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Best closed-back headphones, $200-$300

Robin L

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#1
Going all-in with the ASR way, getting Drop 6XX 'phones, Topping E30 Dac and L30 Headphone Amp. My experience with open back headphones ranges from $5 'phones I should have avoided to over two decades with Stax Signature Earspeakers. Lately have been using the Sennheiser HD599 and HD579. Don't really like either. The 599's treble 'extension' sounds tizzy here, with a slightly exaggerated, possibly distorted top register. The 579 is not so bad, more focused on vocals, pretty good for movies. Most of the time I've been listening via the AKG "Tiesto" K167 closed back phones. They have many virtues, good bass and good overall balance. I don't know if the occlusion/thickness with massed brass comes from the 'phones or the electronics or both. So I'm asking for suggestions.

Recently I've been listening to a lot of Bruckner, so massed brass is the order of the day. I usually listen to fairly wide range of music, Rock and Jazz and Country, modern dance-pop and various avant-garde noises. Obsessing over Bruckner [the doom-laden 9th symphony is appropriate background music for our current apocalypse] makes the limitations of the playback gear all the more apparent. My sense is that the bass of the Drop 6XX isn't really going to be all that different from the two open-back Sennheiser headphones I've got already. My guess is that a good closed-back headphone will have more control and sheer force in the bottom registers compared to good open-backed headphones. I'm not looking for more bass, but I want deeper bass. I suspect the Topping gear would help a bit with that. I've also got a pair of Sennheiser Urbanite XL headphones, pumped up on the bottom, rolled off on top. Don't listen to those much anymore.

What I'm looking for are closed back headphones that are good with well recorded Classical music, that go deep into the bass without pumping up the mid-bass, open on top without being ragged, $200-$300. Any suggestions?
 
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#3
Maybe look in to the AKG Pro Audio K553 PRO/MKII (more neutral) or Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro-80 (more bass)?
 

Dialectic

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#4
Audio Technica MSR7. Remarkably neutral for the money. Only flaws are slightly elevated treble and earpads that degrade faster than I'd like.
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #5
The AKG K371 looks good as regards bass eq, but what's going on in the top register seems like it will be a little cloudy up there, not good for massed brass. The AKG Pro Audio K553 PRO/MKII looks promising, the Audio Technica MSR7 looks even more promising. I'm not so sure I want more bass, haven't liked the sound signature of Beyer 'phones so far and think I had heard a similar pair of cans from the same company. I just want the bass to go down lower [which favors the AKG K371], don't want more treble [which, along with the price tag, makes the AT MSR7 a little less promising], want the treble to have less smearing than on the 'phones I'm now using, which sounds like the ATs might be good in that regard.

People told me the Stax earspeakers had too much going on at once. That's what I'm looking for.
 

maverickronin

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#6
Have you considered IEMs?

Even cheap IEMs do a lot better with clarity, separation, and imaging than entry level closed full size headphones.
 

bunkbail

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#7
Even cheap IEMs do a lot better with clarity, separation, and imaging than entry level closed full size headphones.
My Tin Audio P1 (with EQ) meets this description so perfectly. They're so detailed sounding.
 

Cahudson42

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#8
Have you considered DSP and a PEQ capability for profiling whatever headphones you end up with?

If your source is a PC, you have free software like Equalizer APO. If not, you could substitute a Qudelix ($109) for the E30, for a Qudelix>L30>headphone stack. While the Qudelix is certainly not going to spec anywhere near the E30, you gain a great PEQ and app to configure it. Really can turn 'a sows ear into a silk purse'.

I'm using a $29 LG Rebel TracFone with a Qudelix and Liquid Spark with my HE400i and the Oratory1990 profile right now. And except for getting the PEQ profile, can't hear any degradation vs. my previous LG V20>LS setup.

Edit: I too like deep, but clean, undistorted bass. And my open back HE400i with DSP provides it. However, the HE400i, to do this, needs power. Lots of it. At least 1w IMO. L30 likely great.

I have only tried one closed back, a Status Audio CB-1.($70) From back in the day before ASR and I listened to Steve Guttenberg. Sounded like 2 boom boxes - one on each ear. Gave them to kid.:)
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #9
Have you considered IEMs?

Even cheap IEMs do a lot better with clarity, separation, and imaging than entry level closed full size headphones.
Ah, no. I have tried a lot of IEMs. Bass on all was hopeless, ability to stay in my ears minimal. And a $200 headphone is not "entry level".
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #10
Have you considered DSP and a PEQ capability for profiling whatever headphones you end up with?

If your source is a PC, you have free software like Equalizer APO. If not, you could substitute a Qudelix ($109) for the E30, for a Qudelix>L30>headphone stack. While the Qudelix is certainly not going to spec anywhere near the E30, you gain a great PEQ and app to configure it. Really can turn 'a sows ear into a silk purse'.

I'm using a $29 LG Rebel TracFone with a Qudelix and Liquid Spark with my HE400i and the Oratory1990 profile right now. And except for getting the PEQ profile, can't hear any degradation vs. my previous LG V20>LS setup.

Edit: I too like deep, but clean, bass. And my open back HE400i with DSP provides it. However, the HE400i, to do this, needs power. Lots of it. At least 1w IMO. L30 likely great.

I have only tried one closed back, a Status Audio CB-1.($70) From back in the day before ASR and I listened to Steve Guttenberg. Sounded like 2 boom boxes - one on each ear. Gave them to kid.:)
My source will probably not be a computer, at least not in the foreseeable future. What I have experienced from streaming, so far, includes lots of disruptions for various reasons. I'll be listening to Amazon Music, with its great catalogue of Classical music, and what I'm reading from CNN bursts into sound. Better off sticking with my DAP or Disc player. I'm lucky enough to have multiple nearly Universal disc players. While I am aware that DSP can do all sorts of wonders, I'll wait for the tech to come pre-installed on a $200 smartphone;).
 

maverickronin

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#11
Ah, no. I have tried a lot of IEMs. Bass on all was hopeless, ability to stay in my ears minimal.
If they're falling out you probably aren't ever getting a good seal, and without that there is no bass. IEMs definitely aren't for everyone.

And a $200 headphone is not "entry level".
Unfortunately, with the way headphone prices have sky-rocketed, it is now.

Normally I'd recommend the HD569/598Cs here but you already didn't like it's open siblings so scratch that.
 

Cahudson42

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#12
I'll wait for the tech to come pre-installed on a $200 smartphone;).
My main source is also Amazon Music. App installed on $29 LG Rebel TracFone. No sim, wifi works fine w/o it. Throw away the TracFone stuff. You have a $29 Android 8 DAP. Now add the $109 Qudelix. Total $138. You have a 'smartphone' with PEQ:)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QHQ79XH/
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #13
My main source is also Amazon Music. App installed on $29 LG Rebel TracFone. No sim, wifi works fine w/o it. Throw away the TracFone stuff. You have a $29 Android 8 DAP. Now add the $109 Qudelix. Total $138. You have a 'smartphone' with PEQ:)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QHQ79XH/
I was thinking more along the lines of a LG phone. Keep talking.
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #14
If they're falling out you probably aren't ever getting a good seal, and without that there is no bass. IEMs definitely aren't for everyone.
I've got Klipsch 11x IEMs right now, the best of a bad bunch. I don't think the issue with bass is due to how the earbuds fit, it's in the lack of air moving.
Unfortunately, with the way headphone prices have sky-rocketed, it is now.

Normally I'd recommend the HD569/598Cs here but you already didn't like it's open siblings so scratch that.
Doesn't look like prices have skyrocketed, I got my Stax earspeakers for $2000, I've been following this sort of stuff since the 1970's. I've noticed a lot of discounts for wired headphones, got a number of headphones from Blinq. Those HD579 and HD 599 headphones were via Blinq, around $120. The AKG K167 were going for $50 for a long time. So, if anyone can tell me where to get something like the Beyer T1 for $200/$300, I'm interested. Blinq doesn't have as many wired headphones as they did when folks started transitioning to Bluetooth/Wireless headphones a few years ago.
 

maverickronin

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#15
Doesn't look like prices have skyrocketed, I got my Stax earspeakers for $2000, I've been following this sort of stuff since the 1970's.
Stax have always been in a league of their own. Until the Senn HD800 and Beyer T1 came out ~2009 Stax was the only major manufacturer with headphone models routinely selling at those prices. It used to be that there was very little on the market between Stax the electrodynamic trinity of HD650/DT80/K701.

Koss 950, short runs of more expensive statement models from bigger companies, random startups like Jeklin, AT's endless string of limited edition woodies, stuff like that. The flood of kilobuck plus models from established players and boutique startups over the last decade is certainly different.
 
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Cahudson42

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#16
I use the LG Rebel strictly as a portable DAP. My main DAP, sitting on the desktop, is an LG V20 bought nib for $120 about a year ago.

The Rebel has 2 limitations. 2.4g wifi only. 32gb SD card. But it does have a SnapDragon Qualcomm chipset, replaceable battery - even a decent 3.5mm audio (think it's a WDC9xx DAC/audio subsystem ). Really amazing for $29. (Verizon just bought TracFone - so likely bye-bye $29 phones..)

The V20 has the QuadDAC - the one tested by Amir in the G7. It tests better than my old D10. And it replaced it, driving directly a Liquid Spark and then HE400i phones. Runs Amazon Music . 5g wifi. 128g SD. Currently using just it's internal crude equalizer. Not yet using Qudelix with it. Probably will. (Maybe buy 2nd, but will wait for amir's review).

I do not use bt for audio with the Qudelix. But I expect something like LDAC is more likely to work for audio with the V20 than the Rebel. But the Rebel bt connects the Qudelix control app simultaneously with the Qudelix streaming audio via OTG cable USB to Rebel. Neat.
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #17
I use the LG Rebel strictly as a portable DAP. My main DAP, sitting on the desktop, is an LG V20 bought nib for $120 about a year ago.

The Rebel has 2 limitations. 2.4g wifi only. 32gb SD card. But it does have a SnapDragon Qualcomm chipset, replaceable battery - even a decent 3.5mm audio (think it's a WDC9xx DAC/audio subsystem ). Really amazing for $29. (Verizon just bought TracFone - so likely bye-bye $29 phones..)

The V20 has the QuadDAC - the one tested by Amir in the G7. It tests better than my old D10. And it replaced it, driving directly a Liquid Spark and then HE400i phones. Runs Amazon Music . 5g wifi. 128g SD. Currently using just it's internal crude equalizer. Not yet using Qudelix with it. Probably will. (Maybe buy 2nd, but will wait for amir's review).

I do not use bt for audio with the Qudelix. But I expect something like LDAC is more likely to work for audio with the V20 than the Rebel. But the Rebel bt connects the Qudelix control app simultaneously with the Qudelix streaming audio via OTG cable USB to Rebel. Neat.
Good chance I'll be looking at LG V series smartphones. Love to hear the LG V/Topping/6XX as a combo, now that it's within my means.
 
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Robin L

Robin L

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Thread Starter #18
After getting the Topping E/L30 the AKG K167's sound cleaned up considerably. I suspect that the Drop 6XXs will indicate what I'm looking for, but for the moment, it seems like cleaning up the electronics has noticeably improved my headphones, particularly with sounds like massed brass and percussion. Drums have greater specificity of pitch and timbre, there's less distortion all around.
 

A.West

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#19
In an open office, I listened to amazon music on DT770 80 headphones for years, to avoid noise pollution. I like my HD800 a little bit better but it isn't as dramatic as you might think. Don't be shy about using equalization on headphones.
 

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#20
Master & Dynamic sponsored an exhibit on Bill Graham at my wife’s museum. Anybody tried them? Are they Beats-like crap?
 

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