My headphone journey so far (from a noob for noobs :D)

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by Rthomas, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Hi Guys,

    This is a short summary of my headphone journey so far. I’m a noob myself but I’m slowly gaining some experience with what’s out there and this may be helpful for those new to the hobby.


    I have listed below the headphones I’ve tried in chronological order and my verdicts. They were plugged in straight into my laptop unless mentioned otherwise.


    1. Alessandro MS-1: My first can, tweaked version of the Grado SR-80i. I was coming from Apple earbuds so these blew me away. Looking back they were cheaply built and not very refined but they sounded fun with most of my music.
    Verdict: Don’t buy unless funds are extremely limited. Save up for something better otherwise you’ll sell and lose money to upgrade later anyway.


    2. NAD Viso HP50: The universally great reviews convinced me to splurge for this one. Weird uncomfortable headband design. How can they mess something so simple up? Even the cheap Grado leather band is much better. They sounded decent with good detail but also flat and lifeless to my ears. No fun at all coming from my MS-1s.
    Verdict: Don’t buy, the headband design will be uncomfortable for many people, feels weird on the head. There are many other better options.


    3. Grado SR-225e: After being burned by the NAD purchase I ran back to Grado. Fortunately for me the SR-225e were a better version of my MS-1s in every way and I was very happy for a few months. I swore that I would stick with Grado from now on. Contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere the low impredance Grados improved significantly with a proper amp. I used a Violectric V90.
    Verdict: An economical entry intro to the Grado sound. Don’t buy, Grados are not very well balanced and there are much better options.


    4. Beyerdynamic T90: Nice build quality and comfort. Treble heavy ‘thin’ sound which I hated. Using the Violectric V90 did almost nothing to change this. I returned these the very next day.
    Verdict: I won’t be going near Beyerdynamic anytime soon. The T90’s are widely available in the UK for 50% off MSRP and I think I know why.....


    5. Oppo PM3: Nice design and build quality. Very good sound with excellent mids and bass. Listening to these cans made me understand what I was missing with my Grados. Unfortunately the highs were not present enough for me and this was the fatal flaw and I returned them.
    Verdict: Excellent entry into Headfonia by Oppo. Recommended provided you are ok with the recessed highs. Try before you buy.


    6. Sennheiser HD600: My latest purchase is where I should’ve started this journey. Well balanced, good design with oval earcups that fit well over the ears. Cheap feeling plastic construction but I don’t care as long as they last. The only problem was that the can was a bit bright sounding to my ears and the treble hurt my ears on some tracks. Maybe it has something to do with the Oppo-HA2 amp/dac that I used with it but I’m exchanging it for an HD650 hoping that the slightly darker sound signature will suit my ears better.
    Verdict: Easy recommendation at around $350 street price. Treble sensitive ears may not like them.


    What’s Next?

    7. HD650: I’ll get these in a few days. Plan to use them with a Schiit Valhalla 2


    8. Fostex TH900: I’ll get these in a few days. Plan to try them with a Benchmark DAC1.
     
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  2. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Interesting journey, so far. I think your comment about the 600s has me a bit worried. I think the Fostex TH900 are going to be even brighter up top, albeit with moar bass. And I think you might want to pass on the Bench Dac1, kind of sterile and cold as a dac and just mediocre as an amp. Yet, I still owned two of them at one point, hahaha.

    I think the consensus around here would be to stop at the 650s for a while either with the Valhalla or perhaps a Lyr2. I could be happy with that for a long time. You still may need a dac, depending on what you have.
     
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  3. lm4der

    lm4der A very good sport - Friend

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    ^^ this.

    On the DAC topic, I was running Modi2 with the Valhala 2 + HD650, and that was great,but I will say that upgrading to the Multibit Bifrost brought the thing up to some next-level stuff, like Men in Black next level. I think the MB Bifrost made a bigger difference than the Valhalla 2, although it may be that one needs the decent amp (like Valhala 2) in order to hear the Bifrost Multibit improvements...
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2015
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  4. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Hello Everyone,


    Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. I live near London. I bought the TH900 ($970) and Benchmark DAC1($900) in a bit of a rush as I had a cousin in the US 2 months ago and I thought I got good deals on both . They are much more expensive in the UK.


    This was before I discovered Changstar by stumbling upon the Pyrate Leaderboard. Otherwise I would’ve gotten the HD650 + Vally 2 first. Anyway I plan to compare everything and I’m kind of hoping I’ll like the HD650 best as I can sell the Fostex and have a bit more in the bank :D.


    Future plans: I hope to visit my aunt in Northridge California next year and audition the Balancing Act and revised Black Widow ( Eddie Current is 20 miles from her place). I’m also hoping Sennheiser brings out a more musical HD850 someday as a complement to the HD800. Like the HD650 is to the more analytical HD600.( no harm in dreaming)


    For now I’m a bit disappointed from what I hear about the current crop of TOTL cans. I’d rather sit for a few years to see what happens.....
     
  5. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    I don't think the Fostex TH900 are a bad headphone it's just for the price I think there are better but interested to hear what you think. Don't worry about what other people think as much as what you think about the headphones you have. We all seem to have different tastes and definitions of music and it is easy to get caught up in what other people think versus your own ears.

    Anyway if you come to norcal and are in the area will have to hit us Bay Area folks up and maybe we can set up a meet and greet.
     
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  6. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Sounds good, will do!
     
  7. Griffon

    Griffon 2nd biggest asshole on SBAF

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    TH900 to me is an end-game level can in many respects. If it's in (near) mint condition and is under $1k, I'd say hardly one can go wrong with TH900. It fills a niche with excellence.

    OTOH no one can go wrong with HD650, especially given its street price.
     
  8. rayfalkner

    rayfalkner Not to be confused with Roy Fokker - Friend

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    Hmm, my story so far:
    1. Began somewhere in early 2000's, a freshman at college. Saving some lunch money, I bought a $12 dbE IEM, a heaven-earth upgrade from the usual $2 - $3 cheap buds you found everywhere. Truly an eye-opener of how you could hear subtler things in those 160 - 192 mp3 files, sounds that I never realized existed before in the tracks. For what it's worth, this is my first real blade after years upon years of fighting the evil around me with toy training swords.

    2. Soon be caught in the hype of early Fiio and stuffs. Bought the Fiio E5, fully *amazed* of how this matchstick-box-sized thing makes the dbE sounds remarkably better, I remember gazing on the device proudly with loving eyes like a father when seeing an A+ marked math test result of his eldest son, knowing in your heart that he is a worthy heir of your empire. Of course the only actual thing the E5 doing is making that IEM sounds louder that's all, but for the inexperienced it is a huge improvement compared to plugging it directly to my Pentium-III PC (that can play Diablo II) or cheapo 64megs-USB-stick-that-also-plays-mp3 DAP.

    3. Later also bought a Clip+ because of anythingbutipod site. Back then that thing costs truly, truly a lot for a starving student (about $65) but I think it is one of my better decision overall (without me knowing it though).

    4. My Fiio E5 died. No father should ever bury his son but it must be done. While I searched the net for a replacement son, Fiio released the E11. I bought it. It reigns supreme over the E5 in every single aspects conceivable except for size (it is way bigger).

    5. My dbE died. The cable is snapped mercilessly by the cold, loveless heart of a door handle. No man should ever be without his sword for the world is a terrible place. I searched for a replacement IEM immediately, but as I got a relatively higher budget (read: take all my lunch money and savings!) available at the moment, I got really confused with all the options suddenly being accessible to me;

      Hifiman RE-262, Vsonic GR07, Phonak PFE-112, these three are being heavily recommended by almost anyone by that time, but my anti-mainstream stance kicks in so bad (probably just the hormone though) and I decided to buy the Brainwavz B2 instead which is back then is still a fresh new player in the market here with no in-depth review / impression anywhere in the net.

      That $150 spending turns out as also one of my better decision in this hobby. It is truly like gambling all my fortune in buying a sack of random things; I could get a sack of cuddly kittens or I could get a sack of mutilated parts of murder victim, but fortunately I get a shiny, balanced, sharp, truly a real and proper sword instead. I'm in love and I feel like I'm ready to take on my enemies again.

    6. Received my first paycheck. Decided to splurge into this alien technology called DAC, what the hell is that anyway but they say it improves your music, ah hell why not. Fortunately for me, Fiio once again come to saves the day with their cheap offerings. Bought the E17 (about $175), hey this is a cool looking device!

      Plugged the E17 with the PC through USB, pair it up with the E11 (this old chunk of plastic still going strong! Certainly one of Fiio's best) and...

      Damn, it doesn't sounds that different, the music I mean. I paid $175 for a boost of clarity here and there? And even much less of a boost when compared to Clip+ and E11 pairing? God I'm dumb for believing in DAC those audiphile people preach constantly.

      Turns out it is not that E17 bad, for the price it is actually doing its job just fine, giving more substance to the music other than filtering out the noisy, grainy sounds of the on-board soundcard;

      but when compared to the Clip+, it is just that tiny DAP is so good for its price that it is hard to beat it without something that cost at least more than twice the price; other than the fact that E17 is not a stellar performer anyway.

    7. Couple of paychecks later, decided to make my entry into headphone world. The first severe case of poisoning is caused by my friend's Senn PX100-II, the second extremely severe case of poisoning is made by the collaboration of Grado SR-80i, Alessandro MS-1, Beyer DT1350, Senn HD-25-1 II, and Shure SRH-840 --- all four auditioned personally at a local audio store (Jaben). After that session I am royally 100% infected by headphone syndrome.

      ... But for some reason the old anti-mainstream hormone kicks in again, awful, really, and for some reason I completely forgot by now, I decided to purchase the AKG K550 instead, ah yes it's mostly because it looks pretty and it has "reference headphones" written on the cups. Dude, I got a reference class headphones! End game! All others are pale second rate contenders! Ha ha ha! Shit...

      Well to be fair, it is not a bad headphones; I kind of forgot what sonic quality it does bring but it is actually a good sounding cans, better than my B2 IEM for sure and it is really, really comfortable, and it does look pretty! I had a thing with dark-colored metals I guess. I pretty much enjoyed using the K550.

      Oh it has a too weak clamping force though, because at times I swore all the musics sound significantly better if I pressed its cups a bit to my head, manually by hands.

    8. New job assignment requires me to be pretty much traveling all the time. Sold my K550 since it is not suitable for portable use. Then I found a sale of a like-new Grado RS1i in a local forum and bought it on a whim. Light enough for frequent travel use, that one is the nicest Grado I've ever heard, only to be beaten by the much more expensive and cumbersome PS1000 in some music genres which I never liked anyway.

    9. Found a path toward enlightenment in an audio meet where I can listened to a HD800 setup in a quiet, cozy hotel room. I think that's the closest experience I ever had of a sexually offensive term "eargasm". I made it my mission in life to save enough money to afford one after I got a better amp first.

    10. Found a sale of a WA6 amp in someone's garage sale. The guy needed some quick money for some reason I didn't bother to ask but anyway it is sold at dirt cheap price and I took the plunge. Dusts and marks of neglect everywhere though so I think the amp is actually has not been used that much.

      Well it does sound sweet for me when I plugged in the RS1i but... the amp is still fed by the *tada!* measly Fiio E17 knave... heinous crime, I know, because I'm still traumatized by how insignificant buying a DAC is so yeah.

    11. Found a bargain of a secondhand Fostex HP-A8C and I bought it. Now I finally have a worthy DAC in the system. The circle is now complete. It is time to save up for HD800.

    12. Getting tired of waiting for a secondhand HD800 to show up locally, decides to buy it new instead. Asking the seller if she could do me a favor to write a fake invoice that states the unit is a factory-refurb with a much, much lower price point so I could show it to my wife without risking Operation Desert Storm in my household. Somehow the seller understood and wrote me one.

    13. Life goes on, and I still don't know of a way to import Lyr/Mjolnir/Black Widow to here without paying the astronomical fees and stuffs...
     
  9. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    You had me at point 12...
     
  10. rayfalkner

    rayfalkner Not to be confused with Roy Fokker - Friend

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    @MoatsArt : My gosh, man, you had a W3000ANV once in your life but you sold it? :eek:
    Now I don't know how good does it sounds but today's price for that used pair of beautiful cans is really high. Perhaps it's just because of the collectible aspect alone. Anyway hopefully it is not something you'll regret. I sold one of my classic camera lens once because of financial reason and I still regret it to this day, to this very second.

    *) It's a Nikkor 35mm f/1.4 AI-S for the curious.
     
  11. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    It sometimes hurts to sell off what you carefully collected. A good DT250-250 is not bad, in fact it is quite good for the money.

    At least you have your health and one good headphone.
     
  12. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    I guess I can post a little bit about my journey though it's actually not as extensive as everyone else because it's not as music related as much as it was gaming related.

    A long long time ago I used to compete on the pro level in a few video games such as Soldier of Fortune 2, CS 1.5, 1.6, CS:GO, and CoD 1. When I started playing these games I was a complete noob and wanted to get the competitive edge so I started with the following gear replacements.

    Noob Years
    Logitech Headset (always had)
    Creative Sound Card (new)

    I still felt it was better but not a big enough difference but then the gates of heaven opened and I picked up a Sennheiser PC 150 (please keep in mind this is Sennheiser pre HD 600 which some of you may or may not remember). This headset I stuck with for years and brought many victories but still always brought me just short of gold.

    Semi Pro Years
    Sennheiser PC 150 (new)
    Creative Sound Card (had)

    Then things changed and the golden age began I started looking at headphones again because I feel like the soundstage was still off and my deathmatch scores were good but like everyone else who games there is always the next step up and I found it. Bar none I still feel even today this is a great headphone and I would still have it if it weren't for my sister letting the dog in the house and keeping him there while she wasn't home (dog was a notorious chewer). Anyway this golden headphone was the Sennheiser HD580. Someone from Sennheiser had told me that the HD600 driver was so similar to the HD580 but I didn't like the sound of the HD600 (Bill P would much later come along and mod a pair to sound amazing) so that ended my high end headphone journey for years.

    Golden Years
    Sennheiser HD580 (new)
    Creative Sound card (had)

    I struggled finding the perfect sound for years and I think I just got tired of it and would eventually retire and join the WoW crusade so sound positioning didn't matter. I would say I went away from audio for close to 8 years. Going from gaming headset to gaming headset but I would soon find a forum where I things would change once again. I don't know how many of you can relate but for me when I found Head-Fi I learned a lot about headphones, amps, dacs, and music quality. I discovered FLAC and basically the story of my audio journey returned in full.

    I perused the forums for months to try to figure out what to buy. Luckily I was able to ignore all the noise and ended up with my first real setup.

    Schiit Bifrost (USB)
    Schiit Lyr
    Hifiman HE-500 (bought from Audiovision SF and after my personal experience would learn never to buy anything from them again)

    At this point my mind was blown but I wanted more I found that the HE-500 though sounded great were very uncomfortable and I couldn't wear them for long periods of time so I went hunting again and I found another audio store in Mountain View, CA Audio High. There I was greeted and allowed to listen to basically anything I wanted to without persecuting eyes or fear that I would buy online to a point where you just get uncomfortable at the place. This is where I would take the next step and really learn about what bass slam was.

    Audeze LCD-2 (Audio High is honestly the most awesome shop I have been to and if you are even in Mountain View check it out they are super nice)

    I wanted one more headphone now that I had gotten rid of my HE-500 and my Audeze were like a baby I only took them out for a little bit and I wanted something less fragile so I went to an SF meet I think back in 2011 or 12 and I met Dan at Mr Speakers. There I would fall in love with the Mad Dogs (no other versions at the time). The Mad Dogs I felt had the awesome slam of my LCD-2 without the fragile nature of my $1000 investment. So I picked them up and would use them for about a year before selling them off and using my Audeze LCD-2 for a longer period of time. At this point I ended up selling my Lyr and downgraded to an Asgard. At this point I would find Changstar and lurk there for years with fear of being too much of a noob conquered I would eventually register for the revolution.

    Mr Speakers Mad Dog (original)
    Schiit Asgard
    Schiit Bifrost (USB)

    I decided to go on a selling spree at some point and sold off everything and was left with just my Audeze LCD 2.2 which I was now playing out of my Creative ZX-R which I am still doing today. Changstar was replaced with the awesome new SBAF and I would move beyond just a lurker and start contributing to the cause. At the end of Changstar and beginning of SBAF I was invited to have lunch and meet up with fellow members at RMAF. At RMAF however, a certain someone would with almost a jedi mind trick influence me right after the show to buy a pair of HD-650s. At the show after talking with said person everything he mentioned he subliminally was telling me that the HD-650 was for me and that I needed to buy it. Nothing in this show was better to Hands and in the end I thank him for his honest opinion as I would pick up an HD-650 upon returning home. My setup as it stands now.

    Audeze LCD 2.2
    Creative ZXR Sound Card
    Sennheiser HD 650 (main headphone)

    After realizing my mistakes in selling everything I needed something more something better so I started doing my research and listening to what I was looking for. I needed an amp and a DAC. I was looking prior to RMAF and went to @drfindley meet up and had my mind blown once again. There I would learn what real music was (vinyl) and really get a deeper understanding of the community. Everyone was very friendly and after the meet I had decided what amp and dac I was going to get with a little help from my new found friends. Thanks @TMoney for explaining to me resale value was important and should be considered when making a decision. This is what I decided.

    Headamp GS-X MK2
    Schiit Yggdrasil

    Anyway that is my boring journey of a noob for now.
     
  13. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Could you please elaborate on the resale value point? Which are the brands that hold their value best and which depreciate rapidly?
     
  14. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Well looking around at posts from HF and my own personal experience brands with good resale value are the following:

    Headamp (depends on the model)
    Schiit (seems to have a pretty high resale value because of upgradability)
    Eddie Current (sometimes even go up in value due to the amount in the wild)

    I would consider losing 50%+ of the value of your product is not ideal but anywhere between a 10-30% loss on resale is much more acceptable. It also depends though on how much companies release new products.

    Those are the three that immediately come to mind and people who have had other experiences with other gear can comment further.
     
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  15. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    The other thing to consider regarding value is that many of the bigger companies have had their products put on sale by large retailers over the past few years. Sennheiser HD600 was around $230 and HD650 around $280 earlier this year from Adorama, so people are typically less willing to pay the older somewhat inflated resale prices asked on the used market. Similar thing happened with the Sennheiser HD598, the Sony MDR-V6, and triple.fi 10 on Amazon.

    I like the premise of this thread:
    1. iPod with Skullcandy Ink'd
    2. Head Direct RE2 + FiiO e3 and/or FiiO e5
    3. Etymotic ER4P and S converter; sold RE2 and FiiO e3
    4. Sansa Clip; sold iPod(s)
    5. Headamp Pico DAC/AMP
    6. Koss KSC75
    7. Grado HF2
    8. [years pass]
    9. AKG K7XX; realize headphone amps in video 2.0 speaker setup aren't the greatest (Peachtree Nova125 and Oppo BDP-105D)
    10. Bought, demoed, and sold Sony MDR-V6 and MDR-7506; use KSC75 at work with Pico
    11. Sold Grado HF2
    12. Sennheiser HD650 + Schiit Valhalla 2
    13. Edit: Schiit Yggdrasil
    Still trying how best to integrate headphones into a primarily speaker-focused system at home...
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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