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need experienced advice: headphone and amp for reference
Old 14th July 2006
Here for the gear

need experienced advice: headphone and amp for reference

since i can't use my rokits at all times, i need some advice on headphones. i'm looking for the most accurate, flattest cans and have narrowed it down to two: sennheiser hd600 and grado rs-1. here's where i need some help:

- how much ear fatigue might i experience? i don't like really loud music and even plug my ears at movie theaters, esp during the thx announcement.
- how important is a headphone amp? since i don't like to listen to my music loudly and through a headphone, can i skip it?

i'm tempted to get the grado since it may not need an amp, but the hd600 seem to be reviewed as more flat and neutral. then i've heard of people being happy with their hd600 (and hd650) with their ipods without an amp. just trying to protect my delicate ears. i'll use it to reference, monitor and even mix... (oh, the horror, the horror...) thanks for the inputs.
Old 14th July 2006
Gear Nut
gtichy's Avatar

I was looking into this same topic, and the general consensus is that your budget should roughly be divided 50% cans, 50% amp. So, a $250 set of phones and a $250 amp will sound better that $500 phones. Here's and e-mail I sent to a writer for Stereophile on the subject.

"I am a regular reader of your Acousticville Column in Vintage Guitar, and I particularly enjoyed this month’s section discussing headphones. It came at a relevant time for me, because I just set up a “project” studio (who hasn’t) that I quickly found editing work with. My wife is pregnant, and can’t stand the racket, so I need to get a good set of headphones for the job. Obviously, ear fatigue is an issue, and I’d like to do some mixing as well. Can you recommend some good ‘phones? I see that Sennheiser HD-650’s sell on ebay new for $275, which is as high as I’d like to go. I also don’t know if I’d need a headphone amp for certain phones, which I’d like to avoid (my desk is cluttered…). I’d appreciate any help you could offer. I love good sound and hifi (I have lowthers and vintage mcintosh in my living room), but there isn’t a hifi shop around here for me to try anything out, and none of my hifi buddies use phones. I figured I’d ask an expert. Thanks for your time.

Hello Graham,

First off, comfort is a relative and personal thing. Some phones will be more comfortable for diffrent people.

Frankly given your tastes in gear, I'd include Grados in your search - the 125's are very good sounding, especially mated with a decent headphone amp. Yes I know you don't want clutter, but Grados with a basic headroom amp will cost about the same as the Sennheisers with no amp, and may give you better sound. You didn't mention waht you have available for driving the headphones, but it does matter.

If isolation is a real issue you should look at closed ear or in-ear phones. The Shure E-4 is used by some folks for on-location monitoring. Also the old standby is the Sony 7505, which run about $100.

There are many options, and unfortunately there is no substitute for trying them out in person.


For amps you should check out headroom amps.

Also check out Stax earspeakers.

or here's a good site
Old 14th July 2006
Here for the gear

gtichy. thanks for the input. i also hate having extra clutter and prefer a simple, streamlined workspace. i'm curious, what did you end up going with? were you able to find the perfect headphone or did you do the can-amp combo?
Old 15th July 2006
Lives for gear
T.RayBullard's Avatar

I have the HD600s, HD280s, and my own personal favorite out of any earphone, expensive or not, is the Etymotic ER-4. I use these for my own gig, Live CLassical Recording, and find them absolutely flat, and with perfect isolation.

Stax would be my 2nd choice..headphone amp===grace 902!
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