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StuartsYoga

Headphone + amp upgrade advice please

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Greetings from the UK!

 

My first post to you all and I seek your advice on a headphone upgrade potentially requiring a headphone amp too.

 

What I would like to achieve one day is to be able to hear a strikingly revealing sound with clearly defined instrumentation in a spacious soundstage.

 

I listen primarily to rock and pop, occasionally to classical and am drawn to artists with high production values: Gerry Rafferty, Mark Knopfler, Amy Grant, Karnataka, Don Henley, Rush, Dream Theater, Dan Reed.

 

My Grado sr80's were bought some years ago as a first venture into above cheap 'phones. I'm finding I am wanting more. Instrument separation is there but I am hearing a wooly sound, veiled, if that's the right word. I tap from the headphone jack on my 851d.

 

Last night I tried something and switched in my in ear Soundmagic EC10. That's the tonality I like. I'm wondering if in the ear is the way to go upscale for more revealing 'audiophile' qualities?

 

Soundmagic do the HC200 open backed on the ear of which I read reviews on here. I am budgeting up to around the Senn hd650 price.

 

Headphone amp?

 

Over to you, and thank you for your advice.

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I don't find headphones to be as satisfying as a good pair of speakers--I like to feel the sound, so I use them mostly when travelling.

 

IMO to get some spaciousness and sound staging in headphones I have to get the music out of the centre of my head. To do that I use an amp with a crossover circuit (Meier Jazz ff). This works well for my sr80s, over-the-ear, and in-the-ear models.

 

Also IMO, headphones are really personal--more so than speakers eve,n and I would suggest lots of auditioning. I also suggest you try and have fun doing it. :)

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1 hour ago, GregWormald said:

I don't find headphones to be as satisfying as a good pair of speakers--I like to feel the sound, so I use them mostly when travelling.

 

IMO to get some spaciousness and sound staging in headphones I have to get the music out of the centre of my head. To do that I use an amp with a crossover circuit (Meier Jazz ff). This works well for my sr80s, over-the-ear, and in-the-ear models.

 

Also IMO, headphones are really personal--more so than speakers eve,n and I would suggest lots of auditioning. I also suggest you try and have fun doing it. :)

Many Thanks! This amp is a new name to me. I am going to check it out. Today's experiment will be with a Beresford Gaiman Gatorized dad/phone amp which I was using with a squeezebox touch before my current setup.

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I’d check out out the Abyss Phi, HE-1K and LCD-3 or 4. In terms of dynamics, I still own and travel with the TH900, although it’s not as spacious as the others mentioned. I heard the ZMF Autere at CAF, pretty impressed with them and may check all your boxes. People may wonder why I didn’t mention the Utopia — they are phenomenal except in one area: they don’t have a convincing soundstage.

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Schiit Stack is a good place to start IMO.  Modi 2 DAC and a Magni 3 Headphone amp.  I would recommend the Modi 2 Uber as I trust optical out to be a better source of audio than USB. 

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You could do much worse than Schiit, but you could do much better also. I advise against going the basement-level beginner headphone system (the Schiit Stack) because you'll quickly outgrow it if you're remotely serious about personal audio. If you're going the Schiit route, better to invest in a real chain like the Mjolnir 2 + quality NOS tubes and a Gunjir Multibit running, say, an LCD-3 or HE-X...it'll be a long time before you feel like upgrading.

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TS says the budget is in the HD650-range... LCD-3 and the likes are in a different price range.

 

You should try to listen to a few cans. The new Hifiman and Shure 1540 could by interesting. 

 

Head-fi.org and InnerFidelty provide a lot of information (there are a lot of other sites dedicated to head-fi, but these are a nice start).

 

I do not now the 851d, but in my experience a dedicated headphone amp makes a difference. If you do not want to spend a lof of cash you should try an Arcam rHead (about £ 200/€ 250 now, it was a lot more expensive when it was launched). Very good sound, superb build-quality, works nice with HD650. Certainly a better sounding amp than the Rega Ear in the same price range (my ears, my cans...).

 

Happy hunting!

 

WAM

 

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53 minutes ago, WAM said:

TS says the budget is in the HD650-range... LCD-3 and the likes are in a different price range.

 

You should try to listen to a few cans. The new Hifiman and Shure 1540 could by interesting.

 

 

 

What are the new the Hifiman headphones?   I ask since I recently listened to the HiFiMan 400i (and briefly the HD 650 - though not side by side).   

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1 hour ago, WAM said:

TS says the budget is in the HD650-range... LCD-3 and the likes are in a different price range.

 

You should try to listen to a few cans. The new Hifiman and Shure 1540 could by interesting. 

 

Head-fi.org and InnerFidelty provide a lot of information (there are a lot of other sites dedicated to head-fi, but these are a nice start).

 

I do not now the 851d, but in my experience a dedicated headphone amp makes a difference. If you do not want to spend a lof of cash you should try an Arcam rHead (about £ 200/€ 250 now, it was a lot more expensive when it was launched). Very good sound, superb build-quality, works nice with HD650. Certainly a better sounding amp than the Rega Ear in the same price range (my ears, my cans...).

 

Happy hunting!

 

WAM

 

Thanks WAM much appreciated. Reading around I see a collection may be forthcoming!

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One can get decent headphones in the $500~$800 range, Audeze Sine, Focal Elear, Sennheisers, all depends on the sonic signature you like. Decent headphones amps will start in a like range, Schitt and Woo are pretty safe choices. However if you want " a strikingly revealing sound with clearly defined instrumentation in a spacious soundstage " you cant get that without a good source solution. Your "custom PC with SPDIF output"  needs to be compared against a known good source before you build expectations on a headphone upgrade. I'd think an Aries mini as entry level for your expectations .

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On 11-12-2017 at 11:18 PM, StuartsYoga said:

Thanks WAM much appreciated. Reading around I see a collection may be forthcoming!

 Be careful ... head-fi is addictive ... :P

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My experience is one cannot get what I consider a decent headphone under $1500. Since the headphone is really the most important component of your system, try to buy the best you can. You will be happier and save money in the long run. You can put together a good sounding system for less than $2000 with Sennheiser HD800S phones with a Schiit Vali 2 and Modi 2. Stay away from the Focal Elear and Clears. Now an option you might consider is to pick up a NOS pair of Senn HD800 and mod them to get rid of the treble peak and save about $500. If imaging and soundstage is important to you get the HD800 or HD800S.

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I wouldn't go for expensive moving coil type dynamic headphones. You can get much better sound from budget planar magnetic headphones. I use Oppo PM-3 planar magnetic headphones and iFi iDAC2/Headamp. Sound is much better than any dynamic headphones I used or tested before. If you like on-ear type headphones, try Audeze Sine. PM-3 is around-ear type headphones. Plus, you can get PM-3 and iDAC2 well below $1,000.

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8 hours ago, hdo said:

I wouldn't go for expensive moving coil type dynamic headphones. You can get much better sound from budget planar magnetic headphones. I use Oppo PM-3 planar magnetic headphones and iFi iDAC2/Headamp. Sound is much better than any dynamic headphones I used or tested before. If you like on-ear type headphones, try Audeze Sine. PM-3 is around-ear type headphones. Plus, you can get PM-3 and iDAC2 well below $1,000.

All of the planars I've tried are treble-deficient.  I prefer a somewhat dark sound, with no treble peaks, yet the planars sound rather dull the higher you go.  Even when you smooth out the HD800 peak(s), the sparkle is still there that's missing from planars -at least the planars under $1500 or so.

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9 hours ago, hdo said:

I wouldn't go for expensive moving coil type dynamic headphones. You can get much better sound from budget planar magnetic headphones. I use Oppo PM-3 planar magnetic headphones and iFi iDAC2/Headamp. Sound is much better than any dynamic headphones I used or tested before. If you like on-ear type headphones, try Audeze Sine. PM-3 is around-ear type headphones. Plus, you can get PM-3 and iDAC2 well below $1,000.

 

This is utter nonsense. The first quality headphones I bought were PM-3s and they can not compare to Senn HD800S. I  no longer even use my PM-3s unless I am on a plane. Good budget headphones yes. In no way can they compare to the $1500 HD800S. I seriously doubt you have ever even tried a pair of HD800S phones.

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7 hours ago, dalethorn said:

All of the planars I've tried are treble-deficient.  I prefer a somewhat dark sound, with no treble peaks, yet the planars sound rather dull the higher you go.  Even when you smooth out the HD800 peak(s), the sparkle is still there that's missing from planars -at least the planars under $1500 or so.

Yes. There is room to improve treble section. But you can enjoy distortion free great bass sound. My hearing is limited to up to about 13.5khz. But I can hear below 20hz. So for my type of music, planer is very suitable.

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7 hours ago, exdmd said:

This is utter nonsense. The first quality headphones I bought were PM-3s and they can not compare to Senn HD800S. I  no longer even use my PM-3s unless I am on a plane. Good budget headphones yes. In no way can they compare to the $1500 HD800S. I seriously doubt you have ever even tried a pair of HD800S phones.

I tested HD600. It was total garbage. Unless HD800 uses revolutionary technology sound won't be greatly improved. It all depends on the type of music you are listening. For the type of music the OP enjoys, planer headphones may be a good fit.

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54 minutes ago, hdo said:

I tested HD600. It was total garbage. Unless HD800 uses revolutionary technology sound won't be greatly improved. It all depends on the type of music you are listening. For the type of music the OP enjoys, planer headphones may be a good fit.

Try David Chesky's Girl From Guatemala, especially about the 3:00 point.  The HD800 aces it, and I doubt your lowball planars will be anywhere in the ballpark.

 

As to the type of music, I've found that good recordings benefit from a good headphone and suitable amp.  A good amp for PM3 (a really suitable amp) might raise the overall cost higher than you'd like.

 

EDIT: BTW, I would expect the HD600 to sound bad if not driven properly, *especially* in the bass where the impedance is much higher than at 1 khz.

Edited by dalethorn

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51 minutes ago, dalethorn said:

As to the type of music, I've found that good recordings benefit from a good headphone and suitable amp.  A good amp for PM3 (a really suitable amp) might raise the overall cost higher than you'd like.

My problem is the lack of good recording tracks. Most of my favorite artists are retired. Not many good recordings. No need to upgrade further. I will test HD800 when I visit my local shop.

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12 hours ago, dalethorn said:

All of the planars I've tried are treble-deficient.  I prefer a somewhat dark sound, with no treble peaks, yet the planars sound rather dull the higher you go.  Even when you smooth out the HD800 peak(s), the sparkle is still there that's missing from planars -at least the planars under $1500 or so.

We all hear different things when we listen. To me Sennheiser are like KEF's, rich and boring. The Elear's are intensely detailed but everything has this kind of sandpaper sibilance. The Audeze are glorious for tone color rectitude but a little slow compared to the Elear.  None of them have a high frequency lack, what they have is a sound signature you either like or dislike.

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39 minutes ago, davide256 said:

 

We all hear different things when we listen. To me Sennheiser are like KEF's, rich and boring. The Elear's are intensely detailed but everything has this kind of sandpaper sibilance. The Audeze are glorious for tone color rectitude but a little slow compared to the Elear.  None of them have a high frequency lack, what they have is a sound signature you either like or dislike.

There's a tremendous difference in the treble strength of a Senn HD800 and planars in that range, such as the LCD2 Fazor edition I had.  Particularly above 10 khz.  To think that they sound about the same (treble), doesn't compute.

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2 minutes ago, dalethorn said:

There's a tremendous difference in the treble strength of a Senn HD800 and planars in that range, such as the LCD2 Fazor edition I had.  Particularly above 10 khz.  To think that they sound about the same (treble), doesn't compute.

Again, your personal preference/bias. You have no monopoly on the human experience.

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