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

good thread and helpful, given i’m also seeking some new cans.
just sold the fostex thx00 ebonys (great subass but not as detailed in other parts of spectrum as i’d like)…
had hd650s for a while but didin’t do it for me…had sony 7520 but too much midbass.

seeking a pair of cans that are detailed, have great tight bass impact (i’m a basshead lite) and yet slightly warm/smooth without losing the details…good for rock, blues, jazz…versatile in general.

zmf auteur look interesting but i can’t audition those, will also soon review the lcd2c and focal clear.

i’ll also have to upgrade my mojo to dac/amp separates.

so we’ll see…eventually (once my car accident claim is resolved) i can dump 2-4k into a system.


Hey everyone! New to the forum. I know this is an older thread so if there is a newer one please point me in the right direction. I am looking for a little advice from the group. So my 3 headphones I currently have or will have by next week are the Elear w/ Clear pads which I am told are the exact same as the ELEX and the Ananda’s from Hifiman and the Drop 6XX. I am trying to decide if I should keep the 6XX or return them and just stick with the Elear and Ananda’s and Add maybe a different headphone or amp into the mix at a later time. I do love the vocals from the 6XX and the warmer sound. I haven’t heard the Anandas yet but have heard they are a much better 6XX essentially. Wondering what your thoughts are, I appreciate the advice.

My set up is the SMSL THX200 and the SMSL SU-8V2 and the XDSD for portable listening.


Variety is the spice of life! I think if you feel/find yourself grabbing the Elears more often than the 6xx than I would send them back and look at another amp that is different, maybe the new Magni 3 or Heresyfrom Schiit


Thank you! Do you think a tube amp or an EQ would be a better bet to also play with the sound quality?

1 Like

Most definitely! I think if you are just getting into tubes, my favorite intro is the (Mass) Eddie Current ZDT Jr. Or if up to it building a Bottlehead Crack.

But, if tubes are next I would keep the 6xx as they would benefit the most from tubes … I wouldn’t pair planars or the Focals with tube amps unless they can bring down the power output (I’m not the best qualified to talk on this, but planars and Focals tend to get blown out/bloomy sounding on tube amps… especially OTL tube amps).

You might also look at a tube hybrid like the Schiit Lyr, MCTH or even the Loxjie

sorry for not linking the threads to the other amps…I’m on my phone and it’s a PITA lol hit the search icon on the top and search the forums for them :wink:

1 Like

They’re not.

They’re very close, but they are NOT the same, and the differences are both audible and consistently, bi-directionally, measurable.

I have a whole thread on Focal headphones and exhaustive pad-rolling measurements here.


Thank you! I will read up on them!

Damn, I was under the impression from the retailer I bought them from they were identical. Is the sound signature far and wide better from the Elex?

Hi and welcome!!
That’s a nice Frankenstein’s monster you are creating there!! Making a Clear with Elears and Clears pads!! Just kidding!! I also own the Elears and HD6xx and my current amp is the same as yours, but with BifrostMB.
HD6xx shines with the Bifrost/THX200 combo, but also love the Elears with them. Since they sound very different I’m keeping both for now.
Just yesterday I ordered the Elex pads from Drop, just because they are the original from Focal and where only $60, I’m not expecting my Elears to become Elex, but let’s see what happens when I get them…in April :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


Hi and welcome to the forum!

the Ananda with the xDSD… are shining
had them auditioned a few times with my xDSD
and moments away from pulling the trigger

The 6xx out of my SU-8 balanced with THX AAA 789 are solid

Nice setup! Seems we both follow a similar path

Would sell the Elear for a Bottlehead Crack build(planned here) or the Eddie current and never look back



Elex vs. Elear w/ Clear pads is just different, and not hugely so, but would only be “better or worse” depending on your preferences.

Elex OR Elear w/ Clear pads is better (or at least more tonally accurate) then Elear w/ stock pads.


Thank you, and thank you for the warm welcome!

1 Like

I have never heard the Elex what characteristics make it differ slightly? I’m still fairly new to all of this so I am still learning to read audio graphs.

Thank you!!! I did the same thing, that is going to be a long wait for those pads but at $60 I couldn’t resist.

Wait … now you have me confused.

Did you buy an Elear with Clear pads?

Or an Elear and the Elex pads?

Because if you bought an Elear and Elex pads, and are expecting them to perform like the Clear, that’s a VERY different scenario than putting Clear pads on an Elear and expecting it to sound like an Elex. Putting Clear pads on an Elear sounds mostly, but not exactly, like an Elex, but the technical performance, FR excepted, will be the same.

The Elear and Elex use fundamentally the same chassis and driver and differ primarily in their packing and pads. Putting Elex pads on an Elear sounds like an Elex. Putting Elear pads on an Elex sounds like an Elear.

But the Clear have a different driver, different pads, and are on a different level of technical performance, despite being tonally very similar to the Elex.


So, you can actually create an Elex from an Elear and vice versa by swapping pads. I’m loving this tongue twister thing!!


Sorry for the confusion, I have Elear Cans with the Clear pads, 6XX from Massdrop and the Anandas on the way.

That Eddie Current ZDT Jr. sounds looks like a winner on paper! I requested it via Drop let’s see if they do another drop for it in the future. How much did it set you back when they did the last drop do you remember?

1 Like

Last drop I remember was a month or 2 ago and these don’t come back as often

1 Like

$400 I think… but they usually go for less on the used market…

1 Like