Full Size Headphone Recommendations - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

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Full Size Headphone Recommendations

Welcome to the world of full sized headphones. These are the cans to get when you are very serious about sound quality because with bigger drivers come bigger sound.

The list starts with relatively affordable headphones in the $100 price range, but as you scroll down, you will find some headphones that cost upwards of $1,000. The price may be impressive, but remember rule #2 and #3 from the Headphone Guide article. While it’s true that more expensive headphones are usually always better technically, what you need ultimately is a headphone that plays well with your music.

The most expensive headphones are usually designed to let you hear more things, to hear things clearer than ever before, to give you the pure unaltered reproduction of the recording. While those lines would make a pretty good marketing lines, remember that the majority of music out there have awful recording quality. Unless you are listening to strictly classical music or audiophile jazz, where they tend to come with above-average recording quality, you may want to rethink your decision to buy that $1,000 headphone. Again, rule #2 and #3 from the Headphone Guide article.

The list is sorted based on price, starting from the lowest to the most expensive. The categorizing is meant to be a rough guideline, for more detailed sound impressions please refer to the reviews.

  • HiFi: Warm sound signature with full midrange and bass.
  • Rockin’: Aggressive forward and lively sound with fast pace, good for Rock and similar music.
  • Monitoring: Precise sound lets you hear the recordings in an uncolored manner.
  • Basshead: Tuned for maximum bass quantity, punch and impact.
  • Open Sound: Very spacious and open presentation, almost speaker like. Tend to be weak in bass.

Sennheiser HD202 – HiFi

The entry level full size Sennheiser starts with a very low price of $19.91. Pretty amazing and probably is the best value you can get for your money. Dark and laid back sound with plenty of mid and bass body. The HD202 doesn’t wow people with treble details, but is actually very enjoyable with many different music genres. Moderate noise isolation and comfort, but the cable feels a little too long sometimes. Lower end variant: Sennheiser HD201.

$19.91 from Amazon.com | Sennheiser HD202 Review

Grado SR60i/SR80i – Rockin’

The Grado SR60i is an updated model of the SR60, a big headphone icon among headphone enthusiasts. The SR60i represents the entry level Grado sound with its uniquely forward, engaging, and open sound that makes Grado famous. It is one of the must-to-listen headphone and one that I’d recommend to everybody. It works very well for Rock, Indie, Acoustic, Blues, Country. Due to the fully open-back design, the Grado SR60 leaks sound big time, both in and out. But the same open-back design is also what’s responsible for creating such a special listening experience. The SR80i is a higher up model that offers better bass than the entry level SR60i, with the same magical Grado sound signature. Do give either one of these headphones a try.

$79.00 from Amazon.com (SR60i) | $99.00 from Amazon.com (SR80i)

Audio Technica M-50 – Monitoring

The M-50 is a relatively affordable, semi-premium studio monitoring headphone that happens to translate well to the music listening environment. This headphone is very popular among the enthusiasts. All rounder sound, medium pace, good comfort, decent noise isolation, good bass though not too punchy nor tight. Noise isolation is very good. Lower end variant: Audio Technica M-30.

$133.78 from Amazon.com | Closed Cans Shootout

Shure SRH-840 – Monitoring

The SRH-840 is another semi-premium studio monitoring headphone that also has a strong following among music listeners. At $144, it’s the M-50’s closest competitor, both with their own strengths and weaknesses. Please read the comparison article for the full details. Lower end variant: Shure SRH-440.

$144.40 from Amazon.com | Closed Cans Shootout



The headphones listed below this point require a headphone amplifier to sound best.

Audio Technica Pro700 Mk2 – Basshead

Seriously bass heavy headphone. Frequency balance heavily biased for bass and only bass. Great basshead headphone, awesome for dance and electronica.

$149.00 from Amazon.com | Bass To The Power Of Two: Pro700 Mk2

AIAIAI TMA-1 – Basshead

The TMA-1 is a specialty headphone. It is voiced for electronic and dance music, where I find it to be one of the most amazing headphone for Trance and House. It’s also pretty good with Jpop, especially the energetic Jpop Dance/Techno stuff. Works extremely well for the recordings it’s voiced for, but not so good with other mainstream recordings. Due to the loose fit, the TMA-1 leaks sound in and out.

$199.99 from Amazon.com | AIAIAI TMA-1

Audio Technica AD900 – Open Sound

This mid entry level open headphone from Audio Technica will impress you with its big, spacious sound. We did a group comparison on the full AD-line up headphones and found that the AD900 to be the most balanced model among the others. You can also try the slightly lower end AD700 and AD300 models as they offer the same sound signature for less money.

$216.95 from Amazon.com | Audio Technica AD Series Comparison 

Sennheiser HD558/HD598 – HiFi

These new mid-level headphones from Sennheiser offer a step up in sound quality from the previous HD555/595 models. Very good refinement level with a generally laid back and smooth sound signature, a typical Sennheiser sound signature. Although their sound quality tend to e overshadowed by the higher end HD600/HD650 models, the HD558/HD598 are more popular for people who’s not willing to make heavy investment on a headphone amplifier and a high quality source.

$179.95 from Amazon.com (HD558) |  $249.95 from Amazon.com (HD598) | HD558 and HD598


From this point down you are looking at the reference-class headphones.

Beyerdynamic DT880 – Monitoring

The DT880 is the most popular full size headphone from Beyerdynamic. Originally designed for professional monitoring purposes, the DT880 is even more resolving than the Shure SRH-840 and Audio Technica M-50. In fact, there is nothing more resolving than these DT880s on the south side of $300. Keep in mind that with super-resolving monitoring headphones such as these DT880s, you have to pay close attention to the quality of the recording material, otherwise it will sound pretty nasty. They come in several variants, PRO and Premium and in 32 Ohm, 250 Ohm and 600 Ohm versions. The PRO is more affordable while the Premium has a better build quality. Between the different impedance versions, the higher impedance version offers a more linear and smoother sound, though more demanding in amplification.

$237.99 (DT880 250 Ohm PRO) |  Old School Trio

Ultrasone Pro900 – HiFi

The Pro900 is one of the best models among Ultrasone’s line up. Equipped with the S-Logic technology, the Pro900 offers a wide spacious sound with clean details and an impactful bass. Great for Classical music and audiophile Jazz.

$328.17 at Amazon.com

Sennheiser HD600/650 – HiFi

These are great all rounder headphone with reference qualities. The HD580/600 have forward mids, good treble and midrange detail, good bass impact. Pace is moderately fast. If you like a more laid back sound with fuller lows, and listens to slower paced songs, go for the HD650. Keep in mind that the HD580 is discontinued, so you can only get the HD600 and HD650 brand new. $314.95 (HD600) | $494.00 (HD650) | Old School Trio

Sony Z1000 – HiFi

New flagship closed headphone from Sony is a great all rounder headphone that will give you a near high-end resolution and refinement in a closed design, easy to drive package. Fairly linear frequency balance, good mids and vocals, unoffensive and smooth treble, good detail extraction and soundstage. The only weak point is the bass impact which is just okay. Medium pace and PRaT.

$499.00 from Amazon.com | First Impression: Sony Z1000

Audio Technica W1000X – HiFi

The W1000X is one of the most popular wood cup headphone from Audio Technica. Sublime build quality paired with a smooth HiFi sound, this headphone is excellent for mellow, slower paced jazz and female vocals.

$573.65 from Amazon.com | Audio Technica W1000X Grandioso

Koss ESP-950 – Open Sound

The ESP-950 is an electrostatic headphone and it requires a special amplifier designed to drive those type of a headphone. Good thing that Koss sells the ESP-950 bundled together with the E/90 electrostatic amplifier so you don’t have to worry about sourcing the amplifier separately. The Electrostatics tend to be weak in bass, but the way it reproduces music is very special, something that you don’t find with ordinary headphones.

$599.45 from Amazon.com | Koss ESP-950

Grado RS1i – Rockin’

The RS1 is the classic Rock headphone. Grados have always been voiced to sound great with Rock, Blues, Country, among other things, and the RS1 model represents the best of the Grado sound. Grado have released more expensive headphones such as the GS1000 and the PS1000, but we still like the RS1 best. There is also a new model with a slightly different sound called the PS500, and though it’s also a good headphone, it’s still not quite like the RS1. You can also try the lower end SR325is, it’s a slightly downgraded sound from what you get with the RS1, but still a very good headphone and for half the cost of the RS1. (note: The RS1 has undergone several different versions, the latest version is called the RS1i).

$695.00 (RS1i) | $295.00 (SR325is) | Grado RS1 and Alessandro MS-Pro


From this point down you are looking at the flagships. The utmost best in sound quality.

Hifiman HE-500 – HiFi

Surprisingly the HE-500 takes over the HE-6 in the flagship spot. The HE-500 takes the HE-6 drivers and tweaks a few things to result in an easier to drive factor, very sweet and musical mids, and good clarity all around without being harsh. Midrange lovers will love this headphone. Recommended for Jazz, Blues, Vocals.

$699.00 from ALO Audio | HE-500 First Impression

Audez’e LCD-2 – HiFi

Perhaps most impressive for the bass section. The reigning bass champion among the flagship headphones. Dark sounding with a sweet planar tonality, this headphone has developed a very loyal following, though many owners feel the need to use silver cabling to bring out treble levels a little bit.

$945.00 from ALO Audio | Audez’e LCD-2 Impressions

Beyerdynamic T1 – Rockin’

The flagship Beyerdynamic is characterized by a brilliant, sparkly treble, fast and impactful bass passages, and relatively forward mids.

$1,295.00 from Amazon.com | German Flagship Battle: HD800 and T1

Beyerdynamic T5p – Rockin’

A closed-back variant of the flagship T1 model, the T5p is less demanding on the amplification while still offering a clear flagship-class reference sound, though slightly below the T1’s level.

$1,295.00 from ALO Audio

Sennheiser HD800 – HiFi

The flagship Sennheiser is the most resolving headphone out there today. In real life, that actually translates to something that’s not so easy to enjoy. Don’t expect to be playing Pop music tracks with these since it’s just going to show you how bad the average pop recordings are. With a good system and a good recordings, however, the HD800 is absolutely stunning. Budget an additional $2,000 to $3,000 for a good amplifier for the HD800.

$1,499.95 from Amazon.com | German Flagship Battle: HD800 and T1


Only list the most popular products are listed here. If you feel it to be too limited, feel free to browse the reviews on the Headphones Category:



  • Michiel Kerckenaere

    Hi, thanks for such a great website and informative reviews.

    I’m looking for a full size headphone to use in the office. They should isolate me from my coworkers noise and also isolate the music to them (so no open-back design). Music will mostly be classical music and jazz, as I don’t concentrate well with lyrics.

    For starting I will use my computers built in audio-control, but do plan on investing in a affordable headphone amplifier later on.

    Budget, preferable <250€ but will go up to 300€ if necessary.

    What headphones would recommend I look at?
    Also suggestion for a good amp are also welcome.


    • dalethorn

      The Beyerdynamic DT-770 32 ohm should be perfect. It’s the new standard edition of the DT-770 Anniversary Limited Edition reviewed here. Isolation is very good, leakage is low, and the sound and soundstage would be excellent for classics and jazz. For use with a computer, I’d advise a small combination USB DAC that includes a headphone amp.

      • Michiel Kerckenaere

        Hi Guys,

        thanks so much for your feedback. I’ve never heard of that brand (which is probably a good thing). I’ve read some reviews and I think I will order it over the weekend.

        What would be a decent USB DAC + Headphone Amp? Something that matches the headphone (price point / quality).

        What is the difference betwene the 32ohm / 80ohm headphones? Is the 32 the best for my use?

        I will probably want to use it with a iPod sometimes as well, althoug 90% will be at work with the headphone amp.


        • dalethorn

          The 32 ohm is definitely best for portable devices like iPods, but the small USB DACs that are excellent for use with computers are usually powered by the USB, so their power is limited compared to self-powered DACs, so the 32 ohm headphone is a wise choice for those DACs as well. The FiiO E07k is a good starting point for a DAC with headphone amp and costs less than $100 USD. Going up from there,

    • L.

      Hey Michiel. Welkom!

      For a closed headphone the DT770 AE/32Ohm is very good. It doesn’t need amplification and has good isolation. you can’t go wrong with it.

      Hij kost 155€ bij Thomann http://www.thomann.de/nl/beyerdynamic_dt_770_pro_32_ohm.htm?sid=5560329d7f18909e3b37ad4778758d93

      But I’m sure you can find it even cheaper here in Belgium or Holland!

      If after a while you want to increase the level of the headphone, you can like Dale said, buy a mini dac/amp

      • Michiel Kerckenaere

        I’ve been reading a bit on amps last night, and came across the FiiO E10. But I can’t seem to find them in Europe. When I did find them, it sed they were discontinued.

        I don’t think I want a portable one.. for the few times when I might want to use these headphones with an iPod, I won’t want the hassle of dragging a long a portable amp.

        So Just a nice looking desktop amp will do fine.

        What set you would advice (dac+amp) ? And what verion of the DT770 should I get to match? 32/80/250ohm?


        • L.

          The 32 ohm version, as it needs hardly any amplification and can be used straight from your pc or ipod. I was actually going to suggest the E10 to you. Check out audiogarden.fr (http://audiogarden.fr/dac/4-fiio-e10-olympus.html)

          • Michiel Kerckenaere

            Hi, I have, they don’t have any left to sell. Production stopped, it says on the detailed page.

            Any other resellers?

            • L.

              The E10 will be replaced with the E10K soon, Fiio just confirmed it to me. I’ll check other sources

              • Michiel Kerckenaere

                I’ve looked at some other options, but I really like the look of that E10. Other options are either portable (which I don’t like) or lack the professional look of the E10. The ones that do have the look are usually way more expensive.

                What did they change with the E10K? If they have kept the enclosure then I might just get the headphones now and wait for the new version.

                I did find the E10 new on ebay, but it’s being shipped from Japan, which will end up costing me extra on importing duties… not something I’m very fond off.

                • Michiel Kerckenaere

                  I’ve just ordered the headphone with the optional ear pads from Thomann. And I’ve found an E10 from some dodge webshop somewhere in eastern europe. Now lets pray that it gets here.

                  Thanks for your help guys!

                  • L.

                    Our pleasure, what are those optional ear pads?

                    • dalethorn

                      Looks like velour pads.

                    • L.

                      I have those on my DT770 as well, mmm velour

                    • Michiel Kerckenaere

                      Yup, those!

  • Billy Wu

    Any chance you will do a Beyerdynamic T5P review? You’ve covered a few high-end closed cans already, including the TH900/600 and the LCD-XC but the T5P hasn’t gotten much attention in the flagship category. I’m pretty sure the sound signature is different enough from the T1 to call for a separate review.


    • L.

      Yeah, good idea!

  • Budianto

    Hey , thank you for providing me with this great article.
    Im looking for an upgrade, currently im using the goldring dr100 headphone and hippo circri as the amp. do you have any recommendation (i prefer the full size open cans) ? my budget is around USD 500-700 or IDR 5.000.000-7.000.000


  • Marc

    If I may say so, I really think all moderators and writers of Headfonia (including prominent readers) should recreate the Recommendation Guide and maybe update it once a year

    • I wanted to contribute to this, but I gave up, at least for the time being. Reading the descriptions, there are lots of exciting properties, but it’s nearly impossible to compare any two and get an idea of exactly how they sound compared to each other. For example, I can make a good comparison of a Beyer T1 and T90, but unless I have the HD800 in-house, I can’t really make an accurate comparison of the T1 to the HD800. I’ve also found that when I have an opinion on a headphone, someone may suggest trying an album or even a couple of tracks I haven’t heard before, and that could change my opinion some. So if someone has a model of how to make the recommendations more of a tool to get to a purchase decision, instead of just presenting the items on their own terms, that could help.

      • L.

        we will find some way to update it

    • L.

      Yes but that’s so hard to do

      • Marc

        True but once it’s updated you’d have sure references per sound sig per price range!! Maybe you could be like Innerfidelity in this aspect and have extended loans merely for the purpose of having reference sets to compare newcomers to.

        • The problem is the number of comparisons – just 100 headphones is nearly 10 thousand comparisons, and that doesn’t include amps. Testing sites try to shortcut that with objective test results, but that’s not a full solution.

          • Marc

            And a feat it would surely be when Headfonia succeeds.

  • Brandon

    Hey, thanks for the article; it really is helpful! After some research I decided that I want either a refurbished Sennheiser 558 for $89 or a new pair of Grados SR80s for $100 to plug into my ASUS Xonar DG. I play a lot of FPS games and listen to all kinds of music. Personally, I like sparkly treble and a wide soundstage, but it looks like I won’t be getting both. Also, I’m trying to find a pair at $100 or less on Amazon. Thanks.

    • Keep watching Amazon for a few weeks at least. I go in and search for headphone sale, then I restrict the results to headphones only (about 2500 results usually), then I sort by price to get where I want quickly.

      • Brandon

        What are some good prices on the mentioned headphones if I were to look for those? Also, do you know how the ATH-AD500X compares to the ATH-AD700X?

        • When Amazon has a headphone for 1/2 MSRP, that’s a good price. I never heard those AT’s.

  • Gunshots ByComputer

    Nice list. Just about everything I am looking for is on. The only thing missing might be the A1000X variant and Alpha Mad/MadDogs but that’s understandable since they are modded cans. One thing I don’t understand at all is the absolute absence of the Beyer T70s from just about every headphone website out there. They don’t get good or bad reviews, they just get ZERO coverage. I am looking to add one more open back at home and one more closed back at work. the t70s are on my short list… and they are CHEAP in Japan… but the absolute lack of coverage worries me, while the t90s get mentioned more often… (Sorry for posting on so many old articles)

  • Atari

    This is a great list to tell me the best headphone for the type of sound I want. Unfortunately, sound quality is only part of the equation. If anyone is willing, I would love a recommendation to fit the following requirements for an over ear headphone.

    1. Large ear cups. Beats executives were nice and soft but not quite large enough. Vmoda LP2s were far too small.

    2. Plush headband. The Vmoda M80s start to hurt the top of my head afte prolonged use.

    3. Nearly 100% use with an ipod or phone and lossless audio files. Som use with a PC too. Oddly the Vmodas require the volumen to be set to about 7%. I cannot handle more volument than that.

    4. Noise isolating. No one wants to hear my music so it needs to be closed.

    5. Music prefernce is classic metal and hard rock. Some electromic thrown in.

    6. It would be nice to have ipod or iphone controls but not at the expense of the top for requirements.

    I would love to try more headphones on but we dont seem to have too many paces where I can test Sennheisers, Audio Technica, Beyers, etc. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • When you say “over ear” and v-moda M80 in the same sentences, I wonder what you mean by “over ear”.

      • Atari

        Yes, I mean over ear like the Executive, LP2, HD380, HD598 and custom pro. I did not mention over ear and m80 in the same sentence. I gave an example, later, with the m80.

        • I can’t think of anything that’s better for your requirements than the Beyer DT770 32 ohm. The weight is light for the size, sound is amazing, isolation is good for the type, and check out the review here – probably the most popular ever on Headfonia. I think you’ll find the volume perfect..

          • Atari

            dalethorn, your suggestion was a good one. I managed to find a place to try on a DT770 and it is everything you said it would be. Those are some huge ear cups! Perhaps too huge. I was not able to try a 32ohm model, however, as they only had an 80ohm model. Perhaps that is an issue because they also had an ath-m50x which I thought sounded just a touch better on my iPhone. The headband wasnt quite as nice as the Bayer, though. It is a tough call.

            Since my first post, I have read a bit more and I think I would like to use these while gaming too.

            Anyway, thanks for a great suggestion. I doubt I could go wrong either way.

            I am still wondering about the ohm rating, though.

            • Get the 32 ohm – it’s different, and much better than the M50. You won’t be able to appreciate it in a store, but get them home and you’ll hear a big difference.

  • Isco Alarcon

    Hi, I’m thinking about buying a new headphone for classical music. My budget is around $500. I don’t know if I should try some orthos (Hifiman), or the Fidelio X2, or HD650.

    • What is your amp and source?

      • Isco Alarcon

        I’m using the Audinst MX1 at the moment.

        • If using the MX1 on USB power, it will severely limit your dynamics on a lot of music, especially classical. If you use the 15v adapter, it might work better that way, but you’d still be limited compared to a better amp. So if you intend to keep the MX1 as your headphone amp, choose an efficient headphone. Of the 3 choices you listed, the X2 would probably be the most efficient.

          • Isco Alarcon

            Thanks for your advise. I’m thinking of buying new amp as well. Maybe not right now but eventually I will upgrade both the source and the amp. I just want to hear your opinion about which headphone is really good for classical music (piano, symphony, opera.) Also what is your ideal setup below $1000?

            • Best for classical music – Beyer T90 is great, but full MSRP is $700, yet you can find prices near $500 on outlets like Massdrop. Another choice for SQ for classical might be the Senn HD600, but might be too insensitive for your amp on some music. AKG K712 is excellent, same comment for sensitivity, but should be better than HD600. Beyer DT770-32 is a real possibility. FAD Pandora VI is very good, but heavy and a little power-hungry. The Shure 1840 is a personal favorite, but it’s open, needs power, and the bass tone at very low frequencies (~30 hz) is not good.

              • Isco Alarcon

                Thanks for the great suggestions. The Shure seems great. I have a small (stupid) question: usually I use the DAC+Amp combo for both my speakers and headphone, if I buy a separate amp, how can I use the DAC for two different outputs?

                • The DAC would feed the amps through the Line Out, and while there are a number of technical ways to either split the line out, or some DACs have 2 sets of line outs (with different types of jacks), or some people use line outs to feed one amp and a different kind of output from the source to feed a power amp or powered speakers …. the possible connections are endless. All I can say is, keep your devices as separate as possible. If you have any device in or adjacent to the signal path that’s not needed for listening “right now”, disconnect it, since it can degrade the sound in your current (i.e. “right now”) signal path. If your DAC and headphone amp are separate items, connect them with the shortest and best interconnects you can get. Any device that can be run on battery power, isolated from the AC mains, should sound better that way.

  • Lars H

    Hi, I have to compliment you guys on answering people that make comments on your articles. I don’t assume many people bother doing that. Kudos!

    On that note, I hope you can help me find a good set of over-ear cans.

    1. I currently have the Sennheiser Momentum (over-ear), but after a lot of use, I am still not satisfied with their sound signature. It’s just too laid back for me. I want a little more energy in the sound. Additionally I feel like I am missing some clarity and sound separation, but I can’t tell whether this is from the songs, my source or the headphones, to be honest.

    2. Most important: I have somewhat big ears and these cans dig into my ears and start hurting after 30min/1hour. I would like them to be bigger and comfier. If there aren’t bigger replacements for these on the market somewhere, that is.

    3. I would prefer closed, but I am willing to cut that out if the cans are good.

    4. I mostly listen to hard rock, jazz rock, folk rock and other forms of rock. But I also listen to, blues, jazz and some pop fairly often. I should add that I cannot handle sibilance well at all.

    5. I will be using iPhone quite a bit, BUT I do have a Fiio E07K amp/dac and I am willing to upgrade this if you think a more power hungry set of cans are needed.

    6. I think my budget stops at $300, but if there is something really good just over that top I will definitely consider it.

    I saw your review of the Beyerdynamic DT770 Limited Edition and felt captivated by how you described the sound signature, and comfort. It just sounds exactly like I want it to be. Do you know if these cans are still up for sale somewhere? And are they big?

    • The 770-32 sometimes gets discounted, Massdrop being one example. The earcups will cover everyone with room to spare.

      • Lars H

        I didn’t realize the anniversery version was the same as the usual 32 ohm. But that’s great. I am going to look further into these.

        Thanks for your quick response! 🙂

        • Dale is awesome yes. The DT770 32 is a great recommendation and a wonderful headphone. You’ll enjoy it

  • Audrey

    This guide is awesome! I’ve bought the last 4 headphones and amp based of this guide (and the amp one). Great recommendations!! You guys are the best

  • Marcus Colone

    No Fostex 900’s? Wow. Big miss.

    • Massdrop has been selling the 900 for huge discounts. Hmmm …. someone’s not buying them.

    • This really needs an update urgently but I won’t be putting up the 900 as the competition’s better

  • Shane Revis

    May I ask what happened to the original Headfonia poster? Just curious.

    I see that the Philips Fidelio X2 is not on this list. Is there any reason why?
    I was sort of wondering what category is falls under (e.g. HiFi, Monitoring, Rockin’, etc)

    • Mike left HFN to start his own headphone shops in Jakarta. This list needs updating.
      I myself wouldn’t put the X2 on it but it is a good alround headphone that is easy to drive. The X2 is in the easy to listen to, warm and fun category

      • Shane Revis

        OK, thanks! Hmm…
        The main reason I thought the X2 should be on this recommended list is because Tyll Hertsens of Inner Fidelity has it on his very short Wall of Fame “open full size” category of recommendation. You really don’t like it that well? I was thinking about buying it. Here is a paragraph I have posted on a few other sites, but I was hoping you might could answer some of it since you did review and listen to the X2: I own a Zune 120 and I use the Zune Pass music subscription with it. To my knowledge, there is no way to get a portable amp to work with this Zune. Because of that, I am limited to low impedance headphones. I am currently using the Grado SR-60i, which I consider to be about the best portable headphone (but definitely still just an “entry”headphone [as opposed to mid-fi or summit]). But I was recently introduced to the Philips Fidelio X2 headphone, and it seems to generally compete with the Sennheiser HD 600, which is recognized as about the best mid-fi ‘phone. The Philips Fidelio X2 is low impedance (30 ohm) and supposedly sounds decent un-amped with portable players.
        My questions are these.

        Is this the only low-impedance (un-amped, portable decent), mid-fi headphone in existence? If not, what are the names of the other headphones?

        My Zune 120 files are 196 kbps WMA quality. Is the Fidelio X2 too high quality to make files of this quality sound good?

        Is the Philips Fidelio X2 a HUGE upgrade in SQ (highly noticeable to the common hearing man) over my Grado SR-60i? After all, the Fidelio X2 ($300) does cost quite a bit more than my Grado headphones ($80).

        Thanks Headphonia_L!

        • There probably are several others but the X2 is one of them. I am not saying the X2 is bad, it’s pretty darn good, especially unamped. My point is that a well amped HD600 or HD650 is still better.

          The X2 is pretty forgiving but I would suggest upgrading to 320 kbps files. Not sure it will be an upgrade, it’s more of a sideway/upgrade as it will be very different

          • Shane Revis


        • The AKG K553 is a huge upgrade over the SR60, and it’s even an upgrade over the SR325, although not as huge. I haven’t had a Philips since the L1, but since the K553 is very close to neutral, but not as bright as the Sennheiser HD600 and Grados, I’d take it straightaway.

          • Shane Revis

            Thank you!!

  • Revanth

    Hi, I was wondering if you could suggest some headphones for listening mainly to classic rock (Led Zep/ The who/ Beatles etc.) for under $350?
    I was considering the Hifiman HE-300’s/ DT 770 80ohms/ Fidelio L2.
    I currently have the PA2V2 amplifier. I am willing to upgrade to an amplifier as well, a little later down the road, so a recommendation for a good amp will also be highly appreciated.

    • The DT770-80 could be good. I’ve had several Beyers, some with pleather pads and some with velour. If you get a 770-80 I’d recommend getting both pad types so if one is brighter or whatever you can switch to the other type.

      • Revanth

        Ok, I was considering the dt 770 very seriously, I think I may get them. My source for the most part will be my iPod classic video and my laptop (Lenovo y410p) What amp would work for these?

        Also, would you say that it would be better to up invest a little more and get the sennheiser hd 650?

        Edit: I already have the pa2v2 for portability, a desktop amp is what I need. 🙂

        • If you can get the 650, then yes – get the 650. The Schiit amps are a good low-budget buy. Moving up from there, Lieven would know best for the 650. In fact, he has many comments on these reviews about amps for the 650.

          • Revanth

            Thanks much for your advice Dale!
            Awesome! I did check out the recommendations, but the only thing I noticed was that, he mentioned the 650 to be great for classical music/Jazz, what about rock? Because I am primarily a Rock music guy with a lil bit of Jazz.. 🙂

            • The 650 is a lot better for rock than a HD600, that’s for sure. Can’t say if it’s perfect because that depends on you. Me personally, I’d keep a solid state and a tube amp handy – tubes when you need a more mellow sound. I think that’s a better plan than using two headphones, because the 2 amps address any possible harshness better than switching to a different headphone signature. There are a lot of lust-worthy amps featured here. Pick out a few that look interesting and somewhat affordable, then we can drill down to the details.

        • Tronco

          Maybe you don’t need to invest more. I would suggest you to consider buying a used HD 650, here in Switzerland they go for less than 200 $. Except for my first headphone I’ve bought all my headphones second hand and had no problems.

          • I bought my HD650 second hand but it was as good as new. Paid 170€!

            • Tronco

              Audiophiles take good care of their headphones. All I bought are as good as new.
              But I won’t sell my HD650. It’s a great headphone and value is unbeatable.

            • Yaroslav

              Oooh, Lieven, let me ask something. Is 650 still worth it (forget about the amps)?

              Would you switch to a planar magnetic if money was no question (like, if a good friend wants to buy you any ‘phone for your birthday and he can pull it off)? Or would you still prefer 650 to LCD and HiFiMans?

              Looks like you’ve tried or reviewed them all (in some sense), and we do share some taste in music, so I’m really wondering.

              • It is worse, I have them all… I have about 11 orthos 😉
                Some planars are certainly better than the HD650, yet the HD650 is still the headphone I have on my head most

                • Revanth

                  Hi lieven,

                  Dale mentioned that you could help recommend some amps for the 650’s. I currently have the pa2v2, will that be sufficient in the short trm? Also, what would you recommend for a good amp, which has a pre-amp function inbuilt as well. (I am planning to get a turntable sometime this year or the next.)


                  • I can’t help you with TT advice at all. there are several good amps for the HD650. Woo Audio WA2/WA22, Lafigaro 339, Bottlehead Crack. Solid state amps like V200, V281, Meridian Prime, Hugo, … There are so many

                    • Revanth

                      Hi lieven,

                      I took the plunge and bought a Schiit Asgard 2 and a HD650..:)

                      Will receive them by end of this week! Super excited about it, but the only other question I have is, do I need a DAC?


                    • Well that depends on what you will be using as a source. If it’s a laptop, I’d recommend a DAC yes.

                    • Revanth


                      For the most part, it’s going to be my laptop or my iPod.

                      Would the base model of Schiit suffice? The modi2?


                    • I don’t know, that’s for you to decide. me, I’m not a big fan of the brand 😉

                    • Revanth

                      Hahaha.. Ok, thanks a lot to both Dave and you for patiently answering all my questions! You guys are the best!


                    • Dave Ulrich

                      As much as I love taking credit for things, I think it was L and Dale who did the answering here!

                    • It would be good, since you decided on separates**, to test different DACs, even tiny DACs like the AQ Dragonfly. The Modi may be good or not.

                      **With separates, your separates have to be good enough to overcome the losses that occur with:
                      1) Output wiring from the DAC to its output jacks.
                      2) The DAC’s output jacks.
                      3) The interconnect cables.
                      4) The amp’s input jacks.
                      5) The amp’s input wiring from its jacks to its electronics.

                      I can hardly believe how little attention these things get, since at least items 2) to 4) corrode continuously from the moment you connect them. With different amps and DACs you’re looking at subtle differences in how much quality is lost with any particular component, but then the sum total of losses from items 1-5 above could kill the gains you get from a more expensive component.

          • Revanth

            Cool, i am looking at the used market as well, I am currently looking at ebay here in the US.. Is there any other forum that you guys would suggest?

  • Vaibhav Pisal


    i am looking for full size hps with relaxing sound.

    any recommendations.

    similar to sennheiser hd650, but not hd650 as my main hp is hd700. i dont wanna get all hps from sennheiser. i am looking at oppo pm3 but they seem to have non user replacable earpads. i want hps that last a long time.


    • Vaibhav Pisal

      price range would be under $400.

    • AKG K712, not as strong in the bass maybe, but pretty smooth, usually under $400.
      B&O H6 is relaxing, but not as smooth as the K712.
      Same for B&W P7.
      MrSpeakers Mad Dog is very good, and should be under $400.
      The Yamaha MT220 is a favorite of mine – good sound and very comfy.

      • Vaibhav Pisal

        thanks for recommendation.

        Yamaha sounds good. k712 seems more dynamic and engaging than relaxing. my last 2 hps were akg k550 and sennheiser hd700 which both are in that mould. thus i want a contrasting hp.

        what about shure 1840/1540? i tried srh1440 once, and it was very smooth though it had a bit extra treble.

        • The 1440 is bright and sharp, yes. The 1540 would be very relaxing, but somewhat dark, and $500 usually. The 1840 is more hi-fi, but the low bass is distorted, at least below 40 hz, and also $500.

  • Jonathan Hwang

    Hello, so I currently have a HE-500 and I think it has channel imbalance so I am looking for a new headphone. I really really love the SQ of the HE-500 and I was wondering what open back headphone is comparable to the He-500 in SQ.

    • That’s a tough one, I can’t think of any headphone that sounds like it on the top of my head. the HE-500 is getting old though

      • Jonathan Hwang

        That it is. I think that it is still a very strong contender as a headphone(minus the comfort). Since there appear to be very few headphones that are similar in sq, do you have any suggestions for headphones that would sound good coming from a he500? Like, something with a warmish signature.

        • From the EL-8 (open-back) review here:
          “This version clearly is the better one of both to my ears. The EL-8O shows good transparency and especially its speed is remarkable. Next to that you get the lovely clarity most of the planar magnetic headphones are so famous for. In general I would say the tuning is more to the neutral side but with a good touch of warmth.”

  • Jheys0n

    what would you recommend for anyone who’s deep into vocal edm/dnb/dubstep and rnb? I am still a little confused with the designations you’ve used specifically as it relates to the vocals and electronic music – do I look at the basshead? and is there anything a little more premium than the TMA-1 if that’s the case.

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    • The TMA-1 is a very dark sound, not even hi-fi really. A much better (but dark) headphone would be the B&W P7, in my opinion. Another choice would be the Thinksound ON1. The Shure 1540 is a possibility. The v-moda M100 also, but the M100 has an emphasized bass….

  • Van Sank

    Greetings, I found this page after some searching!

    I own pairs of Sennheiser’s HD 280, HD 380, HD 598, HD8 DJ, and IE-60. I want to step out of Sennheiser and give some other companies a try. Most of the music I listen to is Trance, Techno, House or similar genres. I’m searching for “Dark” sounding head phones with lots of low end. (I guess I would define “dark” as quick drop off or not bright). My favorite by far are the HD8 DJs.

    Any suggestions? Would like noise canceling to help out with the “Dark” sound.

  • lysingur

    Hi, I’m new to the sound game and have been perusing your site. Love it. I’m thinking of getting the JDS Labs O2+ODAC Rev B for listening to classical music on my MacBook Pro Retina. Two questions hoping you can help me out with:
    1. Would AKG K701 be a good pair of cans for this setup? If not, which below $700 over-the-ear headphone(s) (comfort is also key as I’ve got a big sweaty head) would you recommend?
    2. Is the amp/DAC itself good for listening to music through laptops?

    • It’s a decent DAC/amp, but Lieven or Nathan would argue for better things for the price. If the K701 has velour earpads, they’re comfy, but they’ll absorb sweat readily and change texture, changing the sound, and possibly the comfort.