Suggest a price-range sweet spot for someone who likes the sound of HD600
May 26, 2011 at 6:32 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 9

justAsking

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Hi!
 
I am in the market for a canalphone for when I am on the move. I have spent some time reading the reviews here (particularly those of ClieOS and Joker, but from many others too) and I have come up with a selection of alternatives, representing what is probably the best options for my taste in a variety of price ranges. However, I am not really sure how much I am willing to spend. So I am sort of asking you guys how much should I spend and do I really get bang for my buck. Basically you can interpret my question like this: rather than the best 'phones in a particular range, what range of price should I go for?
 
Hmmm... Where to start? Perhaps I will tell a little about my sound signature preferences through explaining my preferences with respect to full-sized headphones. I currently listen to Senn HD600's at home. To me, these were clearly the best overall-sounding headphones, exluding the much more expensive stuff, like HD800. I've tried Senn HD280's and HD25's, AKG K240's, ATH-M50's, Beyerdynamic DT770, DT880 and DT990 and several others, each for a good while, and I don't think any of them have any qualities that beat the HD600's when it comes to how they sound - they all sounded clearly (some even annoyingly) worse to my ears, with noticeably less detail, space, resolution, accuracy, balanced FR or a combination thereof. The otherwise rather similar HD650 had a mid-bass emphasis that I did not quite like, preferring the overall more neutral and natural presentation of the HD600.
 
The only phones that I listened to and that did anything better than the HD600's in my opinion were the AKG K701's, which were really the only ones that revealed that famous "Sennheiser veil" in an A/B comparison to the ever-so-slightly crisper sound of the K701's - otherwise I would have been pretty oblivious that there was even a "veil" there. However, the lack of bass-resolution on the K701's was a deal-breaker for me. Bass is important to me. I wouldn't call myself a bass-head, but I want to hear the bass as it is on the recording. The K701's didn't do that for me. Compensating for the small quantity of bass coming through the K701's with EQ still left the bass rather toneless, indistinct and non-descript: I heard it was there, but I couldn't hear much about it. Anyway, that was my subjective experience: I don't want to start a flame-war on the this topic.
 
So yes, basically, my ideal sound is the Senn HD600. This is the sound that I like. It is this direction of sound that I would hope from my canalphones. Basically, something quite neutral that tries to portray the underlying recording as accurately as possible [for the money]. I would like as much as the detail that is there on the record to be reproduced as faithfully as possible, but I am not really looking for an "artificially" analytical sound that overhypes these details. I would like a fairly balanced reproduction across the whole spectrum, rather than really good reproduction of a particular frequency range. Generally, I'd rather have something that has no major faults, than something does one or two things really well. If I had to choose between bright and dark, I would tend to go with dark, but preferably I would just go for as neutral as possible, with the music sounding balanced and whole, rather than emphasising some particular aspect. Also, if the recording is bad quality, I don't mind hearing it. [Sorry for the repetition there.]
 
I expect to listen to electronic music through them about 70% of the time, but overall, I am rather omnivorous when it comes to music, so I am looking for something that works reasonably well with anything, from Vivaldi to Pantera or from Pink Floyd to Lily Allen. I am not looking for something that suits a particular genre.
 
Ok, so what were my options? Well, I'll first say that a big problem is that I cannot go and hear the different models that I am thinking of for myself: if I could, I would not be posting this. Second, I am planning to run them un-amped. Thirdly, I would like them not to have very poor sound isolation. Fourth, I will listen to lossless only, but from a variety of sources (generally not hi-fi, laptop headphone outs or iPods) . Fifth, I am perfectly happy with my HD600's. I am not really looking for an alternative to them for when I am at home. Rather, I am looking for something more portable. Since I have good sound at home and these portable canalphones might end up taking quite a bit of abuse, I started off thinking that I really shouldn't spend too much money on them and could put with worse sound quality. So what happened? "Sorry about your wallet." Well, perhaps. I don't have a lot of money to spare, to be honest.
 
Anyway.
 
I started off thinking that I would get Sunrise Xcape Impressive Editions. The price was right. The comments about the IE sounded like they would have overcome the relative lack of a lower end that the v1 had. But they are not really available, at least not easily, and seem to have some quality control issues with sound sometimes dying after a while. And their price would be around $120 shipped, which was more than the initial <$100 I expected.
 
So then I thought of getting the (flavour of the month) Vsonic GR07. These too were difficult to get. Lend me ur ears is out of stock. But I found a reputable seller. However, instead of costing about $150 plus shipping, they were $200 shipped. That is actually quite a bit more. However, the descriptions of this being a canalphone that doesn't really emphasise any particular aspect, but tells it as it is, with good separation and detail all the way down to the bass, was somethign that really appealed to my sensibilities. I had basically decided to buy this canalphone, but then the higher price put me off a little...
 
...And I also started thinking that for only 25% more, I could get Audio-Technica ATH-CK10's that everyone seems to be raving about. Ok, so they are apparently a little bass-light, but the bass is not non-existent and from what I read, it is rather well-resolved. If there's too little of it, I can always fix it with EQ. I could get these for $250 shipped. This was definitely more than what I planned to spend, or what I hoped to spend, but I was thinking that if I really did get something substantially better than the GR07, something with a lot of detail and a very good soundstage, well, I might be willing to spend more than twice what I initially thought I would. Or maybe not. Is the difference really worth it? One of those questions that are immensely difficult to answer. I have good headphones already - these would be simply my surrogates while on the move - do I really want to spend so much money on them? Sorry, I don't expect this to be a question you can answer, but I would appreciate it if you tried. However, since these are slightly bright (or detailed and transparent) they might on the other hand be a nice counterbalance to my HD600's, which are perhaps ever so slightly dark (or rather full and weighty) letting me hear different things in my recordings.
 
The RE262 I could get for only $150 plus shipping. The bass might be a bit textureless (euphemistically called soft and round), but otherwise these sound like a good option. However, my experience with the AKG K701's suggests to me that these aren't my choice, because of the bass, and that I might prefer the GR07. I also note that amps seem to be recommended, which I wouldn't use. And head direct is out of stock and just taking pre-orders. But the descriptions of the soundscape these can deliver has me interested.
 
I've also thought of Panasonic RP-HJE900, which I could get for about $160, but the reviews seem to say these are rather "fun" and v-shaped 'phones. On the one hand, what the hell. If I am on the move, then am I really stopping to listen to the music exactly as it is? But on the other hand, that is the way experience tells me I like to hear things, rather than coloured for "fun".
 
I was also wondering about the Fischer Audio DBA-02. It just seemed that the GR07 would have been the option for me, with a fuller bass, if they had been at the same price, but since it seems I can't get the GR07 at $160, I started thinking that perhaps the DBA-02 might be alright.
 
Coming back to the price-range I initially intended to stay at, my secondary options included Xears TD-III, which were sold out, MEElectronics CC51 and ECCI PR401. I also thought of Nu-Force NE-700X and Fischer Audio Eterna, but it seemed these might be a little too coloured for my taste (despite the colouring going in the right general direction, if it must exist). Phiaton PS 20 I ruled out based on poor isolation. MEElectronics A151 I thought would probably have a too thin bass for my taste, though it is hard to say what could be achieved with EQ'ing without having them on hand to listen to.
 
I also thought of perhaps forgetting completely getting somewhat hi-fi canalphones and going for something decidedly mediocre but cheap, like the Vsonic R02 Pro or the Visang VS-R02 for about $30 plus S/H. I mean, I have good sound at home, so I don't really need one for the road, do I? But on the other hand, I have to say that I absolutely cannot listen to crap sound reproduction. How good are these actually? How much would I really be missing out? I am guessing quite a lot. I mean, if you know of better, could you listen to these for fun? Say for example, I have a little trouble listening to Senn CX300's. Well, I can listen to them, but I would most of the time rather just not listen to any music at all than listen to it through them. How much better are the above?
 
Going back to full-size headphones, I am for example very happy listening to Senn HD25SP's (the half-price little brothers of HD25's) for hours and hours - despite them lacking the deepest sub-bass and having a decidedly "inside your head" -sound with little soundscape. In other words, SQ doesn't need to be perfect for me to like listening to something, but it needs to be sufficient and HD25SP's to me are an example of sufficient SQ. I am willing to go a little below what the HD25SP's represent SQ-wise, but I wouldn't want to go much below that.
 
At the cheapest extreme, I am thinking of getting some JVC FX67's for about $15. There were several people here on the forum that praised them for their sound and their bang-for-the-buck. I guess for the price, I might just give them a shot. I won't be much poorer for trying them out, but I doubt they will make me happy.
 
So, that was an incredibly long post, in which I am mainly struggling with my own problems, such as amount of money I want to spend, which I don't know how much you can help with. But I hope someone might give a few comments to guide me towards a purchase I would be happy with.
 
Thanks in advance.
 
May 26, 2011 at 8:33 AM Post #2 of 9

feNcheL

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Hi there
 
I'm not too active here anymore, but recently decided that I want new headphones and earphones :)
As a result, my knowledge of earphones is limited to what was on the market about a year and a half ago, when I auditioned many of the top contenders in each price range at the time and since my listening preferences closely match yours (both in terms of music taste and presentation preference - I also own the HD600 and chose it over the K701, DT880, HD650, D2000 and sort of equivalent Ultrasones and Grados), I'll throw in some more suggestions to confuse you even more :wink:
for the lowest price range, I have owned in one way or another, JVC air cushions, soundmagic pl30 and cyclone pr1 pro. All of these sound slightly colored although the cyclones have been my favourite in the sub 50USD? range (not located in US).
For some time, I liked the UE super.fi 3 studios, which IMO sound similar to the HD600 (laid-back, neutral, slightly on the darker side), but of course lacking in clarity, detail and soundstage significantly (nothing else to be expected at that price range). Liked clarity of ER6i, but not the wearing style and lack of bass.
I've auditioned the super.fi 5 and the super.fi 5 pro and liked the 5 pros a lot (for me, an enhanced super.fi 3 with a lot better treble, better mids and clearer bass with good detail and clarity), but in the end bought the revised/cheaper/non-pro version for budget reasons and still use them from time to time.
For similarly priced to more top tier earphones, I've rejected the ER4S/P (great detail and separation, but too fatiguing, similar to ER6i), SA6 (too warm and bassy), Phonak Audeo PFE (actually they were ok, but used sort of flimsy material and the price was too high for their performance, sounded a bit like the super.fi 3 and thus the price was not justified, might have just gotten a bad version though as a lot of people around here seem to like them).
For the (at that time) top contenders, I didn't like the Shure SE530 (smoothest midrange and vocals ever in terms of texture, but lacks detail and doesn't do too well in the treble range), the UE triple.fi 10 (might have been isolation problem, but: I thought it had great soundstage, detail, but had a huge bump in the treble and somewhat in the bass, making it sound artificial and bright) and the Sennheiser IE 8 (too bassy and lacking in detail and clarity). I very much liked the Westone 3, since it provided me with a wow-factor and I really enjoyed them as a very capable allrounder although their sound signature is very different from the HD600.
 
I've grouped the earphones in different price categories and generally listened to them in these categories and rated them according to their category. So even the phones in the top tier that I didn't like were better than the ones I liked in the lower categories in terms of overall enjoyment - generally (I still wouldn't have chosen them since there were ones I liked more for a similar price).
Of course, everything is subjective and your mileage may vary; I suggest you try to audition the earphones you listed and possibly some that I mentioned. As for price range, I wouldn't seriously consider anything under 200 USD if you are looking for something that can even remotely hold up with the HD600 in terms of detail and clarity. If you're just looking for something to block out the noise on the train/bus (if you're a commuter), take something between 100 - 200 USD, the sub-100 category is just for a VERY tight budget/throwing away after a month/trying mods without fear of damaging better earphones.
 
Good luck!
 
May 26, 2011 at 9:42 AM Post #3 of 9

justAsking

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Thanks fenchel. Thanks for the suggestions; I'll note them down. I think you are probably right about the price range stuff; that it is a little pointless for someone who likes good audio to buy something too cheap - a waste of money of sorts. I'll see which models I can go and actually listen to where I live and take it from there. Perhaps I'll find a cheap model I like, or if not, get justification for spending more. I am sorry about writing at such length, but often its the only way you can sort your thoughts: by asking questions. Answers are still welcome and much appreciated, but I have a feeling I am doing this as much to sort out my own thoughts as in expectation of any answer from you folks out there. Sorry for that. And thanks.
 
May 26, 2011 at 10:19 PM Post #4 of 9

justAsking

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Sorry for spamming this forum. I know it is poor behaviour to ask for advice and then just go ahead and do what you were going to do anyway. But I don't think your contribution fenchel was wasted.
 
I can't listen to the Vsonic GR07 anywhere. But as of today, they are back at lend me ur ears for USD 155 shipped. And I decided to ask someone who has both the GR07 and ATH-CK10 for a quick off-the-top-of-their-head comparison, and I got one from AngryBaconGod:
http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/536342/review-vsonic-gr07-labor-of-love/270#post_7499239
 
To me this pretty much settled it. I will bite the bullet and order the GR07. I hope it is as good for me as it is for so many here on the forums. Thanks all.
 
May 26, 2011 at 10:24 PM Post #5 of 9

dweaver

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justaAsking I used to have the HD600 as well and think you will like the GR07 alot, they have a nice crisp treble that at points has similar sound to the HD600 (not quite as pingy sounding though), the bass is not going to have quite as much rumble nor the same amount of percieved bass du to the smaller driver but I think the deep bass will be appreciated by you. The mids will be more forward though and I think more detailed as well.
 
May 26, 2011 at 11:19 PM Post #7 of 9

justAsking

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I'll give you my impressions when I get them. I am actually away from home for a few months, so I won't have my HD600's to give a direct comparison to - and this is a major reason why I wanted to get some good canalphones. I got bored of borrowing my girlfriend's Senn CX400's and wanted to listen to music with good sound.
 
May 27, 2011 at 4:05 AM Post #8 of 9

Maxvla

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I listened to HD580/HD600 for about 10 years before moving to IEMs. The set I have at the moment is a very good match to the HD600, the Hifiman RE-262. They accentuate the same areas and have the same weaknesses and are about the same price actually. These are good enough for daily drivers while I wait for CanJam @ RMAF in October where I'll be picking out my flavor of top of the line customs. I typically only use the RE-262 at home on my WA6. They don't sound so great straight out of my phone, but my phone doesn't sound that great with anything really.
 
May 27, 2011 at 4:23 AM Post #9 of 9

james444

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I haven't heard the GR07, but in case they don't work out as desired you could also consider the Ortofon e-Q5 / e-Q7 or Westone W4. The CK10 are closer to the K701 than HD600 imo.
 

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