Upgrade? Or call it good?

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by musichal, May 14, 2017.

  1. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Okay, I don't use headphones a lot. However, of late my wife has become interested in some TV shows which are not my cup of tea, but she is, so we like to be in the same room. My headphone listening time has increased.

    I have a pair of AKG 240 Studio 'phones which sound very good to me, even better now that I'm plugging them into my Schiit Magni 2 Uber amp, rather than directly into my laptop, which I had done occasionally - the rare times I listened very long at all via headphones was plugged into my old Zune 30Gb player. I'm using the Modi 2 USB DAC.

    I also have a Nuforce HAP-100 on hand, but the smaller width of the Magni/Modi combo fits my shelf perfectly, so it would take some convincing for me to change out amps, and require a lot of effort. And I don't have much energy. In the bit of research I've done, it appears that the Magni 2 vs HAP-100 are roughly equal, depending on 'phones. Apparently the Nuforce likes impedances better at 100 ohms rather than lower, while the Magni seems able to handle either. But you know how reviews are - not always accurate. The AKGs are rated 55 ohms.

    Okay, another factor. Speakers. I love my Khorns and Fortes. However, I've been reading every audio magazine I could get my hands on since I was a teen. I know the flaws. I've listened to many good speakers. I do hear the Klipsch flaws, but for me their strengths - great dynamics (and I don't mean ultimate db output), big sound, and an intimate presentation - outweigh the bad.

    I have read some criticism of the AKG's bass. They do seem to roll off a bit above the lowest element of a kick-drum's impact, but the rest sounds really good, to me. I find my headphones remarkably good for the $55-60 range.

    So the upshot of all these factors is that I'm considering upgrading headphones. I've rather arbitrarily considered a budget to top out at $350. I could spend more... but not being able to audition is just one of several reasons I'd rather not. On the other hand, one goal is to have a less-coloured presentation than I get with my chosen speakers. I like variety. And I'd happily spend less, of course.

    Main source is laptop - including CD playback, mp3 files and Spotify. If you have a recommendation, please indicate whether you've heard the AKG and, if so, your opinion of the differences. Oh, also, the AKGs are super-comfortable for me. I know this was a rather long setup, but I was attempting to anticipate some of your questions after perusing other threads in this section of AK. So you guys with more headphone experience, advise me. Whatcha think?

    Oh, music genres. Not much to which I don't listen... classical, country, rock, jazz (most styles), blues, polka, zydeco, gospel, male and female singing standards, much like many others on a gear-driven music forum. Goal is to be as neutral as possible within my various constraints.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
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  2. cratz2

    cratz2 Super Member

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    I have several pair of 'better' headphones and also have the 240s. I still use them for small scale classical, string ensembles, solo violin or cello and such. I also really like them for laid back female vocals such as Eva Cassidy.

    Having said that, for someone that appreciates dynamics and scale, there are many others that I prefer.

    My favorite for classical and acoustic jazz are the Q701s. They are similar to the 240s but do pretty much everything better except for super fine texture details.

    I also really like the Sennheiser 598s and my slightly modified 518s. They do well on pretty much everything and would likely be the single pair that I'd keep. The 600/650s are also awesome at a higher price point though they really need an amp to do their best work whereas the 518s and 598s sound great with my Zune, Sony and Galaxy phone.

    At a fairly low price, the Philips 9500s are pretty amazing. Similar to the AKGs but more bass and a bit less refinement. They also sound a bit fuller overall. Crazy good for the money.

    Then come great headphones with appreciably more bottom end, the Beyer 880s. The 770s and 990s have a lot more top end. I'd call it harshness though not all agree. These are my choice for Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, Bela Fleck... things with lots of bottom end. Flight of The Cosmic Hippo and Morph The Cat can be super fun with the 880s.

    Lots of overlap here. All these are really nice headphones, just different strengths.
     
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  3. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Morph the Cat is one of my go-to bass-checkers. Very convenient because first track starts off (and continues) with its great bass line. Just press play and you're checking.

    Also, to clarify... my intent is to use the Magni 2 Uber as my headphone amp. Phones that are really circumaural, not squeezing ears, is my preference. No IEMs considered.


    Shortlist:


    Beyer DT-880
    Sennheiser 650
    AKG Q701 (K701?)
    Just Call It Good



    Anyone want to add to this list?
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
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  4. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Okay, having loved ESLs and panels in the past, and seeking a more neutral presentation than I get with my Klipsch speakers, I decided that stepping up a bit to HiFi Man's 400i planar cans seemed just the ticket - not too much more expensive (balked at the Xv2). Ordered a pair of 400i from AA. Should be an upgrade worth making from my entry-weight AKG 240s. Is the Magni 2 Uber up to the job? I saw one "yes" from a user with the very same combo of Schiit.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
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  5. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    musichal has become unstoked in time...

    Yes, my headphones were due today, and I was stoked with anticipation. They didn't show. USPS tracker shows they are in Springfield, MA. From Grand Rapids, MI, they went east 750 miles, almost exactly the wrong way. Springfield, MO, would've made more sense, on the way to OK. Called AA too late - now I'm really wondering if I will ever get them. Rechecked address for the order, all correct. Miss-sorted maybe. Sigh.
     
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  6. cratz2

    cratz2 Super Member

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    Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Expectations even more so.
     
  7. cratz2

    cratz2 Super Member

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    Any luck today?

    I'm excited for you!
     
  8. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Headphones just showed up. Box too small. Uh-oh, I knew I shouldn't have added these 'phones to my sig before they arrived - doing so has triggered the counting-chickens-eggs-hatched curse. AA sent the wrong headphones, they sent the RE-400i buds rather than the HE-400i most prominently displayed on my virtual order form in that account. So AA gave the Post Office the wrong 'phones and they headed out with them in the wrong direction, but with enough enthusiasm to go 750 miles that way.

    AA Customer Service handled it all very quickly, agreeing to FedEx two-day the right, and have the wrong picked up, after first suggesting a more cost-effective measure for them. I asked if a different arrangement were possible, and mentioned my counter-proposal. They were very courteous, and apologetic, and were quick to comply. Not 'they' - she, Wendy, who I caused to laugh. Very nice. So ETA is now Wed or Thurs, and I am happy enough with that, considering from where we started.
     
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  9. cratz2

    cratz2 Super Member

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    Dangit!

    Well, I guess your heart will be growing even fonder still. :p
     
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  10. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Well, my tracking indicates the 'phones are out for delivery today! Chances of that happening seem to be well above 50%, and I am filled with anticipation. I spoke with Wendy in Customer Service at AA again today - the wrong 'phones still being here, and had been expected to have been picked up by Fed-EX yesterday, so she called and straightened that out - pickup tomorrow. Gave me her direct # if I needed anything else, and had a nice brief conversation - she's very pleasant (as I have also been) and I remarked what a great job she had helping nice, friendly and pleasant audio enthusiasts all day. She laughed and told me a bit about her job, noting that my description was just the dictionary meaning of the term, customer service.

    I notice that they didn't charge out the wrong 'phones on my credit card (which are a lot less expensive than the HE-400i) as some places want to do for returns. I didn't open the earbud box, just the outer box to see what they had sent (which remains sealed), so it should be a simple restock for them. Anyway, kudos to Audio Advisor for doing just a bit extra to correct their error and keep me happy, and for having the good sense to hire Wendy.

    FedEx usually delivers here late in the afternoon, but have surprised me near noon a couple of times. I'm hoping this is one of those times.


    EDIT: They have arrived, and are now on my head. Sound pretty darn good right out of the box - articulate, controlled bass and silky highs, voices sound great. They are said to improve with break-in. Fit is comfortable. Nice box. Nice finish. Already glad I bought 'em.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2017 at 1:57 PM
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  11. cratz2

    cratz2 Super Member

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    With that design, I'd expect break-in to be even more pronounced than with dynamic driver designs.

    Can't wait to read your impressions in another week.
     
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  12. musichal

    musichal poet emeritus Subscriber

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    Right now I'm listening to Camel's The Snow Goose (just a beautiful album, btw), with some wordless female singing on the track entitled Preparation, and the voice is simply liquid smooth. Everyone claims these phones improve, and I think I've already experienced some of that with the ten hours I've gotten in so far. I still think my AKG K-240s sound good for the $55 price, but these play in a way different league. I'm spoiled already.

    Of course, with planar headphones, you don't get the same spatial presentation of imaging or soundstage that various panel-type speakers provide (or I don't, nor did I expect it), but the tonal presentation is neutral, providing excellent timbre, fast response to HF transients offering a detailed, but un-etched and un-colored aural experience that reminds one of sitting in front of ESLs or panels. Bass is well-defined, with good extension, and the overall sound dynamic and involving. Resolution is exemplary, even when the mids get complex (busy). Vocals are stunning.

    It seems I chose well for my goal, which was to acquire an excellent set of 'phones to provide an alternative window into music with 'phones having less personality than Khorns. However, the neutrality of this headset does not make it too polite, as can sometimes happen with speakers; I find them satisfying for all genres of music. I am glad I adjusted my thinking up to spending a bit more, and admittedly, could have saved more by waiting for a sale. That is generally what I do... I simply didn't want to wait this time. Can't take it with me, and when I do kick there'll be more than that left on the table anyway. Get it while you can, she said.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2017 at 9:59 AM

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