Which headphones??

Okay, so I'm now leaning towards getting a nice headphone set-up. I am thinking that I'll probably get a couple pairs of headphones when It's all said and done because there just seems to be benefits and negatives about different designs.

Initially, I'd just like to use the headphone amp in my z dac. I am looking at a pair of sennheiser hd 598 new in box for $200 on c-list. These cans seem to get good reviews but I figure I'll want something with a closed design later on so that I can block out exterior sounds also.

I really want something with a great soundstage and imaging, I want it to sound as good as my stereo system, or close to it!

Thanks for your help with this one!!
For soundstage and imaging, you may be better off with open backed headphones. Soundstaging and imaging are precisely what you tend to lose on a closed headphone.

Around $200-300, you might want to try the modded Fostex headphones by Mad Dog. They get excellent reviews, and are closed backed.

Senn Headphones tend to have a pretty relaxed sound in my experiences, and they are also among the most comfortable brands I have tried.

As for higher-end headphones, I'd recommend taking advantage of The Cable Company's lending library. I think that this service is only for headphones above a certain price point. But at these higher price points, you are getting some pretty spectacular sound. Though you will be limited by the zDAC on some of these higher end headphones. I am a huge fan of the HiFiMan HE-5LEs that I have, and other headphones in their line are also excellent (though I'd stick to their orthos).

As with most things audio: audition, audition, audition.
Be sure to consider using a separate headphone amp which will drive your phones. This can make a huge difference. I'm using the Senn 598s and a small Fournier tubed amp (costs about $175 and is sold on E-Bay) in my TV room. Nice relaxed sound.

I use Senn 650's and a Woo W3 amp in my main system. More resolution and extension yet balanced slightly on the warm side. Costs 150% more though but it sounds quite a bit better in some respects than my main system, especially in clarity in the mids and highs.

I would suggest though that you do not expect a soundstage even remotely similar to what you get with a properly set up 2 channel system. Despite all of the sales pitch about imaging and headphones you will read, headphones really don't come close.
Sennheiser 600 headphones and Bada hybrid tube amp. Very dynamic!
The 598s are supposed to be v. close to the 600s but that price seems a little high.
I have a dedicated headphone amp from a now infamous builder Singlepower. It is an OTL and sounds great, it is a pity that the builder/owner ripped a number of people off and disapeared from the scene. The Headphones I use with it is the AKG 701 which is detailed and spacious sounding. I recommend them as a good sound stager.
Check out these sites:
I can't stress enough the need to try each and any headphone you plan on using as they are very particular and unique to each and every set of ears. No two will sound alike to any two people you care to mention. Listener bias is the only deciding factor. For starters, get yourself down to the local Guitar Center or someplace similar and really listen to their demos. If you really want to torture yourself, go to any high end audio show and give a listen to the really good cans and they'll ruin you for keeping your budget low.

I thought I'd heard everything until I listened to some Audize cans through a Eddie Current tube headphone amp and only then did I understand what Srajan over at 6moons talks about when he describes performers as "lit up from within" and his particular way of describing musical events. It was a hauntingly beautiful experience and saddens me to know I'll never hear it again until the next show.

Good luck.
Senns are excellent phones; I've been using a pair of 600s for the past 15 years and they are sonically satisfying and comfortable. If you can find a good pair of used 600s or 650s you might want to consider.
just recently decided to purchase Mytek 192 DAC-preamp-headphone amp with BeyerDynamic T70 closed headphones. This combo made me forget my speakers for already more than a week.
got the deal cut to $2k for both brand new components including all taxes from Moon Audio. having this combo you're guaranteed to hear only music and nothing or no one else!
I can't stress enough the need to try each and any headphone you plan on using as they are very particular and unique to each and every set of ears. No two will sound alike to any two people you care to mention. Listener bias is the only deciding factor.
Agree with this. Another reason to audition is comfort. I have never been able to use over the ear phones for any length of time, max out at about 30 mins. What does work for me are in ear monitors. Their sound can be quite good also.
Step up to the HD580/600 and you'll probably be much happier long-term, as they're much more sonically refined than the lower-tier Sennheiser models. You can pick up a used pair of HD580 (which I own now) for under $150 and the HD600 (which I used to own and should have kept: they're definitely a touch more transparent) for around or just above $200.

For context, I owned the HD555 modded to HD595 (model prior to the HD598), and the HD580/600 series is a huge step up. The lower models have a mid-bass bump and some grainy treble emphasis, but the 580/600 sounds smooth and neutral top to bottom (though some find them too warm).

Here's a great recent comparison of the HD580/600/650 series:

Thanks everyone! That was the second time beyer T70 came up. I'll look into those more, and also some HiFiMans, and sennheiser 600/650's.

Next question; how do you tell a headphones "sensitivity" rating? Lower ohm's more sensitive?
How do you tell a headphones "sensitivity" rating?
Sometimes it is explicitly specified, as sound pressure level (in db) for a 1 volt input.

In other cases it may be specified as SPL for an input of 1 mw (1 milliwatt, which is 0.001 watts). To convert that to voltage sensitivity use the equation

P = (Vsquared)/R

Where P is power, in watts.
V is voltage, in volts.
R is impedance, in ohms.

For example the T70 is spec'd at 250 ohms, 104 db/mw.

The voltage required to generate 104 db would be:

V = Square root of (0.001 x 250) = 0.5 volts.

To calculate the SPL that would be produced in response to a 1 volt input, so that you can compare to other phones which are spec'd based on a 1 volt input:

1 volt/0.5 volts = 2

db = 20 x (logarithm of the ratio of two voltages) = 20log2 = 6 db

104 + 6 = 110 db SPL for a 1 volt input

Best regards,
-- Al
Lol, so that's what it sounds like to my fiance when I talk to her about stereos or cars ;-)
regardless of specifications and performance, headphones are way more individual sensitive than speakers.convenience, head size, shape, earshells it all matters to get a perfect headset. i get headaches and listening fatigue from overdefined HD580/HD600 bass. did not try hd650 as an example.
your best bet is either swapping them one after another by purchasing/selling or visit a good headphone shop or even audio festival to make up your decision.
Marakanetz, Are you satisfied that you used an amp that best matched the Senn's you listened to. FWIW, for example, I tried a highly regarded amp, as well as a CDP with a capable built in amp. Both of my Senn Headphones (598 and 650) sounded like crap with SS amps. Especially the 650's.

i tried them with consonance the tube unit and tried them with grado amp 10m tops while AKGs and T70 currently owned I can listen for good few hours.
I don't mind spending some money on a headphone set-up because it will be my main audio fix, here in a couple months. I can't really audition different headphones because there aren't any shops that carry the ones I'm interested in.

So far, I guess it's between the sd 650's and T70's.
I know that matching them with the right amp is important also. What headphone amps do you fellas recommend for the 650's? T70's?

Thanks again guys!
I haven't heard the T70s, but based on the graphs at Headroom and some reviews I've read, they and the Sennheisers could be wildly different sounding. I have heard the HD650, and they're very full and rich sounding, with emphasized bass and a soft but still resolved treble. The T70 has a pretty sharp spike in the treble that could be quite fatiguing. If you really want a sealed can, look at the Sennheiser Momentum (which in my book wins an award for best-looking headphone) or the AKG 550--both very well reviewed. The HD600 is considered by many to be better (more neutral) than the HD650, too.

Headroom lets you use a comparison function to overlay frequency response for various 'phones. In my experience the graphs have been pretty accurate to my subjective experience with most headphones I've heard.



Sennheiser HD600! I'd suggest you actually try to listening to the 600 vs. the 650 as I've read many opinions favoring the classic 600. The 600's one of those rare audio products that get's it SO right it's considered a classic! Might save you $100 that you can put towards the Cardas cable or headphone amp! I have an old Musical Fidelity tube headphone amp, HD600 + tubes has long been recognized as a yummy combo!;)
Cool! I'll check out the 600 vs. 650 but it sounds like the 600 is the way to go. I was thinking of possibly pairing it with a tube headphone amp. The brand currently slips my mind. I think the reviews I was reading on the t70's stated that it sounds best with tube amps also.
I'm not new to headphones,used them as a musician for years, but not for serious listening.

Mostly because I never had any really good phones and because I ner had a really good headphone output in any of my systems ,except the Cary 300sei.

That was my undoing, and had I tried a few good headphone with it, I would have never let it go and use it just as a headphone unit.

What I can say is that your impression of a pair of headphones depends on what they are pluged into, so I'd suggest when auditioning phones, try out some of the better headphone amps to really get the measure of the phones.

In fact I'd say that the better the headphone amp, the better sound you'll get from even modest phones.

Case in point I have the old Grado SR60's, and they never really impressed until I tried them in the Cary.

Now I'm burning in a pair of AKG K702 in a Yamaha receiver
The sound of the AKG is nowhere near as good as it is when I played them in my Burson HD160 even when they were fresh out of the box.

The better headphone amp lets you hear the difference between the Grado and AKG phones, the Yamaha not so much.

So if you spring for any of the better phones, make sure you factor in a decent headphone amp,if not then stick to a cheap pair of cans.

I'm just tipping my toes into the haedphone waters, but even with what I've got I'm more than impressed with what you can get for so little money.

In the future I may go into the deep end of the pool.

Upgrading the phones and then the amp.
I should probably mention at this point on this thread that Sennheiser 600 headphones sound significantly better, I.e., more open, dynamic and natural, when the metal grills are removed and the foam pads located inside the earphones are removed. I can't speak for other headphones but I have a sneaking suspicion this probably also holds true for other headphones.
I've read that about the foam pads Geoff, but haven't heard that about the metal grills. Interesting.

Soooo, since I'm not shelling out $2,000 for headphones anytime soon, are the 600's better than 650's? And what headphone amp pairs well with the 650's?

Have you contacted The Cable Company to see if the 600s or 650s (or similarly priced models from HiFiMan, Grado, Beyerdynamic, Denon etc.) are available from their lending library?

Find a way to listen to at least a few different cans before pulling the trigger. And hear for yourself the difference between open and closed cans.
Rosco, that's def. good advice but the problem is my only headphone amp right now is my parasound z dac. I'd like to pair the cans up with an amp that is going to have good synergy with the headphones I choose.

What advice to have regarding this?
Well, if you are going with the ZDDac, then I'd avoid the harder to drive HiFiMan cans.

But I am not sure where the problem is.

If the Cable Company carries headphones in the price range you are looking at in their Lending Library, I'd take advantage of that. Headphones are light and cheap to ship, so I'd find a way to try some out if you can find a way.

Audition, Audition, Audition. You can use HeadFi etc to narrow down the choices. A'gon forums are great for a lot of things, but HeadFi is the king of headphone forums. Some Looong threads tho.
Head fi org is laid out so terrible that I can't even stand to be on that site. They really need to take a look at audiogon.

Anyways, thats why I'm coming back here, besides, I think that you guys know about some good sounding headphones. Soooo, I' thinking that I'm going to need to spend a good chunk of change now in order to get a headphone rig that I can actually get excited about listening to like my 2 channel rig. I'm starting to think about a pair of Audeze LCD2 with possibly a schitt lyr headphone amp and possibly a bifrost dac. What do you guys think? I'm not really interested in dropping $100 through the cable company to just audition this set-up so I'd like to get your input.

Thanks guys!
Audeze is good pick when you don't know about options for less money that will perform same or even better.

Check out the link bellow and check out all the options Drew offers through his website. He's A+ dealer.

I also disclaim to have no profit interest offering the link bellow.

The most popular and best selling headphone's during the 1970's were the Koss PRO4AAA's. Koss in recent years has resurrected the PRO4AAA due to demand. They are addictive. Very rich, lush, smooth organic character. Ever time I used them in the late 70's I did not want to take them off.
They have that magical quality that transports you into a very musical world. You can buy direct from Koss for $100.00.
Correction..the Koss model is the PRO4AA...
I am using AKG 701s (~$250) with an Music Hall amp ($400 retail). Great sound for the $$$. The MH amp is a hybrid design, has 2 inputs, 2 headphone outputs, and can serve as a preamp.
Other headphones from KOSS to consider..but it will cost you. The STRIVA PRO. World's first professional WI-FI headphones with AC adapter. Cost is $450.00 The other set is the KOSS ESP Electrostatics. With large power supply/drive unit with A.C. adapter. Will go up against STAX. Cost is $1000.00. Koss has a very long history and heritage. They made the worlds first full frequency range headphones in 1970. The PRO 4AA. Being around that long and still going strong says a lot. If you want headphones to sound equal to or better than your stereo system, look no further than KOSS. Check out their website.
I use two headphones that compliment each other-AKG 702's, and Hifiman HE400's. The AKG's are very comfortable with a fantastic soundstage. They're a just a little light in low end, but plenty enough for the jazz I listen to. They're more front-row imho.

The Hifiman HE-400's are planar magnetic, and are like having Magnepan 1.7's on your ears, but with a clean bass that leaves you yearning for nothing further.

I run both with a Little Dot MkIII tube amp with great results. Head-fi.org is where I was enlightened on everything "headphones", including a guide for tube rolling on the Little Dot.

The Little Dot can be had for $200, Akg's for $200-$250, and the Hifiman for $400.

Again it's all personal preference, and audition is best.