Apr 10, 2018

A closed back counterpart for the HD6XX?

I really enjoy the sound of the HD6XX. However, when I have the urge for some deep bass, I have to look to my other cans. I typically reach for the Ultrasone HFI-680s, that maintain a neutral response with great bass and sub bass, but their sound is harsh compared to the 6XX.
I guess I could pick up a pair of Sennheiser HD598 Cs or the Beyerdynamic DT 770, but I am curious if Massdrop is considering a closed back version of the HD6XX.
Any thoughts or suggestions?
Based on discussions, I think the Fostex TH-X00 will suit my wants. Unless, of course, there is another Massdrop x Sennheiser collaboration in the works.

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Right now, I'm listening to iTunes via my new MacBook Pro 2017, with my Sennheiser HD630VBs plugged directly into the headphone jack. There is no background noise or hiss. When I pause playback and turn the volume all the way up, there is zero change in the background.

Ordinarily, my home setup is a Schiit Modi2/Magni2 Uber stack. However, unlike a lot of people, I didn't get it for the "extra oomph" or the "better sounding DAC". Until my two Massdrop Senns arrive in the summer, I only have easy to drive headphones--I can easily deafen myself with my current crop with my iPhone, let alone a dedicated amp. But, I have multiple sources in my home office, a few of which have no direct headphone jack, so the Schiit stack allows me to switch easily among the three sources (a BD player hooked to an external display, a region-free DVD player, also hooked to the display, and my laptop). Much easier to switch sources with the stack.

I expect my new phones will benefit from the amp, at least, given their more demanding load--especially the 6xx. But the DAC, to me, makes no difference in sound quality--either from my old 2009 MBP or my new one. And each of them is dead quiet with my headphones (currently, I have the HD630VB, B&W P5 s1, Grado iGe iem). Perhaps I'm lucky. My wife's laptop is a Lenovo (I think--I don't use it except on very rare occasions) and it is a bit noisy through the headphone jack. If that was my laptop, then I'd have gotten a DAC even without the other reasons noted above, if only to minimize the noise.

Ultimately, I've not been able to discern differences between DACs at level matched comparisons in terms of sound quality. But to deal with noise issues, or for the convenience of multi-source setups, they can be great (mine is perfect for that). I would like one with a digital OUTPUT, though, as I still like to dabble with my now ancient Sony MD deck. Been thinking I'd add a Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus to the main system--would give me headphone alternatives for late-night listening and has a digital output to accommodate my eccentric audio format. But that's for another shopping spree.
Sounds like a great setup, and you are enjoying it. Can't beat that.

My thoughts on on-board sound cards:
They are fine as long as they can play your music (there definitely are technical differences between DAC implementations, but as to whether the difference can be perceived is subjective ). Most on-board DACs are not able to play audio files mastered above 16-bit/4800kHz or files that are in DSD or PCM formats. So if you want to play higher resolution music, you will have to get a better DAC.

On-board sound cards have another disadvantage, subpar headphone amps. Even if you play CD quality audio (16-bit/44.1kHz) on low impedance headphones, the improvements here will be noticeable. Loudness is not the issue, it is distortion from the amp. If the amp is under powered, there will be distortion as the amp can not supply the electrical energy that the headphone drivers require, in order to move freely. There is also the case of some amps having a large output impedance. Output impedance strongly affects the headphone performance, because it changes the frequency response. For example, consider an amp with 40 ohm output impedance feeding a headphone with 32 ohm drivers. In this case less than half of the amplified voltage is seen by the headphone, and a considerable amount of energy never reaches your ears. Additionally, since the output impedance is in series with the driver coil, the frequency response is affected. Output impedance becomes less of an issue when the headphone driver impedance increases, I think that is why most professional headphones are designed that way.
I can see the merit in an outboard DAC for things like hi-res audio formats, especially if they are not able to be played back by the laptop directly. I’m a bit old-school for hi-res, in that I have it on discs, not as files. I have multiple SACD/DVD-A players in the house and it with those I do my hi-res listening. However, I must confess my SACD/DVD-A purchases are primarily for MCH discrete audio, something I don’t do with headphones, obviously. I’m also of the opinion that much of the “better sound” from SACDs/DVD-As comes from the better mastering (ie, far less dynamic range compression than on CDs and streaming/downloads—sadly for the latter), than because of any inherent superiority of the format itself. Then again, I’m no engineer, so I can only go with what I hear.
there are some closed mods for the hd 600 series, but you cant just make them closed and expect that theyll sound the same, unless theyd do it with glas like the hd 820, but they would be expensive as hell, definitely not 200 bucks, but it woud be awsome, but they would probably sound nothing like the others.
I have a pair of NAD VISO HP50 with Brainwaves pleather cushions.

Stock, the NAD is pretty neutral, but with the Brainwaves they warm up with more bass and resonant mids...which sounds pretty similar to my HD650.

I am pretty shocked at how good the NADs sound for ~$150. Their included cord is pretty chintzy (easily replaced) and the shell plastic has a cheap feel. Their stock cushion was too small for me - which meant not only that it was uncomfortable, but that I wasn't getting enough bass due to poor seal. But once I found the right pads, they comfortable for a full day of listening at work and don't make me miss my HD650s (much).
For closed backs, fairly clinical/neutral, I go with the DT770's.
You might give them a whirl.
The detail is right in line with the rest of the BeyerD excellence in detail and clarity.
Of course, highest ohm and good amp is the way to go.

It could be fun to mod a set of Senns with a hard shell see what happens.... if you just happen to have a set just laying around.
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Have you considered a Fostex?
There you have a closed-back headphone with a very lovely sound, great comfort, and an excellent reputation.
They lend themselves very nicely to jazz and acoustic musics.
Thank you! From the discussions on this post, I think the Fostex TH-X00 will be my next headphone acquisition.
I have a slightly modded T50RP that I like very much, it just doesn't have the bass extension I am looking for. I have a pair of Ultrasone HFI-680s, that can be considered clinical, with great bass/sub bass. Their sparkle is a bit strong, which makes them fatiguing to listen to.
Before someone stole my SRH1540s, they were my closed brother to my hd650s.

I hate people who steal shit.
That sucks for sure. Let's hope that the thief at least appreciates the cans.
I'd suggest the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus. They're closed back, removeable cable, headband, and earpads, and offer adjustable bass via a slider on the cup (4 variations). They can easily be had for under $140 nowadays.
I'm a basshead and while the LCD-2C's are not closed backed, they have the best bass I have ever heard in a pair of headphones.
Thanks! Those are in a totally different price bracket though.
HD 598CS is nowhere close to the sound quality of HD6XX.
It is a downgrade and you may not find additional bass quantity you are looking for.
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Yes. I have HD598Cs(newly purchased, use when commuting) and HD6XX(use at home).
And I have Fostex T-X0 and X00 for office use.
If you are looking for a cheap alternative to a closed back Sennheiser or X00's, the GMP 8.35 drop on here occasionally is an amazing closed back monitor. Transparent mids. Biggest difference between them is that the gmp actually has bass ;) and there is definitely no veil :^)