My First Headphones: Grado HF-2
Sep 5, 2009 at 6:20 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 24

mikaronni

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It just fills me with so much joy now that I can finally post with some experience dealing with headphones, and I finally own a pair of quality cans. I joined this forum over a year ago in search of what I could possibly get that's better than my Logitech Z2300 speakers. Apparently, there's a lot out there. I kept reading the forums for the latest headphones. I quickly dismissed Grados and wanted Sennheisers for their known bass. Soon, I wanted Ultrasones then moved on to Denons. However, all my desires were based on reading other people's opinions, not actually listening to them.

That changed a little while ago when I attended my first Head-Fi meet. I spent a year trying to read what I want, but in just a couple of hours, I figured out my desirable sound signature. It turns out I love Grados, especially the HF-2. I was really disappointed to hear that they sold out, so I sort of gave up those dreams and settled for the RS-1. However, over the past few weeks, there was an urge inside of me that could not be contained so I started hunting the classifieds for the HF-2, because that was what I ultimately desired. Eventually, I did find a pair, and I quickly jumped on them to buy.

I finally came home today from college and was able to give a good listen to my headphones. Boy, am I enjoying them. Of course, they do not sound as great as the ones I heard at the meet. Right now, I have no proper source nor amp. The sound signature is there, but it is no way living up to its potential right now. I'm only listening to them from my parent's old low-fi JVC system. But I can't help but smile listening to these headphones, the sound is just so real. It seems as if the singer is right in front of me. The guitars are fantastic, but the bass is a little boomy, which I'm sure is due to the poor system. For now, these headphones will have to make do with any available resource. That will change when I get enough money.

I guess that leads me on to my next help. I know plenty of people on the forums are currently enjoying their HF-2's right now. What sort of source and amp would you guys recommend for about $500? It seems as if a lot of people like the Pico synergy with their Grados, and it does seem it would be nice to listen anywhere now that I have a netbook, which I really love. Last I heard these headphones on was a Benchmark DAC1, which really impressed me. It was practically bliss.

I enjoy these headphones like no other. Better than AKG K1000s, better than L3000s, better than Stax. This really exemplifies the repeated saying on these forums: TRUST YOUR EARS.

Sorry my writing is a bit unorganized, but I'm a bit too distracted by my music right now. But I guess to outline of what I tried to explain is: what next for my Grados? and "trust your ears".
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 7:58 AM Post #2 of 24

iponderous

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Congratulations on acquiring the HF2's, I too have a pair. They're my second pair of Grado's so I guess that makes me a fanboy. I note that you opted for these rather than the RS1's. What attracted you to the HF2's over those?
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 8:30 AM Post #4 of 24

Uncle Erik

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Congrats!
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The HF-2 is a wonderful headphone! I'd look for a quality amp first before picking up a source. I've toyed around with various sources from an iPod to inexpensive CD players to a high-end turntable. Money pays off with vinyl, but you can get decent digital on the cheap. After the quality of your recording, your headphones are primarily responsible for the sound you get. After those, you need a solid amp.

For $500, I'd look for a used Melos (superb with Grados), a M^3, Gilmore Lite, CK2III, EC/SS, or maybe a PreSonus Central Station. A quality amp will bring the best out of the HF-2, and you can worry about the source later.

Sound quality aside, another reason to favor a desktop amp is that it gives you some flexibility when you want to use different sources. Digital, especially computer-based, is hugely popular here. Rightfully so - it's convenient and can sound great. But don't limit yourself to digital. There's a good reason some of us are heavily invested in vinyl. FMtuners and reel-to-reel are also excellent options. You might turn up a great vintage turntable on the cheap, so a desktop will let you use it. Or maybe you'd get some use from a really good tuner. You never know. Keep your options open.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 8:57 AM Post #5 of 24

jonathanjong

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I'm with Uncle Erik. I'm not fortunate (read: wealthy) enough to have bought an HF-2, but I've never enjoyed my SR325i more than when I got an old NAD 7020 tuner (3020 amp) and a Sansui 222 turntable. Cost me less than $150. But then of course I eventually changed the turntable cartridge...
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 9:21 AM Post #6 of 24

Moontan13

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I agree with those advocating for a better amp.

Following Uncle Erik's suggestion for flexbility, I'd add that a Dolby "C" or HX-Pro cassette deck is nice to have around in addition to a turntable or R2R tape.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 10:06 AM Post #7 of 24

fraseyboy

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I'm glad to hear the HF2's make you happy. By starting on something relatively high-end and going to lots of meets, you've missed out on some of the journey but also saved lots of money.

Personally, I'd upgrade source before amp. Grado's don't really respond that much to amping and no matter how well you amp crap, its still crap.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 2:10 PM Post #8 of 24

elnero

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I don't agree with the amp before source recommendations, I've owned a bit of higher end gear (check my profile for my gear history) and very little of it has been as satisfying on a whole as my Pico DAC/amp. It's a decent portable amp that's capable of driving a fairly wide variety of headphones adequately and does a very nice job with the HF-2's. The DAC is where the Pico really shines though, it performs at a level well above it's asking pricing which I think I would have to spend probably about triple to get significantly better. Remember, source is where it all starts from so if it's not that great to begin with no amp or headphones is going save it, they can't recreate something that isn't there.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 2:15 PM Post #9 of 24

revolink24

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Although DIY is also a good idea. Pretty soon I will have built an entire super-budget DIY system, (SSMH, BantamDAC) for well under $200.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 3:37 PM Post #10 of 24

MaZa

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Headamp amplifiers like Gilmore Lite have been praised to be great for Grados in the past. Lots of juice to drive these low impedance headphones. So Gilmore Lite amp and Pico DAC might indeed be great choices, but this recommendation is based on what I have read so take it with grain of salt.

My own amplifier, Stello HP100, is fantastic and I will never part from it unless I decide to go balanced route sometime (unlikely cuz I would have to start from zero, but who knows). Another good one is CIAudio VHP-2 if you want opamp based amplifier.

With DACs I have very little experience. I think my KECES DA-131 is great with OPA627 opamp upgrade and worth every penny I paid. I havent heard higher-end dacs yet. Might get supposedly-giant-killer Pico DAC someday though...
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 4:13 PM Post #11 of 24

bass_nut

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congratulations on your HF-2 .. i also have one

do not take my words but rather listen to gears before purchase as much as possible

since i also have a laptop with iTunes lossless files ripped from my CDs here is my humble system worth less than US$500.00

SuperPro usb dac707 >> Little Dot mk ll tube amp or G&W TW-J9 s/s amp
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the headphones amps i bought new in HK (Mingo, KingSound) while the usb dac acquired brand new from a local reseller in Manila

as per my ears and preferred music (predominantly rock/pop/nam/newwave/ost/motown/disco) these matched well with Grados/Alessandros HF-2, sr225, sr325Is, ms1 and ms2i
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 6:25 PM Post #12 of 24

Aimless1

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You might consider starting with the Apogee Duet. A great value for DAC (digital to analog converter) and it will act as an amp as well. They come up used here often enough that you should be well under your budget. You should notice a satisfying and immediate improvement. As finances allow you can then pick up a head amp to go with the Duet. In other words, you would keep the Duet as a DAC and add a better amp later.

I personally use the Duet alone for portable use. I find it the most satisfying solution I have tried to date.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 7:22 PM Post #13 of 24

oldskoolboarder

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Wow, your bar started high w/ the HF2s. Mine SING w/ my Bottlehead S.E.X and low end Projekt TT.
 
Sep 5, 2009 at 7:26 PM Post #14 of 24

mikaronni

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Thank you for all the recommendations you guys. I've heard quite a lot about the Melos, but unfortunately, that was after the meet I attended. I didn't spend too much time with it, because the GS1000s were hooked up to it, and I didn't care too much for those headphones. My source will predominantly remain as a computer. Vinyl's intriguing, but I can't put up with all the care, and with the music I like, it's nearly double the cost of a CD.

Uncle Erik, if you could help me find a Melos, I'd gladly hop on the opportunity. My bank account can dip a little. Heh heh.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by iponderous /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Congratulations on acquiring the HF2's, I too have a pair. They're my second pair of Grado's so I guess that makes me a fanboy. I note that you opted for these rather than the RS1's. What attracted you to the HF2's over those?


I compared both of the headphones at the meet. The RS1's were indeed nice. I would say they're the top production Grados. However, it was slightly laid back compared to the HF2s, plus the HF2s played all frequencies, low to high, with better balance in my opinion. I tend to go to concerts a lot (with ear plugs! got to preserve my ears) so I prefer the more upfront presentation of the HF2s.
 

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