New headphones, advice for a novice

Not sure that’s what she had in mind. :slightly_smiling_face:

Before thinking about brands, decide where you are likely to use them and if open or closed back will be best. Some are heavier than others, some come with leather pads and some with velvet. So audition before buying.

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Was the suggestion of headphones a veiled hint to not play music in the house, if so open backs emit quite a lot of sound which can be quite irritating to those close by

That said I use open back , Sennheiser HD800, which are superb, my retirement pressy in a not too veiled manner, no 70s rock on speakers


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Sennheiser HD800 is a very popular high quality headphone. I have a set, and they can be had for under $1K. If you are not in a hurry, I would suggest you visit a CanJam or audio show to try out various headphones. IMO, comfort is as important as music reproduction quality, since if they are uncomfortable, you wont want to use them. In the meantime, drop over to Massdrop online and pick up a well recommended headphone like the Sennheiser 6xx to tide you over.

Edit: Some high end headphones require a “powerful” headphone amp. Be sure to evaluate the impedance and required wattage of what you buy.

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If you’ve a good HiFi dealer around, I’d suggest to spent a few hours there trying (and finally buying) headphones there. Take a selection of your music with you (something from everything, stuff you know well) and maybe you get the chance to bring the Mytek with you so you could find the right match to the equipment you already own.

I’ve settled for my Grado RS1e after hours of listening to different headphones at my dealer and have not regretted it yet. The Grados seem to be quite easy to drive too, btw.

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I suggested Audeze to my sons in this situation. They have a reputation as expensive, reach up to $4,000, but they have a wide range and now reach down to $200.

Some include an iDevice Lightning cable with built-in DAC and amp. Not my best system but very convenient.

(As it happened, Audeze had a B-stock sale and the boys got a Xmas present…)

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I recently wrote about a Really low cost headphone endpoint.
I had found an excellent $350 headphone amp, and to be price appropriate I paired it with an $80 DAC. The combination is outstanding, gives me as much satisfaction as my $2,700 Hugo 2.

My observation is that we tend to obsess over the technology in the DAC, but a good amp also matters.

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I’ve been listening to my Liberty DAC with the Massdrop version of Sennheiser HD650’s, the HD6XX, and the SQ is amazing!

I am however using the USB cable Mytek sent me in the box with the Liberty DAC, thinking that they are the experts and the cable was probably explicitly matched to the DAC. I’ve since learned that that’s an audiophile no-no, and I should probably be getting a better cable.

And my streamer is very low-cost, just an RPi with RoPieee, no hat. I do however have the requisite electrical isolation from my core machine, by using Wi-Fi for the connection to the streamer.

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Thanks all for your replies, I am building a list of headphones which has already got 10 on it! I do need to find some way of auditioning them. I do wear glasses so this will need to be a consideration I expect in terms of comfort. I am not sure about open or closed backs, due to lack of experience I am thinking either will be fine - famous last words!

My other half does prefer the house quiet although I doubt it was a veiled hint @Mike_O_Neill, I think she would just come out and say it!

I also had a read of your linked thread @AndersVinberg, it does make interesting reading. I have not heard about Massdrop, the amp suggested is very interesting. I wonder if I can take part given that I am not in the US but the UK, more reading I think.

So lots of auditioning required in terms of headphones, I also need to think about DAC/streamer/amp. I did originally like the idea of the Chord Poly/Mojo but I don’t like the idea of batteries and charging.

I strongly prefer open back, since decades back, and I think this view is shared by many serious listeners. And as a hint, if you make a list of expensive headphones, almost all are open back. Sometimes it doesn’t work, more because I need to keep outside noise at bay than out of concern for others (I don’t listen to heavy metal), and I do have a closed set.

Another perspective to consider: big external cans, or small in-ear monitors. IEMs are not just the throwaway things included with phones, there are serious ones, I know at least on four-driver IEM (how in hell do they do that). Audeze’s top of the line IEM costs $4,000, same as their big cans. Many swear by them. I couldn’t stand the feel and gave them away.

My only advice is never buy headphones without trying them first. Every head, ears, sensitivity to head pressure from earcups and headbands is unique.
I’m sure dealers have more headphones than ever.
If you ever make London, Spiritland have a high end headphone shop just off Regent At.


And don’t forget MrSpeakers …


At $200 these are a real gem. Stereophile A+ rating. Don’t be fooled by the list price, these perform well beyond their price-point. I have a couple of pairs and love them. I drive them with an Oppo HA-2 headphone amp and have been quite pleased with the results.

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The On2’s are on-ear models and may not be that comfortable when wearing eyeglasses.

Agreed, however now many of the upper end headphone manufacturers are beginning to offer closed back models:

and the excellent AKG N90Q :

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I am a glasses wearer as well, but, have not found these to be uncomfortable even when wearing them a few hours a day at my office. The force they applied to get them to lay against my ears is not that great, however, each person I do agree can be more or less susceptible to discomfort with on-ear headphones depending on their personal tolerance levels. I have never bonded as much with over-the-ear phones as much as on-ear, but, that’s a personal preference for sure.

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I’m just the opposite - I much prefer full sized over the ear headphones to on-ear headphones. Go figure.

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Ha Ha this is exactly why the manufacturers make so many different styles and types as certainly one size does not fit all! I had some Focal over-the-ear models I auditioned a year or so ago and was not too thrilled with them, however, they were the more low-end model (the Listen models) and not the highly rated cans they make now. I do have a bit of an urge to give them a try. I do also have a pair of Sony over-the-ear BT noise-cancelling cans for travel and have been pleased with them as well but don’t evaluate them in the same way, since they are not used as often as the other headphones I have. Happy Listening.

Yes very true - one size does NOT fit all.

A word of caution about Focal and there customer service: I have/had a very nice pair of focal Elear headphones on which one of the drivers went. I contacted Focal only to find that replacement drivers are only sold in pairs and for a price that is almost 80% of the price of a completely pair of Elears! I guess that I won’t be any more Focal headphones in the near future.

For what it’s worth - all the upper end full size Focal headphones do sound really, really good and quite comfortable, just make sure not to damage them :grin:

This is disappointing to hear as I have had a good impression of the company. I own a pair of Aria 906 speakers that have worked well (but have needed no customer service so I have no knowledge of that side of the business). I will certainly keep this in mind. I have heard similar things about other high end companies on many of the audio sites, some of the companies seem to make it a philosophy to be downright nasty to their customers post-sale. Any time I can go interface in person with a dealer (even if it’s a big-box guy) I usually am happier with the results than a call center or online chat.

Matching left and right drivers is a key step in headphone manufacturing.
That may be a reason to sell the drivers only in pairs. See this video.
Maybe you can return the pair to Focal so that they can repair the faulty driver or replace it with a matched driver.

Just wanted to say that the customer service wasn’t nasty in any way, it’s just that I was bit taken back by the price of the replacement parts.

Unfortunately no offer was made by Focal for any type of return or repair service.