Are vintage headphones better?

I didn’t see a thread created for the video and I wanted to post some thoughts about the different points made.


HD580 - "It’s very good, but it’s not as good as people say it is"

I guess one thing would be to understand how good people say the HD580 is. One thing that’s very interesting about the HD580 is that even at $600, I’m not sure there are that many modern off-the-shelf headphones that would be as “good”. Let’s get one thing out of the way, the HD580 doesn’t have great bass extension. That’s just something that it will never beat a planar at. However, timbre, agreeable tonality, bass impact (with the right amplifier), natural decay, macrodynamics, microdynamics, etc are things that the HD580 does well.

The one thing that was conveniently missing when describing the HD580 is the scaling memes associated with it. The HE-6 was touted as headphone that sounds amazing but you need to dump a ton of power into it. While the HD580 or the other Sennheisers don’t require a dump truck of power, they do tend to sound better with high quality sources and amplification. I know people who have spent 2-5x more on their source/amplification on HD580 compared to what others spend on HE-6s.

We’re moving into an era where headphones measure better than ever.

This is an interesting thing to say because as far as I’ve seen, most people focus primarily on frequency response when it comes to headphones. Now there are also some sites that measure distortion or CSD but the majority focuses on FR. I’m not going to say I’m an expert at any of those things because I definitely am not.

However, making that statement implies that better measuring headphones sound better. Now you have to define what standard headphones should be measuring against and what determines that it is better? Is it low distortion? Is it how close it is to the harman target? We know that when something is measured terribly with crazy amounts of distortion, it will most likely sound bad. However, is a little distortion ok? Is a little variation from the harman target ok? What is the definition of better and is there a way to rank headphones now since we have better ways of measuring them?

Is it worth paying twice the price for black screen HD650 vs silver screen HD650

Worth is very difficult to define for the individual. What is worth for me might not be worth for someone else. I think modern gear has the advantage of being serviced easier since it’s still available and the possibility of failure due to wear and tear is lower since the product is newer. However, in this hobby, many people put sound quality first so serviceability and warranty might not be as important.

Vintage-fi - when people were trying more interesting things.

This I agree with. I find the modern day products pretty boring. Basically you have Hifiman, Abyss, and Audeze fighting at the $4-6k range trying to be the best planar. They all have very similar technicalities where only tonality is the main difference between them. Then you have some fringe players like Meze, Final, T+A all trying to get some of the high end planar pie with more unique signatures but then fail at being a more attractive product compared to the other three.

In the dynamic world you have the old guard like Beyer and Senn (and even grado) still selling similar products that they announced back in 2009. Meanwhile Focal is actually producing new things but have had some issues with build quality (drop elex driver issue, headband discoloration, utopia creaking, etc etc).

Vintage gear is definitely more interesting because it was a different time back then. Sennheiser and beyerdynamic actually designed headphones that could be serviced 20-30 years later (which is why HD580 can still exist or why beyer still sells DT770/880/990).

My main point is this: if it is good gear, it will continue to be good. I don’t think the fact that one headphone was designed 10-20 years later makes it automatically better. By that logic, a budget headphone released today should easily be better than the LCD-2pf that was considered TOTL back in 2009. Measurements have helped guide designers to make better products but many products are measured and then tuned the rest of the way by ear.

Yes, comfort and build quality has gotten better for some headphones but I would say the quality of a Hifiman Susvara isn’t leaps and bounds over a HD580. I myself returned 2 of them and I know plenty of other people who have had issues with theirs. Will I be able to use a Susvara 20-30 years from now? Only time will tell. However, what we do know is that some HD580s have already survived that amount of time.

Please define better…


Yep. Vintage stuff can be great, and every business relies on new sales to keep operating…so new stuff isn’t always any better. Vintage can also be collectable, nostalgic, or cult favorites. Finally, vintage can be worn out, ergonomic disasters, or technologically obsolete. All electronics tend to corrode and fail over time, so vintage may be more likely to fail.

My answer is “It depends.”


See @Resolve’s videos on these topics - he specifies these parameters nicely. Does DMS feel the same way? Maybe. Perhaps you should ask him.

All of your points in the OP were simply your opinions, so I’m not sure what your intent was here other than trying to imply that your opinions are better than DMS’s. Interesting topic for sure, but I think the purpose got lost a little…

Why am I watching resolve’s video for DMS’s statement? Do they feel the same way? DMS definitely didn’t mention anything about that.

My points are that there are equally as valid opinions going the opposite direction of what he said in his video. Some of the statements don’t really have much foundation and mean nothing at all unless the parameters are better defined.

Just like all things audio, there are many differing opinions. I don’t think my opinion is better than DMS’s. I’m hoping he will expand on some of his statements. That’s why I created this thread rather than just post a youtube comment.

I wholeheartedly agree, though you could really say that about anything (virtually any topic will have people on both sides of the coin).

I like the idea of further discussing with DMS, though I don’t know if I’ve seen him on these forums yet. If he’s on here, throwing an @ to him to get him involved might be a good idea.

They both create content for now, so perhaps DMS felt the topic had already been thoroughly explained/discussed.

So much of this is personal preference. Better is a tough term to chase. I think vintage headphones tend to be less efficient all things being equal. That is due mostly to technology. Comfort is a key component of better from where I stand.


I can agree that some of the real vintage beyers like dt48e or early orthodynamics have terrible comfort but I think headphones in the 90/00s have already corrected some of those issues. There are some really uncomfortable headphones that can be purchased new…(i.e. 550g+ planars…)

I’m going to wrap this up. The 580 IS better than the 600 :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

BS/BP 650 is a preference thing :grin:

DMS and I are bound to have different opinions on various topics. I really liked his video though. Regarding the source and scaling question, I do think it’s worth mentioning, and I also had that same thought when watching it, knowing people who talk about the HD580 with ‘infinite scaling’ and how that’s become a bit of a meme.

But at the same time, I think, even if that’s true, the indication needn’t be relevant for the conclusion or takeaways to be worth thinking about. It’s the same with questions of source equipment in general, where someone will inevitably say “that assessment of headphone x doesn’t count because they didn’t try it with this source”. While it’s true that this could change things, meaningfully for the better - even change the whole conversation - there’s really no limit to where this can go, and at a certain point reviewers need to ask themselves what’s reasonable to consider.

I tend to think as long as something is powered sufficiently, it can be a fair assessment of a product, with the recognition that there’s also more to the story when powered with something else. And that’s always going to be the case. There’s always more to the story if you introduce additional conditions.

I’ll give another example - consider the Focal Elear. It would be perfectly understandable to give that headphone an assessment of “good technicalities, average tonality”, and that would be fair. But then I could say this assessment doesn’t count because the reviewer didn’t try it with Utopia pads, changing the condition. Then further, this assessment doesn’t count because they didn’t try it with the ampsandsound Kenzie 32 ohm out, changing the condition even more.

Now, in situations like these, it is niche enough where it’s probably worth discussing, maybe in a separate video. Because the question of HD580 scaling probably has taken on a life of its own, and it’s just an interesting topic in general. So maybe that’s something to explore in the future.


I agree with this. Many times reviews or opinions are discredited just because they are not used on the particular equipment that the other person has found success in. While it might seem like a moving goalpost, I do think there is some merit to synergy. Thomas and Stereo is an example of a reviewer that gives many different situations that might work with a particular piece of equipment and situations that would not work well. I think this really helps the viewer understand in what scenarios might they be able to experience what the reviewer experienced.

So what does that mean for reviewers? I think there should be some exploration into the setups that viewers consider to be good/synergistic setups. If the Senn meme is to use DNA amps and Holo May, I think it might be worth looking into that setup before making a final statement on the headphone. Just like I think it would be silly to judge a Susvara or HE-6 off a dongle or THX789 since everyone who has had one believes that they require a ton of current. It’s very possible that the Utopia pads make the Elear much better than stock so I think it might be worth looking for it if someone I had trusted recommended that to me. I agree that something should be powered “sufficiently” but headphones like HD580/HE-6 have some outlandish claims but only when paired with outlandish gear. I agree with DMS’s claim 100% if you pair HD580 with “sufficient” gear. It’s quite good but isn’t anything special at $600.

I understand that reviewers don’t have all the gear in the world to review everything and it takes a ton of effort to review one item over many systems. However, I do think some reviewers do have the ability to access gear that normal joes like me cannot. I think it would be good to understand what is being used and what efforts were made before coming to a certain conclusion. Like most amplifier reviews, reviewers will list the different speakers or headphones that were used and how the amplifier powered them. Shouldn’t that be similar for headphones?

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Certainly it would be good to indicate the equipment used, or have some sense of that - but it also depends on the headphones to a certain extent. A lot of headphones these days are being developed for use off of an iPhone dongle. That doesn’t mean an assessment of the sound off of just an iPhone dongle is complete, but it’s not invalid either. So yeah I think there is something to the context of the product that’s worth consideration in a review. And, with the 580, that context now includes all the scaling memes.

With all of that said, there’s still all kinds of tangible information to talk about when it comes to that headphone that’ll be relevant regardless of the source being used.


I like my vintage 2005 HD650’s. I’ve only replaced the ear pads and headband pad with factory same, due to wear.

Still the ZMF Aeolus I also own is significant better. But still like the Vintage Sennheiser HD650’s however.

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The '63 Corvette Sting Ray is a beautiful high-performance car. For its time. And is both impractical and superseded in performance and reliability now. But gosh, it warms your heart. I think of vintage headphones - of which I own a few (nothing too fancy though, primarily studio monitors) - in the same way. They are very cool in a techie way. They may even bear up to repeated listening. But most importantly (for me, YMMV), they teach me something about sound, tuning, and headphone design. I appreciate my newer/modern headphones in a more knowledgable way. A meaningful drawback is that I am not listening to those headphones on the same gear that was concurrent with them, so I know that my observations are personal and not historically accurate.

A few more personal observations: (a) I don’t have, and haven’t heard, the HD580, but I can well imagine that something built, say, 10 years ago can sound better than 90% (not a scientific number) of currently sold headphones; (b) based on the modest sample of headphones I have owned / listened to, the mean high tide - i.e., the sound quality of the better / “serious” / “audiophile” headphones - continues to rise over time; and (c) a significant number of new headphones represent “churn” to drive new sales (what do you expect?).


I agree with your statement 100%. My HD650 might be a little later vintage (2007 or 2008?, made in Ireland), but the same holds true for me. I’ve replaced various pads a number of times, and they still sound great. They were my first “serious” headphone as well.

And the Aeolus I also have is much better. I will venture to say it will hold up extremely well over time, because it is a very high quality headphone that is fully user serviceable. ZMF makes what I think will become “classic” headphones with time.

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Crin would like to have a word with you… :smiley:

Regarding vintage, where I really think vintage are better is quality and durability. I have a 40 years old AKG headphones. I do not believe that their new models can survive one year.

I don’t disagree crin’s statement that “You don’t NEED an amplifier” but I have personally experienced the difference between Susvara from my computer to a headphone amplifier to a speaker amplifier. While I could tell from my experience that Susvara had a ton of potential to be a great headphone when using it just out of my computer, I wasn’t able to really experience that potential until I provided it with adequate power.

Crin points out that the apple dongle is “fine”. As someone who has been in the hobby for a while, most people don’t stop at “fine”. What I find kind of funny is that we have the old guard of audiophiles who have been in the hobby or have been designing amplification for decades who understand that amplification isn’t quite as simple as Crin lays it out in his video. For some reason, the new generation of audiophiles believe that they have it all figured out even though engineers have been dedicating their life to continually improving audio.

If amplification was solved, why would there need to be new amplifiers? Why would Schiit come out with Asgard 1, 2, 3? Jot 1, 2? Magni? Magnius? Vidar? Aegis? Rag 1,2? Tyr? Lyr? Vali 1,2,2+? Valhalla 1,2? This is just one company. Is this just a cash grab? Are there really no differences to all the different models and versions? I think it’s pretty obvious that different amplifiers accomplish different things. Different topologies sound different. If the impedance of the headphone changes depending on frequency, the amplifier will have to react accordingly. It’s not quite as simple as “it gets loud enough”.

For @robson and @NordicDave who say that Aeolus is much better than HD650, I know quite a few people who have gone that route and ended up with a HD650 or HD580 over the Aeolus once they reached a certain level with their source and amplification. Honestly I really wanted to believe that all the people who say that Sennheisers scale were just insane. The only reason I don’t is because I’ve gone through that journey myself and have come to the same conclusion as many of those before me.

That being said, everyone has their own journey and my journey won’t be the same as your journey. I just happened to land in the same spot as people who value speakers over headphones and because of that, I find it hard to spend thousands on headphones (which I did at one point) when I could use that for speakers. That’s the value proposition that HD580/600/650 brings since they do quite a few things well and once you have crazy speaker amps or tube amps, they might surprise you.


If the smiley didn’t give it away, it was a joke.

On the serious side, I found Crin’s rant as don’t say “power” when you mean “synergy”. And that no amount of power will save the headphone you don’t like. Which are sound advices.

Regarding speakers, yes, absolutely. I find headphones a compromise for times when I cannot use the speakers. And IEMs a compromise when it’s impractical to use headphones. Now if someone is spending most times with headphones, then investing more can be reasonable.

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Sorry, I misunderstood and couldn’t really tell. We’ll need to ask mods to add LeoKek as one of the emotes. :rofl:

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