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Vhalidictes
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Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:04 pm

Many years ago my Sennheiser 650's broke for the 3rd or 4th time (internal cord break). At the time I needed something that sounded decent and was really cheap, so I splurged(!) on a Superlux HD668B. Which, to be fair, sounded incredible for the price.

That set bit the dust a few days ago, and I need a replacement. Fortunately, I have a small budget of ~$150 US. I need some advice on specific sets to look out for; There are way too many options in that price range.

Thanks!
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:08 pm

HD598

/thread
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Vhalidictes
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:10 pm

Wow, those are suspiciously cheap for Sennheiser. Thanks! I'll check them out.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:18 pm

Sennheiser is great pretty much all around; even their budget models sound very good for the money. At work I use a Sennheiser PX 100-II (currently $63 at Newegg) to listen to music at my desk and I'm quite happy with them.
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general_tux
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:34 pm

Another good option at the $150 price point is the Audio Technica ATH-M50x. I have really enjoyed mine and they are pretty comfortable even for my large head. Another nice thing is that the cables are replaceable and they come with three different lengths cables out of the box. Before these, I killed way too many decent headphones and earbuds by breaking the cable.
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CAIN
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:47 pm

Ditto on the rec for the Audio Technica ATH-M50x.
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:50 pm

My ATH-M50x are amazeballs. Much better than the Sennheiser on-ear headset I'd had before.
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Vhalidictes
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 5:57 pm

I agree with you General. One of the things I like about the SuperLux is the detachable cable. That said, I haven't broken a cable in some time so I'm ready to skip that feature.

EDIT: Thanks, I'll look into that Audio Technica model as well.
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general_tux
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:01 pm

Another reason I like the ATH-M50x is that the cans rotate, making it very good for work were I can leave one ear open to listen to a conversation or answer the phone and keep listening to music at the same time.

Edit: I know you can also accomplish this with earbuds, but for some reason I always get a massive headache using earbuds. Therefore the ability to do the same with a set of full size headphones is big plus.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:35 pm

Have a look at the AKG K550s, too. Love mine, especially with the little FIIO DAC I splurged on, too.

Particularly good headphones if you have a larger head.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 6:44 pm

What's your usual listening environment? If it not super quiet then noise cancelling can be awesome.

The Polk Audio Ultrafocus 8000 is $115 on Amazon now, it's usually $300+ and sounds super good.

The NC doesn't get quite as quiet as Bose's QC series, but music is awesome. Doesn't work without batteries though, so be sure to get some good rechargeable batteries to go with it. I ordered mine two years ago with 4 pieces of Eneloop Pros that I swap in between (one in the cans, another backup set in the case). A full charge is usually good for 30+ hours.
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:23 pm

I suggest something from Grado, the SR60 or SR80.
The Grado Prestige Series SR125e Headphones (scroll up for a review) are right at your $150 price point. But I've only got the SR80e.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:36 pm

Also a Grado fan, but with your budget look at the Grado SR125e...

http://www.whathifi.com/grado/sr125e/review
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:44 pm

Grados seem to be very polarizing. I guess I will need to listen to them at some point and form my own opinion.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:55 pm

I'll throw in a vote for the Sony MDR-7506. "Flat" response, but you'll hear stuff the way it's meant to be. Best set of cans I've ever owned, hands down.
 
Vhalidictes
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:57 pm

The Grados look really interesting, but the total lack of isolation sounds like they wouldn't be good if I took them to work.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:48 pm

I'll toss my hat in with Audio Technica. Either the M40x or M50x depending on your preferences in sound. I have the M40s at home and in the office.

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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Thu Mar 09, 2017 8:50 pm

Vhalidictes wrote:
The Grados look really interesting, but the total lack of isolation sounds like they wouldn't be good if I took them to work.
True, they are not isolating. I wore mine for many levels of Warcraft. In game, you can hear the darnedest things in the background sounds and tell where they are. But you can still hear anything going on in the house.

Edit: Oh, I see, you are worried about sound leakage to your fellows.
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general_tux
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:29 am

A good place to look for both reviews (with response curves!) as well as sales/service is headphone.com, formerly HeadRoom. They are a local company near me and I have been impressed with their quality advice, especially based on budget, source (phone, amp/DAC, etc.) and use case. They are worth a look. Sometimes they don't have the best price but they with price match with places like Amazon, which saved me about $20 off my last set.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:41 am

Another vote for the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, the detachable cable (straight or coiled) is very cool, but mainly due to the Bluetooth adapter purchase separately (Bluetooth Adapter-Amplifier BAL-M50X) or all together.
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:45 am

d@mn'd wrote:
Another vote for the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, the detachable cable (straight or coiled) is very cool, but mainly due to the Bluetooth adapter purchase separately (Bluetooth Adapter-Amplifier BAL-M50X) or all together.


WHOA they make a BT attachment for these!? :o <3
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Vhalidictes
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:47 am

d@mn'd wrote:
Another vote for the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, the detachable cable (straight or coiled) is very cool, but mainly due to the Bluetooth adapter purchase separately (Bluetooth Adapter-Amplifier BAL-M50X) or all together.


That's awesome! I'm interested... but is there any truth to the rumor that BlueTooth data transfers are lossy and can sound bad with decent headphones?
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:51 am

tanker27 wrote:
d@mn'd wrote:
Another vote for the Audio Technica ATH-M50x, the detachable cable (straight or coiled) is very cool, but mainly due to the Bluetooth adapter purchase separately (Bluetooth Adapter-Amplifier BAL-M50X) or all together.

WHOA they make a BT attachment for these!? :o <3

The BT adapter seems to get very mixed reviews.
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general_tux
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 11:53 am

Vhalidictes wrote:
That's awesome! I'm interested... but is there any truth to the rumor that BlueTooth data transfers are lossy and can sound bad with decent headphones?
It really depends on a the protocols the source and receiver support. My Onkyo receiver at home sounds great with bluetooth audio from my phone. However, I also have a Samsung bluetooth adapter and with the same phone, it really muddles the bass and clips the highest treble. I am really interested in hearing that Audio Technica adapter though!
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:52 pm

Sounds great. The most annoying part is not the sound, it's that the buletooth thing needs to be charged. Sure, wired sounds bit better, but when wireless is more functional (yard work, biking...) I can sacrifice 'better' for cableless. Remember... Amazon has a great return policy.

A lot of good options have been mentioned. Options are good.
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:04 pm

I second the HD598's. I use the M30x's at work. I much prefer the 598's but the M30-40's are great for the price.

The 598's improve massively when amp'd. The fiio K1 is nice and is $40.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 5:37 pm

I was going to say Sennheiser HD5__, AT M50x, or Grado SR80e, so it looks like everyone's pretty well covered it. That said, I've listened to all three and might be able to say a bit more about them.

The Sennheisers are a pretty good default, IMHO. They don't impress quite like the others, but they also have a notable lack of weaknesses. Not impressive mainly means they aren't as fast as the others and just can't resolve quite as much detail. The shape of the FR band is also a factor - they're definitely the warm and bassy kind of headphone, not the analytical kind. It's a tight and well-controlled kind of bass though. They do leak some sound, since you said that was an issue, but not as much as Grados.

The Audio-Technicas are the right choice as far as isolation (including not leaking sound). They're somewhere between the other two in FR shape, and not too far behind the Grados in speed/detail. They do have a sound quality flaw, but it's a subtle one that's tough to describe. My guess is that it's something to do with phasing and/or particularly variable transient response at different frequencies. I would describe the result as slightly brittle or edgy, but it isn't confined to high frequencies like those terms imply. The FR band is excellent, and they don't seem at all resonant or harsh.

Grado SR80es are what I use. They leak a lot of sound, have a more analytical FR shape, are crazy fast/detailed, still sound smooth in the top end, and are cheaper than the others. They have one big weakness: a giant resonant peak at 2 kHz. Fortunately, that resonance seems to be between the back of the driver and the grills to the outside, and removing the grills fixes it right up. Of course, you can then add "they look weird" to the list of disadvantages. Obviously they're not for everyone, but I wouldn't trade mine for anything less than HD600-class. I hear that Grados don't always get purely better as you go higher-end - if I had $150 instead of my current pair, I'd be looking to buy another pair of SR80es, not SR125es.

Any of these are good enough to benefit from a decent source, but Grados should do so more than the ATs which should do so more than the Sennheisers. If you know you'll be using a mobo's audio or similar, that's a point in favor of Sennheiser and against Grado.
 
Vhalidictes
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:06 pm

Thanks for the review of my options, synthtel2. It sounds like you're right, and that the Sennheisers will be best for casual listening - I definitely understand what "studio monitors" mean, and overly-accurate very-flat headphones aren't fun to listen with for long periods.

I tend to listen to a lot of music on my work desktop or my older cellphones, so there's a hard limit to how much accuracy will help. That said, due to the great isolation I'll still check out the Audio Technica ones.

Side note: does anyone know the impedance for the various options? More specifically, my Galaxy S5 sounds good overall but seems to have very low power output to the headphone jack. A amp won't be practical to take with my everywhere, even setting aside the extra cost.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 6:47 pm

M50x is 35 ohms
SR80e is 32 ohms
HD5xx is 50 ohms

The Grados and M50x's should be ok on a mobile phone. My M40x's work just fine on my Moto G4 and they are rated at 35 ohms. The Sennheisers are getting to the point where an amp might help.

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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:12 pm

It occurs to me that the usefulness of amps cuts two ways. I don't tend to end up volume-limited very much, so I was mainly thinking of sound quality effects, which mostly get better with higher load impedance (though that isn't automatic). My previous claim doesn't apply at all to volume, which SecretSquirrel has got covered.

Vhalidictes wrote:
overly-accurate very-flat headphones aren't fun to listen with for long periods.

I'd call it more of an aquired taste, but also the Grados aren't full-on studio monitors and I don't use particularly high volume. They do have a lot more warmth than some things, but it would still be pretty jarring to someone who's used to HD5__s or similar.

As I understand it, the tricky thing about headphones and bass level is that we're used to being able to feel bass somewhat as well as hear it. With headphones, that doesn't work, so it makes sense to boost bass a bit to compensate. That leaves a lot of room for personal preference in how much bass is enough.

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