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

@garethofthedead Did you ever order anything?

The only closed headphone that I’ve tried in that price range is the Focal Elegia. (BTW, any links I provide are just to show you what I’m talking about, I’m not suggesting that’s the best price or that you should buy from Richer Sounds). The Elegia isn’t made any more, so you can normally pick it up for a good price. It was well respected by this forum (see this thread). I actually preferred (and bought) the Focal Celestee over the Elegia, because the Elegia didn’t have enough bass for my preferences, whereas the Celestee is a bit more well-rounded, but out of your price range. I may like more bass than you, so it may not be an issue for you. And the combination of the Elegia’s tuning and a very clear sound probably sounds great for TV and classical.

The AKG K371 that @NickZ is also well respected (see this thread) and much cheaper than many other recommended headphones.

Another closed back headphone within your budget is the Shure SRH1540 (see this thread). A friend has a pair of these and likes them a lot, but cautions that they have a lot of bass, so they are at the opposite end of the spectrum than the Elegia.

I haven’t heard the AKG or Shure, just giving you links to do your own research.


Anyone have any experience with the Hifiman EF400? I’m obsessing over Amp and DAC research and just curious what anyone’s impressions of it are. Currently have IFI Zen DAC V2 - Focal Clear OG and HD6XX. I know I don’t need the power currently, but thinking about potential upgrades that may future proof me (I know that once in this hobby, there’s never an end to upgrading though…). I’m not unhappy with the Zen DAC (and I’m not buying Susvara’s anytime soon), but I just have an itch to upgrade. Feel free to talk me out of it too if I should just stand pat or look at a different option!

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Well imo you should base that decision towards the flagship hp you would want in the future, rather than hanging around source gear in the mid-fi realm (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I would save my pennies for a more substantial upgrade that could both benefit the hps you have now (the clear and 6xx both scale nicely) and the hps you would want in the future (assuming they match synergystically that is).

You could take baby steps if you want or you could jump right in to the hi-end. I prefer the latter but that’s just me.

This is also useful to know. You don’t want source gear that can potentially limit your hp options if you’re not sure what you want yet. For example, getting a hi-end amp that is generally very good with dynamics but not so much with planars, then deciding it’s all about demanding planars in the end. It’s a good idea to sort those things out first so you don’t regret it in the future.


This is solid advice - keep your eyes on the prize but be nimble enough to take advantage of any opportunities that come up along the way. Buy once, Crye once as some of my friends used to say.

I’m currently fighting off GAS and FOMO (get behind me ZMF Hot Cup Summer!) by systematically evaluating my own musical and sound signature preferences.^ To quote Harry Calahan, “A good man always knows his limitations.”

The steps I’m taking are as follows:

  1. Building a playlist of test tracks that capture the diversity of the music I listen to, and using this playlist to try out the various pieces of equipment (DACs, amps, headphones, and IEMs) I currently own. There’s a good thread on this topic.
  2. Logging how all of the equipment performs according to that playlist. The easiest person you can fool is yourself so you’ll need a way to keep yourself honest.
  3. Identifying whether or not the equipment I own is good enough. If it isn’t asking why and am I willing to make the effort/spend the money to obtain better equipment.
  4. Not forgetting what it is that I’m seeking to do, which is to have the best music-listening experience possible given a compromise between price, sound, physical comfort, reliability, customer service, labor relations, and environmental costs.


^ Keep in mind that just because an item is reviewed highly doesn’t mean you should buy it, especially if the reviewer has a separate set of values than you (the same goes if it is rated poorly). Also question the motivation behind the review - is ego, money or material benefits, reputation, and/or community reputation involved, and if so, how much will that shape the review? Are they being controversial just to be controversial? Is their criticism warranted, or is their reasoning unsound because the argument is based upon a set of unexamined, incorrect assumptions and why are they going forth with it? Bluntly - What’s in it for them?


Talk you out of it? Ha, ha, ha, HA, HA, HA!!! We are all codependent enablers!

My path was to explore different types of amp technology. There are many options, and some may or may not be to your taste. My favorite solid state amps are Class A, while tube amps open a world of goodness, pointless changes, weirdness, and excessive spending.

To my ears Class A amps are smoother, fuller, more integrated, and easier on the ears than other solid state amps. (On that note, my clean but non-Class A THX AAA 789 has been boxed up for a long time…)

I like tube amps with high impedance dynamic drivers (e.g., Sennheiser HD 6XX, HD 600, and HD 800 S), as they create a really enticing, expansive, and pleasant form of harmonic distortion. I spend the majority of my time with tube amp → high impedance dynamic driver headphones these days. That may change at some point.

Regarding price and learning priorities, I take a forked approach: (1) Visit local audio stores and demo stuff to the extent possible. It’s free, and has helped me avoid several $$$$$$$$$ trendy-but-meh products. If you don’t have local stores where you live, visit an audio show in L.A., Chicago, D.C., N.Y.C., etc. (2) I creep my way up the price ladder, but routinely compare new purchases to cheaper equipment. To that end, I maintain a starter setup comprised of a ZenDAC V1 and Loxjie P20 tube-hybrid amp. I also test equipment with a standardized playlist.

Do not buy based on measurements. Try with your own ears, and listen long enough for the system to settle in.


Coincidentally… :wink:


This is the best advice given here on the forums this week!


The type of headphone/amp/DAC I am looking for is: Wired open back headphones. Amp/DAC possibly.

My price range is: 400€

I like to listen to: Fairly varied. Though I don’t listen to things like techno.
I would personally say I enjoy “warm” sounds? Think, acoustic guitar.

I will be using them for: General music and gaming (game wise I’m looking for an immersive experience, I don’t need any FPS super focus listening for someone’s breath)

I currently have a pair of Sennheiser Game One’s, but need to change them due to damage.
I tried Beyerdynamic TYGR 300 R, but my left ear touched the inside of the earcup so that was a no go.
Then tried the Fidelio X2HR/00’s, but the headband was simply far too hard on my head.
So as one may guess, I’m fairly picky when it comes to the comfort of my headphones.
Currently have my eyes on the H560S’s or perhaps the HE400SE’s. Though I reckon I’ll be needing an amp for those, which has had me set for the Fiio K3.
I’m completely new to the whole headphone scene, so feel free to educate me or ask questions which can aid you offering choices.

NOTE: I live in Europe, so DROP means import fee’s added, I don’t mind it, but should be noted for overall budget.
Shiit products are incredibly hard to come by, they have an EU store, but there is never any stock.

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The HE400se are a great set of headphones in my opinion but comfort may be an issue. This can be fixed with a headband mod or with nuggets, but it is worth taking into consideration (I find they create a hotspot on my head).

If you do get on with the comfort, then your budget would leave you plenty to get an amp to drive them (maybe something from iFi).

Ok so maybe a bit of a dumb question but here we go.

Just replaced my SMSL SU-9 with Gustard X26pro.

I was told by a friend that my amps would probably be louder(not by much but still louder) with the Gustard as this outputs 5v out and the SMSL SU-9 is 4.5 or 4.7 from the output.

But have found this to be the contrary. The volume of my amps now seems to be quieter so I have to turn my amps up by a few clicks more compared to before.

Hopefully this makes sense and someone can explain why this is happening.

My only listening experience with the EF400 was at CanJam Chicago this year, trying to drive a Susvara. It was the only amp that Hifiman had brought, which was mindboggling, as I had the EF400 on high gain and volume at 100% to get to a reasonable listening level. So don’t buy this if you’re planning on using it to drive a Susvara. On the other hand, it did sound good, a smooth, rich sound, so I would have liked to have tried it on some other headphones.

I would just caution you about buying an all-in-one as an upgrade, unless you have limited space. At some point, if you want to go down the rabbit hole, you’ll probably end up getting a separate DAC and amp.

@hifiDJ gave good advice about not spending a ton of money on side-grades, but IMO, if you want to live in the moment a bit, and not be constantly waiting to afford a TOTL device, it doesn’t do any harm to have a stop here and there on the way to end-game (which is when you’re happy with what you have, not necessarily based on how expensive the equipment is).

Maybe keep the Zen DAC as a DAC and get a separate amp to see if you notice an improvement. Then later on, you can replace the Zen DAC. Or buy a tube amp. It’s a way to learn what you like and don’t like before you commit the big bucks on higher-end gear.


Excellent point that always need to be kept in mind, your last purchase isnt necessarily what is at the upper limit of your budget but simply what gets you to where you want to go.


I think I’m going with the recommendation to focus on an amp, like several folks here have given me (thanks for that). My IFI ZenDAC has a 4.4mm balanced line out. If I buy a nicer amp, is using a cable like below what I should get to be able to run balanced?

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I use this Youkamoo cable for my ZenDAC, seems the same:


Note: Aussie buyer. Not keen on overseas purchases due to very weak AU dollar and warranty/return concerns. The deal would have to be exceptional to even consider it.

Since I don’t have access to brick and mortar stores to actually try out headphones I’ve earmarked, I have to rely on reviews. Given that sound is so subjective and can vary wildly from person to person, it’s honestly been a frustrating experience trying to narrow it down. For every review I read or watched that I thought finally sealed the deal, I’d hear or read something from others to put me off again.

My price range is $1000-$1200 for the headphones. I have already decided on the Element II ($700) as the DAC/amp combo as it seems to measure well and, according to reviewers I trust, will power mostly anything that isn’t very high end which I’m not going for anyway. I don’t need a highly versatile unit as this will purely be used for headphones for use on a computer, though if you have other suggestions for something else you consider better around this price range, I’d be happy to hear it.

I like to listen to rock, alternative, classical, some modern music, soundtracks (so instrumental/orchestral) and movies.

To give you an idea of my very underwhelming headphones to date and an idea of my tastes, I recently got rid of the 990 pro (256ohm version) as I found it to be a very flat, boring headphone but this could have been to it being under-powered. My current M50x’s I find mostly agreeable even though they are seemingly panned in circles like these. I lean towards more dynamic, bass-leaning (but not unclean or distorted; I found Beats to be awful) cans, and am not particularly sensitive to bright cans (I didn’t find the 990 unbearably bright or anything like that).

In short, I’m preferences are probably close to the Harman curve.

I was initially drawn to Planar headphones (like the Hifiman XS) but have heard they’re not the most dynamic (at least in my price range) or bass-leaning. From everything I’ve heard or read, they’re more clean, balanced and seemingly geared towards neutrality. I like a lot of things I’ve heard about them such as their soundstage, detail and not a very forward/shouty sound etc but still my tastes hold me back on biting the bullet. Audeze options at my price point seem more agreeable than anything from Hifiman, but they all seem to require EQ and every review I’ve read/watched on them seem to have a lot of criticism for tonal/balance qualities before EQ.

Given the above, it might seem odd that I was seriously considering the DT 1990 Pro. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and don’t think the brightness would be overly concerning to me, but haven’t heard as much about its dynamics or bass that I would like. The 1770 Pro would seem more like my taste, but that DMS review really put me off them. Bass is good, but not enough to completely upset the balance of everything else.

In terms of price, at the top end I was considering the Focal Clear (on sale @ $1450, but still consider it difficult to pull the trigger on something that expensive that I’ve never heard) and on the lower end would be the Hifiman Sundara.

Any help or suggestions would be much appreciated.

Thanks all _b


Analysis by paralysis. It happens a lot. A Sundara will run great off an Element II. An Edition XS should, too. For a dynamic driver, either the Denon AH-D5200 or Fostex TH610 will deliver all the punch and slam you could want.

I’ve seen you mentioned closed-back and open-back headphones, so what’s your preference for this purchase?

The Element II is a solid choice to drive your first real headphone purchase and can always be upgraded later down the road.

Regarding planars, most of the ones I’ve heard don’t slam as hard as dynamic drivers, but it really just depends (LCD-4 was a slammy boi). However, most take EQ bass shelves like a champ, which will increase bass quantity and can give the illusion of more slam; just something to consider. My LCD-X 2021 with a 4 dB bass shelf hits nicely to my ears, and it’s still clean.

What’s your current reference headphone - the one you enjoy most and are perhaps the most familiar with? Is it the M50X? Perhaps we can use your reference cans to narrow down the search; also, measurements.

I used the iFi Go Blu with the RAD-0 this morning while I was cleaning the kitchen, streaming from my iPhone using Bluetooth. I used a Hart cable with balanced 4.4mm connector.


Vocals & Acoustic:
Clannad - Theme From Harry’s Game
Alison Kraus - Down To The River To Pray
Sundays - Here’s Where The Story Ends
Johnny Cash - Redemption Song

Trentmoller - Chameleon
Crystal Castles - Baptism

Grimes - California

Funkadelic - One Nation Under A Groove
Parliament - Dr Funkenstein

The volume was around 60% or so and I didn’t feel like the Go Blu was straining. I also tried switching the Hart cable to a 3.5mm SE connector and it sounded more or less the same, although I had to nudge the volume up a little.

I switched the Go Blue to the iFi lightning cable and the quality did improve, mainly better definition and more separation where there was a lot going on (particularly the Crystal Castles song, which is a compressed wall of melodic noise), but I only noticed that after the cable was inserted. Using Bluetooth was a very pleasant listening experience when I was moving around.

I then tried the iFi xDSD Gryphon, and had a similar experience with Bluetooth vs the iFi lightning cable. The Gryphon seemed to have better definition than the Go Blue, and a more neutral sound than the warmer Go Blu.

Interestingly, the Gryphon’s volume was at 90 (out of 100) when using Bluetooth and at 60 when using the lightning cable. I didn’t have the same adjustment when switching from Bluetooth to lightning cable on the Go Blu. Also, the 90/100 is probably misleading because the Gryphon has the ability to take it to 11, by going into “turbo mode” past 100, so I don’t actually know what the usable volume range is.

If you’re going for something very portable, and you’re looking at the Go Bar, then I think that’s more of a higher powered Go Blu than a mini-Gryphon. Since the Go Blu had more than enough juice for the RAD-0, I would imagine the Go Bar will have plenty in reserve.

This was more of a “listening to things while I’m doing stuff” exercise, not a true A-B, so take my findings however you’d like. :grinning:

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The Go Bar powers off of the lightning or USB-3 port, correct? I assume that USB-3 can provide more current than lightning, but maybe not. The Go Blu has a battery,

I’m presently trying to decide if the xDSD is good enough.

How does it sound off the xDSD right now?

I know you said the Dragonfly Cobalt didn’t sound as good as the Lyr 3 but I wonder if the iFi products, even the diminutive Go Blu, just have more available current. I couldn’t figure it out from looking at the specs that Audioquest lists.