Very confused new kid in town.
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richard75

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Hi to all.
Sorry about the cheesy title but got Hotel California on so I thought why not!
Total headphone novice but I'm taking the plunge in the next few weeks.
I've resisted the urge to tinker with my 2 channel set up as best I can for a while.
My next purchase was either changing my tube line stage & going back to passive, or getting rid of both my tube & ss phono stages & going for that elusive one that would replace both.
But since the end of the world as we know it I've been starting work much earlier on a split shift. Consequently my weekend lie in's are about 6am, I just wake up. I quite like it but obviously it's not the time to fire up a pair of big floor standers & duel subs. So I've been listening to music through a pair of wireless Sony wh1000-3 in the morning. Sorry if I'm upsetting any fans but they sound absolutely awful. So I thought the easiest thing in the world would be to get a little dac/headphone amp combo & a good pair of cans.
How hard could that be? Well after a month of investigating I feel more lost than when I started. The trade offs between headphones seem to be so much more pronounced than speakers. On one hand I'm caught between going all in for a high end set up with one set of headphones (topping ad90/d90 Hifiman Arya, Sennheiser 820/ HDV20, Stax L700 & energiser etc) or go for middle of the road electronics & 2/3 pairs of totally different headphones. I'm mainly a vinyl guy but I'm going to keep this as a dedicated headphone set up using tidal to start with.
Anyway hopefully within not so long shops will be more welcoming for demos & then the fun will really start.
 
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NA Blur

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Welcome to Head-Fi!

A few questions:
1.) Does your new setup need to have a sealed headphone or will the sound leakage both bother anyone?
2.) What is you budget?
3.) What music to mostly listen to?
4.) What sound signature do you prefer? Bass heavy, bass balanced, mids forward, easy treble, or treble emphasized?

Without knowing any of these questions my suggestion becomes:
Amp: Schiit Heresy - $99
DAC: Topping E30 - $130
Headphone1: HiFiMAN HE-400i 2020 ( $170 )
Headphone2: Philips Fidelio X2HR/27 ( $160 )

You get an extremely competent system with plenty of power for your headphones. The amp and DAC sound and measure very well so you won't have a weak link in your audio chain. The 2 headphones afford you the ability to change from something more neutral like the 400i to something more bass fun like the X2HR/27. Both of these headphones are open so be aware of that if sound leakage is an issue.

Just remember that price is not always linear with performance.
 
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TWagstaff

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Your WH1000-3s aren't terrible headphones at all, you might find that buying similarly performing headphones might not net you much of an improvement for your money.

In your position, I would probably aim a little higher and start off with something that hits "exceptional" performance early on and see where you want to go from there. @NA Blur has offered some good suggestions, but I would recommend taking the leap and buying a pair of HiFiMAN Sundaras ($350). They're excellent headphones that please most every listener and objectively perform fantastically for their price. I think it's entirely credible that you might just buy a pair and be happy.

If you did want to go down the "many cheap headphones" route, there are even cheaper options which could get you started. AKG K612s are excellent headphones you could start off with for sometimes as little as $80. Even better might be a pair of KSC75s which go for ~$20. Neither beat something like a pair of Sundaras in any metric, but both can be fun to play with in their own right.

It's easy to get lost and confused in the hifi world especially with headphones, but there's a lot of really good advice out there and I'm sure you'll get where you want to be :)
 
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richard75

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Welcome to Head-Fi!

A few questions:
1.) Does your new setup need to have a sealed headphone or will the sound leakage both bother anyone?
2.) What is you budget?
3.) What music to mostly listen to?
4.) What sound signature do you prefer? Bass heavy, bass balanced, mids forward, easy treble, or treble emphasized?

Without knowing any of these questions my suggestion becomes:
Amp: Schiit Heresy - $99
DAC: Topping E30 - $130
Headphone1: HiFiMAN HE-400i 2020 ( $170 )
Headphone2: Philips Fidelio X2HR/27 ( $160 )

You get an extremely competent system with plenty of power for your headphones. The amp and DAC sound and measure very well so you won't have a weak link in your audio chain. The 2 headphones afford you the ability to change from something more neutral like the 400i to something more bass fun like the X2HR/27. Both of these headphones are open so be aware of that if sound leakage is an issue.

Just remember that price is not always linear with performance.
Hi & thanks for the reply.
I went to demo some headphones yesterday & I just don't think they're for me.
Your WH1000-3s aren't terrible headphones at all, you might find that buying similarly performing headphones might not net you much of an improvement for your money.

In your position, I would probably aim a little higher and start off with something that hits "exceptional" performance early on and see where you want to go from there. @NA Blur has offered some good suggestions, but I would recommend taking the leap and buying a pair of HiFiMAN Sundaras ($350). They're excellent headphones that please most every listener and objectively perform fantastically for their price. I think it's entirely credible that you might just buy a pair and be happy.

If you did want to go down the "many cheap headphones" route, there are even cheaper options which could get you started. AKG K612s are excellent headphones you could start off with for sometimes as little as $80. Even better might be a pair of KSC75s which go for ~$20. Neither beat something like a pair of Sundaras in any metric, but both can be fun to play with in their own right.

It's easy to get lost and confused in the hifi world especially with headphones, but there's a lot of really good advice out there and I'm sure you'll get where you want to be :)
I think headphones just aren't for me! I demoed a good selection yesterday & I think my expectations of being blown away set a high bar. I tried a pair of hifiman Arya, Heddphone r2, Focal Clear & Audeze lcd-X. First with a Bursten Audio dac/amp, then a Moon dac/amp, which was over £4000🙈. I tried a pair of Stax L700s with the energiser too. To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. I wouldn't have paid a thousand for any of those combinations. The staff knew their stuff & were very helpful but I think I'll go the route of some decent IEMs & be much happier upgrading my line stage in my 2 channel set up.
 
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TWagstaff

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Hi & thanks for the reply.
I went to demo some headphones yesterday & I just don't think they're for me.


I think headphones just aren't for me! I demoed a good selection yesterday & I think my expectations of being blown away set a high bar. I tried a pair of hifiman Arya, Heddphone r2, Focal Clear & Audeze lcd-X. First with a Bursten Audio dac/amp, then a Moon dac/amp, which was over £4000🙈. I tried a pair of Stax L700s with the energiser too. To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. I wouldn't have paid a thousand for any of those combinations. The staff knew their stuff & were very helpful but I think I'll go the route of some decent IEMs & be much happier upgrading my line stage in my 2 channel set up.
That's totally understandable, I'm more of a speaker man myself - but headphones are just so damn convenient!

That being said, beware of the tricky value for money equation here. Headphones can be much more expensive than they're worth! You could achieve better performance than any of those 4k setups with under 1k IMO. If you're going to be using long term, IEMs can be uncomfortable and cause hearing damage. I would seriously consider investing in a bang-for-buck headphone setup and just selling it on if it doesn't meet your expectations. Another thing to try would be closed-backs instead of open-backs - the isolation can make a difference.

Anyway there are some really good IEMs out there so if you do decide to give up on the headphones I'm sure you'll find something that works for you :)
 
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PaganDL

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Hi & thanks for the reply.
I went to demo some headphones yesterday & I just don't think they're for me.


I think headphones just aren't for me! I demoed a good selection yesterday & I think my expectations of being blown away set a high bar. I tried a pair of hifiman Arya, Heddphone r2, Focal Clear & Audeze lcd-X. First with a Bursten Audio dac/amp, then a Moon dac/amp, which was over £4000🙈. I tried a pair of Stax L700s with the energiser too. To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. I wouldn't have paid a thousand for any of those combinations. The staff knew their stuff & were very helpful but I think I'll go the route of some decent IEMs & be much happier upgrading my line stage in my 2 channel set up.

Hi @richard75,

As @TWagstaff stated & you have found yourself, Head gear (both headphones & IEMs) can be a potential minefield when there is so much choice & options.
I will add a sidenote, IEMs are only uncomfortable if the proper fit & seal isn't achieved & cause hearing damage when the music is too loud.
To avoid hearing damage with IEMs, I suggest no more than 20 decibels or less if you're listening for any length of time though as low as possible is recommended.
For comfort, choosing the correct ear tips, be it foam, silicone or combination thereof does require experimentation...the best way is to test whether IEMs ear tips are comfortable or not is to sit with said IEMs & selected tips with no music or sound playing for at least a minute though 5 to 10 minutes is better.
If ear tips are still comfortable after that time, eg no hot spots or feeling loose, then these likely work.
One last thing on ear tips & IEMs, given how everyone's ears are different, you may need a different size ear tip in one ear compared to the other, don't be afraid to experiment.

Now back to your original question, personally & subjectively, I would suggest giving headphones another shot though I would suggest trying more mid range or lower tier headphones next time when demos are more a thing given the ongoing pandemic makes demos not the best experience for those willing to demo.

I will also preface I tend to lean more towards speakers than head gear though I do enjoy both & I definitely have more head gear than I do speakers but I have heard a lot of speakers & head gear, at many different price points, I also tend to lean towards pro audio gear.

I've been in this hobby for a long time & honestly I have issues with the headphones & head amps you mentioned for various reasons as personally & subjectively, they don't sound all that great to me either in combination or with other similar tier gear, as there are certainly lower priced options, especially in the UK which have fair better cost/sonics value.
Saying that, I do like the Arya & LCD X but would I own either, definitely no but that's just me as well as where I am, the exchange rate makes both ridiculous to consider to own.

Also, one important thing to note is source quality & gear synergy matters a lot, so as long as your source material is well recorded, regardless of format & at least CD quality, you should be good to go.

Anyway, I would suggest looking at the following head gear in no particular order :

Neumann NDH 20
Acoustic Research AR 1
Fostex TH 610

Cowon Plenue X30
CustomArt Fibae Black (Universal)
Audio Technica E70
iBasso IT 04
iBasso IT 01s
iBasso IT 01


There are a few others especially in headphones which are worth looking at but more than likely aren't available any more in the UK but you're welcome to look at my profile gear list to see if there are any you may want to track down.

In no particular order, these affordable head amps may interest you as well :

Presonus HP 4
Loxjie P 20
SMSL SP 200


Another head amp & integrated amp worth mentioning, especially if you want to upgrade your line stage for 2 channel & use headphones is the PrimaLuna Evo 100 (Non DAC), that's on my list to get once budget permits.

Hope this is all useful & makes sense, feel free to ask more if & when you need.

Hope you have a great day !
 
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