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HD800 - where to go next?


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I haven't bought any hifi equipment in ages. 

 

Therefore, I'm toying with the idea of buying another really good headphone, to complement my HD800/HDVA600 combo (I already have a Beyer T90 with a Dragonfly Red as a travel set, remember those days when we used to travel?).

 

So I'd be looking for something that is at least a match to my HD800. I mostly listen to classical and jazz, so quite probably I already have the perfect set of cans for me (unless I win the lottery and buy an Orpheus 2). I really love them.

 

That said, I'm intrigued by getting a somewhat different sound signature, particularly for when I'm listening to anything that is not very well recorded, or venture into other genres, where really the HD800s can start to get annoying quickly.

 

I was initially thinking that I should stay below $2K, but on the other hand there's a lot of stuff happening between $2000 and $5000. Hifiman 1000SE, Meze Empyrian, Grado GS3000, Focal Utopia/Stellia, etc. etc. etc. 

 

Anything you'd recommend I should check out in particular?

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Have you considered Stax headphones?

I have their SR-L500 set with the SRM 353X driver/amp which I use this in a home office with Qobuz/Roon. 

I consider the sound to be very good with both classical and jazz - very fast and detailed with a sweet mid-range emphasis.

The phones are very comfortable  - can wear for hours without fatigue - but they are open which may be an issue.

 

Mark

 

 

Main: Auralic Polaris ->Chord Silver Carnival ->Martin Logan EM-ESL

Office: Roon->iMac 2017->PS Audio Sprout->Wharfdale Diamond 11.1 or Roon->Chord Poly/Mojo->Stax SR-L500

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the HD800 can be very revealing and can have a large to almost artificial headstage. Please don't mistake my comments for thinking the HD 800s aren't good on the contrary they are excellent but offer a more clinical approach to listening. The Utopia while very different and more musical and tonally accurate are still detail monsters but while different may still not offer a good alternative. 

I'd be more apt to recommend the Meze or 1000se as they are more of an enjoyable listen. The Meze is ultimately the more comfortable of the lot and a close cousin to the HD800 level of comfort. The Meze is the most relaxed and diffused of the bunch but offers long enjoyable listening sessions without fatigue . The 1000se charts a path in-between the 800 and Meze with gobs of detail enough bass to make it fun while being realistic and strong comfort. 

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4 minutes ago, jp11801 said:

the HD800 can be very revealing and can have a large to almost artificial headstage. Please don't mistake my comments for thinking the HD 800s aren't good on the contrary they are excellent but offer a more clinical approach to listening. The Utopia while very different and more musical and tonally accurate are still detail monsters but while different may still not offer a good alternative. 

I'd be more apt to recommend the Meze or 1000se as they are more of an enjoyable listen. The Meze is ultimately the more comfortable of the lot and a close cousin to the HD800 level of comfort. The Meze is the most relaxed and diffused of the bunch but offers long enjoyable listening sessions without fatigue . The 1000se charts a path in-between the 800 and Meze with gobs of detail enough bass to make it fun while being realistic and strong comfort. 

Thanks. That’s very helpful. Indeed, “relaxed” isn’t an attribute I’d use to describe the HD800, so that sounds like a great complement. I’ll have to check that out. 

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37 minutes ago, MarkoF said:

Have you considered Stax headphones?

I have their SR-L500 set with the SRM 353X driver/amp which I use this in a home office with Qobuz/Roon. 

I consider the sound to be very good with both classical and jazz - very fast and detailed with a sweet mid-range emphasis.

The phones are very comfortable  - can wear for hours without fatigue - but they are open which may be an issue.

 

Mark

 

 

I’ve quite recently tried them and while I liked the sound, I just didn’t find them very comfortable. Every head is different I presume. 
 

To me the HD800 remain the most comfortable headphones I’ve tried to this day.  

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The HifiMan are a nice complement to the Sennheiser. Both are very revealing, but they have very different textures.  The Focal are terrific, but so similar as to not represent a fundamental change.

Roon + HQ Player front end; Bricasti M3 with Ethernet and headphone amp; Pro Audio Technology 2115sm active speakers and amps plus four 15" subs; Lumagen Radiance video processor; Wolf Ref 700 projector; Kii3 + Control in another room; Accourate, Trinnov, and Dirac bass management and room correction; extensive RPG room treatment; HifiMan and Focal cans; Decware Taboo Mk3; 20 amp hospital grade UPS; EtherRegen, Sonore Empirical Audio and SOTM, all on LPS, feeding DACs

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I am thinking Empyrean would be a terrific option but it will be a budget buster. 

 

Another option within your budget might be the Audio Technica W3000ANV.  I really, really enjoyed mine and they are more mid-centric and warmer, but still detailed.  In fact the mids on that can are legendary (see the link below), but they are hard to come by as they were limited edition. 

 

This thread is getting a bit long in the tooth but is an interesting read: 

 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/battle-of-the-flagships-58-headphones-compared.634201/

 

 

I am a fellow HD-800 lover.  I also just picked up some HD-800S yesterday.  Actually, as I type this, I am switching back and forth between my HD-800 and HD-800S, trying to figure out which to keep as my headphone listening sessions these days are very long and HD-800S might prove the better option for super long sessions.

 

One other thought...  I also recently picked up an Eddie Current Zana Deux Super.  I am absolutely floored with the Zana Deux/HD-800/HD-800S combo.  I wish I had discovered this amp sooner.  I've never heard anything better for my personal tastes.  It really compliments and elevates the HD-800.  It is also very much tunable using different tubes, you can go for a warmer signature, or more detailed signature or anything in between.  This is probably among a handful of the very best amps on the planet for the HD-800, so something to consider.  On the used market, they typically run around your budget of $2,000 and often the seller will include an assortment of tubes for tube rolling.  Donald North amps are also supposedly really good with HD-800.

Home: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen+Farad | UltraRendu+Farad | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | 2 Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12 

 

Desktop: Denafrips Iris | Denafrips Venus 2/Chord Qutest | Blue Circle Audio SBT preamp|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman 1000SE | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12

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18 hours ago, Musicophile said:

Anything you'd recommend I should check out in particular?

 

29 minutes ago, Blake said:

I am thinking Empyrean would be a terrific option but it will be a budget buster.

 

Completely agree. I know @Musicophile and I have somewhat similar musical tastes, so I definitely urge you to try the Empyrean and the Abyss Phi TC. The former is $3k yes, but it holds its own with all the other TOTL headphones IMO, and is very easy to drive, so is not so fussy about amps. The only one I've not tried yet is the RAAL (pending), but from all accounts, it is not exactly forgiving.

 

I find the Empyrean to be almost as comfortable than the HD800S, and far more comfortable than any of the others.

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As someone who was looking a few years back and tried a few headphones and ended up settling on Focal Utopia simply because it fits my head best, I’m going to offer a contrarian recommendation. 
 

If the goal is a different sound, why not try Dan Clark Audio’s Aeon 2 Closed. It’s quite a bit cheaper and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. However, I did find it clamps onto my head way too hard so I never upgraded from my Aeon Flow 1 closed that I use at work. Of course, I gathered Dan Clark Audio Ether 2 also sounds great.

 

Of course for a similar amount of money, you could get a Chord Hugo 2 to pair with your existing headphones. 

Roon (convolution filter using Acourate) > ultraRendu > Peachtree X1 (Toslink) > Chord Hugo M-Scaler > Chord DAVE > Chord Etude > Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature + Sunfire TS-EQ10 subwoofers

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The ZMF Vérité would also be one to consider.  The open version might be better for you based on your listening tastes.  I'll let  JoshM do the convincing - see his review of them.

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/review-measurements-zmf-verite-verite-closed-r916/

Main System: Mac mini (Audirvana+, MMK, JS-2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1) -> Icron 2201 (Rex LPS-1.2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1.2) -> Ayre QB-9 Twenty -> Headamp GS-X Mk2 -> Classe CT-M600 -> KEF Reference 201/2

 

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On 9/27/2020 at 11:08 AM, Musicophile said:

I haven't bought any hifi equipment in ages. 

 

Therefore, I'm toying with the idea of buying another really good headphone, to complement my HD800/HDVA600 combo (I already have a Beyer T90 with a Dragonfly Red as a travel set, remember those days when we used to travel?).

 

So I'd be looking for something that is at least a match to my HD800. I mostly listen to classical and jazz, so quite probably I already have the perfect set of cans for me (unless I win the lottery and buy an Orpheus 2). I really love them.

 

That said, I'm intrigued by getting a somewhat different sound signature, particularly for when I'm listening to anything that is not very well recorded, or venture into other genres, where really the HD800s can start to get annoying quickly.

 

I was initially thinking that I should stay below $2K, but on the other hand there's a lot of stuff happening between $2000 and $5000. Hifiman 1000SE, Meze Empyrian, Grado GS3000, Focal Utopia/Stellia, etc. etc. etc. 

 

Anything you'd recommend I should check out in particular?

 

Because I wanted to upgrade from my HD 700, I have just spent a few hours listening to several headphones in the same price range as the HD800s. I listen mostly to classical, and to a lesser extent jazz, electronic and metal.

 

Having listened to first the HD580 and afterwards the HD700 for a combined total of 25+ years, I was surprised to find that the HD800s impressed me less than I expected.

 

Long story short:

 

1. Hifiman Arya. Soundstage almost as wide as HD800s, but much more '3D'/holographic imaging. Completely effortless bass extension down beyond hearing range, providing subbass that I didn't know I needed until I heard it. Extremely detailed without being fatiguing. For classical, jazz, basically everything well-recorded with lots of spatial information, this was my favorite. And very comfortable as well.

2. Shared between ZMF Auteur and Focal Clear. Both a bit more V-shaped, a bit more slam, less holographic.

3. HD800s. Basically my HD700, bit wider, bit more detailed, somehow also a bit more boring.

4. Audeze LCD-X. Nope. Not for anything acoustic.

 

So.... the Aryas made a dent in my savings.

 

But I see you are already eyeing the 2000+ category...

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3 hours ago, WAM said:

Have fun. 

 

But do not forget the amp (a good headphone paired with a good amp is no guarantee for good sound, but you know that already, I presume).

 

Happy listening!

 

 

I'd obviously start with my current solid state HDVA600 (which not surprisingly has a nice synergy with the HD800, particularly on the balanced cables) as a starting point, but I'd be somewhat interested in having a tube based amp as well. But first things first. 

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I'd recommend you to first try some source rolling, or dsp. Hd800 can show insane amount of variations, and most of stuff what people attribute to planar bass/planar sound, that density, I was able to get by just source rolling to something that's soft saturated in nature. You should be able to achieve that with some form of soft compression, but for me this music player gives me a similar sound: https://www.hysolid.com/

 

You could also try playpcmwin though you'll likely lack that artificial (but pleasing) density that hysolid gives. You could also try a dense filter like the one in mojo. Hqplayer is your friend.

 

However if you were looking for something that can show even more variations, more transparency, I'd highly recommend the shure srh940. At 1/5th the price, people would laugh at me for comparing it to hd800. But trust me, it's got even more detail and precise imaging than hd800, almost as if you were teleported to the position of the microphone. Midrange is imo one of the weaker aspects of hd800, it refuses to convey that last edge in air for falsettos especially in 3-5khz range (other than completely resonating at 6khz). Midrange of all shure stuff are top notch, next to none imo. This is something coming from someone who owns a hd800 and doesn't own a srh940 (reason coming below). With binaural/live you can guess how far away the singer was from the mic, and with choruses you can guess how many people were singing and the minor pitch deltas between them (need a good source chain to extract this, then only srh940 will do it). It also needs a good amp with quite a bit of current push to shine. They make sound with a phone but they scale up super well. I do remember srn940 to have had the quickest csd as measured at goldenears while still having good attack (sometimes optimizing for one will take away from the other, but not in this case). The only problem is it's fairly fragile nature. While I've seen people use them for half a dozen years or more without issues, I've also seen people complain about cracking headbands. This pushed me out to get the srh1540 instead which is a tank, but it's tonality is a bit more u shaped as compared to srh940 and it works better for stereo content, but too hot/in your face for center panned content. Srh940 is more real, and in the right places for binaural/live.

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22 hours ago, Musicophile said:

Thanks all for your very helpful feedback. Some clear tendencies seem to be emerging. I'll try to test most of them out this weekend.

 

 

Looking forward to your reports. 

 

Not to hijack your thread, but the timing of your post coincided with my own headphone mini shootout, between HD800, HD800S and the Empyrean so I am somewhat in your same boat.  I've owned the HD-800 forever, my HD-800S arrived last week and Empyrean will be here next week.

Home: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen+Farad | UltraRendu+Farad | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | 2 Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12 

 

Desktop: Denafrips Iris | Denafrips Venus 2/Chord Qutest | Blue Circle Audio SBT preamp|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman 1000SE | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12

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5 minutes ago, Blake said:

 

 

Looking forward to your reports. 

 

Not to hijack your thread, but the timing of your post coincided with my own headphone mini shootout, between HD800, HD800S and the Empyrean so I am somewhat in your same boat.  I've owned the HD-800 forever, my HD-800S arrived last week and Empyrean will be here next week.

Nice combo. The Empyrean is really looking quite attractive. 
 

Just curious what triggered the HD800 to S upgrade. Is is t worth it?

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43 minutes ago, Musicophile said:

Nice combo. The Empyrean is really looking quite attractive. 
 

Just curious what triggered the HD800 to S upgrade. Is is t worth it?

 

Good question.  Long story short- due to COVID my firm's offices are closed so I had to set up a home office.  My wife is also working in the same home office room, so I am now listening to headphones all day.  I love my HD-800, particularly with my Eddie Current ZDS, the combo is spectacular.   The only issue is, listening all day, toward the end of the day I am developing some ear fatigue, notwithstanding that I am listening at low/safe levels.  This was not previously a problem with shorter sessions.  My HD-800 are unmodded, but must be a unicorn because they never gave me ear fatigue before and my sensitivity to treble brightness/glare is extreme (and annoying).  It is only when I started the extended listening sessions that I developed some fatigue.

 

So, I decided to give HD-800S a try.  Additionally, I have always been intrigued by the Empyrean (I have some Meze 99 I enjoy for travel) and from reports, the sound stage is larger and the sound is supposed to be detailed yet non-fatiguing and otherwise forgiving of less than stellar recordings, so I wanted to have all these headphones in at the same time to directly compare them, rather than try to rely on memory. 

 

I will definitely sell either the HD-800 or HD-800S, depending on which one is the winner.  We shall see on the Empyrean.  If I love it, I will need to decide if I want to have two desktop headphones and rotate them.  I can't imagine not having an HD-800/S though.

Home: Melco N1A/2 | EtherRegen+Farad | UltraRendu+Farad | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | 2 Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12 

 

Desktop: Denafrips Iris | Denafrips Venus 2/Chord Qutest | Blue Circle Audio SBT preamp|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman 1000SE | PS Audio DS Power Plant 12

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On 9/27/2020 at 11:29 PM, austinpop said:

so I definitely urge you to try the Empyrean and the Abyss Phi TC.

 

I've been noodling on headphones too, and have seen the raves on the Abyss.  But with no dealers in Boston and $1,000+ restocking fee on a subjective product, I'm stuck.  Does anybody know of a place to demo in New England?

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1 hour ago, Blake said:

 

Good question.  Long story short- due to COVID my firm's offices are closed so I had to set up a home office.  My wife is also working in the same home office room, so I am now listening to headphones all day.  I love my HD-800, particularly with my Eddie Current ZDS, the combo is spectacular.   The only issue is, listening all day, toward the end of the day I am developing some ear fatigue, notwithstanding that I am listening at low/safe levels.  This was not previously a problem with shorter sessions.  My HD-800 are unmodded, but must be a unicorn because they never gave me ear fatigue before and my sensitivity to treble brightness/glare is extreme (and annoying).  It is only when I started the extended listening sessions that I developed some fatigue.

 

So, I decided to give HD-800S a try.  Additionally, I have always been intrigued by the Empyrean (I have some Meze 99 I enjoy for travel) and from reports, the sound stage is larger and the sound is supposed to be detailed yet non-fatiguing and otherwise forgiving of less than stellar recordings, so I wanted to have all these headphones in at the same time to directly compare them, rather than try to rely on memory. 

 

I will definitely sell either the HD-800 or HD-800S, depending on which one is the winner.  We shall see on the Empyrean.  If I love it, I will need to decide if I want to have two desktop headphones and rotate them.  I can't imagine not having an HD-800/S though.

Please share your experience. I’ll give the Meze a go this weekend at my dealer. He also has some other high end stuff so I’ll see what works. 

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