General purchase advice: Ask your questions/for advice here!

I watched the review on the SA6 where it’s the “benchmark for the 550$ range”. I read your review on the Zen and watched the headphone show review of it. It’s amazing how many IEM’s I’ve seen so far with fair to not real good cables. Finding it hard that some companies selling a 2k IEM and it still needs another set of good cables.

My thoughts on the Arya and the Clear, I’ve said it earlier, the clear is brighter and someone brought up that planar’s are warmer and that’s the way I’ve seen them so far. In regards to bass, I think the clear has a little edge of the Arya and it sounds good. I don’t think it’s a bass head’s choice, it’s not overpowering but I would absolutely call it balanced.

As I sit here writing this up, I’m listening to the Focal Clear with the stock balanced cable, with the Schiit stack, Jotunheim 2 and Bifrost 2 connected usb to my iphone 12 pro max, playing Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, No Mercy in this Land. I’m normally not a blues person but this combination has actually kept me listening to the whole album. You can hear all the little details. Maybe the Focals are growing on me, don’t know.

Funny you mentioned Massive Attack, I’ve listened to them in the past. I listened to Angel again just out of curiosity, The bass throughout the song is presented well but not overwhelming.

But I think that the Focal Clear is not as you mentioned “impactful bass you can feel”. It’s good, but not that deep. I think the Clear’s are very detailed and as I said earlier, balanced.


I agree but still think the blessing 2 were very underwhelming. Guess that’s why they came out with the Dusk version.

I honestly would like to move away from the beats 3. Even running I’m not listening to music as it’s not there to enjoy, it’s always been there to push me hard. (tendency to listen to really heavy metal)

It be nice to find something at work, when sitting at the desk, the ability to enjoy good music while i work.

I’d like to hear how recordings are meant to be. I listen to a variety of music, I think my hearing is still good even though I’m older and been to many converts over the decades

Yeah, that is what held me back on trying the clears. Its FR response is not all that different from the planars. I think I want both a more elevated bass shelf and impactful presentation.

The dusk, zen, s8, sa6, monarch, clairvoyance… and a few others all qualify for me.

What I am finding most important to me is cohesiveness in all things. The Zen really drove that idea home. The sundara also did that well. Dusk is absolutely amazing in that regard.

Right now I just received my dx160 today. I am hoping that becomes a cohesive well balanced source for me.

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For sure your hearing is fine. I simple told you that our brain compensate whatever sound we listen and tends to make it our “standard” sound print. I’m sure you’ll find alternatives to the Blessing that you’ll enjoy.

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I’m with you, the beats 3 was the only head set that I’ve never destroyed by running (I went through a lot of different “sweat” proof headsets). So they’ve been my standard for along time and it will take time to change that standard.

Not sure why it took so long to search for a good headset

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This is going to be a long one. Will I cap the character limit (if any)? I’m still learning the vocabulary of this hobby, so bear with me.

I want to “frame” my research on where to look for advice/review. Read too much different review, now lost on what would be a good starting point. IEM, Over-ear closed back, over-ear open back headphone.
→ For the same total value, I can’t decide between duo IEM or single IEM. I’m looking for a good IEM starting point that won’t disappointed me like the M50x felt. Headphone is more an “icing on the cake” advice.

The type of headphone/amp/DAC I am looking for is:

  1. IEM
  2. Open-back
  3. Closed-back

My price range is:

  1. Complicated?
    • Without the need of “mod” (cable, ear tip)
      Around 200$ (Canada)
  2. Less than 400$
  3. Less than 250$

I like to listen to:
Type of music (±): Rock, alternative rock, metal, world.

Billy Talent, Metallica, Disturbed (Sound of silence live from conan is amazing), 3 Doors Down, The Sidh, Korn are my top listening.
But from time to time listening to Chevelle, Buckcherry, Eminem, Finger Eleven, Linkin Park, Mariana Trench, Papa Roach, Rise Against, System of a down, and other “classic rock 80” as an exemple men at work down under…

I will be using them for:
Home only. Travel is covered by Jaybird X3 and Bose QC35 II or cheap earphone that have been in my backpack since forever.


  • Headphone:
    • Audio-Technica ATH-M50x
    • Bose QuietComfort 35 II
  • Earphone:
    • Apple EarPods 3.5mm
    • Jaybird X3 with Comply Ear-tip
  • Amp/Dac:
    • JDS Labs Atom Stack
      (won’t upgrade until quite a while (if I ever upgrade), less than a year old)

Reason/explanation :
It will not be a one time purchase (all in one go). This would be more like a starting point for me on how/what/where to look for. IEM are for sure within a couple of week. Probably not gonna buy new headphone until the end of the year. With that in mind, I would prefer having the over-ear advice more general.

With the ongoing worldwide health situation, the IEM will probably be split even between meeting and listening to musing. Will only be use at home.

– IEM –

  • I love the Jaybird sound signature (or the ability to change it and it stay with them no mater the device use). But comfort wise (the ear-hook that lock them in the ear) they are not the best and they are only Bluetooth. They only have been use with Comply foam ear-tip. I can wear them for as long as a complete day (8-10h or until the battery die) with only a mild discomfort at the end.
  • Not looking for silicone ear-tip. Can’t listen for longer than an hour, they are uncomfortable.
  • No in-lin mic with the cable, not using it.
  • Price explanation:
    • One IEM to buy would be the best.
      But I don’t really mind having to purchase different cable/ear-tip (no aliexpress).
    • Two IEM to buy is an option that I’m not oppose to try.
      Newbie in the IEM category, if two IEM could be better for me to try, I’m open. Total price is including both.

– Headphones –

  • Open-back
    Sometime having only closed-back headphone is boring. Not hearing anything else is helpful, sometime, but not always. Plus the sound “in your face” for music like «Sound of silence by Disturbed» downgrade the hmmm… soundstage? of the experience. Best exemple is listening to Metallica S&M. It’s good, but I bet it’s better, if not awesome, with open-back headphone.
  • Closed-back
    Tired of ATH-M50x, they are just boring not in a boring way. The particular mix of base with close back isn’t allowing the voice to shine through. Meaning some voice are muffle by the instrument. Comparing to listening with Bose QC35 II, I clearly ear the voice (same track and source). The closed-back is less important to me, I’m just “feeling” what are the recommended option out there by the pro.

– Research –
1. IEM
I’ve read backward (starting by the most recent reply) many post by the community on IEM. Didn’t read each review in full, but at lest half of each. Those: Moondrop In-Ear Monitors and Ear Buds, Rank the IEMs You’ve Heard, IEMs Discovery & General Discussion, Chinese Brands - IEMs Discussion and The Ultra Cheap IEM Thread.

It’s quite a lot to compute. The advice/most talked IEM that seem to be the go to for beginner: BLON BL-03/05 and Tin Hifi T2/plus. After reading many (quite awesome) review, other’s like Tin Hifi T4, BLON BL-01, Moondrop Starfield, KXXS, Smabat NCO, etc… are tickling my interest.

I really like the comment (with the review) comparing the HD6XX vs BLON BL-03 and what happen using the hyped IEM.
Those “hyped” headphone are less interesting to me. Either because of the hype or past experience listening to the hype trend (m50x). This is the reason why I’m asking where/how I should consider my option. With some (too many for my liking) saying quality control (QC for someone in Quebec City is hard to catch) on BL-03 can be a hit or miss, I’m thinking exploring something else. The Moondrop look promising, but again, could it be only the hype train? If so, the KXXS could be worth it (even though over budget in Canada).

2. Headphones
I’m not really looking for the greatest, just what should be my option. No HD6XX, one of my family member (almost the same taste in music/listening experience and used the M50) have bought those and hate dislike that purchase ever since. I don’t remember all of why, but in short, feel really cheap, not worth the price (dutie/custom), the base is impossible to find (not even a light touch), but comfort wise they are surprising. I was thinking going for the HD600/650/660s or beyerdynamic DT 990 pro. But again, I don’t mind investing more if better option are out there. Or reading more on the subject, just need a little push in the right direction.

The comment on this present thread about the ATH-M50x before HD6XX is maybe the reason I’ve included closed-back. Searching on Google always gave me the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro headphone as a replacement of the ATH-M50x. But now with the Focal Stellia as a potential buy, I’m once again founding myself in a “hunt” for review/comparison. Before doing too much research and focusing only on this “new” competitor, I will ask the community/experienced people there take on it. Are they the choice that many people go for or you have other option/idea. How should I explore this new contender?

If you made it this far, bravo and thank you for your time and interest in what I have to say.
Overall, I’m looking for advice or your point of view on how I should processed my futur IEM buying experience. Should I go with the hype train (BL-03 and Tin T2) or make more research on other brand (ex T4, Moondrop…)?
As a “bonus”, what advice have you when upgrading a closed-back headphone and adding open-back to my collection?
Price is in Canadian. (I generally use: 1.30$=$1 USD)

If you are not quite sure how to help, it could be because of my way of writing is hard to understand. If so, ask, I won’t bite. I will be more than happy to rephrase it.


Short version: IEMs were world changing for me. I posted a question very similar to this somewhere a few months ago. I was given some great advice that I completely ignored.

The problem is, no one can tell you your desired sound signature. Most people told me to let the journey happen. Now, I am going to say the same thing to you. Let it happen, and understand you may want/need to spend much more than you intend.

That said, look up my review of the moondrop blessing 2 dusk on this forum. It goes through my journey, and it might help.

For me, the practical aspects of listening to music turned out to be so much more important than I initially thought. That lead me to drop over ears entirely.

I have only heard two IEMs and both destroy the over ears across the board for what I wanted in sound. I am not saying this would happen to you, just buy stuff with good return policies and find out.

And if you read my reviews and have specific questions, feel free to ask.


I get the desire for flexibility, but I’m torn between 2 schools of thought here as far as how to advise you proceed.

I think the answer depends on what you are looking to do. Are you looking to explore the headphone hobby over a long period of time and just need a good place to start? Are you looking for a one-and-done purchase that will cover your bases for months/years/decades to come?

There are plenty of headphones you can begin exploring with. Going open and closed back to experience both is a good way to go if you know you’re going to continue exploring other headphones.

Buying a much more expensive single headphone that covers both open/closed criteria that best suits your music and audio chain is another way to go, and probably suggested if you just want 1 to last you a long long time.


Nice long post, but @ProfFalkin does have a valid question about your goals.

I would ask if you are willing to buy used from a reputable source, like other forum members.
As far as IEM, I like the Kanas Pro, so KXXS is definitely a possibility for you. Far less known, but possibly worth a listen in the Sennheiser IE 40 Pro. You may have to just buy some tips until you find what you like in any case.

You say no HD6XX, but…

The 650 is the 6XX, but somewhat better made. I’m guessing that you’re not going to be happy with those if you had an issue with bass (the deep music, not the fish) with a 6XX. I don’t know the Audio-Technica ATH M50x personally, so don’t know what you’re coming from. Possibly a used planar, might be something to look for.


Hi @Thanyth , when I wrote that post that you linked to, bear in mind that I was at the same stage as you are right now, trying to learn as much as I could from the fine experts on this forum, so take what I wrote back then with a pinch of salt. Of course some would say I haven’t progressed much since then.

Rather than focus on open vs closed, I think you’re trying to get an understanding of different sound signatures. For instance, the ATH-M50x is what’s known as V-shaped, which means the bass and treble are emphasized and the mids are recessed, which matches your complaint that it doesn’t allow the voices to shine, because the mids represent the vocals.

Now here’s the other thing. When you’re used to the sound of a particular headphone, you may hate a headphone with a different sound signature at first, but as your brain adapts, you might find you like it. I hated the 6XX at first, as it’s sound is almost the opposite to the ATH-M50x. But after I bought my upgraded headphones (Stella and Verite), both of which are much more balanced, I tried the 6XX again and liked it. The other thing you’ll hear a lot of people say is that the 6XX sounds better with better amps, so that may be why I liked it better the second time too.

I’m on vacation right now but when I get home in 3 weeks, I might try the ATH-M50x again, now that my ears are a little more trained. I’m guessing I’ll hate them LOL.

If you are searching for the sound signature that suits you, I like @Dynamic’s idea of trying IEMs because you’ll get good value for money for your budget. Just stay away from V shaped IEMs, if you want something that sounds different.


Imagine a Beyer DT770, and then strip away everything that makes it good in regards to sonics and comfort. Oh, and keep the treble peak. That’s M50X.


Oh come on, Paisley, you know you’ve reached level 6. Not saying you’re Picard on top of Mt. Paramount ( superbowl commercial reference ) but you can look back and see how far you’ve come. Throwing good money around didn’t hurt, but you have been training your ears too.

Just be careful, I trained my ears and they got really really big.


My wife watched and I saw that one…I never wanted less to do with Paramount in my life…a laundry list of out of date and unappealing content…

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I’m looking to round out my headphone lineup and was hoping to draw on the collective wisdom of the people active in this thread in doing so. My main genres are jazz and hip-hop, but I listen broadly and deeply. Although I’m just a beginner audiophile, I’ve been a music reviewer for years. Indie rock, classical, cumbia, trance, metal—you name it, I listen to it and have at least some knowledge of the genre and its history, for some obviously far more than others.

In addition to my stereo setup, I like the idea of dedicating each of my headphones for a discrete purpose. Accordingly, I have a pair of Audeze el-8 open back headphones for listening at home, which I tend to do for hours every day. I have Moondrop Blessing 2 iems for listening at night in bed (my wife would kill me, if I got in bed beside her in the el-8s) and on the go when it’s cold outside and I’m wearing a hat. I also have a pair of Sony XM4s for commuting by subway or flying. I have a pair of Powerbeats 3 for working out. The sound quality isn’t the greatest, but they are waterproof and they get the job done. I have an old pair of wired Apple earpods solely for making calls. Other headphones I own, but essentially have retired, are the Bowers & Wilkins PX, Grado SR225e, and Bose soundsport headphones.

My el-8 opens, which I bought when they were about $700, have served me well. But I’m looking for something punchier, with better imaging and resolution. My preference for general listening out of my primary headphone is not for a very wide soundstage, but more on that below. Although they are comfortable, after 90 minutes or so, they do begin to hurt my ears. I wear glasses, so maybe a little pain is unavoidable when wearing headphones for that long, but something a bit more comfortable on long listening sessions would be nice.

Recently, I’ve tried the Focal Clears, Focal Radiance, Hifiman Sundara, and Sennheiser HD800s. Loved the Clears. Liked the HD800s. My currently plan, tough, is to get a headphone not on that list—the Focal Celestee. From the few reviews I’ve been able to watch/read, they seem like they’d provide a boost in sound quality and comfort over the el-8 opens, at least along the axes I’ve identified, while also being closed back, so I can potentially use them more when my wife and I are in the same room. For my current work from home reality, a nice set of closed backs would provide greater marginal benefit than another open back headphone. I hope to try the Celestee at my local music store when they release, but, again, on paper they sound just right for me. If I don’t get the Celeste, I’m leaning towards the Radiance, which sounded great to my ears. I just strongly dislike the Bentley branding.

I realize no one headphone will be perfect for all genres of music. I also like having a pair of open back headphones, though I don’t think the el-8s offered as many benefits of open backs (e.g., wider soundstage) as some other headphones might. The review of the Celestee here notes that soundstage isn’t its strongpoint. So, finally, my question is this—if I got the Celestee, given all the information above, what would be a good open back headphone to buy as a complement to that one? Preferably something under $1,000.

Or framed slightly differently, if you had $2,000 to buy two headphones—one open, the other closed—which two would you buy?



Oooooh! I love spending other people’s money!

Probably a set of contrasts. A dynamic driver and a planar. An open and a closed. Maybe a zmf Aeolus and a aeon 2 closed? Or an ananda and a celestee.

What are you using for an amp and a source?


My spending speaks for me: Clear and AEON Flow Closed. The sticker price on the Clear is $1,500 and the AEON RT is $500 (street prices may vary).


Ha! You caught me while editing. I was trying to think of the focal open back that’s around 1k, and couldn’t, put the clear in as placeholder, and then thought of ZMF as a fun contrast.

Really though, those Dan Clark’s are amazing for a closed back.

My choice as suggested in former posts would be a planar and a dynamic driver headphone. Dan Clark Audio Aeon Noire and Sennheiser HD660s. This two in particular because where one doesn’t excell comes in the other. The rest of the budget for decent cables.


You’ve already had a fair amount of exposure to different headphones. I haven’t listened to ZMF, and I’m good at impractical solutions. Stretch the budget for a ZMF Verite Closed. Used if necessary. Then mope and consider selling some of your others to “finance” a nice tube amp. Finally, buy roses for your sweetie, and drop pictures of STAX SR-700’s and ANOTHER tube amp around the house near your birthday.


I spend 90% to 95% of my headphone hours with open headphones and use closed only when absolutely necessary. The are useful for blocking external noise, or for not disturbing others. Open headphones are far less fatiguing than closed headphones, and also more natural sounding. So, I’d put the bulk of my budget toward open headphones, and even reduce the closed budget to $300 or less (e.g., Meze 99 Classics, or Bose/Sony noise canceling).

If on a fixed budget, don’t waste the money. In most cases the factory cables are “decent,” and upgrades will result in maybe a 1% to 3% change. Changing cables is not necessarily better, just slightly different.