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Seth

Best quality headphones for under $800

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Hi, I'm looking for some headphones that will give me the best sound for the $250 - $800 range. I want to start creating music. I may decide to spend more than $800 but it will take me longer to save. I have no problem looking at reviews on my own but I don't know where to start. I definitely prefer neutral sound and care a lot for sound quality. These will be headphones I take on the go and at home but I don't care if they're bulky and/or I will need a DAC/amp as well.  Not expecting to be using for mixing but may get into that kind of stuff later on. So I hear closed back is what I am looking for. So far the only thing that has given me enough interest was the Shure SRH1540. 

 

Any advice is appreciated, even if it's out of my price range at the moment. 

 

Thanks, 

Seth. 

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Check out the Meze 99 Classics for $300.  I have owned quite a few headphones In the $1,000 - $2,000 price range and honestly my Meze 99 Classics are, to a large degree, just as enjoyable as these much more expensive headphones. Easy to drive as well so you don’t have to worry about expensive headphone amps, they sound great even plugged into your phone.

 

if going more upmarket you could find some used HD800 for around $800. I really enjoy mine, but then you need to budget in more money for an appropriate amp.  Also, the HD800 are really just for home listening, you wouldn’t want to use them for portable use.

 

I found the HD600 to be quite boring, but many people like them.  I’d go with the Meze based on what you wrote about yourself.

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I'm currently torn between my Audeze LCD-2 Closed Backs and my Sony MDR-Z7M2 as my favorite cans. Both are fairly neutral yet still warm and fun, and they both list for US $899 but can be had for less. (Note that the latter is "M2" as in "Model 2", just released. The original Z7 is very dark with recessed midrange.)

Moving along the spectrum into even more neutral and lower-priced choices are the Beyerdynamic DT-1770 Pro (I have the old DT-770 Pro and they are excellent for detailed listening but the sound signature is still "V shaped"), the even more neutral "Professional Studio" models from Audio-Technica like the ATH-M50x or ATH-MSR7 (I have the old ATH-M40fs and they are very clear), and — for the most neutral studio sound I've ever owned — perhaps the on-ear so a bit less comfortable JVC HA-MX100-Z (I own the previous model, HA-MX10-B).

 

I have only closed-backs, so can't speak to open-backs. But in your price range there many more fine choices in both open and closed headphones from Sennheiser and others that I have not heard, like the HD-650. I'm sure someone will chime in on those here, but you should definitely also ask this question on head-fi.org

 

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10 hours ago, Blake said:

Check out the Meze 99 Classics for $300.  I have owned quite a few headphones In the $1,000 - $2,000 price range and honestly my Meze 99 Classics are, to a large degree, just as enjoyable as these much more expensive headphones. Easy to drive as well so you don’t have to worry about expensive headphone amps, they sound great even plugged into your phone.

 

if going more upmarket you could find some used HD800 for around $800. I really enjoy mine, but then you need to budget in more money for an appropriate amp.  Also, the HD800 are really just for home listening, you wouldn’t want to use them for portable use.

 

I found the HD600 to be quite boring, but many people like them.  I’d go with the Meze based on what you wrote about yourself.

 

I checked out the Meze classics but don't particularly like the style, although that's not the most important thing it does matter to me. Thanks for the response. 

 

9 hours ago, left channel said:

I'm currently torn between my Audeze LCD-2 Closed Backs and my Sony MDR-Z7M2 as my favorite cans. Both are fairly neutral yet still warm and fun, and they both list for US $899 but can be had for less. (Note that the latter is "M2" as in "Model 2", just released. The original Z7 is very dark with recessed midrange.)

Moving along the spectrum into even more neutral and lower-priced choices are the Beyerdynamic DT-1770 Pro (I have the old DT-770 Pro and they are excellent for detailed listening but the sound signature is still "V shaped"), the even more neutral "Professional Studio" models from Audio-Technica like the ATH-M50x or ATH-MSR7 (I have the old ATH-M40fs and they are very clear), and — for the most neutral studio sound I've ever owned — perhaps the on-ear so a bit less comfortable JVC HA-MX100-Z (I own the previous model, HA-MX10-B).

 

I have only closed-backs, so can't speak to open-backs. But in your price range there many more fine choices in both open and closed headphones from Sennheiser and others that I have not heard, like the HD-650. I'm sure someone will chime in on those here, but you should definitely also ask this question on head-fi.org

 

 

I was looking into the M70x and after your post i looked at online comparisons to the MSR7's. My hypothetical conclusion is that the M70x is more neutral and revealing. I think what I want to do is buy a lower grade headphone first and then when I have saved enough I could buy something like the charter oak sp1's. 

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In general, for a more expensive headphone, you need a better quality headphone amp to get its full value. After buying several headphone amps, I can tell

you its hard to get a good headphone amp for under $500. I like the following combo, Audeze Sine headphones with Chord Mojo portable DAC/amp.

I use the Sine DX with Microzotl 2 headphone amp, the Mojo when I auditioned it with Sine DX  worked well, most of what I could get in main system.

 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, davide256 said:

In general, for a more expensive headphone, you need a better quality headphone amp to get its full value. After buying several headphone amps, I can tell

you its hard to get a good headphone amp for under $500. I like the following combo, Audeze Sine headphones with Chord Mojo portable DAC/amp.

I use the Sine DX with Microzotl 2 headphone amp, the Mojo when I auditioned it with Sine DX  worked well, most of what I could get in main system.

 

One head amp that I can highly recommend: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-thx-aaa-789-linear-amplifier

Sounds good, measures extremely well, and well under $500.

 

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4 hours ago, Seth said:

I was looking into the M70x and after your post i looked at online comparisons to the MSR7's. My hypothetical conclusion is that the M70x is more neutral and revealing. I think what I want to do is buy a lower grade headphone first and then when I have saved enough I could buy something like the charter oak sp1's. 

 

I think the ATH-M70x is a fine choice, in value and neutral sound. If you do try that model, please post a report here. Pricing often reflects how many units a manufacturer can sell, not just what's in them, and although based on reviews you may want to be careful not to drop an M70x, they are clearly very well-designed and very popular headphones. I've had my 40fs for eight years and have dropped them countless times. They still work just fine, though I used them so much I had to buy replacement Brainwavz memory foam earpads.

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On 11/27/2018 at 1:37 PM, Blake said:

Check out the Meze 99 Classics for $300.  I have owned quite a few headphones In the $1,000 - $2,000 price range and honestly my Meze 99 Classics are, to a large degree, just as enjoyable as these much more expensive headphones. Easy to drive as well so you don’t have to worry about expensive headphone amps, they sound great even plugged into your phone.

 

if going more upmarket you could find some used HD800 for around $800. I really enjoy mine, but then you need to budget in more money for an appropriate amp.  Also, the HD800 are really just for home listening, you wouldn’t want to use them for portable use.

 

I found the HD600 to be quite boring, but many people like them.  I’d go with the Meze based on what you wrote about yourself.

 

I thought the Meze's sounded OK out of my LG G7 but when I plug them into my Topping DX7s it sounds awesome. Not the most transparent headphone I've heard but still great sound and pretty comfortable. 

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For mixing, you don't need closed backs, but you'd be best served by near field monitors (for a variety of reasons).  Unless you're going to be commuting or listening in areas where sound leakage could be an issue (both incoming and outgoing), open backs are considered better for sound quality (again, for a variety of reasons).

 

You've mentioned neutrality and best SQ.  So I rec this:  Senn HD650's can be had on massdrop for $199 (called HD6XX, they are identical) and they are one of the most iconic set of cans for warm neutrality.  I personally like the HD600's better, but most people dig a little more bass.  Both are great.

 

https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-sennheiser-hd6xx

 

You will absolutely, without question, want to drive them with a good amp (or amp/dac) - or they will sound very thin without dynamics.  The drivers just won't work correctly without power as they are 300 ohms.  They may get loud enough for you, but they will sound horrid IMO.  The THX AAA 789 mentioned already has some very good reviews and is very transparent and neutral as well.  

 

One amp I can rec without hesitation because I've owned it and compared it to quite a few in it's price range is the Arcam rHead.  This amp is a juggernaut and can be had for under $300 these days.  

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I would argue for wireless. 
What's the point to spend so much money on a, microscopic, subjective, possibly entirely psychological, improvement when you can easily hear the cable rattling around?

My 650HD and tube amps are gathering dust because of my BW PX and it's so much more comfortable!

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The MrSpeakers Aeon Flows (both open and closed varieties) are at the upper end of your range but are definitely worth considering. They definitely need an amp to shine but they are probably the most complete and competent top to bottom cans in your price range. An alternative to consider would be the Focal Elears ($1000 MSRP)  which can be had on sale for within your range.

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