Help me find my "Frankenstein" headphone

The type of headphone I am looking for is (Closed-back, open-back, in-ear, wireless, etc): Open-back

My price range is: $1,250 or less

I like to listen to: Rock, alternative rock, classic rock, alt-country, EDM, bebop jazz

I will be using them for: (Travel, commuting, home, gym, etc…): Home

Hi all:

I own three headphones – Audeze LCD-2C, Sennheiser HD 6XX and HiFiMan Edition XS. My source gear is a JDS Labs Atom+ stack with Qobuz running via USB from a laptop.

I would LOVE a can that combines the bass accuracy, richness and warmth of the LCD-2C, the lovely mids of the 6XX and the treble of the Edition XS. Don’t care if it’s planar or dynamic. I’m NOT a big EQ enthusiast – only use a three-band analog JDS Subjective3 unit – so I’m looking for good tuning out of the box.

Does such a can exist? If so, point me to my Dr. Frankenstein!


HiFiMan Arya Stealth!


Arya is probably a good option to look at.
If you can find a good used deal or bump your budget a bit so will the Audeze MM-500 I believe.
For midrange warmth and good bass maybe a ZMF can do the trick but might not be enough in the treble.

Tbh that’s not really a Frankenstein headphone you’re looking for, the higher end pairs will do all of that better than the three you listed. They’re that better.

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I’d suggest looking at the used market which will open up a bigger variety of headphones at the price range. I’m a big fan of ZMFs especially with stock tuning. Auteur might be a good match for most of those requirements. I also like LCD-X if you want to try planars but I’ve also heard good things about the new MM-500 around similar price point.

Another weird one that often gets overlooked is Grados. Not the most comfortable with stock pads but will also fit most of your requirements except the bass and warmth perhaps but with added speed especially for rock.


It may exist, but will cease to exist if you wear them to the gym. That’s a different use case and is great for something cheap, water resistant, and that has cheap interchangeable pads. You don’t need super fidelity for the gym. Many people like wireless, or even IEMs at the gym. When I bothered to go to the gym, I was good with Koss Porta-Pro or Sporta Pro. Didn’t like IEMs because they block so much sound and/or when music was off I would hear the blood rushing to and from my brain, such as it is. The Porta Pros had a decent mike for when any workout was interrupted by phone calls. I showered at home, which was close by, so I don’t know how they were in the locker-room shower.

I do not go to the gym. I do all of my exercising outdoors or at home. Plus I never wear headphones while working out.


Ah, I read the line about using them for, but missed :Home as the intended use.
Kudos for not going to the gym.

In that case, I would expect that the recommendations are in order. I have mentioned the GRADO RS1e with Beautiful Audio pads. While lower-end Grados may lack bass, the larger diaphragm of the 2e provides adequate bass, enhanced about by the pads, which also smooths treble. Excellent soundstage and midranges. Latest model is RS1x. I have heard that GRADO’s current tuning has been mainstreamed a bit from the older treble-forward house sound. The RS1e was already well into this journey.

Downside? Thick, ugly, non-removable cables.

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Thanks. Not so sure how much I like the on-ear form factor, either. I have slightly larger than normal ears, with protruding cartilage on my right side.

I’m afraid with Grados that the Mr. T motto may be in effect: “Prediction? PAIN.” :slight_smile:

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With the large Beautiful Audio pad swap they are not on ear at all. Nor is there much clamping force. My ears are senior standard size so while not Dumbo quantity, they ain’t tiny.

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I don’t mean to hijack this thread but do you think it’s worth it to upgrade the pads on an old SR225e to the beautiful audio pads? I like their sound but have largely tossed them because of the discomfort and the cable.

Or better to move to RS1 or higher if I’m Grado curious? Also how much does the pad upgrade affect the sound signature in your experience?

Have you considered MEST mkii? I’m not sure I would compare its mids to HD600 at all, but it has tight elevated bass, relaxed & agreeable mids, crisp clear non-fatiguing treble, and amazing imaging. And it’s well within your budget. While I obviously haven’t heard everything, I truly believe you would be hard-pressed to best it under $3k. I do happen to own Arya, and frequently prefer MEST over Arya (they’re apples vs oranges, of course, but MEST has a certain engagement that I just never quite get from Arya).

As a matter of fact, I happen to have a shiny “like new” pair for sale in the marketplace forum. :slight_smile: Though honestly, this would be my suggestion whether I had a pair for sale or not.


Just don’t know. I think there is a qualitative difference with the 50 mm vs 44 mm. Also you measure your headphone for the Beautiful Audio pads. While all prestige series are the same, I don’t think that’s true of the rest.
We should continue this in the Grado area where others can also opine

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Tbh, what I thought of when you said travel and etc…the Radiance. They are not quite as energetic in the treble region and they are more closed in stage wise (if that matters to you). They do pair very well with those genres though imo. The Arya definitely is there as well, but I enjoy the punchiness of the Radiance especially for those genres.

The MM-500 I would just say beware of the clampiness if you have a big head ha! I have no idea if you do, just a caution. Also I consider those more analytical over pure enjoyment.

ZMF came to mind, but don’t know if I’d travel as much with them.

As someone else said here already, there are many options once you get to the high end that will more then likely fit the bill for you.

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Autuer / Autuer Classic / Aeolus. Something like that.

Sure as shit isn’t the Arya without a dollap of EQ


Do you place a greater weight on any of these?

Will you stick with this amp or do you have a sense of what your next amp might be?

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Good to know. Thanks for the tip!

I listened to my first pair of Grados – the 325x – in August at a high-end stereo shop in Seattle while visiting my daughter. I expected cochlea-piercing treble, which is Grado’s reputation and something I would detest immediately because I’m treble-sensitive.

But the balance and tonality of the 325x were a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed them. How do RS1e with the Beautiful pads compare sonically to the 325x?


Thanks for the tip. I should have been specific: I don’t want IEMs, for two reasons.

One, I prefer over-ears since I like the soundstage of open-backs. Two, I have severe tinnitus, and it’s not a great idea for me to shove sound directly into my ear canals, even at lower volumes.

Yep. I have a big dome, so the MM-500 scare me. Plus I tend to stray slightly from pure analytical.

I bought the Sennheiser HD 560s two years ago and sold them within a few months. Yes, they were neutral as hell, with a lovely sound signature other than a treble spike that didn’t agree with me. But man, they were boring as hell. Sterile. Clinical.

I’m not looking for Meze 99 Classics boomy fun. Owned those. Sold them. Probably looking for something closer to clinical with a bit of fun mixed in.


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Thanks. ZMF definitely on my radar.

P.S.: As a native upstate New Yorker and HARDCORE Bills’ fan, I love your profile name. :slight_smile:

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If forced to choose, I’m more of a bass and mids guy. Can’t like piercing highs or sibilance at all. I tend to like cans with rolled-off treble, but the HD 6XX and LCD-2C feel just a bit too lazy and smooth at the top end for me. I want a smidge more detail.

Yes, I will stick with my JDS Labs Atom+ stack for now. It has served me so well with clean, ample, cheap power and digital processing. Tough to beat at that price. Plus John Seaber (Mr. JDS) is one of the true good guys in this business, with phenomenal, personal customer service. I want to continue to support him and buy JDS products.

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