Headphone recommendations?


Yeah I noticed that about the 990 Pro too. The Premium version comes with a straight cable and a few other minor benefits but it retails for a lot more unfortunately.

I really like the look of the 3D wing things on the AD900X, they look very comfortable and yeah, the open design would give them more ventilation too.

I don’t know of any local places that showcase a good selection of headphones but I’ll see what I can find. Thanks for the tips and info!


I used to have a pair of Beyerdynamic DT990s, excellent sound quality, a lot of warmth to the sound including some decent bottom end. They were probably a bit more coloured than accurate, but they certainly sounded great especially for games. Comfort was good initially, but I did find I needed a break every now and then. Build quality let me down a bit; the foam cups unglued themselves after a couple of years and had to be put back on every couple of days, and then a year later one of the plastic swivels on the left earcup sheared, essentially making an otherwise perfectly usable set of headphones useless. It was possible to get a new cradle and repair it, but it didn’t look straightforward.

I now have a pair of ATH AD900s. Compared with the DT990s, I’d say the sound is more accurate, and the more open design gives everything more space to breathe. I can hear more details in the sound, and it’s less tiring on the ears. So for music especially they do sound better than the DT990s. For games they’re not quite as good because they have a lighter bass response. It’s very tight and focused with music, sounds awesome, but you don’t get that reverberating bottom end like you do with the DT990s. However, they’re a lot more comfortable to wear for extended periods, not just the way they sit on your head, but also the more open sound. Build quality is superior too.

If I had to choose between the two, I’d probably go with the AD900s especially if you listen to a lot of music. But really, they’re both very good and I’d be happy to use either.


The 990s were slipping off my list as it were for a few reasons but I think you may have given them the last push krok!


Bear in mind that things like glue coming adrift is probably a lot worse for me because of the high humidity I experience during the wet season, and it’s been six years since I had the DT990s so perhaps they’ve improved since then, but my other comments stand.


The COPP is 16 ohms, not 32, and the DT 990 Pro clearly lists 250 in the linked specs.

WHAT OHMS RATING MEANS: how much power the headphones (or speakers) need to sound decent, at a given volume level. The higher the number, the more power they need. As a baseline, portable headphones designed to work anywhere have 4-8 ohms.

The COPP should be fine with any non-portable device. The AD900X are borderline; I have 38 ohms phones myself (Audio-Technica ATH-M50x) and my high-end Yamaha AV1040 receiver provides just about enough power for them. Forget about the DT990 Pro, 250 ohms is absurd, you need a dedicated headphone amplifier for those. Or wire them up to main speaker outputs.

I own a pair of HD280 Pros, AKG K26Ps and some PX200s. Of the three, the AKGs are my favourite because they’re warmer and have more power/presence. The 280s and 200s may be more balanced but they sound very… ‘thin’ and lifeless to me in comparison, even after dicking around with an EQ. The 280s aren’t especially comfortable either with that clamp, all the pleather is falling to bits (same on the 200s and the original buds on the AKGs) and they get sweaty after a while. They also have a coiled cable which drives me mad because it’s heavy and gets snagged on things. Time for a change I think.

Thin and lifeless. HD280 Pro = 64 ohms. That’s a lot. Right, that will sound thin and lifeless without a headphone amplifier. PX200 = 32 ohms. That’s okay but around the upper limit, and in this tiny design proper seating is an issue. AKG K26P = 32 ohms but with a notoriously bass-heavy design. Bass is the first thing to fall out when there’s insufficient power for your phones. In this case the design compensates, that’s why they sound warmer and more powerful. (I’m guessing you perceive them as just right rather than “booming bass” because your output is actually a bit too weak for them!)

I have a Xonar DX and a Yamaha AV receiver so I have two options when it comes to driving them. Still, I’m not too sure how capable either are. The Xonar has 100ohm impedance, I think, and the Yammy has “Headphone Jack Rated Output/Impedance CD, etc. (1 kHz, 50 mV, 8 Ω) - 150 mV/100 Ω” I have no idea what that means. I know sensitivity is also important but, again, I’ve no idea what that means.

Nothing, sadly. Real HP output specifications for a real dedicated HP amplifier look like this: “Output Power: [email protected] / [email protected] (RCA input), [email protected] / [email protected] (XLR input).” Same as the output power rating that your receiver provides for speakers (only). Don’t bother looking, integrated headphone outputs are almost never properly rated like that. You’ll have to try for yourself how high you can go, but from your experience so far I’d say “not very.”

At present I’m leaning more towards the Custom One Pro Plus because they’re easy to drive, have solid bass control, are customisable with easily replaceable parts, a straight cable and a mic socket if I ever need one. Only problem is they’re closed and use pleather which from experience always seems to degrade into flaky bits (see above)! Velour sounds nice which features on the open AD900X and DT990 Pros as standard.

Anybody have experience with any of these?

No experience but your intuition is correct, it’s by far the most frugal of the bunch and clearly you need that kind of headphone on your relatively weak output.


I’m inclined to recommend a headphone amp. The Xonar has (reportedly) pretty good DACs, but the 100 Ohm output impedance is lousy for headphones (at least for any with less than 800 Ohm impedance). http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/headphone-amp-impedance.html If you’re going to spend pounds on nice headphones, you should have something that will drive them well.


I’ve been very happy with a relatively low-cost Digitech AA-0488 (2x50 wrms) amp (about AU$150) driving my AD900s. There are lots of similar units in this price range that usually share internals (in this case a Tripath TP2050). It’s a small, discrete unit that sits on the top of my desktop PC. Well, discrete apart from the supernova-like blue light on the front, but black tape over that fixes the problem.


Thanks for the info Chris, much appreciated.

Yeah, some of the things you say I was aware of. For instance, I mentioned the 32 and 250ohm DT990s because I was unsure which to go for but linked the 250ohm as I was leaning more towards that one. My error on the ‘32ohm’ COPP though-- been reading a lot about different headphones and got that mixed up.

What you say regarding impedance is interesting though. Most of the sites I’ve visited from larger ones to more independent blogs, as well as a few YouTube channels along the way, seem to consider 32~ohm ‘portable’. I don’t really want to buy a headphone amp as it’s something else in my chain of devices but if I have to I will. It certainly would explain why the HD280s sound so underwhelming to me and I’d like to not write them off if I’ve not been driving them properly since I bought them. Eeesh.

The AKG K26Ps honestly blow my mind for their size, ability and price at the time. I actually bought them a long time ago and I’ve read that newer builds of the same model lost their original balance and sound uncharacteristically boomy and overbearing, which is such a shame. I hope they never die or break on me! That link mentions this in the UPDATE bit at the top.


I have read that a lot of current buyers of these headphones find them to have overblown, boomy bass that dominates the sound. This certainly isn’t the case with the pair I have heard, and it is widely suspected that AKG has changed the sound of these headphones. If you can find the “old” kind that sound good, consider my review applicable, if not, tread with caution.

Will look into amps and keep the COPP and AD900X on my list. Again, thanks for your input.

@ron_debry: yeah, exactly. Will take a look at that link, thanks!

@krok: nice, thanks for the tips. Yeah, any more blue lights beaming across my room and I’ll freak.


Just a PSA to avoid the Senn 598’s. I purchased a pair for xmas present for my son and had to try them out b/c my Senn 580’s are getting old and I might need a new pair soon. Boy what a let-down. I have $50 headphones that are better than these.

Note: While it’s true that they will get better with time after burning in, it’s marginal and if they start out sounding like shit, time won’t heal that.

I returned them & instead got a pair of HiFiMan 400s - sweet headphones. I’d stack them up against my 580’s for clarity & precision and the base is a bit richer than on my 580’s.


So ron’s link got me looking at the Objective 2 headphone amp by that NwAvGuy. It looks like a really solid and well thought out device. However, with the COPP being a 16ohm headphone I’m wondering whether I need to even bother. To amp, or not to amp. It’s £78 for the amp, £125 for the 'phones. That’s starting to add up!


Any decent amp will ALWAYS be better if the alternative is a soundcard. Always.

If you use the Yammy, then I’d give it a crack first. Stereo amp manufacturers often skimp on the headphone circuitry if it is not primary use case.


I have a pair of Sennheiser HD700 connected to a Marantz PM6005 and Marantz CD5005 connected to it. I run an optical connection from my Gigabyte GA-Z97X-GAMING 3 to the PM6005 (set to the highest frequency) and use the PM6005 DAC for all of my digital audio. Everything sounds great (no electronic interference from computer). B&W CDM2 speakers round out the den audio system.


Best guess on the Yamaha? The 100-Ohm headphone output impedance comes from the running a wire over from the speaker output and slapping a 100-Ohm resistor in series (to cut the volume / voltage down to a level that won’t fry headphones). Because that’s the traditional integrated amp approach. Driving 16-Ohm headphones that way could result in way wacky frequency response, and particularly crappy-sounding bass. It could also cause low volume, but I wouldn’t worry about that because the amp has plenty of raw power to make up the difference. Or it might be OK. Can you return the headphone amp if you decide it doesn’t improve the sound enough to make it worth the money to you?


Probably ought to describe my current setup. I’ve got a Xonar DX which outputs a Dolby Digital Live encoded signal over SPDIF to my Yamaha AV receiver which decodes it and feeds it to my 5.1 speakers. My PS3 and Wii U are connected to the Yammy too. The AV receiver’s headphone jack is very convenient regardless of what device I’m using so if I did get a headphone amp I’d like it to be connected to that somehow rather than just my PC or any of the other sources.

Will ask Epiphany Acoustics about the headphone amp ron. The last thing I want is crappy sounding bass. At this point a good amp could be a sound investment for any future headphones I pick up so I don’t begrudge picking up one, not to mention these O2s are semi-portable which could be useful.


Obviously the only way to know if the amp makes an improvement (enough that you’re willing to pay for it) is to listen to the same material with it and without it. You might want to ask the Epiphany guys if they would recommend using the receiver’s headphone out or the Xonar’s (I take it the Epiphany is only an amp and does not have its own DAC?).


Yeah it’s only an amp. The O2 with a DAC is called… the ODAC, and it’s a lot more expensive, by £100 or so. I’m pretty certain the amp will improve my HD280 Pros’ lifelessness (at long last) but I’m kind of kicking myself I didn’t look into all this sooner because I’m tired of them now; their cable, the flaky leather, the sweaty ears and firm grip.

I’ve just asked them whether the amp is likely to make much difference to the 16ohm COPPs vs my receiver. We’ll see what they say.


In the end I decided to go for the AKG K712 Pros because they seem to be highly regarded for most applications without any obvious weaknesses. They were pricier than I intended when I started this hunt, but I’m hoping these things will be keepers and if nothing else I’ve now sated my desire to check out some ‘higher end’ gear. That said, I snagged them for £175 delivered which seemed like a deal compared to other similarly rated headphones. I got to use them for the first time last night and they sound natural and detailed with plenty of presence on the low-end. I’d love to know how much of a difference an amp would make over my Yammy but I don’t see any way of knowing without buying and trying one. At present I’m happy with the sound signature though!

This is the first pair of open headphones I’ve had in years but what amazed me after using a 5.1 separates surround system is that a couple of times I was fooled into thinking sound was coming from my speakers and not my headphones. This was when using Dolby Headphone + Dolby 7.1 Virtual Surround + New Vegas and Dirty Bomb, but the effect was impressive. I keep that stuff turned off 99% of the time but I’m keen to try it out some more for 3D games that benefit from positional audio cues. For what it’s worth, I’m sceptical about a lot of this stuff but it’s fun testing it out with a pair of headphones that are purportedly great for gaming.


Yamaha has a very good virtual surround technology FWIW, I’m using it on both speakers and headphones with great results. No worse than Dolby Virtual Headphone for my money, and works on speakers too.


I got the HD598 recently and they sound very good, better than the Grado SR80i and Sennheiser PX100 I’ve been using the last few years. They seem to have better bass response, sound more “airy”/spacious and have better clarity. I am listening to CDs through a receiver.


I have the 598’s as well (great deal on Black Friday), paired up with the FiiO E10K USB headphone amp, and they sound great to me. I prefer them over the Sony 7506’s, which sound too bright to me now.

I can tell the difference between using the headphone amp and, say, my iPhone 6s. However, I was unable to pass the Golden Ears test. Maybe with a better amp/headphones that test is easier. I’m not willing to commit to spending thousands of dollars on gear to reach audio nirvana. The 598’s will suit me just fine.