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Closed Back ~$400 Options

  1. Onomatopoeia
    Seeking recommendations from headphone experts (that would be you). I don't want to overlook any options. My needs are:
    • ~$400 to $450
    • Over ear, closed back (will use at work)
    • Listen to indie rock, electronic
    I'm coming from a string of bad luck with headphones. My NAD HP50 (excellent mids) broke after 1 year. I am now on my third pair of Monoprice M565C. The M565C ended up being a much better performer than the HP50 (which surprised me) but the female cable inputs in the earcups are so loose that audio drops with any head movement. I've tried multiple cables and sources with the same issue. I love their sound but can't continue using headphones with such simple QC issues.

    I'm increasing my budget a bit in the hope I get something that sounds great and lasts. So far, I've researched the following:
    • Fostex TR-X00 Mahogany -This is my leading contender but I'm a bit concerned that the semi-closed design may leak sound and annoy coworkers. Is this an issue I should be concerned about?
    • Audioquest NightOwl - Concerned that these are increasingly difficult to find to audition. These seem to have a love it or hate it reputation.
    • Oppo PM-3 - The M565C turned me on to the speed of planar drivers so going back in time for a used or new PM-3 via eBay may be an option. Some concern with build quality -especially as there is zero chance of support.
    Thanks for reading! I appreciate any advice you can offer.
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    The TR-X00 headphone is a closed headphone.
    Where did you read it's is a semi-closed design?
    I've been temped to buy the TR-X00 myself :)
    Onomatopoeia likes this.
  3. megabigeye
    Hey there,
    I own the PM-3 and think it's a fantastic headphone, with a few caveats. It's has fairly rolled off treble, and bass is great but seal dependent, so my experience is that they don't work well with glasses... Though I think other's have had a different experience from mine regarding glasses. Otherwise the sound is really beautiful and cohesive and has a certain ease about it that I don't experience with my other headphones.
    I'd also say the low impedance and high sensitivity are somewhat misleading in that I find the headphones to sound better with quite a bit of power behind them. That said, they sound great with weaker sources, just better with a stronger one.

    Re. build quality: the only parts that I know of that commonly fail are the padding (usually it happens in high heat, high humidity places, but don't know that that's a rule), which is still available from Oppo; you just have to contact them to order it. Earpad replacements are $39 for them to send you the pads, $49 for them to install (plus shipping), and headband replacement is not (easily) user replaceable and costs $99 for them to do it. There are also aftermarket pads that work, like Brainwavz. My pair happens to have a semi-broken slider, but a) my case is an outlier as I've never heard of anybody else with the same problem; and b) it hasn't gotten worse in three years of ownership. The headphones are generally pretty durable. I believe Oppo is still available for other repairs, though you might want to contact them about that before purchase.

    That said, if I were in your position, I'd probably start with the NightHawk, since it's the only one on your list that is returnable.
    Onomatopoeia likes this.
  4. Onomatopoeia
    Yeah, my understanding is it is officially a closed design but numerous reviews I've read mention the venting leaks enough sound to use the term semi-closed.
  5. surfgeorge
    I have the NightOwl (and the NightHawk)
    I bought them because I own the Chord Mojo, which I consider a real reference technological achievement (in terms of size, price and SQ), and the developer of the Mojo used the NightHawks as his HP of choice for many years. Fully trusting his muscial expertise and due to the current low prices I bought them.

    They are kind of warm and dark sounding, a bit like a smoky jazz club. The NightOwl is a bit more aggressive of the two, with punchier bass and a little more treble energy, but it still makes me dive into the music like into a dark forrest lake, and float in it. They are extremely comfortable, and I use them even during trips on the plane, where I even fell asleep with them. The NO also has a very good sound stage for a closed back.
    So far so good. But if you are looking for "clarity" or "neutral" then look elsewhere.
    If you compare them with headphones that are tuned for clarity, they feel veiled and muffled. When I switch from my IEMs to the NO this is what I first feel, but a few minutes later I am floating in my music pool and am happy.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
    ammthe, Onomatopoeia and CoryGillmore like this.
  6. bcaulf17
    It's been pretty well documented in reviews about the headphone. It has openings somewhere around the cusp of the ear pad, causing a good amount of leakage. It's not a semi-open design, but because of that it could be considered like a semi-open. I wouldn't wear it in the office. Plus they're kind of large.

    Might I recommend the Bang & Olufsen H6 Gen 2? It's an excellent all-rounder and great portable. Nice balanced sound, with an airy quality and great detail, without being too harsh or bright. Pretty good bass too. Mid are pretty good as well, don't know how they compare to the HP50, but they aren't quite at the level as the HD650 (then again, that is one of the kings of midrange) but it still holds it's own. They also look great, with a sleek design and easy to carry.

    Other popular options are the Meze 99 Classics, Bowers & Wilkins P7, and the aforementioned PM3, although Oppo no longer manufactures them so your best bet is a used pair. In any case, all of these headphones have some pretty lengthy threads on here that have plenty of information :)
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
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  7. fredsun925
    I own the Bowers & Wilkins P7 and they sound fantastic. I only listen to indie but as you know indie music can vary quite a bit. The P7 has a very neutral sound and the instrumental separation is excellent. The headphone itself is on the heavier side, so it might not be for everyone. But overall I think they are amazing headphones for that price range.
    Onomatopoeia likes this.
  8. Mhog55
    bcaulf17 likes this.
  9. yong_shun
    You can give Sony MDR-1AM2 a try. I like how it sounds and comfort wise it is excellent.
    PaganDL and Onomatopoeia like this.
  10. PopZeus
    I prefer the sound of the Audeze Mobius over the Oppo PM-3. The Mobius is a headset, but I think the planar implementation is superior to the PM-3.

    And the Meze 99 Classics, while only $300 retail are known for being a huge value in their price range. That’s my next purchase.
    koover and Onomatopoeia like this.
  11. ammthe
    Are Chord Mojos that good? I currently own NightOwl and I'm using it with a Dragonfly Black. I'm afraid to spend $500 on a dac/amp and regret not liking it. I live in a country where I can't try it out and there is no second hand market to resell.
    surfgeorge likes this.
  12. surfgeorge
    There are tons of information about the Mojo, and most agree that it really it offers (at least one of) the best audiophile experiences for under $1000.
    But it is really hard to recommend something to someone else, since music and preferences are often so different.

    If you read/watch the info about how the Chord DACs work you get an idea that Chord is combining raw processing power with sophisticated electrical engineering and deep understanding of psychoacoustics to recreate audio signals with a precision that is hard or impossible to achieve with conventional DAC chips. Call it engineering BS or marketing hype, I believe I can hear what they talk about.

    I connected the Mojo to my Stereo system which used a $5000 amp, $4000 DAC and a belt driven CD drive, pure silver cables and custom speakers...
    The Mojo blew the (admittedly 16 year old) DAC away and I quickly got a used Chord 2Qute to replace the DAC. Especially soundstage and separation are on a completely new level. My living room wall vanished and a huge room opened, either becoming a jazz bar or a church.

    But I have to add that the Mojo works best with live acoustic recordings, like Jazz or classic, then it creates a very realistic sound image.
    The more processed or artifical music becomes, the less the reconstruction capabilities can work, then it just remains a clean, detailed and smooth DAC, slightly warm, but mostly natural. It still has it's Mojo quality, but that kind of music benefits less from it IMO.

    But the different aspects of it's SQ are not immediately apparent with headphones or IEMs IMO. I can switch between the cheap HiBy R3 and the Mojo, and the R3 sounds good, clean background, strong lows, smooth mids, sparkly highs. It sounds "impressive". But after a short while I hear or feel that something is not quite right, not quite natural and coherent. It's not strong, but when I switch to Mojo I relax and dive into the music. Everything is right. Subtle in some sense, but emotionally quite a big difference.

    If you like digital processing or equalizing, better get something else. (like HiBy R6)
    If you need BT connectivity look elsewhere.
    Music on the move (walking, commuting) maybe not the best choice (too big and cumbersome)

    I use it as a portable unit for stationary listening at work, on the airplane, in the hotel and at home.
    And for that it is brilliant.
    Now I started getting into IEMs and I have to make a belt clip for my Mojo-HiBy stack! It sounds soooo good!
    (Price tip: Moondrop Kanas Pro)

    Actually I wanted to talk you out of it - but I don't think I did a good job :frowning2:
    In the end, if you can relatively easily afford a Mojo, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. If not, enjoy what you have! The Dragonfly Black should sound good with the NightOwls!


    PS: My MObile JOy setup:
    IMG_8073.JPG IMG_8070.JPG IMG_8266.JPG
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
    ammthe and robm321 like this.
  13. robm321
    Wow, now that's a stack I can get behind.
  14. ammthe
    @surfgeorge Thank you so much for your explanation. It made me want to try out the Mojo even more. LOL
  15. buke9
    The Mojo is a very good device.

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