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Soundstage wide and deep

  1. keith81
    I am a complete newb at this - wanted to get that out of the way in my first post.

    The reason I'm here is because I tested some Sennheisers HD6-something headphones at Frankfurt airport and was completely BLOWN AWAY by what you guys refer to as "soundstage." I can't remember the exact model, but priced at 480 euros I knew I had to keep walking. You would say I auditioned those Sennheisers, but really I was just bored when my flight got delayed.

    I thought I knew what excellent sound was... I use Sony MDR1A at the office (got them for 98 euros on Amazon Germany) and then to watch movies at night I use Monoprice 8323 with Brainwavz earpads - the pads were more expensive than the headphones. I still think they're brilliant for those purposes. But holy crap this "soundstage" was something else. Needless to say, I now want another pair for listening to music at home.

    I spent the week reading endless reviews and threads on this forum. Half the time I was deciphering your jargon (imaging, impedence, ADs, SHPs, 600s, SRs, aaarrgghh). But eventually I understood that what I'm looking for is over-ear, open or semi-open headphones, with soundstage that is both wide AND deep.

    Not a gamer, and I will use them to play soft/hard rock and classic metal at home off Spotify on my phone (I read my ZTE Axon 7 has a decent amp for a phone). I have no interest in getting a portable amp *Ducks for cover* sorry, I know this is sacrilege for you guys, but as I said, you're the audiophiles, I just want to make the most of the limited budget I have.

    Since I can't afford Sennheiser 6 series, I made a list of options within my budget (less than 150 euros) which should be driven well enough by my phone. AKG K702 and Fostex T20rp were on it but I removed them when I found out they are too insensitive, despite the low impedence. Those that remained, in order of price:
    • Superlux HD668B
    • Philips SHP9500 (discontinued)
    • Sennheiser HD598/HD599
    • Audio Technica AD700x (no detachable cable is a big negative)
    • Philips Fidelio X2/00 (I understand Amazon lowered its price because this model can have issues?)
    • Beyerdynamic DT 990 Edition 32 Ohm (no detachable cable is a big negative)
    So... my question for you is: all the above seem to have a wide soundstage, but is it also deep?
  2. Me x3
    Yes, but keep in mind this two things:
    - Quality DAC/Amp is normally required for great soundstage.
    - Quality recordigns are also needed.

    I think HD598 and HD599 are pretty safe bets.

    Fidelio X2 will give you a bigger bass and more luxurious built, pretty good headphone if you want that kind of sound
    (more cinema-like than reference grade)

    If you don't mind getting a headphone with analytical sound (unforgiving with less than perfect recordings) you might consider DT880 (250 Ohm) and K702. They will do slightly less than OK with your phone but less than OK with these headphones can be simiilar or even better than an inferior headphone properly driven. You can always upgrade your setup in the future.
  3. rredge
    I suspect that the shop at the Frankfurt airport was playing music through a system that is better than listening to Spotify streaming on a smartphone.

    I’d like to suggest that you take your phone to a store that sells headphones and try various headphones, preferably with Spotify streaming, within your price range.

    This way you’ll know what headphones, if any, work for you, given the limitations of Spotify streaming and the limitations of the digital to analogue converter in your phone.

    Also consider that headphone jacks on phones are facing extinction.
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018
  4. serman005
    I like the HD599 for you.
  5. Loz_the_guru
    I had a pair of HD598s as my first 'proper' headphones and think they're an excellent starting point. You should be able to pick them and a decent fiio dac/amp combo up for sub $150 used I'd imagine.
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
  7. keith81
    Thank you all for the insight. I learn more every day.

    To answer some of your questions...

    The X2's bass shouldn't be a problem for me since I like the bass-boosted sound of the MDR1A. Given your feedback I'll shortlist the X2, the HD598/599, and the AD700X.

    Quality-wise I use the "very high" quality download setting on Spotify, whatever that is.

    I found out now that, according to Forbes and Gadgethacks, my phone's audio playback is actually very good for a phone, comparable to the LG V20:
    DAC 32-Bit AKM AK4490
    Codec AKM AK4961 DSP
    Amp Class-G Stereo
    Max output 84dB
    Signal-to-noise ratio 110dB
    Stereo crosstalk -76.8dB
    3.5mm Jack Voltage 1.8Volts
    Frequency Response -0.10 to +0.05 Decibels

    All mumbo jumbo to me - all I know is that it drives both the Sony MDR1A (48ohms & 105dB) and the Monoprice 8323 (40ohms & 100dB) very well. At 75-80% the volume level is very loud and the sound quality is good enough for me. But thanks to your advice I'll try those 3 headphones with my phone first before buying. I gather in such a situation the easiest one to drive might actually win against a better pair of cans.

    PS I'll have to google what Crossfeed is.
  8. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Like I said above, it filters some of the sound across both channels so headphones will be less like headphones, ie, one ear hears only one driver, and more like speakers, ie, both ears hear both drivers, except it has to be done judiciously otherwise you end up listening in mono and not get any sense of positional cues at all.

    If you want a more technical explanation, here's a web page tht also comes in print format with Meier amps: http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/crossfeed.htm

    Apart from the extremely high crosstalk there's this one where the response has that spike, although obviously since this is measured with a headphone it's hard to tell how much it altered that headphone (unless that was already accounted and corrected in the curve below). You need to look at other graphs from GSMArena and check how other phones perform on that graph (although if the LG Vxx looks like that I won't be surprised that people like the sound - it's like a Grado Prestige series response curve below 150hz).

    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
  9. keith81

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