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Best cans & dac/amp for around $1000-$1500AUD?

  1. benny386
    Source - iPhone, PC, MacBook Air.

    Listen to - pretty much every music style, and some gaming.

    Prefer - rich warm sound, full bass (but not bloated) and good detail. I like a sound that's easy to listen to for hours and not fatiguing.

    I currently own QC35’s and HD215’s. I’ve tried the following, all without amps:

    PM3 - loved these! Good full spectrum, and sounded quite detailed. Made the QC35’s sound muddy in comparison.

    PM2 and HD700 - neither one sounded as detailed as the PM3?? Possibly due to not having an amp?
  2. Rhamnetin
    ZMF Ori + Chord Mojo, can always upgrade to a standalone more powerful amp later on. To put into perspective how much I like this headphone, you can look in my profile at the headphones I own and have owned and I'll say that the ZMF Ori is my 2nd favorite of all of them.
  3. yong_shun
    You can grab The Element from JDS Labs if you are not looking for any upgrade anytime soon. Use the remaining money to get a Sennheiser HD660s maybe? It is the most engaging headphone in the lineup IMO. Lively presentation with good details and separation. A significant amount of well controlled bass :)
  4. Rhamnetin
    Well, he specified full bass, but the HD 660 S has typical severe sub-bass rolloff (see below) so it's not full. When you have the budget for a good planar or electrostatic, definitely go that route!

  5. yong_shun
    I seldom rely on the measurement but you made a good point - the lineup doesn't has a really full bass as compared to planar or electrostatic models which is more efficient. Even Stax has a better bass than Sennheiser. My mistake.
  6. benny386
    Thanks for this - unfortunately I can't demo the Ori's anywhere in Melbourne. The 600/660/660's are all high on my list to demo.

    I could stretch the budget to possibly $2k if there was a significant improvement - which model from the following brands would you suggest?

    Audio Techica

  7. Rhamnetin
    Demo everything you can for sure. Preferably, in a very quiet listening environment. For example, the Audeze LCD-4's (which is just better than every other LCD in every way) deal breaking treble problems were not obvious in the noisy environment I first heard them in. Also, its treble is better than the rest of the LCD lineup for reference... the Audeze LCD bass is wicked, but the treble problems negatively impact vocals and many instruments so it's hard to ignore.

    The Sennheisers (HD 600/650/660/700/800/800 S) lack sub-bass and overall bass performance compared to elite planars and electrostats, they lack the transparency of elite planars (albeit ones completely out of your price range) and electrostats, and the HD 700 should really just be ignored I think due to its treble woes. The HD 660 S is said to be really thin sounding too compared to the HD 600/650, but I haven't listened to it yet. The best compliment I can give to these are: the HD 800/800 S (counting them as one) are in the top 5 best headphones for classical music, and the HD 600/650 are some of the absolute best sub $1,000 headphones for chamber music (but for me, unsatisfactory for anything else). Funny thing is I have an HD 6XX right now, which is an HD 600, along with what many consider the absolute best amp for it (Pure BiPolar/Super Symmetry Dynalo Mk2, pretty sure I'd prefer the Apex HiFi Teton for it though). Yet I never use the HD 6XX.

    I prefer the HiFiMan HE-6 and HE-500 to the above, but they are discontinued and can only be found on the used market. They also need new pads, a new cable, the 2.5mm connectors on the headphones will break over time so try not to disconnect the cables, and they lack ergonomics. They also improve quite a bit with simple mods. The HiFiMan Sundara should be better than the HE-500, it has some impressive tech for the price and seemingly good tuning, but lots of QC problems right now and also comes with cheap pads and cable (swapping those should improve sound further).

    The only expensive Audio Technica I have experience with is the W1000Z and it's one of the worst headphones I have ever listened to! I reviewed it here:

    Can't speak for Focal as I've only heard the Utopia which is above your price range (and unimpressive, not worth half its MSRP). Is Stax an option for you? Because as you can see, so many flaws with these other options. Stax and ZMF have given me the best sound and least flaws over the years. Nobody gets to demo ZMF, and I prefer to demo everything first but I took the risk on ZMF and it paid off. The Ori is a heavily modded Fostex T50RP MKIII, though it's so much better that listening to the T50RP MKIII won't give you much of an idea how it performs (I've owned a stock T50RP MKIII as well).

    Bit of advice though: if you want rich warm full bodied sound with good bass, you probably don't want a dynamic headphone. The only dynamic headphone I know that should sound like that (can't confirm yet) is the ZMF Eikon, based on measurements. And maybe the Auteur which uses the same driver but is tuned differently. But planars or a used Stax SR-007 are most likely what you want, 99% of dynamic headphones sound excessively thin compared to these.

    So if I had to choose one headphone from the brands you listed in your price range, I would choose one I haven't even listened to yet because the ones I did listen to did not tick enough checkboxes for me. I would choose the HiFiMan Sundara, since HiFiMan's customer support seems good regarding the QC issues based on the threads here. I choose the Sundara because I liked even the HE-500 more than everything from the other brands, the Sundara should be technically superior to it, and the Sundara is voiced like the HE1000 which I find a pleasant listen. I would expect it to significantly outperform every fully open back headphone under $1,000. I'll see if I can demo them this week myself.

    - EDIT: Went and listened to the Sundara today in a quiet environment. Very nice, it's kind of like a mini HE1000. Probably the most technically accurate overall sound below $1,000, while being very musical and easy to listen to.

    So it's a little laid back and distant compared to a lot of other headphones but not in a bad way. Much fuller bass than most dynamic headphones as expected from a planar, great bass to mids transition, engaging full bodied mids and good mids to treble transition. I take issue with treble performance in almost every headphone I listen to but it's pretty good here with no major issues. No harshness or graininess on one of the most demanding songs I know of that reveals such flaws in the vast majority of headphones (Sledgehammer). Good for all genres.

    So I can recommend the Sundara. I still prefer the ZMF Ori but that's just my subjective preference. Just hope for no QC issues. I really wish HiFiMan only made the drivers, and some company not based in China made the rest. And Audeze or Focal connectors really need to be standardized...
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
    benny386 likes this.
  8. benny386
    Tested out the following today.

    Source = Tidal via iPhone
    Amp/Dac = Tried both Jotunheim and Asgard 2

    Good overall sound

    Sounded very similar to the 650's

    Sensational imaging, very clear, slightly "flat" sounding

    Great bass, but the sound was too muddy for my liking. Also, the inner side of the ear cups was very close to my ears, almost touching. I quickly put these aside.

    Overall, after 2 hours listening, I decided to just stick with my QC35's for the time being. Although the bass is a little loose, to my non-audiophile ears I didn't see an extra $1000 worth of value in the slight improvement to the 650 & amp combo.
  9. benny386
    Damn! I wish I had've listened to these when I was there.

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