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want to try headphones (Read 1796 times)
Beerfab
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want to try headphones
04/05/22 at 18:37:08
 
I am looking at my first venture into headphones.  I have a new SE34I.5 (Rachel) amp.  Any recommendations for a headphone at the $300 price point or less?

TIA
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chapsjon
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #1 - 04/05/22 at 19:56:40
 
You will likely get many different opinions/ answers for your question. Here are a few considerations:

open vs closed back: if you will listen in places with background noise, closed back are almost a necessity. If, however, you want to get as close as possible to the speaker experience of soundstage and imaging, open back generally are better.

tone and sensitivity: like speakers, there are many different types of headphones with different tonal signatures. Depending on speaker diaphragm types, you must also consider headphone sensitivity. Some can be driven with your laptop. Others require a few watts. Electrostatic or planar, for example, have many proponents but care must be taken in which amp will drive them.

I assume you intend to use the headphones with your Rachel amp since you mention that. I have no experience with the Rachel. I have driven my headphones with my Mini Torii (which may give similar results to your Rachel) and, preferably, with my CSP2+. The CSP2+ sounds better with my headphones of the two as it is quieter (blacker backgrounds with my headphones), but doesn't have the power for most planars. I assume your Rachel may have similar results as my MT with high sensitivity headphones: a little background noise.

Finally, my headphone experience is pretty limited, but is fully within your budget. Personally, I support American companies where I can so I went with Grado. They have several options at or below your pricepoint and are still a family owned business made in Brooklyn, NY. I have the 225 and 325, both open back. I also have experience with Sennheiser, but personally prefer the Grados. My preference to listen to records aligns with the naturally warm sound of Grados. I enjoy their tone and their open back form gives them almost speaker like soundstage and imaging.

Best of luck, Jon.
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LR:Mini Torii, CSP2+ & Pioneer Exclusive M4, Accuphase E-303
Wright WPP100 phono, Graham Slee Jazz Club
Technics SL-1200MK3D Grace F-8 & Nagaoka MP-110
Yamaha NS-1000M, KEF Reference 101, Sony SS-5050
BR: SE84C+, ZP1 phono, Decware 945
JVC QL-7 Shure V15 Type
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piezoman
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #2 - 04/05/22 at 22:57:05
 
If you're looking to spend only $300, you'll probably be sorely disappointed. I don't mean to sound rude, but up to a certain point you get what you pay for. A good starting point would be more than double to triple the $$....at the minimum. A $300 pair of headphones is practically throw-away, maybe good for your dog to chomp on.

$300 phones will not sound anything like listening to speakers....the higher end ones get you there.

Open backs give you the best sound stage. I would generally not recommend closed. Semi-open is a fair compromise.      

Maybe adjust your plan and save up for a nice used pair of near top of the line cans, something in the $1,200-2,000 range in the used market [original retail being $2,000-$4,000].

Its all about sound signature after that.                  
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funch
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #3 - 04/06/22 at 03:04:19
 
Check HockessinKid's post below.
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Lon
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #4 - 04/06/22 at 12:30:57
 
I agree to an extent though I will say that my experience is that sound stage in particular really is improved with the amp and headphone match. The Rachel and Decware preamps with headphone output really help in this regard.

At your price point I would look used. I found a pair of ZMF Ori headphones used a few hundred above your price that are among my favorites. The Rachel will drive them well, even my CSP2+ with the Anniversary mods do. I think ZMF models are great at their price point and a bargain used. Mine are planars with a semi-closed back.

I have to make this admission and statement of fact: for me headphone usage came alive and become something I really want to do with a ZROCK2 in the chain between source and amp. With a ZROCK2 you can correct tonal shortcomings of headphones and improve the stage and imaging. In short you can be happier with "lesser" headphones. If you can get into the queue for one do so! It is such an important part of all three of my systems I can't do without the darned things any longer. Once you get a taste of what they can do you don't want to do without.
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HR-1,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th x2, CSP3-25th.Taboo Mk IV;Rega RP3 all GrooveTracer mods;PSAudio:PST+DSD,P15,NPC,PowerBases,AC-12 pwr cbls,Reference spkrcbls; Mapleshade SamsonV3;VooDoo:Cremona+Amati interconnects, IsoPods; headphones:Sennheiser HD800S,ZMF Or
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Beerfab
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #5 - 04/06/22 at 16:03:55
 
Thanks Piezoman.  I may look at used but can't justify $1000+ for a first foray into headphones.  Different story if I knew I really enjoyed them.
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chapsjon
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #6 - 04/06/22 at 16:35:30
 
I, for one, am with you Beerfab. If headphones were my primary way to listen to music, I might be able to justify spending near $1,000, but admittedly I am cheap due to my budget. Though I have some very nice speakers, I haven't spent more than $500 a pair for any of them (all purchased used.) I have a hard time reconciling spending more on headphones when I prefer speakers.

I have to admit that I may say differently if I had experience with expensive headphones, but for my use and preferred listening, I had the same budget you do. Again, maybe it's ignorance, but I am happy with my headphones. For me, they do well enough when I can't listen to speakers due to other things going on at home or when I am away from home for an extended period of time.

We all have priorities and budgets. For me, headphones are not my priority, thus my restricted choices. As I said earlier, I am happy with my Grados. Maybe I just don't know any better, but I am fine with that for my headphone listening purposes. My priority is listening to records through a more traditional setup with stereo speakers.

I recommend you decide your priorities as early as possible in this hobby, unless you're wealthy. How will you spend most of your time listening and what are you looking for when you listen?

For me, it is records through a stereo. I prefer lower level listening with good weight and tone, with good soundstage and imaging. This is why I like tube gear. I invested my limited funds accordingly on amps/ preamps, phono stage, turntable, cartridge, and speakers (not in particular order).

Headphones are simply not my passion but rather are utilitarian, for when that is my option if I want to listen to music.

Hope this helps, Jon.
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LR:Mini Torii, CSP2+ & Pioneer Exclusive M4, Accuphase E-303
Wright WPP100 phono, Graham Slee Jazz Club
Technics SL-1200MK3D Grace F-8 & Nagaoka MP-110
Yamaha NS-1000M, KEF Reference 101, Sony SS-5050
BR: SE84C+, ZP1 phono, Decware 945
JVC QL-7 Shure V15 Type
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Dana
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #7 - 04/06/22 at 20:56:36
 
I'm going to go against the grain here (what's new).  I think a $300 investment in something new  is quite reasonable and some really good examples of what to expect can be obtained.

While I'm writing this I'm listening to the Monoprice 1060 https://www.monoprice.com/product?p_id=16050
Monoprice stands behind their product which is always a plus.  After a couple of years the headphone cable started shorting out.  It was intermittent and PITA but when I contacted Monoprice they didn't have the cable in stock so sent me a replacement pair of headphones.  The newer one even sounded better than the originals.  

Comparable to $1000 headphones probably not but much better than the $200 headphones I've compared them to.  Their are lot of reviews out there mixed bag but I feel it was a value purchase and would make it again if I had to.
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The piano has been drinking
The piano has been drinking,
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mperdue63
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #8 - 04/06/22 at 22:01:55
 
MASSDROP X SENNHEISER HD 6XX HEADPHONES.  
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

Both are inexpensive!
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Lon
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #9 - 04/07/22 at 15:44:15
 
There are Oppo PM-3 headphones on eBay in your price range right now. I have had the PM-1 about 8 years and the PM-3 are supposed to be very similar sounding. Which means they are easy to drive, the Rachel will really like them lower on the volume control, and IMO they sound very good. They may not be the end-all in sound staging but I'm not a stickler about that--they offer a rich and detailed sound at levels that don't blow your eardrums out. Worth a consideration.
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HR-1,ZTPRE,ZBIT,ZROCK2,SE84UFO3-25th x2, CSP3-25th.Taboo Mk IV;Rega RP3 all GrooveTracer mods;PSAudio:PST+DSD,P15,NPC,PowerBases,AC-12 pwr cbls,Reference spkrcbls; Mapleshade SamsonV3;VooDoo:Cremona+Amati interconnects, IsoPods; headphones:Sennheiser HD800S,ZMF Or
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piezoman
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #10 - 04/09/22 at 20:00:21
 
Here's one alternative you might consider on ebay, used, semi-open backed @ $400:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/115322864658?epid=15047331966&hash=item1ad9c74412:g:3cA...
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CAJames
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #11 - 04/10/22 at 17:57:37
 
Agree that Drop Sennheiser HD6XX is a true high end headphone. I listened to the (original) HD650 for many years. IMO it is a no-brainer at your price point. I can't say for sure about the Drop version, but my 650s did benefit greatly from a silver cable, which would increase the cost.


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kulafu
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #12 - 04/11/22 at 13:27:10
 
I got the headphone itch a while back and got great advice from the Decware Gurus.  +1 on the HD6xx which you can get a used one for 1/2 of your budget.  Then I upgraded to the ZMF Aeolus (bought also used).  The ZMFs win hands down but for the price the HD6XX are no slouch.  Just keep an eye out for them at Head-Fi or Super Best Audio Friends.
Bob
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Sonus Faber, CSP3 25th Mods, Torii Jr, PI2AES or IFI Zen Stream, Pontus
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piezoman
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #13 - 04/11/22 at 14:25:49
 
Hey Bob, I looked up your ZMF Aeolus and they are both gorgeous and impressive. Great choice! They tick off all the boxes I like as well.

And you got them used....very smart! I always try to do the same, as much as possible.

Brad

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EdwardT
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #14 - 06/16/22 at 14:49:33
 
I’m going to give the ZMF Fostex T-50 with ZMF lamb skin pads a go. At $261 shipped they land right in your $300 price range. I used headphones for monitors for over four decades but they were always “cost considered first” AKG 240 or Sony 7506 types that required durability for studio and rehearsal use. This will be my first foray into the world of soundstage in a can.
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Same Old DD
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #15 - 06/16/22 at 16:46:03
 
I'm gonna support you here, Beerfab.

If you've never owned half decent headphones, then you probably don't even know if you can wear them for an hour or so.
Some people just can't and dropping even $1K on an experiement seems a little foolish to some of us who must remain budget conscious.

Go try on some in your price range before you decide. Cans in that range will probably sound OK at first, but fatigue can set in quickly with some.

That would be my main concern with headphones in this price range.
Can you listen for extended periods comfortably?


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Clay N
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Re: want to try headphones
Reply #16 - 06/27/22 at 22:21:54
 
I've had a pair of Grade SR125s for about a decade and they've served me. However, over the last year I've been starting to expand my horizons and started in the exact price point you're at (~$300). I ended up getting a pair of Meze 99 Classics. Being closed backs there were definite differences from my Grados. Next I wanted to try IEMs so I settled on Timeless 7Hz (~$200) which intrigued me being planar drivers. For me all three of those are enjoyable for different reasons... especially if you're coming from run-of-the-mill phones. At this point I've also added a pair of Audeze LCD2f and Focal Clears to the mix and I think I appreciate them even more because I had the opportunity to step up along the way to see what each pair brought to the table. My point is that while it might be nice to start at a higher end if funds allow ... there is a lot to be said for working your way up and being able to appreciate the differences along the way...especially if you're not even sure how much you'll like them.
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