Not discouraged and all advice gratefully received.
I've discovered that RicherSounds in Birmingham stock the Shure phones so I can hear them there. Unfortunately they don't stock anything else I want to listen to.
And they don't have them and I was told they don't like to audition headphones because of Health & Safety issues so that they have to pack them up and send them back to the manufacturers to be cleaned after anyone tries them! This is turning into a bit of a nightmare - nobody stocks a comprehensive range and maybe you can't try them anyway!
Not a happy bunny this morning.
And they don't have them and I was told they don't like to audition headphones because of Health & Safety issues so that they have to pack them up and send them back to the manufacturers to be cleaned after anyone tries them! This is turning into a bit of a nightmare - nobody stocks a comprehensive range and maybe you can't try them anyway! Not a happy bunny this morning.
Did you try the HiFiHeadphones demo place that was posted earlier?
KRK KNS8400, B&O H6 (Green), B&W P7, Shure SRH1540, Bose OE2i, Audioengine D3/Microstreamer DAC/amps, Zen Head amp.
They did look best but (a) they don't stock half the things I'd like to listen to and (b) it's a trek to get to them. I've pretty much decided I'm going to work on the advice of reviews of people like yourself (for which much thanks) who obviously know what they are talking about and I'm going to take a punt on those which people who listen to the same type of music as me like the most. I know this isn't the best way of going about it but life isn't long enough for the systematic route (and I'm an impatient git).
I chose to buy the AKG K702 headphones after a lot of research. Headphones are a difficult purchase because it’s hard to audition them due to the difficulty of finding a retailer who stocks a wide range and also because retailers are reluctant to let people try them due to health and safety concerns around cleanliness.
My research was threefold. Firstly I looked at reviews by hifi magazines and websites. Then I consulted hifi forums and lastly I looked at product reviews on sites like Amazon from people who actually had purchased items. All opinions gathered in this way have to be treated with some caution because the views are subjective and, to be frank, some people do have favourite brands. The opinions I took the most notice of were from people who like the same type of music as me, which is mainly classical. These came out heavily in favour of AKG headphones and the K702s in particular.
I also took price into account. I was willing to spend rather more than the roughly £250 the AKGs cost but there is a law of diminishing returns in hifi and everything I read made me think that, whilst I could get better headphones, I would probably be satisfied with the AKGs.
Ok so they come in a nice enough box. There is no case but that is not a concern for me as they will only be used at home and I have a convenient shelf for them to sit on. They have a tubular metal framework with a leather strap which goes on top of your head. The bodies are made of plastic and they have foam ear-surrounds. They are pretty light, 360g on my kitchen scales, including the cable, which is detachable. They are “open back” which means that they don’t insulate you fully from external noise nor indeed do they protect others from your music. So they are for use in private!
I have found them very comfortable. As mentioned, they are light so there is no problem there and I didn’t find that my ears got hot even after a couple of hours of listening. Some reviewers have said that they found the ridges under the leather strap uncomfortable but to be frank I didn’t really notice they were there. (I wonder if people have been pulling the phones hard down onto their scalp?)
In terms of sound quality this is an early review. Some reviewers say that they need hundreds of hours to “run in” but I found them excellent straight out of the box. Some reviewers also say that they are much better with a dedicated headphone amp but I haven’t tried that. In fact so far I have only tried them using the headphone socket on my Marantz CD6004. I will in due course try them using the socket on my Marantz PM6004.
I’ve listened to a wide variety of music but the main ones to talk about are:
The Grieg is rather special, being a Penguin Guide Rosette winner and a former Gramophone “record of the year”. The performances by both singer and accompanist are outstanding and the digital recording is demonstration quality. It is a tough test for any piece of equipment. The AKGs shone here. Von Otter’s voice was captured in all its beauty and in some ways even better the piano was beautifully reproduced, all the notes perfectly represented to my ears. The sound staging was also excellent and by closing my eyes I could easily envisage a live performance.
The Tchaikovsky is a much older (1970) analogue recording and I included it in the test not only because it is a wonderful performance but also I wanted to be see how the AKGs handed a non-digital recording (albeit a well-regarded one) and how they would integrate a soloist with a full orchestra. I’m pleased to say that all was well and indeed it was so good I played it through twice.
The Allegri is also an old analogue recording but you wouldn’t guess that. This is also a really tough test because the key thing is to be able to reproduce the acoustic of the venue, actually the Chapel of Merton College, Oxford, and to set the voices properly in perspective in it. This is hard because the solo group and the main choir are located at opposite ends of the Chapel, so to get it right you have to recreate a huge 3-dimensional sound stage. The distant and often hushed voices of the main choir have to live in harmony with the much closer solo group and Alison Stamp’s wonderful treble has to soar above everything. I was quite stunned at how good the AKGs were at achieving this. My KEF Q500s do it better but you would expect that as they have the whole volume of a room to achieve it in. To make it realistic with headphones is excellent.
The “War of the Worlds” is an old favourite and includes some excellent sound effects as well as some punchy popular music, with the added bonus of Richard Burton’s wonderful narration. Burton really came alive through the AKGs and indeed everything sounded great. The “unscrewing” of the Martian canister sounded fantastic, I won’t say realistic because that would be the wrong word, and it conveyed a wonderful impression of what was happening. It was so involving that I listened to the whole CD rather than the first 10 minutes as I had intended.
Jennifer Warnes is one of “the” voices of the late 20th century in my opinion and her versions of Leonard Cohen’s songs are highly prized. As Cohen himself said of her singing “I stand by my original astonishment”. I won’t go through the tracks but the AKGs didn’t stumble and of particular note they handled with ease the rather difficult live version of “Joan of Arc”, which can sound dreadful on cheap equipment.
I chose the Prokofiev because it is highly percussive and I wanted to see if the AKGs could separate out all the various percussion instruments that are employed. In addition I wanted to know if they could convey the great excitement and drive of the final movement. They could! I could identify all the instruments and when I closed my eyes it took me back to a live performance I saw in the Albert Hall many years ago.
To summarise, the AKGs performed well on all the music I tried. They were particularly good at presenting a realistic sound-stage; the performers seemed to be there in front of you. The Allegri was particularly impressive. I have read reviews that say the AKGs lack bass. I don’t think that is right. I think they are neutral and reproduce what is there (albeit nothing I tried has a heavy bass component). If you want bass to be boosted these are not the headphones for you! They are rather analytical, i.e. everything is separated out and put into place, and people who like a smoother sound might find that wearing. I simply think it is realistic and I think the more you listen to these headphones the more you will appreciate the analysis.
Overall I am very pleased with my purchase!
I hope this long review helps others and in some way pays back the advice I've received on here.
Ya the Shure 1840 are very light and I really enjoyed using them
I've been listening this afternoon and evening with the phones plugged into the PM6004 and there is a distinct improvement, the music is more vivid and exciting. I think the pre-amp stage of the PM6004 must be rather good.
So willl I get a quantum improvement if I now buy a separate amplifier? Or should I go for a separate DAC/Amplifier? If so which are the recommended devices?
I think I wouldn't spend more than £250 unless it brought a major improvement!
Chris, that is a cracking review. Please create a new thread just for the review so it does not get lost in this thread.
Internet - laptop - DAC - amp - lots of headphones.
"A music lover will stop what he's doing and stay glued to a favorite piece of music even if it's coming over a 3" speaker or a public-address system..." - Ken Rockwell
Thank you. Rather than start a new thread I've posted the review on to the WhatHiFi review of the Q701s as they are, as I understand it, in principle identical.
As a follow up, I've been listening for some weeks now and I can't discern any noticeable "running in" effect. I've had the phones plugged in at all times so I think if it were going to happen it would have done it by now.
Lastly I've discovered that phones can be too good! I was listening to the famous live recording of Marta Argerich playing the Rachmaninov 3rd Piano Concerto and the audience noise was very disconcerting. You can hear every cough, splutter, sweet paper rustle and scuffle. Listening to it on speakers this morning the noises are still there but they blend into the background noise of my apartment and you can ignore them. Phones make you listen to them and they are hard if not impossible to ignore!
Hi Chris, only found your post today so I hope i'm not too late to the party!
I think i'm fairly well placed to offer an opinion on your dilemma, I too have the CD and PM6004 although i've paired mine with Monitor Audio RX1s.
The first thing I would say is that the phones out on the marantz is very good when compared to the vast majority of cd/amps. Marantz give almost as much attention to the phones output on these models as they do the main output so unless you were to spend the same kind of money as the PM6004 (or upwards) on a dedicated headphone amp, the extra outlay is unlikely to be justified.
Onto headphone choice now. Looking at your musical tastes and the fact you require a clean, analytical sound I can thoroughly recommend the AKG Q701 Quincy jones reference headphones. These produce an incredibly accurate delivery of the recording, as it was meant to be heard, and a soundstage few headphones anywhere near the price point can match. As for the wireless option, i'm guessing it's because your listening chair is quite far from the hi-fi? I so, another huge benefit of the Q701s is that they come with 2 cables, one at 3m and the other 6m. this should suffice for all but the most lavish of... em... ... castles?
If it's particularly heavy bass you're after i'd look elsewhere. Whilst the Q701s produce a lovely, tight, clean bassline, They're never going to reproduce the kind of brain rattling, sub-elephant mating call some may require. Again though i'd guess that's not really your preference given your Classical tastes and the fact you love your Kef speakers.
Should you decide to go for the Q701s can I advise you to steer clear of a well known store that starts with J and ends with ohnLewis, They're asking for 500 quid for a pair.
Instead look to an American company Standbyon who can be found on a well known rainforest monikered online store. I had to wait 13 days for mine to arrive but for less than 213 quid, it's a small price to pay. Hell, for a 2 week wait you've just saved yourself the cost of a Graham Slee Novo headphone amp should your heart really desire.
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