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

I’m looking to get some noise canceling headphones under $200. If they’re wired noise canceling, is the ANC feature better than if they were wireless? Do you have a suggestion of a pair under $200 that does the best job at noise canceling?

I have a Sony - WH-XB900N, which I’ve used on flights (remember the days when we would fly to places?) so the ANC is excellent. My wife has the next model down and that also has excellent ANC. The 900N is wireless, but you can also use it with a cable, and the ANC was the same as far as I can remember.

You might also be able to snag a Sony - WH-1000XM3 at a good price, now that the replacement Sony - WH-1000XM4 has come out. I might do that, and give the 900N to my wife.

It pains me that I am experiencing the same thing coming off of extended listening to the Utopia. The Auteur, which I know is a great can, just sounds muffled now when I try it. I realize this is all just acoustic adjustment but it’s remarkable how it contributes to preferences. Makes me wonder if our auditory system needs a washout period before trying new headphones, especially if reviewing.


There is actual science on this. Audiology. Psychoacoustics. Partially fatigue, partially training, partially habituation. Yes, you will need a recovery period and it will vary between people. It could range from an hour to perhaps 48 hours. If you switch systems immediately (A/B in less than 10-15 minutes) you’ll mainly hear the contrast.


Interesting. I should try my auteurs again since I haven’t been on a headphone in a couple days, sigh, due to work and other engagements. I shouldn’t be expected to have responsibilities :sweat_smile:.

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This is really interesting because I’m coming off years of using an ATH-M50x and I was terrified that I was so used to the way they sound that I’d hate anything else. Similar to how I grew up in the UK drinking cheap tea bags, and many decades later, although I appreciate gourmet tea, I actually prefer to use cheap tea bags.

When I compared my ATH-M50x to my son’s Sennheiser 6XX, I hated the 6XX, and I wonder if mental burn-in, combined with the very different sonic signatures was really what caused that reaction.

On the other hand, I’ve had the Focal Stellia for 3 days and have been enjoying it straight out of the box. I can can tell it sounds different from the M50x, but I haven’t been doing any A-B testing, just enjoying the music.

So I wonder why I didn’t have a negative reaction to the Stellia? Is it because it’s so much better than the M50x throughout the frequency range, so my brain didn’t even put up a fight and sat back and enjoyed the ride?


The 600, 6xx, and 650 can have very bad hiss on some systems. They are great on others. You might have detected this. Focal is clean, just clean. No noise or hiss.

It wasn’t hiss. I didn’t think the bass was taut (meaning that the AT-M50x appeared to be clearer and more rhythmic with bass lines), and the treble also seemed hazy. Now that everyone on this forum has educated me over the last few weeks, I suppose I could have been conditioned over several years to like the V-shaped signature of the Audio Technicas.

But with the Stellias, for some reason my brain didn’t have to go through any de-programming. They have clean, fast bass, clean non-fatiguing treble, clean mids (ahhh, I see where you’re going with “clean, just clean” because that’s the best description I can find!). My reaction when I started to listen to them out of the box was “wow”.

It will be interesting what will happen when my Verites arrive. I’m hoping that I don’t hate them because they sound different from the Stellia.

I think part of it, if you’ve immersed yourself into this stuff enough, is that you may have known what to expect. I was entirely “prepared” for when my Utopia arrived so I wasn’t surprised at all about its reported pluses or minuses. Least surprising headphone I have purchased so far.


There isn’t one. It’s unfortunate. It all depends upon upon what you want. There is an entry level price point where you could probably get something really good for around $1000 all in.

Harsh sound can be had at all price points if you got a crap recording.

What exactly are you looking for? What did you have in the 80s that made you happy?

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Hi @Cyan69, @generic offered a path forward when you first asked this question earlier, suggesting a Focal Clear, leaving $500 of your $2000 budget for headphone and DAC. I’ve just gone through this process myself, and similar to you, I’d spent most of my money on AV equipment over the last decade before returning to audio this year.

I would recommend upgrading the Denon first because as @generic pointed out, that was designed to be a really good surround sound amp, not a headphone amp. Then spend some time with your new amp/DAC to get a feel for the sound with your current headphones, which are all good. That way you’re not replacing everything at once, which will make it difficult to know what to do if you don’t like the sound. Spend at least a week, to let the system and your brain settle in, and if you don’t like it, come back to the forum and explain what you dislike, because that will help all the experts give you an alternative path.

I’d suggest trying out a Schiit stack first, if only because they have a 15 day return policy, so it would be a good way of getting a baseline for what you like or dislike. Also, a lot of people on this forum have either owned or still own Schiit equipment and can explain to you how other amps might sound in relation. I think @lost33 may have one of every Schiit amp!

If you want to keep to the $500 AMP/DAC budget, and you want some tube experience, then the Schiit Vali 2 amp and Modi Multibit DAC comes under that amount. If you want to spend about double that budget, you can get the Lyr 3 amp and Bifrost 2 DAC, which is what I ended up with. From what I have read, it isn’t worth getting the internal DAC option with the Lyr3.

Both the Vali 2 and Lyr 3 are hybrid tube amps, so you won’t get as much “tubiness” as you would with a pure tube amp, but for a newcomer like me, I liked the fact that it only needs one tube, and I can have a little fun trying out new tubes to see if I can tell the difference. It’s been a fun enough experience that I think my next purchase will be a “real” tube amp, but I will probably need to increase my budget for my next amp because I like the Lyr 3 a lot, and I want to make sure I get a true upgrade.

Once you’re settled on the amp, then try some headphones. @generic suggested the Focal Clear. Given the types of music that you like (metal, rock, pop), others on the forum may suggest the ZMF Aeolus, which is a similar price, and is supposed to excel with rock music. Both Focal and ZMF have a lot of support in this forum, and many people own headphones from both manufacturers, so you’ll find a lot of useful information within the forum using the search function.

I hope that helps. I’m not an expert, but I’m trying to explain the path I took, with the help of everyone on this forum. The main thing is that no-one can tell you exactly what to buy, because they don’t know what you like or dislike, so part of the fun of this hobby is trying something out and keeping it if you like it or moving on if you don’t. And even if you like it, you’ll have this urge to find out if there’s something out there that’s even better…


Nice man, I’m most likely going with a Schitt amp 95%, but none of those. I will check the eitr. Appreciate that.

But the dac has got me on a journey. Leaning towards a ESS Sabre or Burr Brown/Texas Instruments now I think it mentioned, dac. As they seem to be highly regarded.

Edit: So I am confused now, eitr is a usb to optical. Doesn’t that affect the bit rate and frequency. From what I have been seeing is that usb provides the better performance, isn’t this merely downgrading the sound?

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I’ve been on this exact search myself, and I found the ideal amp for me in the Feliks Audio Euforia. I can’t speak for what would be best for you, this is just where I found my optimum. :slight_smile:

I’ve written a more in-depth review on it if you’re interested in reading more about how I got to that point and how I feel about it. My feelings about it haven’t changed in the time being.


Now on to the second part of they mystery phase, again I really don’t know much about hifi audio. As the learning process goes on, I ask my self is there DACs that are specifically leaning more towards planars?

I am looking into the ESS Sabre 9xxx or Burr Browns.

My goal again is to set me up for some mediocre future proofing. In case I wish to purchase some higher end headphones later.

I would rather spend more now than spend/sell and replace later.

Everybody has this Dac and that dac and this clock and that clock.

I am in the range of, again overkill for the pair of headsets I am going to use, $5-700 for my dac and amp.

Schitt audio will let you come in with your own pair of headphones and test all there equipment which is phenomenal and logical.

I know I strayed far off the question I am seeking, but I’m just providing mindset so you won’t think I’m a lunatic

Just the way I see it is I can’t test or sample this to my ears, everyone’s ears are different. But it seems like most DACs lean one side or another of the sound and frequency spectrum.

I’ve searched for stores that sell hifi products in my area of Greater Los Angeles to test and all I see are speaker stores

Dont get caught up in the specific DAC chip stuff, ESS, BB or AK or what have you. Listen to or read about what the DAC sounds like. Whether certain chips have sonic characteristics is somewhat controversial and the implementation is more important than the actual DAC chip in most cases.


Second, I have some idea that the electrical input has a factor on sound the unit produces. So like for Schitt products we got 115 v or 230 v option for the same product, is that why these options are present?

The people’s favorite DAC appears to be the Schiit Bifrost 2 nowadays. I have one myself and I’m totally on board with the hype around it. It’s a tonally rich, smooth and pleasant sounding DAC. Check out the official thread on it if you want to learn more about it.


There’s Upscale Audio in La Verne. They’re currently open on Saturdays I believe. There’s also The Source Audio Video in Torrance (they have a headphone listening station with a lot of great gear).

You can also head up to the Schiitr in Newhall. They have pretty much everything there available to demo, just bring your own headphones.

The Source would be the first place I recommend because they have a good variety of gear that you can try. I haven’t been there, but I know people who have and I’ve seen pictures. It’s pretty impressive. Chord, dCS, McIntosh and others.

Get some ears on gear to get an idea of the sound you like and go from there.


230V for Europe. 115V for Nam. Just how power is supplied from the wall in various places. Since you live around LA you would go for the 115V.

Yes, I understand, but as someone who has never owned any hifi equipment I do not understand any of the terminology in comparison to what it would sound like.

Like I said with no where to test this as well it creates a situation where I do not know what I like and also as mentioned above what you may like and hear is different than what I may like and actually hear/understand.

I strictly mention those two because those are the dac or dac/amp combo I have been eyeing.