What was the first pair of headphones that made you say HOLY CRAP?


Those IM Fried speakers were nice. I’ve spend many hours listening to a friend’s Dad’s system that had the TL-1s

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For me, it was years and years ago. It was a Sennheiser. I forget which model but it was before the 600 series came out. One of my local audio/video stores was closing its door and I nabbed them for what I thought was a fairly good price, around $270 with tax. It was the best and worst purchase of my audio life. That phone opened my ears to what was possible at the time and yet it was only a portal to what could be. Since then I’ve been chasing that ever elusive unicorn which we all know doesn’t exist, the end game headphone rig, at ever increasing prices which are often over my budget restrictions I’d set for myself. I both love and loath this hobby.


Ought to give a sub-head to this topic -

“portal-drug headphones”

But yes, that’s what they are. And sometimes you come back to that original. I still have my 1982 vintage STAX SR-5Ns, and I can’t wait to listen to them again with the modified T1S amp that @spritzer is sending me from his shop in Iceland.

The only difference is that unlike cigarettes, the first one isn’t free either.


Stax Lambdas. My Magnepan dealer got Stax products and I stopped one day to listen. It was all over. I eventually got a set of Lambda Pros which I still own.

Stax estats are great but they are very hard on your wallet.


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The original Sony Walkman in 1982. Later in the '80s, the Sony MDR-V6. Much later, a couple models of Sennheiser… but those Sonys were revelations in their time.


I think like a lot of people, my first real taste was the Grado SR80. Got these many years back and really loved them. And then my next wow moment was getting my first planar, and now I’m on all aboard the planar bandwagon, though my current favorite headphone is a Focal Elex. hah.


Are you working on a review of these?


I started to write one over the past month or so, but I have been getting these cheaper IEM samples to review. And those have taken some priorities over mine. I was hoping to collect my thoughts on it this weekend. I have the Focal’s on right now. First time in 2 weeks :frowning:

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The downfall of reviews, they can take up a ton of your time. I enjoy it though, it’s an awesome experience to try out different tech, or items you might not otherwise have tried.

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Not HOLY CRAP, or even MACKEREL, but a solid HMMmmm

I’m going to ramble on about the oldest pair of headphones I still have and that I can actually listen to. They’re oddballs. While looking around the net, I found that @Ishcabible has encountered these, and measured them. I’m talking about

my Audio Technica ATH-2’s

I can’t place exactly when I got these. I think it was after I graduated college, but before I took serious adult employment. Maybe 1976. Could have been from the Hi-Fi house, where crazy old Foster used to push interesting audio baubles. Or it may have been a bit later - certainly before 1979.

I remember liking these. My naive ears heard something different. Reading up on them now, I find that they were “orthodynamic” headphones, which was apparently an alternate early term for planar-magnetics. They are semi-open back. Flat earcups, with big flat and surprisingly comfortable pads. The head loop is sturdy, but doesn’t clamp too hard. The flat pads reveal an opening of maybe 7/8 of an inch (1.8cm) where perforated metal lets the sound out. They have those older larger headphone jacks. What is it 6.5MM? 1/4 inch we called it.

These days, when I have more equipment, I find that they like to be adequately powered. Back in the day, they got plugged into a receiver when the rest of the world wanted quiet. I found that @Ishcabible measured these, and here is his chart:

You can imagine what they sound like from that chart. But you’d be wrong. They always struck me as a bit too punchy in the mid bass. That part is true, but they’re no ur-Beats. Given a bit of power, they shine in the upper mid range. Sure that curve doesn’t look like a modern quality headphone. But what you don’t see is that they are very very fast. Light, delicate transient response. Not an electrostat, but showing just a bit of that polish. Probably what drew me to them in the first place, and made me keep them in my collection, when probably a dozen forgettable ones were tossed out or given away.

When I start playing more with EQ, I may like them even better. After all, I use Neutron on my iPhone, and the xDSD drives them very well.

Well that’s it for an old man talking about something attractive from his youth. At least I still have these. It’s not like I’ll wonder what my life would have been like if I’d taken the bait that Brazilian girl offered. And I can close my eyes and recall when the ATH-2s were new and my ARxa turntable was respectable, and no, I didn’t become the anchor point for an endless stream of Portuguese-speaking immigrants.

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Oh, I think those measurements are from my modded pair. I did a good but to reduce the midbass because I thought it was a bit too much and some taming of the upper mids. I think your impressions align basically with what I thought the stock pair was like! They’re a super neat headphone.

I actually run an AR-XA turntable!


I did until this year - with a Shure V-15 Type III (Improved) Cart and a Shibata replacement stylus. Vinyl Nirvana stocks a wealth of upgrades and replacement parts for the AR turntables. Then last holiday season my wife bought me a VPI Prime Scout with an Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge. She always told me that she married me for my stereo, but over the years she seems to replace parts of it.

I have the AR stored in my old basement office, I offered it to my little brother, but he went to college at Pitt years ago and is an audio-nimnal.

Regarding the headphone, I like the pads. What did you do to reduce the midbass? The headphones are quite listenable stock - less so with old vintage low power headphone jacks, but eminently good with a headphone amp or DAC/Amp.


Ha, me too! Funny thing is, I also have a giant melon, kind of last snap on the baseball hat size.

Well … the MAJOR design flaw with the PSB M4U2s was the plastic headband.

The top of the band would crack, but worse, was right by the hinge - that was metal screwed to plastic and it would eventually snap. So basically crutchfield kept sending me new ones under warranty for years.

Ultimately I probably got 8 or 10 pairs of them.


Without a doubt, Grado’s GS1000.


The first real “holy crap” moment was when I bought a pair of Grado Rs2 and listened to them. I was immediately hooked on the Grado sound and sold my LCD2, hd650 and others… Years later, still hooked! :slight_smile:


Those were the same lineup for me except the Grados were the legendary sr 80s


Strictly saying, the first were: Pioneer SE-305. I was ten, early eighties. They have the culprit of all my audio nirvana quest since then.

These 95dB/mW efficient, 8Ohm cans marked me forever. Used them with a Hitachi TT and separate amp that is still alive and kicking after 30+ years (after some noisy resistors/cap replacements).

Back then Elvis, Beatles, Stones, Michael Jackson, Bee Gees, Motown. Progressive Rock… sounded beautifully; not detailed per today standards, but warm, engaging and immersive.


I’ve had a few “holy crap!” moments with headphones. The first was a pair of SR325 from Grado.

I bought them, they were my first pair of “real” headphones. I loved them so much I bought a pair of PS1000. I didn’t really know anything about headphones back then, and just figured I’d go for the PS1000 because I enjoyed the SR325 so much. My tastes and knowledge have moved on since then, but I still look back on those pairs of headphones really fondly. I sometimes wish I hadn’t sold the PS1000.

After the PS1000, I started getting really into headphones, and reading forums. I read about brands like Audeze, and Sennheiser! I went to a local headphone shop and tried the LCD-3. I was sold. Warm, thunderous bass. I loved them. Definitely a “holy crap!” moment when I first tried them.

As the pic suggests, about a week later, I went and bought a pair of HD800’s. They made me say “Holy Crap!” again! Severe detail overload. I’ve owned the HD800 twice and it remains a helluva headphone. The K812? Kind of a dumb purchase. Not a holy crap headphone. Good, but…meh.

I sold the K812 and LCD-3 eventually to buy my favourite headphone. The one that made me go “Holy…CRAP!”

The Abyss probably remains as the king of “Holy Crap!” moments for me…


Your first pair of “real” headphones being Grados explains your more bass-emphatic current-day preferences quite well … :wink:

I kid … I kid …

Nothing against Grado … though I like a bit more substance from the lower-treble down and just don’t get on with anything even vaguely on-ear.


0-100hz = +20db please!