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  1. #1
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    Open Or Closed Headphones?

    I'll soon be in the market for headphones and headphone amp. I need the phones so my wife and I can be in our listening together. My wife and I often like to spend time in our downstairs family room in front of our wood burning stove, with me listening to our audio system.

    However, in order for me to listen to the audio system and not disturb my wife I need headphones and a headphone amp. I've never owned open headphones and always had closed phones. Are open phones loud enough to disturb someone six to seven feet away? If so, what closed phones and headphone amp combo would you recommend? My budget is $6000.
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  2. #2
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    If you will be in the same room you want closed back. Open bak are generally accepted as sounding better although many of the better closed are really good these days. At the top of my list in headphones are Hifiman and Audeze. I'm not up on head amps, that is an area that has expanded a lot in recent years.

    Randy has had a few sets of cans hopefully he will chime in here.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    If your wife does not want to hear the music at all, it looks like closed will be your main option. I prefer open and have a pair of Grados. I like to be able to hear what's going on around me and respond if my wife needs something or asks a question.

    You should get many options in your range. Good luck with the search and selection.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrassphile View Post
    I'll soon be in the market for headphones and headphone amp. I need the phones so my wife and I can be in our listening together. My wife and I often like to spend time in our downstairs family room in front of our wood burning stove, with me listening to our audio system.

    However, in order for me to listen to the audio system and not disturb my wife I need headphones and a headphone amp. I've never owned open headphones and always had closed phones. Are open phones loud enough to disturb someone six to seven feet away? If so, what closed phones and headphone amp combo would you recommend? My budget is $6000.
    Open are definitely louder than closed, but open tends to sound better IMO. Focal Stellias are closed back. And the Audeze LCD-XCs are as well. Of course there are many others - Focal which I’m partial too (mine are Utopias - open) have many different types at various price points.
    Sincerely,

    Calvin

  5. #5
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Focal Utopia’s with the Arche is a great setup.


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  6. #6
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    As far as amps I have a Pass HPA-1, but the Bryston BHA-1 is very good. And Randy just bought a Sim which he really likes.
    Sincerely,

    Calvin

  7. #7
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    I have had some closed back and always felt to constrained. I definitely prefer open. I sometimes sit on the couch with my wife and it does not bother her .

    I own Abyss Diana Phi (Open), and have had McIntosh (closed), Sennheiser HD800S (open), Focal Clear (Open), Mr. Speakers Ether (Open), Audeze LCD-i4 (Ear bud type, Open), and others that I don't recall ....

    The Abyss are definitely in another world, although I am sure that the higher Focal would be nice also. I prefer Planar Magnet phones such as the Abyss, the Audeze, the Mr. Speakers (I think now called Dan Clark Audio).

    Honestly I don't think you would go wrong with any of these, Abyss, Focal, Audeze, Mr. Speakers. Abyss are made in Buffalo NY, Audeze and Mr. Speakers are made in California.

    You can afford Abyss Diana v2 ($3k), or Diana Phi ($4k), Focal Utopia ($4k), Audeze LCD-4 ($4k), Mr. Speakers Ether 2 ($2.3k). There of course are other good choices.

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    Amplifiers.... I absolutely love my Moon by SimAudio, but with matching cans it probably would blow your budget. (Mike is a dealer). HeadAmp is very highly rated... my biggest issue is they are definitely an immature company and do not seem to be able to deliver on their stated time frames and are bad at communication. Abyss also sells the XI Audio brand which is supposed to be very good. Woo is highly rated for a tube amplifier. Dennis Had also offers a nice tube amp called the Dragon Inspire sold exclusively through Moon Audio. The Bryston BHA-1 is also an excellent amplifier that will definitely fit into your budget. You could possibly get the Pass HPA-1 amplifier in your budget. Both the Moon and the Pass would be pushing the budget a bit depending on headphones.

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    https://wooaudio.com/

    https://bryston.com/amplifiers/bha1/

    https://www.passlabs.com/products/hpa-1/

    Hopefully this gives you a good starting point!

    My favorite to hit your budget would be the Abyss Diana Phi with a HeadAmp GS-X Mini, or one of the XI Audio middle models. The Focal Utopia are nice if you are not into Planar Magnet headphones. The Mr. Speakers (Dan Clark Audio) are great to save a few bucks. Another great combo would be the Abyss Diana V2 with the Bryston BHA-1.

    One other consideration is type of cable. With some of these amplifiers a balanced cable is much better, such as the Bryston. Some headphones come with this most don't. Some such as Abyss allow you to choose what kind of cable you want. I personally use Black Dragon cables from Moon Audio. Quite a bit less than say Abyss JPS cables for example. They also have the Silver Dragon which is a bit more. Figure $300-$500 for cable (depending you could go much higher).
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  8. #8
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Sounds like I'd be happier with the sound of open headphones. Hopefully, they won't disturb the wife much. She usually has the TV on while she's reading. Hopefully, the TV will mask the sound of the headphones enough that they won't cause any disturbance. I could also always go to the opposite end of the room to sit and listen with phones. She could also listen to the TV through closed phones hooked up to our HT system. As The Beatles said...we can work it out.
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  9. #9
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    There you go, you can always work it out. I sometimes sit on the same couch as my wife when she is watching TV, and she is noise sensitive... she says she can hardly hear anything and it does not bother her.

    Definitely agree that I enjoy open backed headphones more.
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
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  10. #10
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Thanks for all the recommendations. Please feel free to make any further comments.
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

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  11. #11
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    It depends on how quiet you want to be. I like open back, but for the times when others are around and use my closed back. So many headphones for every budget. Amps, I've had tubes and SS, right now its the SS BHA-1, but one fine amp is the SPL Phonitor X ( without DAC as you got an awesome DAC/streamer) that will drive about anything as does the BHA-1, or the PASS HPA-1. The best thing to do, is try to demo to ensure the headband fits your head comfortably, the cups are right for your ears and the sound is to your liking. Some peoples taste might not be your own, so demo or ensure there is a good return policy. .

  12. #12
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Sounds like you have someoptions for listening in the same room and maybe you don't listen that loud. My wife could definitely hear my Sennheiser when in the same room. Or if you've ever had to suffer public transportation people's cans leak badly.

    I can only go by my experienes at the audio show comparing various headphones, the difference in open/closed back isn't huge. I mean it's not like a closed back can't be enjoyable or sound good, they can.

    CPP makes a very good point about comfort, that is as important as sound. You can have the best sounding rig out there but that doesn't mean much if you are in discomfort wearing them.

    I've never been able to listen to a pair but Stax makes both cans and amps. My impression the cans and amps are matched for one another. Just throwing that out there, one of the high end from way back.

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrassphile View Post
    Sounds like I'd be happier with the sound of open headphones. Hopefully, they won't disturb the wife much. She usually has the TV on while she's reading. Hopefully, the TV will mask the sound of the headphones enough that they won't cause any disturbance. I could also always go to the opposite end of the room to sit and listen with phones. She could also listen to the TV through closed phones hooked up to our HT system. As The Beatles said...we can work it out.
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  13. #13
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    I use Sennheiser 800 balanced with Bryston BPH 1. I am very happy with this set up. No comment on leakage as this has never been an issue.
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  14. #14
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    I was happy with the Sennheiser HD800S when I owned a pair, comfortable, very good mids and high frequency and a bit subdued bottom end. They are also one of the few that come with both types of cables! I'm sure with the Bryston it is a great combination. I simply decided that I prefer the sound of Planar Magnet headphones more is all.
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
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  15. #15

    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    What's your current setup can I ask?
    KrazyK

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  16. #16
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    My system is in my signature. I don't have any high end listening phones or headphone amp.
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

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  17. #17
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Open are generally better sounding but the can be heard if played loudly by others in a quiet room. If your wife is watching TV she may not hear your open back phones. If you went for closed back, another advantage (?) is that you wouldn't hear your wife when she says your wood burning stove needs attention! Maybe try a cheapish pair of open back first and this will indicate whether you (your wife) would prefer closed back.
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  18. #18
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Quote Originally Posted by KrazyK View Post
    What's your current setup can I ask?
    Hey KrazyK, Not sure if you are asking bluegrassphile or me on this one. We both have our setups in our Signatures. My current headphone setup is my music server PC to my T+A DAC to the SimAudio NEO 430HA amplifier through balanced BlackDragon cables to my Abyss Diana Phi headphones. I also use an Astell & Kern SE200 portable through another BlackDragon cable using 2.5" balanced connections to the Abyss.
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
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    Catridges: Rega Ania Pro; AudioTechnica VM740ML; Ortofon 2M Blue
    Headphones & Portable: SimAudio NEO 430HA; Abyss Diana Phi; Astell&Kern SE200
    Speakers: Magnepan .7 w/Magna Risers; Rythmik L12 (x2)
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  19. #19
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    There's almost no way open headphones won't disturb other people if you're sitting in the same room. Conversely, if the other person is listening to something themselves, or making noise, you will hear it with open headphones. I would recommend getting closed back headphones if you want to be in the same room but not disturb each other.
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  20. #20
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    I was happy with the Sennheiser HD800S when I owned a pair, comfortable, very good mids and high frequency and a bit subdued bottom end. They are also one of the few that come with both types of cables! I'm sure with the Bryston it is a great combination. I simply decided that I prefer the sound of Planar Magnet headphones more is all.
    Randy, using the 3 pin Bal XLR's really gave the 800s a boost, kinda opened up the bottom in a little..
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  21. #21
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Quote Originally Posted by CPP View Post
    Randy, using the 3 pin Bal XLR's really gave the 800s a boost, kinda opened up the bottom in a little..
    Yea, the Bryston only uses half of its amplifier on a SE cable and its full capability using a balanced cable! The HD800S are a very nice headphone. Of all that I have had I would rate them and the Focal Clear as pretty much tied for my third favorites. All of the four that I liked the most are great and I could live with any one of them .
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
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  22. #22
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Better (bigger) sound space with open.

    I use open in all of my personal spaces. (Focal Utopia in office, MrSpeakers Voce at home)

    I have closed back, or IEMs in public spaces (Focal Elegia, Drop Panda, various IEMs)

    I have tried many amps over the years. I agree with “balanced is better” if the amp is truly balanced out, not just a single ended amp hooked up to a 4 pin XLR. You can find WAY more than you want to know at head-fi.org.
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  23. #23
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Nice... I was wondering if you might be using the MrSpeakers with your Blue Hawaiian.
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
    Amplifiers: McIntosh MC7100 v2, MC754
    Digital: T+A DAC 8 DSD; Falcon NW PC Server; Roon; HQPlayer
    Turntables: Rega RP8, NEO PSU; Technics SL-1500C; SimAudio NEO 310LP, 110LP v2
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  24. #24

    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Ah yes, I see

    What type of flavour and characteristics are you looking for with your headphones?
    KrazyK

    "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything."
    Plato


  25. #25

    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Hey Randy Myers,

    Both I guess

    I've noticed them both now , I was just looking into setups to recommend more suitable close CANS from the original post.
    KrazyK

    "Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything."
    Plato


  26. #26
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Boy, I dunno...It still sounds like I'd be better served in my application by closed phones. I discussed it again with my wife and she doesn't want to be able to hear music leaking out of headphones. Not that she doesn't like music or anything like that. She wants to be able to use them too. She just doesn't want to hear background noise from open phones while she's reading or watching TV.

    I'm thinking Focal Stellias. The reviews on them are glowing and highly complimentary. Anyone out there own these phones? Wha'da'ya think of 'em? Thinking of the SPL Phonitor X for an amp.
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

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  27. #27
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    That is cool, and of course you have to get what works best for you. There is definitely some leaking from open backs; for me and my wife it is very minor.

    You still have a choice of dynamic driver versus planar. Focal used dynamic as does Sennheiser. The 820 are closed back. I am just a little worried about that Sennheiser might be selling off their consumer division. Audeze and Dan Clark Audio (formerly Mr. Speakers) both offer closed versions of their outstanding headphones.

    I have heard nothing but good things about SPL, however I have heard much better things about HeadAmp. If you are leaning towards Focal then Mike's suggestion of their amp might make good sense.
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
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    Turntables: Rega RP8, NEO PSU; Technics SL-1500C; SimAudio NEO 310LP, 110LP v2
    Catridges: Rega Ania Pro; AudioTechnica VM740ML; Ortofon 2M Blue
    Headphones & Portable: SimAudio NEO 430HA; Abyss Diana Phi; Astell&Kern SE200
    Speakers: Magnepan .7 w/Magna Risers; Rythmik L12 (x2)
    Spinner: Oppo BDP-105; Magnum Dynalab FT-101A, ST-2

  28. #28
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    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Randy, I was talking (emailing) with Mike about a week ago and he said Focal has discontinued the Arche. I'd be more interested in HeadAmp but I've read some negative stuff about customer service issues. But that was a few months ago and I can't remember what the problems were? Other than that, I've heard nothing but great things about their products.
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

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    Server: Roon Nucleus with lifetime subscription.

    Speakers: Harbeth Super HL 5+ 40th Anniversary
    Model.

    Cables: AudioQuest Rocket 88 speaker cables,
    Mackenzie interconnects.

    Speaker Stands: HiFi Man.

  29. #29
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Location
    Nipomo, CA
    Posts
    4,898

    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    My only issue with HeadAmp was the incorrect misleading information on their website and poor communications. I hear they are very good amplifiers and would have waited for the one if I had not came across the deal on the SimAudio! However I was also looking at the SPL Phonitor X and would certainly not have any issues trying one . I have had a Bryston and they are top notch. I know Mike carries them as well as he also does with the Pass. He also carries SimAudio, although I am thinking that SimAudio and Pass may push your budget a bit.
    Pre-amp: Hattor Passive w/Tube Active Stage
    Amplifiers: McIntosh MC7100 v2, MC754
    Digital: T+A DAC 8 DSD; Falcon NW PC Server; Roon; HQPlayer
    Turntables: Rega RP8, NEO PSU; Technics SL-1500C; SimAudio NEO 310LP, 110LP v2
    Catridges: Rega Ania Pro; AudioTechnica VM740ML; Ortofon 2M Blue
    Headphones & Portable: SimAudio NEO 430HA; Abyss Diana Phi; Astell&Kern SE200
    Speakers: Magnepan .7 w/Magna Risers; Rythmik L12 (x2)
    Spinner: Oppo BDP-105; Magnum Dynalab FT-101A, ST-2

  30. #30
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Palm Coast, FL 'The Hammock'
    Posts
    4,517

    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Check out ZMF headphones, some awesome closed backs.
    PassXa-30.5, W4S STP, Kef 201/2, KEF 140, Vapor Breeze, Lumin, Bryston CD, BHA-1, HD650, HD800s, Dan Clark 1.1, OPPO 203, 105.

  31. #31
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    Southeast Iowa
    Posts
    785

    Re: Open Or Closed Headphones?

    Thank you, I will.
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

    DAC/Streamer: MSB Discrete Dual Power Supply.

    Server: Roon Nucleus with lifetime subscription.

    Speakers: Harbeth Super HL 5+ 40th Anniversary
    Model.

    Cables: AudioQuest Rocket 88 speaker cables,
    Mackenzie interconnects.

    Speaker Stands: HiFi Man.

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Open Or Closed Headphones?

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