I am a speaker guy and haven’t dabbled in headphones outside of cheap earphones and a set of B&W P7’s a while back. I have a Chord Hugo TT2 on order and wondered if someone could recommend a pair of headphones that will impress me at a fair price on the used market. I am a speaker guy and currently have some Kef R7’s to give you an idea of preferred sound signature.
Headphones will always be my 2nd option so don’t want to spend a bomb (sub £400).
I would understand if you wanted to stick with over-ear. That said, as someone fortunate enough to own the unbelievably good STAX SR-009, I don’t think that IEMs – as a form factor – are a significant compromise (vs. over-ear, not vs. the STAX!) at your budget price point.
Wander over to the headphones.com forum. Some good ideas and nice people there. Many Chord users as well. Do you have access to drop.com? Some very nice reasonably priced options there. Without a separate headphone amp with sufficient amplification, you’ll need to be selective with respect to headphone sensitivity. Are you interested in wireless or wired? Noise cancelling? Headphones are a lot like speakers, with the sound signature being a personal thing, but comfort is a huge factor as well. If where you live there’s a headphone meet nearby, that’s a good place to check out headphones.
I have three pairs that I more or less use and appreciate in equal measure.
Etymotic E4P in ear monitors. Crisp, detailed lightweight. Somehow have lasted 15+ years. Not much deep bass, but all else is as it should be. But in ear is not for everyone.
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x sealed over ear. Punchy and dynamic. Modest looks. Fold flat. Several cable options included. Studio staple that now comes in Bluetooth version.
Audeze LCD-2 open over ear. Big, layered, smooth and airy sound. A little lighter on the top end than I would like but I can use PEQ to correct. Brings out a ton of texture in some music that I haven’t really experienced elsewhere.
Can’t imagine anyone would be disappointed with any of these other than the insertion awkwardness with the ER4Ps. Feel zero need to upgrade within a given headphone type. Looking to add a Bluetooth iem sometime soon, but I know it will likely be a step down in sound quality. So many great options out there - but I think trying them on is critical. I got lucky with that - but I would love to spend a few hours in a dealer with a comprehensive collection setup for listening. Haven’t gotten around to it yet.
I use my Hugo TT daily with a host of over ear headphones;
Hifiman planars such as Edt X v2, HE 1-K, HE-560v3 and the great value HE-400i. Also Sennheiser HD800s, Philips Fidelio X2 and a couple of Fostex, TH-900 and their cousin Denon AH-D2000.
The headphone that makes the best combo with the TT2 though is the Focal Utopia, to my ears. It’s easy to drive (the Chords are no powerhouses, even if they do nicely) and benfits from the excellent resolution of the TT.
Best bang for buck? Hifiman HE-400i, by a long way!
The HD800s are phenomenal headphones but are incredibly transparent. Personally I really enjoy the sound into the Chord Hugo TT2 but it can be divisive. The previous generation HD800 are noticeably harsher on the top end which isn’t forgiven by the Hugo TT2 (hence why we’ve struggled to move on our demonstration pair!).