Quality/price option for less than €800 that competes with the best sub-€2,000?

Let’s be real audiophiles!!! In theory, when a certain price/quality line is crossed, the differences with high ranges are minimal.

Which open earphone for less than €800 do you consider to be the “budget” option capable of competing with those for more than sub 2,000?
Competing is a dangerous word, but here I encompass an average between good musicality and the ability to grant technicalities.


To be entirely honest, 0 off the top of my head, if you are wanting them to trade blows in both technicalities/capabilities at least. But that doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t possibly prefer an 800 buck headphone over a 2000 one, since it’s very possible that you may enjoy that 800 headphone more than a 2000 one you try regardless of technical ability.

Also I’m making the assumption that you are speaking specifically in new pricing, because it is possible to get a used higher end headphone around that 1k price point that competes at the levels of 2k new, but that probably isn’t what you are asking here (and that’s also not apples to apples comparing used value to new value)

If getting a sub 1k headphone that could compete at the top ranges in technical ability was a common or even once in awhile occurrence, people would not be buying those 2k+ headphones (well I’m sure some might just for bragging rights, but really most of the people spending that much on a headphone care about the sound, and that’s mainly what you pay for). It can be possible for some of the lower end headphones to compete with higher end ones but typically only in very very unfair comparisons (like if you gave very very good source gear to the lower end headphone, and very very poor source gear to the higher end one, assuming the lower end one can scale), or if it’s just a really bad 2k headphone lol. But basically, the 2k headphones are 2k for a reason, and if they’re trading a bunch of blows with an 800 headphone, that’s probably not a great 2k headphone lol.

It’s just a hard question to answer without a specific reference point and goal. What 2k headphone are you thinking of? What priorities are you looking for in the headphone? What source gear would you be using? Instead of trying to find a unicorn product, it would probably be better to find what 2k ish headphone you like or looks appealing and then find something that might carry some similar priorities at a lower price point/level. But really thought I think time and time again it’s been proven to me that you get what you pay for, just make sure you pay for the stuff with similar priorities and focuses as you (but then again, technicalities don’t automatically equal enjoyment or worthwhileness for some)


I understand your point of view. It would be a dream to find a headset that could at least compete at higher prices. Especially for people like me who allocate the budget to several fronts and making the 2k outlay would be crazy (and foolish).
On the other hand, my preference is to always buy new ones. I am quite fearful in the deal and I prefer to have guarantees from the store and support.

On the other hand, I have always considered the Hifiman Arya, Hd800s, Focal Clear… high-end headphones. Let’s just say I have my sights set on competing against one of those.

Personally, I really appreciate the instrumental separation and the image. I love getting lost in nuances like that when I listen to classical music. I almost like that better than the tonal response.
Unfortunately that happens to me sometimes. Other times I want a good all-rounder that works well in almost all technical areas like separation, image, scene, cleanup and has a tonal response that I like. I usually like the one that is a “MILD W” type. That is, enhanced bass and sub-bass, present mids and sparkling highs.

Everything indicates that it would be best to have two options because one that brings together everything I want would be more expensive.

Yes if you have multiple hobbies/priorities+ daily life stuff going on, it sometimes doesn’t make sense to go that high

Makes sense

Honestly, you’d probably just find yourself more satisfied going with one of those, because I think even if there was something cheaper that could compete in technical levels (I personally don’t think there is assuming proper chains), you still could get the urge to check out the thing you want it to compete with. A lot of those headphones used fit well within your price range used actually, I know you said you didn’t want to consider used, but I think it’s less of a risk than you think with higher end gear (and also if you want you could find a hifi shop/store/retailer that sells used goods for extra safety)

:+1: I think all of the headphones you mentioned are really solid at that in different ways/flavors

Gotcha gotcha

Yes, getting a true do it all is either very expensive or more of a jack of all master of none sorta thing that can be unsatisfying from my experience. Typically it’s better to have another headphone as a contrast point/opposite to fill the gaps that the other headphone may not provide.

Out of curiosity, what are the headphones you currently have right now, and what do you have source gear wise? If you have a fair amount of cans, it might make sense to sell some off and consolidate to a higher end can. I’ve seen many people with lots of midrange headphones realize how potentially worthwhile it is to sell off most and then upgrade to a few higher tier ones

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My progression after sales and returns in the last year and a half (more or less) has been as follows:

I had an X2hr, then I bought a SHP9600 because it looked interesting and later I bought a Hd560s. That Shp9600 was very enjoyable for movies.
Of those I said, I like the Hd560s better. I’m selling the others. An Msr7b came along. Very interesting but I found the Hd560s better overall. I tried the AKG k712 pro and returned it. I liked the Hd560s better.

Then I bought the Sivga Sv021 Robin. I loved it. Very enjoyable. I would say I even preferred it over the Hd560s at times…then came the Hifiman Sundara and the Monolith M1060. I said, I prefer the big and fun sound of the M1060 over the clean, correct and unfunny (sometimes) sound of the Sundara (the reality is that depending on the moment you prefer one kind of sound or another). When I compared the M1060 with the Hd560s I said…wow I prefer the hd560s…it has a more honest and fuller tonality, more cleanness. I went on for a while with the Hd560s and the Robin.

Then came (I don’t know why) a Dt1990pro…I consider it almost a closed headphone because it really has little “leakage” so I compared it to both and I liked it a bit more than the Hd560s and similar to the Robin…I said I have to stop now.
Badly said. The Edition XS was released. It had good reviews and after a few months I tried it. The Edition XS was better in every way than the Hd560s. I sold that last one.
Now I feel like the Dt1990 pro is “better” than before (with amplification). I compare it A-B against the Edition Xs and it competes or wins in picture and resolution.
When I go back to my beloved Robin from the Dt1990 pro I clearly feel like I’ve gone from listening in “2K to something less than 1080p”…So that’s where I’m at for now.

I only have one case to focus on, and that’s a guy from Head-Fi (@jamato8) has quite the collection. He owns the Orpheus HE90, the Utopia, the 1266 Phi TC, and idk how many other flagships he has heard but doesn’t own (or owned in the past). Hell, he might own more than I mentioned, I don’t know.

In other words, the guy’s got the TOTL stuff. He puts the $550 iBasso SR2 in-level with the Focal Utopia ($3990). So I guess if you focus on this one case, you can say there is a headphone of this nature. He said that the Utopia doesn’t have any qualities that the SR2 doesn’t have.

Hear me out @M0N, I’ve been vocal about this opinion in the past too, but I believe that the audiophile game is pretty dirty. If you price your headphone higher, the person purchasing it will most likely pair it with more expensive gear, automatically making the headphone sound better. It’s normal for people to pair the budget stuff with budget gear, and thus not exploring the full potential of the said headphone. If you pair a good headphone (no matter the price) with good gear, the difference between headphones drastically narrows.

I had the opportunity to listen to the Meze Empyrean Elite, and I find that headphone to possess all the qualities that I liked in the SR2 but significantly better. In my eyes, it’s a natural upgrade.

However, thinking that someone purchase all the headphones I mentioned and still puts this budget headphone in-level with a TOTL, it’s not sound that it’s bias. This dude literally bought the HE90, the Utopia, the 1266 Phi TC, and the two headphones that get the most listening time are the iBasso SR2 and the Focal Utopia. I think that he even said that he prefers the SR2, but don’t take my word for it.

In terms of other people not purchasing >$2k headphones if such a headphone existed. A popular YouTuber such as Zeos, Crinacle, one of the guys from The Headphones Show, or idk who else would have to state this. Then it would become a popular opinion and everyone would follow the hype train.

These guys have the power to influence people to overhype a product that’s not even that good.

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Gotcha, well that makes sense. I think if you like both the tonality and technicalities of the 1990, the hd800 makes a lot of sense for something wider and well resolved, the Arya for grandness and separation, and clear for tightness and dynamics. I think all of those cans would be very solid and can definitely be found in the price point you are looking in, but only used is the problem

Sure, although that absolutely wasn’t my experience, unless perhaps you run the utopia off a phone. The SR2 was an interesting headphone (as was the SR1), but in no perceivable way would I pick it over a utopia, or even put it in a similar league whatsoever. I don’t even think it competes with a clear (again, unless you heavily gimp source gear). That’s just my personal take on things. I’ve owned most of the higher tier headphones as well (although never an he90, but I ended up going for a Shangri la sr instead given my preferences), and I can confidently say that the SR2 competes with none of them. Now, does that make it a bad headphone? Absolutely not, I thought it was a real solid buy for the money and a great alternative to the foster biodyna at it’s price point as well, good value. But it simply doesn’t to me do anything to put it in anything close to the same tier as headphones like a utopia, for me.

I would disagree, because I think if you want to pull that card the budget range is insanely more dirty

Sure, but is that not a reasonable thing to do? The more capable a headphone is, the more source comes into play.

Sure, but the question becomes how much does it narrow? The concept of scaling is definitely and interesting topic to explore, and I am personally a big advocate of some cheaper headphones scaling incredibly well (see hd600, dt880, hell even ksc75 lol), but there’s a point where that scaling doesn’t make sense, and as you move up you’ll likely find that things scale even farther as they become more and more dependant on the source. As you mentioned, most budget headphones are paired with budget sources, so naturally most budget headphones are designed to work well on said budget gear. If you designed budget headphones to only work well with higher end gear, you are kinda missing the mark as a product designer imo. There are certain points where scaling becomes more and more marginal, and that will depend on the headphones for when that happens. Most budget or even midrange headphones I’ve tried absolutely do benefit from better sources and do scale to some extent, but never enough to suddenly match the performance of a headphone many tiers above, especially considering that higher end headphone will typically take much more advantage of the exact same source gear you are using to boost the lower end headphone

Nice, and it should be significantly better for that price, if it wasn’t it would be a pretty poor offering within that market

Sure, but this is one person, you have to keep that in mind. There will always be one person who will hold a more outlier and (considered) extreme option. It would be one thing if suddenly everyone was selling all these high end headphones for a SR2, but if that is happening I’m not seeing it. If the SR2 is his personal best, that’s great for him, but given my own experience with most of the same cans, I don’t understand how he could come to the conclusion and I’d never agree. Doesn’t mean I think he’s wrong for liking the SR2 more, I just wouldn’t agree with that.

I get that you like the SR2, but genuinely most posts you ever make about it sound like you are being paid to promote it or ibasso holds your family hostage unless you push it to someone at every chance. Knowing you this absolutely isn’t the case of course, and I just understand that you like it, but I just can’t help but comment on how strongly you try to push the narrative around this headphone to where imo I feel you are blowing things well out of proportion. I do think you should try more headphones in the range you say it competes in to verify these claims you are making for yourself


I feel and believe that the Edition Xs is a baby Arya…
I feel and believe that the Dt1990 pro is a baby Hd800s.

The difference between the baby and the “original” in economic terms is very large.
In reliable shops in my country the Dt1990 + Edition Xs=950€.
Hd800s + Arya=3000€.

I think if you like one, you’ll probably like the other (although I’ve not heard the xs myself so can’t comment there)

Oh for sure, but check used markets in or around your country to see what the going used price is. Also look around for shops/dealers that may deal in either open box/demo or used items as well. But if you only want to consider new, then yes

When I think about it, true. Especially the sub $500 range.

This is why I respect your opinion!

I just think that sometimes a good headphone can get discriminated due to its low price.

You have no clue how happy I was listening to that headphone. It felt like the SR2 and the Soltanus Acoustics Euridiche combined… Also, holding it in hand made me really question how HiFiMan got away with the Susvara.

Lol, you know what, I definitely see that. Literally, every time I find that OP’s description matches SR2’s qualities, I recommend it. But yep… it’s pretty much the only headphone I recommend :confused:

And that’s the thing. I’m not YouTuber, nor do I own a big website, or anything of that sorts. I’m just a writer. I’m afraid I’ll always stay a writer. I’m not the type of dude to write a positive review for a shitty product just so I can get more free stuff out of the manufacturer… and this is something that’s not favorable in this industry. This makes most manufacturers say no to me, and since I am independent I have no way to finance the other models. I think that the thing that’s got me so confident with the SR2 is this one dude with all those TOTL gears praising and appreciating the SR2 as much as me. Sure, almost all the other SR2 owners love it, but their opinion (to me) isn’t as strong as someone who owns all those flagships.

But then again, you, as someone who has the $ to afford flagship headphones and has the experience, didn’t think of the SR2 as highly as me or the other guy do.

But yeah, my opinion is definitely not as credible or relevant due to my limited experience with headphones. I definitely agree with the majority of the things you’ve said.

What amp/DAC are you using Roberto?

You can just buy a Koss KSC75,

possibly attach it to a headband, get an Ifi Gryphon, switch on both the xBass and the xSpace.

And you can lead a very happy audiophile existence with this pairing.


Or you engage in a constant comparison battle in the middle of the headphone segment,
where you like this headphone better for one genre,
but that headphone suits you better for another song.

With one, the bass is more structured, but the next plays more airy, while another would have a “wonderfully natural timbre”.

There will always be a constant going astray in this area, absolute satisfaction will rarely be achieved and a lot of money will be invested in DACs, amps and music services, because there could be a bargain that has “Endgame status” that has never been seen before someone heard.



At some point you will reach a point where you will hear from a dealer, a trade fair, a friend or an acquaintance.

Something like a ZMF Atrium in combination with a Feliks Audio Envy,
a Hifiman Susvara with a Bacoon amp
or a Focal Utopia with a Naim amp
and it just falls from your eyes,

yikes, there is actually an exorbitant difference in sound in all of them Categories, between such a $10-$15k combo and what we’ve heard up to this point.

Reality can sometimes be expensive.


And no, the sound of an SR2 doesn’t remotely come close to the qualities of such a combo, no matter how I drive it. :man_shrugging:


I found He6sev2 under 750€ in a good shop. Its a good buy?

While I don’t know the pricing outside of the US, within the US they can be found much much cheaper used than that, actually there were a few for sale in the buy sell thread here for 500 usd or less.

Also while that can be an amazing headphone for the money, the downside is that it’s pretty expensive/intensive to get an amp to run them all that well imo, so that’s something to take into consideration


I have seen it. Your sensitivity is too low. I couldn’t move it with anything portable and would be forced to use it with a desktop amplifier.

I think I’m going to relax and enjoy the ones I have (DT1990, Edition Xs, Timeless). This hobby is starting to become an addiction.
I consider the Edition Xs to be a good headphone for the price. They say it is very very similar to the Ananda. Not bad looking like that headset at all.

Pd. I think that technical headset I was talking about that can compete with the higher priced ones is the Dt1990. It does amazing things for its price related to instrumental separation and resolution.