Been out of the headphone game a while, looking for a rec for a closed headphone
Jun 8, 2015 at 9:33 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 2

fjrabon

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So, I used to be pretty up to date on headphones, looking at these boards for a while, and then I gradually settled on the rotation I have now, and didn't really need to buy or try much of anything else out, so I stopped coming here (not that this board isn't great, but I'm also into photography and you can't post and take pictures all that well).
 
The gear that did it for me was the SR225 (now I have the e) for rock, small group jazz, R&B, metal.  ATH AD700 when not using an amp for classical (not a huge classical guy, but I do go through phases), orchestral jazz, non-bassy electronic/ambient music, movies.  Denon AH-D1001 for portable, closed, unamped fun. Koss KSC 75s for running, general out and about listening. Sennheiser HD650 for amped Jazz, classical, movies, etc.
 
The Grado SR225e created a bit of an upheaval for me though.  I'm at the point of considering getting rid of my Senns and upgrading my closed options.  It's not that I don't love the HD650s, its just that they are getting very little use these days.  I'm primarily a rock person.  With the old SR225, after a while their sound would just fatigue me, and I'd switch to the HD650 even for rock.  But the e changed all that, as I'm generally happy with them for up to about 4 hours with the new design.  Now the HD650 has basically been relegated to just big band jazz and classical.  Which it excels at, but I don't listen to enough, and also I'm just generally more likely to be at work with my small amp (audioengine D1) which doesn't help the HD650 shine, or listening straight out of my phone.  And it's not even that the HD650 is bad there, just that the Grado is better.
 
So I've talked a lot about open headphones, when I'm asking for closed phone recs, haha.  But I've now got an extra person in my office, as we decided to move my secretary into my office and while most of the time I still would listen with my grados, so that I can hear the phone ring, etc, sometimes now I need a closed design.  
 
I've been using the Denon D1001s, but when switching back and forth between them and the grados, their lack of articulation in fast "hard" passages really jumps out.  A song like Pearl Jam's Go, the heavier parts stay crisp and well defined in the SR225e, and it kind of turns to mush on the D1001.  To the point where it's just started to annoy me.  
 
Also, I hate IEMs and I hate any sort of in ear bud.  I use them on flights because nothing else short of ANC cuts noise as well, but sitting at a desk, I don't want anything stuck in my ear.  I hate the full ear feel, I hate the cable resonances, I hate hearing myself chew if put in a piece of gum or eat a cracker.  I will gladly listen to beats or skullcandies before I listen to even a high end pair of IEMs
 
So, here's what I'm looking for, in rough order of most important to least important:
 
1) Articulation - I want them to be able to keep parts clearly defined in fast, aggressive passages.  This is both about instrument separation and the headphone's speed. I want to be able to clearly hear all the parts in a song like Mastodon's Capillarian Quest, I want to pull all the subtlety in The Allman Brothers Band's In Memory of Elizabeth Reed from the Fillmore East and I want the crisp attack of the bass in Pearl Jam's go maintained when the entire band hits.
 
2) Good, tight, controlled bass.  I like bass, but I don't want it to sound like an ultra deep pitched fart.  
 
3) Smooth, neutral midrange.  A slight recess at 1K is nice, as I have an inner ear resonance there, but I am fine just EQing a dB or two out there, which fixes the issue, I do that with almost all my headphones.  
 
4) non-sibilant highs that are still present
 
5) relatively easy to drive.  I'll be driving them with an iphone at times, and also the audioengine D1, which isn't a power behemoth, to say the least
 
6)  isolation - I don't need it to be pitch black, but the more the better
 
7) soundstage - not quite as important to me, but nice to have.  I'm willing to punt a little on this though in favor of the above. but all else equal, more soundstage is better.
 
8) portable-ish - don't need ultra portability, but something the size of my ATH AD700 are probably a no-go, as I'll be tossing these in a canvas messenger bag quite a bit.  
 
Here are the models I've been considering: Audiotechnica ESW9, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro - 80 ohm version, AudioTechnica ATHM50X, Shure SMH840
 
Thoughts on those?  Other recs?  The models I'm looking at should give you an idea of my price range, but to make it explicit, $300 is about as high as I'd be willing to go, and that would have to absolutely nail all of my requirements plus be beautiful to look at.  Really I'd like to stay in the $100-$200 range, as these wouldn't be my primaries.  
 
Jun 14, 2015 at 12:31 PM Post #2 of 2

fjrabon

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ended up going with the Shure SRH840.  Will give some comparisons to other headphones I demo'd as they finish burning in/I have more time with them.  Thus far I really feel like I made the right choice though.  
 
Overall impression thus far is a closed HD650.  Not as elegant, precise as an HD650, but also not nearly as amp finicky (or expensive).  Very good contrast with the SR225e.  I find the soundstage accurate, though slightly compressed.  Things are exactly where they should be, but everything is just a tad cramped in.  Which I think is about all you can ask of a closed headphone.  Contrasting it to the AD700, for example, which has an expansive soundstage, but sometimes "misplaces" things (ie puts the kick drum further back than it should be, but puts rhythm guitars and violas too close).  
 
Really love the fullness and power to the sound, even when coming from modest amps.  
 
It started off a bit congested sounding in heavy/complicated passages, but that's clearing out with burn in, so I'll report back after 100 hours.  If it can get a bit more attack/response/articulation, it would be about as perfect of a closed headphone as I could ask.  Still not nearly perfect here, but I'm also sort of comparing it to the SR225e, which, to me are about as articulate and fast as a headphone can be without getting into artificial sounding territory.  
 
To me it sounds dead neutral.  I think people who feel this is "warm" are used to the "cold analytical airy" sound of things like HD800s and K701s or electrostats.  Which, to me, aren't neutral so much as revealing.  I look at it like Shure talks to engineers, they know what neutral should sound like, and this, to me, is it.  
 

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