Best Listening Headphones (Under ~$500)?
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MalVeauX

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Heya,
 
You don't need to spend $1,000 on the headphone and amp. Spend more on the headphone and get a good DAC and then get an AMP that will push it enough.
 
HD600 (or HD650 if it's not terribly more expensive) + Matrix M-Stage. Affordable and really good. Will cover all bases. Feed it with a good DAC.
 
Very best,
 
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ac500

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Thanks, sounds good. What's a "good DAC" - a sound card I assume?
 
Now I guess I have to decide between a HD600 and HD650. Although the 650 is $100 more, I hear it has better bass, and less "bright" than the 600. Some people say the 600 is better balanced though.
 
I guess I'm hesitant to buy anything that's known as "bright", because I have really sensitive ears - I can hear things most people don't in real life, but on the downside my ears hurt from too much high pitched noise, like I get from my HD 280 Pro.
 
I noticed last night even listening to my 280 Pro for 5 minutes at decent volume, I could feel my ears fatiguing, not painfully, but in a way that made it seem like my ears were starting to "mute" themselves and everything started sounding less good. It feels like this is due to it being a closed design, and the fact that it's "forward" / harsh (don't know the proper word here).
 
I guess I just want to be sure it doesn't have this same problem since I'm not testing these in person, which is why I've been hesistant about the non sennheiser ones which are supposedly more "bright" or"forward".
 
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Max598

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With my hd598s I am using an hrt musicstreamer 2 and littledot mk3.  While they both helped increase SQ, the biggest improvement in SQ was definitely the music streamer which I got in the for sale forums for $100.  Pretty good deal. I havnt heard a lot of high end dacs but from what I pick up on the forums the music streamers are one of the best values out there.  I think if youre looking toward the higher end sennheisers an amp becomes more important.  And for me adding a tube amp to my senns really helped in making them less fatiguing.
 
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ac500

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What I think I'll do is buy the Sennheiser HD 650, use it for a while, then buy a USB adc+amp combo. It sounds like I can get a good enough one for $100-$200, since I'm not a hardcore collector willing to pay $100,000,000,000 in assorted top end amps of every possible type. I just want one nice headphone to listen to :)
 
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ac500

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If I can keep an amp <= $200, then HD 650 + amp = $350 + $200 ~= $550, which still isn't too much above my original ceiling budget.
 
What about something like this:
 
http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB12/NFB12EN.htm - $200
 
Or if not that, what's a good $100-$200 USB DAC/AMP for the HD 650? And yes I know that for a true audiophile nothing under $50,000 deserves more than a "meh" grunt :p
 
Or... should I just save up and run without an amp until I can buy something better?
 
 
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sphinxvc

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The phones that do sound better that you could get away with not having an amplifier for are way out of your budget.  I second the amp/DAC approach.  You have my vote of confidence in the NFB-12 but honestly any well regarded amp/DAC will do.  This includes AGD Sparrow/12/11/FUN/HDP/HD,MD11.
 
The HD600/HD650 decision comes down to preference.  Each has trade-offs, make a decision based on what you're willing to trade off.  Be conscious of synergy.
 
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MalVeauX

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Quote:
Thanks, sounds good. What's a "good DAC" - a sound card I assume?
 
Now I guess I have to decide between a HD600 and HD650. Although the 650 is $100 more, I hear it has better bass, and less "bright" than the 600. Some people say the 600 is better balanced though.
 
I guess I'm hesitant to buy anything that's known as "bright", because I have really sensitive ears - I can hear things most people don't in real life, but on the downside my ears hurt from too much high pitched noise, like I get from my HD 280 Pro.
 
I noticed last night even listening to my 280 Pro for 5 minutes at decent volume, I could feel my ears fatiguing, not painfully, but in a way that made it seem like my ears were starting to "mute" themselves and everything started sounding less good. It feels like this is due to it being a closed design, and the fact that it's "forward" / harsh (don't know the proper word here).
 
I guess I just want to be sure it doesn't have this same problem since I'm not testing these in person, which is why I've been hesistant about the non sennheiser ones which are supposedly more "bright" or"forward".

Heya,
 
None of the sennheisers are bright. Maybe one is more bright than another, but only compared to another sennheiser. They really are laid back. It's not like you're putting on a pair of grados. The HD600/HD650 will not sound at all like the HD280 and they also won't clamp on your head.
 
The bass on the HD600 is still good, it's just not pronounced, it's not emphasized. You can EQ it up if you want it and the driver can do it just fine. It's a more neutral headphone and cheaper. It's an excellent headphone for the money. And if you can get a used HD580 for cheap, all the better, they usually are around $135~$150 when they appear in the for sale section now and then. Same headphone.
 
As for a DAC/AMP, it won't take a lot to push your headphones. I can't recommend enough the Matrix Cube DAC. It has a built in amp too. Very nice. Only $270 shipped new. I recommend it because I have it and an HD580 (which is a HD600). It's an excellent combo.
 
Very best,
 
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ac500

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Regarding amp: I'm okay with buying a ~$270 DAC+AMP like the Matrix Cube DAC, but only if it's worth it and will keep me satisfied / last me a long time. How better is this than the NFB12 for a HD 600/650?
 
On the headphones: I can get a HD600 for $260, or a HD650 for $350 (can't find a 580 anywhere though). It'll be a tough choice I guess because I've heard the HD650 is just slightly subtly better/cleaner sound quality, aside from the bass difference. Probably not worth it I guess, but I'm also not planning on upgrading headphones any time soon so I don't want to wish I'd bought something better.
 
In the same way that you can turn up the bass on the 600, I'd assume I could turn it down on the 650 if it's too strong. So I guess it's whether I want to pay $100 for the "top" 6xx series, and for what I can imagine is maybe a 10% improvement? I guess opinions vary on this so I'll just have to read reviews / comparisons.
 
 
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sphinxvc

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The HD580s are discontinued.  The HD600s are more or less identical to the HD580 sound.  But the HD600 have old and new versions to them, as do the HD650s, so keep that in mind while doing your research or shopping.  Whether the HD650s are XX% better than then HD600s or vica versa depends on your sonic priorities.  There are some things the HD650s don't do as well as the HD600s and the same is true the other way.  
 
I would do some research on the design differences, chipset and analog stages of the amp/DACs you're considering.  
 
 

What kind of music do you listen to?
 
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ac500

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I listen to a lot of classical / orchestral when working, but I also enjoy pop, r&b, and some electronica. I'll also use these for video games and movies, although probably less often/important.
 
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For classical and orchestral you're better off with the HD600 through and through.  And they are good with other genres.  If you had said anything but classical, I would recommend the HD650s.  The HD650s are a little too dark and at times congested for classical.  
 
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ac500

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On the other hand, when I do listen to pop / r&b, I'm listening much much critically :)
 
Edit: The truth is I like to listen to all kinds of music (except for rap), so I don't want to limit myself as much as possible.
 
But I am reading a lot of good things for the HD 600 as a general purpose headphone. Same for the 650 though -- it seems nobody can agree on which is better. Hmm.
 
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sphinxvc

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This is a nice evaluation of both phones, even if slightly outdated (no mention is made of old or new drivers).  
 
http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/524569/review-20-headphones-compared
 
David mentions recessed treble at one point but I suspect that could be a fault of the older drivers.  I don't hear recessed treble on my pair.
 

Quote:
But I am reading a lot of good things for the HD 600 as a general purpose headphone. Same for the 650 though -- it seems nobody can agree on which is better. Hmm.



It truly comes down to preference.  For classical and orchestral, I will always reach for the K70X or HD600s first.  For an all rounder, the HD600.
 
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How do I know if a headphone is the "new version" or not? Is there a difference in sound quality? Or, how do I phrase the question to someone selling on amazon.com for example?
 
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