Jump to content

Are new headphones getting better, and if so, how much?


aerius
 Share

Recommended Posts

I've been thinking about this quite a bit since the Hamilton meet a week ago. I heard the K501, K1000, K701, RS-1, PS-1, and GS1000 among others, and I came away somewhat saddened and disappointed. To me, the new flagship headphones from AKG and Grado failed to capture the magic of their predecessors. They were arguably more even all-round performers, but it was the evenness of mediocrity and plainness. Simply put, these headphones try to be everything to everyone, and in doing so end up being boring, bland, and lacking in magic.

Sure the K701 has a flatter more extended frequency response than the K501 or K1000, and is more detailed than the former, but it comes at an unacceptable cost (to me). The midrange magic is gone, the soundstage is no longer seamless, and there's an annoying degree of harshness in the treble. It sounds more "neutral" I suppose, but it no longer has the compelling qualities of the earlier 'phones which make them worth it despite their faults.

Same thing with the GS1000, it has a nice big soundstage, is more "neutral" and may be slightly more detailed than an RS-1, but once again it can't do the midrange magic. It won't give me the "holy crap that singer chick just tongued me" which the RS-1 can do with ease, and I end up feeling unsatisfied. Blues guitar no longer has the magic tone that makes you wanna cry, there just ain't as much emotion as there is with the RS-1.

Looking at the slightly bigger picture, it's not all bad, the limited edition HF-1 and PS-1 were both nice improvements at their price points. Both kept the signature sound and magic while adding new qualities which made them even better. I haven't heard any Audio-Technicas other than the W100 and A900, but it looks like they have a whole bunch of new stuff. Maybe someone can comment on how those stack up. Sennheiser tweaked the 600 and came up with the 650, and though I don't really like it much I still think it's an overall improvement on the 600.

So overall there's some bright spots but to me things seem like they're moving more sideways than forwards. Thoughts? Comments?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest sacd lover

I am one of those that likes the senn 600 much better than the 650. In fact, I picked up a 580 cheap and I like the 580 better than the 650 too. Interestingly, I tried the senn 595 and I love :-* that headphone. But I like the discontinued 120 ohm model not the newer 50 ohm version. The 120 ohm 595 rocks with my Singlepower tube amps in a serious way. I like the 701 for the most part :-\ ..... but I like the 580/ 595/ 600 noticeably better. I liked the HF-1 but the 595 out grados that grado IMO. I cant handle the beyer dt880's bright, thin sound. Maybe the new 2006 version is better .... it does appear the treble is somewhat tamed according to the graphs .... compared to the original. But I dont know that the difference would be enough to change my opinion. The Sony sa5000 just sucks to my ears.

So .... I guess I agree with you for the most part that the newer headphones havent lived up to the performance of my old favorites. The new headphones may be technically more proficient but they do seem to lack an undefineable musicality compared to my old referances. I will say I got the new AKG KDJ81 for a transportable setup and for an inexpensive headphone this one is very good. But my expectations are certainly lower. This headphone does have bass .... maybe a little to much. But its fun and there is no annoying sibilance or fatal treble anomolies. I, of course, wish someone would do something like the grado HP-2 or a senn 600 with just a little more treble extension. But thats probably not likely.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

well, i think mention somethign constructive here...

I don't think there are going to be much improvements at the highest echelon of technology in headphones, newer products will just be shifting around how it sounds, and maybe offer something to people who complained about the last rendition of the product.... Technology leaps in the last 6 years in headphones? Besides gimmiky things like waht sony uses in their imo awful cans, nothign reallly... it's ironic all the sought out cans are even older (and the msot desired ones are discontinued). It has nothing to do with the growth or interest of the hobby, it's just the state of affairs in headphone hifi now... in a few years maybe something better? I still doubt it. I think the best way to get headphones to sound better will be with the newer sources/amps that are comign along... There is way more amp technology coming around and always the next thing to me sounds better.... Maybe the best sounding sources will become cheaper and more accessible?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the newer headphones have been a bit of a mixed bag. While I'm not a fan of the 701 I do think they are better than the 501 (remember they aren't k1000 replacements). I've also been pretty happy with the GS-1000 compared to the RS-1 and I do prefer the 650 over the 600. On the other hand I don't like the new Sony phones at all and I wonder how much if at all better the 2006 versions of all the Beyer phones are?

Another thing to consider, how much of the dissappointment is due to completely unrealistic expectations?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I'm in Tkam's camp here. I like the 701 a lot. Though it is isn't perfect my year, it did ultimately prompt me to sell my RS-1s. RS-2s. and woody CD3ks. I find it's soundstage and headstage to be among the best of any headphone I've heard.

Though I'm not a fan of the Senns, I like the 650's slightly better than the 600 and 580s, but it's close. If the 650 had slightly toned down bass, I'd like it better. I can't get around to liking the 595s.

I haven't heard the GS-1000s yet, but hope to soon.

As for the SA5Ks, that's a tough one for me. I'm not sure what Sony's goal are when it designs its high-end headphones. If it is to design really unusual, unique sounding headphones, then it generally succeeds. The SA5K are not natrual at all, but they sound very different than other headphones. They do a lot of things I like, but unfortunately having glaring flaws that I find difficult to overlook.

It definitely seems to to me that we're in the tweaking stage here. I don't expect a huge improvements over the current models. Of course, I'm always looking to be pleasantly surprised.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that Grado is doing different, but not necessarily better. Ditto Sennheiser.

I think the DT880 is Beyer's best headphone yet, so I think they're still improving.

I also think Audio Technica's L3000 is their best (dynamic) headphone yet, so it seems that they're more or less still improving as well.

AKG made a bad decision getting rid of the K1000 -- that is such a different headphone, it's kind of hard to beat. I'd love to see them do a flagship version of that. That said, they've always made good headphones, so they're kind of hard to criticize, of course they're going to stumble, eventually.

Long and short: unlike the (headphone) amplifier industry, which is definitely improving, the headphone industry, while not necessarily on the decline, still has room for improvement as well. It's just like stocks, sometimes they're up, sometimes they're down. I think we're in a "noisy" area of the graph, where the overall trend has plateaued (?sp).

I wish ps-1 had less bass so I could use less lean sounding tubes with them.
You know, as much as I hate the PS-1's inordinate amount of bass, I can't criticize the quality of the bass -- perhaps it would respond well to EQ?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know, as much as I hate the PS-1's inordinate amount of bass, I can't criticize the quality of the bass -- perhaps it would respond well to EQ?

Oh trust me the bass is lovely and well controled on my system (the best I've ever heard so far). Its just that I wish I could use my other tubes that have more bass and fullness like I used when I had rs-1's.

Biggie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is exactly one true high-end headphone still on the market today, IMO. Stax Omega II. As fate would have it, I don't happen to really like that headphone, but I have to acknowledge its quality. I suspect that Audio-Technica is about due for another limited edition headphone, but I don't see where the next true high-end can is coming from. The GS-1000 did not live up to my hopes..

RIP:

Stax Lambda Pro (and variants. SR-404, the latest of the line, is a poor substitute for the earlier ones)

Stax Sigma Pro

Audio Technica L3000

AKG K-1000

Sony MDR-R10

Sony Qualia 010

Grado HP-1000

Grado PS-1

Sennheiser Orpheus

Sennheiser Baby Orpheus

The current "high end":

Sennheiser HD-600

Sennheiser HD-650

AKG-K701

Beyer DT-880

an Audio-Technica of some kind or another I haven't been following.

Grado GS-1000

Grado RS-1

Sony MDR-SA5000

and Omega II

Which list would you rather pick from?

The exception might be the IEM's, which are just coming into their own. The Ultimate Ears UE-10 Pro is a stunning achievement, IMO. But I tend to prefer full-sized headphones, so there is still a big void out there.

There is some sort of irony that just as headphone audio is coming into its own, the industry has backed away from statement products en masse. The amp builders are getting better and better, but the headphones worth driving are few and far between.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RIP:

Stax Lambda Pro (and variants. SR-404, the latest of the line, is a poor substitute for the earlier ones)

Stax Sigma Pro

Audio Technica L3000

AKG K-1000

Sony MDR-R10

Sony Qualia 010

Grado HP-1000

Grado PS-1

Sennheiser Orpheus

Sennheiser Baby Orpheus

There is some sort of irony that just as headphone audio is coming into its own, the industry has backed away from statement products en masse. The amp builders are getting better and better, but the headphones worth driving are few and far between.

I must say that to take the first list as an indication that the industry is backing away from statement headphones, is a bit misleading. The Lamda, Sigma, and HP1000 were discontinued before Head-Fi ever existed (as were the HE60/90 AFAIK, not counting the Meier ed HE90 one-off). The L3000 was limited-edition from the start, so it wasn't going to last forever regardless, as was the PS1 (limited production anyway), if I recall the talk surrounding it. The R10 was discontinued because Sony had a new flagship to tout.

That leaves us with the K1000 and Qualia as the only of the top list to be recently discontinued. Though I liked the Qualia sound, the fit and build quality issues were a bit much for such a product to survive. The K1000, well you explain that one to me, 'cause I don't see why they saw fit to get rid of it.

Furthermore, though the GS1K might not be to one's taste (I've not heard one), you can't just dismiss that Grado has put out a new high-end flagship (moreso than the PS1 IMO, since that was never meant for widespread distribution, and was a one-off, nearly unofficial product anyway).

I don't think the issue is that high-end cans are going away, more that we are in a sort of coincidental lull. A-T is always tossing out a new headphone, so that one's just a matter of time (of course I think the current W5000 is nothing to sneeze at, but I'm biased). Beyer has never made a truly high-end headphone, so why expect that to change? Sony seems to have taken a step back from the arena, but who's to say that will last, considering their history? Sennheiser seems to be content with their current offerings, since the end of the HE series, but many who use them balanced consider them top-tier anyway. Stax would seem to have little impetus to put out new offerings, when there is literally no competiton in the 'stat world. We already know what Grado has done. This leaves AKG, do they have something in the works, or are they taking a Senn-esque stance?

Of course, the more mainstream audiophile coverage the headphone scene gets, perhaps the closer we come to new entrants into the headphone business. I think the sheer growth of the market will bring forth new high-end headphones before long.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This leaves AKG, do they have something in the works, or are they taking a Senn-esque stance?
Um, they just put out the K701.

And of course there's Koss, whose state-of-the-art is the ESP-950. But who knows how long that's been around.

And what happened with the Qualia? Didn't that just come out? That was extremely short-lived. Was that intended to be a limited edition thing from the beginning? So their current state-of-the-art is the SA5000?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And what happened with the Qualia? Didn't that just come out? That was extremely short-lived. Was that intended to be a limited edition thing from the beginning? So their current state-of-the-art is the SA5000?

When the new management at Sony took over they nuked the Qualia right off the bat. Not that I can blame them it was a pretty stupid idea to create special stores for the line and then only sell the line through those stores. Gee I can't imagine why they didn't sell many....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh trust me the bass is lovely and well controled on my system (the best I've ever heard so far). Its just that I wish I could use my other tubes that have more bass and fullness like I used when I had rs-1's.

Biggie.

Yeah, I heard the PS-1 with pinched waist amperex and DA BASS omg.

Even through tamer mullards, the PS-1 was a beast, but it was a fun manageable beast.

Telefunkens would probably be right up the PS-1 alley in a Melos.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, the more mainstream audiophile coverage the headphone scene gets, perhaps the closer we come to new entrants into the headphone business. I think the sheer growth of the market will bring forth new high-end headphones before long.

See I have a slightly different take on this, I'm concerned that with the growth of the hobby and the industry that we could actually see a decrease in quality. Once the market is large enough the manufacturers won't really have any incentive for creating new ground breaking (or even just great) headphones. They'll just be happy churning out large quantities of average quality phones to the masses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not only that, but it seems like music and the industry that surrounds it is being driven not by quality, but by convenience. Music downloads, cell phones that play music...etc. I'm sure people have been crying about the death of high-end audio for years and I'm sure we will for years to come....

So stockpile those R10s, K1000s, PS-1s, HE90s...etc. Because the storms a'comin' O0 (god i love that smiley)

I'd think the growth of the hobby will eventually lead to better headphones over time though....perhaps better headphones at a better price.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

See I have a slightly different take on this, I'm concerned that with the growth of the hobby and the industry that we could actually see a decrease in quality. Once the market is large enough the manufacturers won't really have any incentive for creating new ground breaking (or even just great) headphones. They'll just be happy churning out large quantities of average quality phones to the masses.

While I can see the point, which is likely true for the mid-low end of the market, I'd think that Manufacturers would take not of how many people are willing to use multi-$k amps and systems with $400 and think "perhaps I can get these people to buy my multi-$k headphones, if I make them good enough." Or do you think the headphone boom of late has only created people interested in IEMs and iPods?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While I can see the point, which is likely true for the mid-low end of the market, I'd think that Manufacturers would take not of how many people are willing to use multi-$k amps and systems with $400 and think "perhaps I can get these people to buy my multi-$k headphones, if I make them good enough."

I agree that the mid-low end of the market will probably be affected the most but really take a look at the high-end market. Take the Omega2's out of the question and there isn't a single pair of headphones in current production that cost over $1k. Of course I'm not saying you have to spend more than that to get quality, but the complete lack of headphones in that price range isn't a good sign. I'm not going to predict the demise of the high-end headphone market but the current trend certainly points toward that market and the number of competitors shrinking.

Or do you think the headphone boom of late has only created people interested in IEMs and iPods?

Yep thats how I see it happening and you can already see it to some degree. If you look at the overall headphone market the IEM segment has seen by far the most new high quality products over the past 1-2 yrs.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on name only I'd say that new headphones are getting worse.

Evidence, the "iGrado"... :mikey1:

Well at least they still look like cheap plastic headphones....all is still right with the world in that respect. Still SR-60 drivers for only $49...not bad. Maybe they'll be the gateway drug for the masses of iPod totin' hipsters.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I had the opportunity to hear the 2006 DT 880 this weekend, hooked up to a Balanced Max and then hooked up to a maxxed out PIMETA I've made for myself. Gotta say that I was impressed. I would go so far as to say I liked them more than the K701. The K701 is a great all-around headphone that can handle various styles of music, but I always feel disengaged from it whenever I've heard it. I can hear that it's a "good" headphone, but it's not really something I want to own.

The DT880 grabbed my attention right away...it was well-balanced, good detail and overall a fun headphone to listen to. I really would like to spend more time with it. It was a DT880 2006 model with balanced cardas recable (the kind headroom does).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.