Audiophile question

At the moment I am using my pc as my audio player.  My entire audio collection is 320kbps MP3.

As of right now I am using an ASUS Xonar Essence STX, a set of Microlab SOLO7C speakers and a AudioTechnica ATH-M50 headset.

I want to upgrade my headphones and want some advice.

The reason for the upgrade is that the M50's sound good, but are not a perfect fit, and tend to make my ears hot after a while.

I am looking at a set of AKG K702's as they are open back and should eliminate the heat issue.

suggestions/alternatives welcome.


Also would there be any point to adding a headphone amp?  I do not need any portability, sound leak is a non issue and I do not own/use any portable players so headphone resistance is also a non issue.

Sony MDR-7506 with velour replacement earpads from Beyerdynamic to keep your ears cool.

Going from M50s to K701s, Q701s, or K702s (sonically all 3 of those AKGs are the same cans) is a huge difference in sound signature. Where M50s are kind of warm and bassy, K701s are bright and a little edgy. They have bass but it isn't as "forward" as the Audiotechnicas and they're more clinical sounding.

I'm going to make a strong recommendation out of left field, check out the HiFiman HE-400s.

They're similar in the bass department to the M50s in terms of amount, but everything else is so much more rounded. It's a fuller, more open sound that's tuned for tonal balance and to have better treble extension, but without being harsh. IMO, these are the best headphones under $300, bar none.

Why are the HiFiman HE-400s so good? I'm glad you asked! ;) One, they aren't a traditional dynamic driver design, they're a planar (or often called an orthodynamic) headphone. Much like the way a flat-panel speaker (ex. Martin Logan and Magnepan) works, they make sound by running current over a very thin membrane and this typically allows for faster dynamic response leading to lower transducer latency and much lower Total Harmonic Distortion.

But you may ask, "isn't this technology usually a lot more expensive?" Yes, it generally is, however, using a new process and more abundant materials, they've been able to drastically lower costs without greatly reducing sound quality. At one time if you wanted planar headphones you had to pony up $2000+ and buy a special electrostatic amplifier to boot, and if you want the very best you still do. (Check out the retail pricing on Stax SR-009 "Earspeakers" sometime, it'll shock the hell out of you.) So the HE-400 is the value option in the market, and they truly are that, and then some, because they flat-out blow the doors off any traditional driver headphones in their price range, IMO. So find a retailer, like Amazon, that allows returns and try them out, you don't have anything to lose. (Not that I think you'd ever want to return them.)

Oh, also go to and get a $100 Magni headphone amplifier and hook it up to your Xonar STX, it's the best Benjamin you'll spend in personal audio. Those little suckers are amazing and will cleanly drive just about any headphone out there.

Here is the dilemma

K702 = $360 AUD

DT990 Pro = $180 AUD

HE400 = $433 + 50 shipping AUD

And the price including shipping for that amp with insurance is $145 AUD

Amazon will not ship to Australia, and for the odd item that they will (which is few and far between) they will not accept returns.

Would the Hi FI man HE-400 be fine with just the STX? it can drive 600 Ohm cans.  It's just a fair amount of cash to drop on something I can't return, and have no ability to test before purchase.

Yeah, it would be fine with the STX, the STX has a very good internal amp. The Schiit Magni is just a really nice extra, allowing for more amplification flexibility (you can hook it up to other things too, like a small portable player or your phone). Later on you can get one, if it's something you'd like.

Headphonic in Oz has the HE-400 in stock for $339, with free delivery.

Nice find!!

However would you still say they are worth double the price of the DT990? 179 vs 339?

I'm happy to spend that much - but only if it is justified

Oh yeah, they're that good. It's spooky how vivid and lifelike planar headphones are, it's one of those things that changes how you listen to and appreciate music. No joke. When I say they're the best thing in their price class, I'm being serious. Nothing else touches these for under $400.

I don't know where you live, but if it's anywhere near Perth they have a showroom.

Lol nah im up to my neck in bullshit - meaning Canberra

Well I guess the HE-400's it is!

Awesome, I'm excited for you, they really do sound amazing. I could actually be happy with them all the time, but I've been "corrupted" with more ridiculous cans and my audio tastes have extended out to $1500+ sets.

*Edit* Never mind me I should of kept reading. Headphonic always has great deals plus free delivery!

Ha! I'm sure I'll get there eventually....

Thanks for the recommendation though - I'll report back after I have bought and used them

Sweet, can't wait to hear your impressions. :-)

Even though the DT990s and DT770s are amazing headphones (i have the DT990) they sound similar to the M50. If you love the sound signature of the M50 you could replace them with the beyerdynamics which are way more comfortable. 
Another option is the AKG 612. These headphones will sound great but a bit different as well. 
Sorry, but i cannot recommend the HiFiman HE-400 because they are so freaking heavy :S (don't know if you ordered them)

DT880s weigh 360g while the HE-400s weigh 440g, that's not really a huge difference, unless you're planning on jogging with them on.

Ok so the HE-400's are paid for and on the way.  I decided to treat myself and also bought a Schiit Asgard 2 amp.  So sequence is now 320kbps Mp3 -> Xonar Essence STX -> Asgard 2 -> HE-400.

I will report my findings and impressions when they arrive.  I may even do an unboxing of both.  Again a big thanks to Theoreticus for the suggestions.

The Asgard II is a very capable little amp, in terms of pure value I might have gone for something else for the money, but the quality of construction is excellent.

Try taking a look at sennhiser's HD series they are all open ear headphones which also your ears to stay cool the only down side is if you have long hair like me the area around my ears begins to itch. But the sennhisers have good quality and bass.

Yeah I went with the Asgard II for the aesthetics but also as it has both headphone and RCA out so I can run my monitors off it as well with auto switching when i plug the headphones in.