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Choosing headphones under 500-600$ in 2023

sivsoft

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Good afternoon, audiophiles!
I want to choose full-size headphones. Detailed in priority. Of course, I would like more or less even in the frequency response, low distortions, and that the middle was not swamped (like a V-shaped FR), but the main thing is details and separation. Also I'm not a basshead and not a fan of dark pitch.
I would like the detail to be not less, but preferably more, than my Campfire Andromeda in-ear.
I read reviews, comments and considering the following models:
- Hifiman 400SE
- Hifiman Sundara
- Hifiman HE560
- Hifiman Edition XS
- Hifiman Arya
- Sennheiser HD600
- Sennheiser HD650
- Sennheiser HD660/660V2
- Sennheiser HD560S
Arya for the price - the very ceiling and that, more likely, from the hands. Which of these models or in this price segment would you recommend? Maybe there are models within the price ceiling that I missed?
 

Dunring

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I've had all of those except the new 660v2. The ones I'd pick from what your asking would be an open box Hifiman Ananda Stealth which has better imaging than the original or the Audio Technica adh1000x which are superb for accuracy, soundstage, and female vocals.
The Hifiman models with the bar style headband are a deal breaker, not comfortable. The original Arya has forward upper mids for shouty female vocals sometimes, they fixed it with the Arya stealth, but the Ananda stealth is so good now I wouldn't pay the difference in price which is steep.
You can't go wrong with the hd560 for the price also, it's a well rounded solid pick.
 
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sivsoft

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Thanxs. Interesting.
But the question is aren't we cheating ourselves if we buy a more expensive class of headphones? Isn't the difference in them just a corrected FR? For example, I want to hear more detail. The manufacturer simply raises the range of say 8-10kHz and I can hear more "detail", it becomes somehow "sharper". How are these same Ananda Stealth objectively better than, say, Sundara in terms of sound or the same Sennheiser 600? Or, for example, why are Ananda Stealth better than, for example, the old Arya, which you can buy on flea markets much cheaper than new Stealth? Are there any objective parameters of choice?
 
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sivsoft

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Or, for example, the same 560s. How are they better than 600s or 660s? Are they better in terms of sound than 400se or Sundara?
The crinacle website cites that the Sandara are on the level of the Ananda. And better, more technical them same Edition XS and noticeably better the Arya. Is this how to make sense of it? )
I just want to understand the difference and make an objective choice.
 

IAtaman

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For some of parameters that people care about such as detail, sound stage etc. there is no widely accepted objective measure. Some review sites (such as rtings.com) made attempts to quantify them I believe, but there is a lot of debate over whether those measures represent real life differences well enough. Other reviewers and review sites try to refer to them one way or another, calling them technilaclities and such. But, beyond somewhat realiable way of measuring tonality, we don't really have objective metrics for other parameters that matters to people - at the end you will have to rely on your own subjective assessment. And you can not really rely on your subjective assessment either as it will be biased one way or another no matter what you do. So my recommendation, worry less about what is objectively good, listen to what you like and enjoy.
 
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sivsoft

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For some of parameters that people care about such as detail, sound stage etc. there is no widely accepted objective measure. Some review sites (such as rtings.com) made attempts to quantify them I believe, but there is a lot of debate over whether those measures represent real life differences well enough. Other reviewers and review sites try to refer to them one way or another, calling them technilaclities and such. But, beyond somewhat realiable way of measuring tonality, we don't really have objective metrics for other parameters that matters to people - at the end you will have to rely on your own subjective assessment. And you can not really rely on your subjective assessment either as it will be biased one way or another no matter what you do. So my recommendation, worry less about what is objectively good, listen to what you like and enjoy.
Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to be considered that FR and Waterfall can measure any headphone. I'm not saying I have experience in this, just readed about this on headphone measurement sites.
It must be seems to be close to the truth, otherwise it is not clear at all how they developing headphones at all, especially those belonging to a certain segment or improve current models. If you can't measure them in any way, but only listen to them, then it becomes not production, but magic. But in the actual development we see quite the opposite. There are engineers, there are objective parameters by which they are guided.
 

solderdude

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FR is the most important part and can be measured with a reasonable accuracy withing a limited (smaller than the audible) bandwidth.
So is distortion important but only says swhen something when measured at various levels.
Time domain measurements also can add something to the entire puzzle.

FR can be corrected for the largest part. Distortion, ringing and comfort can not be corrected (much)

But here is the thing... one can make measurements to a standard and think it is holy. Reality differs. What may measure well on a specific fixture may not measure as well on another fixture and may be different on your head yet again.

Also seal and positioning of an over-ear (and on-ear) is very important and changes opposite a standard measurement can differ substantially.

Then there are differences in head shapes, hair, clamping force etc. There are comfort issues, max. adjustment limits on headphones that may not be enough for all heads.
Pad thickness, pad aging/wear, comfort, clamping force and weight can be a problem for person A but person B may love it.

These aspects are important but are not measured or hard to describe.

So ... measurements are important but not everything that is measured is correct/applicable and not everything is measured. Measurements can have a high relation to perception but does not have to be the case due to circumstances of the wearer.

Yes, drivers can be improved and measured, materials may be changed (cheaper or better or just different). Production methods are important. Can things made to be more reliable ? Better performing (in certain aspects) or made cheaper without quality compromises.

Besides... to stay in the market one HAS to come with new models and as the engineers are paid they better come with something improved or with added functionality. Often skimping on longevity and support (try to have some models repaired after a few years or try to get original accesories.

Or, for example, the same 560s. How are they better than 600s or 660s?
They are more lightweight, cheaper, have different comfort and tonality and a different 'soundstage'

Are they better in terms of sound than 400se or Sundara?
What is 'better' to one may not be 'better' to you or someone else.
They certainly sound and feel different and have different support and longevity.

The crinacle website cites that the Sandara are on the level of the Ananda. And better, more technical them same Edition XS and noticeably better the Arya. Is this how to make sense of it? )
It is his personal opinion. That may vary from others.

I just want to understand the difference and make an objective choice.
Audition, audition, audition....
That what is one person's greatest headphone ever may be the one you like the least.
 
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sivsoft

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FR is the most important part and can be measured with a reasonable accuracy withing a limited (smaller than the audible) bandwidth.
So is distortion important but only says swhen something when measured at various levels.
Time domain measurements also can add something to the entire puzzle.

FR can be corrected for the largest part. Distortion, ringing and comfort can not be corrected (much)

But here is the thing... one can make measurements to a standard and think it is holy. Reality differs. What may measure well on a specific fixture may not measure as well on another fixture and may be different on your head yet again.

Also seal and positioning of an over-ear (and on-ear) is very important and changes opposite a standard measurement can differ substantially.

Then there are differences in head shapes, hair, clamping force etc. There are comfort issues, max. adjustment limits on headphones that may not be enough for all heads.
Pad thickness, pad aging/wear, comfort, clamping force and weight can be a problem for person A but person B may love it.

These aspects are important but are not measured or hard to describe.

So ... measurements are important but not everything that is measured is correct/applicable and not everything is measured. Measurements can have a high relation to perception but does not have to be the case due to circumstances of the wearer.

Yes, drivers can be improved and measured, materials may be changed (cheaper or better or just different). Production methods are important. Can things made to be more reliable ? Better performing (in certain aspects) or made cheaper without quality compromises.

Besides... to stay in the market one HAS to come with new models and as the engineers are paid they better come with something improved or with added functionality. Often skimping on longevity and support (try to have some models repaired after a few years or try to get original accesories.


They are more lightweight, cheaper, have different comfort and tonality and a different 'soundstage'


What is 'better' to one may not be 'better' to you or someone else.
They certainly sound and feel different and have different support and longevity.


It is his personal opinion. That may vary from others.


Audition, audition, audition....
That what is one person's greatest headphone ever may be the one you like the least.
Yes. But if we're talking about detail or headphone resolution. Which ones do you think will have the most resolution?
 

solderdude

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Yes. But if we're talking about detail or headphone resolution. Which ones do you think will have the most resolution?

That might depend on your ears and which headphone peaks/dips at frequencies your hearing is used to hearing.

Some people claim planars are best, others find planars 'coarse' or 'granular' in the treble. I heard some really nice ones and lesser ones when treble is concerned.
Hifiman's all have treble peaks that may or may not agree with your ears but they are there even when they are obscured in some measurements.

Senheisers, in general, are less 'peaky'.

From the ones you listed, to my ears, best treble quality is the HD660S2 (smooth, present but not elevated) but others may prefer HD650 or planars.
All hifiman models have different iterations where some could be an improvement over earlier versions.
 
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sivsoft

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That might depend on your ears and which headphone peaks/dips at frequencies your hearing is used to hearing.

Some people claim planars are best, others find planars 'coarse' or 'granular' in the treble. I heard some really nice ones and lesser ones when treble is concerned.
Hifiman's all have treble peaks that may or may not agree with your ears but they are there even when they are obscured in some measurements.

Senheisers, in general, are less 'peaky'.

From the ones you listed, to my ears, best treble quality is the HD660S2 (smooth, present but not elevated) but others may prefer HD650 or planars.
All hifiman models have different iterations where some could be an improvement over earlier versions.
I've never understood that audiophile term - smooth treble. Do you mean that the treble is exactly as you wrote, "present but not elevated"?
 

solderdude

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'smooth' as in not 'grainy' and 'natural'. As you use the word 'soft' I would say a 'soft' texture of the treble yet not 'soft' in level (as in subdued).
Smooth treble can be elevated, at the correct level or even subdued and still have a better 'texture' or 'quality' than headphones that sound less 'smooth'.
This, for obvious reasons, cannot be seen in industry standard measurements and are also kind of variable between individuals.

For that reason I said.... audition.... I know this is not always possible and sometimes you have to rely on subjective reports (I would not go on measurements for this aspect).
When you do and you 'know' the sound of certain headphones you could try to find reviews you agree with and see if these same persons also reviewed other headphones you look for.
Just realize that many 'real' reviewers often have something to sell you (endorse things from manufacturers they get freebees from worth thousands).
 
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sivsoft

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'smooth' as in not 'grainy' and 'natural'. As you use the word 'soft' I would say a 'soft' texture of the treble yet not 'soft' in level (as in subdued).
Smooth treble can be elevated, at the correct level or even subdued and still have a better 'texture' or 'quality' than headphones that sound less 'smooth'.
This, for obvious reasons, cannot be seen in industry standard measurements and are also kind of variable between individuals.

For that reason I said.... audition.... I know this is not always possible and sometimes you have to rely on subjective reports (I would not go on measurements for this aspect).
When you do and you 'know' the sound of certain headphones you could try to find reviews you agree with and see if these same persons also reviewed other headphones you look for.
Just realize that many 'real' reviewers often have something to sell you (endorse things from manufacturers they get freebees from worth thousands).
Okay, 660S2. But will I hear all the details that are in the composition? Is it more detailed than the HD600/HD650?
Also the question is what kind of headphones are they: neutral, dark, light? I like neutrality with a little bit of lightness.

Could you compare them to the planar ones? Compare them to the same Hifiman Sundara, 400SE, Ananda...
 

solderdude

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HD600 is brighter and has slightly less bass than HD660S2
HD650 is warmer and has a bit more clarity compared to HD660S2.

Neutral response that has a little less 'forward' sound. It has 'soft' sounding details unlike the Sundara, 400SE and Ananda.
The hifiman have less bass but good bass extension.
All hifiman have a similar 'relaxed' upper mids as the HD660S2. All hifiman, at first listen sound more 'detailed' than the HD660S2. This, however, is caused by some treble peaking between 8 to 10kHz (depending on the model). This sounds attractive but can lead to listening fatigue and/or sharpness in recordings.
HD660S2 has non of that. Treble is 'relaxed' and detailed and totally non-fatiguing. On direct comparison the HD660S2 would appear to be 'dark' and lacking treble but this is only because the hifiman have that treble peak. Some folks aren't bothered by the peak at all and even like it. I don't, it starts to annoy me after a while.\

With the HD660S2 I keep on listening never having the urge to stop listening (I have the same experience with OLLO S5X + felt mod).

HD660S2 does not have a bit of lightness. It is more relaxed and realistic (with proper recordings)

Of course... with EQ the HD660S2 is a better 'platform' to work from unless you like really loud and impressive bass. The Hifiman (with EQ) are better for that.

Here's my findings on HD660S2, Sundara, HE400SE and I'll throw in the S5X
 
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AryaStealth

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Full size (oval) Hifiman will be the best bang for buck. Sundara (and probably other round Hifiman headphones) is a failure in my opinion, they managed to reduce its weight to look good on paper yet at the same time made it extremely uncomfortable.
 

AryaStealth

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Take a look at their frequency response, the mids and bass seem to be better on Ananda Nano, but they both have treble peaks:
Anando Nano:
youtu.be/V16Y6h22nSE?t=351

Ananda Stealth:
vsg.squig.link/?share=Harman_2018_Over-Ear_Target,HIFIMAN_Ananda_(2022_Stealth_Magnets)


Perhaps you may be tempted by Audeze MM-100 at $400, their sound should be more neutral than Hifiman (no treble peaks). In October or November they should be in stock.

Edition XS may be a better choice if you are treble sensitive:
comparison-1.png
 
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Phidel

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Maybe Ananda Nano? Or best choise is Ananda Stealth?

I have the Nanos and after doing the obligatory burn-in and setting a neutral EQ to them, they are my best listening experience!
 
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