Finding my "Goldilocks" Headphone

The type of headphone I am looking for is: closed or open-back

My price range is: high

I like to listen to: Metal, rock, hardcore and the sub-genres of those three

I will be using them for: home only

Hi everyone,

So I have had the chance to own and try quite a number of different headphones, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. However, I have yet to find my ‘Goldilocks’ headphone that is ‘just right’ for me.

I currently own a number of high-end headphones like the Focal Stellia, Clear, and Elegia, Abyss Diana, Kennerton Vali, and Fostex TH-600. Now, I like many aspects of each of these headphones, but none really get close enough to the exact sound that I want for my music. To be honest, the one I keep coming back to the most is the TH-600, which is the cheapest of them all…

For my next headphone, I’m planning on buying the TH-900. But I’d like to ask what else should I look at or consider? I mostly listen to metal and rock music and sound signature wise I like headphones that are clear, have good resolution, great dynamics and impact, slightly elevated bass, great neutral mids and non-fatiguing highs and overall sound. They also should be as detailed and resolving as possible without becoming too unforgiving with imperfect recordings.

Some headphones that I have been interested in are:

  • Fostex TH-900, TH-909
  • Campfire Audio Cascade
  • ZMF Aeolus
  • Atticus
  • Verite/ VeriteClosed
  • Klipsch HP-3
  • Audeze line? (I have heard a few of the Audeze’s and thought they were too dark and off-sounding, want to give them another try though)
  • Abyss Diana V2, Diana Phi, 1266
  • Hifiman HE-6SE, Susvara, Arya, HE-1000
  • Sony MDR-Z1R
  • Denon 7200, 9200
  • Meze Empyrean
  • Final D8000, D8000 Pro

Any suggestions and opinions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

6 Likes

The HE-6se are great but you need a minimum of two watts to run them correctly. More power is better.

Hard to go wrong with anything ZMF…

Dan Clark Audio Ether 2 is also nice. Very light weight, great sound.

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Bit of warmth, non fatiguing, super resolving.

ZMF Verite

Open / Closed same same

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Might be worth listing what you don’t like or find lacking for each of the headphones you own.

Also, have you considered playing around with EQing to see if you could get close enough to the exact sound that you’re after?

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Sextetts MP will probably tickle your fancy. It has a nice midrange that accentuates guitar with the right amount of detail for the genres you like. I’d give it a try and maybe pad swap. Make sure you power it correctly tho. It’s 600ohms :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Should have been a general reply not a direct one.

Fellow metalhead here. I would stick with open.

Throwing an odd one in there. Grado ps500e’s
ZMF aeolus or verite.
I’ve heard good things about LCD fazor edition.

I’m trying to pick up QUAD era-1’s to test out as well.

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+1 for anything ZMF, although sounds like you might prefer Auteur or Verite. They need decent tube power though. Having gone through a very similar and expensive process the last 18 months. I have settled on Empyreans as my “Goldilocks” HP. Have the tonality and SQ i believe you’re looking for, easy to drive well and look and feel amazing. I was a “disbeliever” in the hype surrounding Empys and I nearly didn’t try them. Last on my list…there you go!

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What is this? The comment police? :nerd_face:

I wouldn’t choose any of those for metal or rock. Maybe a Grado rs1, HE-6, LCD-4 for open headphones. The AKG K240 Sextett is legendary! Try it sometime! :smile:

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I would give the ZMF Verite open or closed a go. Based on your music tastes and past headphones, I think they would come the closest to what you are looking for.

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The Atticus is my all time favorite metal headphone without question. Super dynamic and engaging, forgiving, and non fatiguing. It’s front row at a slayer concert without the beatings! Seriously nothing I’ve heard yet gets me as pumped for metal as my Atticus. The Verite Closed is also good but more fatiguing for me, especially with bad studio quality recordings.

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You might just need better electronics. What are your sources and your signal chain?

Avoid d9200. It can be very fatiguing and needs EQ for bass.
You could consider Meze because they meet your characteristics. However I would t imagine them for metal, as I think they would subdue the metal.

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You know I’ve had my eye on the HE-6 for a long time, only thing putting me off is needing a more powerful amp just for them. I’m leaning more towards one of the ZMFs, you just can’t seem to escape the hype haha.

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I so want to, but that exchange rate + import tax is nasty.

Good idea, here we go:

Pros and cons of my headphone collection:

Stellia:

The Stellia is great when the recording is as well, however they are brutally unflattering to less than perfect recordings. They are also somehow the darkest yet the most fatiguing of the Focal line. Finally, they present sound as if you are a few rows back in the crowd of a concert. I personally prefer a more intense, in-your-face forward presentation. Vocals/mids sound slightly distant/recessed compared to the Clear for example.

I’d like a little more bass, more body and heft to the overall sound, more forward/aggressive presentation, but at the same time non-fatiguing. More forgiving to imperfect recordings whilst being as clear, resolving as possible. Maintain the same slam/dynamics and detail.

Abyss Diana:
Comfort is not great, mids are quite recessed/distant, I’d like a little more bass quantity although quality and extension is good. Dynamics/slam not on par with the Focals or Fostex. Detail retrieval good but not TOTL, a bit disappointing for the price overall. Treble is good though.

Clear:
Great overall, but a bit bright/fatiguing, not the most “musical” sounding but excellent dynamics/slam. Could do with more bass quantity, mids actually a little too forward maybe? I love the upfront/aggressive/dynamic presentation, just wish it was less fatiguing really. One of the best headphones out there period IMO.

Vali:
Fit is annoying, comfort average at best. Drums/percussion sound REALLY good on these for some reason. Unnatural cupped-sounding mids, too dark and rolled-off in the treble and bass too (zero sub-bass extension), would be a bad choice for pop/EDM/rap IMO. Overall resolution and detail is good but nothing special for the price. Needs more bass quantity and extension although the quality is decent.

TH-600:
Sub-bass gods. Best slam and bass impact of all that I own, dynamics on par with Focals’. Possibly even too much bass quantity? Mids are recessed but still sound really good and clear, natural-sounding timbre. I think the Diana’s mids are more recessed than these. Detail/resolution not on-par with the rest. Occasional sibilance and brightness, but honestly less fatiguing than the Focals. Most forgiving to poor recordings. My best headphone purchase I have made so far value-wise.

Elegia:
One of the best closed-backs out there, great value. More forgiving than Stellia. Can be fatiguing/bright, least fatiguing though compared to the other Focal’s I have. More bass quantity would be appreciated. The resolution, detail about right for the price, not TOTL though. Most unnatural timbre/tone/FR of all the Focal line except the Elear.

I do use EQ, I have Equalizer APO with Peace, but don’t notice much of a difference usually. I use the EQ on my ADI-2 DAC which works fantastic but is a nightmare to dial-in.

3 Likes

I have looked into those headphones before, very interesting. Haven’t seen the right one pop-up for sale yet, but it’s definitely been on my list.

Hey there, good to see another metalhead on here. The ZMF Verite are definitely looking like the front-runner at this stage. I haven’t had the chance to try a Grado yet, but I’m not sold on them, will have to demo one when I can. Not really a fan of what I’ve heard from Audeze in the past, but will try them out again and see if I have the wrong opinion.

ZMF Verite is looking like the choice at this stage, but the exchange rate and taxes are killer, as you probably can attest to. I nearly bought the Empyreans a while ago, but have heard mixed things. How would you compare them to the ZMFs?

I’d love to try an Atticus one day, nearly bought one twice. Do you prefer the Atticus to the Verite? Have you tried the Aeolus at all? Lots of people seem to say that the Aeolus is better than the Atticus for metal.

I honestly would have bought most of the ZMFs by now if it wasn’t prohibitively expensive to buy and import them to Australia.

I have a couple of different amps and DACs, but mainly play straight from the RME ADI-2 DAC. I use Spotify, Tidal and some FLAC rips on Foobar. Can’t imagine it getting much better than the ADI-2 without spending crazy money. Been looking at the Chord stuff and the Benchmark HPA-4 but can’t quite justify it yet.