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Best Headphones/Amp Combo for Classical Music (especially Opera); Budget: $2000-2500

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by avrosse, Nov 9, 2012.
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  1. avrosse
    Hi folks,

    I'd love to expand my stereo speaker system to include headphones. My current system looks like this:

    Densen B-410 cd player / Oppo BDP-95 blu-ray player -> Densen B-110 integrated amplifier -> Verity Rienzi loudspeakers

    As mentioned in the title, I'm looking for a headphone setup to listen to classical music, especially opera. The Densen cd player would serve as the primary source for my headphones setup. My budget is $2000-2500 for the headphones/amp combo ( ~1000 for each of the two components). After having studied David Mahler's battle of the flagships and a bunch of forum threads, the following headphones have piqued my interest:

    Sennheiser HD 800
    Beyerdynamic T1
    Hifiman HE-6 or HE-500
    Grado RS1
    Any comments on these? Other suggestions?

    An issue that I'm particularly concerned about is a headphones' ability to deal with non-ideal recordings. I'd say about half of my cds are recordings from the 50s, 60s and 70s by great artists like Callas, Bjorling, etc. I need a headphone setup that will be able to bring out the beauty of these recordings, so I can focus on the performances, and not be continually reminded of the inferior quality of the recordings. Some people seem to think that the HD 800s sound pretty bad without a great recording. Is this true?

    Concerning amps, I haven't really been able to identify any frontrunners. I live in Europe, so it would be difficult for me to get certain brands like Woo Audio (the WA2 seems to go very well together with the Beyerdynamic T1). Lehmann amps appear to be very popular around here. The SPL auditor would also be an option. I'm open to both SS and tube amps. Suggestions?

    I should probably also mention that I always listen to music lying down on a sofa. Any headphones I get should be able to accommodate that fact.

    I'm looking for a headphones/amp combo for around $2000-2500. I listen to classical music, especially opera. My source is a Densen B-410 cd player. The headphones setup has to be able to deal with my collection of old opera recordings (50s, 60s, 70s). I live in Europe.

    Thanks so much,

  2. Acix
    I use the the K-702 /Apogee /SPL Phonitor, I'll highly recommend this system for classical and acoustic music.
  3. MalVeauX
    All the headphones you selected are going to be great for classical. The HD800, T1 and HE-6 are going to murder poorly recorded stuff though. The good news, however, is that you can warm that up and smooth it out via your DAC and AMP choices. For example, take a tube DAC and match with a warm amp, solid state or even another tube amp, and the end result with be a much more smoothed out and warm experience, which can tame down that treble and help you just focus on listening to the music and not just listening the hiss/hum/noise of poor recordings.
    I'm going to say go for the HD800 or an HE-6 / HE-500 setup for what you're after (opera; classical). If you go Hifiman, start looking into speaker taps and speaker amps instead of typical headphone stuff. These orthos are amazing on speaker amps. The HD800 is going to give you that wide sound stage though that is really nice with classical (large amount of instruments). For opera though, I want to say lean towards an ortho. Ortho mids for vocals are just out of this world.
    I listen to a lot of classical (currently chewing through Yo-Yo Ma Essentials & Appassionato, Brahms, 2Cellos, Piano Guys) on my HE-500 + speaker amp setup. Goosebump enducing. So naturally can recommend it. Plus it's less expensive than other setups, yet performs right up there with them.
    Emo_MiniX_08.jpg   HE500_TAP_08.jpg
    Very best,
  4. avrosse
    Thanks Acix and MalVeauX for your helpful responses. I'll definitely add the K-702 to my list, since many people seem to like them for classical music. I'll also look into the whole speaker tap and amp business for the hifiman headphones. I'm stopping by my favorite hifi store this week, where I'll hopefully be able to listen to some of these setups.

    Thanks again,
  5. Armaegis
    Since you're in Europe, perhaps also consider something from Meier Audio. He's located in Germany (I think) and his amps are very highly regarded. Furthermore, he also sells a few headphones and has discounts when you buy both from him. 
  6. Acix
    Cool Joel, the K702 are one of the best hps out there for vocals, and with the SPL's this is a winning combination.
  7. Happy Camper
    I'd recommend a listen to the HE-6 with a speaker tap adapter. And yes, I have or have had the RS-1, K701s, HE-500 and HE-6 together. If you want to stick with a dynamic headphone, the HD-800s are another option and I'd recommend a tube amp for them. They can sound as good on an SS amp but it's more of a challenge and would be a sonic microscope with today's clinical DACs. And then there's stats.......

    Now if you have an intrepid spirit and are willing to invest in a project for a HE-6, there is something like this http://www.audionotekits.com/he6headamp.html
  8. avrosse
    Thanks again guys for the helpful responses. I'll be listening to some of these setups on Wednesday. I'll let you know how it turns out. Judging by what I've read here on Head-Fi, I think it's going to be a challege to come up with a system that is bright enough to let classical music shine but still works really well with older recordings. We'll see...

  9. hifimanrookie

    U forgot the godfather of the classical music tuned headphone..the hifiman he5le

    And u can drive it directly from ur main amplifier..check this forum..there is a tread about driving he6 and he5le by a normal amplifier through the loudspeaker tab adapter
  10. DefQon
    Second this post greatly, I have not heard an HE-6 in a proper rig or for a sufficient amount of time to determine my impression on them (something I need to do in the future), but a HD800 + an SS amp is going to be a hard one, as the HD800's are very finicky with the choice of amping you choose, it's a night and day difference depending on which you go for. The custom DIY Beta22's  are highly regarded with pairing with the HD800's but it's only DIY and a properly constructed maxed out B22 can cost more then $1.8k by itself but it also depends on where you source the materials from.
    The Bryston high-end balanced solutions are also another recommendation judging from a few impressions from other user's.
    Last of all I strongly agree with Happy Camper, pairing the HD800's with a tube amp would be less finicky then doing so with the SS route, at least you can also tube roll the sound to your ear's preference.
    There are other amp's I can I recommend also but are well over the budget you've requested by itself.
  11. preproman
    This post is pretty much how I feel as well.  Although I love DIY amps.
    Your  Densen B-110 integrated amplifier is 60wpc into 8ohms.  That and the HE-6 or HE-5LE would be a great start.  This way you only need to purchase the headphones.
  12. Dyaems
    what about some 2500 usd stax system?
  13. DefQon
    Stax are a complete different story rather than a different chapter in the same book.
  14. hifimanrookie
    But if u want best of the best..the only way for classical music is to go for the high end models of stax with dedicated multi thousand dollars costing amps..
  15. HamilcarBarca
    The HD 800 is designed to be neutral and revealing. If Sennheiser succeeded, you'll hear the details of the inferior quality of inferior recordings. An amp which helps cover up the sound of bad recordings will also alter the sound of good recordings. I don't like this tradeoff, but many do.
    Epiphany Acoustics (UK) sells a DAC+amp combo called the EHP-02D (£186.99). You can find reviews of this product under their American trade names, the ODAC and Objective2 (O2). You'll have to spend much more money to get a measurably better set, but this doesn't always mean audibly better. BUT: It was designed to be neutral and revealing and it is both. It will faithfully reproduce the goodness and badness of your recordings.
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