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Am I listening to Headphones Correctly?

WelshPirate96

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DISCLAIMER: I have already posted this on Reddit to r/headphones, but I wanted to get input from this community. Below is my post:

So I got into audiophile headphones a a few years ago and now I own too much than any human should own hahaha. I honestly love the way each one presents music differently, but I want to use this community as a sounding board for my next headphone purchase (hoping for something under $1,000 USD if possible) because I'm honestly not the best at interpreting what reviewers on YouTube say is good vs. what I actually enjoy, so I'm wondering if I could get some good, educated opinions here. Hopefully, by laying out what I own and what I enjoy the most I can get some educated recommendations here.

My system: I run my audio out of my PC via USB. My amp is the THX 789 and my DAC is the SMSL M200. I run most of my headphones balanced. I also don't like/don't feel comfortable with EQing headphones so these preferences are without EQ attached. Let me know if that would likely change my rankings below.

In terms of headphones, I own/owned/have listened to the Audeze LCD2C, Focal Elex, Modhouse Argon mk. III (balanced), Drop x Sennheiser 6xx, HifiMan Sundara, Beyerdynamic 880 (600 Ohm version), Drop Panda, Bose QC 45, Beyerdynamic 1990 Pro, 1More Triple-Driver, Drop x Sennheiser 58x Jubilee, HarmonicDyne Zeus, Sennheiser 560s, and the Phillips 9600.

Here is my rank in terms of how much I love them regardless of price:

  1. HifiMan Sundara (the tuning kicks butt plus the soundstage and imaging are great imo)
  2. Audeze LCD2C (this completely crushes the Sundara in terms of detail imo, but the Sundara's flaws don't downgrade the headphone over the LCD2C's severely rolled-off treble. However, I still like this one over all the others below it)
  3. Focal Elex (I love the tuning, detail, and imaging, but I much prefer the build, detail, and soundstage of the LCD2C over this)
  4. Drop x Sennheiser 6xx (Love the mids and I actually enjoy the close-up soundstage alongside the mids. However, it doesn't beat the headphones above in terms of overall sound quality)
  5. Sennheiser 560s (Super close between this and the 58x, but I love the tuning and soundstage over the 58x)
  6. Drop x Sennheiser 58x (love the base over the 560s, but I love the tunning overall of the 560s)
  7. Beyerdynamic 1990 Pro (yes I put this below a lot of other cheaper headphones (this would be one of my favs if it wasn't for the 8.5k peak. I'm super sensitive to it. Otherwise, I would love the 1990 pro)
  8. Modhouse Argon mk. III (not super-well tuned but it's just a lot of fun to listen to and is super comfortable on my head)
  9. Harmonicdyne Zeus (I didn't hate this headphone but the soundstage and imaging were overhyped by a lot of reviewers imo. The tuning is a little too V-shaped for my preferences)
  10. Beyerdynamic 880 600 Ohm version (way too much emphasis on the treble for my preferences, but the build, comfort, soundstage, and imaging were great)
  11. Phillips 9600 (a fun listen overall, but very grainy imo)
  12. Bose QC 45 (sounds like treble-cannon crap, but it is super convenient, especially when I'm walking my dogs)
  13. Drop Panda (Convenient like the Bose QC 45, and it sounds slightly better, but the QC 45 beats it on noise canceling and other consumer-esque features)
  14. 1More Triple Driver (nothing but bass. I will forever hold a slight grudge against Josh Valour for ever even remotely recommending this headphone)
Please do list below a recommendation over what pair of headphones I should listen to/buy next based on this ranking of headphones while also keeping my system in mind. If you think I should consider a different amp/provide some EQ that would make some of these headphones sound better, please make note of that as well.

Thank you all in advance!! :)
 

solderdude

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7. Beyerdynamic 1990 Pro (yes I put this below a lot of other cheaper headphones (this would be one of my favs if it wasn't for the 8.5k peak. I'm super sensitive to it. Otherwise, I would love the 1990 pro)

Use it with the treble peak filter (when EQ is not an option) so it lands on spot 1 or 2.

I would agree with quite a few (but not all) of your findings.

Which headphone(s) do you still own ?
Use EQ with those and see how you like them with it.
All affordable* headphones really need EQ.

EQ can fix tonal balance issues but not all other issues (seal, resonances, distortion, comfort, placement on the head).

* affordable of course is related to disposable income.
 
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timiark

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To me it seems like you are half way into the rabbit hole of Hi-Fi: listening to gears instead of musics.

I'd suggest spending more time auditioning. This works for me and then I realize what I am pursuing is more about this 'purchase' instead of its 'sound'. I found the sound I was expecting faded away after like 1 hour of auditioning.

If you don't have enough place for auditioning in your place, then I do have a list of recommended headphone. But before that, I think you need to mention your taste about music... it is an important factor of choosing the 'right' headphone.

EQ-friendly: LCD-X
  • Very low distortion and flat response. It has the treble that other Audeze lacks.
  • Heavy and the earpad is a bit shallow.
Classic: HD800s
  • A really classic-only headphone... treble is too much for metal or pop.
  • Sounstaging is good but a bit artifcial... bad for pop.
  • I think owning a 600 series headphone is enough for classic category, no need to go furthter. (if you pursue soundstage, speaker is the way)
  • Super comfortable, probably the most comfortable.
Some unique bass: Hifiman Arya
  • Unique bass response, somehow much tighter than its mid and treble.
  • Not everyone likes this kinds of bass, for example, me.
Alternative to LCD-X: Hifiman Edition XS
  • FR is flat, easy to drive.
  • Sound is a bit loose, not concentrated.
  • Somehow awkward build quality
Grado (don't quite remember the model name, but basically Grado's headphone sounds a bit similar...):
  • Good for pop, metal, rock. Very 'tasty'.
  • No good for EQ.
  • Not comfortable, build quality is awkward.
Disclaimer: I brought none of them, but I did spend around 1hr-2hrs on each of those mentioned models. The reason not buying them is simply because they are not as good as my speaker system (Genelec G3 x2 + KEF KC62) and I realize there is no point spending on this too much.

About EQ you mentioned:
Although EQ cannot fundamentally change following things: distortion, soundstage, etc. what it can do would still make me highly recommend you to include EQ into your system. Specifically, EQ could fundamentally change the tonality of your headphone and make it adapt to your listening preferrance. However, I don't like the idea of EQing headphones like 800S to be a bass heavy headphone... don't fighting against the original FR too much. Therefore, headphones with flatter response is easier to get EQed well and adapt to your taste.

About reviews, or even my opinions above: don't put trust in them, there are all just personal opinions generated by people's primitive nerve system... audition is THE way to go. (at least you can find some online recordings of those headphones that roughly tells you what a headphone would sound like)
 

Down South

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I have 2 Beyers including the 880 and I agree entirely the piercing treble, seems to be a feature of this company. Owned both the Senn 600 and 650s, a bit dark for me.

Have you thought about trying a pair of s/hand Oppo PM2 very comfortable open and detailed sound, more than enough bass for me. There may well be better but for me it's sorted how often can you say that in audio.
 

DVDdoug

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IMO - After you've owned several pair of headphones YOU are the expert when it comes to what YOU like. And/or if you are going to spend $1000 you should listen before you buy unless $1000 isn't a lot for you.

I also don't like/don't feel comfortable with EQing headphones s
The main difference in "sound quality" or "sound character" with different headphones is frequency response and you can tweak the with EQ (except sometimes if you have to boost the bass the headphone or headphone amp might distort).

When I was young and reading hi-fi magazines I used to "feel guilty" if I was using EQ. That was doubly foolish because in those days the biggest problem was the analog records!
 

timiark

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IMO - After you've owned several pair of headphones YOU are the expert when it comes to what YOU like. And/or if you are going to spend $1000 you should listen before you buy unless $1000 isn't a lot for you.

The main difference in "sound quality" or "sound character" with different headphones is frequency response and you can tweak the with EQ (except sometimes if you have to boost the bass the headphone or headphone amp might distort).

When I was young and reading hi-fi magazines I used to "feel guilty" if I was using EQ. That was doubly foolish because in those days the biggest problem was the analog records!
I think even some people more on the 'voodoo' side still use this, e.g. [email protected]

He mentioned that they are trying to include DSP for their bass unit. (well, that's basically EQ, just mentioned in another way)

Therefore, after I watched that video, I never felt a single bit of guilty when EQing.
 

Turambar

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Well, the two leading headphones in your list are planar, so I would go for the same technology in your next one.

Having tasted Hifiman and Audeze, I would look for another brand. Maybe a pair of Dan Clark Audio Aeon 2 are worth the try.
 
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