Most underrated headphone?

I was reading the comments in @Resolve’s closed-back shootout video and a few people mentioned the Denon 9200 which I’d never even heard.

It made me think of headphones I don’t think get enough credit (like the Focal Elegia) and it made me curious what others think. Maybe a chance to uncover some gems that we’ve overlooked (or that are “cool” to make fun of, but that you personally enjoy)

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Focal Elegia has my vote for underrated gem!

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as you already mentioned the Elegia…
the Hifiman Ananda is somehow rarely mentioned as “good enough”
The Verum 1 comes in a weird shape with good sound
The Ether 2 could get a second look by some - is what I learned today … featherweight chill thing

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I could get along perfectly fine with a Fidelio X2 (and a bit of EQ) for the majority of my IDM, rock and blues listening.

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I would second the Hifiman Ananda as being way underrated. Honestly love the sound of those headphones. Seriously an incredible value for the quality of sound you get. I also think people try some of the planar headphones and expect them to sound great straight out of a phone which tends to make them think they are not as good as they really are, when really they just need proper amplification. My 2 cents.

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I was going to say Sundara, but you’re absolutely right. Ananda has possibly my favorite FR of any headphone.

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The thread participation speaks to this.

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Koss Porta Pros for the win!

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it was so obvious- don’t forget the most underrated Yaxi pads

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A must purchase in my opinion! (Yaxi pads that is)

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Hmmm…puts on my Audeze fanboy hat… the LCD-XC; they get little love in the closed back game, yet hold their own with most in its class :man_shrugging:

While I think they do get talked about, the E-mu Teak’s should be talked about far more than the X00’s;

Budget… the Shozy Form 1.1. For $60 they are much better than I expected.

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Interestingly, the Teaks have the same drivers as the Massdrop TH-X00 series. The only difference is the wood (sonically).

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I completely agree with the Portapros but from the same company, the Koss KPH30i are an amazing successor and possibly a step up from the Portapros for less money. IMO they’re the best brand to get someone into headphones and “go down the rabbit hole,” so-to-speak.

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I have to agree about the Ananda…although the amount of support it’s receiving in this thread makes me think it’s not totally underrated. That’s the inherent paradox with “most underrated?” discussions, is that the consensus “most underrated” thing is probably not actually the most underrated thing.

But I really do think the Ananda flies under the radar. You don’t see it mentioned nearly as much as the Audeze LCD-2 or 2 Classic, or the HD800, but it just checks so many boxes. I’ve heard so many ultra-high end headphones at various shows that cost several times the price of the Ananda but can’t get as many things right. It’s about as light and comfortable as a top-tier headphone can get, although I know people have some complaints about the lack of swivel in the cups that the headband design permits. (This doesn’t bother me personally very much.) Sometimes I forget I’m wearing it. It’s super easy to drive, and will sound great off a phone or a laptop, but it also scales with better equipment. It really doesn’t need EQ – it’s a remarkably well balanced headphone that has this lovely, sweet and clear sound. To me, sonically, it doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. Great detail, great transient response. That’s not to say it’s perfect, but there’s nothing about the Ananda that will really bug you. Or at least bugs me, anyway. It just sounds pretty “right”, especially in the mids and treble. (Although some people think it’s a touch bright.)

I think in the world of headphone reviews and reviewers, people tend to get excited about a headphone having some kind of standout, salient feature. Headphones have to have an “elevator pitch”, as it were. I mean, take a look at someone like Zeos, whose content I enjoy, but…the guy literally has a wall of headphones. He’s constantly rotating stuff in and out – he doesn’t truly have to live with a pair of headphones, day in and day out. So he’s always looking for that thing in a pair of headphones. “These go on my wall because they do bass like nothing else out there.” “These go on my wall because they soundstage wider than any other headphone.” And so on and so forth.

And I don’t mean to make this just about Zeos – this is true of almost any full-time headphone reviewer out there, because they’re constantly rotating headphones in and out of their listening lineups. And to make a compelling review on the deadlines these reviewers face, they have to have an elevator pitch for the headphone. So products that do one or two things the best but have nagging flaws are occasionally favored over products that are good all-rounders but aren’t the best at any one thing in particular. But for someone like me, who doesn’t have a large and constantly rotating collection of headphones, it seems like a reviewer’s recommendation may often stray from what’s really best for me. I get one high-end headphone to listen to music on, not seven or fifteen. (And I realize not everyone out there is like me. I’m just trying to speak for those who are.) So I don’t get to pick and choose which gear might go best for a particular track or album. I just want one headphone that can play back almost anything I choose with a full and accurate frequency response, good detail, soundstage, and imaging without being uncomfortable to wear. And the Ananda does that for me.

I’m just kind of speaking from experience, because before I had the Ananda’s, I owned and loved the LCD-2 Classic. I bought it for its bass response and lush sound, and I still think it’s a great headphone, but for me, its flaws, while small and initially tolerable, began to snowball. It’s heavy, but at first you feel like the weight isn’t too bad. It’s missing a fair amount of upper-mid and lower-treble presence, but at first you think the tradeoff is worth it for the bass and the resolution. But the day-in and day-out of having the headphone means that its flaws start to eat at you the longer you have it. So for a buyer like me, who plans to use a product a lot and own it for at least a few years, it doesn’t matter how good a headphone’s strengths are if it can’t get the basics right. So that’s the pitch for the Ananda – not exactly brief, but I think sometimes it can be hard to sum up the appeal of a headphone like the Ananda that isn’t the best at any one thing but is very, very good at almost everything. Add to that it’s now selling for around $700 USD at most places, which is 300 dollars under its original price of $999, for which it was already considered a good value, and I’d have a hard time calling the Ananda anything other than a steal.

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An underrated unobtainum headphone I like is the original version of the Brainwavz HM5. The original version sounds very nice for a closed affordable headphone. Later versions changed the sound and the midrange got a bite and zing I don’t like. But those original versions are nice. I use them with my laptops for general YouTube listening and have one converted to balanced for use with my PonoPlayer.

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I actually had no idea the Ananda was on sale for $700. I’ve been saying for a while it’s a steal at its original price. I can’t think of anything better at that price at the moment.

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@andrew, @Resolve, @DarthPool, @MartinTransporter, and @MRphotography
Absolutely agree about the Ananda’s and the Elegia’s both are amazing headphones IMO. I continue to be impressed by the Elegia, also I just got the Ananda’s(a few days ago) and initial impressions are very positive.

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the denon 9200 is definitely underrated

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The famous Foster drivers. :+1:t4:

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Not quite true: while the drivers are the same, the interior dimensions of the teak earcups are slightly larger/different vs the TX-00 variants (all woods used in that series).

I believe that, as much as the somewhat different tone-wood characteristics of teak vs other woods, accounts for the rather pleasing tone of the E-Mu teaks, which have an organic, smooth, musical quality the TX-00’s lack.

~3 hrs ago I had a TX-00 mahogany which had easily the best/deepest bass I’d heard to that point (including true sub-bass). But everything else about that headphone annoyed me, especially the too-sharp upper midrange/lower treble and graininess/roughness of the treble range.

A couple years ago I purchased an E-Mu Teak and really liked that sound: bass was slightly less concussive & lacked a bit of sub-bass vs TX-00, but IMO the tradeoff was well worth it based on the top-to-bottom smooth/suave sound of the Teak. I ended up selling the Teak only due to comfort issues: those stock pads became painful & annoying, and all my attempts to padroll for better comfort worked in terms of better comfort–but failed in terms of unacceptably altered sound.

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