I Just Want to Buy Quality Headphones & fell down the rabbit hole. Now What?

Seriously, I was just looking for a pair of headphones to use as part of a “binaural beat” type program and 3 1/2 weeks later…I know a lot of new vernacular but have NO idea what headphones to buy.

At one point I saw open back was a requirement, but I don’t see that anymore…

I began with just looking for a pair of “quality” headphones that would allow me to be both wired and wireless (understanding that there IS loss with most wireless) - but seeing getting more use with the option of wireless.
I was swimming around with the Sony 1000xm3. I blinked and there was now Sony 1000xm4s that seemed to fix a lot of things in the xm3s imho.
Somehow I ended up in the deep end of Sundara, 650, 6xx. Took a left at Panda + THX, passed the latest Skullcandy Crushers and ended up here.

Does anyone have a compass? Please help me out of the quagmire…

Wanted to also add - I’m not sure I would be happy with total noise cancellation. I had a fantastic pair of bass ear buds. Really thumped, but I was always disappointed that the music was only in my head.

Hi! Welcome to HFGF!

We need a little bit more so we can give better advice. What’s your budget? Do you need to be able to go mobile or is this a desk situation? Do you also need an amp or dac or amp/dac?

Some of us, myself included, are still tumbling down the rabbit[hole]. Maybe one of these days I’ll see The Madhatter…

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Make your life easy, buy more than one headphone since it’s unlikely that you’re going to get everything you want with just one. Without knowing how deep down the rabbit hole you’re willing to go your post is all over the place and that’s okay.

I suggest you first make a list of what’s MOST important to you, and if certain things are a deal breaker or not like wireless. IMO you’re better off choosing one pair of wireless if that’s a must and then one pair of wired but do the same for both. What are your priorities.

Also provide a list of what you have if anything, an amp, a DAC, what your source will be. The more you give the braintrust here the more they’ll be able to guide.

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Sorry, I AM all over the place.

Ok, so I don’t have any ideas or plans at this time for an amp or a dac - frankly I’m way in over my head already.

Several reviews that “tweaked” my interest were the ones that said - ‘your everyday device will power these, but if you want to get the most, you’ll want to add power’. That makes sense to me. I think that might be a good place for me to start.

I am not in a commute situation or anything. It would likely be mainly ‘around the house’ usage. Pair with my TV, my 13" PC or my Android. I AM VERY clumsy.

Must haves: Sound Quality is paramount. Then Build Quality. Detachable Cable. If they use USB, USB C. If they are BT, it seems silly to go less than BT 5.0.

$$$ Wise - Under $500 for sure. If I could get somewhere around the $350 mark or less to start would be great.

I enjoy harmonies and nice soprano vocals but I’m not so sure “bright” would be enjoyable for a long time or not for me. If I have bass though, I want to be able to hear an actual bass playing full and clear (analog or electric). :wink:

I’m not sure “v-shape” is right for me because I would for sure want mid tones and all levels of bass nice and full.

This is what is causing my biggest “confusion”. Not bright? Not v shaped? Or v shaped? Or flat? Planar? Dynamic? :roll_eyes:

I have heard and read the point of owning more than one pair of headphones but I still have no idea which I to choose.
Thank you sooooo much in advance!

It’s pretty much a universal that you’ll get better sound quality from a purely wired headphone. I’m pretty sure there is a type of gadget you can plug into the socket intended for a non-wired headphone’s cable that allows it to work from BT/wireless. I’m pretty sure I saw such a gizmo in a Zeos vid. This would allow you to use the headphone wired for sound-quality-is-important music listening and wireless for everything else.

Those with the relevant expertise can chime if that sounds like a good way to go.

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By Zeos vid do you mean ‘Z Reviews’? I’ve only stumbled across a handful of content/creators, just want to be sure.

Josh nicely sums up the BT v’s cable debate in his HiFiMan DEVA review :+1:

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I haven’t heard them but it sounds like if you want a one and done scenario while balancing convenience and sound quality then the Panda is probably a good option. It can be used wired or wireless. It doesn’t have ANC but if that’s not a deal breaker then you are getting a convenient headphone solely designed for sound quality and not “features”. I’ve heard good things about that headphone from people who have experience with much higher level gear.

If on the other hand you are interested in going full on red pill and seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes, then this conversation could get a lot more interesting and go in a lot of different directions. It’s like my old friend Bilbo once said. “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

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Yep. YouTuber Zeos Pantera, the founder and funder of this forum.

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Oh wow, color me clueless. Sorry. I hadn’t watched any of his reviews but I saw a video or two pop up. After you mentioned him I went and checked out a couple of his “sound demo” videos and I don’t know if they can help someone listening on crappy laptop sound. I could detect a difference between the 2 I listened to, but I’m sure there was no replication of the quality of the sound.

(I watched his nearly orga$mic :wink: review of the Drop + Panda pre-release :smile:)

@Mr_Makua I’m starting to lean that direction.

I realized I would prefer dedicated sound headphones rather than smart-mic/headphones. I don’t see myself using that at all which seems to be a big part of the Sony & the like headphone reviews. I can see the benefits of noise canceling but I don’t think I need that especially if it negatively effects the sound - and several reviewers say the noise canceling have a little hiss.

I think full on red pill (as alluring as it is), probably isn’t me (yet). LOL!

I think I have maybe 3 more questions, but I don’t know if it’s okay to ask here, or should I find another part of the forum?

Thank you so much for your input!!

No worries. Fire away right on this thread anytime.

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Thank you for your patience.
First, can I even get these right now? Are they available for sale? I did a search that brought me to the “drop” website and it sounds like they are still pre-release and not available until 2021. Is that true? And it said to sign in for the price.

Does anyone know if the way the cable fits into the headset really an issue? If it is a little “delicate” so to speak, is there a way to give it extra support or something? Do you swap it for a bigger sturdier cable (or is that impossible with the way the jack is)?

Hi @ilikecheese - welcome to the forum and this hobby.

I really do feel your pain, I started off in a similar fashion 30 years ago and I am still scrambling around in search of my audio nirvana.

First things first, you don’t have to spend absolute mega bucks. You can find headphones from as a little as $80. It all depends on what you will be listening to, e.g. movies, gaming or music. If music then what genre, if it’s dance music then you’d want something with a bit of bass, for more critical listening where you want to hear music as nature intended then a good open back.

From a personal perspective, I prefer to use wired versus wireless headphones simply because I am yet to find a decent sounding pair.

I own and have owned many, many pairs of headphones over the years and still own a few. It’s really difficult giving advice because at the end of the day a lot of it will come down to personal taste in terms of what headphone will give you what you need. My advice to you is to make sure you do your research and homework before buying - ask lots of questions before spending a buck because if you rush into something you will regret it after!
You’re definitely in the right place, also check out the Z Reviews channel on YouTube where you’ll see lots of videos. The good thing about Zeos is that he tells it how it is using language we can all understand and not bogged down with lots of technical or scientific information which I have seen from other reviewers and really isn’t useful.

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The Panda are a headphone designed and produced exclusively by Drop (formerly Massdrop). Drop has made a name for themselves by doing collaborations with other big name headphone brands and then releasing them exclusively on their site. I believe this is the first time they have released their own headphone. The price is $399 and you are correct that they are still in pre-order. Some people who pre-ordered have already received theirs but I think there have been some delays in full production.

As far as your cable question, it looks like the Panda uses a standard 3.5mm jack on the headphone end so you should be able to find an upgraded aftermarket cable easily. I’m not sure about the issue of the stock cable being delicate since I haven’t experienced the headphones. I know some users like @DagoRed own the Panda and may be able to answer your questions.

Another thing to consider might be trying out one or two lower cost headphones with different sound signatures to see what you like. Then spending a little money on a dedicated source to see what kind of difference it makes. There are a lot of crowd favorites in your price range that would be a good place to start. If bass is important to you the Meze 99 Noir can be had on Drop also for $199 right now. They are a headphone that a lot of people have enjoyed and they are know for a fun bassy signature. Some of the Beyerdynamic headphones like the Dt770 are also fun V-shaped signatures with lots of detail. Just be aware that there are different models (32ohm, 80ohm, 250ohm) and the higher ohm headphones are generally considered to be the better sounding headphones. The trick is, they need a little bit more power to sound their best, but you could easily pick up a small dac/amp combo unit and solve that problem. I’m a big fan of the iFi Hip Dac which runs around $150 and has a good bit of power for a small compact unit.

If you want to try open back then the Sundara, 6xx, 58x are well loved by many. The new Sennheiser 560 seems to be getting some love as well so that might be something to consider. All of those can be had easily in your price range. If it were me and I had $500 to spend. I would probably pick up a $200 headphone or two. Try them out to see how they sound different. See what you like with your music. Then once you are familiar with the headphones figure out a $200 source either desktop or portable and try that so you can hear the differences when switching from your laptop headphone jack. That’s my 2 cents. But that is also taking the first few steps into the rabbit hole.

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This is helping so much!
So far I LOVED the sound demo of the Pandas and I love everything else about them as well. I did read about several of the issues they are still trying to smooth out. I think the best thing to do is try to get a pair of Pandas when they are maybe a little bit more stable and less backed up - but I don’t know if I should order now or something so I’m not still waiting next July… :tipping_hand_woman:

I DO however need still need a pair of headphones for the now. I thought the Meze 99 Noir would be perfect also. But after listening to the sound demo - I don’t think so. I think they are not that far off.

I like the price, the bass WAS over powering most of the time (and I am a bass head). Probably the deal breaker for me was in the song that had a lot of horns. There is something about - is that a pitch? a tone? I have heard it called “bright” that pierces my head.
Does that mean I want a “U” shape not a “V” shape? I’m just making that up…I have no idea…

As far as listening - I need them foremost for a program to try that uses “binaural beats”. I have NO idea how that will work out, so I would like a great pair of head phones in general.
I believe I listen to EVERY genre of music, except techno. It isn’t unusual for my playlist to go: NAS, Type O Negative, The Tokens, Pitbull, Liszt, Ying Yang Twins, Stevie Wonder, Tito El Bambino, Marvin Gaye, WuTang, Glenn Miller …you get the idea. :smile:

My music is not, for the most part, high quality recordings though.

I read a comment that said someone said the Meze 99 Noir’s made their crappy music sound good. I was on board with that :smile:

Does that bring to mind any particular headphones - sorry cans?

IMO the sound demos don’t demo anything.
If they all had the same songs, then maybe. As is, they don’t tell much of anything.

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Mazeframe’s point is a good one and here’s another. What headphone are you listening to sound demos with? Let’s say the sound demo is of a bass-heavy headphone and you’re listening to it on another bass-heavy headphone. Then what you’ll hear will be super bass-heavy. Whatever you have it isn’t going to be dead flat, so there are going to be distortions such as that. In short whatever you’re hearing it’s not what you’ll hear when you buy the headphone and listen to it directly.

Beyond that, the problem with bass-heavy headphones is that the vast majority of them taper off their loudness boost throughout the mid range, which is where the majority of vocals and instrumental sounds live. This distorts those sounds like a fun-house mirror distorts the human body. It puffs up part and shrinks down another part of their tone colour.

The Meze 99 Noirs have an extreme bass-boost but at least the loudness boost tapers off rather abruptly at the very beginning of the mid range.

There is an approach to headphone tuning that targets the optimum compromise between a boosted bass and leaving the mids uncoloured. It’s called the Harman Target and many forum members love to hate on it. The avowed bass-heads feel it wimps out, while neutral-heads feel it still includes too much bass. But given your broad range of genres, it MAY be your best bet, forum prejudice or no.

If so, the AKG K371 is currently the closest to Harman. The lower priced version, the K361, is very close as well. Reviews rate them both as being good but not great in other aspects of sound quality. Just something to think about. It’s quite possible you may get them, find them blah, and wish you had opted for a spicier option. Frankly, it’s all a roll of the dice for each of us until we have lots of personal experience with a variety of headphones.

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I forgot about the K371 and K361. I haven’t heard them but that seems like a solid entry point to good headphones based on the info I’ve seen.

I second what @MazeFrame and @MaynardGK said above about sound demos. I wouldn’t use that to guide your purchase decision in any way because of the factors they mentioned.

Here is a recommendation out of left field, but hear me out. You should pick up a pair of Koss Porta Pros and upgrade them with Yaxi pads. I know a LOT of people who own high level gear who still really enjoy listening to their Porta Pros on a regular basis. I have some decent headphones that I really love, but I have 3 different pairs of Koss that still see regular use. The Porta Pro especially is just plain fun, and it is a zero risk purchase because of the low price. Even when you buy a nicer pair for desktop use, you will still find use for the Porta Pro as a portable set because that is exactly what they are designed for. I just picked up a set a couple weeks ago and I wish I would have tried them much sooner in my journey.

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I totally understand what all of you are saying about the sound demos. I DID listen on different devices but I wouldn’t say any of them would be neutral enough to give me the true experience of hearing them. 100% agree. I have no other way to test anything though. I thought - all things being “equal” it might give a “reference point” for experienced folks like yourselves.

Yes, I heard Joshua and DMS mention the Koss but they look like “on the ear” not over the ear. Do the different pads change that? I DO think that would give me a good starting point if all that you say is true. I just need to verify “over the ear”.

There is SOooooo much to know about audio…I’m so glad this resource exists and people are kind and helpful. I’ve seen some other type of forums that mock newbies or curious people out of their groups. Thank you everyone!

The Porta Pro is an on ear headphone, even with the different pads. They are very small and light and the Yaxi pads I mentioned are pillowy soft. They are very comfortable but still not an over ear headphone. The main reason I recommend them as an entry point is their stupidly good price to performance ratio and their fun tuning. (I would rather listen to Porta Pro than several $100+ headphones I’ve owned.) They are within easy reach at $35 regular price these days on Amazon with sales sometimes dropping them to $20.

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