Best-sounding open & closed headphones... with no EQ-ing or mods!
Jun 27, 2020 at 10:44 AM Post #46 of 86

ADUHF

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I'll add one for friends of the HP community in absentia. Not sure what Mr. H would pick in the year 2020. But in 2017, not long before he left Inner Fidelity, he was pretty high on the Focal Clear. Here are a couple comments from his full review...

"I'll reiterate, the overall character of the Clear is clarity. I've said before that once you get close to neutral, deviations become character...

And therein may be the one potentially problematic point for the Clear: It has little character, other than just being clear. Sometimes headphones that are close to neutral and without too much character sound boring, which can be a good thing in some ways. I don't think the Clear falls into this category; it's neutral without being boring. Still, some folks may not like this in the long run.

Me? I think it's great. The Focal Clear is pretty much exactly what I'm looking for in a reference headphone. Absolutely straight down the middle transparency. No attention grabbing characteristics, either good or bad, just well reproduced music in my noggin. Lovely...

Oh yeah, the Focal is hitting the Wall of Fame, and hitting it hard..."

 
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Jun 27, 2020 at 11:01 AM Post #47 of 86

ADUHF

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Head-Fi's Jude talks to Focal's Nicolas Debard in 2017 re the above...

 
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Jun 30, 2020 at 8:49 AM Post #48 of 86

cgb3

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I seldom see posts that point out the obvious. Humans don't all have the same hearing capabilities.

Age often diminishes hearing, and studies show hearing also differs by gender (https://www.audiology.org/sites/default/files/journal/JAAA_04_01_07.pdf).

While I'm sure there are headphones and ancillary equipment that will sound sonically "pure", to one with perfect hearing, most will probably find EQ adjustment of even the best equipment beneficial.
 
Jun 30, 2020 at 10:52 AM Post #49 of 86

bagwell359

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I mod and EQ everything I own. I was an EQ denier for 41 years, but digital parametric? Superior to earlier attempts, by far. But leaving that off:

Closed: None, no closed HF at any price level can beat an open HF of the same price range - IMO. If I was forced, MrSpeakers Ether 1 w/ factory mods, but I wouldn't be that happy.

Open:

cheap: HD-600 w/ proviso that the amp delivers a lot of voltage at 300 ohms. As much as I love the HE-500 it needs a lot of mods to beat the 600.

middle: HFM Arya, does what the Ananda fans claim it does, but really doesn't: I.E.: harmonics/subtle notes in place, real detail, much more impact in the bass, more depth, more width). It can be a bit etched at times. If you want dark - get a LCD4 used; or cheaper: HE-6se, fairly neutral.

no holds barred: MrSpeakers (aka DC) Voce: heard them twice, remarkable, don't have impact in bass like HE-6, (but enough for your mind to fill in any gaps) more than every stat I've heard, outside of that, it sounds like music, not a transducer, super fine detail but not as etched and zingy as the TOTL Stax. Delightfully imersive. If you can find a used amp out of a small pool of about 5 models expect to pay at least $3.5k for one, more likely a new one for $5k+.
 
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Jun 30, 2020 at 2:25 PM Post #51 of 86

ADUHF

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I seldom see posts that point out the obvious. Humans don't all have the same hearing capabilities.

Age often diminishes hearing, and studies show hearing also differs by gender (https://www.audiology.org/sites/default/files/journal/JAAA_04_01_07.pdf).

While I'm sure there are headphones and ancillary equipment that will sound sonically "pure", to one with perfect hearing, most will probably find EQ adjustment of even the best equipment beneficial.

I wouldn't really disagree with any the above, cgb3. If you think EQ-ing or other modifications will give you better SQ, then by all means have at it! I use it on my headphones as well. I'm just curious which HPs people think sound best without any of those adjustments though.
 
Jun 30, 2020 at 3:24 PM Post #52 of 86

cgb3

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I wouldn't really disagree with any the above, cgb3. If you think EQ-ing or other modifications will give you better SQ, then by all means have at it! I use it on my headphones as well. I'm just curious which HPs people think sound best without any of those adjustments though.
No worries with your thread, just an input.

This: https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq, is a large project on EQ. One may find the recommended EQ for a wide range of headphones by opening the "Results" folder in the link provided.
 
Jun 30, 2020 at 4:43 PM Post #53 of 86

bagwell359

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No worries with your thread, just an input.

This: https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq, is a large project on EQ. One may find the recommended EQ for a wide range of headphones by opening the "Results" folder in the link provided.

Wow, lots of data and reports. I'll try them out - could take weeks. Thanks
 
Jun 30, 2020 at 5:01 PM Post #54 of 86

bcaulf17

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For closed back, I would say the AKG K371, as it was designed to match the Harman Target as closely as they could get it, which is a curve meant to be agreeable to a majority of listeners.

For open back, probably the HD600/HD650/HD6XX, which despite being technically diffuse field, is nearly identical to Harman Target in the midrange, the HD600 in particular.

Now obviously, this type of thing is hard to pin down because frequency response tends to be one of the more subjective aspects when it comes to headphones. I really like the tuning of the HD6XX and AKG K371 myself, though I don't find them perfect, nor are they my favorite headphones, and I do know plenty of others who don't as well (boring, mid forward I've sometimes seen them described, which is a positive for some but a negative for others).

Honestly, it's an IEM and not a headphone, but the ER4XR is the purest sound I've heard in a personal audio speaker, but only with the provided small double flange tips. I'm not sure if that's considered a mod or not.
 
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Jun 30, 2020 at 8:42 PM Post #56 of 86

kman1211

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I mod and EQ everything I own. I was an EQ denier for 41 years, but digital parametric? Superior to earlier attempts, by far. But leaving that off:

Closed: None, no closed HF at any price level can beat an open HF of the same price range - IMO. If I was forced, MrSpeakers Ether 1 w/ factory mods, but I wouldn't be that happy.

Open:

cheap: HD-600 w/ proviso that the amp delivers a lot of voltage at 300 ohms. As much as I love the HE-500 it needs a lot of mods to beat the 600.

middle: HFM Arya, does what the Ananda fans claim it does, but really doesn't: I.E.: harmonics/subtle notes in place, real detail, much more impact in the bass, more depth, more width). It can be a bit etched at times. If you want dark - get a LCD4 used; or cheaper: HE-6se, fairly neutral.

no holds barred: MrSpeakers (aka DC) Voce: heard them twice, remarkable, don't have impact in bass like HE-6, (but enough for your mind to fill in any gaps) more than every stat I've heard, outside of that, it sounds like music, not a transducer, super fine detail but not as etched and zingy as the TOTL Stax. Delightfully imersive. If you can find a used amp out of a small pool of about 5 models expect to pay at least $3.5k for one, more likely a new one for $5k+.

That’s too broad of a statement about closed-backs and completely ignores the aspect of driver quality and that higher price doesn’t always equal better sound quality. Considering there are some terrible open-backs for a premium price can’t say I agree with closed not being able to be as good as similarly priced open backs. Some of the absolute best headphones I’ve ever heard regardless of price have been closed.
 
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Jun 30, 2020 at 9:22 PM Post #57 of 86

bagwell359

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That’s too broad of a statement about closed-backs and completely ignores the aspect of driver quality and that higher price doesn’t always equal better sound quality. Considering there are some terrible open-backs for a premium price can’t say I agree with closed not being able to be as good as similarly priced open backs. Some of the absolute best headphones I’ve ever heard regardless of price have been closed.

Obviously I was talking about the best open ears at various price points vs closed, not some rubbish open cans, which of couse as long as Beyers, AT, Grados, etc. exist there will indeed be lots of crap open cans. BTW, did I say they were all excellent? Please point out where I did? I'm talking a meritocracy - I don't accept fan boy ravings as legit if the can sucks - which most do.

Closed headphones almost all have garbage for headspace width, height, and depth - things I prize greatly. Also ridiculously fat bass (say a MD X00 Mahogany nits all those points - urgh). I do not need a headphone with no leakage. So what's the other reason to close them? Pumped up distorted bass? Pretty pieces of solid polished wood?

By all means name your favorite closed headphone list. That's what this thread is for.
 
Jun 30, 2020 at 10:22 PM Post #58 of 86

kman1211

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Obviously I was talking about the best open ears at various price points vs closed, not some rubbish open cans, which of couse as long as Beyers, AT, Grados, etc. exist there will indeed be lots of crap open cans. BTW, did I say they were all excellent? Please point out where I did? I'm talking a meritocracy - I don't accept fan boy ravings as legit if the can sucks - which most do.

Closed headphones almost all have garbage for headspace width, height, and depth - things I prize greatly. Also ridiculously fat bass (say a MD X00 Mahogany nits all those points - urgh). I do not need a headphone with no leakage. So what's the other reason to close them? Pumped up distorted bass? Pretty pieces of solid polished wood?

By all means name your favorite closed headphone list. That's what this thread is for.

You stated it as a final statement as you said no closed headphone can beat an open at a similar price, the statement includes everything which is why I said the statement was too broad. I do generally agree open-backs are usually better. Beyers are honestly not crap, modify or EQ a Beyer and you find they are better than you expect. Beyer does make questionable tuning choices (Mt. Beyer) but I always found their drivers excellent, you can basically fix any Beyer with EQ and/or mods, Beyers are my favorite headphones to modify as I can basically shape their sound however I want. Grado's are meh. I hate closed-backs with bloated distorted bass as it fatigues me quite a bit. I don't like the Fostex headphones that much as their bass and treble gets on my nerves, outside of select Beyers and Sony's I haven't heard that many good closed-backs. Most manufacturers don't seem to know how to make good closed-backs. Sealed headphones often lack bass. Closed with bass ports or venting tend to have bloated excessive bass.

Like you I also modify and EQ my headphones. Of what I own I would say it's my modified Beyer DT 480 (it's incomplete stock), it has the best imaging and widest, deepest, and tallest soundstage of all my dynamic headphones. It's also completely void of grain or distortion and has what can only be called real detail, solid real body, no etching, and amazingly good transient response, just pure real sound, one of the few headphones I've heard that truly sound real. It's my favorite and honestly best sounding headphone, I actually wish it was open as I don't like that it's sealed as I don't need isolation either. Of what I've heard at length or owned in the past, the Beyer DT 150 has a relatively neutral response, isn't too bright nor too bassy, and has excellent soundstage width, depth, height and a large sound image. Some of my favorite closed-backs are unobtanium sadly, the Sony R10 and the Sony CD3000. I do need to try more closed-backs, haven't heard a lot of the new stuff, but I have come across many terrible ones but some do have a lot of potential with eq and mods, and fewer still don't need much eq or mods.
 
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Jul 1, 2020 at 5:35 AM Post #59 of 86

lantian

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Sennheiser HD 540 Reference Gold 600ohm version.
 
Jul 1, 2020 at 6:04 AM Post #60 of 86

bagwell359

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For closed back, I would say the AKG K371, as it was designed to match the Harman Target as closely as they could get it, which is a curve meant to be agreeable to a majority of listeners.

For open back, probably the HD600/HD650/HD6XX, which despite being technically diffuse field, is nearly identical to Harman Target in the midrange, the HD600 in particular.

Now obviously, this type of thing is hard to pin down because frequency response tends to be one of the more subjective aspects when it comes to headphones. I really like the tuning of the HD6XX and AKG K371 myself, though I don't find them perfect, nor are they my favorite headphones, and I do know plenty of others who don't as well (boring, mid forward I've sometimes seen them described, which is a positive for some but a negative for others).

Honestly, it's an IEM and not a headphone, but the ER4XR is the purest sound I've heard in a personal audio speaker, but only with the provided small double flange tips. I'm not sure if that's considered a mod or not.

I like your post - but the Harman Target un
You stated it as a final statement as you said no closed headphone can beat an open at a similar price, the statement includes everything which is why I said the statement was too broad. I do generally agree open-backs are usually better. Beyers are honestly not crap, modify or EQ a Beyer and you find they are better than you expect. Beyer does make questionable tuning choices (Mt. Beyer) but I always found their drivers excellent, you can basically fix any Beyer with EQ and/or mods, Beyers are my favorite headphones to modify as I can basically shape their sound however I want. Grado's are meh. I hate closed-backs with bloated distorted bass as it fatigues me quite a bit. I don't like the Fostex headphones that much as their bass and treble gets on my nerves, outside of select Beyers and Sony's I haven't heard that many good closed-backs. Most manufacturers don't seem to know how to make good closed-backs. Sealed headphones often lack bass. Closed with bass ports or venting tend to have bloated excessive bass.

Like you I also modify and EQ my headphones. Of what I own I would say it's my modified Beyer DT 480 (it's incomplete stock), it has the best imaging and widest, deepest, and tallest soundstage of all my dynamic headphones. It's also completely void of grain or distortion and has what can only be called real detail, solid real body, no etching, and amazingly good transient response, just pure real sound, one of the few headphones I've heard that truly sound real. It's my favorite and honestly best sounding headphone, I actually wish it was open as I don't like that it's sealed as I don't need isolation either. Of what I've heard at length or owned in the past, the Beyer DT 150 has a relatively neutral response, isn't too bright nor too bassy, and has excellent soundstage width, depth, height and a large sound image. Some of my favorite closed-backs are unobtanium sadly, the Sony R10 and the Sony CD3000. I do need to try more closed-backs, haven't heard a lot of the new stuff, but I have come across many terrible ones but some do have a lot of potential with eq and mods, and fewer still don't need much eq or mods.

After I wrote that I checked a bunch of reviews and lists. Nothing I saw among the ones I have heard changes my mind (AT 50? ...please). Its true I wasn't into EQ when I heard Beyers, and the tuning on the ones I heard was indeed awful. DT 480? A remake of the fairly famous DT 48, both seem very scarce used. Name a more recent version that's obtainable and I might take it on.
 

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