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MTsoul

Headphones and Amp - Where to start?

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I'm looking to get some good headphones and a headphone amp to connect them to. 

 

I could just plug headphones into my Yamaha R-N602, however I want to explore and hear the differences in various set-ups. Also my Kefs don't have the bass for a lot of my 90s and 00s music I'm finding. 

 

Trouble is I have no idea where to begin or what to look for. My local hifi are pointing me at a second hand $450 Musical Fidelity X-Cans headphone amplifier, but I'm not sure if that's the right brand and device to go for. Not to mention, would still need some headphones to go with it. 

 

Budget is in the $1-2k range. 

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Addicted to Audio and Mini disc are probably your best places to look at as far as headphones and related stuff are concerned. Some good sales going on at A2A recently

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32 minutes ago, anandpkumar said:

Addicted to Audio and Mini disc are probably your best places to look at as far as headphones and related stuff are concerned. Some good sales going on at A2A recently

Yeah, although there is a thread here about some iffy pricing by A2A on B stock. 

 

I get lost in all the iems and start wondering if they would be better than headphones... 

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I was on that thread. A few folks here (including me) have bought B-stock items and the items that we got were absolutely fresh pieces. I think it was a case of A2A trying to discount further by using B-stock as an excuse.

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Fair enough. I got my Yamaha from them on sale and was happy with it. Any recommendations on what I should be looking for in the amp or headphones? 

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At this point I'm looking at a Musical Fidelity X-Cans and Sennheiser 6xx. Would welcome any input from the SNA alumni

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Hey mate - a few questions to guide the discussion:

1. Do you have a preference for closed back or open back headphones (or don't mind at all)? 

2. Is your $1-2k budget for headphones and a headphone amp together?

3. Do you have certain sound signatures that you like? e.g. warm and bassy (which your original post suggests you like), airy and spacious etc.

4. Where will you be using the headphones primarily? At home, at work, on public transport?

5. What type of source are you planning to use? Laptop, streaming, CD/vinyl?

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, infinitelivez said:

1. Do you have a preference for closed back or open back headphones (or don't mind at all)? 

2. Is your $1-2k budget for headphones and a headphone amp together?

3. Do you have certain sound signatures that you like? e.g. warm and bassy (which your original post suggests you like), airy and spacious etc.

4. Where will you be using the headphones primarily? At home, at work, on public transport?

5. What type of source are you planning to use? Laptop, streaming, CD/vinyl?

Ah, I can see how that would be helpful. Thanks for jumping in to help me clarify! 

 

Currently I'm looking for open or closed for use at home. The budget is for amp and headphones but cam be stretched. I like detail and clarity, but I listen to metal, jazz, female vocal, classic rock. I'm not sure I can get a setup that works great with Tool and Korn and then Fiona Apple and Miles Davis? In that case, I'd use my kefs for the warmer jazz stuff and keep the headphones for the heavier harder metal stuff. Sound right? 

This setup is for home, I'm thinking I might separately get some iems and a portable dac for commute and work. 

Source is vinyl and streaming. Mostly vinyl I'd say. 

 

I'm interested in hearing a fully balanced set up but maybe shouldn't be attempting that with the first headphone and amp. 

 

 

Edited by MTsoul

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Posted (edited)

The current B-Stock sale at ATA is amazing value for money. I bought a set of headphones from the ATA sale.  There was absolutely nothing to say that they were not brand new, everything looked new. 

I bought closed back as I wanted home listening without sound leak to the rest of the room. I have a pair of open back headphones but I don't listen to them much because everyone else doesn't want to listen to my music all the time :) 

 

At your budget three recommended options from the ATA sale are:

 

Closed back Elegia around $500

https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/collections/b-stock-demo-clearance/products/focal-elegia-closed-back-headphones-b-stock

 

Open back Elear around $600

https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/products/focal-elear-open-back-headphones

 

Open back Clear around $1200

https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/collections/b-stock-demo-clearance/products/focal-clear-professional-open-back-headphones-b-stock

Like all audio items, headphones have their 'signature' sound. If you like detail and clarity then Focal headphones are up your alley.

 

The thing with the ATA sale is that those prices are fantastic for what you get. I don't know of anything that is equal to the Elear or Elegia at their current price. Everything else at that price is a tier or two below. Getting other headphones second hand most likely will still mean getting a tier below based on pricing. Clear is more expensive but gets stunning reviews from people who like them. 
 

Of course it would be better if you heard the headphones first as you run a risk of not killing them but that applies to any headphone/speaker purchase without audition. And, they do need some play time from new (hours) before sounding their best. Some people just leave the headphones plugged it playing overnight to break them in.

 

If you buy Clear then your budget needs to be stretched for DAC and amp.

 

If you buy Elegia or Elear then you can easily fit within your budget. I would say that as there is currently no huge specials on amps or DACs then buy the headphones and listen to them on what you have. The integrated amp, a laptop?, anything else. You won't get the most out of them but you will get a feel or an impression of their sound. Then you could decide if you want neutral, warm, bright etc DAC and amp.

Edited by gwurb

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I planned to go to ATA this arvo, so thanks for the advice. I was really unsure if the price difference for the focals over the senn 6xx was worth it, will give them a trial and decide what my ears like! 

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4 minutes ago, MTsoul said:

I planned to go to ATA this arvo, so thanks for the advice. I was really unsure if the price difference for the focals over the senn 6xx was worth it, will give them a trial and decide what my ears like! 

That sounds like a good plan. It will be you and your ears that decide :) 
 

With the COVID restrictions there have been mixed messages about headphone auditions. You may also get a different response in store compared to over the phone. 

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some great deals in that post re: ATA.  Wow.  I just grabbed a set of closed B-stock.  And I wasn't even looking for a new set...………   

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40 minutes ago, MTsoul said:

I planned to go to ATA this arvo, so thanks for the advice. I was really unsure if the price difference for the focals over the senn 6xx was worth it, will give them a trial and decide what my ears like! 

hi @MTsoul
 

I upgraded from the sennheiser 6xx to the focal clear professional from A2A for $1200 a couple of months ago. 
 

B stock, but i can see anything that would make them B stock. Professional Clear are exactly the same as Clear but they are red (look better than the grey IMO), and switch the balance cord for an extra pair of ear cushions. Great price.

 

Both Clear and 6XX can be driven by my A&K player, though the clear is easier to drive and sounds great with just my iPhone.
 

Is the Clear $900 better than the 6XX. No way. Value for money and entry point, buy the 6XX. 80-90% of the sound quality IMO. The Clear sounds ‘clearer’. 
 

The 6XX are a tight fit but you can carefully bend them out. Focal are more comfortable but heavy by comparison - build quality far superior. 

 

I tried the Elear which had awesome pricing. It’s maybe better than the 6XX and for $600 it could be a decent option. Also easy to drive. Again, Clear just sounded cleaner and clearer. The closed Elegia for $500 were okay, but I thought the 6XX sounded better.

 

I wasn’t a fan of LCD X, 2 or 3, besides looks.  The other headphones couldn’t compete with the Focal pricing. If you like more bass and a warmer sound signature, you might prefer LCD. 

 

 

Open sound better than closed. Over ear sound better than IEMs.

 

The headphone itself makes far more difference than the amp or DAC.

 

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@Mike13 thanks for the detailed breakdown of your experience, sounds like we are going down a similar path. 

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An Atom amp by JDS Labs is pretty much all you need for amplification. You could get a EL Amp II but that's mainly an upgrade in aesthetics and build materials, like an improved volume knob. It's a contentious subject but in my experience you don't need an expensive amp to get good sound quality.

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Have you tried listening to headphones on your Yamaha amp?

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3 hours ago, Mike13 said:

hi @MTsoul
 

I upgraded from the sennheiser 6xx to the focal clear professional from A2A for $1200 a couple of months ago. 
 

B stock, but i can see anything that would make them B stock.

Nice upgrade. As I understand it, B stock is simply a product which has been opened and then returned by a customer within the exchange period. That being said, I can't imagine there being dozens of opened Focal headphones just sitting around at A2A.

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8 hours ago, MTsoul said:

I planned to go to ATA this arvo, so thanks for the advice. I was really unsure if the price difference for the focals over the senn 6xx was worth it, will give them a trial and decide what my ears like! 

How did you go?

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What a day... I feel like I graduated from neophyte level in the hifi hobby. 

 

I headed to LWA to talk about the X CAN and walked out with a Stax SR-L500 and SRM-252S for $1400. I listened to the 500s in the store on the SRM-727mk2 and it was a revelation in head fi. Just couldn't stretch the budget to include the 727 for $3k total. Already regretting it 😂 

 

I then went to ATA and walked out with Focal Elegia and dragonfly red bundle for $749.

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13 minutes ago, MTsoul said:

What a day... I feel like I graduated from neophyte level in the hifi hobby. 

 

I headed to LWA to talk about the X CAN and walked out with a Stax SR-L500 and SRM-252S for $1400. I listened to the 500s in the store on the SRM-727mk2 and it was a revelation in head fi. Just couldn't stretch the budget to include the 727 for $3k total. Already regretting it 😂 

 

I then went to ATA and walked out with Focal Elegia and dragonfly red bundle for $749.

Haha wow, you really jumped in head first hey! I think you'll be set for a little while at least 😂

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1 hour ago, MTsoul said:

What a day... I feel like I graduated from neophyte level in the hifi hobby. 

 

I headed to LWA to talk about the X CAN and walked out with a Stax SR-L500 and SRM-252S for $1400. I listened to the 500s in the store on the SRM-727mk2 and it was a revelation in head fi. Just couldn't stretch the budget to include the 727 for $3k total. Already regretting it 😂 

 

I then went to ATA and walked out with Focal Elegia and dragonfly red bundle for $749.

What a shopping spree :) 

 

What made you choose Elegia over HD6XX?

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1 hour ago, gwurb said:

What made you choose Elegia over HD6XX?

I was keen on closed back, and the salesman said the clarity and range was better on the elegia. 

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On 16/05/2020 at 10:33 PM, MTsoul said:

I was keen on closed back, and the salesman said the clarity and range was better on the elegia. 

Any updates? 

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@gwurb I've got the luxury headphones but not the luxury of time to listen to them!

 

The elegia I need to spend more time with. Initially I like the clarity but the bass may not be as strong as I prefer. I have a big head, and the fit is good. Clamp force might be a little strong until I wear them in. Leather would be preferable to the suede used for the ear cups. The case is beautiful and really gives the unboxing a special feeling. 

 

The stax are amazing. I don't know if it's because they are my first open backs, but they are incredible. Wide open soundstage, strong but not boomy bass, tight treble with clarity at high volume. The big rectangle cups look weird but sit nicely, light on the head but secure. The 5 pin proprietary plug is a PITA, making me pay 300 for an extension cable is frustrating, however if that makes me use their amps that get the best sound out of their headphones, it's worth it for the stax sound for me. 

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I too picked up the Elegia last Friday from A2A (though mine were immediately faulty and are being exchanged tomorrow).

 

I only have the 20 minutes I listened to them and my HD6XX to compare them to, though generally I’d say the HD6XX sound better. I think that’s due to the open back nature of the HD6XX. The Elegia by comparison are more contained with less punch in the mid’s and less base without an amp. 
 

Base for me wasn’t an issue on the Elegia though as I am running them off the new iFi HipDAC which has a power boost and bass boost. The extra control really makes the HD6XX and Elegia quite similar except for the open/closed nature of the two of them.

 

For me the Elegia is strictly for the office when we return, where closed headphones will be essential. I’ve been into this for a month and I’m considering grabbing the Clear’s also to step up from the HD6XX (but I may jump straight to HD800S). 

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