Recommendations for headphones under $400?


Pretty simple
Good recommendation for a pair of headphones under $400, these could be lightly used so new prices are not the limit.
Mostly listen to rock music so must have a fair bass response
Presently using an old pair of Grado that are really not that comfortable to wear at all, and do not have decent bass.

Thank you
Ab664455 50d9 4299 9563 b360b33406b8uberwaltz
Wired or Bluetooth?   If wired, what will these be used with?
Good questions!
Wired for sure, will be used in a couple different systems
One is an old Linn Classik all in one with built in headphone output
Another will be from a Schiit Magni 2.
Mr Speaker's Mad Dog's. Nice rich sound. Probably not as accurate as my up market Senn's but very enjoyable.
Sennheiser Momentum's do a nice job, AKG and HiFiman
Lots of good options at $400 or below, actually. One of my go-to pairs for rock and pop at work is the PSB M4U 1 (which I pair with a dragonfly red). As far as performance for the price it is an excellent choice. Great options at the high end of this price range and with ample bass are the Master & Dynamics MH40 and the OPPO PM-3.
Yes I know there are LOTS of options at this pricepoint, that is part of the problem...lol.
I really do not know a great deal about headphones, by that I mean the names and models that are the best.
Sennheiser I remember having numerous pairs back in the 70,s and 80,s and thinking were excellent value for money at the time.
Sennheiser is still excellent value for the money but IMHO you're not really getting an excellent product until you're up into the 650 range or above. And since your primary criterion was good bass response for rock music, I'm assuming you want to stay away from open backed designs (which the most beloved Sennheisers, including the 650 and especially the 800 are). 

I'd absolutely think about (and preferably try to listen first) to the PSB, M&D, and Oppo options. All are in your price range and offer strong performance.
Not sure how big of a basshead you are, but, for the money, I'm pretty happy with AQ Nighthawk.  Enough bass for most of my listening.  Some folks don't like them, but I find them very comfortable and non-fatiguing.  Easy to listen to for long periods.  They won't rattle your brain very much.  Pretty sure they can still be bought new for 299 with generous return policies.  25 ohm, so can be a problem with some amps.

A lot of folks are raving about the Focal Elears and being 90% of the Utopias.  Pop up occasionally for around 550-600.  If it's 90% of the Utopias at that price, probably can't go wrong.  Bass on the Utopias is quick and solid, but not yuuge,  Love them.

I'm a headphone noob, within the past year, other than always having something cheap around just because.
    uberwaltz,

      If you want good, accurate bass that's able to go as deep as the music demands without sacrificing mid-range and treble performance, I'd suggest either the Oppo PM-3 or Sony MDR-Z7. 
      The Oppo use planar magnetic drivers while the Sony use exceptionally large conventional drivers.  Both are closed back, very comfortable and very good but slightly more than your $400 budget.

Tim
@noble100
Has been a couple of recommendations for the Oppo but only ones I see remotely near my budget come from Hong Kong and not sure they can be trusted to be genuine?
Have to keep searching....
At the much reduced price of around $250.00 NOTHING can compete with the HiFiman HE-400i’s!!!While they don’t go as low in the bass as some choices the wonderful rich midrange and extended sweet treble make for hours long listening sessions with no fatigue...Decent imaging and staging and fairly easy to drive...Should sound fantastic with the Schiit amp!
@freediver 
They are definitely well within budget!
Quick eBay search shows $210 new and $150 preowned.
Research time......
uberwaltz,

     freediver has a good suggestion with the HiFiman He400i's.  Very nice planar magnetic headphones.  
    If you want to go with a planar magnetic, there are also some from Monoprice that are less expensive headphones that are very similar to and may even be made by HiFiman.  They look very similar and are $200 new, here's a video review of the Monoprice M560's:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgAf-_aGR5M&list=PLsm0YcQ-5gn0jpVfKNZuimVUB7OmbLpEy&index=14
     This site, Zreviews on You Tube has a lot of headphone reviews, including the He400i's, Oppo PM-3's, Sony Z7 and many others. Freedriver is spot on; the bass is very good but doesn't go really deep.  These really shine in the mid-range and treble, though.
 
     Probably a good site for your search.  Please post back on what you decide.
   Thanks,
     Tim
uberwaltz,

There are also some good headphone deals on Massdrop, here’s the link:

www.massdrop.com

Massdrop works with many very good headphone manufacturers to offer ’special Massdrop versions’ of their headphones at bargain prices contingent on Massdrop acquiring a predetermined minimum number of customer orders. Once met, the manufacturer builds the headphones and the orders are fulfilled.
These headphones are assigned a unique Massdrop model number but are typically very similar in performance level, promo model# and looks to one of their regular models. It’s not difficult to identify which specific regular model they’re basing the promotional Massdrop model on.

The reality is you’ll get a very good headphone at a bargain price,

Tim
I would agree with noble100.  I've bought several headphones from Massdrop over the years.  IMO, I think the best deal (price/performance) on the headphone market is the Massdrop Sennheiser  HD6XX, which is the exactly the same model as the Sennheiser HD650.  You'll need a decent headphone amp to properly drive these headphones, but once broken in, they are an excellent value.  I'm not sure what model you have, but my Grado GH1 w/ G Cups were very comfortable and the bass was very good.  You may also want to look up the Grado line, especially if like their sound signature.  Good Luck!
I did buy a pair of the hifiman h400i and am awaiting delivery
Hopefully this will do the job!
If you aren't blown away I'll eat the box!Well maybe I would send you a nice little tube amp to try before eating said box!Congrats,
 Give them a good running in and let us know what you think..
So now I have a new problem that makes me think I must be missing something but if there are any Hegel H300 owners here maybe they can chime in.
I am now using a Hegel H300 integrated for my system and this does not have a headphone socket.
No problem I thought I will just connect a headphone amp to the pre outs of this amp.
However Hegel appear to have designed this unit so that when you mute the music through the speakers it also mutes the output to the pre outs.
This sort of defeats the object of my usage unless anybody knows a way around this.
I have emailed Hegel themselves but as of yet still awaiting their reply.
Hi uberwaltz,

     I'd be very interested in Hegel's rationale for not including a high quality and convenient method of connecting headphones to their top of the line $5,000 integrated amp while the vast majority of their competitors do so, often at a fraction of the Hegel H300's price.  WTF?

     It's commonly known that extreme cold slows down cognitive functioning.  I apparently incorrectly assumed the execs at this Norwegian company would be making these critical decisions indoors with the heat on.
     Did you know it had no headphone accomodations when you bought it?  On an integrated amp, that would be a deal breaker for me and likely many others.  
     
     If you don't want to sell your H300 and buy a more headphone friendly integrated, the only solution I'm aware of is buying an external headphone amp/dac with a digital input, se or xlr analog outputs and a headphone jack.  
     The procedure for hooking up an external dac is detailed in your H300 owners manual.  It basically calls for connecting the H300's digital output to the external amp/dac in what Hegel calls a DAC-loop. I learned of this on the linked thread here:
  
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/adding-a-dac

Tim
My understanding was using Pre-Out completely removes amplification and speaker output from the unit.Don't use Mute,you still have variable output from Hagel to the headphone amp but that shouldn't be a problem,set a level and forget it...
@freediver 
That was EXACTLY my assumption too which is why I was not too worried that it had no headphone jack.
However it does not, anything connected to the pre out is subject to the volume pot level BUT the music is still conveyed via the speaker terminals.
It would need a speaker off option or the pre outs changing internally to line outs.
@noble100 
Unfortunately that is exactly what it says, a DAC loop only.
It would work if all I had was a digital input to the Hegel but it will not work with any of the 3 analog inputs I have.
There was a thread on the very subject back in 2016 with someone having exact same issue.

Maybe the Norwegian designers had not drunk enough beer before thinking this one through.

Yes it is becoming a deal breaker....
Yes I knew no headphone jack but as stated I wrongly assumed the pre outs would do the job
@noble100 
This is whatI came up with, after the event of course!

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/troubleshooting-headphone-amp-integrated-amp-connection?sort_...
Sounds like a great reason to put together a complete headphone system.You have the Schiit amp,get yourself a decent little DAC and away you go...Whatever you do don't use tubes on the HE400i's because once you do you will be hooked bad..Mine are driven by the all tube Quad VA-One and it is sublime...I'm considering moving wayyy up the ladder...
Hi uberwaltz,

I understand you incorrectly assumed the pre-outs would allow for connecting headphones but, since the pre-outs don’t function as you thought, connecting headphones using the pre-outs is not an option.

My proposed solution, however, is centered on using your Hegel’s digital output rather than the pre-outs. For this to work you need to have and do the following:

1. You need to use an external dac or dac/amp combo that has a digital input and l+r xlr outputs. These are ’musts’ and not all external dacs and dac/amp combos have a digital input and l+r xlr outputs.
2. You will need a digital coax (S/PDIF) cable (NOT USB - coax is the H300’s only digital output connection), and a set of XLR cables to do this according to the H300’s directions.
3. Connect the digital output on the H300 to the dac’s digital input using a digital coax (S/PDIF) cable.
4. Connect the dac’s l+r xlr outputs to the H300’s l+r xlr inputs using a pair of xlr cables. This completes the DAC-Loop the H300 instructions describe (out of the H300 via its digital output and the converted digital to analog signals back into the H300 via its l+r xlr inputs.)

Quote below is from your H300 manual:
"The DAC-Loop is activated/deactivated by holding the DAC+ button of the RC8 while pressing the IN+ button. A dot after the last digit of the displayed source input will indicate that DAC-Loop is activated. When selecting a digital source input with DAC-Loop activated, the display will read BAL for a short time. This indicates that both the selected digital input and the balanced input are active."
Of course, my proposed solution above will bypass the H300’s internal dac. I would expect the H300’s internal dac to be of high quality and, therefore, would expect the cost of an external dac (with a digital input and l+r xlr outputs) that matches or exceeds the performance of the H300’s internal dac to be somewhat expensive.
Unfortunately, this is the best solution I can think of thus far for your situation.
Hope this helped a bit,
Tim
Tim, I thought the same but if you read his entire post he wants to be able to use his turntable and the digital out on the h300 will not do an analog to digital conversion to use the dac loop. 

I am now wondering if a digital to analog converter would work for this. I have no experience with these devices so I cannot say if the sound would suffer. Perhaps if uberwaltz doesn’t need the extra power of the h300 maybe selling it and purchasing an H160 could be another solution. I just got one and it sounds very nice.
Hi chrshani37,

     Ah, okay.  I somehow missed reading he uses a turntable.   I was going to ask uberwaltz what sources he was using.

     I'm amazed a hi-end manufacturer like Hegel makes its customers jump through hoops just to listen to headphones with their products; I thought they'd have a premium headphone amp built into their expensive integrated amps that's easily accessible via a front plate headphone jack.  Weird, they decide to incorporate a good but costly dac in the H300 but cut corners by omitting a means to listen via headphones. 
     Apparently, my proposed solution won't allow uberwaltz to listen to his turntable via headphones  since the H300 cannot convert the analog turntable signals to digital signals outputted through its coax (S/PDIF).    
     Because of this, I think your suggestion of uberwaltz selling his H300 and buying a H160 is a good one.  He'll be able to connect all his sources directly to it and listen via his headphones to all of them by simply inserting his headphones plug into, are you ready for this?, a headphone jack right on the front of the H160's front panel. 
     Man, it sure must be nice to be able to afford an integrated amp that allows such spectacular technology to be accessed so conveniently.  I can only hope this leading edge technology will trickle down to an affordable product in my lifetime.

Enjoy,
  Tim    

     
Actually full source list
is 2 digital and 2 analog so yea i needed some way to get the signal out of the hegel to headphones
quite an omission on the manufacturers part but seems they have "learned" as all later hegel integrated have a headphone socket.
Have to regroup and decide what is best plan to go forward
Thanks to all for their input
May just give the Hegel h160 a try as it definitely has a great built in headphone amp and majority of the features of the 300 although down in power from 250w to 150w per channel.
However with the 300 i have rarely ventured above 50 on the volume for my listening levels and I really do like what I hear so more of the same vein might work well with the bonus of the headphone amp built in...which obviously the 300 should have had right from the start!
Hi uberwaltz,

      As long as you like the sound of your system with the H300 and your speakers don't need more than 150 watts to perform their best, swapping for the H160 seems to be your best solution. 
      You're likely to have a very similar system sound through your speakers while gaining the ability to conveniently listen through your headphones when you wish.
      The H160 is the first Hegel integrated amp to have a headphone jack.  It's not actually a separate and discrete headphone amp, but a voltage divider appended to the H160's output section.  The circuitry around this divider is very low noise and, according to all the reviews I've read (Stereophile and Novo Press), the headphone section is very good.        I still don't understand why Hegel didn't include something similar on your H300.

Good luck,
    Tim      



















i
Headphones really like a dedicated headphone amp
@stringreen
Probably cannot disagree there but as have no way to get a line out signal to a dedicated headphone amp for now AND that just means another box and power supply, not too likely too happen right now, although I was going to go that route if the h300 would have played nicely!

@noble100
I do have an offer to trial a h160 from another member here in my own system and am most likely going to take them up on that, worst I would be out is shipping if there is not enough OOMPH for my Wilsons.

However I still am mulling over options.

1/ I still could have my h300 internally modified to convery the existing pre out to a full line out independant of music through the speakers.
2/ Buy the h160, sell the h300
3/ buy a dac/preamp to use with my BAT VK600SE that I still have lying around ( i know nice for it to just sit gathering dust!) and used to use with Exogal Comet plus until I found I wanted more than one analog input. Options here with 2 or more analog inputs are limited so far. Mytek Manhattan ( 3 to 3.5k used!), PS audio Stella Gain cell dac ($1700 new).

Lots to consider......
Finally had a reply from Hegel themselves.
It seems that EVERY integrated they make or made has either a headphone out or a true line out EXCEPT the H300.
Go figure.........
For comfort and portability the Sennheiser PX100 mk1s are hard to beat

Sligjtly less portable but even better sounding are the brilliant Jays V Jays.

I find the PSB M4U 1s to be well balanced but maybe for Rock you need something less polite. Is there any real alternative to a Grado?

" I still could have my h300 internally modified to convert the existing pre out to a full line out independant of music through the speakers."

Hi uberwaltz,
     I didn't know this was even an option and you were considering it.  If it's not cost prohibitive and there's no real downside, this also seems like a good solution to me.  But you seem to prefer an 'all-in-one' solution more than having a separate headphone dac/amp.  
     I understand your reluctance to add a dac and amp or a dac/amp combo to your system because I recently had to make a similar decision with my system.  I decided to add a separate dac and class A headphone amp to my system located right next to my listening position. 
   
      It's just a small JDS Labs dac into a small Aune x7s small pure class A amp putting out a maximum of 2 watts but I'm really enjoying everything I listen to through them with a pair of Sony Z-7 headphones. Class A sounds extremely good in my opinion. If you're interested, you could do something similar with just a good class A headphone amp (no dac required) and the very good Hifiman 400i headphones, once a mod is performed to your H300 pre outs. 
      I think the 400i's would sound exceptionally good utilizing the H300's internal dac outputted through true pre outs to a good powerful external pure class A headphone amp.
     Hopefully,  auditioning an H160 in your system will help you decide which option you prefer.

Best wishes,
    Tim   
To anyone using Grado SR type or the similar looking Sennheisers or really any headphones that employ foam ear pads, like say, Sennheiser 600s, what I found out recently was that foam pads are very messed. The sound is much much better simply taking all of the foam off. Not only is the foam material BAD for the sound but it makes the ear too far away from the transducer so you lose dynamics and volume. One wonders can these people even hear? What were they thinking?! I’d opine the sound is at least twice as good. Super good! You can see what I’m talking about right away if the foam pads on your headphones are removable. Then the trick is to find some way to make the surface of the headphones soft so they won’t kill your ears, I’m using gel strips right now that work fine and keep the distance from the ear to the transducer small. If someone has a better solution I’m all ears. Unbelievable! I’m not hot dogging you. 🌭
Who would have thought that such a simple quest would turn into such a gnarly affair!

Tim, yes it is a possibility for a qualified electronics engineer to perform, have not researched price yet but still an option.
The h160 may end up being the most sensible option as modifying the h300 might seriously deter potential future owners.
Still also seems a darn shame to have that doorstop of a BAT amp sitting idle too.
Maybe I just buy more speakers and make 3 or 4 systems!
@geoffkait
I truly believe you and agree totally, but it is the hassle of finding something comfortable to replace those foam pads.
I had an old pair of Sennheisers that had sat in a cupboard for 15 years or so and the foam pads disintegrated but I tried them anyway and was pretty impressed with the sq, not so much with the comfort level!
This was a few years ago and as they were only a $40 pair of cans they got tossed. And the experience forgotten about until you mentioned it to jar these foggy old grey cells
" The h160 may end up being the most sensible option as modifying the h300 might seriously deter potential future owners.
Still also seems a darn shame to have that doorstop of a BAT amp sitting idle too.
Maybe I just buy more speakers and make 3 or 4 systems!"

Hi uberwaltz,

I would think that modifying your H300’s pre outs so they function as true pre outs would only increase its value since others would likely realize the value of this mod just as you have.
Your Bat-VK600SE is an expensive, well respected solid state amp that you’d likely be able to sell for a significant price if it’s in good condition. Why not sell it to finance the H300 mod and a good headphone amp? You’d also be freeing a good amp from a doomed fate of collecting dust in a closet to do what it was made to do: drive high quality speakers with high quality amplification.
I would suggest the following course of action:
1. If you like the performance of the H160 in your system once you audition it, buy one and sell your Hegel H300 and Bat-VK600SE.
2. If you like the performance of the H300 more than the H160 in your system, have the mod done to your H300’s pre outs, buy a good external headphone amp of your choice and sell your Bat-VK600SE.
3. Avoid buying more speakers and making 3 or 4 additional systems.

Scenario #3 only proliferates the number of your home systems in which you are unable to have a good and convenient method of listening to headphones in.

Both scenario #1 and #2 ensures you have both a good amp that you like driving your speakers and a good amp. either internal with the H160 or external with the H300, that you like driving your somewhat inefficient Hifiman 400i headphones.

I hope my suggestions helped you a bit,
Tim
It is not difficult to make foam pads/headphone covers.

I experimented with different densities, and was able to cut
pieces of foam with a kitchen knife and scissors.  For my Grado 125s
I used a quarter for the size of hole of the inner circle (closest to the ear)
and played with the size, shape, and thickness of the rest of the piece.
I think my version sounds much better than the two optionsthat I have bought
from the manufacturer.

When you get packaging material in the mail, it isn't hard to wonder,
"what can I creatively manipulate in the quest for better sound?"
Well for now I have taken up the offer of the h160 on home audition, expected to see it Friday or Saturday and will make decisions from there.
Personally I think it will likely be the right move and will put the h300 and the BAT up for sale.
Happy listening ahead indeed
Hi uberwaltz,

     Sounds good.
     Please post back with your impressions and decision.
Thanks,
  Tim
The H160 has fulfilled my expectations of basically being the same sq as the h300 and now able to use headphones.
So it is a keeper and the h300 and BAT are listed on here for sale.
Undecided on the hifiman cans though as of yet.
I also picked up a pair of akg ath-m50x at a very fair price and imho their sound is a little more defined with more emphasis on vocals, and just seem more well defined on separation of instruments.
Hours of listening ahead though...
Last post I meant audio technica phone not akg.
Of course it could be that the headphone output of the h160 might not be good enough to drive the hifiman cans well enough. An option I also now have is an external headphone amp as the h160 has a true line out regardless of amp volume so I am covered in all eventualities