Looking to upgrade @ ~$700

I’m sorry for being that guy that posts a HALP ME! thread with my very post, brothers. I never thought I’d be that guy, but I am that guy. I’ve been reading the forum since its inception and most of the time can find what information I need from y’all and the usual sources (Zeos, Valour, DMS, AudioScienceReview et al)

What I currently own that is relevant to this thread.


My desk audio set up…
Amp - SMSL200 and JDS Atom
Listen to personal FLAC files and QOBUZ with cans as well as vinyl, but rarely on headphones, to be fair. I split listening at the desk evenly between speakers and headphones.

This would be JUST FOR MUSIC.
Most of what I listen to these days…typical rock and rap, but lots of female vocalists, lots of jazz, singer-songwriter.

Budget is $699.99…and I’m willing to wait out some sales.

What I care about for this purchase - pending this conversation.

  1. Soundstage
  2. Soundstage
  3. Vocal Performance
  4. Imaging
  5. Soundstage

I keep coming back to the DT1990Pros over and over and over. Its not necessary to go balanced here…that and the treble doesn’t overly scare me. The Sundaras continue to intrigue me, but the build quality/QC issues worry me. Z really hard sold the ARH1’s but I am not willing to go on an AdventureQuest to find them.

The Elex, HD650/6XX/660s all seem like I’m getting the intimacy the 600s already give me and I want more soundstage than those offer. I feel like I’ve got that base covered when I want to brood in the dark and listen to something intimate.

I’m intrigued if someone can hard sell me on the Elex they intrigue me from that group.

The Sendys keep buying me drinks at the bar.

I prefer buying NEW and my search is not limited to what I just listed here. HALP!


So, I do think the 1990 pro is most likely up your alley, but also perhaps consider the beyer t1.2 imo, as I think it’s a bit more relaxed 1990 but also a technical improvement, and you can go for a tube amp later on and have them get even more spacious than the 1990. I also kinda prefer the vocal performance on the t1 a tad, but they are somewhat similar.

I do think the elex is also up your alley, they are initially intimate, but can extend pretty far, and are very impressive in terms of space, and actually might be something you end up liking. They are also more open sounding that the beyers as well

IMO they were pretty mediocre when I heard them briefly, really nothing special to report

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I think the Sundara’s QC are pretty good nowadays. Of your 3 headphones, which one had your most preferred vocal performance? Most people consider the Sundara to be a great upgrade over the 4XX.

The Sendy Aiva doesn’t have a wide soundstage.

Can you expound on your thoughts on the Elex. Your insight is always great. More open sounding than the T1s? or 1990s?

What has kept me away from taking them more seriously is the “super 650” its been given. What do you feel is the key differentiator between the 1990, T1, and the Elex, in your opinion?

All depends what I’m looking for at any given time, brother.

600s for the intimate vocals. I just want something with a bigger presentation in my life right now.

I genuinely like the 1060s more than maybe most anyone and have enjoyed them for years…just recently looking to upgrade to something with that bigger presentation and more refined for what I’ve been listening to at this time of my life. Something that’ll make me feel it a little more. Current cans have gotten a little too…old hat.

They really don’t sound that similar to the 650. So I wouldn’t let that influence your decision

So I’m not sure why this is said, I really don’t think they are that similar imo

Yes, like physically more open, you can hear your environment more, air passes more freely through the headphones, it results is a bit more natural sound kinda.

So doing the 1990 vs the t1, the 1990 is more aggressive, more forward, and brighter leaning with the analytical pads (my preferred), the t1 is going to be more relaxed, warmer, and more natural sounding in presentation. I do think with a higher end amp, the t1.2 is better technicality wise, but on a thx they are similar, so it more comes down to signature here. For what you are looking for, the t1.2 imo does better with vocals than the 1990, so that would be my pick as they have similar imaging and staging performance on that amp

So the elex vs t1.2, the t1.2 is going to be wider in more tracks, but the elex will represent space more accurately imo for most music, the t1.2 can handle subbass a bit better, but the elex is no slouch either. For midrange, I like both, with the elex having a more detailed, quick and coherent midrange, with the t1.2 having a bit more natural timbre and a bit sweeter sounding, both are great. For treble, I think the elex have a more refined and neutral treble response, and also a bit more detailed as well, very well done.

What about a hifiman edition xx, they are pretty large sounding and have a wider stage, a more grand presentation if you are looking for a planar

They really don’t sound like a 650.
650 has a better midrange, but that’s it’s one trick, it’s deficient pretty much everywhere else (unless you put it on a good tube amp). The only thing the Elex really has in common with it is a slightly forwards midrange.
As you may guess from that I’m not a huge HD650 fan, though I think they sound much better than their price if you have the right amp.

The Elex is a very complete sounding headphone with fairly unique staging (which apparently is a focal thing), there isn’t anything it really does badly. For it’s price point it’s what I’d own that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.
FWIW I was wowed by mine when I first heard it.

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You all are really selling me on the Elex as I read around. Revisiting some reviews, too.

Seems that (its still Mass)Drop has these on pre-order for an August ship date.

What have yall paired the Elex up with when it comes to tubes if you don’t mind me asking? As I am reading around, re-watching, getting some “its very responsive with tubes”…so curious as to what you’ve paired it with and the result youve got with them. More spacious? Darker? More intimate?

This would be a nice push factor for this kind of headphone purchase, a little more versatile and one that plays nice with some variety.

IMO it’s not great on tubes, and I really can’t think of a tube amp I prefer them on over a comparably priced solid state. I think it messes with the spatial recreation, speed, and signature in a negative way, really prefer these on a hybrid or solid state.

So…here is where I am at, at the moment.

DT1990Pro … went into the buying process as the leader in the clubhouse…as I keep reading, it being more analytical and perhaps more fatiguing as a casual listening pair of cans. The price fluctuating on these from 600 to 535 on amazon has been annoying af, too, tbh. I’ve got some random amazon gift cards from random work related surveys I took - about $95 that are burning a hole in my pocket so buying on amazon would be choice.

Focal Elex … emerged as a front runner because the many reviews saying its such an enjoyable musical pair of cans that aren’t as fatiguing. Biggest issue…waiting until late August for these to be shipped in the latest drop. All summer? Thats hard times. If they were readily available, I probably would have impulse purchased them already.

T1 has been a nice recommendation…for some reason, I am not immediately drawn in despite it sounding like this would be a good (almost perfect) fit. Feel like I just have to listen to them first before buying…idk…I’m feeling wishy washy on the T1s when I probably shouldn’t be. Would only be like $550 on amazon, too, after using some free money.

or I can just be a cheap slob and nab the Sundaras.

I’m being wishy washy for no real reason right now.

None of those headphones are wishy washy tbh all are great cans in their own right…it just comes down to your own personal preference and of course it’s your money, I really don’t think you’d be disappointed with the Sundara’s truly a bargain headphone :+1:

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If you’re looking to go out on a limb on a little tried pair of cans…

Andover Audio PM-50 for $400 right now. 30-day return and good warranty.

Currently have a pair that I’m breaking in. These are continuously improving little by little right now, and have scaled really well with the new amp.

They’re ridiculously easy to drive as well.

Currently would recommend these over the Sundaras (and afaik they haven’t yet achieved their final form lol). 110% worth the $50 extra imo. I also love my Sundaras though, so those are a solid buy too.

Can you compare the 2? PM-50 vs Sundara?

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Yea. Initial comparison here. These have significantly improved in all aspects (have been running them overnight / all morning since 6 am), so yesterday’s opinions are still valid but I’m leaning even more in favor of the PM-50s. I can answer any questions you have / elaborate where I lacked detail in the head-fi thing, just let me know.

Also just saw that Boxing has the 4xx. I can directly compare to those as well.

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Thanks for the review! i was very curious about these. Seems to be warmer and more detailed than the sundara. but seems to be lacking in separation. interesting. I prefer more bass than treble in a headphone. nice.

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The lacking in separation has been solved by either breaking in, or upgrading the amp. I would call it for the PM-50s. I was also (and still am a little bit) veryyyyy unused to warmish sound, so my ears have adjusted as well.

Bass is best described as appropriate. I used that phrase to describe the Sundara’s bass too, but the extra punch and detail this provides make it much more fun, and this is my new standard. Plus the midrange coming out of hiding makes the whole frequency response range sound so much better.

The Liquid Platinum has done a lot more for these than for the Sundaras. Sundaras sound better, but these take another big step up. Rock / blues / acoustic / jazz / big-band / metal all sound great. Orchestral is still taking some getting used to. The Sundaras airiness is the one thing it has that makes it better for epic soundtracks right now.

A reference track. Young Lust by Pink Floyd from The Wall. I can’t really get into it with the Sundaras. The PM-50s bring out a load of new detail and have added low-end definition / punch and have flat out better imaging / separation. The vocals also take a step forward space-wise, and that really gives the song some good weight. Makes it more engaging.

The Grateful Dead and CCR do especially well on these.

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I first tried my Elex’s on my tube amp (MAD Ear+ HD II) and didn’t like them. But in fairness it took a bit for my tube amp to hit its peak. When I tried it a week or two later it sounded very good to me. But it was missing slam. I had to switch over to the SP200 to get the slam. But then the smoothness was missing. :thinking:

Then, with some good advice, the problem was solved:
I bought a Liquid Platinum. Great sound, lots of power and no shortage of slam. This unit seems to be a jack of all trades and can drive pretty much anything.


Sorry to derail this thread :stuck_out_tongue:. However, have you rolled the tubes in the LP? Did the sound improve over the first X hours or so of listening? When did it really get burnt in for you?

I tried some relatively affordable Amperex tubes and didn’t notice much difference.

The LP took two to three days to be really clear. I think that is a mix of new amp, new tubes and new listener.

By the end of day two, I was in love. :heart_eyes:

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