Grado SR325i vs Sennheiser HD650? Closet basshead? NuForce uDAC2? Good 'phones for heavy metal?
Jun 2, 2012 at 10:18 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

deathmonkey6

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TL;DR - I am looking for good headphones for use with a variety of music, with HEAVY emphasis on the HEAVY parts of HEAVY metal. Or something like that. :)
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Hi! I am new to audiophile headphones, and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I would love some advice from people who have more experience.
 
I have always been a music lover, but I have recently accepted the fact that I live in a tiny NYC apartment and I haven't owned a good stereo since college because there's no point - I can't even turn my cheap computer speakers up to a decent volume without getting a complaint. Of course I don't have a car here, so I figure my only reasonable solution is some amazing headphones, right? Spend a little money and get something that is a joy to wear and listen to for hours. I intend to use these exclusively at home, in my office, so I don't need noise canceling, and open air is ok.
 
I listen to a wide range of music - I'll rock out to country, electronic, folk, big band, 50s rock, blues - but my heart belongs to metal. I would use these almost exclusively with my Macbook Pro and either streaming music (turntable.fm), or my mp3 collection (which is mostly recorded at 192 or above).
 
So after reading tons of articles and reviews on goodcans.com, crutchfield.com and amazon.com, I went to the store yesterday thinking all I needed to do was choose between a pair of Grado SR325i's and a Sennheiser HD598. I intended also to purchase a NuForce u-DAC2, which is highly recommended on goodcans.com. I guess that makes my total price range around $400.
 
The Grados sounded great (at first) plugged into my phone playing some of my own music. Clear and strong and detailed. But I found very quickly that I felt like I wanted them to go louder, but I couldn't because they were starting to hurt. I have never thought of myself as a bass-head, but that suggests to me that I just need more bass to fill out the low end and give me that sense of fullness and heaviness at a lower volume, before the treble starts to get uncomfortable. In other words, the Grados sounded harsh to me at rock-out volume. 
 
I also thought the Grados were comfortable at first, but that quickly wore off as I noticed my ears actually rubbing against the speaker inside the cup. (They're supposed to be supra-aural, but I must have small ears, because they became circumaural on me.)
 
Then I moved to the Sennheisers, but they were hooked up to a display where I couldn't plug in my own device. They were playing some awful song that's probably in the top 40, and at about 25% volume. So there was simply no way to judge their sound quality, at all. (I don't know what that song is supposed to sound like, and I wouldn't like it if I did. And without volume, I can't even get an idea of what the 'phones can do.) BUT they were EXTREMELY comfortable. I swear I felt better with them on than off. :) I listened to the HD598s, HD558s, and HD650s, and came to the conclusion that the 650s are the most comfortable, and very nearly bought them.
 
But all the reviews I read suggest that the 650s lack bass. So if I'm a closet bass-head, that won't fly. And that's where the real confusion comes in. Should I even be buying nice headphones, or should I just (gasp) buy a pair of Beats and be done with it? I figured I would really enjoy all the benefits of super-high fidelity 'phones and clean amplification - with all the different types of music I listen to - but maybe if I'm mostly just listening to heavy metal mp3s played through itunes there's just no point. Maybe I just need good bass to feel the crunch of the guitars in my bones and I'll be happy, and spending $600 on an amp and a pair of HD650s is a waste of money.
 
If you have read this far, thank you. Any and all thoughts on my dilemma will be greatly appreciated. When people say the 650s "lack bass," do they really just mean rap music? Metal is mostly low- and mid-range, but I've never thought of it as "bassy." Is there no point to trying to get great sound from an mp3? I realize it's compressed, but I figure you can still improve the listening experience with better equipment; is that naive? Is there a USB headphone amp that comes with a software equalizer, so maybe I can just adjust it myself and get the sound I want? Should I be looking at closed headphones, which I'm told have punchier bass? But don't I lose all that great "soundstage" and "presence" stuff people talk about with open-air?
 
Sorry to write a novel; thanks for reading!
 
Jim
 
Jun 2, 2012 at 1:46 PM Post #2 of 9

ZARIM

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I will recommend to try the D2000 and they are very detailed with deep punchy bass and serve these genres music well. V-Moda M80 are amazing if need portable cans and they sound big, very detailed in mids, highs with deep punchy bass. Few others headphones like Ultrasone Pro900, Philips FIledeo L1 are amazingly detailed, wider sounding with punchy bass and if need openback fullsize headphones then AKG K550, Beyer-Dynamic DT990(600 Ohm), Sony MA900 and HE300 are recommended. BTW mackbook pro sounquality will improve with AMPs/DAC like Pico, XM6, iBasso D12.
 
Jun 2, 2012 at 2:33 PM Post #3 of 9

deathmonkey6

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Ok, I discovered a program called Boom that allows me to set a system-wide EQ:
http://www.globaldelight.com/boom/
 
Experimentation with my Sony MDR-7506's seems to confirm what I suspected: if I just boost the bass a bit, I get a much smoother, fuller sound that I enjoy much more - all that harshness drops away:
 

 
So that simplifies things a great deal. :) I think now that if I were to get the Senn HD650s powered by the NuForce uDAC2 and customize an EQ for them, I can't imagine thinking those things lacked bass - they're monsters! This frequency response graph would seem to support that theory, as it has stronger response in the 32-64hz range than the Sonys I'm testing on:
 
 
 

 
It also looks less harsh than the Grados I tested in the store, which is good. But it also also looks very similar to the HD518, which makes me wonder why the HD650s are more than double the price of the 518s. Am I, as an audiophile newbie listening to an mp3 through a NuForce uDAC2 going to hear a difference between those two? Or will I just be wasting my money?
 
Thanks again for anyone who can slog through all this. Your expertise and advice is greatly appreciated! :)
 
Jim
 
Jun 2, 2012 at 2:54 PM Post #4 of 9

deathmonkey6

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Zarim, thanks for the ideas! I checked out several of the models you suggested, and just from looking at them my biggest concern is comfort (the Denons looked pretty comfy, though). I want to be able to wear these all afternoon and still enjoy it, and those Senns were amazingly comfortable. Do you have any thoughts on the 518 vs 558 vs 598 vs 650? There's a wide price range there, and I wonder how likely I am to appreciate the differences. I will happily opt for the 650s if they really will sound noticeably better, but I don't want to throw away money if it's going to be beyond my powers to appreciate, you know?
 
This would be so much easier if I could just test them on my own music! Does anyone know a store in NYC where I can plug into these side-by-side?
 
Thanks again!
 
Jun 2, 2012 at 3:23 PM Post #5 of 9

ZARIM

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To me HD650, HD600, HD595, HD555, Denon D2000, D5000, D7000, AKG K550, K701, DT880, DT990 are very comfy to wear for long listening sessions and others thing is to build nice Amplifiers and DAC around these for best possible sound experience. Please describe your budget and you want to use these for home, portable or both. I realy like few cans like DT990, K550, K702, Grado PS500 with nuforce HDP. The NYC has many HiFi stores to check many highend headphones with nice setups like Audio Cubes and many others(just google it by brand or model numbers).
 
Jun 2, 2012 at 5:43 PM Post #6 of 9

shaneotool

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Hifiman HE-300 has a surprising amount of bass.
I recently purchased a set and they have more bass than I was expecting.  Definitely more than the HD600/HD650.  These are the newer HE-300 I'm talking about.
May be worth checking out...
 
Jun 2, 2012 at 9:35 PM Post #7 of 9

deathmonkey6

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I haven't looked at the HE-300s yet. They look like they could be pretty comfy, and the frequency response seems comparable to the HD650s (I'm using the HE-500s here because they don't have info for the 300s; hoping it's close):
 

 
And the impedance is only 50 ohms, so I could use the u-DAC2 to power them. 
 
Thanks!
 
Jun 8, 2012 at 6:34 AM Post #8 of 9

deathmonkey6

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So, I haven't made a purchase yet, but I've settled this issue for myself. I intend to buy a pair of Sennheiser HD598s and power them with a Nuforce u-DAC2. Seems like to go with the HD650s, I'd have also have to go with a more expensive amp, and I wind up doubling my cost. 
 
I'm also planning to invest in some audiophile-quality recordings. After some research, I found that many of my favorite CDs exist in 24/96 FLAC format. And those that don't, I can at least rip my own copies at the highest possible quality. I'm so excited to hear the difference!
 
Thanks again, everyone, for your help and advice!
 
Jim
 
Jun 11, 2012 at 4:25 AM Post #9 of 9

rasmushorn

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The Grado SR325i have a great synergy with the NuForce uDAC-2 !
 
If you like the edgy and punchy sound from the Grados then it will be even better with the uDAC. It will also be a great suggestion for your kind of music. I have the uDAC-2 and I have to say that I do not think that it drives the HD650 with the same authority as I fell when it drives the 325i. So if you have the uDAC-2 then I would get a Grado... Just my recommendation. :)
 

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