Suggestion for Closed Backs

As a part of my upgrade all the audio mission. I am looking to see if there is any worth upgrading my Ultrasone HFI 780 travel cans to.

I already am auditioning 2 daps, a brighter ess based Hiby r6 2020 and a soon to get here Cowon Plenue S which is said to be a darker tuning with excellent bass and mids but smoothed highs from its burr brown chip. Both are a step up from the venerable wolfson Cowon J3 i am retiring to yard work duty. Power will be ~ 3Vrms from these.

  • This will be used on subways, trains, planes, maybe some car rides, so sound isolation will be nice. Currently my ultrasones have bad pads for this and the replacement options are limited to brainwavz pu leather.
  • Related, comfort will be up there as well as meshing well with glasses which tbh most pads are ok with after a little while molding around the arms.
  • I need some soundstage. Anything small jazz club stage or better. I cant do compressed or cluttered.
  • Dynamics? Please!
  • A slight V or U shape probably fits the bill the best, i am just trying to avoid mid bass pressure as that hurts my ears
  • An easy balanced termination or cable swap is welcome

So far i looked at the beautiful Celestee, it hits almost all aspects but i dont think i can deal with the negative soundstage. Correct me if I am wrong but its smaller than the hd650? HD820 looks interesting but i heard it lets it a lot of sound and there are some other flaws? Aeons seem to be hard to drive and look a little goofy to me.

Budget is ~$500-1200, but trying to be around $700. Willing to buy used


Possible Ether C Flow (any revisions favored?) or Ether CX?

Smaller soundstage? Very much so, at least if my memory serves me right. It’s been a long time since I had the HD650, but I returned them shortly after buying them. I much preferred the HD600 over them, clamp was too much and they sounded too dark compared to the airy 600’s. Anything Sennheiser is going to have an infinitely larger soundstage than the Celestee. Imaging however is better on the Focal.

If buying used, you could perhaps try some of Denon’s 5000 or 7000 series? They’re incredibly nice and comfortable. A plus is that the later versions of the 7000-series has detachable cables along with shorter ones made for portable use. The drivers on those are great with plenty dynamic slam and good soundstage for closed backs.

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I wouldn’t, the CX are not great headphones, some people seem to love them, but they really do sound very constrained/compressed unless you get volumes MUCH higher than I would want to listen at.

The newer Dan Clark stuff Aeon 2 etc is supposed to be better in this regard, but I haven’t heard them.

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Even the Ether C and CFlows are subpar or just the CX?

They are all very similar, I believe it’'s a function of the older drivers.
It’s really unfortunate, because the Ether CX are some of the nicest looking and most comfortable headphones I’ve owned.

I know @M0N thought the Aeon 2’s were a lot better in this regard, but I haven’t personally heard the newer Dan Clarks.

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Well poo. They look comfy and i know theyre lightweight. The aeons, maybe ill consider but something about them turns me off a lot.

I’ve been listening to a Focal Radiance lately. It might be exactly what you’re looking for. I haven’t heard the Celestee, but it could also work. @Hazi59 has heard them both so I’ll let him speak to the comparative sound sig. But, easy to drive? Check. Well isolating? Check. Easy to get aftermarket cables? Check. Dynamic? Check and CHECK (for the Radiance, anyway). I am also a glasses wearer and have had no issue with the Radiance.

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A quick read says the denons may be fragile and dont isolate well. But i also see these usually have a bunch of mod options that may help both. Would things like the lawton mods be applicable here?

Tbh i didnt consider this much because i though the price eas much higher. Used theyre near the top of what i want to spend. I wish the Bentley logo wasn’t there but they fo look very pretty as well, focals are lookers.

@Hazi59 i know i spoke to you about the celestee but i would love yo hear your thoughts comparing to the radiance.

I’m working on a full review of the Radiance. But spoiler, they have impressed me. They are warm-ish with good detail and physicality for days. Their punch absolutely floored me, very Fostex-biodyna-like in that regard. I’ve listened to them some off of a Cayin N6ii DAP with E02 module, FWIW.


I haven’t heard them myself, but how do other forum friends feel about the E-MU Teaks? That could be an option much closer to the low end of the price range.

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How is the treble? Does it have “focal sparkle”? And do you know how they are with EQ?

I have a feeling the cowon will be the winning. Their treble will most likely need a little help and i use their EQ and DSP because god its good

This sounds like an easy job for either the Focal Elegia which I believe is on sale atm, or the EMU Teak. Both amazingly Dynamic.

Overall probably the Elegia if you can get it on sale would be an incredible pick too easy definitely has that mid range magic and overall sound you’re looking for. But other wise the EMU teak when that dynamic bass hits you you’ll be so glad you bought it this is an excellent V shaped can but I know it won’t provide enough isolation for what you’re looking for.

Both are VERY dynamic. more intimate soundstage but their dynamic qualities make every listening session very fun I wouldn’t bother with much else both are good to drive with what you’ve got the Teaks are particularly sensitive [Almost iem levels] But the mids on the Elegia are better no doubt.

Ether CX is 90% work 10% fun unless you get a hybrid amp like a TA-30 [wearing mine as I type this] They’re extremely resolving sound isolating anechoic chamber like with music playing. By the dynamics… are not good. you need P O W E R your dap could probably do it but they need an amp its not even a question.

For the price of the Elegia on sale its a no brainer

Adorama 599 and amazon 650 usd

Definitely Focals and the Fostex biodyna drivers are some of the most dynamic out there no doubt. I bought my Elex and when I heard it immediately I was like holy shit this is so Fostex like but with way more forward mids

Lawton mods are very nice. I have a pair of D5000 that I had Lawton modded back in 2011.

I wouldn’t say they’re fragile, but that depends on how you handle the headphones. My cable broke after what, 8-9 years? I’ve had one hinge malfunction that I had to replace the screw on. But this is mainly an issue on the old designs that came out in 2008 (D2000/5000/7000). Newer versions have different hinge design and I haven’t heard anything personally in regards to failures.

I would agree that they don’t isolate super well, the clamp force isn’t too strong but that’s also what makes them so comfortable. I love how they sound too, way better timbre than the Celestee in my opinion.

My experience with Denon though is their D2000, D5000, D7000 and D7100 (this one was uncomfortable long term, weird pads / headband but good isolation). Their new D5200, 7200 and 9200 have a real good hinge design, as well as new headband and pads.


Only thing to add is the new Denon has more clamping force and might be less friendly for big heads, and the headband is less flexible

The fragile hinge is still a problem on EMU/Fostex that uses almost identical chassis

And Lawton chambers won’t apply to D2000 specifically without some modding

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Those do seem pretty sturdy and after 5 plus years i expect replacements are needed. I do think the isolation here may be an issue.

The Focal Radiance keeps coming back into play. Does anyone know if they are making a non bentley version? I know some reviews said its possible and it may be without the bentley tax but I dont know if focal would repackage products.

How does something like the Eikon fit (or not fit) in here. I am seeing a used cherry wood one listed.
@WaveTheory pinging you as i think you had experience with Eikons if im not mistaken.

You might want to try out the new Beyer T5P’s. These are my new portable closed backs. Nice all round sound. Clamp is reasonable when you get used to it. No shrill treble. Not overly heavy and very easy to drive. And Super isolation.

They are better than I had hoped. My favourite closed back is the Cascades, but the headband is awful and looks weird.

My new most comfortable headphone ever is the T60 Argon. However, it does require a good amount of power and does leak a bit.

Be nice if you could try out a T5P and see if the sound is for you. Used, these would be a great bargain for out and about.

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