Which Headphones?

spaceman

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The Best Deal overall atm is the X-FI Titanium + the JVC HAR-X700 or 900 headphones for about $150. CRAZY good gaming audio and very nice for music too. Both need a Zalman clip on mic though.

The X-FI Titanium, the $100, Newegg only? version, is the bang for the buck card now though.

The Koss Sb-40 Headset is the best cheap gaming headset too. The Mic sometimes plain sucks though so be aware of that.

for Vista there is less need for a gaming soundcard. I would go with the Nuforce Dac/Amp/B]

If you want just music, well that is different. Pm me about that b/c it really depends on $$, music genres, special equipment etc.

This thread is intended to answer the most often asked questions posted here. The listing is of the most commonly recommended headphones and headsets for gaming. If there are specific questions pertaining to other aspects of headphone audio, please do ask them here and we will do our best to answer.

This link leads to the place with the most overall headphone knowledge. It is easy to get completely confused so don't think you are stupid. It is also, THE best place to get used headphones for cheap b/c ppl tend to keep buying headphones until they find one they like. That being so, there are LOTS of great deals there lol.

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/index.php

FAQ and general knowledge

Me? I have speaker headphones and a 12" sub lol. More on that later. Trust me this can get expensive quickly. I have tried every headphone under $1500 with very few exceptions. Truthfully, like 50 headphones or more. I have lost count. My system currently is a hodgepodge of many different brands which I am constantly changing. How crazy is it? Well, these are my "headphones" now lol.



Not everyone agrees with me that is fine. I just know what MOST people think by this time lol. That, and I have heard every mainstream headphone with an X-Fi so yeah.

Ok. This is just the start really but here is the quick and dirty on gaming headphones and headsets.

5.1 Gaming headsets pretty much are good for gaming/movies only. They all stink for music. All of them. They do good for positional audio but lack decent sound quality b/c they cram a bunch of tiny speakers into a small space as opposed to two large, decent drivers. Also, as Mrguvernment mentioned, music is rarely recorded in 5.1.

Most "gaming headsets" are poorly made, overpriced, buggy POS so my advice is to avoid them until someone comes out with a good one.

Yes some of them don't completely suck but still are not as good as the ones listed below so trust me or them your choice.

USB headsets have issues and have generally crappy build quality and sound.

However, USB dac/amps like the Zero are very good as sources now and should be strongly considered when using vista especially.

It is best to use an X-Fi with XP even though we all hate Creative. There is only one other gaming soundcard not made entirely by Creative that provides EAX 5 and that is the Prelude. The Prelude is the best gaming card imo. Swappable op-amps, separate digital out and mic in, plain and simple sounds right to me. For Vista, well, you don't really benefit that much due to a lack of hardware acceleration support.

The front panel of the x-fi is a joke for a headphone out. Do not use it as such unless desperate beyond measure.

Laptops? Boy that is a tough issue too. The Creative Audigy 2ZS and X-Fi notebook are the only two laptop cards that give EAX 4. (Thanks Trombe) No laptop soundcards are better than a standard X-Fi for desktop currently.

The new Vista laptops have pretty decent sound for music at least if you can one with a decent headphone jack. Gaming I can't really say b/c mine is not a gaming laptop. Realtek audio gives Eax 2 software. If you want better sound for a laptop you need to specify if you have optical out or usb.

IEM or In Ear Monitor are headphones that you stick into your ears like earplugs. They are great if you don't want to hear anything else. They do lack sound stage b/c they are in your ear but still are pretty cool if you can put up with the hassle and sometimes discomfort of having them in your ear.

The Shure E2G is a gaming oriented iem made for portable game consoles like the psp etc. It is about $100. There are many other iems just ask.

http://www.headphone.com/products/headphones/all-headphones/shure-e2g.php

Wireless Headphones are generally not as good as wired but if you need to use them for convenience the Sennheiser line is reliable and affordable.

http://www.sennheiserusa.com/newsite/category.asp?transid=cat2



10/11/08 Update

New Great Cheap Headphones! Credit to Ourfpshero on this find. $30-40 or $50-60 shipped and awesome sound.

JVC HA-RX700 and JVC HA-RX900




http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1353088

08/02 update

I am thinking that the Beyerdynamic gaming series, including the expensive but apparently effective head zone tech, with its head-tracking(no shit) is worth strongly considering for those who want a top end headset and do not mind paying $2500 for one. Beyer is german made and quality construction. They are tough headphones.

http://northern-america.beyerdynamic.com/index.php?id=2028&&L=1&tx_sbproductdatabase_pi1%5BshowUid%5D%5BshowUID%5D=2109&tx_sbproductdatabase_pi1%5BshowUid%5D%5BbackPID%5D=2028&cHash=cd1211973d

$100 Headset Beyerdynamic MMX 1 or 2 Digital Gaming headset.

The difference b/w the 1 and 2 is unknown. The 1 is available stateside for $100 and the 2 only from the beyer website for $130 +. The only review I have found so far is this one.

http://northern-america.beyerdynamic.com/en/consumer-products/products/gaming-multimedia-headsets.html?tx_sbproductdatabase_pi1[showUid][showUID]=2111&tx_sbproductdatabase_pi1[showUid][backPID]=2028&cHash=4806b2cfd0

This is the first usb headset that I can recommend.

$150 or so

Sennheiser PC350- I have not heard these yet. Looks like a solid, over the ear headset to me though.

http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B0012XFDWO/ref=pd_cp_e_0_cm_cr_acr_txt?_encoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

HEADPHONES + Zalman Microphone
Around $100?


The Zalman clip on mic just snaps onto your headphone cable or you can ghetto mod a stand for it. Works great!

http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?item=n82e16836501002

Well, if you have $100 or so and don't mind not having big bass slam but being able to hear the bass notes then the Ad700 is a good choice. It will have better sound quality than the Koss for sure. The A700 is the closed version and it will have more bass impact than the AD700. So yes, if you have $100 the general opinion is that the AD700(less bass, bigger sound stage) or the A700(more bass impact, about the same sound stage but also hotter) is the best balanced gaming headphone. These do not need an amplifier so they are less expensive.

http://www.audiocubes.com/product/Audio-Technica_ATH-AD700_Air_Headphones.html
http://www.audiocubes.com/product/Audio-Technica_ATH-A700_Art_Headphones.html

The Beyer 770/80 ohm is ALL bass, no real midrange and recessed highs. Truthfully it is a really fun headphone for gaming and very comfy but just be really aware it is like having subwoofers strapped to your head. Now if you LOVE big honking bass slam it is the king no doubt. There is a headset mod for this
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f4/beyerdynamic-dt-770-microphone-mod-v-2-0-updated-204299/

The 770 improves drastically with modification. Darth Beyers are awesome gaming cans but the price starts at $325-900 so yeah.

Sennheiser 485,555,595 are all good headphones for gaming too and do not need an amp but they are more expensive new and really lack bass. They are brighter and more midrange heavy than the Beyer 770 or the Audiotechnica. If you love crisp detail and don't care about explosions the 595s are really good. The 485 and 555 are, well, they are ok but not worth the $$ new. If you can get a great deal on a pair used go for it. They are quality gaming headphones no doubt about it.

The middle of the road is the Audio Equation RP-21 which is closed, looks nice, has more bass slam but not quite as good as the A or Ad700 in terms of overall sound quality. Also, even modified, it has a very small soundstage. Not a good thing for gaming. The Koss and AKG have the biggest soundstage and are best for positional audio. Also, the midbass tends to overpower the sound at flat EQ. However, taking the 170hz or 2nd to last on the left down a notch on the EQ fixes this.. Not a bad headphone at all for fun sounding tunes and it is very good for studying and such b/c it isolates well. Comfy too.

If you like beats, trance, rap, etc consider these to be THE headphone for you under/around $100.

http://www.equationaudio.com/Professional/rp21.htm

$200ish?

The Audiotechnica A900. It has comfort, decent balance and better overall sound than the A or Ad700. All of the Audiotechnicas are supremely comfortable with the only knock being that they can be a bit hot due to their earmuff size and design. They are literally big, fluffy earmuff sized headphones but are very light and comfy.

http://www.audiocubes.com/product/Audio-Technica_ATH-A900_Art_Headphones.html

Honorable mention in this category goes to the AKG 601. Clearly superior 3D sound, this headphone really needs an amp to shine so it is not really an under $200 headphone. However, it provides some serious 3D sound with very little bass impact but crystal clear indications of "where the bad guys are." They have a bigger brother the 701s which also need a good amp to really work right. Both will work unamped but for best results you need at least another $100. These headphones have the largest, airiest sound stage and arguably the best midrange and highs of any headphone under $400 no doubt. They have very little bass however so be warned. You can hear the bass notes but you will not FEEL them.

$400-$725

Darth Beyers for dynamic headphones. They have the best bass, great mids and highs. Larry at headphile does a wonderful job custom making each one to your specs and wood choices. These do not require an amp but it is recommended for best performance. They are highly modified Beyer 770/80 or 250 ohm. Larry also does a variety of mods to Grados, Sennheisers, Stax, Akg.

http://www.headphile.com/page8.html

The Ultimate gaming headphone for me would be the Stax Omega 2. Please note that this sucker costs at least $2000 and that is used lol. These are just amazing sounding and are the fastest headphones made.

http://www.audiocubes2.com/category/Headphones/product/Stax_SR-007_(OmegaII)_with_SRM-727A_Amplifier.html

For around $1400 this combo is also excellent.

http://www.audiocubes2.com/category/Headphones/product/Stax_SRS-4040A_Signature_System_II.html

Entry level? Want to get a taste of the Stax sound for "cheap"?

http://www.audiocubes2.com/category/Headphones/product/Stax_SRS-005A_In-The-Ear_System.html


For a semi-budget I would try to find a SR-Lambda which are out of production now and can only be found used. They go for around $300 with the SRD-7 energizer. Note: all stax require their own transformer box. Some are powered and some, like the SRD-7 require a separate stereo amplifier to power them. Tube amps around the 30 watt range are great for this.

Remember that even crappy headphones sound great when they have an excellent source. I am using the Koss SB-40s with my Oritek modded Zhalou dac which is fed by the crappy sounding X-Fi as bit perfect for music and digital eax for games. They sound very nice indeed b/c of this. Mind the Dac was $500 and the Koss $30 lol.
 
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spaceman

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I'll keep it on the first page until it hopefully gets stickied. Updates to come. Basic entry level model headset now up.
 

magnetik

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I'm game.. if you guys want to piece one together... just let me know and I will sticky it.
 

MrGuvernment

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surround headphones are almost always bad for music because most music isn't recorded in 5.1 to start with but 2 chan stereo.
 

ourfpshero

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nice job op.
one thing to mention- realtek hd audio only gives up to eax2 (and badly at that). the audigy2zs and the x-fi notebook both give up to eax4- so its a good upgrade for a notebook
 

Trombe

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I have to ask and this may seem stupid but, whenever you say a set is "hotter," are you literally referring to the temperature you'll feel in/around your ears?
 

spaceman

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nice job op.
one thing to mention- realtek hd audio only gives up to eax2 (and badly at that). the audigy2zs and the x-fi notebook both give up to eax4- so its a good upgrade for a notebook
Really? I have a Notebook 2zs. I guess it is a new development. I will add it.

Grado Sr-60 and 80 are good for music but lack the sound stage to be considered better than the listed headphones for gaming. They are really fun for rock though and work out of anything.
 

spaceman

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I have to ask and this may seem stupid but, whenever you say a set is "hotter," are you literally referring to the temperature you'll feel in/around your ears?
Yeah they are a bit like earmuffs. Not nearly as hot as that but it gives you a general idea of the construction of them. If you have air conditioning it is all good.
 

Ranma13

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If you want to buy headphones $100 or more, consider getting an amp with it too that costs equally as much. Most headphones out there need amps to drive them to their full potential. A few can get away without one though, like the Grado series, but will of course sound better with an amp anyhow.
 
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If you want to buy headphones $100 or more, consider getting an amp with it too that costs equally as much. Most headphones out there need amps to drive them to their full potential. A few can get away without one though, like the Grado series, but will of course sound better with an amp anyhow.
Eh, isn't basing the source amplification requirements of headphones on their price a little... silly. I mean, I'm sure there are expensive cans which don't require much, or indeed any, amplification of the source, and vice-versa.
 

spaceman

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If you need an amp the Mini 3 that Mister X builds is a flat out amazing amp for about $100 +/- a few bucks.

The AKGs do need amps they sound pretty bland otherwise.

All of the other headphones listed do not benefit much at all from amps which is why they are listed in the price brackets.

If a headphone needs an amp I would be remiss by not mentioning it as it doubles the price to get the most out of the headphone.

Yes an AKg 601 will work without an amp but it really is worse than the audiotechnica 700 or 900 until it is amplified.
 

strid3r

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So is this thread purely for headphones that don't "require" an amp? Are you trying to classify purely based on price range? What about the user's needs (music, gaming, isolation, full can/earbud, etc)? Not trying to rain on your parade, but there's a reason why there was never a headphone FAQ before. Although there might be a lot of threads on what headphones to buy, each user's requirements may vary drastically and may prove to be very difficult to catalog in a sticky (not to mention there is usually always more than one can for a job). I find http://headphonereviews.org/ does do a good job at accomplishing this. Possibly add the ol' impedance myth in general knowledge. I'll see about some links when I get home.
 

spaceman

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Please see the first line of this thread.

The above listed headphones are categorized by cost alone. If someone wants to ask what amp/dac or for this or that activity or for this type of music what headphone, I think it is best answered by posting here.

You are right. There can be no ultimate answer just a general guideline. This thread is intended to answer headphone questions instead of posting 7 or 8 what headphone should I get threads a day just come here.
 

strid3r

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Please see the first line of this thread.

The above listed headphones are categorized by cost alone. If someone wants to ask what amp/dac or for this or that activity or for this type of music what headphone, I think it is best answered by posting here.
Thanks. Perhaps a title change is in order?
 

spaceman

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done. thanks to the mod.

just be cool and patient. we'll get this worked out together.
 

spaceman

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not much b/w $50 and $100 really. There is the Grado 60 or 80 and AKG K-81 DJ but I really don't like them for gaming. The Audio Equation RP-21 is under $100 and certainly is a prime headphone for anything.

There is the Shure E2G which is an IEM for around $100 made for portable gaming. I will include that.
 

phide

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Good thread. Might need a little clean-up here and there, and I disagree with the "needing an X-Fi" bit (I think other cards have a better SQ/$ ratio, quite frankly), but it should quell the number of "what headphones" threads popping up endlessly.

I'd like to see DT 880+amp in there somewhere, though :) Perhaps an alternative to the Darths in the $400-$725 category?

And I've been kind of wondering here -- am I the only person on the planet that'd consider using a valve amp for gaming? :p
 

spaceman

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The 880s are good for gaming. Not as good as Darths or 701s though. We can explore that further as time passes. The X-Fi and Prelude are listed as the only EAX 5 capable cards that I know of currently. Does that Asus card do 5? Make some other suggestions phide I will roll them in.

Dude I have used so many tube amps it is not funny. I am looking towards one for my Stax when I get a real job lol. Graduate studies suck for $$$.
 

Retronym

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phide: Not at all; it would be a great match to soften the highs of the often scratchy sounding yells and explosions in games :)

I'd say go with a nice Zana Duex or B-52 :cool:
(Or Darkvoice/Woo Audio/Little Dot selection, if $ is an issue :p)
 

phide

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I'd say go with a nice Zana Duex or B-52 :cool:
(Or Darkvoice/Woo Audio/Little Dot selection, if $ is an issue :p)
Leaning toward a Darkvoice myself, but the Little Dots really aren't too bad, so I've heard. It's unfortunate that I have so many other priorities clamoring at my wallet at the moment.

Does a Singlepower PPX3 count? :)
I believe it would :)

The X-Fi and Prelude are listed as the only EAX 5 capable cards that I know of currently. Does that Asus card do 5?
No, but EAX might not be a priority for some gamers. There are quite a few genres where EAX has little to no presence, and though hardware acceleration would still be advantageous, cards like the Sondigo Inferno (or even the old X-Meridian) might be a better choice given the importance of source quality for headphones. The X-Fis certainly aren't bad in the SQ department (the crosstalk figure in particular is class-leading), but like I said, I think there's better value there with other cards. Not to mention the fact there's a good selection of solid but fairly inexpensive DAC/headamp combo units like the Move, the Total BitHead, the older Zhaolus and others that could be useful as primary sources here.

Just a thought, anyway.
 

spaceman

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I think the dac + x-fi leads to the best sq. Ori modded Zhalou ftw trust me on this.

When you get around to looking at amps hit me up as I have had several and am always trying more lol.
 
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I think the dac + x-fi leads to the best sq. Ori modded Zhalou ftw trust me on this.

When you get around to looking at amps hit me up as I have had several and am always trying more lol.
Using an external DAC I wouldn't have thought using an X-Fi card would make much difference. Does the X-Fi just act as a pretty descent transport?
 

spaceman

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Actually the X-Fi is not a decent transport. It has DC bias on s/pdif coaxial feed so there is a chance that the dac might not even work (although most do). I am having to get my modded Ori Zhalou further modded b/c the X-fi has this issue.

Just another case of Creative cutting corners. They built a SPDIF coax output without a pulse transformer.
 
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The AD700s are cheaper on amazon, There like 107-109 new.

Also yea alot of people if they wanted the must out of there headphones they would use like a oxygen HD card. Like some one esle said a X-merdian or even a blue gear so forth. I know my onboard is doing a good job of driving my AD700. It might not be doing the best job. but it doing good for temp use.
 

Klade

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Looking for some headphones in the sub $50 market. The original thread recommends Koss SB45 but thats a whole headset and I only need or want the headphones. Other things I'm looking for is a single cord connection (ie: not the kind where a cord comes from each ear) and something thats comfortable to wear so an over the ear design is probably best.

My cheapy Sennheisers HD 201s died on me recently which is why I'm looking now. I will be gaming and sometimes watching movies with these but my main means of doing both is through my speakers. These headphones would just be used when it gets late at night and I don't want to wake the roomies.

Thanks in advance for any help.
 

spaceman

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http://www.koss.com/koss/kossweb.nsf/p?openform&pc^fs^R80

The R80 is a nice headphone for $50. Basically, Koss rules the sub $50 over the ear, sealed headphone market. These are bigger than the 201s and much more comfy. Check google for best prices.
 
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What about the Ultrasone Proline 750 or 2500? Do they compete with the AKG K701?

Also, what mods would you recommend for Darths to gear it towards a gamer?

Thanks
 

spaceman

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I prefer Open Darths for gaming b/c they breathe more and you don't get all sweaty. Otherwise, it is up to you. I prefer Blackmax 2M cabling but Silver is ok too. Just make sure you get 2M b/c you need the length.

The 750 and 2500 have way more bass than the 701 but not as good imaging and a smaller sound stage. The ultrasones are great for some people but others hate them. Same with the 701s but that is almost always b/c they have little bass impact at all. The 701 have the most 3D sound stage I have heard in a dynamic headphone with the Darth Beyers being a close second with waaaaaay better bass and overall sound quality.
 

Danothemano

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So what would you guys say is the best set of headphones for music at around $100? Christmas is coming up, and I thought I would buy my self a little treat.
 

spaceman

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So what would you guys say is the best set of headphones for music at around $100? Christmas is coming up, and I thought I would buy my self a little treat.
new? either the AT A700 or the RP-21. The RP-21 has more bass and can be easily modded to be even better and the AT is really comfy with better midrange and highs. Both are great.
 
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