What's new after 20 years?
Feb 12, 2024 at 12:58 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 18

Lou Erickson

100+ Head-Fier
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I first came around here more than 20 years ago, got some great advice and had some fun chatter. It's still here, and that's good, because I need new headphones.

Lately I have had a couple of my tried-and-true phones wear out - usually physically, but sometimes just losing a channel after a couple of decades of steady use. It's time to buy new headphones.

The DT990's I've worn out were great and I loved them, particularly the combination of sound and comfort. They're what I'm looking for in replacements, except with a microphone if possible.

I listen to music and do some light gaming and video calls with these. Music is classic rock, new wave, and generally a mass of 70's through 90's Dad Rock.

What's new, or sohuld I just replace my DT990's? I see all kinds of different names here than the old standbys from back in the day.

I'm currently running without an amp, but have a couple kicking around if one is needed, or would consider new if they pair really well.

The new Stax SRX mentioned in another thread is intriguing, too.

Budget is flexible $300-$500, higher with an amp. The budget would stretch to reach that new Stax.

What suggestions should I be looking at?

Thanks for any input, I'm a little amazed it's all so different.
 
Feb 12, 2024 at 2:28 AM Post #2 of 18
You'll really like the Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X if you liked your DT990, they improved them and don't require an amplifier, an Apple USB to 3.5mm adapter is $9 and sounds great with plenty of power for those. For IEMs the 7hz Salnotes Zero:2 will blow your mind for $24, technology has come so far on them. I've got the DT990 black edition and DT880 black ones also, and the DT900 Pro X is just a better headphone. The new DT770 Pro X is coming out soon, $200 direct from Beyerdynamic and I'm really looking forward to seeing how they did improving the classic closed back. The DT700 Pro X was a miss for me, too mellow, the DT900 is the fun one.
 
Feb 13, 2024 at 12:25 PM Post #3 of 18
Thanks for the hint on the DT900 Pro X, I may give it a try.

I realized I'm using a Drop HD6XX on this PC, and it's a fine headphone. Not as comfy as the Beyers, which I adored because I could wear them for hours and not have my glasses bother me. Giant fuzzy earpads.

I've got a (now vintage, how odd) pair of Etymotic 4p's that work beautifully for IEMs. $24 is an amazing price for the Salnotes, though, especially if they sound good!

Has anyone used the Antlion mic to turn these audio-quality headphones into headsets? Duh, that's what Search is for; the answer is "Yes.".
 
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Feb 13, 2024 at 4:05 PM Post #4 of 18
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Feb 23, 2024 at 1:10 AM Post #5 of 18
I took the advice and went for a pair of the Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X. They arrived today and are on my head now. The sound is quite nice so far, haven't done any really deep listening yet, but a positive first experience with them. Not sure they're quite as comfy as the DT990's were; the earpads are a little stiffer and there seems to be a bit more clamping going on. Not enough that I'm in pain or unhappy, but more than I recall from the DT990's. They were a fuzzy (slightly hot) feather on my head.

The HD6XX has lost a channel - doh! - leaving yet another place in the house without headphones. Pondering what to do next about that; may try the ATH-R70x. I have a pair of ATH M50x's here that I don't like the fit on very well, but they're very different.

Was also thinking of replacing the AKG K701's to use for mostly gaming, with their good clarity and astonishing soundstage.

Apparently a set of headphones lasts me 20 years, and then I've worn them out.
 
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Feb 23, 2024 at 1:23 AM Post #6 of 18
I took the advice and went for a pair of the Beyerdynamic DT900 Pro X. They arrived today and are on my head now. The sound is quite nice so far, haven't done any really deep listening yet, but a positive first experience with them. Not sure they're quite as comfy as the DT990's were; the earpads are a little stiffer and there seems to be a bit more clamping going on. Not enough that I'm in pain or unhappy, but more than I recall from the DT990's. They were a fuzzy (slightly hot) feather on my head.

I'm doing a little more listening to music - the Deluxe edition of the 50th Anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's, which is a mix I really enjoy. These do sound lovely and my PC's headphone out port is driving them just fine. As per usual, I'm listening quietly and being quite happy with these.

Only on my old Stax do I tend to listen really loud. Pity my pair are in such an awkward place to use too often. May have to reconsider that as soon as a little piece of construction here at the house is done and I can see if I can put them in a better place. Wonder how they'd be for gaming? :)

I also admit that while my Valve Index's headphones were busted I nearly took a shot of wearing that with a K1K just to try and break the nerd barriers, but never bothered. Maybe next time I have them out; they're in the same awkward place, hooked to the same vintage Marantz as the Stax.

The HD6XX has lost a channel - doh! - leaving yet another place in the house without headphones. Pondering what to do next about that; may try the ATH-R70x. I have a pair of ATH M50x's here that I don't like the fit on very well, but they're very different.

Was also thinking of replacing the AKG K701's to use for mostly gaming, with their good clarity and astonishing soundstage.
I realize this didn't take long, but I've pulled the trigger on the AKG 701's and the ATH-R70x's. Enough dithering, let's have headphones. They'll be here Saturday.
 
Feb 24, 2024 at 11:45 PM Post #7 of 18
The ATH-R70x's have arrived and immediately won the comfort battle over the DT900 Pro X. Both sound great, but the DT900 Pro X is a little clampy for me. The DT900 Pro X's may get returned.

The ATH-R70x's may want an amp as I'm having to turn the volumes up higher to get the sound I want out of them, but they sound very nice indeed so far. Very open. Still doing listening with them.

The AKG K701's have also arrived, but I haven't gottem them on my head yet.
 
Feb 25, 2024 at 10:51 AM Post #8 of 18
The ATH-R70x's have arrived and immediately won the comfort battle over the DT900 Pro X. Both sound great, but the DT900 Pro X is a little clampy for me. The DT900 Pro X's may get returned.

The ATH-R70x's may want an amp as I'm having to turn the volumes up higher to get the sound I want out of them, but they sound very nice indeed so far. Very open. Still doing listening with them.

The AKG K701's have also arrived, but I haven't gottem them on my head yet.
The ATH-R70X are high impedance -- 470 ohms compared to the Beyer at 48 ohms -- and will benefit from an amp. But it doesn't have to break the bank. I use the VE Megatron, just $56 shipped to the USA. It's bare-bones: no battery (runs on USB power), no volume control (volume controlled from your source). Size of a cigarette pack. But it provides lots of power.

For headphone geek amusement, it will also power headphones out of all three jacks -- 2.5mm balanced, 3.5mm and 4.5mm balanced -- at the same time.

https://www.veclan.com/engappliance_sel_one?eng_ApplianceVo.eac_id=63 Comes with free earbuds that didn't do much for me.

You could also look in the $100 range at the Schiit Magni 3 or the JDS Labs Atom amps. For me, the comfort and amazing sound of ATH-R70X are worth having the amp. There are portable amp dongles too, but I'd guess you're using the ATH-R70X for listening at home.

"It's getting better all the time..."
 
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Feb 25, 2024 at 2:29 PM Post #9 of 18
The ATH-R70X are high impedance -- 470 ohms compared to the Beyer at 48 ohms -- and will benefit from an amp. But it doesn't have to break the bank. I use the VE Megatron, just $56 shipped to the USA. It's bare-bones: no battery (runs on USB power), no volume control (volume controlled from your source). Size of a cigarette pack. But it provides lots of power.

I'm sure the K701s are the same way. Luckily, I have an amp sitting around gathering dust! A Headroom Desktop Millet Hybrid I've had since forever and works beautifully once I find all the bits. Being smarter than I thought I was, they're all in the same box. Something is making a popping sound so the amp may not be at 100% health. Or the source may be popping; will need to dig in a little and see what I can see.

You could also look in the $100 range at the Schiit Magni 3 or the JDS Labs Atom amps. For me, the comfort and amazing sound of ATH-R70X are worth having the amp. There are portable amp dongles too, but I'd guess you're using the ATH-R70X for listening at home.

"It's getting better all the time..."

I may look at something smaller and less involved for the other listening station. The Schiit was definitely on my list.
 
Feb 25, 2024 at 4:55 PM Post #10 of 18
The Sennheisers and the AKGs would also benefit from an amp, yes.

I owned the Schiit Magni 3+, though not the latest iteration, and it sounded fine. But I didn't really need it after I got the Megatron. Be aware that it comes with an outboard AC adapter that's nearly as large, and maybe a little bit heavier, than the elegant little amp enclosure -- and of course you need a wall outlet. Megatron has a much tinier footprint and is portable (though not as portable as a smaller dongle).

The numbers guys at ASR liked the JDS Labs Atom just as much as the Schiit; it also has an external AC adapter.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds-atom-amp-review-headphone-amplifier.24680/
 
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Feb 25, 2024 at 11:16 PM Post #11 of 18
Currently letting the ATH R70X shine with some Vivaldi on the tube amp. That's a sweet combination so far.

I went ahead and ordered a Modi DAC to complement the Headroom, and a Mangi amp+internal dac for the other listening station/gaming machine.

I admit, the Lyr and Valhalla both caught my eye but I'm trying to keep it simple for now. And resisting some more Beyers...
 
Feb 26, 2024 at 5:40 PM Post #12 of 18
Oh, the ATH R70X can be driven balaced with a simple cable change. That's interesting! All I have that's balanced is a vintage Stax set; if it sounds half as tight as the Stax do I can see it being easily worth the upgrade. More amps to look at!
 
Feb 27, 2024 at 10:14 AM Post #13 of 18
The single biggest change is not really in headphones, per se, but in the overwhelming move to digital audio in terms of compressed (mp3) and uncompressed (FLAC) digital audio files. Meaning, a DAC and PC, along with the mobile equivalent smartphone, have become the audio source standard for any headphone string. Yes, there are reactionaries who protest with new emphasis on turntables, tape, and other traditional analog sources, but the once supreme CD is fading quickly in favor of totally digital files. Even the once revolutionary CD standard of 16-bit, 44.1kHz sampling is now de rigueur and sub-standard in the audiophile culture.

P.S. With headphones, I'd have to say that the re-emergence of planar headphones in post-2000 audio is probably the greatest headphone-specific change.
 
Feb 27, 2024 at 10:20 AM Post #14 of 18
Oh, the ATH R70X can be driven balaced with a simple cable change.
Just make sure you get a cable specifically made for ATH-R70X. They are available on Amazon and Aliexpress, but the connectors are nonstandard.

I got this one from Lunashops: https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256804183900981.html Mixed review: it's fabric-covered and super-flexible but (like the OEM cable) slightly microphonic. The connectors are slightly longer than the OEM cable, which means they can scrape on my shoulder if I'm wearing multi layers on a colder day. Your neck may vary ...

Might be placebo effect, but I did think it sounded better from the 4.4 output of my Megatron than the 3.5mm output.
 
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Feb 27, 2024 at 11:07 AM Post #15 of 18
The single biggest change is not really in headphones, per se, but in the overwhelming move to digital audio in terms of compressed (mp3) and uncompressed (FLAC) digital audio files. Meaning, a DAC and PC, along with the mobile equivalent smartphone, have become the audio source standard for any headphone string. Yes, there are reactionaries who protest with new emphasis on turntables, tape, and other traditional analog sources, but the once supreme CD is fading quickly in favor of totally digital files. Even the once revolutionary CD standard of 16-bit, 44.1kHz sampling is now de rigueur and sub-standard in the audiophile culture.

This was already happening, and you could see that it was coming.

I carried a huge clunky DAP with a hard drive in it, and struggled to convert my music collection from one digital format to another. I had already gone digital, and converted all my CDs to Ogg Vorbis. I wish I'd have converted to FLAC at that point, but couldn't justify the additional storage required. Today, of course, that's a trivial amount of extra space, and my entire music collection fits easily on my cell phone.

One of these days I'll re-rip them all to FLAC. I'm one of those guys who's kept all his CDs. I think the sale and distribution of music has changed more, with streaming services and monthly fees becoming more normal and accepted instead of having a big collection to curate and haul around. I'm not sure how I feel about that, myself, but it's definitely a thing. I enjoy the curation of the collection, the sorting, filtering, tagging, etc., so that doesn't seem like a burden or a waste of time to me. It's just another excuse to go through the collection and play stuff I haven't heard in a while.

P.S. With headphones, I'd have to say that the re-emergence of planar headphones in post-2000 audio is probably the greatest headphone-specific change.

I've got a pair of the Drop + HIFIMAN HE5XX Planar Magnetic phones coming, and I'm quite interested in trying them. I'm a sucker for different technlogoies, and hope they'll sound more like the electrostatics than ordinary dynamic headphones.

Just make sure you get a cable specifically made for ATH-R70X. They are available on Amazon and Aliexpress, but the connectors are nonstandard.

I got this one from Lunashops: https://www.aliexpress.us/item/3256804183900981.html Mixed review: it's fabric-covered and super-flexible but (like the OEM cable) slightly microphonic. The connectors are slightly longer than the OEM cable, which means they can scrape on my shoulder if I'm wearing multi layers on a colder day. Your neck may vary ...
I've got a set ordered from someone else, specific to the ATH-R70X. They'll be my frist balanced-drive headphones, and I'll need an amp that'll support that. I've also discovered that the K701s can be recabled pretty easily and may try that as well. A whole new rabbit's hole to go down! :)

Might be placebo effect, but I did think it sounded better from the 4.4 output of my Megatron than the 3.5mm output.

I hope it isn't; there's a concrete reason why balanced drive should change the sound and give you different, usually better sound. I think that the balanced drive is a notable part of why electrostatics sound so good - not only is the film highly accurate, but it's being tightly controlled in a balanced drive. Some of that should apply to the drivers in dynamic headphones. I'm looking forward to trying it, and am gleefully admiring all the shiny bits that it will take to make it work.

It's sure less snake-oily than a bunch of other stuff people push as highly meaningful around here, so I'm going to hope it really does make a clear difference. Only way I know to find out is to try!
 

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