Are vintage headphones better?

The thread was mostly to be able to respond to the video and to share our experiences with vintage headphones being better or worse than current offerings.

I can definitely agree and see this being true to many people. HD800/(s) is probably Sennheiser’s second most popular flagship series (behind the 580/600650) and has quite a cult following as well. People will go to great lengths to correct some of the flaws in order to keep what HD800 does best, soundstage. While HD800/(s) has become the quintessential recommendation for gamers due to that soundstage, I can’t say I would wholeheartedly recommend it to audiophiles without knowing their preference. The ability to portray a large soundstage is great but at the expense of what is actually you are listening to. To have an intimate jazz ensemble become a jazz ensemble in a medium/large sized room removes me from being able to experience the intimacy of the ensemble. The emphasized upper treble and dipped lower treble can cause timbre to suffer and depending on your preference, the bass might be lacking.

HD800s stomping all over Made in Ireland 600 is very possible. I haven’t heard the HD800s but I’ve heard two different versions of the HD800 and the HD800 definitely has more of the wow factor. To me, the HD600 is probably the worst of the HD580/6x0 group. Made in Ireland also doesn’t really mean much considering all the different variations that were made in Ireland. So while I totally understand your sentiment, I would say HD600 is probably a better all arounder than the HD800s.

I think there is some experience here that I won’t touch but for many audiophiles, sound is the number one priority. Many are very crafty and can mod and improve terrible designs like the HE-6. Hifiman has always had bad build quality and that is one of the points that DMS made. Modern headphones are improving on build quality especially if you’re using something like the HE-6 to compare. However, I’d say that there are well built vintage/older headphones that are even better than Hifiman’s offerings today but yes, I agree, buying a HE-6 means you should be willing to accept that it’ll self destruct at some point in the future.

The LCD-2pf I recently purchase is definitely a testament to how heavy LCD headphones can get. If it was my only headphone, I wouldn’t consider keeping it but since I use headphones sparingly and I currently view it as a “fun” headphone, it has a spot in my stable for the time being. Comfort is another thing that DMS touched on which I can agree with. Meze or DCA or even Hifiman are fairly comfortable. However, you still have uncomfortable new headphones like Abyss Diana, TC, RAD-0, Hedd, etc etc. So while some headphone manufacturers have figured out comfort, unfortunately for some audiophiles, those manufacturers don’t have the sound quality people are looking for.

I do want to bring up that there are other vintage/discontinued/old headphones that are still worth looking into outside of those three that were mentioned in DMS’s video. I personally like the Sony CD900st that has been in production since the early 90s for asian music and vocals. I know some people really enjoy the Audio technica AD2000 for its unique mids. I’ve also been told the HD540 600ohm Gold is extremely good for string instruments. I haven’t tried the Sony R10 but those go for quite a bit. AKG K1000 is quite unique if you can find a good condition one. And then there’s the Stax SR-Omega that some view to be the best Stax ever released.

Whether you want to buy any of them in the future is totally your choice. It’s similar to my parents never wanting to buy a used car. Newer is always better right? :sweat_smile:


Definitely a high point for HD650’s/HD6XX. They are light and wen the pads break-in a little they become much more comfortable.

Vintage headphones we’re all fairly light weight.


Magic 8 ball answers the question of this thread with: “maybe”

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I’ve been holding my tongue so long here that I had to get a clothespin so I could move my hand. “Vintage Headphones”? Y’all mean the OLD headphones that we used to buy in the '60s and 70’s? Most were absolute crap. Radio Shack. I wrote about them before so I won’t repeat, just point:

Finally about 1973 or so I got some Ortho something or other (proto - planars) that I still have, Audio Technica ATH-1. Talked about in this thread that ought to be revived:

The “Good” headphones of the day were frickin’ uncomfortable. Koss Pro 4AA, for example, or even worse the heavy and hurty Koss ESP-6, which sounded gorgeous. The first estats I ever heard that put the holy in holy crap.
My current Hive Nectar are better in absolutely every way.

I still have the Audio Technicas, and they don’t get much eartime. Too bassy. Maybe some pad rolling would help, but can’t find anything that’s right for them. Yes, I still have my Sennheiser HD-580s which were a heck of a lot better than the headphones that came with a Sony Walkman. Now that’s REAL vintage.


@pennstac’s tongue has been unleashed. It’s quite a sight. I concur. The average vintage headphone set was a piece of trash.

Those Koss bring back memories of my grade school hearing checks. They kept the sets around for years, the pads were old, hard, and crusty, and hundreds of small children wore them. I remember them flopping around loosely on my head, so who knows if the test results were valid.

They also made me pee in a cup on the same health exam day. I hope all the hearing tests preceded the pee tests.


Spot on. It wasn’t until the Sennheisers of the 90’s had headphones really progressed forward. Many may likely agree the HD580 then HD600/650 dawned a new era.

Headphones of today are so good its difficult to listen to traditional hifi in comparison. Least this is the case for me, and I have a high dollar “near spare no expense” hifi.


SO very true. I still have a pair of 1971 Koss Pro4AA, they are freaking heavy, uncomfortable, lackluster on bass and treble even when driven by a high powered headphone amp. But back then they were " in".


Just want to chime in here. I see a lot of people in here saying Aeolus and Elex is definitive upgrades to the 650.

Here’s my desk tonight.

(SW51+, Bottlehead Crack + Speedball, Feliks Echo, Jotunheim 2. ZMF Aeolus with perforated suede pads or perf univ pads, Focal Elex and Black Silk 650. Schiit Bifrost 2 is my DAC)

I feel like I have all the gear here to properly test these headphones. These are known and valued synergies here.

I ended up here like how @driftingbunnies mentions, slow steps in upgrading. This path was taken in attempts to make my favorite headphone at the time the ZMF Aeolus scale, but what I ended up with surprised me.

I had a 6XX in the beginning, got an Aeolus and immediately put my 6XX in a box and never took it out. I really did not like the 6XX, overly forward mids bad bass and shouty. However, once I upgraded from an Asgard 3 to a Bifrost 2 with SW51+ and Bottlehead I took the 6XX back out and was pretty shocked with what I heard. And that sort of lead me down this path.

Everything said is in comparison to the 650.

The old black silk 650 is the better headphone out of these three. Off the SW51+ it’s the fastest, clearest, highest resolution, best microdynamics and best timbre out of the group, dare I say it even slams / kicks more than the group. Additionally, it has this massive stage depth to it that first blew my mind when I heard it. Off the Bottlehead Crack it’s incredibly natural sounding and also engaging. The macro and microdynamics and mids clarity make it incredibly engaging while the perfect timbre makes it so I can’t be fatigued listening to it.

Aeolus, it’s a great headphone, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very closed in sounding, it’s overly smooth and completely lacks the nuanced micro and macrodynamics the 650 displays, making drumming or attack on guitar sound blunted and boring. There are also some unevenness somewhere in the mids and upper mids that don’t immediately jump out, but when compared to the 650 it’s noticeable. The lows bleed into the mids making them a bit crowded and muddy sounding. And finally resolution across the FR is a step back or two from the 650.

Elex, the whole presentation has a very metallic timbre to it. It’s extremely noticeable when you compare it to the 650. While it does do large dynamics better than the 650 it completely lacks the nuanced microdynamics that I find so alluring in the 650. Even when I try to speed up the driver by using something like the Jot2, it’s just not as fast as the 650 off the SW51+. There’s also something off about the way it projects stage in recordings, Focal is known to have small staging and this is very small but it’s also the combination of small stage depth and sometimes a 2 blob effect that sounds off putting. The mids are also veiled when comparing to the 650. And finally, while it has a touch more resolution in the bass the rest of the FR doesn’t have the detail like the 650 has.

In the end the 650 stays on my desk. It’s almost an inconvenient truth, but it’s also an easy call to make really.


Nobody has said any of those are definitive upgrades, but rather in their opinions based on their experiences they are upgrades. There’s nothing definitive about subjective experiences :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing your experience, though - it’s what makes this place great!


Good Answer Family Feud GIF - Good Answer Family Feud Steve Harvey GIFs

My first pair of headphones were Koss Pro/4AA. I had to replace the pads, but I still have them. However, I rarely use them, and when I do, it’s only to remind me how much more comfortable my contemporary headphones are.

However, they’re not the worst thing I’ve ever used. That has to be the Dynalec H-200/U.


Vintage headphones in my experience are very worth it if you find a deal…

I daily my HD580 (flat plate/early production) and prefer it to past HD650, HD600, HD580 (v3/late production).

To me it sounds more linear/ neutral and less dull than my old hd650/HD580 v3. Timbre is also top notch

I also have owned a few HD540/Gold, HD560 Ovation I/II, and many HD250 linear 1…

Something about those old Sennheiser headphones is just so euphonic. I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of those. Not perfect by any means, but what headphone is?

More fanboy pics below

(Modded lcd3pf)