Need Audiophile Headphone Rig to Replace Sen HD590


My Sennheiser HD590s are in for repair, but frankly, even if they cannot be repaired, I may replace them just because I have had them for many years and I would like to explore what else is out there.

Let me give you my background. I am a serious audiophile and I listen to two different systems. The first is my master system which features a dCS Delius DAC and Purcell Upsampler, a gigantic monstrosity of a Mark Levinson amp, B&W Nautilus 802 speakers and very good cabling throughout the system. Needless to say this is a first rate system.

My second system features a Threshold T2 preamplifier, a Bryston 3B ST amplifier and B&W Nautilus 804 speakers.

My musical taste centers around jazz, folk and classic rock.

I have never used headphones with either of these systems. However, because I am temporarily living with people who are students, need quiet ect, I am now interested in occasionally using a pair of headphones with these systems. Note that neither system has any sort of headphone jack or headphone amp.

Generally my headphones stay in my computer room, connected directly to a Soundblaster X-FI sound card. I got awesome reproduction of game sound effects and ambience with the 590s, and I’d like to take things to the next level. I am considering the HD600s.

Suppose I wanted to take my headphone performance up a notch or two, but not spend a fortune. What cans would you recommend and if an amp is required to drive those cans, what amp? I would like to keep this project as affordable as possible--$600 or less including the amp if necessary. But I wouldn't mind spending less if possible.

I do want a significant improvement over the 590s.

Any thoughts? I think the cans will be HD600s but I don't know of any good, affordable headphone amps.
blackstonejd
I'm not sure you would find that much difference btwn the two Senns.
What is your budget allotted?
I use a pair of HD600s with a Headroom Little More Plus headphone amp and an Ah! Tjoeb tubed CD player. It's a very nice combination. I like the 'process' circuit on the Headroom amp. It does make the experience more like listening to speakers, the sound seems to have a more realistic sound stage than you usually get with headphones. I bought both the headphones and amp used, for less than your $600 budget.
You might try the following:

1. Purchase a pair of Senn 600s
2. Purchase a Cardas headphone cable
3. Purchase a Musical Fidelity X3 headphone Amp
4. Purchase a Musical Fidelity X3 PSU
5. Purchase a Shunyata Venom power cable

Enjoy the music!
I much prefer the AKG K701s to the Senns. I drive mine with a Woo Audio WA6 headphone amp. That's a very synergistic combination that lots of people over at www.head-fi.org use.

You may not like them direct out of your computer as they'll reveal ALL of the weakness of that Soundblaster card. The Senns are probably a better choice for that use. However, if you want a headphone rig that rivals you main two-channel system in transparency, resolution and timbral accuracy then the 701/Woo combination is hard to beat.

In contrast, with a good headphone amp, the Senns will seem thick and euphonically warm through the midrange.

Roll around at head-fi a little. The most popular rigs include the Senns, AKG, Beyer 880 or 990 and Grado.

The Woo is an incredible deal. You get a single-ended, class A tube design that really revealing yet with no edgyness, all for under $600.

Dave
$600 max.
Dave- Have you ever heard the AKG K1000s (I have a pair that needs repair, so I am familiar with their sound) and if so, can you compare them to teh 701s?
No Swamp, I've never heard the K1000s. A couple of decades ago I had some midline Stax electrostatics that I dearly loved, except I had reliability issues and kept getting static electricity shocks in my ears (not fun). Anyway, I loved the smooth midrange of the Stax and feel like the AKGs give me that in a dynamic phone and less hassle.

I'd say that the midrange and highs of the AKGs are electrostatic-like but that's as far as I can go.

Of course, I'm sure you know that there's still a very strong market for the K1000. Woo Audio makes an incredible amp for them and other electros (the WA5-it's beautiful).

Dave
If you are happy with the sennheiser "house sound" you may want to just go higher up the line.

After many months research looking for a good headphone rig I settled on the senn 650's with a grace 901 amp to power it. This has proven to be a very good combination for my tastes. I will admit that at first I was not impressed with the 650's but after sufficient burn in time the cans now sound great!

If you are sticking to the sennheiser brand I would look at these amps (in no particular order)

Solid State
Heed Audio - Can Amp
Lehmann Audio - Black Cube Linear (Sennheiser used this amp to debut the 650's)
Graham Slee - Solo
Headamp - GS1 or Gilmore Lite (with dedicated power supply)
Naim - Headline (with NAPSC power supply)

Tube
Antique Sound Lab - MG HEAD DT OTL MKIII
Melos - SHA-1
Musical Fidelity - X can v3
Rudistor - RP5.1 (hybrid)
Woo Audio - Woo Audio 6

If you go in a different direction such as AKG or Grado, the amp selection will change somewhat.

Most of the amps listed will have to be purchased used in order to meet your $600 budget but thats all part of the fun isn't it?

Good luck on your hunt!

Dave
My dealer suggested the pro-ject headbox ii, which goes for $119. Do you guys have any experience with this unit?