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Headphone recommendations: replacing my Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones | ~$300

I know that this sort of question is probably pretty common here, but I haven't found any threads that really answer my question and I am so tired of trying to cross-reference conflicting articles and listicles (can't wait for LTT labs). I bought my M40x headphones ~5 years ago as my first foray into "real" headphones and have been pretty satisfied. Unfortunately, years of abuse are finally catching up with them (a natural result of their budget build quality) and they are in dire need of replacing. I am looking to collect some recommendations from the community based on the following criteria to help narrow down my research .

 

  • Budget: $200~$300
    • somewhat flexible if there is a significant benefit
  • closed back for noise isolation in both directions
  • relatively flat tuning - I listen to a wide variety of media and I don't want a "signature sound" messing with my experience
  • physical cord
    • preferably removable/replaceable
    • wireless would be a nice bonus, but it is not at all necessary

This topic is meant to be a sort straw poll to get a better idea of what models to look at and what specs to look for, so a brief explanation for the reasoning behind any recommendations is appreciated. Amps and/or DACs are a topic I have not really delved into yet, but if it seems like they are an important consideration at this price point, I will do some more research or maybe start a separate thread to get some advice. If there is any other information or criteria I should include here, please let me know and I will try to update this post accordingly.

 

Thank you all ahead of time for your replies. A knowledgeable community is worth hours of googling.

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Can't wholeheartedly recommend a closed-back can in that pricerange, anything over $100 for one seems unacceptable. The benefits of open-back far outweigh the disadvantages. Unless you're opting for HD280 Pro's with 32dB of noise attenuation, or a crumby ANC can, a lot of closed-backs won't provide much isolation in general. If you do need closed-back however, the Shure SRH440A's are just that, along with the Takstar Pro82's. Side-note: wireless audio is still garbage in most cases and has yet to be perfected.

 

$20-$50

Koss KSC-75

 

$50-$100

Shure SRH440A

Philips SHP 9500

Takstar Pro82 / Cooler Master MH751

 

$100-$200

HiFiMan HE400SE

Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro / TYGR 300R

 

$200-$350

AKG K612 Pro

Sennheiser HD6XX or HD650

Audio Technica ATH-R70x

 

$350-$500

HiFiMan Sundara

 

$500-$700

HiFiMan Edition XS

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11 hours ago, bit_by_bit said:

-snip-

I use Sennheiser HD 280 Pros. 100$ US, flat curve, (non removable cable, but every cabe is removable if you are brave enough, and it stretches to like 20 feet, and coils down to 2, so it is manageable), and the jack has a 1/4" adapter that screws on, and protects the normal 3mm jack from damage, (and also being a 1/4" jack, but I don't use it all that much).

I have had them for a year, and used them extensively, I have no dedicated carrying case, and while I don't throw them around, they do take a beating compared to a set of headphones that stay in a studio. They have 0 issues. The seal isn't as good as it was on day one, but that's to be expected. If you plan to use these headphones in public, I would go with the 280s, they are cheap enough that if they break that you don't have to worry as much about them, and expensive enough to sound as good as anyone needs, really after the 100$ mark for headphones you hit ademinishing returns.

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14 minutes ago, DANK_AS_gay said:

I use Sennheiser HD 280 Pros. 100$ US, flat curve

I wouldn't exactly call them flat, but they're alight. Better when they can be found on sale or second-hand, they don't really stand up to the rest of the ~$100 competition.

HD280 Pro's response                                                                                                                                 SRH440A's response

793497325_image(19).thumb.png.d6cba70a993c42f3e6e9285aabfe0ebd.png383731893_image(18).thumb.png.02af02e3ce7da1717c98382e6610add7.png

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COOLER: Arctic LiquidFreezer II 280 STORAGE: G.SKILL Phoenix FTL 240GB SSD, Crucial MX500 1TB SSD, Toshiba 2TB HDD, Seagate 4TB HDD

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MOUSE: Logitech G502 HERO (wired)  KEYBOARD: Rosewill K81 RGB (Kailh Brown)  HEADPHONES: HiFiMan Ananda, Drop x Sennheiser HD6XX

IEMS: 7Hz Timeless, Tin Audio T2, Blon BL-03, Samsung/AKG Galaxy Buds Pro  STUDIO MONITORS: Mackie MR524, Mackie MRS10  MIC: NEAT Worker Bee  

INTERFACE: Focusrite Scarlett Solo  AMPLIFIER: SMSL SP200 THX AAA-888, XDUOO XD-05 Basic  DAC: SMSL Sanskrit 10th MKII (upgraded AK4493 Version)

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COOLER: EVGA CLC 280 PSU: MSI A750GF 80+ Gold CASE: Phanteks P400A Digital

 

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WINDOW LEDGE SPEAKERS: Kenwood KFC-6986PS 6x9" 4-Ways

 

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I want to second the criticism of the HD280s. They were my starter headphones around 10-15 years ago. They're serviceable but nothing great. They work for noise isolation but a decent set of headphones with ANC (e.g. used Sony XM4s) will probably work better if blocking noise is your goal.

 

I wouldn't worry about noise leakage unless you're recording music. Think studio environment. For consumption (as well as mixing/production), open back headphones tend to work better. I listened to music on open back headphones for YEARS and every time I asked coworkers, none of them said they could hear it.


I'm pretty much going to mirror what Official Tech Space has said in terms of suggestions.

I might add in the DT 770s.
https://www.thewongjanice.com/news/2018/07/beyerdynamic-dt-770-vs-dt-990-headphones

As a a rule of thumb higher ohm headphones are harder to drive but a bit more "refined" in terms of how they sound - if you have proper amplification.
https://www.headphonesty.com/2019/04/headphone-impedance-demystified/#basic_concept_of_impedance

These days newer designs (the DTs are older) are generally lower impedance without as many of the tradeoffs... something about working with portable devices.
 

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Honestly, there aren't any closed backs I'd feel comfortable strongly recommending in that price range. Closed-backs can't do realistic treble without some truly heroic tuning effort.

 

Around $100 there are a number of decently neutral closed-backs: the SRH840/440, K371, Takstar Pro 82, M40X, etc.

 

The next significant improvement over the stuff available around $100 is probably the DCA Aeon Closed X (which still has some tuning issues, though they're easier to fix with EQ than average), which is typically around $400. Even then, I probably wouldn't have a preference for it over a KSC75 with a bit of extra bass EQ'd in half of the time. It's not necessarily more neutral than the $100 closed backs, either; it's just more open-sounding and has very satisfying (but not more) low bass. You might like it if you prefer more laid-back treble.

 

There are some other good closed backs around that price range (for instance, many Fostex models), but most of them might as well be open backs as far as sound isolation goes, and at that point just get an open back.

 

The only closed back I've heard so far that I might prefer all-around over an HD6XX or K612 is the MrSpeakers Ether C (the original one). I haven't heard the DCA Ether CX; maybe it's also good. Either way, well outside your price range.

 

Overall, I'd recommend either looking into the Aeon Closed or surveying the $100-ish options. I don't think the Aeon is a particularly good value, but if you really want a closed back that's a meaningful upgrade from the ~$100 models there aren't many good options.

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Shure Aonic 50. Their ANC isn't the greatest for transit, but definitely good enough for home/office use. I'd represent the sound as fairly flat and studio-like. The analog input sounds more or less identical if you want to run them without batteries which isn't true for most ANC headsets. I think MSRP is like $400 but they have dipped down to $300 a lot recently.

 

Avoid the Aonic 40 due to poor build quality.

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11 hours ago, DANK_AS_gay said:

I use Sennheiser HD 280 Pros. 100$ US, flat curve, (non removable cable, but every cabe is removable if you are brave enough, and it stretches to like 20 feet, and coils down to 2, so it is manageable), and the jack has a 1/4" adapter that screws on, and protects the normal 3mm jack from damage, (and also being a 1/4" jack, but I don't use it all that much).

HD280s are one of the few headphones that I cannot get to sound right no matter what I try. Out of the box they're marginally less unpleasant than the MDR7506s (though the HD280s grip your head like a vise), but I have had way more luck EQing MDR7506s (mind you, the MDR7506 is a turd no matter what you do to it) than I have the HD280s.

 

The best closed-back headphone that I personally have heard is the AKG Samsung K371. To my ears, it's a pretty damn good headphone. 

 

 

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On 5/13/2022 at 9:13 PM, cmndr said:

-snip-

 

https://www.soundguys.com/sennheiser-hd-280-pro-review-53109/

They said it's good for mixing, i.e. anything mixed on this will sound good on almost anything else, I don't know how respectable soundguys are, I just saw DankPods' review, after I was already considering them, and they work on a MacBook Air, so it fit rather well for me.

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34 minutes ago, DANK_AS_gay said:

https://www.soundguys.com/sennheiser-hd-280-pro-review-53109/

They said it's good for mixing, i.e. anything mixed on this will sound good on almost anything else, I don't know how respectable soundguys are, I just saw DankPods' review, after I was already considering them, and they work on a MacBook Air, so it fit rather well for me.

the HD280s are reasonably priced, have good sound isolation and are tight enough as to be uncomfortable.
My own overall impression of them is that they're the least favorite headphones I've had at the $100+ price point.

ATH-m50 and DT770 were both more enjoyable to me.

The HD280s also started physically breaking down faster than the other headphones. The band at the top started coming off and the pads turned to fluff.

https://www.rtings.com/headphones/tools/compare/sennheiser-hd-280-pro-2016-vs-beyerdynamic-dt-770-pro/299/440?usage=19&threshold=0.10

 

going off of RTINGs, the DT770s are generally better and they're similarly priced. This matches my anecdotal experience.

I'm not anti-sennheiser either, I have a pair of HD800s next to me and used a paid of HD598s for years (then lost them on a flight, argh)

 

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3 minutes ago, cmndr said:

The HD280s also started physically breaking down faster than the other headphones

$60 more for on average 1.2 points higher in most categories is too much for me, but his budget is $200-$300, so I suppose it doesn't matter.

I also have had 0 issues with quality, the plastic is really nice, the only thing wearing down at all is the seal around my ears. I carry these everywhere I go, and I go to school, and do not use my locker. I take good care of them because $100 is 10 hours of work for me, so that's a lot of money. I tend to get whatever is best for cheap-ish. If I cannot afford to get a decent budget option, I won't buy it. For example, my HP x24ih is a fantastic option for my Xbox Series S. The colors on this monitor soundly beat the colors on a $500 42 in TV. I got a Denon AVR-S540BT (I think, got it on sale, and can't remember the name), a $150 (new) Sony (or Samsung, I forget) Subwoofer for $15 from GoodWill, etc. As such, the HD 280s have been perfect. 

One thing I would think about is the DT 770s look expensive, and are more likely to be stolen. Just something I would be careful with.

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50 minutes ago, DANK_AS_gay said:

-snip-

You can find used DT770s for like $100ish, at least in 2010.

My usual strategy is to look at things from a TCO / hours perspective. Assuming you could (if desired) resell an item it's not too bad. If you "use it up" then the resale value is obviously $0. I think I paid like $800 for my HD800s and then later $80 for a replacement cable... I could sell them for almost what I paid 10 years later. Might need to swap the earpads.

 

 

I don't think the DT770s are that much more of a theft target, though I'll admit I haven't lived in a high crime rate area in around 20 years. My baseline assumption is that if you're worried about theft your best bet is to make everything look empty, boring and sterile. E.g. if you look in my care you see empty floors, seats and nothing in the cup holders. Similar for my living room, relatively sparse.

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Just now, cmndr said:

if you look in my care you see empty floors, seats and nothing in the cup holders. Similar for my living room, relatively sparse.

My truck goes even further than that, the original stereo was traded out for some awful Kenwood unit worth maybe $20 lol. I don't live in a high crime rate area, but again, $100 is a lot for someone making $10 an hour.

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32 minutes ago, DANK_AS_gay said:

My truck goes even further than that, the original stereo was traded out for some awful Kenwood unit worth maybe $20 lol. I don't live in a high crime rate area, but again, $100 is a lot for someone making $10 an hour.

It's an orthogonal subject but focus on maximizing future income over min-maxing relatively small things, especially if they're things you use a lot. It works out to pennies an hour if even that.

It's better to make $100 an hour than it is to be 10% more efficient at $10/hour.

I'm aware - easier said than done. Feel free to PM me if you want career/resume/interviewing advice. I went from around $10/hour a decade ago to more like $150ish an hour. (I'm aware that I have some skills/talents that are hard to replicate and that some things take time to build up to)


 

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