Yet another headphone upgrade question

So, I’m looking to potentially upgrade my headphones… but am on the fence of if it is worth upgrading at this point.

Right now I’ve got a pair of HD558’s that I’ve been using for a long time gaming and some music… it’s been working well. Now that I have a little more disposable income and have upgraded my PC/monitor… I’m looking into potentially upgrading headphones too.

Problem is… my research seems to suggest the HD 558’s are actually quite good for my purposes and won’t benefit much from a DAC or AMP. I mostly play games, a lot of competitive ones. Mild music use, normally background for working. Electronic (trance, D&B, house… etc), some jazz, some rock/metal… etc. I appreciate sound quality, but am no audiophile (yet). For games, I’ve been into Valorant (same idea as Counterstrike). I feel like sometimes it’s hard to tell where the enemies are… and I wonder if it’s got to do with my headset. (imaging/clarity?)

When I upgrade, I want to really notice the difference. From what I’ve researched, it will take a good bit of money to get that step up for my uses. I’ve seen the AKG 7XX/712 Pro recommended as good headphones for gaming, but are they really a big enough step to make it worth it? I’ve heard the ATH-700x are good, but close to my current headset… and that the HD 6XX/660s aren’t great for gaming due to sound stage issues.

I’ve seen the beyerdynamics 990 600 OHms recommended a lot here but don’t know how it stacks up to the rest.

As for budget… I’m fairly flexible but would like to stay somewhere between 500-1000. That said, I’m still on the fence if upgrading at all is worth it.


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The “worth it” question really depends on who you ask and what they’re goals are. If you’re looking for a true competitive edge in FPS games, I would say that if you’re smart about your upgrade here then yes, it’s worth it. Your budget also allows for lots of room to play, but I also would encourage you NOT to max out your budget yet.

IMO, the best gaming headphone for the money right now is the Beyerdynamic DT880 600 ohm. It does spatial recreation better than just about anything else in the price range. You’ll hear where footsteps are to a level that is likely to suprise you. The DT990 600 ohm will be a close second, and give you more bass punch if that’s what you want. However, too much bass can blur that sense of spatial recreation, especially when action gets busy in a game.

Either of those Beyer solutions require an amplifier, though. They are both power hungry with 600 ohm impedance. Good starter amps that still have the quality to show you some of what you’ve been missing would be the JDS Labs Atom, Monolith Liquid Spark, Schiit Magni Heresy, and Schiit Magni 3+. The Atom and the Heresy are the better measuring amps that will give you super clean sound and be just a tick better at spatial recreation than the other two. The other two will be just a touch warmer sounding (meaning more full in the lower midrange and bass) if that’s something you would rather have. Their isn’t a true “best” among those 4. They’re all awesome for the price so it comes down to personal preference.

A dedicated DAC will also improve sound, too. The SMSL M100 and Topping D10 can both be had for comfortably under 100USD (although watch out for the Topping, it sounds great but there’s a subpar ripoff under the name Aimpire floating around out there). For 100-130 the SMSL Sanskrit 10th Anniversary Edition is out there, as well as the new Topping E30, which is getting a ton of positive press lately.

Finally, if you don’t want a separate DAC or amp, you can start by running your PC’s analog audio output directly into one of the amps described above and wait on the DAC. Or, you can get an all-in-one DAC/amp like the Fiio K5 Pro for ~$150.

If it were me, I’d start SMSL M100, Magni Heresy, and DT880 600 ohm. That’s excellent gaming performance for under 400 USD. I’d also listen to music with it for awhile and start paying close attention to what I do and don’t like about the sound with music. Once you’ve listened for at least 2 weeks with music, report back those likes and dislikes here and poll this community again to steer you toward a new headphone you might like for music. There is no rule that says you can’t have multiple headphones (as you’ll soon learn) :smile:

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Thanks for the quick input! I agree that it might not be worth maxing out my budget (wife wouldn’t like that anyways haha) this early. Is there any benefit to having a DAC when I haven’t (yet) noticed any interference/static from my mobo’s built in DAC? I’ve got a pretty decent mobo ( ASRock Z370 Extreme4). A quick google suggests I might not need an AMP/DAC.

I lean towards me not ending up with two pairs of headphones as I expect I would be too lazy to find/grab the second pair when I want music… but who knows what the future holds. I do like bass, but I definitely wouldn’t call myself a basshead. Any idea how the bass of the 880 vs the 990 compares to my HD 558s? I haven’t done the foam mod to my 558s as I’ve heard mixed results.

EDIT: Also as you may have assumed, the headphones should be comfortable for extended use. Afaik, audiophile level headphones are almost always comfortable, so this is rarely an issue.

so the bass on the 558 in terms of quantity for an open back is pretty good has a nice amount to be punchy but not enought to be considered bassy. the 990 has a nice bug bump on the midbass so for a lot of modern music you can feel the impact on the bass. in terms of quantity there is definitely more than the 558 not in terms of quality thats up to you many would call it loose but he 600 ohm its pretty tight and really fun. The thing to be concerned about though is the treble you get a lot more here than the 558 . if your mobo is clean you should be fine for the most part. the 990 is also a wider sounding headphone with awesome imaging making itself a great gaming can. the 880 would be closer to a safer pick IMO though. a more direct upgrade t the 558 would be the 58x. you get a bit more bass extension and you get around the same if not slightly more punchyness in the bass region , you get more soundstage and better imaging over the 558

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A small additional question, 250 OHM vs 600 OHM if I go with the 880/990? I’ve seen multiple posts talking about how there is virtually no difference between the two. I think I lean towards the 880 if it’s between those two.

As for the 58x, I don’t THINK I’m worried about direct upgrades and can go with a different sound signature. I don’t have much experience though… but I guess worst case I can always do a return if I get it off Amazon. and check out the 58x.

I think @RiceGuru did a good job explaining the difference in bass between the three headphones in question. The 600 ohm models are going to give you a bit more refinement than the 250 ohm versions. The difference will be subtle and hard to pick out for someone not used to listening for them, but they are there. If you have the amplifier power, the 600 ohm models are the better option.

Do you NEED a dac/amp? Technically no - we don’t NEED any of this stuff :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:. The thread you shared looks like it’s for the 250 ohm version. Those probably can be powered off onboard audio to loud enough levels. I don’t know if the 600 ohm can or not. Onboard audio has improved dramatically over the years and to the untrained ear will sound really good and very close to the quality of one of those dac and amp combos discussed in my earlier post. It’s still not as good as devices dedicated to audio, though. You will likely notice this if you were to listen through a dedicated dac and amp for awhile, then switch back to onboard. You’ll hear extra noise, hiss, and generally less clarity with the onboard. Sometimes it’s one of those things you don’t know you’re missing until it’s not there. Also, onboard audio will require you to use the OS volume control. If the system’s volume control is not maxed out, you lose audio information, degrading quality. Here’s a quick explanation in this thread:

Happy hunting.

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ah sorry I completely forgot to mention the 600 ohm 990 or 880 definitely needs an amp, most in here that like their beyers would tend to recommend the monoprice liquid spark as many find it to be an excellent pairing. the thing to keep in mind is amp will amplify whatever flaws detected on your onboard so keep that in mind. but if the mobo is clean you should be good for the most part.

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Thing is, doesnt the really nice headphones like the Sundara, which is a bright headphone, be not only just as good, but better? It has more detail and imaging.

Also what about the whole 3d thing? i would think that would be a given.

Maybe? I’ve not seen any direct comparison on gaming performance between DT880-600 and the Sundara. Then, the next thing to figure out is if that performance difference is worth the difference in price - usually $350 for Sundara vs. ~$180-200 for the DT880. @M0N, how does the Sundara stack up to the 880-600 on gaming? And I ask about gaming first because that was the primary goal of the OP.

Well my thoughts is they could use it for music too lol

I can confirm that gaming is my number one priority. Music is definitely a nice-to-have, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice too much for it. Movies and TV are generally done on my TV setup (2 micas, the mica center, and the recommended starter 12 inch sub I forget the name of).

Not that it matters, but I do have mild (I think) tinitis, which means I’ll probably go with your cheaper options of DAC. I might not hear any static/noise due to that. There is enough wiggle room in my budget to include a DAC without issue though, so I probably won’t leave it off.

I actually prefer the 880 600 ohm to the sundara for just gaming, but I do think the sundara is my preference for music with a side of gaming. That being said I think the sundara does preform fairly well in games

I would actually not skimp on a dac for that, perhaps I would suggest a topping e30 and a liquid spark with an 880 600 ohm to reduce potential fatigue, but I do know tinnitus affects different people in different ways so I’m not fully sure what might cause issues or not from person to person.


Right. This is why I initially suggested @sychotix go with the DT880-600 and listen to music with it for awhile to see how he likes it. The DT880, E30, and any of those 4 $100 amps will kick ass for gaming and also do a really good job with music. Plus, there will be plenty of that $1000 budget left over if he decides the DT880 is too sharp or doesn’t have enough bass for music. If so, he comes back to HFGF forum and we point him to a good music can for his tastes.

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Probably going with the 880 600.

Looks like the E30 wouldn’t arrive for quite a while from amazon… must be popular. Arrives: June 24 - July 16

Is there a recommended online vendor that could get it here sooner? I don’t mind waiting from Amazon if it should run fine in the meantime.

Undecided on which amp, but I think that’s just a decision I’ll have to make.

btw i see the karate and i approve. martial arts are one of the best fundamentals for safety, mental and physical health and improvement!

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These guys were pretty quick for my e30

It really depends on what you are looking for imo. The magni heresy will tilt it bright and analytical, and while impressive not my preferred pairing. The liquid spark would tilt it a bit warmer and smoother, and the magni 3+ would be inbetween the spark and heresy in terms of signature


you would think that but every driver is made different and wheat beyerdynamic does with their DT line in trespect to imaging is just hard to beat its very accurate for their respective prices. the thing about the sundara is yes its actually quite good for gaming but in respect to placing sound withina space especially given angles beyerdynamic just does it better form my experience. what the sundara ro hifimans do really well that translate well to music but in games can be helpful or abit distracting in competitive situations is the layering and great separation prowess. it does very well for immersion in games but in competitive accurate imaging is the most important. especially when your listening for which place a person is coming to you or where they are. sound signature only plays a third of what headphones to consider. another third is imaging and sound stage accuracy and the other what games you are playing. I like the 990 for the games I play which is rainbow six the bass and treble is great for listening too footsteps exposing through sound what surface , or floor they are stepping on. the 880 is a good all rounder for basically everything for music and gaming. good imaging nice amount of brightness and relatively neutral.

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So for anyone reading this in the future and to those that helped…

Went with beyerdynamic DT 880 Premium (600 OHM), Schiit Magni 3+ AMP, Topping E30 DAC.

I got the headphones specifically on Amazon in case I absolutely hate them (which I don’t expect) since they have a really great return policy. I’m going to bookmark this page to remind me to update it later with thoughts.

Thanks everyone for the input!


Should be pretty sweet, curious to hear what you think about them :+1:

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All good choices. Have fun!

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