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I own these headphones already, for some 5-6 mos now. I've auditioned (for hours on each) SEVERAL different headphones from competitors......... the Sennheiser HD 598, Audio-Technica M50x, the original K550 (a CLOSE second), Sony MDR-1A, Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-3, Master & Dynamic MH40, and the Blue Lola..........and WITHOUT A DOUBT the AKG K553 Pro is the best one of them, hands down! The majority of those headphones are $300-$400, but I paid $170 and got that perfect neutral sound with sweet but not overly-enhanced bass, super clear mids and highs, a very expansive soundstage, great comfort, and a gorgeous premium design! I couldn't recommend these headphones more, especially at THIS price.
lol ironically I have the opposite impression. I almost liked all the other headphones you mentioned over K553. Except I haven't get to try K550, Oppo PM-3, and Blue Lola.
But judging by your preference I guess you like neutral headphone. So that might be why, most of the headphone you listed are suppose to be "fun" headphone and it's not suppose to be neutral (with the exception of Oppo PM-3).
I guess there isn't too many flat sounding closed cans that fall into this price category.
You guessed correctly. lol Yeah I guess we have "opposing tastes", which is fine. Some guys like blondes, some like brunettes. lol
Well according to this UK Amazon post (http://www.amazon.co.uk/forum/-/Tx3DZ358PPCNC46/ref=ask_dp_dpmw_al_hza?asin=B016ON147O), AKG admitted that the AKG K550, K550 MK II (sold in Europe only), and my K553 Pro (sold in the U.S. only) are in fact ALL THE SAME HEADPHONE. lol I believe the K553 has slightly less padding on the headband, but yeah they're all the same. So in a sense you've already TRIED the K550 I guess. lol
I just prefer to be able to hear EVERYTHING, and I feel like with non-neutral headphones, you just don't get that. The Blue Lolas I think are great for anyone who loves like rap, hip-hop, etc. They isolate bass like a wicked champ! lol They also were one of the few besides the AKG headphones that had an equally expansive soundstage, which is also important to me. Only minus with them really was they didn't render the treble region as great as my K553 does. More about it here (http://www.head-fi.org/t/795766/the-blue-lola-vs-my-akg-k553-pro).
The Oppo PM-3 had slightly more bass than the K553 does, and the soundstage wasn't as expansive either. (More here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/788209/akg-k553-vs-oppo-pm-3)
No there are not. The open-back Sennheiser HD 598 SE I felt were very flat too. And they only cost like $130 right now on Amazon. But not many other options, at least ones I've tried out.
Hahaha it's true, everyone have their own preference which is normal and I like redheads. :P
Though I do admit treble and soundstage are K553's strong suits. It's hard to beat at that price point.
Only one that might be comparable price wise while still being neutral are Sony MDR-7506 and Fostex T50RP MK3.
And ones that might be an upgrade are probably either NAD VISO hp50, Focal Spirit Classic/Professional (forgot which is the more neutral one), or open headphone like Hifiman HE-400S.
But the latter cost more and all the ones I've mentioned probably can't compare in soundstage lol.