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A community member
Jul 13, 2018
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These are good headphones, but I'm not blown away. Given their reputation, I was expecting more. The tonality is nice. There aren't any annoying colorations, though the midbass is a bit cloudy. But I know what the much ballyhooed "Sennheiser Veil" is now. It seems like the air and space above 10K is missing. Not saying that's the case on a response plot, but rather the perceived quality. I think they are lacking in detail as well. Reverb tails are less defined, for example. I think the biggest drawback is that they are slow. Not just slow compared to planars, but even slow for a dynamic. At $200 they are a good buy, but I like both the Hifiman HE-400S and HE-400i better at the same price point. With the Hifiman planars, I find myself listening more and enjoying more "ooh, aah" factor, whereas the Sennheisers are just OK. Often with audio products, there is some annoying sonic characteristic any given piece of gear possesses that grates on me. These don't have that, but they don't wow me either. I paired them with the Massdrop CTH amp, and with the balanced output on the Hifiman Supermini DAP. These are the first pair of cans that I prefer with the Supermini as opposed to the CTH. Perhaps the extra speed of a fully solid-state amp is a better match for a slow headphone. Bottom line, they are nice headphones but one can do better even at $200.
EDIT: I am beginning to like these cans better after a couple weeks of further use. When paired with a more crisp amp, the high end does not seem as veiled. Furthermore, while I first didn't like the match with the CTH, I tried it again and didn't find it nearly as dull in the top as I previously did. It seems they open up a bit after break-in. I still prefer the HE400s overall at this price point, but I think I should bump the star rating up to 4.
EDIT: Revised upward again. They really opened up after break-in, and they are now my favorite dynamic headphones under $400. They definitely deserve a full 5 stars at the $200 price point.
Jul 13, 2018
Vlady
3
Jul 15, 2018
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What other headphones would you recommend at a $150-300 price range? (Besides the HE-400S and HE-400i) I want to do some further research before buying anything since I don't have the disposable income yet to take start collecting. I'm still waiting for my HD58X Jubilees to show up.
Jul 15, 2018
A community member
Jul 15, 2018
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I really think the hifiman planars are by far the best in the $200 range, if you have an amp to drive them. If you don't have an amp and you don't need the music too loud, get the 400S, as it works better with daps and phones. Otherwise, Grado SR325e at $300 or 225e at $200. Recommend swapping the stock Grado pads for Earzonk pads on Amazon. Different foam density and better bottom end.
Jul 15, 2018
Vlady
3
Jul 15, 2018
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Thank you very much man! I'm going to look into them all! And if you have any good amps suggestions for the planars I'd like to hear them too. Currently I have an Objective 2 amp
Jul 15, 2018
A community member
Jul 16, 2018
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I've only been through a handful of standalone amps. Most of my headphone amplifiers are built into audio components, like vintage SAE amplifiers/preamps, a Marantz receiver, a Tascam pro CD recorder, and a Focusrite recording interface. But I can say I tried the Schiit Magni 3 and Vali 2 and strongly disliked both. I have the Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid (CTH) and it is a beautiful sounding amp with a lot of power. At $250 it is a steal IMO. As far as budget portable players, the Hifiman Supermini has a fantastic amplifier for a portable device, especially in this price range. It's currently half off at $200. It is a powerhouse. I believe around 300mw/ch via the balanced output into certain impedances. To get the most out of it, you will definitely want balanced cans and use the player's balanced output. It drives the HE-400S beautifully, the 400i and 4xx reasonably well, and sounds great with the Sennheiser HD6xx. Again, really need balanced cables to get the most out of this, as the balanced output swings twice the voltage rails for a given power source. Amazon has inexpensive balanced cables for Hifiman and Sennheiser. I got the ones with the 4-pin XLR and then a separate adapter to connect the XLR to the 3.5mm TRRS balanced jack on the DAP. This saved a good chunk of change, and allows me to use the same cable into balanced desktop amps. I have an SMSL DP-3 on order, I'll try to remember to post what its headphone amp sounds like once I receive it and audition it.
Jul 16, 2018
Vlady
3
Jul 16, 2018
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Thank you so much once again! I'm definitely going to be referencing this post a lot over the next while! I hope you remember to post about the DP-3 as well.
Jul 16, 2018
A community member
Jul 22, 2018
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Here are my impressions of the SMSL DP3.
Sound quality could be better, operational quirks, but decent as a transport. First, the sound quality of the headphone amp. SOUND QUALITY: It is better than many audio components that include a headphone amp as a secondary purpose (a large percentage of which sound rather poor), but I would rate it only at the upper end of the mediocre range. Via the balanced out, there is a decent amount of power, and it drives the Sennheiser HD650 well. The bass is where this amp performs best. It is tight, well-controlled, with fast attack and nothing in the way of unnatural resonances or coloration. It seems ever so slightly subdued on non-bass heavy music. But as soon as you put something on with extended bottom end, it is appropriately prominent, well-extended, and the amp handles compressed high-LUFS mastered bass quite well. But, the bass notes lack the vibrance present with higher-quality amplifiers. The midrange and upper midrange have this glassy characteristic that masks detail and obscures texture. It reminds me very much of the iPhone 4S in terms of the sonic character, with more power and better low-end. The upper midrange can often sound shrill and harsh on vocals, even with laid-back cans like the HD650. Around 8-10kHz it is harsh and sibiliant. For these reasons, it is a good pairing with a darker headphone like the HD650, a poor pairing for a bright can like the Hifiman HE400i or HE4xx, and a decent pairing with the HE400S given the latter's reduced top-end compared to its siblings. I daresay it can actually make the HD650 sound a touch bright on some passages, which is quite a statement. It has a very narrow soundstage, with virtually no space or air around the instruments, and poor separation of things like individual voices amongst vocal harmonies. The overall character is thin, except for the solid bottom end. If you are one of those folks that confuses crisp treble with detail, you will probably think this amp is very detailed. The upper treble is too crisp and prominent. But, if you know what actual detail is and you have experienced ears, I believe you will find this amp to be lacking in detail. Note that despite these critiques, it does sound better than the headphone amps in my receivers, CD players, etc., and better than many cheap amps. But, in this price range, the Massdrop Cavalli Tube Hybrid (CTH) is a much, much better sounding amp. I also found the onboard amp in my Hifiman Supermini DAP to sound notably better. But again I must stress that this is a better sounding headphone amp than most in the under $200 price range. I have other DACs with the SABRE 9018 chip that sound much better, such as the Hifime Sabre DAC at a fraction of the price. This must be a function of the implementation around the DAC chip, perhaps the capacitor coupling of the output and the particular caps used (speculation) or the fact that this is the version of the 9018 chip with the onboard headphone amp, whereas my other 9018 DAC has a separate headphone amp op-amp chip. But, you must factor in that you are getting a hi-res network music player with remote and color LCD screen, so only a portion of the cost is allocated to the headphone amp. Note that I only evaluated the balanced headphone output, not the single-ended. LINE OUTPUT: The analog line out sounded better than the headphone amp. Very nice bottom, less harsh / sibilant top and smoother overall, while still seeming a little narrow.
QUIRKS: Via the analog line output, there is a notable click/pop every time you skip to a track. Very annoying. This was much less noticeable through the balanced headphone jack, but if you listen for it you can still hear it there too. NETWORK CONNECTIVITY AND PLAYBACK The unit connected to my 2G wifi no problem, but would not connect to my 5G networks. The device could not play back 96/24 WAV files over the network from my standalone music server without massive stuttering and glitching, even though my other devices (including an 8 year old PC) can do so flawlessly. BLUETOOTH: I had tons of trouble connecting any of my devices to Bluetooth at first, until I figured out that you must first turn OFF the HiBy Link setting on the DP3, then connect your device to BT, then turn HiBy Link back on. Otherwise, the HiBy Link causes you to get a "connection failed" message every time you try to pair a BT device. But once I figured this out, I had no further problems with BT pairing. REMOTE: The IR remote works quite well, as does the Android app once you figure out the quirks of BT pairing. But, you must first press the "B" key on the remote to get it to function with this device, otherwise it will not work. INTERFACE: The interface is very speedy, even with large music libraries on local disks (20000+ songs). And, unlike many devices, it can shuffle all your songs on locally attached disks no problem. It managed to scan and catalog my 20000 songs in just a few minutes- much faster than some of my other devices. But, when I connected it to my NAS, it wouldn't shuffle all the songs unless they were all in the same directory on the NAS. So, if I have subfolders for artist and album on the NAS drive (SAMBA protocol), it will only shuffle the songs from the album in the folder you're currently in. I did not test DLNA or Airplay. FIRMWARE: This device came with version 0.6 BETA installed. I found it surprised that they would ship with a beta version of the software. I upgraded to the latest current version as of July 19 2018 from SMSL's website, and noticed no differences. SUMMARY: While it has its shortcomings, it is better sounding than I expected in this price range, and I like it better than the Schiit Magni 3/Vali2/Modi Multibit (all of which I disliked), though the amp is less powerful. I think at this price point it is good for someone on a limited budget, good for a second system in perhaps an office or a bedroom, and potentially good as simply a transport/player going out the digital output into an external DAC or receiver, though I haven't yet tested it in this capacity.
Jul 22, 2018
A community member
Jul 22, 2018
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My opinion of the HD650 has increased a bit after pairing it with brighter/crisper amps. Bad match with the CTH IMO, much better match with the DP3, although the CTH is overall a much better sounding amp. I suspect that if a find an amp with the speedy slew and crisper top like the DP3, but with the detail, texture, power, and soundstage of the CTH, I'd probably like them alot.
Jul 22, 2018
Vlady
3
Jul 24, 2018
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Thank you very much for that detailed review! Definitely helped me very much :)
Jul 24, 2018
Chaturanga
126
Jul 30, 2018
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HD6xx has more potential than any other headphones I ve tried. Just give time to it and also try different AMPs DACs whenever you find a chance.
Jul 30, 2018
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