Audio Technica MSR7 Buyer's Remorse ... Other Suggestions?
Aug 28, 2015 at 10:34 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18


New Head-Fier
Aug 28, 2015
Hello, I'm new to higher-end headphones, but not new to hifi. Anyways - I've been spending a lot of time at my desktop PC lately so I bought the Audio Technica MSR7s for listening to Jazz/Rock/Classical and paired them with a dragonfly DAC/Amp v1.2. Everything I've listened to has been high quality FLAC. I very much know what my preferences are for how these files should sound from my hifi stereo setup (which I paid waaaay more for than these headphones... maybe that's part of the problem...)
First the good:
(1)Clarity in the upper-mids is very good. The over-all resolution is pretty good on the MSR7.
My complaints (in order)
(1) The setup is overall pretty bright
(2) goes with above, but in some tracks the highs (like symbols) are very harsh
(3) I was surprised that imaging wasn't very good. Soundstage could be more open.
(4) The headphones actually squeeze my head enough to cause discomfort
Maybe I was expecting too much for a set of phones costing $250, but I read the reviews which were all pretty good.
Did I choose the wrong DAC/amp (dragonfly) for these phones, and should I have gone with something else for desktop PC use? I am willing to return it for something else if there is a strong recommendation for something that doesn't cost much more than dragonfly.
Are there any other over-ear headphones that aren't too much more costly that you think would better fit my needs (without sacrificing clarity)?
Maybe I should have gotten an open-back set?
Thank you!
Aug 29, 2015 at 3:18 AM Post #2 of 18
Actually your complaints are consistent with my impressions as well, so it's not just you.

The Yamaha MT220 is a good sonic contrast in the opposite direction of the MSR7 and isn't anywhere as bright (and has a marginally more open soundstage, as well as being less pressure-clamping), but it unfortunately sacrifices a good amount of clarity compared to the MSR7.....
Aug 29, 2015 at 10:42 AM Post #3 of 18
I haven't heard the MSR7, but what you describe does seem to fit the characteristics of them I've seen on reviews. Seems like you probably need a headphone that is a bit less aggressive in the highs, maybe a bit more warmth (lower bass emphasis).

And yes. If you want bigger soundstage, you should be considering open headphones. Just be aware that some/many open headphones are a bit difficult to drive, and the Dragonfly may not be up to the task with some of them.
Aug 29, 2015 at 1:35 PM Post #4 of 18
So it sounds like the issues I'm having with the phones likely are not due to the dragonfly amp being too weak. I know that in stereo systems having a better amp can really smooth out the way your speakers behave across frequencies (if they were a little under-powered to begin with).
Regardless, having done a little more research, I'm considering a modi/magni setup (as price is in-line with dragonfly) and I expect I'll have better performance from the Magni 2 over the USB-powered dragonfly. Any other suggestions in this price-range?
As far as the headphones - I think I'm going to go try out some Beyer DT 990s at guitar center this afternoon. Any thoughts on these or other suggestions? (I hate how they look - but who cares really...)
Thanks for the insight thus-far.
Aug 29, 2015 at 1:46 PM Post #5 of 18
So it sounds like the issues I'm having with the phones likely are not due to the dragonfly amp being too weak.

Regardless, having done a little more research, I'm considering a modi/magni setup (as price is in-line with dragonfly) and I expect I'll have better performance from the Magni 2 over the USB-powered dragonfly. Any other suggestions in this price-range?

The Dragonfly is known for a being a decent DAC/headphone amp, and certainly the DAC in the Modi is not going to be significantly better. Unless you are running the MSR7 at or near maximum perceived volume where there is little or no headroom left in the amp in the Dragonfly for proper rendering of dynamics, upgrading is not going to provide some big change in sound quality. I am 99% positive that 99% of your problem is the headphones. Focus on different headphones.

Do you have a Best Buy Magnolia store (their flagships) nearby? An Apple Store? A hifi shop that has higher end headphones? Find a way to do some headphone demoing before throwing money at new electronics. :)
Aug 29, 2015 at 2:29 PM Post #6 of 18
I see what you're saying, and I will take your advice and demo some other headphones. That being said if I go from the Msr7 which is 32 ohms (or close to... ) to something that is 250-300 ohms, would you then recommend that I look at other amps, and if so would the magni 2 be a good option?
Aug 29, 2015 at 3:34 PM Post #7 of 18
Yeah. You might need a better headphone amp for higher impedance headphones. And even some lower impedance headphones that are particularly insensitive.
Aug 30, 2015 at 6:17 AM Post #8 of 18
How much run time have your MSR7s had? I purchased them recently and had some similar concerns i.e. being sibilant/ harsh highs (to the point that the sonic signature was irritating) and also with excessive clamping force. I was about to return them to my local dealer but instead decided to give them some further listening over a weekend and found that after the additional burn-in (estimated at approx 15-20 hours) there was a significant difference - namely the sound being characterized by a smooth, well controlled and instrumentally distinct signature. I'm enjoying them so much now I can't believe I was close to returning them!

Listening context: paired with ARCAM rPAC, laptop source playing either 320kbps or FLAC; listening preference acoustic, pop, classical.
Aug 30, 2015 at 10:18 PM Post #9 of 18
Thanks for the reply mf25. They actually are improving a bit - either due to me adjusting to their sound or break-in it's hard to say. I've actually ordered two additional headsets: Sennheiser 598 and Beyer dt990 along with a schiit m/m. The plan is to do a lot of listening of the three cans along with the two dac/amps I have and return the rest to Amazon after a week or so. I suspect that I will find something that I like.
Sep 1, 2015 at 11:18 PM Post #10 of 18
So today I received the Senn 598s adn the Modi/Magni. Boy do I prefer the sound of the 598s to the MSR7s. The soundstage is way larger and the treble and clarity sound great. As for the Dragonfly vs Modi/Magni I'm going back and forth depending on what song I'm listening to as to what I prefer. I think that in general it's very close - but there are differences.
Anyways - I'll get the 990 in tomorrow for a final comparison and I'll let you know what my thoughts are and what I decide to keep. Thanks for everyone's help.
Sep 1, 2015 at 11:35 PM Post #11 of 18
Glad those worked out for you :)

And that makes sense about the dac/amps. The main advantage of the Modi/Magni stack over the Dragonfly is that you have way more headphone amp power should you get more difficult to drive headphones.
Sep 7, 2015 at 3:38 PM Post #12 of 18
So after comparing the Beyer's DT990, Sennheiser 598 and AT MSR7s, played through both a dragonfly or modi/maxi ubers, I've decided to keep the Senn 598s and dragonfly. The DT990s did sound the best when played through the schiit stack, but it was only marginal. The dragonfly actually sounded a little bit better on the Senns than the schiit stack (DT990s were underpowered on dragonfly) and since the improvement was only marginal I decided to stick with the dragonfly and sennheiser 598s as that setup is $200 less. I'm over-all pretty happy with this setup. Thanks for all the help.
Apr 27, 2016 at 2:57 PM Post #15 of 18
The msr7 are an amazing sounding headphone and a warmer source is needed to power them as it will tame the treble without sacrifising clarity and add more body to the bass and over all sound of the headphone. With a brightet source the treble cam be very sibalant with some songs.

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