So, the title is pretty self descriptive. I don’t necessarily have a specific sound I’m looking for, but I have some headphones that I have my eye on. The short story is that I want to have and try everything. I don’t really EQ, as I’m more interested in headphone “flavors” than trying to make everything the same flavor. For me, that’s part of the fun. I’m not searching for the perfect sound, I’m searching for the perfect sound for how I am feeling today.
What I own:
Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro
Beyerdynamic DT240 Pro
Fiio K7 (of course they released a BT version immediately after I bought)
Zen DAC V2
On the way: Fiio FT3
What I’m looking at:
Meze 109 Pro
Focal Clear OG
So, in short, I’m wondering which headphone I should purchase next. Somewhere down the line I’ll probably add a tube amp to my collection, but I’m not there yet. Still feeling out what I have. I know that the Clear is on its way out, which is actually partly why I’m contemplating getting it while I still can. The NDH 30 has been calling my name since Zeos reviewed it. The Meze 109 Pro looks amazing, but I’m wondering if it suits someone like me who is collecting different “flavors” and not looking for a “one and done” experience. The 660S2 is partly about me wanting to try a 6x0 series Sennheiser and partly about it being $100 off at the moment.
What would you purchase if you were me?
Something else under $900 US
Side note- I’m listening to Nickel Creek on my Poseidons through the K7 and SMSL SH-8s right now, and it sounds amazing…
Just as a side note to the poll and the reason I choose the Clear OG. First off it scales very well so at least for quite some time and maybe the endgame (who knows) Secondly I think is comfort. Third is looks as it is a classy headphone. Currently running it off either my Bryston BHA-1 solid state as well as my Quicksilver tube amp. BOTH make this headphone sing!
Well, so far the Clears are definitely winning, which is honestly what I expected. I think that the reason I’m torn isn’t because I don’t know which is widely regarded as “best,” (out of these options) but because I don’t really want to reach an endgame. I kind of see a trend in the audiophile community of there being certain “can’t miss,” or “must own” headphones or headphone series, so I wonder about the options under $800 being just as important as the high end stuff.
As stupid as it sounds, I’m almost afraid of buying a headphone that will make me not want to use any of my other ones. Also, $900 is a lot of money, so there’s definitely a part of me hoping that someone talks me out of it. (I think the audiophile motto for purchases may be “Just do it,” though, so I’m probably doomed…)
I should also add I own the Elex and it is pretty decent but does NOT scale like the Clear OG at all IMHO
I also picked it up for 800 new plus I got a second pair of pads for future proofing at least for a while. Other cans I own are as expensive or more but I do find the Clear damn good for what you pay for.
While I’ve not tried the meze 109 pro (but have the empy and 99 classics, although the 109 seem like a different option than either), and not the ndh30 (but have tried the ndh20), and the hd660s2 (but the 660 non s2), out of mentioned the clear is really going to be a big step above what you currently own and are debating between, least from a technicalities perspective. If you’re just looking to try out different headphone options and different sounds, I think the overall presentation, dynamics, and general voicing of the clear is fairly unique and can offer a fair upgrade alongside a different experience.
In terms of amping and such, the clear scales pretty well as @Jetman mentioned, and upgrading source gear later on can be pretty rewarding. I will say if you plan to get a tube amp the clear isn’t going to have good synergy with everything, but something like a quicksilver headphone amp, lta mz2, and while not my favorite combo the feliks echo and hagerman tuba are amps that people have liked it off of around and under the 1k price point. If you’re looking to grab a more richer leaning tube amp especially OTL I think a different headphone would be a better pick there though, a senn hd600/650 or apparently the new 660s2 would likely be a better pick for amps like a bottlehead crack or something
It will work with your smsl and zen dac, although you can get a fair bit more out of it by moving to something like a schiit bifrost 2 + rnhp or some of the aforementioned tube amps later on, which is always a nice thing to have
Honestly, I wouldn’t really worry about that, and instead just try stuff and see what sticks and what doesn’t. I personally wouldn’t suggest keeping or collecting stuff that you don’t really use often but sounds “unique” or different and only use on occasion since I think it’s a lot more rewarding to consolidate a bit and focus on what you end up liking. Doesn’t have to be one single chain, having a few is still worthwhile, I just personally wouldn’t suggest aspiring to own a massive collection of stuff for the sake of having a wide range of options, will hurt you as you move up. But really just do whatever you find most enjoyable for the hobby lol.
Totally agree that trying to go for “endgame” and the “perfect sound” is typically a fruitless effort, and that the journey and experiencing stuff is a fair portion of the hobby in learning what’s out there, what you like, and what direction you want to go in the future. Just don’t get trapped trying stuff just to try things collecting a ton of stuff just because it’s different imo.
If you seek something different from your current lineup, then a Grado should be a candidate.
Sure, they polarize. Their sound and fit aren’t for everyone. But when they work, Lord, they work well.
I own a Audeze LCD-X 2021, a superb all-arounder that sounds smooth and good with everything. I also own a Sennheiser HD 6XX, which has amazing mids and is easy to listen to because of rolled-off treble. I wanted something a bit more aggressive, a bit more present, without Beyerdynamic icepicks of treble, to round out my collection.
Bought the Grado SR325x with Geekria G “bowl” pads and couldn’t be happier. Easy to drive, much better bass than expected from a Grado, and energy and presence that sound different than any headphone I’ve heard and put me in the front row of any performance. $295 new, with $10 Geekria pads.
Bit the bullet and bought the Clears. Would really like to try the other ones someday. Especially intrigued by the NDH30. Will probably sell the DT990 and maybe the HE400SE (already been trying to sell the Astros, although they’re the only thing I own for the Series X with a mic. I’ll have an excuse to get PC38X if I sell them, though. Or trade?)
Thanks everyone for the input. Hopefully these won’t share much in common with the FT3s I haven’t received yet, and worst scenario if I don’t like them, I think their resale value will remain high due to their discontinuation and their popularity…
My opinion meze 109s aren’t endgame. I love mine but they don’t tube. I bought hd 600s when I got my TA-26 and it was magical which then led me down the path of good sound stage and can tube which then brought me to the zmf auteurs. Long story short tubes are magical and there is no endgame.
I actually wasn’t meaning to imply that the 109s are endgame, but that the Clears could be for some (I may never spend more than that on a pair of headphones). I guess the 109s could be endgame for some people too, since they make things just sound good, but anything could be endgame, some people hit Sundara or HD6x0 and that’s all they ever want.
I don’t want to reach a point where I decide that I don’t want to try anything else, but I decided that that feeling alone is enough to keep it from happening, so I went for arguably the best I could get for the money.
Edit: And yeah, I need tubes. It must happen at some point.
It’s an acquired taste, and patience and adaptation are required because the first impressions usually are pretty bad.
I had to bend my headband – safe, because it’s all metal – and switch to Geekria G “bowl” pads to find comfort with my 325x. But the sound is worth it. One of the unintended consequences of the switch from the stock, flat F pad to the G pad was increased soundstage and separation, which I love.
If someone told me their end game was an HD 6XX, I wouldn’t flinch. It’s a terrific headphone for the money, and if it makes the user happy, that’s all that matters.
End game is a personal choice, not something to be measured or judged by a certain scale or group of people. My only opinion about the topic other than choosing what you like is there is a level of diminishing return once you get past $1,000 headphones.
For example, the Focal Utopia is $4,000. Terrific headphone – I’ve heard it. But is it 18 times better than the $250 HD 6XX? I think not.
Again, it’s all a matter of what you want to pay and what brings you enjoyment. Your choice – not mine!
Ah damn, have you checked the cable? If you haven’t, try swapping the left and right connections and see if it changes. Also try it on a different amp if possible, and twisting the connectors a bit to see if it’s not making proper contact or not fully connected. If it’s not the cable then I guess hopefully you can get a smooth return/replacement sorted out