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HD800S vs LCD-GX - Differing equipment and a question on whether I have poor ears

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Good day,

Apologies if this is the wrong place for this type of question/discussion, but I wanted to ask something that has been bugging me a bit over the past few days.

So many years ago I got into 'top-end' headphones in the late 90s/early 00s whilst playing competitive shooters, the game I played (Half-Life DM/AG) really benefited from a good set of headphones - the 'go to' headphones everyone seemed to have was the HD600 from Sennheiser, so needless to say I got a pair of those. They were wonderful and blew me away when I first heard them, even on the soundcards we had back then. Fast forwards a decade or so with me not really paying as much attention to headphones (I switched to onboard sound due to compatibility issues with the A3D cards and got fed up of the cable on the HD600 breaking) I picked up a pair of Beyerdynamic DT880s and the Xonar Essence STX soundcard and was totally blown away by the performance. Not because they were necessarily better than the HD600, but because I hadn't been using anything good quality for years.

Anyway, after that quick introduction let me get to the point - the same issue has occurred as before and my Essence STX is not compatible with my new PC hardware so time to buy something new - I have been using the MMX 300 2nd Edition with on board sound (X570 mobo, new with good quality onboard sound) for a couple of years, which I really enjoy but want that wow factor back. I purchase the Sound BlasterX G6, which seems like a good cheerful purchase to replace the STX and I then pick up a LCD-GX second hand off eBay for a good price. I get both and am somewhat blown away by the LCD-GX, it sounds incredible and I get Goosebumps listening to The Chain by Fleetwood Mac and Superstition by Stevie Wonder (my go-to tracks) for the first few times.

I have some issues though with the headphones, they seem to make crackling/popping noises at higher volume, so I do some tests and my other 2 headphones (MMX 300, ATH-M50X) are all fine and although I suspect it is probably the G6 not being able to power the LCD-GX properly, I send them back to the seller. I decide I should probably get rid of the G6 and send it back to Amazon too, as it seems clear there are common issues with it when paired with high quality headphones, so I set up a return.

I then decide I should go 'end game' and pick up the RME ADI-2 DAC (I figure this is going to be good enough for me for a decade or more so worth it) and a pair of HD800S headphones from Sennheiser directly (refurbished), believing this will be my 'end game' setup. The problem is.... well, I just find the HD800S a tad 'boring' compared to the LCD-GX? Am I missing something? Or is the gap between the LCD-GX and HD800S relatively small and thus I am not 'blown away' - the Goosebumps I got from the LCD-GX would have happened with the HD800S had I not tried the LCD-GX first? Is it a sound signature thing perhaps?

I am not going to lie here, I am a total noob when it comes to explaining the differences between headphones. I could not discuss the treble or highs confidently as I have no idea what I am talking about, I just enjoy a good headphone. I have tried different EQ profiles using Peace on my PC, but I am not sure I am really getting as much enjoyment out of it as I did the LCD-GX. Could someone with a bit more knowledge perhaps offer some advice on what I might look for? Perhaps detailing the differences in the sound profiles of the two headphones?

I should also point out I am asking here as I like a lot of what I see from the reviews and honest takes on 'audiophile' tomfoolery or whatever you want to call it, I doubt I can tell the difference between two DAC/AMPs of good quality and indeed remember selling on an external (highly rated) DAC/AMP back in 2012/13 after not being able to notice the difference between my STX and them both.

I am seriously thinking of just sending back the HD800S to Sennheiser (still in return period) and just buying the LCD-GX again and saving myself £400, whilst having the convenience of a mic? But perhaps I am missing something, something that you guys might be able to help me with?

TLDR - Not seeing the benefit of the HD800S over the LCD-GX, find them a tad boring, but perhaps that is because I already experienced the higher end headphones first and thus my ears are 'tuned' to higher quality now? Or maybe my ears are just terrible and I need them syringed or something (half joking but still)?

Once again apologies if this is not the right place for this question.
 
OP
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Just to add to this quickly - I also just tried the HD 800 S in the RME and then the Sound BlasterX G6 and could not really tell much of a difference whilst listening to The Chain. I am wondering whether I could have had a very good setup for much less money, perhaps it is worth sending back the HD 800 S, selling the RME (I bought it second hand) and buying cheaper.
 

HarmonicTHD

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Just to add to this quickly - I also just tried the HD 800 S in the RME and then the Sound BlasterX G6 and could not really tell much of a difference whilst listening to The Chain. I am wondering whether I could have had a very good setup for much less money, perhaps it is worth sending back the HD 800 S, selling the RME (I bought it second hand) and buying cheaper.
Hi. As often there a two sides to this coin of what sounds good.

Subjectively, only you can decide, based on your personal preferences and criteria, what sounds good to you. Therefore it will not be of any help when someone else tells you what they prefer as it might very much differ from your taste. (some like Pepsi, others Coke etc).

Objectively, there has been very good research (Olive et al etc) what sounds good (what is preferred) by a majority of people in the respective test groups. The result is the Harman preference curve for headphones (not to be confused wit the one for speakers). Based on this many have made objective measurements of various headphones, published the results (frequency response, distortion etc) and give recommendations on how to EQ a certain headphone to come close to the above Harman preference curve. See for example the Crinacle and or AutoEq websites as a start.

Make yourself familiar with the concept and how to EQ headphones, maybe start with the preference curve and from there adjust to your personal liking eg more/less bass or treble etc.
 
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Vict0r

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Most well-measuring DACs will sound the same. You don't need the RME. That would be the first thing I'd sell if all I used it for was gaming. If you want to be sure you're getting peak performance (for peace of mind) but don't want to spend an arm and a leg, get something like the Topping E30. Regarding headphones; I've never heard the HD800s, but I'm guessing you're missing the bass impact from the Audeze. I think you'd dig their Mobius too, with it's virtual surround emulation. That could have the "wow" factor you're missing. You could also get the GX again and look into virtual surround emulation, and hook up a nice, affordable headphone amp (like the Topping L30) to the Topping E30, if necessary.
 

HarmonicTHD

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See also here.
 
OP
M
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Hi. As often there a two sides to this coin of what sounds good.

Subjectively, only you can decide, based on your personal preferences and criteria, what sounds good to you. Therefore it will not be of any help when someone else tells you what they prefer as it might very much differ from your taste. (some like Pepsi, others Coke etc).

Objectively, there has been very good research (Olive et al etc) what sounds good (what is preferred) by a majority of people in the respective test groups. The result is the Harman preference curve for headphones (not to be confused wit the one for speakers). Based on this many have made objective measurements of various headphones, published the results (frequency response, distortion etc) and give recommendations on how to EQ a certain headphone to come close to the above Harman preference curve. See for example the Crinacle and or AutoEq websites as a start.

Make yourself familiar with the concept and how to EQ headphones, maybe start with the preference curve and from there adjust to your personal liking eg more/less bass or treble etc.

Thank you for this.

I have been using the Peace extension to change the EQ to different profiles, including the Crinacle you mention as well as the oratory1990. To be honest the Crinacle profile seems pretty good, but I wonder if it is even possible to get them sounding exactly like the LCD-GX? Is there perhaps something about planar magnetics that I might prefer - the base as someone else mentioned? There is also the question of whether I just fondly remember the LCD-GX (albeit it was only a couple of weeks ago!) because it was the first truly high end headphone I have used and it was a huge improvement over my MMX 300s?

I actually think it might have been volume related too, if I listen to the HD800S at higher volumes with The Chain I get similar reactions to what I got with the LCD-GX. I guess this is quite embarrassing, higher volumes can obviously make a big difference, perhaps that was it...
 
OP
M
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Most well-measuring DACs will sound the same. You don't need the RME. That would be the first thing I'd sell if all I used it for was gaming. If you want to be sure you're getting peak performance (for peace of mind) but don't want to spend an arm and a leg, get something like the Topping E30. Regarding headphones; I've never heard the HD800s, but I'm guessing you're missing the bass impact from the Audeze. I think you'd dig their Mobius too, with it's virtual surround emulation. That could have the "wow" factor you're missing. You could also get the GX again and look into virtual surround emulation, and hook up a nice, affordable headphone amp (like the Topping L30) to the Topping E30, if necessary.

I do not game as much as I used to, so most of my listening is music - regardless though, you are right. I do not need the RME, especially as all my EQ is going to be done on the PC anyway as the DAC/AMP is going to be constantly plugged into a PC/Laptop.

Thank you for the advice, I think selling the RME, sending back the HD800S and getting the LCD-GX again is probably the right option for me. I think I will send the HD800S back, buy the LCD-GX again (if the guy on eBay will let me!) and then look to sell the RME and look at a more suitable (and much cheaper) alternative.
 
OP
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OK so now I have managed to get my Essence STX ii working again on my PC (I set the PCIe port to Gen 2 for anyone else with the same issue, ASUS X570-F Gaming motherboard although it would work on others too I assume) and am having trouble noticing much difference between that and the RME ADI-2 DAC, whilst switching between the two and listening to the same song on the LCD-GX.

Volume wise there is a difference, the RME can power them a tad better, although the STX ii can get to some pretty loud volumes depending on the gain setting (extra high can get them very loud, although might not be the best for 20ohm headphones as that setting is supposed to be for 300-600ohms? Needless to say I did not keep it on there for very long), so that does not matter much any way as I am never going to want to listen to them that loud.

I think this is somewhat more odd as the STX ii got a pretty poor review here, so I am wondering if perhaps my ears are not just good enough to detect the differences? Or perhaps it is like the differences between 'high' and 'very high' in PC graphics settings? You can tell but you have to look for them a bit?

On the one hand I am pretty happy about all this, as I am likely to just sell the RME and keep the STX ii and just use that from now on. That said, I cannot help but feel like I am missing something...
 

Sal1950

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Been running my Senn HD650's on a Emotiva DC-1 DAC - HP amp for close to a decade now.
You'd still need a gun to pry the pair out of my cold, dead, hands. :eek:
 
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