Sub $1000 contentment

What is widely/generally considered the option to chose as the headphone to get under $1000 that would be something you could be near fully content with? Knowing that basically diminishing returns are subtle and extremely preferential at higher price points.

TLDR what cans are considered realistic affordable endgames. Amps and Dacs are not a consideration in the price.

There is no ONE definitive headphone under $1,000. Depends on your gear, your musical preference, etc. But here are some nice ones.

HiFiMan Edition XS
HiFiMan Ananda
Focal Elex
Dan Clark Audio AEON Noire
Focal Clear (OG, used)


Ask a ‘simple’ question, get a complicated answer.
Consumerism question, enthusiast answers to follow.

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I think some of the problems you will have getting a simple, straightforward answer is that you’re talking about a fairly generous budget.

At this kind of price, one person who likes a fairly flat tuning could fall in love with one headphone, which would be utterly horrid to someone who wants a deep V shaped sound.

When you’re pushing the $1k mark, you’re well into territory where these sorts of considerations make one person’s “reasonable endgame” into another person’s “Hard No”.

What do you want them for? Purely music? Music and movies? Games? Even if it’s for music, and only music, what do you listen to? A great headphone for electric dance beats isn’t likely to be super satisfying for outdoor recordings of acoustic folk music.

You say that the Dac and Amp aren’t to be included in the budget, but which Dac and which Amp are you looking to hook up to - Some headphones get picky about what they’re paired with.

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In hind sight I realize this was kind of a loaded question and probably wasn’t explained well by me. So I apologize for that, not trying to start an elite war here, just curious. I wanted to know what peoples consideration for a solid headphone, strictly for music, that is considered good across all ranges. It doesn’t excel in anything, but performs well over all and is not fatiguing. I understand there probably won’t be one singular headphone that can do all that, nor one that people will all agree on, but just wanted to know what most people thought would be something good all around that wasn’t going into the luxury-elite areas which I would consider above the $1000 mark. For example, ones that I have heard over and over again is the Sennheiser 6XXs series. They do nothing spectacular so to speak, but good all around, clear, and you could happily live with it accepting that’s it doesn’t get massively better above this. I while I don’t necessarily disagree with this statement, I wanted to know what other people think is a decent can that ticks most of the boxes across all genres and would be perfectly fine never feeling like an upgrade is really necessary. I guess I’m asking about the Volvo of headphones. Widely considered well built, comfortable, a little expensive but not wildly, fast but not a sports car. Does nothing exceptional but everything well. If that helps anyone.

If I had a budget of exactly $1000 for headphones, at the moment, I think I would probably either get…

  • Focal Clear (you can get it on for under $1000 at the moment which is a steal imho)

  • Focal Elex (I have seen this on sale for $600 before, but probably it can be had open box definitely under $700) + a Hifiman Sundara ($350) which gets you a really fun combo of a really great Focal dynamic driver set + a really great Hifiman planar magnetic (big soundstage, high detail, crisp sound)… Feels like if you bargain hunt you can have this combo for about $1000, seems like a 2 headphone combo with variety and hitting above their price level

(I have a senheiser 6xx and a DCA aeon open x… Both also nice at their price point but my favorite cans I own are Hifimans and Focals, somehow both to me offer more fun imho while having great resolution and a more dynamic, fast performance, sound stage, etc… The DCA and senheisers I have listened to feel more neutral and boring IMHO)


Hm like you said a 6xx would be a good starting point but imo it excels with an tube amp, for those Lush mids and fatigue listening
For a more detailed and airy experience Sundara or the the new kid on the block edition xs comes to mind
For an all-day listen with comfort in mind the DC aeon x or aeon 2 is considered the shits
If you like your bass a fostex bio driver is what your looking for so a th 600 equivalent or a Denon 7000

And for my sit down and relax recommendation a used zmf aeolus is King :crown:

As you can see it’s an easy question to answer and no other options are to be considered :slight_smile: :stuck_out_tongue:

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Actually I would probably be happy with just having the hifiman he6 v2 as the only cans… These can often be found at a discount sometimes under $600 on adorama, but these really need a good higher power dac and amp, so probably not the choice as the “volvo of headphones”… They are kindof more like the “mustang of headphones” :sweat_smile:

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Ah ok. I guess I have a lot of work to do in this area. Ahah. I have a Focal Radiance as well as a Hifiman 400se stealth magnet version. I don’t know if I would like the edition X as I don’t find planars really that much of wow factor I suppose as everyone else seems to think they are. Maybe that’s just me. Was hopping to find some sort of a comfortable middle ground between my two headphones atm. The DCA might be the route to go I suppose, only ever heard great things about most of his line up. I hope to one day get a ZMF Auteur with a bottle head as my sit down and relax open cans to complement my Radiance.

I’ve got an Elex with Dekoni fenestrated pads running off a Modi Multibit and Vali 2. That set up is total less than $700, and I could probably be happy with it for a long time if I wanted to just accept it. (Used prices).


Wait: You’re not impressed with planars, yet one of the two headphones you own (HE-400se) is a planar?

I feel like the Sundara is significantly better than the 400SE, a level up in resolution, detail, speed and soundstage…

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The lack of the mentioned wow factor, is probably coming from the 400se :wink: XD

Well, the HE-400se may be far from TOTL, but it’s one of the best values in planar cans in audiophilia, matched perhaps only by the Sundara and Edition XS.

Agreed, I have the 400SE, its good for the price, but my very first hifi headphones were the Sundara which really impressed me at the time.

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if sub-$1000 means sub-$3000…as in $1000 for headphones…$1000 for DAC and $1000 for amps, I think it’s doable.

kidding aside, from what I’m reading, the Edition XS and a DAC / amp good enough to drive them sounds like good sub-$1000 audio heaven. :slight_smile:


Yea I had bought it on a flash sale on Amazon. I don’t regret the purchase really. The headphone that got me into this rabbit hole was a Hifiman years ago. It was the HE-560 V1. That was an eye opening experience, or ear opening I guess you could say. I suppose I was hoping for something close to that will the 400se, but it’s just decent to me I suppose.

Yes Dac and Amps are not included in the Sub $1000 budget, I’ve got about $900 invested in both of those atm, and don’t really plan on upgrading them for a while. Maybe a decent tube amp in the future, but as far as a Dac go, I can’t imagine how much of a difference a Dac will do unless I go really big.

The Edition X keeps on coming back up I see so maybe I should take another look into Hifiman, especially their egg shaped models. Do you havppen to know the difference between the Edition X and the Ananda? Their are basically less than $100 dollars difference and I think I’d enjoy the suspension headband of the Ananda over the padded bar of the Edition X, even if they cost more. But hopefully sound similar.

I’ve been really trying to look into the Altiat Cal 1H. There’s not much on the forum here for that headphone but elsewhere I’ve read, it’s a solid build, nothing spectacular, (even the owner of the company when asked about them said there is nothing special about them, just a solid headphone at a solid price.) but an all around natural step up from Sennheiser 600 series. Anyone have any experience with these? They are rather new so it’s not surprising if not many people have them or have much to say of them at this point. Which is a shame because they look extremely promising.

Be that person that reviews them for others.

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