Thanks to @AnakChan, Dan Clark and HiFiMan Japan I'm going to be spending the next couple of weeks listening to and comparing these flagships.
Sennheiser HD800, modified with a bit of damping material internally, which tightens up the imaging a bit. Norne Audio cable.
MrSpeakers Ether Flow with DUM or Norne Audio cable (almost no difference in sound). (Review here)
Sony MDR-Z1R with Kimber Cable. (Review here)
Focal Utopia with Moon Audio Silver Dragon. (Review here)
HiFiMan HE1000 V2 with stock cable. (Review here)
Mac Mini with Audirvana Plus, TIDAL and Roon → iFi iUSB 3.0 → S/PDIF converter → Schiit Yggdrasil → ALO Audio Studio Six.
What has been apparent so far, only spending a couple of hours rotating through a few genres is how one moment a particular pair of headphones might nail it, and the others don't, switching tunes can turn things right around. Comparisons are evil in this way, as you find out more about what is wrong with a pair of headphones than anything.
Since the Z1R and Utopia arrived last night and I got right into listening with them, here is what I posted in the Z1R thread:
Good points: Insanely fast and ultimately revealing of everything from the music through to the equipment.
Bad points: Insanely fast and ultimately revealing of everything from the music through to the equipment.
Buy only if you wont hesitate to spend many thousands of dollars on the best supporting equipment and listen to fantastic recordings. The difference between my system between when it had only been on half a day versus a full day was very apparent with them, let alone anything else. Before warm-up the soundstage from them seemed small and their neutrality made everything seem boring. After equipment warm-up, the sound came alive.
Unlike the Utopias, which try and impose nothing on the music, the Z1R try and bring the spirt of the music to you. If it is forward, it's forward. If it is spacious, it is spacious. If it is relaxed, it is relaxed. If it is intense, it is intense. Rather like if they combine the best aspects of the best different headphones out there -- planars for speed, detail and bass detail; Grados for mid-range intensity; and big, open headphones for soundstage (negated somewhat by the tuning), into one pair of headphones. The negatives for me are that tuning them to match the Duntech studio speakers gives them a weird coloration that can sometimes detract from hearing instruments as clearly as I feel they should be.
Updates and Links:
Focal Utopia and Ether Flow impressions.
Sony Z1R Frequency response graph.
Sony Z1R and TH900 graphs.
HiFiMan HE1000 V2 review.
Focal Utopia review
HiFiMan Susvara Review