Massdrop Sennheiser HD-6xx (aka. HD-650) $199

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by whaiyun, Nov 8, 2016.

  1. ronbow

    ronbow Forum Resident

    Location:
    St. Louis MO
    Thanks for the response. Not looking to buy yet another headphone, but how to make the most of what i’ve got and just to goose the output to the HD-6xxs a wee bit - they sound great, and if a dedicated $50 amp and an inexpensive balanced cable can do that - great! My question is really about how to run a balanced output to the HD-6xxs.
     
  2. Buying a $150 HD58X is going to be the best and least expensive way to get better Senn sound from the PonoPlayer. Using the PonoPlayer as a source to an external headphone amp isn't going to sound like what you're expecting unless you use a good balanced headphone amp. The big part of the magic with the PonoPlayer sound is the way it sounds from the balanced outputs. Going single-ended line-out from the PonoPlayer to a low end single-ended amp isn't going to do that spatial enveloping sound. If you're going to go to an external amp you need to go balanced. Balanced line-out cables for the PonoPlayer are in the $75 and up range. Balanced headphone amps are in the $300 and up range. Or you'd need a balanced to RCA transformer box to send the balanced Pono line-out to a single-ended amp (those are about $300). Plus you'd probably need yet another balanced cable for the Senns in order to have a 4-pin XLR connector.

    So the $150 HD58X to achieve all that is actually a bargain. I've tried the HD58X balanced from the PonoPlayer and it works very well. It works noticeably better than trying to get the PonoPlayer to drive the 300 ohm HD6XX. Very noticeably better.
     
  3. ronbow

    ronbow Forum Resident

    Location:
    St. Louis MO
    Great info, Ham - thank you. Yes, that all makes sense. I do love the sound of the Pono’s balanced outputs (even if maxed) to the HD-6xx — it is so smooth and really enjoyable — and i can just imagine (i think) how good the lower impedance headphones would sound. Another set of phones not in the cards right now, but — out of curiosity — will the balanced cable for my 6xxs work for other Senns? )Same connector?)
     
  4. Yes, the balanced headphone cable(s) you have for the HD6XX will work on the HD58X. Same little two pin Sennheiser connectors on the ear cups.
     
  5. ronbow

    ronbow Forum Resident

    Location:
    St. Louis MO
    Cool. So better - more “dimensional” - imaging? Dramatic difference? And, where i need to drive the 65x at just below max, how much headroom do you find on the 58x?
     
  6. The HD58x is able to get to get to very good volume at about 50% or a little more on the volume slider with the Pono. While the HD650/HD6XX needs to be at nearly 90% or even 100% volume. You won't have volume issues using the HD58X with the Pono, but I would expect almost everyone to have some volume issues with the HD650/HD6XX with the Pono. Plus the Pono just drives the 150 ohm HD58X better. The HD650/HD6XX just always end up sounding slightly under-driven when using the Pono. The HD58X manages to sound driven well enough that it doesn't sound under-driven. On those terms the HD58X is considerably better than the HD6XX/HD650 when used with the Pono in balanced mode.

    However, when paired with big amps the tide changes. With my big amps I prefer the HD650/HD6XX to the HD58X. With the big amps the HD650/HD6XX pulls ahead and has better microdetail, better layering, bigger better more filled in soundstage and better in other ways of audiophile importance. But plug the HD58X into the Pono in balanced mode and the HD58X is clearly the better choice.

    The HD58X that I listened to were a Christmas gift to my brother. After listening to them with the Pono I want to get a pair for myself to use with the Pono. They're a very good Pono headphone.
     
    ronbow likes this.
  7. Bill Larson

    Bill Larson Forum Resident

    I’m generally loving the 6xx with the Massdrop CTH, except for one thing.

    The phones have at least 50 hours on them, but if I let them sit unused for a day or two, listening to them is like listening to a small set of bookshelf speakers 10 feet away from me. They need to be played for a while before the sound opens up.

    I haven’t read of anyone else experiencing this— is it a normal part of break-in? How long will it be before this seeming gumminess no longer needs to be broken through?

    It’s not the amp, by the way.
     
  8. Some of that could be a need for brain training. Your brain does need time to learn to adjust to the way good headphones present soundstage and imaging. Once your brain in trained you'll be able to put on the headphones and immediately hear them sound correct. I put on headphones and everything immediately sounds right. My brain has been trained by over 20 years of primary headphone listening.

    The other possibility is that CTH does invert absolute polarity (a.k.a. absolute phase). The HD6XX is a headphone that is good enough that you can hear the effect of flipping absolute polarity. If you are someone who is able to hear the effect of flipping absolute polarity and are sensitive to that then the CTH flipping the absolute polarity could be a sonic issue for you. Many people don't hear the change when flipping absolute polarity so having absolute polarity right or wrong won't make a difference to them. But for those that hear a difference it can be a problem worth addressing.

    If you do computer as source and use a player like Foobar or JRiver that allows the use of plugins there are VST plugins that will flip absolute polarity. Some pre-amps have a button that will flip absolute polarity. Some DACs have a button to flip absolute polarity. If you're using a turntable and your pre-amp or phono stage can't flip absolute polarity you can flip the wires on the cartridge (but oh my that would be a PITA). Experiment with flipping the absolute polarity and see if that gets the HD6XX to snap into focus immediately even after being left alone for several days.
     
    Bill Larson likes this.
  9. Bill Larson

    Bill Larson Forum Resident

    I plugged it into a different amp today and played FM radio through it without listening to it for a few hours. I then plugged it into the CTH, flipped on the cold amp, and played the same CD as last night, and it sounded full and as it should.

    I haven’t spent my life in headphones, but have had decent open phones and adequate amplification for about 35 years.

    As far as polarity goes, I’ve read (don’t know if it’s true) that close to 50% of material has reversed polarity, even track-to-track on the same album. I’ve never tried a polarity switch, but the CTH sounds great to me (at least once the phones get stretched out).
     
  10. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    The Nobsound NS-08E arrived yesterday, and I spent maybe a half hour playing with it before bedtime, so my impressions are all preliminary and nothing was fully warmed up or broken in, but nonetheless I was very happy with what I was hearing.

    The main sources were CDs and vinyl through my '59 Fisher X-100 tube amp, running from the "record" outputs to the Nobsound.

    I was skeptical that such a cheap little amp would be decent, but it is astoundingly good, particularly for such short bread ($40 or so, shipped). It did a wonderful job of driving my (modded) Grado SR80i's; I've never heard such full, deep, tight, and textured bass from these cans before. I can barely turn up the volume on the Nobsound before it's too loud, so it seems to have plenty of juice. It has a very lively character with quick transients, yet it isn't especially bright or aggressive. Backgrounds are perfectly quiet too, no hum or hiss. Imaging is excellent as well, with wide separation and vivid depth of field. I am VERY impressed.

    My new Sennheisers are due to arrive tomorrow (Saturday), and I greatly look forward to seeing how those work out.

    The reviews on HeadFi for the Nobsound were very positive overall, although the conventional wisdom is the stock Chinese tubes are holding back its potential, so I went ahead an ordered on eBay a pair of USSR-made 6J9's (apparently from May 1963 and November 1966) from a seller in Ukraine.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2019
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  11. McGuy

    McGuy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    here's a question, with my C47 and MC402 McIntosh equipment, do I "need" a headphone amp? I'd like to avoid another piece of equipment for just headphones which I know I will use sparingly.
     
  12. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dallas
    The long answer is that it totally depends on your specific headphones and preferences, LOADS of thoughts hear and reasons to justify a headphone amp, or justify that is not needed. The short answer is try it and find out.
     
    McGuy likes this.
  13. Bill Larson

    Bill Larson Forum Resident

    That was on my list to consider for my HD6xx. Looking forward to your impressions.
     
    action pact likes this.
  14. The C47 has a headphone amp built in. Likely a very reasonably pretty good one. McIntosh isn't going to put a cheap headphone amp in their preamps.

    I couldn't find specs on the headphone amp in the C47. I did check the manual and the manual just says that the headphone output is optimized for dynamic headphones with an impedance from 100 ohms to 600 ohms. The HD6xx is 300 ohms. Likely the style of headphone the headphone circuit was designed for. I'd expect that the McIntosh engineers designed the headphone circuit for headphones like the HD650/HD600, HD800, and Beyers (200 to 600 ohms), and McIntosh's own headphones at 200 ohms.

    Next time you're at a McIntosh dealer you could try one of the McIntosh headphone amps and compare that against the C47 headphone output to find out just how much of a difference you hear with the HD6xx. The McIntosh headphone amps are far too expensive to get just for occasional headphone use. But trying one would satisfy your curiosity about how a headphone amp like that compares to the C47 headphone output. I listened to a big McIntosh headphone amp. It's a monster. Pleasant and powerful sound. Not harsh.
     
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  15. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    Last year sometime, I tried out a Little Dot 1+, which is said to be a great match for Grados. Even after upgrading the tubes, I found the combination rather lean/shrill.

    Through the Nobsound, the Grados sound pretty neutral, with nice bass weight and a good bit of punch, and very composed.

    We'll see if I get similarly positive results with the new Sennheisers, which are actually due for delivery on Tuesday, not today (I was mistaken).
     
    Bill Larson likes this.
  16. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    My Senns arrived from Massdrop yesterday afternoon, and right out of the box they sounded pretty good. I left them on over night, connected to my Mac running headphone break-in tones, and I'm listening to them this morning.

    So far so good! The highs are extended but smooth/delicate, bass is fulsome, round and pretty well detailed, and the mids are spot-on. Very pleasant overall. The presentation is maybe a little boxy and yet has good width, but that could change as the headphones break in fully and/or I become accustomed to listening on headphones.

    It will be interesting to see what if any changes I detect once the supposedly better tubes for my Nobsound amp arrive.
     
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  17. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    I am eager to hear about your experience. I have been mulling the choices over for my HD-6xx and have settled on either the Nobsound or Loxjie P20, which is $90, but I already have NOS tubes for the latter. I don't listen that often so I don't want to pop for something more but the pull is there.
     
    action pact likes this.
  18. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    I'm listening right now.

    The Senns and Nobsound sound very good, but it's not quite amazing. However, the headphones are still breaking in and most reports say that the stock Chinese tubes suck eggs, so I'm curious to see where this goes once everything falls into place.

    Maybe amazing is not achievable with this rig, I dunno, but the cost of entry was only $250 including the tubes upgrade. My early impressions, however, indicate that there is a lot of potential here.
     
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  19. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Thanks for the update! Please keep us posted when the new tubes arrive. The only tube amp that gets almost universal positive reviews for the HD-6xx is the Darkvoice 336SE. At $290 it's probably worth it, but with complaints of the stock tubes humming, I don't want to have to track down replacements from the word go.
     
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  20. Bill Larson

    Bill Larson Forum Resident

    The Massdrop CTH is almost universally recommended for the HD6XX (believe me, I did my research). That amp’s background is dead silent, and the included Electro-voice tube seems optimized to the amp. I think it was $320 with the built-in Grace DAC.
     
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  21. Dr. J.

    Dr. J. Forum Resident

    Location:
    Memphis, TN
    Thanks! Did know that one. Have you heard it?
     
  22. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Is this particular Massdrop still underway, or has this one ended already?
     
  23. adamos

    adamos Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia
    That’s good to know. I’ve been reading about that one, but then also I saw their recent THX AAA 789 (which is solid state) getting lots of love. It’s not currently available though so I was trying to decide if I should wait for its next drop or explore other options. The research can be a bit daunting.
     
  24. adamos

    adamos Forum Resident

    Location:
    Philadelphia
    It’s currently available - they are doing a new drop for it each day. I ordered a pair a week or so ago and they’ve just arrived.
     
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  25. The Cavalli CTH and the THX AAA amp (either the Massdrop version or the Monoprice version) are going to be very different sounding amps. If you have experience listening to different headphone amps of different designs and different sound signatures there should be little confusion about figuring out which one you are more likely to prefer based on available reviews. If you can't decide which one(s) you're likely to prefer then you need to audition some different types and styles of headphone amps so you can get a basis for comparison. Otherwise trying to make decisions based on reading reviews will only lead to more confusion and indecision rather than answers.
     
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