Oh the Choices…

I’m looking to move to an audiophile-grade headphone (or something pretty darn close) with the intent of playing competitively (CoD, EFT, HLL, etc) and I am torn at the moment.

I had originally thought to choose between the HD560S and the Tygr 300 R, but some other options appear to be in my price range:

K702 (maybe the 712)
AD700X (maybe the 900)
DT990 Pro

Now, I’m looking for the best/most expansive soundstage with great imaging. Some people say that the AKG cans are the best for imaging, and some swear by the HD560S or the Audio-Technicas or the Beyerdynamics.

I’m mainly looking for comparisons from people who have used at least 2 of the ones I listed above, or any two (or more) headsets that may fall into the same price bracket as those listed.

Thanks so much for any help in advance. If I can even narrow it down between the HD560, K702 and one of the Beyerdynamic headphones, any help would be immensely helpful.

I can afford an entry level amp/dac to go with whatever I purchase.

I have tried the 712, HE400SE, DT990 and (briefly) HD560S’.

When prioritizing the width or size of the soundstage I’d go with the 712. it just sounds so damn wow.
When prioritizing for imaging I’d say 560s. They’re quite a bit narrower than the 712 but imo a little more accurate, though I only had a short stint with them.
When prioritizing for fun, I’m a planar fanboy. Not gonna lie… But HE400SE’s absolutely FUCK for the price :wink:

Oh. if you hate yourself get the 990’s?

My first pair was the Ad900 (non x) version…Keep in mind that was probably a good 6-7 years ago…They worked really well for fps and were really easy to drive…The staging and imaging was pretty good…We were primarily were playing Battlefield 4 if I remember correctly…

I see you play EFT…I have been playing it for around three years of so…I love the game even with all of its problems…I am not sure if you are playing this wipe or not, but the audio is pretty bad this wipe…Nikita says they are working on getting it fixed…With all that said you may want to look into a pair of Focal Elex…They are amazing for EFT (cod and BF2042)…The imaging is wide and you can tell where the footsteps and or movement is coming from…They have made a really big difference playing Tarkov…The Elex are efficient and fairly easy to drive…You could go with a Schiit Modi/Magni and be fine…

Assuming you mean more along the lines of headphones considering what you mention below not really a headset… though the bad news involving these games is CoD’s sound engine is absolute trash and really there isn’t much you can do to help that considering it not only limits soundstage usage on it’s own but the sound placements(especially in the case of warzone 2) is a literal disaster/after thought during the development. As for EFT they also are having major sound problems right now least till they fix that… In cases such as cod due to the terrible performance of the sound engine you stand to gain more from a smaller stage rather than a larger stage as a larger stage will often times not place sounds correctly

400SE is alright but typically needs an additional purchase of pads from my experience to get the most of it but the build quality is cheap and Hifiman isn’t particularly made of ‘quality’ so to speak as they are riddled with quality control problems… I try not to recommend this brand as much to gamers in particular since gamers tend to be more rough on their cans which in this headphone brands case can lead to malfunction/breaks

K702 is the better choice vs k712 since the 702 is more bass lean and treble forward… as for K701, 602, 702 and some others they are extremely identical and in some cases you’d be hard pressed to really noticed the differences without serious A/B testing however 702 is a bit better in upper mids - low treble and a bit more bass lean than 612. All of these suffer from imaging issues… whoever stated they have exceptional imaging would be dead in the water wrong and stating misinformation since it’s known knowledge these particular headphones within the AKG lineup do suffer from imaging inaccuracies and problems. It’s not a horrible issue you can still use them but it’s something worth noting

As far as the 700x is concerned it’s one of the budget kings… virtually identical in signature traits vs something like the 612, 702 etc however the largest complaint about these is build quality and comfort as the headband seems to be a huge hit or miss here to the point some people go out of their way to mod the headband with rubber bands and other ideas. 700x doesn’t have the imaging problems that the AKG brand line does however it has comfort problems and separation of sound/layering issues where if heated gunfights in larger environments starts up you can have trouble placing each sound respectively and it will sound quite jumbled together

DT 990’s largest issues are the immensely bright treble which may turn away a great many people and the lacking mids since it’s V shaped. It has a bit too much in the bass but exceptional in the treble, imaging, soundstage, etc. It’s these issues that make people choose the tygr a bit more since it’s more comfortable for listening to as far as treble is concerned.

560s is pretty much the jack of all trades on the nose headphone over there. Great imaging, good enough slightly above the average soundstage, neutral bright without anything being really offensive. For the budget especially third party it really doesn’t have many drawbacks outside of maybe the more shallow pads so comfort is questionable and it may be a bit too treble heavy for some. As far as soundstage is concerned in your list this has the least amount as the rest of the headphones in your list have very large stages especially in the case of the AKG and Hifiman

You will get this as everyone hears differently so experiences and preferences are going to change dramatically

I can definitely chime in on this since I have used every one of them and then some

I would encourage if possible… try them out such as return policy or an audio store. Switch the DT 990 to the DT 880 instead as this is just in general a better more well rounded headphone overall you just lose a bit of soundstage but gain a much more balanced sound. As far as comfort is concerned the beyers and the AKG from my experience are the most comfortable in this line up followed by sennheiser and then the AD700 and Hifiman since hifiman are a bit more hefty and unwieldy over long periods and the ad700 is a huge hit or miss on comfort to begin with varying from person to person

as far as things go, SE would be the more “fun” listening headphone in these followed by 990 considering their respective signatures and pad swapping capabilities. Overall performance in games would go to 560s followed by Tygr 300r(less so due to lacking mid presence). Soundstage is going to go to K702(skip k712 less you have treble issues) and 400SE.

While the Focals are very strong in terms of performance the soundstage is a bit more bubble like. However, this headphones price tag is immensely higher than the others on this list coming in at $750 less bought third party or on sale. It’s due to this that I would not encourage going with an Elex as other headphones will come in to play sooner such as DT 1990 which can be obtained for around $400 and the new Meze 109 Pro may also be considered within that price range of the Elex. The elex itself is also quite thin and energetically forward so much so that it can be viewed to be very sibilant to some people ontop of the quality control problems(note that the QC problems seem to only be with the Elex not so much Focal as a brand itself).

Pretty much this ^ yeah. Overall on a hardened budget honestly I would just say go the 560s and call it a day… they can even in many cases be ran without an amp/dac and be fine(depends on motherboard) and if they can get enough power ampless just grab the apple dongle dac for a few dollars to clear up the sound… 560s third party can be found at like $100 which is quite ridiculous considering their technical capabilities. Of course this is taking competitive gaming as the sole focus point… I don’t tend to recommend the AKG though since while they are very strong in competitive they are very boring headphones as far as ‘fun’ is considered since the bass is recessive same as the SE but SE is easily fixed through pad changing

Wow, thanks for all the information! Seriously, great input! If I were to go with the HE400SE (necessarily settled on that, though) what replacement pads do you recommend? Is the imaging close enough to the 560 and the Tygr that I’m not going feel like it’s inferior? Or, rather, is the sound good enough that I’m not going to care? I definitely intend to listen to music also…

In terms of immersion, would you say that the Tygr (with its bump in the bass) or the HE400SE is the better choice? (I know, I want competitive, but I don’t want it to sound dead just for an edge)

overall the 400se is going to be much more musical than something more reference such as the 560s. Pad swaps I would say more along the lines of something suede… some have reported xl microsuede, such as pokrog mentioning brainwavz, extends the imaging… I can testify that pad swapping it to something a bit thicker to give it a bit more room does help it’s imaging qualities though not necessary… the other thing that can be done is a grill mod but this is also a way to change it’s signature to be a bit more fun.

It is quite the headphone in terms of imaging so I think it holds it’s own just fine as any forms of left - right and vertical placements I had little to no problems with it in terms of performance. It’s one of my all time favorite budget planars just keep in mind planars present sound a little different and takes an ear of listening to really understand the differences… especially in terms of speed, impact, and things like layering. My biggest issue with them is long term they can be weighty and they very easily can break suddenly on you this extends into their more expensive headphones too… but if someone likes the 400se it’s very likely you’d fall in love with the Sundara which is a monster in it’s own right(one of the best in budget by a long shot and a true gem of a headphone…). Keep in mind while the 400se is easy to drive it does change when uses an amp and dac respectively and if upgrading to a Sundara you absolutely are going to want a respective amp and dac for that. Sundara also responds in kind to pad swaps as well as equalizations. Suedes and hybrid pads seem to have good results with these headphones… however, suede pads will tend to reduce their brightness and bring up their bass tones(it evens them out quite well but depending on the pad can sink the mids a bit)

Understand that each of these 3 presents sound differently… 400se is a very open sounding headphone it sounds like there is just an airy presentation to them as per the usual with hifimans signature sound that expansive airy sound is something you tend to expect from many of their products… Sennheiser is known for neutrality and extremely good mid performance alongside heavily reference grade headphones they are built much better and lighter than hifiman and tend to be just a jack of all trades brand for a gamer, as for Beyer it’s a toss up… some people swear by them but if you need/love mids they aren’t the best choice less using the DT 880 however beyer have a very bright more dampened tonality… they excel at detail, imaging, soundstage, and treble presence many people I know love beyers but they are a preference pick(outside of maybe 880 and 1990 since these are more neutral). As far as imaging is concerned… I would give the laser accuracy to beyer with the sennheiser and hifiman going head to head in that aspect… soundstage and depth is definitely going to go to hifiman there… sennheiser tend to be very intimate headphones and beyer tend to be heavily dampened so that airy presentation just isn’t there as they are aggressive headphones despite their large stage.

lol you will always care as you will have your own preferences, just depends on what you look for really as such it’s hard to pin a headphone down without your own input and experiences in that regard.

tygr will be more intimate and warm sounding it’s a very chill headphone in all respects with ridiculous speaker like performance it’s biggest drawback is the sink in the mids and some people think it sounds a bit muffled(its really just because of its tuning and dampening)… it’s really not the most clear sounding of headphones(you’ll know clear sounding if you listen to a Focal for example as those are a bit on the ridiculously dynamic and clear sounding of headphones). 400SE will give you that expansive walk into concert hall kind of vibes instead… while the 400 is more forward than the Sundara which is more relaxed to my ear both provide that expansive airy sound

None of these will sound ‘dead’ so to speak they all are very enjoyable but they are based on preference… they perform well in games just fine there is no “best” option when it comes to this despite some claims

I certainly don’t play it well. I’d just like to hear my death approaching a little more clearly… The sound certainly is awful at the moment on there. Hopefully they’ll get it straightened out…


not gonna lie, I got a good chuckle out of this remark

I feel your pain…It is still an awesome game even with the issues…Nikita said they are working on a fix for the sound issues…I hope it is soon.

So, I’ve started with the HE400SE. First time around with headphones like this. Coming from a JBL Quantum 810 (a lot more bass heavy than I even thought) and then an Arctis Nova Pro, I can really notice the instrument separation a lot more, and everything is clearer (sharper?). Also, I can really sense the difference in openness. I don’t have an amazing DAC/amp, just the Steel Series one that came with the Nova Pro, but it’s enough for the moment. Haven’t played enough to get a feel on the imaging. Seems to be as good as the Novas, for sure, and those are doing some weird artificial soundstage enlargement stuff that I turned off for the Hifiman.

In short, I am reallly liking the HE400SE, and I think I may get either the HD560S or the AD700X next. Not sure. I feel like I want to hear them all, so… this might get expensive.

I have an Apple Dongle for my iPhone, but I have a Xumee USB-C dongle (Realtek ALC5686) that does 24bit/384Khz plugged into my PC so that I can listen to Hi-Res lossless using Apple Music. I also have a SteelSeries GameDAC Gen2 that does 24bit/96Khz and am wondering which is really better for powering the HE400SE?

I seem to get good volume with the dongle, and I have access to Dolby Access (if that’s good for anything), but I lose some of the features of the SteelSeries DAC. Will I really be able to hear the difference between 96Khz and 384Khz? Also, I’m using Dolby Atmos on the Xumee DAC- is that advisable?

an actual dac of any form will really be better than that dongle. The dongle is mainly just good for that which can already be driven ampless to begin with and needs a cheap option to clear up the sound. This doesn’t change the fact that a regular dac can offer less distortion and clearer sound traits. Better dacs with better topology/circuitry yield better results

Give it a listen for yourself see if you notice differences. Atmos is artificial and can mess with a lot take that with a grain of salt whether it’s a good idea or not… most open back headphones with proper stage can get all messed up using software like that including their respective imaging.

400SE doesn’t technically need an amp and dac as it’s very low impedance however it will benefit from them. Headphones like 560s, 400se, tygr, etc are recommended not only because of great performance for their money but also the fact of being able to be ampless… as a gamer this saves you a lot of hassle and money to begin with

Thanks so much for the help. I really did notice some difference already listening to lossless. I will probably put something like the iFi Zen Dac V2 on my purchase list (may watch for a sale, since there’s really no rush). I may watch for some used amps too, as it seems like I may be heading down a rabbit hole filled with expensive temptations. I already have a K702 on the way also. Honestly, I’ll probably own the 560S and Tygr before too long. I want to listen to them all…

Not a bad idea really, though just don’t expect to run like 600 ohm headphones or anything very power demanding off that unit as it really isn’t ideal for that set(hence things like ifi zen can and other units were created). Depending on the price the zen dac is definitely worth while, however I wouldn’t really encourage that unit at $200… to be honest with you outside of the bass tones at $200 you can get a dedicated stack that will have more power and likely cleaner tones from the dac. Those units are very good though at saving some space much like Schiit Hel which is around the same price as zen dac with a lot of power but very small

I would say if you want a very good setup early on. take it in brackets… sounds like you can run ampless for now so either go for the $200 bracket or the $400-$500 brackets for a stack. Things like the asgard + modius, geshellis, THX, etc are all within those ranges and perform just fine… You really don’t need anything crazy though with just a headphone especially if it’s just something like 400SE

Give that a close listen as it’s a dynamic drive… 400se is Planar so they have different characteristics. As such changes to things like Layering, Speed, Impact, etc and in hifimans case things like air and stage will present themselves differently

Be sure to give them each some respectable time, let that mental burn in take its course. Long as you have a return policy or maybe an audio store you should be good, just be wary on returning things to like amazon as they get very fussy if you return a whole bunch of stuff

@Falenkor I read what you mentioned above about a smaller soundstage being better for CoD (this is my primary game, and I play both multiplayer in MW2 and Warzone 2. I play a fair amount of Overwatch 2 as well). In that case would you recommend the HD560S or DT880? I know the DT880 has less soundstage than the 990s and I know Senn is generally known for smaller soundstages.

I also know that footsteps in CoD are generally around the 100-150hz mark. Which is not like most games, at least that is my understanding.

We have talked before in your huge competitive gaming guide. I currently have SHP9500s with Brainwavz MicroSuede (you advised me to switch them, and I haven’t yet cause……children are expensive lol) and a Schiit Fulla E.

If were talking about the latest cods then the only time the footsteps are in those ranges is when its a deeper floor boarded type sound as 100-150 is more in the upper bass/lower mids… I would encourage using EQ for these frequencies to fine tune that instead of a headphone having that set amount. Most of the sounds are in the upper mids - treble frequencies(2k-4k). the footsteps frequencies are usually not in the bass though even for the deeper sounds it just can help due to the notable thump

it is dominantly for the newer cods because of their absolutely horrendous sound engine and programming. The game itself hardly works in the audio and has a hard limitation on hearing things from too far away. Adding more space to the sound really does not help in this case as instead it’s better to have the sound more intimately close more so considering all the inconsistencies with the sound in the game. I would still recommend 560s or 880… more so the 560s if budget is a concern since it requires less power

It’s hard to make recommendations for warzone 2 because really, there isn’t much you can do with it in terms of audio performance. The sound engine is one of the worst for FPS due to all the problems

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Thank you for the advice and response! Hopefully one day CoD can figure it’s crap out :joy:

Do you happen to know how the Fiio K7 does? I know it puts out a lot more power. I’ve considered an Atom stack (my space is limited, and they don’t actually stack very well without actually fastening them together), a Zen Air stack, and the Modi/Magni (I don’t like their power adapters- I know it’s silly, but trying to plug them in under my desk would probably be impossible). Honestly, my max right now for a stack or combo unit is probably about $300, and that’s pushing it…

Recommended impedance is up to 300 ohms for the k7. Ifi zen dacs issue is that all that power is mainly in it’s balanced port so unless your have a balanced headphone with a 4.4mm pentaconn cable you won’t be able to use that plugin. A lot of the combo units lean one way or the other with either a good dac or good amplifier but fall short in the other end. Even in the case of the Schiit hel their pushing power is around 300 ohms of power

I am a bit confused so excuse me if I ask for a bit of clarification on this, why is it a concern that they “don’t stack very well without fastening them together”? Is there a risk that they will get smacked around? They are very small units to begin with… JDS atom over there is 5 inches by 5 inches… if you want a more ‘weightier’ stack though made of metal perhaps look into Monoprice instead… JDS is made of plastic and the zens aren’t particularly too weighty either but the Liquid spark stack is pretty good in terms of weight and even smaller(4.6" x 3.7" x 1.5"). Spark drives 600 ohms and then some, little unit but lots of power

-always- if possible shop third party(here on hifis sales, head-fi, ebay, facebook, etc etc… can use hifishark to dig around too)… especially in the case of amps and dacs as you stand to keep a lot of cash in your pocket this way… You can get mint Magni/Modis(likely not current gen modi since thats still a bit newer), JDS atom stacks, and monoprice liquid spark stacks for around $140(which is yet another reason why those combo units tend to be just not worth it)

I will clarify there is -some- amp/dacs that drive well but these are harder to find and aren’t much mentioned… Samson S-Amp was one of those but this was discontinued… yet it -was- capable of driving the 600 ohm beyers despite such a cheap price… same with icon neoamp. Some cases of Douk Audio can drive 600 ohm headphones as well but may not be the best quality of sound… however, these are some of the cheapest units I have found(around $40-$60). If you wanted a ‘gamer’ option specifically … look into Soundblaster G6… as it can run 600 ohm headphones just that the amps quality isn’t the best but it offers gamer type features such as EQ


this here I can confirm -will- drive a 600 ohm headphone such as the AKGs at 600 ohms and the like… Save you a bit of money just keep in mind higher units will(obviously) yield a clearer sound… but for gamers who really aren’t so much audiophiles this is a bit of a moot point

I have seen several reviews where the rca cables pull the dac partially off the amp because it’s so light. It’s not the end of the world, but I am very cramped where my computer is, so I don’t want anything that’s going to be very easily moved or knocked off, if I can avoid it.