Please Help Weed Them Out

Hello All,  I'm interested in a set of headphones to plug into my Benchmark HPA-4 pre-amp with headphone amp. My needs are as follows:

Over the ear closed back with good isolation

"V" shaped sound signature as my past headphones Senheiser HD600 had almost no bass to speak of. Music taste mostly soft rock and jazz

3.5mm TS connectors so I can use a 15 foot Balanced cable I already have.

Now for the kicker... my budget is $100 to $300  I have seen some (Hifiman), but I don't know if they have good bass, or if they're like the Senheiser 600's

Please any suggestions to start me on the right path will be helpful.



The Hifiman HE-R10D is available at a steep discount and worth looking at if you can stretch a bit.

Here’s a review that does a good job describing its sound characteristics — seems like it provides some of the things you’re looking for…

Another one you might wanna look at is the Meze 99 Noir.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.


I also see the Sundara closed back headphones for $229

Some say they're lacking in bass. Can anyone offer an opinion on them?


The Sundara seems to be a bit bass shy, which is why I didn’t recommend it…

Here’s a review of the R9 by the same chap who reviewed the R10D and he makes several helpful comparisons.

The R9 seems to be even more bass heavy and colored with less treble detail — sounds like they were shooting for more of a Beats sound than a more neutral and linear audiophile tuning.  Depends what you’re looking for.

Just a word of warning. Most preamps with headphone outputs have extremely inferior ones. I don’t know this for certain about the Benchmark, but it is very, very likely. It takes a lot of effort / cost to produce a good headphone amp (think building an amp). You can see my current headphone system under my user ID. I took me over ten years to learn / assemble a great headphone system My headphone amp produces enough current to power speaker.


Given the poor quality of most preamp outputs (in particular, lack of current) I would recommend getting headphones that are very easily driven. There are two that come to mind Focal and Ultrasond. Go as high up (think used) as you can go.

I understand your warning, but the Benchmark puts in a separate THX Headphone AMP of very good quality. At least good enough to be called decent. 

Yes - the Benchmark HPA4 does have an excellent headphone amp. Certainly up there with the best.


I would consider the AKG K371. Closed back and can be had for less than $300. Definitely has the bass you're looking for. It's my daily driver.

OK, so I got a set of AKG K371. I like them a lot, and only $160 from Amazon! I originally got a set of Hihiman HE-R9, but I thought they were too dull sounding and very bulky. These AKG' are great, and I just ordered a set of Dekoni Choice Leather pads to try. I'm actually considering stepping up my game here. What headphones would anyone recommend with a similar sound signature, but way better? By way better I mean in the $1,500 to $2,500 range.

I do need a high isolation rig, as I usually have to play headphones while others are watching TV. Even with closed backs I can still hear the TV at quieter spots on most tracks. It's not an absolute, but preferred.

Got it and thanks for the good info.  Unfortunately as an open-back guy I got nuthin’ of use for you, but I think you’re gonna be thrilled moving up to the $1500 - $2500 price range as the improvements from the sub $500 range are huge — it certainly was for me.  I actually think your new price range is the sweet spot in headphones as they’re light years above the budget ‘phones yet provide a lot of the performance/refinement of the much pricier models.  Best of luck in your very worthwhile upward trek!


The next step up would be the DCA Stealth. MSRP is $4k. Used ones can be had from $2800 to $3200. Very similar sounding from the midrange to treble. Somewhat less response in the bass region but the clarity is unmatched. It definitely requires some power to push the volume but the HPA4 should be able to handle it.


The AKG K371 and the DCA Stealth are tuned to the Harman target frequency response curve. If you like what you hear, try to find other headphones that measure similarly.

I had a similar problem. My wife works out of the house and I can't play the big rig during the day.  Also no vocal music and symphonic stuff at night if she is working.

I wanted a headphone system with close back phones that was faithful to the music and "really" good but not as good as my speaker driven rig. (always my #1 preference for listening).

After making my myself crazy reading online reviews (I got a crash course in the cult that is head-fi listening)...I settled on Focal Stellias driven by a Mytek Liberty II DAC/Headphone amp. I couldn't be happier!

The Focals are easy to drive and my new "private" stereo system doesn't give up too much to my reference Vandersteen/ Ayre/ Audible Illusions/ Benchmark/ Audioquest reference system. And they are really comfortable and best of all....I can play whatever I want, whenever I want!!

The Focal Stellias were on my list, but I then read about quality issues and having to send them back to France for repair. I am directing my interests on Audeze. I was wondering which of these (LCD-2C or LCD-XC) has more bass?

Yeah, I saw those reports about Focal too. I also thought a great deal about  Audeze phones too. (As well as ZMF). All I can share with you is MY thought process, obviously. One of the most frustrating negative aspects about internet research on these sort of things that drives me crazy is the lack of transparency. How do I know where these disgruntled people bought their headphones? Is this story even true? Is this the whole story? What's are the agendas at work? That's why I eventually bought my gear from Sean-Paul at Upscale Audio, a dealer and a salesman that has done right by me in the past and has been straight with me. Upscale is a sizable (I imagine) dealer with the entire Focal line (speakers and headphones plus Naim Audio). I "presume" they will help me out in the rare possibility of problem. And...more importantly...they have some clout with the importer. For me, I was worried about the weight of the Audeze headphones. I'm not a huge fan of wearing headphones usually. I knew the Focals would be comfortable because I use a pair of Elegies for my lap top YouTube videos. Oh yeah, I bought the Elegies on close out from Upscale six moths or so ago. Since you mentioned it, I will tell you the Stellias are not bass monsters. Like Benchmark, they are faithful and accurate to the recording. That may not be what you are looking for. I listen mostly these days to classical and jazz.

OK, so it's been over a month and this is what transpired. I purchased a Hifi-Man HE1000 Stealth. I realize they're open back, and I was looking for closed back, but WTH the price was great ($1,399) and the many reviews I read were very positive. Well I'm blown away.  l love them! The bass is excellent and the open back gives a very pleasurable open sound. I find myself playing them sometimes when it's not necessary to use headphones. The things I'm hearing on songs that I've never picked up on before is uncanny. So thanks for all who wrote in, I did do a lot of reading and research and I appreciate all who helped out.

You suck!!!  I paid about the same for Arya Stealths and although I’m very happy I know the HE1000s are next level so not surprised you’re blown away.  Goodonya for being “open” minded, and enjoy!!!  And thanks a lot for the follow up.