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Semi-OT: Headphones recommendation


MAJUSCULE

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I need a new set of cans. I want to spend 60$-120$ but I can stretch to 150$. I'll be using them mostly for iPod/CD player/laptop use, but once I have the cash for my Mopho KB and Reason 6, I'll be using it for that too. I don't think there should be a big difference in quality between brands at this price point, but what do I know? Anyway, over-ears, preferably passive noise-cancelling, unless someone proves me otherwise. As durable as possible, please. I'd like them to last two years minimum. Is that too much to ask in this day and age?
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I'm still using my old AKG K240 'phones.

http://www.akg.com/mediendatenbank2/pspic/image/7/image1079364422_k240monito4055cb46d611f.jpg

 

 

Prior to that I had the KOSS PRO 4 AA. Heavy - but they sounded great - until your head hit the floor and you passed out.

 

http://www.doebbe.com/hifi/pics/pro4aaf.jpg

 

But I digress... That was college.

 

:cool:

 

(And before you say it, Forceman, it IS funny that I remember it.) :laugh:

 

Tom

 

"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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Prior to that I had the KOSS PRO 4 AA. Heavy - but they sounded great - until your head hit the floor and you passed out.

I still use my PRO 4AA headphones. They still sound great but they are so damn heavy. Also got mine in college. Are we related?????

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I'm still using my old AKG K240 'phones.

http://www.akg.com/mediendatenbank2/pspic/image/7/image1079364422_k240monito4055cb46d611f.jpg

 

Me too. They were a gift from my wife a long time ago. Since then, she hasn't bought me anything for my studio.

 

Maybe I should mention the Kronos again... :laugh:

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Those AKGs are probably the way to go. Know that however good your headphones are, they will never been an all in one solution for producing/mixing. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get the bass right or the stereo field balanced properly with headphones. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough though.

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Those AKGs are probably the way to go. Know that however good your headphones are, they will never been an all in one solution for producing/mixing. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get the bass right or the stereo field balanced properly with headphones. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough though.

 

You're right, there just seems to be something about headphones that makes mixing judgements very difficult. I've used headphones exclusively for over twenty years - currently using AKG 240 and K701 - love them, and still mixing is a real struggle compared to loudspeakers. The bassist on the "Rainbow Rising" album once told me he was unhappy with how bass-light the album was, which he attributed to the producer's decision to mix the record on headphones, so it seems even the big boys are not immune to the problems.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. - W. C. Fields

 

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I still use my rare AKG K340 electrostatics I bought in '83 and will never part with them. The only downside is that they need a lot of juice to sound their best.

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I'm still using my old AKG K240 'phones.

http://www.akg.com/mediendatenbank2/pspic/image/7/image1079364422_k240monito4055cb46d611f.jpg

 

excellent headphones indeed, very light and comfortable.

I have also sony MD 7506, I'd say even better.

 

I have both, and I agree with regard to preferring the Sony headphones.

 

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Probably on the upper side of the mentioned budget, in euros IIRC there are the AKG K271 and the same "mark 2" and I think there is a cheaper version without the automatic off-switch which are supposedly pretty neutral. Of course there are headphone sound-field issues, but I can compare them to my 3 way multi-amped 5-way monitors quite well which I like.

 

Of course every room (my current listening room has more than a bit damping in it, but still) will add reverberation and *major* low/mid-low-end reflected and resonating waves to any monitor sound. For every normal human being that is natural, and this is always there and always missing on headphones.

 

Also, most monitoring systems, and most likely (but not certain) everything short of big, expensive and pro monitors will have issues with bass reflex and distorted-low sounds, which a lot of people are used to, play at and even think about as desirable. *IF* your headphone produces low which compares to that, you may at first like it better because it all by itself makes your rompler (for instance) sound like it is connected to a bass amp in some space, BUT in the longer run that is making you tired of the headphones because they always sound the same. And it is very unlikely that the monitoring effect of such bass-enhancing phones is a good representation of a normal monitoring sound, i.e. it probably doesn't make a good comparison between various types of neutral and less neutral sounding speakers in lets say a living room or a live performance space.

 

To get the right impression, neutral headphones would have to be given a signal which for instance is recorded from good monitors in an adequately damped space, and then at the same volume, like you take good mics, put them at the monitoring spot you use, put on the music, and listen through a good headphone amp to the mic sound, while maybe taking the phones to another quiet space, so that you know whether the phones are neutral. That's the hardest test.

 

Once that works, you could add natural reverberation effects (use preferably no impulse responses for that) on the phones with the dry material, to get the natural bass feel of an "average listening space", and make sure you also use the same volume as the mix is going to be used at: no more and no less (because of the loudness curve effects), and try the result out on various speakers. That can work.

 

Finally there's a lot messed up about a lot of CDs (at least here in Holland) which includes a sort of "in you head" sound emphasis, which even synths suffer from, and which you should not blame headphones for. And of course there is the, I suppose, well known "binaural effect" which comes from using headphones for a stereo mix instead of equal-sided-triangle speaker setups where both ears can hear both speakers with some delay around the head. There are sound processing programs to imitate and inverse this effect.

 

Anything beyond these considerations probably becomes complicated pro stuff quickly (like stereo sweeps and stereo-separation distortion build into the masters, mid range resonances like the Queen "can-sound" example, loudness curve-widening mixes/effects, Lexicon effects working with these, etc.).

 

Honestly I used a low budget (like $50 or so) "open" Sennheiser headphone which was foldable for easy transportation, and that works fine, too, but bass mixing, no that doesn't get far enough!

 

Theo

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Those AKGs are probably the way to go. Know that however good your headphones are, they will never been an all in one solution for producing/mixing. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get the bass right or the stereo field balanced properly with headphones. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough though.

 

You're right, there just seems to be something about headphones that makes mixing judgements very difficult. I've used headphones exclusively for over twenty years - currently using AKG 240 and K701 - love them, and still mixing is a real struggle compared to loudspeakers.

 

that is pretty understandable to me because loudspeakers are more spread so it's easier notice panning differences.

Besides AKG240 are semi open so maybe not ideal for mixing.

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The flattest version of the AKG240 was the AKG K240 DF which have unfortunately been discontinued. As I understand it, the newer versions were designed to play louder and be slightly more "pleasing" (i.e. not as neutral).

 

I still use my AKG 240 DFs, but I'm also very happy with my Denon AH-D2000 which are sealed-back. In fact, that's what I mostly use, these days.

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The flattest version of the AKG240 was the AKG K240 DF which have unfortunately been discontinued. As I understand it, the newer versions were designed to play louder and be slightly more "pleasing" (i.e. not as neutral).

 

I can confirm that. The K240DF's were my phones of choice for years. After they were discontinued and my last pair broke, I got the revised K240's. "Slightly" is a real understatement, the low mids and bass are hugely exaggerated, to the point were they are IMO not usable for serious monitoring work. Great for listening to rock if you like a real pumped-up sound. The new K240's were a real disappointment, but they did lead to me springing for the K701's so it all ended well.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. - W. C. Fields

 

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that is pretty understandable to me because loudspeakers are more spread so it's easier notice panning differences.

 

I have the opposite problem actually. With monitors, you're still going to hear a good amount of the Left speaker in your right ear, and the right speaker in your left ear. Thus both ears still hear things that are hard panned. But with headphones it is not so. If something's hard panned, you only hear it in one ear and it's incredibly distracting and not true to the way we really hear music.

 

I tried listening to the album 'Like Minds' (Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Pat Metheny) on headphones recently and had to stop 3 seconds in. The piano is panned hard left and the guitar is panned hard right. Unlistenable on headphones!

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

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The AKG's are OK but you can do better for the same price or less.

 

All of this has been covered in previous threads, if you can find them.

 

To summarize, if looking at closed cans:

 

Audio Technica ATH-M50

Beyerdynamic DT770-PRO -- 80 ohm version

 

Both are very transparent and comfortable, the Beyer being a higher-end model but not necessarily the best matched to every source, so comparing is always the best way.

 

Most pro audio shops have both models and they are the best sellers for a reason. The Sennheiser and AKG cans are less transparent but are loved by hi-fi listeners. A couple of higher-end AKG models are better balanced but are too expensive to discuss in the OP's context. The K240 was way more competitive ten to fifteen years ago (when I owned it) than now, but is an OK choice if you find one at steep bargain.

 

Open and semi-open cans are a whole different story. I get the impression from the postings so far that closed cans are the emphasis here in this discussion. Open cans automatically lose bass response, with the possible exception of Grado, but those aren't very ergonomic for studio use and can be dangerous due to being so close to the eardrum. Great sound though.

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I would prefer it to be like I recall from when as a teeager I was the proud owner of a Pioneer I think Se205: everybody loves good headphones,and they're more neutral than speakers.

 

The K271 I think was way under 200 euros, but that was the cheapest internet price. It has closed muffs (two types) and has that nice "studio sound" to it even when plugged into a portable CD player of some quality, and makes certain sampling issues nicely clear and allows good monitoring (I tested), I don't think it's a waste of money.

 

Of course, it depends on what you use it for, maybe contemporary ho-pop or (decent) variations of danceable tracks hae their own standards, but use a computer with a good neutral 96 or 192 DA converter (cheap nowadays) and possibly a good headphone amp (mine has extremely good specs and dc-coupling) and off you go.

 

Lots of issues of course: I tried the same headset on the phones output of a (fairly cheap) Lexicon Omega DA converter/mixer with popular CDs and it brought back the type of detail "zoom" I used to know from pop songs. Lots of fun.

Theo

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The AKG's are OK but you can do better for the same price or less.

 

All of this has been covered in previous threads, if you can find them.

 

To summarize, if looking at closed cans:

 

Audio Technica ATH-M50

Beyerdynamic DT770-PRO -- 80 ohm version

 

Both these models typically retail at about 50% higher than the AKGs in the UK, so here they're not really considered to be equivalents. I can see that in the US they are much closer in price to the AKGs and they would both be excellent choices.

 

But I admit I have a personal preference for semi-open cans, and I've found that in the studio, pretty much every singer I've ever recorded who hasn't got experience of using semi-open cans loves them and vibes off them - I'll trade a bit of spill for a better vocal performance any day.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. - W. C. Fields

 

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By far my favourite semi-opens so far are Beyerdynamic DT880 (there's a newer PRO version but it's hardly different). The singers I've been working with love them as well, but while tracking I usually switch to the Audio Technicas to avoid bleed into the mic.

 

I'm hoping to try the AKG 700-series cans sometime next year and maybe add those to my collection. I generally need four to six good pairs of cans for most sessions, and I like them all to be different, but generally in the transparent camp.

 

Sound On Sound had an EXCELLENT survey of headphones a year or so ago. Go to their website and read the in-depth reviews as they are quite detailed and honest.

 

In my view, closed cans are a closed case, as they're easier to judge and also harder to make well. With semi-open and open designs, there are so many more factors and it is harder if not impossible to say that there are two or three top recommendations. There are probably over a dozen pairs that are appropriate to one degree or another and that are affordable.

 

You can also read more reviews and specs as well as real world test results at headfi.org and another cans specialty site whose name slips my mind at the moment.

 

Too bad the UK prices are higher on AT and Beyer gear. They are quite affordable in the US and often go on steep sales (if you know where to shop).

 

There are several websites I recommend for such gear, but probably the most consistent one (when not hunting for time-sensitive sales) is BSW, which has been used for decades by the broadcasting industry (which is what the "B" stands for). Also great for mics, of course. But they're hardly my only source.

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Too bad the UK prices are higher on AT and Beyer gear. They are quite affordable in the US and often go on steep sales (if you know where to shop).

 

Don't get me started on what we pay for musical gear over here. Take a look sometime, but make sure you're sitting down and have strong liquor nearby.

 

I'm hoping to try the AKG 700-series cans sometime next year and maybe add those to my collection. I generally need four to six good pairs of cans for most sessions, and I like them all to be different, but generally in the transparent camp.

 

I have a pair of the K701s, and while I love them, they're not for everyone. If you like transparency, then certainly you should check them out, but be prepared to spend some time getting to love them. Ultimately, perhaps better suited for listening than studio work, and the spill really is horrendous. And yes, the bottom end does lack power, although it has depth and clarity - it was nice to actually hear bass lines instead of just presuming they were there somewhere. But they were streets ahead of anything I'd ever heard before. Maybe other manufacturers have played catchup since and they're not the giant-killers they used to be, but they were a revelation for hearing what's really going on, and are great for showing you what musicians are really doing on recordings. Your respect for fine musicians would go through the roof with these cans.

 

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. - W. C. Fields

 

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Oh, don't forget break-in time -- especially with those high-end AKG's. It's often mentioned that 100+ hours are required.

 

One thing I do with new cans is keep them plugged in even when using active monitors, to break them in faster.

 

Luckily I have separate level controls for the cans, so don't have to get annoyed at bleed into the room.

 

There are some recent releases since the SOS article that aren't covered there. I forget off-hand what they are, but my recollection is that Pioneer (mentioned in a recent reply) made a surprise reappearance recently in the Pro Audio world.

 

Oh, I also see that semi-open cans were probably of more interest than closed cans to the OP, even though most of the initial follow-up discussed closed cans.

 

So, I recommend visiting head-fi.org and will see if I can remember that other headphone website later on. They keep very up-to-date with new models and with pips to the specs of older models.

 

If anyone is interested in the Audio Technica cans, be careful when you buy them (just as with the Beyers and their two different impedance ratings), as the default now seems to be the telephone cable vs. the straight cable. Straight cables are preferred for audio reasons, but some like that the curly cables don't pull out as easily by mistake. I'll take the audio criteria. :-)

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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Oh, don't forget break-in time -- especially with those high-end AKG's. It's often mentioned that 100+ hours are required.

 

I'd always thought that this was just voodoo, but the K701s definitely improve vastly over time - they become richer, warmer and the bottom end starts to bloom and fill out. The bad news is that 100 hours is optimistic. Mine sounded really no different after 100 hours, and it wasn't until maybe 300-400 hundred hours that - fairly suddenly - they came alive. I have since noticed some reviews that seem to find the same thing.

 

Thanks for the general advice and places to check out - gonna have some fun catching up with what's current on the market.

Everybody's got to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer. - W. C. Fields

 

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