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I'm looking to get my feet wet in entry level headphones, but I'm not ready to buy a headphone amp. I'll plug directly into a pc and stereo receiver. Mobility isn't a concern. What do you think is the most practical pick? What do you think is the most interesting sounding choice?
Both are advertised as "audiophile" grade headphones that don't necessarily need a headphone amp to be enjoyed.
I'm not looking for the be-all end-all, just a place to start.
I haven't heard the HD-58X but I do have the HD-6XX and the HE-4XX. I really like them both, I think the HE-4XX are more laid back and relaxing but both are great. For my ears, planars tend to have a cleaner sound while dynamics tend to be more exciting and interesting. Exciting and interesting can become fatiguing but the HD-6XX's are laid back enough that this is not an issue for me.
I HIGHLY recommend saving up for a dac and amp sooner rather than later. Both headphones will be anemic without proper power. If at all possible, try a bunch of amps/dacs before purchasing or you will waste some money purchasing and reselling on eBay as I have. :) Or only purchase gear with a good return policy. Schiit tends to have good bang for your buck options but even then be sure to try a variety, I love some of their stuff while others leave me feeling "meh".
In the case of these headphones, I think both of them are pretty safe options and once they are properly powered you should have a totally new experience with your music. The first set of good headphones are the most dramatic if you've only listened to cheap ones before.
With no amp, I'd say the 4xx, and here's why - take a look at impedance vs frequency in the innerfidelity measurements. For the planars, it's almost linear. For Senns, it's not linear. Without a low impedance headphone amp, a nonlinear impedance response in the headphone is likely to result in a errors in the sound you hear, especially using a stereo receiver with low-impedance cans like these.
Lots of detail on the principles and some measurements are at
The response of the 4xx is included in
and of three of the Senns are included in
I own Senn 598s myself, and like them a lot. As a result of owning those, I now also own a portable and a desktop headphone amp, having heard how awful they sound through a stereo receiver. That spike in impedance in the bass region? Put these on many integrated or receiver headphone jacks, and they have terrible, overemphasized, sloppy bass and recessed mids and highs. Almost like listening to music on a car stereo - if you're outside the car, and it's loaded up with bass tubes.
And, after this drop looked closed, I found 400i on amazon at 180 and went for it. If I'd known it would reopen so quick, I'd have picked up a set of these :) Either of my amps will be fine with 400i as well, and a lot of folks think that phones in particular don't have the current delivery to get them to good volume.,
But for a receiver and PC setup, you just won't have the impedance match varying within the audio band. There may be other issues, but that one super audible one will be off the table.
Buy a small headphone amp... you will NEVER regret it. You can tell a big difference even with a $90 tube amp. Big improvement on any headphones I own. I have five amps... anywhere I listen to headphones I use an amp.
IMO when you started getting into these higher end type of headphones you need an amp. There are some very affordable DAC/Amps in the $75 range that will greatly enchanted your enjoyment of these headphones. Even if a set can be driven by a mobile device or computer sound card it’s likely not reaching it’s full potential.
Topping NX4, Schiit Fulla, Monoprice Headphone amps are a couple of good affordable options. There are also many FIIO amps that fit the bill but I’m not familiar with them.
No question in my mind you’re correct. A person might think they don’t need an amp because they can drive all the volum they need. Until they use an amp they don’t realize an amp does much more than increase volume. IMO any headset benefits from an amp. I even use an amp with earbuds unless I’m on the move.
I have a small battery powered portable I only paid around $40 for on Amazon. It‘s not my favorite amp, but portable and even at $40 it improves the sound.
I personally prefer a tube amp over solid state, but either has merits.
Without an amp, I would def not recommend the 4XX. From the charts you provided, they require a bit more voltage and a lot more power to sound loud at 90 db compared to any of the Senn's. They're very power hungry the louder you go. Unless you have an amp with some guts, you're going to lose a lot of detail and bass impact with these. If you have a powerful amp, then they're simply great and tons of fun with just enough brightness to not be fatiguing.
Not the Schiit fulla, get the Schiit Magni. These heaphones need proper power.
I don't know about the Topping NX4 or FIIOs
The use case I was primarily thinking about was plugging into a receiver. The Senns are going to sound terrible on a lot of receivers, because the headphone output on most receivers is high impedance, often in the 50 ohm range, sometimes higher. Plug cans with variable impedance into that jack, you're going to see a lot more energy in some parts of the audioband than others, and the sound will be 'orrible.
I have the 400i breaking in now and just tried plugging them into the headphone jack on a receiver I know makes a pair of Senn 598s sound like cheap Beats clones from Walgreens.
I didn't listen super carefully, but the initial impression wasn't what it was with the Senns - "WTF? what's wrong here?" It was a much more favorable listen than that - I may actually run the headphone signal from the receiver to a switchbox and so some a/b'ing agains the dac/amps I'm using. I was listening to a classical piano track when I first plugged in, and was interested enough that I shifted gears to a Zevon track I know better, "Dirty Little Religion" - both sounded fine.
My AKG K701s have been my daily headphones for years. The K7XX on Massdrop is based on the K702 Anniversary edition; I suspect that they will be very good. Fellow I work with had a pair and swears by them.
These are very "analytic" headphones. No one will praise them for the warm, rich bass. Instead, they reproduce the sound that was actually there.
Interesting, as my Senn 579's and HiFi 4XX sound pretty good out of my Yamaha 683. Mind you, this is for movies and gaming but they are much more dynamic and punchy than an open-back can should be. By comparison, my sensitive IEMs sound like absolute ass out of my receiver, no matter what the source is. I do however, have the the settings as 'straight' or direct which typically turns off all other processing so that could have a factor in it as well. I don't do much music listening from my receiver but I'll have to give that a go and compare it to my amp/dac.
I can say, I just recently watched The Punisher on Netflix with the 4XX and it's crazy how much punch bullets and explosions have. I also used them when I was playing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and thought they did a good job of conveying soundstage with footsteps and bullet placement while not murking voices and other effects.
Most high quality receivers should have more than adequate power to drive all but the very lowest efficiency headphones.
PC might be a bit dicier.
The issue with my receiver is impedance. The 598s (and many of the Senns, haven't looked at measurements on the 579s) have an extremely variable impedance within the audio band. This is why a lot of us own headphone amps with low impedance outputs - on my receiver, the headphone jack probably as an impedance of 50-100 ohms (based on how bad the 598s sound,) so the electrical matching within the audio band is extremely variable.
The 400is have a very close to flat impedance response throughout the audio band, so they don't exhibit the distortion that the 598s do. I hadn't realized that in general, planars have much less variable impedance .
Lots more on this topic is available at
I know about the topic. Voltage swing also comes into play as well, especially for planars, and when you factor in listening level and activity of the source file being played (music, movie, etc.). You stated 'sound horrible' but that has not been my experience with my Yamaha RXV683. For a receiver, there more to it than just output impedance. As I stated above, that's why I run mine in direct mode so it turns off processing (DSP, surround, etc.) and cuts down on any noise that could make it back through the headphones. Again, I own a amp/dac that has an output impedance under 1 ohm for my sensitive IEMs. They sound like poo 'by comparison' out of my receiver but they are totally functional and isn't the worst thing in the world. I just know they can sound better with the right pairing, and they do as that's what I do when I'm critically listening to music.
And more to my point, this is from nwavguy's blog specifically about the HD 650:
SOURCE REQUIREMENTS: The HD 650 has a high impedance (300 ohms) and needs more voltage than most portable devices and PC headphone outputs can provide. Generally you need about 2 volts RMS (5.7 volts peak-to-peak) for wide dynamic range music at realistic levels. PC and portable audio gear is typically limited to around 1 volt or less with many managing only about 0.5 volts. So you might need a headphone amp. While the 650 may deserve better, even the $20 FiiO E5 can manage about 1.3 volts which might be enough for many tastes. The FiiO E9 can do a great job with the 650 as its 10 ohm output impedance is relatively insignificant compared to 650’s 300 ohms and the E9 has a very healthy 7 volts of output.
I'm not running DSP on the receiver. The 598s have a nominal impedance of 50, but a peak around 300 or so at around 100 hz. The 650 is a whole different animal, much simpler to impedance match but obviously more voltage needed.
And as I said, the 400i sound fine on the receiver - they're pretty low impedance but because it's continuous, the exaggerated bass and absent high end that 598s show with the receiver aren't in evidence. The receiver definitely has the power to drive them.