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post #1 of 10 Old 02-15-2017, 05:41 PM - Thread Starter
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Advice for First Good Headphones

My current headphone setup is not very good:
- Lossy 256kbps AAC audio files
- Built-in phone and laptop DACs
- Koss Porta Pro and Etymotic ER 6 headphones

My plan to remediate this is:
- Re-rip CDs to lossless ALAC
- AudioQuest DragonFly black DAC ($100 Amazon)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones ($80 Amazon)

I chose this combination of DAC and headphone, because it seemed to be the least expensive way to dip my toes into the audiophile waters. I'm not completely new to high fidelity audio; I listen to SACD/DVDA/HFPA disks in my dedicated home theater.

My question: Is there a better way to spend <$300 total to overhaul my headphone experience?

The headphones must have have a flat response, have a closed back, and be comfortable for extended periods. I mainly listen to metal and electronica, some of which is very complex, so I want headphones that reveal and separate detail. I don't listen to jazz, classical, anything vocal focused, or anything bass focused.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
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post #2 of 10 Old 02-16-2017, 06:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveizdum View Post
My current headphone setup is not very good:
- Lossy 256kbps AAC audio files
- Built-in phone and laptop DACs
- Koss Porta Pro and Etymotic ER 6 headphones

My plan to remediate this is:
- Re-rip CDs to lossless ALAC
- AudioQuest DragonFly black DAC ($100 Amazon)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones ($80 Amazon)

I chose this combination of DAC and headphone, because it seemed to be the least expensive way to dip my toes into the audiophile waters. I'm not completely new to high fidelity audio; I listen to SACD/DVDA/HFPA disks in my dedicated home theater.

My question: Is there a better way to spend <$300 total to overhaul my headphone experience?

The headphones must have have a flat response, have a closed back, and be comfortable for extended periods. I mainly listen to metal and electronica, some of which is very complex, so I want headphones that reveal and separate detail. I don't listen to jazz, classical, anything vocal focused, or anything bass focused.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
IMO you'll get the best bang for your buck by simply spending your entire budget on new headphones.

In your ~$300 budget I'd suggest:
Audio Technica ATH-MSR7
Sennheiser Momentum 2.0

If you can afford $100 more you could get the OPPO PM-3 which are VERY good phones.

All of these are fairly low impedance phones so you'll be good running them straight from your devices, but the next purchase you should consider is a headphone amp. That will get you a larger improvement in sound quality than an outboard DAC. Of course many amps now have DACs built in, for instance the OPPO HA-2SE or the FiiO E18.

One other note, flat response in a pair of headphones is not the same as flat response in a speaker. Since the transducers are so close to your ears, higher frequency sounds do not decay over distance the way they do from speakers. For this reason a "flat" response from a pair of headphones is actually a rolled off treble. If you do a bit of searching you can find the lab reports and examples of what a "perfect" headphone response should look like.
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Last edited by kirknelson; 02-16-2017 at 06:54 PM.
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post #3 of 10 Old 02-17-2017, 08:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kirknelson View Post
IMO you'll get the best bang for your buck by simply spending your entire budget on new headphones.

...

If you can afford $100 more you could get the OPPO PM-3 which are VERY good phones.

All of these are fairly low impedance phones so you'll be good running them straight from your devices, but the next purchase you should consider is a headphone amp.

...

One other note, flat response in a pair of headphones is not the same as flat response in a speaker. Since the transducers are so close to your ears, higher frequency sounds do not decay over distance the way they do from speakers. For this reason a "flat" response from a pair of headphones is actually a rolled off treble.
Thank you. Your post really helps. You must have read my mind, because I stopped looking at DACs and started looking at the OPPO PM-3 and other headphones in that range.

I was hesitant about the OPPO because I saw they didn't have a flat response. Reviews talk about them rolling off around 10kHz. But you answered that question also. Coming from the speaker world, I thought I knew I wanted a flat response. I hadn't thought about the differences with headphones.

I am curious about your suggestion to get a DAC/amp instead of just a DAC. With a low impedance model like the OPPO PM-3 (26 Ohm) why would I want an amp?
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post #4 of 10 Old 02-17-2017, 10:50 AM
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The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x are a bit bass heavy and muddy on the low end.

I would consider Sennheiser 598's. 600's dropped in price about a year ago, too, but might put you over budget.

Per the other comment, I would get the OPPO dac/amp before the Fiio. I have had quality control issues with 3 Fiio products and will not be buying another one. I have driven the Sennheiser HD600's with a portable amp and they sound fine, even though they have a high ohm rating.

Check this out for explanation on impedance and efficiency. They are not quite the same.
http://www.head-fi.org/a/headphone-impedance

EDIT: I would not forgo the dac for a better pair of headphones. Even a cheap dac will be much, much better than the laptop soundcard. Check out the Schiit Modi 2. Same price as the Fiio, but much better quality build. I think that with the Sennheiser 598 will have you smiling ear to ear.

EDIT 2: Sorry, the Schiit would require a separate amp, too. There is an amp/dac combo, but I have not heard it.

Last edited by JustaSheep; 02-17-2017 at 11:26 AM. Reason: Edit
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post #5 of 10 Old 02-17-2017, 09:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveizdum View Post
I am curious about your suggestion to get a DAC/amp instead of just a DAC. With a low impedance model like the OPPO PM-3 (26 Ohm) why would I want an amp?
Well for one, if you get a DAC with out an amp then how will you drive the phones? I don't know of a way to pass the signal through an outboard DAC then back into the device's amp stage.

Additionally, more amplifier power will provide greater dynamic range and better control of the transducers (often referred to as "head room"), even if additional power is not needed to reach the volume levels you listen at.
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post #6 of 10 Old 02-20-2017, 01:04 AM
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i had same problem while ago, needed an all purpose comfortable headphones. beside music i listen hours of lecture streams where pisspoor quality
and monotonic voice is a standard. headphones needed to be half/overear and must cancel background noise well.

i tried sennhauser momentum and other headphones in 2-300€ class and thought those just weren't good enough. either sound wasn't good
or they were uncomfortable to wear. so, i went to Oppo store, listened PM3's and that was is, got them and never looked back.

i can plug them to phone (OppoR7+) or laptop and sound is good enough to listen anything. i'm looking forward to get Meridian Explorer 2 next.
i listen about anything from metal to jazz. of course streams aren't best of quality and poor quality recording sounds exactly what it is, poor quality.
BUT when recording is good, sound you get is awesome (for the price).

Oppo's are worth over spending because you don't have to buy another set after that (unless you go to +1000 class...)

cheers
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post #7 of 10 Old 02-20-2017, 01:36 AM
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I like the Ultrsone Signature DJ, Really good bass and dont need a DAC & AMP and work with your phone and computer via 3.5mm connection, also comes with 1/4 inch connection cable. I like you can swap the cable, Ive had my headphones for 4 years now and they have been everywhere and well and truly been physically tested, they are very robust! The sound is great with plenty of quality bass that goes low. The other thing is when plugged into Headphone Amp the get better again. But everyone that has used them loves them. Ive lent them to friends and had to ask several times to get them back. Not sure how much they are at the moment or if they are still made but generally the RRP price can be shaved by 25 percent in store with cash. They are a closed ear design so help with external noise but when gaming and chatting I tend to like to hear my voice a little. They only others I would suggest would be the Sennhiesser HD800s and Grado PS1000 both are amazing and both have their downfalls. They both need an DAC and AMP! The grado are better mids and bass and the HD800's have incredible accuracy with the highs. The grados are not the best for long time listening whereas the HD800s have been worn for 8 hours one day and I forgot I still had them on my head. To be honest not sure what else is out there now but when I was hunting around 4 years ago the HD800's were amazing and Im sad I sold them but to be honest Ive now spent 35k just on speakers in my new theater so no need for them but the Ultrasone Sig DJ's will always be needed when Im on the road. I think after typing all this Id say make sure you get something that is comfortable.
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post #8 of 10 Old 02-20-2017, 08:23 AM
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post #9 of 10 Old 02-21-2017, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveizdum View Post
My current headphone setup is not very good:
- Lossy 256kbps AAC audio files
- Built-in phone and laptop DACs
- Koss Porta Pro and Etymotic ER 6 headphones

My plan to remediate this is:
- Re-rip CDs to lossless ALAC
- AudioQuest DragonFly black DAC ($100 Amazon)
- Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones ($80 Amazon)

I chose this combination of DAC and headphone, because it seemed to be the least expensive way to dip my toes into the audiophile waters. I'm not completely new to high fidelity audio; I listen to SACD/DVDA/HFPA disks in my dedicated home theater.

My question: Is there a better way to spend <$300 total to overhaul my headphone experience?

The headphones must have have a flat response, have a closed back, and be comfortable for extended periods. I mainly listen to metal and electronica, some of which is very complex, so I want headphones that reveal and separate detail. I don't listen to jazz, classical, anything vocal focused, or anything bass focused.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
If you want something with flat response, do not get Audio-Technica anything. They are very bass-heavy for headphones. As the others have mentioned, the Oppos are a good choice if you can swing it. They're closed back but they're the little brother of the PM-2 and PM-1 and the soundstage is very wide for closed-back headphones. If you don't want to pay that much, PM me and I can try to dig around and find some links to to T70/T90(p) Beyerdynamic headphones. Both those and Shure SH1540 would have a flatter overall response similar to a reference headphone.
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post #10 of 10 Old 02-22-2017, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by olsonc84 View Post
If you want something with flat response, do not get Audio-Technica anything. They are very bass-heavy for headphones. As the others have mentioned, the Oppos are a good choice if you can swing it. They're closed back but they're the little brother of the PM-2 and PM-1 and the soundstage is very wide for closed-back headphones. If you don't want to pay that much, PM me and I can try to dig around and find some links to to T70/T90(p) Beyerdynamic headphones. Both those and Shure SH1540 would have a flatter overall response similar to a reference headphone.
Hi, Olsonc84. I recently inherited a pair of Beyerdynamic T51P's and I'm loving them. From other reviews of beyers, I didn't think I would. Most people who compare them to the usual suspects in the $300 range don't give them much credit.

I go between Senn 600's and Grado 325's and when I put the beyers in the mix I find them more detailed than the 600's, but warmer than the Grado's. Really a good mix.

Do you have any experience with the T51P and how do they compare to the others you have listed?
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