Q & A - Archive 2 - Headfonia Headphone Reviews

  • full1nelson

    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?


  • Hello Mike,

    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.

    • Hi Rhythm, 
      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. 

          • Thanks Mike.
            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 ?

            Best regards.

          • Rythm, try the C421 from JDSLabs. 


            Although they are still on preorder status at the moment.

            Yes they should be better than the Bose. 

          •  Hello Mike,
            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.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Mike,

    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:

  • sup Mike, 

    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. 

  • Florian GERARD

    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?

    • Hi Gerard, 
      It looks like a potent amp yes, but I have never listened to it. Sorry. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mike,
    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. 

  • juman kim

    Hey Mike,

    What is your view on double blind testing gears?

    • Difficult to execute properly but effective. 

  • Hi Mike,

    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!

    • Hi Chris, 
      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. 

      • Hey Mike

        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. 

  • Hey Mike,

    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.


    • Thanks Mike. 
      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. 

  • A83

    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!

  • Manji group

    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.

      • Manji group

        cool! looking forward to it

  • Anonymous

    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?

    • Hi Marc,
      Sorry so what is the question here?

      • Anonymous

        Fair enough!
        Questions …
        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.

        • Marc,
          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.

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Mike and also with being patient with a question partly answered already by one of your guides!

            • You’re welcome, Marc.

  • Lee Zong Han

    Hey Mike,

    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. 🙂 

      • Lee Zong Han

        Thanks for the reply!

        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.

  • Luke Garza

    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/