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Next level headphone above Sennheiser HD 650 and Beyerdynamics DT 1990

mrbungle

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Try to buy second hand or b stock (directly from Hifiman shop) Hifiman HE1000v2 (notice V2 not SE)
Very good tuning out of the box. Very close to Harman.
Soundstage and spatial effects are amazing. In my opinion much much better (in terms of tuning) than Arya or he1000se.

They are not harsh on top as Arya. Spatial effects are on the same level. Arya was unlistenable to me way too harsh with female vocals. He1000v2 only occasionally gets harsh but it's very minor.

I only changed from he1000v2 to Stealth as they were even better tuned and clear sounding.
The Arya is bright, but it’s not that far away from Harman. I do a little bit of EQ in Roon, but it never bothered me in movies etc. if you are looking for soundstage and improvement over HD650, the Arya or HD800S are obvious recommendations. The XS seems like a great deal though.

I‘m obviously biased as Arya owner, but I enjoy them a lot and have zero urge to upgrade.
 

Leiker535

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Your question is the same as mine, and your priorities also seem to correlate to mine. Well, so far I've tracked these contestants:

-ZMF Auteurs: people recommended them to me a few times. Their measurement by crinacle indicate good tonal balance, but his personal rating is lower than that of the 600 or the 650; also, being made of wood, I'm heavily skeptical of unit to unit variation, as it is not a well behaved and predictable material, ZMFs experience with it notwithstanding;

- Focal Elex: these are the most clear choices (though not so clear, pun intended); they measure really well, are acclaimed to have that punchy excursive bass that people attribute to Focals, and are airy and very open. Their main problem is QC, which seems to be non existant, you'd be lucky to have them working for more than a year or so the userbase tells.

- Focal Clears: discontinnued but can be found in the used market. They don't measure stellar by the harman target neither here nor there, but people seem to praise them well enough.

-Focal Clear MGs: same as above, just tuned more warmly (and nasally). If you are brazilian like me, as per your username, you can check Drummond's review of them on his channel on youtube, Mind the Headphone. He considers them the logical upgrade to the HD650s, and although that doesn't correlate well to measurements, I trust his opinions enough by my experience with his recommendations AND the products he developed to give him credit. My only suspicion about it, aside from the objective data, is that he maybe was comparing the MGs to an "idea" of the HD650, that idea that they are warm and veiled (some really are, unit variance since it's launch is crazy); which doesn't bode well when ABing them with the HD600 hands on; MGs FR also seem to suggest this.

-HD 800S with EQ: king of technicalities, beggar of tonality. If you use parametric EQ you may reach our desire easily, as even Amirm and Oratory likes them EQed. My only skepticism about them is the possibility of them losing the big soundstage and technical notes when you use heavy EQ, as there is some evidence aside from the angled drivers that the space created is due to the way they peak on lower treble. Other users may tell their tale better on this.

About the Hifimans: they may suit your ears better than they did mine, but personally I found the EDXS much colder than my Senns, technicalities aside. Their tonality and my abysmal experience with the headband made me not use them very much, so I ended up selling.

All in all, the choice is yours, and the advice I follow in this trail may very well suit you too: don't think in terms of definitive upgrades, they simply don't exist above "mid-fi". Be suspicious of people telling you that something is leaps and bounds better than the other, specially when considering "technicalities", which is such a murky subject. My personal choice for an upgrade now is the 800S because I'm not at all afraid of EQ, but I'll never sell my 6XXs even when getting them, as I know headphones are not like eletronics.
 
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The Arya is bright, but it’s not that far away from Harman. I do a little bit of EQ in Roon, but it never bothered me in movies etc. if you are looking for soundstage and improvement over HD650, the Arya or HD800S are obvious recommendations. The XS seems like a great deal though.

I‘m obviously biased as Arya owner, but I enjoy them a lot and have zero urge to upgrade.
I'm not paying extra for high end headphones and then use EQ, that's kinda funny.
I can use EQ for 100$ cans, not ~2K
YMMV
 
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Garrincha

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Your question is the same as mine, and your priorities also seem to correlate to mine. Well, so far I've tracked these contestants:

-ZMF Auteurs: people recommended them to me a few times. Their measurement by crinacle indicate good tonal balance, but his personal rating is lower than that of the 600 or the 650; also, being made of wood, I'm heavily skeptical of unit to unit variation, as it is not a well behaved and predictable material, ZMFs experience with it notwithstanding;

- Focal Elex: these are the most clear choices (though not so clear, pun intended); they measure really well, are acclaimed to have that punchy excursive bass that people attribute to Focals, and are airy and very open. Their main problem is QC, which seems to be non existant, you'd be lucky to have them working for more than a year or so the userbase tells.

- Focal Clears: discontinnued but can be found in the used market. They don't measure stellar by the harman target neither here nor there, but people seem to praise them well enough.

-Focal Clear MGs: same as above, just tuned more warmly (and nasally). If you are brazilian like me, as per your username, you can check Drummond's review of them on his channel on youtube, Mind the Headphone. He considers them the logical upgrade to the HD650s, and although that doesn't correlate well to measurements, I trust his opinions enough by my experience with his recommendations AND the products he developed to give him credit. My only suspicion about it, aside from the objective data, is that he maybe was comparing the MGs to an "idea" of the HD650, that idea that they are warm and veiled (some really are, unit variance since it's launch is crazy); which doesn't bode well when ABing them with the HD600 hands on; MGs FR also seem to suggest this.

-HD 800S with EQ: king of technicalities, beggar of tonality. If you use parametric EQ you may reach our desire easily, as even Amirm and Oratory likes them EQed. My only skepticism about them is the possibility of them losing the big soundstage and technical notes when you use heavy EQ, as there is some evidence aside from the angled drivers that the space created is due to the way they peak on lower treble. Other users may tell their tale better on this.

About the Hifimans: they may suit your ears better than they did mine, but personally I found the EDXS much colder than my Senns, technicalities aside. Their tonality and my abysmal experience with the headband made me not use them very much, so I ended up selling.

All in all, the choice is yours, and the advice I follow in this trail may very well suit you too: don't think in terms of definitive upgrades, they simply don't exist above "mid-fi". Be suspicious of people telling you that something is leaps and bounds better than the other, specially when considering "technicalities", which is such a murky subject. My personal choice for an upgrade now is the 800S because I'm not at all afraid of EQ, but I'll never sell my 6XXs even when getting them, as I know headphones are not like eletronics.
Thanks for the extensive reply. Firstly, I currently live in Brazil but from time to time travel back to Germany, where I am originally from and usually make electronics aquisitions, as these are very complicated and expensive in Brazil, exept maybe Aliexpress, but you must know this better than me.
It really looks that we have similar thoughts on the subject.
The Focals don't really appeal to me from the design perspective and the Clear was not tested favorably by Amir, so I am not very interested in it.
Hifiman has some really interesting models, there is for example this frequent sale's option for the HE6se, or the Edition X V2, or Edition XS, but I am a bit afraid of the built quality, there are many complaints in the forum or in other reviews.
But since I had a bit time today I digged a bit deeper in the EQ issue and found it pretty easy to do EQ on my MacBook Pro with SoundSource, which has a huge database of PEQs from different sources or allows own inputs (or Amir's for that matter), so I really am inclined now to go for the HD800S, as the lack of bass and exagerated harshness seem easily to be remedied and apparently they are still the master of soundstage, what I really crave for. Furthermore, they are readily avalaible for a reasonable price used in Germany, so I am inclined to use my next visit there for a purchase.
As a side remark, since the HD 650s are now on the market for more than 20 years and still serve as a basic reference for many, I would not call them Mid-Fi, they are clearly Hi-Fi, just maybe not High-End. Abraço
 
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Barone Birra

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Hi,

considering that there are sufficiently many relatively cheap, very well measuring headphone amps and dacs around, such that this might almost be considered as a solved problem, to improve my audiophile pleasure, I really would like to invest in a new headphone. I currently own (besides some older Staxs) the Sennheiser HD650 and the Beyerdynamics DT 1990. I like both of them, but am eager to get something better still. This should not simply be more expensive but really improve the listening experience, especially in imaging, soundstage, detail and also bass. For sure there is subjectivity involved, but what could be a solid recommendation ? From the measurements I have seen, the Hifiman Arya and HE6se or the Focal Clear do not appear to be a huge step beyond, but I may be wrong. The price should not exceed US$ 2000, thus the stellar Hifiman Susvara, Focal Utopia and Dan Clark Stealth are considered out of question. So is there a clear candidate (corroborated by measurements) ? Thanks in advance.
If you could go slightly over 2000 on used market, go with the Focal Utopia. Otherwise, Fostex TH909 is a good and vibrant candidate.
 

Leiker535

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Thanks for the extensive reply. Firstly, I currently live in Brazil but from time to time travel back to Germany, where I am originally from and usually make electronics aquisitions, as these are very complicated and expensive in Brazil, exept maybe Aliexpress, but you must know this better than me.
It really looks that we have similar thoughts on the subject.
The Focals don't really appeal to me from the design perspective and the Clear was not tested favorably by Amir, so I am not very interested in it.
Hifiman has some really interesting models, there is for example this frequent sale's option for the HE6se, or the Edition X V2, or Edition XS, but I am a bit afraid of the built quality, there are many complaints in the forum or in other reviews.
But since I had a bit time today I digged a bit deeper in the EQ issue and found it pretty easy to do EQ on my MacBook Pro with SoundSource, which has a huge database of PEQs from different sources or allows own inputs (or Amir's for that matter), so I really am inclined now to go for the HD800S, as the lack of bass and exagerated harshness seem easily to be remedied and apparently they are still the master of soundstage, what I really crave for. Furthermore, they are readily avalaible for a reasonable price used in Germany, so I am inclined to use my next visit there for a purchase.
As a side remark, since the HD 650s are now on the market for more than 20 years and still serve as a basic reference for many, I would not call them Mid-Fi, they are clearly Hi-Fi, just maybe not High-End. Abraço
Yeah, buying a sennheiser in Germany would be the master deal.

The hifiman QC problems are, like we say, loteria. Getting them used usually avoid the problems though, as they come already "tested". The he6sev2 on Adorama is a master deal, but there had been some reports of channel mismatching, so beware. The headband also may no be for you, as it wasn't for me (and made me sell the XSs). They also require beefy amplification (not a nuclear reactor, but certainly more than the HD 800s). Abraços!
 
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Garrincha

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Yeah, buying a sennheiser in Germany would be the master deal.

The hifiman QC problems are, like we say, loteria. Getting them used usually avoid the problems though, as they come already "tested". The he6sev2 on Adorama is a master deal, but there had been some reports of channel mismatching, so beware. The headband also may no be for you, as it wasn't for me (and made me sell the XSs). They also require beefy amplification (not a nuclear reactor, but certainly more than the HD 800s). Abraços!
Well, amplification nowadays is no problem anymore, the relatively cheap Topping A 30 Pro has 5,5 Watt at 33 Ohm! Is there any good source for used Hifiman in Brazil (besides maybe OLX)? Well, the headband of the HE6se V2 und the XS is really not beautiful, if it is comfortble for me I can't say, I woud prefer the traditional ones.
 

Jose Hidalgo

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I'm not paying extra for high end headphones and then use EQ, that's kinda funny.
I can use EQ for 100$ cans, not ~2K
YMMV
This is definitely the stupidest thing that I've read today. :facepalm:
Saying things like that without any arguments should not be encouraged on ASR, and I hope nobody will take that seriously.
Anyway, thanks for making me laugh.
 

Jimbob54

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This is definitely the stupidest thing that I've read today. :facepalm:
Saying things like that without any arguments should not be encouraged on ASR, and I hope nobody will take that seriously.
Anyway, thanks for making me laugh.
Not really- its just a view you don't share. I cant say I do either as its rather hairshirted, but its a logical stance to take.

But what you really want for mega bucks headphones is it to come tuned to ones own ears/ tastes- custom over ears if you like.
 
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This is definitely the stupidest thing that I've read today. :facepalm:
Saying things like that without any arguments should not be encouraged on ASR, and I hope nobody will take that seriously.
Anyway, thanks for making me laugh.
Make excuses for manufactures.
That's what we need. Let them produce headphones tuned as crap and fix them later... By EQ.
BRAVO

Ps. Or buy headphones that tuning you don't like and then fix using EQ. What's the point?
Sorry I have no time for fighting over forum with ...... Put here whatever you want. Blocked
 

Jimbob54

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Make excuses for manufactures.
That's what we need. Let them produce headphones tuned as crap and fix them later... By EQ.
BRAVO

Ps. Or buy headphones that tuning you don't like and then fix using EQ. What's the point?
Im not sure EQ should be about fixing poor tuning. It really should be about turning a HP with a good generic response into one that is perfect for you. If *most* people need to make high amplitude / sharp peak adjustments to a HP to make it good then its a broken tuning and not worthy of a large price tag.
 
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Im not sure EQ should be about fixing poor tuning. It really should be about turning a HP with a good generic response into one that is perfect for you. If *most* people need to make high amplitude / sharp peak adjustments to a HP to make it good then its a broken tuning and not worthy of a large price tag.
Yes to some degree.
But when you don't like headphone tuning from the start why even begin fixing them?

I respect my money I won't pay 4k and then fix it.
Tuning should fit my tastes from the start.
 

Jimbob54

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But when you don't like headphone tuning from the start why even begin fixing them?
Totally agree. But "dont like" shouldn't be synonymous with "could be improved". Lets be honest, no one is saying you can plonk a pair of £10k speakers in your room willy nilly and with suitable amplification expect them to sound perfect. A degree of room treatment and/ or DSP is accepted as necessary in most cases. Why should we expect HP to be perfect for each pair of ears (and preference)?
 

Geert

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Why should we expect HP to be perfect for each pair of ears (and preference)?
Because they don't require room treatment ;) I mean, how many headphones are there that sound acceptable without eq? If you're an experienced user most headphones sound flawed. Take the DT 1990 from the topic title. Most users will agree the treble peak is over the top. A bit disappointing for that amount of money. Must be that designing a good headphone isn't easy. Ironically a few cheap headphones like the HD 560s do pretty well when it comes to tonality.
 

Jimbob54

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Because they don't require room treatment ;) I mean, how many headphones are there that sound acceptable without eq? If you're an experienced user most headphones sound flawed. Take the DT 1990 from the topic title. Most users will agree the treble peak is over the top. A bit disappointing for that amount of money. Must be that designing a good headphone isn't easy. Ironically a few cheap headphones like the HD 560s do pretty well when it comes to tonality.
Agree, but that isnt my point. The DT1990 like most Beyers have treble peaks (I suspect) because Beyer want them to have. Someone that doesnt want that level of treble shouldnt buy such Beyers and then EQ them down. Nor should anyone that doesnt know what they like. A good starting point for anyone getting into head-fi these days should be something that is broadly Harman compliant (like the Senn 560S as you say) and with low enough distortion to make EQ tweaks as desired, especially in the bass, without paying a penalty.

But @ObjectiveSubjectivist seems to be saying that (example is mine) you shouldnt buy the DCA Stealth and then EQ it if you dont like that level of bass- it should somehow arrive perfectly aligned to ones own preference and isnt worth the price if it doesnt.
 

Jose Hidalgo

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Allow me to elaborate just a bit so everybody can understand.

Modern software EQ solutions offer a variety of solutions (parametric, convolution, etc.) and most importantly a degree of precision (with floating point calculations, 64 bits, etc.) that is way beyond any human ear's ability. In other words, EQ (as in "software EQ") will not deteriorate the signal in any audible way. It will only modify the FR according to one's taste. Flawlessly.

EQ is by far NOT the weakest link in the audio chain. That link is of course the headphones, as proven by measurements. Just like in any Hi-Fi chain, the weakest link is always the speakers. Even extremely expensive cans will ALWAYS be the weakest link in the Hi-Fi chain. ALWAYS. That's not even open for debate, it's a proven fact due to technology. And we are light years away to having any headphone or any speaker come even remotely close to the performance level of any average DAC.

For that reason, saying "I can use EQ for 100$ cans, not ~2K" is stupid, and to me that's not an opinion but a fact. EQ (when used correctly of course) can ALWAYS improve the sound of a headphone or a speaker without any audible downsides, and is ALWAYS recommended. For $100 cans, for ~2K cans and for ~60K cans.

The poster is of course free to do what he wants, that's not the issue here. But pretending that just because a headphone is expensive means that its FR shouldn't be touched and that the manufacturer should provide "perfection" just because we pay for it, is, in a word, snobbish, and definitely not logical. That argument could work in just about any other audiophile board, but once again, we are on ASR here. Here, audiophile arguments that can't be sustained by any science and/or logic just can't be accepted.

As science shows, we all have different ears, different ear canals, and different FRs (our own FRs, the response of our ears to audio signals). Not to mention that our own FRs vary with aging because we lose hearing in some frequencies. For that reason, we all have different tastes, and those tastes vary with aging.

Target curves like Harman are broad approximations that (in the case of Harman) match a large number of people's tastes. But there can never be a perfect target curve that will be enjoyed by 100% of people. For that same reason, there can never be a perfect headphone, even for all the money in the world. Even the most expensive headphones will need EQ for many people.

It's not about the price, and it's not about the FR (since there's not a perfect FR). It's rather about the mix between the headphone's FR and the listener's own FR, plus the listener's own brain. Those three factors are what makes everybody's preference. And EQ can definitely help a lot with that, regardless of the headphones.

I could be much longer, but I hope this makes my point clear enough. Sorry for being probably off-topic here.
 

mrbungle

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I'm not paying extra for high end headphones and then use EQ, that's kinda funny.
I can use EQ for 100$ cans, not ~2K
YMMV
I think my point was more that I feel you are exaggerating. The OP likes Beyers, so they likely won’t mind Arya’s brighter tuning.
 

Geert

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Garrincha

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Allow me to elaborate just a bit so everybody can understand.

Modern software EQ solutions offer a variety of solutions (parametric, convolution, etc.) and most importantly a degree of precision (with floating point calculations, 64 bits, etc.) that is way beyond any human ear's ability. In other words, EQ (as in "software EQ") will not deteriorate the signal in any audible way. It will only modify the FR according to one's taste. Flawlessly.

EQ is by far NOT the weakest link in the audio chain. That link is of course the headphones, as proven by measurements. Just like in any Hi-Fi chain, the weakest link is always the speakers. Even extremely expensive cans will ALWAYS be the weakest link in the Hi-Fi chain. ALWAYS. That's not even open for debate, it's a proven fact due to technology. And we are light years away to having any headphone or any speaker come even remotely close to the performance level of any average DAC.

For that reason, saying "I can use EQ for 100$ cans, not ~2K" is stupid, and to me that's not an opinion but a fact. EQ (when used correctly of course) can ALWAYS improve the sound of a headphone or a speaker without any audible downsides, and is ALWAYS recommended. For $100 cans, for ~2K cans and for ~60K cans.

The poster is of course free to do what he wants, that's not the issue here. But pretending that just because a headphone is expensive means that its FR shouldn't be touched and that the manufacturer should provide "perfection" just because we pay for it, is, in a word, snobbish, and definitely not logical. That argument could work in just about any other audiophile board, but once again, we are on ASR here. Here, audiophile arguments that can't be sustained by any science and/or logic just can't be accepted.

As science shows, we all have different ears, different ear canals, and different FRs (our own FRs, the response of our ears to audio signals). Not to mention that our own FRs vary with aging because we lose hearing in some frequencies. For that reason, we all have different tastes, and those tastes vary with aging.

Target curves like Harman are broad approximations that (in the case of Harman) match a large number of people's tastes. But there can never be a perfect target curve that will be enjoyed by 100% of people. For that same reason, there can never be a perfect headphone, even for all the money in the world. Even the most expensive headphones will need EQ for many people.

It's not about the price, and it's not about the FR (since there's not a perfect FR). It's rather about the mix between the headphone's FR and the listener's own FR, plus the listener's own brain. Those three factors are what makes everybody's preference. And EQ can definitely help a lot with that, regardless of the headphones.

I could be much longer, but I hope this makes my point clear enough. Sorry for being probably off-topic here.
I agree with the most you are saying. But still, since it was already mentioned that even relatively cheap headphones manage to stay close to the Harman curve and the FR of it is widely accepted to be some kind of norm, it is really not easy to understand why many or even most manufacturers come up with different tonality. Why? Being close to the Harman curve for a headphone should be the same goal as having lowest possible SINAD for a DAC or amp. I for example am now that I discovered how to use EQ on my Macbook inclined to buy the Sennheiser HD 800S, principally because of the supposed huge soundstage everybody is talking about. But for example on my iPhone I will have difficulties using the perfect EQing, so I think it is really a drawback to being almost forced to use an EQ to have the best sound.
 

mrbungle

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I agree with the most you are saying. But still, since it was already mentioned that even relatively cheap headphones manage to stay close to the Harman curve and the FR of it is widely accepted to be some kind of norm, it is really not easy to understand why many or even most manufacturers come up with different tonality. Why? Being close to the Harman curve for a headphone should be the same goal as having lowest possible SINAD for a DAC or amp. I for example am now that I discovered how to use EQ on my Macbook inclined to buy the Sennheiser HD 800S, principally because of the supposed huge soundstage everybody is talking about. But for example on my iPhone I will have difficulties using the perfect EQing, so I think it is really a drawback to being almost forced to use an EQ to have the best sound.
Try EQing your Beyers to Harman and see how big of a difference it makes to your ears. You might find that it doesn’t matter much for most albums.
 
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