It drives the HD650 with very good results, so although I didn’t try it
directly with the K702, I think the amplifier section should be powerful
Great thank you! You may have saved me a few hundred dollars (until the desire to upgrade strikes again, of course)
How does the JH5 do compared to UM3X and UM Mage?
Does the Mage also pair well with the Pico Slim?
JH5: Forward sounding, spacious soundstage, good bass.
UM3X: Flat, fuller mids, less spacious, less low bass than the JH5.
Mage: Spacious, more laid back, less engaging than the UM3X and JH5.
I was comparing the UM3X, SM3v2, Westone 4, and SE535 Shure, and I think
the JH5 is still the one that I would pick over all those IEMs
(including even the Mage).
The Mage is okay with the Pico Slim, I think the JH5 is better with the
do you have idea, which one is the best for me.? Vjays, marshall Major or ATH SJ55… for rock music. I need your impression.
The V-Jays is lively and fun, the only weakness is bass is a bit loose
which may be an issue for hard rock and fast bass passages.
The Marshall Major’s voicing is better for Rock than the SJ55. I think
the SJ55 is a better all rounder.
You decide. 🙂
What portable amp pairs best with the high end models of ultrasone in your opinion? Budget is $300. Could be a bit more. Im looking at c&c X02. What you think?
There is a lot of choice. I think the SR-71a and the ALO Rx has good
voicing to pair with the Ultrasones.
Thanks mike. Do you think the jds cmoy 2.03 does justice to pro 2900? I feel it does not have enough power
I think power levels should be enough as I’ve used it to drive a HD800.
Perhaps what’s lacking is the bass impact, and that may affect your
perception of lacking power. The ALO Rx and the SR71a will be miles
ahead in this regard.
How about the new 5 channel amp of JDS? Its gonna cost no more than $175
Gotta wait to get my hands on them. 🙂
I love the JDSLabs Cmoy though.
What portable amp do you recommend for the high end ultrasone models? Budget is $300. Could be a bit more. Looking at c&c X02. What you think?
I’ve never listened to the C&C X02, so I can’t say. But I’d pick the
SR71a and the ALO Rx for say the Ed.8.
Me too. Problem is it lacks power for my almost deaf ears. I need something i need not play too loud but can give me a superb top to bottom extension
ALO Rx should be good then.
Hi again sir. I was not able to find a pa2v2 here in my country, so I am stuck with E11 and cmoy for my hd25-1. Which one would be the better choice? Thanks again!
I think both are good amps. The Cmoy is smoother but the E11 is more
bassy by default.
Hi Mike, great website. Just a quick one on the JH Audio IEMs. My source is predominantly my iphone (mix of lossless and itunes downloads). Had a pair of Atrio M5s which died on me. I’m contemplating, strangely enough, anything from JH5 to JH16(!). My question is, given my source, would the JH16 be a waste (i.e. without an amp, a few lossy files in the mix)? Would JH5 be sufficient for my everyday needs (I have a slight bias towards bass)?
I listen to mostly rock, pop, metal. Also have tendency to “wonder” if I don’t have top of the line (yes it’s a disease). And after customs also for fit reasons.
The JH16 is great out of an Iphone actually. Likewise the JH5. It’ll
improve out of a good source and amp, but I don’t think they are
absolutely necessary as the main objective of IEMs are mobility and most
importantly fun sound.
Thanks Mike! JH16 it is then. *Ouch* Haha
I know man. Two of my friends right now are dying to get a JH16. good
luck to their wallet.
Haha nice. But just finally, putting all rational / sensible considerations aside, if $$ isn’t an issue, is it worth the additional investment in the JH16? Is it one of those “yes, this is it” type purchases.. where despite the initial pain to the wallet, you get what you pay for and life is just “better”? Thanks Mike~
If you feel that the $1K+ price tag is a heavy burden to your wallet,
then I wouldn’t recommend going for it. I think the JH5 is already a lot
of fun and better than most of the universal IEMs out there.
Tried the JH16 and iPhone combo. It sounds nice and if you are buying a JH16, amp is not necessary
True. But it sounds even better with the Pico Slim
I’ve replied to your other question earlier.
Hi Mike, do you familiar with sound cards for PC’s? After reading hundreds of threads in IT-related forum I just can’t quite figure out how much they can improve SQ. I’ve been wondering how will the likes of Onkyo/Asus flagship sound cards or Creative low end sound cards fares against DAC in their price brackets
Well sound cards are essentially digital to analog converters too, but
manufactured in the form of upgrade cards that slot into the PCI slots
on the PC’s motherboards. Many of them have gained quite a reputation
and so I’m sure those would be quite good sounding.
The reason I don’t review sound cards is that:
1. Installation is more simple with USB DACs, doesn’t require opening up
2. PC is getting outdated as people use tablets and laptops more and more.
3. USB DACs are more versatile, it’s easy to move around different
computers just by unplugging the USB cable and going to the next computer.
4. Less noise as the circuitry is separate from the PC box.
For the e7/e9 combo… hd600 or hd650? 🙂
I think the Senns need something more refined?
What about the FA003?
The fa-003 is a little forward for me. I was just thinking maybe either I get an hd600 again or an hd650 to be used with the e7/e9 in the meantime. I will surely get another dac and amp in the future though.
Cool. I’d go with the HD600 with the Fiio.
i finally got my fischers (fa-003). I have a feeling by looking at all your headphone impressions and preferences that you might love these. They need time to burn in to get focused but they are something that would be perfect for closed headphones except for the forward mids i am not very much into. I’m sure its nothing for you though because they have more or less that hd25 style forwardness that I think you like plus a soundstage and better bass and high frequency extension.
That sounds like a good headphone. Will keep an eye for them for sure.
hey mike, youve made a review of the mvn cmoy, have you ever tried the mvn2 premium? how is it compared to an entry level tube amp, say darkvoice figaro?
Sorry, no experience with both.
Hey, are you planning on checking out the VSonic GR07 at any point in time? It seems you haven’t been doing IEMs much lately.
That’s true… we have been missing on IEMs. And no, no plan for a VSonic review. 🙁
Hm, you should think about checking them out some time. They’re pretty much perfectly balanced, and for only $150…except they have a bit of sibilance. Still, they’re worth a try to anyone, I think.
Ether that or some other IEMs, it’s been ages since you’ve made an article on them!
Thank you so much for using your talents to share your thoughts with the headphone audiophile community. Your writing style is balanced and very compelling. I also love that you don’t hold back on what you really think.
I’m trying to find the best headphone solution for the type of music listening that I enjoy. I listen to music directly out of my iPad and would like to maximize the experience. It would be awesome if you could recommend a set of headphones and a rechargeable amp (with a possible DAC if it’ll make a difference).
Musical preferences: mainly ambient electronic music and acoustic rock with an occasional venture into reggea/rock/pop/trance.
Budget: under $500 for the total solution.
I will be listening only at home so open-style headphones are not a problem. It’s important for me to be mobile because I enjoy listening in different parts of the house (I don’t want a desktop amp ).
The iPad has a dock which allows connecting the device to a DAC/Amp for the best signal quality.
I would love to hear your advice! Thank you so much in advance.
PS: I am cautious of closed-styled headphones because I’m concerned that it’ll be too hot for the ears when used for extended sessions. This is the experience I have when using a set of Sony MDR-V6 phones (can’t use it for more than 20 minutes).
Thanks for the compliments.
Now, on your Ipad system.
1. Do you really need an amp and a DAC? I would skip it and go direct,
personally. I can imagine the clutter you get from having the Ipad > USB
connector dock > USB cable > DAC box > Headphone.
2. I think most of your music (electronic, rock, pop, trance, reggae)
would be awesome with a custom IEM like the JH5. Acoustic rock is nice
with a headphone like Grados (pick one that fits your budget), but it
won’t give you the bass you need for electronic, trance, etc. Good bass
is usually obtained with a closed design headphone, but since you don’t
want that, the next best thing is a custom molded IEM like the JHAudio
3. So if it was me I’d get the JH5 ($399), go direct to the Ipad, and be
Great, thank you. I like your idea of finding a simpler solution for ipad listening and not to worry about an amp/dac/camera-connection-kit.
It’s my understanding that many IEMs have trouble with the soundstage when compared to full size headphones. I’d love to give the JH5’s a try (and perhaps I still will) but it’s basically a $500 shot in the dark because I don’t have any experience with high quality IEMs to know what to expect.
Do you happen to know of some really great full-size headphones (closed or open) under $500 that would work well with the ipad (without any amps/dacs)? My musical tastes again are: ambient electronic music and acoustic rock with some reggea/rock/pop/trance.
Thank you for your time! Have a great one.
If you want to go with a full size… it’s more tricky. Full require a
dedicated amp to get the bass impact. Some of the music you listed are
also hard to cover with one headphone (ambient electronic, trance needs
one headphone where rock and acoustic rock needs another). I think the
JH5 can cover all of these in one sweep (including pop and reggae). The
soundstage is actually very large and deep on the JH customs, bigger
than many full size, and probably bigger than the majority of full size
when driven directly from the Ipad. 🙂
The wonders of balanced armature technology…
Thanks for that. For drumming, having a cord is annoying. So I guess the wireless ones would be better for that.
My other concern is that they have been released for almost 2 years now – I’m sure that there is a better Sennheiser pair about to be released in a few weeks (knowing my luck)… Would I be better waiting until there is a new model??
A wireless full size headphones should have a fairly slow product life
cycle, so I wouldn’t worry about a new model coming up anytime soon.
Hey so I came across this thread on head-fi.org – I think you’ll find the last few posts from the Sennheiser rep – veeeerrrry interesting…
Thanks for pointing me out to the link man. Rosmadi works at the development team, so he should know what he’s talking about. I personally think that the new products are not going to be replacement RS180s. Two years are far too short for these headphones, but hey, I don’t work at Sennheiser so who knows.
Hi, Mike! Recently i’ve purchased a pairs of CK100. They sound great since I spend most of time on listening female vocal, both pop and ballad. And now i want to get a portable amp for it, and i got stuck in choosing between the arrow, ALO and pico. Can you recommended any amp that suits perfect with it?
If you like the CK100’s sound, I think the Pico (original model) will be
a good amp for you, rather than the ALO.
Thank you. Then can you comment a transportable amp that suits all of the AD900/AD2000 and the ck100? My job requires me to travel a lot!
I think the Just Audio amp will be superb for those Audio Technicas you
I have a problem choosing an amp for my HiFiman re262 (150Ohm, 102dB).
I will be going on a long trip early next month, so i want to get the best out of them for on the plane).
My main options are the JDSLabs cMoy 2.o3 and the FiiO E11.
At the moment I am not too happy with them. I find them muddy, the vocals recessed, very hollow and a little bass-shy. I know it’s impossible to fix those problems in that 60$ pricerange, I just want to improve it at least a bit.
Thanks for You Help.
I think what you need is a new IEM, because the problems you mentioned
are precisely the sound signature of the RE262.
May i know what you mean exactly?
This is what you said: “At the moment I am not too happy with them. I find them muddy, the
vocals recessed, very hollow and a little bass-shy. I know it’s
impossible to fix those problems in that 60$ pricerange, I just want to
improve it at least a bit.”
What I mean is that those “problems” you have with the sound is precisely the RE262’s sound signature. If the sound signature doesn’t strike a good match, an amp is not going to change that dramatically. Rather it’ll be better to move to a different IEM.
Thanks very much for your help.
You can give the Fischer Audio Eterna a try. It’s a very bassy IEM with
smooth tonality and big soundstage. Many people love it.
as a ‘begawan’ for headphones reviewer, i would like to ask you short questions.
im listening to a lot of jazz music and now i wanna search for nice headphone and amp in order to maximize my utility. my max budget is $600 or Rp. 6mill for both headphone and amp.
I’m not always listening to classic jazz band or singer, though, some acid jazz or funk with nice bass improvisation is include in my appetite, so i hope my future headphone won’t have a weak bass though i’m not hoping an extra bass either. i hope this informations could help u to pick me to my perfect headphone and amp, and am really looking forward for your reply.
Thanks a lot, Mike! success and God Bless
The other day a friend who has similar music preferences as you was very
happy with the HD650 I sent him, way more than the AD1000PRM he has. I
think you can get a HD600/HD650 and an entry level JDSLabs Cmoy should
suffice for now. Later you can always upgrade to a fancier amplifier
when you have the budget.
any further recommendation for the amp if i put some more budget to that, but just looking for the portable one? i found some brands on your review of these senn’s : like Matrix M-Stage, Hifiman EF-5, Ibasso PB-1
I don’t know, I didn’t particularly enjoy the combination of the
HD600/650 with entry level desktop amps. I think they are not refined
enough. The Ortofon HD-Q7 amp was a good one, or step up and go for the
thanks a lot Mike! u really are my saviour 🙂
Nah, I’m not. I’m just an average dude. 🙂
@300ohm, the WA3 might even be better as it’s an OTL
True. I just never tried the WA3.
Hi mike, sorry to ask you again ^_^
I have plan to buy beta 22 kit from glassjar audio & just wanna ask how much improvement i’ll get from beta 22 3ch – hd 650. Your review is based on 4ch beta 22 so how much hd 650 improvement with 3ch beta 22??
Thanx a lot
The B22 is a good amp. How much improvement is a bit hard to answer though.. On this review I compared the Burson to the 2-ch B22 which is quite close sounding to the 3-ch. That should give you a good idea of what to expect.
Personally, I’d skip the hassle and just get something like a Woo Audio 6.
W4 with the Fiio e11 or Pa2V2?
any recommended IEM that is suitable for jogging or running stuffs? I personally dislike earbud because it cannot fit in my ear, thanks!
With IEMs, the choices are huge. You can start with something basic like the Senn CX300 ($26.01 from Amazon.com) all the way to the $1,145 JH16Pro. Perhaps you can go to the recommendations page to see some that I recommend.
Have already asked this at the K501 comments, but didn’t realized that the website had this section, sorry. So my question is about K340 and K501. Could you tell me pros/cons about them, sound signature, and which one is better for classic and acoustic music? From what I’ve read, K340 is more analytic and K501 is more musical. Do you agree with this? Thanks
Yes I’ve read your questions at the K500/K501 review, but I’m going to
answer to your question here.
There are two K340 versions, the bass heavy and the bass light version
(a review of the bass heavy version here:
http://www.headfonia.com/akg-k340-bass-heavy-version/). Once a bunch my
friends were really into K340s and so we had several of them, bass heavy
and bass lights around. The bass light, is more flat and I can
understand people calling them analytic. The bass heavy version is more
rare, and the additional bottom end body makes them less flat (hence
less analytic as well).
The K501 in a way were sweeter and more natural sounding than the K340.
The K340 had an electret driver for the treble and a dynamic driver for
the lows (I don’t remember the crossover frequency). The electret driver
gives a very smooth electrostatic like treble and I think this was the
high point of the K340. The lows, however, struggled to keep up with the
transients of the high frequencies and I think this is the weak point of
the entire design, and something that I was never able to enjoy
regardless of the music.
Aside from the low/high transients issue, the K340 was a vintage, closed
design headphone. So there were other issues like timbre accuracy,
frequency extension (the lows were not that extended, likewise the
highs), soundstage, reverbs, detail levels, and other things that
normally plague vintage designs. Not to mention that you need a super
beefy amp to drive this headphone. I think that ultimately, it’s still a
unique and special headphone, you know, like buying the original Mini or
VW Beetle. Nice vintages, but they come short in so many other ways that
you’d get even from a Honda Civic.
The K501 is a newer headphone and overall the frequency balance has
improved considerably from the K340 and it does sound quite nice.
However, compared to the offerings we have these days, the K501 simply
is a mid-fi offering from the 90s. You can take something basic from
Audio Technica, like the AD700 and it would do everything the K501 does,
only better (and easier to drive too). I used to wonder why AKG
discontinued all of their most popular models (K240 Sextett, K340, K501,
K1000), and I think I know why — they come short on the technicalities
big time (I’ve had extensive time with all of them except the K1000). On
short listens the vintages tend to have a nice mids but after a while
the shortcomings in technicalities are too hard to live with. The K701
is not a perfect headphone, but I do think that it’s quite proper that
AKG has it as the flagship model.
I think that a mid-fi offering from Senn like the HD558 is already a big
step up from either the K501 or the K340 in terms of frequency
extension, micro detail (both AKGs are just okay in detail), soundstage
three dimensionality (either AKGs are quite flat), and most importantly,
bass slam (you need this for Beethoven’s, Tchaikovsky, or other
I therefore recommend that you look into other options.
First of all, thanks a lot for spending your time answering my questions. About the headphones, I started looking for K501 and K340 since I read lot of people saying that they are better than HD650 from Sennheiser. I hear most of the time acoustic music, specially with piano and acoustic guitar. So, the HD650 is the best option for me?
Well for me one of the most annoying things when listening to acoustic
guitar and piano is when the timbre is off. I understand that you can
never get 100% accurate timbre (different guitar and pianos already come
with different timbres), but for me it has to be quite close to the
mark. In this way the K501 and the K340 is not that accurate.
The HD650 is a better choice not only in timbre accuracy but also in
micro details and reproducing the ambiance of acoustic recordings. You
can also try the HD600 which is less dark than the HD650, though the
soundstage and ambiance is not going to be as good as with the HD650.
Make sure you have a decent amp around though.
You know, I think an entry level Lambda set up would be a better choice
than the K340, if you want to get a taste of the electrostatic sound.
Either SR-Lambda or SR-202, with a basic SRD-7 or SRD-6 or SRM1Mk2
as per your advice. I tried the HD650. However, I only tried it on my Cowon D2 which probably didn’t do it justice. I also tried the M50. I’m pretty impressed by the M50. The HD650 is good in its own way but I prefer the characteristics of the M50’s sound. However, it’s going for SGD238, which is quite a lot higher than prices in the states. 🙁
Yes the M-50 is very nice, very clear separation and all rounder
tonality. If you don’t like the HD650 then the Senn sound is probably
not for you. 🙂
Try the HD600 as well, it’s not as dark as the HD650.
It’s not really that I don’t like it. If I had to make an analogy, the M50 would be a roller coaster ride, cheaper and exciting while the HD650 is probably a ride in a mercedes s class convertible, expensive, flashy, enjoyable (provided you’re not speeding).
Yeah I’ll try the HD600 but I’m highly leaning towards the M50, it’s got the sound I like.
Also try the HD25-1. It’s more lively and engaging, and the bass is
better than the M-50.
ok will do that. Just one question, does the HD25-1 rest on the ears? I didn’t try it out because I assumed that since it looked so small and compact, it must rest on my ears. I’m new to headphones and comfort is an issue to me. Also lacking in audition experiences.
It rest on the ears for sure. But the small cup is part of what makes
the sound so fun and intense. Brand new, they clamp a bit tight. Give
them time, stretch them with books for a few weeks, and the clamp should
Hi, I managed to get my hands on an M50 at a fairly good price. SGD190. The HD25-1 is quite overpriced over here as jaben offered to sell it at SGD438. I do feel that the HD25-1 is better than M50, however I still went for the latter due to it’s affordability as well as the fact that it can cater to a larger range of music
Yes, I understand. I think the HD25-1 retails around a bit over U$300 in
Asia, making it less of a good value.
Yes, re-reading your analogy again, I think you definitely owe the
HD25-1 an audition. The HD25-1 is a roller coaster ride when compared to
I’m looking to get the best sound quality I can in a pair of sub $60 around-ear or on-ear headphones, $70 tops. I typically listen to rock, alternative, and occasionally bassy or dance type music. I would go with the grado sr60’s but I need the headphones to isolate more and leak less (for if I visited a library or something). Being semi-portable would be nice, too.What would you recommend?
What about the Marshall? Might have to stretch the budget a little though.
It’s $99.00 from Amazon.com
They look nice, but I’m not quite sure if I want to go that high. Would I have other options if I sacrificed portability a bit?
Actually you can also get the SJ-55. Should fulfill your requirements quite well.
There is also an importer selling it (through Amazon) for $58.
Those look really nice. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m going to go ahead and order them
I’m thinking of getting a pair of nice headphones (as a birthday present) and was considering the HD600s. After reading your review, however, I’m wondering if I’ll be wasting my money as I would primarily be using them with my MacBook Air and iPhone (compressed music encoded at ~320kbps). What’s your view on the subject and do you have any suggestions that would be more appropriate?
Thanks heaps and I love the site!
What about a pair of JHAudio JH5s? It would be awesome straight from the
Air and the iPhone. No issues with compressed music as well. At $399 the
initial investment is a bit high, but you don’t need to worry about
extra expenses down the road such as amps and etc.
What about in terms of full-sized headphones? Or am I dreaming that something like my iPhone/Air will be able to power full-sized headphones adequately? The JH5 does look to be an attractive option, mind.
I think it’s trickier with full size headphones. You need amps and DACs
and stuff like that.
What if you hooked up a HRT Music Streamer 2 w/ a portable amp, like a C-moy, PA2V2, Fiio E? for aportable laptop system. Is that cutting corners too much? Would you lose too much because of the interconnects, would it be worth it to lose a little quality for the sake of taking your laptop anywhere?
Yes you can do that. Some amps like the JDSLabs are transparent enough
so you’ll feel the upgrade in the source.
nice website! I was wondering if you know anything about amplifiers for studio monitors
(Dynaudio BM15p to be exact). I’m trying to figure out the perfect match but without spending more than 1000$. Any suggestions?
Thanks. I wouldn’t know anything about studio monitors though. 🙂 Sorry.
hypex ucd400hg hxr based amplifier for those.
I have a $500 budget and I was wonder if you can give me some advice about either get a custom iem of $500 or a headphone + dac/amp for a total of $500. Portability is not an issue and if it matters, I listen to hip hop music.
You can get either a custom JH5Pro and go ampless, or something portable
like the Sennheiser HD25-1 and pair it with an Fiio E11 amp or an RSA
amp like the Mustang.
Do you have any recommendations on full size headphones?(headphone + amp/dac for $500)
(sorry for replying to the wrong person haha)
There a lot to choose from. Have you seen the recommendations page?
So I decidedI dont need a 200 – 250 portable amp and get me whatever I like better from your <100$ amp shootout.
my money will be better put in new headphones instead :p
plan to use it for HD25 and DT1350, so Im counting on you Mike! 😀
personally, I don’t think both headphones need to be amped.
but PA2V2 would be really nice to go with both of them 😀
I’ve been really busy and lack the time to complete the articles, but
the PA2V2 is awesome with the HD25-1 James, so I would just get it. It
is the only forward sounding amp in the comparison and the voicing is
just perfect for the HD25-1. They go really well together.
The Fiio E11 has more bass punch and impact but is less refined. The
JDSLabs Cmoy is the most open sounding, biggest soundstage, and the best
all rounder. It’s slightly mid-centric and not as strong in the bass
except when you turn on the bass boost. If you plan to get other
headphones, the JDSLabs is a better all-rounder amp though.
The best part is that at the cost of these amps, you can get two (or
even three) of them and your wallet will still tolerate it.
What do you think of the Moon Audio Silver Dragon Cable for IEMs? will there possibly be a review?
Haven’t plan to.
I’ve listened to the Silver Dragon headphone cable many times, version 2 and version 3, and I think they give you a typical silver cable sound (more treble, lean mids and bass) but with an added value since they are flexible and not stiff like most silver cables are.
That’ll probably be the core of the review if there ever will be one. 🙂
Here is a longer article I wrote on the TWAg if you are interested.
would u do a review if i loaned u mine? i just got it from stage93 🙂
I think it’s gonna be hard though. I mean how many paragraphs can I write about a cable? 3-4 sentences would be enough to describe a cable, I think.
haha i thought it would be interesting to see a comparison between TWag and SD . shipping isnt that expensive from sg to indo anyway.
BTW have u tried audiohub’s V5 cable?
Well, briefly, between the TWAg and SD ver3 headphone cables:
Silver Dragon sounds like most other silver cables. More treble, less mids and lows. The mids are also dryer and I’ve ended up liking the stock cables on the HE-500, HE-6 and LCD-2, than the silver dragon recabled version.
Now Ive never used the TWAg on anytng but the HD800, and the JH customs, so this isn’t exactly an A-B comparison, but the TWAg retains some warmth and is more organic sounding than the typical silver wire sound. It isn’t quite a silver-copper or a full copper sound, but somehow quite unique by itself.
Of course, given that Whiplash is a sponsor and Moon Audio isn’t, that’ll probably affect the credibility of what I just typed.
Audiohub’s cable, the one for TF10 is very nice, but the proble is that the cable remains stiff. If you read my TWAg article, then you know that the challenge is to make a good but flexible cable. Otherwise, recabling your headphones with amplifier hook up cables would give you very good results at much cheaper prices. I don’t know which version I auditioned though.
How does the AudioHub cable compare to SDs?
I can’t say much, since I didn’t have a base for comparison when I
listened to it.
would it be worth getting the audiohub V5 over the SDs?
I would get the SD just because the Audiohub is so stiff.
What about SQ-wise?
Audiohub vs SD you mean? Again I can’t say, I’ve only listened to the
Audiohub cable on the TF10 and that’s it. No point of comparison.
The ER4 guys here are very picky when it comes to cables and I think they would be interested if the cable comes in ER4’s termination (most probably not, though). They’ve tried anything from APS to EFN to tonearm cable. 😛
I have been enjoying my RS 180s for some time now and I am wondering if you can recommend a set of wired portable headphones that can match the sound signature of the RS 180s?
Not quite identical, but you can give the HD598 and HD600 a try. The RS180 is somewhere between the two (closer to the HD598) though, but the HD600 is more refined than the other two.
Hey, do you know why major wire players like Twag choose to DIY their cables instead of mass producing in factories in say, China? I have always wondered that and hopefully you can answer it. Thanks!
First problem is probably going to be communication, then finding the reputable vendor that has the QC to do high quality cables. If you can find such vendor, they are probably already doing work for Monster and Belkin and such. The amount of cables Whiplash makes are tiny compared to those big vendors.
At the end of the day, if the quantity is not big enough, the hassle you have to go through to produce in China is not going to be worth it.
Now vendors are Hifimans are differrent. They are native Chinese and things are a lot easier if you are a native.
What if there are vendors who are willing?
Would you prefer a DIY Twag or a Factory Twag?
You know what, I actually tried reterminating a TWAg cable and found that the clarity suffers a big deal when compared to the factory TWag. I mean, i build cables and amps all the time, so my soldering technique are quite decent. Don’t ask me why cause I don’t have a clue, but from there I’d rather have my TWAg soldered by the factory. Not to mention that the wires are very slippery and it’s hard to reterminate them while still keeping the braiding intact.
I hate working on those cables, but I like the sound they make.
So you’re saying factory made cables sound better than DIY?
I would think that the cables would sound really different. In all honesty, factory terminations are that trustworthy, especially china. I would rather have the cables tweaked to perfection by a professional DIYer rather than factory made. What do you think?
Well, Whiplash’s TWAg doesn’t have the factory molded soldering that we
see on OEM cables. It was probably still hand soldered, but what I’m
saying is that somehow, when I tried reterminating my TWAg (it was for
the JH customs), the clarity in the sound was not as good.
I see. Thanks for the information! Really appreciate it.
Do you think the SQ will be worse should it be mass produced?
It’s hard to say.
What is PRaT?
PRaT means ‘Pace, Rhythm, and Timing.’
I think it refers to how impactfully a headphone articulates the rhythmic aspects of music playing through it. A headphone with weak PRaT can sound thin and cerebral, but a headphone with stronger PRaT lets you feel the rhythmic vibrations more.
I find that headphones with good PRaT – like the Sennheiser HD 25 – encourage me to move to the music more.
You’re welcome, Mike.
I hope I didn’t overstep my welcome by answering first on your page though. I guess I’ve often eagerly wondered how I’d explain PRaT in typing. 🙂
Not at all, man. I’d be happy if you can help answer questions.
Less work for me. 🙂
where can i buy the Sony mdr-cd900st? i heard it’s only available in japan, does hokkaido have it?
Yes it is only available in Japan. I thinnk you can find them on japan ebay.
Got myself a Sennheiser HD-25-1 based on your recommendation. You were right this is a really awesome headphone right out of the box. Wondering if it will improve even more after burning it in. Can you recommend me another headphones for home listening which has the same sound characteristics like the HD-25 with strong bass and forward mids? Maybe the high end Grados or the Sennheiser HD-650? Or anything else you can recommend a step up from the HD-25-1 for home listening? Thanks a lot,
The sennheiser HD-650 sounded much darker to me when i auditioned it. But it was a fresh pair and hadn’t opened up. But starting out so dark, I have my doubts that upon opening up, it’ll sound anything like the HD25-1.
You should try the HD600. i tried it and liked it a lot. It sounds bright, fuller and has stronger bass. Unfortunately, it is my belief that stronger bass and better mids don’t come hand in hand. I think for me, HD600 is an excellent compromise. But it was out of my budget so ciao ciao. 🙁
I do like mids and bass together a lot, still looking for a headphones like that. I was hoping that the GRADO Rs1 is something like that?
The bass on the RS1 is more on the upper bass, and not so much on mid
and low bass. The HD600 would be closer to what you are looking for.
Thanks a lot for your replies!
Haven’t found another headphone with quite the same sound as the HD25-1.
That’s why it’s so irreplaceable. But if you want to “step-up”, I think
the HD600 is closer to it than the HD650 is.
Thanks for your advice. What about the Grado Rs-1? What is the sound characteristics of the RS1? Not similar to HD25-1?
I doubt Grados (traditionally very trebly) will sound like the HD25-1. The 25s are a great compromise in terms of the whole frequency range, giving you sufficient amounts of bass(arguable), mids and treble while keeping it energetic. Quite unique.
Thanks, Daniel. I think your assessment is spot on.
In fact I think it’s the only pair of headphones I’ve tried that sounds anything like armature based IEMs. The PRaT factor (did I use this correctly?) is quite phenomenal considering it’s using dynamic drivers.
Very spot on Daniel. But not all BA drivers have good PRaT ie the Westone 2 and 4.
It’s quite similar in that the sound is forward and the bass is punchy.
The RS1 is much more open sounding, but the treble is more aggressive
and the bass not as tight as the HD25-1. As I’ve said, it’s hard to find
a headphone that mimics the HD25-1’s sound. But if you like the HD25-1,
the RS1 is definitely a good one to try, and likewise the Beyerdynamic T1.
You know, I just remembered. The Superlux HD660 is worth a try. It’s
like a HD25-1 with bigger soundstage, better driver resolution, and much
Do you think if I replace the stock headphone cable with a cardas cable will further improve the sound quality of the HD-25-1?
Of course. I particularly love the cardas blue with the HD25-1.
Hello Mike, I still haven’t made my purchase! The Alessandro-Grado MS1 you suggested IS available, and at an affordable price. You know headphones better than I do, but aren’t Grados mainly suited to hard rock / metal music? You must have something specific in mind, since you recommend the MS1 for classical solo piano? Also, I do listen to symphonies and chamber music too, as well as some soft rock. If you still recommend the MS1 strongly, I’ll trust you and go for it!
Otherwise though, I’m still choosing between the HD558 and the ATH-AD500 (couldn’t find the AD700 at a reasonable price). Which would you recommend? The bad part is that I can’t try either on before buying, and there’s no return policy!
Thanks for all the help!
First of all, make sure to get the MS1-i version as you get more bass
body than compared to the regular MS1.
Now, why did I recommend the MS1? What music do you listen to again
(other than symphonies and chamber)?
Solo piano is a tricky piece to play well. Briefly they sound pretty
simple to reproduce, but on longer listens you actually need a really
good set of phones with:
– Accurate timbre
– Good soundstage reproduction since many piano solo recordings are
taken live, on live concert performances.
– Good bass to get the percussion impact
– Good articulation to get good detail on the loud/complex parts
The MS1 is not the best headphone for solo piano, but one of the reason
I may have recommended it is its genre bandwith. It can play a pretty
good piano solo, and still do pretty well for rock and pop and jazz. The
HD558 and the AD700 is actually not as good as the MS1 in this sense.
I’m a young grasshopper in the hi-fi world. Just purchased Fubar III amp/dac with stock opa2604 in amp module, and lm4562 in DAC section. From what I understand, I can improve upon the stock amp by replacing it with a dual opa627 combined on a single PCB. Now, considering 24V 0.5A Auto-switching power supply of the unit, would I be better off purchasing the class A biased version, as sold by Tam’s audio? Having read your positive experience with the Matrix M-Stage class A bias mod (with opa627), I’m hoping the improvements you noted (“With the Class-A biasing, I’m hearing a smoother and more linear treble extension, more refinement, and a more open sound”) translate. Thanks!
I think that would be the nice and convenient solution, yes. Otherwise
you’ll have to buy your own OPA627s, get a browndog adaptor, and do the
Hey. I’ve been thinking of getting the PA2V2 amp, but one thing that I don’t really understand is LOD cables. I understand that you use them to skip the internal amplification circuit of a device, but I can’t find if a USB LOD cable exists. What I’m trying to ask is how do you skip the internal amp in a laptop and use the PA2v2 instead?
There is no way to skip the internal amp in your laptop, Adrian. Unless
you get a USB DAC like the Audinst.
Hi Mike, which do you think will be better headphones for R&B/Soul type of music (Sade, Raphael Saadiq, Jagged Edge, Al Green, Lighthouse Famly etc.) :
a. LCD2b. HE500c. Beyerdynamic T1Thanks.
I like it when the question is so simple. 🙂
thanks mike, LCD2 it is then. Just a follow-up question, which (trans)portable amp do you think will go best with LCD2?
a. RSA SR71A/B
b. Meier Audio Corda Stepdance
c. iBasso PB2
d. other amp you might know
As always, appreciate your input. Headfonia rules!
Now for the amps, do you really have to go with a portable? Even
transportables? I mean that headphone is huge and it’ll be better driven
from a desktop amp.
haha, kind of expecting that answer from you mike, as I have been back-reading the LCD2 articles and comments here the past days.
A top performing desktop amp is definitely in my list, I’m choosing between Burson HA-160 and WooAudio 6.
But I go home to province every weekends so a portable amp will be nice so I can still enjoy the LCD2 while I rest there.
The desktop amp will stay in my house in the city.
Thanks again mike.
If you have plenty of a budget it would be nice to get something like the grace m903. It has a dac amp all built in in one box and when you have to leave for the weeekend you can just take the whole amp with you. It is only the size of a hardcover book.
Get some twaron angel hair (eg http://www.eltim.eu/index.php?action=extra&extra=A_twaron__angel_hair__damping_material&lang=EN) and start stuffing. Makes a big difference on my Philips the strech.
hello Mike, just a quick question. do i still need headphone amp like WA6 to my HD650 if i use HM-801 as my DAP or its overkill already? i like many kind of genres but my personal fav mostly classic jazz and funk jazz. thanks for the answer!
A good amp is never an overkill 😉
But the HD650 should be great right out of the HM-801. I love the
headphone out on that Hifiman player.
i found that combination from your review 🙂 great! in conclusion it is worth it to start saving for the WA6 then. Thanks Mike!
due to the price of WA6 and the mysterious tax in Indonesia, what other amp u recommend for hm801 + hd650?
I once tried HD600 using HM602, it sounds fine for a normal usage though it lacks in many aspects. It’s like eating a steak which taste just right.
It is still a steak, but the seasoning is just plain 😀
I would reccomend using an amp 😀
your steak paradigm helps a lot dude lol! but due to the price of WA6 and the mysterious tax in Indonesia, what other amp u recommend for hm801 + hd650?
Have you tried the HM-801 direct to the HD650?
The amp section on the HM-602 is much weaker than the HM-801’s. You won’t have a bass impact problem with the HM-801’s amp — I’m pretty sure.
Yes you won’t get enough bass impact with HD600 straight out of the HM-602.
If I were to buy one of the HRT DACs, is there any way to preserve the sound quality but still be able to control the speakers that do not have volume knobs?
Yes. Use the Itunes volume control.
Mike, I have a question: can you compare the HM801 to the DACport for me?
As a dac firstt, then dac /amp second.
HM-801: Darker, warmer, better resolution, better micro details, better
soundstage, better ambiance, more bass body, livelier treble. Damn that
sounds like a K.O to the DACport.
DACport: Mid centric, smooth, less detailed, less bass body.
HM-801’s amp is more lively and the bass impact is better.
Which Superlux headphone would you recommend for comfortable, euphonic, long-hour listening sessions? It needs to not sound harsh in any way so that no fatigue occurs. I’m thinking of something like the KOSS UR-40 but with a more refined sound… Usually, higher-end Sennheisers fit this description but are really expensive. Can a Superlux fill this void?
Superlux HD440, but I think if you are not limited to Superlux, the Senn HD202 fits the bill better.
i am using hifiman hm-601 as source. i want to buy iem a-jays two. but i read in your hifiman 601 post someone said that hm-601 is terrible using iem because of hiss. so should i choose a-jays two or v-jays? i want to buy a fun iem or headphone, i want to use them to listen to pop and r&b.
I think the V-jays is a lot more fun. I never tried the A Jays two but the A jays three had fun punchy bass with dry treble. Not too refined overall.
i think i will buy e11 for ath pro 700 mk2. what m2m should i buy? what do you think about http://www.audiophile-id.com/index.php/topic,11749.0.html or http://www.audiophile-id.com/index.php/topic,5612.0.html. which one is better for it?
Just use the one that comes with the E11. Pro700 mk2 is not exactly an
I used HM602 for TF10 and MX760, they sound just fine 😀
i’ve read your review of hd 800 versus T1.I know you have tested both with different ampsand style of music.You know that i have a fully balanced constant current drive headphone amp made by qes labs.I do quite often audio mastering with headphones.
My main can is hd 600 with whiplash audio twag v2 balanced cable.I’m looking for a serious upgrade.I’m considering both hd 800 and t1.Which is according to you the best one? the headphone that tells you exactly what’s in the recording.Obviously i would use them balanced(T1 needs a proper recabling).I can’t use audeze lcd-2 because my amp works with headphones of 250 ohm or
higher.So i have to choose between hd 800 and T1.Please tell your
opinion and which one of both headphones would more useful for my audio mastering purposes.My chain is mytek dac-hpba2s connected
with cardas golden reference xlr-hd 600 with twag v2 balanced cable.
all the best
Okay, how do you find the HD600 to be currently? What areas do you feel
need to be improved?
i need a much more neutral headphone with extended frequency response.A headphone that gives me a more complete picture of what i’m listening to.That shows you every defect in the source.A sort of magnifying lens.Mastering speakers are called magnifying lens.
My next headphone should be like that.
Both the T1 and the HD800 has an extended frequency range and is more
neutral. But I think the T1 would be better for mastering purposes.
It seems like everyone on Head-fi is waiting for the budget portable amp article. I saw on your twitter that you finished the draft a while ago, so when do you think it’s gonna be done and published? 😀
Not to rush you or anything. No pressure.
Hi Impatience, (is that really your nick? or just for this post? LOL)
The article is indeed finished. Just need to add things like photos and stuff, and I have just been really busy so I apologize for the whole delay. It was supposed to be published 1st week of this month, so I’ve overshot the deadline by a huge mark.
I will try to publish it this week (that gives me ~3 days to finish everything).
Hello! What kind of amp would you recommend for the Ultrasone Edition 10?
Something warm, slightly mellow, relaxed treble.
Graham Slee Solo SRGII is a good potential pairing although I haven’t tried pairing it with the Ed.10.
What’s your budget?
I need to drive a pair of HD580 and a pair of Beyerdynamic T50p (if I remember correctly you are not in love with the T50p) and I cannot decide between the following options:
– two amps: a desktop one, like the Asgard (I am eagerly waiting for your review) for the HD580 and a budget portable one, like the JDLabs CmoyBB for the T50p
– a single portable, but not-so-budget amp, like the Meier 2stepdance or the RSA Mustang.
Since I already know your opinion about all these amp (well, apart the from the Asgard, but I hope the review will be out soon), what I am asking is if driving a full-size headphone like the HD580 with a portable (albeit very good amp) could be a good idea or not. How much, and what, will I loose?
By the way, 90% of time I listen to classical music.
For the first two amps, I think the Asgaard and the JDSLabs are great.
For the second choice, I would go with the ALO Rx or the RSA SR-71a. You get a wider soundstage and an excellent bass impact with these two amps, which is important for Symphonies.
Yes, but the point is: will I loose something (I don’t know, perhaps in terms of “authority”) letting the HD580 be driven by a portable amps (though a very good one)?
I am asking since I am quite happy with my T50p and the only reason why I need a portable amps is to boost the output volume (I have a European iPod Classic, which cannot be “uncapped”, as far as I know) and to tighten the bass a little bit, so I think that a budget portable amp may suffice.
The ALO Rx or the SR71a will drive the HD580 with plenty of authority
and better than many desktop amps out there. Don’t worry it’s all good. 🙂
I also think that the SR71a would be a very good choice, even if I consider it more a “transportable” amp, than a portable one. At this point I will wait for a detailed review of the Asgard. Any clue about how it compares to the ALO Rx, or the SR71a?
The only problem I see with the SR71a is the battery being non
rechargeable while the ALO Rx is.
Asgaard is good but resolution is better on the SR71a.
If you had to recommend one portable headphone around 100$ for everyone (young, old, all kinds of music) which one would it be?
definitely V-jays 😀
Oeps, didn’t place the comment in the right place 🙂
Ok, thanksAnd if you were to choose one headphone for home around or below 200$. It can be open or closed and again, should be suitable for everyone. Would you still recommend the M50 over other open headphones? Or does the grado sr 80i, the HD 598, the AD 700 or any other open heaphone still beat the M50?
I kinda like using a wireless headphone, but the RS180 is way out of the
I think the HD558 is a good choice, the fit is more relaxed than the M50.
And if you were to choose one headphone for home around or below 200$. It can be open or closed and again, should be suitable for everyone. Would you still recommend the M50 over other open headphones? Or does the grado sr 80i, the HD 598, the AD 700 or any other open heaphone still beat the M50?
So for at home use, you prefer the HD 558 over the M50?
And if you would go one price range higher than the Jays V jays, which one would you recommend (V jays only costs 50€ in Europe)?
Yes, HD558 — it’s just more comfortable to wear over longer time.
As for V-jays alternative, it’s actually quite hard to beat the price/fun factor. But you can try the Alessandro MS1i. Comfort is not as good as the V-jays though.
Hi, what good headphones would you suggest for a $90 budget? My music preference is usually HOUSE/CLUB. Thanks!
The Marshall would do
Hi, do you happen to know what’s the matter with TTVJ home page? It’s not been working, at least for several days.
I actually just found out about it from your comment. Will email Todd and ask him.
How kind you are 🙂
Thanks. Todd is a very nice gentlemen and I know he’s always been putting a lot of effort to his website.
Todd’s website is back online now.
Hi, just a quick question and I may have overlooked it in your recent review of budget-amps, but does de fiio e-7 charge via usb if you use it as a usb-dac? because it would be the perfect amp for my situation.
It does charge through USB.
Which desktop amp would you recommend with the Audio Technica W1000X? My budget would be < $700. I am looking at transparency, resolution, a full bodied sound (not a lean sound trying to offer detail), it must have a lot of power and not choke on demanding passages and excellent PRAT. I dont mind SS or tubes. I listen to all music off CD's and have a dedicated CD player so I dont need an internal DAC or any eye candy other than a top grade amp. Would the Decware CSP-2 be a good match considering the AT is pretty efficient though it rates at a low 40phms impedence?
I tried out the Burson 160 and the Meier Concerto but didnt really like them with this phone – the sound wasnt organic enough.
I listen to folk music, country, jazz, female vocals, pop opera, etc.
Sounds like you’re asking for something that is warm, smooth and organic (hence you didn’t like the Burson and Concerto) but also at the same time has excellent PRaT. That’s actually two combinations that is hard to get on one amp.
Warm smooth amps tend to be mellow.
PRaTty amps tend to be not warm and not mellow.
It’s like asking for a delicious yet low fat burger, delicious yet low fat ice cream, delicious yet low fat pizza. They contradict each other, you know? 🙂
Lastly the W1000X isn’t exactly the headphone you get if you want PRaT.
Hi Mike,im runnin low on budget, so do you think getting an hd 580 is a good decision? im currently looking for used hd 600s but cant find any so far.. someone offered me his 580 wit a cardas silver cable, do u think its a good choice? of i course i dont mind payin for a new hd 600 but i jus want some expert opinion on this cardas cabled hd 580.. i listen to anything, but mainly rock n some bassy music thanks 🙂
Answered your question on the other thread.
Hi Mike, I read your sub-$100 amp comparision but I feel a big link is missing when you didn’t include the rather newly released ZO Personal Subwoofer amp / sound enhancer device by the new arising company DigiZoid that goes for $99 these days.
I’ve also tried amps like FiiO E5 (a toy/joke really but heh that’s what the price suggests anyway :p) and PA2V2 and didn’t like neither of them and didn’t end up using them for my headphones as they colored the sound too much for the worse actually (too warm, losing details) as my headphones are already rather warm sounding and I didn’t hear much improvements when frequency response balance was put aside at all, PA2V2 took away some very deep subbass in favor for tightening it up with a almost artificial sounding punchy mid bass and possibly tamed down highs a little or boosted the mids. FiiO E5 then again added bass that bleeded horribly into the midrange or it removed a big portion of bass depending on what setting it was set to. The ZO Personal Subwoofer on the other hand is not a typical amp and unlike the name suggests it’s actually very balanced amp for this price as long as you don’t start boosting the bass and it probably got such a bass boost capability that’s not seen before, it’s crazy really but it’s very well implemented though. It offer improvements to such a vast area, especially dynamic range is greatly enhanced but also affects overall balance, soundstage, microdetail and bass response positively. They are using a new kind of implementation that hasn’t been used before and that’s why it’s very different compared to your typical amp and results may therefore also differ quite a lot.
You can read more about it on their homepage on digizoid.com or you could check for example my review:
Any chance that you could review this product or possibly add it into the mix in your sub-$100 amp comparision? I think it would be a very interesting experience for you like it has been for all the people who’s tried it out on head-fi and the feedback’s been just overhelmingly good.
I’ve read about the DigiZoid and was unsure if it should be included in
Will try to get a unit for review if it’s as good as you say.
What DAC/AMP combo do you recommend for HD650 headphones?
Budget: Max $1500
Music: Electronic, pop, dance, New Age
I was thinking maybe:
A, HRT Music streamer II + WA6
B, Burson HA-160D
What do you think Mike? Do you have a better idea ?
I think the HA-160D is a much better amp than the WA6 for your music. I’d just get the HA-160D as a one box solution and get an awesome one box solution. Not to mention it’s only $1099 now at Amazon.com.
Thanks for your advice. I agree with you, I was really thinking about the HA-160D. One box solution is perfect for me. That is an amazing price on Amazon.com
Thanks a lot,
What DAC do you think is the best for under $600? my cans are HE5 and the 1000PRM and i listen to a lil bit of everything :).. im also thinking of buying an asgard (so sexy isn’t it?) so what do you think is a good combination for my gear? (i have an EF-5 too FYI)
Thanks a lot,
btw my source is an entry level marantz cd player and an ipod classic run thru a wadia iTransport
Okay so you need S/PDIF connection and that rules out the HRT.
What about the DACmagic? I think it is an excellent sub $500 DAC and
it’s very easy to get.
DAC for under $600? Well you don’t have to max out the budget but the
HRT MS2+ is an excellent USB DAC for ~$350.
As for the Asgard, I think it’ll be a good pairing with the 1000PRM, but
I’m not so sure about the HE-5 as I haven’t listened to it in a long
time. The Asgard is great for the HE-4 and the HE-500 though.
Hi, I want to purchase one closed headphones. The use will be gamming
with xbox and use them with my iphone. For me is very important the
I want closed portable one, so I can use it to go to the street. I
already own Sennheiser cx300 and HD 202, so I want theese new more
portable than 202 and more quality than cx300.
I am thinking in:
– Sennheiser HD 25
– Monster beats Solo / solo hd
– akg 518
– one Shure model
wich one do you recomend me?¿
thank you very much
I think the HD25-1 will be better than the Solo or the AKG 518. It is
also the most expensive.
Is the extra money worthy enouhgt? or I should go for akg 518 or a lower senn model? (like px…)
i really like Solo style, and I know ir is confortable… but I heard too many bad things about it.
What do you think about one Audio Technica?
The extra money will be well worth it. I’ve made so many HD25-1
recommendations and I’ve yet to find one person who doesn’t like it. 🙂
I second that! 🙂
im looking for an portable amp,
i’ll be using it with my ath m50
You can start with these two articles:
Hi, complete hi-fi noob so please bear with me 😉
Had a question re: portable amps. Recently ordered Denon AH-D5000 cans, as well as FiiO E7 amp/DAC. The amp will primarily be used with the L9 LOD and either my iPhone or iPad.
Poking around on your site, I read your review of the new E11 amp. Is there any benefit of using a DAC with iPods? If not, it might be worthwhile for me to get the E11 instead, right, since I can’t imagine using the E7 with my computer (I ordered the E7 since it seemed like the most portable, decent cheap amp I could find at the time, and I really wanted a rechargeable one).
Would you recommend a different amp for use with these headphones? One that’s rechargeable? I listen to a wide variety of music, mostly punk and indie, but a fair bit of hip-hop, classical/opera, and folk music.
Thanks for any help, including even just general recs.
First thing is that you can’t use a separate DAC with your Ipod, unless
you get one of these devices:
Those are called “digital transports” and they allow you to get pure
digital data from your Ipod which you can then feed into your DAC
(digital to analog converter).
If you are looking for an amplifier, the Schiit Asgard currently is a
very strong recommendation from me:
Well, then I suppose I don’t need to worry about an amp/DAC combo, as my budget can’t support one of the digital transports;also, I’d like to keep my rig fairly portable. With that in mind, I think the Schiit amp may be a bit bulky. After reading your “12 Suspects” review, I wondered which of the slim amps might drive the full-size Denons well. I’m waffling between the TTVJ and the Arrow… Thoughts?
The Slim amps should do well with the Denons. Either the TTVJ or the
Arrow are good choices.
Off the top of your head, which headphone under $300 would you say has the best vocal presentation plus a decent amount of bass quality?
B&W P5. I absolutely love that headphone for what it does.
If i spend a little more, do you think the Sennheiser HD600 would be have a bigger difference in terms of sound quality?
Technically it is a better headphone, but I wouldn’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy the music more. The B&W P5 is a very musical headphone, and the HD600 requires more supporting equipment to sound good. I mean the HD600 will be more detailed, bigger soundstage, more accurate timbre and so on, but those things often are unrelated to musicality.
Hey Mike, Thanks a lot for the detailed reply. I really appreciate it. 🙂
Okay, I’m not saying that the B&W P5 is a better headphone than the HD600. Perhaps a way to look at it is this: If I want to get a simple headphone set up for direct listening to an Iphone, I’ll just get the B&W P5. If I want to build a serious desktop based listening station with a separate headphone amplifier and DAC and so on, then I’ll get the HD600.
Hi again… after a lot of reading, I finally change my mind. I want a portable headfone to use mostly with iphone 4. it has to be closed one, and with goog sound quality (better than my hd202 and cx300). My candidates are:
– DENON AH-P372K
– AKG Q 460
or maybe I can use ehe hd202 as a closed one, and buy Koss PortaPro to walk around…
Music: mostly metal anh heavy rock
tanhs a lot!
Metal and Heavy Rock…
What about an IEM? The BA drivers would be better suited to handle those
I already have senn cx 300, but i want a closed one just to go around or travel with a different sound.
Wich do you think is better for the price??
I don’t know, I don’t think a closed headphone in the sub $100 range has
the technicalities to handle the complex passages in Metal and Heavy
Rock. But if you want, the ATH SJ-55 would probably do an okay job for it.
I’m about to get a new DAC and I’m now wondering which to choose.
My budget is about $400 and my primary gear is a Denon amplifier (warm sounding) and a pair of B&W speakers hooked up to an Airport Express. I’ve got a pair of Sennheiser HD600 too.
I am listening to all kind of music (from Kate Bush and Ludovio Einaudi to Tool and Pink Floyd). On the whole I prefer listening to my vinyl collection rather than my digital music why I think an analogue sounding DAC (but with great wealth of details) would be the thing.
I’ve been thinking about the Cambridge DacMagic or the Matrix Mini-I, but would be happy to hear your opinion.
The HRT MS2+ is one of the most analog sounding DAC I’ve listened to.
Definitely recommend that one over the Dacmagic or Matrix.
Thank you for your response!
The thing is I need a DAC with optical in since I’m using an Airport Express.
Well you can get the Dacmagic then. It is an excellent DAC and I’ll be happy to recommend it.
! I have decided that my next upgrade is going to be a new amp and DAC. Currently I have the Sennheiser HD598s running through a Fiio E9/E7 combo straight from my computer. I just read your review on the DACmini, the audinist, and the Asgard, and I’m torn between getting a DAC/Amp combo setup, and buying the Asgard and going with a seperate DAC. Also, I hope to purchase the HD650s within the not too distant future. (I’m totally becoming a “Sennhead”). I’d like to hear your two cents on this.
I’d just get the Asgard and worry about the DAC later. Or you can add
the HRT MS2 to the chain as well for an additional $150.
Know of anywhere I can find a decent usb/mini to RCA adapter. Besides ALO audio because I don’t want to spend that kind of cash on a cable.
Personally I know a lot of DIYer so it’s easy for me to get good cables
at low prices. Sometimes I also build my own cable when I feel like it.
If you don’t have access to a good quality cables at low prices, I’d
personally not worry about using generic USB or Mini/RCA cables. I use
them too since sometimes I have as many as 10 different amps to test and
I don’t have that many interconnects.
Lately you can get some generic cable with a fairly beefy build quality
just to make sure that the connection is good and secure.
Hi Mike !
How do you think the Asgard fare against the EF-5 sound characteristic-wise? because i have an EF-5 and i’m looking for a new not-so-expensive amps.. My music is pretty much rock but i listen to other stuff such as classic and jazz or even bass heavy music as well.. I’m listenin thru my HE-5
Asgard vs EF-5.. well both are warm sounding but the EF-5 sounds more tube like and the soundstage is also deeper. The Asgard is less grainy, more solid state though very smooth, less mid centric/more linear, more low bass body.
The Asgard would still be a good amp for the HE-5, but I think the EF-5 does the job better.
thanks for your reply mike, btw does the asgard have speed, detail and that attack you need for dark cans like the HD650 or is it plainly a warm ampe which puts an emphasis on the mid and lower and?
The Asgard is not a slow amp, but it’s not terribly fast either — likewise the attack is more or less moderate. If you have a fairly fast headphone — say the Beyerdynamic DT880 you’re not going to have any issue with the Asgard. But with the HD650, I’m afraid it’s not going to be able to bring it up to speed.
i’ve read on your e11 review that you’ve used the Sony ZX700 as one of the headphones to test it with. what is your opinion on the Sony ZX700, compared to the M50’s and 840? also, is there a big gap between that and the more expensive Z1000?i currently have the 840’s, and had the m50 (sold it), but i’m looking for something that i can take on trips with me, since the 840’s are a bit huge and doesn’t compliment my already ugly mug.music of choice, is jazz (brubeck, chet baker) to pearl jam, and other rock/pop/hip hop songs.muchos gracias dude.
Yes, the ZX700 carries a very similar signature to the bigger brother, the Z1000 for much less price. Thing is you also lose a lot of the subtle refinements that makes the Z1000 special. So in a sense I think it’s appropriate that the ZX700 is priced at ~$100+ while the Z1000 is ~$500 (street). It is a nice headphone, but I don’t know I am not too enthusiastic about it. I’d still rather take the 840s or the M-50s over the ZX700. I think the 840 is good for your Jazz stuff. I’d add in a HD25-1 to complement the 840 for Rock/Pop/Hip hop.
I’m torn between the JDSLabs CMOYBB and the PA2V2.
Currently I’m running the ATH-M50 and Senn HD-598 thru a fiio e7/e9 combo thru my computer and using the e7 as my portable amp. I listen to a wide range of music from Norah Jones to Eminem to Tool. My fav band of all time is Maroon5.
I would like a more verstitle amp that I could use for the long term and thus would be able to drive larger cans when I upgrade in the future. The main draw for my Fiio set is the fact that it works both as a desktop setup and as a portable one. I am also open to other suggestions; would it be better just to save the money and invest in a more powerful amp and/or amp/dac combo?
I think you can get the Asgard for the desktop set up. It’s reasonably
priced and the performance is awesome (I recently added it to my
recommendations page http://www.headfonia.com/recommendations/) It would
also do well with the M-50 and the HD598.
I don’t think you need to lose sleep over the JDSLabs and the PA2V2.
Both are great and I’m not so sure on which one to recommend you in this
All these stuff I recommend are fairly affordable. Asgard, JDS/PA2V2,
and if you need a better DAC the HRT MS2 is $150 and it’s an awesome DAC
for the price. I think you can even get all of them and your bank
account would still be cool.
Any chance of a Schiit Bifrost and Calyx DAC review in the pipeline? 😛
Perhaps the Schiit Bitfrost.
Are you going to get the Westone ES5’s Mike?
I asked Westone about these a long time ago but they never sent me
Hey Mike, any chance for a ZO Personal Subwoofer review? I’d love to hear your opinion on that newcomer.
Sure. You just reminded me that I need to send them an email.
Do you think the HRT Music Streamer II+ is a better DAC than what you can find in the Burson HA-160D DAC section?
I think both DACs are comparable but difference in sound presentation.
The Burson is more articulate, the HRT is warmer and with a better
This is what I write on the Burson HA160D review:
The DAC section is very good, and while it won’t be stealing customers
from high end DAC companies, I truly enjoy the sound of the HA-160D DAC
I’ve used it for pairing to different amplifiers through the pre-amp
out: to the Zana Deux tube amp, the Beta22 balanced solid state amp, or
the Kevin Gilmore Electrostatic Headphone amp. Burson adds roughly a
$300 premium for the “D” model over the plain HA-160, and so I was
mainly looking for DAC competitors in the $300 range. Well, everyone
knows by know that I’ve been recommending the HRT Music Streamer II+ to
everyone, and since it conveniently falls in the $300 price bracket, why
not pitch it against the Burson DAC? The Grace m902 is also another
DAC-Amp box that I’ve used very much, and so I’ll be sharing my
impressions of the Burson HA-160D to the Grace m902.
If you’ve heard the Burson HA-160 amp before, then I can say that the
Burson HA-160D section carries the same sound characteristics as the
amplifier section. Perhaps it’s due to the similar discrete stages used
on the amplifier, or perhaps it’s because the people at Burson tunes
their gear to be carry the same Burson signature. Here is what I’d say
about the Burson HA-160′s DAC:
* The Burson HA-160D DAC section has no tubey sound or anything like that.
* The DAC sounds very solid state, but not the harsh, dry, unmusical,
treble happy, digital sounding, or any other nasty adjectives you
normally associate with solid state. Like the Burson amp, the sound
is generally full sounding without being fat or bloated, or slow or
muddy. There is a good deal of transparency going on, but without
nasty treble-boost tricks. The sound is full, but well controlled.
* Fast transients makes for a superb articulation. Moderately short decay.
* Awesome bass section. Very good articulation over the bass. Powerful
punch with very good control. Excellent PRaT. Combined with the
amplifier section, it’s No.1 recommendation for Rock and Electronica.
*VS HRT MUSIC STREAMER II+
*The Music Streamer II+ is a gear that I love to use very much. It does
have two shortcomings for my use: the lack of an S/PDIF input for my
Onkyo Ipod dock, and the lack of a headphone out on the output side.
Well, I’m being a little unfair for the second one, as the HRT is a pure
DAC and so I can’t blame it for a lack of headphone jack. Neverthless,
one of the reason I enjoy the Burson a lot is since it pairs beautifully
with the Onkyo ND-S1 which sends out digital data in the S/PDIF format.
Between the Music Streamer and the Burson DAC, there are several
win/lose deals that I’d probably end up rating both of them as equal but
of different taste. However, depending on your music application, you’d
probably prefer one of them over the other.
Compared to the HRT Music Streamer II+, the HRT is slightly warmer and
has more midrange body, which is nice. It has less control over the
bass, however, and it’s also less punchy than the Burson. The transients
is also looser, less articulate and less precise with the HRT. The HRT’s
soundstage, however, is quite a bit better in size, depth, and ambiance.
Overall, the biggest difference that stands out during most of my
listening is how the HRT is warmer, looser sounding and less precise,
while the Burson is great in those sections and added with more punchy
bass section. For slower music where transients and articulation is not
as important, the HRT with its warmer tone and better soundstage
presentation is a better fit. For fast paced music, I’d definitely go
with the Burson DAC.
Just placed an order for the Fostex HP-P1. How well does the amp section of the HP-P1 match with Senns HD650. Been looking for reviews of the HP-P1 but not much is available. Can you describe the sound of HP-P1 with regards to openness, detail, and sound staging.
When will post a detail review of the HP-P1.
Sound signature wise I think the Fostex HP-P1 matches the HD650 quite well, but the bass impact and the dynamics is not as strong as I’d like it to be with the HD650. In this sense amps like the ALO Rx or the RSA SR-71a are better.
If you go to the navigation bar at the top, the menu under “Source” then “Portable Source” you will find a review of the HP-P1.
Thanks for the quick reply. Sorry I didn’t make it clear, but what I am after is the “sound” of the DAC section. Right now I have iBasso PB2 for an amp. How’s the dac in terms of transparency and sound stage. I have listened to Pure Music through itunes and I really like the openness and huge sound stage. What it lacked was instrument placement and detail. Will the HP-P1 give me the openness and a large detailed sound stage that I am after?
What is the difference between the HD600 and HD650 headphones sound characteristics wise?
That’s an easy one 😉
have you ever heard the Nuforce Icon Mobile? how does it compare to the Fiio broters e7 & e11?
I have heard of the product name, but never auditioned it. 🙂
Hi Mike its me again lol
Despite having an HD580, AKG K701, ATH M-50, ATH AD1000PRM, I love my HE-5 the most, I dunno why but I just feel the music better with it, even though i have to get an aftermarket cable to tame the treble a bit, my question is,
what do you recommend for something like the HE-5 but with less treble? I dont want anything beyond HE-5’s price point and currently im looking at the HE-4 🙂
thanks for your help 🙂
That’s difficult Rob. The HE-4 is nice but still quite different than the HE-5.
I would try getting a hold of the HE-500 cable. I think it would help to lessen the treble on the HE-5. Then pair it with a dark sounding amp, either the EF-5 or the Bada PH-12 that I’m currently in the process of reviewing.
my HE5 is cabled with a moon audio black dragon and with the ef-5 id say that the synergy is awesome, do you think i can do better with the cables or the black dragon (copper) is good enough? for the sound sig im lookin for, is HE6 the one? its expensive tho lol
or even better, do you have any cans to suggest that has the sound sig im lookin for?
thanks a lot mike 🙂
The Black Dragon is nice, but I think if you want to attenuate treble
the Canare cable that comes with the HE-500 may do the job better.
What sound sig are you looking for? HE-5 like with less treble? Try the
HE-500. It is a very nice headphone definitely less treble than the
HE-5, smoother and cleaner sound, fuller and sweeter mids.
yeah roughly dat.. btw wit the he 500, is the treble interms of quality and the quantity, all the sharpness and clarity, are they greatly reduced?
n btw, wat does all those 24/192 thing or the 96 resolution mean? i dont really get it.. if its too long to exlain, can u point out a proper explanation on the web? thanks again mike 🙂
The treble quality on the HE500 is miles ahead than on the HE5.
CD is 16/44.1
24/96 — 24 is bit depth, 96 is sample rate.
24/192 — 24 is bit depth, 192 is sample rate.
Basically, 16 vs 24, 44.1 vs 96 higher number is better.
Hi all knowing Mike ;d
Got a DAC question for you. I have Ultrasone Pro 900, Sennheiser 650, Sennheiser 595 and I got another set of cans, either AD900 or Dennon 2000 for my other half on order soon.So far I have been running these on a nuForce Icon HDP. Great amp/dac, but a little bit too bright for my pro 900s (which is my favorite can).
I know someone whos gonna part their WA6 for a good price and I need a dac to compliment my cans and the WA6. The budget is not too important. However, I wouldn’t mind keeping it under 500$
The choices so far are; Wait for the bitfrost and see how that one turns out. Go with a DacMagic which I am familiar with, maybe upgrade it. Keep the dac on the nuForce, but skip the built in-amp and save some cash for other things. (Think my wallet would love that :p) Though, I’d prefer having two DACs in the house so we don’t have to fight over the one. HRT MSII+ which is another good option, think I prefer the warmer sound. Though I wouldn’t mind more Inputs.To give you an idea of what type of music I normally listen to: http://www.youtube.com/user/zoqiet?feature=mhee#p/a/f/0/_FXXLMVJg74I am welcome to any other ideas as well.Thanks.
Sorry about the paragraphs. It didn’t look like that before I posted it 🙁
I tried playing the youtube link and I got some errors. Anyway was that Muse the british rock band?
Warm sounding DACs, the HRT MS2+ is definitely it. The Dacmagic is not quite warm.
I would pair it with a Schiit Asgard rather than the WA6. The voicing is better for fast rock.
Thanks a lot for your input.
Would you actually recommend using an Asgard and a HRT MS2+ over the WA6+HRT?
The only downside with the HRT is that it’s usb only, I wouldn’t mind some s/pdif inputs.
The url I intended to link was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFeo7gAmZGE or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FXXLMVJg74
I do listen to Muse as well, but not that much. That recording was horrible though, defiantly did not intend to link that one ;d The copy and paste must have gone wrong somewhere.
That’s some cool music and I totally enjoyed listening to the clip.
Yes, I think the general rule of thumb is that moderate to fast-paced
rock is better on solid state than they do on tubes. Likewise in this
case, the Asgard would be better than the WA6, though overall the WA6 is
the amp with the better fidelity.
Damn I’m really digging the song you posted.
Hi, I have a HD598. I have seen on the forums that you like to recommend the HRT Streamer II with a Schiit Asgard, which comes to about $400. For this amount of money, are there any better alternatives?
At the moment, the Asgard and the HRT MS2 seems to be my favorite
pairing for $400.
I’m writing a review of the Fostex HP-A3 which is a USB DAC/Amp box that
should retail around $400 as well. The DAC section is very good but the
amp is not as good as the Asgard.
Thanks Mike for all you do. I trust your reviews over almost everything i read on headfi. Deciding if going balanced is worth the extra cost. id have to upgrade my EE minimax dac to a balanced one and then go for the WA22. my other choice is keep the MM, and go for something liek the ZD SE. what do you think? im sure i cant go wrong either way but yea, im stuck.
Headphone is/will be: T1, D7000.
Choice of music: Jazz, Classical, RnB, some rock, alt, rap.
Current setup: EE MM DAC > DNA Sonett
Enjoy what you have and try some new headphones. Second option is that you give your EE minimax to me :p
haha yes i will try. its just i been around the block (in my price range) and just want to settle on a setup and be done with it. but i will keep your second option in mind. 🙂
🙂 I get what you are afteer, nothing having to think about anymore. It’s just that you have some great gear already(dac and amp). Have you tried HE-500 or LCD2 or are you satisfied with the signatures of the phones you have? Perhaps LCD2 rev 2 could be something to consider. They have the bassslam of the D7000 and great soundstage of T1. note that I havn’t heard T1 though, it’s more from what I’ve read.
the sound of the lcd2 was good. couldnt get used to the weight/fit/look/headband construction. i know they updated the headband but not sure orthos are my thing.
Yes the problem is the weight of the driver+housing. They changed the headband foam, but that changes very little in terms of overall comfort.
I also have comfort issues with LCD2. The weight and they clamp on my rather big head.
The LCD-2 is actually quite comfortable on my head.. .not HD800 comfortable, but quite comfortable. The issue with me is the weight. I have to keep my head up otherwise the weight will pull the headphone down.
Lately I haven’t been too excited about balanced set ups, and so I’d recommend going single ended instead.
I talked about the pro and cons of balanced amplifiers on the Usual Suspects article (http://www.headfonia.com/the-usual-suspects-12-portable-amps-compared/4/). The same argument applies both to portable amps and desktop amps.
The Zana is awesome with the T1 for Jazz, Classical and Rock.
I’ve never listened to the WA22 but I’d recommend the Zana on the merits of the single ended vs balanced debate.
Thank you so much! now to decide how im going to fund it.
Lol.. don’t press on it if the money is tight. 🙂
I’m new to all of this and I’ve gathered quite a bit of knowledge from Head-Fi and here. But I still wonder what amps would be good for both my V-Jays and my ATH-EM7. I’m looking for a warm analytic sound with adequate bass but not too excessive. I mostly listen to rock in general, but lately more into pop rock and electro-rock.
The JDSLabs Cmoy is a great sounding amp at a very affordable price. You can check the review here:
http://www.headfonia.com/music-on-a-budget-sub-100-portable-amps-shootout/I'm also working on a review of the Audinst AMP-HP which is also a good amp in the sub $200 category.
Ok cool. What would you say about the E7 or E11?
You can read the review comparison here:
K, thanks alot
in the end, may I know if you are using an aftermarket cable with your HD25-1II headphones? I thought to read somewhere that in the end, you keep comming back to the stock one. But I might be wrong.
by the way, the new HRT MS II+ seems like a real upgrade/improvement over the previsous one making it the “giant killer dac” from HRT! Can’t wait to get your impression on this 2011 version 🙂
I’m just using the stock cables on my HD25-1.
Did they upgrade the DAC circuitry on the HRT MS2+? I thought they only added the sample rate LEDs.
the introduction of the 6moons preview of the 2011 version of the HRT MSII+ is interested by itself
and as been confirm throug email by kevin halverson itself :
” As for the comment of “…minor circuit design changes…” I would describe them as significant in terms of performance. As for the ability of reviewers to appreciate them, that is unknown, but I would be very confident in stating that there isn’t another DAC under $3500 which measures better”
looks very interesting to me 😉
you should read “interesting” and not “interested”… sorry for this mistake
I would take that $3k number with a grain of salt.
So do I, but he’s always saying “from a mesurement point of view”…. so I guess we have our grain of salt 😉
anyway, that may be an even minor or noticable improvement over an already nice devise…for the same price 😉
Yes it would be interesting to see how much of an improvement they give.
I will try to obtain a unit for review.
I will be purchasing the Audeze LCD-2 pretty soon and I don’t really think I have a good dac/amp to power them to their full potential. I currently own the FiiO E7/E9. I do most of my listening on the computer, so what other dac/amp alternatives would you recommend for the LCD-2 that could drive them to their full potential?I have a limited budget, probably around $400-$600 at the most for a dac/amp.
I’ve read that you really enjoy the Schiit Asgard, would you prefer the Asgard over the Schiit Lyr with the LCD-2? Or do you think the Lyr is the way to go?
Thanks in advance!
I think the Lyr would be a better pairing with the LCD-2.
If I got the Lyr, what DAC would you recommend?
Also, are there any DAC/amp one box solution in the $500-$600 price range that you would recommend with the LCD-2?
DAC box, for $300 and lower, the HRT MS2 and MS2+ continues to be my favorites.
The DACmini is a nice DAC/Amp solution for the LCD-2. It is $799 though.
I’m really intrested in trying the HD25-1 II in balanced configuration. Any advise for a nice budget headphone amp with balanced output?
Ibasso PB-1 should do the job very well. Don’t need the higher output of
the PB-2 for those HD25-1s.
thank, I’ll look at that one 🙂
I know this seems kind of strange, but but can you do a quick comparison between the he-500 and the W4?
The W4 is more linear, the HE-500 is fuller in the mids.
Bass impact, the W4 is very weak, the HE-500 is quite good.
What is the proper way to connect the amp-only JDSLabs amp to a standalone DAC or even another DAC/amp to use its DAC feature?
So you want to do DAC > JDSlabs?
Simple. Get an RCA to mini jack cable. This one from Belkin looks pretty decent
How does the TF10 compare against the W4 and which sounds better overall? I’ll be using it with an iPod and a RSA Mustang. Thanks!
If i may, i had the tf10 and have the w4 now. the w4 is much more balanced in its sound. the tf10 has a V curve although i liked the sound from the tf10. if you like bass and mids arent a focus, the tf10 are great. if youre looking for a more neutral sound the w4 is the way to go. ill wait for mike to chime in though.
Well, W4 is very neutral to the point that everyone that I know feels it to be boring, even the owners.
The TF10 is not “perfect” on paper. Very thick and punchy bass, slightly recessed mids, thin and dry treble. Not to mention the worst ergonomics ever. It’s just that somehow, I notice that it continues to be one of the crowd favorite IEM.
I think the first triple driver IEM battle was between the TF10 and the Shure SE530. The Shure is nice, but it seems people have sort of “abandoned” it these days.
Then the W3 came out with the IE8 and X10. Nice IEMs, but again I don’t hear anybody talking about them these days. The UM3X caused a lot of sensation, and some people still like it today. Then the SM3, which is a slightly different version of the UM3X. It’s nice, but the hype is really over the top. SE535 — nice, but somehow very few people like it. The W4 came out, nice and smooth, not a flaw to be found in the tonal balance, except that it has no bass punch.
Seriously I think the TF10 is amazing, having survived all those newer triple driver models and still is getting a lot of talk. That must tell you something.
In music, there are bands that are popular, and there are bands that are “legendary”. I think the TF10 along with the ER4 are two IEMs that are legends in the making. Frankly, I am not a big fan of the TF10, but I can understand why it’s popular, hence it made my list of recommendations.
BTW the Mustang should help to fill up the mids on the TF10.
i have a denon d1100. i like the sound signature of it wit 400hr of burn in. the sound is slightly warm, quite punchy bass, with recessed treble. overall, it is quite a neautral sound.my question is, do you think i should get a desktop amp/source or a portable one purely on sound quality alone? i use it mainly at home. i tried a desktop amp before, and it was very powerfull (not in volume). the bass was really amazing even on a cheap earphone. i nvr heard anything from portable amp that is able to do this. not even RSA amps. second, which amp/source would you recommend? i prefer a neutral or slightly bright amp. i cant take any more warmness.
oh, i forgot, my budget is around $250. although cheaper solution is always welcome.
Sorry I don’t quite get what you are trying to ask.
1. You tried a desktop amp before and the bass was really amazing, not even RSA amps.
2. Which amp source do I recommend? Desktop? The Yulong U100 fits within your budget ($250) and is neutral and slighty bright. If you want a portable, get the Ibasso PB-1, it is also neutral and slightly bright. I can’t guarantee if the bass will be better than the desktop amp that you tried though.
Which do you think is a better choice for laptop listening, DACport or the Audinst HUD-MX1?
Both products are good. The Audinst is much cheaper though.
Ok, thanks. Which one do you think works better with the HD600/650?
I think the DACport has a far punchier amp section and I’ll recommend it
for the HD600/650.
Can u do a review on the DIY PCM2704 USB DAC for the starving audiophiles?
I think there are more than one PCM2704 DIY DACs designs out there.
Which one are you talking about?
T-muso USB DAC PCM2704 V2.0
What is the cost of build of this T-muso?
It is sold here for lesser than USD 40
Cool. Know who the seller/designer/builder is? And can international
customers buy it?
a forummer here brought some shipment which i believe are from China… it is not definitely self assembled by the seller….
may the burson headamp do a nice job at driving the akg 501 headphones? any other advises for an amp that will play a lot of rock music too (with hd 25-1 II this time)
The Burson *should* do great with the K501 although I haven’t got one to
With rock music and the HD25-1, the Audinst AMP-HP is awesome. It’s $159
and I’m writing a review on it.
good news, I’m looking forward to it.
hoping you would include a comparaison with the pa2v2 😉
thanks for your hard work reviewing such many product and answering all our questions
The Audinst AMP-HP is more detailed and the bass is so much more better
than the PA2V2. Frequency extension top to bottom is also better on the
AMP-HP. In short it’s a better amp technically, and the bass is also
awesome. But the PA2V2 still remains a unique and very nice amp.
burson first batch of DA-160 is supposed to be shipping the 25th of july. Is there any chance that you’ll have a unit to review?
yes, I think I will get one.
will you be reviewing the ALO Continental amp soon? i would like to see your thoughts, b/c i’m looking to pick up a portable amp before the end of summer.
Yes, the Continental is on the way to us.
Do you have any experience with the opamp AD8620 chip? What sort of listening experience can you expect from it? I am planning to try one on my JDSLabs amp.
Is that the op-amp that they use on the Mini3 and the Headstage Arrow? I
only remember that they used an AD8–something.
i have no idea, but John said its better than the stock… would like to try to upgrade it
Well it probably is then. Give it at try and let us know?
may we know what is your current home system for rock listening as well as your portable one?
all the best.
Being a reviewer I tend to use whatever gear I have around at that time,
since I need to spend a lot of time with them to familiarize myself with
the sound. 🙂
At the moment I’m using the Ipod Classic > Audinst AMP HP >
JH5Pro/HD25-1 for Rock and it’s awesome.
I would like your recomendation.
I have a Ipod video and a shure E500. set up needs to be portable and if I could use dac in a high end home stereo,That would be a huge bonus. I think I need to use the digital out of Ipod.I have read your thoughts on pico slim and noticed it is not in recomended componets. size does not matterto me. My musical taste is all over,Pop,rock ,vocals,accustical light jazz some classical.
I will spend whatever I need to spend to get good quality.
P.S. I have not upgraded my home Dac from very old theta digital and was told by good authorityThat a cheap dacmagic is much better.
Thanks For any help.
I don’t understand what you said about the Pico Slim? Why is it not
recommended? I think it would be a good amp for the E500.
Anyway, what do you think about this Fostex?
It’s a portable DAC/Amp all in one box and the sound signature should
pair well with the E500. I’m afraid you have to get a separate DAC for
your home system though. The Dacmagic is also a good choice.
I’m interested in buying the Sennheiser HD518’s but I can’t seem to find many reviews on them, do you have any experience with them or have a review coming up? How do they compare to the now similarly priced HD555’s ?
Are there any other notable sub $150 around ear open headphones I should know about? Thanks for any input.
The HD518 is a version of the HD558 with less bass. Both the HD518 and
558 is a newer version of the HD515/555 which offers a much improved
Other than the HD518/558 you can also look into the AD-series
The AD700 is $91.06 on Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/qAglKj
Semms that you tested all the famous AKG Headphones K340, K400, K401, K500, K501 (K240 Sextett?). Can you post your opinions and which one you find better? Thanks
Well that is one tough question. Frankly I ended up not liking any of
those vintage AKGs. They have a nice color but they just come short in
so many ways: ie detail level, soundstage, timbre, frequency extension etc.
Anyway here is a short excerpt on what I think:
The K400-401-500-501 is mostly similar.
If you’ve heard one than you can imagine that the others are just a
slight variation of the sound. Quite natural sound, fairly linear. They
don’t push the treble nor the bass out, so the sound comes out sounding
rather natural. But the driver is quite dated and so frequency extension
is quite poor compared to say even an entry level ATH AD-series or Senn
HD5x8 series. The soundstage is wide and spacious but the imaging is
quite non existant. The wide soundstage diffuses the sound on most music
except for Jazz and Classical.
The K400-401 is thinner and has less body than the K500-501. The pace is
faster on the K400-401 but I don’t think they’re built to be Rock
headphones either — the wide soundstage kills the energy on Rock music
and they don’t have the necessary bass punch to make the PRaT happen.
The K301 is also another variation of the sound but the housing reverb
is pretty bad on it and the timbre suffers greatly as a result.
The K340 gives you a Stax Lambda like treble but the bass frequencies
sounds sub par, coming out from some old dynamic drivers. Overall the
treble and the bass lack coherence since the treble is inherently an
“electrostatic” sound, where the bass is just plain dynamic driver
sound. The housing reverb is also quite strong, and though the treble is
quite nice (again, Lambda like), detail level and frequency extension is
The K240 Sextett is mostly an older driver version of the current K240
models. I can understand the romance with the vintage sound, but the
problem with every vintage drivers (dynamic, ortho or electrostatic) is
that they can never produce good amount of detail and extension. I’m not
even demanding HD800 level detail and extension here, but you can take
any sub $100 dynamic headphone today and they’ll probably be much better
in detail and extension. The mid is said to be very special. Well, it’s
a mid-centric headphone with rolled off treble and bass, and so what
else can you give other than the mid? Having said that the mid is quite
good bodied, but the texture and detail level is quite low.
I think AKG discontinued these headphones for good reasons, despite the
romance AKG fans have with them. The main problem with these is that
their drivers are quite dated and you can’t get a good detail level,
frequency extension, soundstage, bass punch, and timbre with them. Take
something relatively more modern like AKG’s K181DJ (which is a DJ
headphone, by the way), and the K181DJ will show itself to be far
superior in technicalities.
Thanks for your answer Mike. I was asking about the AKGs because they got so much love for acoustic music listening. My first option was the K501 because people say a lot about their “heaven-like mid”. I’m willing to spend US$400 in a headphone (besides what I’m going to spend in Amp and Dac) , which is going to be my best option? Senn HD650 maybe?
ah, forgot to say that I’m looking for a headphone for Acoustic Music listening
Nah the mids on the K501 aren’t heaven-like 😉 Frankly though, there are
other headphones with much better mids.
There is a lot of choices on the $400 range, from Audio Technica, Grado,
Senn, and even the Hifiman HE-4. It’s hard to give a suggestion just out
of thin-air. But if I really have to do that, it’ll be the HD600.
I have RS1i and HD 598 at hand. And,more enjoy the RS1i for
its warmth and focus on mid which makes vocal better. Between HRT MS2+ and
DACport,HDP, which will you recommend for me ? For HRT MS2+,I may temporarily
use with a RCA->3.5 converter for the time being and pair it with schiit
asgard after several days? Thanks in advance
I’ve answered your question on the other post.
I wish to upgrade from a K240 Studio and after even months of research I
got to these two headphones. Dispite the fact that the SHURE is closed
and the BEYER is semi-open i found them to be very similar and no one
compared them yet.
Since I don’t have a powerfull headphone amp (I have a E-MU 0204
soundcard wich has a litlle amp in it) I had to chose the 32 ohm version
of the BEYER and I’m not really interested in the 250 and 600 versions.
Could you point out the main differences, advantages and cons of both? Compare
them from all important view’s. Maybe suggest other ones. Don’t bother
with open ones cause my environment won’t let me use those.
I’m not a basshead btw I just loved the K240 bass and missed the highs a
bit. So I’m looking for the most improvements as I can get. After all
these are in the most expensive categories that I would want to still
reach. I live in Romania and from here both cost about the same amount :
260 euro at the moment (370 usd)
The most important genre’s for me are: classical, hip hop, and rock. In my opinion if these sound grate than all sounds grate.
Sorry for not highlighting. The two headphones are the Beyerdynamic DT 880 32 ohm version and the Shure SRH 940.
I am also curious on the 940 as well. If Mike can also highlight the difference of it with the HE-500 will be appreciated.
The SRH-940 to the HE-500?
Well, aside from the fact that they’re apples to oranges, here is some
things that I can say about them.
SRH-940: bright, detailed, slightly dry, okay bass, precise soundstage.
good for monitoring.
HE-500: less bright, detail but not as in your face as the Shure,
smoother, clearer sounding, less grain, more open sound, sweeter mids,
more bass impact, less precise soundstage. A very good music headphone.
The Beyer and Shure are two monitoring headphones. Their bass are
lighter than what you’re hearing on the K240 Studio at the moment, but
they will give you better detail level which is good for classical, but
not so much for hip hop.
I am not sure that you’re looking at the right direction here. Between
the Beyer and the Shure, the SRH-940 is the better all rounder, but even
then I don’t think you’ll totally enjoy both headphones for hip hop and
Another thing is the music that you listen to. Classical, hip hop, and
rock are three very different genres each with different requirements,
it’s going to be nearly impossible to find a headphone that will satisfy
all three of them. You can get something like the Audez’e LCD-2, and I
think that will be the *best* all rounder solution, but it’s very
expensive at around $1,000 USD.
On the other hand, I would recommend you something like the HD600
Sennheiser. I think it’s quite versatile to take on the three different
genres you mentioned while still offering an upgrade from the K240 AKG.
Thanks for your reply!
1000 USD is waaay too much for me. The Sennheisers are all fully open so thats out of the question also. There are very few semi-open headphones overall, and maybe I will have to go with a closed one. Do you have other recomendations or suggestions ?
Whould you consider the SRH 840 ? As they are more bassier and isolate better ?
They have bass, but the voicing is not exactly good for Rock, and also
not too ideal for Hip Hop. Classical maybe.
That’s a difficult one to pull off. As I said, classical, hip hop, and
rock are all very different types of music and it’s almost impossible to
do them all right with one headphone, even without the budget and
Hi, a quick question.
Have you ever heard the Audio Gd C2.1 and NFB-2 combo with OPA Earth / moon?
I’m on the verge to order an Asgard and pre-order the bitfrost with usb.
But, I can’t decide between the two different combo’s. I normally use low impedance headphones and listen to alternative rock, bass focused music, female vocalists and piano.
Here in the UK we have a reseller for Audio GD while the Schiit has to be imported. (Vat+Import Duty and expensive shipment). Both will end up around £600. I am open to other suggestions as well. Matrix Quattro DAC is something I have considered as well, but not too much info around yet.
Sorry haven’t tried the lower end Audio-Gd model except for the old
It’s me again. Is it worth upgrading to Pico Slim from RSA Mustang? Im using Westone 4 now btw 🙂
I think the Pico Slim is awesome for the Westone 4. It is the one amp
that brings the bass impact back into the W4.
Whether the upgrade is worth it depends on your bank account, as always. 😉
I am looking for a portable headphone, I am leaving my Shure SRH840 at my home after this. I am looking at the Marshall Major as it is quite affordable.
Can you tell me, a bit of comparisons between these two? What will I gain and what will I miss? My objective is for music listening, which I listen to vocal and a bit or rock and classical music, seldom on hip hop or techno.
I think you will miss the overall bigger sound and better technicalities
from the Shure. The Marshall will give you a more forward, engaging, and
focused sound with fairly punchy bass.
are you saying that on the Marshall, it is more congested and compressed? How sweet is the mids on the Marshall?
Yes, for sure things are more congested and compressed. The mids are
okay, it’s a good headphone for rock. If you want a sweet mids, get
something like the B&W P5.
I’m currently using Shure SE215 and Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 80. Will the JDSLabs Cmoy bring about much improvement SQ wise?
I think it will, yes.
Mike, i went with the ZD SE! arriving Tuesday. Question though, if you were to get a budget amp around <400$ to either drive a D7000 or T1, what would you pick (i guess im asking for two suggestions, since most amps will not drive both well)?
Im always stuck with the question of, is all this necessary. I could use all this money else where and id considering downgrading to a d7000 or keep my t1 and back to a dacmagic, but i dont know what amp id go for. Thanks!
The Schiit Asgard should be nice with the T1. It should drive the D7000
as well, but as for synergy I can’t really say cause I’ve never listened
to the D7000.
I’m a new to this hobby, and i’m a basshead 😀
Can you help me ?
I’m looking for an iem / portable headphone which have a nice & tight bass impact and also a wide soundstage. Can you suggest me what should i get ? I am right now considering sm3 v1 , dt 1350 , ex1k and se 535
I will use it either from my itouch 2nd gen / laptop without amp , mostly for music and sometimes i also use it for gaming (fps) :p
*both, from itouch & laptop, sry 😀
Tight bass impact and wide soundstage don’t normally come in one package.
SM3 has good bass
DT1350, I’m not so sure it’ll give you bass.
EX1K doesn’t have much bass
SE535 has good bass
Actually if you go with a customs like the JH5Pro it’ll give you both
bass and wide soundstage. It’s $399 and it’s much better than the SM3 or
the SE535. Here is a review of the five:
The JH16 is even better with 4 drivers for bass, but it’s very expensive.
ahh Thanks Mike,
so sm3 is good and se535 is also good
i read some review of the sm3, is it true that the cable is short and annoying ? if so i’m maybe considering the 535 / custom iem
for the custom iem i actually have been poisoned by my friend when he told me that UM have 4 ba & 1 dynamic driver, 1 dynamic driver for low, 2 for mid and 2 for high for its merlin. But i’m not sure if i can order it here from a store in Singapore 🙁
What do you think is the safest option for me ? Im willing to spent S$1000 (US$820~) for a custom iem. Should i get jh10x3 / UMMage / UM Merlin or stick with the universal ?
I think the SM3 cable is fine. The part that’s uncomfortable is the shape of the housing. At least me and a friend of mine find that the housing is too large to fit our ears and so it’s quite uncomfortable – this is on both the original squarish SM3 and the rev.2. The UM3X/W3/W4 housing is much better in that regard.
The SE535 is also good, but if you want soundstage you wont’ find it, and the low bass is quite weak on the SE535.
I personally would recommend the JH line. For $820 I’d get the JH5 and the Pico Slim. Match made in heaven.
UM Mage is better technically than the JH5/10×3, but sound is more laid back. I find the JH line more fun to listen to. Never listened to the Merlin.
At the $300-$400 range of the triple driver universals, I think I’ll still get the JH5 on top of them all. The improvements in technicalities is just so big with the JH5. The universals can’t touch it.
I guess that jh5 is available at jaben Singapore, but for the pico slim, if it’s not available would it be just fine if i plug my jh5 straight from ipod ?
and also do you think the whiplash lod is good to use for this setup ?
Yes, it’s fine. What’s most important is you get the right headphone/IEM
first, the rest can come later.
Yes I think the Whiplash LOD would be superb. Actually if you use the
Nano, paired with the Pico Slim, it makes quite a superb portable set up.
I own SM3 for quite some time and I have to admit there are some problems with SM3: the cable is a nice braided cable but I found the y-split too short and kinda annoying, I
have to place the cable behind my neck if I don’t want the cable getting
touchy feely with my jaw. The fit on SM3 can be quite uncomfortable,
but not as bad as ue tf10.
sorry if I’m abruptly join this conversation. I just think it’s a little bit unfair for a US$240 iem to be compared with iem that’s twice as expensive. If you’re not on a tight budget and got some cash to burn, just go with custom.
i still can’t made my decision actually 🙁
my original budget was around US$400-500, thats why i thought i should get the sm3/se535/ex1k. but if it’s worth it, im willing to spent more for custom iem
The thing is that when you wear custom iems people will think that you are wearing some kind of a hearing aid 🙁
is it true that sm3 is one of the best universal iem i could get under US$500 ? if it is i might just get one when i got back to Jakarta next Saturday
Actually I didn’t realize that the SM3 can be bought for as little as
$240. The way I see it is that the current triple drivers: SM3, UM3, W3,
TF10, SE530, SE535, and the quad W4… they’re all nice in a way or
another but nothing is quite as good and as all rounder as the dual
Hence the point I’m trying to make is that for a little more $399 from
JH buys you a custom that in my opinion is better all rounder than all
the triple driver universals.
dude can you tell me where i can get those $240 sm3 ? is it from the largest Indonesian community ?
maybe today or thursday i just have to come to jaben at adelphi to audition jh5,sm3 and the se535
sorry for slow response, I rarely checked this site’s Q&A.
I bought my sm3 from this guy at audiophile-id forum 3 months ago before the forum down. I can give you the contact number if you’d like to contact him: ****24313526. Replace asterisks with 0878.
I agree with mike on the triple driver universal vs. dual driver JH5. But if you want to spend (much) less money with some compromise here and there, you can go with TF10/SM3 route.
hi mike, i have a question about a terminology used in reviews..
what do people mean by a headphone’s speed? how is a headphone fast or slow? and what is the main difference between ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ sonically?
There are two sorts of speed. Some people talk about speed as in
transients speed. That is how fast a headphone can produce a note, or
the amount of time it takes to get the driver moving from still position
to the maximum amplitude, and back to the original position. It’s like
in a car, how fast can you go from 0 to 60mph then back to 0 mph.
Another way is how fast the pace of the headphone is. I.e if you play
rock music the pace in the music is very fast compared to say an Opera
recording. A fast headphone can keep up with the pace of the music
better and ultimately transfer the energy better. So a fast headphone is
good for fast music (rock, hard rock, metal, etc) while a slow headphone
would be better for slower music (ie vocal, acoustics, slow jazz, and such).
I asked for recommendation from you. I have ipod video and shure e500.
You thought pico slim would be good also fostex hp-p1. In your opinion is fostex $350 better? Subjective I know. Any others? I have never heard any earphone amp.
Another question. Some are using a pc as a audiophile source with a good dac to a home system. Can you think of a good dac that would serve double duty as both a portable headphone dac and use with pc as home stereo source?
Thanks once again
The Fostex can be $350 better yes, due to the superior internal DAC that
you don’t get with the Ipod. If you are hesitant about the purchase,
just start with something more affordable like the Pico Slim.
There are plenty of DACs that would do what you need. The Audinst for
~$180. The Fostex HP-A3 for ~$400, the CEntrance DACmini for ~$800.
How is the HE5LE different sonically from the HE-500? is the 500 roughly a lighter version of the LE? 🙂
I know that it can be confusing with all the different versions of the
Hifiman out there, but I wrote a brief summary of each headphone on the
Anyway if you want a short one liner, the HE5LE is like an improved HE5,
while the HE-500 is like a variation of the HE6.
i really have to un-bookmark your website. i hate seeing things like
“The package from Todd the Vinyl Junkie (TTVJ) has finally landed and in my opinion the Peak and Volcano combo clearly tops the list of the best sounding amps I’ve ever listened to. I very much prefer it over the Manley Stingray and the Zana Deux amp. ”
when i just puchased a ZDSE!! lol looking forward to yet another great review!
haha its okay. im very much enjoying the sound from the ZDSE and HD650. the only thing i wish was a different was the amount of heat coming from those monster tubes. makes my bedroom super hot! but it is a beauty to see in person.
I’m looking for a full size headphone that has nice bass impact and sweet mids.
I listen mostly to blues, RnB, Classical and my budget is about $150.
I would be listening to it mostly at home and in a noisy office for quite long, so comfort is important.
Which headphones would you recommend getting?
A full size that does all of that for $150…. The Sennheiser HD558 would be a pretty good fit. http://www.headfonia.com/old-and-new-hd555-hd558-hd598/
But the HD558 is an open headphone, so it won’t have much isolation would it? Are there any closed headphones that would work for me?
I think the Audio Technica M-50 would be a good alternative.
Hey, I listen to mainly Rap, Soul and Classical and I’m considering buying the ATH M50, but my music is mainly in mp3 format or dynamically compressed. Is the M50 a picky headphone and will it pick up on the lower quality of my music?
the M50 is similar t0 my SRH840 so I guess it will…
I think the SRH840 is a little more critical of the recording quality than the M50. Although on the grand scheme of things yes the two are somewhat similar.
I think MP3 is fine as long as it’s not some 64kbps file.
I am considering buying a new amp for my headphones, primary I will use my HE-500 on it but I also like to other headphones (HD 25-1, HD598 and ATH PRO 700 MK2, but they are mostly for portable use).
My musical preferances is classical/opera, alternative/indie and electronica. At the moment I am considering the Woo Audio WA6, Schiit Asgard and Burson Audio HA160? Any other suggestions? Tube or solid state?
All three amps you listed are nice amps..
The Woo6 would be nice with classical and indie, but not so with electronica. It has a very nice smooth sound with natural decays and ambiance. I think it’ll shine with classical and indie (as long as the indie recording is good). Bass is not very punchy so electronica would be less special on the Woo.
The Schiit Asgard is a good all rounder. It would do all three classical/indie and electronica pretty well though not up to the detail level of the Burson or the refinement of the Woo6.
The Burson would rock with electronica due to the bass punch, it’ll also give a very good detail and articulation for classical — though air and refinement for classical would be better with the Woo6. It would also be nice for indie.
I think owning the Burson and the WA6 would cover a lot of different music very well (ouch on the wallet though).
Are open headphones such as the HD 558, HD598 significantly better than closed headphones like the Shure SRH 840 and ATH M50 in terms of soundstage and sound quality?
Any chances of reviewing the UM Merlin Mike?
No plans for now, Bokia. 🙁
oh that’s sad 🙁
im trying to find out how does the bass compare to the JH16..
I’m just beginning with this hobby and your reviews have been a real help – my first setup: HD598 and Schiit Asgard. I need a DAC. I’ve just bought Fiio’s new D3 and despite costing $30, it clearly improves the quality. Do you think you might look at the D3? If not, do you think the HRT Music Streamer II would make sense with my setup?
I may get a D3 for a review, but I think the $150 HRT Music Streamer II would improve your set up even more. And yes it would make for a great system with the HD598 and Schiit Asgard.
Can you recommend hi-end or flagship headphone that is the best headphone with pop and rock music?
Perhaps the Beyerdynamic T1 or the Audez’e LCD-2.
i’m very happy that there is a site of this kind that helps that much :).
i’m about to purchase new pair of headphones, i’m quiet a big listener to electronic/trance music so what i got in mind is the HD-25s, ATH M50 and the beats studio .. is there any recommendations that u can suggest to me ?
thanks alot :).
Between the HD25-1, ATH M-50 and Beats Studio, I’d recommend the HD25-1.
But at the moment I’m doing a review on the Beyerdynamics DT1350 and I think it can be a pretty good electronic/trance headphone though the bass is slightly weaker than the HD25-1, but you’re getting a better sound on the mids and treble.
i’m about to purchase a new pair of headphones, and i cant decide between the HD25s , M50s and the beats studio. i’m quite a big listener to trance/dance/house music so what should i take in consideration ?
thank you 🙂
Copied from the other post
Hey Mike, thanks for the suggestion on the PA2V2. I prefer it more then my fiio e7 when on the move.
Have you gotten a chance to check out the new Fiio d3? Seems to good to be true…
Nice. Glad you enjoy the PA2V2. Nice little amp isn’t it?
The D3 yes… we’re probably getting one for review. Amazing how fast Fiio is able to come up with new products — faster than my ability to review them.
I’m currently curious about balanced connection. Would it really improve the system’s sq? Say my current setup is DACport -> HD650. Should I upgrade to DACmini -> HD650 or choose a balanced setup instead like, say DACmagic -> balanced amp -> HD650 balanced recabled?
If the latter is the better option, what nice balanced amp would you recommend me for the DACmagic, in terms of sq and price?
Balanced system is good, but there are cons and minuses, ie it’s not all good.
These are some of the things I wrote previously on the subject:
Balanced amplification was initially a feature seen on the flagship $2,000+ desktop amplifiers. It makes sense to have them priced as a flagship, since a fully balanced amplifier require twice the amount of circuitry of single ended (or unbalanced) amplifiers. Not to add the additional requirements such as the dual mono power supplies (though not a must, but often goes together) and dual transformers, quad-stack potentiometers, additional input and output paths, bigger chassis requirement, heat management, and so on. So, if a single ended amplifier costs $1,000 to make, then the same amplifier in balanced configuration would at least double that cost into the $2,000 region. The long associations of balanced topology with flagship models somewhat correlates to the “ultimate set-up” stigma surrounding a balanced amp, while it is not always the case.
What happens in a balanced topology is that you have two amplifiers driving one side of your headphone, and another two driving the other side of your headphone for a total of four amplifiers working
simultaneously to drive one headphone. On a conventional unbalanced
topology, you only have one amp driving one side for a total of two
amplifiers working simultaneously to drive one headphone. Because two is
better than one, then four is certainly better than two? At least that’s
what you often hear — and it does make sense to a certain degree. When
you have two amplifiers driving one side of your headphone (aka two
amplifiers driving one driver), you get double the slew rate, which will
improve the amp’s square wave response and make it more accurate to the
input signal. Feeding a fully balanced signal also helps to raise the
effective gain, giving you double the amplitude of the same signal,
unbalanced. So, with a fully balanced system, you get twice the voltage
swing, and twice the slew rate as the same system running in single
ended. Power output will increase due to the increase in voltage, but
due to heat and current output constraints, probably slightly less than
double the single ended output. Good stuff, but amplifiers are not
merely about voltage swing, slew rate, and power outputs.
If I talk to people in the high end audio circle, surprisingly very few
of them are even aware of the unbalanced vs fully balanced debate. They
would go into lengths debating the merits of branded power cables and
even branded IEC connectors, but, interestingly, for them balanced or
unbalanced is just something that a pre-amp manufacturer may choose to
include for compatibility with studio gears. Now, it happens that every
headphone enthusiasts that roams the internet knows the benefit of
balanced drive. My brother in law happens to be in favor of a balanced
system for his 2-ch set up which consists of a Mark Levinson No.32
preamp, some Krell monoblocks and a pair of Magnepans. But even then,
the Krell monoblocks doesn’t output a differential signal to the
Speakers (the Magnepans’ transformers are what created the differential
signal to the ribbons). Are speaker guys really that ignorant?
As with everything in life, you have to look at both sides of the coin.
The transistor vs vacuum tube debate. The discrete vs chip debate. The
single vs multi drivers debate. The push-pull vs single-ended debate.
The OT vs OTL debate. The Planar vs Dynamic debate. Sennheiser vs AKG
debate (just kidding). And this time, unbalanced vs fully balanced debate.
So, what’s the downside with balanced amps? I’ve played around with a
few balanced amps, both big and small, also the four portables being
discussed. What I witness is that although the soundstage widens, the
imaging accuracy and center image in general, suffer. Several factors
come into play here. First and foremost is the issue of component
matching. Very critical in obtaining a perfect symmetry between the
right and left channel, which would in turn affects the soundstage
image. Matching for pairs is not that difficult, but matching for quads
are far more difficult. I am building an electrostatic amplifier at the
moment, and I’ve yet to come up with a decent paired quad after going
through 40 pieces of transistors ordered from the same vendor (and
likely close in manufacturing batch). The Beta22 amplifier comes with
30+ transistors in one channel, and at four channel, that means matching
120+ transistors, not to mention the diodes and the resistors. Now, if
you’re talking about a medium-large quantity production such as these
amplifiers, how tight of a tolerance can you afford to implement on the
assembly line? The effect of component asymmetry can be quite profound
when you’re listening critically through headphones.
The second factor is space constraints. Although I am not familiar with
the circuit design used in these amps, it’s common sense that it’s
easier to build a good amplifier if you have a big enclosure to design a
circuit around. There are exceptions of course, like the 47Labs
Gaincard, but most high quality amplifiers come in really large
enclosures. The third factor may sound insignificant, but also just as
important: volume control. As of now, all these balanced portable amps
are limited to the lower resolution analog potentiometer options,
whereas the unbalanced amplifiers come with fancy digital volume
controls and stepped attenuators. Analog potentiometers are very
critical to the input signal, and this puts the balanced amplifier in a
strong disadvantage against single ended amplifiers that come with
sophisticated volume controls.
One of the reason that desktop balanced amps sound so good is that they
have all the space they need to double the size of the amplifier
circuitry without having to cut corners. High quality balanced volume
controls are also plenty. And given the premium price the desktop
balanced amps command, they can afford to be critical in their component
matching. With the portables, however, there are a lot of constraints
with a portable balanced amp, and so the result has been quite mixed.
Some people love them, some people hate them. Some people love the wider
and bigger soundstage that they get, some people hate the inaccurate
imaging and the lack of a proper center image. Some people love the bass
response, some people prefer a more articulate and the better texture of
the single ended amps.
And on the HD650 balanced, it does makes the HD650 extremely good.. but
I think you can get better sound these days with the HE-500 or the
LCD-2, even driven unbalanced.
For instance, this is what I write on the HE-500 article:
*UPGRADING FROM THE HD650 TO THE HE-500:*
The biggest upgrade you feel from the HD650 to the HE-500 will be:
1. Clearer bass section, though not as thick as the HD650.
2. More open sound — big difference
3. More forward character — HD650 is pretty laid back.
4. Faster pace.
Now, a well amped HD650 will give you:
1. Better soundstage image, better three dimensionality, better
layering, better depth.
2. Better micro details.
3. Better dynamic range.
For classic rock and audiophile vocal, I think the HE-500 is a good
headphone. It’s definitely far more likeable than the HD650, as a lot of
people feel the HD650 to be too slow-paced. But the HD650 has higher
scalability than the HE-500, and so if you have a very very good amp
(like $2000+ Zana, Beta22, Manley), then the HD650 may still be better
than the HE-500. But compared to the HD650 on a sub $1000 amp, the
HE-500 is far easier to enjoy and appreciate.
Actually I think the HE-500 does beat the HD650 on a lot of points,
unless you happen to have a $2k amp that just takes the HD650 on a whole
Better bass section.
More open sound
Better, faster pace
More forward and more engaging
On the HE-500
On the other hand, the HD650′s better micro details, soundstage
layering, etc is mostly technicalities that will only be evident on
If you are listening to the average pop rock recording, those advantages
the HD650 has are irrelevant. Whereas the advantages of the HE-500 is
very hard to miss.
Personally I’ve been more into single-ended system lately and not so
much into balanced systems.
Whoa man, what a dedicated answer you gave me! I really appreciate your thorough explanation,I learned so much from it.
One more question.
So if balanced amps come with (so much) risk, should I go for a pseudo-balanced ones? What I mean is those Meier Corda amps, they say you will get a benefit of fully balanced w/o balanced connection.
Yes because the balanced vs unbalanced argument is quite complex so I can’t give you a simple answer — otherwise there may be some misunderstandings.
There are a few different designs in headphone amps at the moment:
– unbalanced, passive ground (2 channel)
– unbalanced, active ground (3 channel)
– pseudo balanced (4 channel feed from an unbalanced signal)
– fully balanced (4 channel feed from a balanced signal)
I believe Meier’s design is the active ground – 3 channel.
We did a test on this with Earfonia’s PBA (http://www.headfonia.com/earfonias-pseudo-balanced-amplifier-pba/) and found that there are audible differences between two, three, and four channels:
The amplifier started as an inquiry to see how much improvement you get from an active ground and balanced topology, when compared to a regular single ended amplifier. For that, the three different outputs on the PBA will allow you to see if indeed there is any difference between those
topologies. So, not only does the PBA gives you the most affordable
balanced amplifier in the market, as a bonus you also get to test out
the differences between a 2 channel, 3 channel, and 4 channels amp. I
went ahead and did the comparison, and this is what I found:
* 2 channels: basic sound. decent enough
* 3 channels: improved dynamic range, frequency extension, and soundstage
* 4 channels: further improved dynamic range, frequency extension, and
Between the different topologies, the tonality of the sound remains the
How do you like the HD650 with the DACport? I am thinking to buy the DACport for my HD650 to use it on my laptop when I travel. Would you recommend the DACport at all?
I think the DACport is awesome with the HD650.
Thanks a lot. I am ordering one then.
IMO for a (near) portable setup, DACport is a very decent thing to have. AFAIK, nothing compares to it in terms of price, size, and sq when all put together.
Thanks a lot for your advice. I am going to pull the trigger on the DACport then.
Do DACs in general only have one pair of RCA output? so if i want to change amps, i need to unplug the rca cable from one amp and plug it to another? or is there way to connect multiple amps to a dac?
And one more thing..
I am sill looking for THE pair of cans that can end my quest for the perfect sound for the next couple of years (try-hard mode on!! :P).. I am willing to spend as much as a HE-500.. now I am looking for a HE-5 with less treble and I understand that u recommended me the HE500 last time.. I jus want to be very sure before i make the purchase.
I still want the two main things I want from the headphone are less treble sharpness (not a lot less tho) and a fuller sound (without losing much speed from the original HE5). my music preference is mainly electronica and rock, but jazz is okayy for me. So in your opinion, what is the right headphone for me right now? thanks and sorry for the trouble mike 🙂
It seems that from your description, the HE-500 is precisely what you need. Less treble sharpness, fuller mids, still very fast sound overall.
However for electronica and rock I do think the LCD-2 is the headphone to get.
I was just about to ask u about the LCD lol.. i have someone offering me one in good condition for the price of a new HE500.. shud I get it? or jus stick to the 500?
btw in a local shop, the LCD is 11 mil, while HE500 is around 7-8 mil Rp Mike
I can’t say.. the two have different sound signatures and so it’ll be hard to recommend one over the other without an audition.
I do think the LCD-2 is better for rock and electronica though.
FYI i will be driving it with either my EF5 or my Asgard 🙂
Some DACs have balanced and unbalanced outputs going together. In that case you can use both simultaneously, by using an XLR to RCA adapter.
Although the $25 that Mouser is asking for that item does seem excessive. But you can google around for similar products perhaps from NEUTRIK.
I’m going to buy a JDSlabs cmoy. I’m pretty new to this whole amping thing. Do I need a DAC between my laptop and the CMoy?
You can use a DAC, but you don’t have to. You can just get a mini to mini cable to go between your laptop’s headphone out to the JDSLAbs input.
Thanks for your reply
Will using only a mini to mini cable and no DAC in between still give me a significant improvement in sound quality. I’m using the ATH M50.
Yes it will.
What do people mean when they say that a headphone is ‘dark’? Is it roughly the same as veiled as in higher end Sennheiser headphones? I have a HD580 (well i guess u can say its a HD 600), and I’ve read in your reviews (and others’) that the LCD 2 which I have been longing for is darker than the HD650..
I am pretty much a Deatil guy, but I personally don’t mind darker and warmer headphones such as the 600/580 as compared to my K701, so basically, is the LCD-2’s ability to produce treble in terms of clarity, quantity and extension inferior to ‘brighter’ headphones like my K701, the Hifimans, or the audio technica AD series? All of which I have listened to..
Thank you for taking time to read and answer my question
Dark usually means that it has less treble quantity than bright headphones.
Bright headphones usually makes it easier for us to hear the details, but that doesn’t mean that a dark headphone is less detailed — your ears just have to adjust to the dark sound. In fact the HD650 which people say is dark and veiled is actually more detailed than many brighter sounding headphones.
Likewise the LCD-2’s dark presentation has nothing to do with its detail level. But the good news is that the newer LCD-2 are less dark than the earlier ones.
How does the rev 1 LCD scale with the asgard or the gainclone that you previously used in your review (1875)? Is the improvement in treble significantly noticeable with the gainclone?
What is the name of the red color that you have on your JH customs? I’m planning to have the same color as you do..
I just told them I want red on one side and clear on the other. Red is to mark the right side. 🙂
Thanks Mike! 😀
Make that translucent red. 🙂
I was going to buy an AKG K501, but after reading your reviews, I’m getting a HD598. Is it the best bet for a headphone around $200? I listen mainly to bands like Coldplay (being more specific, Clocks, The Scientist and Viva La Vida would be some songs that I would really like to sound the best)
And about amplification, can you suggest me one? I already got a good DAC (DIY). And need a amp now. Going tubes maybe?
What do you mean when you say that a headphone or amp is ‘critical’ or ‘picky’ when it comes to the source. Does this mean the quality of your music or the DAC?
Would an untrained ear such as mine be able to pick up any big difference when amping a medium resistance headphone?
Sometimes it’s best not to try hard to listen to the differences. I always tell people that if they have to concentrate 100% of their brain effort to listen to the differences, they’re more likely to miss things out.
If you just spend time with the gear and listen to real music, then after some time most people would be able to pick up the difference sub-consciously.
I would mean that you can’t put bad components behind it. For a picky headphone that would mean the amplifier, the DAC, and most importantly the quality of the recording.
Hello Mike, What device do you recommend for me if i would like to increase the sound quality and volume of my Cown x7? I have a Sennheiser HD800.
Thank you for taking time to read and answer my question.
Start by getting a new amplifier and a DAC. What’s your budget?
yeah, I mean this by that.
I thinking about amps from ALO audio: ”The Continental” or ”Rx Mk2” and from Emiline Ray Samuel SR-71B. It is my first Amp and I can’t even tell u what I expect from device, I mean I expect most High Quality music is possible. For my budget: I want to buy a good amplifier for which is worth to pay.
I’ve read your Sub $100 Portable Amps Shootout, yet i still can’t decide which amp is best for my stock HD25-1 ii. Based on budget, my choices are E11 and JDS’s cMoy.
The problem is i can’t really do an audition for both amps especially the JDS.
The HD25 is a little too bright for me, my ear gets uncomfy when the vocal accentuates on an “S” at a high note, which of the two amps can take care of this without losing too much detail?
As for soundstage and separation i believe you’ll go with the cMoy ya? Portability is not really a factor i consider for this matter, hope you can help me out
Thanks a lot for your time Mike!
I think the E11 will be better, mainly due to the “s” accentuation concerns.
Thank for the fast response Mike, one thing that gets me thinking is the “customized for your type of headphone” JDS are offering on their the site, what do you think about that?
Hi Mike， i’m thinking of jumping into dac and amp world, should i just go for the audinst? as this is gonna be my first dac/amp gadget? or should i aim for the fostex hp-a3?
which one would you suggest to me? i’ll be using them with iem like westone um2, se215.
thanks for your help.
Btw, if this any helps, i’m looking for a sound signature that has good soundstage, and also nice coherency where the music sounds as a whole, not separated.
MMmmm… the Audinst’s amp is not bad, but it sounds good because of the DAC behind it. So no it’s not quite that close to the Asgard. On the other hand, it’s hard to put a number on this because if I say the Audinst’s amp is an 7.5 or even worse 6.5 that may give you the impression that the Audinst’s amp is really bad whereas it’s just a figure of relative differences.
What I’m saying is that if you use the Asgard, the difference is definitely noticeable.
so if i get this right, the audinst amp sounds good because of it’s synergy with it’s DAC? how big is the difference? though this one is probably relative, considering personal preferences?
More like the Audinst is good because it has a good DAC behind it. If you pass along the signal to the Asgard, you will still enjoy the good DAC that the Audinst have but you also get a better amplifier section.
I actually haven’t tried them, HC.
Don’t wanna be a pain, but mind looking at my question a bit down, pretty please?
Hey Roland, after reading your post it’s a bit unclear what you are actually asking – which is maybe why Mike hasn’t responded. Are you simply asking whether or not to get the HD 598 or the HD 600?
Yea, that’s basically it, the 598 or the 600(since, as far as I understood, even with the mod the 558’s aren’t as good as the 598s altho many people say they do, so this was more like a child seeking confirmation :p). Thought it would be proper to also post some info about the music I’m listening to and the prices at which I can find them here, since these are also factors in a decision.
And since I’m new to this whole thing with more or less professional audio stuff, I was also asking if there’s anything else he might suggest except HD’s, I just narrowed down to the Sennheiser’s because I only read good stuff about them and it’s the only brand *I* am sure is good.
Sorry for missing your question earlier, Roland.Okay for the last time: HD558 mod vs HD598. Still very different, and yes the HD598 is still the better sounding headphone. Sennheiser engineers know what they are doing and a simple foam removal mod isn’t going to do it. As for the HD600 vs HD598, The HD598 excels in certain areas like vocal and soundstage depth, soundstage image. But overall the HD600 is still the higher end headphone. The HD598 is the newer release and I suppose Sennheiser have learned a lot more things from the HD600 days and that’s why it’s able to accomplish some things better like soundstage and vocal but overall it’s still proper that the HD600 earns the higher model number. I would brand the HD598 as a very fine Hifi headphone. It sounds good and among the best sounding headphones I’ve listened to. The HD600 on the other hand is a solid reference-class headphone and in that sense it’s a higher up headphone than the HD598 is. The HD600 still sounds very musical, but on top of the musicality you get added points such as a far more accurate timbre and a more proper bass impact both of which the HD598 doesn’t have.
Now interestingly if you happen to have a $2,000 headphone amp, the HD598 scales up better than the HD600.. and again I suspect that’s some of the things Sennheiser engineers have learned over the time which they didn’t quite have when they designed the HD600. But for most people, I doubt they’ll be pairing the HD598 with a $2K amp.
Thanks for the details explanation!
Thanks to you, I’ll be pairing it with the E10 🙂
As a last question (2 actually), will I be dissapointed in the HD598’s bass? (As I said, although I don’t like the cans to vibrate my ears, I do like to feel it’s there)
And secondly, are the 600’s really worth paying double over the 598’s(thats the price over here, $220 vs $425)?
I can’t say if you’ll be disappointed with the bass since I don’t know how much bass you are expecting, but one thing I can say is that I don’t buy the HD598 for the bass, and that the HD600 will have a more proper bass. As for the price and paying double, gosh that’s always difficult to judge.
Meh, I can’t reply to your latest reply 🙁
Well, I don’t really have anything else to compare them with, since the only branded heaphone i ever bought was the HD201, till then I didnt really realize the importance, I was like ‘meh, it’s just a headphone’. And how I slap myself now for that, heh.
When you got nothing to compare to it’s kinda hard to explain what to expect, that’s why I tried describing my expectations as “not ear-vibrating, but I’d like to feel it’s there”. I’m not looking for bassy cans, or I’d have went for Beats, or something like that. My main goal is sound quality, but I like some bass too.
I managed to find somewhere, someone having the HD201 saying the bass is much lower than the hd595, so atleast it’s something, heh. How are the 598’s vs the 595/555 bass-wise? (I realize 201 are entry level and any upgrade would be significant, but on the other hand I don’t want to spend $300-400 and then be sorry)
Sorry for being a pain, I know I am, really appreciate your help and for bearing with me.
I think you should just go for the HD600. It’ll last longer and you’ll be happier with it than if you go with the HD558/598. And don’t worry we’re talking about a reference class headphone here, it’s far from a basshead headphone.
Hope the E10 will be enough for them, heh 🙂
Lol yes hopefully.
Oh I’m publishing a review on the Ibasso D-Zero in a day or two. You should also check that one out.
Well, you sounded so impressed and pleased about the E10 in the review, I went ahead and placed a preorder on mp4nation(since I was going to get a E9/E7 or E9+E7 anyway). Went ahead and searched for the D-Zero a bit and I gotta say, imo at least, the E10 seems a lot more user friendly and looks MUCH better 🙂
But that’s not the important part, it’s the performance that matters. I know you just said the review will be up in 2 days, does that also mean you haven’t even used it yet? Was looking for a straight and simple yes or no if the D-Zero > E10, since all the details of a review won’t really matter or make much sense to me, since I’m basically untrained in this domain anyway.
As for the 598 vs 600 I just realized I can order them both and I’ll have a 10 days return period. So I’ll just do that, order them both, try them for 1-2 days and return one of them.
I should have the D-Zero review up today. And don’t worry the english is pretty simple. 😉
Cool, eager to read it!
Wasn’t talking about English, but the technical details I don’t really care(nor really understand) about 😛
Yes should be up really soon now.
Thanks for the prompt response.
While cheaper is better, I’d rather just spend the money once and be satisfied, rather than go cheaper and be left wanting more (like I felt after buying the headroom total airhead). My taste in sound is warm, natural, clean/clear, and relatively neutral. If the sound/technicalities in the Yulong are really a couple tiers higher I think I’ll just go for that. Thanks for the help.
Note: I don’t really have a dedicated amp so let me know if that changes anything
(setup: desktop computer/FLAC –> Total Airhead –> HD 580s).
Forgot to mention I’ve also been considering the Maverick Audio TubeMagic D1, the Audio-gd NFB12, and the Audinst HUD-MX1
I’m working on a review of the NFB-12 and while it’s technically better than the Audinst, I find that the overall musicality is not as good hence it’s still the Audinst for me.
The Maverick Audio I haven’t had the chance to listen to.
The Yulong is not quite warm, but it is clear sounding. If you want a natural, warm, and clean sounding DAC/amp then the Audinst may fit the bill better. It’s not quite as articulate and detailed as the Yulong, but the sound signature would fit your description better.
They are nowhere to be found, Syakir.
im sure the manufacturer will send you one for review if you request… a review from this site will definitely boost their sale! 🙂
Unfortunately they said no to my request. 🙂
So the question is HTC Sensation to a Fiio E11 to a Senn MX980 and for Rock Music with some other bass heavy stuff.
First of all I have no experience with the HTC so I wouldn’t know how it performs as a source. Now the biggest question I have for you is, how do you find the MX980 to sound with your music? What areas do you feel would need to be improved?
Looking at the music you listen to, my gut feeling tells me to recommend you an upgrade to the JH5Pro.
***Damn my walls of text. Put the questions in *** question *** if you want to skip the wall… sigh ^^ ***
About the HTC – Probably not well 😀 Not really a phone ment for music, as far as I understand, but it is the most powerfull smartphone in the HTC lineup, running programs very well, and is excellent at what it is suppose to do, run Android and its programs. ***Spotify is at 320 kb/s, is this sufficient for getting the most out of the MX980 (or the JH5Pro) and the rest of my stuff? Or should I get a better source for the actual music?***
I’ll check into it and see if I can find out how highly rated HTC phones are as audio players. ***If it’s not sufficient, do you have any tips on good protable players?***
When it comes to the MX980… An impulse buy. Got them for $95 at a sale, tryed to check out the reviews on them, and it didn’t look to bad, especially for under $100. When it comes to the technical terms, I’m not sure how much of a help I can be. Compared to the absolute shit I had been using before, it was amazing. Went from being some muddy crappy sound with a bass I couldn’t even hear, to a very clear sound (I could suddenly hear sounds that weren’t there on my old ones, which I knew should be in the music, which is there in my speakers), and I could actually feel the bass. Which got even better when I got the E11, and used the bass boost.
But I kind of have no frame of reference. The things I’ve tryed, are the things I got. It is very very hard actually getting a hold of good audio equipment in Norway (After hours of search, I found a (one, 1, a single unit) portable amp. And couldn’t even find anything on it on the web. Ordered my E11 from… Germany I think? From the FiiO partner listed on their site), so I haven’t yet been able to get ahold on different stuff to create a frame of reference. But what I do know, is that every little upgrade I have done so far, from the MX980 to the E11, have taken my music to a new level, and blown me away. Which is basicly what I’m asking, what’s the next step to get it up at a even higher level, since that is very difficult for me to decide on as it’s hard for me to get ahold of things to try out. And I don’t feel the “buy whatever you can actually find in Norway” approach is gonna work anymore, and that the next logical step is to get good advice, and buy quality from abroad. ^^
I assume the JH5Pro is believed to defenitly be a upgrade on the MX980, and to fit well with my music. And tbh, the price isn’t that terrifying, and I am defenitly of the opinion that something that can give me great music for hour after hour is worth 8h of work. ***If I make the purchase of the JH5Pro, would you suggest a better portable amp than the E11, or do you feel it is sufficient?***
The MX980 is actually a pretty good earphone. I did a comparison of it to other big-name earphones (although mostly from China) and it was pretty good amid those other audiophile earphones. The issue here is just that I don’t think the presentation of the MX980 fits your beats-heavy music. Hence the JH5Pro.
I certainly think that the most important thing to get good performance out of an audio gear is synergy. And a big part of that is simply the character of the headphone to the music being played. I.e: bass heavy headphones for bass heavy music. Good vocal headphones for vocal heavy music. Fast paced headphones for fast-paced music. Big soundstage headphones for classical music, and so on. This is like choosing a 4WD rather than a sports car for an off-road terrain if you know what I mean. Then after that comes the issue of amplification, source quality, file quality (mp3 versus lossless and so on).
So in that light, I think you shouldn’t worry about the quality of Spotify too much and the fact that you’re using a phone for your source. Not all phones sound bad, in fact some Blackberry and Nokia phones turned out to be quite good I was surprised by that. So just stay with the HTC and the E11. Get the JH5 and enjoy it. In the future if you have the urge to upgrade again, the HeadAmp Pico Slim is my recommend amp for the JH customs.
Hi, I purchased a few days ago the AKG K240 mkII, sound much better headphones was before, but not very defined bass and sound’s a bit dry.
So i need a headphone amplifier for AKG K240 mkII 55ohm, on which amplifiers are recommend? It’s rather not be more expensive than $ 200.
Sorry Zako, I haven’t really find a good amp for the AKG K240 Mk2. My experience with it is pretty limited.
Thanks for the infoBased on the reviews on the site i thinking to buy Fiio E10.Do you think this is a good headphone amplifier for the akg?
I think you can try. It should have enough power but that’s all I can say.
Hey Mike, guessed u missed out on my query. Here’s the questions below again. Appreciate your views. Thanks!
1. Which of the 2 cans would you pick for Jazz & Vocals; W1000X or LCD-2? I’m currently using a recabled HD600 with TWcu for all other genres and would like either of the mentioned 2 to be my Jazz specialist. 2. Which of these 2 cans go better with a Burson HA-160 amp? I’m on the verge of getting one as my desktop setup with the DACport as a DAC. Would most probably be getting a better dedicated DAC next year though.CheersJoe
Well there’s actually different types of Jazz recordings. But what I can tell you is that though the W1000X and the LCD-2 can be equally good, the W1000X is more picky and requires a more careful set up to sound right. The LCD-2 especially the newer version is easier to deal with in that sense. It’s more consistent from one amp to the next.
Hey Mike, thanks for the reply. It’s really a tough choice. Have to audition them both with my amp and DAC to make a final choice when I’m getting them.
Yes, and if I can add some more…
Some Jazz have really good recordings (aka Audiophile Jazz, stuff like Jazz at the Pawnshop) and the W1000X will shine for those. Some Jazz have mediocre or even awful analog recordings (the older stuff like Miles Davis, Coltrane, and the such) and the LCD-2 would be better for those.
This makes it tougher then.
I have both kinds of recording. Both the Audiophile Jazz and mainstream and contemporary Jazz.
Another choice to make.
Yes I know. I’d rather have the LCD-2 in that case, it will still play the Audiophile Jazz fairly well, whereas the W1000X isn’t quite that friendly with old grainy jazz recordings.
Hey Headfonia, I am planning to get a good amp for my ipod classic 7th gen. The HP-P1 is one of the candidates, other than than that, its the CLAS with MK2, just wanna ask in your opinion, which is generally better? I am looking got more mids and bass, with the sound sig of hd650. Gonna use it with my tf10/se535. Thanks.
If you want more mids you should go with the Fostex, if more bass then the CLAS+MK2. If you want bass and mids then the CLAS+Continental amp. If you want a HD650 like sound get the HM-801 Hifiman (but can’t use the iPod).
Alright thanks~ one more question, I am looking for something to drive my hd650 and my hifiman he5, what amp should i look for? Asgard looks ok, the Audinst is also an option. Thanks.
The Asgard is definitely a more potent amp than the Audinst so you should go for that.
Thanks man! Thumbs for headfonia!
I am looking for a new portable amp/dac to replace my e7. My budget is around 150quid, but can go a bit higher if its worth it. My source is just a laptop and a 4th gen ipod touch. Headphones i use are the d2000’s and phonak pfe’s 122 with the black filters. I listen to trance, especially vocal trance. I enjoy a balanced sound signiture. But i also like the option of a bass boost function when i am in the mood.
I am currently looking at the e10 after reading your review, or the ibasso d-zero, but since the d-zero uses the same dac as the is it worth upgrading to it? From the two which would you recommend. Plus are there any other better alternatives at the price point i mentioned.
The D-Zero review is published now and perhaps you can leave the comment there on the D-Zero article and we can take the discussion further. Thanks.
Reposting, as the last one is a wall of text.
You suggested JH5Pro as an upgrade to my MX980, which I currently run with 320 kb/s from my HTC phone as source, through FiiO E11 as my amp.
– Is 320 kb/s good? I have no frame of reference on this, but that’s what I currently got
– Using HTC phone, which is suppose to be a good source, for a phone atleast. Any suggestions to other portable players that you know will perform well?
– If I make the upgrade to the JH5Pro (which I very well might do, in my mind it’s perfectly ok to invest $400 into a product that I’ll use at least a double digit ammount of hours a day), is the E11 a good enough amp, or would you suggest a upgrade there as well? In which case do you have any suggestions?
– Seing those are IEM’s, and they have a “custom fit”… I imagine I’ll have to see someone for getting a mold or something? Which might actually be difficult for me, my google-fu located 2 audiologists in my entire region, all specialicing in hearing-aids… Not sure if I can get molds for this. Though can’t hurt to stop by and hear if it can be done
And you asked about my impressions about MX980. Not really needed, but I’ll include them since you asked: Great. Or atleast for me, they were. Seing as how I had just been using stock earphones before, it was a massive change, which is why I’m thinking of going a step up. I could suddenly actually hear the bass, and there was alot more clearity. Now the sound I got from them could actually be recognisable as the same sound that I got in my HD598’s from my reciever at home. With the stocks ones it was just a mess, no bass and the rest just melted togheter into some kind of horrible mush. So the MX980 was a great change in the right direction. Though I have a small frame of reference, so I am unsure of where to go next. Which is why I’m asking for your advice, so I know what I should be looking into. And from what I’ve read about the JH5Pro, they might be just what would suit me.
Thanks alot for the last reply by the way. Greatly appreciated.
Replied to all your questions on the wall-of-text post, Roger.
Good impression on the MX980, but you’ll get even better clarity (MUCH BETTER) and better bass (SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER) on the JH5.
As for audiologist, just go to the hearing aids guys. I made my ear mold at a hearing aids center. Tell them what you want to use it for, beforehand go to the JH website and print out the guide they have prepared for making a custom ear mold and take it with you when you go to the hearing aid center.
Wait for about a month then you should have a really kickass pair of custom IEMs. Choose the color wisely. Translucent black is pretty kickass. Also make a note to JH if they can tone down the high treble a little since a lot of people complain that the JH5 is mildly sibilant-happy.
God, thanks alot, you’re awesome ^^
Yeah, I’ll stop by the hearing aid guys on my way to work, I actually work 100m from it, which is awesome. About the MX980, yeah. Had read pretty good things, and I got the for 50% off, brand new, so thought I’d take them. And as you said, the JH5Pro will probably be MUCH BETTER and SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER in some areas , so was the MX980 from the shit I had before, so if I can get even better earphones than those, I’ll be a happy guy for the overseeable future :d
And from the other post you answered, thanks again by the way, the HTC is suppose to be a good multimedia phone. If you have had good experiences with older phones, this phone that is 2 months old and the new flagship of HTC shouldn’t be to bad. I’ll stick with it for now atleast.
And the portable amp. The Pico Slim was actually the one I were checking out when I were looking into getting one. Then decided it probably wasn’t worth taking such a big plundge just yet, and went for the more “entry-level” E11, to check if a portable amp is really worth it. Which in my opinion it was, I defenitly noticed a difference, even though it wasn’t as big as the shit earphones -> MX980 difference, the no amp -> amp difference was still noticable. Do you think upgrading to the Pico would make a big difference over the E11 with teh JH5Pro, so that it would be the “next thing” if I were to upgrade further in my portable setup, and if it fits well? Don’t think I’ll do it right away anyways, but would be nice to know. Have heard good things about the Pico though.
Oh, and since the JH5Pro should be a good fit with my usual music, which music is the MX980 a good performer on? If I’m in the mood of listening to something that the MX980 is very good at, do you think they would perform better than the JH5Pro there, or should I just stick with the JH5Pro for everything, with them being higher end earphones?
Thanks again… ^^
Well, the Pico Slim is a really big upgrade from the E11, but if you ask me how big of a difference, I really can’t answer that. I think you should just stick with what you have now if you’re not sure you’ll be able tell the difference.
The MX980 is a pretty good all rounder earphone, I think it plays a lot of different things well, just maybe not enough bass if you dig bass.
K, thanks. Yup, that’s what I thought about the Pico. Big upgrade, but not necesarily easy for me to distinguish, at tleast not now. So I’ll just stay with the E11 for now. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find I way to test out some higher end amps, to see if I can feel a difference.
You’re welcome, Roger!
Sorry if you have answered this question before 🙂
Between Sennheiser PX 100 II and PX 200 II, which one do you think would be better for classical music?
Also in general, can you recommend a closed headphone (around 300$ range) for classical (to listen in office, so I prefer closed).
One more point, I’m pretty susceptible to highs. So, a bit dark sound would be great.
I think the PX100 II and PX200 II can both be good headphones for classical music. You can read about the differences here: http://www.headfonia.com/ultra-portable-shootout-px100-px200-portapro-k404-v-jays-tracks-oldskool-and-hd238/
But the PX100 II is darker than the PX200 and it would probably be a better fit for you.
As for a $300 headphone, closed for classical, try the Beyer DT770-250 ohms headphone. Normally the high is a little too much for mainstream recordings but last time I enjoyed it with classical that tend to have a much less aggressive treble in their recordings.
I’m a long time reader of your site, and I absolutely love your reviews! What I want to know is if you’ve ever heard the Denon AH-D2000 and what you think of them in comparison to the other standard mid-fi headphones. Also, what combos pair well with the D2000s? At the moment I have an HRT MSII with a Little Dot MKV. I am considering upgrading my system (amp or DAC). Thanks in advance!
Hi Mike, I currentyly have a HD25 for all purpose music listening (since it’s the only headphone I have :D..) and I do love the HD25’s sound signature (the tight bass, the detail, the treble).
Now I looking for an open headphone to get more open sound, wider soundstage, better instrument separation and maybe a bit sweeter mids. I torn between Hifiman HE-300 and Senn HD600.. Coming from HD25, which one do you think would be better for me?
That’s a bit tough, both the HE-300 and the HD600 will give you the more open soundstage, better instrument separation and also sweeter mids. I don’t know, I think if you’re used to the pace of the HD25-1 then the HD600 would be a more natural move as the HE-300 is a little slower in pace.
Alright, I’ll try HD600 then.. Thanks alot Mike 🙂
Good to see that Headfonia is getting an additional pair of ears!
Anyway- have you heard of this Objective 2 (O2) headphone amp? It was designed by NwAvGuy as a statement against most of the audiophile myths supposedly incorporated in other amp designs. He says that his design should best any amp in under 400$ range and challenges anyone to compare his amp to O2 in a ABX test. The losing party then pays 500$ to charity of winning parties choice. Here’s some additional info:
Yes I’ve read about his O2 amp and how he went at lengths and lengths about how his amp is THE amp. I don’t know, personally that sounds too much for me. I’ve reviewed tons of amps and I don’t think any one of them is perfect but the way NWG goes about “selling” his amp makes me think that he needs to get more exposure to other headphone amplifiers. And like always, amplifiers is not always about measurements.
hey mike, yeah I’m interested in this O2 review as well. he says bass extension is good and I wonder if the PRaT is there, any chance you could build a bare board with the materials he listed on the site ?
Okay, I’ll try to make a review happen. 😉
Shoot man, I don’t even know how I’ll make it happen.
It’s a DIY right? So not in the mood for another DIY project at the moment.
I have the Grado SR80i. I spend a lot of time listening to them on my laptop, and I’m considering either pairing them with one of the following options:
a) HRT Music Streamer II –> PA2V2
b) FiiO E7
c) FiiO E10
I’m wondering whether any of these options will result in a meaningful boost in listening enjoyment, assuming they do, the value of each relative to the others. My spending limit is option (a). I’m curious also if there are any other options I should consider.
Thanks in advance.
First of all, good headphones there.
From the three, I think the HRT MS2 + PA2V2 would definitely be the best sounding option.
Now the other question as to listening enjoyment, that’s always hard to answer. When I first gotten into headphones I can hardly tell the difference between an RSA Apache amp (a $3K desktop amp) to an iPod’s headphone out. But after a while our senses got more sensitive over time and now just about changing any component in the system would make a difference. Another example is this. When I started getting into road cycling I couldn’t tell the difference between an entry level tire to a soft compound race tire. A few months later, whenever I ride on race tires I just can’t help but notice how easy it is to go fast on them.
Not always do a more expensive component give better musical enjoyment, though they most probably would let you hear the music better and clearer. It’s like choosing a car, the more expensive car is not always the better car though it always come with more stuff: luxury, comfort, horsepower et cetera. The key here is finding what sounds good to your music.
Would you mind giving another advice, please? ^^
I’d like to replace my IEMs (old Shure E2C) at the office for something more comfortable. I had surgery a few years ago that leave my right ear canal shrunken, then IEMs can be painful on a 2 or 3 hours listening session.
The reqs. are :
– comfortable, circumaural would be appreciated but not mandatory,
– strong isolation, don’t want to bother my colleagues,
– a bit on the V side, “strong” (not too much) bass and treble for listening to anything except classical and
– not tooooo expensive as I’m looking at the Fiio E10 after reading your article, to possibly pair it with your recommendation.
Please don’t go too high end, I’m just a noob who recently acquired some (cheap) stuff to change his mind on oil snake : Musiland Digital Times -> Audio-gd Sparrow / WM8741 + DIR9001 -> Superlux HD668B (with AKG velour pads for comfort). To tell the truth, I was quite surprised to be able, even with my broken right ear, to ABX Lame -V2 against FLAC on some musical styles. ^^’
Thanks in advance for your reply and thanks also for your dedication.
So let me get this straight, you want a slight V-shaped sounding headphone to listen to any genres BUT classical? Because normally mainstream music don’t do too well with V-shaped headphones, whereas Classical can actually sound pretty good on them.
Anyway the Superlux monitoring lines sort of do that, including your HD668B and also the HD662 for even more V-shaped. If you want to go with something fancier and more comfortable the Beyers would also give that (DT770 250 ohm for instance, is V-shaped and closed).
Thank you for taking the time to reply. Concentration (job-related) imperceptibly goes down when I listen to classical, then I prefer to listen to this genre at home. I don’t really have basis for comparison between different styles of headphones ,then if you had to buy a (non-V shaped?) comfortable closed headphone for anything but classical, what would you go with? Audio Technica M-50? I’ll do my possible to compare your recommendations in a musician-oriented store, unfortunately a bit far away from home.
Okay, here are some closed headphones you can consider:
But those are all supra aural. Strangely I don’t really have a strong recommendation for a circumaural closed headphone.
Hi Need a DAC recommendation around 300-350 (or lower). Many ppl say DACs in theory should all sound alike if built well, i dont agree. that being said, there are so many choices out there. much of a different between a 150$ HRT and a 350$ DAC? Thanks!
Please check entry #2 on the FAQ:
thanks. personally what would you recommend in the >400 range?
Do you have any experience with Starkey? Apperently they are a Norwegian based company, and have a line of custom IEM’s…
I got a recommendation from you a week ago to go for JH5Pro. And said I probably would, and could probably get my impressions in this hearing aid place I pass by from my bus to where I work every day… Well, it turns out that place was actually Starkeys. The windows I pass by every day seing some folks work on something I never could make out, are people making hearing aids and custom IEM’s o.o
So was wondering if you have had any experience with any of Starkeys IEM’s, and how they would compare to the JH5Pro specificly.
Sorry, definitely no experience with Starkeys, but I’d look into them.
Keep in mind that custom IEMs, like universals, have different sound signatures. And I recommended the JH5 because I am familiar with the sound signature.
Worth a shoot to ask you atleast. Heard good things about them though, but I’ll go for the JH5Pros for now. Starkey doesen’t seem to have any IEM’s in the same pricerange, the cheapest starting at $600, to the top model at $1300 or so. So I’ll just make the slightly cheaper JH5Pro’s my first customs, and I’ll check out Starkeys in the future. Shouldn’t be to hard to get a demo of some models either, if I stop by.
Though I was happy to find out it was Starkey I got my impressions at. Apperently they use the exactly same production method (for the shell of course) as JH Audio, so they should know how to make good impressions 😉
That’s really expensive. $600 for how many drivers? and the $1300 for how many drivers?
Well at least you’ll be getting a good impressions.
The $600 is also included the impressions, if you can go there to get them (which I can, of course). From the user review I’ll link: “Price of the SA-12 is around $600 plus VAT” However, since I’m already in Norway, and won’t have to pay the import tax, it’s just $600 for me, if I decide to go for them, or some other Starkey product.
But yeah, those are dual drivers. Misread the pricelist, the most expensive “normal” is about $1000, the $1300 was the SA 12 with some kind of michrophone technology. The SA 43, the $1000:
4 balanced armature drivers, 3-way system, 2nd order (12dB/octave) hard-wired passive crossover (50 Hz and 5,3 kHz)
Thanks for the info, Roger.
Any chance you’ll be reviewing the Burson DA-160 DAC? What DAC do you recommend to go with Burson HA-160 if my requirements are cleanliness and dead neutrality? I would like my source to be as clean as possible with the amp providing the flavor.
Do you feel that the Senn trio (580, 600, 650) is a logical upgrade from a
Superlux HD660? What would you consider an upgrade for it in the price bracket
of 300-500 usd while maintaining similar sound characteristic? Note that it must
be able to be driven with a JDSLabs amp.
No the sound signature is rather different. The HD25-1 is more similar to the HD660 and if you read the article you can find points where I compared the HD660 to the HD25-1. http://www.headfonia.com/the-new-superluxes-are-good-the-hd330-hd440-and-the-hd660/
Just a simple question from me. I just got an Alo RX. Between HD600 and HE-300, which one do you think would be better with this amp?..
Thanks in advance 🙂
Both are good, but I think the HD600 pairs a little better with the Rx.
I’m a long time reader of your site, and I absolutely love your reviews! What I want to know is if you’ve ever heard the Denon AH-D2000 and what you think of them in comparison to the other standard mid-fi headphones (such as HD650, DT880 etc.). Also, what combos pair well with the D2000s? At the moment I have an HRT MSII with a Little Dot MKV. I’m not sure if you have had any experience with Little Dot, but if you do I’d really like if you could compare them to other amps that you like. I am considering upgrading my system and I’d like to know what you think is the next step.
I predominantly listen to classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Pink Floyd etc.) and sometimes classical music or ambience, if that’s any help to you at all.
Thanks in advance!
Thanks for the compliments. I haven’t listened to the D2000s for a long time now, and so I’m probably not the best guy to ask for suggestions on that topic.
What’s more I’ve also haven’t had the chance to listen to LD MK5, the last one I listened to is the MK4. The MK5 is a solid state, if I am not mistaken?
Why don’t you try out other headphones? That would be one recommendation I can give you. They would give you a bigger change in experience than say a more expensive amplifier/DAC would, unless you’ve listened to the other headphones and have decided that the D2000 is the one you like best.
You can try the Grado SR225/325 and the Senn HD650/600 for starters.
Cool, I’ll look into the Grado SR series, but I feel very satisfied with my D2000’s as is. I once tried the Sennheiser series amped with the Schiit amps (I tried ’em all) and didn’t care too much for them. They just seem too lazy in comparison to my D2000’s. However, they were just out of the box so I don’t know what burning in will do to them.
The Little Dot MKV is indeed SS, by the way. I haven’t had the chance to listen to the MKIV though, would you happen to recall any impressions you had of them?
Thanks again, Mike!
The MK4 is a silky smooth vacuum tube sound but it has the similar laid-back or lazy mentality as the Senns which you didn’t like, so perhaps you’ll be better off with solid state amps like the Burson HA-160.
hellow mike… can u recommend myself a good headphone in the range of 300-500 usd which is suitable for music i listen to for example;
1. acoustics (jazz, kenny g, soundtrack from ocean’s 11-13, star wars, lotr etc.)
2. vocals (mainstream pop, a bit of old school r&b eg. boyziimen, az yet etc.)
3. bands (alternative eg. muse, oasis etc… ,old school rock eg. firehouse, def lepard)
and i dont listen to hip hop & techno… thank u
… and a few options pls from the cheapest to expensive in that range 🙂
You’re asking for a lot of things there.. perhaps it’ll be best if you do some reading first then let me know if you’ve narrowed down the choices.
By the way I don’t think you can get one headphone that covers all those different music.
The best I can do is this: http://www.headfonia.com/category/budget/300-500/
is it? oh btw the link is not working?
Yes, you’re asking for recommendations for three genres, and a few alternatives from the cheapest to expensive. I don’t care if you put a smiley at the end of your request, but I think you’re just being a lazy ass there.
I enjoy helping people find a good headphone for their music, but I’m definitely not answering yours.
maybe the beyer t70p or the srh 940 ? 🙂
mike, have you ever heard audiotrak prodigy cube? someon sells it to me for less than $100
this is in reference to the AlgoRhythm Solo from Cypher Labs. also, i’m still new to this audiophile world, so forgive the ignorance.
1. i’ve read all of the product info available on their website, but i’m still not sure what this thing actually does. ok, so it extracts uncompressed audio from ipods/ipads? then what am i getting out of an ipod with ALAC files, but without the Solo connected? is the ipod somehow compressing these lossless files before sending them out?
2. is there a noticeable difference in the experience with vs. without an AR Solo and a quality rig (e.g., ipod + ALAC files + amp (e.g., ALO Continental) + headphones (e.g., Grado))?
Question: Top 3 (or just any that you feel would be appropriate for my needs) full size headphones around $100-$350 that are well suited for (primarily) The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but also occasional Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, with some indie rock thrown in the mix, etc. Also, a fairly affordable (under $100, even under $75) amp to go with your suggestions would be great!
I’ve been saving up money and I’m excited to enter the world of good headphones with great sound. I really appreciate you taking the time to read this and any help or advice you can offer me. Thanks! -eli
Are you going to review the Schiit Bifrost?
hello mike, i want to ask about something but pardon me that my english are bad 😀
im a user of hd595, and i paired it direct with cowon j3, and i just feel an amazing experience hearing all vocals and the clarity (hearing orchestra, josh groban, and piano instrument), but i feel the bass is so lacking, and im purchasing px100ii and i feel that i rarely using my hd595 now because for me, px100ii bring much energy and a lot of fun factor to my ears….i love the bass and the warmth (i listen mostly on k-pop, pop rock like avril lavigne, goo goo dolls, michelle branch, matchbox 20, john mayer, but i also like a pop like lady gaga, bruno mars)
i found 2 headphones here based on review…and i think they gonna be doing amazing job to my genre…
1. Sennheiser HD25 1-II
2. Audio Technica Pro700mk2
my question is, which one will be better for me?
i like headphone with engaging sound and has a lot of fun factor so i can hear it for a long period of time…because basicly, bass headphone are a bit boring after some period of time for human ears…
Bass Punch is stronger in pro700mkII
Vocal is more likeable of HD25, forward and have a better body
High of Pro700MKII is peaky or as I call it, “Sharp”
for me, I find Pro700MKII fatiguing, even when it is extremely Bassy and fun.
HD25 have replaceable cables and i like its tonality, so my vote is hd25
hi rian, thx for helping and advice….
since theres no audition in my city so i can tried both of them
my question would be, which one is more engaging?hd25?
because i dont really care with comfortability or portability, since maybe i can change mk2 pad with m50 pad, and i dont concern about the replaceable cable bcoz i used them in fron of my laptop at home…
i just want a headphone that can be my “life partner” and sounds fun everytime i wear them 😀 and i listen mostly on k-pop, rock, and pop rock.
replaceable cable does not have anything to do with where you are using the headphones.
It concerns more on the fact that you can improve that headphone in the aspect of sound, cable length, plugs, plug type etc. without opening the body of the headphone itself
1 headphone as a life-partner maybe very hard to find, but HD25 has beed partners of many people in my local forum (as well as ppl outside) with K-Pop, Rock and Pop Rock, HD25 is one of the headphones that will pop out of my mind.
if that so, have u ever tried px100ii?which one has a deeper bass?hd25 or px100ii?
i found that maybe px100ii bass a little bit too much so the bass always showd up first in the beginning of song, it is like the bass are in the front line of the song…
but i find that px100ii had a fun factor (i give a score for the fun factor is 8 of 10)
what about hd25 and promk2? what score can u give to both of them? 😀
Tried px100ii once, yes it is a fun headphone, with the loose ends and boomy bass. If you’re only seeing fun factor from the bass, then HD25 will not be that fun.
Fun on HD25 is caused by its tight bass punch, forward and engaging mid and lively high cramped in a small soundstage.
Whereas fun of Pro700MKII is on its bass that will extend low and its big and punchy bass. The vocal is a little hard to like as well as the treble which tend to be really sharp.
Overall fun on px100II = 7, HD25 = 8.5 on stock cable, Pro700MKII = 5
If I can add something, the Pro700 Mk2 is a fairly specialized headphone and though a lot of fun, it is still specialized. The HD25-1 has a broader appeal and will work better with a wider range of music.
I think I’d agree with Rian here. The Pro700 Mk2 has awesome bass, but perhaps for the average Pop/Rock stuff the tonality is too bass heavy.
Is it possible for me to use HRT-MS2 w/ my laptop as a stand alone dac. I was planning to connect MS2->laptop via usb then why http://www.amazon.com/Male-3-5mm-Stereo-Female-Y-Cable/dp/B000I23TTE/ref=pd_cp_e_pw_2 to headphones. Do I need to pair it up w/ an amp.
The output of HRT MS2 is analogue. If you can find the interconnect of RCA male to 1/4 or 1/8 Female, then you can listen to it already 😀
Yes, Analog so sound would come out but it’s not the most ideal solution.
Yes it would possible and you would get sound out of it, but there would be two compromises: 1. You’re not going to get a proper bass impact when your music calls for it. 2. Treble may be a little muffled.
That’s because the line output is designed not to drive headphones but to feed into another separate amplifier.
I’d recommend you get something like the CEntrance DACport which already has a headphone amplifier built in: http://www.headfonia.com/centrance-dacmini-and-dacport/
Or if you would prefer to keep the budget low, go with the Fiio E10: http://www.headfonia.com/the-latest-must-have-the-fiio-e10-usb-dacamp/
Both the DACport and the E10 has built in amplifiers so you can plug headphones directly into it.
Can a FiiO E6 fully drive Superlux HD660? If not, why? Will the sound be different from better amp? Can you recommend a better solution within that price range?
Yes I think the E6 should be able to drive the HD660.
Of course the sound will be better from a better amp.
A better solution? Not so sure at the moment. The CmoyBB from JDSLabs is a better amp but you’re also paying more for it, and it doesn’t have the rechargeable battery and the small size that the E6 has.
If E6 can fully drive Hd660. What makes it different from other more expensive amp? Why more expensive Amp sounds better even though E6 is able to drive up to 300 ohm according to specification?
Thank you for your answer earlier.
It’s like cars and clothes and computers and shoes and phones I guess. Any phone can make a phone call, but some are better than others.
Likewise, amplifiers are just different. You have to try to listen to them then you’ll know the difference.
Have you ever heard the Phiaton MS400 headphones? They were reviewed in Stereophile and Soundstage a few years ago. I’m looking for a good portable headphone (non-IEM) and it sounds like you like the Sennheiser HD-25-1. I was wondering how the Phiatons compared to the HD-25-1. Thanks.
The Phiaton is smoother sounding, soundstage is better, but it’s also more laidback and less forward, less engaging than the HD25-1.
I wrote many times that the HD25-1’s driver is aged and that many headphones these days better the resolution of the HD25-1 drivers, including the MS400. But the thing about the HD25-1 is that it’s forward and engaging sound signature sounds very good.
Thanks for the insights. Another question: do you have a favorite USB DAC/head amp combo? I’m thinking about the CEntrance DacMini or the Nuforce HDP. Any thoughts on those two? Or is there another you’d recommend in that price range?
I really enjoyed the DACmini and I’d recommend that. The Nuforce, however, I dont’ have any experience with.
I’d recommend the DACmini. I think it’s a good product. The Nuforce HDP however I don’t have any experience with.
this is in reference to the AlgoRhythm Solo from Cypher Labs. also, i’m
still new to this audiophile world, so forgive the ignorance.
i’ve read all of the product info available on their website, but i’m
still not sure what this thing actually does. ok, so it extracts
uncompressed audio from ipods/ipads? then what am i getting out of an
ipod with ALAC files, but without the Solo connected? is the ipod
somehow compressing these lossless files before sending them out?
is there a noticeable difference in the experience with vs. without an
AR Solo and a quality rig (e.g., ipod + ALAC files + amp (e.g., ALO
Continental) + headphones (e.g., Grado))?
1. It’s not about compression. The files that are on your Ipod are DIGITAL files. The digital files need to be converted to ANALOG so they can be made into sound waves. This process requires what is commonly called as a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). On an Ipod/Ipad/Iphone, you’re using the internal DAC, which is not very good. The CLAS takes the digital files straight from the I-device and process them using a better DAC for a better analog signal.
2. Obvioiusly. But also read FAQ #2
got it. thanks, Mike. =)
You’re welcome, Jason. 🙂
I’m looking for a portable amp to use along with an iPhone 4s (Pre-Ordered) and my UE700 and Sony MDR-z1000. Any good suggestions? I would like to stay at or below $100. Thanks for your comments.
Thanks for your response mike as I very much appreciate it. I have read through the reviews and have narrowed my choices to the Fiio E11, iBasso D-Zero, and the SoundMagic A10 (Didn’t like the fact that they JDSLabs Cmoy was in an Altoids box, the volume dial on the SoundMagic doesn’t bother me as it will not hinder my use, still somewhat considering the Fiio E11). As I mentioned above I have a pair of UE700 and Sony MDR-z1000 (using mostly the Sony’s) and will be sourcing the setup through my iPhone 4s. I would like to know if you believe there is an amp that matches the best with my setup or it doesn’t really for my sake. I listen mostly to Hip-Hop/Pop, Classical and Rock, in that respective order. Also, my audio files are 320 kb/s so will an amp even be relatively put to good use?
I know I’m asking a lot and I very much appreciate your thoughts.
*edit – (meant to say still someone considering the Fiio E7)
I think you need a more refined amp for your Z1000 but if you want to keep the budget low then I’d recommend either the E11 or the D-Zero.
Thanks! If I were to get a more expensive and refined portable Amp as you are suggesting what would be your best pick to pair with my Z1000. I would like to keep below $300 if possible. Thanks and I appreciate your help!
Sorry if this has been asked before but what do you feel about the Sennheiser IE8s vs Earsonics SM3s? I know this is a popular question but I was just wondering how you feel about the two. How do they match up in your eyes?
IE8: Spacious, laid back, relaxed, heavy lows.
SM3: Flat, forward mids and upper mids.
Which one do you think fits better for your music?
Mm, I already have the SM3V2s, so I’m trying to find something to complement it. I feel that something’s missing with the SM3s, whether it’s because of its portrayal of soundstage or something else.. I also kinda want something slightly less isolating.. The IE8 seems to be a good match, I’m only afraid that it’s highs and mids aren’t good enough (Although your $300 IEM writeup seems to indicate otherwise, just that its sort of overpowered by the bass hump)
I’m also kinda waiting for the IE80 to be released, according to a certain member of Head-Fi it seems to fix some of the flaws of the IE8. However, said guy on Head-Fi that has them early is very.. suspicious.
The IE8 got a lot of bad press when it was released, but actually it’s quite an enjoyable IEM. It will definitely give you the soundstage that the SM3 doesn’t have and a very different laid-back presentation that would complement the SM3 very well.
Another IEM to try is the ER4 which has one of the best soundstage around but I think it may be too polarizing for the mainstream crowd.
Yeah, I’ve tried the ER4s and its variations before, totally forgot about it. I’ll add that to the already long audition list..
Thanks for the help!
Recently got a Burson HA-160. Currently feeding it with a DACport.
Am looking for a dedicated DAC. Have u got any recommendations for a very clean and neutral DAC? Would like my source to be as clean as possible with the amp providing the flavor. What are my options besides the obvious DACmini?
The DACport LX fits the bill very well I think.
Right, thanks Mike
ok, thx mike and rian, but i still had a question in my mind…
since ive already had hd595 for vocal, orchestra, and classic
i’ve only concerned about rock (avril, googoo dolls, matchbox20, john mayer), k-pop(super junior, 2pm, beast), and basshead pop (lady gaga, bruno mars)
based on this 3 genre, which one i should pick that has a strong fun factor for this 3 genre?
HD25 1-II or ATH PRO700MK2 ?
because some people tells me that both of them are great for this 3 genre. im very confused.
there’s no audition in my city so i can’t try both of them.
I’ve said this yesterday (somewhere) and I’ll say it again:
The Pro700 Mk2 is a specialized basshead headphone. The HD25-1 is a better all rounder headphone.
no, i mean that for bass, mk2 is the winner right?so mk2 kills hd25 for my basshead pop genre, meanwhile can hd25 kills mk2 for rock genre?
i want a phone who can kills both rock and basshead…would u dare to say that hd25 allrounder speciality do that for me?
The Pro700 Mk2 is a specialized basshead headphone. The HD25-1 is a better all rounder headphone. They are two different things. It’s like asking for a Ferrari-fast and a Hummer-tough car in one car.
Hi. I am giving my friend a super portable headphone. I was thinking of the buying her the Portapro or the PX100-ii since it’s a bit cheap and way better than Urbanears Plattan, which she likes. Her sounds are mostly r&b, with a little rock and hiphop. Are those two good for those genres?
i’m a user of px100ii, for me, its good with r&b and hip hop, and it’s quite good also for rock but the bass seems overtaking anything on rock genre…but t has a lot of fun factor that makes the sound so engaging…i think its a really fun headphone.
Yes, it’s a very fun headphone. Some people I find are too critical of evaluating the sound that they can’t appreciate the musicality aspect of it.
I think the Plattans are not too good, JB. I’d definitely recommend the PX100-II more.
Yeah I tried the Plattans earlier today. I did not like them. How about the Sj33? They are similarly priced here and it’s closed. Or the Sj11 to save a couple of bucks?
Just go for the SJ33 and get a better sound. 🙂
HI there, Excuse my Beginner knowledge
Im looking for a way to improve music sound from my iPod to my AT M50 Headphones and from my computer as well. I have read the portable amp shootout and it looks like the fiio E11 is my best bet although there is also the E7. What does the DAC in the E7 do? Is it an advantage over the E11. Im just looking for the best portable sound option and am wondering if the E7 offers that, And how/if it offers that over the E11Budget up at about $300Any other suggestions are welcome
Are you looking for a portable amp (in the case of the Ipod to you M50) or a USB DAC?
The Fiio E11 is only an amplifier, and it has no DAC. The E7 does both amplification and DAC function but the amp is less potent than the E11.
For an explanation on what a DAC do, look at FAQ #6: http://www.headfonia.com/faq/
You can also read about the new Fiio E10: http://www.headfonia.com/the-latest-must-have-the-fiio-e10-usb-dacamp/
and the Ibasso D-Zero: http://www.headfonia.com/fiio-e7-meet-your-rival-the-ibasso-d-zero/
What’s the Superlux HD661 like in comparison to the HD668B and other Superluxes? Is its tonality suited to music listening or is it more for professional use? And how does its soundstage performance compare to the HD668B?
The tonality is better for music listening, when compared to the Superlux monitoring stuff.
The soundstage is okay though, it’s a portable headphone and the soundstage is not going to be as good as the HD668B, though I find it to be better than the Sony MDR7506
I need to buy some new (full size/circumaural) headphones, and spend around $100-$300. I’m interested in entering the “audiophile” world and with my budget, headphones are ideal. I’ve done quite a bit of research & narrowed it down, but I’m having a hell of a time making the final decision. I’m not near any stores where I can try them out for myself, so that makes it challenging.
If I were to boil down my musical listening habits, I’d say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who are first and foremost), the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, indie rock like Arcade Fire or the National & Miles Davis represent what the headphones would be used for, along with occasional use in monitoring/recording guitar. Comfort is important, but it’s secondary to sound quality—A balanced sound with detailed bass that isn’t muddy or synthetic sounding (but still moving & powerful), detailed treble that isn’t sharp or uncomfortable, & detailed/smooth mids are all ideal. As for closed vs. open, I prefer closed, but I’d rather have superior sound quality & comfort. For the most part, I’ll be using my MacBook Pro & may get an affordable amp/DAC in the future. For my budget & purposes, should I stick with relatively low impedance, perhaps under 100Ω ?I want to feel the music in my soul, hear lovely details I’ve never heard before, & be so into the music that my heart beat syncs to the rhythm, ya’ dig? :-)I’m open to other suggestions, but these are the headphones I’m most interested in at this point: Sennheiser HD598, AKG 271 MKII, Beyerdynamic DT 880 or DT 770 (or pro versions, but I don’t really understand the difference aside from aesthetics, more rugged build and that the Pro series are cheaper), & several Audio-Technica models. I’m really having a hard time & don’t know what reviews or websites to listen to (i.e., who’s full of shit & who really knows what they’re talking about).What are the best closed headphones and what are the best open headphones (for my purposes) under $300-$350?Thoughts? Warnings? Advice? Suggestions? Help?!?!!Thanks for any help you can give me!!! I really appreciate it!
I appreciate your post, but I’m struggling to read that wall of text, so I’ll try to answer the best I can.
Hi Fi headphones not only improve the quality of your listening but also magnifies the faults in the recordings. Like looking through a pair of clear glasses — nice but you’ll see dirt and smog better at the same time.
Now, some of your music don’t have very good recordings, for instance RHCP and Miles Davis (not sure about BB King and Arcade Fire), while stuff like the Rolling stones are actually very good. So what you want is a musical headphone, but nothing too revealing. The Beyerdynamics for instance are studio monitoring headphones and they will magnify any faults in the recordings so I wouldn’t recommend them.
I also don’t think you should choose based on impedance ratings since it tells you nothing about the sound of the headphone.
I think you should take the time to read around the site. We have some very popular articles that you can check out, also by reading people’s comments you’ll be able to get a better idea on what works with what.
Here is a few for starters:
The Sennheiser HD25-1 is a very popular headphone that is easy to like, and I would recommend it highly even though it is not a circumaural.
Let me know if you have any further questions.
I’m listening with Denon D2000 Headphones and an O2 amplifier. I’m using 320Kbps MP3 files apart from some of my favorite albums which i have endeavored to get in Flac.
Should I get an iBasso D-Zero or a Fiio E10? The E10 offers better resolution when I’m at home but it isn’t portable, while the iBasso has a worse(bitrate/depth wise) but i can take it wherever I want. I like to listen to music as much and as often as possible – about 2+ hours a day about 1 hour of that is done while away from a PC (iPod) but currently with poor quality IEMs.
Using the D2000s and the O2 will I be able to hear the difference between 24bit and 16 bit audio?
Alternatively could you recommend a product with a price close to that of the E10 and the iBasso D-Zero which amplifies at least enough for my D2000’s while outputting 24/96?
Thanks in advance, Dom
I would just get the D-Zero for simplicity sake. You can use it as a portable amp when you’re in the move.
I don’t think you have to feel too bad about the 320kbps mp3 files. The quality of 320kbps (or even 256kbps) files are actually good enough for most mainstream music. The amplifier however will help you in this case to get better punch from your music.
Also don’t worry about 24 or 16 bit for now. It’s only audible in very critical listening sessions.
hi mike, first of all, thanks a lot for giving us so much of your time and advises.
I’m currently having a dacmini for desktop use and cowon iaudio 7+pa2v2 for portable use
as headphones, I’m owning beyer DT 990 pro 250ohm ones, akg 501 an dsenheiser px -100
I’m looking for a set up to enjoy my favorite ska-punk-rock bands: hot water music is a good exemple.
as a headphone choice, I’m thinking of the hd 25-1 for it’s good prat tight and impactfull bass (I hate boomy bass like the ones on the dr dre headphones I recently tried.
But the HE-4 seems a good option too as the M-50. I have a pretty good conceptual idear or those cans as I’ve read your review a lot of times…and when I say a lot…. 😉
my grief against the dacmini is that it sounds like a very good technical stuff (and they come some pro audio after all) but I can’t succed in beeing drown with music and that’s where I’m hoping your real life experience could help me. too thin, too flat, to cold
as a desktop, I’m wondering if I could try something like the HRT MSII+ into the dacmini in order to get mid and bass body, more enveloping sound and maybe a little more gain that also could be helpfull.
I was aslo wondering if something like the HM-601 could be a good or better choice as in the end, I mostly use my desktop dac-amp with a speaker system ? as an all in one.
or try the Fiio E10.
any advise is welcome and if I’m not clear enough (it’s sometimes hard to be so) what would be a great and impactfull “all arounder” for fast pace music postable and/or desktop.
I tried listening to the link on youtube, and it looks like something that I would enjoy with a simple Fiio E10 + HD25-1 set up.
The HRT will give you a better resolution DAC, but with that sort of music and recording, I’m not sure if you would really need the extra resolution. What’s important is to keep the energy in the music going, added with some warmth and body. Things like micro details and soundstage is not going to be a big deal with that music.
The DACmini, yes I can see why it’s going to sound thin,flat,cold as you say, again based on the music you listen to.
I think I’d still opt for the E10 over the HM-601 in this case, unless you need the DAP capability.
thanks a lot mike for the reply,
I just place an order for the E10 and will keep you update 😉
thanks a lot.
any plans to review the V-Moda M80? I got one and Im surprised, granted I did not had much expectations but I think you might like this sound. not bass heavy and the top plus are the nice mids not recesed at all, I would like to read your thoughts about it.
It’s that good, huh? I’ll try to get a unit for review then.
i want to upgrade from my factory earbuds and get a “nice” pair of headphones. i’m looking at the grado SR80i since they’ve gotten positive reviews and are in my college student price range. i’ve read that overall, open headphones offer better sound than closed headphones.
my concern is that i do a lot of my listening in the library and in my dorm (with a roommate). i always listen at a reasonable level, but i’m worried about how much sound bleeds out of these open-type headphones. can people sitting across the room (10-15 feet) from me hear the music with these open headphones? i also fly back home quite frequently. can the person i’m sitting next to hear what i’m listening to?
The sound leak will be audible if the surrounding is really quiet. Even 10-15 feet would still leak if it’s at night and most people are sleeping. Likewise on the plane the SR80i would probably be useless.
Check out the HD25-1 instead. It’s similar to the SR80i but closed, and it’s also a very popular headphone.
thanks for the input Mike. i’ll look into the Sennheisers
Hey Mike, great site with informative reviews!
In your Matrix Mini-I Review you mentioned the volume knob also adjusts the balanced XLR output. I was wondering if it’s possible to directly connect a balanced HD 650 to this input (without an amplifier)?
Thanks in Advance
Didn’t I reply to this question somewhere else, or did that reply failed to go through?
Mike, firstly, thanks for all the insight from your reviews.
I was wondering what was meant by dac synergy in respect to a headphone. Does it mean that it balances out the headphone, or that it livens it up, or something completely different?
For example, you’ve mentioned the U100 has a great synergy with the hd 650. Since the yulong is mildly bright in nature, does that add a potentially fatiguing treble to the cans?
Looking forward to your response 🙂
When I say synergy it would mean that the sound somewhat balances out and livens up the sound of the headphone. The U100 works well for the HD650 as it makes the HD650 a livelier headphone (a lot of people find it to be too smooth and too boring).
Thanks for the help
You’re welcome, Will.
Repost: I tried the plattans today and did not like them. I am also considering the SJ33 as it is closed and has the same price as the PX100-ii and the much cheaper SJ11. Would that be also a good headphone for r&b and a little rock and hip hop?
Thanks for reposting.
Yes the SJ33 is good. If you can afford the SJ33, it’s definitely better than the SJ11.
The PX100-II is also good but with a different sound signature.
Which do you think will be better for those genres? I am leaning towards the px100 since I think it’s aesthetically better than the sj. But I haven’t tried the sj33. Thanks!
I think both are good. The SJ33 would be better for fast-paced rock.
Oh okay. I’ll check it again later today. Thanks sir!
I have the Audinst HUD MX1. Which one will be a better pairing? HD600/HD650?
The HD600 would be better IMO.
I see. For HD650, will it be enough or should i get a separate amp and connect it via line out?
Great site! I am an orchestra/chamber string player by trade and was wondering what you might recommend. I still have a good set of ears.
Currently I’m using an Asus Xonar D2X via SPDIF->an old Sony STR-DE995 as DAC and amp….out some Dayton B652s and a Kenwood 300 sub. I have a pair of Sennheiser HD555s in the mail, though I’ve been relying on a pair of HD203s. Would any of the sub-$300 USB DACs be an acoustic upgrade from what I have? I’ve also considered an Mbox unit as DAC in addition to recording duties, as I know someone with an older Fast Track selling locally cheap.
I’ll be listening to the full range of the classical string rep, from solo violin a la Bach to Shostakovich symphonies…almost never anything considered “pop” past jazz. I’d probably desire something more on the “honest” side in terms of sound.
any insight much appreciated!
I can’t say if a $300 DAC would be an upgrade since I’ve never listened to your Sony DAC (though newer DACs tend to be better than old ones).
What I can tell you though is that upgrading the 555s (which you have in the mail at the moment) to some HD600/650s would give you a bigger improvement in the sound. The HD600/650s will give you a more accurate tone for the strings and pianos and other instruments, while also improving the impact you need for Shostakovich. Simply put the HD600/650 will be a big upgrade from the 555s if you listen to classical.
Personally I listen to a lot of Bach and Beethoven so I can see where you’re coming from.
Thx much for the input…I’m currently playing around (nothing extensive) with an Mbox Fast Track that the seller is a coworker and letting me try before buying, and just tooling around with Foobar2K I’m already liking the sound better than the headphone-out on my A/V receiver with the HD203s I have on hand.
Hmmm, I’ll weigh in the cans recc, the 555s are gently used and were sub -1/2 retail. For perspective the Fast Track would only be $50.
Again thx much
Yes, please decide on which upgrade will fit you better and don’t hesitate to come back if you have further questions.
Hey mike! I wanna ask you a few questions, pretty a much an unexperienced audiophile myself, so bear with me 😉
1. The ALO continental has a really high distortion, will it affect the music? (Pairing with tf10, customs, hd650)
2. I am using a macbook pro, and is looking for a portable dac/amp for my hd650 and tf10, any reco?
3. I am planning to get customs sooner or later, i am still a college student, will there be constant refit issues as according to many, my ear canal is still growing…
thanks so much man! Sincerely appreciate your help!
1. It is among the best portable amp, but maybe not the best for IEMs due to the gain issue. Check the Continental review. http://www.headfonia.com/the-sweet-sound-of-tube-the-alo-continental-amplifier/
2. Fiio E10 is looking very good at the moment. http://www.headfonia.com/the-latest-must-have-the-fiio-e10-usb-dacamp/
3. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. If you feel you’re not sure then just stick with universals, otherwise just get an entry level customs like the JH5 which I find to be excellent and not too far behind the flagship customs.
Thats fast, thanks! Hmm, do you care to explain to me what exactly is sensitivity? Why does some people say iems/customs can be paired with some amps while some can? Kinda confuse you see, looking for a pretty solid amp that can drive hd650/customs/tf10, been looking at the hp-p1, the RSA predator, the Continental too. In your opinion, which is the best for me?
Yup, E10 is gonna be a yes I think.
Quoted from the article:
The Continental works well with the big full size headphones. I’ve used the Continental with the Sennheiser HD800, Beyerdynamic T1, Hifiman HE-500, and the Audez’e LCD-2. I think it pairs really well with the HD800 and the LCD-2, though okay with the T1, and slightly under powered with the HE-500. With the T1, the Continental had a good thing going with the treble and midrange, but I don’t think it has enough bottom end body to keep the sound planted. RSA amps are probably the better choice for the T1 in this case. As for the HE-500, yes you can use the Continental to get it up to a decent loudness level, but for moderately high volumes, you can feel that the Continental is running out of steam. So in a way, while the Continental comes with plenty of voltage swing to get the loudness level up, I don’t think the hybrid tube circuitry has enough juice to deliver the necessary power for the HE-500.
For IEM use, it would depend on the sensitivity of the IEM you’re using. For instance, with the JH5Pro which is a really sensitive IEM, 8 O’clock would give me reasonably loud levels. With the Hifiman RE272, I would listen at around 11 O’clock. Using the amp with a sensitive IEM like the JH5Pro is actually not a big issue, but just don’t expect a very delicate control over the volume.
Hmm thanks man, better understanding now. So if I use a sensitive iem/custom with the amp for example, will i hear certain background sounds from the iem/customs?
You may hear some hiss from the amp, yes.
Hello again Mike, I’m here to bug you again with those 598/600 🙂
I have them, I used them, I like them both. Now I can understand terms like “more laid back” and alike 🙂
My problem is the E10 hasn’t arrived yet and I only have 4 more days to return one of the headphones and the E10 won’t arrive till then.
Now, for my experience with the cans: I feel the 598 are a bit more dark, a bit more punchier and upfront, while the 600 are more laid back, more open, the soundstage is indeed larger and the bass while not that present like in the 598(weird :/) it seems simply better(have no other word for it, but you get what I mean). Seems about the same as in your review about these 2, hehe
My question is: I use them directly through my 2011 iMac’s headphone jack(I mentioned the model, maybe you had any experience with it’s onboard sound card), when I’ll use them through the E10, the general characteristics and the differences between the two would remain pretty much the same? Or there’s a chance the whole experience would drastically change? I want to know if I have to return them both and order them again when the E10 gets here, or if I can make up my mind now.
For example, so far I’m inclined to pick the 600’s since although I like the bass on the 598 more, I just hope the 600 will improve on that when put through an amp. But maybe the 598 soundstage will increase enough to compete with the 600, then I’ll have to go with the 598’s better bass and improved soundstage. Or maybe the 600 will improve on bass AND soundstage then Ill stick with 600. Etc, etc … you get what I mean :P.
Damn, I wrote a lot again, but I really need to know if I can pick one now, or return both and order again when the amp gets here 🙁 Damn shipment delays!
Sounds like you’re enjoying them. Keep the HD600 man, it’s the better headphone no doubt. 🙂
Guess I’ll do that after all. 🙂
Suppose after I’ll put them through the E10, everything will get even better, right?
On a side note, I usually don’t pump the volume too high, am I right in saying that an amp will improve sound quality(making the cans sound like the should) even at a lower volume? Because I feel that now, without an amp, the difference in quality between a low and a higher volume is huge, in the sense that at a higher volume I experience the true quality of the headphone, at a lower volume both the 598/600 sound just a bit better than my 201’s… Or am I just crazy? lol 🙂
Man I’m really slow at answering all these questions. Sorry, Roland.
On the topic of having an amplifier or not:
An amplifier is mostly made to help with getting the sound to higher volume levels — so if you don’t listen at high volume then most of the time it’s fine to go without an amp.
But that is not always the case. Even at low volume levels, an amplifier can still improve the sound. This all depends on the headphones, the built-in amplifier on your DAP, the music (is it bass heavy or not), and other factors.
So, practically speaking I probably would skip the amp if I only listen at low volume. Theoretically speaking, you can still gain some things, though probably quite minimal, if you add an amp. But these improvements at a low volume would probably only happen on the higher end, more resolving amplifiers.
As for the 598/600 being a bit better than your 201s, I think you need to spend more time with the headphones. 😉
I understand. Shortly put, what I am expecting to improve is mostly the bass. Since there’s enough soundstage even at lower levels(imo at least), the open-ness is there too, only thing that’s really lacking is the bass. And I suppose an amp will help, especially the E10 that has a bass boost(switch).
Considering the amount of nagging I did, I will surely get back to share my experience when the E10 gets here 😛
You’re talking about listening at low level right? Lost the conversation.
Yes, that’s what I was talking about 🙂
hi mike, i think im gonna choose hd25 over pro700mk2,but theres a problem here
i think that circumaural headphone will sounds better than supraaural, right?because it has a larger sound driver…
so, is there any circumaural headphone that has the same sound signature, fun factor, and similar ability, or even BETTER than hd25?what do u think, mike?cheers.
well the review on dt 1350 vs hd25 read that :_)
i don’t think that i will like charater on dt1350, because the bass impact are lesser tahn hd25, and it also supraaural…so…is there any suggestion here?:D thanx…
It all comes back to the sound signature and the music pairings.
I wouldn’t let statements like “circumaural are better than supraaurals”. Yes on one aspect it is, like “a bigger car is better than a smaller car”, but if you live in a city where the traffic is always congested and you almost always ride alone, then a smaller car is better than a bigger car, if you know what I mean.
So in this case I wouldn’t really worry about circumaural or supraaural unless you really can’t stand wearing a supraaural.
And in the case of the HD25-1, have you actually listened to it? A lot of people have gotten it and are very happy with it, I suggest you give it a try first.
Also try the Superlux HD660. To me it’s like a HD25-1 with a bigger soundstage (though the bigger soundstage is not necessarily better, just like the car argument).
Hey Mike, apparently Audez’e has announced a new flagship headphone the LCD-3. They state the release will be(according to their website) early November. Here’s a link with a bit more info-https://audeze.com/blog Any thoughts? Or is speculation a bit early at this point?
It’ll be a good headphone. Won’t be twice as good, but it’ll be good, better than the LCD-2.
Hey Mike, few month ago I was looking for a headset that is comparable to my buddy’s Beat. On one of your review you talked about AT ATH-M50 and 9 others. I was sold on the M50, which I’m loving it now, with it I bought Fiio E5. It only increased the bass but killed all the rest of the detail. So, Last night I ordered a PA2V2.(He live just around the corner from me, I love supporting the locals!). Thanks for all the review!!
Anyways, my questions is……
I understand you need a LOD when using a Iphone to get a better sound, but what if I want to use my Android phone. Which it only have 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro usb, which is the best way to get the best sound out of the device. I’m a noob at this.
Sounds good, ben.
As for your Android phone, I am not sure if it doesn’t come with a port for an audio line out then I’ll just use the 3.5mm headphone jack, no worry.
I’m looking for some open headphones for around $130 and less. I’m interested in the ATH AD700 and the Superlux 668B for Classical, Bluegrass eg. Doc and the Lady http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QGKlZLgz3w) and soundtrack music (eg. Lord of the Rings Soundtrack). Which of these headphones would you suggest I use?Thanks
And could you please add any headphone suggestions of your own.
Yes, just did. Sorry for the slow reply.
That’s quite a lot to ask for a $130 headphones.
AD700 will give you the airy and spacious sound that’ll be good for stuff like Doc and the Lady. It probably won’t give you the bass impact needed for classical (symphonies and piano and such).
If you’re going for Superlux I’d recommend going for the HD660 instead of the HD668B. It’ll play better with all the different music you listed.
I’d also recommend the Alessandro MS1-i. It would be very good for Doc and the Lady, and quite good for Classical and Soundtrack. For the latter two genres I’d recommend changing the MS1 stock pads to the higher end bowl pads (MS2, MS-Pro style) to get more air and space in the sound.
Looking into getting a portable player, and am currently thinking about Hifiman HM-601. Enough storing space, don’t need DAC, and aesthetics aren’t really important.
However, I am not in that much of a hurry, and was wondering if there is any new DAP’s in the next year that might be better, and which I should wait for? Or is there nothing exiting on the horizon, and I could just get the HM-601?
FiiO X3 is under development, although it is halted.
Teclast T59 may also be good.
You should wait for them. 🙂
Really can’t say, while there are other DAPs like the Fiio X3, there is no guarantee that it’ll be a better sounding DAP than the HM-601/602.
Well, of course that’s hard to say.
Anyways… If those two are the only ones coming down the line for the next year or so, I might just go ahead and get the 601. From what I read during my 5 minutes googling them, it’s not sure that they’ll beat the 601. So if they turn out well when they come out, I’ll take a second look at them, and get one (or any other new DAP’s that come out during the next years) as an upgrade to my 601.
Though perhaps I should go back one step. Is the 601 a good choice given what’s available at the moment?
Yes the 601/602/603 line up clearly had a focus for a high-end sound quality, and even if Cowon or Fiio or someone else come up with a new DAP I am not sure it will be as focused toward sound quality as the 601/602/603 line up.
Hey, back for another question. Sorry I know this is like the third one within a week, but I’m back on the market for some mid-fi headphones and I really like hearing your opinion on the matter of audio :P. Let me start off by saying what I have now, genres I listen to, etc. Right now I currently own the Re0’s and ATH-AD700’s. Of the two I like the Re0’s overall sound better. I find the AD700’s a little too bass light for my liking and the sound seems to get a little fatiguing over awhile for me.
The music I listen to one one hand it rock of some sort, somewhat of a mix of post-hardcore, alternative, bands like blessthefall, Dance Gavin Dance (songs like Elder Goose from them as they have quite a few different sounds), Escape the Fate, etc. On the other hand I also love electro-pop/synthpop, idk what to even call it tbh lol, but artists such as Owl City, and my all time favorite, Lights. Lights is definitely my most listened to artist by far, and her music ranges from simple relaxing acoustic songs with just a guitar and her soft voice, to a more bass heavy, dubstepish genre with her most recent cd with songs like “Where the Fence is Low”. I really like the AD700’s for her acoustic songs, and her vocals sound good with them, but for everything else it’s lacking except for details. I like the Re0’s sound quite a bit, although it does get fatiguing at times and the fact that it’s a universal IEM makes for uncomfortable long listening sessions. I really love hearing the details of the electro music by Lights, and Owl city, all of the sounds you don’t hear with mediocre car speakers, etc. I want a pair of headphones that I can hear her sweet, soft voice, feel the beat of the heavier songs, while still hearing all of the hidden details in the music.
I’ve been changing my mind constantly doing research between here, head-fi, and just general Google searching. Originally after reading your review of the HE300’s I wanted them, but then switched to the SRH940’s after hearing about how great female vocals and details sound with them, then I briefly considered the AKG k702’s, but rules them out fairly quickly, then came the HD600/650’s, a long time favorite, but then I ended back up on your review of the HE300’s where you make it sound like the HE300’s are superior to the 650’s.
I’m basically at a loss of what to do now, and with no way of personally testing each of them myself I have to go based off of others opinions. I want something that I can enjoy my heavier rock music with (unlike my AD700’s), without sacrificing the detail and vocals. Female vocals are important to me, details, and some bass, I am by no means a bass head, but the AD700’s basically have none. I don’t like a muddy, boomy, slow bass, but rather a fast, tight, accurate bass while still feeling it. I have a budget of less than $400 for headphones and $100 for an amp/dac (most likely going to purchase a Fiio E10). As for how much I will be upgrading my system after this, not very much so basically I want something that is pretty good as is. So far it seems like the HE300’s sound best for me, but I’m just not sure. Also, I have to ask, in the HE300’s review you describe them as sounding superior/on par with the HD650’s, but under recommendations you have the HD650’s listed but not the HE300’s? Just wondering if there was a reason for this. Sorry this question ended up being a lot longer than planned, I just want to make the right decision and hear your stance and hope to have something I will be happy with for awhile. If you have any further questions for me that I might have left out feel free to ask, I’ll be subscribed to the thread :D. Btw thank you very much for answering my previous questions on the other posts and taking the time to read this wall of text, this truly is a great informative site you have going here and wanted you to know it’s greatly appreciated! Thanks again 🙂
P.S- open/closed headphones doesn’t matter, I just want headphones with the best sound for the genres and qualifications I stated above.
For a basic setup, the HE-300 will probably be better as the HD650 (which will do better with the right components). Now I don’t think either HD650 or HE-300 bass is fast. The HD650 is in the list because it simply is the better headphone of the 2.
It’s all in the different reviews 😉
Thanks for the response! Fast bass isn’t really an issue, just as long as it doesn’t fall behind in the music. I’m starting to lean back towards the 650’s again due to 1) they are well known and have been around forever 2) been reading mixed reviews on the HE-300’s. 3) I kind of like the idea of having something that can be upgraded a lot over the years. My main concern is really just what will sound best with my music listed above. Also still considering the HD600’s. Such tough choices! I don’t really know what I want in technical terms, just the things I mentioned above, I just want the best overall sound for what I listed. Overall of the HD600’s, HD650’s, and the HE-300’s what would sound best for my music in your opinion? Also wondering what better for me between just the HD650s and the 600’s? Any input is greatly appreciated!
What Lieven said mostly, but let me add something.
I think the HD650 and the HE-300 would not be fast enough for your music. The HD600 would be a better choice, and so is the HD25-1.
mike..any plan to contact audez’e for lcd-3 review?? i’m itching to get one.. lol
I’m not sure they’re sending out review samples just yet 😉
But as soon as we can get one, we will of course
mike..if you get a pair of those lcd-3.. please..please do 1 favor for me.. make a great pic of those for desktop wallpaper, haha..
Buy me the LCD-3 and I’ll make you a wallpaper.
If you’re itching to get one, then you should get one. 😉
I mean it’s double the price of the LCD-2. Will it be twice as good? Probably not. Will it be better? I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be better.
Wow your reviews are awesome! Very precise, and highly extensive. I very much prefer visiting here than Head-Fi! I have recently found that the Nokia N8’s DAC can be bypassed via USB OTG. This leaves me in a predicament, and very unpleasant one!
1. Teclast T51 Line-out to c421 AMP
2. Nokia N8 Digital line-out to DAC/AMP.
3. iPod Line-out to Fostex HP-P1
I currently have the Cowon S9, and JDS Lab’s CmoyBB. I only have two IEM’s, one being the Sennheiser IE8, and other being the Audio Technica ATH-Ck10. I very much like the Sennheiser IE8 for rock, partially because of the natural, warm, and smooth sound signature, and partially because of the presentation! The CK10’s are great for trance, however sound very unnatural, and unpleasant for rock, well at least to my ears!
The questions begs will a DAC provide significant improvement over the integrated DAC within a Cowon S9, or iPod? Judging by your reviews, I would say yes. However I have been talking to John over at JDS Lab’s, and in his words “Not a huge difference”.
So you can see the predicament! I would appreciate your opinion. In this audiophile world there are so many sources of information, and many have hundreds of factors, and are all highly debatable.
So it’s essentially a “how much difference can a DAC gives?” question.
Please read #2 on the FAQ:
I have been listening to my Fiio E7 DAC via laptop, and I can’t definitely notice an improvement over my Cowon S9. I may give the iBasso D-Zero a try!
The Cowon S9>CmoyBB combo seems much more grander within the presentation.
However my Laptop>Fiio E7 DAC seems cleaner, smoother and virtually no hiss!
I find the difference between the Fiio E11, and JDS Labs CmoyBB to be very distinct. The Fiio E11 sounds unnatural, harsh, and congested to my ears, and the JDS Labs to be quite the contrary.
We do have something exciting coming up guys… Sorry Mike, I just had to say something!
Mike, I’ve read that HRT had showcased the new amp/dac combo called HeadStreamer. As I know you are a huge HRT fan, would it be safe to say that you’ll be contacting them soon for a review sample? 😉
Yes I’m talking to them about getting one for a review. 🙂
Ah also, will you be adding some more DACs to the Source recommendation list? Feel like it’s been a while since you only had the Audinst and the MusicStreamer 2
I probably would happily add the CEntrance DACport and LX versions.
In fact I’ll do that once I have the time.
Hi there from a very windy and wet corner of NW England. I’ve found you site and in particular the reviews really interesting to read as I’m looking to upgrade my listening experience.
Over the last couple of years I’ve acquired some iGrados for the gym, some AD700s for home and recently some Westone 2s for the train etc. All get plugged into my iPod (and Nano for the gym). After some contemplation and meditation I thought I’d take the plunge into the world of headphone amplifiers and to test the water acquired a Fiio E11 – with which I’m most impressed (compared to what went before you understand).
I would not consider myself to be an audio expert in any shape or form but have an appreciation of most music (struggling with free-form jazz though), and indeed play the bass in a band. Sadly I don’t have a bottomless wallet and I’ve set myself a budget of $350 that might be stretched to $400 if the reason is good enough!
Looking at you reviews this would seem to point me towards one of following: Headstage Arrow, TTVJ Slim, Graham Slee Voyager or possible a Headamp Pico Slim (or would a Headamp Pico itself be a better choice?). I listen predominantly to rock, classical and accoustic style music, so is there any particular amp you would nudge me towards (not forgetting the bass player part too)?
That’s a really hard question, Alain, and somehow I’m not sure I can give you an accurate answer on this one — given the different headphones/IEMs and music choices you have.
If I were you, this is what I probably would do. I would instead get a few of the more affordable popular amplifiers like the JDSLabs Cmoy, the PA2V2, the E11 (you already have that), the Ibasso D-Zero, and just play around with them and see which one you like better.
Thanks for the steer. I had noted the responses in the FAQ section, and whilst I would in no way consider myself to be an expert, I can detect changes/improvements to the signal path, although not to the same degree that you are able to explain in your reviews.
I have ordered an iBasso D-Zero as a start, and am contemplating an HM-601 or possibly a Cowon J3 as either would keep me within my budget. From your reviews the difference should be clearly audible!
Do DAPs such as the above work with Windows Media Player or is other software used? I remember my now departed Rio Karma playing Ogg Vobis files with a fondness that only sepia tinted nostalgia can deliver…
In that case then yes the HM-601 would probably be a good investment. Please take some time to read the review to make sure that the HM-601’s warm sound signature fits your preference.
As for the Cowon, I’ve never compared the J3 to the HM-601 but a friend who collects these stuff told me that they don’t compare to the Hifimans.
For the HM-601 I think it’s via drag and drop, don’t think it’ll work with Windows Media Player.
Any chance you’ll be getting your hands on a C421 soon for review?
I should get one for a review, yes.
Excellent. Preordered one, now I’m dying to hear some impressions (and hoping/assuming it’s an upgrade from my Penguin Caffeine). 😉
The Penguin is one amp that I’ve always wanted to listen to but never had the chance. 🙂
It’s a shame you’re located in Indonesia, otherwise I’d send it over for a listen before I sell it.
I have very little experience, but to my ears, it’s an amazing match with my MS1is (and, obviously, a gigantic upgrade over an E5). Adds some nice warmth, and solid bass impact. It also gets very, very loud very quickly. Totally unlistenable to most things after about the 10-11 o’clock mark.
Considering the C421 and the Penguin both use the AD8620, and John’s reputation for making a solid product, I’m pretty hopeful that the C421 will be a fine step into the next level.
A few guys here had the Penguin too and they all liked it.
Looking for a LOD cable. Going between my Ipod Nano 1st gen -> Pico slim, which drives a JH5Pro.
Not planning on going really high end like the ALO cables and such, since I am under the impression that the Nano will simply not be of that much of a benefit from it, as other high end players would? (Or is it worth it?)
Just looked up Head-direct, they have ZYCABLE Zn7II http://www.head-direct.com/Products/?act=detail&id=68 for $30, and the FiiO L3 for $5.
Is the ZYCABLE better than the L3, as the price would suggest? Any other suggestions around that pricerange? Or worth it to go higher, ALO & Whiplash etc?
Never tried the Hifiman ZYCABLE. Sorry. I use the Fiio and it’s decent. Good quality.
Well then, that should be ok then. Just gonna order the FiiO then, worst case scenario it’s $5 ^^
Though I’m a bit worried about the lenght. The cable looks really long, when I’m thinking about having my Ipod and Pico in my pocket, with a long cable stickin out. The ZYCABLE looks alot shorter.
Had any problem with it being a bit long yourself/is it that long or a problem at all? Had some issues with a to long 3,5mm cable, meaing it would get pushed around a bit when i moved, since it was a bit to long, and I’d lose sound on my left ear. But that was the cable going into my phone that was the problem, it never had anything to do with the 3,5mm into the amp. So thinking it might just be a bad output on my phone that was the problem, and that should be eliminated with the LOD, therefor the cable lengt shouldn’t be a problem.
Okay the cable length, yes it can be a problem if you want a compact LOD to fit in the pocket. Fiio also sells one that’s L-angled I think. May work better depending on your amplifier configuration.
I’ll check it out. Worst that can happen is that it annoys me enough to make me get a bit more expensive cable that’s shorter. Never tried any FiiO cables, so I have no idea how they are, so might as well try them out for $5.
Thanks for the help again!
Hi Roger, I have a ZYCABLE http://www.head-direct.com/Products/?act=detail&id=69
Qualitywise its great but if you want to put your ipod and amp in your pocket, I wouldn’t advise it. the cable is way to sturdy. hope that helps
hi mike, i’ve already tried grado sr60i and allesandro ms1….i like both of them, but i think i like sr60 better than ms1 because the “harshness” and i like the distortion of guitar on grado better than allesandro which is a little bit warm and boomy for me , but it still also good for rock…
but i want a headphone not for rock only, i also listen to kpop and pop like bruno mars and lady gaga,and since i still had a sennheiser hd25 1-II in my mind, do u think hd 25 will beat sr60 in rock genre?do u think that hd25 will give me such a harshness and distortion of guitar that i like on grado?because there is no doubt that hd25 will be better in kpop and pop. i just worried abou the rock genre here. a little help please
note: i cant try hd25 here because there’s no demo unit of hd25.
It’s not going to give you the same harsh sound for your guitars, but it’ll do Bruno Mars and Gaga better than the Grado.
By the way, what’s up with the nick? “Company_integrity”?
hmm, so how’s the level of harshness on hd25?less than sr60i?or just same with ms1?is still engaging for rock?i also worried because the “closed” design may cause a different sound becoz i like the sound signature on grado which is open…
i like a complex nick for headfonia hahahah
It’s differrent than a grado but it’ll do the job well. Just google it, a lot of people use the HD25-1 for rock and are very pleased.
hmm ok, one question,. if u were me, which one u choose for rock?hd25 or grado line up that has the same price with hd25?
Hey Mike, quick question. For trance/house/electronica/some hip-hip…iBasso D-Zero or Fiio E10?
thanks mike! glad I didnt jump the gun on the e10 haha
Alright man. Yep the Ibasso mainly for the tighter, lower hitting bass section. 😉
Mike- How would I connect my D-Zero to my iPhone using the DAC? Is there a USB mini to Apple 30 pin connector you could recommend? Thanks…
Nope you can’t do that. It’ll only work with your computer and *perhaps* your Ipad too using the Camera Connection kit.
I currently have a Ultrasone hfi 680, I want to upgrade to a Denon D2000. Do you think it’s a good move?
Also, I want to buy a open headphones as well, I’ve been looking at Akg k701, but then I got introduced to your website and read the review on k701, dt880 and hd650. I don’t mind spending extra money if the hd650 is worth it. Any other open cans sub $300 you recommend?
About amp, which one would you recommend to work best with both denon d2000 and semn hd650? My budget for amp is around $300. Pls don’t abuse me if this question upsets u lol, I’m noob at amp.
Thanks very much, love the website, keep up the good work.
Just a bit extra info for my question, music I listen to: alternative rock mostly, also bit instrumental, jazz and rnb. Thanks
I’m not Mike but it may make the question easier to answer if you were to say what you find lacking in the hfi680. If you want a Vshaped sound, definitely go for the d2000 for example.
Isn’t both the HFI680 and the D2000 V-shaped?
yah both Vshaped in the sense that they are bothe bright and bassy but the ultrasones are slightly punchier and more aggressive going towards a gradoesque direction while the Denons have more recessed mids and are more relaxed from what I remember.
Yes that’s a very good way of describing them. Thanks, Donunus.
First, I probably woulnd’t call the D2000 an upgrade from the HFI-680. More like a different house sound.
If you want an open headphone, have you tried the Grados? The Alessandro MS-1 is also quite nice for the stuff that you listen to, though it isn’t quite as bassy like the D2000.
Also the HD600 would work better for aalternative Rock than the HD650.
What do u mean by different house sound? Does denon d2000 need an amp? Which amp would u choose?
Also, which one would u pick between MS-1 and HD600?
What I mean by house sound is that one brand would have their own “sound”, and usually this is unique to a brand, if their identity is strong enough.
The D2000 I think is okay without an amp, but the rule of thumb is that full size headphones would most probably improve with an amplifier and that includes the D2000.
Between the MS-1 and the HD600, they are two different headphones really, so it’ll come down to the person’s preferences. But the HD600 is the better headphone technically.
Which particular amp sub $300 would u recommend for Denon D2000? Thanks
I’m not the best person to ask about that since I have quite a limited experience with the D2000, but if I can make a general recommendation, the $250 Schiit Asgard is a fine amp.
mike, for harshness level, which one has more “harsh” sound sig?allesandro ms1 or hd25 1-II?
Maybe a little bit more on the MS-1.
mike would the hd660 make a good pairing with audinst mx1?
Yes I think so. I absolutely love that combination.
hd660 is amazing right? :D.
Anyway, do you feel the midrange of audinst grainy? cause i feel it’s midrange a lil bit grainy. or perhaps because i used to hear the midrange on jdslabs?
Yes the HD660 is amazing.
And yes the Audinst is a bit grainy compared to the JDSLabs.