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First of all, I would get a decent DAC/amp unit. This could be the NFB-12.1 ($215), for example. You can also get an O2+ODAC which should run you about the same, less if you get someone to DIY it for you (which I would be willing to do).
That leaves room for at least a $350 headphone.
If I were you I'd choose a relatively neutral open backed circumaural one. I'd like to recommend the HD650, but that's ever so slightly above your budget, and since you don't have a lot of experience with hi-fi it may be better to start with a cheaper model.
I think the AKG Q701 and the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro, but I have only heard both headphones briefly, so I can't really comment all too much on their sound quality. I do know they are both pretty darn comfortable.
Truth be told, it's been about a year ago since I last spent time researching headphones in this price range, so I forgot most of the models.
Same as what Rikkun posted. A good DAC and amp should be taken into consideration. Headphones at this price range generally aren't "picky" or need huge synergization with it. There are many in this range but one should consider if you want a combo unit like the NFB 12.1 or the Maverick D1 or something like an O2 or ODAC. What your final headphone desicion is could change the combo you are getting like for example ..... the O2 is "cleaner" sounding and has...basically less of a "soul" while the NFB has it's own little "darker" but soulful sound to it that may change what you may want.
Personally, I will go with a Q701 recommendation. I have not heard HD600 series or AKG K550s which are competitors in this price range but the Q701's do the genres too well. I wish there was a bit more bass iimpact and presence though, and some say the K550 provides that, however there are also many others that say Q701 is still the studio one to care about while headfoni's mike likes the K550.
Don't let people that say they like the QQ701 or K550 persuade you from one over the other, it's just their preference. The people at studiophile and subsequent sites like innerfidelity call the Q701 or K701 the studio champion next to the HD800 while others say differently.
I'll be going to NY to hopefuly demo these soon.... if the K550's are exactly like the Q701's but with more bass(unlikely even with what they say) then it will be awesome.
Also look at a STAX combo..... im sure Rikkun knows more abotu that and with your budget, it's doable!
It's doable, but not advisable.
You could get an 2170 set, which includes a SR-207 and an SRM-2525. This is the cheapest combo you can get new, and it costs about $750 shipped after which you still need a DAC, which will be another $100. (if you get an ODAC)
You can also go the used route and get something similar to what I did. A used SR-202 in good condition costs about $250, and the cheapest amps you will be able to find cost $300. However, this will mean that you have to lurk the classifieds here on head-fi and on eBay for possibly months, and even then buying used is never risk-free.
In my opinion my current SRD-7 MK II -> SR-202 combination sounds better than my HD650, and significantly so. But it took me a lot of trouble and time to get this together, and as a headphone noobie I advice going a more conventional route first since it's simply put a whole lot safer and quicker.
I knew it was going to be hard. But hai by chan might want to do it. And its not that much different really but will take time.
If you wanna go 'stats, go Koss - ESP/950 is less than the SRS-2170 and (based on chatting with various STAX types) it's going to be more impressive down low and in the mids. The Stereophile review says as much as well. It's ever-so-slightly over budget depending on Amazon (they dance between around $580 and $650), and assumes you have a source (PC sound card, CD player, whatever).
Otherwise, the HD 600 or Kenwood KH-K1000 are still my suggestions for you Hybrid. Oh, and what bowei and tilpo said about amps. Also remember FiiO and the beautifulness that is (are?) vintage receivers/amps. And amp soundcards (the K1000 is *really* unpicky; the HD 600 are more reactive).
What. Just went on Amazon to grab you the ESP/950 link and show you that they're right within your $600 budget. NEVER.MIND. :angry_face::angry_face:
Looking at other Koss products, I'm not seeing signs of a universal MAP though, so perhaps the price will bounce back down. If that isn't the case though, apart from being a very sad day, Koss usually has a Christmastime sale that does 20-25% off all items.
I do think that $600 (if it drops again) is still a very high price. Getting something cheaper first with a decent amp/DAC combo is what I'd do.
I think the HD600's are an excellent way to start. Immediately jumping to relatively high-end stuff is a bit weird, and probably pointless since it really does take time and analysis in order to be able to appreciate the qualities of hi-fi.
Eh, I'd agree and disagree. I'm not a fan of delayed satisfaction or "stepping up the ladder" when you can avoid it. The 950s are in all ways better than the HD 600, and relatively similar in terms of the overall signature/experience. It just doesn't make sense to buy something "starting out" that you know/assume you'll be replacing down the line when you're *only* talking about a $200 jump in terms of pricing (and remember that the HD 600 have to plug into something, so unless you're starting with an AV receiver, amp soundcard, etc on hand, you're spending more than $400 to play that game - an E9 is around $100, an O2 is around $150, and the Audio-GD is around $250; you've broken $600 now, for a lessor sounding (but still *very good* headphone)). Remember that the 950 include an amp (which is damn decent), and are an all-inclusive package. Sure, you can spend (thousands) more on a third party amplifier, but to what end?
The point on the DAC is where I'm in agreement - if you don't have anything that resembles a nice source, that's problematic. But it's problematic in either case. The advantage is, a good DtoA or soundcard is relatively inexpensive. Under $200 should absolutely do it. Yes you can spend (tens of thousands) more, but again, to what end? IMHO buy the best transducers you can get your mitts on, and worry about the rest of the game later as needed; the biggest changes and improvements come from the cans themselves.
This debate actually came up in another thread recently:
I'm not saying you're wrong - I agree with all of your suggestions. I'm just looking at it more long-term I guess - if you have the cash to just get it done right the first time, why take multiple diversions? If the HD 600 weren't MAP enforced, and would swing down to $300 on a daily basis (or if you don't mind buying them used), and/or if you have a receiver laying around (or can go find one for a few bucks) that's a good headamp, I'd absolutely go the Sennheiser route. It's hundreds cheaper, and still sounds fantastic. The 70x will get a similarly good experience for less still, but they have less bass and some users report discomfort (I always put this disclaimer in when I suggest them; I absolutely loved the K701 when I had them, and had no issues with fit personally, but I've heard more than a few people mention the "bumps" on the headband being less than fantastic).
I'd say in terms of budget-minded-ness, the K701 or Q701 (do we mention the K702 anymore?) would be the top pick (even with the Audio-GD amp, they're not going to break $500), followed by the KH-K1000 (since it's less amp needy and can drive straight off a good soundcard or PDP, which can run you around $50 - the Denon D2000/D5000 are somewhat similar in this regard, but imho don't have as good of mids), and then the HD 600 and ESP/950 (which will probably both end up costing around $500-$600 assuming this $999 noise isn't here to stay).
I have owned some FiiO's and am pretty active on the E17 thread. They aren;t what you would want from such a setup. The NFB 12.1 and O2 are pretty good imo, especially the O2 in the sense that it is so clean...and at the same time lame and souless.... lame as in, it's not...a super coloration synergization wow. It's just there and does it's thing.
Well, see if Hai-by chan can go and demo them before all this. But an HD600 or HD650 for a starter isn't bad. I didn't have a choice when I bought my Q701's. They were just so cheap, it would be idiotic of me if I didn't buy them! Same with other stuff I own. The only thing I paid full price for was the NFB's, the next unimpressive deal was teh SRH440's. Everything else were bought on deals and were very good for price. $75 for slightly usedQ701, $5 for new Sony XB500, $118 for new HFI 580, $10 for PL11, $7 for MP8320. And the E17 not only was it already a fantastic deal, but I got a free tshirt, optical cables, and other stuff for $139.
In my opinion it's better to start with something really good too. But who's to say he is actually going to find hi-fi worth it? Remember, he doesn't really have any experience with hi-fi apart from possibly reading us talk about it.
Starting with a budget of $600 is good. If you are still thirsty for more after that point you can buy better headphones and sell your old ones for -- what, $100 loss?. That's not too bad, if you ask me. I think it's unnecessary to spend more than $600 in your first rig. An HD600 rig is already really good, and most likely infinitely better than what he has at the moment.
In my opinion there is also not really a point in getting expensive boutique amplifiers/DAC's when a $200-300 unit will do just fine, especially early in the game, so we're pretty much on the same page in that regard. Getting something like the Xonar Essence STX is fine too, and should have plenty of juice to drive a variety of headphones even without an amp.
All things considered, I think the best two options for the headphone are:
- AKG Q701
- Xonar Essence STX
Together this should fit nicely within the $600 budget and will get you a really nice setup.
I'm also not too familiar with the K1000 you mentioned, so obviously it'd be a bad idea for me to recommend it.
Good start. The Q701's are almost perfect for asian music, especially pop and rock..but need a bit of bass impact and presence. That gets 3/4 rectified after about a 150 hours.An EQ doesn't really help too much and past a certain point....that certain point being a very light bass boost EQ(very light) the bass starts sounding very artificial.
The NFB12.1 is a decent combo with the Q701. The O2 as an amp is more preferable in the sense that the 701's are clean and light, and same as the O2 while the NFB gives it a darker and heavier and more cheerufl soul. But really, the difference is not noticeable if you didn't have both to compare and use.
O2 and ODAC?....hmmm that might also be good.
Hai-by chan can't get the STX. He doesn't have a desktop yet. Plus,......a on desk unit looks better. Sorry, but asthetics are also taken into account.
Agreed. Again, remember that I'm thinking about the ESP/950 as a $550-$650 system (which does include the amp in that price), not $1k. I think I paid $615 for mine incl shipping.
+1 on the soundcard bit too, but I haven't tried the Xonar cards. I liked my X-Fi Prelude, and I like my Recon3D (and again, people will always reply saying "Recon3D sucks" or "Recon3D is bad" but when I ask them why, they don't say anything - I'm kind of curious about it; I don't hear anything bad coming out of it). There's also the X-Fi TiHD which is sometimes super cheap on Amazon (and I just checked this before saying it, due to the 950 shocker - it's like $130). There's also the USB version that I see from time to time, it's around the same price iirc.
The Kenwood are sort of a "closed HD 600" or "closed HD 580" kind of headphone. They're very unoffensive, and in addition to being fairly sensitive (like the Sennheisers) they're also low Z (40 ohms iirc), so they drive from nearly anything. A lot like Grados. You can run them on a non-headamp soundcard with relative ease. The downside (depending on how you look at it) is they cost as much as the HD 600. You can get them from AC (http://www.audiocubes.com/product_info.php?cPath=23_36&products_id=2417), and I think Dave mentioned in another thread that they're also available on bluetin (which I've never shopped at).
who is hai-by chan?
Used HD-580, K601 or Koss Pro DJ100. I don't suggest the HD-600 despite the 580 sharing the same driver. HD-598 also works well enough, but it's not worth $250.
Everything in my sig is good for asian pop music, but especially any with female vocals.
You need Ernest back so I know it's you.
I don't have the headphones or have heard the ones you have, but for asian pop, I still like my Q701's.
This is one of "THOSE" times. I didn't recognize tdockweiler due to his change in avatars!
It's our nickname for Hybrid Core in our thread. Haibrid, turns into Haiburido, which then turns into Hai-by(pronounced hi (as in hello) bee ) chan