Some may have read this elsewhere like rM several months ago and for some reason I did not post it here in a thread I actually started, so hear it is.
A Tale of 3 Headphones & an Amplifier
I had been thinking of upgrading my monitors but had realized that I recorded all my music using headphones and not monitors for a while. There were times I had not turned the monitors on for months. This made me think some more…. a monitor investment to improve upon where Im at now was going to be very costly. So what was all this fuss about headphones I had been hearing as a way to remove the room out of the mixing equation …..Im not an audiophiles though I do love great sound and you cant mix on cans…..well thats not true, many do with success.
Then began a lot of reading and anytime someone said neutral sounding or microscopic detail that would suit audio pros for mixing and mastering I took note. The one headphone that came up constantly in this context was the Sennheiser HD 800. As I got further into this I discovered that the Sennheiser HD 800 had seemed to have become the standard that all other cans were judged.
Then the whole notion of open and closed cans came up so I wondered if there were any closed cans that could compete with the HD 800 reputation…..one name kept coming up, Foster TH 900….more reading, pros cons etc and yet I had not heard anything, I was listening to words not sound.
I then come across a small ad on the side banner of some headphone forum that said “The headphone Lending Library...listen before you buy”. It turns out thats what The Cable Company does, they sell and lend audiophile cables and also headphones. Ok now I can hear what all these words I had read are trying to describe.
The name Audeze LCD X came up on radar….Planar Magnetic Headphones.
I contacted the Cable Co. and after several weeks the Sennheiser HD800, Foster TH900 and the Audeze LCD X arrived at my door for an auditioning period of about 10 days.
Headphones that I considered but for a reason or not decided against. Beyerdynamics Tesla T1, AKG K 801 & Grado PS 1000e
As I was researching my intention was to plug the headphones into my mixer which has a headphone amp…..I did not want an independent headphone amp and then when I do want to use the monitors I will need a passive switch which would mean the sources would be difference…...thats where the SPL Phoniter 2 came into the picture. Firstly a headphone amp thats made for mixing with crossfade and angle capabilities and happens to have a pair of balance outputs designed to drive active monitors. Sold! To my astonishment the monitors came alive as I had never heard them before when fed by the Phonitor 2. Ive had my monitors for 9 years….I know them but what I was hearing had some much more presence, detail and space….I was shocked and this was just the icing not the cake….the cake was for the headphones. FYI my mixer and Metric Halo uln2 headphone amps drove these cans quite well but could not touch the sound coming through the Phoniter 2
As I write this Im in the middle of the audition period…..heres a selection of music thats being used with these headphones. These recordings are great sonic examples of performance, recording, mixing and mastering and are reference cds I know.
Donald Fagan, The Nightfly & Morph the Cat
Diana Krall, The look of Love
Pat Metheny, Bright Sized Life
David Gilmore: On an Island
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
David Chesky, The Body Acoustic
The Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Peter Gabriel, Security
Beethoven Symphony No7, Academy of Ancient Music, Hogwood
Pieter Nooten / Michael Brooks, Sleeps with the Fishes
Ma Ja Le / James Johnson, Seed
Very little ambient except for Seed….a stunning recording, performance, mixing and these gentlemen put the mix in the hands of a very good mastering engineer.
At this level all cans are really very good and it would come down to personal taste, however the Foster Th 900 lacked the soundstage of the HD 800 and LCD X, understandable they are closed and considering they did really well. The Audeze LCD X was a little disappointing, its hard to say why, perhaps they come across a little bloated by a dominant low end for my taste though I suspect its because of the stellar performance and resolution of the Sennheiser HD 800...everything that you may have read about the HD800, assuming your interested of course, is true. The soundstage and placement of the music and instruments is breath taking...its not that the headphones disappear, its that you disappear into the music. The main concern that I read was that the HD 800 is bright and can fatigue, perhaps for an audiophile who is used to listening to silk, cream and warmth they could be fatigued, but to someone who is used to a studio audio / neutral honesty then the Sennheiser HD 800’s are a sonic delight.
For more details and opinions on these headphones search the web….what most people say about them seems to pan out from my actual listening experience and if your in the market for headphone its really worth it to borrow a few from the Cable Co.
How all this will translate into my personal music production has yet to be determined but its sounding good….