiness inducing characteristics of the Audeze line as I ranted about in the Q701 bass review, are pretty killer… perhaps better than the Q701’s for sounding natural and having strong body/depth. There’s not killer texture, sure, but nothing is offensive. A bigger driver and strong magnet with the same FR and warmth I think would be stupid awesome.
    Mids: A-. Not the last word on detail… but, they just sound… right. They contrast with the HE-400’s a lot… couldn’t really explain how. Once you’ve mentally adjusted to one and switch to the other, you really notice! Vocals speak oh so well, male and female. They don’t try too hard, nor fail in any major ways. There’s classic house warmth, but anything one might consider as a veil would be one that stretches to all ends of response, so it just passes unnoticed… like the years I’ve spent with these. Dang, I love these. I’ll never get rid of them!
    Treble: B+. Same as the mids, so one of the better feeling treble responses. Slight veiling is present here, if anywhere… but whatevs.
    Soundstage/Imaging: They’re kinda semi-open? They were designed for gaming, and respond well to stage enhancing DSP. Since on-ears really have to always sit in the same spot, there’s consistent stage and imaging… predictable and reliable. I think any attempts to describe shape/size of stage would be too tainted by the fact that I’ve owned them for so long. I think they’re closest to the NVX’s.
    Strengths: These are the pair I know better than any… an old friend, indeed. Predictable, reliable. I still think they objectively hold up super well to some of my more recent acquisitions.
    Weaknesses: Soft sound, overall. They’re held back by the kinda cheap design… the’ full-size can experience’ makes these constantly feel baby-ish or inadequate.
    Scalability (amping): These lil’ buggers are actually not too easy to drive… they came with a USB soundcard that did gaming DSP (Dolby perhaps)… and even the extra power from that was usually needed. They won’t play too loud before distorting, but whatevs. Small driver probs, I guess. I’m getting tired, lol.
    Summary: B+. Yeah, they’re that good to me!... though being on-ears does clearly hold them back. Having this experience in a full sized can would make me no longer desire to hear HD600’s. If you ever see these for cheap, and need a headset (it has a mic) for work or whatever, snag ‘em.

    NVX Audio XPT100 – borrowed​
    Comfort and Ergonomics: Headband is a bit stiff… perfect candidate for some bending. The pads are very cool and feel great on my face. Extra angled pads are nice to have… same with cables. The cable is double entry… so you could totally go balanced if you wanted, lol. However, I don’t see any labeling differentiating the left plug (mono 3.5mm) from right, other than that I happened to notice the right side has a grey band around it. If I hadn’t seen that, I never woulda figured it out. The case is great, too. I just travelled with these to CA for the past weekend. They do get a bit hot, being closed.
    Bass: A-. Goes down deep, for sure! Closed bass for sure, with definite resonance/wetness on bottom… a little too wet for some boom-bap hip-hop. That still makes for a good time! Flat, textured, full… a little wet… much like Audeze XC’s. Unlike the HE-400 punch, these ‘kick’. Like a ‘kick’ drum. Like they should… neutral/accurate can meets the classic closed traits.
    Mids: B+. I swapped out the stock cable for a silver one, and immediately, a veil was lifted… dynamics spoke as soft as butterfly feet up to the roar of Niagara Falls within DAC clock cycles… microshading and tonality spoke u….. nah, I’m just messin’ with ya. I don’t believe in high end cables, I just wanted to try out my colorful salesman review verbiage. For real now::
    For whatever reason, on no other can do I want to listen to lyrics. I usually don’t focus much on vocal content… but with these I do. I couldn’t tell you why. Pretty good detail (HD598 level, some added dryness would bring them to Q701 level)… but oh so natural and easy. Pianos sound a tad congested, AKA tonality isn’t perfect. Same with upper male vocals. As a whole, they get an A- rating, though I think I just haven’t had enough time with cans that do mids really well. They’re probably really a B+.
    Treble: B+. Very similar to HD598’s without all that smoothness. A tad dark… just like NAD HP50’s, though not as great on treble. Cymbals have character without being fatiguing or fake.
    Soundstage/Imaging: During my plane ride this weekend, the imaging was blowing me away. I’m not hearing that so much now… idkwhy. Lacks center image at times.
    Strengths: VALUE, neutral champ, extension, closed design without crazy resonance issues in mids or treble dips.
    Weaknesses: They’re not bass elevated, so I can’t blindly recommend them to everyone in the intro
    Scalability (amping): About the same as X1’s. Just loud enough from my phone, but a DAC/amp will help these out a bit. I bet there’s a good Fiio offering that would work well… I wouldn’t go past a Schiit stack or AGD NFB-15 probably.
    Summary: B+. They sound a bunch like HP50’s IMHO. Mids>bass>treble… natural, closed… etc. The HP50’s are better though in all fronts, as they keep the same style + detail and sparkle + great engineering.  I don’t need these… because my Audeze’s kind one-up these on all fronts, haha...but for $80… what a no-brainer!!! I’d pay up to $260 for these, personally… like, dang. Dang. The hype train for these is real… shows you an interesting side of what ‘intellectual property’ brings when you have so many clones just like these… incredible product, at stupid low prices. Free market win! Any neutral head wanting a closed can… just freaking order these… even if you don’t need ‘em! Cheap enough to be the perfect impulse buy! I might even do that!

    I have no clue how these lists line up with the summary ratings, btw. I just wrote what felt right, lol.
    So, for those who are going to insist on one… here’s a subjective ordered list of my favorite to least favorite… as in which I would personally listen to the most.
    1.Audeze LCD-2.2F
    2. Heir Audio 3.ai S, go-to portable
    3. AKG Q701? Still new to these, but they contrast well.
    4.NVX/ HD598
    6.HE-400/PC 163D
    8. Phillips X1
    And for the rest of ya, here’s my more objective listing. I’m not really sure where to put the Q701 and X1, but this’ll do for now.
    1. Audeze LCD-2.2F
    2. AKG Q701
    3. Heir Audio 3.ai S/Phillips X1
    5. HD598/HE-400/NVX (an apple, banana, and a coconut)
    8.PC 163D

    Thanks again to my brother and Saoshyant! Feel free to ask questions, comment, PM… whatever. I won’t have these all together after today, but I will do my best to help out regardless.
    nick n, SpiderNhan and ruthieandjohn like this.
  2. Stillhart
    Really nice review and comparison.  Are you using the DAC in the NFB-28 or just double amping off your phone?
    I think you're spot on with the X1, BTW.  People speak really highly of them, but I wasn't super impressed with the bass.  It was really bloated and muddied up the mids, and the mids AND highs felt recessed.  Amping them helped a lot, but in the end didn't really solve the overall problem of the bass being a bit too overbearing.  They're great cans on their own, but when you compare them directly to something like the Q701, you can see the flaws.
    And I think you're really going to love the bass mod on the Q's.
    Also, as a drummer myself, I appreciate all the drum references.  [​IMG]
  3. Saoshyant
    Just finished reading, quite thoroughly written! This review makes me want to look up the current version of your pc 163d, although I bet for the money I'd be better suited buying a separate mic and using the hd700.

    Incase anyone is wondering, http://www.amazon.com/Silver-Carefully-Hifiman-Headphone-Upgrade/dp/B00FI5V7RC/ is the hifiman cable, and the short cable for the hd598 can be bought directly from Sennheiser. I think it can be found by searching for a short hd5x8 cable for around $15.
  4. jodgey4
    I only double amped off my phone for the HD-400 in that one example... everything else was optical out of my DGX into my A-GD. I was really impressed by just what an amp can do. A clean soundcard + an amp + HE-400's would be a killer value for many people.
    At some point, I'll probably grab one of those AntLion ModMic's and use that with my 2's and 701's... but those 163D's always really surprise me with their reliability. The mic is clear, and vocals are never odd, so having this plugged in to your work pc for voice chats or video calls or whatever is just too easy.
    Also, I tried the Q701's out of my phone, and they get quite loud! I'll do some double amping like I did with the HE-400's to get more info on that.
  5. Saoshyant
    I wonder what other headphones should be reviewed for this list...
  6. ruthieandjohn
    Here is how 330+ head-fi-ers ranked those headphones against each other in the thread "Rank The Headphones That You Own."
    Find the intersection of one headphone's row with another headphone's column.  If the dot at the intersection is blue or green, the row headphone was ranked well above (blue) or above (green) the column headphone.  If the dot is red or orange, the column headphone was ranked much higher (red) or higher (orange).  If there is a white dot, they were essentially equal.  If there is NO dot, then no one ranked one vs. the other.
    The NVX Audio and the Sennheiser PC 161D were not ranked frequently enough in that thread to report results here, so they do not appear.  I've drawn yellow boxes to highlight the rows and columns of the headphones mentioned here.
    Click to enlarge.  From http://www.head-fi.org/t/721406/how-we-rank-our-own-headphones-statistics-of-2-000-owner-rankings-compiled#post_10597847
  7. Saoshyant
    Hmm, the second chart should specify what I'm assuming to be a positive correlation. Strong correlations can be either positive and negative. Other than that, it seems the forum should be quite useful for information.
  8. jodgey4
    I love your graph so much, I've had it bookmarked since you posted it. If I could give a nomination for Head-Fi member of the year... it would be you (and Saoshyant, of course). Or the guy who made the chart with the power requirements from all of Tyll's charts... anyways...
    I did some more quick A-B'ing between cans out of a NAD 356BEE integrated amp with the NAD DAC module at a nice normal/medium listening volume. When I originally wrote the review, I went one at a time, in the order posted. I realized that was a mistake, so I just took some time to do quick side-by-side testing, and have come up with a definitive answer with no ties of my subjective favorite to least favorite cans.
    0. Audeze LCD-2.2F [​IMG]
    1. AKG 701
    2. Heir Audio 3.ai S
    3. Hifiman HE-400
    4. Sennheiser HD598
    5. Sennheiser PC 163D
    6. NVX XPT100
    7. Phillips X1
    What I noticed most was how much I really didn't like the X1 (so muddy), and how much better the HE-400's were than I gave them credit for (more detail and naturalness than I gave them credit for... bass still sounds a tad plastic, but still better than most options). I also still love the HD598 treble! The NVX's have times when they could be #4 about the HD598's... but in the end, I personally don't like the wet closed sound.
    So ya, now there's 3 lists of what my favorites are. I left the original list, because I think it's good to document everything. As stated, I'm sure there will be more edits. Out of the 7 actually tested, I would want 3.ai S bass, Q701 mids, and HD598 treble. Or, I could just put my LCD-2.2F's on and wipe the floor in all categories [​IMG].
    Another lesson learned is... go big or go home on your purchases... auditioning flagships then getting one, despite the insane cost, is still something I would do again a thousand times. Coming home to my sound, all stops out, is something I feel very fortunate to have. In the end, I think it saved me from trying many lesser cans before the inevitable occurred.
  9. Za Warudo
    That's weird that you found the X1 to be muddy.  The bass might be a bit loose, but muddy?  Never.  When I had both the X1 and HE400 I found the X1 to be much more natural sounding and balanced, even if the bass wasn't as good.  The HE400's midrange is just too distant and odd sounding, and the treble spikes are borderline painful to listen to.
  10. Saoshyant
    I'm so glad I saw little enough difference in enjoyment between your 2.2 and my hd700 that I have no desire to get one now. Although it has become clear my next goal is a closed bass-oriented can. Ultrasone PRO 900 is certainly on the short list, but I'm curious how the ZMF Vibro sounds, as well as looking into a Denon dX000, having heard nothing but good things about them. I also need to get a real amp/dac, but utterly unsure which.
  11. jodgey4
    The only redeeming quality I found from the X1's is that the upper mids are not awful in their presentation. To this day, I've only heard one can that could do what I'd call 'great' upper mids - LCD-3's. Upper mids are, IMHO, the hardest thing to get right. I think engineers try too hard to avoid a 'shouty' sound, and then upper mids then get sucked out ~5-10% out of fear. That, or I have weird ears. I want to re-audtion XC's, because the first time I heard them, I thought the upper mids were funny. After hearing so many other cans by now, I think I'd have much more to say about them. The X's are killer, though a tad dry (which funny enough is why I love the Q701's...). 2's are super similar to 3's, just not as liquid.
  12. jodgey4
    I'm glad you got to hear the 2's and 700's then... we always learn the most from those whose opinions differ from ours the most.
  13. Saoshyant
    Luckily I am not treble sensitive at all. As far as the mids on the he400, I think my hd700 spoils me, so by contrast they might sound worse than they actually are. Perception can be a funny thing.

    I just wish I liked the hd598 more. I like my Ety HF5 for classical, but found the Sennheiser boring. I might have to try them again...
  14. jodgey4
    HD598's can be boring, but when I'm working at home or gaming casually, they're the cans I want to have on my head, both for comfort and the non-intrusive, smooth sound.
  15. Saoshyant
    That reminds me, one day I'd love to hear a Sony MA900, MDR-F1 too.
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