Headphones that don't rattle with heavy bass
Aug 7, 2015 at 10:13 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1


100+ Head-Fier
Jan 15, 2008
Okay, so I'm in the market for some headphones and I'm having a hard time figuring out where I should be looking.
Bass Quantity
I was suspicious about what the deal is with my current headphones, so I got out the scope.
Note: I'm using a 24-bit/96khz source, my DAC is a Pioneer Elite receiver set to Pure Direct, amp is a modded CMoy I built some years ago (which I really like BTW), plugged into the pre-amp outs on the back of my receiver.
Headphones I own - Voltage of rattling or distortion at 50hz- Voltage of harsh clipping at 50hz
AKG K81DJ - 450mV RMS - 1.8V RMS
AKG K240 - 190mV RMS - 1.6V RMS
Audio Technica M50 - 550mV RMS - 2.8V RMS
The harsh clipping is in line with the impedance measurements I made so everything here checks out. My amp has high voltage rails but the current capacity is pretty low, so I get more power output with higher impedance cans, maxing out at about 300 ohms with 1100mW of power. The M50s definitely give me the most bass before the quality degrades but they start rattling at only 7.5mW of power, but that seems odd to me because I don't actually hear clipping until I reach 220mW. Maybe they're defective? Their thermal rating is 1600mW.
Bass Quality
In any case I'm looking for headphones that sound good first and foremost. Here are my descriptions of the bass of my current headphones:
AKG K81DJ - When they were NEW, they had a sort of dry bass (very clean) and they could put out more SPL than they do now. Their sound quality was decent, but too much 1k energy. They're pretty much goners at this point though lol.
AKG K240 - These definitely have more resolution than the K81DJ. They're smoother overall and they have a smooth (although there is a response bump) midrange that makes high-quality sources a pleasure to listen to in terms of the perceived sound depth and that palpable sense of realism, but the way the designers achieved this causes them to sound recessed and distant (in a bad way). They aren't good for bass below about 80hz because the distortion goes off the charts, even if it is a pleasing kind of distortion.
Audio Technica M50 - It's no surprise to me that these have better resolution than the others AND they go louder because they cost twice as much, haha. The highs are annoying, though not nearly as harsh through my decent front-end as compared to my Phone/Soundblaster E1 combo. Overall they sound harsh and not particularly pleasant. The bass sounds like it's overly-resonant.
Where to go from here?
So my dilemma is this - I want something that:
- Can go louder than the M50s (6-10dB, probably higher impedance OR I can build a new amp)
- Very strong bass performance to 18hz without the annoying overhang and bloated-ness
- Excellent sound isolation (especially for hums, traffic noise, etc - noise-canceling?)
- NOT IEM unless you know of a pair that I could wear for hours on end
- Budget limit $400
I'd like to match the quality of my home audio speaker setup if possible, which consists of JBL control monitors, dual large-format subs with 18" drivers and 2000w of power per sub, and most importantly weeks and weeks worth of experimenting with a 24-band parametric EQ (12 bands/channel) and every placement option you could imagine.
My biggest interest at the moment is the Bose QC25. There are lots of low-frequency hums from machines and engines where I plan to use my headphones and maybe these will fit the bill even though I hear the SQ is not great. Perhaps all they need is some EQ - I'd have to hear them, yes?

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