Headphones thread (show us yer cans)! [2018-09]

I was never really a headphones listener until November 2013 when Meridian shipped me a Prime Headphone Amp to do a review. [Being a moderator on the Meridian Hitchhikers’ forum had some benefits :slight_smile: ]

Years before, I’d bought myself a pair of Sennheiser HD600s at a real knock-down price – mainly because I felt that I should own a pair of proper cans – but in truth I hardly used them. The Prime changed that: I fed it from my Meridian 861 and it was a riot. And so my headphones journey really began. Ultimately, my experience with the Prime cost me a lot of money!

The Prime ended up on extended loan (it did eventually go back) and I also got a loan Prime PSU review unit to boot. They ended up on my desk at my (pre-Roon) work desk. But I realized very quickly that open-back headphones were not the thing for an open-plan office environment.

After some recommendations and research, I got a pair of Etymotic ER-4PT IEMs which also came with an adapter to turn them into a pair of more accurate, but less sensitive, ER-4S monitors. These are excellent IEMs and definitely a reference against which all headphones can be measured. They also double as really effective ear-plugs as they have a lot of noise isolation (35-42 dB according to the spec.)! And I use them regularly, particularly when I travel (they are fabulous on planes).

I also indulged in the lower end of the STAX range with an SRM-252S energizer and SR-003 electrostatic IEMs. They sound utterly fantastic, albeit without much bass, but are really uncomfortable to wear. I believe that it is possible to get some custom mouldings to fit them…

A Meridian Explorer 2 followed in early 2016, after the Prime units had gone back.

And then I went the whole hog, importing (from Japan) a STAX SRM-007tA (007tII) and a pair of (at the time, but no longer :sob: top-of-the-range) SR-009 cans.

Even at full retail price – and I paid nowhere near that – considering how much many of us spend on loudspeaker systems, these are an audiophile bargain. The SR-009s are are only Hi-Fi component I’ve heard that I can’t fault in any way. During the day, working from a home office, I listen to my Meridian DSP loudspeakers, but when others are in the house, these are a perfect family and neighbour-friendly indulgence!

So, what can do you guys listen through?!


I’m a keen IEM user. Fascinated by the quality available via some diddy little things the size of acorns :slight_smile:

I have a pair of HD600’s bought decades ago, lol. At least 15 years old.

They started rattling in 2014 so i invested in a pair of Beyerdynamic T1’s which are fab.

On the IEM side, I’ve been through a few pairs from my baptism into the field via a pair of Grado GR10’s then onto the hard stuff, some AKG K3003’s and then found that some ChiFi options we better sounding at a fifth of the price, hah! A pair of LZ A4, which I used for 2 years nearly, exclusively. A week ago I plumped for a pair of Fiio FH5’s which are stunning. Detailed, smooth, and delicate sounding.

But the cans are nothing without good amplification and music players. To this end I have a Chord Mojo and Fiio X7ii.

Roll on a complete Roon Mobile solution!


I’m not a huge headphone guy, but I thought I would show two pairs that are a little different - both were crowdfunded and both are Australian.

On the left are the Audeara, on the right are the Nuraphones. Both use propriety technology to measure how you hear and store your unique “signature” to provide what sounds like a truly flat frequency response for you.

While I like the Nuraphones better, the Audeara set up includes listening to 32 different frequencies for each ear. This provides a visual graph which I used to customize the EQ in Roon for my two speaker setups. I haven’t go this quite perfect yet, and I can only assume that those with different ears might think my speakers sound like crap, but I can always defeat the EQ and let them hear my speakers unadulterated.


I dabbled with a pair of AKG K550 for years, used for about an hour a week. After a while added a Mojo to the mix, but concluded it didn’t bring anything special (hang on). Sold it off, hooked up and Explorer 2 to a Cubox and called it a day for a while.

This january, I treated myself to a pair of Mr Speakers Aeon Flow Closed. This tick all my boxes, sound great and are very comforable to boot. They also made me hear the Explorer’s shortcomings rather well.

I tried a Pre Box S2 (meh), said Pre Box with rHead amp (still meh) and the box/amp combo with DSD512 upsampling (both Roon and HQP – meh meh…). Bought a Prime, which was great but unfortunately not a perfect match to the Aeons (too lively in the treble regions, resulting in shrill cymbals and a touch too light in the bass (ample detail but little impact)).

During the summer months I used a DragonFly Red with my iPad, which handled the Aeons surprisingly well and made for a fun summer with lots of outside listening. The DFR definitely does not offer not the last word in detail, but plays with musical ease that’s just well… fun.

Autumn coming I borrowed a Mojo to reassess with the Aeons (thanks again, @Grump!). It turned out to be a great, well balanced combination (the Mojo is great with cymbals and offers a nice, extended bass that’s just right to these ears) – so in the end I picked up a Poly/Mojo combo and didn’t look back.

It’s great for use around the house and while travelling. The Poly is a fine Roon Ready endpoint (nary a hiccup with bitrates up to 384kHz). So there you go:


I also have the Meridian Prime headphone amp/DAC. I feed it USB from a Bryston BDP-1 digital media player. Headphones are Sennheiser HD800. Really sweet sound. Can control remote volume from the Bryston via Roon remote ipad control.


ER-4p since about 1996 brilliant for blotting out the London underground and screaming kids on flights. Sennheiser hd650 as my desktop pair. A pair of B&O closed headphones for when next to my significant…
Ue900s as my day to day pair with a HiBy R3 mini DAP.
Plus drawers full of other in ear pairs that have come with a procession of other audio equipment over the years.

Usually, I’m only using headphones directly attached to my MacBook for checking out new music at various online shops or when I cut / edit digitized vinyls. I know the Grado RS1e heavily underperform in this setup but well.

My previous amp (a Rega Brio-R) had no headphone out so for some time I also owned a Beyerdynamic A20 to drive the Grados on the rare occasion I could not - or did not want to - listen to speakers. My current amp has a headphone out - which is almost as good to my ears as the A20 was - so currently the Grados have no own amp. Maybe I try a Schiit Valhalla 2 one day, kind of curious if tubes do anything for me. But then it would probably make more sense to add something like a DragonFly first for the main use case (see above). :wink:

Currently using HD650 connected to an Arcam rHead - this came about after going to a HiFi show with the intention of ‘upgrading’ and finding that the source seemed more important to me than changing the headphones. I was amazed at how good they sounded on a Hugo 2…it was only when reaching the Audeze LCD3 level that I found something I significantly preferred. The rHead isn’t quite the Hugo 2 experience (and my DAC isn’t at that level either) but it’s pretty impressive for the cost.

I am currently alternating between Senn HD800’s, HiFiMan 400i’s and my new favorite Audeze LCD-XC’s on a Schiit Bifrost Uber/Valhalla 2 stack. I just love the sound of planars. My old favorites (Oppo PM-3’s) were lost on my last trip (tucked the case between the seats and totally forgot about them). Still hurts.

Ah, this feels like an “headphones anonymous” session;
Hi, i’m Mike and i am in need of help…

Top image, downwards:
Fostex TH-900, latest in. For bedtime use, reasonably nice to the surroundings.
Hifiman HE Edt X, great phones! All different uses, but mainly for travel with a portable music player.
The collage shows my favorites over time, begin ing with my first “serious” headphones, Philips SBC HP 890.
My old loved Denon AH-D2000, similar in tonality to the Fostex TH, but less resolved. Great drive though!
Philips Fidelio X2, actually have two pairs of these, one set for work and one home! Cheap as chips, performs beautifully.
Hifiman HE-1000, my favorites, when properly driven, such as wih the Moon 430HAD. So much music in these.
Hifiman HE-400i, remarkably nice, tight and expressive. Love these on travels!
Finally the phones to rule all other phones, Focal Utopia! Resolution, music and dynamics! A touch more honest than the HE1K, but just a smidge less romantic. Does sound fantastic even with lesser phone amps though.


Help is obviously needed. Your friends here on the forum will give a hand. Divesting yourself of your obsession will be the first step in this intervention.
Dibs on the 400i. :grin:


I STARTED with a pair of Stax SR3 , I must have been flush one month, and went through Koss Pro 4 aa, then really went to speakers , quad ESL 63, nothing compared

I had Beyerdynamic, ( model?), when I retired my wife bought me a pair of Sennheiser HD800 to keep me quiet.

I have Bose QC 25 for traveling an JB 450 Bluetooth for the gym an heavy rock cooking !!!

Currently have the Sony Signature Series MDR-Z1R headphones, with the TA-ZH1ES amp/DAC and the NW-WM1A portable audio player:

In the past I’ve had Sennheiser HD650 and HD800, Grado GS1000, Stax 007tII and Audezé LCD-3. I also currently have Sony’s wireless noise-cancelling headphones MDR-1000X and Sony IEMs XBA-N1AP for out of the house.

I’m looking to get a Roon Nucleus soon to use with the USB input on the TA-ZH1ES. My Leben CS300XS is also a great headphone amp, so I have a choice of solid state or valves in the same system.


@Woo This is exactly my setup except I recently sold my wm1a for lack of use (now I’m regretting it and considering re-acquisition). Nice to be in nice company! :smile:

I use a NUC Roon Core USB input into TA-ZH1ES. Must say it’s sublime. I have DSP up-convert all my files to highest pcm rate (786 kHz). Sound is sublime.


Oh that’s cool :sunglasses:

I bought the three Signature pieces over 18 months. At first I just wanted the WM1A but gradually saved and bought the other two. Would’ve loved to get the WM1Z but couldn’t justify the cost. I use the WM1A through my car stereo every day, and walking into town etc.

So you output upsampled 768kHz PCM from your NUC. Couldn’t the Sony do that itself? I set the Sony to convert all PCM signals to DSD256, after going through the DSEE first. I have a lot of DSD music so I’m really pleased with how the Sony converts those files natively. It’s a great unit all round - just add a Nucleus/NUC and active speakers for a very simple system. I’m using Harbeth P3ESR with my Leben amplifier but I wonder about some active PMC result6 speakers too…

Here’s some of my setup.
Stax SR009,HD800,AFC,GH1G, etc etc…
Amps are Headamp BHSE, Cavalli LL2SS for electrostatics and Cavalli LAu and LCarbon, Decware Taboo MKIII for dynamics.

I also have MrSpeakers Voce electrostat.

Plus a bunch of portable devices, headphones, CIEMs.
Yes, I went way down the rabbit hole.


Haha, you’re absolutely right. I didn’t even notice my DSEE HX light was off while doing upscale conversion in Roon. I just turned off Roon’s DSP conversion and my DSEE HX light is back on. I will just let Sony do it’s thing. Sound is sublime to my ears. Bought the complete signature series over a 6 months period. I don’t use speakers much, I’m mostly a headphone guy. Also have the Senheiser HD700 attached to ZH1ES. For sound quality, build, and convenience of switching input and output ports on the ZH1ES, I’m not looking for any “upgrade” in the near foreseeable future. Just enjoying my music.

Yes, the price of wm1z is ok if one has a lot of disposable cash, though quite tempting. I’ll reacquire my wm1a in the next month or two. Cheers.

currently using a Sony MDR-Z7 with Denon DA-300USB dac/amp


This my corner for listening to Jazz and reading about the music.

Pre Box S2 —> Lehmann Audio Drachenfels —> HD650

I need a headphone stand.


My headphone setup:

Intel NUC7i7BNH ROCK with Ethernet and WiFi subnets

Pro-Ject Pre-Box S2 Digital → Aune X7s Class A amp with Aune XP1 Linear Power Supply → MrSpeakers ETHER C Flow

The Pre Box is connected to the NUC with an Audioquest Pearl USB cable.
The headphones are connected with a custom Corpse Cable GraveDigger Balanced cable (Cardas 4x24 AWG Shielded). The Raspberry Pi 3 running RoPieee is currently used for the touch display only.

I also use a pair of Samsung Level Over’s when I want to walk around, primarily when I watch the news or TV on my laptop. This is where I store my cans.