Author Topic: A tale of 2 headsets  (Read 532 times)

Offline Drifter

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A tale of 2 headsets
« on: March 28, 2021, 12:20:16 PM »
I have a few sets of headphones that I use in various scenarios. I have a set of B&W P3 that I use when I travel for work - these are light, portable and well built. The on-ear designed pads are just small enough to not annoy you and the sound is acceptable for what they are. Then I have a set of gaming headphones, the Steelseries Arctis 1 wireless - they are as plastic as it gets, so build quality is not great but they are light and quite comfortable, wireless, have a good built in microphone and the battery lasts for two days with constant use. I use them for Zoom, Teams and Skype calls. My main heaphones though is a set of Audeze LCD2 manufactured in November 2014. Audeze started adding the Fazor elements in January 2014 so my set is one of the first year sets that included fazors. They weigh just short of 600g and will kill your neck and shoulders if you are not used to the weight. I changed the regular headband with the suspension model a year or so ago and it makes a huge difference in spreading the weight equally over you head. Still, the weight of the cans remain and it is not insignificant. I drive them with an Audeze Deckard DAC/Amp. Designed by BMW out of a block of aluminium the Deckard is not the last word in insightful DAC's but the amp section is super powerful and capable. I use the headphones with an aftermarket Toxic silver cable which increases the treble clarity from the standard cable..

So I was in the market for a set of closed back headphones for my work from home PC.
Why closed back - because my house is noisy when the family is here so i wanted something that could seal some of that noise out PLUS my current open back Audeze's headphones leak a lot of sound and, when using them at night, the family moans. Also using the LCD2 for a full day will send you to the chiropractor regulalrly. The Steelseries wireless set sound surprisingly decent but you feel like a helicopter pilot with the protruding microphone when not gaming or taking calls.

So my search led me to the Beyerdynamics DT770 250ohm and I managed to find a set via a kind forum member. The Beyers build quality is very good, the cups are a hard plastic but the rest is a combination of metal, leather and velour and even though they are light, it feels like quality. The coiled cable is also quite substantial. I tried them straight from PC's headphone out, but the 250ohm impedance limited the volume to something barely audible. I added an ifi Zen DAC to the mix to add some oomph to drive the headphones and iFi also adds an MQA capable DAC to the mix.



This is not a review but just some thoughts after a few days working with the Beyers / iFi combo and comparing them with the Audeze setup:

The Audeze and Beyers sound very different. Open vs Closed design apart, the Audeze offers substantial bass, something the Beyers just cannot achieve. The Audeze also offer a rich and powerful sound, the Beyer is thinner and brighter. Using the Deckard on the Beyer, you have to keep the volume in check as the sound gets very bright. The iFi Zen DAC is quite a lot darker than the Deckard and is therefore a better combination with the Beyers. Using the iFi on the LCD2's shuts the sound down and it become a bit lifeless and dull.

The Audeze's build quality is amazing - all leather and wood and the earpads are super plush and substantial. With the suspension headband they sit comfortably on your head, it is just their weight that counts again them. The Beyers are also comfortable, the velour headbands are much thinner and less plush but the light weight makes them comfortable to use for long stretches, the velour is also not as warm as the leather during hot days. The Beyers' clamping force is a bit more than the Audeze but it it won't give you headache.

The iFi ZEN DAC is the most nifty hifi device that I have encountered recently. It is only the size of a hand and runs off USB power (though you can add a wall wart to prove external power). It has relatively few "features" bar a "power match feature" which increases the gain and with it enabled it drives the Beyers to uncomfortable levels should you want to and a "TrueBass function" which adds extra bass weight. It is a great combination with the forward and thinner sounding Beyers. With Roon acting as MQA decoder the iFI does the rendering (second unfold) of Tidal Master files - the iFi indicating this by the power light changing to purple from its usual green when MQA files are played.

Does the Beyer/iFi combo come close to the LCD2/Deckard combo? - not a chance. The Audeze combo sounds fantastic, add the Audeze pre-set equaliser in Roon and that adds as some extra sparkle to the LCD2's darker treble turning the sound in something that is truly enjoyable.
The Beyer/iFi combo sounds good, though the Beyer's bass does not convince me. The closed design prevents the soundstage from being expansive and the sound is therefore flatter. If left unchecked, the Beyers' treble can become unruly and I think the iFi is a great combination for them in that sense. Overall it is decent combination that seals you off from the outside world and makes pretty good music.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: March 28, 2021, 12:34:53 PM by Drifter »

Offline dingeth

Re: A tale of 2 headsets
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2021, 01:19:33 PM »
This a great write-up and I share your sentiments on the LCD's. I've got the classics and while they are really comfy, you do start to notice the weight after an hour or two.

Interesting points regarding the differences your two amps have on each of the headphones, and really speaks to the synergy aspect of headphone enjoyment. Do the increased brightness of the Beyers cause any fatigue over time?
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Offline Drifter

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Re: A tale of 2 headsets
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2021, 01:35:51 PM »
Do the increased brightness of the Beyers cause any fatigue over time?

If I had to run the Beyers off the Deckard, it would be too bright and cause fatigue. On that combo, the treble is very sharp and unforgiving.
With the iFi driving them it is actually quite pleasant and I can listen for several hours without fatigue.


Offline dingeth

Re: A tale of 2 headsets
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2021, 02:14:47 PM »
The iFi sounds like the perfect compliment then  :thumbs:
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Offline Tonteldoos

Re: A tale of 2 headsets
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2021, 02:09:13 PM »
I am about to ask a different question here on the forum, but I loved reading your post as I recently acquired the ifi ZEN DAC too. It is my very first DAC and very first headphone amp, and I use it to listen to music while working.

Since covid, I work in the garage, so it is nice and quiet and I found I prefer the open-back Sennheiser HD598SE to my PXC550 noise cancelling headphones. This was true even through my phone, but the ifi took it to a new level.

There are at least three things to consider to get even more from your ZEN DAC:

  • The iPower power supply - has been worth every cent. I listened to it with and without, and the power supply was a definite improvement.
  • I also upgraded the stock cable to a Tributaries Series 6 USB cable, and again it made an improvement.
  • Finally, you can update the firmware from v5.3 to v5.3c (easy to do), which adds the GTO filter from some of their higher-end models. It made a significant improvement to the sound quality, IMHO. It up-samples PCM signals, so you will notice the light is now yellow all the time, except with MQA (still purple).

Initially I used it with True Bass switched off.... but after the v5.3c upgrade I found that the Sennies just sound so much better with the TB on.

I absolutely love this little ifi.

Next step (perhaps) will be new headphones. But that will the topic of my question.

Offline Drifter

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Re: A tale of 2 headsets
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2021, 11:54:54 AM »
I am about to ask a different question here on the forum, but I loved reading your post as I recently acquired the ifi ZEN DAC too. It is my very first DAC and very first headphone amp, and I use it to listen to music while working.

Since covid, I work in the garage, so it is nice and quiet and I found I prefer the open-back Sennheiser HD598SE to my PXC550 noise cancelling headphones. This was true even through my phone, but the ifi took it to a new level.

There are at least three things to consider to get even more from your ZEN DAC:

    • The iPower power supply - has been worth every cent. I listened to it with and without, and the power supply was a definite improvement.
    [/b][/u]

    • I also upgraded the stock cable to a Tributaries Series 6 USB cable, and again it made an improvement.
    • Finally, you can update the firmware from v5.3 to v5.3c (easy to do), which adds the GTO filter from some of their higher-end models. It made a significant improvement to the sound quality, IMHO. It up-samples PCM signals, so you will notice the light is now yellow all the time, except with MQA (still purple).

    Initially I used it with True Bass switched off.... but after the v5.3c upgrade I found that the Sennies just sound so much better with the TB on.

    I absolutely love this little ifi.

    Next step (perhaps) will be new headphones. But that will the topic of my question.

    @Tonteldoos

    Some good info here, thanks.

    Where did you get your iPower supply? I bought my iFi Zen DAC via Audioco but they don't have the seperate power supply listed?

    Offline capetownwatches

    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #6 on: March 30, 2021, 01:07:51 PM »
    @Tonteldoos

    Some good info here, thanks.

    Where did you get your iPower supply? I bought my iFi Zen DAC via Audioco but they don't have the seperate power supply listed?

    @Drifter I believe Francois at AudioExchange can help you with an iPower.

    Offline Drifter

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    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #7 on: March 30, 2021, 01:36:03 PM »
    Appreciated.
    I'll contact Francois.

     :mates:

    Offline Drifter

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    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #8 on: March 30, 2021, 01:52:56 PM »

    • Finally, you can update the firmware from v5.3 to v5.3c (easy to do), which adds the GTO filter from some of their higher-end models. It made a significant improvement to the sound quality, IMHO. It up-samples PCM signals, so you will notice the light is now yellow all the time, except with MQA (still purple).


    Firmware upgrade done.
    Blimey, what a nifty little device this iFi Zen DAC is. The more I use it the more I like it.
    Pretty good value for money IMHO.

    Offline Tonteldoos

    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #9 on: March 30, 2021, 04:25:01 PM »
    @Drifter I believe Francois at AudioExchange can help you with an iPower.

    That was exactly where I bought mine. Great service too.

    Offline Drifter

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    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #10 on: April 08, 2021, 12:07:36 PM »
    I have added an iFi iPower (thanks to Francois) - thereby feeding the Zen DAC with dedicated power rather than using USB power.
    That definitely firmed up control over bass response on the Beyer DT770 headphones, which was a bit loose for my taste.

    The Beyers are very comfortable and light yet very well built. I've been using them for at least 5 hours per day since I got them and I'm really starting to enjoy the iFi / Beyers (thanks to Croak) combo.

    Offline grumpybear

    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #11 on: April 08, 2021, 12:41:51 PM »
    Drifter great to hear that you are enjoying the Beyers.

    DT770 Pro 80 and 250 Ohm will at last be available again in 10-14 days.  Unfortunately no DT880 or 990 as yet.

    Offline capetownwatches

    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #12 on: April 08, 2021, 01:37:10 PM »
    I have added an iFi iPower (thanks to Francois) - thereby feeding the Zen DAC with dedicated power rather than using USB power.
    That definitely firmed up control over bass response on the Beyer DT770 headphones, which was a bit loose for my taste.

    The Beyers are very comfortable and light yet very well built. I've been using them for at least 5 hours per day since I got them and I'm really starting to enjoy the iFi / Beyers (thanks to Croak) combo.
    DT770 250 used to be my portable headphones...I got some strange glances when using them in public places!

    Drove them straight out of my LG V20 at the time, and a variety of portable amps (Fiio, Cayin etc).
    Loved them, and it does take a while for your brain to acclimate to them and start to really appreciate what they bring to the party.
    Like the unruly cousin after a few beers... :dop: 

    Offline Drifter

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    Re: A tale of 2 headsets (make that 3)
    « Reply #13 on: Today at 03:26:10 PM »
    So Beyerdynamics DT880 600ohm is now also in use next to the DT770 250ohm in my Work-From-Home setup.







    From very interesting differences between the 2 sets ....

    Offline Drifter

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    Re: A tale of 2 headsets
    « Reply #14 on: Today at 05:23:32 PM »
    Build:
    While both use the exact same design, the 880 has aluminium outer cups and the 770 has hard plastic outer cups.
    The 880 feels just a bit lighter in the hand and on the head than 770. Build quality is reassuring on both.
    The 770 has a coiled cable while the 880 has a straight cable - quite a long one at close on 2m. Not quite sure how I feel about this. I was a bit skeptical about the coiled cable at first but it has grown on me since.
    The 770's headband has thicker padding than the 880. This is apparent the moment you put it in your head and quite noticeable when viewing the headbands from the side. This is a bit of let-down. The 770 also has a removable headband cover which the 880 Edition version does not have.
    Both use similar pads and they also feel similar on when wearing the headphones.
    The 880's clamping force is a bit less than the 770 (which is quite gentle). While the 880 won't fall off your head, a hard shake does move them out of position.
    The 880's drivers appear to be slanted to point towards the ear canal. This results in the driver sitting shallower inside the cup and the outer edge of my ear therefore touches the inside. This is not the case on the 770.
    They are pretty darn comfortable, both of them and that is one of the main reasons I like them. You can wear these for 4 hours straight without any discomfort.
    The 770 are pretty effective at separating you from the world. The cups seal pretty tight and I have had my son sneak up on me several times while wearing them. The lack of change in pressure can sometimes get a bit of much in the closed cup especially in bass heavy music when there is no way for the pressure to escape. The 880 does leak sound and you can also clearly hear the world around you when wearing them. When my phone rings, I just pause the music, put the phone on speakers mode and complete the conversation while wearing the 880.


    Power demands:
    Using the iFi Zen DAC, it comfortably drives both to uncomfortable levels. My normal listening volume is around 11h00 on the 250ohm 770 and I have to bump this up to 12h00 to get the same perceivable volume on 600ohm 880. You won't shatter eardrums using the iFi however.

    Sound:
    Both have a very similar signature. These phones can quickly get unruly in the high frequencies but the iFi's warmer sound tones do keep the treble in check nicely. There is a zero brilliance and other treble nasties.
    The 880's are only semi-open but if someone has never experienced the difference between a closed and open headphone, then comparing these 2 will be good introduction.
    The 880 has a more sparkling treble and wider soundstage (not HD800 wide but it has a  "free-er" sound than the closed back version).
    The 880 is pretty lean in the bass department, the 770 definitely has a warmer and more substantial bass - neither are bass monsters however. I believe the 990 (which is a full open design) is even sharper in the treble and leaner in the bass.

    I like these. They are really comfortable and sound good. I use them for music but also for Teams/Zoom calls with an external microphone.
    I use the 770 when the house is noisy and I don't want the outside noises to intrude and I use the 880 when all is quiet.