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Which of these headphones? Decision paralysis looms.

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

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HD 600
HD 650
HD 660 S
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Re: Which of these headphones? Decision paralysis looms.

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue May 04, 2021 9:28 pm

I’ll answer your question first - HD 650 - why? Nothing to do with honesty, it’s just that I’ve owned a pair in the past, and haven’t the others, so I’d stand a better chance of interpreting their sound, if I didn’t have my own headphones with me (which I would).

I’m with 840717 on this one. The reason you settle on a particular headphone model is not solely because of its 'honesty' - assuming you mean flat frequency response and transient performance. Take a look at this frequency response plot:


For most of the frequency range, the above headphones respond in a very similar way, certainly enough to give you all the information you need. As a matter of interest the DT880 is green, HD600 red and HD650 blue.

Once the headphone is delivering enough information for you to make mixing decisions (and most of the high monitoring headphones do), it’s very much down to personal preference in terms of whether you like its (more than likely subtle) sonic character, and just as important is the degree of comfort over long sessions. No forum can answer these last two points - you really do have to try them.

For what it’s worth, I use Beyer DT880s. I find they’re very comfortable for long sessions on my somewhat large head (HD650s were a real squeezer) and the HF lift helps my ageing ears.

This site is useful if you don’t already know about it:

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Re: Which of these headphones? Decision paralysis looms.

Postby BWC » Wed May 05, 2021 4:39 am

Thanks for your answers, and thoughts, Hugh and Bob. I fully understand the other factors to be considered. I asked specifically about honesty, because that's the question to which, after all of my research, I still hadn't found a satisfactory answer. It now seems clear that it's because it's really too close to call, and all four are honest enough. There does seem to be a preference for the HD600, but when you factor in 'tried and true' vs. 'new and only tried by a few', it's slight. Still, as I mentioned earlier, I was pretty well settled on the HD600 at one point, so...

While there's certainly no substitute for direct experience, I can get a pretty good sense of what will and won't be physically comfortable for me from pictures, reviews, and knowledge of my own anatomy. This, and pretty much all of the other factors everyone has suggested I consider, are the things that I considered in narrowing it down to these four. The Sennheisers do look more comfortable to me than the Shure, though only slightly.

I'm feeling closer to a decision, so, thanks!
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Re: Which of these headphones? Decision paralysis looms.

Postby forumuser840717 » Wed May 05, 2021 10:31 am

BWC wrote:Of course, not everyone will have the same opinion about this, that's the point of polling, which I do find useful, even if you don't.

I see the point of polling in certain circumstances. I just don't believe that it's of any use in opinion based polls about things which can only be decided by personal experience; that's just canvassing opinions.

BWC wrote:So, if you walked in to a room, and these four, and only these four, headphones were available to use, and you wanted the most honest listen you could get, which pair would you pick up? Don't think about it. Just see the scenario in your mind, and tell me which pair you picked up.

It depends.

If I walked into the room to find a job to be done and a choice of those four headphones sitting on a table I'd probably go with the HD600 as they're the ones I know best. Closely followed by the HD650, then the Shures. HD660S last as I don't know them.

If I walked into the room to find a comfy chair, a nice pot of tea, a good book and those headphones, I'd probably try the HD660S (or at least try them on to see whether they were comfortable). After a while I might compare them to the HD600 to see whether my first impressions of the HD660S were accurate in comparison to a known reference. If the HD660S were a noticable improvement over the other HDs then I might stick with them. Or, more likely, switch to the Shures as I find them more comfortable than the Sennheisers for relaxed listening (not so much if I'm working as they're a bit loose/wobbly on my head) and they sound fine.

However, if I walked in to find a job to be done, those four headphones, with three pairs containing colleagues using them and only one spare pair, then I'd use the spare pair and not worry about it. The only issue might be if (as is likely since nobody I know has used them so would be unlikely to pick them first) the spares were the HD660S then, after I'd got work underway and had a balance to compare, I might ask to borrow the HD600 for a few minutes just to see how the unknown cans stack up against a known reference. Once I'd heard what the new cans are doing differently from what I know and, assuming that they're not somehow very different in weird ways that make them too hard to work on, I'd carry on with the HD660S. Other than that, I wouldn't care and could get on with any of the four pairs.

There again, if I were going to work, I'd have at least two pairs of my preferred headphones with me so it wouldn't be an issue :p (Two pairs, after an incident on a live broadcast from a cathedral about twelve years ago, where I moved away from the mixer and snagged the headphone cable with my foot, dragging the headphones off the mixer and onto the stone floor. After which I had to do the rest of a live broadcast monitoring in mono, in one ear! Thankfully I'd already done the panning and often/usually balance mixes in mono anyway but the one-eared bit made is a bit more interesting!)

BWC wrote:Burn-in time is a very contentious subject. Personally, I think it's because, as with many contentious subjects, there's no simple, universal 'yes or no' answer, it depends.

Like choosing headphones then :p

Like some others here, I use several different pairs of headphones for different things: AKG K701/702 for day to day use (they're the ones of which I carry multiple pairs), Beyer DT1350 closed back for when I need a bit more isolation (also have HD25 and MDR7509 but moved to the Beyers as they're much more comfortable than the HD25s and are less coloured than either the HD25s or MDR7509s), Etymotic Research ER4SR and Shure KSE1500 in ears for high isolation mixing and mobile listening, JHA Layla in ears as personal monitors when playing (though they're plenty good enough to mix on too). And for 'Sunday best' use, Stax SR007 Omega II and SR009.

Also have AKG K240DF, Sennheiser HD580, HD600, HD650 and, mostly for comms use (though the DT300 series are just about useable for rough mixes) Beyer DT109, DT300 & DT390 and Canford Audio/TecPro DMH210, DMH220. And there are some others that I've owned but sold on as I've changed to something new or upgraded.

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Re: Which of these headphones? Decision paralysis looms.

Postby Mixedup » Wed May 05, 2021 11:18 am

It's not what you want to hear, I know, but you absolutely need to try them because the fit to your head and ears is so critical to their performance. The position of each driver relative to your ear is important and so too is the seal made around your ears. So loose fitting phones that slide around as you move your head are no use, no matter how good the specs or other people's perception. For me, the Sennheisers and Shure seem to fit well. But the AKGs that are much loved by others here are no good to me.

Also, I think you need to define 'honesty'. Eg. Does that mean a flat frequency response? Or a response more like speakers in a room? Particularly good separation at some part of the spectrum (eg for speech)? Does it mean low distortion? You can 'correct' (or adjust) frequency response with software but you can't remove distortion...
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