Holy Grail of Hi-Fi
Sep 3, 2021 at 5:03 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 200
Feb 10, 2010
Hannover, Germany
Endgame. Desert Island. The Big Kahuna. Holy Grail. Regardless of what you call it, we have all dreamed of the perfect headphone. Is it a headphone that already exists, and you’re planning to save up for it? Does such a headphone not exist, but you can describe it as an amalgamation of existing headphones? Is there just a perfect signature for you? Or maybe it’s a journey towards an ideal, which you enjoy the path without ever wanting it to end? Or maybe you have already found satisfaction, and you’ve already got a favorite that continues to bring a smile to your face and a tap to your toes?


We’d love to hear about your Holy Grail stories: Headphones, DACs, a rare vinyl pressing, recent or old… a bit of HiFi hope for the weekend! If you can include a picture or link to enrich your post, we would love to see it! Both @Evshrug and @ericpalonen will chime in with their own pursuits of perfection.
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Sep 3, 2021 at 5:55 PM Post #2 of 200
Mids = LCD 4
Highs = Stax 009
Bass = Abyss TC
Imaging = Abyss TC
Presentation = Abyss TC
Sep 3, 2021 at 6:15 PM Post #3 of 200
My holy grail is the iBasso SR2 — a headphone that still remains unknown to many. Why is it my holy grail? Well, to simply put it: It does everything I could ask for and it isn't overpriced.

It has the rumbling bass, it's capable of the physical sensation of rumble, it has rich and forward mids, and the cherry on the cake — it is capable of producing sparkle.

That's my perfect semi-open headphone, my go-to, my baby.

Close to 10,000 words, my SR2 review remains the most enjoyable piece of work I have ever done. Not only was it a true pleasure to write every single one of those 10,000 words, but I was also very happy that I successfully expressed my experience. Not to mention that the photography also turned out excellent (whereas usually it can be a hassle to take care of the photography, it was effortless with the SR2).

Link to the iBasso SR2 review: https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/ibasso-sr2.24689/reviews#review-24902
This is the headphone that has me tapping my toes.


My second holy grail is my the headphone that changed my life. The headphone that brought me into this hobby, and the headphone that is never going to get replaced: Sennheiser HD598.

This headphone has been with me for 6 years (soon 7) and it has never left me. While it has been my primary headphone for music listening for roughly 4 years, it has also been my main gaming headphone ever since it was bought. To this day I use it for gaming. What else to say, superb build quality, amazing sound performance, and one of the best cables to ever come with a pair of headphones!

Sep 3, 2021 at 7:03 PM Post #6 of 200
My holy grail headphone is the currently produced Final Audio D8000 Pro. I have numerous headphones, probably close to 80 of various prices. These include more than 25 brands and most flagships produced over the last decade. I have probably spent close to $40,000 on headphones and associated gear. I was always in search for the 'perfect' headphone. Many were close, but too warm here, too bright there, too unclear, too forward, too recessed. Tonally perfect, but soundstage too narrow. I prefer a neutral sound. it must have absolute clarity and resolution with good slam and work for most genres. I did feel that over the decade of experimentation i would get closer and closer to my ideal sound, in part thanks to forums like these since i couldn't really demo most headphones. But the closer i would get the more frustrating it would be because that 2% shortcoming would bother me and i'd be on to the next attempt at perfection. Then i purchased the Final D8000 and wow! But nope, not perfect. Then the D8000 Pro came out and I can honestly say it satisfies me in almost every way. I feel it is as accurate as the equipment hooked to it. I often hear flaws in mastering or things I do not hear in other units. Tonally, i'd like a very slight bit more around 40Hz and maybe a tiny bit more midrange, but i think that's more my preference than inaccuracy of the headphone. It's like a microscope and has almost no flavor of its own and yet, it does possess a hint of musicality. Anything i compare becomes evident that those headphones are less perfect, at least for me. This includes susvara, abyss, utopia, and other well respected units. Some units may do some things better but not by much. The D8000 Pro is the most realistic sounding headphone i have exerienced. It's quite expensive but it probably has saved me money because when i get tempted by the latest and greatest all i have to do is put the D8000 pros on my head. it sparks a question - what would i hope to change or improve upon from what I am hearing. And that's the true indication of my holy grail. the answer is I would change nothing. BTW - one word of caution. Unlike the D8000 which I liked immediately, I thought the D8000 pro was disappointing when new. It did change very substantially over time and out performs the D8000 in technicalities, but the D8000 is slightly more musical too me.

But i must give a shout out to a few others. The Dharma D1000 is the most fun and musical headphone i have experienced. The LCD-2 rev1 Audeze i owned was a less perfect headphone than my current batch but it had the unique distinction of being the ONLY headphone that would keep me up, indefintely, regardless of how long or when I listened. it was my first truly high end headphone.

If you are interested in my brief one or two line analysis of many of my headphones you can check my profile - 'about you' section of the details portion of my profile.
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Sep 3, 2021 at 7:07 PM Post #7 of 200

For my long story making Short, my end game for full sizes headphones is HD800S. I loved it so much that I sold my Stax SR-009 and SR-009S and then bought the anniversary editions as well.

the long story

Practicality: the HD800S is very light weight, great clamping but comfortable and seems to disappear when worn on my head . Headphones can be whatever and however good, but if it weight down on my neck and or feel Uncomfortable to turn my head around with, then it isn’t worth it. The 800S nails it right on the points

Appearances: let’s be honest, the HD800s is an old design, but it looks is still futuristic. It look DartVader style, yet still stylist when worn on, even if you wear it outdoor, having a coffee, in your car. You look cool and stylish. Literally that black color and aluminum shines, both the 800 and anniversary is a bit above that, but still look cool and stylish non the less

Build quality: Amazing built, everything is so well thought out, even the internal wires are thick and of nice quality, which is also easy to upgrade to higher quality materials. It is also very comfortable to lay in bed with, literally no squeaking or farting… mind your that both Utopia and Stax has either Squeak or squeals or Farts!!!

Driveability : Yes, the HD800S in it true nature is a references headphones, and it means that literally. The 800S is so transparent, so much that it would spit sibilants and grainy textures or harsh distortions to your ears, if you have either a bad source, a bad amplifier, or both. Especially without a good amplifier, the Hd800s seems to have the bass extinct !!! However, yet, is also friendly toward newer sources, and the most important would be a quality DAC sections. If you have a good DAP with adequate powers of about 250mW per channels, the 800s starts to shine, it would even surpass many other so called easier to drive by it references nature’s. Yet, it continue to scale up, whether in dynamic, texture, fidelity or imaging, the better the DAC and the better the amp , the better the 800S will shine. With the modern DAP being power packed and so much improvements in DAC sections, for example the Ibasso DX220Max. The HD800S does wonderfully and can be portably going outdoor with you. The DAP market will continue to evolve, and the appreciations for the HD800S from me will only continue to grow.

The Stax SR009 is even more picky, not only DAC but most importantly is the energizer. Sr-009 is the most transparent and honest headphones with legendary performances. It will tells every changes within the system if you just swap around even a cables of interconnect. Having owning Stax with my DIY T2, the Stax SR-009 literally is the perfections and holy grails of headphones.
Sound performances : in comparisons between Stax system and 800S, the Stax has the most authentic and pure performances, as much as that the sub bass on the 800s sounds like a creations of reverberated chambers, or of it resonators, not as clean and precise or decisive as Stax. The same as trebles fidelity, where Stax will extend to almost infinity or as much as recorded, even 800s is a bit roll off in comparison. The layering and imagings the Stax is a clear winner, but dynamic and punches delivery, the 800s is a winner, even when Stax is driven by it legendary T2 energizer. As the end result, the soundstage of both phones are extraordinarily presenting, with Stax slightly ahead but not as tall on the vertical axis where Hd800s is slightly narrower and shallower but with a taller axis and dynamic delivery.

Maintaining: the Stax system requires a very high degree of maintenance, can’t expose to dirt, or Uv sun light, can’t wear and listen to when hair is wet, and can only be best enjoyed stationary. Where HD800S is a beater, build like a tank, you can toss it from across the room toward a mattress and still won’t break it. You can listen as soon as you are out of the shower, walk around under the sunlight, you can even ride a bike with it as the cups are wind deflectors and you won’t have to deal with wind noises. You can listen to it in your car, and most importantly, you can plug into any DAP, phone, IPads and have it to sing temporarily….Stax ? Without an energized, nope!!

So, what do I wish for in the next flagship from Sennheiser ? I take that this thread is for this question right ?

I wish for Utopia Dynamic, and 800S references signatures with 800s soundstage. Yepe! That is pretty much it. Btw, don’t trade off any of the soundstage from 800s to get more dynamic as in anniversaries edition either…definitely do not want that. Oh, additionally, please be enthusiastic about the pricing, acceptable upto $2,499 but not those ridiculous $3,999 trend

Best regard
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Sep 3, 2021 at 7:22 PM Post #8 of 200
An SR1a with TC bass would be very hard to beat. :thinking:
Sep 3, 2021 at 7:25 PM Post #9 of 200
Actually my hope is for Sennheiser to drop a new open back flagship with their newfound focus on including a deep/clean Bass response in similar fashion to the HD560S and ie900! One that delivers best in class DD acoustics, value and comfort.

I have immense respect for the recent innovations of other brands but I think that such a product would be just about perfect for me.
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Sep 3, 2021 at 7:52 PM Post #10 of 200
Quite honestly, the HD800 S was my holy grail for a long time, and still holds a special place in my heart for audio gear.

I still remember, years ago, stepping into a local audio enthusiast shop and listening to the HD 800 for the first time (no S model at the time). The shop owner put on a jazz trio I had never heard of, and immediately I was blown away by the clarity and luxury of what I was experiencing. That live performance recording is still my all-time favorite jazz performance to this day.

And I don’t mean luxury like a fancy watch or expensive thing, though the 800S is indeed on the expensive side. Rather, it felt like a luxury to have something so special piping through my ears.

The HD800 S was and still is special to me for how much it makes me feel intimately connected to music, particularly classical and jazz. It was as if it was made for it.

It may sound like I could just be saying this because sennheiser made this thread, and perhaps it doing so invoked that memory in me, but the memory and feelings expressed are true none the less.

If I could pick only one headphone, it would be the HD800 S. If it could be only one IEM? Unique Melody MEST.

If I could choose only one? I can’t. Give me both! I’m cheating the system.
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Sep 3, 2021 at 8:07 PM Post #11 of 200
I am still an ecstatic fan of the original HD800 headphone with the SDR product that ships out from France, but I'm also a 009 fan as well and I'm ecstatic with the chain I have around it.

At some point tho I'm hoping and wanting to add the Phi TC to my collection for it's outstanding bass response and overall presentation,

But if I could have one single perfect headphone I would want an HD 800 with perfectly linear bass extension and the mid-range presence/response of the original HD 580 to compliment my 009
Sep 3, 2021 at 8:37 PM Post #12 of 200
The Hifiman Susvara (with a pad swap and a bit of EQ) and the 64 Audio U12T. Both are very close to my preferred response. I don't have the U12T anymore but I want to get another pair someday! If and whenever I get another U12T, I can pretty much just settle down (besides the occasional curiosity). Well.. I had a modded Hifiman HE-6 (OG version) that I really want to revisit for the insane bass response.

I use the Susvara almost everyday, though recently I've been mostly using a Sony MDR-MA900 since the heat's been brutal.
Sep 3, 2021 at 9:09 PM Post #13 of 200
I've climbed up and down the head-fi ladder many times. I've convinced myself that I can only listen to flagship headphones driven by tube amps with NOS tubes from the 1960s. I've convinced myself that I can only have said tube amps if they have point-to-point wiring and hand-wound transformers. I've gone about face and used the cheapest bluetooth headphones connected to my cellphone in an attempt to simplify my life and decrease some of my audio nervosa. Then I tried to climb the tube amp summit again, and for good measure, threw delta-sigma DACs in the ocean and convinced myself that only multibit ones are good enough for me. After a while, I'd go slumming again with the wireless vagrants again. I've done this vacillation many times over the years.

But the one steadfast for me as always been the Sennheiser HD 650. There's some magic in those cans that always draws me in. Those cans always get head time. They just feel and sound right to me. All is right with the world.
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Sep 3, 2021 at 9:16 PM Post #14 of 200
How about a perfected planar version of the 800S? This would have flat bass all the way down to 20hz and slightly elevated mid bass, so as not to sound too sterile.

Then give it a Harmon-ish tuning for the rest of the frequency response but with slightly lower upper mids to reduce harshness. Then just preserve the 800S soundstage and comfort. Then send me one for free but charge everyone else whatever the hell you want 😀

Put that in a blender and mix = holy grail

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