Best Listening Headphones (Under ~$500)?
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ac500

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Edit: Disregard what I said about not wanting an amp below. I am now planning on getting an amp and am currently leaning towards getting an HD 650 + Audio-GD NFB-12.
 
Edit 2: I have just purchased a brand new HD 650 and Audio-GD NFB-12. Waiting for them to arrive in the mail now :)
 
Right now I have Sennheiser HD 280 Pro (~$150 at the time) headphones. When I got these I was amazed at how much better music sounds, compared to my previous cheap headphones. I think I'm ready to upgrade, because I really enjoy quality sound.
 
What I'm looking for is comfortable headphones that, most importantly, put out extremely high quality sound.
 
My only complaint about my HD 280 Pro is this: They're completely closed, so for extended listening my ears get tired/hot. Open/closed doesn't matter much ultimately I guess, all I care about is that they're comfortable for extended listening.
 
For example, I don't know why, but it seems to fatigue my ears after a while. I don't know if this is unavoidable with high quality sound, but I'd imagine different headphones have different 'personalities'. I heard that, for example, the HD 650 is sort of more "mellow", but I am not an "audiophile" so I'm not sure exactly what that means for headphones with unmodified sound output (like no bass boost).
 
I'm willing to pay up to $500 total, but only if it's something that will last me for a very long time.
 
Also, I don't have any special sound card and don't want one, because I can't install a sound card in my laptop/ipod/etc. for example. The most important thing here is I don't want to be "tethered" to my desktop computer. I have my laptop in a different room, for example, and I want to be able to listen on that as well.
 
P.S. Also, I listen to a variety of music: Classical, r&b, pop, etc., if that matters at all.
 
Thanks!
 
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billith

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I love my Grado 325is cans with the Little Dot LD 1+ amp.
 
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ac500

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I don't want an amp. I've considered it, and it's just not worth it for me, so I'm looking for the best sound that I can get without an amp or special sound card.
 
Right now I'm considering the Sennheiser HD 595 but am hoping for better suggestions if anything better exists. Would the Grado 325i fit this? P.S. Long term listening comfort is quite important, as I mentioned.
 
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bcg27

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If you want to spend $500 but don't want to get an amp or dac, I think your best bet might be to look at IEMs rather than full size cans.
 
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ac500

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Unfortunately, I absolutely hate anything that I have to stick in my ear.
 
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Yeah, anything over $300 will generally benefit GREATLY with an amp. The Grado 325 that another poster mentioned is probably one of the easier to drive headphones in this price range, but even that will benefit a bit.
 
If you can concede to at least getting a cheap portable amp, like a $60 Fiio E11, then you'll go a long way towards squeezing as much sound as possible out of your headphones.
 
If you listen to lots of classical, I'd probably recommend you going open-backed just because they do much more justice to classical music. Also, you'd have something to compliment your HD280.
 
If you're not getting a desktop amp, I'd cross out some of the bigger names like the AKG K701/K702, Sennheiser HD600/HD650, Beyerdynamic DT880/DT990. 
 
If you stick with Sennheisers, the HD598 ($180) seem to have lots of fans here and seems to be a very worthy successor to the HD595. The Audio Technica ($220) is a splendid all-purpose open headphone that's relatively easy to drive. Grado's probably don't have the soundstage width to be the best at classical, but are quite good with the other genres mentioned (R&B and pop). There are there that you should look into, SR225 ($200), SR325($300) and RS2 ($500). 
 
 
 
 
 
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I have hd598s and I love them.  I use them with a dac/amp now but they sounded great when I was using them straight out of my macbook pro.  Also if youre looking for a closed can or something to use with an ipod I would suggest the Hd 25 1-ii.  I have not personally heard them but they seem to get rave reviews.  Of course both of these can be had for about 200 bucks, which saves you some money, because honestly I think youll have a hard time finding headphones for 500 bucks that dont need a good amp.
 
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ac500

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Thanks for the suggestions! Hmm... a lot of choices. I couldn't find a HD598 for less than $230 though, although the HD595 is $130 which is nicely inexpensive. How much better is the HD598 than the 595?
 
I'm open to a $60 AMP for example, but only if it gives a big improvement over a HD 598 for example; like what you might expect of a HD 650.
 
It seems from reviews that a Grado SR325 is better sound quality than a Sennheiser HD598? I think the RS2 is a bit up near my max that I'd prefer the SR325 if any Grado. Unfortunately, Grado seems it is less comfortable for long wearing. How do Audio Technica compare to Sennheiser and Grado?
 
I like smooth deep bass, not too strong. I also really importantly like to be able to pick out all the different instruments. Is this what 'soundstage' is?
 
The thing I love the most about my HD280 is when I listen to them coming from something else, I can feel every sound, including the bass (but not overwhelmingly). I like that I can make out different parts of the music (whether classical, rb, pop, or otherwise). What I'm hoping for is something that is even better in these areas, while optimally being more comfortable and less fatiguing.
 
Thanks!
 
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Heya,
 
You can easily get away without an amplifier. Here's two very comfortable and very nice options in closed/open:
 
Ultrasone Pro 2900 (open)
BeyerDynamic T70P (closed)
 
I think you would be very happy with all genres of music with the Ultrasone 2900's. Open can with S-Logic (displaced driver). Bass is deep, controlled and smooth. The sound is crisp. You really can't do better without an amp in the $500 range.
 
Very best,
 
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Quote:
650.
 
It seems from reviews that a Grado SR325 is better sound quality than a Sennheiser HD598? I think the RS2 is a bit up near my max that I'd prefer the SR325 if any Grado. Unfortunately, Grado seems it is less comfortable for long wearing. How do Audio Technica compare to Sennheiser and Grado?
 
If you add the $45 G-Cushions to the 325is, you will get more comfort and a wider soundstage.  IME.
 
 
 
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ac500

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Thanks. Ultrasone Pro 2900 (and BeyerDynamic) looks nice (although can't really find any reviews on them) but are just a bit above my price range. My $500 isn't a minimum or average price, but rather an absolute far upper bound (maximum) on what I can pay.
 
bbophead: Sounds interesting. Those are cushions I can just swap out on the 325?
 
Edit: I know I'm bouncing back and forth a little with all these options here, but the Grado 325is looks really good from all the reviews I see so far... it not requiring an amp is good, and $300 is comfortably below my $500 max :). I can then upgrade with better ear pads and an amp later if I want.
 
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Quote:
Thanks. Ultrasone Pro 2900 (and BeyerDynamic) looks nice (although can't really find any reviews on them) but are just a bit above my price range. My $500 isn't a minimum or average price, but rather an absolute far upper bound (maximum) on what I can pay.
 
bbophead: Sounds interesting. Those are cushions I can just swap out on the 325?
 
Edit: I know I'm bouncing back and forth a little with all these options here, but the Grado 325is looks really good from all the reviews I see so far... it not requiring an amp is good, and $300 is comfortably below my $500 max :). I can then upgrade with better ear pads and an amp later if I want.

In that case, look at the Ultrasone Pro 900 (closed) and BeyerDynamic DT990 32ohm (open).
 
Very best,
 
 
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Quote:
 
 
bbophead: Sounds interesting. Those are cushions I can just swap out on the 325?
 
 

Yes.  I believe they are the same ones that come on the GS-1000i.
 
 
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ac500

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Ok, so at this point it seems to be between the Grado SR 325is, and the BeyerDynamic DT990 32ohm. Maybe a Sennheiser HD 598 due to comfort, but probably not.
 
There are plenty of reviews on the Grado, less so for the DT990. From what I can tell the DT990 has stronger bass but less midrange. HD 598 low fatigue, but hopefully the Grady/Beyer is low fatigue also?
 
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Actually, both the Grado and Beyer DT990 have a very energetic treble, so they are some of the more fatiguing headphones you can own. The 325 is the brightest and most fatiguing Grado. If you don't mind getting your hands a bit dirty, how about getting an SR225, and getting some wooden cups for them from one of our MOTs here? It would end up costing about 300-350, but definitely a bargain for the sound that you would get out of them. 
 
 
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