Conclusions...
Apr 26, 2006 at 4:52 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 40

seacard

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Well, I've spent the last year or so trying out pretty much every headphone I can get my hands on. I've bought, sold, traded, borrowed probably around 50 headphones, and the USPS guy knows me real well. I single-handedly probably made them about $1000 sending things back and forth. Just wanted to share my conclusions so far. Don't know if this will be useful to anybody (since we all have such different tastes), but I really wanted to get some thoughts down on paper, even if it's just for myself. All of these were stock (unless noted), and all were amped by the GS-1 or the MPX3 SLAM.

Sennheiser HD650/600 (my score: 7) - I loved the dark, rich sound of these. I listen to about 65% classical music, and about 1/3 of that is solo piano and solo cello. For that type of music, this may be as good as it gets. It's a little darker than those instruments sound in real life, but the timbres and the fullness are all there. For larger orchestra music, however, I was a little disappointed. The midrange got a bit muddy, especially when the passages got complex and involved the lower registers. The headphone continued to clear up with burn-in, but never got to the point where I was happy with it. For rock, these were a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is plenty of bass and the vocals sound terrific. On the other hand, rock really sounds better with a more forward, in your face sound. The phones emphasise vocals and bass more than guitar licks, so if you were looking for just a rock phone, I would probably look elsewhere. (I did get to hear the HD600s balanced out of the SDS-XLR and they sounded terrific, but I am not going to rate them in that configuration because I have no idea how other headphones would have sounded out of that amp. I'd rather keep this an even playing field).

Beyerdynamic DT880 (my score: 6) - These were much better than I expected. For some reason, I thought they would sound thin. They didn't. Very open sound, more so than the HD650/600, and I preferred these to the 650s for larger orchestra works. On the other hand, they lacked the sophistication and the depth of the 650s and other headphones that I tried. At times, they sounded a little thin, maybe a little bright, and I just didn't think they had enough body for rock music. But on average, these are great headhpones and an excellent value.

Sony MDR-R10 (my score: 8) - I was trying really hard NOT to like these. I mean, they are expensive, and much of that money was spent on hand-made wood. Why pay so much for the wood, when you can probably get a the same driver in a plastic headphone for much cheaper? Well, as hard as I tried, these sounded amazing. The soundstage was dizzying at times, and the midrange was warm, yet clean. For classical, this may be as good as it gets. The sound was rich but not flabby, detailed but not harsh. This may have been my favorite dynamic. I also listened to them balanced out of the SDS-XLR, and they sounded even better.

Sony Qualia 010 (my score: 7.5) - At first, I was not impressed. But the more I listened, the more I got it. The detail on this headphone is spectacular. But for me, this headphone just didn't quite reach the R-10 level. On the other hand, I liked this one even better than the R-10 for jazz. Very clean and precise sound.

Sony MDR-SA5000 (my score: 6.5) - This one was a mixed bag for me. On the GS-1, I hated it. On the MPX3 SLAM, I loved it for certain music. For jazz, rock, metal, etc. this is a terrific headphones. It makes the trumpets and horns blare. Maybe a little sharper than real life, but that's that sort of sound that I like from my brass section. In your face but still detailed and not over the top. For large orchestral, this was terrific. You could easily pick out the second horn line from the first horn. The instruments didn't blend together. In that regard, it was no worse than the Qualia. But it lacked the refinement that some of the other top cans in this price class offer. Female vocals lost that special sparkle. Solo piano sounded a little dry and thinned out. To be honest, they were pretty accurate on the piano sound; it's just that I liked the richness that the HD650s and the R-10s brought, and really missed it with these headphones.

AKG K1000 (my score: 7.5) - What is there left to say about these? There were times when I put them on and they were the best sound (not just headphone sound, but sound period) I had ever heard. So rich, so detailed, such soundstage. At their best, they are better than the Orpheus or the Omegas or the R10. But then, you would listen to a different CD or music genre and they sounded bad. Real bad. Distant, thin, bright. If you are the kind of person who will own a few different headphones, and is comfortable swapping them in and out, you MUST own these. You will never hear anything better. For me, those times they sounded bad made me sell them ... twice.

AKG K701 (my score: 7.5) - With the MPX3 SLAM, this is my current favorite. It doesn't have the warmth of the R10, the detail of the Qualia, the bass of the PS-1, but overall it's just spectacular. I sold this headphone a while ago, but it's one that I will be buying back again. It beat every headphone in this price range by a wide, wide margin, and (for me) was very close to the big boys. The score above is based solely on sound quality; if value was included, this would be a perfect 10.

Grado HP1000 (my score: 6.5) - This was by far my favorite Grado. It had a beautiful rich sound, yet still managed to retain some of that Grado sound that people here love. It is the most refined of the Grados and I liked that. On the other hand, it lacked some of the precision and detail that I would expect from a headphone in this price range. Part of it may have been the fact that I didn't find it comfortable and have never been a big fan of the supra-aural design.

Grado RS-1 (my score: 5.5) - Probably my least favorite of the headphones in this upper echelon. To me, it sounded cheap, not the way you would expect a $700 headphone to sound. It's way too forward, which works for some styles of music but not for others. But even for rock, when this headphone is at its best, I would prefer the SA5000. I can't wait for the new Grado, however. Hopefully it will improve on this sound substantially.

Grado PS-1 (my score: 6.5) - To me, this headphone just didn't do it. Too much bass, still too forward (see RS-1 comments above), but slightly more refined. I still like the HP1000 better by a hair, but they fall into the same general category for me. Just not my cup of tea.

AT L3000 / W2002 (my score: 5) - This was my biggest disappointment. Way too warm, not detailed, and just plain bad. On the other hand, maybe the MPX3 SLAM is just not made for these headphones. The first time I was listening to these, I turned to the person next to me and said "something is wrong with these headphones." Well, there was nothing wrong -- I just really disliked them. I haven't heard the AD2000 or the W5000, but judging from what I've heard from the other AT's (including A900 and W1000), this is just not the sound for me.

Top 3 overall:

1. Sony MDR-R10
2. AKG K701
3. Sony Q010
(3.5 AKG K1000)

DISCLAIMER: I hate having to do this, but these are just my views. Please feel free to comment that "these mean nothing" or "these are absolutely ridiculous, how can you have the [insert a headphone that you own] so low?" or "you are a moron if you think that Heaphone X is better than Headphone Y." I just did this to share my experiences.

Besides my impressions are based on my life experiences and preferences. I'm a semi-professional classical musician, spent my life studying music history, theory, etc. I have won some state and national competitions, and have devoted my life (well, the times that I'm not lawyering) to music theory, composition, and peformance. The things that I look for are probably much different than what others look for, so if you disagree, that's great. The world would be a very boring place if we were all listening for minor thirds and augmented sevenths.


Those are my experiences with dynamic headphones so far. I'm moving on to electrostats for now (currently, I'm using a 4040 system), so it will probably be another year before I reach any conclusions with regard to these. I've only had brief listens to the Orpheus and the Omega II, so I'm not going to comment on these until I get more extended listens. I like what I've heard so far from the Orpheus, which may become my favorite headphone. I didn't love what I heard from the Omega IIs, but liked them quite a bit. The 4040 setup that I currently own sounds pretty good, but a little thin so far. Hoping that will change with burn-in. Or a new amp.
biggrin.gif


Also, thanks to everyone here for making this such an enjoyable hobby.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 4:57 PM Post #2 of 40

fewtch

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Quote:

Originally Posted by seacard
Beyerdynamic DT880 (my score: 6)

For some reason, I thought they would sound thin. They didn't.

At times, they sounded a little thin,



confused.gif


Edit -- Definitely agree they don't have enough body for rock music -- or to put it differently, the bass is airy rather than weighty, and certain rock requires more authority in the bass to be convincing. However, I do enjoy rock with them from time to time... it's just hard to listen to lesser headphones that do have enough body, because the rest of the spectrum is so much worse.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:03 PM Post #4 of 40

seacard

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at times. How did I know you would be the first to defend the 880s
biggrin.gif
(it's not as though I didn't like them. I tried probably about 40 or so other headphones, including many more expensive ones. These were in my top 10, which says something about them, especially at their price).
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:13 PM Post #5 of 40

fewtch

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Quote:

Originally Posted by seacard
at times. How did I know you would be the first to defend the 880s
biggrin.gif
(it's not as though I didn't like them. I tried probably about 40 or so other headphones, including many more expensive ones. These were in my top 10, which says something about them, especially at their price).



I was just commenting on the fact that first you said they weren't thin, then you said that at times they sounded thin. I just found it unclear what you were trying to say. I'm not defending the DT880 (your own personal tastes after all), but I did pick that one to talk about because they're my favorite cans and I have a lot of interest in them.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:18 PM Post #6 of 40

Scotty757

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as the buyer of his 701s, I can say im sure glad he decided to sell them
eggosmile.gif
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:23 PM Post #7 of 40

SteveM324

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I've owned 5 of the headphones in your review for over a year and I still own 3 of them (currently own: K1000, K701, HD650/Zu, sold 2 of them: RS1, and SA5000's). For the most part, my ratings would match yours. I totally agree that the RS1's sound does not live up to its $695 price tag (or $575 street price new). I would rate the K1000's higher, perhaps 8.0 or 8.5) but only when driven off the speaker taps of my Portal Panache. Give the K1000's a lot of power and they become warmer and more dynamic and the soundstage is better than any headphone that I have heard. When I drove the K1000's with the Grace 901, I would have rated it about a 6.5, lean and no bass. My rating of the SA5000 would be a 5.0 (I enjoyed them less than the RS1 but atleast they don't cost as much as the RS1). I could not listen to the SA5000 for more than 20-30 minutes without getting a headache. Seacard, good review overall.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:29 PM Post #8 of 40

seacard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by SteveM324
I've owned 5 of the headphones in your review for over a year and I still own 3 of them (currently own: K1000, K701, HD650/Zu, sold 2 of them: RS1, and SA5000's). For the most part, my ratings would match yours. I totally agree that the RS1's sound does not live up to its $695 price tag (or $575 street price new). I would rate the K1000's higher, perhaps 8.0 or 8.5) but only when driven off the speaker taps of my Portal Panache. Give the K1000's a lot of power and they become warmer and more dynamic and the soundstage is better than any headphone that I have heard. When I drove the K1000's with the Grace 901, I would have rated it about a 6.5, lean and no bass. My rating of the SA5000 would be a 5.0 (I enjoyed them less than the RS1 but atleast they don't cost as much as the RS1). I could not listen to the SA5000 for more than 20-30 minutes without getting a headache. Seacard, good review overall.


Wow! Thanks a lot. Sounds like we have similar tastes. As I think more and more about the K1000s, I think you're right. At their best, they are incredible. Maybe I just didn't find the right amp. I tried various speaker amps and headphones amps, and they didn't do it for me. But sounds like some people found the right combo (Wayne, Nik, you), so maybe that's the problem.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:40 PM Post #9 of 40

Meyvn

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Scotty757
as the buyer of his 701s, I can say im sure glad he decided to sell them
eggosmile.gif



As the buyer of his OTHER K701s, I'm inclined to agree. Also thrilled to hear he's buying another pair when he's heard the R10, Qualia, and L3000.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 5:41 PM Post #10 of 40

SteveM324

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Quote:

Originally Posted by seacard
Wow! Thanks a lot. Sounds like we have similar tastes. As I think more and more about the K1000s, I think you're right. At their best, they are incredible. Maybe I just didn't find the right amp. I tried various speaker amps and headphones amps, and they didn't do it for me. But sounds like some people found the right combo (Wayne, Nik, you), so maybe that's the problem.


Yeah I think we do have similiar tastes. I think you're spot on with your assessment of the 701's too. My 701's aren't fully broken in yet but I think they will be right there with the best after break-in and considering their street price of $300, they are IMO the best value. I also own the K340's (mint stock condition), driven by my Raptor, I would rate them about a 7.5. When I drove the 340 with a SS amp, I would have rated them a 6.5.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 6:00 PM Post #11 of 40

JMcMasterJ

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Thank you very much for your impressions! I have been looking for impressions like these lately and there haven't seemed to be many. I've owned the HD-650's and tried them with various cables and I also had a pair of HF-1's, both of which I sold. The UE-10's are nice, but I have been longing for a new pair of full size headphones and the K701's seem like a great choice. I'm thinking about picking up a micro stack with the new desktop module and a pair of K701's, unless I can find a good tube amp for around that price. It's nice to hear that some people think they can hang with the big boys.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 6:20 PM Post #12 of 40

Wmcmanus

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Wow! Nice impressions. I didn't realize that you had gone through so many headphones. What a great hobby indeed!

I'm another one who would have to say that I agree with you for the most part and that we probably have similar musical tastes (what we're looking for in terms of sonics anyway).

I'd rate the R10's and K1000's (with the right amp) along with the K701's at the top of the heap for dynamic headphones. I'm still getting used to my Qualia's and can see their potential. If nothing else, they're different, and that much is good.

I happen to also agree with your comments about the RS-1's which is why I've never owned a pair. The PS-1's do a lot of things quite well and are fun to listen to, but the bass presence can be overwhelming, plus the lack of soundstage. The HP-2's are more neutral, but not as much fun. So this gets us to the GS-1000's which (based on a very brief audition) may be the best Grado headphone yet. The bass is full, extended and controlled, and the soundstage is quite wide and revealing. They're worth a shot. I think you had better get in line!

About the Audio Technicas, if you don't like the L3000 or W2002, then I suspect that you won't like the W5000 or AD2000 either. But the AD2000 are an open design, so they've got a rather different signature that I happen to like a lot. Think more along the lines of SA5000 and SR404 and even (to a certain extent) the K701. If you're looking for the ultimate bass cans, then take a pass. In fact, chances are you won't find the AD2000's to be your "ultimate" headphone listening experience at any level, but for some reason I keep coming back to them. They're light weight and comfortable, and they're rather inoffensive in the way they communicate the music.

Enjoy your electrostats journey. It seems that you've already become a HE90 fan (it's pretty hard not to). I agree that the Omega II's are excellent but for some reason not quite at the HE90 level. Yes, the SR404's are thin. Very detailed and exciting to listen to for short sessions, but the midrange is really tipped up (for my tastes) which makes it hard to stay with them for more than one CD at a time.
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 6:21 PM Post #13 of 40

seacard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Meyvn
... he's buying another pair when he's heard the R10, Qualia, and L3000.


To be fair, I did like the R10 better; unfortunately I haven't been able to find one at the price that I'm willing to pay.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Wmcmanus
Wow! Nice impressions. I didn't realize that you had gone through so many headphones. What a great hobby indeed!


Thanks, Wayne. I realized that we had similar tastes just by reading your reviews of gear, and have been following your advice for a while now.

As for going through headphones, what's great about this hobby is that headphones seem to maintain their value pretty well. This made it easier for me to buy and sell without too much of a loss. (And having Mikhail nearby to let me try out various equipment doesn't hurt either.
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)
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 6:56 PM Post #14 of 40

SteveM324

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Wmcmanus
... So this gets us to the GS-1000's which (based on a very brief audition) may be the best Grado headphone yet. The bass is full, extended and controlled, and the soundstage is quite wide and revealing. They're worth a shot. I think you had better get in line!...


I thought about the GS1000's but my previous impulse buys didn't pan out the way I anticipated (RS1 poor value and SA5000 headaches). So the GS1000 has full and extended bass and a wide soundstage. This sounds a lot like a description of a K701 but with an added cost of $695. At over triple the price of the K701, what does the GS1000 have to offer that makes it so enticing?
 
Apr 26, 2006 at 7:11 PM Post #15 of 40

seacard

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Quote:

Originally Posted by SteveM324
I thought about the GS1000's but my previous impulse buys didn't pan out the way I anticipated (RS1 poor value and SA5000 headaches). So the GS1000 has full and extended bass and a wide soundstage. This sounds a lot like a description of a K701 but with an added cost of $695. At over triple the price of the K701, what does the GS1000 have to offer that makes it so enticing?


Well, even I will admit that the K701 lacks some of the excitement that the SA5000 or the RS-1 offers. Most of the time, and for most music that I listen to, I don't miss the excitement. But it is fun to turn on some good guitar playing (Joe Satriani, Santana) and have it screaming in your ear. With the K701s, when you turn up the sound, it just fills out. It gets richer and wider. With the RS-1, the guitars are right there and it is fun. I can see why somebody would like that sort of sound, and even I enjoy it on occasion. If the GS1000 can retain that characterstic, but add a soundstage and refinement, it could be an excellent headphone. If it takes the best qualities of the SA5000, the HP1000, and the PS-1, adds a little more soundstage and removes the harshness, count me in.
 

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