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Most bang for the buck for $500-$1000?

downhouse

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Hello friends!

Having just signed up here after reading a bunch of reviews of both amps, dacs and headphones, I'm eager to ask a question that I didn't really find an answer to.
I'm looking at getting my first proper headphone setup, I've homed in on the Schiit Magni IE + Modi 3+ for the electronics, and am now trying to figure out what to do for headphones. While I'm not super picky, and will not go to the farthest extremes price-wise to find the ultimate headphones, I am still accepting to pay somewhere between $500 and $1000 for a pair - if the price is justified.

So my question comes back to looking at some reviews here, a couple that grabbed me were the E-Mu Teak and the MrSpeakers Ether CX, both of these seem really nice, are closed back (which I need for now, the missus and I work from home in the same room). But which are the best bang for the buck? The E-Mu Teak is $500 while the Ether CX is $900, is the latter worth almost twice the price? I've also been looking at the Kennerton Magni in the same price range (690€), though that one hasn't been tested here yet as far as I've found.

TLDR; Which pair of headphones in the $500 to $1000 range are the most bang for the buck?

(I will of course gladly accept other recommendations for headphones in this price range, or slightly below if there are heavy hitters to be found!)
 

DVDdoug

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You can sort the ASR reviews by "recommended". There's not much correlation with price. The cheapest headphone that's recommended without EQ is the AKG K371 but they do have a reputation of being "cheaply made" and fragile. To a large extent headphones are a matter of personal preference and that includes personal comfort.
 

Tangband

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Hello friends!

Having just signed up here after reading a bunch of reviews of both amps, dacs and headphones, I'm eager to ask a question that I didn't really find an answer to.
I'm looking at getting my first proper headphone setup, I've homed in on the Schiit Magni IE + Modi 3+ for the electronics, and am now trying to figure out what to do for headphones. While I'm not super picky, and will not go to the farthest extremes price-wise to find the ultimate headphones, I am still accepting to pay somewhere between $500 and $1000 for a pair - if the price is justified.

So my question comes back to looking at some reviews here, a couple that grabbed me were the E-Mu Teak and the MrSpeakers Ether CX, both of these seem really nice, are closed back (which I need for now, the missus and I work from home in the same room). But which are the best bang for the buck? The E-Mu Teak is $500 while the Ether CX is $900, is the latter worth almost twice the price? I've also been looking at the Kennerton Magni in the same price range (690€), though that one hasn't been tested here yet as far as I've found.

TLDR; Which pair of headphones in the $500 to $1000 range are the most bang for the buck?

(I will of course gladly accept other recommendations for headphones in this price range, or slightly below if there are heavy hitters to be found!)
If you have a family with lots of noise and maybe a tv thatś on all the time, I can recommend an earphone with inbuilt noise cancellation. I own a Sony 1000 xm3 and in active mode using the eq-app ( to lower the midbass ) the sound is rather on the same high level as my Genelecs. Bose 700 model also sound really good. Its a wonderful feeling listening to music in a dead quiet environment.:). I think noise cancellation is very important if you cant have quiet around you.
Sound source should be TIDAL in your phone or Apple lossless in iPhone.

If you live alone and dont need noise cancellation, the sennheiser 650 is very good sounding, slightly better than Sony 1000xm3 and Bose 700 - my opinion.
 
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downhouse

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You can sort the ASR reviews by "recommended". There's not much correlation with price. The cheapest headphone that's recommended without EQ is the AKG K371 but they do have a reputation of being "cheaply made" and fragile. To a large extent headphones are a matter of personal preference and that includes personal comfort.
Yeah, that's why I started this thread I suppose. If you look at the DCA Stealth and compare it to, say, the Ether CX, which one is the most bang for the buck? Personally I have a really hard time seeing that a $4000 set of headphones will result in a good bang for the buck, even though it's something for those that crave the very best, i.e. diminishing returns at work. I'm interested in seeing which headphones are the most appreciated and best value in the price range of the topic.
If you have a family with lots of noise and maybe a tv thatś on all the time, I can recommend an earphone with inbuilt noise cancellation. I own a Sony 1000 xm3 and in active mode using the eq-app ( to lower the midbass ) the sound is rather on the same high level as my Genelecs. Bose 700 model also sound really good. Its a wonderful feeling listening to music in a dead quiet environment.:). I think noise cancellation is very important if you cant have quiet around you.
Sound source should be TIDAL in your phone or Apple lossless in iPhone.

If you live alone and dont need noise cancellation, the sennheiser 650 is very good sounding, slightly better than Sony 1000xm3 and Bose 700 - my opinion.
I realize I forgot to mention this. I have a pair of Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2, as well as Philips Fidelio X2. I'm not looking for a wireless ANC setup as I already have that. I'm searching for a good setup with some wired phones using the amp/dac I mentioned in the OP, closed back primarily since I need to be able to just shut out a bit of speech from another person in the room sometimes. I'm however also interested in open back headphones for other use, I see myself having a pair of both most likely.
 

Skinner001

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It seems something from Dan Clark would be right up your alley. E.g. the Aeon 2 Noires are close to the upper range of what you're looking for. For less money there's Aeon RT closed.

I have the Ether C 1.1 and can't really justify buying more headphones given my line-up - but I was tempted to get the Noires more than once. Everything I've put on my head from Dan Clark has been comfortable and the materials are durable. You get clean sound + you kind of know what that extra cost went into since they do have a premium feel.

The Aeon line-up is also quite portable which is an added bonus.

Now, look into the actual level of isolation - not all closed backs are the same - passive isolation varies quite a bit.

For open backs - currently I really can't say anything tops the Sennheiser 560s in terms of bang for your buck. It's light, comfortable, flat measuring, it's plastic but it's Sennheiser plastic - they simply seem to know how to do it well and the combination of design with structural soundness makes them last long and they end up being work-horses - the 560s are no different in that regard.

For more premium materials - there's quite a bit of selection in that price range (but I suspect that range was only for the closed backs at this point so no point in listing a lot of them).

You could get the Noires and 560s as a closed/open duo for a bit over 1000, or Aeon RT and 560s for under 1000.
I'm not in the US so have no idea about availability and the such.
 
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downhouse

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For more premium materials - there's quite a bit of selection in that price range (but I suspect that range was only for the closed backs at this point so no point in listing a lot of them).

You could get the Noires and 560s as a closed/open duo for a bit over 1000, or Aeon RT and 560s for under 1000.
I'm not in the US so have no idea about availability and the such.
I will definitely have a look at the Noires! And please do give suggestions for open backs in the price range mentioned, even if I might not act on it right away I still like to do my research and form an idea of where I'm headed with my future purchases.
 

Raindog123

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phrwn

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I've got the Teaks and they are great, but they really don't isolate at all. Sound doesn't leak out, but you'll hear every word of someone speaking in the same room with your volume at reasonable levels.
 
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downhouse

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I looked around a bit and was surprised to find the HE400i quite hard to find, as in it seems that retailers in my area are saying that the Sundara is the successor to the HE400i? I could find the HE400i on ebay, but "refurbished", which I'm a little apprehensive about since they were stated as customer returns. That paired with the comments about Hifimans somewhat lacking consistency of quality kind of makes me question the odds of making good purchase there, even though the refurbished HE400i was only about 200 euros.

I've got the Teaks and they are great, but they really don't isolate at all. Sound doesn't leak out, but you'll hear every word of someone speaking in the same room with your volume at reasonable levels.
I'm surprised to hear that, is the lack of isolation due to a poor seal by the pads? I can't see how sound would find it's way inside otherwise, because the cup design is entirely closed, if I'm not mistaken?

On another note; does anyone know of any news regarding Schiit making a USB-C revision of the Modi dac? I have an extremely strong aversion to purchasing any more micro-USB connected devices, seeing as how we're almost in the year 2022 by now... in fact, I think I'll hold off on buying it until they sort themselves out.
 
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phrwn

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I'm surprised to hear that, is the lack of isolation due to a poor seal by the pads? I can't see how sound would find it's way inside otherwise, because the cup design is entirely closed, if I'm not mistaken?

On another note; does anyone know of any news regarding Schiit making a USB-C revision of the Modi dac? I have an extremely strong aversion to purchasing any more micro-USB connected devices, seeing as how were almost in the year 2022 by now... in fact, I think I'll hold off buying it until they sort themselves out.
The whole Fostex TH/TR line, including derivatives such as the Teak, are often described as semi-open back because of the lack of isolation. It might make them sound more spacious (or something) than closed-backs, but that's the downside. They are closed, technically, but the wooden cups are thin. As I said though, I do find they let sound in easily, but don't leak sound out much at all. It's not about pad seal, no.

Either way, I've not found a better 'closed-back' headphone so far, although I haven't tried Audeze or DCA yet. Nor do I plan to: the Audeze all seem to weigh about 600-700g and the DCA means Stealth which means $4k.

Have a look at JDS amps/dacs. I don't see any micro-USB on the Atom. I have the Element II combined DAC/Amp and am really pleased with it. Power-wise it's overkill for the Teaks as they can run off anything, but they do sound noticeably better from that than my laptop audio out. The sound is smoother and less fatiguing. I'm not sure I'm supposed to hear a difference, and the test is not scientific or blind, but going back and forth for a week at a time, with a view to selling the Element II since the power requirements of the Teaks suggest I don't need it, and I always end up going back to it.
 

Skinner001

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Either way, I've not found a better 'closed-back' headphone so far, although I haven't tried Audeze or DCA yet. Nor do I plan to: the Audeze all seem to weigh about 600-700g and the DCA means Stealth which means $4k.

That's like saying Sennheiser means the HE-1 so nah, I'll pass on Senn :D
 

Rayman30

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Immediately the Hifiman Ananda, DCA Aeon series or Audeze LCD2 come to mind. But those 3 produce a very different sound signatures out of the box, could you tell us more about what you value in sound?
 
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downhouse

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The whole Fostex TH/TR line, including derivatives such as the Teak, are often described as semi-open back because of the lack of isolation. It might make them sound more spacious (or something) than closed-backs, but that's the downside. They are closed, technically, but the wooden cups are thin. As I said though, I do find they let sound in easily, but don't leak sound out much at all. It's not about pad seal, no.

Either way, I've not found a better 'closed-back' headphone so far, although I haven't tried Audeze or DCA yet. Nor do I plan to: the Audeze all seem to weigh about 600-700g and the DCA means Stealth which means $4k.

Have a look at JDS amps/dacs. I don't see any micro-USB on the Atom. I have the Element II combined DAC/Amp and am really pleased with it. Power-wise it's overkill for the Teaks as they can run off anything, but they do sound noticeably better from that than my laptop audio out. The sound is smoother and less fatiguing. I'm not sure I'm supposed to hear a difference, and the test is not scientific or blind, but going back and forth for a week at a time, with a view to selling the Element II since the power requirements of the Teaks suggest I don't need it, and I always end up going back to it.
I looked at the JDS amps, they seem nice, though still no USB-C. However the USB-B that they use is a step better than micro-USB when considering robustness. It's pretty disappointing to see that USB-C is missing from these products, they really need to adapt the new standard.
Immediately the Hifiman Ananda, DCA Aeon series or Audeze LCD2 come to mind. But those 3 produce a very different sound signatures out of the box, could you tell us more about what you value in sound?
Those all seem like nice options, I have a really hard time saying what I value in sound. I think I do enjoy slightly emphasized bass, and I listen to mainly 80's heavy metal, but I can go through jazz, blues, 80's pop, trance and deathcore when I feel like it, so quite a broad spectrum really. Another aspect that could be pretty important for me is comfort. Especially the close backed pair I'll end up getting will probably be worn up towards 6-8 hours a day, basically non stop during work hours, so something that's uncomfortable after an hour or two just won't cut the mustard. I'm also an eyeglasses wearing listener, if that needs special consideration.

Could you tell me about the models you mention here, they all seem interesting, though I would say the DCA Aeon's perhaps the least so just because of the aesthetics that don't quite fit my taste, I think they look like something that belongs on the side of a sports motorcycle... :D Audio wise I'm still very interested in what they're like though, I can perhaps look past my design preferences if the audio quality is something else.
 

Rayman30

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I am a big metal head myself, the Audeze LCDX are popular for metal, gotta say as much as I like Hifiman headphones, I don't use my Ananda for metal (Or Sundara when I had them) but exception being the HE4XX which I thought did metal decently.
 

enricoclaudio

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028ACFD2-0B70-4017-866B-48A1528C5A75.jpeg


The DCA Noires get my vote too. I have HD660S, Sundaras and Noires and the Noires are in a totally different league, not by much but they are…
 
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downhouse

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So the Aeon Noire is a closed back pair, and the Audeze LCD-X is open back... hmm, maybe we're onto something here...
All these suggestions are really intriguing and extremely valuable,I'll just have to keep looking at this and somehow (I have no idea how...) I'm going to have to decide on what to get first.

@enricoclaudio what kind of music do you listen to when you say that the Noire is a notch above the others?
 

enricoclaudio

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So the Aeon Noire is a closed back pair, and the Audeze LCD-X is open back... hmm, maybe we're onto something here...
All these suggestions are really intriguing and extremely valuable,I'll just have to keep looking at this and somehow (I have no idea how...) I'm going to have to decide on what to get first.

@enricoclaudio what kind of music do you listen to when you say that the Noire is a notch above the others?
I listen to any kind of music, from Latin to Pop, Rock, Jazz, Classical, Opera, you name it. The HD660S and Sundara sound great with some kind of music. The Noires sound great with ANY well recorded music, period. However, I really enjoy switching headphones during a particular song or a listening session but at the end I end with the Noires. If I need to pick one out of the three, it’s the Noire for sure but thanks God I don’t need to do that so I’m keeping the three :)
 
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