What should my headphone progression be?

I’m not ready to buy yet (that could take awhile) but have been thinking a lot about where to go from here. For this post, I’m specifically thinking headphones and “here” means:

M1060, HD6XX, HE4XX, DT880-600, Dekoni Blue w/ Shure 1540 pads, Crossfade M100, Ikko OH-10.

For reference, my DACs are SU-8, M100, and D10. My amps are Atom, Liquid Spark, SP200, and Darkvoice with different tube combos. I also have a Nobsound tube buffer with tone controls. I’m giving serious thought to selling SP200 and “trading it” for an Asgard 3. My listening is a lot of rock/metal, 80’s & 90’s pop, classical and orchestral/symphonic soundtracks, pipe organ, and a sprinkling of rap/hip-hop and EDM. I’m mostly concerned about music listening in this post. I’m perfectly content with the DT880 for what gaming I do.

Within the next year, and assuming some of my job leads work out, I would probably be in the market for a music-first headphone in the $500-$800, maybe $1000 range. But I don’t know exactly where to go and need this community’s help.

I like good strong bass and sub-bass, excellent mid-range timbre, and detailed and extended but not forward treble. I also enjoy good spatial presentation. My ears are VERY upper-mid sensitive and I perceive shouti/honkiness much quicker than most. I’m also learning I’m somewhat treble sensitive - and given how hearing and aging work together that’s not likely to get better. I’ll be really disappointed if I ever spend $500+ on a headphone and it’s shouty/honky or frequently sibilant. Both of those things really distract me while listening. But I also don’t enjoy a dark signature. I need a little top end life in there.

I’m not necessarily asking for a specific headphone right now, because again I’m not ready to make a move, just thinking about what the future might be for me. So what kinds of things should I be looking for? Of course you may suggest example models as an example of “features X or Y”. I also realize that even in the price range quoted compromises must be made - the perfect headphone doesn’t exist at any price and lower the price, the more the compromise.

For more info if you want it, I’ve hidden additional thoughts on all my headphones in this hidden section. Thanks all!

Summary of my headphone likes and dislikes

Monolith M1060 – WAY to shouty in the mids and has rather poor timbre across the board. I do like that it sounds huge and could definitely get addicted to that deep, easy, planar bass.

HD6XX - Much less shouty than most cans, but at around 70dB+ the mids do become shouty and honky. Overall they sound wonderful on a tube. The tube amping masks the shoutiness some but doesn’t remove it. It’s still there hanging out amongst the otherwise wonderful.

DT880-600 – These are never shouty or honky. I love their mids. So detailed and great timbre. The bass is a bit thin for my personal preference. Soundstage and imaging are superb for the price. The treble can get sibilant and metallicy way before the other cans on this list, though.

Dekoni Blue with Shure 1540 pads – Holy bass! The bass quantity and impact here is huge. Can be fun, can be overkill depending on the music. The mids also rarely if ever sound shouty. The treble has similar issues to the DT880 but not to the degree. It’s also not as detailed or as overall high quality as the DT880.

HE4XX – the detail and speed of planar is noticeable and I really like that. Bass is good but sub-bass is almost absent. I wish there was more sub-bass. Vocals are more shouty/honky to me than 6XX but not as bad as M1060. Treble is less sibilant than DT880 but still gets sibilant and harsh rather quickly.

Crossfade M-100 – overall these have a very pleasing signature, but not a lot of detail. The mids here also tend toward shouty/honky at times. The bass strikes a good balance between being plentiful and fun but not being the at-times overkill bass cannons the Dekoni Blues are. I would still prefer more overall detail in the sound.

Ikko OH-10 – good bass, good midrange timbre – not shouty/honky, but the treble is way too forward and sharp. Sibilant, and give the whole signature an overall thin and sorta cheap IEM-y sound to them. I do like the wide soundstage, though.

well, you for certain need to get the Senn HD600! the 6xx are the HD650’s and they sound completely different.

Not a big enough difference to require owning both imo


well, the differences between all the 600’s makes me want all three and then decide which to keep.

On the higher end of your budget I would recommend maybe checking out a ZMF Eikon. They definitely meet you bass and subbass needs and have great mids with some treble sparkle up top. They are closed but have a surprisingly wide stage and fairly good imaging, never sound sibilant or harsh and take really well to both SS and Tube. You can find them used for under a $1000 if you look enough.

Other stuff to check out would be maybe a Fostex TH/TR X00 as they are bass monsters, but I don’t have any experience with them myself. A Focal Elex or Clear might also be worth looking into, but might be to much treble if you are really sensitive like you said.


Anyone tried a 1990 on a tube? The DV chills out the DT880 treble quite a bit and improves its bass performance. The DV does a great job with the 6XX’s bass too. I’m wondering if the 250 ohm 1990 gives the best of both worlds there?

Yes, it’s actually pretty pleasant, def something to try on a tube

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Oh, I would love to try a ZMF. I’ll keep this mind. Thanks.

Could you expand on what you mean by “pleasant” just a little bit, please? It doesn’t need to be a full review but your word matters around here…

I’ve heard they are all different too, yes. But my ears have that mid sensitivity which causes my Senn’s to lose their timbre fairly often. I’m worried the same will happen with any other pair of Senn 6??.

and you need something like the Focal Elex or Clear…or better, if budget allows. the Stellia’s were magical!

I can definitely recommend the Clears but they are the brightest headphone I own so… It’s not treble murder or anything, in fact I would say that it’s the perfect balance of treble imo. For him I’m not sure though it might be too much if he is really sensitive, also they aren’t the bassiest pair. The bass is punchy and articulate but might not be enough for bassheads.

I like the Clears, but recently I’ve been finding the Auteur to be my preference lately, especially on a Tube amp. I’m starting to find the Auteur to be a little more versatile than the Clear as I’m able to pad roll and change subtle characteristics, all which still sounds great in various ways.

With the Clear, although I enjoy them, pad replacements are expensive and rolling is almost non existent, (tried ZMF universe suede pads with an custom adapter, but IMO it is a downgrade), and it doesn’t take well to tubes with some exceptions.


It will smooth out the harsher treble, reduce the overly forward signature, give a nice bit of bass body, also will widen the sense of space but reduce precision. Personally though, I would actually route you to a beyer t1.2 as imo those take exceptionally well to a tube and knowing what you like if you wanted to persue a beyer

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Cool. Thanks. I’m not necessarily sold on a Beyer. Just trying to figure out best options for now. What I’ve tasted of planar sound I’ve also really liked. So I’d be happy to hear planar recommendations too.

Everything I’ve read/seen about the Auteur makes it sound like it’s right up my alley too. But definitely too big of a jump right now.

Yeah its a big jump, but I got mine used, so the jump wasn’t that far, plus I got them almost immediately, so there is that. You also may be able to email zach and see if there are any B-Stock available.

How about something like an Aeon X or Aeon 2? Good low end impact, extension on both ends without harshness, and a present midrange. Stage is not huge, but much better than Senns.

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This may be an “odd” recomendation: Sony MDR-7510’s

If memory serves me correctly, they got one elevation in the treble and a full shelve in the bass region.

Elex Elex Elex. If you dont have them get them. Other than that Sundara’s. One of the bassy wood cupers - The TR-X00 Fostex’s-EMU-Denon’s. The Edition XX from Massdrop. One of the Sendy Aiva clones. Maybe one of the Audeze LCD2’s if you like the dark.

I’d avoid Beyerdynamic, Sennhieser, DCA, Monoprice and Audio Technica.