The best audiophile headphones (part III) | A COMPLETE BUYERS GUIDE!!

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Updated September 19th, 2018

  • Part 1: 1,982 words, approx. 5-6 min. read
  • Part 2: 5,058 words, approx. 8-9 min. read
  • Part 3: 5,890 words, approx. 8-9 min. read (You are here)
  • Part 4: 7,023 words, approx. 9-10 min. read

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Updates:

8/31/18. Retired the Beats Solo 3 as they really don’t qualify as “audiophile.” I wrestled with this for awhile but it’s time to let them go. They are still a great pair of headphones, but for an audiophile? Probably not.


($100-300)


First:

  1. Mid-tier ($100-300)
  2. Critical listening
  3. Closed back

AKG K550/553

Note: The updated K553 is said to be a very good upgrade. I’ve had the chance to listen and I would agree.

Specifications

  • Price: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 14Hz – 28kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 114 db/mW.
  • Driver size: 50mm.
  • Material: Plastic, metal accents, protein leather.
  • Color: matte black with metal accents.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable:
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 3m.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: No.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 10.76 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

What I love most about the K550’s is that they attempt to deliver you the sound of an open back headphone while remaining closed. The sound is crisp, open, and airy, but yet still has some impact to it. It combines the characteristics of an open back without sounding anemic.

The bass is present, but not too light or heavy. The treble is detailed and clean, but sometimes can sound a bit strident. Overall though, the sound is extremely accurate, engaging, and lively. It definitely employs a grand sense of space, and for being a closed back headphone this is particularly noteworthy. Not even some open back headphones can say this with certainty.

Things to be aware of

  1. The headphones clamp force might be a tad too loose. When I was wearing them, I kept getting the feeling that they weren’t going to stay on. However, it is possible to get a good fit, but you’ll have to play around with them a little to get a good seal.
  2. The upper mid-range is a bit problematic: It takes a dip around 700Hz, and overall the mids seem a bit too low up to about 1kHz. However, I can forgive that because it’s a minor hiccup in an otherwise excellent sound.

Video Review

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Sennheiser HD380

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 54 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 8Hz – 27kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 110 dB/mW
  • Driver size: Not specified.
  • Material: Plastic, faux leather.
  • Color: matte black with metal accents.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes
  • Cable coiled: Yes.
  • Cable length: 9.8 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: No.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Yes.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 7.7 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, carrying case.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

The HD380’s are definite step up from their younger brother, the HD280. Comfort and build are both very good, although the plastic on the 280’s felt a lot sturdier. The overall sound is definitely more colored than the 280, with a bass that has a lot of impact, and quite a bit of sub-bass as well. Sound isolation isn’t quite as good as the 280, but it will block out a lot, and sound better. The soundstage is also very good for a closed back, and the ear-cups are nice and big.

Things to be aware of

  1. They will start to sound a bit harsh as the volume gets louder, and tend to be a little too aggressive in the upper mid-range, leading to fatigue. So for stuff like metal, heavy guitars, etc. it may be a tad harsh. Treble extension is pretty good, but may sound a bit grainy and rough. Overall, the louder you play this headphone, the more problems exist with regards to stuff like instrument separation, clarity, and detail.

Video Review

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Sony MDR 7520

Specifications

  • Price: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 24 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 80kHz
  • Sensitivity: 108 dB/mW
  • Driver size: 50mm
  • Material: Plastic, faux leather.
  • Color: black, blue, some gold.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes
  • Cable coiled: Yes.
  • Cable length: 9.8 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: No.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Yes.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 9.5 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter (gold connectors), carrying case.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

The Sony MDR 7520 can be thought of as a continuation of the 7506, and is a fairly neutral headphone with a touch of added warmth in the mid-bass region. It does well with pretty much all genres, as well as movies, gaming, and field recording type stuff.

Comfort and build is very good overall, and with the 7520 Sony improved upon the shortcomings of the 7506 and V6’s peeling ear-cup issues. The material is now more of a soft, supple protein leather, and less likely to flake like a friend who cancels plans all the time. 😛

The sound as a whole has exceptional detail, clarity, and warmth, and proves to be a great asset in studio for mixing/monitoring purposes. It’s a great upgrade from the 7506 should you choose to go that route!

Things to be aware of

  1. They do sound better with more break in time, and really start to open up after about the 100 hour mark. There’s a bit of harshness at first, but it will go away with time. 🙂
  2. Comfort isn’t exactly exemplary.

Video Review

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Second:

  1. Mid-tier ($100-300)
  2. Critical Listening
  3. Open back

Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | check eBay!
  • Type: Semi-Open.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 250 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5 – 35000 Hz.
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 45mm.
  • Material: velour ear pads, plastic.
  • Color: Silver, Black, Grey.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: No.
  • Cable coiled: Yes.
  • Cable length: 9.8 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: No.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: .65 lbs.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, carrying bag.
  • Amp needed: Yes.
  • Amp Recommendation: Schiit Magni/Modi Combo.

Summary

As far as mixing/mastering and reference headphones go, I consider the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro a close second behind the HD600.

The 880’s signature is very cold and analytical, revealing everything about the sound. The HD600’s are also this way, but don’t come across as harsh. You can sit down and really enjoy the sound of the 600. With the 880, the sound is very clinical and brutally honest.

The bass on the 880 is there, but it’s more textured rather than having impact. The treble is really the bread and butter, but may be too bright and harsh at times. The sound is much more in your face, and thus can be fatiguing. While the mid-range of the 600’s is a bit forward, with the 880’s it takes a step back and doesn’t sound quite as natural.

As for comfort, the DT880 may be the most comfortable headphone on the planet, and if it’s not, it’s definitely in the top 3. Those velour pads feel like pillows on your head, and the build quality is top notch as well.

Things to be aware of

  1. The treble can become a bit hot at times, but overall the sound has an amazing sparkle and clarity to it.
  2. The clamp force may be a bit tight at first, but opens up over time.

Video Review

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AKG K702

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | check eBay!
  • Type: Open Back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 62 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 10 – 39,500 Hz.
  • Sensitivity: 105 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 45mm.
  • Material: velour ear pads, plastic.
  • Color: Black, Silver.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: .52 lbs.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: No.
  • Headband Style: Hammock, self adjusting.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: .65 lbs.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter.
  • Amp needed: Yes.
  • Amp Recommendation: Vioelectric V200, Schiit Asgard 2.

Summary

Out of the K701, K702, and Q701, I believe AKG got the result it wanted most out of the K702. If you look around the internet at reviews, you’ll find that the majority of people will agree as well.

With the K701, there were a few of problems: The bass was much too light and lean, and almost non-existent. The second issue was that they had an unnaturally wide Soundstage, to the point of being kind of unrealistic. Thirdly, there was no replaceable cable option on the 701.

The K702’s fixed all of these issues, and we have a headphone now that sounds much more true to life, while also providing more of a bass response. Keep in mind that for mixing/mastering, it’s good to have a balanced bass response, but if there’s simply nothing to work with, that’s also not ideal.

The sound of the 702’s is extremely detailed, open, accurate, and articulate (big surprise, lol), with an emphasis on Soundstage and instrument precision. It’s an airy type of sound that does extremely well with stuff like jazz, classical, and anything involving rock and guitars. They’re also awesome with gaming!

The headphones themselves are large, but extremely comfortable and lightweight. The build quality is very solid as well.

Things to be aware of

  1. There are two different models of the K702. One is the original Austrian model, with bumps on the headband, and the newer model is from China with no headband bumps. While the original is said to be of better overall quality, many people complained of discomfort due to those bumps. Being that they are now manufactured in China, the build quality may not be as good.
  2. The chord may have to be replaced periodically with this one, but it kind of comes with the territory.

Video Review

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Third:

  1. Mid-tier ($100-300)
  2. Casual listening
  3. Closed back

V-Moda Crossfade M100

Specifications

  • Price: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed Back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30kHz
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 50mm.
  • Material: Foam, steel, kevlar.
  • Color: Black, Orange.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 4.5′, 6.6′
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 280g.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, Hard shell case, 4.5′ SpeakEasy microphone cable, 6.6′ SharePlay audio cable, Owners manual.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

I fully believe that the V Moda Crossfade M100 is just about the best bass-heads headphone on the planet. If I had to recommend a comfortable, durable, compact, hard hitting, detailed, stylish headphone in a reasonable price range, I would nearly always recommend this puppy.

It’s a hard hitting sound with incredible detail and fairy good accuracy. With some bass cans, the low end always gets in the way of the mid-range and treble, but with the M100 there’s a really nice balance between the three. It’s definitely a V-shaped experience, but you’ll rarely if ever find yourself turning down the volume because of a strident top end. I see the M100 as a similar, but more affordable option to the PM3. It’s warm but yet still detailed, with plenty of articulation. The M100 of course having more bass.

You know you’ve found something special when a headphone this bass heavy can still provide an incredible amount of subtle detail, to the point of you hearing stuff in songs that you previously thought wasn’t there.

Things to be aware of

  1. This headphone is awesome.
  2. Refer back to #1. 😛
  3. In all honesty, there isn’t really a weak point with these. You’ve got extremely high quality materials, a comfy fit, portability, durability, and a pristine bass oriented sound. What more could you possibly ask for?
  4. Ok fine, they can get sibilant at higher volumes. 😀
  5. Also, the 3.5mm jack is angled at 45 degrees for added durability.

My Video Review

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CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL V-MODA CROSSFADE M100 REVIEW!!


Beyerdynamic DT770

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | check eBay!
  • Type: Closed Back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm, 80 Ohm, 250 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 35kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 45mm.
  • Material: Velour, plastic, pleather.
  • Color: Black, Silver.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: With mod only.
  • Cable coiled: Yes, with 250 Ohm version.
  • Cable length: 9.8 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes, with 32 and 80 Ohm options.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: 270g.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, carrying case.
  • Amp needed: For 250 Ohm, yes.
  • Amp recommendation: FiiO E10K.

Summary

The DT770 has really stood the test of time as being a phenomenal closed back bass-heads type of headphone, and provides that V-shaped signature that we all love. The cool thing about them is that like the M100, the bass never feels bloated, artificial, or cheap. It’s a tight, deep, low end with a lot of impact.

Build quality as always is top notch, and comfort is phenomenal as well. Pillows man, pillows. Some reviewers have had these for up to 5 and 10 years. They can take quite a lot of abuse too.

For a closed back headphone, the Soundstage is surprisingly good, as the 770 has some very nice imaging, and a wider nuanced sound.

Things to be aware of

  1. Treble is known to get a little hot at times, but it’s nothing too alarming.
  2. The mid-range is quite a bit recessed, which leads to a lack of liveliness in some vocals and instruments.
  3. The ear-cups are a bit shallow, and your ears may touch the drivers.

Video Review

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Sennheiser HD25

Specifications

  • Price: Old ModelAmazon
  • Price: New ModelAmazon
  • Type: Closed Back.
  • Fit: Supra-Aural (On-ear).
  • Impedance: 70 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 16Hz-22kHz
  • Sensitivity: 120 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: Not specified.
  • Material: Plastic, faux leather.
  • Color: Black, Red.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 4.9 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional. Headband splits into two pieces, and can be worn in various ways.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: 4.94 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

So I shipped two pairs of headphones over to a guy called Metal571. One was the SHP9500 which he reviewed pretty favorably. I find him to be a very knowledgeable dude on all things headphone related, but I don’t agree with him on everything he says or claims.

The other headphone I had him demo was the Sennheiser HD25. To my complete annoyance and dismay, he refused to do a video review on them. He said that he didn’t want to “post such a negative review.” Huh? Come on man, you’ve got to be kidding. He said “it sounded like a 280 but pricier.”

Before I roast him, let me make something clear. I really respect him and he also happens to be very friendly too! But he’s wrong on the HD25. It sounds nothing like the 280, and is in fact the complete opposite. The 280, while a good mixing headphone, is very dull and a bit too flat for my tastes. The HD25 is extremely lively, engaging, crisp, and clean. It’s bass is phenomenal, and overall it’s just a great portable headphone that will satisfy the snot out of you.

Is it perfect? No. Not at all. While comfort is pretty good overall, these will start to hurt your ears after awhile and you’ll need to take a break. Durability however is off the charts. I routinely toss these around just because. They had gotten the “indestructible” moniker around the internet before I bought them. I was apprehensive, but I truly believe they are.

They’re extremely lightweight, but the robust plastic leaves no doubt in your mind that this is a headphone built to last. Like Duralast. 😛

Things to be aware of

  1. They can get a bit sibilant, and do have a slightly “essy” quality about them. This basically means that with some tracks they will sound a little unnatural. For the most part this is a walloping sound that will slap you in the face and have you begging for more.
  2. Comfort is there, but again, you’ll find yourself adjusting them every so often. I have to take frequent breaks because the sound is so intense!

My Video Review

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AND

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL SENNHEISER HD25 REVIEW!!


Audio Technica ATH MSR7

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed Back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 35 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5-40,000 Hz.
  • Sensitivity: 100 db/mW.
  • Driver size: 45mm.
  • Material: Plastic, metal, memory foam wrapped in pleather.
  • Color: Black or Gun Metal Grey.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: Comes with 3 cables: 4 ft, 4ft (with inline remote/mic), and 3m.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Yes.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: 290g.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, carrying bag, 3 cables.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

The bass is pretty well extended, but by and large this is a brighter headphone, with emphasis on the treble region and mid-range. The upper mid-range starts to rise at about 500Hz, and overall it makes the MSR7 sound very forward and present. There’s simply a phenomenal resolution going on, which allows you to start to hear the finer details in the song.

It’s very close to a flat headphone, with a touch of warmth and presence in the bass as well as the mid-range and treble. This isn’t a headphone that’s going to sound harsh to you, but rather more balanced, and extremely refined for the most part.

Things to be aware of

  1. The headband underneath the padding is metal and adjustable. Tyll from Inner Fidelity kind of has a big melon, so he had to conform them to his dome.

Video Review

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Audio Technica ATH M50x

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 38 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz – 28kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 99 dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 45mm.
  • Material: Plastic, metal, faux leather.
  • Color: matte black with metal accents.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: Yes.
  • Cable length: 9.8 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Yes.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 0.625 lbs.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, carrying pouch.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

This was the second pair of headphones that made me go “Wow.” I will always have a soft spot for them, and I really don’t care about the amount of hate they have received recently. I will agree that upon listening to them again after about a year of not, they have an “essy” sound that gets irritating at high volumes, or when there is a lot going on. I’ve had them since January of 2013, and sadly the original ear-cups have long since been retired (aka thrown in the garbage). They peeled uncontrollably, and for a time I had completely peeled off every inch of the faux leather while still using them and their exposed foam foaminess.

Eventually, I purchased the Brainwavz HM5 velours, and they open up the sound a lot, giving them a bit of a bigger Soundstage and some extra air. The downside is that they make the treble unbearable at times. The bass also gets tamed down considerably, which kind of contributes to that treble issue. I still like them regardless of all the newfound hate. No, they’re not a perfect headphone, but like I said in the open, what is?

Unless you’re some snobby audiophile, the M50x will sound very good to you, and is a nice introduction to the craft.

Things to be aware of

  1. The ear-cups will peel after a couple of years. Luckily they are replaceable. The headband also peels on the bottom, but I find that even after scratching it all off with my fingers, the padding is still very good and comfort isn’t negatively affected.

My Video Review!

Be sure to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂

Also, this review covers the original M50 and compares it to the 50x.

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CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL AUDIO TECHNICA ATH M50 REVIEW!!


Fourth:

  1. Mid-tier ($100-300)
  2. Casual listening
  3. Open back

HIFIMAN HE400S

Specifications

  • Price: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 22 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 98dB/mW
  • Driver size: 80mm.
  • Material: Plastic, velour ear-pads with pleather on the outside (Focus pads). All velour for the stock pads.
  • Color: Black and Silver.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 1.5m.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Yes.
  • Headband Padding: No.
  • Headband Style: Hammock, self-adjusting.
  • Fold-able: Yes, but not collapsible.
  • Weight: 350g.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ headphone adapter, headphone cable (1.5m).
  • Amp needed: No, but does benefit.
  • Amp recommendation: Audioquest Dragonfly, JDS Labs Objective 2.

Summary

Upon first listen I wasn’t that impressed with these. I got a chance to demo them at my local Audio Advice, and the first time I put them on I kind of just shrugged my shoulders and kept it moving. A month or two later, I decided to try them again after really liking the HE400i, and I wanted to kind of do a side by side comparison.

That’s when the light-bulb went off, and now I consider them extremely valuable with a solid bass extension and overall incredibly detailed and articulate sound. I didn’t agree with Tyll on the bass; I think they dig down pretty deep, with a ton of texture and nuance. No, there’s not a lot of impact, but I can hear individual notes with stunning clarity. They have this really crisp quality, and great instrument separation that really makes you want to tell someone. The usual is apparent: Subtle details, nice placement of sounds, and a great mid-range that makes vocals and instruments come to life.

I remember listening to this specific hip-hop song that I had heard a thousand times. With the 400S it sounded different. It was as if the Timbre of the instruments, as well as the vocals took on this ridiculously accurate tonality. I could start to pinpoint all kinds of different sounds, and this is due to the exemplary 3-D imaging that the 400S provides.

Comfort is pretty phenomenal, and I had no issues.

Things to be aware of

  1. Build quality is pretty lackluster. For the price, there’s way too much plastic and the chord has a tendency to break down. Even the demo model inside Audio Advice had a pretty beat up looking cable. It’s awkward to say the least, and overall the headphone does feel a bit too flimsy.
  2. Everything is pretty much made out very cheap plastic, including the plastic grilles.

My Video Review!

Be sure to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂

SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!

AND

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL HIFIMAN HE400S REVIEW!!


Philips Fidelio X2

Specifications

  • Price: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 30 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5 40,000 Hz.
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1mW.
  • Driver size: 50mm.
  • Material: Aluminum, velour/memory foam padding, faux leather, mesh.
  • Color: Black.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 3m.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Slightly up and down, back and forth. Enough to get a good fit.
  • Headband Padding: No.
  • Headband Style: Hammock, self-adjusting.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: 13.4 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 6.3 mm to 3.5 mm adapter, cable clip.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

The bass on the X2’s is extremely tight and clean. Overall it’s a very balanced sounding headphone with an accurate tonal quality. It’s got a really nice presence to it, with a slight emphasis on bass around 180Hz. The extension goes to around 30Hz before roll off, and the bass is definitely accentuated. The fact that Philips was able to deliver a big bass sound out of an open back headphone is very commendable indeed.

The treble around 10kHz provides a lot of air and smoothness, but it isn’t the cleanest ever, which is to be expected at around $299. Still, the frequency response is phenomenal, and comes across as lively, present, and engaging for the majority of the time. The mid-range is pretty accurate as well, as vocals and instruments come through with great presence.

Build wise, they’re extremely solid, and are made of a heavy duty aluminum. Comfort is excellent too.

Things to be aware of

1. There is some pressure on the top of your head, but it’s nothing too serious.

Video Review

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Grado SR225e

Specifications

  • Price: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open back.
  • Fit: Supra-aural (On-ear).
  • Impedance: 32 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 22 kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 99.8 dB.
  • Driver size: 40mm.
  • Material: Foam, Plastic, Metal.
  • Color: Black.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: No.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 5.64 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: No.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: 9.9 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, User manual, Warranty/Registration card (depending on vendor).
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

Big sound. That’s all I can say. The SR225e has exceptional clarity, and an overall tight signature with plenty of slam. To be honest, I was expecting sibilance and got very little of it. It really surprised and impressed the snot out of me. The Soundstage here is also pretty sweet, as I was checking my back because periodically I would hear stuff that sounded like it was coming from the outside. Good stuff.

These also sound phenomenal out of your phone, but I found that the 3.5mm jack is extremely bulky, and will not fit into my Otter Box. I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S5. The cable itself is very sturdy, if a tad bulky. Still, I found it less cumbersome than some of Grado’s other offerings. The relationship between weight of headphones vs. weight of cable is a little more balanced here.

For an open back Grado headphone, the bass is pretty incredible. It slams fairly hard, and you’re going to find yourself bobbing your head with these. Comfort is also excellent, especially for an On-ear. There are very few On-ear headphones I can tolerate for more than say an hour, but these babies are snug and cuddly on my melon.

Things to be aware of

  1. As good as the sound is, I found it to be ever so slightly metallic, or in other words a smidgen unnatural. This is an extreme nitpick, but has to be pointed out. At higher volume levels this will become apparent to you.
  2. Will not fit into a phone with a large case. I had to take my phone out of the Otter Box which was a little irritating. Still, I can excuse this because of the orgasmic sound.

Video Review

Note: I couldn’t find a video on just the 225, but Audio Advice did a great comparison of some really good Grado headphones and they include the 225 as well. 🙂

SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!


Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro

Note: I did a comparison on the DT990 Pro vs. Premium, and the only real differences are that they look a bit different, the Pro version has a slightly higher clamping force, the pro version has a coiled cable vs. the straight cable of the premiums, and the Premiums cost more. As far as sound, they’re pretty much identical. I would go with the Pro version, as it’s cheaper. 🙂

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | check eBay!
  • Type: Open back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 250 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 35,000 Hz.
  • Sensitivity: 96dB/mW.
  • Driver size: 45mm.
  • Material: Velour ear pads, rugged plastic, metal.
  • Color: Black and Grey.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: With mod only.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 9.8 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes. Spring steel, soft cushioning.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: No.
  • Weight: .55 lbs.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter, drawstring bag.
  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

The DT990’s are another V-shaped offering from Beyerdynamic, and have a similar sound signature to that of the DT770. The difference is that the 990’s are open back, and the bass doesn’t dig down quite as deep. The cans themselves are very good for gaming, and have a wide Soundstage as well. Learn more: The Best Headphones for Gaming!

The treble remains very bright like the 770, and also may become sibilant at times. The great thing about the 990 is that it renders a startling amount of detail and instrument separation. They’re very accurate, with a fast driver that reveals a ton of subtlety and high resolution.

Things to be aware of

  1. The issue of fatigue. Though the 990’s are ridiculously detailed, they will tire you out because of the elevated treble response.
  2. The padding, while amazing, will start to deflate over time much like the HIFIMAN HE400i. Let’s say you bought a used pair of 990’s and the pads were somewhat flattened out. They should most definitely be replaced because if not, the sound will be different from what you expect. The bass won’t be as deep, and you’ll likely lose out on some precious treble clarity as well.

Video Review

SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!


Bang & Olfusen Beoplay H6

Old Model vs. New

  • The driver cover cloth is green on the old model, and black on the new.
  • The barrels of the headphone cables no longer have metal finishes, but now fit through slightly thinner openings in phone cases.
  • The bass has improved. On the original H6, it was a little bass light/lean. On the new model, they added just enough as not to overpower the overall sound.
  • The mid-range has improved. On the original H6, it was a little bumpy, and unsure of itself. The new model improves on this by making the mid-range smoother.
  • There’s more treble detail in the new model, but it doesn’t sound harsh or sibilant. What does Sibilant mean?
  • An amp isn’t necessary with the new model as it’s more efficient.
  • There is less clamp force on the Generation 2’s. This could be a good or bad thing depending on the size of your melon. I would say if your head is smaller, you may like 1st generation H6’s better.

Specifications

  • Price: Old Model: Amazon
  • Price: New Model: Amazon | Check eBay!
  • Type: Closed back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 30 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 22kHz.
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB/mW @ 1kHz.
  • Driver size: 40mm.
  • Material: Aluminum, Fabric, Leather, Polymer.
  • Color: Black.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 1.2m.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: Yes.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 230g.
  • Accessories Included: Detachable Cable, Microphone, Volume Remote, Carrying pouch. The remote and microphone are supported only by iPhone 3GS or later, iPad, iPod touch (2nd generation or later), iPod classic (120GB, 160 GB), and iPod nano (4th generation or later).
    The remote is supported by iPod shuffle (3rd generation or later).
    Audio supported by all iPad and iPod models.

  • Amp needed: No.

Summary

The Bang and Olufsen Beoplay H6 is quite a mouthful of B’s and O’s. Perhaps the strangest name I’ve ever heard, but these cans have a lot going for them. They sport a phenomenal build quality, with a pristine fit and finish. They’re also very portable and lightweight, and make great on the go headphones. Sound isolation is also good, and they won’t fatigue you over time due to their great comfort.

As for sound, there’s some nice sparkle in the treble range, with good mid-range clarity and detail. It’s more of a balanced sound and doesn’t place any real emphasis on any of the frequencies. I wouldn’t purchase these as your bass-heads can either, as they’re not going to really wow you with regards to hip-hop and rap. Do expect them to work well for a variety of genres (including rap!), but these really excel with more laid back stuff like Classical, Jazz, and Acoustic music.

The sound is very smooth and inoffensive.

Some artists that got mention include: Daft Punk, Bon Iver, Buena Vista Social Club, Steely Dan, Royksopp, Laura Marling, Vivaldi, and Lil John.

Things to be aware of

  1. A replacement cable over the stock is recommended, as people frequently complained.
  2. The inline remote is meant for iOS and only partially works with Android devices.
  3. These have great Soundstage for a closed back model.

Video Review

SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!


Sennheiser HD598

Specifications

  • Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
  • Type: Open back.
  • Fit: Circumaural.
  • Impedance: 50 Ohm.
  • Frequency Response: 12 – 38500 Hz.
  • Sensitivity: 112dB.
  • Driver size: Not specified.
  • Material: High-gloss burl wood detail complementing premium metal mesh. velour ear pads, leatherette headband.
  • Color: Maroon/Ivory, or Black.
  • Cable replaceable/detachable: Yes.
  • Cable coiled: No.
  • Cable length: 9.84 ft.
  • Comes with straight cable: Yes.
  • Ear-pads replaceable: Yes.
  • Rotating ear-cups: No.
  • Headband Padding: Yes.
  • Headband Style: Traditional.
  • Fold-able: Yes.
  • Weight: 9.52 oz.
  • Accessories Included: 1/4″ adapter.
  • Amp needed: No, but will benefit.
  • Amp recommendation: FiiO E10K.

Summary

It is said that if you take out the foam strips inside the HD558 near the drivers, that it will sound pretty much identical to an HD598. I don’t know this with certainty, as I haven’t attempted to take out the strips. I don’t have a screwdriver small enough so I will have to consult my dad. 😛 He has all the tools in the world, and so the next time I go over there I’m going to try it and see what happens. Supposedly it makes the Soundstage better and the bass punchier.

Update: Tried the foam mod and I can say with certainty that it makes the HD558 sound much better. There’s more bass, the mid-range really comes to life, and the overall sound is a lot crisper and fuller. I would say that if you can’t afford the 598, the 558 is just as good without the strips. Link to my official review will be towards the end!

Regardless, the HD558 and 598 do share a lot in common, but the main differences are that the 598 sounds more refined as a whole, and the sound is a bit brighter. The bass also extends deeper, but the foam mod may help with the HD558 in rendering it identical.

Comfort wise, these things are a dream, just like the HD558. If I sit down for a listening session, I simply don’t take them off or even adjust them. They’re that good. They’re lightweight, and the build is good but you’ll get the feeling that being rough with them isn’t the best idea. I wouldn’t feel comfortable tossing them around like I do my Sennheiser HD25’s.

Simply put, you’re going to start to hear more of what’s going on. Instead of having a vague idea of what the band is doing, things start to get revealed and the veil is lifted. It’s just an incredibly pleasant thing to behold.

Things to be aware of

  1. Not for bass-heads. This is a more relaxing sound as opposed to an exciting and intense one. Expect to sit back and analyze the music peacefully, as the 598 gives you a great sense of clarity, dynamics, Soundstage, and detail. These make wonderful Jazz and Classical headphones, and do well with laid back genres primarily. By and large, they do well with pretty much any genre though.

Video Review

Just look at that face 😀

SEE THEM FOR YOURSELF ON AMAZON!!

AND

CHECK OUT MY OFFICIAL SENNHEISER HD558 REVIEW!!


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