Headphones (or, why I hate this forum :0))

I don’t listen to my hifi through headphones.

But I do listen to music on the go (when we used to do such things) and recently have found that some of my listening doesn’t fit with Zoom calls in other parts of the house - not next room, but a bit away.

And then I read the headphones thread, and I’m thinking - ohh, nice gear…

So, where should a keen listener with a 552/500 system go?

As far as I can tell, closed back give quieter surroundings to others (little sound leakage out) and attenuate outside sounds coming in. Open backs leak more - someone said like a quiet speakerphone - and allow ambient noise in, but give a wider soundstage and more natural sound. Of course, I could well be wrong as all this is from what has been written, not what I’ve heard.

So, what sort of headphones make sense - I’m thinking that as keeping sound out or in isn’t the main point, open backed ones are likely to be better. But could I use those in bed if my wife was asleep next to me without getting bruised?

As for costs, budget is not inexhaustible, but I’d rather spend a little more now than have to upgrade quite soon… but they will never be the main source for listening. And I see I’ll have to use a headphone amp - they can be driven by the balanced outputs of the Rossini, but what would be a decent enough amp and headphones combo at a sensible price?

Finally, have seen the Massdrop x Sennheiser 6xx promo (revamped HD650’s) for $220 which seems good value (if they ship to UK) but would have to buy sight unseen (ears unheard?)

What else is a good combo? I also gather comfort is key so I need to try them. Happy with valve headphone amp but do have a valve setup elsewhere so whatever sounds fine. And how do people drive them if they need a setup upstairs too - Raspberry Pi into another headphone amp or Pi/Chord DAC/amp combo? (I have Roon…)

suggestions and approx costs welcomed. Used/ex-demo fine for value-for-money too…

The ‘show us your headphones’ thread is a good place to get some ideas.
I now use headphones as my main listening and went to a high-end combination of NDS, Violectric V281 (would take balanced from your Rossini) and Meze Audio Empyreans.
For closed back listening, mainly movies later at night, I use Meze Classic 99’s.


You hate this forum, yet post a new thread to it?

Unless you’re willing to go audition, you may have to trust reviews online and in these forums. And to compound that problem you have unlimited options in regards to headphones and amps. But if you’re looking for a “hifi” experience, I would suggest looking toward open-back headphones.

The Senns are good but I would IMO avoid buying them from Massdrop. They are just refashioned HD 600s and have little difference than the 600s you’d buy from the store. For better quality, check out the Senn HD 800s, which I think are end-game headphones. Senn will offer more detail and neutral sound. You might look at Focal’s offerings if you’re looking for a warmer, more musical sound (much akin to the Naim).

For amps, I love my Pathos Aurium, but that may be outside your budget. Schitt audio makes some decent amps, both solid-state and tube, that get good reviews and don’t break the budget. Good luck!

I think the stated ‘hate’ for the forum because it was the forum that created the interest in headphones and resultant challenges and decisions an dcost…


you seem to have missed the emoticon… maybe my irony missed the spot for you

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It did, but it’s all good! My bad.

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You will need closed back phones to avoid troubling a sleeping partner. The good news is that they are much better these days than a few years ago. I like the Dan Clark Aeon 2 closed, but others rate the Meze Classic 99 and Focsls.

I have Sennheiser hd800 phones too, but the hd820 closed cans were more than I wanted to spend. Many people have more than 1 pair of headphones!

Like MaxiMe, I use a Violectric V281 and Mezze Empyreans but its not portable. I use the unbalanced connection from my 552 and balanced out to the Empyreans. It’s a very good set up for my occasional use, when I don’t want to disturb my wife in another room. Being open backed they would be rather annoying for her if she were sat next to me.

I don’t have any specific recommendations but would seriously consider closed backed if bedroom listening is a priority. If your wife is a sound sleeper and you keep the volume down you might get away with open but closed backed would probably result in fewer bruises.

Open backs do obviously radiate sound, but having open and closed backs, if you want max performance I would definitely recommend open backs. I particularly like the Meze Empyreans with silver plated cable.
The magnetic / hybrid planars are phenomenal in my opinion, and can provide a wonderful natural and tight spectrum from a few Hz to above hearing.
Once getting top quality headphones and amplification, going back to most speakers does feel a retrograde step, so be warned.


having just spend what would otherwise have been a decent car on upgrading my hifi I might not go down the headphone route, just in case that was a mistake then :slight_smile:

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Very wise… :grinning:

But you still need Hi-Fi to drive headphones… it’s just the amps are somewhat different from what you might have for your speakers.

Plus one to this advice… I just posted there in support of a cool discussion on the Dan Clark Aeon 2 closed back, the RME ADI-2 DAC FS, and an RPi4 running RoPieee as a Roon endpoint. This is a hugely satisfying combo for me (and others) and each component is a high value entry at the low end of the high-price tier. Worth a look, if you’re not seeking another car-priced solution @xcentric

Regards alan

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I wondered… (I missed the emoticon because there isn’t one!)

I have bought a HD800 a few years ago. Since then, it has been laying unused in its box: after a few listening sessions, I have realized that I very much prefer to listen to music through the speakers and that the headphone out of the SN2 is not as good as I thought.

This spring we bought a digital piano. I plugged in my B&W P5 but my wife found it uncomfortable and we eventually rediscovered the HD800. Meanwhile, we use the HD800 every day to exercise piano playing. It is light, comfortable and open.

In retrospect, I would not buy a HD800 again. Not for the SN2 and certainly not for my piano playing! Still, for home, I would not want anything but over-ear, open headphones. In this category, the HD650 seems a very good proposition!

If you can get to a headphone specialist with a good choice of demo ‘phones I’d suggest doing that - I seem to recall HiFi Lounge in Biggleswade had a good selection when I visited 3 or 4 years ago.

The recent threads on here suggest that the best headphones may be able to bear speaker systems for sound quality - and of course without any of the hassle with room layout, and no need for room treatment - nor a need for a large room.

For a while I’ve been contemplating getting some headphones (proper hifi ones, rather than the Bose noise cancelling ones I use for travel now). But my interest has not been as a substitute for speakers because I like the feel of music Through seat and clothing etc whenever playing loud, and it is also possible for others to enjoy as well. Headphones would be for either keeping my wife company while she is watching TV or wanting to read in silence, while allowing me to listen to music - and my recent contemplation is driven by the thought that they’d double for portable use, e.g. if after retirement coronavirus lets us implement our plan of spending a few months a year in a motorhome discovering more of Europe. These factors dictate closed back. The best reviews I’ve seen for closed back have been for the Audeze LCD-XC. I had a brief audition a year ago when having some time to spare passing somewhere selling them, however that was only fed by my iPad: they sounded pretty good, And were quite comfortable - but need a proper trial - and compare with others.

I have both and have now added a dedicated Heed Canalot headphone amp with a linear power supply and run that off the NDX2/XPS DR and it’s very good and way beyond the SN2 headphone stage. The HD800’s really like a lot of grunt from a dedicated headphone setup.


Without relating to HiFi on headphones: some 5 years ago, I bought a pair of “standard” Sennheiser together - 1 closed, 1 open. (Some 150€ price range at the time, slightly discounted for some reason.)
I actually use(d) both - when traveling on the train, I packed the closed ones. (Usually I had open EarPods from Apple, e.g. while in traffic noise surroundings, where you should not shield yourself too much.) I then used them as well for working in an open office environment (and listening to music there). The closed ones are far from “noise cancelling”, but they do buffer some sound both ways. Today I also use them, when watching something on my tablet in bed (next to my wife).
Cons: heavier, and it gets warm underneath for longer sessions.

The open ones I prefer, whenever I don’t disturb anybody or get disturbed by surrounding noise: light, not building up “heat” underneath, and “unexpected signals from outside” reach me better, unless I want to be concentrated. (E.g. door bells and stuff.)

Today, I’ve moved my mobile usage to AirPod Pro, because they are 2-in-1 when on the move (“virtual open” and “virtual in-ear with some noise cancellation”), without the typical in-ear feeling / body noise I always disliked. Oh; and more handy than packing 1 or even 2 big boxes with headphones. :wink:

I know, that does not help with HiFi or all apply to domestic usage, but maybe with different use-cases and pros/cons of the different models.

thanks - all views help shape thinking. I currently have AirPod Pros - and have recommended them to some on here - but for me I’m not really thinking of them as hifi, just as very good portable 'phones. I have some Bose noise-cancelling ones for (ah, the old days) plane journeys, but again I’d not consider them for listening to music properly…

I am sure you are right but, for the time being, the HD800 appears to have become the standard output of our digital piano. And it will take quite some time before I dare to play piano without headphones, I am afraid!

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exactly my thinking really - the recent voyage of upgrading turned Mrs Xcentric from ‘meh’ to ‘wow’ about hifi so that’s a positive. I just may get more use out of at least parts of it with 'phones too.

@MaxiMe it was that thread that got me thinking… :thinking: :+1:

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