Recs for Beginner Audiophile Gear

How much would you like to spend? $1000

Can you stretch your budget if significant quality/ features improve at a slightly higher price point? Yes

What are you plugging the headphones into? I don’t know yet!

Do you need noise isolation? No

Will this be primarily for home listening? Yes

Do you do a lot of flying (on airplanes)? N/A

Are you hard on gear? No

Are you a bass-head, focused on accurate acoustic timbre, looking for sparkly treble, or do you want a tonally balanced pair of headphones? I like a fair amount of bass. I dislike too much treble.

Preferred music genre(s) -

Atmospheric/Space Rock: HUM, Angels and Airwaves, gates, Mogwai, Arctic Sleep, The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, I Mother Earth, Explosions ok the Sky, God is an Astronaut, Starset, Teenage Wrist

Trip Hop: DJ Shadow, Portishead, Massive Attack, DJ Cam, DJ Krush

Emo/Post-Hardcore: blink-182, Story of the Year, Finch, Chevelle, Senses Fail, My Chemical Romance, Funeral for a Friend, Thrice

What have you used in the past? Bowers and Wilkins PX, Audio Technica ATH-M50x

What did you like about it and what didn’t you like about it? Both are great. The PX serves as my wireless headphone set and use it for hours every day for work. The Audio Technica is for home listening and is my goal to replace. The sound is excellent, but I suspect there’s a better listening experience out there and I’m ready to jump in.

What aspect of your current listening experience would you like to improve? Now that I’m working from home, I’m ready to purchase a high end open-backed set of headphones to increase my music experience. I have the space for an amp and DAC if needed.

If you are willing to buy used, I would highly recommend the Fostex TR-X00 line (about $400), preferably the ebony (refined V shape) or purple heart (bassy fun V shape). These are both great headphones with biodynamic drivers which are known for great bass, but the TR-X00 line can be a bit to sharp for some (I find the purple hearts are almost never to sharp, and they have the most treble of the three variants). If you think the treble might be an issue, then the audioquest nighthawks (about $250) might be up your alley. I have no personal experience with the nighthawks but there are plenty of others on this forum who do. From what I hear they seem to be a dark but still detailed warm headphone with great biodynamic bass.

To be clear, both of these can only be found used, but you should be able to recoup most of, if not all of what you paid if you end up not liking them.

Neither strictly NEED an amp but something like a schiit asgard 3 ($200) for an amp and a schiit modius ($200) or a Topping e30 ($130) for a dac will be more than enough for most sub $1000 headphones.

If you want a truly open headphone (as both that I have recommended are only semi-open) and/or want to buy new, then the drop x focal elex ($700) are a good choice. Again, I have no personal experience with them but many people hear do. Also if you thunk you’d like the TR-X00 line but want to buy new, the TH-610 ($600) are a good option that are a bit more neutral than the TR-X00 line but still a good V shape with high quality bass.

Here are links to the relevant discussions

TR-X00 line




Asgard 3



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I also like-a-da bass. Going from what you have to open backed planars is going to be weird and you might really dislike it at first. Sales links and reviews vids below. Prepare to fall down the rabbit hole…


Fantastic information. Thank you so much.

So these options will go well with space rock music?

I’d also take a look at Dan Audio Aeon Flow Retuned and pair that with a monoprice 778 DAC/AMP. The AFRT have the bass you’ll enjoy while still being detailed enough for most people. The 788 could be an endgame DAC/AMP combo for most people as well, it’s a very clean setup while having enough power to drive most headphones when utilizing them balanced.
Nighthawks were my go to until I got the AFRT and I also have the LCD2 closed backs which are amazing but I don’t usually recommend them as they are really heavy.
Hope this helps a bit and good luck in your journey.

Hey everyone.

I’m looking for a headphone with a pretty good soundstage and a warmer sound signature. I want a “relaxed” sounding headphone. What are your suggestions for under $500 ?

I currently have an Atom amp and a gsx1000 (saving the DAC upgrade for down the road). The headphones I use are the 58x, k240 studio, and k553 Mk ii. Of the three I mainly use the 58x for the comfort and their amazing mids/vocals.

What is the sound you are looking for? Of the headphones you have what do you like and or dislike and would change?

Looking for a warm sound, with better soundstage than the 58x. Those are my go to headphones right now and the soundstage is the only thing I wish was better.

Maybe the k712 and maybe the 6xx, but not that great soundstage.

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I love AVA and I there aren’t many things I enjoy more than listening to them through my 6XXs into a tube amp.

Oh nice! Still looking and doing research. Aside from AvA, Hum is my favorite band. They released their new album, 22 years in the making, last week. It’s so dark, but extremely textured and layered. I’m looking for a set of headphones that can really capture the darkness, but clearly illustrate the many layers they compose. Listen to their new song “Waves” to see how many textures they use. Amazing.

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Apologies for being late to the thread. How is your gear search going?

Also in the space rock genre… Ever listened to Spaceslug, Weedpecker, or Hypnos69?

Still researching. I haven’t heard any music from those bands. Spaceslug is on Spotify, and I’m about to throw that on. Thanks for the recommendations !

I know these are not open back but I highly suggest you pick up a pair of MrSpeakers Ether CX. You could get it on sale from Drop (not at the current 900) or find a used pair oh head-fi. I have the Flow 1.2 and it doesn’t sound like a closed back pair normally does. Soundstage? Yes. Bass? Yes. Mids? Yes. Highs? Yes. Comfort? Yes. Lightweight? Yes. Everything? Yes. It basically sounds 3 dimensional and transports you into another world. I tried over 2 dozen headphones and the Flows are my endgame. I’ll take them over my Stax L700s. As far as budget amp and DAC, I have no idea. Other people have more experience with those than I do. I’m running mine out of a SMSL D1 and THX 789. With more budget friendly sources you’d be a bit above your mark but not by much. You would’t have to wonder what if you would have bought this pair or that pair again. I found that out the hard way because I was always looking for the next upgrade and that gets very expensive. You could upgrade your dac/amp to high end later on and it will make a big difference, but it’s not within your current budget. I’d pair those with a Topping D90 and A90 stack.

That said I can’t guarantee that they will sound close to mine without a decent DAC (most budget ones are) and a great amp (THX, D90, etc).

@ady1989 -

After falling down the rabbit hole further and further, I’m thinking of raising my budget to 2.5k. Can you provide the exact make and model of your end game headphones?

With raising my budget, what amp and DAC do you recommend?

Thanks so much!

Dan Clark Ether C Flow version 1.2. Bought them used for a great deal, just make sure they are 1.2 but you can get an older set and get the 1.2 upgrade kit from Dan Clark Audio to get them up to date. Super easy mods, basically changing pads and some foam inserts - make sure you get the the new angled pads too if you get an older set since they changed the foam in the newer models. I built my own balanced cable but you can buy one too.

Topping D90 DAC, THX 789 amp. If you are a bit patient and hunt head-fi and other used markets you could get everything for right around 2k. Cheers!

I should mention that you can get the Ether CX instead of the Flow and save some money. They go on sale on Drop for 650 sometimes! You could also get a used pair of CXs. I have not personally heard the CX but if you watch the Zeos review on those he says they are close to if not the same sounding as the more expensive Flow. They already have the same design features that they included in the Flow 1.2. I think you’d be just as happy with either and would significantly reduce the total cost :wink:

1600-1700 dollars is still a ton of money but the way I see it it’s something you will use daily. Divide that price by the number of hours of enjoyment in a year… two years… 3… it suddenly starts to make sense.

Here’s a clear picture of what I’m looking for in a pair of headphones. This was provided to me from the subreddit of my favorite band:

“ I don’t know about specific headphones, but I can give a few recommendations as far as qualities to look for. You’re gonna want something with a neutral sound signature, with plenty of detail. You’re also gonna want something with good instrument separation, soundstage, and possibly clarity, depending on the album. If you don’t want a completely neutral sound signature, go for a slight v or I shaped sound signature. Also, one thing to remember: quality not quantity when it comes to bass, especially on the new album.”

I hope this illustrates what I’m looking for.

So, Sennheisers then. Maybe focal(tends to have treble raised a bit). Sennheiser HD 58x jubilee is very well rounded with a modest sound stage. HD 598 has a larger soundstage. 599 larger soundstage slightly brighter. 558/559 more bass larger soundstage. Detailed, neutral, good seperation, modest soundstages, good clarity. As for Focal you’d be looking at the Elex more soundstage really good. I would recommend the later versions of the sennheiser line as they do sound great but they have a very linear intimate soundstage

177x GO, Aeons,DT 1990 with dekoni elite velour pads

just some recommendations from me personally considering what you say you are searching for. Pair those with an asgard 3 + Topping E30 or Modius. If you can find and afford it you can get balanced cables and pick up a Liquid Platinum which pairs remarkably well with the 177x Go and aeons. Pretty sure you can get an adapter for the balanced cables that go to the 58x jubilee as well if you wanted.

Other mentions with potential. Probably Harmonic Dyne Helios, dt 880 or Hifiman Sundara natural detailed bass with good sub bass extensions clean mids brighter sparkly highs more neutral bright sounding and Tygr300r warm with treble just slightly raised making an extremely subtle yet warm V signature with a very large soundstage laser accurate imaging and crisp detail with clarity and seperation. Labelled as a gamer headphone definitely doesn’t sound anything gamer based. For the dt880 it responds best to a tube amp like dark voice and should be bought in 600 ohms