Transferring from Open to Closed Back Headphones

Hi all,

As the title suggests, I am thinking of switching from open back to closed back headphones while possibly improving my current overall setup. These headphones would be used only at home with the primary purpose of immersing myself in the music I listen to. I’m hoping that I can get some insight to guide me as I am fairly new to the audiophile scene.

A little bit about myself and my experience with headphones so far:
My current setup is a Sennheiser 598SE hooked up to a DAC-X6 that is strictly for home use. While I enjoy the sound that these headphones provide, I am looking for a more intimate experience.
When I say intimate, I mean something along the lines of stronger, more in my head, and getting lost in the music kind of feeling.

When checking out reviews of the Senns that I own, I’ve gathered that the 598SE has a fairly large sound stage and the sound is very accurate. While I enjoy listening to the music as it was intended to be heard, I find the Senns lacking in the ability to get me immersed into my music as much as I would like.

Why closed back:
The reason why I am looking for closed back headphones is because I’ve heard that the listening experience is much more concentrated which makes it easier to get immersed. I would appreciate any insight that people can provide me regarding the difference in experience I would get when switching from open to closed back headphones.

My music preferences:
I listen to most genres of music with a preference towards female vocals and bass heavy music.

What I’ve looked at so far:
BeyerDynamic DT177X GO from Drop
FOSTEX TR-X00 PURPLEHEART (currently not available)

My budget:
My current budget for the headphones alone is around $500USD. (I currently live in Canada so with the conversion, it gets to be around $650 CAD).

I am open to suggestions and answering any questions that would help anyone better understand my preferences.

What headphones would you recommend that I look into purchasing? I am also open to purchasing pads if necessary.

Thank you for reading and cheers!

from what I know the fostex thx00 and the dt1770x don’t have large sound staging. if you are wanting something that has a wide sound stage and more bass then i would look towards something more like the x2’s and tygr300r. people say those are immersive. but if you still are looking for other options the k7xx and ADH-AD are immersive with not as much bass.

Welcome, fellow Canadian dollar sufferer.

As I understand it you haven’t actually heard a decent pair of closed backs but you like the idea of a more intense, focused sound that you’ve heard associated with closed back. My experience says you can get that quality from both closed and open backs, no problem.

For example, I have the Sennheiser HD 579, which should be roughly similar to the 598SE, plus I have the HD 600 and the beyerdynamic DT 1990. All three are open backs. I also have the Audio Technica M50x, which is a closed back. The 579 definitely has a bit of a loose, de-focused sound compared to the HD 600 and 1990. But so does the M50x, despite its small sound stage. While the sound stage of the 1990 is bigger than the other three, it’s not as though there’s a big jump in size. The startling clarity and dynamics of the 1990 – and to a lesser degree the HD 600 – sound much more like what you want despite them technically being open backs. In short – not saying to go open back. Am saying you don’t need to rule out open back.

Another point is that your focus on both female vocals and bass heavy genres kind of pulls things in opposing directions. Most bass emphasized headphones stay elevated in loudness all through the bass, then only start to taper off in the midrange, which is where vocals live. This somewhat muffles the vocal range of sounds. It’s a compromise bass heads are happy to make and their brains undoubtedly have adapted to lessen the problem. But you might be better served with a headphone that does both well, like, apparently, the Purplehearts. The DT177X, OTOH, is definitely muted above the bass region. (Caveat: I haven’t heard either, I’m going by reviews and measurement data here.)

I notice there is a used TH-X00 mahogany available in the US for $350. We have some TH-X00 aficionados here that can weigh in on whether the mahogany/purpleheart thing is a big deal. Of course buying from the US introduces a sea of troubles. Certainly, can’t say it would be worth it.

I think I can help with an honest suggestion. My first real audiophile headphone was the HD598, in fact, I still use that headphone today.

I find the HD598 to be a very good headphone, and I have stuck with it ever since I bought it. I have several headphones in my collection, but none of them really made me replace the HD598.

Except one headphone. The iBasso SR2.

From what you describe, I think the SR2 would be perfect. Since I come from the same headphone as you (HD598), I think this is a suggestion worth taking into consideration.
While iBasso SR2 is marketed as open-back, I can assure you it’s not. It’s a semi-open headphone that behaves like a semi-open headphone. It fits perfectly into what you are looking for - a more intimate headphone that performs well with vocals and can also handle bass heavy music.

The SR2 is my current favorite headphone and I have been listening to it daily for around 3 months. No other headphone has made me listen to music as much as the SR2… and I quite literally mean that. I have been listening to 3-4 hours daily, and I usually stick to 1-2 hours (not daily, maybe twice a week).

The sound performance of the SR2 is amazing on its own, however, the whole package is what makes this headphone punch above its asking price. You have a very well built headphone (all metal construction), high quality carrying case, high quality cable (I would go as far to say that it’s the best stock cable for its price category) - the cable is a custom mix of high purity silver and copper (it’s not silver-plated copper!), you also get an Italian leather headband (which would be safe to be called among the best headbands in the whole market). I did some research myself, and the leather used for the headband is the same type of leather that is used on Louis Vuitton bags… a very nice touch from iBasso. I should also mention that it is very comfortable, the pads are quite large and use memory foam, I had no discomfort after 4h of wearing.

I like everything about the SR2, it’s everything I could ask for. It has the bottom end, it has the mid-range (imo the best part about this headphone is the slightly elevated mid-range), and it has the top-end. It’s just a headphone that is a pure example of a well-spent budget, a headphone that is truly worth its value.

I should further clarify that I have genuinely been enjoying music with the SR2, it’s not like when you are overwhelmed with a product and you love it for a certain amount of time, and then… it wears off and you realize it’s not what you originally thought. I think withing the first week I stopped caring about the headphone and just purely used them because of the music enjoyment factor.

If you can find them, I can definitely recommend for trying them out. iBasso is a company with deep history, they actually have always been making some of the best products in the industry - but always for a reasonable price.

Just my experience and two cents =)

I have yet to hear a great closed back. In my experience, open backs sound SO much better.
Some open backs are VERY open like HD600’s, HD6XX’s and even the HD660’s, where you can hear everything around you.
But there are others that let less noise in like Sundara’s, Grado’s and even the Elex’s.

I am still looking for a great closed back, but I feel it will be very expensive. I had several closed backs and just recently sold the Meze 99 Classic’s. My current closed backs are the Fostex TH-610’s. They are good but not great, IMO.

Happy hunting!


Thanks so much for your reply! I took a look at the SR2 and they look very appealing! I looked around for places to buy them and was not even able to find their own product on the site strangely. Would you be able to recommend any sites that would be able to ship internationally? (living in Canada)

The sites I have checked out so far are ‘hifigo’, ‘bhphotovideo’, and ‘bloomaudio’. The one problem is that none of those sites have any customer reviews.


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Thanks for your reply! I appreciate the insight regarding open and closed back headphones. I had initially thought that closed backs were a stronger option when looking for an more focused sound. Are there any key points that I should be looking for when looking for with regards to preference in the low and mid ranges?


I still don’t know why the SR2 isn’t on their website, they are clearly not directly selling it yet. What I noticed is that SR2 is being “exclusively” sold by dealers and distributors.

In terms of customer reviews, I think that not too many people noticed the SR2, so I am not even sure how many have bought it. I do have to say that I have a written >7k word review, I am expecting to release it in December. Existing customers probably don’t want to bother with writing reviews…

I’ll try and find out if there is a way you can get them to Canada, I’ll let you know

Voja, clear you have found your current one true love in the SR2 and that it works perfectly for your ears and music preferences. However, we don’t have a lot of data points on this model at this time. But one that we do have is the Crinacle GRAS45 frequency response measurements:

While it’s bass may be extremely well executed, the graph is anything but that of a bass-emphasized headphone, which is what WanCat has asked for.

I find it interesting that the advertising copy says it has a Tesla magnetic-flux driver. That’s the label beyerdynamic uses for their new generation of drivers. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if iBasso doesn’t source their drivers from beyerdynamic (and is experiencing shortages in consequence). I used the Crinacle graph to EQ my DT 1990 (which also have the Tesla drivers, albeit at a very different impedance + efficiency pairing) to match the SR2’s frequency response. This is definitely a sound I could fall in love with, too. But in spite of the 1990’s bass vibrancy I’m not hearing anything like the sheer bass loudness WanCat has asked for. (BTW: the SR2 even looks like a beyerdynamic. Wonder if iBasso has outsourced production to beyer? That would be no bad thing.)

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I’m not sure about where they source their drivers, but I believe they are custom made. iBasso was the first to implement a silicone suspension for headphone drivers.

I am not sure if it is the same Tesla Flux technology used in Beyers, but it works extremely well. I’m not sure about the FR, but I can tell you that it is far from being bass-light. HD598 is bass-light, iBasso SR2 is an example of neither too much nor too little bass quantity. It has much more bass quantity than the HD598, is is quite capable of rumble, but also has better bass qualtiy (tighter punch, better more body, clean).

If you go for a bass-heavy headphone from a HD598, your ears would be quite surprised. HD598 has a very light bass response, so I think iBasso SR2 is a valid recommendation for OP. If you have a bass-heavy headphone, you sacrifice the mid-range, and OP did bring up he cares about female vocals (something that I primarily listen to). I also listened to bass-heavy genres and music and didn’t find SR2 lacking.

But that depends, if OP wants bass-head level of bass… in that case he might want to look for something quite bass heavy (Campfire Audio Cascade, purplehearts… which aren’t available to him).

Edit- I am not sure if the SR2 is using the exact same drivers as the SR1, but to me it seems like that’s the case.

Nothing jumps to mind. WanCat, the standard advice you’ll get on this forum is to start with several low-priced headphones with a variety of sound characteristics to gain ears-on experience before spending on anything pricier. People on this forum typically re-sell items to help fund subsequent purchases. The Canuck Audio Mart website is devoted to just this methodology, lol.

But everything is more expensive up here. The Koss PortaPro is a classic budget headphone that’s often recommended. There’s almost a cult following of this headphone. Everyone says it punches 'way above its weight. In the US it sells for $40. Today, Amazon Prime says $69.27C + tax, or about twice US. And I was surprised to see it that low. If only it took half the work to earn a Canadian dollar, sigh.

Nevertheless, if you can hack the buy-try-sell approach it’s surely the way to go. To compensate for the dollar disadvantage my personal strategy is to spend more time researching each purchase, but that only gets you so far. Most of the information available is personal experience reports. But that’s like buying a pair of shoes because lots of people say they’re extremely comfortable. If you have unusually high arches or unusually wide feet, you could – literally – be cruising for a bruising.

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Voja – so you’re recommending WanCat take a $800 to $900 (depending on customs and regional taxes) gamble that everything about the SR2 will suit him as perfectly as it does you. Interesting.

Crinacle measured both (FR only). They may well have the same driver but they’ve clearly been implemented night-and-day differently, just like the DT 1990 vs the DT 1770.

Sorry if I made it seem that way, but that is not the case. I completely forgot about the customs… my bad.

I just find that I came from a similar space as him. HD598 was my primary headphone until recently. To jump from a HD598 to a bass-heavy headphone… that’s a BIG jump. I’m not sure how OP’s ears would handle that.

Totally understandable! I envy you the European commonwealth and strong currency, if your country is in that.

Couple thoughts since my previous posts. The iBassos use a bio-cellulose driver as well as the silicone surround, both of which are not beyerdynamic tech. Sounds like a fascinating mix. As I listen to my 1990’s with the SR2 EQ I’m falling in love with the in-your-face elevation centered on 1 kHz. I’ve added a bit of bass boost, which could possibly better simulate the SR2’s tech, plus some extra treble. The resulting mix adds a heaping helping of clarity that my aging ears are totally on-board with.

[Typo edit only]

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@WanCat just in case you want to check. You can get the SR2 from the US distributor Urban HiFi. They can ship to Canada… but like Maynar said, customs…

Might be the case in the EU, but… I’m in Serbia, which is a country in Europe, but not in the European Union. Definitely not cheap to import stuff to Serbia. If you order anything with DHL, FedEx, UPS, you have to pay:
40 euros for the frowarding agency just to allow you to clear the package from the customs
Besides that:
10% customs fee
20% taxes (PDV)
The importing duties can cross well over 50% of the real value of the package, especially if it is lower value. The customs fees are present for anything over 50 euros - and from what I hear, in America you are allowed to import goods up until 1k USD. I’m not sure if that’s the case.

I am personally 100% free from graphs and all that stuff. I really listened to the SR2 and found it a very good headphone, I loved it for the slight mid-range elevation - my experience is completely opposite to Crinacle’s. iBasso is not known for copying other company’s work - iBasso DX100 was the world’s first digital audio player (DAP) that could play DSD while utilizing the Android OS, and it was also the world’s first Hi-Res (24bit/192kHz) digital audio player.

I think iBasso is great at being ahead of the industry, while also being somewhat an “underground” company that not many know.

Also, the mid-range elevation didn’t feel too “in your face”, it was extremely pleasant - it felt so refreshing to not have the low end overwhelm the mix, and also have the sparkle in the top end without being piercing. To me this headphone is the perfect combo. They are more intimate, meaning that if you want for that airy quality, you definitely need to look at full open backs. But for what it is, I love every bit of it. No joke, SR2 is a 10/10 imo. The elevated mid-range does make the overall presentation feel balanced, it puts it in level with the lows and the highs.

Edit - oh, I should mention that I completely avoided the customs because my SR2 was marked with a low value. Lucky =)

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I was reading through you discussion with voja with regards to strong bass vs a more balanced approach that the SR2 seems to show in the graph that you included.

Regarding graphs, I find it difficult to imagine how exactly the sound would differ by just reading them. (If only we Canadians had as much access to sampling different headphones)

On another note, how reliable do you find sound tests for headphones to be? I have tried listening to sound tests from Z Reviews but I can’t quite wrap my head around how that works when you have your own headphones influencing the sound. If I could understand how they work, I think this method would help me decide which types of sounds I like and what headphones work with me.

Also, thanks for the site recommendation for used headphones! That will really help when I finally come to a decision.

Thanks for the recommendation! After reading through your discussion with Maynard, I realized I had overlooked the fact that very heavy bass focus may be a bit of a shock coming from the 598s.

I also asked Maynard but I will include it here as well. Like you, I don’t really understand graphs too well and having a listen to the music or how it could potentially sound would be much more persuading when picking between headphones. Do you think sound tests (like the ones you can find on YouTube) are reliable? If not, what would be the next best option?

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It’s not that I don’t understand graphs, it’s jut that I don’t like them - except for “neutral” headphones. For me, music comes before anything else, and to me headphones are just a tool for listening to music. So instead of reading graphs, I listen to my ears and also don’t pay attention to most reviewers since they are… crap.

Listening to youtube tests is not ideal, but it’s better than buying blindly. It is the best if you can listen to the headphones first. I truly cannot stress enough how important listening to gear first is. You can read all the reviews, watch all the videos, but at the end of the day, you don’t know how it sound to you until you listen to it.

iBasso SR2 is not too bass-heavy, and it isn’t as warm and “boring” as HD598 - that’s why I prefer it over HD598 for music listening. However, it will cost you just 40 bucks to get it shipped to Canada (DHL), that’s excluding customs fees.

If you want an upgrade from the HD598 and it’s more affordable than getting the iBasso SR2, I would definitely recommend HD600, but it is neither closed-back nor more intimate.

Open-backs are the king of the home audio space. Imo I don’t see any advantage to getting a closed-back unless you want privacy; if you want intimate then open-backs have you covered; the HD6xx comes to mind. Not having spent more than $500 on a headphone, the only closed-back that impressed me was the MMX300 w/ the Dekoni Choice Leather pads. Now those have soundstage! They made my PM3s sound wimpy and they’re probably better than the Drop Pandas too, but my cheaper DT990s still trounce them.


Zeos is the founder and owner of this site, but I can’t off-hand recall a single post from a single forum member that doesn’t agree with your puzzlement. They certainly don’t do anything for me, but that’s at least in part because I have zero experience with the genres of the demo tracks he uses (our tastes seem to be antithetical). At a guess, let’s say you already have a pair of headphones that your ears have adapted so well to that everything sounds perfectly normal in terms of bass, mids, and highs. Now if you listen to the demo with those headphones on, then any differences you hear when listening to the demo would indicate an actual difference you would hear if listening to the headphone being demo’d in real life.

But frequency response is just one piece of the puzzle. How can a more dynamic headphone being demo’d make your less dynamic headphone sound more dynamic? Ditto for detail, sound stage, etc. These are the great mysteries that only inner circle initiates know the secret of, lol.

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