Help me decide what to upgrade to

Hello everyone!

I have around 1000 dollars (can maybe stretch it to 1.1k) to spend on a headphone upgrade. I currently have a DT1990 paired with an RME Adi-2. For most use cases this has treated me really well but when listening to certain songs I started to feel the shortcomings of my headphone’s sound signature.

But first of all, let me state what I like about them: the detailing and how it is easy to distinguish instruments/sounds from each other, I personally dont find the treble problematic. I also don’t really feel the need for more soundstage, I find the soundstage good enough for my enjoyment and other activities (mostly gaming).

The only things I am not too fond of when it comes to my DT1990 are the vocals. I always feel like the vocals are not prominent and I wished they were more forward many times. I have this feeling especially when there are several other instruments playing beside the vocalist. The second thing is comfort. Most of the time it sits on my head comfortably enough that I can spend hours in it, but usually, when I move my head forward or backward a bit, it slides back or forward (the headband? if I can call it that) on my head making it uncomfortable for my ears which leads to me having to readjust constantly.

So basically I am looking for a headphone that has similar qualities to my current one with a slightly different sound and better comfort. I don’t really have a preference between an open or a closed-back, I know their advantages and disadvantages, so I am open-minded but I’d prefer to try an open-back. I listen to almost all genres besides classical, jazz, techno and metal, currently listening to Japanese music mostly.

Thanks for all the help in advance!


focal clear?


Focal Clear (og) x2!

or the Elex, as it’s also a very fun headphone.

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Dan Clark Aeon Noire

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Depending on where you are based, I strongly suggest you listen to Focals in person before purchasing them. I never had a chance to listen to their headphones, so I can’t really comment.

I can recommend the iBasso SR2 from personal experience (you can read my full review). It has deep and quality bass, slightly forward mid-range with great timbre, and also a good extended high-range. Separation and instrumental separation are exceptional, and it’s particularly easy to isolate each element from the mix due to the more intimate sound presentation. From your description, they are a perfect fit.
You won’t hear much talk about this headphones, but those of us who own it are holding onto it and are not selling it. A person from Head-Fi owns both the SR2 and the Focal Utopia and says that they are on the same level (whenever I talk about this headphone I mention this because that is an insane comparison)… You will be lucky if you come across it in the wild.
Someone is selling their pair on Head-Fi: IBasso SR2 | Headphone Reviews and Discussion -

Also, if you are open to buying second-hand or like-new headphones, Head-Fi Classifieds is a great place to search. Instead of searching for a specific model, you can try searching for a specific brand and more results will come up. You can come across crazy deals on there.

If you have the opportunity, listen to a pair of headphones before purchasing them.

Thank you for the responses again!

Regarding the Focals, unfortunately, they are very overpriced (they have brand new Clears still left for sale for 1.4k and more…) here imo. Luckily I found someone who is selling one which still has 2 years of warranrty left and was used for 60 hours of demoing only (perfect condition basically) but if it is not available anymore I might pass on the Clears, the Elex has the same problem.

Regarding the other options you wrote, the iBasso intrigues me because I already have experience with their products and the reviews looked good, I just do not know if it is a real upgrade compared to my current headphones.

I still haven’t really looked at the Aeon Noire but once I have some more free time I’ll start reading :smiley:

I’ve seen a pair of Sony MDR Z7 M2s for sale, Is that any good? When I looked at reviews of the Z1R I thought that could be something I’d like and if this is somewhat close to it I might take a look at those too.

If anyone knows more alternatives your response is more than welcome because I still haven’t decided yet!

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Well, there happens to be a store in Hungary that specializes in selling mostly chi-fi stuff and they always have the SR2s on stock so I might be lucky. If you know some people who would go so far to get them from this store send them this hyperlink. Reflecting on what I said in my follow-up post, comparing its price to the other options suggested and other headphones I looked at before I’m still not that convinced it would be an actual upgrade. I might just be naive to think that price = performance. I read your review and some others too and it really does sound like something I’d greatly enjoy so thanks for your suggestion again, this might be it!

EDIT: The store seems to let people try out their products (if you contact them) so I have my plan set for the weekend :smiley:

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I’ll say this: for iBasso, it’s always the case. Price doesn’t dictate the performance, because their products are always getting compared to products min. twice the price. In other words, iBasso is always “underpricing” their products.

I think it’s worth trying them at the store. However, >€600 for them is a lot. Yes, it’s a fair price, but you can get them for half the price used in good condition.

Sony always has the brand name tax, just like Apple.

I mean I can recommend you roughly a dozen other unknown (or less known) headphones and headphone companies, but I haven’t listened to their headphones. From your description, the SR2 ticks all the boxes. I can recommend the SR2 from personal experience, as for other headphones, I can only bring them to your attention.