For the last two years I have been a happy owner of a pair Audio Technica AD700's, they are the headphones I wear almost ALL the time when I'm at the computer regardless of wither I'm actually listening to them or not 'cause they're just that comfortable. In fact, after so many thousands of hours of use I've ordered a new set of valor pads as my current ones have become somewhat squashed after extended use.
To get to the point recently the idea of upgrading has attracted my interest, I find myself reading headphone reviews and thinking maybe, just maybe it's time to start saving up for something more..
Virtually all listening will take place at my desktop computer running J. river media center with an Asus Xonar DX as the source. The Xonar DX while definitely not a bad card is something I intend on upgrading at some stage while taking into account it's usage as as the source for my 2.1 channel floor-standing system. I figure can either go the route of a high end card such as the Xonar ST or an external DAC such as the Essence One, this is something I can decide on later.
I suppose I should first provide a bit of background to my listening and things about AD700 that I like and the way with my little setup that I've managed to get around what I'm not so keen on.
- All my listening through Jriver is done with a parametric low shelf eq filter of 17db at 69hz with a q bandwidth of one octave. Aggressive you may say, well maybe but I feel it does a very good job of combating the steep bass attenuation the AD700 has below about 110hz instead leaving a fairly linear response down to say 35hz & audible response down to about 20hz. Bass with the eq on to my ears has a far fuller sound than without, no I'm not a bass-head I just like my lower frequencies present and balanced with the rest of the spectrum. The bass drum in hotel California live for instance normally would be missing that deep presence and authority with the ad700's, the eq fixes this. Similarly I can hear the deep subtle four pulse beat most obvious at 1:39-1:50 and at 2:29-2:40 in tear drop by massive attack, I find bass without the eq sounds very thin to my ears when I've also become accustomed to hearing the snap and authority of drum kicks.
-I also been using tb_isone for the past few months which is user calibrated & includes hrtf calibration to provide a high quality crossfeed and loud speaker sound stage simulation with minimal tonal colouration & can do wonders to enhance and provide a more natural more 3d soundstage which can otherwise be rather 2d and muddled at times. The best example I've managed to find to illustrate this is at the start of "A Post War Dream" from the beginning of of pink floyd's "The Final Cut" album. The sound stage looses definition and does strange things when the two cars drive through on the right hand channel Without the plugin enabled, you hear them approach the microphone then it sounds almost as if they ricochet off at right angles. With the plugin enabled this does not happen, the cars clearly drive through the soundstage. There is quite a change overall to the soundstage in music particularly with multi instrument acoustic tracks, as if you've been pulled back from the muddle in the middle of everything to the sweet spot where everything come together more in focus & in well recorded tracks I can just about get a feel for the size of the room. Not to mention the number of times during a song or movie I've had to pause to check outside because a sound has extended beyond the normal sound stage of the headphone, there's usually never quite the same effect if I play the sound back without the crossfeed plugin enabled.
Listening includes movies and tv but mostly music which is a bit of everything really, mostly includes, rock, acoustic, a lot of stuff vocal orientated stuff and a bit of D&B, trance and dubstep. I Like music that is properly mastered with a wide dynamic range and detailed soundstage, I want to hear the placement and space between the instruments and the subtle sounds of the background along with the clarity and unique resonance the voice has which is the best way I can think to describe. I want a decent soundstage that doesn't fall into mud when things come together during the chorus. I'm going to mention here that my hearing is very good I can hear 18khz easily, definitely past 20khz without too much effort so a veiled sound is not something I'm interested in. I understand why some people may call the AD700 over bright or harsh, personally I've never had this problem unless I've listened past the point of 'loud enough'. Open or closed I'm not too worried about preferably full size so long as they're comfortable for a reasonable period.
I did manage to try a few 'lower end' headphones last week unfortunately not really an easy thing to do within the New Zealand market although unfortunately running through an ipod nano as a source
-Akg 240 weren't bad sounding but didn't impress me.
- Sennheiser Hd 25-ii, not a bad sound good bass and mid, treble and sound stage were rather 'meh' however and they made my ears feel hot after about 15 mins
- Shure 840, more to my liking, could do with a bit more bass comfort was average I thought overall maybe more of a step sideways than up from the AD700's. - These retailed at a local store for $460NZ
I'm not sure about my budget at this point as it stands I'll need to save up anyway, I suppose $550 or about $700nz by current exchange rates would be about my upper limit. However at this price point I'm guessing I'm somewhat limiting myself with the xonar dx as a source.