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The Best Headphones?

suzywong

Standard Member
The Boss (aka "Keeper of the Finances", "she-who-must-be-obeyed" or "And just who bought the Isobariks, anyway?") has (I think) given me permission to buy a new pair of headphones (she wants my Senn HD420 to use on her electric piano!).

So Boys and Girls, I need some help here, what's the current "flavour of the month" for headphones?

And, of course, a headphone amp to drive them (the Linn Kairn preamp does not have a headphone socket, but has three line outputs).

total budget for phones and amp is around £500.
 

alexs2

Well-known Member
Good question....you can just about get into Stax ownership at that price(the 3030 will fit into your budget)and a Sennheiser HD600 or Grado combination with a decent headphone amp will also fit.

You'll not get the likes of an Earmax or Slee plus phones to fit in under £500,but I'd really recommend listening to that sort of setup before buying less,especially given the rest of your system.
 

NicolasB

Distinguished Member

alexs2

Well-known Member
Originally posted by NicolasB
The standard Earmax is £375 new, I think, so that plus £139 for some new HD600s isn't much over £500. (You won't need an Earmax Pro with HD600s as they have a 300 ohm impedance).

Or you could bid for some Grado RS-1s on Ebay:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=3274&item=3094728082&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW
I'd disagree a little with that,Nic...i have a standard Earmax,and HD600's....at anything less than higher levels,it's superb and beautifully detailed,but can be run into clipping at higher levels on rock etc...
I'd definitely recommend the Pro if it can be afforded....it doesn't bother me much,as I like Keith Jarret etc a lot,but for rock I've been using the Parasound Z-Amp I mentioned in another thread.
 
R

Rossored

Guest
I use the Linn Majik and the headphone out on that is sufficient to drive any Grado. And I should know as i retail the full range. I'm awating some HD-650s next week and im hoping to do a direct comparison.

With your budget you could easily afford say the Grado SR-225s and have enuff for a nice headphone amp like the Xcan. Pick up some nice deals from ebay!
 

WhyAyeMan

Member
Originally posted by alexs2
You'll not get the likes of an Earmax or Slee plus phones to fit in under £500,but I'd really recommend listening to that sort of setup before buying less,especially given the rest of your system.
You dont think so?

How about this... Graham Slee Solo (£350 without PSU1?) + Sony MDR-CD1700... I'd be surprised if that didnt sound really excellent TBH.
 

alexs2

Well-known Member
Originally posted by pbirkett
You dont think so?

How about this... Graham Slee Solo (£350 without PSU1?) + Sony MDR-CD1700... I'd be surprised if that didnt sound really excellent TBH.
Always pleased to be proved wrong!....however,I'm sure you'd agree that there are quite a few benefits to the PSU1 in the case of the Slee,and the Earmax Pro in it's case,in terms of output power,and matching with a wider range of 'phones.

I should have said that I was referring to both of those when I replied...still,the Slee in it's basic form is quite a performance bargain.
 

NicolasB

Distinguished Member
I'm sure you'd agree that there are quite a few benefits to the PSU1 in the case of the Slee
You can always buy the PSU1 later, when you're feeling wealthier. It's only slightly more expensive that way - £120 for the PSU1 by itself, vs £100 difference between "with" and "without" prices for the Solo.
 

WhyAyeMan

Member
Originally posted by alexs2
I'm sure you'd agree that there are quite a few benefits to the PSU1 in the case of the Slee,and the Earmax Pro in it's case,in terms of output power,and matching with a wider range of 'phones.
I wasnt sure how much performance the PSU1 added since I've not heard the amp at all. I was interested in it once, and when I asked what kind of improvements I would get from the PSU1, I was simply told it made the amp "reference class", which doesnt really mean a whole lot to me, if I am being honest....

I'm inclined to think the difference will be subtle, but noticable, but that would just be speculation.
 

NicolasB

Distinguished Member
I'm inclined to think the difference will be subtle, but noticable, but that would just be speculation.
Some Graham Slee links.

The Solo headphone amp: (click here)

A bit of info about the PSU1: (click here).

The Rock Grotto review of the Solo (click here). The larger part of the review is about the Solo mk III, but the final section deals with the mk IV in some detail.

TNT-Audio review of the mk III: (click here)

Quote from the TNT reviewer on the subject of the PSU1:

Listening to the Intro power supply, I found the soundstage to be very nice. On the proper source material, the soundstage would reach outside the boundaries of the headphones. All of the instruments were in a sharp focus and tonally well balanced. Bass reproduction was very good.

Next up was the PSU1. This is about a $179 (US) (UK£119) upgrade to the Solo. Now the soundstage has opened even further extending well beyond the Grado's boundaries. I started getting the impressions of a recording venue rather than just a recording. I'm getting even more of the harmonic structures of the vocals and instruments. Any remaining ragged edges of the music have disappeared. This power supply provides a far smoother and more accurate presentation to the music.

Do yourself a favor, if you are considering the Solo and want those last few, precious ounces of refinement, invest in the PSU-1. It's well worth the money.
 

WhyAyeMan

Member
Yep, I have seen those reviews, indeed, I studied them very carefully before I finally made my decision.

Regarding the TNT review, without wishing to get into deep debate about hifi reviews, the review appears to contradict itself a little. He speaks of how it no longer sounds like a recording, but a venue, and that he gets a far smoother sound. That sounds promising, but then he goes on to say if you want the last, precious oz of refinement, then go for the PSU1. Now to me the review seems to start out saying it is something special, and then somewhat backs down at the end. So to me, that does not prove anything, no snipe at yourself BTW, but the problem with reviews, and indeed opinions, is that quite often those changes are grossly exagerrated, and I have a sneaking feeling that may be the case here.

However, as the majority of people like to know that they are extracting the best potential out of their equipment, I guess it would make sense for most people, for their own peace of mind more than anything else, to go ahead and get the PSU1.

Incidentally, the Sony's I mentioned earlier are probably more revealing of amplification than any Sennheiser that I have heard. I've always found that generally, those Sennheisers are happy as long as they are being driven well.

Thats enough of my wittering anyway :D
 

NicolasB

Distinguished Member
I'm currently in the middle of a protracted upgrade: I've bought a Solo mk IV ("intro"), but need to get the plug changed on my existing PSU1 in order to use it with the new amp, and also need to get the plug changed on my mk II Solo (and have a capacitor changed) so it will work with the "wall wart" power supply that came with the mk IV. :)

So I should, in a few weeks, be able to offer a first-hand opinion of the influence of the PSU1 on the Solo's sound - mk II and IV! - and when I am, I'll post here and let you all know. (The new amp will probably take a couple of weeks to burn in anyway).
 

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