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  • goodkeys
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
This forum has already been a great help in deciding on what I really need. Of course I could post at other hifi- or headphone-forums. But there advice is often highly biased and often leads to recommendations of thrice the price. Anyway.

I'm looking for a headphone for under 500$. I use it to listen to classical music, and I'd use the amp of my Blue Sky eXo2 monitor system. What I'm looking for: very detailed, analytical, revealing headphones with an as wide as possible yet accurate stage. And all this with an as neutral as possible FR. I've already listened to the AKG K701, which I like, but they were unbearably uncomfortable. The HD600 on the other hand was less detailed and more forgiving to my ears. Also the stage was not as wide as with the AKGs. One thing I noted with the AKG: while the stage was nice and wide, the sounds seemed to come from behind me. Are there any headphones that can create a room in front of the listener?

Might the Beyer DT-880 be an option? Any other models? Bear in mind that I want to be able to exactly locate every instrument in the mix. And the phones should reveal bad mixes, not colour them to sound nice...

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #1
This forum has already been a great help in deciding on what I really need. Of course I could post at other hifi- or headphone-forums. But there advice is often highly biased and often leads to recommendations of thrice the price. Anyway.

I'm looking for a headphone for under 500$. I use it to listen to classical music, and I'd use the amp of my Blue Sky eXo2 monitor system. What I'm looking for: very detailed, analytical, revealing headphones with an as wide as possible yet accurate stage. And all this with an as neutral as possible FR. I've already listened to the AKG K701, which I like, but they were unbearably uncomfortable. The HD600 on the other hand was less detailed and more forgiving to my ears. Also the stage was not as wide as with the AKGs. One thing I noted with the AKG: while the stage was nice and wide, the sounds seemed to come from behind me. Are there any headphones that can create a room in front of the listener?

Might the Beyer DT-880 be an option? Any other models? Bear in mind that I want to be able to exactly locate every instrument in the mix. And the phones should reveal bad mixes, not colour them to sound nice...


My new Sennheiser HD380s seem to be raising the bar for resolving inner detail for me.

  • testyou
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #2
You are mentioning colours in your post; this is highly subjective, of course.
You might want to consult frequency response graphs, and go to a store where you can try the headphones without equalization.

  • eahm
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #3
I liked the HD280 better than the HD380.

One of my favorites are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50.

For that price get the HD650: http://www.headphone.com/selection-guide/t...audiophiles.php
  • Last Edit: 09 April, 2013, 04:20:25 PM by eahm

  • LithosZA
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #4
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I liked the HD280 better than the HD380.

+1

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For that price get the HD650: http://www.headphone.com/selection-guide/t...audiophiles.php

The HD650 might be more flat in graphs, but I personally found my HD280s more revealing of details than my HD650s. Just my opinion.

  • DVDdoug
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #5
...with an as wide as possible yet accurate stage.

...Also the stage was not as wide as with the AKGs. One thing I noted with the AKG: while the stage was nice and wide, the sounds seemed to come from behind me. Are there any headphones that can create a room in front of the listener?

...I want to be able to exactly locate every instrument in the mix.

I believe that "soundstage" and stereo positioning vary with the listener.    Obviously it's only an illusion, since there are only two channels.  With the same speakers/headphones, one person might get a great illusion, and another person might not. 

With headphones it's even trickier, because head movement is an important part of normal sound location and with headphones the sound-source moves with your head.  (This is the main reason surround headphones don't work, unless you have head tracking to adjust the signals when you move your head.)

This article talks about panning and the phantom image (with speakers)...
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...when the dust finally settled I had found out something quite interesting: that as long as the difference between channels is less than 3 decibels, the phantom image hovers pretty much in the middle point between the two speakers...

... With between 3 and 6 decibels difference in levels, the phantom quickly and without much stability migrated to the louder speaker, hovering just inboard of that speaker, and once the difference was greater than 7 decibels, the phantom was for all intents and purposes coming from the louder speaker.
  • Last Edit: 09 April, 2013, 04:38:02 PM by DVDdoug

  • goodkeys
  • [*]
Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #6
I know that the HD600/650 would be a save bet. However, compared to the K701 they lacked in stage, plus to me the K701 was actually more detailed. So I preferred the AKGs sound over the Sennheiser, even though they were much more comfortable.
According to Golden Ears FR graphs the HD600 seems to be the most accurate/flat headphone in the world. Graphs on other sites vary, so not sure what to make out of this.
Out of curiosity I gave the H800's a short listen too, and what completely impressed me was the "out of the head localisation"-sort of. While with the AKGs all sounds seemed to come from behind me, with the HD800 they actually sounded like coming from a room in front of me. Very spatial, and wide too. I guess there's no phone in my pricerange that can do a similar thing (not sure how the HD800 manages to do that)?
How do the Beyerdynamics DT 880 compare to the K701? I haven't heard them but read that they are very detailed too and have a wide stage. The FR graphs show a nasty peak at 10 KHz though. Again not sure what to make of this

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #7
Perhaps try the AKG K 601's for a wide sound stage and hopefully they will be more comfortable for you than the K 701's, but they are certainly not as detailed as the Senns.

The HD 650's have my favorite sound stage even though it is not particularly wide but they are very musical not analytical.


FLAC -> JDS Labs ODAC/O2 -> Sennheiser HD 650

  • Porcus
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #8
Analytic and revealing? How much Stax can you get for $500 nowadays? I am not sure if that's something you should buy unheard on eBay though.

(And if you do: they require their dedicated amps (/step-ups)! Like one of these:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/STAX-SRS-005S-IN-T...3-/390542090749
Edit: And if you try to use your own 12V power, beware the negative-center polarity.)
  • Last Edit: 09 April, 2013, 06:20:50 PM by Porcus

  • MikeFord
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #9
I know that the HD600/650 would be a save bet. However, compared to the K701 they lacked in stage, plus to me the K701 was actually more detailed. So I preferred the AKGs sound over the Sennheiser, even though they were much more comfortable.
According to Golden Ears FR graphs the HD600 seems to be the most accurate/flat headphone in the world. Graphs on other sites vary, so not sure what to make out of this.
Out of curiosity I gave the H800's a short listen too, and what completely impressed me was the "out of the head localisation"-sort of. While with the AKGs all sounds seemed to come from behind me, with the HD800 they actually sounded like coming from a room in front of me. Very spatial, and wide too. I guess there's no phone in my pricerange that can do a similar thing (not sure how the HD800 manages to do that)?
How do the Beyerdynamics DT 880 compare to the K701? I haven't heard them but read that they are very detailed too and have a wide stage. The FR graphs show a nasty peak at 10 KHz though. Again not sure what to make of this

Headphones seem to have a huge degree of personal preference, but I question two terms you have used, detailed and sound stage. Electrostatic headphones sometimes have a edgy quality that might be interpreted as detail, but for the most part detail is going to be tied to frequency response. Binaural recording can have a big sound stage, but most made for speakers recording are going to have a sound stage between the ears, all in your head, unless some kind of cross feed delay circuit is used.

A brief google is not telling me the Blue Sky eXo2 is well known for use with headphones. I don't know the circuit or the product, but its not unusual for a headphone output to be no more than a current limiting resistor from some opamp designed to drive a line level impedance. HD600 like a real amp output with no current issues.

My suggestion would be to buy some decent little dedicated headphone amp, maybe one with the cross feed circuit unless that is hopelessly old school, and listen to some good headphones to see what suits you, and be sure to try some real electrostats.

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #10
The srh940 are revealing, but don't have a wide soundstage (i.e out of head experience)  because they are closed. The open equivalent, is above 500$

  • goodkeys
  • [*]
Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #11
Then the SRH940 might be my go-to portable phones. But as for now I'd like to have a wide stage too for home listening.

A Stax is sadly no option for me as they can't be auditioned in switzerland and I'm not gonna buy some unheard. But are there any electrostats in my pricerange? What about a HE-400 or HE-500? Are they analytical and revealing with a wide soundstage? And again: hoe does a DT880 compare to a K701? Could it be a suitable choice?
  • Last Edit: 10 April, 2013, 02:46:44 AM by goodkeys

  • markanini
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #12
No contest, Etymotic ER4.
  • Last Edit: 10 April, 2013, 02:58:59 AM by markanini

  • Kohlrabi
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
  • Global Moderator
Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #13
I'm happy with my KRK KNS 6400s, and since they're sub-100$, I could get even more CDs and bandcamp music.
It's only audiophile if it's inconvenient.

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #14
I'm happy with my KRK KNS 6400s, and since they're sub-100$, I could get even more CDs and bandcamp music.



It's closed, so no big soundstage too.
There's one closed headphone supposed to have a big soundstage ( according to the marketing and reviews) it's the AKG K550.

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #15
Well certainly avoid IEM's and HiFiMAN. :\ No detail there.
FLAC -> JDS Labs ODAC/O2 -> Sennheiser HD 650

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #16
I liked the HD280 better than the HD380.


Interesting. I have both, and reverse prefrence.

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One of my favorites are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50.


Got those too, and prefer the 380s.  M50s are almost open-ear and have the light bass to show for it.


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For that price get the HD650: http://www.headphone.com/selection-guide/t...audiophiles.php


No way is the price of the 380s anything like that of the 650s.

  • goodkeys
  • [*]
Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #17
IEMs and closed are not really an option for me. The K550 was quite good soundstage-wise, but then again I prefer the K701. May add the M50 and the HD280/380 to my list

  • eahm
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #18
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For that price get the HD650: http://www.headphone.com/selection-guide/t...audiophiles.php


No way is the price of the 380s anything like that of the 650s.

$500

  • IgorC
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #19
I had prefer HD 650 over 701 because the self-adjusting headband of the last doesn't suit me. A  properties of sound  also depend of how one wears headphones. And the neutrality of 650'  has no value.

  • MikeFord
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #20
Maybe not make a single leap to a high end canal phone, but you should try some. Even the super cheap CX200 Sennheiser should give you a taste of the differences.

  • markanini
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #21
Or the Etymotic HF series, can be found for $80.

Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #22
It's closed, so no big soundstage too.
There's one closed headphone supposed to have a big soundstage ( according to the marketing and reviews) it's the AKG K550.


Um, what actual evidence do you have that a closed back headphone cannot have a wide soundstage?  I know of no physical or acoustic reason why this should be so.  Remember TOS 8?


Ed Seedhouse
VA7SDH

  • goodkeys
  • [*]
Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #23
I prefer the K701s sound over the K550. I'm hoping that the Dt880 is somewhere between a K701 and a HD600, i.e. that it has the revealing qualities and wide soundstage of the former, and the neutral fr and comfyness of the latter. Can anybody comment on this?

  • Mach-X
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Most revealing detailed headphone under 500$
Reply #24
It's closed, so no big soundstage too.
There's one closed headphone supposed to have a big soundstage ( according to the marketing and reviews) it's the AKG K550.


Um, what actual evidence do you have that a closed back headphone cannot have a wide soundstage?  I know of no physical or acoustic reason why this should be so.  Remember TOS 8?

Are you serious or just a new user horny to whip out the tos 8 card. Granted I'm not an open back fan because it defeats the purpose of personal listening. I'd rather just have speakers in a room. But take any open back headphones and then cover the back up and tell me it doesn't sound different. Ridiculous.