Any suggestions for headphone testing?

Looking to get a serious set of headphones & headphone amp & struggling to find anywhere local(ish) to compare different brands.
Currently have Sennheiser so looking at the HD820 & HDV820, but fancy hearing the Focal Stella & Arche, can’t find anywhere in the North West that has both in stock to listen to. Any ideas?

Regarding headphone amplifiers, Graham Slee provides a home trial scheme for all of his products.
All you need to do is join the Forum and then contact the administrator with what product you wish to try. All you pay is postage to your door.
His HP amps are fantastic.

I believe the Arche is discontinued so you may need to search for any dealer that still has stock if you’re interested……or maybe get an Atom HE instead!

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Agree with @ChrisSU there. Try out the Atom
HE. Goes very well with Focal.

I picked up an HE and Stellias today (have to go for a closed back). They’re both burning in at the moment and it’s obviously early days, but I’m pretty impressed so far. Online there’s a fair bit of speculation about how close the Celestee is to the Stellia, but they’re really not close. Both preferable in my opinion to the Audeze closed back.

I’m not a Sennheiser fan any more though I’ve owned a few right back from the days of the 412. I’d recommend trying to audition some of the big wood Grados, though, and - on the strength of these Stellias, the Utopia or Clear Mg amongst opens. If you like smooth and detailed and aren’t big on bass, visceral texture or PRaT, the Stax might please as well, but I’ve always found them disappointing.

Thanks everyone.
To put in context I already have an NDX/XPS2, 52/SC, 135s, SBLs & would like a dedicated Headphone Amp & Headphones to listen when the boss wants quiet :wink:
My dilemma is finding somewhere that will demo the Sennheiser & Focals in the North West of England.
It’s like finding hens teeth!

So, would a Supercap be overkill for a Headline? Just thinking!

A Supercap on a Headline is very, very nice. Expensive, yes, but not overkill if you want to get the very best possible from a Headline.

Thanks Richard, good to know.

Just repeating what Richard said. The Supercap and Headline are a tremendous combination, with greater ease, authority, texture… well, everything.


It is difficult to find a dealer that is able to demo a wide range of audiophile headphones with a range of different headphone amps. I am afraid you may have to travel. I did - but not as far as you might have to!

Try Hifi Lounge near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. The owner is very relaxed about you sitting in a very comfortable dedicated headphone room for as long as you like. I sat there for 4 hours back and forth between some high end headphones before making up my mind. He has a wide range of brands - Sennheisser, Focal, Audeze, Stax, Meze, Beyerdynamics and others - see their website.

It’s all about your budget, and your preference for what type of presentation you like in the sound, and whether you find the headphones comfortable.

Happy auditioning!

Hi Lerxxst, I recently bought a pair of Focal ‘Celestee’ from Richer sounds, they left me to compare them to any phone that I fancied, ironically I did compare them to a set from Sennheiser’s, always been a fan of that brand too, have you got an R S close by?

Thanks for the info - unfortunately Bedfordshire is a bit of a trek from Cumbria :wink:

Yes, I’ve managed to get RS in Manchester to organise a demo of the Stellia/Arche & HD820/HDV820. Just awaiting confirmation & a date.

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So, I managed to demo the HD820s & Stellia’s through the HDV820 amp at Richer Sounds in Manchester. The manager - Paul - very kindly brought his own Stellia’s in since they’re like hens teeth to find apparently - thought that was very nice of him.
Spent a good two hours going back & forth. Decided the Sennheisers weren’t for me. Very analytical but lacking “music”. Whereas the Stellia’s just played music.
And yet I just couldn’t justify the £4800 for them + the Arche. Even I sometimes consider the £ notes (Mrs L. doesn’t think so!)
Paul suggested trying the Celestee & offered a buy & try option - buy it & get two weeks to try - return if not happy.
So two weeks on I’ve took the jump & also found a decent Headline 2 & Hi-Cap to go with them. Very impressed. Comfortable for long periods & stunning sound. Only thing I’m missing is a remote control for the Headline!
If I find myself using them enough I’ll get a Supercap for the Headline.

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