Need help choosing an open/semi open headphone, and analyzing total costs...
Jun 3, 2012 at 5:28 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

JazzDeath

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Hello everyone.
 
So I've been browsing these forums now obsessively for the past 4-5 days and I've been seriously considering buying myself another pair of Open/semi-open headphones for my home music listening.
I used to own a pair of AKG K240's - Granted now, I have not listened to many other open headphones in my life, other than at a convention here in Montreal called Salon Son & Image, which generally has much more loudspeaker systems than anything else (Although I did get to try my dream pair of headphones, a pair of Stax! Looked like a toaster, sounded like heaven.) That being said I considered the AKG K240's an amazing purchase - I absolutely, absolutely adored the sound these had, it fascinated me to be able to put the volume of my music at 1% on my ipod in the store (****ty source, no amp) and hear more detail than I had ever heard in the song I was listening to. Needless to say I bought them immediately and enjoyed them greatly.
 
Fast forward 2 years after that purchase, 2 years ago, and I end up sitting (-_-) on this beautiful pair of headphones and totally annihilating it.
 
I'm now about ready to own another pair of headphones that would equal or beat this quality, but I'm a bit frazzled at the moment, after having done research, about everything I might need to get the most out of open headphones.
 
A bit of explanation of my setup -
 
Currently, I listen to 75 percent of my music on a computer, either at home or at my jamspace - the source at home is a ****, stock sound card in a 6 year old Acer computer, the source at my jamspace, a RME Hammerfall Multiface 2 sound card, for recording purposes.
 
I have no amp, I have no DAC.
 
Firs questions - 
 
Now I was considering buying a pair of AKG Q701's but I read somewhere on this forum that to properly drive this headphone an amp was basically required to get the full potential out of it.
 
I'm a bit confused though as to whether I need just a headphone amp, or both a Headphone amp and a DAC?
 
Are amp/DAC combos good enough to get a good potential out of such a pair of headphones? If so, at what price range am I looking at to get a minimal functional setup?
 
The most I am willing to pay for an amp is probably in the range of a Schiit amp, but would I also need a DAC (Bifrost?) since my source is my computer? And if so would the difference be monumental between a setup like this (Bifrost paired with Asgard,Valhalla or Lyr, depending on what would be most fitting for the headphones I buy) and a combo setup like a cheaper Fiio E17?
 
 
Secondly;
 
What other options would I have in the Q701's price range (Maybe between 200 and 400?) that would give me a similar listening experience to what the K240's gave me?
 
In particular, what I would look for in a headphone is analytical, detailed voicings, good soundstage, and a very large range of well-represented frequencies (good sub-bass definition, etc). 
 
I listen primarily to Metal, but particularly, progressive, technical metal, experimental music, and also a lot of prog rock, Modern Classical such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and from time to time some Jazz Fusion.. basically, very busy, complex music, and my primarily goal is to hear everything well defined, clearly, and to be able to analyse the music and all the voicings in-depth.
 
If the K240s are still a great choice for this I wouldn't even mind buying another pair, but if there's a more expensive option out there that would do this better, I'm all ears! :wink:
 
Jun 3, 2012 at 9:45 PM Post #3 of 13

MattTCG

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Sure, you could go buy the q701's and a good amp/dac, but honestly that would be my recommendation.  I would say?
 
Hifiman he-400
fiio e17
 
The e17 is running a bit over retail but it will back to normal prices soon. You will have a tough beating the he400  for the money. To do better you'd have to spend...well, a whole lot more money. Great bass response for a planar. Just take a look at some of the threads around here, including mine 
wink.gif
, to get an idea about this outstanding hp. It's a good all rounder and can be an everyday all genre hp. It's also very easy to drive while scaling up nicely with better amp/dac. 
 
gL!!
 
Jun 3, 2012 at 10:56 PM Post #4 of 13

theeyealtering

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The most I am willing to pay for an amp is probably in the range of a Schiit amp, but would I also need a DAC (Bifrost?) since my source is my computer? And if so would the difference be monumental between a setup like this (Bifrost paired with Asgard,Valhalla or Lyr, depending on what would be most fitting for the headphones I buy) and a combo setup like a cheaper Fiio E17?

The difference would be very noticeable. I've tried both the E7 and the E10 (not the E17, so I can't speak for that) and the difference between them and something better is pretty clear. I have an STX and there is a big step up in detail retrieval and soundstage compared to the E10, that's just using the STX's amp. Going to an STX + standalone amp makes the difference even bigger still. If you bought a better DAC, I'd imagine the margin would be even wider.

Also, I don't really like the amps in the Fiios I've tried. I have a JDS CMoy and I think it is a clearer, more resolved sound. The Fiios both have a slight fuzz to the sound, I suppose veiled my be the audiophile term but I don't know. This conclusion was reached by running the CMoy through the line-out on the Fiio.

Don't get me wrong, Fiios are great for their price. It comes down to what you want to spend and if you're only spending like $200 on headphones, spending big on a better dac/amp is a little pointless. But IMO, if you get better headphones and can spend more, investing in something better (Schiit bifrost and asgard, M-stage USB, even a good sound card) is worth it.

Also, theoretically, if you get a nice DAC and amp combo now, you won't be tempted to upgrade in the near future.

Also, headphone wise... There are a tonne of great headphones at that level, but if you are on the AKG bandwagon the AKG K242HD is worth thinking about. If you do end up getting a Q701, I would definitely say get a better source/amp than a Fiio.
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 12:00 AM Post #5 of 13

KG Jag

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The Q 701 is better across the board than the 240.  It is a headphone at a different level.  I suggest that if you go with the Q 701 you get at least a quality entry level desk top amp like the HiFi Man EF2A, which costs about $170 shipped.  It also has a decent DAC if you need one.  At current Amazon prices that should run you almost exactly $400 shipped.
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 1:15 AM Post #6 of 13

JazzDeath

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Thank you for your answers.
 
Matt, Why would you suggest the Hifiman HE-400 over the Q701's?I did read that the HE - 400 does not absolutely require an amp though (but does benefit greatly from it), which might allow me to buy one piece at a time instead of all at once.
That being said I know very little about Orthodynamics, do you believe it would better suit the type of listening I intend to use them for?
 
Thanks Eye, I believe I will probably stay away from the Fiio's price range if they negatively affect the clarity of the headphones, since this is basically my most important point.
 
I am not necessarily on the AKG bandwagon, but I know for a fact I enjoyed the sound the K240's had and I do think that the green Q701's are rather stylish :wink:. That being said, if I can find better for what I want, style is hardly even close to my first concern in an open headphone (I won't use them in public, after all).I'm always open to suggestions.
 
As for your prices on Amazon I cannot get shipping to Quebec at those prices, where I'm from the Q-701's are 400 CAD
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 3:05 AM Post #7 of 13

kalbee

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As much as possible I'd say it would be best to buy from outside Quebec (unless you find a good place with good prices) since even compared to the rest of Canada our prices are a bit higher. You may even save on QST depending on the store and their selling policy.
 
You may have already visited these pages but:
A BC store that would have Q701 bundle with a Fiio E9 (usually ~$100? this one's a desktop amp not a portable one). See that shipping price too! If ever Q701 is $400 alone here, then this is more worth it.
http://www.headphonebar.com/akg-q701-fiio-e9-bundle/
 
If you have time you can also try visiting Studio Economik (www.economik.com) between Lionel-Groulx and Place St-Henri. Ask them for their headphone section and try as many as you can, they got a few AKGs and Beyers (DT880 for open/semi-open). Although their prices may not always be the best, on average for Montreal its quite acceptable. You can also try out either of the Fostex T20/40/50RP there for a taste of orthodynamic. Those ones takes some work (read: mod) to really make them shine but aside from being a decently from project it can also be very rewarding. The store sells studio equipment so don't expect the people to be into audiophile details. You may be able to bring a CD to test the tracks on.
 
Sorry those are the only stores I really got experience with. I am in no way affiliated to either one of them.
I do find an amusing selection at axemusic.com (also more studio and everyday gear), you can use that for price comparisons maybe. I believe there is also an (old) thread about audio shops around Montreal and Canada in general.
 
Another useless post by me >.< sry can't be of much help. My repertoire is not large enough for advices... but I do like ortho sound very much. But since I don't listen to as much of your music of choice I am in no position to give advice.
 
I still REALLY want to try those toaster cans too...
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 4:09 AM Post #8 of 13

JazzDeath

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Hmm that's a good idea to go see at Studio Economik, I was unaware though that they sold hi-fi headphones, I know they sell recording gear though. Never went on spot. And yeah I try to buy online but sometimes the great prices on Amazon are not available in Canada (pain in the ass, there are Q701's at 250 on amazon I cannot buy!)
 
Thank you for the link to Headphonebar, I tried buying some GR07's there but they were out of stock - good to know that they sell Q701's though, might be the place I consider to buy them from.
 
Have you tried headphones at studio economik, do they have headphone amps?
 
And I would strongly suggest the Salon Son & Image if you live in montreal, you can generally find a few dealers with headphone rigs, I dunno if they have Stax every year but it's worth checking out nonetheless if you're an audiophile!
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 4:28 AM Post #9 of 13

obobskivich

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The AKG 70x are nowhere near as "amp needy" as people make them out to be - but there are certainly more efficient headphones out there. I think they would be a good consideration for what you want, along with the Sony MDR-SA5000 and perhaps the Beyerdynamic T70 (although these border/cross-into the land of harshness - they're sealed though). Something like the FiiO E9 will drive all of them, but of course you can always spend more.
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 8:21 AM Post #10 of 13

MattTCG

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Quote:
Thank you for your answers.
 
Matt, Why would you suggest the Hifiman HE-400 over the Q701's?I did read that the HE - 400 does not absolutely require an amp though (but does benefit greatly from it), which might allow me to buy one piece at a time instead of all at once.
That being said I know very little about Orthodynamics, do you believe it would better suit the type of listening I intend to use them for?
 
 

 
I have not owned any of the AKG series. I have only auditioned them once, so in terms of comparisons I would certainly not be the expert. But I do think the he400 would fit your criteria well. Here is why I would pick the he400 over any dynamic hp in the same price range:
 
*planar tech is able to produce a wonderfully realistic and natural sound
*in previous generations orthos needed a powerful amp to sound their best, but the he400 can be driven from your iphone
*this hp is a good all rounder and will play any genre well
*previous orthos were not know for satisfying bass, but the bass on the he400 is about perfect 
*It will scale up well with better amp/dac solutions
 
Of course I'm just sharing my opinion and experience. The he400 is not perfect. It's somewhat heavier than my dynamic driver hp's and that just about put it on my do not buy list. But despite the weight it's surprisingly comfy. It would not be a good portable though by any stretch. 
 
The earlier comments about the fiio amps are not quite accurate. I've owned the e10 and the e17 and did not experience any "buzzing" related issues at all. You can drive the he400 with an e10 but it will sound considerably better on the e17. The e17 is underrated and under appreciated for what it is. It's actually impressive for it's size and price point. It also has good "synergy" with the he400.
 
gL!!
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 8:42 AM Post #11 of 13

theeyealtering

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The earlier comments about the fiio amps are not quite accurate. I've owned the e10 and the e17 and did not experience any "buzzing" related issues at all.

Speaking of inaccurate, if you are referring to my comment, I never say they were "buzzing". I said there was a fuzziness to the sound compared higher quality products. Which is my way of saying that they aren't as detailed, clear and sharp as what I'm used to.

IMO FiiOs are probably overrated on this forum. After my experiences with them, I've concluded that it's better to spend the same money on a sound card. Which may or may not be a fair comparison, seen as a sound card isn't portable and doesn't have its own chassis.
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 9:04 AM Post #12 of 13

MattTCG

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Well, I won't even get started on sound cards but the amp the I was proposing was the e17 which you admit that you haven't owned or listened. This amp is quite a leap forward for fiio particularly over the e10 which is what I stated in my post. 
 
Is the e17 better in terms of overall sound quality than any of the sound cards that I've owned ( which include most creative products going back to the original soundblaster live through the asus stx)? Honestly it's not just better but leaps and bounds better. 
 
gL to the OP!!
 
Jun 4, 2012 at 12:29 PM Post #13 of 13

kalbee

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Definitely would love to go! Hopefully my school schedule would fit well...

I have auditioned headphones at Economik a few times and their demo rack changes a bit. Sometimes you will need to ask for a model that isn't out, and they might pull one out of its box for potential buyers. Sadly I never really walked around too much in there do I don't know if they sell headphone amps. I don't think so though. They sell gears that can drive headphones well but perhaps not the same type of amp we're looking for. They do have a system there that can drive all their headphones though, you can use it to audition the headphones. But it is best to bring whatever you have also, like your iPod, to get a better taste of how it sounds on your own gear. All I remember is that the Fostex sounded horrible on their gear, worse than direct out of my laptop.

And I agree with obobskivich that the K/Q701 would not require an amp. You can drive it off a laptop or iPod directly. But in my experience it wouldn't sound as good as through an amp... Can't put my hands on what are the exact changes.
 

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