I bought Stax Signature headphones and SRM-T1 (tube)driver amp for $875 here on Audiogon. Believe me, you won't find better sound for twice the price, even if you look everyday. If you insist on new, look at these orthodynamic
headphones from Audeze or Hi-Fi Man. I still miss my old Yamaha YHD-1 orthodynamics from the 80's. Happy listening.
You want a portable amp? If I were looking portable, I'd look at the Fostex HP-P1, which combines an excellent DAC that takes digital output from your iPhone/iPod. If you are looking at it for actual portable use, as in walking around town, you'd look pretty silly with a pair of Audeze or Stax on your head. Beyer DT1350's are pretty good, but I personally prefer IEM's to having cans on my head while moving around. You can drop anywhere from $300-1300 there for really good IEM's. Customs would be at the high end.
Now if you are talking about putting together a headphone rig with a dedicated amp that you are going to use at home, which I believe the previous poster is assuming, then I'd point you straight to Audeze. In your budget the LCD-2 rev. 2 can be had on the used market along with a suitable amp, of which there are many to choose from (I use a Violectric V181). There should be quite a few LCD-2's on the used market these days since the LCD-3 just came out at almost double the price. The latter is an excellent choice as well, but out of your budget, and will be on backorder for a while. Not a fan of HiFi Man's offerings, and the better of them (HE-6) have a much more limited choice of suitable amps as they require much more power to make sing. I'm not a fan of old Stax at all, but the newer stuff they've put out when amped well is excellent (007 and 009). All way over your price range though and you may even prefer Audeze, or at least wonder why people are willing to pay so much more for Stax.
As far as having "the same level of musicality"...well, OK, but don't expect them to be speakers. It is a different experience of enjoying music. It will never be speakers though. Then again, you may enjoy it even more, certainly some seem to. I'm not one of those, I much prefer speakers, but when privacy is necessary, the option is certainly nice to have available.
I recommend ignoring the dismissive comment above about Stax headphones. Electrostatic headphones, like electrostatic speakers (and tubes, for that matter) are not for everyone. However, if they are for you, there is nothing else. Listen, then decide. Opinions are like...well, you know. And, having someone agree with it, doesn't make it any truer.
I'd certainly agree with everything in Tonkay's recent post. By all means, listen and decide for yourself. I only offered my input in the form of an opinion and it was not even remotely disguised as anything else. I didn't see Danlib agreeing with my opinion - he only agreed on my advice which did not include patently rejecting Stax simply because I personally haven't liked the older examples that I have heard (no idea whether the one Tonkay owns is among those to be clear, but I have heard quite a few). My main complaint about older Stax is that the seem to err on the side of hyper-detail and airiness at the great expense of tonal weight and density. Far less so with the 007 and not at all the case with 009's which seem tonally very accurate. Just my opinion, in case that isn't painfully obvious. There are plenty of people who would certainly see things differently, as with just about anything. I would think most would take that for granted here.
I've owned Stax- latest versions, and liked them a lot. I found the Audeze to
be very " electrostatic sounding " in some areas, but with a low
end definition and tonal clarity I've heard nowhere else. So, for the record, I
don't hate Stax. I just liked Audeze better for the immediacy and organic
sound signature. By all means, try them all!
I have heard a great many headphones. One of the classic ones are the Sony 5706 pro monitors ($90) and some of the mid-tier Grados (200 to 300). Very musical versus very detailed.
Audeze have great bass but I find them fatiquing over time. Ultra precision sounding.
I also like the better Shure headphones for bass and I especially love the new Fostex dynamic ones (a steal at $80)for overall punchy sound.
Headfonia.com is an excellent source to stay abreast.
Fostex, Ray Samuel and ALO headphone amps are the absolute best. Hook in a iPhone or iPod and you will impressed. I love the ALO tubed one.
Excuse me, a typo, it is Sony 7506s.
The other models you should look at are the Shure 940s, Grado 500 and Fostex 7B. I use the 7506 for pure mid-range smoothness (kind of like BBC monitors) which pairs well to Jazz and rock and the Fostex 7B for blues, R & B, hip hop and electronic music. The best $200 you will spend.
I have the ALO Continental amp and, at home, a Luxman 38 tube amp.
FWIW, if you're also considering home use set-ups, the tube headphone amp I chose for my AKG K702s is the crazy good Raptor by Ray Samuels Audio. Most important to me was to satisfy these two questions, which would apply to any purchase, portable or home, tube or SS:
1. How real and alive does the music sound with this combo?
2. How long can I listen without fatigue?
IMO, the answers are: Unbelievably, and Longer than I can stay awake! I've had these ear-speakers on for 4-5 hours without any fatigue, loving every minute.
Both units are worth the break-in time.
Thank you to all as no one has yet said:
"you should try head-fi.org; there's a lot of good information over there!"
I am increasingly interested in high end but low fatigue headphones and amplifiers which can be used in an office and/or late night settings. Also for travel. But I want good sonics and gorgeous build quality, please.
Jax2, is there anywhere to buy the Fostex in the US? Any idea how this might compare to the new Fiio E10 which looks like a pretty good deal?
Don't know if anyone has checked our the Sony MDR 5000, but the controversial big box American retailer has them cheap - only about $350 bucks for headphones which some suggest compete with the Sennheiser 800s'.
I have just gotten a pair but would like to use them with a rackmountable DAC and amp solution in the office (Benchmark?) and portable bus powered solution for traveling. (Fostex or Fiio?)
Impedance 70 ohms and full sized jack only. Not broken in yet, but my initial listen suggests very fast, high resolution and neutral, but not necessarily fatiguing because you can listen at low levels. Of course, a matter of taste as many have reminded.
Not quite gorgeous build quality, but very nice, light, with a wide band, and comfortable ear cups - by comparison my AT's feel cheap, heavy and hot.
Thanks for all ideas.
Happy New Year,
My best was Yamamoto HA-02 amp along with Sennheiser HD800. But just got my Stax SRM-007tII and SR-007MK2 setup. Blows the dynamic setup away... The Stax is so musical and delicate. The music sounds "alive" in my head. And it is addictive and I can't stop listening.
CW - the Fostex is sold at Moon Audio
Happy 2012 back at'cha!
I bought the Mapletree Ear+ HD to go with Grado RS1i after reading countless threads about the synergy between a tube amp and lively cans.
Honestly, it's a perfect combination.
The amp lets me dabble in tubes too ... that's another story.