Best headphone in the newly fleshed-out $500-$1000 category

With this price category becoming much more popular in the last year or so it begs the question of who’s king?with the aeons, lcd-2c, campfires, and even some Sennheiser and beyerdynamics the price gap from 500-1000 is filling up quickly. My money is on either the m1060c (cheaper but still a contender) or the Mr Speakers aeon but I want to hear what you guys think.

So many options here… All my headphones fall into this category, I would say the HD800 would be king here for me, followed closely by HD700, Fostex X00 and the new Focal Elex… I will get my Campfire Cascade hopefully next week, which will help flesh out my set of cans. I also have both M1060s both modded, and find them to be some of the best budget audiophile cans you can get, with the added benefit of modding them to fit your style and make them your own (I call mine frankenphones)


I bought an M1060C it’s frankly one of the worst headphones I’ve ever heard.

I have some serious hope for the new Hifimans–I’ve heard good things about the Sundara and if the Ananda isn’t just a refreshed Edition X it might be a good contender.

The Elex is pretty damn good too for fun listening


M1060c? Worst? Wow that’s the first time I’ve heard that. Are you sure it wasn’t a screwed up one because they are pretty prone to malfunction

I got a replacement one from Monoprice and it sounded and measured the same.

The bass is cool and rumbly but the ringing in the original M1060 moved from 5kHzish which was relatively benign because they measured with a dip there on Tyll’s HATS to around 2kHz, and there just so happens to be an elevation there:

The 2kHz region is often correlated with shout, which people often find unpleasant so the ringing doubled up on the unpleasantness for me. The large low midrange/upper bass dip makes leads to male vocals and low brass severely lacking in body and it makes that ringing and shoutiness even more noticeable. And with a lack of treble, you basically only hear shout and bass.

I can sort of see how people could enjoy it but I could never force myself to use them for more than a few minutes without actual pain setting in.

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Interesting… So I have to admit I pay very little attention to graphs… mostly because I don’t understand it fully, and, I think people use them to justify not liking something without hearing it (not that, that is what you are doing). I, like you, really enjoy the HD800, but I also have no problems with the M1060/C ( I have both, M1060 with 3D printed backs and fuzzor mod, and the M1060C with Losodo open backs), and I find them both fun headphones, with great qualities ( I just don’t use them as much do to having for me, better headphones). That being said I also really enjoy the HD700 which is derided by the majority of audiophiles (I think a lot of them never heard the thing and based opinion off of graphs, hence my not paying attention to them fully). I think as I’m getting more knowledgeable in this I appreciate the graphs more, but don’t use them as the end all be all for my opinion, I leave that to my wonderful and unique snowflake ears :wink:

It seems like Hifiman is trying to tap more into that price bracket with the Sundara and Ananda (lol). I would definitely add the HE-500 to that list though, it’s one of the best sub $1,000 cans I’ve heard. I still need to hear the HE-560 but idk if that’s considered in this price bracket anymore since it has dropped in price since its’ release.

Yeah, HE-560 (if you can get a good one) would have been my pick in this price range, but now it’s even cheaper. The HiFiMan QA is the main problem, but if you keep at it you can eventually get a working one with yokes that don’t break. It’s worth it, in my opinion. Nothing else gives as much life to the music.

For things actually in this category, I’m going to have to go with the venerable Koss Electrostats. The Elear is great for impact, but subtlety, not so much.

My opinions only relate to classical music, which is 99% of my headphone listening.

Moving the bar up a tiny bit, I would clearly vote for the Focal Clears. I bought a new pair for $1099 delivered. I’ve got to think that one can now find a little cheaper. As someone mentioned, given that most people I knpw take as close to perfect their equipment. Used vs new is a far better value for the money

In my opinion, there is no doubt Clears would beat in this price range most any in the price point mentioned.

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The Ananda, Elex (which I thought were better than the Clears), and ESP950 are the most compelling options to me. I’ve been borrowing an Ananda for about a week and it’s very competent. I’m going to start threads on the Ananda and ESP950 with impressions later this week when I have more time to write.


With the Massdrop ESP/95X drop now active, I suspect that your impressions of the ESP950 would be greatly appreciate by many (including myself).


I’m another that really didn’t like the M1060, a bit lifeless at times.
My choices in this range:
HD700, HD800, T1gen2, L-700, custom Ypsilon R1 build and HE560, but this is subject to change since I haven’t heard many of the newer headphones in this price range.

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I really need to bust out my m1060s again and give them a listen… especially now that I’ve had mostly TOTL headphones on/around/in my ear holes, the past year+ lol

Holy crap, that is a super deal. I thought I did well getting my ESP/950 for $600 at the last Black Friday sale.

My impressions of the ESP/950 on classical music:

In my classical music mid-fi shootout, the 950 never scored in the bottom tier, and scored in the top tier 5 out of 10 times. “It has my recommendation among the contestants for its consistently excellent performance.”

On specific pieces:
Bach Cello Suite #1 (Starker): “The Koss offers excellent depth and bass, with lots of finger action and breathing audible. Very airy sound, with lots of space but at the same time they have a weird sensation of being very ‘in the head.’ Naturalistic with excellent harmonics.”

Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra (Slatkin): “The Koss ESP-950 had a really big and natural sound. The pizzicato is very lifelike. The brass doesn’t have the huge impact found on the Elear, but it’s still pretty good. Trills and fast notes are a particular strength of these headphones. The tubular bell is hefty sounding.”

Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, Scherzo (Abbado): “The ESP-950 opens just barely within the range of audibility. The soundstage is big, wide and open. It’s at its best in the quiet moments. Everything is super crisp and clear until it gets loud and then things become a little disappointing as it all turns to a slurry of sound. The horns have reasonably good bite, but there’s not enough depth to the sound.”

Beethoven, Piano Sonata #32 op.111, Arietta (Richter 1991 live): “The Koss ESP-950 is in a class by itself on this recording. With clear, transparent sound, it gives a definite Yamaha tone [to the piano]. It’s very open and airy, feeling like you’re fairly close (but not weirdly so) in a large concert space. The lightness is perfect for this performance with the trills sounding elegant and ethereal. It’s just about faultless. The applause is a little subdued, but that’s a plus in my book…”

Czerny, String Quartet in A minor, Scherzo (Sheridan Ensemble): The ESP-950 also does well, with a big and open soundstage. The opening accents seem a little subdued compared to the HE400S. The cello has excellent extension but is always under control. The location of instruments is quite solid. It is a very close sound that’s a bit in the head at times. There is a sense of rosin on the strings that’s quite visceral and really takes one into the performance. The pizzicato seems a little echoey, but it’s well located and balance is excellent. The counterpoint moving through the voices is always easy to follow."

Vivaldi, Sonata for recorder and bassoon in A minor RV 86, IV. Allegro molto (L’Astrée): “If you want airy and sweet sound that’s perfectly balanced, the ESP-950 is your choice. They convey the piece with great delicacy. The continuo levels feel right, and there’s good bass penetration by the cello. It’s precise from beginning to end, and everything you imagined baroque music to be. Splendid.”

Mozart, Ave verum corpus (Schreier): “There’s an excellent sense of the space through the ESP-950, with soft vocals being precisely realized. Pianissimo moments are beautifully realized, soft but still confident. There’s not much imaging, but the subtlety and beautiful softness makes up for a lot. Really a nice, engaging sound.”

There’s more in that vein, but you get the drift. For classical, I like them an awful lot. If I didn’t have the 950 already I’d be jumping on the Massdrop offering.


That is some serious quality listening! Coincidentally, I recently watched this:


Definitely the Elex.

The Massdrop deal is really solid, I actually am happier with my ESP950 than I was with my modded Stax SR007A, and that’s just with the stock amp. I’ll make a guide to convert the included extension cable to a Stax cable when I get my energizer back from a friend.

Happier with the included amp, or happier with the ESP950 headphone driven off a Stax amp?

Whoops, I’m happier with the ESP950 using the included amp than with my 007 with an SRM-717. I’ve heard since the ESP950’s amp is allegedly really current limited, with a Stax amp, the 950 may sound even better.

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Ha, okay, I’ve joined the drop for the ESP/95X. I’ve never heard estats before, guess I’ll get to next year :wink: