Choosing Headphones up to 1700 USD

I’ve been going back and forth between reviews of different headphones of up to 1700 USD price range.

I currently have the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro and I like them a lot, both the punch and slam that they provide, and the detail they have across the range. I know that the treble of those headphones is notoriously sharp, but I just EQ it out when listening to music (and leave it un-EQed when mixing). 

I only have a USB audio interface (Focusrite Scarlett), so if the headphones require an amp that would have to be part of the budget).

I mainly listen to electronic music, but also some jazz and rock. 

I would like to upgrade to something higher end and the main headphones I checked out are Audeze LCD-X, Hifiman Arya, Ananda (which are much cheaper) and Focal clear. 

I might be wrong but from what I picked up from the reviews, there seems to be a compromise between soundstage and dynamics. 

I was mainly focused on the LCD X but encountered many complaints about serious reliability issues with Audeze headphones so I decided to drop them. 

The Arya looks awesome about everything except the dynamics, and this worries me as I like the punch and slam of my current headphones (the DT1990). 

I understand that the focal clear has very good dynamics but no soundstage at all. 

Now soundstage is something that I’m really curious about, as I never heard a really good soundstage headphones. I know that the DT 1990 are supposed to have some mid range soundstage but frankly I don’t notice it at all (perhaps it has to do more with the music I’m listening to?).

To sum up:

I’d love to hear about what other headphones I should check out in that price range, and how they compare with each other and what to expect comparing to my current DT1990.

“Better” is impossible to say because that’s really a personal taste thing, but reading between the lines in the reviews the SDA-2 seems to be a more complete and refined-sounding amp/DAC that I think would come through on an excellent and transparent pair of ‘phones like the Arya. I may very well buy an SDA-2 for myself in the near future unless I end up going with a separate amp and DAC. Anyway, FWIW...
erik_squires 12,512 posts 01-08-2021 at 02:04pm Does anyone have an opinion on electrostatic headphone amps? I too looked at the WOO GES. From my research they tend to be pretty pricey, whether it’s Blue Hawaii, mjolnir, upper tier Stax, or linear audio. Still looking for an amp for my SR-009 phones. I’m leaning toward a mid level amp from mjolnir but that’s still $3k. Not exactly chicken feed….

Another great headphone line is Kennerton.  I have a pair of Gjallarhorn GH50 and a Rognir Planar Magnetic.  The Gjallarhorns use just that, horn-loaded graphene-laminated mylar dynamic driver and has great bass and dynamics.  The Rognirs have much more detail, speed, spaciousness, and transparency but not the bass weight and dynamics of the GH50s.  Both are relatively easy to drive.  Getting these St. Petersburg, Russian made phones is getting more difficult as you can imagine but are available from Audio 46 in NYC.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned ZMF headphones.  The Aeolus is $1199 and it has beautiful hand finished wood cups.  They have punchy bass and excellent mids and highs.  A lot of ZMF owners like tube amps but solid state amps will do very well.  Here's a link to the Aeolus: 


The one downside to ZMF headphones is quite often you'll have to wait for 2-3 months for the headphone to be made.  Their headphones are in high demand and there's always a waiting list.  The wait is worth it imo.