Comparison HD540/DT880/K701/DT880 (quest for the best mixing HP's)
Jan 10, 2015 at 1:08 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 3

MrPhilicorda

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I have been buying a few new headphones recently as I want to upgrade from my K240's that I've used for mixing for about 10 years now. The new aquisitions consists of a pair of AKG K701, Sennheiser DT880 Pro 250 ohm and a pair of vintage Sennheiser HD540 Reference II. It has been a very interesting and educational experience doing this comparison and it has certainly opened my eyes to accurate sound coming from the K240's. Unfortunately though, I still haven't found the perfect ones.
 
Here are my impressions, boiled down to what I think are the main differentiating factors between the four:
 
AKG K701
This is one fantastic piece of headphone. The soundstage is incredible and detail is astonishing. There is warmth and presence in the bass while still sounding open and unconstrained in a way that makes it easy to distinguish between instruments that occupy this spectrum. The treble is very present but not fatiguing. The only drawback is what I precieve as a dip somewhere in the mid frequencies. This dip becomes apparent in certain songs where it places vocals, guitars and such further back in the mix. Apart from this dip the 701's are pretty close to perfect.
 
Sennheiser HD540 II
For a pair of vintage headphones these are amazing. Out of the bunch I would say these have the most natural and unconstrained sound. They manage to sound relaxed through out the range (well, almost...) while maintaning great soundstage and detail. The drawback IMO is a treble spike somewhere above 10kHz. This is not apparent in all songs, but sometimes this spike can bring things like hihats/tambourines way too much up front making them somewhat distracting. In other songs this treble spike exaggerates things like breathing noises or other unwanted "mouth sounds" from a singer in a way that is not very flattering.
 
Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro 250 ohm
Out of all four these headphones have the most neutral frequency response IMO. The detail, soundstage and resolution is not like the HD540 and K701, but it's not bad either. Unlike the HD540 and K701, though, it feel like nothing is recessed or emphasized through out the frequency range. No matter what song I put on they sound perfectly flat where as the other two sound perfect on some songs, while on other songs it becomes apparent that certain frequencies are either recessed or emphasized.
 
AKG K240 Studio
These we're in the comparison just for reference. These have been a good and realiable workhorse but they are lacking in detail and soundstage. Compared to the other three they sound muffled with a rather rolled off treble.
 

Out of these my favourites are the K701 and DT880 but I have a hard time choosing between the two. I just wish I could find a pair that would have the soundstage & detail of the K701/HD540 and the frequency response of the DT880's.
 
I would be interested to hear some opinions if someone has compared any of these headphones to each other! I would also be glad to hear if someone feels they have found the *almost perfect* pair for mixing. Which model, and why?
 
 

 
EDIT: spelling mistake in the topic: I wrote DT880 twice, but forgot to mention the K240... Can a moderator change this? I don't seem to be able to edit it.
 
Jul 23, 2015 at 3:32 AM Post #2 of 3

Ashback

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I have a pair of the HD540 ref gold, and have recently posted a request on the most active thread about finding a suitable running mate to preserve them as long as possible - I've had them more than 20 years, and they were second hand then.  Having been to a few shops and had a listen to some supposedly capable 'phones, I'm very surprised at what people consider to be good.  As your post seems to have drawn a blank so far, perhaps we are lone soldiers of true perfection...
 
Jul 31, 2015 at 5:16 AM Post #3 of 3

MrPhilicorda

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  I have a pair of the HD540 ref gold, and have recently posted a request on the most active thread about finding a suitable running mate to preserve them as long as possible - I've had them more than 20 years, and they were second hand then.  Having been to a few shops and had a listen to some supposedly capable 'phones, I'm very surprised at what people consider to be good.  As your post seems to have drawn a blank so far, perhaps we are lone soldiers of true perfection...


Have you had any luck in finding your 'running mate'?
 
I have actually found me a pair of headphones that are close to perfection IMO allthough it required some light modification to get the best out of them. It's a pair of Beyerdynamic DT811. Unfortunately these are a discontinued and super rare model but I was lucky and managed to buy two pairs from a local seller for a good price. Stock they have a little exaggerated bass but I solved this by placing a circular piece of foam just behind the driver, inside the earcup. Now, WOW!! In my opinion they are close to the most balanced headphones I've tried, they sound full, warm and crisp through the whole spectrum and have a soundstage close to that of AKG K701 or HD540.
 

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