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Choosing headphones under 500-600$ in 2023

Hammeredklavier

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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?
You might like to consider the Sennheiser HD300 Pros. I've had all sorts over the years, and these are the ones that currently get used. They're very well tuned (if you like a neutral presentation) with no glaring sonic flaws, and also offer considerable passive attenuation of external noise (essential for me because my source is a PC). I haven't really explored this because I value my hearing, but I gather they can go despicably loud too if you're into that sort of thing.

At ~ £150 UK prices, buy two! No need to mess around with EQ either - I'm sure they're not beyond improvement but if you think life's too short for that sort of thing you can just plug in to pretty much anything and enjoy. I mostly use mine with an RME ADI-2 DAC, but that's a massive overkill.

Of those on your list (that I've owned) I like the good old HD650s. I've got some on my desk here and wouldn't be without them, but of course you need a silent source and room to go with them.
 

ChrisCables

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The ONLY way you are going to find out which of your candidates are going to fulfil your own criteria is to audition them.

It's of course interesting to get peoples' (very) subjective opinions and there are plenty here, but none of them, bar none will ultimately mean anything to you in the broader sense of determining what's going to appeal to you.

I own some of those headphones and have auditioned some of the others you have listed and can directly contradict some of the opinions you have listed in this thread. I'm not going to do that as getting into petty subjective arguments isn't going to help you but I hope others will chip in to suggest that you need to audition first and listen to others opinions second!
Being a Sennheiser fan I'd obviously advocate for any/all of those but I'm absolutely NOT going to recommend them above or below each Sennheiser model or some of the others you listed as I simply don't know how they compare.

Yes, it's obviously going to be difficult to find them all in order to audition as well as inconvenient if you don't live near a retailer with a demo version, but it's really the only way if you want to avoid potential disappointment.
Maybe you can put a shout out for someone willing to loan you a set or two? I see that done on that other well-known headphone forum a lot.


Spot the Sennheiser :p
IMG_20221101_212329.jpg
 
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bodhi

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I just want to understand the difference and make an objective choice.

Understand then that usually there is really not that much difference in first place when comparing most of the headphones you mentioned and anything more expensive than those. If there is a considerable difference then it's obvious from FR, for example Sennheiser HD600 series lacking subbass or some Hifimans and boosted treble.

The "detail" is mostly in the recording. You can't pull out anything more that is there already, but of course boosted FR can make some parts stand out more.
 

DilbertPugh

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I doubt anybody will mention this, so here goes;

Verum One; handmade and still $349.

(Opinion), best headphone under $900.

...... maybe just don't tell anybody you've bought one.
 

Jimbob54

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The ONLY way you are going to find out which of your candidates are going to fulfil your own criteria is to audition them.

It's of course interesting to get peoples' (very) subjective opinions and there are plenty here, but none of them, bar none will ultimately mean anything to you in the broader sense of determining what's going to appeal to you.

I own some of those headphones and have auditioned some of the others you have listed and can directly contradict some of the opinions you have listed in this thread. I'm not going to do that as getting into petty subjective arguments isn't going to help you but I hope others will chip in to suggest that you need to audition first and listen to others opinions second!
Being a Sennheiser fan I'd obviously advocate for any/all of those but I'm absolutely NOT going to recommend them above or below each Sennheiser model or some of the others you listed as I simply don't know how they compare.

Yes, it's obviously going to be difficult to find them all in order to audition as well as inconvenient if you don't live near a retailer with a demo version, but it's really the only way if you want to avoid potential disappointment.
Maybe you can put a shout out for someone willing to loan you a set or two? I see that done on that other well-known headphone forum a lot.


Spot the Sennheiser :p
View attachment 317285
Spotted AudioGD too....
 

bodhi

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I have owned most of those myself and even without EQ I cannot kid myself to heavily prefer any of those over others, outside of comfort issues. With EQ it becomes even harder.

I still own a few headphones, namely Sennheisers 560 and 600, Focal Clear, DCA Aeon 2 Closed and Ollo S5X. I have one in use and rest are stored away, I might switch every few days if I feel like it, but can I honestly say after a couple of weeks if one of those provided better experience compared to others? No way.

It is possible to condition yourself to think some minor differences in tonality are make or break level stuff, but I don't think that makes much sense. And if one goes there, any recommendations from other people make no sense.
 

ChrisCables

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I have owned most of those myself and even without EQ I cannot kid myself to heavily prefer any of those over others, outside of comfort issues. With EQ it becomes even harder.

I still own a few headphones, namely Sennheisers 560 and 600, Focal Clear, DCA Aeon 2 Closed and Ollo S5X. I have one in use and rest are stored away, I might switch every few days if I feel like it, but can I honestly say after a couple of weeks if one of those provided better experience compared to others? No way.

It is possible to condition yourself to think some minor differences in tonality are make or break level stuff, but I don't think that makes much sense. And if one goes there, any recommendations from other people make no sense.
It's an interesting rationale but I'd have to respectfully disagree and suggest that it's 'your' rationale.
Your assertion that there 'isn't much difference between them' cannot possibly be projected or transposed onto someone else's perception of the differences, especially mine if referencing the HD600 and HD650. I personally think those two are chalk and cheese in terms of presentation and SS and I would totally accept agreement or disagreement from anyone else. Measurements aside, the perception of the sonic 'differences' are still going to remain resolutely variable from individual to individual.

I'll freely admit that you could generalise that if you picked up any single pair of the OP's candidate headphones that they would all sound 'good' and none of them are going to sound 'bad' necessarily, they're all well-regarded models.
But then again, that's still only complete and total supposition on my part.
 

bodhi

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HD600 and HD650. I personally think those two are chalk and cheese in terms of presentation and SS and I would totally accept agreement or disagreement from anyone else. Measurements aside, the perception of the sonic 'differences' are still going to remain resolutely variable from individual to individual.

Good example as that pair was reviewed by or host here who could be by profession and hobby alike called critical listener of first class, rivaling vast majority of people. The result:

Conclusions
I don't know what is supposed to be different between HD600 and HD650. Based on both objective and subjective testing, these two headphones perform the same.


If you yourself think there are major differences between them it must be because of extraordinary hearing ability or extensive training to discern differences most people cannot hear. Any recommendations you make must be viewed through these rare talents and as such would not be useful for normal people.

For normal people I stick with my recommendations: find the best pair of headphones from curated list of equipment that are well designed, have somewhat neutral sound signature and can be EQd to one's liking. After this purchase one should think hard if it's worth it to continue buying new ones if the only motivation is to try to find something "better" without even knowing what is missing.
 

IAtaman

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Conclusions
I don't know what is supposed to be different between HD600 and HD650. Based on both objective and subjective testing, these two headphones perform the same.
Similar findings from rtings.com as well:

They have pretty much the same sound quality, although the HD 650 does have slightly better bass and less treble. However, it's very hard to tell by listening alone.


If you yourself think there are major differences between them it must be because of extraordinary hearing ability
Or very bad taste in cheese.

Having said that, it is also worth nothing that there are reports of 600 and 650 converging towards a similar sound over time, and if you have older samples, they might indeed sound "more" different than the most recent manufacturing batches.
 
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Hammeredklavier

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Sonically, the HD600/650s are beyond meaningful improvement in my opinion. The only downside - and the reason they aren't my main cans - is they don't offer any significant isolation.
 

FrantzM

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Hi

I hope that my observations do not come as flippant or dismissive.

In headphones, I've come to understand that the important factors:
  1. Low Distortion at all reproduced frequencies and SPL levels
  2. Bandwidth.. how low or how high it can go without distorting.
  3. And comfort... Some are more comfortable than others..

Once EQ to the same curve, in my case, Harman.. The differences between good headphones tend to disappear.

The HifiMan HE6 SE has one the lowest distortion measured here at ASR. Top 5, perhaps top 3.
It cost around $600
It can take the Harman curve, or any other curve with aplomb: It ill not distort even with massive (>12dB) boost @ 20 Hz .. Even if you were to play this at 110 dB, it will not cross 3%. THD stays below 0.1% at all frequencies, at 86 dB.

When properly EQ. Remains one of the best headphones one can possess...

And keep that in mind: Most any headphones this side of Dan Clark's Stealth or Expanse, require EQ.

TLDR: Get the HifiMan He6SE at Adorama for $600. Get an amp capable of driving it ... I use the THX AAA789, any DAC, some way to EQ to Harman or your preferred curve and be done.

Peace.
 

bodhi

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Sonically, the HD600/650s are beyond meaningful improvement in my opinion. The only downside - and the reason they aren't my main cans - is they don't offer any significant isolation.
The lack of bass is at least very noticeable and cannot be completely fixed with EQ. Does it actually bother me? Honestly, not that much.

But when you take the sound quality and the comfort for long listening sessions with modest price, the HD600/650 is perfect for somebody who just wants good headphone experience with music. I think I could be convinced to buy yet another headphone if it would be basically HD600 with DCA Stealth level bass. :)
 

Without_A_Master

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I have Senn HD650 and 660s. Both sound good but I use resonate more with the HD650. I also use Sonarworks. Without SW, both headphones do not have enough low end for certain styles of bassier music like electronic music.
 

IAtaman

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The lack of bass is at least very noticeable and cannot be completely fixed with EQ. Does it actually bother me? Honestly, not that much.
Can it be pad wear?

 
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