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Headphone choosing woes...
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So, I bought a Teac UD-H01 DAC from Richer Sounds on trial to compare with my current E-MU 1616M soundcard only to find that it was barely any better, so I decided to return it and exchange for a pair of headphones purely for home use.

 

For a good few years I've been solely using Koss Porta Pros out and about and at home. I think they're bloody brilliant for the money, airy treble, controlled bass. Surprising for a pair of headphones that cost £17.99, and they seemed to have marred me somewhat.

 

The guy in Richer let me try a few demo models of their headphones with my iPod. After reading the rave reviews I wanted to give the K451s and K450s a comparison, assuming it was going to be one of these, hands down.

 

The K451s first.

Muddy, rolled off treble and the word that kept coming out of my mouth to the sales guy was 'boxy'. So much for the rave reviews! He asked if I wanted to try the K450s and I said no, if the K451s were meant to be marginally better what was the point, they were awful!

 

Next up he brought up a pair of the discontinued closed-back Audio Technica ATH-WS55i.

OK, there's some upper range now. Reasonably nice mid-range detail. Bass plentiful.

 

Next, the open-backed Yamaha HTH-200.

Slightly muffled mid-range. Treble far better than the AKG K451.

 

I took the Audio Technica pair.

 

Sat in the coffee shop around the corner breaking the brand new pair in. I found myself praying the upper end would open up a bit as they broke in, and sure enough it did. Two hours later and I was found the treble on the verging on fine to shrilly. Four hours later and with a lot of material the treble is a bit teeth grating, verging on treble distortion! This has been confirmed by a friend who I just roped in to take a listen (I told them none of my views before they listened!)

It's a shame, they have nice soundstage, plenty of powerful bass (I'm not a bass head and I hate anything geared towards that market) but I don't think they're right for me, the overpowering, grating treble is ruining the sound.

 

Does anyone have any experience with any sub-£100 hi-fi headphones, purely for home use with no need for portability? How about these Yamaha HTH-200 headphones? I've read good things from users and barely any UK reviews, and the demo pair may well have not been well run in. Do I need go higher for neutrality and balance across the frequency range?

 

I've heard good things about the Soundmagic HP100, even in relation to the AKG K550, are these worth a punt?

 

Feel free to throw in your tuppence worth...

 

Anonymous
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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

Listening to these ATH-WS55i pair, using jriver's  own parametric equalizer I just applied a -2dB cut at 15000kHz and the treble improved, at -3dB it now sounds quite musical...

 

But surely I shouldn't need to do this when I've never had to do this for any other headphones before... nor my loudspeakers?

 

 

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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

bleachershane wrote:
Listening to these ATH-WS55i pair, using jriver's  own parametric equalizer I just applied a -2dB cut at 15000kHz and the treble improved, at -3dB it now sounds quite musical...But surely I shouldn't need to do this when I've never had to do this for any other headphones before... nor my loudspeakers?

A small EQ change for a sub-£100 headphone is a modest miracle. The two best headphones I've had short of £100 are the Logitech UE4000 (which has a very high defect rate) and the Beyerdynamic DTX501p. Both of those need a treble boost to get just halfway from where they are to a flat treble response, but at that point they become musically useful with no particular irritations.

AKG K812/K712, Beyer T1/T90 Jubilee/DT1350, v-moda M100/XS, Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Portaphile Micro/PA2V2 amps.

Anonymous
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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

I've just switched back to my Koss Porta Pros, and plainly and simply, this well worn in, well used pair of £17.99 headphones wiped the floor with the Audio Technicas. Now, that just doesn't seem right, but it's particularly worrying as to just how much I'm going to have to spend to get what I'm looking for!

I don't know if you're at all familiar with the Porta Pros, but what I'm getting is an instantly enjoyable, unfatiguing listen but still exciting, ridiculously detailed and taut bass, exceptional instrument separation, and the treble, without any EQ'ing, is NOT jarring, not in the slightest. The Audio Technicas have to go back, simple as.

Dale, I've noticed you're particularly clued up about these things, I'm interested in the Soundmagic HP100s and read your review. Do you still hold this view for headphones in the £100-£200 range? Are we getting ripped off by brand names? Are there other hidden gems like those out there? I would kill to listen to a pair of the Soundmagics before purchasing, shame no one stocks them except for online!!!

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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

I had to clean out the closet recently to make room for newer items, but I always keep the reference items for future comparisons. I gave away the HP100 in spite of how good it is, because it just doesn't fit into my listening rotation. Some people will find it excellent for classical, jazz, acoustic music etc., but I've been moving toward a richer, warmer kind of sound like the Sennheiser Amperior or Logitech UE6000. My problem with the UE6000 is it sounds best in Active mode with bass reduction, where the reduced bass is still stronger than the Soundmagic HP100 all the way to the bottom. Stronger in fact than all of my headphones except the Amperior, and it matches that. Amperior played flat and UE6000 with bass reduction - the UE6000 sounds better and lacks nothing in the bass. So what's the problem? No reviewer will touch it. Every one that I've read rejects bass reduction without even trying it. So that, as they say, is that.

Moving on to other things, I do have some agreement with other reviewers, insofar as looking for a better all-around headphone. The M100 by v-moda may just be that headphone, and I won't know until I get one. If we get lucky, and since Quadpatch has one of those now, maybe he will describe the sound precisely in terms of known references so I can feel assured I know exactly (or pretty closely) how it will sound when I get it. In the meantime, my Sennheiser Momentum will arrive in a week and maybe it will replace either the Amperior or UE6000 as my listening favorite.

AKG K812/K712, Beyer T1/T90 Jubilee/DT1350, v-moda M100/XS, Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Portaphile Micro/PA2V2 amps.

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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

My view on the ripoff by brand names isn't a simple picture, unfortunately. The Beats and Monsters and rapper/fashion models don't offer high fidelity sound for a reasonable price, that's for sure. But there are headphones worth their cost, although that can be complicated by reliability and consistency. The new white Sennheiser PX-200ii that was selling in the U.S. for $50 was a reasonable buy for $50, played flat. But with an iPod's 'Rock' EQ setting to push down the midrange a few decibels, the sound transforms into something decidedly mid-fi, with decent bass and treble and an overall smooth and relatively uncolored sound. A real bargain for $50, from Sennheiser no less. The Beyerdynamic DTX501p, alleged to be  a cloned Soundmagic P30, is a fairly neutral and good sounding headphone for $99 USD, needing only a small treble boost (iPod or equivalent) to achieve good mid-fi sound. The new Logitech UE4000 for $99 is also a good headphone, also needing a treble boost, but has been plagued by inconsistent and defective samples. Mine works fine, but for how long I don't know. The v-moda M80 for $200, also needing a small treble boost**, is an excellent performer for hi-fi listening, and as a bonus is extremely well made and durable. The white M80 is possibly the best looking headphone ever made.

**Wherever I've referenced treble boost, it's not to raise the treble to the level of something like the Sennheiser 800 or Shure 1840, but just enough to lift the sound from treble-shy (or recessed) to listenability.

The Shure SRH940 has great potential for hi-fi sound at a reasonable price. Some of those have been available in the U.S. for little more than $200, and while they tend to be slightly bright and marginally irritating for some music, a simple non-destructive earpad mod can make them a top performer.

AKG K812/K712, Beyer T1/T90 Jubilee/DT1350, v-moda M100/XS, Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Portaphile Micro/PA2V2 amps.

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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

Great explanation Dale! I think I would be willing to try the UE6000 with bass reduction, despite the high defect numbers you and Tyll experienced. Will probably aim to once I have got through my current batch of stuff to review. I don't want to say too much more about the V-moda M-100 until I've had a chance to properly test it. As far as looks go it's by far the best headphone I have seen, just look at the sexiness! (That logo on the side is custom by the way):

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-aivFDxKvZ5g/UIWqpM0_W6I/AAAAAAAAB1o/MvFzfKux-Nw/s1600/EDD_4886.jpg

Build and accessories are also stunning. It's much bigger than the M-80 although the case is not because of tge folding), but it doesn't exactly give your ears a ton of space so I will give fit a thorough test tomorrow. 

I'm very curious what you will think of the Momentum actually Dale.

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RE: Headphone choosing woes...

Perhaps consider the AKG K240 Studio Mark II - widely available in the UK at £105. Not much over your budget. I've had the original version for several years and consider them to be excellent for the money but have not heard the Mk II so cannot say if they are as good/better/worse. Reviews are generally excellent, I don't find the treble to be a problem at all, they are accurate and neutral.

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