Help with a search for headphones to fall in love

Greetings to all the guys at HiFiGuides :wave:,

I would appreciate your help with a quest I have begun to find some headphones to fall in love with.

Background: I come from the SHP9500 (Zeos Hype :rofl:) without DACP/AMP, my taste in music is varied from rock to classical, some soundtracks, House/Techno, etc.

I also don’t have the best vocabulary when it comes to sound, so go easy on me. I’m not disappointed in the SPH9500 but I’m looking for something more. In the sense that I want to have that sense of feeling the music, of being immersed in it. Like having the feeling that everything around me is music. As some comments I’ve heard from the Abyss 1266, but I’m aware that they are like a product apart and out of my budget :cry:

My budget is around 1500 just for the 'phones. As for sound signature i prefer a warm or netural sound.
Assuming that what I’m looking for is more related to the soundstage and imaging capabilities. But if it meets what I mentioned before the sound signature is less of a problem and that also goes if they are open or closed the thing I’m looking for is that immersion.

I am also planning to buy a DAC and AMP and mentioned it in case it is relevant or if you have something else to recommend with it.
For the DAC: Topping E30

I thank you for all your help with your experience and knowledge as there are no shops to test headphones in my area.

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Personally, I think you may not appreciate the jump straight from the SHP9500 all the way to a $1500 headphone. The amp and DAC you’re looking at may start to show their flaws in that tier too, but should be fine for <$600 or so headphones. Maybe look at getting a decent planar like a Sundara paired with a good dynamic like a Fostex Ebony if you can find one for a good price?


I would go for a ZMF Autuer or Eikon then. About 1400$ warmer and neutral signature, natural. should be really nice. if you can get a Archel amp and Enog Dac that would be great. they beat out a lot in their price point (not sure abotu the Asgard) But be aware you need a optical connection from your computer for the Enog to work.


Save the money and invest in a DAC/amp for sure. Just did a quick sample with 3 different DAC/Amps or DAC + amps to verify something. Nice headphones don’t make a bad source better by much. Slapping a set of LCD X’s on the headphone jack found on the on board motherboard sounds TERRIBLE. I just tested 3 other DAC amps sitting here on my desk with the same song just to verify that even a marginal investment with a DAC/amp yields some pretty good results I would suggest to check out.

Just heads up on the JDS Atom amp. Schiit Heresy or any of the other op amp/chip amplifiers in that power/price range virtually all sound the same. TI makes some quality op amps cheap, designing is bog simple, results are about the same sans very small differences only found with test equipment. Just pick a choice and go with it, you can’t go wrong with the Atom/Heresy/Archel/etc… However for $200 the Asgard 3 is steal.

DAC? Match something near the price of your amp and you should be golden. Topping makes fine products and if that is what you think you want, can’t really go wrong there. Once you have the DAC and amp sorted out I’d go headphone shopping. From what I’m noticing is that it’s rare to find something that doesn’t have any drawbacks worth knowing below $2k, just generally less trade offs are made below $1k headphones. The nice thing with $1k < or $500 < headphones is that you can experiment with what you THINK you want with the strengths before getting above the $1k mark with lesser regrets.

1 set of headphones in, get the equipment and shop for used headphones of sound signatures what you think you want. For below $50 pick up a set of koss headphones (look at Zeos kph30 video) and start your journey from there.

Good luck and have fun OP!

Oh… and never forget sometimes the sound we want out of headphones tend to come out of IEM’s.


Oh… and when in doubt checkout using an equalizer. Here’s some recommended settings for the the SHP9500 with a site that seems to give some great EQ settings to help you enjoy the headphones without buying anymore equipment.


That is quite a jump I don’t think you need to spend that much money on a a headphone off that but if you insist there are still a ton of nice options.


You really don’t have to spend that much to get that type of sound, you can def spend less and get close. They are indeed very impressive, but that being said, there are many headphones under that price that will still give an immersive experience, with less hefty price tags and also less amp picky (the 1266 are picky headphones overall tbh). Something else to think is that will you appreciate having the 1266 when your only frame of reference is the 9500? When you get to that price range you really are paying for the 1% extra performance, but that can be really night and day for some people if they are experienced, and of course it can still be loved by those without any prior experience, but imo the journey is a very fun part of this hobby and it isn’t worth skipping imo. Just something I have noticed with people when it comes to jumping right to the top

I would really, really suggest you start around 300 usd. I wouldn’t suggest spending more until you actually hear a higher end headphone than the shp. IMO you will really want to cement your preferences before you jump to the 1k range, and personally I think it’s worthwhile to experience the different tiers of headphones as you go up and not worth it to just immediately jump closer to the top

Something else to take into account, I think if you were buying in the 1.5k range for a headphone, you would want to spend around at least an extra 500 for an appropriate dac amp combo (or more depending on the headphones). An e30 + atom/heresy is a real solid combo, but I think with that amp and dac stack you would want to stay under the 600 range for headphones. I think in the future if you would plan to go to that higher tier of headphones something like the asgard 3 + the e30 might be a worthwhile extra 100 to spend on the dac amp setup, but I think after that the prices will rise quickly

When you are looking towards the higher tier, not having any frame of reference of any higher tier headphone isn’t the best idea, so hence the recommendation so stay around 300 ish to really get a feel about what more you can get. I would say perhaps grab a few headphones with different signatures around the 300 range from amazon and return the ones you didn’t like before 30 days, but with the current situation I don’t know if you could reasonably do that unfortunately.


… this is quite possibly the best articulated response one could ask for.

Question, if I have my Bifrost 2 and Airist R-2R out on loan and I want a back up dac that is cheap and enjoyable would the e30 be a solid recommend? I could survive off of my Fulla 3 DAC output or DragonFly Cobalt in a pinch but if I HAVE to justify more gear to fill in the blank I was very curious. I saw your e30 posts in a dedicated thread, just curious how you think it stacks up against other $150 and under DACs.

So, personally I think the cobalt is already a pretty solid dac if you run it as one, and it will def make do for the time being. I do think the e30 is pretty great, and for me at the moment I would say it’s almost in the benchmark class for overall package (features/sound) for the price. But I have not heard the smsl versions but I would assume they are close or similar but I don’t know for sure. I think that if you really felt the need to pick up a desktop dac with good features I don’t think you would go wrong with the e30 as long as you aren’t on an extremely tight budget.


I’ll admit, the ability to enjoy a long cable with a remote for volume control seems pretty appealing by itself.

Yeah if you are after the features then imo it does make sense to pick up

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The thing here is there probably isn’t a specific headphone you’ll fall in love with, but a combination of source and headphone…this does take time and a certain bit of personal preference and experience…it’s not just as easy as $1k+$1k = awesome


Thank you so much for the response. Was more that i expected really. Yeah definitely the tryouts will begin after the current situation gets controlled. Something that surprised me was to see that the Asgard gets mentioned a lot i should check that out immediately. Oh when you mentioned

That high tier would be more like on the 800 - 1k range? and with that in concern.
Would be wise to start with a very nice dac/amp combo and then doing the 'phone journey like you said starting from $300 to not be changing the dac/amp that much. cause I think is more manageable testing headphones and returned them that an amp.

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Is impressive how I never heard of that I will try it ASAP! :smile:

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Definitely I need to start the journey step by step. That’s for the best.

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The older asgard 2 is not good imo, but schiit really turned it around with the a3 and brought a very impressive amp out, it is worth a look for sure (you can get it with or without a dac, I would suggest without as then you can have more flexibility with an external dac)

I would say so yes

I think so, getting a solid foundation (not going overboard of course) is a good way to make sure things are set for future upgrades or acquisitions and also to reasonably get the most out of your current gear. I would suggest to keep it under 200 for the amp and under 200 for the dac, as there tends to be a performance void from like 200-450 for amps and dacs personally where then you step up to the 500+ for each component

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That’s something to consider. Thanks for the tip. And definitely will look into the e30+Asgard3 for start.

As a I side note: I love your profile pic. so cute.


I don’t like cross posting or pointing people different places… but the correlation of the original question and someone 14 months later that started with the SHP9500 is pretty well understood.

From reddit, warning this has happened to nearly everyone here:

Original post:


@LPrx I know you said you are looking for a neutral or warm sound, but also said that an immersive experience and presentation is what you want.
My favorite headphones, the Audioquest Nighthawk Carbon, have an amazing way for doing this. They sound like you are there with the music, in an auditorium or really large club, and the sound seems to come from all directions, almost a 3 dimensional feeling. They are definitely more of a balanced signature, W shaped, with the bass elevated, the mids elevated, and the upper treble elevated. They used to sell for $700, but are discontinued, and now sell for much less used and sometimes new. If you are interested in trying something different or new, these might be worth a try. I personally love mine for soundtrack, and Electronic too.


Can confirm, having just got the Archel + Enog combo. Am in love. With Sundaras it’s absolutely fantastic (and fantastic across the varied musical spectrum I listen to). Would also reccomend Sundaras highly.

Then again I have no better reference. But I find myself quite satisfied here for the time being :slight_smile:

Caveat, improvements could definitely be made, but not without breaching an unreasonable amount of money. I would also say the Sundaras suit this stack much better than my 990s/770s. The HE-4xx’s sound great on this too. MDR 7506’s are dramatically improved.