Headphone question

I generally do not use headphones for listening, as I prefer my loudspeakers.  However, I do a lot of digitizing of my LPs (a long-term ongoing project).  For the last few years, I have been using Grado SR-60s to monitor the recordings I make on a Marantz pro-sumer CD recorder.  While these are very pleasant sounding headphones, they are a tad euphonic, warming up the mid-bass, and rolling off the treble.  This makes them great when listening for pleasure, but using them as monitors for recording tends to result in recordings that are too hot on top and too rolled off in the bass.  So I am thinking of looking for a new set of cans, one that would be more of a professional-style sonic balance, very revealing, and very flat in frequency response.  Sonic beauty is not the goal here; I want to hear everything being burned onto my CD-Rs, warts and all.  The headphone equivalent of studio-monitor loudspeakers is what I need.

I prefer over (around) the ear designs.  I do not need isolation, nor is bleed into the room an issue for me.

My ears tend to get sweaty with closed-back designs, so unless there is a closed-back design that avoids sweaty-ears, I would prefer open-back designs. 

Also, since I have a connection to a certain retailer, I can get big discounts on the brands this retailer carries, so I want to restrict my choices to one of these brands.  Also, since my budget for new cans is limited, I need to restrict my choices to headphones that have a street price of about $200 or less (less being better).

Here is a list of the brands from which I can choose, with most models from these manufacturers being available to me:

Audio Technica
Direct Sound

Any adice would be very much appreciated!  Thanks.

The high end Grados and the high end Sennheisers are excellent.

I don't have the same experience as you with the SR-60s. We use them in the studio a lot and they seem to be quite accurate. What differences are there between your headphone circuits and your loudspeaker circuits (for example, what is the difference between amplifiers)?

Thanks, atmasphere.  The two signal paths are completely different.  The recording chain is:  Turntable (Thorens TD-166 MkII, with either Ortofon OM-30 or Denon TD-160 cartridges) > McIntosh C220 preamp w/MM phono section > Kenwood graphic/parametric EQ > Marantz CDR-630 CD recorder, which does the A/D conversion.  The Grados are connected to the headphone jack on the Marantz.

The listening chain, ultimately, is FLAC files on a Vortexbox Appliance > Wifi router (via ethernet) > Squeezebox Touch > Superberry DAC (highly modified Beresford DAC) > McIntosh C220 preamp > Odyssey Audio HT3 amplifier > Ohm Walsh 2000 speakers, each with its own Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofers with HP-M5 battery-biased crossovers.

However, based on listening to my digitized LPs on my own system and other systems known to be pretty neutral, my recordings definitely sound brighter and more bass-shy than they did when I was doing the recording.  Hence the post.  Unfortunately, the high-end Grados and Sennheisers are beyond my budget.


Are you applying equalization or any other processing during the recording?

There are many reasons why monitored sound might not sound or be an accurate representation of what is recorded, so I would hesitate to draw conclusions on that unless sure. For example I have an inexpensive phono A/D converter I bought that does a good job in teh A/D part but has lousy circuitry for monitoring via phones. I also have a Denon disc recorder that jsut always does a good job as long as peak levels are under control (meters on teh recorder show that). I have never even atempted to use the headphone jack on teh recorder though. I just know that once I set things up right I am getting a recording that is hard to distinguish from the original.

One of the major headphone sites (don’t recall which) publishes extensive lab measurements on most all popular headphones that I found most useful when choosing. That can at least help take that variable out of the equation. Most good quality phones designed for studio monitoring should do a good job, though there are still differences to help suit different needs.

Also remember that truly flat sound may sound rolled off on the high end to most older listeners over 50. Also that optimal human hearing is not flat so any sound source that is in fact flat may not sound that way.

My assessment of Sennheiser house sound from over the years is that the top end is fairly accurate and  may sound somewhat rolled off accordingly whereas alternate house sounds may provide a boost in the high end and often sound flatter even though they are not.  Audio Technica house sound tends to lean more that way for example.

Thanks, mapman.  Yes, I apply EQ via the Kenwood unit.  Obviously, I am not a purist.  Also, the cartriges I have, especially the Ortofon, are on the bright side of neutral, IMO.  So my conclusions about the Grado SR-60s is based on comparing the end result - the CD-R, verses what I was hearing through the Grados while monitoring the recording.  So, whether it is the headphone section of the CD recorder, the headphones, or my ears, the end results are consistently brighter-sounding than what I hear while recording.  I end up trying to compensate for that with the equalizer, but it is a very hit-or-miss process.  I'd much rather have a set of cans that would give me a more accurate representation of the recording, even if I am actually compensating for frequency imbalances in the CD recorder's headphone section.  Have I made this clearer, or have I made it more confusing?
Why not just record with no EQ and have a recording that is same as original? If source is Ortofon cart recording should be no brighter or different than otherwise, right?

Or if the cart is too bright to start, maybe something can be done there.

Once you have that you could even attempt to master your own alternate digital versions from there with the right software if you choose rather than banking on it during recording and possibly not getting it the way you want.

Just brainstorming....

On a side note, tonality of Sennheiser headphones in general remind me the most of OHM Walsh tonality, which by all accounts is typically pretty darn flat.  I always seem to levitate back to both no matter what over time.
+1 mapman  its been a long time since i owned them but my recollection is that if anything, the SR-60s are a little bit hot compared to the Grados. 
I do not have SR-60s but do have px100 II and px 200 II.   One open back one sealed but both with similar Sennheiser tonality.

I also have over ear Sennheiser Momentum phones which bump up the low end a tad for the masses but otherwise are typical higher end Sennheiser home (not pro) sound to my ears
the couple i like in your range are the sennheiser momentum and the philips l1 (both come in on-ear and over-ear versions).

mapman:  Thanks, I tried no EQ, and the results were generally too bright, and with enemic bass.  That is partly due to many of the typical rock records I am digitizing, as well as the cartridge, and perhaps even the quality of the CD recorder.  I don't use excessive EQ, just a little gundry dip and a nudge of accentuation in the bottom two actaves.

Noted about the Sennheisers.  My first cans were the 424's, purchased in 1976, which I used for almost 30 years (!) before they failed.  The Sennheisers in my price range would be strong contenders.  I have heard they are on the bright side of neutral, which I would prefer if dead flat isn't available in my price range.  What I really need to avoid are the many headphones engineered to boost the bass and/or warm up the treble, like the Momentum.

loomisjohnson:  Thanks, but the Momentums are disqualified specifically because of that bass boost, which, IMO, the Grado SR-60 shares.  I will look into the Philips, but that is not on my brand list in the original post, so no deep discount for me on that brand.

 "Why not just record with no EQ and have a recording that is same as original? If source is Ortofon cart recording should be no brighter or different than otherwise, right?
Or if the cart is too bright to start, maybe something can be done there"

I agree with mapman here. Digitizing of LPs is a very laborious process. It's not something I undertake often but when I do, I want the cleanest, most accurate dub of the LP that's possible. It's one thing to apply some EQ to the occasionally bad LP but if you find that is frequently needed, it suggests something else might be awry. It's better to fix the problem at the source, imo.

cleeds - Thanks.  I tried doing straight, non-EQ'd digitizing, and I was very unhappy with the results.  I am not dumping the LPs, so I can always listen to them au naturelle, but I want CDs for the car, and to rip onto my server.  I was finding that the digitized LPs were noticeably brighter and thinner sounding than most of the CDs ripped to my server.  Whether that's the recorder, the cartridges, the phono preamp, or whatever, I just didn't like the results.

The age-old EQ vs. non-EQ debate will not be resolved here.  Suffice it to say that EVERY recording you own has been run through an equalizer in the mastering process.  As far as I am concerned, using the EQ to get results that sound natural and neutral to my ears, on my system, is okay, provided I don't overdo it.  I can't afford to step up to a pricey cartridge, better A/D converter, or phono preamp.  So, what I do want, and can afford, is a pair of cans that will enable me to hear what the recording really sounds like without adding any sweetening, so that I can apply, or not apply, EQ to each recording as needed.  Heck, I would need that even if I wasn't using an equalizer at all.  Hence the post.

sony mdr 7506 studio monitor headphones.Just make sure they are not fake ones.
Thanks, extravaganza.  The retailer is a totally legit authorized Sony dealer.
I can't imagine using grado for monitoring,I have grado ps1000 and for monitoring using these sony mdr7506.Detail retrieval is amazing

extravaganza - In your experience, do the MDR 7506 'phones make your ears hot & sweaty?

So far no,I did not noticed that kind of thing
Yes I've read the Sonys are very highly regarded phones for studio monitoring.

You want pro gear for that, not gear designed for private use.  Does not matter the brand.

GO to a local Guitar Center.   They usually carry most of the most likely pro audio headphone candidate models including Sennheiser, Shure, Audio Technica, Sony and others.
I see a lot of recommendation for Sennheiser of which I agree. I have the HD-598 model. A over the ear model which is somewhat open backed and very light and comfortable. These have a sound very similar to the HD-600's (which I think is very good) and are just a tad above your $200 range. Just my opinion. Hope it would be helpful to you.
I'm with mapman on this as well.  Grados are listening headphones not recording or studio type headphones.  I've owned Grados, Audio Technicas, Sennheisers and a few customized sets of headphones.  IMO you would be best served by Sennheiser, but go to a Musical Instrument store and try some pro audio/studio type headphones and see what works best for you.
With a modest budget, might I suggest that you try a used set of headphones from the guys on Head-Fi.org   I'm on that site quite frequently and their classified section is very active.  You might be able to score a better quality set of phones for the same budget if you are willing to consider pre-loved gear. 
I have had a couple of pairs of Sennheiser headphones over the years and I've had very good experiences with them.  If used gear is out and you can get a nice discount on new Sennheiser's they'd move to the top of my shopping list.  

Thanks, everyone.  I can get a pretty good discount from this one retailer because I have family that work there.  I would not rule out used cans, provided I can easily and affordably replace the earpads (used earpads gross me out).

But based on these posts, I will focus on the best Sennheiser's I can afford (factoring in my discount) as well as the Sony MDR-7506.  The retailer offers these at $100, and I expect a substantial discount, although with Sony, you never know.  (Many years ago, when I worked in retail, Sony was notorious for not allowing retailers to make any profit on Sony products.  Sony's attitude was that Sony products bring so much traffic into a retailer that there is no reason to allow them to make a profit off of selling their products.  Perhaps that has changed.)

I have a birthday coming up, and this will be my gift to myself.

I totally agree with the posts that point out that Grados, while beautiful sounding cans, are not the best choice for monitoring.  Horses for courses.

I have the Sennheiser Momentums and the HD 600. For what you need I would go with the HD 600. I don't find them bright but very natural. I much prefer the open back designs. You can wear the HD 600 for hours without hot ear.

I got the HD 600 and Schitt Valhalla OTL for under 500 bucks used. Almost everything is replaceable and washable. The HD 600 also sounds good on most built-in headphone inputs (Ipad, labtop, reccivers) maybe a tad darker and less volume IMO.

If you watch you could score them for 225 used including shipping and paypal,

Another suggestion you might or might not need at this point...

Consider AKG K550s.  I have these along with Senn HD600 and Sony MDRV6 (old).  Listening to computer audio with an Asgard 2 and Audioquest Dragonfly v1.2, I think the AKGs are most neutral of the 3.  They are a closed back design but VERY comfortable.  I don't find my ears getting too hot after wearing for a few hours.   They don't have the bass of the Senns but offer greater clarity and detail.  A caution - they took a LONG time to break in.  I think the Cable Company has a headphone lending library.  Maybe the best way to decide is set a budget and borrow a few from them to see which one helps you get the best recorded version of your LPs.   Good luck in your decision.

accurus - that graph is impressive, and reflects a very desireable response curve.

Mapman - Kal Rubinson at Stereophile did a multi-part review of Dirac Live - in short, he loves it.

Sorry it took so long to post this:  I ended up with a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M40X cans.  Comfortable, rugged, and perfect for my application.  Very neutral and accurate, with good isolation from ambient noise.  I would not call them "high-end" or beautiful-sounding, but as monitoring cans, they work quite well, and are a good value, IMHO.
Suffice it to say that EVERY recording you own has been run through an equalizer in the mastering process.
This statement is false. Many recordings are mastered without any EQ (other than RIAA curves)! If the recording engineer knows what they are doing they stay away from EQ unless the artist insists.
atmasphere - Perhaps "every" was too absolute.  But in order to avoid any EQ, the recording process must be completely under the control of people who eschew EQ.  If control over the recording is given to third parties where this cannot be assured, application of EQ is likely.  So, outside of a few dedicated studios that control the process from microphone to production CD/LP/File, EQ is the norm.