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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Headphones, which one do you recommend and why?


I can spend up to $1,500 but prefer to stay around $500. Is the extra cash Really worth it?

Do I need a headphone amp? If so why?



I am look at the Grado RS-1i and the Sennheiser HD650.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by eljr /forum/post/18217191


Headphones, which one do you recommend and why?


I can spend up to $1,500 but prefer to stay around $500. Is the extra cash Really worth it?

Do I need a headphone amp? If so why?



I am look at the Grado RS-1i and the Sennheiser HD650.

Are you interested in full size or in-ear? In any event, I would strongly recommend Shure 530SE even if budget was no concern. You can get it under $500 on the street. The reasons are:


Shure 530SE offers a flat frequency response with a slight bump in the low-end and slight roll-off at the high-end. In my opinion, this set up is ideal for a headphone because the bump in the bass compensates the lack of an actual subwoofer where you can feel the vibrations in your chest. Roll-off in the treble is also desirable since speakers are actually in your ears and a bright treble can be bothersome for such a set up.


I considered $1,000 + custom ultimate ears while I was shopping until I saw their frequency response. I have not seen any headphone that offers as flat a response as Shure and I am talking about budget no-concern headphones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for your input.


I am interested in full size unless a bud sounds better.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by eljr /forum/post/18217405


Thank you for your input.


I am interested in full size unless a bud sounds better.

The Shure ear canal phones are indeed very good. I use a previous generation Shure E4C for travel and they are excellent. They can easily be driven by an iPod and they are very lightweight. A bonus is that they give you some isolation from any background noise and there's virtually no "leakage" to annoy those around you. But...some people don't like inserting things into their ear canal and it's critical to get a good seal with these for proper frequency response. Also, they tend to place the image "in your head" even more so than good cans.


Another excellent option for about $100 step up in street price is the Sennheiser HD650's. An excellent open back "can" design. These will give you a little more open sound that's less "in your head". But they will also leak sound into the room for others to hear.


If you really would consider $1,500, I urge you to take a look at the Stax SRS404 (about $600) and the Stax SRM-323II energizer (about $900). These are electrostatic open back headphones and so they need a transformer to create the higher voltage needed to drive them. I've owned Stax headphones for 20 years and once you've experienced electrostatic cans it's hard to go back to anything else. On the other hand, the Shures make an excellent travel headphone for iPods and airplanes.
 

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Tried the Sure buds. Hated them. I use bottom of the line Grado's for analytical listening. Ultra clean and detailed. As you move up the line they get better, but not by much. Loved to old Stax, but have not heard any in years. If yo have the bucks, seek some out for a listen. AKG's are a little more mellow than Grado's. Sometimes, I still go back to my antique Yamaha YH-1's as they are so smooth. I have my own version of a Grado head amp. Vastly better than the phones output from an amp or preamp.

There are forums specific to cans. You may get more insight there.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnefied /forum/post/18218132


If you really would consider $1,500, I urge you to take a look at the Stax SRS404 (about $600) and the Stax SRM-323II energizer (about $900). These are electrostatic open back headphones and so they need a transformer to create the higher voltage needed to drive them. I've owned Stax headphones for 20 years and once you've experienced electrostatic cans it's hard to go back to anything else.

Agreed. I've been using STAX since 85 and have Lambda Pro and 404. Normally I use a custom tube amp for them, but I took it apart and used the transformers for something else (new schematic and tx's soon) and am using the old SRM1 in the mean time. Google of check the headphone forums for a headamp recommendation.


The Sennheiser HD800 are supposed to be excellent, but at $1400 alone, and likely needing a good headamp for best performance will exceed your budget.
 

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In addition to the advice here, I recommend you also check out some of the discussions at headfi.org, a forum dedicated entirely to headphone systems.


If you're spending that much on headphones yes I would recommend a headphone amp. The headphone outputs on a lot of average AVRs are at best an afterthought, and some can sound quite horrid. My previous Marantz receiver's headphone output was quite bad compared just to my ipod.


I am not a headphone person, but I have a pair of Sennheiser 600s, which are very nice. However, I prefer Grado headphones. However, they are uncomfortable for me to wear because I wear glasses and grados smash my ear into my glasses arms, and the sennheisers go all the way around.


Obviously either pair are open-air, so bad choice for being out and about in public, mainly for home use only, or other quiet areas.


I have no experience with high-end ear buds though, something you also may want to consider.
 

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Has anyone had experience with the new B&W P5 headphones? They are within the OP's desired budget, but I don't know if they are more about being nice cans to use with the iPod or real audiophile-quality headphones.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by eljr /forum/post/18217191


Headphones, which one do you recommend and why?


I can spend up to $1,500 but prefer to stay around $500. Is the extra cash Really worth it?

Do I need a headphone amp? If so why?



I am look at the Grado RS-1i and the Sennheiser HD650.

It all depends on what you are looking for as far as the sonic's go.


Because I use my headphones and headphone amp for both HD movie audio and CD/SACD/DSD I want a very comfortable headphones and no ear fatigue. The out-of-head soundstage is very important to me along with a neutral sound, great range, great imaging, very detailed, very fast with good bass impact ect. What I want is the best of both worlds, sound stage and impact of speakers and the detail of great headphones.


So if this is what you are looking for get a pair of Sennheiser HD 800s and a Woo WA6SE headphone amp of course with the right combo of tubes.

A very nice source for CD,SACD,D-DVD, Blu Ray movies using just the dedicated 2-channel analog outputs, then look at the oppo BD-83SE/NE. This player will also stream, play most formats like MP3 ect. So there is no need for a external DAC or pre-amp.

A set-up like this is very pure and direct.


ss
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisWiggles /forum/post/18219577


If you're spending that much on headphones yes I would recommend a headphone amp. The headphone outputs on a lot of average AVRs are at best an afterthought, and some can sound quite horrid. My previous Marantz receiver's headphone output was quite bad compared just to my ipod.

One point of clarification in case the OP isn't familiar with Stax electrostats. The headphone outputs of most consumer receivers and pre-amps are usually an afterthought on a features checklist for the manufacturer. Not a lot of people do a great deal of listening through headphones and most headphones don't require a great deal of current or voltage to excite the air inside your ears. So, the manufacturer's focus and design dollars are better spent elsewhere because a cheap headphone driver stage seldom comes back to bite them in the butt. That almost universal practice drives headphone aficionados toward a dedicated headphone amp. Not sure this is necessary as like I said, conventional headphones are pretty easy to drive.


Electrostats are another story. Instead of a conventional motor assembly with a large magnet / voice coil / and a small non-conductive diaphragm that needs current to move the voice coil, an electrostat has stators / a large conductive diaphragm suspended between the stators / and needs high voltage to charge the stators. That's why all Stax require a box like the SRM-323II. The box steps up voltage to the ~400V that the stators require to charge up and make the diaphragm vibrate. This has an added benefit. The SRM-323II energizer box connects to the amplifier section of your receiver or power amp through speaker wire. A second set of terminals are then used to carry the signal from the energizer to your main speakers through another set of speaker wires. So your headphones are being driven from the power supply of your main amplifier which should be perfectly adequate without any need for a separate headphone amp. I've been running my Stax headphones off an SRD7-SB energizer fed by a Nakamichi PA7 amp for ~20 years. Works great.


With all that said, the Stax are unique and very nice sounding. I love em. But they remain expensive. Are they worth an additional $1,000 over something like the Sennheiser HD650's? I dunno, maybe not for most people. Only you can answer that question for yourself. I think the dynamic driver headphone guys have closed the performance gap significantly over the past 20 years and still have a huge price advantage over electrostats where I believe Stax remains alone in the market.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by hd_newbie /forum/post/18217251


I considered $1,000 + custom ultimate ears while I was shopping until I saw their frequency response. I have not seen any headphone that offers as flat a response as Shure and I am talking about budget no-concern headphones.

Flat frequency response is not ideal for headphones, unless your running them through a dsp that alters the response to your hearing.


When listening to speakers, and general environment noise, your head and ear shape alters the frequency response and channel crosstalk in a unique way (look up HRTF). However when wearing headphones, the shape of your head no longer effects the sound, and your ear shape plays less of a roll as the drivers are generally pointing directly into the ear (or in the case of in-ears directly at the ear drum).


So a flat frequency headphone will sound very different to the "real" sound or a flat frequency speaker system. And since everyone is different this is the #1 reason why i recommend you try before you buy, and don't overly rely on reviews or other peoples opinions.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Magnefied /forum/post/18221409


The headphone outputs of most consumer receivers and pre-amps are usually an afterthought on a features checklist for the manufacturer. Not a lot of people do a great deal of listening through headphones and most headphones don't require a great deal of current or voltage to excite the air inside your ears. So, the manufacturer's focus and design dollars are better spent elsewhere because a cheap headphone driver stage seldom comes back to bite them in the butt. That almost universal practice drives headphone aficionados toward a dedicated headphone amp. Not sure this is necessary as like I said, conventional headphones are pretty easy to drive.

Okay, so what sort of disadvantages might the consumer receiver suffer due to the cursory QC on the headphone jack?

If my Onkyo tx8555 drives my Sony MDR-v600 cans waaaaaay better than the little amps on my iPod/personal CD player, is there any reason to suspect that a headphone amp would provide an improvement over the receiver?

I mean, it's providing adequate power, right? What else is there?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Id /forum/post/18222671


Okay, so what sort of disadvantages might the consumer receiver suffer due to the cursory QC on the headphone jack?

If my Onkyo tx8555 drives my Sony MDR-v600 cans waaaaaay better than the little amps on my iPod/personal CD player, is there any reason to suspect that a headphone amp would provide an improvement over the receiver?

I mean, it's providing adequate power, right? What else is there?

Nah, I agree. Dynamic headphones don't generally have exotic current/voltage needs and they only need to excite a tiny volume of air inside the earcups. That's why receiver manufacturers don't spend a lot of money on headphone outputs. I personally would never spend the money on a separate headphone amp. I don't think the improvement could justify even $500 for a separate amp. but some people think it does make a difference.


The one exception as noted is an electrostatic headphone which requires high voltage / low current to charge the stators. There is no way to get that without some sort of step up transformer that no manufacturer in their right mind would include in a consumer receiver. That means a separate box with some electronics and switching to suck power from another voltage / current source, aka your main amp outputs. Is it worth the extra cost and wires and another box to clutter up a rack? I think so, but dynamic headphones have continued to improve for the last 20 years while Stax has been the Lone Ranger with electrostats. I'm not sure many people would buy into the value proposition. Of course there is the cool factor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
My CD player has a built in headphone amp but the only info I can find on it is,"a low impedance headphone amplifier with ¼ jack is provided" on the manufacturers site. (McIntosh MCD301)


Would this be adequate for the Stax Electrostats?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by gooki /forum/post/18222667


Flat frequency response is not ideal for headphones, unless your running them through a dsp that alters the response to your hearing.

Frankly speaking, this is the first time I hear "flat FR" is bad. How about distortion? Should we also get the most distorting headphones while we are at it?
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisWiggles /forum/post/18219577


If you're spending that much on headphones yes I would recommend a headphone amp.

It is better to qualify this statement. Not every headphone requires this. For example, Shures are extremely easy to drive.
 

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I bought my first Koss Pro4AA in 71 and just recently replaced them ... with the same model. Only 100.00 but they are, in a word, fantastic, I use them for personal home use, EFP, studio use, and even for trouble shooting amps (with custom built amp and connection points)


They seal out the outside world sounds and give a great full field response with great detail.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by eljr /forum/post/18223140


My CD player has a built in headphone amp but the only info I can find on it is,"a low impedance headphone amplifier with ¼ jack is provided" on the manufacturers site. (McIntosh MCD301)


Would this be adequate for the Stax Electrostats?

No. The 404 needs 100Vrms (280Vp-p) to drive it to 100dB, whereas conventional dynamic cans like Senns might only need a volt of two for the same SPL due to the different technology used in them. You need a specialist amplifier to drive them like the SRM-006t or a transformer at the output of a conventional power amp to get the required drive voltages.


They work the same way as electrostatic speakers , only smaller.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by A9X-308 /forum/post/18225390


No. The 404 needs 100Vrms (280Vp-p) to drive it to 100dB, whereas conventional dynamic cans like Senns might only need a volt of two for the same SPL due to the different technology used in them. You need a specialist amplifier to drive them like the SRM-006t or a transformer at the output of a conventional power amp to get the required drive voltages.


They work the same way as electrostatic speakers , only smaller.

Thanks, great explanation.


AS to my headphone quest, Stax is off my list for several reasons now.


I guess it comes down to Grado or Senn, which model would come closest to Wilson sound?
 
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