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Best audio set up for $5-600

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#1
Hey guys,

So I was looking at getting a new pair of headphones for around $500-600. I have heard so many people tell me different things, so I was looking at getting an un-bias opinion on what pair of headphones and amp/sound card I should buy (keeping in mind I don't have a sound card :( ).

Thanks a lot :toast:
 
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#2
If you go external amp/dac you don't really need a soundcard if you use digital outs (optical and SPDIF). You can get a USB DAC and skip the audio subsystem entirely, but that has some limits as far as maximum bitrates. The best thing you can do is find a high-end audio place with headphones and just try a lot of them out. Otherwise, its all just the opinions of other people and what one person likes you might not. I have an Amp/DAC from Schiit, but that's really the only company I've ever tried.

http://schiit.com/products You can check them out if you want.
 
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#3
If you go external amp/dac you don't really need a soundcard if you use digital outs (optical and SPDIF). You can get a USB DAC and skip the audio subsystem entirely, but that has some limits as far as maximum bitrates. The best thing you can do is find a high-end audio place with headphones and just try a lot of them out. Otherwise, its all just the opinions of other people and what one person likes you might not. I have an Amp/DAC from Schiit, but that's really the only company I've ever tried.

http://schiit.com/products You can check them out if you want.
I completely agree with you here.

Schiit is such an unfortunate name for a company but I've heard some good things about them. Another benefit of an external amp/DAC is that you can easily unplug it and use it with another device unlike a sound card.


---

OK well I like quite a natural sounding headphone for most of the time, then a little extra bass when playing games or watching some types of movies (that benefit from that bit of extra bass). So a few years ago I bought a pair of Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones. I've always like the sound that comes out of Bowers and Wilkins speakers and headphones so I'm going to be a little bias towards them. I also quite like Focal stuff too - I've listened to the Focal Spirit Classic headphones in a shop and well, they leave my poor old P5s for dead, I wish I hadn't listened to them because now I want them but I just can't spend that much on a set of headphones.

Nowadays, the P5s are in an awkward position in the market because the P3s that came out later were almost as good as the P5s but costing much less and then the P7 came out which was better than the P5 without costing toooo much extra over the P5. Back in the day I was tossing up between the Sennheiser HD 598 and the Bowers and Wilkins P5, I only when the P5 because they were smaller so easier to wear in public areas and carry around and apparently the 598s need an amp to drive them properly.
This is a quote from a CNET review of the 598 set which basically decided for me to get the P5 over the 598;
Still, we wouldn't recommend the HD 598 to buyers who only intend to use the headphone with an iPod or other portable music players. Bowers & Wilkins' similarly priced but smaller on-ear P5 headphone is more dynamic and transparent and has better bass definition used with an iPod, but we much preferred the HD 598's sound over the P5's at home plugged into a receiver or headphone amplifier.
I used to use an Asus Essence ST audio card (although not just at this juncture as I'm in the process of saving up for the STXII, so I'm actually using an old Essence U1 USB sound card thingy). The Essence ST is the best sound card I've listened to but it has a PCI interface so that is the main reason I'm looking at upgrading to the STX II (might as well save up a little more for the STX II over just the old STX which is virtually the same as the ST I have).
 
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#4
The hard part can be finding a place with high end headphones though! The only one I've been into that supplied the audio and the source (various amps) was in the Akihibara district in Tokyo, lol. Otherwise, there is a electronics district in Seoul, Korea that I've been where they had a wall of cans you could plug into your phone or portable player.

The only high-end cans I have are: Audio-Technica ATH-A1000X (Closed back, so the bass is just a little bit stronger, but they're very neutral sounding. They' very easy to drive so there is a bit of background hum from my Lyr amp) and HifiMan HE-500 (Open backed, so the soundstage is very large, but you have to turn them up to get a feeling of bass. I really enjoy the sound of open-back. They're harder to drive though, so you need something with strong output. One thing I found that's really awesome, with open back, is playing whatever you're listening to through your speakers and wearing the cans. Adds a whole nother level of soundstage and you get the stronger bass and sound from the speakers, with the detail from the headphones)
 
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#5
Thanks for your input guys, its much appreciated. As for the Amp, I hear people saying that they are very specific to types of headphones, are they really that important (as in which brand/type)?
 
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#6
It's more about output impedance and the headphone impedance. I don’t have a strong grasp on the concept though, so I’ll let somebody that does explain it.
 
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#7
It's more about output impedance and the headphone impedance. I don’t have a strong grasp on the concept though, so I’ll let somebody that does explain it.
Ahhh I see. As for open back headphones, when people say that they are audible by those around you, do they mean that they can hear it as you do or it is just louder than normal?
 
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#8
They can hear it pretty clearly. Obviously, depends on how loud you have it, but at comfortable levels whatever you're listening to can be heard in a normal volume room. Also, you can hear whatever is going on outside of what you're listening to if it's loud.
 
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#9
Ahhh I see. As for open back headphones, when people say that they are audible by those around you, do they mean that they can hear it as you do or it is just louder than normal?

Sennheiser HD600, Schiit Magni and Modi stack is really good value. maybe the Shure SRH1540 if you want a closed back headphone.
 
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#10

Sennheiser HD600, Schiit Magni and Modi stack is really good value. maybe the Shure SRH1540 if you want a closed back headphone.
Ahh yeah I did see the HD650's in multiple reviews and they seem to be really good value. To power such a pair of headphones, what sort of money would I need to put aside for a sound card/amp? (considering I only plan on using the headphones with my desktop)

EDIT: or even for headphone such as the Shure that you mentioned?
 
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#11
Tyll did a really good video on the Sennheiser HD6xx line


check out Head-Fi.org to see where people are buying them these days. not sure if Razordog is still selling the HD650 for $410 or $420 with promo code.

Tube Amplifiers like the Bottlehead Crack, Schiit Valhalla and Woo Audio WA3 are popular but you don't need anything that expensive to get started.

The Schiit Modi and Schiit Magni stack is really popular.

http://schiit.com/products
 
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#12
First thing is... all people do not hear equal...

The second thing, expensive stuff is often like over glorified religious rubbish... and most often, just have colored sound, there for it is praised.

The last thing, for headphones, not only the sound is the main argument... but size of your head... Just like with helmets :D, many simply just don't fit, tiredness and neck pain. Just be careful.

Senns are nice, but I don't like open case headphones, thus irritating other when listening to them... but still, Senns, Beyers, AKG etc... Same league players offer decent products within same price range... just like in PC segment...
 
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#13
the only closed back headphones I really like are the Denon/Fostex, Sennheiser Amperiors and Audio Technica ATH-M50 lol

it's a lot harder to engineer a closed back headphone than a open back headphone.

some people don't like the AKG headband or the house sound. I don't think Beyerdynamic makes a better headphone at this price range. The Beyerdynamic DT990 600 ohm has over emphasized highs and the mids on the HD600 sound more natural to me.

Sennheiser easy barrier to entry.
 
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#14
the only closed back headphones I really like are the Denon/Fostex, Sennheiser Amperiors and Audio Technica ATH-M50 lol

it's a lot harder to engineer a closed back headphone than a open back headphone.

some people don't like the AKG headband or the house sound. I don't think Beyerdynamic makes a better headphone at this price range. The Beyerdynamic DT990 600 ohm has over emphasized highs and the mids on the HD600 sound more natural to me.

Sennheiser easy barrier to entry.
Ahh yeah, I have heard a lot of good things about beyerdynamic. What do you think of an amp like this? could this power something like a pair of HD700's or ByerdynamicT90's- http://www.ple.com.au/ViewItem.aspx?InventoryItemID=615266&CategoryID=385 - Audio Techinca AT-HA40
 
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#15
Ahh yeah, I have heard a lot of good things about beyerdynamic. What do you think of an amp like this? could this power something like a pair of HD700's or ByerdynamicT90's- http://www.ple.com.au/ViewItem.aspx?InventoryItemID=615266&CategoryID=385 - Audio Techinca AT-HA40
short answer: yes, but that's not something you should buy lol

I know just the store for you.

http://www.addictedtoaudio.com.au/

these headphones are better value

HiFiMAN HE-560
Oppo PM-2
Audeze LCD-2
 
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#16
Hey guys,

So I was looking at getting a new pair of headphones for around $500-600. I have heard so many people tell me different things, so I was looking at getting an un-bias opinion on what pair of headphones and amp/sound card I should buy (keeping in mind I don't have a sound card :( ).

Thanks a lot :toast:
$600 is a lot of money for headphones.

Spend $500 on a stereo amplifier and bookshelf speakers.
Then spend only $100 on headphones.
 
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#17
$600 is a lot of money for headphones.

Spend $500 on a stereo amplifier and bookshelf speakers.
Then spend only $100 on headphones.
This is pretty much what I've been thinking towards this thread too; but I doubt with the audiocrackfiends in here, it'll go down well to post such a view lol


Spending $500 on headphones sounds good if you wanna impress your friends in casual conversation (maybe they will think youre an idiot - who knows?) but it isnt so good when you drop your cans or sit on them by mistake... or something more ridiculous that I havent thought about.

It's kinda hard to drop bookshelf speakers and an amp...... and you wont cry tears of pain if you kill a pair of $100 headphones.
 

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#19
My 2 cents: Sennheiser HD598 with an Audioengine D1 DAC/amp.
:toast:
 
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#20
This is pretty much what I've been thinking towards this thread too; but I doubt with the audiocrackfiends in here, it'll go down well to post such a view lol


Spending $500 on headphones sounds good if you wanna impress your friends in casual conversation (maybe they will think youre an idiot - who knows?) but it isnt so good when you drop your cans or sit on them by mistake... or something more ridiculous that I havent thought about.

It's kinda hard to drop bookshelf speakers and an amp...... and you wont cry tears of pain if you kill a pair of $100 headphones.
spending $600 on headphones over speakers is better value. you don't need to measure and treat a room.
 
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#21
"Better value" is subjective, isnt it?


Anything can be analized to the 8th degree and maybe even to the moon and back.... but there does come a time when "can I actually hear any difference" comes in to play.

Spending $600 on headphones is this time, for 98% of the people on planet earth.


$600 cans sound good.... on paper and even when you say it to yourself.... I'm sure they will sound equally as good in real life... but $600 on headphones? Really? For that price, you can enjoy a much richer experience than something stuck to your head.


But... some people, like yourself, wont agree with that notion or anything else what I've just typed lol :twitch:
 
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#22
headphones are better value because they don't have to deal with room acoustics like speakers. if I wanted to build a listening room that could best my Audeze LCD-3 or Sennheiser HD600 headphones it would cost a lot of money.

speakers
speaker stands or feet
kitty litter (lol secret ingredient)
analog interconnects
digital interconnects
microphone or SPL meter
laptop or windows tablet
power amplifier or monoblocks, preamp or integrated amplifier
dac or transport
electrician
owens corning 703/705 panels
wood
fabric
stapler
measuring tape
carpet
wood blocks or rack
 
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#23
I have to agree with BumbleBee on this one. And if you can't hear a difference between $60 cans and $600 cans then your hearing can't be that great. OR you aren't powering them correctly. Or using a good source. Or you are just in denial.

I actually own cans from $80 up to $1100+ and they all sound different and as the cans get more expensive the SQ does improve. Also the quality of the build. Sure you can buy some cheaper headphones that sound great. I own a few myself but compared to my LCD-2 cans....well I just can't compare them. The LCD-2 is just in another league.

I have a good 2 channel stereo system, a home theater room too...and I've spent a lot of money on each system I own but it's hard to compete with a good set of headphones. Ultimately you spend less too when all you have to buy is a set of headphones and a amp + DAC.

But hey...if you can't tell the difference then I guess what I have to say will fall on deaf ears. :p
 
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RCoon

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#24
Amazon have some crazy good deals on the sennheiser range right now. A friend of mine also managed to steal some Grado RS2's for £300, which frankly is crazy good price.

The worse thing you can do is not try them on first. My experience of headphones is, a lot can be uncomfortable on your ear. Try them first. Sound quality is one thing, but comfort can be the breaking factor of enjoying your music.
 
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#25
spending $600 on headphones over speakers is better value. you don't need to measure and treat a room.
Don't be silly. It isn't better value.

headphones are better value because they don't have to deal with room acoustics like speakers. if I wanted to build a listening room that could best my Audeze LCD-3 or Sennheiser HD600 headphones it would cost a lot of money.
You don't have to measure the room, its optional. As far as room acoustics being almost perfect on headsets you are correct, but quoting one benefit for headphones don't make it better value.

With speakers. You are getting:
More material for your money i.e. Wood, Plastic etc.
More time, energy and labour has gone into its construction.
You are getting huge drivers
The ability to mount on wall or on stands
The ability to upgrade in parts
The ability to replace cabling to higher grade
No need to worry about tugging on the cabling or it snapping
Stronger sturdier equipment that won't be broken by kids
Equipment that can take a decades of abuse
No need to worry about wear and tear to the 3.5mm jack
No need to worry about noise interference from the sound card or front panel audio (for digital speakers)
You can have a party or have friends over and they all can enjoy the audio
Remote control
Connect to multiple devices
Access to HD audio
Potentially better surround positioning

Spending $600 on headphones is ridiculous. Maybe I can understand if you're an audio engineer and need a specific headset for a job. But outside of that a speaker system is better value hands down. $100 on headphones is enough for most people.
 
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