Open back headphones for 200$

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Backlawa, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. Backlawa

    Backlawa New Member Thread Starter

    hi , I'm new here and I want to get to upgrade to better headphones , currently I'm undecided between the hifiman he4xx , sennheiser hd6xx and the beyerdynamic dt990 pro , I'm currently not planning on purchasing an amp , I'm a heavy user , mainly watching very HQ media on my phone and laptop for long periods of time , I currently have closed back headphones , I have never listened to open back ones , I care mainly about the sound , and the like 10% about comfort , but I'll prefer headphones that sound the best rather than the most comfortable. thanks in advance.(btw , I'm from Israel).
  2. All those headphones kinda need an additional amp to get enough power to work well. Unless your laptop and phone have some heroic internal headphone amps (most laptops and phones don't).

    If you're going to be running without an amp then I'd suggest looking at the Massdrop made Sennheiser HD58x Jubilee instead. The HD58x is 150 ohms instead of the 300 ohm HD6xx. The HD58x will work better from phones and laptops than the HD6xx or the HiFiMan or the Beyer. Still not ideal to run it from a source like that without and amp, but it will do better than your other alternatives. The HD58x Jubilee is $150 on Massdrop.
  3. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Forum Resident

    Dallas, Texas
    I’m sort of interested in the AKG K245 for similar purposes.
  4. head_unit

    head_unit Forum Resident

    Los Angeles CA USA
    Headphones are very interactive with the physical shape of your ears, and the output impedance of the player. It is correct that high impedance headphones may not be driven very loud-phones and laptops generally have at most 2 volts output. Amplifiers may not necessarily have more than that; you have to read the specs carefully.
    --> You CANNOT buy just from recommendations, you MUST listen for yourself on your own devices
    --> Buy with an easy return policy.
    guy. likes this.
  5. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    Owning both the Senn HD600 and Beyer DT-880 600 Ohm versions, I would be hard pressed to get rid of either! The Senns I got for $229 US, and the Beyers I literally stole at $169. Both were bought new.

    You mention some great phones there... IMHO you are in the "can't go wrong" territory with the Senn or Beyer in this budget range. Of course, as was already mentioned, listening will be your best test... like anything audio your ears are the final choice!
    Yost likes this.
  6. Jim0830

    Jim0830 Forum Resident

    I will throw out a suggestion that will break the budget a bit, but possibly get you a great set of headphones that originally went for $699.00.

    AudioQuest is getting out of the headphone business and "while supplies last" the AQ Nighthawk Carbons Have been reduced in price to $299.00. I own the closed back version of these, the NightOwl Carbons and I just bought a second pair last month at the reduced price.

    There are some definite plusses and minuses here for you to consider.

    + These are the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn. Period, bar none. I have worn mine for 5 or 6 hours. You hardly realize they are there.
    +/-Their sound is different. While I came to love it, it is not for everyone. When I first tried them I was amazed by the comfort. The sound, not so much. They didn't sound bad, but they sounded somewhat subdued. I kept trying other headphones in the $500-$800 price range and I kept coming back to the NightOwl Carbons. Over time I realized the sound was all there, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. The sound was just very neutral so nothing jumped out at you.
    +/-AQ says they do need a break in period of 150 hours, but for me they sounded good out of the box and I don't notice a huge improvement. YMMV. You won't get 150 hours in on these before any return period ends.
    +/-You should actually listen to any headphone with your music on your system. Or at least with your own two ears at a local dealer. Where these have been on clearance for several months now, you may be hard pressed to find a local AQ dealer who has them available to listen to. You may have to get them through Amazon or some other internet vendor which may give you only 7 days to try them.
    - Long term you may be running a risk in terms of getting them repaired should you have problems.

    The NightHawks are the open version of these phones. The NightOwls are the closed back. I tried the NightHawks and I did like the NightOwls better for my taste, but I would not have been disappointed with the NightHawks. There were differences, but both had excellent sound. In fact when I bought my second pair in January, I would have picked up the NightHawks if I could get the closed back model.

    Sorry to spend more of your money than you wished, but this could be a great bargain if you can live with the higher price and the clearance aspect of buying these phones now.
    BD2665 likes this.
  7. JCM

    JCM Forum Resident

    Columbus, Ohio
    wbass, TimB and McGuy like this.
  8. rp600m

    rp600m Well-Known Member

    I just purchased the Grado 225 e and like them, but a listen more to my cell phone using the Bose Soundsport Bluetooth ear buds. Bluetooth ear muffs or ear buds are taking over this industry. Free YouTube music sounds awesome through Bluetooth ear buds or head phones.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
    TimB likes this.
  9. timind

    timind Don't blame me

    Westfield, IN USA
    I've owned the Hifiman 400i, Senn HD650, Beyerdynamic DT990 pro, and DT990 premium. I kept the 990 premiums as I fell they have the most natural presentation. The least favorite were the DT990 pros. The pros were the most irritating of the 4.

    A bonus for me is I find the Beyers the most comfortable. I have a lot of hours on mine.
  10. Are the AudioQuest headphones efficient enough to be able to play them plugged directly in a laptop or phone? They do have a low impedance, but the efficiency looks too inefficient for good results plugging directly into a laptop or phone.

    I need to buy a NightHawk for myself before they're gone. I've always been curious about the price has been too high to get just to try. Now the price is lower.
  11. james

    james Forum Resident

    I like my old Grado 125s through “normal” headphone jacks.

    Edit: I suppose they’re not super comfortable for extended listening sessions
  12. BD2665

    BD2665 Forum Resident

    I'll agree with Jim by saying the AQ Nighthawks and Nightowls are really good headphones. Yes they do sound different by presenting a more speaker like sound and yes they are the most comfortable cans out there. In short they just make you want to listen and are never fatiguing .

    I also have the HD6xx and Grado SR. 80's and I like the AQ's much more and they work easily with your phone or iPad but also respond to external amplification very nicely.
  13. Mortsnets

    Mortsnets Forum Resident

    I'm using the AQ Nighthawk Carbon ($299) with Monoprice Cavalli Liquid Spark amp ($100) and the combo sounds really good. Massdrop/Sennheiser HD58X Jubilee are also very good but the Nighthawks are outstanding and different from other headphones I've heard. Like BD2665 said in some ways the remind me of speakers.
  14. Jim0830

    Jim0830 Forum Resident

    It was never a question of volume (or lack of) with my particular gear. They played fine through my MacBook Pro 15 via a USB C to Stereo Mini Jack. But they had intermittent audio with clicking noises through my iPhone X and now Xs. This initially was not a problem for me because I had Etymotic noise cancelling earphones for mobile use. But the more I used the AQ's, the more I wanted to use them everywhere. At least around the house. So I picked up the AQ Dragonfly Red and they work fine through the iPhone X or Xs.
  15. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    I recently bought the Massdrop/Sennheiser HD-6xx ($199), and they are absolutely delightful: detailed, tonally accurate, non-fatiguing, good bass, and very comfortable. Highly recommended! I haven't yet tried them with my MacBook or iPhone, but they work very well with a modest $40 Nobsound hybrid tube/ss headphone amp.

    I also have a pair of older Grado SR80i's that I have done a few mods to, and they have always worked very well with my MacBook. They're not especially comfortable though.
    TimB and JCM like this.
  16. I just ordered a NightHawk Carbon from MusicDirect. So I'll find out how they do soon.
    The measurements over at InnerFidelity for the original NightHawk say that it takes 1.04 mW to play 90 dB. That's a lot of mW for a 25 ohm headphone to reach 90 dB in that test. A good portable friendly 25 ohm headphone would be in the 0.2 mW range. That makes me suspect that they will do better with an amp than trying to play from a phone.

    I have plenty of other headphones. I don't need the NightHawk to be neutral. I have other headphones for when I want neutral. I also don't need it to be portable friendly (though I will try it with my PonoPlayer). I'm curious how well the NightHawk presentation works with various types of music and also how that presentation affects the sense of headphone soundstage.
    John Buchanan likes this.
  17. I'm glad to hear this. And very interested to hear your thoughts in detail. The square wave and bottom end responses look remarkable.
  18. Mike34260

    Mike34260 Forum Resident

    Toledo, Ohio
    I can also vouch for the Nighthawks. I recently purchased a slightly used (practically new pair) out of curiosity since they are so cheap now. I have arguably too many headphones (HD 600, HE 400i, DT 770, SHP 9500, SR 60, etc...) so it's not my first rodeo :) They are extremely comfortable, in the same league as the glorious Philips SHP 9500. Some people have stated the tuning is not to their tastes, but I personally think they sound great! They are considered a "dark" headphone but I think they are nice and lively. Sure they tend to be on the warmer side, but the sound signature is perfectly non fatiguing. A big thumbs up from me! :righton:
  19. I got the NightHawk's yesterday. Here's my initial impressions and thoughts. They're new and haven't had any break-in. Reviews say they get better with break-in.

    First thing I do with any new headphone I buy is play an album by Pink Floyd as the first thing I hear from the new headphones. It's become a ritual for me. For the NightHawks I picked The Division Bell (24/96 mastering). Was listening and got goosebumps. A very good sign that the headphones are doing some very good things. My impressions and expectations for the NightHawks were off to a very good start. (I was listening to the NightHawks with a Cavalli Liquid Platinum, balanced headphone cables, and Schiit Modi multibit DAC)

    The NightHawks have an out-of-the-head style of sound. The style of presentation that I would call enveloping. It surrounds your head like your head is in a bubble of sound. The ear cups disappear and the sound seems to come from beyond the confines of the headphones. Sounds at the sides are beyond the sides of the headphones. Sounds in the center are out there in from of your forehead. There are no blobs of sound inside your head like with typical headphones. And all this without crossfeed or special amps. The NightHawks do this from every source I tried. Laptop, phone, chromebook, PonoPlayer, and Liquid Platinum. The Liquid Platinum and PonoPlayer I expect to be able to get good headphones to do that sort of out-of-your-head style sound because that is part of the sound style of the amps and why I like those amps. But the sources like my laptop and phone are sources that have a flat and inside-your-head style of sound with all of my other headphones. But with the NightHawks even the laptop was able to get the headphones to do an out-of-your-head style of sound. Really neat and something that makes the soundstyle presentation of the NightHawks unique.

    Tonally the NightHawks are wrong. The sound is odd. It does not sound right even after listening to them for hours hoping that the brain will adapt. I'm used to listening to headphones that have a softened treble. Like the LCD-2. And I'm still unable to adjust to the NightHawks sound signature. The big tell is listening to voice with them. I've been listening to YouTube videos of people doing interviews and general conversation. And none of the voices sound normal. We know instinctively what normal voices sound like. No voice has sounded normal. Male voices are off, but female voices are even more off. Listening to YouTube video of people just conversing is just disoriently wrong. Tonally wrong to the point that it is disorienting both tonally and spatially.

    Here's where things get interesting. Switch to listening to binaural recording and suddenly voices sound much more normal. More normal both tonally and spatially. It's as if the NightHawk sound signature was designed to sound correct with binarual recordings at the expense of regular recordings. The change in how the NightHawks sound when listening to binaural recordings vs. regular recordings is mind blowing. I don't understand how that can be.

    I listened to the virtual barber shop binaural recording with the NightHawks and oh my god. Wow! This headphone does binaural really well. After that I tried the binaural music recordings I have and wow! Then went to YouTube to try the various binaural audio recordings (not binaural beats, binural beats are not binaural audio) and wow! The NightHawks get binaural recordings to sound like you are there in the room and the environment. The experience completely escapes the headphones. It's like you're in the room where the recording is being made. My Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-2 Classic headphones do binaural very well, but still have a sound that is too close in, a sound that keeps reminding you that you're listening to binaural on headphones. The NightHawks are able to play binaural in a way that much better gets you to forget the headphones are there. The one area where the NightHawks didn't do binaural very very well was in sounds that go over the top of the head. Like in the virtual barber shop recording where the scissors go over the top of your head. That part of the binarual experience didn't quite work as well as it should, though it still kinda worked. So the weakness for the NightHawks with binaural may be in doing height positioning. But it's horizontal positioning in the room is just amazing.

    What I find fascinating about the NightHawks is in exploring what is it in their sound signature and style that gets them to do binaural so well. They sound so weird with many regular stereo recordings and then sound so right with binaural recordings. What is going on?

    With regular stereo recordings the NightHawks are mixed. There are some recordings the headphones work well with and others that are wrong and some just a disaster. I tried listening to My Bloody Valentine "Loveless" and it was like listening to music while drunk and stoned. The sound was disorienting and unlike I've ever heard Loveless sound like before. Weird. It was the audio equivalent of going into a house of mirrors at a carnival show. Weird.

    The NightHawks have a bass bloom at some frequencies. And then the midrange starts to roll off and continue to roll off into the treble. All that combined with its unusual out-of-the-head presentation makes for some weird spatial listening illusions like you're listening in a space that isn't real. Like you're listening in a house of mirrors. It is weird both tonally and spatially.

    I'm very used to listening to an out-of-your-head style of headphone sound. My Cavalli headphone amps (Liquid Fire, Liquid Glass, Liquid Platinum) combined with the Audeze LCD-2 Classic all do an out-of-your-head style of sound. Even being used to that style of sound I'm still weirded out by the way the NightHawks do their out-of-your-head style of sound. The way the Cavalli amps and LCD-2C do the out-of-your-head style of sound has never weirded me out. Always sounds proper to me. But the NightHawks...

    I'm not sure yet what quite to make of the NightHawks for regular stereo recordings. But for binaural recordings I'm absolutely fascinated with them.

    I haven't heard the NightOwl version yet. I'm curious if the NightOwl corrects some of the wierdness I hear with the NightHawks. Some of the reviews indicate they may. I don't want to splurge on buying them just to find out. Buying the NightHawks was already a splurge just to satisfy some of my curiosity. Buying the NightOwl would strain my audio curiosity budget.
    james and Rubberpigg like this.
  20. Mortsnets

    Mortsnets Forum Resident

    Which pads are you using, I prefer the suede to the pleather.
  21. Thanks for the review, HS. As I'm used to running the Stax with the Diffuse Field Equalizer of the Stax SRM Monitor engaged, it may not sound too weird to me.
  22. I've only tried the NightHawks with the pleather pads. Haven't yet tried switching pads.
  23. I haven't heard any Stax with the diffuse field equalizer. So I don't know how that sound compares.

    I suspect that you'd still find the NightHawk sound style kinda weird.

    If you have an interest in exploring binaural and what kinds of equalization help get binaural to work better then the NightHawks would certainly be interesting and useful to try. Or possibly the NightOwls. I haven't heard the NightOwls so I don't know if they have the same or similar effect with binaural recordings.
  24. guy.

    guy. Active Member

    I like the Grado sr80/Allessandro ms1. Easy to drive, quite "ballsy"/dynamic - more comfortable with Sennheiser yellow foam pads rather than Grado pads.

    I don't know if it works the same way in Israel, but for some reason the Allessandro (modified? Grado badge job?) are cheaper in the UK than the equivalent Grado model.
  25. Yost

    Yost Always Wondered How Other People Did This

    +1 for the Beyer Dynamic DT880. The best sounding headphones I have ever heard for a very reasonable price.

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