Simple, Inexpensive, but Decent Headphone System


  I would never consider going headphone full time for a variety of reasons, but just wondering what the majority of people do here.  I use them when traveling, but lately I've been using them in the middle of the night as I have developed some irritating insomnia and have been using them for an hour or so in the middle of the night (I used to troop downstairs  or into the basement and use one of my HT systems-my main 2 channel system is in a room next to our bedroom and so if I use that I wake up my wife, and now I've discovered that the effort of climbing up and down a few levels of stairs is even more likely to keep me awake).  I also need to use them for work occasionally as I am a Physician and still do some telemedicine that started with the Pandemic.  My requirements:
1) I prefer closed back phones, so again as not to disturb others.  I have a decent pair of open back HiFi
Man phones but basically can't use them for that reason.
2) I prefer not to use a headphone amp.  I have used an amp from a manufacturer that will go nameless--it crapped out after about 2 months of light use --and frankly I find it cumbersome to be lugging a separate amp around while traveling
3) My sources are my LG Velvet Cellphone-a descendent of the model that was featured on the cover of Stereophile a few years ago (it has an ESS Sabre DAC and has been able to drive the phones that I have tried so far)--and the more problematic iPad. So I would prefer something to pair with those and not require a driver.
4) no buds please--I dislike the sensation of someone sticking fingers in my ears

5). Budget-under $500. I realize this is chump change for many here but I prefer to put my money into my conventional gear and into buying music.
6) I prefer conventional drivers.  Both the HiFi Man that I previously mentioned, and the Oppo PM3 that was recently stolen from me, left me dissatisfied by Planar Magnetic technology.  Both phones seem to 
accentuate the hole in the head phenomenon compared to conventional driver phones.
7) I already have a decent Bluetooth noise canceling phone-Sony WX 1004- but the limitations of BT  with respect to quality and pairing get cumbersome.

   My dealer has leant me a pair of Meze Audio phones for $199 and they seem to tick all the boxes.  They may not be the most refined listen but at this price point I wasn't expecting miracles.  I have to return them this weekend or else decide to purchase (at a discount since these were open box to begin with).  Just thought I'd see if there were any others that might do a bit better.
   
mahler123
Step up to the Meze classic99.
Around $349 and sound quite good.
The AKG k550’s are a fantastic closed back headphone with an open back sound. You can still buy them, but I believe they are now an MK11 version. Also, the Graham Slee Novo is a fantastic little headphone amp. It can be daisy chained into your system without occupying a line input, for instance, placed between a cd player and your amp. It has both an input and output RCA’s on the back that are internally linked to enable this. You might be pushing $600 for this combo. You can read up on both of these products at WhatHiFi.
https://www.whathifi.com/us/akg/k550/review
https://www.whathifi.com/us/graham-slee/novo/review

Not much experience with closed cans, but agree 100% audioguy85.

The AKGs are great!  Comfortable, great sound, easily driven by a DAP or phone.

I've got a pair of Meze 99 Classics that I love. Fun, non-fatiguing sound profile, very comfortable, plus they look fantastic for all those telemedicine and zoom conference calls we're stuck doing these days... In the under $500 range, I think they'd be awfully tough to beat. I'm also a physician and let a few of my partners try them...none are audiophiles but it was an eye opener for a couple of them. I'd also suggest picking up a USB camera adapter plus dongle-style DAC for the iPad (Dragonfly, EarMen Eagle/Sparrow, etc). They're small enough to fit in the headphone carry case so not inconvenient like a typical headphone amp would be. I have a dragonfly red I use with both the Mezes and my Campfire audio earbuds and I think it greatly improves the sound via my iPhone.
AKG K371s. Excellent sounding, relatively inexpensive, sensitive enough to be driven by a phone, titanium coated conventional drivers.