We had some issues with the comment system acting up yesterday. While fixing it, I decided to create a new page for the Q and A since the old one had way too many comments on it and it was making the loading very slow. So we are starting from a fresh start with this new Q and A (that looks identical to the old one, by the way).
If you decide you need to check something on the old Q and A, you can check it from this link:
cool. new Q/A.
hey Mike, have you heard about this new headphone from Philips?
don’t know much about Philips, but this is the first open design i’ve seen from them. seems reasonably price too.
Thanks for bringing up the headphone to attention. I saw it a while ago and thought it was very interesting. I know how the closed Philips headphone sounds, and while they are not in any way audiophile quality, I think they have good fundamentals (think something like the HD202 Sennheiser). That is why I’m interested to check out this new model.
Anyway long story short I think I got distracted with work and other things and totally forgot about it. Will try to find it though.
I’ve asked for a review sample. We’ll keep you posted. Thanks for pointing it out. As Mike said, we’ve looked at it before, we just kind of forgot. sorry
looking forward to the review 🙂
I recently ordered an Audinst MX1 on your recommendation. Don’t have it yet but I am very excited to get it- thanks!
Another question, for a home system: I recently was given a Classe’ CDT1 transport and would like to make the most of it for a phone system. Looking around in the sub$2000 range, are there any units/combos comparable to the M903, for total connectability (now and future) and headamp section? Things that are most attractive are the balanced digital in (for the transport) and the balanced out, for future non-head use. Oh and the remote in very nice, as well. I don’t yet have a set of “home” headphones, so I suppose the ability to drive a range of headphones, is importantant as well.
Any opinions/recommendations very welcome.
Thanks in advance
Lol that Audinst is totally out of place with the Classe.
The Grace m903 is a very nice unit. I’ve used the M902 and I think it is an excellent one box set up. I think they improved the digital section on the m903 model while retaining the same amplifier section. If you are the type who like to upgrade, a one box set up like that can be quite limiting though.
What about something like the Bryston BDA-1? It also has the balanced digital interface and the digital section is very good. You still need to add in an amplifier on top of the Bryston though.
Thanks. The Audinst is for the office……..Classe’ will be at home! 🙂
I’ll check oht the Bryston.
Here I am again looking for counseling lol 😉 Just purchased a Denon D5000 and connected it to my JDSLabs Cmoy and… I hear distortion!! It seems that the Cmoy cannot actually drive these cans well. At first I thought it was the headphones since I bought them used… But I connected them to my NuForce Icon HDP and they sound great.
so questions, have you tried the Denon Dxxxx series and do you think any one of these portable amps go perfect with them???
Sorry for missing your question the first time. Yes distortions mean that there is a great chance the Cmoy is lacking current for the Denon.
The standard configuration is good for high impedance and low impedance (but small-portable) headphones. For the low impedance, but big size headphone like your Denon, you probably need to tell JDSLabs to build you a high-current version.
I tried the JDSLabs with some orthodynamics and they’re not very good. I guess high-current is never the speciality of Cmoys. But you can try asking JDSLabs to modify yours with two TLE chips (tell them about the current issue), that may work since the Denon is not as current hungry as the orthodynamics.
yeah I think they made it special for my Shures 940s. Should I just stick the JDSLabs with the 940s and get another portable amp for the Denons?
Well if they did, then in that case you’d need a different amp for the Denons.
yeah, that’s what I thought.
But I’m not sure which one of your portable roundup will suffice.
Not sure if I should try something like an Alo RX, or just wait for the new one
from JDSLabs, etc. etc.
Which one do you recommend?
The ALO Rx has one of the highest current output in portable amps, so if you really want to make sure you won’t run out of juice then you can go with the Rx.
It is also a very excellent portable amp with superb bass impact.
Thank you for this great website, helping those who are searching for aural nirvana.
Here’s my issue…I have been researching for a while looking for a solution to my problem, but now I need help. I have a Marantz CD 63 SE feeding an Audio Alchemy Dac-in-a-box feeding Sennheiser RS110s. Also, I have a Zune 30GB.
I have a $250 budget to upgrade, but portability is not an issue for me as I listen at home. I have been looking at the Fiio E10, the E7/E9 combo and the Total Bithead, along with Sennheisers such as the 448, 555, 558 and the HD-25. I love hard rock, where Whitesnake’s 1987 album is the epitomy.
Hoe does the Dac-in-a-box stack up with today’s DACs? The RS110s sound great, except for the occasional hiss.
Can you suggest a way out for me?
Thanks for your help!
If I understand your post correctly, you primarily want to upgrade the Audio Alchemy DITB correct? And retain the Senn RS110?
The DITB should be a pretty good DAC, despite its age. I’ve never had the chance to listen to it, so I wouldn’t know how it stack up to today’s offerings. But at £200 I think it should be a pretty good performer.
Now, in my opinion, I actually think that the RS110 is the part that I’d look into replacing. With Hard Rock and Whitesnake, I would be leaning toward the HD25-1. It happens to fit your budget and you can plug it in right to the Zune without a problem.
Is the Zune quality that good without an external DAC?
The D-I-T-B has a Coax and Optical input only with RCA outputs…is there a way to connect the Zune through the DAC to the headphones…would I need a dedicated headphone amp to boost the signal on the way through?
Well of course it can’t compete with a good external DAC. I was only thinking of a simple set up.
I don’t think you can hook up the Zune to a DAC. A more viable option is Laptop -> DAC.
The AD1865 on the DITB is actually a very respected Digital to Analog converter chip. A friend of mine just finished building a DAC based on the AD1865 with 45 tubes on the analog stage. I have a feeling you should just stay with the DITB for now.
Thanks for your advice, Mike. Actually, I was considering replacing both, but now with your comments on how good the D-I-T-B is, I am unsure :). Yes, the RS110s are good, but there’s something about wireless headphones that just tell me that audiophile quality is just not going to be there. I see that I can get the Fiio E10/HD25II combo for $250, but maybe I should just get the HD25 for now and see how it performs with the Zune and the D-I-T-B.
Yes I think that would be a good way to go. HD25-1 and just go straight with the Zune.
At least for now..
I’m new to your site and reviews. I like what I’m reading. Thank you for creating this site and sharing your knowledge.
Please help me narrow down some possible DACs. I am seeking a 2496
capable DAC to run from my windows based PC to my vintage Sansui stereo
integrated amplifier. Since the integrated has built-in headphone out, my focus
is the DAC. Ideal would be new/used and under approximately $150. Thank
I have got just the perfect solution for you:
The new version has a slightly different casing, and possibly also improved PCB design.
Is there a HRT Headstreamer review in the future? If so, ETA?
Yes I think so, but unfortunately not anytime soon. I still don’t have in my possession.
Apparently the Matrix M-Stage amp has quietly received a 2011 update, with new casing and now with a DAC built in. I don’t see any updated pictures to reflect this yet. It could be worth inquiring into…:
” New 2011 version with upgraded newly designed casing and USB input module
– USB input module is based on TAS1020B and PCM1793 which provides 24 bit / 96 KHz high quality DA conversion ”
Here are some pictures the the USB version of the M-stage:
It looks likey the swapped out the 2nd RCA input for USB, so the front input switch now goes from the DAC to the RCA input – no A/B-ing between RCAs with this version.
I keep on getting broken links. Both on this one and the other one you posted.
Anyway did a quick Google and got this link: http://tamaudio.com/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=108
Hmm, sorry about that. The links seem to be working for me.
You got the first link correct! Its the tamaudio page.
The second link is from http://matrix-digi.com/ it has pictures of the new USB DAC model. You may need google translate 🙂
Yea, thanks anyway. 🙂
Thanks for the update. I will look into it.
Oh, and Mike – I just wanted to say that your photography is STUNNING!
What camera and lens do you like to use for your photos?
I use the 5D Mk2 with the 24-70 2.8 and 100 2.8 Macro lens. 🙂
mike..just curious, do you know anything about the Objective 2 (O2) headphone amp??? the designer was quite “distinct” and apparently the amp is designed to be perfectly neutral.. i don’t really care about it, but it would be interesting to see how would it fare against the portable amps in similar price range (around $100ish).. most ppl who got them seems to be inexperienced and it seems that it’s hard wired in their brain that the amp is fully colorless, so its kinda useless.. it’ll be interesting if you could review one..
Yes, interesting amp. I’m waiting to get one from my friend, then we can publish a review on it.
Of course the fact that it’s a DIY model means that the appeal is limited. But we’ll publish a review on it.
Thank you for recommending the HRT Music Streamer II. GREAT idea and perfect for what I was seeking. Are there TWO different versions of the Music Streamer II? I have a chance to buy one that looks sort of like a giant red capacitor, but I’ve seen ones that have beveled angles, too. Is there a difference?
Also, FWIW for you and your readers, I located two different HRT II units, both barely used. Anyone who wish to save some money, let me know. I’m buying one, one is available and I guess I could refer your readers.
I think the beveled one is the older model, while the “red capacitor” shaped one is the newer model.
Okay. Thank you.
> I have been devouring the excellent reviews on your website, and I’m thinking about getting a Jds Cmoy amp for use with my iPod and ath-esw9’s. Will it add anything significant to the wonderful tube tone I am already enjoying? One review suggests it will add very little, if anything. What is your take on the benefit of a Cmoy with these phones?
> Many thanks, Jeff
The ESW-9 is one headphone that I think does very well without an amplifier. I would just skip it until you get another different headphone that is harder to drive.
Plain and simple: DT1350 or Z1000?
And what about an amplifier to use with a Sansa Clip Zip + JH5 Pro? Have any thoughts?
DT1350 is punchier, more forward, faster paced. Z1000 is more relaxed, more laid back, moderate pace, but far better in refinement and technicalities. What’s your pick? 😉
I would just go direct with the Clip and the JH5. But if you have the extra budget, Pico Slim.
Mike, thanks for you fast response.
There are two things that makes me think about the Z1000: it’s full-size like design and the wide genre bandwith (as far as I read about it). To me, it looks like the Z would be more confortable than the DT for long term listening. Besides that, I read that it’s bass is not that punchy as I’d like them to be. I’m used to a Porta Pro and I love it’s bass reproduction. I know it’s not fair to compare a $500 and $40 headphones, but I’m just showing you the kind of bass I’d expect from the Z.
Nice to know that the Clip will drive my JH5! However, I’ll definately check the Pico Slim.
Thanks again Mike!
Yes, Felipe. The Z1000’s bass is one of its weakest point, otherwise it’ll be perfect.
Mike, just want you to know that I still haven’t forgiven you for listing the P4 Warbler in your ‘Usual Suspects’ review, then making just one reference to it in your discussion of the single-ended merits of the PB1/PB2. This is a great little amp, as is my uHA-120, but for some reason it was the only one that didn’t make it into the final comparison. I know you have some strong views on the iBasso house sound, but I still think the amp deserved more coverage.
I gotta apologize for that. Initially I wanted to include it, but I had difficulties obtaining a unit in time for the review, hence only the short one liner reference. I think in almost every case I would include a product if I can get them in time, but that’s not always possible.
I guess I could’ve fought harder to get the P4 in time, but now everything is done and posted, and I can’t possibly re do the article at this point.
No problem – I know other reviewers have had problems getting review samples from iBasso. Skylab gave one of their amps a so-so review and they refused to send him any more samples – personally, I think thats childish.
Yea, thanks for understanding Jack.
Burson HA-160DS vs. Apex Butte + CEntrance DACport LX for overall good sound with Sennheiser HD650 and Grado SR325is?
I think both are excellent set ups.
The Burson will be more upfront and energetic, superb punchy bass.
The Apex Butte + LX will be more relaxed, smooth, spacious.
Great website! I think your reviews of HD600 & HD650 are very on point! I own HD600 and Nuforce Icon HDP.
I know that you probably haven’t heard the Icon HDP since there is no information about it on the site. But could you give me some options for closed headphones with deep, punchy, tight and neutral bass for 300€ or below? The most important thing is the best possible bass under/around €300, I would use these for Rap and some Reggae.
I like the HD600 with the Icon HDP, but I thought the HD650 was too slow. Beyerdynamic DT 880 did not work very well with the HDP. I also did not like Grado headphones, since they were quite colored.
Yes no review of the Icon HDP here.. sorry about that.
On the other hand, you should check out either the HD25-1 or the Beyer DT1350 for what you’re looking for.
Mike, have you tried the Cowon J3? Im wondering what has better SQ:
BBE J3 ampless vs Clip/fuze rockboxed>lod>amp
Sorry no experience with the J3. But people seem to like the Clip very much.
1. Will the Z1000 benefit from the Pico Slim? Or is it best to leave it unamped?
2. Have you tried to pair the T1 with the Butte? Does the T1 match the Asgard better than the Butte?
1. The Z1000 will benefit from good amps. I think you should pair it with bigger amps, not the Pico Slim.
2. The T1 with the Butte is excellent. I would also recommend it with the Asgard. Different flavors. Here is what I wrote earlier about Butte vs Asgard:
1. Different tonality. Butte is more mid-centric and is
clearer. Asgard is more linear, slightly darker, better bass body. 2.
Whilst the Butte exhibits a more high end sound, it is also undeniable
that the Asgard is the better all rounder. But again, high end amps are
usually pretty genre specific.
A Schiit Bifrost and a Valhalla hooked up to the Mac via a USB feeding the Zu Mobius attached HD650’s.
Like you said, the sound is not being double amped if played through the computer. The iTunes volume is just the digital domain, which doesn’t affect the sound quality at all. Now, a few other questions come to mind when I am thinking about my final home setup.
Take for example, you want to bypass the amp of the iPod or iPhone, you use an amp, thus bypassing the volume and allowing the gain to run off the amps power. That same can be said for the CLAS, which bypasses everything in the iPod. DAC, amp, and almost all.
Would you personally go for a setup like an iPod dock that bypasses the DAC and amp section of the iPod, that then streams the digital signal to the Bifrost, then to the Valhalla, and then to the HD650? Besides only having a 16/44.1 conversion rate versus 24/192, wouldn’t this be a cleaner and more simplified setup with a lot less jitter and distortion than over USB?
Nice to hear that you already have the Bifrost.
As far as your digital transport question, basically you want to compare an Ipod as a transport versus using a computer/laptop as a transport? From my experience the computer transport almost likely always wins.
I did a test recently:
Macbook Air + Fiio E10 (only as an USB S/PDIF converter)
Ipod + Onkyo ND-S1
CEC TL51XZ Belt driven top loading CD transport
and all the signal are sent through coaxial to an Audio Gd Ref7.1 + WooAudio 5 to the Senn HD800/Beyer T1.
The Macbook Air + E10 wins. Music just sound the clearest through the Macbook Air + E10 set up.
Alright, looks like I’ll go with the Bifrost’s USB input then.
How does the Ultrasone Pro 900’s vocal presentation compare to the ones on the Grado SR325i?
The Pro 900 has an unusual S-Logic presentation that to some people who are not used to it, may sound a little unnatural. You really should give the S-Logic a try (even with the lower end Ultrasone models) to see if you like it.
On the other hand the Grado SR325i is simply forward and present. Much easier to appreciate in my opinion.
I listened to the Pro 900s (with no burn in), and I think they’re not as recessed as some people may imply. Is that because of the less spacious sound as the result of no burn-in?
Probably not the result of burn in, but more due two reasons:
1. The recording that you listen to somewhat was presented very well by the S-Logic. 2. You were able to get used to the S-Logic presentation pretty quick.
So only the sound signature (aka. bass smoothing out, treble being less sibilant, more forward mids) is changed by the Pro 900’s burn in?
Sometimes they make such a big deal of burn in. I personally have never heard a sound signature changing burn in process.
Is that comment for the Pro 900, or most headphones in general? Because if that’s for the Pro 900, it’d be a huge turn-off, since it sounds extremely harsh 😛
Most headphones in general. 🙂
Hi Mike. I’m trying to find headphones that will get my brother away from his beloved Bose QuietComfort 2 or 3s. I’m down to the Beyer dt235 or the Superlux hd661. He listens primarily to blues and 70s rock using either an iPod Touch or iPad. Thanks for your help. Great site.
Try the HD25-1. I don’t think the DT235 and the HD661 would be convincing enough. 🙂
Any thought on Klipsch Image One cans?
Any suggested portable heandphones for pipe organ music?
Thanks for reposting here DAve.
First of all you have to realize that pipe organ is extremely difficult to do right, especially more on portables.
Most of the portables, based on a portable plastic housing would always have reverb and timbre issues so those would be one thing that ruin the sound. The other part is low bass. Portables are never good with low bass, and pipe organ goes pretty low.
I think you can try something like the Ultrasone DJ1 Pro. It’s not a popular headphone, but I think within the $100 bracket it would do pipe organ pretty well. Obviously your best bet is with a reference open headphone like the Sennheiser HD650.
I’ve never auditioned the Kilpsch Image One, but all the Klipsch IEMs I’ve tried never got the timbre right, so I wouldn’t recommend it for pipe organ.
Thanks, the review sounds like they would be interesting. I already have Senn PX 200-II which are nice, but they act like open cans in my opinion and no bass
Yes, the PX 200-II has no bass.
I’m looking to upgrade to a more proper mid-fi setup within the next 6-10 months or so, and I wanted to ask for your opinion on Amp/DAC combo. My current setup is a HRT MSII > Matrix M-stage > HD598/SRH940. I’ll keep the 940’s as my closed pair, but I want to upgrade the 598 to a 650. I think the 650’s and the 940’s would complement each other nicely.
My question is with the Amp/DAC of this proposed setup. $800-900 seems to be a sweet-spot, and I don’t think I will invest in a truly high-end setup for a long, long time. So I’d like this amp/dac purchase to be somewhat final and all-encompassing, if possible. As of now I’m considering these 3 combos:
1) Schiit Lyr + Bifrost
2) Burson HA-160DS
3) Centrance Dacmini CX
Obviously the focus would be to pair with the 650’s, but it’d be nice if it worked with the 940’s as well (42 ohm, 100 dB). Would you mind providing some insight?
Excellent choices there. I would change the Lyr to an Asgard. The Lyr is more powerful but you don’t need it for the Senn/Shure headphone. Instead the Asgard will give you a mroe refined sound.
Other than that you seem to have done your homework. They’re all excellent set ups. Which one do you feel like going with?
I figured you would recommend the Asgard =) You seem to give the Asgard+650 combo a lot of love than I find on Head-Fi. There seems to be a lot more discussion about the lyr+650 combo there, but I suppose that’s because many of them either have or are looking toward orthos like the LCD-2.
Out of curiosity, why do you say the Asgard sounds more refined than the Lyr with the 650? Does the extra power of the Lyr somehow take away from the overall sound? Please correct me if I’m wrong (I’ve barely begun my journey through audiophilia), but my thought process went something like this: the extra power of the Lyr would only help bring out the potential of the 650’s, and the hybrid nature of the Lyr would offer some tube-like qualities (I’ve heard that the 650’s and tube amps go well together).
In terms of what I feel like going with, I think I would choose the Burson over the Centrance if I were to go with a single unit. So I guess I’m really contemplating between a Schiit combo and the Burson. The upgradeability of the Bifrost sounds very appealing in terms of easy future investments, but the simplicity of the single 160DS has its own appeal. I believe I read somewhere that you were getting a Bifrost to review? If you’ve had a chance to listen to a Schiit combo, would mind elaborating on the sonic differences between the Schiit combo and the Burson 160DS?
I think you’ve raised some very good points about the Asgard – Lyr debate.
First, some of the points you mentioned like having extra power, and the HD650-tube pairing. They are often true. In my experience the HD650 often improves with higher power output amplifiers, and likewise with high end tube amps. However it doesn’t always happen like that, and the HD650 is very revealing of the quality and refinement of the amplifier behind it and in the case of the Lyr and the Asgard, the Asgard is better though not having the Lyr’s power level. But it’s your purchase and the decision is up to you.
I am still waiting for the Bifrost to arrive so I can’t comment on the Schiit system. I think it’s going to be a good DAC, but I’ll have to wait until I have the chance to listen to it.
Thanks for the input again. I suppose some of my hesitation with the Asgard stems from some reading I had done a while back when I was trying to decide on an amp for my first setup. I had it down to the M-Stage and the Asgard, and I tried to find anything I could on a comparison of the two. There wasn’t a whole lot of information I could find, but of what I managed to find, a couple of people seemed to prefer the M-Stage over the Asgard.
Looking back on some threads now, I see there is quite a bit of appreciation for the Asgard with Senn’s in particular. I think you may have just won me over in terms of the Asgard-Lyr question. It would have been simpler if I had gone with the Asgard in the first place, but I suppose that’s all part of the journey we all take in trying to find our ideal setups.
But now that I’m considering the Asgard+Bifrost, the Schiit combo would be about $200 cheaper than the Burson. So now there’s that to take into account as well. Oh well. As this isn’t a purchase I’m planning on making in the immediate future, I’ll take some more time to consider my options. Thanks again for your time and advice. I’ll try posting back here on Headfonia when I finally decide on/upgrade to the new setup in the off-chance you remember this little exchange. =)
Don’t hesitate to ask me anything if you have any questions Jon. 🙂
Let’s say you have two headphones, two amps, and two DAC’s that you want to all run at the same time. If the amps both had USB inputs, and were both connected to the computer, would iTunes (or whatever your using, in this case, it’s Fidelia) feed the signal to both DAC’s, then to both amps, and the same signal to both headphones? Basically, I want one signal to go to both headphones and their corresponding setups…
The computer won’t be able to send in the signal to two USB devices simultaneously. What you do is get a USB DAC with an S/PDIF out. So from the S/PDIF out you can send the signal to another DAC hence two DACs running together simultaneously — and you can feed two amps at the same time.
Precisely. What computer is is that? Looks really ugly. And why are you using those lame headphones?
just kidding. 🙂
Oi, excuse my horrible Photoshop diagram. I’m certainly no professional like you. 😉
Oh, and I’m super excited. I might be getting both an HE-6 and an HE-500 in the next couple of weeks. Now, what to pair with the HE-6…
Have been visiting this place since the start of my audio journey and have made many decisions based on your reviews so I would like to just mention a small thank you for your effort.
I am currently having a dilemma now though. I have owned TF10 for a good six months and they are good but I feel that it is time I move on to others. It is a tad bit too ‘fun’ for my ears in my opinion. The ER4 is something that I have had my eyes on but never tried. The neutrality of the sound might be something that will keep me happy with it for quite some time seeing as to how there are many at head-fi who are still listening to them.
So here are my two questions:
1) Would you recommend the ER4(S/P) over the TF10?
2) Is the soundstage of the ER4 really a lot smaller than the TF10?
I’m glad you enjoy the site. 🙂
The TF10 is a lot of fun and it’s still one of the most popular IEMs around. The ER4P/S is also one of the old IEMs that still has a solid fanbase (me included) but it’s not for everyone. I can’t really recommend it over the TF10 because it’s a difficult IEM to like, but people who like them swears by them (and they have a good reason to do that, it really is one of the most special IEM around). So it’s up to you to give it a try, but I can’t promise you’ll like it.
The ER4 has one of the largest soundstage in any IEMs, just a tad smaller from my JH Customs. It’s much bigger than the TF10.
Ah, I probably mistook thin for having a small soundstage. Thanks for the advise.
Hi, would gold-plated RCA and USB cables benefit headphone DAC/amp system?
Which RCA and USB cables would you recommend? (sth not too expensive)
Thanks for posting here. I have never done a test whether gold-plating really make a difference, but most of the good cables tend to be gold plated so I guess we just accept them the way they are.
Everybody has their own favorite brand of cables, personally I build my own cables so I can’t make a recommendation on interconnects.
Apolgies this is basic, but what is the difference between a DAC and headphone amp?
An amplifier is what enables you to turn up the volume on the music — make music louder.
A DAC, please read the FAQ No. 6.
Hey Mike! I just wanna ask if it is advisable to add a mid driver to my tf10 when i reshell. I mind the mids too recessed and congested, so will it solve the problem by adding a mid driver? I am preparing to get a sr71a to pair it up with my tf10, it wont destroy my tf10s right, coz i heard the 71a are very very powerful. Thanks.
The mid driver doesn’t actually solve the problem. The result of a TF10 + 1 driver was not very positive. I really suggest you going with the 3 additional drivers (total of 6), it makes the TF10 a much better IEM.
The SR71a should be excellent with the TF10. 🙂
tried the Unique Melody 6drivers TF10, the mid is wonderful and it is direct from iPod Video. But with the HM602, the mid is too thick
Haha cool. That’s really expensive for me. If I just go for a 2mid driver add on, will it solve the problem then? Thanks a lot man
I’ve never tried the 2nd mid driver add on, so I can’t say. 🙂
Quick question, would you recommend SPL Auditor for HD600 and HD650? If not, what would be better? I listen to many different genres.
The Auditor is an excellent amplifier, but made for monitoring purposes. Most people find it to lack bass impact for fun music listening.
You can look into some amplifiers like the Schiit: http://www.headfonia.com/triple-schiit-asgaard-valhalla-and-lyr/
and the Graham Slee: http://www.headfonia.com/graham-slee-desktop-amps-novo-solo-srg-ii-solo-ultra-linear/
They should be a better pairing for music.
Thanks for the reply!
I’m trying to build a system where only the good records sound good, and bad records sound bad, as they should.
But I don’t mean only the songs that are recorded well. I’m trying to avoid a system where colorations make the music sound something else it really is. If the record is really not a good one then I don’t want my gear to improve it.
Would you still recommend Graham Slee over the Auditor?My local hi-fi dealer has an used “Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear” for 450 euros.
Many Thanks for your help!
Well if you want less coloration the Auditor is better then.
Hi Mike, any plans to review the O2 (Objective 2) amplifier?
Yes! Stay in tune, still trying to get my hands on one.
what is the best portable amplifier for the superlux hd-660?
You may want to try this amp:
The pairing with the HD660 is awesome.
i want to buy ext DAC for my laptop and i want to pair it with my hs-25 and hd595.
im not looking for portable or good looking portable, so it does not matter to me….all i want is good SQ…and since im using cowon j3 and cowon d3 now, so i hope i will get a huge improvement in SQ with my new DAC..
wich one u will recommend?
some people recommend :
1. i basso d zero
2. fiio e10
3. topping d2
4. maverick d1
5. i basso d6 fer de lance
which one is the best?or u have another recommendation?
thx a lot mike 😀
not available, rian :D, some people said topping d2 can beat e10 and d-zero…is that true?
really? I’ve seen a lot of those and the MS II too…
The E10 and the D-Zero are good stuff. I don’t know how it compares with your cowons though.
Or you can go with the HRT MS2 for $140. http://www.headfonia.com/the-hrt-music-streamer-ii-asynchronous-2496-for-149-95/
HRT MS2 are not available in my country (Indonesia), hmmm
from 5 option that i gave u, u choose fiio e10 and d-zero?
Have you listened to the Audiolab M-DAC? If so what did you think of it? Thanks
Sorry, not yet Alfred.
Hey guys. I need some help. I have Sennheiser CX-300II here. And one side became very quiet without any external reason. But it happened in some tricky way. It started sound quiet and somehow backwards. When I plug it in ear there is almost no sound. It goes somewhere outside. Cords are okay – it was tested. Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
That sounds like a defect, Stas. I think you have to send it in for a replacement.
Warranty is over. So I’m just looking for a new ones. a-JAYS One is my main candidate.
Hi! I have two questions, for which I hope to find conclusive answer in here.One is about ultra portables. For nearly 5 years I use PX100, it was spontaneous purchase based on reviews of some owners. And it was love at first sight, a real delight. But now I think about purchasing something new and better in this category. At first I selected naturally PX100-II, but if the original PX100 were praised by most everybody, second revision engender some controversial opinions. And because of that as well as mostly because of reviews and recommendations on this site I now eyeing V-Jays. Can you please tell me, will they gladden someone addicted to the sound of original PX100’s? Will they perform good if paired with Digizoid ZO2?The second question about full-sized cans for office use. Currently I listen to the aforementioned PX100 from PC onboard sound as cheap and simple option for those 1-4 hours in day of quest for inspiration. But naturally I desire for something more full-bodied. As first step I purchased FiiO E10 and now am seeking complementary big headphones for it. They doesn’t need to be totally isolating, in fact other way round, since I work in IT department and need to be aware of environment. But still there are other people around me, so they must be listenable on low volume levels and/or doesn’t leak too much sound outward. And I wish them to be balanced all-rounder, I like mostly listen music with complex forms, with a lot of different instruments, vocals, chorals etc., but generally there are a lot of substantially different genres in my playlists. What would you recommend for person who loves the sound of original PX100, thinks that HD650 are beautifully sounding and considering the purchase of OMX980 and MX680 (again, thanks for your reviews which solidify my choice on them) to close the gap on more portable and more active fields? I’m meditate about HD598 as ultimate solution but maybe there is better/cheaper alternatives. In $100-200 range, $250 – maximum.And just in case, I’m little narrow-minded in this field. Frankly speaking I don’t have any experience with other brands since Sennheiser offers pretty much anything that I want. Doesn’t mean that I’m closed for other choices :)Thank you!
I understand what you’re saying when you tell me that the PX100 was so praised and the PX100-II not so. Sometimes the internet do weird things to products, and while your observation on the trend of PX100 vs PX100-II is correct, the fact is that the PX100-II is much better on all aspects than the PX100. So if you like the original PX100, I think there is a good chance you’ll also like the PX100-II. I personally like the PX100-II much more than the PX100.
The V-Jays is great, but it’s not quite the same dark PX100 sound that you like. You can give the Jays a try because it’s a great headphone, but keep in mind it’ll be different than the PX100 that you’re used to.
The PX100, PX100-II or the V-Jays would all work well with the Zo2.
If you want to find a PX100 sound in a bigger headphone, I suggest going with the HD580/600 although you may have to look at 2nd hand units to fit your budget (the HD580 is no longer available new). The HD598 is very good as well, but it’s a slightly different sound.
I made up my mind and decided to go all the way with PX100-II. But definitely will try V-Jays sometime later in the future. Despite the entrenched habits it is always curiously enough to discover new interesting and frequently not well known stuff. Like it was with ZO for example.
There is very slim chances to find used HD580/600 in my immediate neighbourhood 🙁 And the deals abroad not very lucrative. I’ll try to look in that direction but hope is almost nil. Besides strictly for work environment HD598 looks a little less cumbersome while HD600 seems like a little too much -_-”
Btw I recently found your synoptical comment on HD598 vs HD600 and if I understand it rightly the main evident difference between them is that HD600 is significantly more refined than HD598 and HD598 slightly brighter then HD600. So maybe all things considered for office use HD598 with E10 (and maybe with ZO, I definitly will try this combination when all the gear arrive) will be more than enough and very likely I will not notice this slight difference between their sound? Though it is maybe a dumb question and only way to be sure is to try and see for myself whether I like it or not 🙂
Mike! Rudistor NX03, Violectric V200 or Graham Slee Solo? Heh…
Hi again. Before I go and place my order for Superlux HD330, I want to ask your opinion about finding and building the right entry-level audiophile headphone.
I also had my eyes on HD668B and HD661 as well, but I afraid they might be too harsh on the trebles/flat (HD668B unamped?) or too fatiguing (HD661). Then again, I also fear the huge impedance of HD330 might not perform well without proper amping equipments (have to wait a month or so before I could get FiiO E10/E11, or I’ll just keep the HD330 until they arrive, or buy HD330 and amp/DAC in tandem?)
Thus, I switched my focus to Audio Technica AD300 (my friend said it’s so good etc etc). As I listened to a wide range of musics (electronic dance musics, blues, rock, game OSTs, j-pop etc), the lack of bass from your review is somewhat deterred me from getting it, but its low impedance and soundstage attracted me, and is cheaper than HD330+E11/E10 combination.
So the question is, which one I should get as a starter? And feel free to recommend me other full sized, preferably open/semi-open design headphone around 100USD or so. Thank you for your attention.
Sounds like you have a very discerning and demanding ears.
So the HD668B and the HD661 are both no good. In what aspect did you find the HD661 to be fatiguing? Comfort?
About the AD300, so you had some time to listen to it, or were you just reading from the review about the lack of bass?
In general, the rule about needing an amplifier may not always be dictated by impedance ratings (yea I know people say that). What you can always count on is that a big full size headphone (HD668B, AD300) would usually do better with an amplifier, even if you can get a good listening volume straight out of an Ipod.
So if you want to stay away from an amplifier, then try looking at smaller headphones like the Grados, the HD661 type, the HD25-1 and other headphones around that size.
Actually, I have been taking the reviews seriously (as I do not have the chance to audition the stuff I need, and I mostly order my stuffs online) and got paranoid.
About HD668B, I have read numerous reviews and user comments, saying about the treble. The HD661… well, it’s just my own judgement again (forward sounded, might be fatiguing from another review site). I have the MEElectronics M16 and Cube F1 Pro which serves me well, with tolerable disadvantages. And the AD300’s bass, I never tried it out though. The following comment from the reviews here made me think twice.
” If you notice, however, I haven’t said one word about the bass, and
that is where the achilles’ heel of the AD-series are. I am not asking
for a basshead level bass here, far from it. But if you compare the
AD-series headphones to just about any other headphones out there, you
will find it to lack bass body, quantity, and punch. This makes the
AD-series a highly specialized headphone for music that doesn’t have
strong beats, and as we all know, such music are pretty rare today.”
After discussing with my friend who’s an experienced audiophile, I planning to go with Superlux HD668B as my starter headphone, and then move up from there. Reading your comment makes me felt that I’m too demanding…
Any other recommendable headphones for starters besides Koss PortaPro and the KSC75?
Hey Mike! Shure officially announced two new models for their headphone line the SRH1440 & SRH1840, both open back. Here’s links for more info and photos- http://www.head-fi.org/t/583950/shure-srh1840-and-srh1440-unveiled , http://www.phileweb.com/news/d-av/image.php?id=29920&row=23 .
Mike, check your Twitter messages, quick!
Too late 😀
So you’re looking for a DAC to go with a speaker system right?
By the way the Q-A would be more appropriate to continue the discussion:”
Hi Mike, soy about that, I hope nope now I’m posting in the right place…
So yes the main output will be a sound system but I want to be able to use it as a headphone amp in my work.
So the main music is tango from the 50s to the 70s like I told you so some recording are not that good…
the list is:
NuForce uDac 2
but the first is not that easy to find here in germany… anyway just give me some ideas and thanks a lot for the help.
You mentioned about some of the 50’s and 70’s recordings not being too good. Improving the source probably is not going to change that you know, on the other hand what you may get is a clearer picture of the bad recording! Yes, that’s why recording quality is very important.
Now as for the DACs. I don’t have any experience with the D12 and the VDAC2. The other three, the Audinst is the best of the bunch. It would be good since it also has volume control over the analog out – if you happen to want to bypass a preamp. The uDAC 2 also has that feature but the sound is not as warm and as spacious as the Audinst.
The Fiio E10 is warm and nice sounding as well. But the volume control is limited to the headphone out, not to the line out at the back (meaning line out is fixed, but that’s no problem if you have a preamp in your speaker system).
Hi, Thanks for the Help..
I do understand DAC/AMP can do so much for the recording quality but either way is better than the outputs of a laptop I guess!!
So in your opinion the Audinst is the best all around at the moment and you can actually notice a diference for the FiiO..
By the way, why you never tested the Sound Blaster X-Fi HDis it that bad!!??
Thanks again and best regards
I suggest you read the E10 article as I made some references to the Audinst there:
The Sound Blaster, I just happen to not have the chance to review it. I wouldn’t say that it’s bad, but I don’t know since I’ve never listened to one.
mike..so when will the bottlehead amp review published?
That could still take a while Joe, I’m still waiting for Bottlehead’s shipping confirmation. Believe me, I wish I had it already 🙂
Yes what Lieven said.
I honestly have nothing to ask but seeing your quick responses to these comments makes me want to post this here.
I just want to say a big THANK YOU for the reviews. I love your website a lot. It really is commendable that your reviews are not biased towards big brands in the audio industry, and thanks for answering all our queries in this section.
I just have one suggestion that may be useful for all of us audiophiles and novice audio enthusiasts, I think it would be better if you could post frequency response graphs of the headphones being reviewed. It would kind of give us an objective idea as to how headphones would sound aside from the descriptions based on the “Golden Ear” tests. 🙂
Happy holidays, Mike! Keep those reviews coming! 🙂
Thanks for the kind words. We’ll try to keep the reviews good and consistent. For the graphs you can go to Tyll’s site at innerfidelity.com.
Hi Mike, and Lieven.
So… i like how the ad900 sounds, being open, airy, problem is the bass…
Not much of a basshead, but i do wish it’s there, kind of like westone um2 or vsonic gr-07 bass.
Now the big question is, do you guys have any recommendation on other headphones that sounds like the ad-900, but with bass in it? Please don’t say ad2000, that’s out of my budget, price wise would be $350 max.
or should i just buy the ZO2? would pairing it with the ad-900 work?
Getting a very powerful amplifier might help but other than that..
I would say yes, something like the AD2K even that headphone’s bass doesn’t go low.
so just pair it with ZO2?
any recommendation for other brands?
Anything with bass boost, basically.
On second thought, I think it would be a futile attempt to try to bass-boost an inherently bass light headphone like the AD series headphones.
After all, that is precisely why people finally give up on the AD series despite the very good airy sound. They just can’t give a good bass and I don’t think bass-boost is going to do much here. I mean they will add some bass quantity but I am not sure if you’ll be pleased with the final sound.
that’s why i’m asking for other brands, any ideas? sennheiser?beyer?
You can probably start with this comparison:
Hi Mike, are you gonna check the new matrix m-stage with dac? it has the same chip as hrt music streamer ii, the pcm 1793.
I’ve heard of the update, but I have no plans for now to review the updated M-Stage.
Hi mike, have you heard about the Furutech ADL GT40 and Cruise? It has been hot topic around all my friends and we really want to know how would you compare it with the SR 71A …Thx 🙂
I’ve seen it around the internet, but never heard one. I may get one sample though I still can’t confirm it at this point.
Thx for ur sincere reply,mike. Yesterday , i went to the jaben shop and tried the justaudio uHA , i found the uHA have pity well tonal balance but the adl cruise was caught me in. However,i felt worry if i didnt read your product review or comparison 🙂
Yes, hopefully we can get a unit of the Furutech.
I have a problem. I have read from many websites that you should have you computer volume maxed out when using an external dac. Is this really true? If I have the volume maxed out I can only use about 10% of my dac/head amp. combos volume. If go past that the volume gets way too loud.
It’s good to have it maxxed out because what happens when you lower the volume is that there is some algorithm being done to lower the volume which may cause jitter that ultimately lower the sound quality.
However, that’s just the theory and in practice almost nobody can pick up the difference in sound quality caused by lowering the volume on the PC.
I actually use it a lot so that I can get better volume control range on a certain DAC/Amp with IEM pairing. It’s the best solution actually.
Okay, Thanks for clearing it for me!
i’m looking for a good amp to pair with my AD700, i got Maverick A1, Audio Technica AT-HA20 and GoVibe peak in my mind right now. do you have another suggestion for this, prefer below $200?
I absolutely have no experience with any of those amplifiers. If you can swing the budget for the Asgard, that would be my recommendation for $250.
hey mike, can you give the pros and cons of asgard vs m-stage? or if you have to choose asgard, which part of asgard is better than the m-stage?
Let me direct you to this comment:
I have the HD650 and Schiit Valhalla. I’m looking to get a DAC sometime. Do you have any suggestions for that?
What do you think of the Schiit Bifrost DAC?
I’ll be going with a DAC that has a USB input. So, the upgraded Bifrost if I go for that but at $450 it is expensive, hence looking for suggestions from you 🙂 and wondering if Bifrost is really worth that price.
PS: Im glad that I ran into this website. Loving it so far
I am still waiting for the Bifrost to arrive. At $450 with the USB indeed it is quite expensive. I would suggest something like the DACport LX or the HRT MS2+. Both can be had for ~$300 and offers USB input by default.
Hi Mike, I’m going to follow up with Vikram’s question with some specific model questions and hope that you’ve some experience.
Currently I’m listening to some sennheiser 595’s through my laptop, so I figure its time for a DAC. I’ve been looking at the Topping TP30 and the Fiio e10. Your review of the e10 has me nearly convinced, do you have any opinion on the Topping, or coming from a laptop am I going to be blown away by the e10?
I have no experience with the Topping so I would recommend the E10 for now.
hi mike,what is the best headphone for listening beatles songs?
(i own the hd25)
I am not a specialized Beatles listener, meaning I don’t check every single headphones with a Beatles recording but Grados and Alessandros would be pretty good for Beatles. Something warm like the HD598 would also be good.
Plus their recording quality are quite inconsistent meaning some are good some are bad. I definitely wouldn’t choose an analytical and revealing headphone like Beyers.
Between burson ha-160 amp and graham slee solo SRG amp, for hd650, which do you recommend?
How about for he500, between burson ha160 and graham slee solo, which one suits the best?
From ur great reviews, looks like you are the one have heard/tested all of them and I would love to hear ir opinion about that..
FYI, i mostly listen to Jazz, audiophile, and pop music. I will matching this cans+amp with Audio-GD NFB-3 (dual wolfson 8850 chip)
Sorry for the typo. Its WM8805. Thanks in advance Mike.
I would lean towards the Graham Slee Solo for the HE-500 and the music that you listen to. Also for the HD650.
You can find some comparisons on the Graham Slee article:
Thanks for the recommendations, Mike.
Now, i have options between these
1. He500 (new) + schiit asgard (new)
2. Hd650 (new) + graham slee solo ultra lienar with PSU1 (2nd hand)
Again, Dac used will be Audio-gd NFb-3
I can get Either combination for about the same price..
Because u are th one who have listen and review them.. I would love to hear ur opinion.
Thanks in advance.
Go with the right headphone, the amplifier follows the headphone choice.
I’ve written plenty about HD650-HE-500. Please read the comments section of the HE-500 review.
Thanks Mike. Got it, back to the right headphone first.
Hi, may I ask, in terms of sound quality, which is better, the 71a or the 71b(not balanced, from 3.5mm)?
SR71A by quite a margin. I talked about that on this article:
I see. I am a student, so I plan to purchase the “top” portable amp, and upgrade other components of my rig. The current amps that i’m looking at, are the 71a, 71b, continental and rsa predator. I have the tf10, and possibly a Miracle/jh16 in the future. I am looking for the best amp among the 4 mentioned. Any suggestions?
Another question, is having a full balanced setup very expensive? I am not very familiar with these. Read somewhere having a balanced setup is really expensive. I don’t plan to go balance if this is the case. so that rules out the 71b.
Can you read the Usual Suspects article? The part on the SR-71a and also the Pico Slim.
Also as for your question on balanced set ups, read page 4 of that article, or #16 on the FAQ: http://www.headfonia.com/the-usual-suspects-12-portable-amps-compared/4/
thanks mike! great article, last and final question, which is better in your opinion, the continental or the 71a? thanks so much man
Both are superb.
The SR71A has better low bass impact (actually the best in portable amps so far) and excellent micro detail. The Continental has a very clean sound, smooth full mids, and good midbass. Both has a very spacious soundstage.
I just hate the SR71A for not having rechargeable battery feature so I would use the Continental more because of that.
I got a pair of HD598, but am looking into getting something else. At the moment I am considering, the HD600 and HD650 and the Q701 AKG. All goes for the same, but I have no other reason for looking at exactly those than them being the only ones that I seem to be able to find within my borders. However I am open to suggestion if there are better cans in about the same pricerange +-$100 for me.
Rock of all types, some electronica, for the most part. Enjoying my HD598 though, even though as I understand they’re not “made” for those genres. Wouldn’t mind a bit more bass though. Which of the 3 (or some other headphone) would you suggest I’d get?
Btw, you recommended the JH5Pro to me some months ago: http://i.imgur.com/HDGmK.jpg Needless to say I’m reeeeally enjoying those ^^
If you are enjoying the HD598 the natural upgrade is to go the H600/650 path. But for now I suggest you check out the following articles:
To get an idea of how the K701 compares to the HD650: http://www.headfonia.com/old-school-trio-akg-k701-beyer-dt880-sennheiser-hd650/
Hifiman’s new challenger for the HD600/650: http://www.headfonia.com/hifiman-he-300-the-dynamic-driver/
and perhaps also this (HD600 vs HD650) http://www.headfonia.com/the-sennheiser-trio-hd580-hd600-hd650/
If you are enjoying the JH5 then I would lean towards the HD600/650 since they are quite similar in sound signature.
Yeah, heard that the K701 had a lack of bass, which kind of is a dealbreaker. Thought it would compare with the 650 a bit better though, seing as it’s priced $200 higher than the 650 and 600 here.
The Hifiman sounds interesting. They would be considerably cheaper than the 650, about $350 to $500* (* I might be able to order the 650 through a friend and radio station, so I might be able to get them for about $400). And the way you describe it in the article it’s “closer” to the 650 in terms of signature. Would you put it in the same class as the 650? Or would the 650 be worth the extra $150 in your opinion? Not that it’s about that necessarily, if the 650 is simply better, I’d rather use a bit more to get that, when I am going to get a new pair to begin with. From what I’ve read the 650 seems preferable to me over the 600, so at the same price I think I’ll go for the 650’s. They seem to be tough to drive though. At the moment I got a Xonar Essence STX, though I might get something else in the future. From what I gather in discussion threads the opinion seems to be it does “fine, but a amp in addition would be preferable if you got the money for it, will bring out that little extra special something from the HD650”.
Any good amp suggestions to pair with the HD650? For when I get the money for it in the upcoming months. Think I will be going for the HD650 though, unless the HE-300 compares extremly well with it.
*Excuse the formatting, got no idea what happened there, didn’t look like that when I wrote it… *
There is a lot of talk about the HE-300 compared to the HD650 being discussed on the comments section of the HE-300 article:
As for the HD650, the Schiit Asgard/Valhalla should do well.
Heard the Schiit’s mentioned regarding the HD650 before as well, will take a look at those, thanks again! Will head over to the HE-300 and see what’s discussed there.
Oh, and would you say the Asgard or the Valhalla pair best with the HD650? From the review you seem very pleased with the Asgard, but say that the Valhalla would pair good as a bit brighter amp. It also has the cleaner and clearer sound of the two, which I think I would appriciate.
If the $100 price different weren’t a factor, which one would you choose to pair with the HD650? I assume neither of them are bad per se, so just wondering which would be your personal choice.
Hi mike i got a pair of HD 650, currently using Graham slee solo SRG II as an amp, however im still lack of DAC and currently looking for one. in my mind thinking to get schiit bifrost for DAC however my friend recommend me centrance dacmini CX, but when i tried to look it up from the web its a dac/amp, so do i really need a dac/amp or just pure dac?
and can you please give me any recommendation for good Dac under $600
or the KingRex which I haven’t done a proper review on but is kicking ass:
thanks mike for the recommendation.
what bout schiit bifrost? is it any good?
I’m still waiting to get one, Allen.
thanks then for the info.
sorry for out of topic, saw your profile from indonesia, where can you possibly order schiit bifrost from?
Jaben and Kantong Kresek both sells Schiit:
Am in the process of sourcing for a dedicated DAC for my Burson HA-160 and incoming LCD-2 V2. Understand your Rein Audio X-DAC will be posted soon and I’m really looking forward to it.
I would like to ask if you know anything about Audio Lab M-DAC? Would also like to ask if the M-DAC and the 8200CD shares the same DAC chip? The M-DAC looks very interesting to me as it’s available in Singapore for S$1,100.
Besides the 2 models that I have mentioned, are you able to recommend any balanced DAC for around the budget of not more than S$1,500?
Thanks for your help!
The Cambridge Dacmagic is often overlooked. It’s an excellent DAC for $300 (USD) and it has balanced out.
Understand that the DACmagic has a successor now, DACmagic Plus. Will try to listen to it before making a final decision.
But as of now, my preference is with Audio Lab 8200CD and M-DAC.
This is Javier from Singapore. I recently purchase a tf10 for portable audio. I also own a jh16, and an ER4P. I am looking to get an amplifier. I have the Ipod 5.5g modded by RWA. I am looking for any amp with good synergy with the above iems. I find the tf10’s mids a little muddy, and the highs can be a little harsh for me, so any amps can solve this problem? Appreciate your help.
P.S. Your site helped me alot in the past few years, helping me purchase the HD650s, HD25s, and a lot of other headphones. This is a very very useful site, thanks Mike!
I listen to musics from all genres. Rock, pop, hip-hop, vocals, jazz, orchestra.
Hope this helps. Thanks again,
Thanks Mike! I will also be getting the Apuresound Cable for my er4 soon after reading your review. Thumbs up for Headfonia!
On the TF10’s mids and highs: those are the classic TF10 problem. The solution is to get another IEM, and so far the best IEM to replace the TF10 (and eliminate the mid and high problem is a 6 driver TF10 remold from Unique Melody).
JH16 amp: Pico Slim
ER4 amp: RSA SR-71A or ALO Continental (yes the ER4 loves expensive amps).
Thanks for your speedy reply. I don’t plan to get another iem, i am fine with my current few. I am looking at the sr71a now. I am a HUGE fan of RSA sound, I own the RSA Predator and I love it! The 71a seems like the next upgrade. I am planning to get a top tier portable amp, and go for desktop rigs after that. What do you think, will the 71a be the amp for my iems(jh16s, tf10, er4)? Thanks man!
Thing is, I think the IEMs you mentioned sort of need a different amplifier to shine. Especially the JH16 and the ER4 which are like total opposites in sound.
I see. You are very right mike. I dont really plan to bring my 16s outside for my portable rig, i bring my tf10 and my er4 most of the time. I use my 16s for home audio. I am looking for an amp with good synergy with the er4 and the tf10. The 71a seems ok for me, any other recommendations? Thanks a lot Mike!
Then the SR71A would be a fine amp for your use. Make sure you’re okay with not having a recharging feature though.
I mostly listen to acoustics music and want the “there are in my room”feeling.My budget is 300$.Please help me (also have a Asus Xonar ST).
Thanks in advance,
Ive read your review for dacport lx and dacmini. From your view of point which one would be a better dac? Put aside the amp functionality on dacmini
Technically the DACmini is better. But to my ears the darker sounding LX is more enjoyable.
Technically the DACmini is better. But to my ears the darker sounding LX is more enjoyabl
Hi! I really enjoy the site.
I’m looking for a headphone that will pair well with a schiit Asgard that won’t break the bank. I don’t want to spend more than about 350-375 (usd). I don’t actually own an Asgard, but plan on getting one based on the reviews.
I am currently listening to music from my iMac on. Some senn. HD555s. Unamped. No DAC. I listen to a lot of Dave Matthews band , MGMT, 30 seconds to mars, angels and airwaves, AWOL nation, some rock and alternative, but mostly acoustic Dave kinds of stuff. I really enjoy being able to hear clear clean vocals, guitars (especially the sounds of fingers sliding down strings).
You should try the SRH940, if you looking for clean vocals and details
What JavierF said. Also try a Grado like the SR225 or 325.
mike for classical, under $100/1juta, what would you recommend? I’m interested in Goldring DR150 or the lower model dr100 and 50.. what do you think? have you tried the Goldring? maybe in jaben jakarta opening/
I’m planning a review on the Goldrings. The DR100 is very nice for the price, but I’ve yet to listen to the other models.
Hi Mike. I have been wondering whether to get a DAC or an amp first. This will be my first of each, and also am not that well-versed in audiophilia 😛
As for usage, primarily on my laptop. I do have a CAL!, and listen to most genre, except dubstep and too-bass-heavy songs, though I enjoy vocals very much.
I would like to hear what DAC/amps do you recommend, and which one I should go first. Also do mind I am a student, so budget is fairly limited, unless I go on a ‘diet’ lol.
Looking forward to your response.
Hello. have you checked our recommendations page? 🙂
Yes I did. That just makes me more indecisive whether to get a DAC first or an amp. To my understanding, my current (only) headphones doesn’t really need an map per se, so I’m inclined to purchasing a DAC more.
So maybe my question now would be: which would be more like an upgrade, sound-wise for my current setting: an amp or a DAC?
Or maybe I should get something that have both?
I kinda agree on that, in that it would be more.. umm.. safer for a lack of better term, to get a DAC/amp. Can you explain how would the DAC portion improve on the sound quality coming out of my laptop? I think an amp is minly used to power hard-to-drive ‘phones and add a little someting to the mix, but I’m curious how much more a DAC would change the sound.
While it may be a bit confusing I often use a negative description of amps and DACs. A good DAC converts the digital signal without errors, a good amp will amplify the signal from the DAC without introducing any sonic aberrations. My philosophy is that gear must not get into the way of music and if it succeeds in that then it may be called good.
The electronics that are built in laptop are simply not made for high fidelity music playback. But many times they are pretty adequate for playing music. Is there something that really annoys with your current setup? When I bought the HD25-II I started to get annoyed by noise that pollutes my laptop audio circuit. It was not a problem with Grado SR80i and the only reason for me to buy a DAC/amp seems the elimination of noise. I don’t really think that SR80i and HD25-II drivers out-resolve what a decent built in soundcard is capable of. And honestly I think that it’s the same case with CAL!.
Regarding the amps, every headphone must have one because line-out signal straight from the DAC is too weak. A better amp will be more powerful to drive hungrier drivers and/or more “resolving” in a way that it will amplify the signal without molesting it.
I see. Thanks for explaining that.
Well the only problem that I have is crackling noise coming from my laptop ever since I upgraded to Windows 7. But that mostly is I think from outdated drivers and improper bit depth and sample rate.I updated the drivers though. It’s not that frequent, and happened at different intervals; but it’s not that frequent to be very annoying. Checked that it isn’t the CAL!s as I plugged it in my phone to test it. Maybe a DAC would eliminate that noise?
Maybe something to bring the vocals out more out of the CAL!. I love my vocals, especially in some of the anime OSTs I listen to. Overall I am happy with my current set up and greedy for more improvement. 😀
Like what Rudolfs said, I think you should just get a simple one box solution like the Fiio E10.
In my experience, most newcomers get an amplifier before they get a DAC.
Thanks, both you and Mike. I’ll pull the trigger once I got more pocket money on the Fiio E10.
It’s not as much a question as a suggestion, but what’s your take on sound docks? If your for them, which ones do you recommend?
You’re talking about the mini speakers with Ipod docks built in?
Currently have audinst mx1. For HD650, should i stay on audinst and add an asgard or change it to dacport ( non lx )?
The Asgard is really good, tried it in my friend’s house. I also own the HD650, I feel a tube-amp has greater synergy with it!
any suggestions for $500 tube amp? i tried WA6 and loving it but it’s out of my budget
The WA6 are really awesome. It is only a little over your budget I presume? Personally, my HD650 pairs really well with the Valhalla. But with the WA6, heavenly. I have not tried a lot of tube amps, I own the WA6, and I love it. I think you gotta ask Mike for more suggestions, sorry man!
Does it really have to be a tube?
Actually the Apex Butte is $500 and has tube-like strengths and would pair good with the HD650. http://www.headfonia.com/little-apex-the-butte/
It would also be a better choice than the Valhalla.
not really. actually i didn’t find HD650 too dark for me so i’m more interested in Asgard than Valhalla. Butte is interesting too. looks like i’ll have to hear both Asgard and Butte first before i can make my decision. Thanks
Add the amplifier first.
mike, do you think the soundstage on ER4 is large? somehow i do think it is large
How does the Ultrasone Pro 900 compare to the Beyerdynamic DT990 (any version)?
How portable is the Ultrasone DJ-1 Pro? Also what is the difference from the plain DJ-1 model?
The DJ1 Pro’s cups are a little bigger than the M50’s cups, but they’re flatter, so it’s not as hard to wear them around your neck.
The DJ1 Pro is a rebranded Pro 550s, and the I believe the regular DJ1 is a rebrand of the HFI 580.
ive been reading your reviews for a few months, bought the m50, pa2v2 and am in the process of buying hrt ms2(+) before the schiit (something/asgard) before hd598 before WA6/hd650.
anyways… ive been wondering if you could do a comparison guide on the differences between balanced and single-ended and the pros and cons of other types of connections types including coax, tosh, etc. i think it would be beneficial to the overall audiophile community, especially the newbies (like me!) unless connections dont matter and if thats the case, disregard…
thanks mike for the great reviews and keep up the good work 🙂 (no pressure)
p.s. implementing a search function especially for comments would be amazing, if its not too much trouble.
actually #16 and #19 of the FAQ were pretty helpful/interesting.
In addition to that, you may also want to read the Dark Star review there. I wrote some more about why I still like unbalanced best.
yea i have actually read that and also the page in The Usual Suspects which was helping on the unbalanced vs balanced debated. Seems like its simply soundstage vs. imagining and loudness.
But actually I wanted to know about the pros and cons of connetion types like 1/8th, 1/4th, rca, the multiple different pins, optical, coax, etc.
maybe there is no difference and its just preference.
Yes we need a better search function. I’ll try to do something about it.
Thanks for the reviews. Have you had a chance to hear the Yulong D 18 based on the Sabre chip?
The DAC wars are really heating up. I am seeking a DAC that might approach the level of Eastern Electric or similar, but I cannot stretch quite that far. Also, Do you have a general opinion
on NOS DACs versus upsampling DACs. I’d really like to narrow down the
field and that might be helpful to know. Any thoughts on the Sabre chip versus others? Thank you.
No experience with the Yulong. Personally I still think that the chips from the big manufacturers (Burr Brown, Cirrus Logic, AKM, Analog Devices) are still better than Sabre chips. I haven’t really heard a Sabre-based DAC with good soundstage performance. Even the highly regarded Buffalo 32 design is very flat in three dimensionality.
I just bought lehmann black cube linear. Now I need a dac for it. I can get dacmagic for 320€. Do you still think dacmagic is good for the price or should I wait for something newer? My budget is around 300€ and I use HD650.
The DACmagic is great if you need all the different input outputs. If you only need simple USB in and RCA out, then something like the HRT MS2+ or the DACport LX would be better.
With the Lehmann I’m leaning towards the DACport.
Thanks, I’ll look into those. By the way which cross feed you think is better, Meier cross feed or Canz3d cross feed?
Thanks for your help Mike! It would be great if you could help me with this other question:
Which cross feed you think is better, Meier cross feed or Canz3d cross feed?
Hi Headfonia, I can´t avoid reading yours everyday & thanks for being so neutral and helpful to all. I wonder:
1.- Why my wife enjoys so much the music on the cheap and dark radio in the kitchen and I always need high quality to start enjoying it.
I think the audiofile bug got us sick and we should stick to music more than to sound. Pity I can never recover from that illness.
2.- Are we, guys who use headphones more introverted than the rest and better enjoy spending time with our own company and music than with others? In my case the answer is : Yes.
Rule of thumb:
1. When the music is right, one should always be able to enjoy it regardless of headphone/gear used.
2. I know a lot of extroverted people who enjoys headphones listening. I don’t think headphones is about being introverted, just like people who enjoy driving two seater sports cars being more introverted than people who like driving SUVs or vans.
Was interested on your thoughts of the new Yamaha HPH-200~!!
Looks classy ^^
hi mike, any experience with darkvoice dv332?
I’m interested in buying a hedphone amp/dac and am interested in the dacmini cx and the chordette toucan.
I cannot find any in depth reviews on the toucan. Have you heard about this amp/dac?
The audio source will be my pc.
I have the hd650 and the akg q701.
I mostly listen to rock, pop r&b and jazz.
What is your take on the lehmann rhinelander?
I’m thinking that i may use the dac section of one of the aforementioned amp/dac and a separate amp any recommendations would be welcome.
Mike have you heard the Govibe Porta tube? What you think of the amp compared to SR71A for example
Sorry no experience with that one.
Centrance dacmini cx vs bursonHA-160 D. Which one is better?
Source will be my pc.
I listen to a lot of rock(hard, soft & everything in b/w)& stuff from eminem, flo-rida, rihanna etc.
I think the HA-160 D would be a better choice. I heard DACmini CX before, and I personally felt that its bass was too polite and it lacked that bit of character to carry off Rock well.
And also because I own a HA-160 myself.
X2 on Joe Siow. The HA-160D has the perfect character for Rock. By the way I haven’t heard the Dacmini CX, only the DACmini.
the dacmini CX is the full name of the first dacmini, the next one ;dacmini PX includes a 25w per channel class D amplification section, and there will be more to come… one with digital ipod dock within the case,
Awww.. stupid me.
Hi MIke, on the iBasso PB2 review you mentioned the dual-channel DIP OPA2111KP op-amps as a good choise. Where can I get that? I’m not savvy about these stuff, but I’d like to give it a try.
This is the best I can help you with:
I got the 2111KP from my DIYer friend.
Hi Mike, I have a M50s and was thinking about a portable amp.. do you have any recommendations or do you think it wouldn’t make a difference in sound for me with an amp?
It should make a difference. Have you read our portable amp comparisons?
I am using a DT880 with Govibe Peak. While it’s a good and powerful amp, as of late it seems I find the treble on DT880 a bit disturbing. I know that a tube amp is recommended in this case (already had my eyes on TinyTube) but is it true that tubes only have 1000-2000 hours lifespan? That is very short and is a major factor in deciding my purchase on it.
What about solid state, any amp that could soften the treble a bit? My budget is around $250-$300. I’ve read the review on Graham Slee’s, is Novo what I’m looking for? I’ve tried the Solo SRG II with T1, but I’m not sure if the smooth treble is from the T1 itself or the amp.
I don’t really have any music preferences but as of late I have been listening a lot to blues, vocals, and guitars.
Tubes should last longer than just 1000-2000 hours. The Solo SRGII has a nice soft treble and usually makes for a good pairing with the DT880.
Thanks mike. I’ve found someone who is letting go of their Solo SRG II for cheap so I guess I’ll be getting it then.
Yes it’s an excellent, though underrated amp.
The Dacmini cx & the dacmini are the same thing its just that centrace has come out with a new headphone amp/speaker amp/dac called the dacmini px ($1495) so using the full name is just an easy way to differentiate the two models.
Ok so its the burson ha160d which you & joe prefer but it is only good with rock or does it work well with every other genre, as i belong to the internet generation with every genre i mean modern music and digital formats vs vinyls etc.
Headphones i have: akg quincy jones q701 & hd650.
I would probably go with the Burson for the majority of modern music.
You’re welcome. 🙂
The Burson works pretty well with the genres of music that I have; Jazz/ Rock/ Pop/ R&B & Classical.
The Burson should especially work well with Q701, providing it with the extra meat that it lacks.
Are there any Little Dot Amplifier reviews in the future? :)with comparison with WooAudio maybe?
I really can’t say for sure, John.
I’m from Germany, so please excuse me for my terrible english 😉
I found your website a few days ago and the articles are just awesome! Nice pictures, a lot of information… great!
Currently I search for a new headphone, and I’ve read tons of articles but I just can’t decide which to buy…
I’m listening most to electronica/house and charts, so fast music with a lot of bass.
Music that I’m definitely not listening to is rock, classical music, vocal and jazz.
A lot of bass would be nice, but it should not clang, a punctual, firmy bass was perfect.
A portable one would be very nice, but it’s not the crucial factor…
I’m neither a DJ nor will I use it in a studio, and it’s very likely that I use the CmoyBB.
When I had to decide between the following, which should I buy?
* Beyerdynamic DT1350
* AIAIAI TMA-1
* Sennheiser HD25-1
* Audio Technica Pro700 Mk2
* Audio Technica M50
or even the Sennheiser PX210BT?
After reading the articles, the TMA-1 and the Pro700 Mk2 sound perfect, am I right?
The article of the TMA-1 is from October 2010, is the “easy to see how excited I am”-status up to date?
For Electronica and House, I find the TMA-1 to be best. The fitting is a bit loose and doesn’t offer a lot of isolation though, if you’ll be using it outdoors that may be a problem. Next best choice is the DT1350.
Happy Holidays. Hav you had a chance to try any of the S Logic Models from Ultrasone?
I love the DJ1 Pro just got for Christmas. Decently tight bass in my opinon, not sure how it would work on your music but you may want to borrow an Ultrasone or try in the store if you have not already tried a model or two. Good luck!
Hi there, my rig currently consists of a Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo DAC/amp, GoVibe Magnum headphone amp with source from a classic iPod with cans being a Senn HD555. I’m hearing distortion in the music although for the same tune played through my iPhone 4, there is no distortion. Is this because the iPod can’t drive the Senns due to impedance incompatibility? but i thought the DAC and amp would have taken care of this? In any case, if this is true, which set of cans would be suitable? I prefer cans with strong bass response as my musical genre of choice is extreme metal. Thanks, Ross
Distortions are usually the fault of the amplifier. Try a different amp first?
For headphones, if you listen to metal, try the HD25-1.
Thanks, Mike. I was actually seeking to audition some orthodynamics or electrostatics to see what the fuss is all about 🙂 Would any of the mid-range Grado/Allessandros be suitable for metal as well?
Hi Chee Heng,
The local metal crowd seem to love vintage orthodynamic headphones for their music, so you may want to give that a try. Those vintage orthos do have a unique coloration that makes them special. Likewise the stats. Unique sound though at the end of the day they are quite specialized.
On the Grado / Alessandro, I think the MS-1 works better for metal rather than the Grado counterparts.
Thanks for the advice, Mike. I’ll drop by the local Jaben store to audition some…not sure if they have orthos though.
They probably don’t have orthos. 🙂
I forgot to ask further – why would an amp cause distortion to the music you listen to? Is it because of the mismatch in impedances vis-a-vis the headphones?
Distortions: the main issue is inadequate current level. So you have the input signal which dictates the sound wave, that’s measured in volts. For a certain voltage level, the amplifier needs to be able to supply enough current for that voltage level.
The higher the voltage level, the higher the loudness, and the higher the demand for current. This is why distortions happen at high level, when the amplifier can’t supply enough current for that given voltage/loudness level. Sometimes the same amp/headphone combo may distort when the volume is at 12 O’clock, but may be fine and clean sounding at 10 O’clock. This is the logic behind that phenomenon.
It’s not that difficult to design amplifiers with high voltage swing, say 80 volts like on the Dark Star. What’s difficult is to make sure that when the amplifier does output an 80V signal, the power op-amps are able to deliver enough current to back up that 80V, otherwise distortion happens.
This is why 300 Ohm headphones are actually easier to drive than 32 Ohm headphones. 300 Ohm headphones require very little current, and all you need is to design an amplifier with a high enough gain that will give you plenty of loudness levels, but current needs would be relatively low.
Impedance matching is required so that the amplifier can output the maximum level of current that it’s capable of. When the impedance don’t match, the amplifier is sort of hold-back, and may distort when in reality it’s still capable of delivering higher current levels. This is why power output ratings are expressed in certain impedance ratings, ie 30Watts at 4 Ohms. Most of the headphone amplifiers today have a relatively high power reserve hence impedance matching becomes less of an issue. Some people however disagree to this and they think everything has to be matched. I don’t believe in that.
Lastly, you may also have distortions due to the headphone driver being faulty. But usually, with the big name brands, the drivers are pretty tough and that rarely happens.
Hope that helps.
Whoa…thanks for the detailed explanation 🙂 I am more informed now and will know the right information to read whenever i next purchase amps and/or cans.
Perhaps this is the reason why distortion is more common when i playback from the iPod rather than from my iPhone 4. The sound just cracks up, especially on the bass notes.
You mentioned high impedance headphones are easier to drive but i note that most Grados are 30-32 Ohm whilst the larger cans, even the Hifiman cans are about 300Ohms yet people always mention them to be one of the hardest to drive with a regular headphone amp. Am i missing a part of the equation here? Sorry for the many questions but trying to arm myself with as much information as possible so i can make a more imformed decision the next time 🙂
I have DT880/600 paired with NFB-12 and I like them.
Thinking of getting 2nd headphones, for 2 reason:
1) semi-portable use(public transport) via Iphone/Macbook pro
2) I miss big basses that I can’t get with my DT880’s
My musicstyle varies quite a lot, but on the road I usually listen electronical music (house, techno, dubsteb) and (alternative/heavy) rock. I can’t afford to buy portable amp atm (student budget).
I have read your reviews of HD-25-1, ATH-M50 and PRO700 MK2, all them seems to fit my needs? Have I missed some other great cans in same price-range?
What’s your recommendation? Which makes best pair with DT880 in home use? Which is best when talking about isolation and (un-amped) portable use?
Also what <200 $ portable USB-DAC/amp would you recommend for them?
Thanks for great site, been wondering around here for many long nights! And sorry for my bad English, not my native language… 🙂
Ultrasone Pro 900. It is a semi-portable full-size can capable of big, deep and powerful bass. It can also be driven by an iPod, however it’ll lack some bass authority.
iBasso D4 is within your price range for a portable amp with a USB DAC function.
Thanks for your input!
Ultrasone Pro 900 is not in my pricerange, 350 € in Germany. Will check reviews of cheaper Ultrasones though, haven’t really read about them at all.
Btw, I can DIY the amp also, do I get better quality in same price that way? 🙂
I’ve had the opportunity to test many DIY amps and in my opinion their supposedly great value per dollar is not as phenomenal as people say. They can sound good, but in most cases you can also buy a commercial amp with the same dollar-performance ratio.
Well u liked O2 and it’s DIY and really affordable.. 😉
Which gives best synergy for my music:PRO700 mk2 + O2? Or DT1350 + O2? Or HD-25 + O2?What about TMA-1 + O2?
I’m not saying DIY products are bad. I’m just saying that their supposedly great sound-per-dollar ratio is not as phenomenal as people usually say.
What music do you listen to?
My musicstyle varies quite a lot, but on the road (for what I’m thinking now my purchase) I usually listen electronical music (house, techno, dubsteb) and (alternative/heavy) rock.
I also have DT880 / 600 ohms, does O2 have enough power to drive that headphone? If so, I will use it also on journeys sometimes (yeah I know, it doesn’t isolate much).
The O2 should have enough power for the 600 ohms DT880.
Portable with Iphone and Macbook, big bass for electronic and rock. Try the DT1350, then the HD25-1, and lastly the Pro700 Mk2 (this one needs a portable amp). The M-50 isn’t really the phone you’re looking for.
As for the amplifier, you can check out the new JDSLabs C421 amplifier. I haven’t written a formal review on it, but I’ve written about it on Facebook:
Hi Mike I read your review on the IBasso D- Zero and was considering buying the unit until I found out that IBasso has the D7. The D7 is new and has Asynchronous USB transfer and plays 24BIt/192KHZ. Price point of the D7 is $179, not bad. Will you at some point review this model. If so, I will wait for the review before buying the D-Zero.
Yes Ibasso comes out with a new amplifier every month or two. At the moment I still haven’t got the D7 scheduled for a review.
Have you reviewed the Eddie Current 2A3? If not mistaken I once saw a post regarding that 2A3 but I couldn’t find any review. Cheers!
Cancelled due to logistics issue. 🙁
That’s too bad…
For 2012, will you review any high-end amps? Cavalli Liquid Fire, RWA Audeze Edition, Eddie Current Balancing Act or Hifiman EF-6 perhaps? It should be interesting to compare them against the Dark Star.
Not so sure about high end amps. There’s always the logistics issue which is always the biggest issue. Customs is 30% of the amplifier cost, and shipping can be as high as $500 one-way. So that’s an easy $2000 just to do a review on one high end product.
What a pretty strict customs you got there! Have you tried under-declare the value?
Thanks for your effort in doing lots of helpful reviews up until now Mike!I just saw your post on Facebook that you will get the HE-400 sent by Fang soon, too bad that you can’t try their new amp EF-6 and review it too.
Yes, who knows I think we should be able to review the EF6.
Mike, when choosing amp for a given pair of headphones, is it wise to look for an amp that boosts the headphones’ strengths, or an amp that makes up for the headphones’ relative shortcomings? For instance, if my headphones are great basshead phones but slightly lack in, say, soundstage, is it better to use an amp that excels in bass to further improve the bass, or an amp that provides a better soundstage?
I know what you’re saying, but in practice it’s hard to predict. But the general rule of thumb is pair bright headphones with dark amps, and vice versa.
I still don’t get what it exactly means by bright/dark sounding or warm/cold sounding… I think bright has something to do with treble while dark is something bass? Does warm/cold sounding mean the same thing?
Bright = lots of treble.
Dark = very little treble.
Warm and cold is harder to describe, but most gear these days are warm sounding anyway so it doesn’t really matter. People don’t like cold sounding gear so companies stop making cold sounding gear.
Hey Mike. Do you think the HE-500 would be good match for the Burson Audio HA-160DS, seeing as it should be here soon, or should I just stick with my AKG Q701’s and my HD650’s and see how they improve by upgrades? Looking into my first pair of high ends. Want something that’s warm yet energetic, with good PRaT and a decently layered soundstage experience, with a up-scale factor by amping and sourcing.
Thanks again for all the help you’ve gave me throughout the year as a budding music lover and headphone enthusiast. I hope you have a happy new year, Mike!
The HE-500 fits the bill: it’s warm, energetic, good PRaT and decent soundstage. However it doesn’t upscale as well as the Sennheisers.
Happy new year too!
My father and me, just bought HE-300 headphones today. As the store was out of stock, we should received the two pairs next week. I owned Grado 325i and AKG 701 in the past and these sound really different in a pleasant way. I have some questions for you:
1- Should we received the new velour earcup?
2- I bought a Little Dot DAC II (with integrated amp) do you think it will paired well with the HE-300?
3- Should we received the new flexible cable?
4- Is it possible to upgrade to the HE-500 Black Canare cable and if yes, is it gonna improve the performance of the HE-300?
1. I actually don’t know if you will receive the new velour or the old type. Please ask Head-Direct about this.
2. Sorry no experience with the Little Dot DAC II.
3. Again, I don’t know.
4. Again, please ask Hifiman/Head-Direct.
Sorry I can’t be of much help there.
in the FAQ, the 3th question (What is the most important port of a Hi-Fi System ?) you are writing that the most important are the ears.
I really like listen to good music, worked several years in a Hi-Fi shop (right before getting a student). Shortly, I love all this stuff.
I am looking for a good portable Headphone Amp (love the Continental tube or the SR-71A).
But: I can’t hear with my left ear since birth. Thats why it makes no sense hearing music via headphones. But I don’t want to accept it anyway. My right ear is very good (playing musical instrument, so it is well tuned 🙂 ) but I will never hear the deep 3d sound. I don’t know how it sound.
So, am I stupid to want hear music via headphones. Even loudspeaker can’t give me the room because I am not able to do the simplest thing: to hear the 3dimensionality, to hear from where the sound comes from.
My dream is to find a way to hear and feel how it is two ears. Thats why I am looking for so good parts I guess. To imagine how it could be.
Thats a real fucking handycap…
Thanks for writing. Perhaps you should direct your attention to finding good music instead of trying to get a proper Hi-Fi experience. At the end of the day, good music is still good music despite the quality of the reproduction.
thanks for the response.
Shortly: how is it when you hear music with a headphone when using only one ear, compared to two ears ? Can you describe it.
Tonally the sound is thinner, less full. On good recordings you can still get a sense of the ambiance of the venue that’s captured in the recording. Also I feel that I’m less focused into the music when only listening through one ear.
I am very sure that my ears don’t like highs(I’ve never liked bright music). that’s why I went whit HD555(whit 595 mod) but I’ve noticed that even whit low volume I almost always get pain in the ear canal after I’ve listened them for about 15-20 minuts(when it starts I feel like it was air presure building up on my ears). So I’m thinking that this headphones must be too bright for me.
I like the sound signature, thoug I feel it could be better in airiness, dept, blackness and maybe a bit warmer o musical. So do you have any recomendation on another pair of headphones or any other advise?
I’m using an E10 and music goes from hip hop, pop, electronica to clasic rock, jazz and blues.
thanks in advance
If you want to go darker than the HD555, the only thing I can think of is the HD600/650.
Thanks I’ll keep them in mind, today I started testing some parametric equalization for my own ear resonance. though it seems to take out some liveliness from music it actually makes it more comfortable to listen to.
I’ll experiment with this approach to see to what extent this can solve my problem before investing in new cans.
Yes if you can use EQ, especially parametric, that should work very well.
And yes if you tone down the treble, the music should be less airy and less lively. Also try to get some crossfeed solution, that ought to make music listening more comfortable in the long run.
Is the Grado SR325is far away from the performance of the RS1i? If so, what are the differences?
Different enough to justify the RS1’s place as a higher end model, but also close enough to make the SR325is a better value. Some differences include a more open and spacious sound, better articulation and better timbre due to the wood housing.
What usb DAC/AMP would you recommend for around $100? I have AD700 as my headphones and would like use the dac/amp on my laptop.
Wassup Mike! Let’s talk about USB Implementation, USB Cables and the dependence of both on audio signal, since this is a pretty hot and discussed topic. My 1st question: Let’s consider two cases: “A” – DAC with USB transfer/power supply; “B” – DAC with SPDIF. Let’s imagine that I have a notebook and Gordon’s Walength’s proton DAC, which is supplied from USB. why necessarily Gordon’s? Because when I get money I want to buy it and create a portable high quality rig. A reasonable question – is the dac (which is supplied from usb of course) subjected to the quality of USB implementation? This is situation “A”. Now let’s take any dac with spdif, Mike – have y ever tried Halide Design “Bridge” cable? Is it worth to use such devices/converters? Is the audio signal subjected to usb implementation if we talk only about data transfer + converter? That is situation “B”…thank youVlad 🙂
So the questions are:
1. Is the DAC subjected to the quality of USB implementation? Of course, yes. 2. What? Yes the Halide Design Bridge cable. Is the audio signal subjected to USB implementation if we talk only about data transfer + converter?? Sorry I don’t understand the question here.
well, the 2nd thing I want to know: if the USB implementation is the most important aspect for audio signal and it doesn’t matter what I use: usb cable or converter – still it all depends on how good is USB?
The cables and the USB-SPDIF converter matter. Ultimately they all have an effect on the signal, one way or another.
Happy New Year, Mike!
There are a ton of new amps out! I’ve currently got two Fiio E9s. I’m using one as a semi-portable fashion for around the house, which while not ideal, is not horrible for its under $100 price for a HD598 and SR225i. I also have one at the office powering a HD600. (HD600 is my favorite headphone by a long shot.) I think I have two questions:
1) In the $200-300 range, are there any options that would have better sound quality than the E9 as a portable amp? (in this scenario, mostly asking for the HD598/SR225i/and M80/HD25. Mostly around the house but also out for coffee, etc. Rechargable would be nice but almost always can find a power outlet if I need to. Basically, I’m not willing to sacrifice sound quality for portability but I know that the E9 is pretty much a starter…
2) So here is the follow up question. If there is, is there anything that could drive the HD600 w/ as much authority as the E9 on high gain. I’m really happy with the combo, though probably because I haven’t heard the HD600 w/ a better amp… In this case, I could probably go portable for up to $400 because I could sell both E9’s.
So in summary,
1) Can a portable amp beat the E9 at $100-300 for HD 598, etc?
2) Can a portable amp beat the E9 at $100-400 for HD600, 650 etc?
Thanks for any ideas!
Happy New Year!
I think if you get some of the top quality portables like the Alo Rx, Continental, or RSA’s SR71A the sound quality should easily be better than the E9.
what do you think SR-71A or Alo Continental ? I read that the conti has a greater soundstage. But what about the quality. I know RSA are of high quality (know the Predator), but is the conti also build forever ?
Do you think the sound quality is close or is there a big gap ? You mentioned to compare these, do you have a schedule for that.
Not a formal review, not for now but here is a brief comparison:
ALO Continental: very big soundstage, good clear sound all around, dynamic sound. RSA SR71A: big soundstage, dark sound signature, excellent lows, good low end impact, also very transparent though not as clear sounding as the ALO.
Personally, I love the RSA dark bassy sound signature. However, practically speaking, the lack of non-rechargeable batteries on it also makes it a big hassle when you want to make it as a daily portable amp. I mean the battery life is quite long, but at least you’ve got to get new 9V batteries once a week and that sucks. On the other hand the ALO is very dynamic sounding, and with a very likable sound as well, and it comes with rechargeable batteries, so this is the amp that I’ll go for if I were to use it daily.
Do you have plans reviewing the B&W P5, Grado SR325is and the Ultrasone Pro 900? 🙂
Sorry, not at the moment.
Mike, could you confirm or refute the statement, that Ultrasone Pro 900 have “recessed mids” and the phones may sound unbalanced to some people?
The reason behind those recessed mids and unbalanced impressions may be due to the S-Logic presentation. I’ve tried to explain it here: http://www.headfonia.com/closed-cans-shootout-m-50-esw-9-t50p-hd25-1-beats-studio-srh-840-srh-750dj-k181dj-and-dj1pro/8/
Can you explain the solid state vs tube difference?
Such as sound signature, etc.
Excellent question. This is how I would go about explaining the solid state sound in comparison to the tube sound.
First of all, there are just too many variations of the solid state and tube sound that it’s hard to make generalizations on how their sound signature would be. For instance, we all know that tubes supposedly have their own lush, rich, thick, full bodied sound — at least I seem to get that impression whenever I read about tube amps on the internet. The fact is that this is not always true. You can have a tube without a thick lush sound. You can have a tube with a clear, dynamic sound. You can also have a solid state with the supposedly “lush rich thick full bodied sound” like say the Graham Slee Solo amps. In fact the Solo amplifier fits the “lush-rich-thick-full bodied” sound description more than a lot of tube amps! You can have a fast-paced tube amp as with the Manley Stingray, and you can have a slow-paced solid state as with the Graham Slee Solo and some Japanese solid state gear. So, it’s almost impossible to deduce how an amplifier will sound just by looking at its amplification device.
Now, aside from sound signature generalization, there are some aspects of the tube vs solid state debate that can be generalized. For instance:
– Tubes have the potential for the best treble and midrange.
– Solid states have the potential for the best bass in terms of bass extension, bass impact, and bass articulation. If bass is what you’re looking for, go for solid state. – Tubes tend to excel at soundstage performance. Solid states struggle at this. – Tubes tend to struggle to deliver a high power output. With solid states, it’s easy. – It’s very hard for tubes to deliver a sustained, fast paced, hard hitting bass passages. Think your typical metal, hard rock, and trance music: solid state is usually the better choice. – Tubes tend to excel at musicality. The large majority of tube amps are very musical, while it’s more a hit-and-miss with solid state. – Tubes almost always have a tendency to sound warm. Solid states, not always. – Tubes almost always have the smooth tube sound. I’m not implying a warm or a mellow sound. You can have a fast paced, dynamic sounding tube, but at the same time it would remain smooth. This is why the best midrange and treble is found in tubes. To this day I have never found a tube amp, regardless of how bad it was designed, or the price point, that doesn’t exhibit this smooth sound.
Now, the funny thing is that amp designers that tend to be very vocal about the solid state vs tubes debate tend to be proponents of solid state. With numbers and graphs, it’s very easy to justify why solid state is supposedly the superior solution.
Another question, which doesnt directly relate to the previous one:
When choosing an amp, do you match dark headphones with dark amps and bright headphones with bright amps? So lets say I have a HD650, do I match it with an amp with the same sound signature or try to balance it out with a brighter amp.
Do you think some headphones sound better with a tube sound rather than solid state sound?
Usually that would be a good rule, but not always. Likewise on tube or solid state pairing. A headphone can sound good on both, so it doesn’t have to be a one amp for one headphone scenario.
I’ll just chime in that the question is not whether the amp uses transistors or thermionic valves- sound signature is chiefly determined by the circuit design. Unfortunately many lesser manufacturers use old (even 1940ies) designs in their amps so they sound in a way that is commonly associated with tube sound. Mike tells the truth that a well designed tube amp (look at Pete Millet designs) doesn’t sound very tubey. And a well designed solid state amp will not sound in a way which is mostly associated with old designs which were downright horrid. Look for good amps, the method of amplification should come second.
My eyes are now set on hybrid and parafeed tube designs.
Hi Mike, got a question, how’s the p51 mustang compared with just audio uha 120?
gonna be using with iems mostly, which is my vsonic gr-07, and westone um2. source gonna be ipod classic 120gb. Listening to mostly everything, more on pop and jazz, and rock.
I’ve never compared the uHA 120 to the Mustang (Lieven did the uHA120 review, I did the AHA120), but compared to the AHA120 the JustAudio is smoother, more refined, richer sounding, all around better than the Mustang.
Hello Mike, have you listened to local amp producer called Tubelover? Are they good?
I wonder how they compare against the Minute amp from Thailand.
Tubelover offers highly boutique parts (caps, resistors, etc.) and quality transformers at reasonable price compared to Woo or Eddie Current with all the shipping and customs from abroad included, the tubes configuration/type is similar with overseas’ producers. No idea about their schematic though.
Yes they are very good, though I can’t give a direct comparison with Minute or the other tube amps. Different design, different sound.
Hey Mike, I’m looking to buy a new pair of cans. I’m looking at either the ATH-M50s, ATH-PRO700MK2, or the V-MODA M-80/v-80. I was also interested in the V-MODA Crossfade LP2, but I heard the bass is good but the mids and highs suffer. I listen mostly to rap, hip/hop, r&b, a little reggae, and even less alternative. I do appreciate a pair with strong bass, but don’t want bass that affects the mids and highs too much in a negative way. If you were in my position which of the four would you buy?
Thanks in advance.
Lieven, have you compared the uha-120 with the mustang? how does it compare?
For Mike : thanks for replying the comparison with aha-120.
I have hd650 and want to move to a more neutral headphone(s). What you think would be a better all around option hd600 + k701 or just hd800? A lot of people say the hd800 needs high quality recordings, but I tried the hd800 with lo-fi hip hop in a shop and it sounded great.
If you want the HD800, make sure you have a good enough rig to leverage the HD800.
HD600, DT880 and the K 701 are pretty neutral. Try them first to see what you like.
And if you’d like an IEM, the Etymotic ER4P/ER4S is THE definition of neutral.
Thanks for help!
I owned DT880, but it was too bright for me. I had HD600 over a weekend in my rig and I liked it better than my HD650. I’m just trying to find out if there is an even better option available than HD600.
My rig is Dacmagic and Lehmann Black Cube Linear. What will happened if my rig is not good enough for HD800?
I think that the Lehmann is a good amp for the HD800 until you move up to the $2000+ amps.
Upgrade your DAC first. I don’t have much experience on this, sadly, so you may consult other people. 🙂
If your rig is not good enough for the HD800.. it’ll still sound good, but not $1500 good.
Thanks for help guys!
I think the rig is good enough for the HD800, I’m just not sure about the music. HD800 and hip hop doesn’t work very well.
I also listen to a couple of other genres too: rock, jazz, soul, downtempo etc. So the main problem is that HD800 is so accurate that poor recording quality causes fatigue?
Yes it depends on the recording ultimately, but I think it’s difficult to listen to bad recordings on the HD800.
What he said. DT880 too.
The HD600 is more neutral than the HD650, but the K701 is even more. I would suggest you get both the HD600 and the K701 rather than the HD800. The HD800 is very picky of recording and your overall set up quality. Perhaps for short listens it’s okay but for long term listening it’s not going to be the best, especially for hip hop.
I will be receiving a pair of Denon D2000 and JH5 Pro pretty soon.
Do you think the DigiZoid Zo2 would be a good amp for both of these headphones?
Should I look elsewhere? Budget $100-200.
The Zo would be good for the Denon, but not the JH. Anyway the JH should run fine ampless, so I would just leave it like that.
Hey Mike. I’ve been browsing through all of your reviews in hopes of picking out a pair of open-back headphones. Unfortunately, reading through all your great reviews has caused me to be even more undecided. I would prioritize listening to soundtracks such as the Braveheart, Hero (Jet Li movie not TV series), and Avatar soundtracks. My budget is probably around 500-700 for the headphone and portable amp. A couple headphone and amp pairing suggestions would be great! That said, is there any use for me to spend extra money to purchase an amp/dac (amp + dac in one box) instead of just an amp?
I am currently listening from an ipod touch, but I will need to upgrade because it is having problems. I’m also unsure of what dap to purchase. I will probably hold off purchasing until the ibasso dx100 is released and reviewed. If that happens to be out of my budget range (200-400 ish), I’m interested in a few like the Cowon j3/d3, Hifiman 602/601, and also open to any suggestions.
Lastly how much should I budget out for interconnects? One thing I’ve picked up reading though your site is that your system will be as good as the weakest link.
Thanks and apologizes for bombarding you with questions.
Try the Hifiman HE-500 + Graham Slee Solo SRG II. http://www.headfonia.com/hifiman-he-500-first-impression/
And the amp I’ll recommend for the HE-500: http://www.headfonia.com/graham-slee-desktop-amps-novo-solo-srg-ii-solo-ultra-linear/
I`ve been looking & reading everywhere for a comparison of the Burson Audio Ha-160 headphone amp & the Lehmann linear headphone amp, What do you Think? Thanks, Pogo.
Here is a review of the Linear amp:
On the second page of the review you can find some comparisons to the Burson.
Let me know if you have other questions.
Already having a LCD-2 and a JH16, I am looking for a replacement for my current DT 1350 as I find it a little uncomfortable and too ‘boring’.
I wondered how the Z1000 compares with the Dt 1350, especially in terms of the bass section.
I love the simplicity and design of the Z1000.
What would you say?
My feeling is that you probably feel smaller headphones don’t give you the same big sound as the LCD-2 and the DT1350. What about giving another full size a try like the HE-500?
The Z1000 is a really nice headphone, but a little weak in bass, weaker than the DT1350 in fact.
I just realized that there are no Audeze LCD reviews.
Get on that! 🙂
lol well nm. i am definitely wrong on that one :p
WHY HAVE I NEVER SEEN THESE REVIEWS!!?
Cause you should search before complaining? jk 😉
Yes the reviews are there James.
Hey guys. 🙂
I am just getting into the audiophile world, and have chosen HD650s as my headphones as choice (I own HD595s and love the Senn sound). My only real problem is I am clueless about AMPs and DACs… I’ve heard the Slee Solo SRG II is a good amp (and it comes bundled with 650s, so cheaper all around). I’ve also heard of a good DAC being the Stello DA100 Signature.
However, I’ve also heard of combos such as the Schiit Valhalla (not sure where to get this in the UK though) and the Music Streamer II Plus as a DAC.
Or finally, I’ve also been recommended the HA-160DS as an all in one solution at £660.
As you can see, It’s getting pretty overwhelming! Would my original choice of a Slee Solo still be a sound one? Or would you say the HA-160DS is a more solid choice based on the price saving? (I’m still not sure on the DAC though if I don’t go for the HA-160DS… any thoughts on this too?)
Sorry for the long post.
All of them are good options, each with their own plus and minuses. Have you read the reviews? You can find the desktop amplifier reviews here:
And for the HRT MS2:
If you have a more specific question after reading them, I’ll be happy to answer them for you.
Yeah, I read the reviews. I guess coming into the audiophile scene for the first time, all I see is so much options. I think so far I’m settled on a Slee Solo/DAC combo, a HA-160DS or a Schit Asgard/Valhalla with a Bifrost. I guess my specific question is, which of these in your opinion would pair best with the HD-650s?
Different character for different music. It would depend on what you like to listen to, personal preference and such.
Hey Mike! Love your website, very informative and well-written.
Need an opinion on mid-priced headphones.
Primarily listen to rap, hip hop, rock. Nothing too fast though. I like warmer, moderately bass heavy sounds, portability or leaking isn’t an issue as I will just be using these at home. And comfortable but not uber tight for a smaller head 🙂
Leaning towards the Senn hd558 plus mod, would that be good?
Based on what you’re telling me, the HD558 sounds good.
My only two experiences with high end audio have come in the forms of the Audio Technica ATH-M50 and the AIAIAI TMA-1’s. I loved the bass punch/kick of the TMA-1’s, but he overall sound balance and comfort of the ATH-M50’s. I listen to all kinds of music, with quite a few of the vocals being Vocaloids. The genres I listen to include Rock, Techno, Dance, Orchestral, and Pop. I don’t listen to much rap, and never listen to country.If I had to assign percentages, I’d say I listen to: 50% Rock, 30% Techno/Dance/Pop, 15% Orchestral, and 5% Instrumental/Classical. I will be using these on the bus to and from college, home, and also in the library when studying. Because of this, I will need proper Isolation and Noise Protection. My current music sources will be an iPod 4G and ENVY 17 3D 3rd Gen Laptop.Mike, if you could let me know what kind of semi-good-looking, great sounding, sub-$250 headphone I should get, that would be really, really, really great.
You’re asking for a lot of things there. Ideally you would need:
One headphone for Rock
One for Techno and Dacne
One for Orchestral
One for Pop
Not to mention your needs for noise protection.
At the moment two of the most popular portable headphones are the Beyer DT1350 and the Senn HD25-1. I suggest you take a look at the reviews for them: http://www.headfonia.com/sennheiser-hd-25-1/ http://www.headfonia.com/beyerdynamic-dt1350-death-to-the-hd25-1/
The Senn HD25-1 has been around longer and they’re very popular. The DT1350 is newer and it’s pretty good though newer doesn’t necessarily mean better here. The Senn isolates very well. The Beyer, less so but still pretty good.
You can also take a look at these: http://www.headfonia.com/closed-cans-shootout-m-50-esw-9-t50p-hd25-1-beats-studio-srh-840-srh-750dj-k181dj-and-dj1pro/
Well, if I could do that, I would, but I can’t. Anyway – it doesn’t need to be something great for everything, just a good overall headphone that does them all okay.
Also, would I be better off with a full-size portable? or iem?
Yes, I understand. Take a look at the HD25-1 or the DT1350, they won’t do all your music best, but they would make good all rounders.
If you can use an IEM, the JH5 for $399 would be the best choice.
Have you ever tried the AKG Q701’s? How do they compare to the SRH940? Your impression and review of the SRH940 is very accurate and I just want to hear your view between these two. I am torn because I love the SRH940 so much because it is so detailed. I find that it is more detailed than the Q701, while the Q701 is overall more enjoyable and smoother as it has less sibilance and harshness, but also lacks the bass punch that the Shure provides. The SRH940 feels more livelier, dynamic and engaging while the Q701 feels relaxing, smooth and spacious. Anything I missed?
What’s your take?
I’ve only heard the K701 and the K702, and I think your impressions are spot-on if we were talking about the non Quincy Jones version. Of course the Q701 probably sounds almost identical to the K701/2.
One thing I can add: wider soundstage on the AKG, but more precise and more three dimensional on the Shure.
Really? Can you elaborate more on the more 3D on the Shure? I would’ve thought the Q701 is more dimensional as it is wider and open.
Now I am listening to the Shure again (after trying out the Q701 in the shop today), I find the SRH940 more musical. It is closed yet it feels spacious (not as wide as the Q701’s tho), but just enough to provide the spaciousness while delivering the dynamic punch that closed headphones are great for. It’s balanced yet it’s also dynamic enough to give you that coloured feeling of fun headphones. It’s not overly bassy but it’s bassy enough to give you he enough punch for the thumping feeling. Is your impression similar?
Also, I find the Q701 lacks the punch for bass compared to the SRH940. Feels almost like the HD555/595 series that I once had in the past. I almost feel like the Q701 is more balanced, more controlled treble (as I hear no sibilance at all even with crappy encodings). It is very smooth though as I do not detect any harshness. It almost makes me feel like the SRH940 is coloured towards the bright side when comparing both of these.
It’s a very hard choice because this is how I put it: The Q701 will sound good for all songs while the SRH940 will sound more detail, musical with a great encoding song. Also the Q701 is much harder to amp I find.
Don’t confuse an open sound with better soundstage image. The 701 is more open and more spacious, mostly a function of the bigger housing I suspect. However imaging quality and three dimensionality, the Shure is better. Most probably this is due to the Shure having a newer, better driver quality than the AKG.
Yes the bass is there if you try to listen to it, but it’s not exactly a full, satisfying bass feel. Likewise the Shure is a monitoring headphone and the bass quantity should be limited, but the bass does have more focus than the 701.
Yes on the recordings, yes on the amplifiers. However the Shure scales up to higher end amp better than the 701.
You said the Shure scales up better with better amp. Does it sound much better going from a udac2 to an icon hdp? Have you ever tried both? Is it worth 4x the cost of upgrade though?
Do you also feel the lack of musical completeness from the 701 series? In short it seems like you prefer the Shure sound better, even though some people say the 701 are balanced and neutral while the 940 are coloured towards the treble side. Do you agree or is that a perception?
I’ve done a review on the uDAC 2 but not the icon HDP, so I really can’t tell. But I know that if you move from say the uDAC 2 to something bigger that I’ve reviewed like the Schiit Asgard, Apex Butte, Burson HA-160, you will really notice the difference. Don’t expect the cost of the upgrade to be linear to the sound performance though. That’s never the case in audio.
The Shure is indeed is more treble happy, and in that sense I usually prefer darker sounding headphones. However, as a whole, I think the K701 has a lot more issues like reverbs and inaccurate timbres that I can’t live with, hence my preference for the Shure.
I read on one of your reviews the HM-801 drives full sized headphones well. Would you go with just the 801 + HD650 or HM-601/602 + ttvj slim/alo rx2 + HD650? What are the pro’s and cons of either setup?
The HM801 set up will have better source quality, the HM601-2 set up will have better amp section. Personally I’d go with the HM-801 especially with the HD650.
Hey, are you guys planning on reviewing the PFE 232’s anytime soon?
hi mike, will there be areview on SE215?
Sorry, no plan so far.
Love your review.
What headphones would u recommend for use inside airplane?
I travel occasionally and usually consists of 5 to 18 hours of nonstop flights. And use ipad2 as dap.
I currently use IEM shure SE530, but I don’t like the sound at all. Probably I’m not an IEM guy. So I’m looking for headphones.
i mainly listen to jazz, pop, and a bit of orchestra.
FYI, My current desktop setup is Hd650 + Graham slee solo ultra linear with PSU1.
Can u please recommend “the cheapeast budget” version and the “nice budget” version for my situation..
Thanks for your help.
PS: i have been reading your review on ATH M50 and Senn Hd25-I. But not sure if they can provide enough isolation.
Noise cancelling works very well on airplanes, so I suggest you look into those. Otherwise headphones with natural isolation like the HD25-1 is also very good for airplanes. The best option for me so far has been custom IEMs. They can’t be beat for travelling IMHO. Not only do they block the plane’s engine noise but you get isolation from babies crying and people being noisy (these sort of things don’t get isolated with noise cancelling headphones).
I love to try custom IEMs, but I had a bad experience but IEM. so, i’m trying to avoid them.
btw, what good custom IEMs that I can start with? usually at what price?
for the noise canncelling that you recommend, any model that you can recommend on?
A custom IEM is a totally different experience. I suggest you look at the JH5 from JHAudio. (http://www.headfonia.com/triple-jh-comparison-five-ten-and-sixteen/)
As for the noise cancelling headphones, I did a review on the Beats Studio (the first model out) and it has a generally quite likable sound signature. http://www.headfonia.com/closed-cans-shootout-m-50-esw-9-t50p-hd25-1-beats-studio-srh-840-srh-750dj-k181dj-and-dj1pro/
Hmmm.. After reading your custom IEM review… My thought goes like “that’s interesting..” different experience compare to universal IEM.
Thanks for the recommendations on both the custom IEM and beats studio.
I just reckon that one of our local forum Audiophile-ID’s member just bought the Woo WA6SE (bro Rudi0504).
Since you already reviewed the WA5 and it’s not favorable to drive orthos, I think it’s gonna be interesting if you could review the WA6SE because bro Rudi0504 and KantongKresek mentioned the WA6SE quite promising and powerful to drive the Audeze (even better than Burson they said).
It might be a useful review for English-speaking readers out there and to prove whether WA6SE is better or not than some other high end tube amps you have reviewed in the past and failed to sound good when paired with today’s orthos.
Just my 2 cents 🙂
Sorry, no plans for WA6SE a review.
Do you think you’ll be doing more custom iems reviews in the future?
I don’t have any plans so far. I know they keep on making new models but our resources are limited and so I’ve been focusing more on headphones and amps (and even then I can’t get everything covered in time).
Should I unplug my headphones from the amp before I turn the amp on/off? I use black cube linear.
Generally it’s a good idea, but in practice, sometimes I don’t bother. Some amplfiiers however make a loud pop sound when you turn them off, and I’m more inclined to unplug the headphones for these type of amplifiers (listen to your headphones while you turn off the amp, see if there are any pop sound while it’s shutting off).
I love your review regarding the Schiit’s product line. After reading it, I am so determine to purchase the Asgard; however, I currently already owned a Fiio E9. I will be using the amp with the HD650. Do you think it will a worthy upgrade?
Oh yes. A clear upgrade.
Thanks for answering my previous question Mike. I thought I had my mind made up when I ran into this about the HM-602. Now I’m back to being undecided. What are you thought on this?
The TDA1543 is from 1991 – a twenty year old DA converter chip. Ah, the
good old times, when digital audio was an adventure. Of course nobody
made anything better in the meantime, 20 years of research in the now
mature field of digital audio only made things worse for
“audiophiles”… back then it was all much better, when most people
still used vinyl and cassettes – and such obsolete first-ish-generation
That thing almost makes the outdated, severely rolled off PCM1704 in the
Hifiman HM-801 look like bleeding edge technology. Well, some people
sure believe such scrapyard stuff sounds “better” than a decent player.
EDIT: Found some RMAA tests with that TDA1543 in a circuit. Appears to
be the same rolled of nonsense as the HM-801. Again, lack of treble is
sold here as “hi-fi” – just cause that flavor of sound had to be used 20
years ago as a workaround, cause the shitty DACs sounded harsh back
then. Nowadays there is absolutely no reason to use such rolled off,
flawed stuff when linear DACs perform perfectly well. Nowadays, you can
always use an EQ on a decent player to achieve the same “hi-fi” sound…
There are people who relies on charts rather than ears. The TDA1543, 1541, PCM1704 are all reference class chips.
Mike, i have recently got the Audinst MX1 and while i can appreciate its a very nice neutral dac, i don’t enjoy the sound all that much. This is my first dac and i guess i enjoy technicals less than i thought. An option would be to go with a better amp to change the sound to what i’m looming at but it gets expensive fast and my cans really don’t need the extra power.
Looking at the E17 it sounds maybe closer to what i want judging from the E10 review and brief impressions you have posted. What do you think?
You can try the E10/E17, they are more musical especially in the mids. However the Audinst is not really a dry-technical DAC so I’m surprised to hear those comments from you. Maybe something else in the set up?
Hi there Mike! I badly need your recommendation.
I’m looking for a pair of can that is really good in almost all genres, but with the kick of that bass! I mostly listen to Rock, RnB and Jazz.
After reading your reviews and other reviews in forums, here is a list I came up with:
– Sony MDR-XB700
– AIAIAI Tracks
– Marshall Major
– Audio Technica SJ55
Isolation and portability is a plus, but not necessary. 🙂
I dream to hear clean sound with airy sweet treble and refinement on acoustic music.
And I want to know how about the sound of my ATH-W1000x when pairing with HM-801?
THANK for many knowledge that headfonia.com share to reader like me.
You’re thinking of getting the HM-801? The sound is excellent, but it’s dark and I’m not sure you’ll get that airy sweet treble.
Many reviews appreciate HM-801’sound, Thank so much for u advice to safe me from suffer.
May I know your opinion for dac or/and amp at same price should pairing to make airy sweet treble on ATH-W1000x.
I’m currently using Sansa Clip+ and UE TF10 as my portable setup rig. I am thinking of adding a portable amp that cost under $100 such as the cmoybb 2.03 amp. Would the combination has good synergy and would there be any improvements heard?
Have iBasso D12 and input is USB from iMac/Fidelia or iPod. Any suggestions for closed headphones at about $300. Does Noise Canceling degrade the sound?
There is a lot of choice out there. What do you listen to? And do you need Noise canceling because usually you can get a better headphone for the price without noise canceling.
Generally listen to new age, folk, soft rock and celtic music. Now thinking maybe an IEM for isolation and bag the Noise Cancellation. What style is most comfortable for listening for 2-3 hours at a time? Any opinion on Etymotic ER4S? Guidance is much appreciated.
The ER4 is a legendary IEM and I still own a pair even after the others come and go. However it’s also very specialized and is a love-it-or-hate-it thing. With your music, I think it may work, but I can’t promise. You can give it a try and see how you like it. With the ER4 no noise cancellation is needed, it isolates very well. Some people find the comfort factor to be low, but some others manage ways to get used to the fit. I think the ER4P version is overall the better model though the ER4S is slightly technically better.
Between a Beyer T70p and a Shure SRH940, which one is better? Can you provide me a quick summary of what I would gain if I get a T70p instead?
I really can’t say. The T70p review was done by Lieven and I personally haven’t had the chance to listen to a T70p.
What about the T70? Don’t they sound the same, anyways (P vs non P)?
Do you recommend a E10+E9 combo over a E10? What gains would one get to get both?
Hey Mike, can you help me choose between DT1530, ESW9 or Senn PX210/310? Unfortunately I live nowhere near a place to demo such phones.
Main genre is electronica. Hip hop beats, synth, fast drum programming, with live jazz instrumentation being my favourite. With no natural soundstage in such music, I think the ‘phone needs to be a bit ‘lively’ and engaging.
Any comments appreciated.
Ive got a Audio Technica m50 (love them) and im thinking about upgrading to Schiit Asgard and HRT MSII+ (actually i already bought both and waiting for delivery). Now what im wondering is if the m50s are a revealing enough headphone for this modest $600~ dollar system. Now im not saying that im asking for a $600 increase in sound quality or anything like that, too subjective. Im just wondering if i will hear something different (good or bad i suppose but hopefully good) than if i just used my m50 alone.
Main point is are my m50s good enough for future upgrades or would system upgrade be minimal? Im getting a hd598 to complement and to get a different sound; would this fair better than the m50?
maybe i should just get a $12000 stax system and have no fear 🙂
Thanks! love reading your reviews!
Mike, I need a little purchasing strategy. I’ve been eager to buy the HiFiman HE-500 and use it with my PS Audio GCHA amp. and Music Fidelity M1 DAC. I’m currently using an Sennheiser HD-650 which I love. However, I’m thinking maybe I ought to keep the HD-650 and go for the Ray Samuels Raptor. I actually owned this a few years back and was blown away by the combo. But time marches on, and I’m wondering if the Hifiman HE-500 and my current rig is the way to go. But I do miss the Raptor.
The Raptor looks like a very good amp and I’m actually very interested in reviewing it (I’m a sucker for OTLs). Anyway a good set up is still a good set up regardless of time. And from my experience the Senns shine with OTL amps so I won’t be surprised if you miss it.
On the other hand with the HE-500 you probably can’t use the Raptor to drive it, but you know that. So what’s the question here?
You really should read the Dark Star review if you haven’t. That ought to solve all your problems. 🙂
Wow the DarkStar looks great. But my spouse would kill me if she saw the invoice 😉
I guess I’ll probably go the Raptor route knowing it is a good amp. for my HD-650, and then maybe look into the new HD-700 in the longer term.
As an alternative is there any way to know if the PS Audio GCHA amp. can drive the HiFiman HE-500? PS Audio claims it has some kind of “gain” circuit as described in a 6 Moon review:http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/psaudio4/gcha.html
Thanks for the great site. I read many of your reviews over several times as it give me great insight as to what is out there and what I might be missing out on for great sound.
Yes the Dark Star is pricey and the Raptor would make for a more reasonable but still great amp.
As for the GCHA, I think it should be powerful enough, but I can’t guarantee it since I’m only guessing from the 6moons review.
I’m glad you find the site useful. 🙂
im wondering, is there a way to authenticate headphones, iems, amps, etc? like if you buy a sennheiser, can you go to their site and authenticate it? finding a insane deal of ebay always make me skeptical, even if it BNIB..
You can register all Senn products but I don’t think you can authenticate them in advance. There are some good sites on the www that cover the differences between fake and real headphones from cable to box to printing, etc. I’d recommend you looking at those first?
Jack, I think Lieven is right.
Hi. I’ve been reading through as much of your site as possible. Fantastic in-depth reviews. Quick question … I’d like to buy new headphones and was considering Grado GS1000i or Sennheiser HD800. I picked up on one comment that you made that the HD800 was “worth the extra $400”. I live in the UK. In the UK, HD800’s are cheaper than the GS1000i (£1000 for grado;s; £830 for HD800’s). Is it as simple as “buy the SD800’s”? I listen to slow/medium paced vocals/guitar, a little classical: examples: Radiohead, Smiths, Tori Amos.
Technically, the HD800 is above the GS1000i. However, the HD800 is also a more difficult headphone to get right. I.e you can’t just buy a HD800 and expect it to sound good. Usually I advise people to budget another $2+3K which you may not want to do.
The GS1000i is a great headphone, but due to its sound signature also probably not best for Radiohead or Tori Amos (whats Smiths?). I suggest you look into the RS1i if you want a Grado sound, or look at the newer planar headphones which have been winning a lot of fans lately like the Hifiman HE-500 or the Audez’e LCD-2. You would still need to allocate some budget for an amplifier though.
Here are the reviews on the headphones: http://www.headfonia.com/grado-rs1-and-alessandro-ms-pro/ http://www.headfonia.com/hifiman-he-500-first-impression/ http://www.headfonia.com/improved-audeze-lcd-2-revision-2/
Thank you very much for your reply. My intention was to pair the headphones with the Audiolab 8200CD (which I own already) and the Lehmann Black Cube amp (which I am buying at the same time as headphones).
That sounds like a good set up. The Lehmann Linear amp is a highly precise amplifier and one of my favorite for the HD800. Just make sure you feed it only good recordings. I’ve written an article on the Lehmann here if you want to check it out: http://www.headfonia.com/lehmann-black-cube-linear/
Another amp that is just as good but would be easier to live with (more forgiving to the recordings) than the Lehmann is the CEC: http://www.headfonia.com/first-impression-cec-hd53n/
Hey Mike, first of all thank you SO much for helping the audiophile community with your great reviews and INCREDIBLE personal involvement with all your responses. It means a lot :]
Granted, my setup is nothing fancy. I have a Macbook Pro (iTunes playing ALAC 16/44.1khz) -> nuForce uDAC (1st gen) –> ATH-M50. It’s been amazing for the past couple years but have had one small concern: the SLIGHT recession in the mids has always bothered me a little bit. The subtle bass layer at the bottom and the clear but not overly sharp high end makes music listening an enjoyable hobby (and not just a background activity!) for me.
I was giving Audirvana Plus a spin today and noticed how everything seems to have gotten a “lift” and the instrumentation separated a bit for better sound stage. I noticed a difference – playing music through my regular setup just sounds a bit more “muffled” now. Crap.
Now I’m wondering, would changing my DAC/amp from the uDAC to the newer Fiio E17 provide that same kind of boost? Or will the $50 for Audirvana Plus give a better improvement?
Basically – hardware vs. software. What’s the better route to go? (when going both isn’t possible, at least for now).
I know audio is highly subjective, but always respect your opinion. Thanks in advance for taking your time to read this lengthy email :]
You are welcome, and thanks for reposting your question here.
First of all hardware will give you a bigger improvement, in this case say from the uDAC to the E17. And you are right about the midrange on the M50 (the uDAC doesn’t help in that area too). You will definitely get a better midrange with the E17 + M50. Or if your budget is limited and you want to have the Audirvana+ too, then you may want to take a look at the Fiio E10. The E10 has the same tonality as the E17 so you will also get the midrange improvement with the E10.
You can find the E10 vs E17 comparison in the E17 article: http://www.headfonia.com/the-upgrade-fiio-e17-aspen/
And E10 vs uDAC on the E10 article. http://www.headfonia.com/the-latest-must-have-the-fiio-e10-usb-dacamp/
Hope that helps and sorry for the slow reply.
slow reply? are you kidding me? 😛 Mike you’re SUPER responsive!!!
Thanks for the QUICK reply :]
Okay, I felt that I have’ve been a little slow in replying people’s questions lately. Maybe I need a new watch.
No noise cancelling headphones’ reviews here.
Yes the only noise canceling headphone I’ve reviewed is the Beats Studio. http://www.headfonia.com/closed-cans-shootout-m-50-esw-9-t50p-hd25-1-beats-studio-srh-840-srh-750dj-k181dj-and-dj1pro/
I have Westone 3, Westone UM3x, Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10
I am thinking about Dr Dac2, Matrix Mini i. Which would be better to match with IEMs?
They are both good. Perhaps you can read the review again and decide which one you like better from reading the review.
Hey mike, which option would you chose to drive HD650’s: AD8620, AD8066, or OPA2227 in the C421?
Would the HRT Steamer II be my best DAC option for around 150?
I’ve only listened to the AD8620 and OPA2227 and I very much prefer the OPA2227 for almost any headphone.
Yes HRT MS2 for $150.
Hi Mike! I’m currently struggling with my new headphone purchase. The internet has too much info! I’ve been using the HD202 for a few months since my trusty HD485 stopped working. I really liked the sound of the HD485. Bass was pretty thick but not overbearing and the overall sound was pretty ‘warm.’ Would I get a similar sound with the HD518, HD558, HD598? I’m hesitant to switch away from Sennheiser as I think my ears are so used to that sound. Should I look to another brand for a warm headphone? I have an E10 and listen to all types of psychedelic rock from the Grateful Dead to Tool and I’d like to stay around $200.Word!Kevin
I think you posted the same question a few days ago. I thought about what to reply but apparently I ended up forgetting to reply.
The difficulty I have is that Ive never auditioned that HD485 of yours so I dont know what it sounds like. On the other hand based on your description, I think the HD558 is the one you should go for.
Sorry for the spelling mistakes, not very good with typing from the Ipad’s screen.
what amp do you recommended for shure se215?
Do you still have the Fiio E10 and a Mac? I would like you to help me test something out.
For some reason, the sound effects of the Mac sound really weird when outputting to the Fiio E10. It was fine with an UDAC2. You can try comparing the sound effect (i.e. emptying trash, sending e-mail, dragging file from one location to another etc.) between the built in sound card, other DACS and the E10 and you would notice that the E10 makes the sound compressed and weird. I tried this with 2 different Macs, different USB ports, and different E10 units as well.
I would like to know if yours may exhibit the same thing, or anyone on here can also let me know!
I just tried it with the E10 on two different Macs running Lion on both. One is a MBA and the other a MacPro. Tried the sound effects and absolutely no problem/distortions.
On the MacPro I connected the E10 to a Belkin USB Hub, and on the MBA straight to the laptop’s USB port.
Maybe it’s time to get a new Mac. 😉
Just kidding. Hope you find a solution to the problem.
I have been using a Bowers and Wilkins p5 linked with either a 3rd Generation Ipod to TTVJ Slim amp, or Ipod Touch to the same amp. I have been using these headphones for a bout two years and the wear is beginning to show and the circumaural design is beginning to loose some of the coveted noise canceling. I listen to Grado 325i Sennheiser 595 and Ultrasone Pro 650 at home. But the majority of my listening is via my portable kit. This is complicated by the fact that I have a traumatic brain injury with lingering searing headaches, dizziness and an autistic like sensory integration disorder that seriously hinders my life. In the words of Bjork, “my headphones saved my life.” I need a pair of comfortable headphones I can escape to when I am at work, at church, in a coffee shop or anywhere else I can’t cope with the noises of every day life. Also, active noise cancelling makes me nausas, and I loathe the audio quality. So I have been seriously considering purchasing a set of Ultrasone Edition 8’s to replace my Bowers and Wilkins. The price tag is steep. But are these the headphones that will offer me the greatest quality, comfort and passive noise cancelling I need in a headphone to help me keep moving in life. Also, is it worth purchasing a pair with an upgraded cord, say a silver dragon with the ability to change adapters with ease.
I currently have a pair of Edition 8 and owned a set of P5 a year ago for two months, so I might be of help. I use my headphones with iPhne 3GS mainly, and since some months ago also with a RSA Protector amp.
I found the P5 very good at isolation and enjoyed their musical, dark and bodied sound, but found them not detailed and lacking soundstage depth, as well as a bit not too comfortable, clamping force was a bit too much.
The Ultrasone Ed8 are a different level in sound resolution, space depth, bass control, treble detail, and isolation is even a bit better than on P5 but with absolutely no clampling force which means very good comfort. It is the leather properties what gets the great seal with little help of the headband preassure.
I bought my unit with TWag cable and protector balanced termination, but also own a protector to 3.5mm cable so I can tell you that they can be nicely siren from an iPhone, even if a good amp opens the image and improves bass depth even more. Anyway I think they will also be very very good with stock cable and these little improvements are subtle even if expensive.
The only minus for them would be no mic and controls which can be handy for phone use during work.
I hope this helps.
If you like the Pro 650 then the Edition 8 may be good for you. To be honest not a lot of people, even Edition 8 owners that I know are very happy about the way that headphone sounds, but it all depends on the recordings that you are listening to.
What about IEMs? The JH5 Pro in my opinion is excellent and it offers a sound quality that’s better than the Ed8.
So … bought my Lehmann Black Cube Linear (XLR version) in readiness for my HD800’s. Thanks for your previous advice. I have one more question … what type of interconnect cable material is best given HD800+Black Cube (source is AUdiolab 8200CD ~$1150) . I must confess that I fancy a nice looking cable and these tend to be more expensive and hence have silver in them. Should I avoid silver given my setup and stick to just copper?
Congrats on the purchase, Mark. Sorry I missed this comment when I replied to your other one.
With the HD800, I would recommend a good quality copper interconnects, or if you can find one a good silver plated copper (but this is harder to find IMO and may not necessarily be better than a good copper wire).
Hi, need some advice on a new setup please.
I’m a trained sound/mastering engineer and at home I have my iMac running through an Apogee soundcard into a pair of Focal CMS 65s. Sounds lovely, the monitors are amazing and the Apogee brings such a wide and detailed soundstage! I often use it just with my phones, Beyerdynamics DT250s, and it’s just as good.
At the moment for portable, I have an iphone and an A-series Walkman, both sound OK for portable gear, but nothing close to my home setup through phones, the difference in clarity is night and day through the same phones.
I’d like to know if I can get anywhere close to the quality of sound on my home setup, with a portable setup? I’m not going to change my phones as I’ve had them 10 years and I love them over any other phone I’ve heard and I know their sound inside out. So I guess I’m just interested in source and DAC/amps where applicable.
If I can’t get close to the kind of clarity I get at home, I’ll stick with what I’ve got and live with being a bit disappointed with the sound, but you think there’s anything I should check out, let me know.
I’ve read through so many reviews and forums on the internet, and they all say different things (and obviously none of them compare gear to gear I’ve already got) that I’m a bit confused as to where I should be looking.
So here are some ideas:
Fostex HP-P1 with an iPod Classic – Still keep massive storage of iPod and ease of use of iTunes to tag my WAVs, bypass iPod DAC, amp and signal flow completely, plus line-out to hook directly up to my Focals at home… sounds pretty good!
Upcoming iBasso DX100 – Looks good, but don’t really know enough about it.
FiiO E17 with iPod Classic – Same as the HP-P1 i guess, but anyone know if the SQ is as good? Also does this take digital direct from iPod to bypass the cheap apple components like the HP-P1 does and does it do line out to go to my Focals without needing anything else?
HifiMan – Not sure which model, or about these at all. I like the idea of a nice warm sound, but my headphones are fairly warm anyway and so don’t want to overdo it. Also, even though I’m mostly interested in sound, I’m not sure I could live with a badly built UI, it would just take all of the joy away. Also, no gapless play?????? Oh dear… but they are supposed to sound nice 🙂
Anyone comment on those, or any that I have missed?
Sorry, don’t know why this posted twice 🙂
Looks like you’ve done plenty of research there.
If you’d like to keep the Ipod, then either the CLAS or the Fostex HP-P1 is the way to go. With the CLAS you need to add a good amplifier of course, but I’ve been getting some very good sound with a CLAS + JDSLabs C421 portable amp. Clean black background with good space and musicality from the C421 amp. I believe this is currently a better set up than the Fostex HP-P1 with its onboard amp. (here is an impression on the C421: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=316049348439769)
Now, I’ve listened to the DT250 many many times and I think that’s going to be the biggest bottleneck since frankly speaking the drivers on that thing is pretty old. I don’t how the Focal monitors sound, but I would personally upgrade the headphones first.
I love the Hifiman players, personally for their sound and the D/A section which I find exceptionally good. My favorite is the HM-602 for a portable since it’s lighter than a typical Ipod + CLAS set up. Again, different sound, and you have to live with the limitations of not having Itunes for music management.
The Fiio E17’s DAC won’t pair with your Ipod. It’ll just serve as an amp in that mode.
Lastly, the latest portable player I’m digging is the Altmann Tera-Player. Excellent little DAC in a small tank-like package. But it’s extremely expensive and the built in amp only lets me use it with IEMs.
Thanks Mike, I didn’t expect you to say upgrade my headphones, I hadn’t really considered that as an option… but yes the drivers are old (in design and in use!)… so now I’m thinking about it, what do you recommend? I don’t like wearing IEMs so has to be phones, I don’t want anything flashy looking, just great sound and really comfortable and I prefer a soft but clear and expansive sound to anything too bright or brash.
As for the source/DAC/amp option, I’m still stumped. Doesn’t make it easy when there’re no shops around me that stock these items to try. Plus with the CLAS+C421 combo or even just the HP-P1 plus new phones on top… this is getting expensive! Going to have to save up a bit more and really think about it. So much info out there and differing views, it’s hard to know.
I’m still not sure I could live with the poor battery life, unique UI and non-gapless play of HM, although not having itunes doesn’t bother me too much. Having separate items means upgrading later is easier, particularly with upgrading source in mind. CLAS+C421 sounds nice, but then it’s another box???
Well even though garbage in = garbage out, still I’d consider that without the right headphone, it doesn’t matter if you get good source material since the output side closest to your ears are not making the right sound. So at this stage I would try to hunt for a right headphone and postpone the source for later.
I’ve done quite a bit of portable headphone reviews. You can browse the list here:
This article is also quite popular and may get you started:
Lately I’ve been recommending these two headphones to a lot of people:
Those are some links to get you started.
Thanks Mike, OK I think I’ve decided what to do. I’ll stick with my ipod or walkman and up my headphones.
I haven’t listened to a new set of phones for years as I love my DT250s, will the headphones you mention (I’ve narrowed it down to 25-sp 1, DT1350 or M-50 out of the ones in your reviews) really be a massive improvement on the DT250, which sound so good out of my Apogee DAC/Amp?
Will they blow them out of the water? For me to bother investing they have to be a big improvement I guess.
I listen to mostly electronica (so I noted you mentioned the DTs were good for this), but across the whole genre in all it’s facets. I will also use them to (quietly) produce house and techno and to do some very rough mixes on – when it’s late or my girlfriend is in and I can’t have my monster monitors on.
Ok so if I use any of these phones with either my ipod or walkman, will it do me good to get an amp too? I mean I don’t want to spend loads, but what would recommend (other than the c421)? Fiio? Or should I not bother with an amp until I enter the external DAC route?
What are your opinions on Vibrapods and other Isolation Cones? What are they for exactly….
The idea is to isolate vibrations, RF, electromagnetic, whatever may get in the way of a pure signal.
I had a chance to try some though I don’t remember the brand. Some are made from metal, some wood. I couldn’t tell the difference.
but it looks cool, right?
I actually think they look weird and geeky.
Mike – Your site has been extremely helpful in furthering my knowledge of audio (and was partially responsible for my discovery of the excellent HRT MS products).
So, I have a question – which closed headphones (and not in-ear) under $300 have the best soundstage and imaging – taking into account all aspects of soundstage and imaging ? (Either one choice or several is fine.)
Closed headphones under $300 with good soundstage imaging. I probably can’t give you a definitive best soundstage answer since there are just so many different models out there but one model that sticks out (and I’m doing a quick search on my headphone database here) is the Superlux HD660, and another one is Shure’s SRH940.
Additionally the ATH M-50 and Shure SRH840 have pretty good soundstage, but lacks depth in the soundstage so they are not quite as three dimensional as the HD660 and SRH940.
Thanks for your reply, Mike.
I found your review on the HD660s (and 330 and 440) and also found a couple of reviews on the web and they have been uniformly positive.
My guess is that Amazon is uncomfortable with Superlux, because they make the major brands unhappy due to the overly imitative appearance. 🙂 But they can be found on ebay.
By the way, FYI, I also found a mention of the HD660 from….. 2005 !
So, you might want to change “The New Superluxes Are Good” title by removing “New”. 🙂
But the article is certainly a benefit to those readers who cannot afford pricier phones.
I’m looking for something with decent/good passive sound damping, good articulation for bass guitars (so, low mids in the ballpark of 100hz I suppose), and highs that aren’t shrill, as my ears are sensitive to sharp sounds. decent separation/soundstage. I can deal with shortcomings in other areas. I will be using these for general music listening, but I’m a bassist so I need to hear the bass guitar in most given songs.
$100 USD or less.
You seem to be asking for a lot of things for $100. I don’t know if there is one headphone like that for under $100. I also don’t know where your lowest limit for a good articulation for bass guitars is. I’d like to tell you to get the Audez’e LCD-2 since that’s probably the headphone you need but it’s $995 last time I check.
Hey Mike, I was curios if you thought the HM-801 with the balanced card amp module had enough power to properly drive the lcd-2’s? Also, if listening to mostly jazz and the Grateful Dead, would you moreover recommend the HE-500’s as opposed to the lcd-2’s if listening will be primarily done on the hm-801 with the aforementioned balanced card amp? Thank you
This is for anyone to answer and help the “new” guy out. Can someone send me a link to general headphone/small electronic repair? I have a pair of Plantronics that I adsolutely still love over many of the cans I have tried on. One of the speakers is out and Im assuming has a wire loose or disconnected off the board. I finally got them dissassembled, no thanks or help from the manufacture, and there was a wire off but when i tested just touching it back to its port, I still had no sound.
Any help would be undoubtedly appreciated,
Where are you based, Rob?
I would like to know if some people have listen to the Ibasso D7 DAC/Amp. If so I would like to know their impressions and maybe how they think it performs campare to other Dac/Amp in the same price range (200 USD).
Hi, I just discovered your site and would like to seek for your recommendation. I am a newbie and currently owns a Sansa Clip+ and a RSA P-51 Mustang. My mainly listen to flac files of various music genres eg. Classical music 50%, rock music 40%, others like pop and jazz 10%. I only want ultra portable and semi portable as compromise between SQ and portability. Can you suggest a few headphones to cover my music genres?
Good question Jason, and good timing too as I’ve just finished the Headphone Recommendations list: http://www.headfonia.com/a-guide-to-headphones/full-size-headphone-recommendations/
Please check it out and we’ll go from there.
Any idea when you will be able to play with the HRT Headstreamer and post some impressions?
I should’ve received the HRT sometimes last year, but I don’t know they keep on delaying the shipping.
Hello Mike. Between HRT MS II + and non + version – is it worth to spend the extra $$ for the + version? Paiting with Schiit Asgard and Grados (SR325is )? Thanks for your help.
The + version is quite better but with your set up I’d probably be happy with the much cheaper non + version.
Hello mike !
I need some help as i’m a little lost for choosing my new headphone !
I own an ATH-M50 and will receive a fischer audio FA-o11 which are two dynamic headphones.
I’m searching for a most neutral and less colored heapdhone for accourstic music, jazz, classical, singers like simon and garfunkel etc…
I read with interest many reviews here ( especially shure940, Sennheiser 598, Audio technica AD series, beyer DT 880)
Low isn’t clearly the priority here ( they could be the weak point but shouldn’t be inexistant or too anemic) , i’m searching for a lot of details, very clean and clear sound (analytical, i love the sound signature of my dba-02) and if it’s possible a superb high medium (very important to me for classical music)
I see DT880 is one of your recommanded headphone contrary to shure 940 : is the beyer even more detailed ?
The sennheiser seems to be interesting but i’m not a huge fan of senn’s sound signature, i could give it a try though
The headphone will be used only at home , so a closed can isn’t necessary. Probably will use it with my only desktop source: a fiio E 10 which pair very well with cold or analytical signatures adding a bit of dynamism and warmness
Will a E10 detailed enough for the headphone i’m searching for?
My budget is around 300$ and i could have these headphones for the following prices:
HD 598 : 150€
Beyer dt 880 250 ohms : 220 €
Shure 940 : 180€
Audio technica ath ad900 : 2002 €
(and sorry for english errors )
In your case I think it’s clear, either the DT880 600 Ohm or Shure SRH-940. The SRH-940 is closer to the DBA-02, but the DT880 is open-back, so you get less reverbs — especially important with Classical.
Thank you very much !
I’ll go with the dt 880 🙂
Simple question 🙂 Are you going to review Superlux HD 381 series? 🙂
No plans for the IEMs, sorry.
Hi alta. I have the HD381 which I got as a bonus when I bought several Superlux headphones. I liked them so much I now own 3 pairs. I also bought 6 pairs as gifts at Christmas. I paid $30 for them here in Canada. I have several pairs of other IEMs some of them close to $100 which just sit in my drawer now I like the HD381 so much. I don’t think you can go wrong with these at the price point.
hey mike, any chance that you’ll get a unit of the april music Eximus DP-1. It’s a bit on the pricey side but it seems to be an incredible one box solution.
Alright will keep an eye for it.
I’ll probably start saving until your review pops up 😉
Your “most Popular ever” list on the bottom of every page has the old Recommendations article with this link:
which goes to a page that splits up into Headphones, Amps, Sources and the Headphones page has items missing and other weirdness -so you should make that link to the new recommendations page, which is cool.
PS You really need to add the HD518 as the “low-end variant” for 558/598 – I cannot find anything better in the “under $100 class”.
Good point there, I’ve totally missed it. I will fix the links.
Is the CEntrance Y cable really worth the 50?
It makes for a convenient solution. That’s how I see it.
I guess to elaborate, is the sound/performance of this cable that significant as opposed to a X brand 10$ Y cable? I could put 40$ to good use elsewhere.
It’s probably better than some generic cable, but you can never expect a $50 cable to sound 5x better than $10 cables.
Hi Mike. Have had the Beyer DT990 pro 250 ohm for about a month and I am very impressed with my first Beyer phone. I am using it Itunes-Music Streamer-JDSlabs cMoyBB-DT990 and it sounds great. It also probably the most comfortable headphone I own just amazingly comfortable. I listen to all genres except classical and rap. Could you suggest another Beyer for me to try. Below $500 if possible. Thank you John.
The Beyers, DT770-880-990 mostly shares a similar sound signature. You can try the DT880 600 Ohms as it is, in my opinion, the best of the three.
You can also try the new T70p but it’s a little over $500.
Thank you Mike. If the 770, 880, and 990 are similar perhaps I will check out the T70p as it is available locally for $569 at Headphone Bar in Vancouver BC. It would certainly be nice to demo one before purchasing at that price. I have a Burson 160DS on order and would like your opinion on the synergy T70p with Burson 160DS. Thanks again for all the excellent answers you are providing for us all.
The T1 was awesome with the Burson, but I personally haven’t tried the T70p (Lieven did the T70p review).
Hi mike, I’m in the market for a (ultra)portable headphone. Currently I have an Audio Technica ATH-M50 and I really love the bass punch and clarity of that cans. Too bad, using it outdoor is very awkward so I’m looking for a smaller headphone (earbud or IEM wasn’t really comfortable for me).
Currently I have my eyes set on either the Koss KSC75, Yuin G2A, and vJays. Although I very like bass punch and impact, I guess I’m still not a total basshead, I also like clear midrange and treble. My genre bandwitdh also quite large, but my favourite is symphonic metal, electronic rock, and a little bit of acoustic/classical (mostly soundtracks), so I guess PRaT is important too. I also love if I can get a great soundstage with them, altough this might be not really important in mobile listening. The HD25/DT1350 seems perfect, too bad they’re out of my budget. My budget is about IDR 1M (~US$ 120) for the headphone.
So, which portable headphone suit me best? vJays seems very interesting (and they look good too ). I also planning to get a Sansa Clip+, Fiio LOD, and E17 to go with them. Is the E17 available in Jakarta yet?
I think you should try the V-Jays. The treble and mids are brilliant on that thing, and it has bass too.
E17, I think it’s still very early and only some parts in the world have gotten it.
Thanks for the reply. Should I make do with the E10 instead? Or do you have another recommendation?
Yes, have you read the review?
Yep, nice review. I guess I’m all good now. Gonna get them this weekend right after payday. Thanks mike! Keep up the good job!
For a budget limited music listening headphone, what would you recommend? I listen to all kinds of music, as I like to experiment a lot.
Budget ~50Euros. Maybe a bit more if the headphone is really tremendous.
How much is the Sennheiser HD25SP in your area? Could be a worthy alternative.
Around 120Euros. Can you suggest me something cheaper? 🙂
Try the V-Jays. $69.99 in the US, should be about 50 Euros.
Hey Mike! I am wondering what is better for AKG518 (yes, for only this headphones): Emu Tracker Pre or Hifiman 101? I have K702 and some Schiit stuff at home, but I need portable headphones&dac. Greetings from Poland!
I never tried the Emu, but what do you want to use this for? DAC and portable headphone?
Now at home I have this set: Foobar/Asio -> Emu Tracker Pre (as DAC) ->Schiit Lyr. Of course in the future I want to change Emu to Schiit Bifrost. And my question is: for dormitory better buy Hifiman 101 (and sell Emu) or keep Emu? 🙂 But if you don’t know Emu products – this is hard to answer 🙂
I need your help/opinion on my setup. Please bare with me because
Im not an experienced audio guy and im not good at explaining the sound. My current
setup is NFB-12 and a hd25-1 II. Im thinking of upgrading the nfb-12 because overall
I find it unmusical and the sound is rough! I listen mostly to trance, dubstep,
dance but also other genre like 30%. Im thinking of getting the 160DS/D, but I don’t
need that powerful headamp section for the hd25-1 II right? Futhermore, is the
dacport LX + cryo copper mini to mini + SR71A an excellent setup for me? Im attracted
to the SR71A because you said that the bass section is awesome. I think I need
a overall musicality + great quality bass/punch sound. Also I don’t really care if I would
to get portable or a desktop setup as long as im satisfy with the sound im
Please advise, any other setup you would recommend? thank you in advance!
What about just going with the DACport Original > HD25-1? The LX +71A will be nice but the 71A doesn’t have rechargeable batteries so you will be changing batteries every once in a while.
Im just afraid that i won’t be satisfied with the sound of the dacport original and thus upgrade again that is why i plan to get higher end devices. But does it make sense to purchase amp+dac worth of ~800USD to be paired with the hd25-1? =/. Also, how is the bass section of the dacport original compared to the nfb-12?
I think the Dacport would make for a great pairing with the HD25-1, and it’s a lot more practical than getting the LX + 71A
The bass is punchier but not as low as the NFB12.
okay, but is it still worth it even though Im not into portables? i just want to make sure that im not “purchasing portability” here. 🙂
yes, definitely. The dacport is good.
okay Mike, I will consider getting the dacport! Thank you very much for your replies and prompt response! 😀
Hey Mike! So I just received my hd650’s and was confused about which version they are. The metal mesh on the outside is not as bright silver as shown in your article about the updated drives, but under the mesh the inside is silver. Do you think the metal mesh is more exposed because of its reflective properties causing it to look more silver than it is actually to the eye? I took some shots (no flash, exposed properly) and the metal mesh looks more silver on the lcd than to the eye (just like the first image in the article). Is the second image in the article showing the new version or old version? That’s how mine looks like not held up to a light source. Inside is silver and mesh is darker gray.
Since the C421 is on pre-order, would you advise me to listen directly from the 3.5mm audio jack or the phones jack on my receiver? My reciever is connected to my computer through a rca to 3.5mm jack so does it even matter? I have to listen to the headphones at 70% volume through the receiver and only 20% directly from the computer if that matters.
The metal mesh on the outside comes in different degree of silver. Some are more silver than others. Not to mention the way you photograph it would’ve affected the brightness of the silver on the final picture. What’s important is the driver section. The second image is the silver mesh, new version.
I think what you need now is a USB DAC.
Ah, I should have the new version then.
I have my eyes on the HRT Streamer II, just waiting for my next paycheck to come.
Is it possible to use the streamer before I receive the C421? How would I set that up?
No you can’t use the HRT Streamer II without an amplifier.
You can however do that if you have the Headstreamer.
Ok, thanks. Looks like I’ll just wait to order both.
I’m not sure if you can answer this, but I have long hair that covers my ears. If I wear my headphones over my hair would there be a difference in sound quality?
Lastly, could you elaborate on why you prefer the OPA2227 over the AD8620? I’d like to hear your opinion vs the recommendation JDS gives.
Wel l never have long hair so I wouldn’t know, but I guess it’s only logical that if the hair is in the way, that should affect the sound somehow. You should be able to try it, with your hairs tied clear of the ears and see how things change.
As for the OPA227 vs AD8620, I wrote some impressions here: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=316049348439769
Your words: “Denon
Another alternative Japanese headphone
company. Very popular with the D2000, D5000, and D7000 models. Aside
from the D7000 which I haven’t heard, the D2000 and D5000 is mediocre
and not worth of the “audiophile” tag in my opinion.”
can you tell us a little more about the Denon D2000? Because it seems to be a consensus that it is a good headphone to what is proposed
I was probably being overly harsh on the Denons there.
If you have a chance, make a review of the denon D2000 for us! I bet this is something expected by the people who follow this site. Thank you!
Yes Ricardo, I really owe a review on the Denons.
hi mike. this is my 1st visiting time here. can we just speak indonesian? ^^
is mike = hanhan?
actually im indonesian and currently looking for superlux hd 381F. can u help me how can i buy this item? no anyone else sell this item in indonesia.
thank you 🙂
This would be the appropriate place to ask about that http://www.audiophile-id.com/index.php/board,167.0.html
This is a noob question, but I’m a bit confused. What does a USB DAC do exactly?
I’ve read that its a digital to analog converter, but what does that mean exactly? I read your review on the fiio e17 and I’m thinking about using them with a pair of HE-400.
If I only plan on using my HE-400 only at home and not on the go, should I get an e17 or is there a different product you recommend that’s also under 200$.
I meant to also say that this would be used with my work computer.
Please read the FAQ #6 for the explanation on what a DAC is. http://www.headfonia.com/faq/
At the moment I think the E17 makes for a pretty good solution for that price. You can try reading these reviews for alternatives: http://www.headfonia.com/audinst-hud-mx1-dac/ http://www.headfonia.com/the-latest-must-have-the-fiio-e10-usb-dacamp/ http://www.headfonia.com/fiio-e7-meet-your-rival-the-ibasso-d-zero/
Hey Mike, just wondering what are your thoughts on the Sennheiser HD280 Pro, in regards to sound. I’m thinking of buying a pair but I’m not sure how the audio would compare with my M-50s
I’ve never listened to the HD280Pro extensively, but the M-50 has a cleaner sound.
Hi Mike, I’ve been asked for a full size headphone(maybe a portable would do because she has small head and ears) to listen some pop/blues/electronica at around the price range of the hd202, but since this person doesn’t like the senns laid back sound and wants something more fast passed fun and engaging I don’t know what to recommend.
do you know of any headphone that could fit this person?
Around the price of the HD202? That’s around $20!
Sorry I can’t think of any.
hey, was hoping you could give me some help here. i just ordered the srh750dj and wasnt sure if i should get an amp/dac for them. i dont know yet how crappy my laptop will make them sound but its all i have to listen out of. additionally, i can get a pretty great open box deal on denon d2000s but im not sure if i should spend money on them, an amp/dac, or wait and see. i dont know anything about amps but read at least that the e10 and e17 would work but dont know if they are appropriate for the shures or possibly the d2000s even.thanks for your time,andrew
I would get an amp for the SRH750DJ. Nothing expensive, just something to add more punch.
Try reading this article for now:
What would you recommend for jpop?
Hi! I was looking to upgrade my PA2V2 amp as 3G and WiFi signals cause noise when using it portably. I use the HD25-1 and listen mostly to rock. Can you point me to the right direction? Thanks.
I think it’s mostly the 3G causing the noise. Funny thing is that almost every amp that I review would get interference from my 3G phone, even the thick-metal cased ones. So, I really can’t say which amp would give you a interference-free sound.
hi mike, just want to ask your opinion. which one will be a better pairing for AD1000 PRM and ER4S? gamma2, fostex hp-a3 or dacport? or maybe a dacport LX and something laike fioo e11/cmoy ?
They’re all good choices, what are you looking for?
ah sorry i forgot to mention my preferences. i want something that cleaner, smoother, fuller and sweeter mids and perhaps punchier than the audinst. planning to take hd650 too
Go with the DACport or DACport LX then.
The LX is a better DAC but you’d need to add an amplifier with the LX.
okay thanks mike! would it be okay if i get the LX and run it ampless first until i get a decent amp?
If you run it direct to the LX you’d probably can’t get very loud and there would be no impact in the bass. Also the high frequencies may be rolled off.
Even something as simple as a JDSLabs Cmoy would still be better than no amp.
Hello Mike. I’m looking for a headphone that is good with piano, female voices, acoustic guitars, violins like Adele (nothing like Classical stuff). Got a good DAC (balanced) and I’m willing to spend up to $1000 in a balanced or SE headphone amp. What you suggest? Some options that I have been reading about: HD650, HD600, HD598, K501, Q701. I’m not on the analytical side, I prefer it being musical, lifelike, smooth treble, good midrange. If you could suggest a headphone amp too I would aprecciate.
Try the HD650 or the ATH W1000X.
For the amplifier, go with the Graham Slee Solo SRG II. I wouldn’t worry about balanced for now, it doesn’t necessarily give you the sound that you looking for.
First of all thanks a lot for answering me. It’s not everyone that cares to share their opinion and helps people like you.
The w1000x wasn’t even on my list but after reading reviews I got pretty interested in it. Could you make a fast A/B comparison between it and the HD650? Which one would sound more realistic and have better emotion?
You’re welcome Lee.
Between the HD650 and the W1000X.. I really can’t say. “Realistic” and “better emotion” can’t be quantified or put into numbers. Both are good in their own way. Either try to audition or go with your gut feeling. 😉
Which one sound more similar to the LCD-2?
That’s probably the HD650.
Mike, most of my musical listening is done via my 5th gen Ipod classic. My files are lossless and I listen to all genres of music, although classical is my favorite, so I need something that would provide good sound for many different types of music. I have tried many different in-ear headphones and they make my ears ache. What I was planning on doing is using sennheiser hd 202’s until I can upgrade to a pair of hd 518’s and an JDSlabs Cmoy. I am new to the audio world and was wondering if that would be a good setup to maximize what I can get from my Ipod.
That sounds like a good plan Dave. The HD202 and the JDSLabs are excellent to pair together.
Do you think the HD 518s would show a noticeable improvement over the hd 202s or is it not worth it since an ipod is my source?
The difference would be pretty big and definitely noticeable on an iPod.
Thank you very much!
Hey Mike. May sound very much like a noob but here it goes.. My j3 just died and I am unable to get it replaced. I was thinking of a replacement and thought it would be cool to do something similar to a Red Wine Imod. I am unsure on the specifics but: If I were to buy the D-Zero or the d2+ (More likely to D2+ but would like conformation.) and use a LOD (from iBasso? Is it good quality? There are some much more expensive ones on ALO but are they better?) to connect it to an Ipod Touch that is lying around; what would be happening. Would the ipod’s DAC be bypassed and I would be listening through the amp or what? Would i get similar or better sound quality out of that than I would my J3? I am using Shure 315’s BTW. The reason I am asking this is i read http://www.headfonia.com/revolutionary-the-cypher-labs-algorhythm-solo-clas/ this article and it is saying that that also does the digi-analogue. What difference am I going to find going from the d2+ to the Cypher labs? I’m a little confused 😛
Also the RSA Tommahawk (would you say this is better than the other two amps?) is an option but I would like to know how the situation lies first..
I’m confused to read your question there.
Hello Mike, I just want to know if it’s ok to leave the headphone plugged into the amp while turning it on or turning it off? I ask this because I’ve heard it’s damaging to the headphones? Thanks 🙂
Some amps sends a loud pop sound when you turn it off, I would probably pull out the headphone before turning the amp off. This normally happens more often on big desktop amps. Smaller amps may also have a pop sound, though usually they are less loud than the big desktop amps.
The thing with these pop sounds is that I’ve never heard of even one case where a headphone gets damaged because of them. I think they just sound nasty when you still have your headphones on your ears, but overall they’re probably relatively harmless.
Thank you for the quick reply! I guess I’ll do that, because I’m a bit worried that the amps could damage the headphones that way.
hello ! im looking for a basshead headphone and i remember before on the recommendation page you mentioned aiaiai tma1.
can you share a bit here the comparison between tma1, pro700mk & xb1k ?
which one do you reccomend if i were to plug it straight to the headphone jack on my laptop ?
The Pro700 Mk2 is a true bass head headphone, the TMA-1 is less powerful. As for the XB1K, I can’t comment, sorry.
ohhh okay thanks then Mike 🙂
can i ask you another thing ?
for dac & amp combo, can you recommend something that’s smaller than an ipad?
probably something with flat top so that one of them can be stacked…
possibly going to be paired with dt880 or pro700mk2/xb1k & the budget is not more than US$700
MIKE! where did you recommended amps and sources go?
I’m trying to update it and so I took it off for now.
Mike, two questions. I received a HM-101 as a gift and I was wondering what would give me the better sound quality: the HM-101 or my ipod with a amp (fiio e11, Cmoy or something to that effect)? Second, for manly classical and (alt) rock, will the Superlux 668B do well, or would it be worth splurging for the Sennheiser hd 518? Third, awesome website and Q & A!
What are your opinions on power cables and data cables (USB) and their effects on sound quality.
Hey mike, can you describe the m50 in terms of the hd559 and sr80i? I listen to mostly asian pop, rock, and classical, so how do these cans fit with these genres.
Hey, Mike. Love the site!
Have you listened to the Bottlehead Crack OTL amp? I think it would make a great article for the OTL crowd that’s considering a DIY option.
The Crack OTL looks like a good amp and we’ve been wanting to do a review on one since last year. Same issue with many other products that we want to do a review on: the product is still not here and I don’t know when they’ll arrive.
hello mike ! I’ve read the headphones review in Soundonsound.com and I don’t know which headphones to take… It’s between akg 702 and shure SRH940. I want to use them for my studio for mixing/mastering/editing and I want to know which one is more suitable for those needs.
I think both are good monitoring headphones, but the Shure in my opinion is better. The driver is newer and is more resolving than the AKG.
I intend to buy the Sennheiser HD598 and the HST Music Streamer. What amp do you recommend for me? I want to get a natural sound, not too mellow neither too harsh and my “playlist” is made mostly by mainstream music. Any regards will be appreciated.
The Schiit Asgard is perfect for that.
Would there be any other budget hp you can recommend for trance music? I currently have the k518le. I’m looking for an hp in the $100 – $150 range.
Try the AIAIAI TMA-1
hi mike, which one has a better bass?pro700mk2 or klipsch image one?
Never heard the Klipsch.
What’s your initial impression of the V-ModaM-80? There’s someone selling one on a local forum and I’m interested in getting it, mostly because of the military grade build & materials used.
Sorry I still hasn’t had the chance to listen to one.
Do you have a review or any opinion on the DAC and headphone amplifier of the ASUS Xonar Essence ST sound card?
Sorry no experience with that Anson.
I just discovered this site and want to say that the articles are fantastic! I recently purchased the Sennheiser HD650 and was wondering what the best budget/starter amp is. you mention in the Old School Trio article that lot of high end amps really bring out the full potential of the 650, but what about some lower-end ones ($100-$300) that pair well with the 650? I was going to get a Little Dot M2 or M3 before I found Headfonia. What is your opinion about how they pair with the 650?
Based on your recommendation, I will eventually upgrade to the Ortofon in the future but I’ve been listening to them straight from an Apogee One with no amp for a month. I know that I’m doing no justice to theses headphones! Thanks.
If you want to go with the Little Dot, my only experience is with the Mk4 model. It’s good enough though build quality wasn’t too good. The good news is that quality amplification has gotten better and more affordable, and now with something like a Schiit Asgard you should be able to enjoy the HD650, although it’s true that the better the amplifier, the better the sound on the HD650 will be.
I’ve been using the Little Dot MKIII with my Senn HD650 for a while now. If I want to upgrade my Little dot to the next level of amplifier, which one would you recommend? I would like something better than the MKIII but I do not want to rob a bank to pay for it.
You can try the Burson amp, that way you’ll get a taste of a solid state amp. If you want to stay with tubes try the WooAudio WA6.
Thanks for the link. I did some more reading on the Asgard since your suggestion but another review (6moon) says the Asgard can’t power 300ohm headphones well at all. Is this true? I was sooo close to pulling the trigger after reading your article. Thanks again.
I don’t know why 6moons said that, but the Asgard definitely has no problems with 300 ohm or even 600 ohm headphones.
Do you have any suggestions for a dac/amp combo that can power the HE-500s efficiently?
I really enjoy the HE-500 with the Graham Slee Solo SRG II, but it’s not a DAC/Amp unit. You can look at the DACmini and Burson HA-160DS if you want a one box set up.
I’ve heard that the HA-160DS doesn’t have enough output power to efficiently drive the HE-500s. Do you have a different opinion?
I don’t know if it was power but I didn’t enjoy the HE-500 & Burson combo.
Hi Mike, I just discovered Headfonia and it has really sparked my interest in headphone audio! I listen to rock, metal, and blues. I am looking for some nice phones, desktop amp and dac to get started. The Burson and Schiit gear are in my price range and seem highly regarded. Would you recommend the HD-160D, Asgard/Bifrost, or something else? I will also need a set (or 2!) of hp. Thank you! -reed
The Schiit and the Burson are not exactly in the same price bracket. What is your budget?
Also for the headphone, try a Grado SR325 for now. You an also look at the recommendations page for other choices:
My amp/dac budget is up to $1200 (or so) if the gear is high quality and will be expected to last. I saw the Buson for HD-160D for $1100. The Asgard/Bifrost combo about $600. I would love to save $500, but am willing to invest it for something that I can enjoy for awhile. Thanks so much for your help. -Reed
So what headphone are you going to get? It’s hard to give an amplifier advice without knowing the headphone.
I thoroughly reviewed the headphone recommendation page. I like your suggestion for the Grado SR325 and maybe add the AT M-50 for a closed set. If the future budget allows, the Audez’e LCD-2. Thanks again. -Reed
I probably wouldn’t go for the M50 for your closed headphone. The HD25-1 should be better for your music.
Thanks Mike – SR325 and HD25-1 it is. Now for a decision on the amp/dac. What do you think with a budget of around $1200?
I think the Burson HA-160D would be a good amp for both the Grados and the Senn. If you want to save money, get the HA-160DS version.
Hi Mike, just got the dacport lx + solo SRG II + hd 650 = I’m in heaven.
Good job on the website, wouldn’t have known about the LX and SRG II without headfonia
Will I get better sound out of a Hifiman Express HM-101 connected to my computer or a JDSlabs Cmoy connected to 5th gen Ipod? Senn HD518 would be the headphones used.
Those are two different scenarios.
I’m coming from partly from a music producer perspective with active monitors as speakers but also a DJ perspective where I’ve used Sennheiser HD-25-1 extensively the last couple of years.
I’ve also got the Beyerdynamic DT-1350 for traveling. Now I’m looking for a closed headphone for home use.
I listen mostly to Disco and House but also some Jazz and Soul. I use Spotify a lot so nothing that is to revealing to play 320kbps mp3s with. Do you have any suggestions?
I thought the AIAIAI TMA-1 is still best for Disco and House.
For Jazz and Soul try the W1000X:
Thanks for the reply.
I’ve actually tried the AIAIAI TMA-1 and to my ears they sounded thinner than the HD-25’s. I’m really after something more high end. And to not annoy my girlfriend I think they have to be closed.
Will check out the W1000X!
I am in the process of buying the Asgard + HRT MS2 for my HD600. I was wondering if this setup will help me get a wider and deeper soundstage?
Yes it should improve the soundstage. What are you using now?
Sadly, nothing. I was short on cash when I got my HD600 but now I have saved up enough money($500) to buy myself a decent DAC + Amp setup.
Any other/better recommendations Mike?
Oh then you should go for it.
Could I ask, between the iBasso D-Zero and the Fiio E17, which would be better? In terms of sound quality?
What’s the difference? And also for a more balanced and neutral sound, which would be a better choice?
Dear mike and lieben, i need to choose between dacport LX + asgard and burson 160DS Dac/Amp for my desktop setup. I want to pair it with hd650.
For pop and vocal music witch setup do you choose?
For pop and vocal try the DACport LX and the Graham Slee Solo SRG II.
I can wholeheartedly agree with that, the DACport LX + SRG II + HD 650 actually is what i’ve been looking for, it lets me enjoy the music, not analyzing it
Any impression of Audioengine D1 DAC/amp?
Sorry, no impressions for now.
I would like to know if you already have tested the LITTLEDOT MK1 PORTABLE amp in gold edition? thats a good choice for driving my HD650 headphones according to the guys over the littledot forum but i would like to have an external view and you seem to have a good background in this field (sorry for my english i’m french 😉
here are the specs:
Also i’m currently looking for a DAC to pair with my IPHONE and ALAC files…..and i defenitely can’t buy my the DAC with iphone capability (algorythm) so i’ll just use my laptop at work with a usb portable dac.
So with the LITTLE DOT MKI PORTABLE i’m looking for the FiiO E10 or the new E17 DAC….The HUDSON is more expensive…
What do you think of that?!
Thanks for your response.
I have never used the Little Dot Mk1 so I can’t comment on that. As for the DAC, what HUDSON are you talking about? The E17 and the E10 are good, but if you are going to pair it with a separate amp like the Little Dot, then you’ll be better off with a stand alone DAC like the HRT MS2.
but what is better? the HRT MS2 or the
Audinst HUD-MX1 ???? do the audinst need AC POWER or use the usb port?
I’m quite confused and not sure about what DAC “transportable” should i buy…..
thanks for your help
The MS2 is better as a DAC than the Audinst. And the Audinst doesn’t need AC Power, it runs fine on USB port.
Ok thanks Mike so ill go for a hrt or a dac port Lx if I can….I just wonder if u ever tried one of them with an iPad? As I tried yesterday to plug my iPad in my little dot dac 1 and it works fine!!! 😉 so I would like to get a portable dac which also work with my iPad….
I’m reposting this into the QA; hopefully you don’t mind.
Hey,I bought the m50s because i thought they would be more neutral and bass heavy than my grados. However, as of now (with only 4ish hours of burn in) i find that the m50s are even more forward and treble heavy than the grados, with little improvement over the grados in the bass. Can i expect this to improve?Thanks
They have more upper treble than the Grados, and that’s because they are meant to be monitoring headphones.
What sort of an improvement are you looking for? Less treble? Probably not going to happen. More bass? Probably also not going to happen. I think what you need is a different headphone.
Have you got any experience with the Ultrasone Pro 750? If so, what are the differences between the Pro 750 and the Pro 900?
Sorry no experience with the Pro750.
Usually within the same line up, the lower end model would have a similar sound signature but with less technicalities.
Of course with everything, taste matters but boy does the pro 750 sound like garbage. I mean, If I were to listen to them and give them a pricetag based on sound alone… I would probably price them at $20. They sound cheap and unrefined IMO.
sorry mike forgot to ask something, which one has a better mids ( cleaner, fuller, sweeter and smoother ) ? dacport lx or fostex hp-a3?
also which one has a more forward mid?
Both have good mids, but the DACport LX is slightly fuller.
Have you ever heard the Violetric V181? I’m between it and a CEC HD53N. Thanks!
Sorry but the one who did the Violectric review was Lieven, and I’ve never heard any Violectric amps.
Any chance you’ll be reviewing the Leckertron UHA-4? Thanks! 🙂
JB, Sorry but no plans for the Leckerton UHA-4.
hi mike, wich one you recommend about these source (pair with hd650) :
dacportLX + asgard ? or
audinst hud-mx1 + asgard ?
one more question, whether dacportLX connect to speakers hi-fi? speaker active 2.1
I want a good DAC connected to headphones and speakers. any ideas?
sorry for my bad english
The DACport is definitely better than the Audinst. And if you need it for active speakers, the DACport should do too.
Mike, I am a lowerclass, married father of two (just establishing that I have little spare cash). A friend recently gifted me his old pair of sennheiser hd448’s. They sound muddy on both my ipod and my computer. What would be the best way for me to get some good sound out of the headphones and my music onhe cheap? I thought about amping my ipod, but wondered if a USB DAC wouldn’t be the better option. Portability isn’t a big concern. I may be poor, but I still know what good sound is Anyway, thanks.
I would suggest getting a different headphone with more treble. Perhaps something like a Grado. Just be aware that the Grado is an open-back design and it’ll leak sound in and out.
You can read more about open and closed-back headphones here:
Hi Mike, I have an iPod Classic / D Zero combo and amped currently running reshelled superfi 5pros. Have been toying with the idea of getting a proper set of customs. Would the JH5 pro be a worthwhile upgrade or would it be too similar to what I have now? Should I use my ‘married man slush fund’ and go for the 16’s straight away? I listen to a variety of music and I do like a more fun sounding signature.
Love the website! regards Paul
I currently have a JH5 playing off a Zune HD and my laptop. My listening mostly comprises of hard rock/metal and I would like to venture into the realm of 24/96 tracks. I’m running into the problem that A) I can’t find anyone who offers a selection of downloadable tracks at that resolution, and B) there is the unfortunate fact that most albums of these genres are mastered at relatively low quality. Should I continue to look for 24/96 hard/metal albums, or would the increase in quality be minimal due to the lack of dynamic range, etc.? And if you think it would be worthwhile, any thoughts as to how I could find such albums without ripping them from vinyl?
I have an ipod classic 4th generation. The 4th Gen iPods have a Wolfson
WM8975 audio chip in them. I would like to use the doc connector like
the lineout with a LOD cable.
I listen rock (radiohead, bjork, sigur ros, smashing, etc..) pop-rock
(coldplay for example) and classic (requiem faure, mozart, wagner
tristan and isolde, etc…)
I would like to buy a new headphone :
1/ Audio technica ATH-M50
2/ BeyerDynamic DT770PRO 250 ohms
Is it better to have an amp for the ATH-M50 ? For the DT770PRO 250 ohms, it’s really better i think 🙂
For the amp, i would like to buy :
1/ Leckerton UH4-A with OP209AID or AD8610 : it’s also a DAC 🙂 and very portable
2/ Nec SoundLab v3 with AD8610 : no DAC and a little big but it seems to be very very good and good price !
3/ iBasso D-Zero : it’s also a DAC 🙂 very portable and good price
4/ Headstage Arrow 4G : problem of delivery so i don’t know :((
5/ FIIO E11 or FIIO E17 (but i don’t know where i can buy FIIO E17 for the moment)
It’s better if i can use the AMp as a DAC for my laptop (MBP) 🙂
So i don’t know what is the best association and if my choice are good !
And for the LOD cable, i don’t know where i can buy it : iBasso, Qcable, ALO but very expensive, livecables.net, moon-audio, FIIO ?
Thanks a lot for your help.
For now I would focus on getting the right headphone first. I don’t think the M-50 or the DT770 would be good for Rock. The DT770-250 would be good for Classical, but for Rock it’s better to have something else like perhaps a Grado or the Senn HD25-1.
I don’t have any experience with the first two amps you listed. As for no.3,4,5 they’re all good choices perhaps you can read the reviews and decide which one you like better.
Thanks Mike !
Hum, it’s not a good choice :(((
I would like a closed phone (because i will use it in transports) and comfortable.
The HD25-1 is not very comfortable ? There is the Beyer DT1350 but more expensive and not more comfortable than the HD25-1.
The Grado are only open ?
I like sound clear and precise with generous bass.
AKG closed cans aren’t good for my music ?
I have for the moment a Bose Circum.
Thanks a lot.
I think the HD25-1 is quite comfortable. The clamping force is moderately hard, but you need it for sound isolation especially when used in public transports. Otherwise you’ll get noise leaking in and out.
At the moment I can only think of either the HD25-1 and the DT1350. But I’m leaning more toward the HD25-1 for your music. And yes the Grados are only open.
Thank you Mike.
If i choose one of them (HD25-1 or DT1350), can i use an amp like FiioE11 or iBasso D-Zero ? What is the best ?
Thanks for your help !
I would try them first unamped. They work very well even without an amp.
Then after you get more familiar with the headphones you can decide what sort of amp you’re looking for.
In fact, i would like an amp to use the lineout instead of the headphone jack of my ipod.
Do you confirm than the HD25-1 II or DT1350 are better than the Bose Circum ?
Rythm, try the C421 from JDSLabs.
Although they are still on preorder status at the moment.
Yes they should be better than the Bose.
Last question 🙂 What do you think about the Ultrasone PRO900 ?
The Pro900 is a good headphone and I probably owe it a review one day. But it’s quite polarizing, meaning not everyone will like it as the midrange is quite thin.
I have a FuzeV2 and Sennheiser HD518s. I’m looking for an amp under $100. I listen to just about everything except RAP. I was considering the JDSLabs Cmoy with dual rechargeble batteries and dual rail splitters or the PA2V2. Any other suggestions? Thanks
I think the JDSLabs with the dual rechargeable batteries are nice. I don’t think the dual rail splitters are necessary though, you can ask John what he thinks.
A better choice may be the new C421 amp that he’s releasing soon, but I don’t know if you want to go up to that price level.
Here is my impressions of the C421 amp on Facebook:
Another option is the O2 amplifier which you can get either from JDSLabs or Epiphany Audio. But it’s quite large and not as portable as the Cmoy or the C421:
im thinking of getting myself a desktop DAC and amp setup (separate) and im on dilemma for which DAC should i get for an asgard (my current choice of amp that i havent heard yet, but since many and MANY recommend it strongly including you, i think this is safe bet) with a 400$ of budget available for a DAC. what do you think should i get?
i’ve been comparing a dacportLX, gamma2 and fostex hp-a3 on jaben jakarta the other day and left me with dacportLX and gamma2 to choose (a3 is too dark for my taste). my music choices vary from classic, ballad, light jazz and contemporary pop and once in a while rock though not very hard/metal. (my taste is still pretty general)
can you suggest which one is better to plugged up to asgard? or do you have better recommendation for such type of musics? my budget for the two is no more than 400$ for each (of course including tax and blablabla to jakarta, not the MSRP)
and oh yeah i see a used valhalla and lyr for 3.9m and 4.5m IDR respectively on our local forum. you think its a good bargain?
ps all i have now is a recabled hd202 and esw9 with a yamaha ortho. im thinking of getting myself an hd650 after my wallet recovered though, and currently searching for a good aggressive cans for my pop/rock listening
The Gamma2, Fostex A3, and DACport LX are all good. However, I think the DACport LX has the widest genre bandwith of the the three, and it’s been a very popular recommendation so that’s what I would recommend.
On the Valhalla and Lyr, you can read the article where I compared the three of them.
nice. thanks for the reply. another question then, what cans u recommend to get with such setup for rather aggressive music like old linkin park?
You can either go with the HD25SP, HD25-1 or the new Hifiman HE-400.
Help, I need some help, my other half is driving me made with how load I want the tv or music when she is in bed, so desperately want a set of headphones that will give me great surround sou d, but also good for music, oh and they need to be wireless? Cand you help?
Chris, try the Sennheiser RS-170. It’s good with surround, good music, closed and also wireless.
hello Mike, Just to ask you if you ever try the little dot MKVIII SE balanced amp? For 800$ it seems quite good for my HD650. Any ideas? OR other amp choice but the price tag should be a good price/perf ratio no?
It looks like a potent amp yes, but I have never listened to it. Sorry.
Can you give me some recommendation between Dr Dac2 Dx and Fostex HP-A3. Does it worth to pay $150 more for Fostex? I ll use one of them with Matrix M-Stage and HD650.
The DAC on the HP-A3 is excellent though I didn’t have an opportunity to compare it directly to the Dr. Dac 2 DX.
If you’ve already have an amp then it may be better to get a stand alone DAC.
What is your view on double blind testing gears?
Difficult to execute properly but effective.
I’m looking around for the “right” open-back phones and possibly a new USB DAC/AmpI’ve currently got Audio-Technica M50’s, which I love in terms of sound, but they can be pretty fatiguing to wear all day at work. I am also increasingly wearing glasses which really gets in the way with the M50s (pressing into my head and just not sitting right). I’ve had a listen to some Sennheiser HS595 and also Grado SR80 (not the “i” varient). To be honest, I find the HD595 pretty dull to listen to, and the Grado’s at that level too lively and unrefined. Comfort-wise, I prefer the Grados. I don’t have an especially large head, so I have to wear the SR80s on the smallest “setting”, but they sit fine. I always feel like the Senn’s are too big (one of my decisions to go with the M50s is that they do sit well on me)
I’m running these off a NuForce uDAC-2. Recently I was playing with a Audinst HUD-MX1, which was much better (defined, warmer, better vocals). Granted my uDAC-2 is entry level, and I’m not opposed to upgrading. Headphones first though I thinkMusic source is on my Mac via the USB DAC (I run through iTunes with BitPerfect running) from MP3s, mostly at 320kps, but some as low as 160kpbs (nothing lower). Occasionally i’m lucky and have a FLAC version, but mostly they’re MP3. In terms of genre, annoyingly I have a wide range of taste from hard step drum n bass through to rock (Black Keys, White Strips, The Who, Stones, etc). I do also listen to Jazz, Blues, bit of chart music, some female vocals (Winehouse, Adele). Occasionally I’ll hit the breakbeats too.
So I was wondering if you had any thoughts on what I should be aiming for? I was thinking of the Grado RS1i’s, but I’ve never heard them, and given the range of music, these classic “rock” headphones might not be right.In terms of budget, I was aiming for about US$500 on the cans, maybe US$200 on the DAC (so in audiophile terms, I’m still a baby!!!).
I live in Australia so I have to factor in the massive rip off from retailers here (ideally I’ll get them from the US like I did with the M50s, but it’s sometimes very hard to find retailers on Amazon who ship internationally).
Thanks in advance!
Thanks for the detailed post, it helps me to see where you’re coming from.
First of all I think you really know what imaginary headphone you’d like to have, but I probably can’t promise if such a headphone exists (and within your budget too).
The easiest part is determining that the Senn sound is probably not for you, and that rules out all the headphones that sound dark.
If you like the SR80, then you should look into that direction. You can go with the RS1 which is a classic and is more refined than the SR80, but I’m still not sure if you’ll find it to be refined enough. I think partly what makes the Grado sound works is that it’s not extremely refined. It has that rough and gritty quality to it, which works together with the forward sound to achieve the Grado effect. So yes, RS1 is awesome, but I wouldn’t guarantee that it’ll be totally smooth.
I probably wouldn’t go straight to a $500 headphone since you’re still figuring out what works for you here. I would recommend either purchasing an SR80 or an Alessandro MS1 just so you can spend more time with them at home. For the SR80, it comes with a bowl pad, and if you wash the bowl pad with shampoo, by the time it dries, the sound would be softer than the brand new pads sound.
I would probably improve the source/amp as well. The simple option is to get the Fiio E10 for a USB DAC/amp to replace the uDAC. Something better would be the HRT MS2 DAC with a JDSLabs Cmoy amp. Either one of that combination should help give a smoother and fuller sound from the source end.
No need to spend big money for now, would be best to explore the low end options first since you get much better value for money that way.
Thanks for your response. You’re right I do have this imaginary set in my mind… it’s actually my M50s with greater comfort for long periods and a less claustrophobic sound!
So I did a little test whilst i was waiting to hear back from you, listening to the same track with the uDAC and the HUD-MX1. the MX1 was SO SO much nicer to listen to. Immediately felt less tiring to listen to. Out of interest, last year you listed the MX1s as a best buy, but here you’re recommending the E10. Any reason?
Also, I’m conscious that getting the right fit between DAC/Amp/Phone is important… I guess buy the right phones first for comfort and then go out from there? I ask because the lift between the 2 DAC/Amps i mention was so profound that I was thinking about doing the opposite of this, get a better DAC and then find some phones to fit.
I’m hoping to be able to try the AD900s with this current setup over the weekend, just in the interests of experimenting. As I like the M50 sound, I thought trying an open phone from the same manufacturer was a sensible approach.
On a side note, my friend Pete and I (the owner of said MX1 and the Senn HD595) were wondering why on earth manufacturers don’t create a package of DAC/Amp and phone in a package, tuned to bring out the best in both ends of the technology. Finding that right combination seems such a drama sometimes…though hours of nerdy conversation to be had of course:-)
Yes the most important part is the headphone not only because of the fit, but because that’s the part that has the most effect on the sound.
The MX1 is a better DAC than the E10, but sound signature wise, I feel that the E10 would be a better pairing for the SR80. It would help soften the treble while adding mid and low body.
As for the AD900s, they are great and they sound very open. The issue with the AD-series is that all of them struggle to give a good bass.
Here is a review on the AD-series:
One last question if I may, thn I’ll leave you alone 🙂
Just read your review of the E17…. I wonder how this would be with say some HD600s and pump up the treble control slightly? Obvious purist stuff aside….. In fairness, I actually don’t need any portability, all this sits on my desk at work. Was interested just based on your last few comments
Sure. I would try that out and see if you like it. Purists or not, what’s most important is that the sound is good and not distorted.
I’m pretty new to audiophile equipment and I was referred to your blog by a member of head-fi. I have to say that I’m pretty impressed with the comprehensiveness and wide range of your reviews. I’ve been in the market for an amp or a USB DAC/amp combo and I was wondering what you would recommend for under 200 bucks. From what I’ve read so far, the fiiO alpen and ibasso portable amps both seem like a good bet, but I was wondering if they work as well with IEM’s as they do with high-impedance models. It’d be awesome if I could get your input.
The Alpen has a digital volume control and should be good to use with IEMs. As for the Ibasso amps, most of them have selectable gain so there should be no problems with IEMs.
Hi, what do you consider are the best full size closed headphones? I’m looking for sort of a closed equivalent of the HD 600. Thanks!
Hi Mike, are you planning to review the audioengine d1? might be a good listen to see how it compares with the audinst hud-mx1 since these 2 are around the same price.
Sorry for the poison 😛
Yes but they told me they are out of stock at the moment, so I will have to wait.
cool! looking forward to it
Hi Mike, I saw that you gave a very positive review to the Audio Technica W1000x. However, it is a closed-back headphone so I had assumed that a similarly priced open-back headphone would be better (so long as one is prepared to have a leaky headphone, which I am). I won’t be listening at high volume so perhaps it wouldn’t matter so much that it is closed back?
Sorry so what is the question here?
a) Do open backed headphones give better sound for the listener than closed back ones at the same price point? I had assumed so.
b) If so, when you write that w1000x is a great headphone, are you really saying that it is great if you want a closed back one (e.g. so that you can listen in same room as other people) or are you saying that it is a great headphone even compared to open backed headphones at a similar price point?
and finally …
I mentioned that I listened at low to medium volume in case that changed your answer to either of the above e.g. perhaps open backed headphones are much better but only at high volumes.
About open vs closed, please read this article: http://www.headfonia.com/a-guide-to-headphones/
As for the W1000X, like all good headphones, there’s always going to be some pros and cons. You can compare it say to the popular Grado RS1 which is fully open and find that the closed W1000X excel in some areas, and the RS1 on others.
I think that article should answer a lot of your questions.
Thanks Mike and also with being patient with a question partly answered already by one of your guides!
You’re welcome, Marc.
Lets say I want to use a HD25-1 ii with an RSA Shadow or a FiiO E6.
Source would be an iPod nano 6g with a Low-profile LOD.
Would the difference in SQ be night and day?
I wouldn’t bother with an amp. A better DAP would give a more noticeable upgrade in this case.
And in most cases, audio upgrades are never night and day. 😉 They’re common phrases to use when people write their impressions, but I hope you realize that “night and day” always imply hyperbole. 🙂
The iPod isn’t being used by me, it’s being used by my friend who got it for free. Thus the need for an amp.
E6 time then…
If you insist on an amp, either go with the PA2V2, JDSLabs Cmoy or the Fiio E11. E6 wouldn’t make for a good pairing with the HD25-1.
Hey Mike i just went to alo audio store in portland and it was a great time. I really was impressed with the solo paired with continentel tube amp. I ended up buying the solo with matching silver cables. Was quite spendy so i didn’t buy an amp also. As of right now i have shure 535 with molds and vmoda m80 and hd 25-1 and m50. So my plan is to save and get jh3 since will pair perfect with solo but intil then would like to buy an amp and am considering the c421 amp. I read your comment on it and it seems like perfect combo to get for me. Would you have me go that route or another route.
Sorry what is the Solo?
Anyway sounds like you had a great time there!
I’m going to lock this page down since the comments count are getting too big.
Please post any new questions on the new Q&A:http://www.headfonia.com/q-a-2012/