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On the Hunt for Closed-back, <$500, Neutral, Portable-ish

  1. Shaq-Fu
    Hey all,

    I've been searching for new headphones to replace my second pair of ATH-m50s for months now. I loved the things but the second pair just broke and I think it's finally time for an upgrade.

    I record ambient music, so the more neutral, the better, though I'm far from opposed to more "fun" sound signatures as well. What i really want is a better soundstage and superior imaging to the m50s. And I'd like them to not have a massive, unremovable cord like these first gen m50s did. And hopefully not look utterly bonkers on my head.

    I listen to a lot of jazz, ambient, leftfield electronic, techno, house, hip-hop, and whatever else. I will probably just be powering it from my phone, but I really listen on headphones more at the office through my macbook and could be convinced to buy an AMP.

    Currently I've been eyeing the Oppo PM-3, B&O h6 gen 2, Meze 99 classic (though dont love the extra metal piece over your head), and a few others. Cant make a decision, and obviously some of these are discontinued.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. musiland
    I'd suggest PM-3 cuz the other two you mentioned more like ornaments(no offense) instead of hi-fi headphones. And the sound quality of PM-3 is surely better.
  3. Shaq-Fu
    Actually, in the many reviews I've read of each of these, they're roughly on par with each other, though with different sound signatures. PM-3 seems the hardest to pick up these days. I'm also really looking for a better option than any of these, if they exist, since PM-3 isn' supposed to have a great soundstage and a lot of people describe them as "dull" sounding. Though, I'm definitely willing to EQ.

    There's got to be some new models released in 2018 or 2019 that can beat out what I've read about so far, right? Any ideas anyone?
  4. bcaulf17
    I would say that’s subjective.
  5. Kukuk
    On the used market I would think you could find a Beyerdynamic T5p second gen within your price range. I think they would tick a lot of boxes for you.

    They're maybe a little large for being out and about town with them on, but they're not ugly, in my opinion. I think they qualify as "portable-ish".

    Sound-wise, they're pretty close to neutral. They have the most mellow treble I've heard from a Tesla headphone, so they're not really fatiguing. Coming from the M50 I think you'll be very pleased with the treble. Bass is well-extended, with maybe a small bump to mid bass, but it's all very well controlled. The mids I can't really comment on, as I've heard that's where the biggest improvement is moving from the gen 1 to gen 2. I've only heard the gen 1, and based on what I've read there weren't a lot of differences in bass and treble between the two, but mids apparently received some tweaking. On the gen 1 I thought the mids were good, with maybe a small rise in the upper mids, giving them a little more forward sound. I figure if Beyerdynamic looked to improve the mids, they probably lowered that upper-mid rise, but that's just speculation.

    Soundstage and imaging are where these really impress. Until I got my Z1R, these were the most open and spacious sounding closed headphone I ever heard. At the time I owned them I think I was comparing them pretty favorably to my AKG K612, which are a fully-open headphone with impressive soundstage in their own right. Not only do they have an expansive left-to-right image, they have a very large center image, so vocals sound very in-your-face. Even mono recordings get a decent sense of space on these.

    Isolation is fantastic, best I've ever heard on a full-sized headphone. They even do a decent job blocking out low-frequency noise, which is notoriously hard to do. They're a piece of cake to drive, and really don't even improve with adding an amp.

    Like I said, I think they'd tick a lot of boxes for you if you could find a used pair in your price range. While not cheap, they're one of the cheapest ways to get into proper high-end sound, since amps don't improve them, and even high end DAC provide minimal changes. They just incredible out of anything.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  6. serman005
    You might also look into an NAD HP50--it's an excellent buy at the moment.
  7. Shaq-Fu
    @Kukuk , my man, you just recommended me headphones that I can't find for less than $700 used anywhere, but after reading about them, I can't stop thinking how perfect they sound for me. I'm going to see if I can't track them down for less, because if I can, they'd probably be the ones.

    @serman005 , the NAD HD50s do indeed seem like a great value, but I think I'm willing to spend a little more for a little more high-end sound. Unless I'm just being stupid and these really are fantastic?
  8. serman005
    They really are exceptional for the money, but I agree, you can probably do a bit better with the additional budget.
  9. bflat
    Save your money and look into either the Sony MDR-V6 or MDR-7506. These are studio monitors and have a very balanced sound. Here is a good write up and also compares to the M50s you are looking to replace:


    It's difficult to find a true neutral headphone in the higher price range because dead neutral is a "boring" sound. And yes, you do tend to pay for the materials and aesthetics as the price goes up which are utterly useless for studio professionals.

    If you are dead set on spending more, Focal's Elegia is a good choice at $799. Not 100% neutral as the upper mid to treble are slightly elevated. Here is a good writeup:


    Based on what you listen to and your use case, I would go with the Sony options.
  10. Kukuk
    That's weird, as they're usually in the $700-$800 new, and pop up from time to time in the for sale board in the $500 range.

    If you can live without the detachable cable the first gen can definitely be found within your budget on the used market.
  11. Audio Aficionado
    If you are willing to spend more, I would recommend the B&W P9 Signature or as an other head-fi member has said - the Beyerdynamic T5P. The T5P has a more neutral, audiophile sound signature whereas the P9 Signature has a more fun one, although it still sounds quite neutral to me. In terms of overall sound quality, for me the P9 Signature is the clear winner.

    Other than those two, another I would recommend is the B&O H6. I had a B&O H6 gen 1, if the gen 2 is anything like the gen 1, then you can't really go wrong. The B&O H6 gen 1 has a very inoffensive, neutral sound signature with plenty of detail and good soundstage. Well worth it's price, in my opinion.
  12. Shaq-Fu
    @bflat Yeah, that makes sense. I can't help but wonder if I can find better options for a little more money, though. Honestly, the sound signature doesn't need to be completely neutral—I'm not a professional, and at least half of the use will be listening to tunes. I figure anything will be better than what I've got right now.

    Re: everybody else recommending the T5P, I did find somebody on Head Fi willing to part with their T5P.2's for $500, but I'm starting to get cold feet. I've read in a couple reviews that they suffer from pretty bad noise leakage, is this true? I'll be on the bus sometimes, and definitely will be using them in a mostly silent office most days. I'm also starting to balk at my own $500 price tag, worried that I've talked myself up into spending more than I really should. Got to think on it. In the meantime, if anyone has any slightly less expensive recommendations (between $250-$350) as well, I'm all ears. I really appreciate everyone's responses!
  13. Audio Aficionado
    $500 is a very good price for a T5P.2. I can't comment on noise leakage but it isolated external noise very well.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
  14. bflat
    In order to get full value out of T5P you will likely need to upgrade your source/amp so factor that in. If you are considering on-ear, Beyer has a great "baby t5p" in the T51i or the DT1350 which is a similar design but for studio monitoring and more neutral tuning, but some folks say less comfortable ear pads. Both are under $300. I had the T51i and found them to be quite a good value and isolation is pretty good too.
  15. Shaq-Fu
    Okay, so I've decided to lower my price range, since I'm buying some other expensive stuff at the same time (new synth).

    I think now, of the models I know of at least, it's between the ATH-MSR7 and the B&O H6 Gen 2. I'm honestly completely torn about these. The h6 has better build and possibly more "fun" sound, but the MSR7 is very detailed and probably responsive to EQing. I'm also concerned because I dont listen to lossless files usually, though I could maybe get a Tidal sub or something.

    Any thoughts?

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