Need Help With Closed Audiophile Headphones

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by bobnfrances, Mar 24, 2013.

  1. bobnfrances

    bobnfrances New Member

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    I live in U.S. and want audiophile-class closed headphones. I have listened to the Sennheiser HD-800 and the Audeze LCD-3 and they didn't seem to have the sonic quality I was expecting. I then thought the closed headphones would be a better match for me. I'v read reviews the Denon AH-D7100. However, I haven't had a chance to listen to them yet. Does anyone have other suggestions or opinions. My knowledge is very limited, but my hearing is very sensitive. My budget is $2,500 U.S.
    Thanks
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    This may be just the ticket. There is a good review and discussion at the headfonia site.

    Fostex TH-900 Premium Closed Back Reference-Class Headphones
     
  3. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

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    Hi bobnfrances

    What were these headphones missing that you had hoped they would have? Don't know what direction to go in to make another suggestion, let us know what you are looking for in a highend headphone:)
     
  4. Bassgroove

    Bassgroove New Member

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    Source, DAC and amplification

    Hi there,

    as you say, your knowledge is limited. As such, I think it might be an idea to just run through a couple of other thoughts. If you are not getting good sound out of HD800s or LCD3s my suggestion is that you take some time to consider all of the other links in your system:

    1: What quality are the sound recordings themselves and are the source files compressed MP3s or lossless? At the very least you should probably be using FLAC or ALAC files.

    2: Certainly the biggest bang for buck I ever found when getting bitten by the audiophile bug was to use a separate DAC stage. The controlling of how your digital file is converted into an analogue signal is critical. Upgrading to something like a Schiit Bifrost or a Cypher Labs Algorithm Solo -dB and using a digital out from you digital player should make a huge difference if you have not done this already.

    3: Amplification. Once you have fed the signal out from your DAC you'll need to amplify it with a dedicated headphone amplifier: Icon Audio HP8 Mark 2, Woo Audio, RSA Emmeline SR-71 (A for single ended output, B for balanced outputs), Pico Power, etc. are all worth a listen.

    4: If your headphones still sound bad after this they may be defective.

    If after all of the above you are still getting bad sound quality you may want to get your hearing tested.

    If you are proven to have great hearing, have a properly balanced system with quality components and high quality sound files and are still getting poor sound quality that you can clearly identify then I suggest you retrain as an audio engineer where you may find you can start fabricating sound signatures that you like.

    By all means there are sound signatures that speak to us and some that don't however, you don't give us a lot to go on. I have heard people listen to my $7,000 set up with a pair of Ultrasone Edition 8s on the end and then say they aren't as loud as a pair of Monster Beats and walk away disappointed.

    You may have ears that can hear differences, but do you know what the differences mean? Can you tell what is causing them? Do you understand what each link in the chain does and what difference it would make to upgrade each component?

    For $2500 if you are starting from scratch you should make sure that each link in the chain is as good as it can be for the money you have.

    If you go and sample a range of HiFi headphones in good setups from people who know about sound quality and don't like them then you may just find you're not going to get into being an audiophile.

    This is not to discourage you... however, if you can walk away you might find you save yourself tens of thousands of dollars and be happy with a pair of Bose or Monster Beats.

    P.S. you talk about wanting closed headphones and then speak of open headphones. If you want closed then perhaps try the Ultrasone Edition 8s or some Fostex.
     
  5. catchacrab

    catchacrab New Member

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    Are high end cans a rip-off???

    I'm at the same point as this buyer. Read loads of reviews, all of them totally positive and it's not that easy finding high end cans to audition, especially in comparisons. I currently listen via an Allen & Heath line level mixer as headphone pre-amp. This leads me to wonder if or why high end headphone amps don't have EQ, whereas my mixer has switchable 4-band EQ. To my ears, it is completely transparent, switching EQ in and out (obliously at zero settings). I'm familiar enough with my existing headphones to tell what a little EQ can do, if needed. Am sceptical high end phones will really amaze me, though I can certainly afford them. Differences being slight and nothing more than a little EQ could produce.
     
  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    High end headphones can get really complicated if you read a lot of popular opinion at certain high-volume audio sites. But there are a few people who help cut through most of that. David Mahler of headphones dot com (I think) wrote a big 50-plus headphone review article that was posted at head-fi, and I seem to remember the discussion (nearly all off topic) ran to hundreds of pages of text. But the basic review reflects mostly his own test results, which interestingly coincide almost exactly with mine where I've tested the items, and also correlates well with Innerfidelity's tests. Once you get led even slightly away from those core results, it all breaks down into noise.

    Tone controls and EQ are highly controversial in audiophile sites, especially headphone sites, because there's an unwritten rule that you *never* *ever* use tone controls in reviewing a headphone, particularly a high end headphone. I do, but I'm strictly amateur. Will high end headphones amaze you? The Sennheiser HD800 headphone amazes me, because it reproduces the upper harmonic detail of voices and instruments that other headphones don't quite get to. None that I've heard, with the possible exception of the Sennheiser IE800 IEM's. Other high-end headphones like the Grado PS1000, Beyerdynamic T1, Fostex TH900, and Audeze LCD3 emphasize different qualities that make them favorites with fans of those particular qualities. But as best I understand it, you *must* match those with the correct amp or all (or nearly all) is lost. That does not apply to the Sennheiser HD800 in my opinion, since you can tell the difference between it and any of the others below its price level with an iphone in a quiet room. It gets much better with a good amp, but still you can tell....

    Then of course you can really go for the gold and get the Stax SR009 with one of the recommended amps, and knowing electrostatics as I do, you can't do better. That headphone tops the Sennheiser HD800, but it's not day and night, unless you're listening very carefully late at night and it's very quiet.

    My impression of a lot of reviews that describe soundstage, "layering", rhythm and pace, sparkle, bass slam etc. -- that use those and half a dozen other common descriptors to describe a headphone's sound, is how easily any of those can turn around merely by increasing or decreasing the amplitude of any given frequency range. The aspects of sound that a headphone and amp reproduce are generally inseparable, and you might improve the overall sound and get more satisfaction by EQ'ing, but if you're hoping for the soundstage someone described with a bright headphone and you turn down the treble, some of that soundstage may go with it.
     
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