Best headphone around $500

Since I am stuck at home, started to download more high res music, and spending a lot more time in my office… as my wife is pregnant and can’t handle loud music in the living room… which is pushing me to getting a headphone (specially since with the baby, listening to music would be impossible).

I am also unemployed now due to Corona virus, so will be selling some items I no longer need to fund this, which probably affords me around $500 for a headphone.

So, having the background out of the way, what do you guys think/like? I had a Sennheiser HD600 for sometime, which was great but NOT too exciting to listen to. I am now thinking of either getting a Massdrop HD6xx, which essentially would be the same HD600 I had, OR, to spend more and get the Focal Elex headphone which has had great reviews AND I LOVED how the various similar Focal headphones sounded at AXPONA and they have amazing build quality. I even preferred their sound to HD800S. Other benefit of Focal Elex is that it’s relatively easy to drive being only 80 ohm headphone.

Any ideas? Other options?

Do you want closed or open back phones?

I just ordered Beyer Dynamics Amiron Home with the “Tesla” Drivers (??) only because I reviewed them 3 years ago for Review Club (Damn, they wanted them back :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:). I really liked the comfort and the Sound they made. But a hard pass at $600 MSRP. I just ordered an open box pair for $290 + shipping (not Prime Eligible). Lots of YouTube Video claim they are “Warm”. Maybe, but I liked the sound according to my tastes not someone else’s. Very solid build and Made in Germany.


Open as I have a few good ear buds that would do for silent listening. Open is just more open sounding.

Thanks. Will look into it.

That taste is key eh? As I can’t really go into stores may have to buy blind. So might have to pick what I’ve listened to in the past to make a decision.

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Mr. Speakers Aeon is a good headphone. $500 (plus tax) at Massdrop. I have the original version Mr. Speakers Aeon Flow Closed. has some decent deals sub $500 open box. They had a Focal Elex open box for $375. I’ve purchased from and they’re good to deal with.

What type of amplification are you using?

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Plan probably a Schiit headphone amp.

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Schiit makes good headphone amps. (I just sold a Mjolnir2).

I remembered seeing this.

I would recommend looking at used ZMF Ori headphones. I found a pair at about this price that were pristine and they are excellent and comfortable headphones with an involving fairly neutral sound; they are semi-open with wooden shells. A single caveat: these do need some power to drive them to potential–I am using a PS Audio CSHA with very good results.

The HD600 is about as close as you can get to “proper” sound. Headphone frequency responses are absolutely insane. The peaks and dips are beyond wild. I’ve been searching for a new HP to step up from my Senns, and I see nothing out there. For example, take the Beyerdynamic HPs with the Tesla driver. Everyone considers them “detailed” - what they’re actually hearing is a massive 10db!!! peak at about 8.5kHz. If you like sibilance disguised as detail, this is a perfect HP. Whatever HP you’re looking to get, make sure to look up their frequency response to see exactly what you’re getting.

The Elears are wonderful. I can listen for a few hours without listening fatigue. They’re very comfortable also.
I don’t know what happens to them when they become Massdrop; they might sound and feel the same.
You can get excellent deals on used Elears.

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Returned them today. Open Box item for a reason not advertised. L channel is about 0.5dB down in level. Returned immediately. Ordered these instead to go on the RCA outputs of my DirectStream DAC Sr.

Should be here before the weekend.

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I just picked up an open box Focal Elegia closed from They cut me some slack from the $712 price. It is a great closed can. Focal Elex open is on Massdrop for $600.

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I’ve been mulling over the Elegias. Can you give your impression of them? And perhaps compare to other HPs you may have?

I have three sets of closed back headphones. The Elegias, Mr. Speakers Ether CX (Drop) and Aeon Flow Closed version one. All three sound very good. Personally I rank the Elegias and Mr. Speakers as being very close for listening enjoyment. Aeon Flow Closed behind both, however Aeon Flow is much lighter feeling in the comfort department. The Elegias get a little air in via the Focal emblem. It’s cut out of the casing on the outer headphone back. All three sound good. The Elegia are not as spacious as open back headphones but reasonably close. The Elegia’s headband is a touch firm, but they are new. I own open backs costing twice as much as I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I purchased them at who has a very friendly return policy on regular purchases (though open box sales are final). Read some reviews from various sites and most are very positive. I’m not disappointed. This is my first Focal headphone so I can’t comment on durability or pad wear. The Focal Elegia uses a dual pin 3.5mm cable. The stock one that was included is too short. I replaced it with a longer custom cable (Cardas Blue) from Arctic Cables that I use for some HiFiMan HE6se I have.

Do you have amplification? What are you using now?

Hope that helps.

Yeah I’ve read a ton of reviews. I’ve been oscillating between the Elegias and Aeon Flow 2 closed (I’m specifically looking for a good closed HP). The problem I have is that there is virtually no headphone with flat frequency response (the HD600 which I own are the closest). The amps I’m using are a Pass design WHAMMY and/or a Bottlehead Crack for high impedence cans.

HiFiMan Sundara. On sale now for $350 on HiFiMan website. Great cans.


Focals are quite flat. None is fully flat, but they come close. I was never into Focal headphones until last year at AXPONA when I demoed the line up and they impressed me immensely. Build was great, all comfortable, and sound was even better - across the board. Honestly, put Sennheiser Hd800S to shame at lower cost. Also, being made in France, I won’t be supporting Chinese gvt who covered up Corona virus killing thousands including a friend of mine! :face_with_symbols_over_mouth: I won’t be buying Chinese if I have an alternative.

Dan Clark Audio has a discounting program for direct sales if you’ve ever purchased from him. I have not heard the Aeon2 closed. The Ether CX massdrop is actually cheaper @$750. Not sure how they compare to those. The Aeon 2 is reported to be a big jump over the Aeon 1.


No disrespect intended, but I don’t think Elegia shames HD800s. I have HD800 and HD800s as well. It’s an opinion, but to say it shames them is a bit much for me. Lots of factors at play including amplification here. If you underdrive the HD800/HD800s they are not going to perform well. The Elegia is a great headphone at a reasonable price.

Dan Clark is made in the USA. Senn HD800 is made in Germany.