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I'd prefer closed due to noise isolation, and leakage.
The HD800 is certainly light enough but doesn't fold down very compactly. As for adequate amplification my only experience is in the home with non-portable amps.
rlow makes an excellent point, for on the road you might need more isolation than the HD800 can provide. The 820 is Sennheiser's closed back design which should provide better isolation, but I've not heard it. It may be worth a listen but is the more expensive option. There are plenty of close backed designs out there to audition, but my phones are all open backed.
We also might be getting a little out of my price range too. I'm not opposed to dropping some money but I'd like to keep it under 1000. The 820's, being new, aren't likely to have a price drop anytime soon and I'm unlikely to find them cheaper second hand.
You'll still have plenty of options at that level and below. I would just check out the various "Headphones (Full-Size)" for closed back designs and see what you find. Several top manufacturers have recognized the need for closed back phones in certain environmental conditions and seem to taking a serious shot at this market.
Is it generally the consensus of those here that cans are the best bang/buck when it comes to opera?
I'm not sure there's any consensus when it comes to all things "audio". When you say cans do you headphones versus IEM's (which I don't use and couldn't give a valid comment on, when it comes to the current (or past) high end models). Best bank for the buck over speakers? Depends, the big plus with headphones (and IEM's) is they take room interaction effects out of the listening equation.
Yeah, I was meaning cans vs iems. I've usually prefered iem's, like my W4's, for noise isolation and convenience of being so small.
I can't provide any input, the cheap iem's I've heard just don't compare to even cheap headphones I've tried. But for portability iem's are tough to beat.
I don't know much about non-2ch stuff but I wonder... Would a Fulla2 with a battery pack meet the need for an amp-hungry headphone whilst still being reasonably portable?
The HD800 do need an amplifier or else they will sound thin and overly bright.
My mobile rig is able to drive the HD800 fairly well. AK240 - Oppo HA-2.
I'm sure there are less-expensive mobile options out there...
Ditto, love my Oppo HA-2SE.
Try Etymotic ER-4XR for excellent midrange, excellent noise isolation, travel convenience and the best seat in the house.
To me it sounds very much opera due to how most opera recordings are done.
HD800 is really not happy as a portable headphone, and as much as it is king for classical and opera, will frustrate you if you mean to listen to it at cafes, on the road, on the subway, on airplanes, and so on. Furthermore, it desperately wants solid amplification. I suspect it would be minimally acceptable with the Chord Mojo, but would sing much more if you fed it Modi Multibit and Vali (1 or 2).
The ridiculous Woo Audio portable tube amp is $700 more than HD800 itself—new!—and for that price, you would be much happier with the stunningly good KSE1500. I have not done an a/b with HD800, but they were clearly superior to my k3003i in terms of detail and soundstage, though I suspect the low end didn't slam as hard, as is expected with electrostatic diaphragms. I have enjoyed k3003i a great deal. Fear not about the knockoffs — I a/b'd mine, and concluded that they were indeed fraudulent, but the sound quality difference was so subtle that it was eclipsed by, for instance, the differences resulting from changing the silicone tips.
The new MySphere may be worth considering, as it is built to be extremely easily driven (by an iPhone, if necessary, though it will sound better as you feed it better source material), though it lacks isolation and is quite expensive.
Finally, N90Q is a very nice package deal, as it has DSP, DAC, and amp all in one package. This has the unpleasant side effect of (like the HomePod) leaving it open to quick obsolescence as DSP, DAC, and I/O technology advances, but is nevertheless the highest-end noise-cancelling headphone out there—perfect for planes and trains and road trips when you are not driving.
Coda: For true bang-for-buck, you're going to want the trusty HD600. Soundstage is not notable, but the tonal quality of the voices especially is just spot on. You can get it new for like $250 or used for under $200. Fulla 1 or 2 would drive it acceptably, though it will scale with whatever source you put in front of it.
RE: portable head amp. I've been very happy with the V-Moda Vamp Versa.
I thought so to until I got InEar ProPhile 8s... I know, a very different price range. My travel kit are those with a Questyle QP1R DAP. Even though the QP1R is delta-sigma, its Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip and current mode amplification reduce the digititis that has made me prefer R2R DACs for my 3 stationary systems (Yggy, Holo Spring, Soekris dac1541). I listen mostly to classical and jazz, with some vocals in both, but not much opera. Right now listening to a new vocal purchase that I'm really enjoying: