Please aid me in my search for my first proper headphone upgrade

I’ve been out of the hifi world for a number of years, but now that I’ve been having to replace my desktop dac/amp and have had to spent the past couple of weeks online on hifi forums looking at and reading about different units, I’ve been pulled back in and would now like to start thinking about maybe upgrading my headphone.

My apologies, beforehand, for making another “recommend me a headphone” thread, but I have browsed through most recommendation threads and while I did find a couple of potential candidates (see below) I couldn’t really find one with similar requirements or for a similar price point. Turns out headphones are quite personal - who would’ve thunk it?

To make it easy (or perhaps not), I don’t have any specific wishes in terms of its signature. I’m just really looking for an overall noticeable improvement to what I’ve had so far. I listen to all kinds of music, from electronic to classical, so I would like one that not necessarily excels, but just does well across the board.

So far I’ve had the Ultrasone HFI-780, which I bought over 10 years ago when I was still listening to and producing bass-heavy electronic music, but I’ve relatively recently replaced that with a Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250 ohm because I needed a headphone with more comfortable pads for work.

While very comfortable and definitely not terrible in terms of sound, I find the sound of the Beyer a little fatiguing in the higher end when listening to music at a higher volume and for extended periods of time. So perhaps I need something warmer.

Another requirement is it having detachable cables so that I can attach a balanced cable to it (I would like to be able to connect it to my amp’s balanced output, since I’ve never tried that).

Next, open or closed back doesn’t really matter to me. It will only be used for my pc setup, so noise cancellation isn’t an absolute necessity. I do find bass relatively important, but I would assume that any decent open back headphone still delivers in that area.

Now, the most important factor: I would like to keep this under €500,- (so let’s say $600.-). Again, I’m not looking for something super high end that excels in every conceivable way and gives me the best possible experience, I’m just looking for a nice hifi headphone that will noticeably give me an overall improvement in sound quality for all types of music and will last me for years as a daily driver for music listening.

Here’s what I’ve been looking at so far (in order of price in €50 increments):

  • HiFiMan Sundara
  • Denon AH-D5200 (I’ve had a good experience with Denon in-ears in the past)
  • Audeze LCD-1
  • Aeon Flow RT (open/closed, I don’t know)

Please let me know if any of these 4 don’t actually meet my requirements (I’ve heard something strange about the cables on the LCD-1, for instance, which I didn’t quite understand) and please don’t refrain from asking me further questions on my tastes, wishes, etc.

I’m not at all set on these 4, so I welcome any and all recommendations.


I would’ve said DT1990 pro but it’s also a fatiguing Headphone.
So i can only recommend: A warm AMP + HD6xx,650 or the Sundara since at that price point it’s a really solid Headphone. I used those two a lot and if i had to choose a low Price i would choose the Sundara.

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Is that the budget for both headphone and dac/amp, or did you already upgrade your dac/amp per your mentioned research? Anything besides the fatiguing highs you’d change about the 770s?

That’s just for the headphone.

There’s not a whole lot that I’d change about the DT770s, I’m honestly quite satisfied with them, but it’s just that I find myself not being able to listen to them for long periods of time. At a decent volume I actually have to stop after 30-45 minutes, so I guess I’m just sensitive to the highs.

I also don’t consider myself an ‘audiophile’ and I don’t have any high-end thousand dollar pieces of equipment. I just really enjoy music and would like to find a headphone that gives me a bit of an overall bump in experience.

Okay, so what is your current and/or planned DAC/Amp setup? That may influence recommendations a bit.

Well, currently I’m running the Dr. DAC2 DX by Audiotrak, but, as you know from my other thread, that has to be replaced.

I had set my mind on the Fostex HP-A4 BL due to the fact that it ticked all of my boxes and is readily available here, but I have kind of been advised against it in the aforementioned thread so it is actually still up for debate.

I have also been considering the JDS Labs Element II and, as you know, the CMA400i. Both are rather hard to get here, however, and especially the CMA400i is significantly outside of my budget. So for now I can only say that it’ll be something in that ballpark.

So in terms of the Sundara, I really like it and not sure about EU pricing but if you can get it around its retail price (350USD) it’s a real value monster imo. It does however lean a little bright so if you’re sensitive to treble you might be running into a similar situation as the 770s. That being said if you can get it from somewhere with a return policy it’s definitely a headphone worth trying and would be a considerable step up from the 770 imo.

Ah, thank you very much for pointing that out to me. There’s a place relatively nearby where I can test them out, so instead of ordering them straight from them, I should probably take the hour-long drive for granted an pay them a visit first. They sell them for €350,- so that is indeed great value. Appreciate it, sir!

For reference; it looks like I will be going with a combination of the Schiit Modi multibit and Magni 3+ as my dac/amp setup, if that helps.

(Which means, by the way, that I had to sacrifice my wish to use it as a balanced headphone, but a detachable cable is still a nice option to have for the future.)

Ah, yes…for some reason, I wasn’t connecting the two threads. That should be a nice stack. Since that stack leans warmish, you might honestly wait to see if the 770 responds to your liking on it before deciding if you still want to make a change on headphones. The Magni 3+ does tend to sweeten the highs a bit to bring down the fatigue factor a bit for Beyers in general.

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Yea the sundara tends to be more bright but my experience with Beyerdynamic was always more fatiguing than any other Headphone in my opinion way more than the sundara. But maybe its different for the DT1770 pro but i havent tried them. I only know that they have a lot of bass. You could order a few try them out and sent one back. At that price point i dont feel so bad about doing that and someone else will be happy about B-Stock.

That is very good advice, I will do that.

Another good point! Thanks.

The Aeon Flow RT definitely ticks all the boxes you listed off. I’m a big fan of my pair and can listen for hours with zero fatigue, I’m treble sensitive. I don’t believe there is a huge difference with open or closed with these. Hope this helps the madness lol.

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Do you have any significant complaints about the Sundara’s build quality, by the way? I have heard and read some bad things about that. I would want it to last me for years, so I hope that that isn’t too much of an issue.

I can get a b-stock Sundara for €300, by the way, so that makes it even more interesting to try one out.

That’s the thing about hifiman the QC issues. You never know what you get. You may not even realize that your revision should sound different i’ve seen that reaction from MaxSettings before or Currawong i dont remember exactly. I thought compared to how Hifimans are usually build the Sundaras seem to be pretty good. They reflect the Price/build quality much better.