Newbie needing advice - casual gaming/music under $300


TL;DR - Headphones needed for casual gaming/music listening, looking for low end, sound stage, imaging - don’t know preferred sound signature. Current (11/03) sale prices on several headphones listed toward bottom. Need help choosing.

Hoping someone here might be willing to sit down and help out a new guy with this decision. I’ve been shopping for a single, all around fun pair of headphones that best fit my needs. I have been using a HyperX Cloud II headset now for a few years and am ready to upgrade to something better. I have been doing my best to read reviews, watch videos detailing the different sound signatures and characteristics of each brand/model, and read through posts/threads others have posted with similar questions trying to apply responses to my needs. Ultimately, it sounds like virtually no single pair of headphones can truly be everything (unless I spend thousands of dollars) as each has its own sound signature and area it excels in and/or lacks. So what I am looking for is something that best checks the below boxes.

I’ve tried going by some different audio stores in my area, however, I have been unable to listen to any of the following headphones with my own two ears. Going into this, I do not have a known preference in sound signature as I cannot listen to any of the brands I am interested in. In advance, I have never listened to an open back pair of headphones, only closed back gaming headsets. I am interested in open back in particular as being able to hear the doorbell ring or an important phone call does seem to have some extra value. However, I am not ruling out closed back; they’ve been fine for years. These will not be worn anywhere but at my desk.

Funds are set aside in the bank, and I have been watching prices now for about 4 months (waiting on black Friday /cyber sales). However, these recent sales on Drop/Amazon, have me really feeling the pressure to buy. So, with that in mind, the following is how I will use the headphones and my current music preference:

  1. Gaming – I spend on average 2-5 hours or more at the computer gaming. I am a filthy casual and only occasionally play FPS with 98% of the time spent in MMO’s and single player games; so, my world does not revolve around footsteps. I would really like to get a sound that feels like fields are expansive and caves are cavernous, but also have good directional positioning/imaging. Gaming is primarily what I do with this computer. Most forum threads and reviews I have read that mention gaming frame their responses/suggestions around competitive FPS and suggest headphones that have sucked out base/low end to concentrate on footsteps with a very forward mid range. However, those responses are not exactly what I am looking for and why I am posting, I want to feel those big explosions and often listen to my own music while playing MMO’s. Most of the headphones I have been looking at do not have mic’s (except PC37x), so I understand I will probably have to look into a vmoda or mod mic.

  2. Music – I mainly listen to Hip-hop, rock, alternative rock, electronic, etc – punchy music with a lot of low end. However, I have listened to Beats headphones which were so overly boomy it ruined the sound. On the other end, I’ve owned some no-name cheap headphones which had virtually no base/low end and felt anemic by comparison and I disliked equally to the boomy set.

Budget - ~$300 for headphones
Headphones on my watchlist and their current pricing (11-03-2019) – arranged by price USD:

  1. Philips SHP9500 - $66
  2. Sennheiser PC37X - $100 (mic would be convenient)
  3. Hifiman HE4xx - $130
  4. Philips Fidelio X2HR - $133
  5. Sennheiser HD 58x - $135
  6. Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro - $175
  7. AKG K7xx - $200
  8. Argons - $295

Budget: ~ ~$250 for DAC/AMP
Amp/Dac watchlist – these seemed to be able to feed most of the above headphones (save maybe the T50 mods which sounds like I will need the heart of a dying star to power):

  1. Liquid spark or Atom + D10
  2. Mayflower Arc

Curious to hear if getting a dac/amp combo (with mic input) would be the best way to go since I currently have nothing. I know getting them a la carte would allow for swapping out different dac’s in the future, but I have no plans of doing that right now.

Thank you for all who made it this far and I appreciate any suggestions.

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So personally, I think a good combo that you might enjoy would be either the 58x, DT880 Pro 600 ohm, and the HE4xx depending on what you enjoy

Which headphone you get would depend on what type of sound you are after

The 58x has a more close to your head sound with great imaging and a nice warm sound that many enjoy, as it’s not harsh but provides a well refined sound

The 880 pro 600 ohm has a more flat response (although a bit brighter of a sound) and works well with most genre of music. They are easily detailed and have a wide soundstage with great imaging.

The 4xx are a wide, more v shaped sound with fast and tight bass that is pretty fun

For the amp, I would actually recommend getting something like a focusrite scarlett solo and either a jds labs atom or monolith liquid spark so you could have a mic interface and use it as a dac with the amps. This will give you a good quality mic with the opportunity to upgrade to xlr in the future if you are interested (which imo you can get a good xlr mic for around the same price as a modmic), and then also use it as a dac with the higher quality headphone amps


Awesome, ty sir! I will look into the Focusrite and add to the watchlist. I nearly pulled the trigger on the HD58x when it first went on sale, but second guessed it after watching/reading several reviews saying it did not offer much in the low end. Fidelio’s overrated?

The x2 is really not that great imo. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you liked wide muddy bass that overwhelms a fair bit of frequencies

I think the 58x has plenty of low end for my tastes at least

And you would also get an amp with the focusrite like the liquid spark or jds Labs atom to add on


I feel personally attacked. if you like the sound of Deep loose bass like me the fidelio does that. I like the 58x has bass but not plentyIt’s what I would call Audiophile tasteful. tight and not so much the it overwhalms any frequencies. I listen to a lot of hip hop and the 58x is pretty good at it but hip hop wise not my favorite can to use when listening to any modern hip hop great for things like MF DOOM, Tupac or just BOOM BAP hip hop, but is a great headphone for alternative rock put on some vampire weekend, vulfpeck, regina spektor or goose house then the headphone really starts to sing.

If you want nice deep bass whole it doesnt do that great for mid bass but awesome for the deep subbass I would say go for the he 4xx instead.

if you want strong mid bass and dont mind running an EQ the dt 990 is a really decent option. and is still one of my go to’s but it’s a headphone that serves me a unique purpose I use it to analyze beats and backing tracks as well as samples in hip hop tracks I like because hte recessed mids and exaggerated midbass and highs do a great job showing off detail but also flaws it’s no forgiving but I have fun with it in a weird way definitely not a good all rounder though but it’s great for gaming.
I would personally get rid of 1,2,and 7 from your list. 1 and 2. cause you can do better and a blue snowball plus a mic arm aint that pricey and you can get them on sale or used for pretty cheap . and 7 cause the k712 can be found for a similar price sometimes but I find to be the weakest in terms of value and sound in all the massdrop ade headphones around the same price tag Including the 99 noirs cause I love the 99 noirs cause my shitty taste in bass.


Honestly I would narrow it down to the 880, 4xx, 58x, and the k712 (depending on what you can get it for)

I want to state the he 4xx are excelent for ggaming and after putting serious time into it I may actually start putting it on top of the hd 58x and put it maybe equal to the 990. the he 4xx has excelent layering but very good binaural sound and is very good at telling you if an enemy ins behind or in fron t of you unlike the 990 58x. the 58x does a decent job at it but with how intimate it sounds comparatively everything with the 58x is immidiate like hes 45 degrees to your left type immidiate while the 990 can be hes 45 degrees to your left behind that locker. the he4xx imaign isnt the best out of the 3 but the 990 does do eft and right imaging very well behind not soch the he 4xx sounds like hes to your left behing that locker but what it can also do is hes behind to the left where the 990 and 58x sorta kinda struggle with that a bit. I haven’t listened to a headphone or headset around this price point or below that does rear ot fron imaing as well as this can.

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butfi you want a gaming can that does filthy casual as well as hardcore gamer the 990 or the he 4xx can also fill that void. the 58x I would lean closer to the competitive gamer field for those whose preferences are more immidiate so for fast paced shooters and such

I would personally suggest the dt880 600 ohm over the 990, but if you don’t mind a ton of treble the 990 is good

Thanks guys, I do appreciate the different points of view. The field is narrowing and that’s exactly what I was hoping for and needed.

Since my initial post I have come across one additional set of headphones that might be a good fit as well - Monolith M1060C with the open back mod. I came across this combo yesterday in a Joshua Valour YouTube video I came across. He had nothing great to say about them in their stock form, but from what I gather, opening them up made them incredibly good. The one weak point he faulted them on was soundstage, which he compared to the hd58x and 6xx - which are being considered. I had read up on the original m1060 and they did not seem like a good fit, so I did not include them in my original list.

Currently the m1060c’s are ~$278 + $28 (for the open back caps) = $306, which is a smidge outside the original $300 budget; however, I am open to spending more if it meant getting what I want. The thought I have now is that, in a way, these could be two sets of headphones with the mod. Open backs with the mod and an “OK” set of closed backs with just swapping out the caps. So if the wife is sleeping I can shut down the sound leak. I would probably wait and see what Black Friday brings if these are the play. I’d like to hear what you gents think, if possible.

The aforementioned m1060c aside, I am actually considering getting both the hd58x and 4xx ($265 total) or the 880 600 ohm ($216). I am leaning towards the combo a bit more since I get two sets of headphones which have different characteristics, but also if I did not like one, and was unable to return it, I could gift it someone this Xmas.

To be clear the above options would not be taking away money from an amp, the plan was always to get one and no desire for this set to leave my desk.

Personally, I would take the 4xx over the m1060 anyway, but I do think it might be nice to have a couple pairs to mix it up. You can get more enjoyment out of that imo

honestly If I were you I would jump on the massdrop sales and grab both the 58x and the 4xx plus if you soign up for a new account you get an additional $20 off

Thank you again for the help! I purchased the hd58x and 4xx on sale; waiting for them to come in still.

Follow up question, after reading reviews and listening to comparisons, I decided to spend the extra money and go with a wireless modmic. I don’t want to mess with one more wire and constantly coupling/decoupling it from my headphone wires if I want to change headphones. Also, it will remove the need for a focusrite, mayflower arc, or Shiit Hel for a mic in.

With that said, I’ll still need a dedicated amp/dac and not sure what to get. Watched/read several reviews on/between the liquidspark/Atom/Magni and pretty sure I understand their differences; but still unsure on the dac. The other thing is the Shiit Hel got some glowing reviews and seeing as I have nothing might actually be the best bang/buck at its current price of $189 as its supposedly really good.


I think for your headphones, the liquid spark amp would pair the best. You could get a smsl m100 or a topping d10 (which is actually on massdrop for 65 bucks rn). I think it’s a better amp than the hel

If the schiit hel is anything like the fulla it’s not worth it. The liquid spark or atom would be the way to go and topping d10 is about $89 new on amazon

I thought it was better than the fulla, but I still prefer the atom or liquid spark unless you need a mic and don’t want to get a mic interface

Zeos did a review of cheap amps and said very good things about the JDS Labs atom 99$ almost crowned it king lol. Then the Topping D10 is on sale at Drop for 65$ Find another solution for a mic.

Now why cheap out on the most important part of your audio experience? Get the best headphone out right now for the price youve budgeted. When you get the 58x and the 4xx, dont open the box, send them right back and get the M570’s. Buy them off the amazon canadian site for 234$:

These are revolutionary headphones that sound like 1000$ headphones for 234$ Get them.

Yeah the atom is just sweet. The liquid spark is also sweet as well for planars because of the extra power compared to the atom

Not really, but I guess ignorance is bliss lol. They are a good headphone imo as long as you don’t mind having some recessed mid-range

Not going to argue with someonethat validates my purchases but I will just say through measurements the atom is the better amp. I got the liquid spark cause my ears liked it better

Yeah the atom is a no brainier because of how transparent it is at this price, but I personally prefer the liquid spark for the 4xx as I think it helps it out more. If he didn’t have the 4xx I would have recommended the atom all the way