Recommendations wanted for alternative headphone 'sound'

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by signothetimes53, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. signothetimes53

    signothetimes53 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Burlington VT USA
    I am looking for recommendations for an alternative to my Sennheiser-based headphones experience, in order to broaden my listening experiences. I really like what I already have, and I'll be keeping my Senns, but I'd like to add a 3rd option. I'm mostly looking for different headphones, likely, but I'm also likely looking for an amp that pairs well with the new cans.

    Here's what I have now, and how they are aligned with amp and audio source:

    Sennheiser HD800S/Schiit Mjolnir 2, stock tubes/Oppo 105D

    Sennheiser HD600/Sennheiser HDVA600/Marantz SA8004

    My guess is that I'd like something that has a warmer sound than the Senns, but perhaps someone here more learned than me can offer some suggestions. I don't see my needs including an amp/DAC combo, as I am firmly tied to physical media, though perhaps someone will tell me otherwise. I don't have the budget to spend crazy money (above $5K), and would be thrilled if I could get something really nice around $2K in a headphones/amp combo buy.

    And again, I'm not looking to ditch what I already have, I like them a lot...just looking for a different sound, sonic variety is the spice of life.

    Thank you in advance.
  2. signothetimes53

    signothetimes53 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Burlington VT USA
    Bueller? Bueller? :laugh:
  3. For what you're after, I'd suggest a look at ZMF Headphones. I haven't heard any of his dynamic headphones. I heard some older versions of his planar headphones a couple years ago at a meet. I don't know which specific current ZMF headphones to recommend. I did get to talk to Zach at the meet. His sound quality preferences and system synergy preferences match my own.

    Here's how he describes the general sound in his FAQ:
    The ZMF sound is known as a synergy between analytical and musical, with an uncanny ability to present detail without losing organic enjoyable attributes. With our headphones you'll never miss a detail, and your ears will never be fatigued.​

    He likes tube amps, multibit DACs, and a headphone sound that is musical and isn't harsh. The type of sound that I like and that I find I can listen to for hours. He's someone who I could have build up a headphone system for me and I'm confident I'd like it a lot. I've got the itch for some new headphones next year. I've got the ZMF Auteur on my list. I haven't heard them yet.
    signothetimes53 likes this.
  4. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    I'm noticing that the more expensive the components are, the prettier the ad copy is. I haven't really had anywhere nearby to go to audition unconventional sets of cans since Best Buy became the only option in town that offered anything more than neon-colored earbuds. I've been using AKG's for air studio and Sonys for all else for so long, it would take more than half my remaining lifetime to grow to appreciate what a $2K set of phones can do...hell, I don't even recognize the brands these days.

    But yes, I'd love to spend an afternoon auditioning a good collection of modern headphones. If nothing else, so I could see how far it's come since my go-to choices were preferred picks. Don't see that happening around here though, in the rarified air of the finest Wal*Mart, Target and K-Mart have to offer.

    Gotta say though, when you have your choice of models signified by the veneer of the wood covering the back of the earcup...yeah, they know what you're willing to pay for. The meaningless applications of "synergy", "analytical", "musical", or "organic enjoyable attributes" masquerading as valid descriptive terms in the literature, however, can be savored at no extra charge.
    signothetimes53 likes this.
  5. signothetimes53

    signothetimes53 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Burlington VT USA
    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate it.

    I don't have much opportunity to audition headphones in advance, Boston is a 4 hours drive from my house, and personal circumstances make it difficult to find the time to make that trip right now. But I definitely do not want headphones and/or an amp that mimic what I already have, that would be pointless. Musically, I have very broad tastes, from rock to jazz to classical to blues to country, and a bunch in between. I have lots of SACDs, too. I don't need the new headphones to be the perfect complement to everything, but I would like them to fill in the sonic gaps that the Sennheisers haven't filled.

    Again, thanks for the input.
  6. BD2665

    BD2665 Forum Resident

    I have the Senn 6XX and the Audioquest Nighthawks and the two compliment each other very well. I do prefer the NH but both are nice and yet very different. The original wood NH's can be had for I think half their original cost of $700 so you can experiment for a small investment. The NH's are the most comfortable phones I've tried.
  7. TimB

    TimB Tube be or not Tube be?

    Galion, Ohio USA
    Koss ESP-950 Electrostatics. Hard to beat, I have had mine for 25 years, I have other headphones and amps, but nothing superseded the Koss.
    The FRiNgE likes this.
  8. Olias of Sunhill

    Olias of Sunhill Forum Resident

    Jim Creek, CO, USA
    My initial reaction is that the HD800S/Mjolnir 2 combination is far from ideal. Even with tubes, the Mjolnir tends towards dry and clinical, which does not represent ideal synergy with the Sennheisers. I might suggest a different tube amp to pair with your HD800s... perhaps something like an Ampsandsound Kenzie, a Woo Audio WA2 or WA7 Fireflies (which has its own DAC), or something by Eddie Current, if you can locate one used.

    But by all means, don't ditch that Mjolnir. Use it to drive your new, warmer cans, like Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow (open or closed) or Audez'e LCD-2C (a great value).
    signothetimes53 likes this.
  9. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    LCD-2’s remain enjoyable.
  10. ZenMango

    ZenMango Forum Resident

    If it were me the obvious alternative is to go with a set of planar magnetic headphones. Lots of quality offerings from Audeze, Hifiman, and Mr Speakers. A ton of reviews on YouTube from folks like Zeos, etc.
  11. signothetimes53

    signothetimes53 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Burlington VT USA
    Your observation about the 'dry' sound of this combo is spot on. I actually like that sound, especially when I'm listening for detail on some recordings that don't need more warmth.

    I bought the Mjolnir 2 hybrid to dabble my toes in tubes, and I'm happy with the amp....but what my experience, and your observation confirms, is that I need to jump into the pool deeper to get the sound I occasionally want. Thanks for your thoughts, your observation about matching amps with headphones is especially helpful.
    Olias of Sunhill likes this.
  12. beercanchicken

    beercanchicken Legendary Stickman

    a lot of people say the Audioquest Nighthawk offer a "different" headphone sound. I'd try those or some sort of planar magnetics like HiFi Man (though planars don't play well with tubes)
  13. FritzL

    FritzL Adrift & Dumbfounded

    Costa Mesa, CA
    "Sennheiser HD800S/Schiit Mjolnir 2, stock tubes/Oppo 105D"

    Could you tell me what inputs/outputs you use on the Oppo 105D? I didn't realize that was possible. Thx.
  14. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    Headphones are for me a source of both enjoyment and frustration. I like swapping and trying new combinations and I always think that in the end, these are all compromises when compared to a set of good speakers.

    It's hard to suggest "something different"to someone who has a set of HD600 and is enjoying them. I know, because I tried and I reached my own personal conclusion that I like the "Sennheiser sound and that the shape of my head is very compatible with the HD600 design. "Perhaps what you can try are different headphone amps, I heard a lot of good things about Cavalli Audio. They closed shop in 2017 but I'm sure there is still new stock available for sale.
  15. signothetimes53

    signothetimes53 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Burlington VT USA
    I'm using the balanced XLR outs from the Oppo directly to the Schiit Mjolnir 2.
  16. FritzL

    FritzL Adrift & Dumbfounded

    Costa Mesa, CA
    Thank you very much.
  17. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

  18. signothetimes53

    signothetimes53 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Burlington VT USA
    Can Stax can be done under $5K (my self-defined 'crazy money' limit)?

    I am strongly leaning to Ham Sandwich's suggestion of ZMF headphones. Just have to figure out what amp to pair it with. I'm thinking of peeling my Schiit Mjolnir 2 hybrid amp off the Sennheiser HD800S phones I already have for use with the ZMF....and then finding something from Woo to pair with the Senns....does that make sense?
  19. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

  20. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident

    Instead of getting new headphones, maybe consider something like this from miniDSP: HA-DSP / A portable DSP Headphone Amplifier

    With this device, you can experiment with all kinds of eq and crosstalk. Endless possibilities and relatively cheap.
  21. luckybaer

    luckybaer Forum Resident

    HD650? Warm. Resolving. Comfortable. Affordable. Scales with more expensive equipment.

    Wouldn't be too much of a big change from a fit and comfort standpoint since you already have the HD600 and HD800.
  22. brockgaw

    brockgaw Forum Resident

    I have a Schiit Lyr 1 with Genelex tubes powering a pair of Senn HD600 phones. Found AKG K702 and Grado Prestige 325s too bright. Keeping the HD600s for now. Looking at HiFiMan and other planars but am in no hurry. YMMV.

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