Need help deciding: Ultrasone HFI-580/HFI-780

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by DarkTiger892, Feb 6, 2011.

  1. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    The title pretty much says it all. I'm looking for a new pair of headphones and I'm trying to decide between the 580 and 780. All I can gather is that the 580 has "more" bass than the 780, and the 780 is harsher in the upper mids. That doesn't give me a very good idea of what they really sound like though. I would like to go to a store locally and listen to both, but no one carries anything like that around here.

    Has anyone had a chance to listen to the both? Or does anyone have one of them/what kind of music do you listen to on them? I'd like to hear some opinions.

  2. EchoWars

    EchoWars Working a Deal in Denmark Subscriber

    I have a pair of 700's. No weaknesses here. Tis' all good.
  3. Permanent Waves

    Permanent Waves Digital Man

    Hey Dark, since you're not getting much input here (this forum can be slow and I don't have any US experience to give any info for my part) I'll refer you to Head-Fi for more info. I searched both cans in the search bar and got lots of results:

    Hopefully that will help and if you already knew of Head-Fi then ignore this post lol.
  4. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    First impressions

    So a lot of people over at Head Fi seemed to like these cans, so I bought them. They arrived today and I plugged them in. I did notice that they sound better when plugged into my receiver than when plugged into my computer's headphone jack. Volume wasn't the issue, but there was less bass when plugged into the computer directly. I guess they need an amp.

    My other pair of headphones was a set of the Grado SR60s, so that's all I really have to compare these too. Bass on the HFI-780s is powerful, sounds good, and the highs are nice and clear (maybe just a touch more than I'd like, but that could be due to the cut mids. I'm a little disappointed that the mids (primarily on the vocals) sound rather cold. The Grados had a very warm sound overall (which I liked) and to my ears the HFI-780s sound rather cold--a lot of ting ting, boom boom and not much in the middle. Maybe that will improve with some burn in. I don't know. :sigh:

  5. kwkarth

    kwkarth New Member

    After you get at least 200 hours of use on the new cans, you should find that the highs mellow a bit and the mids become less recessed. Once they've broken in, if you're still not happy with the sound, there are some easy modifications you can implement to tailor the sound more to your liking.

  6. Permanent Waves

    Permanent Waves Digital Man

    Sorry you're not liking the mids, and I must say that unless you get used to them (psychological "burn in") they will be no different after 2 months, 2 years, 20 years, or 200 years of constant playing. (No I will NOT argue about "burn in" here for there is nothing to argue/open to debate: might as well argue if the earth is flat or not or whether gravity exists).

    So, if you can, simply return them, get your money back, and try a different can. They will not improve, the sound signature will not change no matter how many hours you put on them and you will be stuck with a can you don't like (mods usually won't totally alter a can either imo, but they can help tune the sound).

    They sound much like my Beyer 770 600 ohms btw. I kind of like them because they have good bass, but yea the mids are recessed and the highs can be too sharp/metallicy/shrill. I listen to them with bass heavy/"cold" music though and do enjoy them for that. But for everything else (especially vocal/mid-centric music) they just aren't for.

    I also have some Grado 225i's and they are mid-centric/warm (and colored) like your 60's. I'd try some higher model Grado's if I was you since you like their house sound.
  7. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    I tried to get away from the Grados because I'm very frustrated with my SR60s that I've only had for a few years. Hair constantly gets stuck in the pads which causes buzzing, the pads are falling apart, the diagram in both drivers buzzes and rattles "grattles" with even moderate bass. Also, I'm tired of them hurting my ears after extended listening.

    Anyway, as for HFI-780s... I had the chance today to listen to them with some non-computer sources (a.k.a. vinyl), several different genres, and I had the chance to try them with a different receiver (Sansui 9090) and here's my thoughts. The headphones are very "clear" and "crisp" sounding--much more than the Grado SR-60s and much more than I'm used to through my speakers (Infinity RS-IIA/Pioneer CS-88). Acoustic guitars sound super clear, cymbals have a nice sparkle to them. This clarity combined with the nice bass sounds really nice, its just the really forward upper mids that give the vocals more edge than I prefer. They sound harsh to me. I like smooth, warm sounding vocals, and in general, that's not what I'm getting out of the HFI-780s. That being said, they sound really terrific for a lot of modern music like hip hop, electronica, and even highly produced pop/rock music like a lot of 90s music.

    Where the harshness starts to bother me is on more natural sounding oldies-type music, things like The Doobie Brothers, Van Morrison, Sanford Townsend band, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, etc. I really do like to listen to lots of different types of music. The upper end of the vocal range is just a little too grating without the modern deep bass to support the forward sounding mids. The harshness was more tame when I plugged these into my buddy's Sansui 9090 compared to my Realistic STA-2250 or being plugged into my headphone jack directly. If I was home I could try it on my Carver C-1 preamp for some more comparison, but I unfortunately cannot right now.

    Basically, I like them for "certain" music, I think they're comfortable, but I'd like them to not be so harsh. What do you think the solution is here? Get used to them? Get a tube headphone amp to smooth it out (**don't really want to spend more $$**), get some different cans, or maybe something else? I'm kind of sick of Grado's arrogance to address CLEARLY known defects in their products and don't really want to give them any more of my money. I know the SR60s are bottom of the line, but the rattly-ass driver design should really have been addressed by now.

    I'd really like to hear what you have to say.

  8. Permanent Waves

    Permanent Waves Digital Man

    Ah, got ya. Didn't know all that, all you said was you liked their sound.

    I agree that my Grados aren't that well built (as all the lower-mid models don't seem to be) and yea they can hurt my ears. I bent the frame though and washed the ear pads so now they take several hours to cause mild discomfort instead of real pain in 20 minutes like when I first go them.

    I have yet to experience a "Grattle" fortunately but I know many have.

    Your experience with the 780's sounds much like mine with the Beyer 770's as I mentioned above. Fortunately I have 2 other great headphones to switch to for different music that does not do well with the 770's. So that's MY solution.

    For you, I don't know. That's up to you. The sound signature won't change, but you might get more used to it. And yea, a "warm" amp, whether a external headphone amp or the headphone out of a receiver/integrated, would help as you noticed. You could get a LD (Little Dot) headphone amp (tube or SS) that so many like for fairly cheap, especially used. But though changes in amps will/can alter the sound, it will still be fundamentally the same imo. The only thing that will REALLY change the sound is to get new headphones (just like it is the same with speakers). That's my take anyway.

    Good luck!
  9. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    I hate the fact that I can't go anywhere to "try out" headphones and see what I like. :( What do you think would be more along the lines of what I'm looking for?
  10. Hifirob2

    Hifirob2 NEC and Klipsch rock! Subscriber

    Your experience with the 780s sounds a lot like mine - initially.

    Out of the box and onto my head they sounded harsh. I immediately took them off, and let them run at a moderate level.

    The next day, they still sounded harsh when I put them on for another 30 seconds.

    After 96 hours of solid running without my head taking the abuse, I tried them again. Much better. Damn near perfect - for my taste. Harshness gone.

    I'll agree to having a different opinion than permanent waves.......I think the drivers in mine needed to loosen up a bit. Kinda like a new pair of shoes. At first they hurt, then you get used to them. Do the shoes change - or your feet? Doesn't really matter to me, as long as I can comfortably wear them.:yes:

    I've never heard the 580s, but I wish now that I would have bought these 780s a long time ago. I think they're that good. :thmbsp:

  11. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    Well I guess I'll keep doing like I did last night. Run em with some slightly louder than listening level hard rock all night for a few days. We'll see if it makes a difference.
  12. Permanent Waves

    Permanent Waves Digital Man

    You know, I really don't know. What sound exactly were/are you looking for? You seem to like a mid-centric presentation from your like of your Grados, but you also seem to want more bass which is why you got the US.

    Along those lines maybe a Senn? Though I'm not a fan of their sound signature (too muddy, veiled for me) they should have adequate bass and a more filled out/rounded/warm mid range sort of like Grados but not as forward I suppose (I have the 595's and have heard the 600's so that's what I'm going off of here).

    I'm not sure of your budget either...

    I know you know of Head-Fi, but I'd really look around there for advice. There are simply many more can users there then here so you'll get a lot more info.

    And I'll agree you have a right to that opinion of course. I'll also agree that what really matters is whether your "ears" (psycho acoustics) adjust to the sound or not.

    However, empirically, this is a non issue. Unlike shoe material which DOES loosen up/break in, drivers do not. At the absolute MOST a driver is "broken in" within a few hours and it's more like a few seconds at the factory when they test the drivers. So the sound out of the box is what you get. This is not opinion but physics.

    Also, and I know this is anecdotal "evidence" and thus hardly scientific or trustworthy, but I have put down my various cans for months before picking them up again. When I do, I hear exactly what I heard the moment I first got them (although this is acoustic memory here which is of course not very quantifiable) since my ears are simply not used to their sound after not hearing them for awhile. I've been struck by the difference I hear from my cans just from not being used to/adapted to their sound from using them daily or at least weekly. This is also true for me with speakers.

    Anyway, no argument here, and I respect everyone's right to their opinion on the issue even if I don't agree or think it is not a matter of opinion in at least one important sense.

    In all likelihood it will, at least psycho acoustically IF you are listening to them and thus getting used to their sound signature while doing so. If you find you get used to their sound (psychological burn in) enough to be able to enjoy them (which you already seem to be somewhat), then great and keep them! If not, then don't hesitate to return them.

    What I was really warning against by stating that physical burn in is non existent was the clever trap many manufacturers set for their customers. That is, if/when you are dissatisfied with their product and you tell them about it, they will claim it simply needs more time to "burn in", which is usually conveniently set to last longer than the return period (or at least close to it). Many, of course, state on the site or in the packaging to allow for a certain time for "burn in" to preemptively keep you from being dissatisfied/returning the product. And many on sites such as this back up such claims as well, so if you listen to all the talk of burn in and trust it more than fact/what you are hearing, you can be stuck with a product you don't like.

    So my advice would be to not listen to your cans at all while "burning them in". Then pick them up after doing so, the later the better (i.e. wait a few days in between hearing them) and see if they sound just like you remember when you first got them (there is no physical reason why they should not). This way your psychological burn in (which will occur as you listen to them and get used to their sound and make you more tolerant of its defects) will not be mistaken for the non existent physical burn in as you have not been getting more used to the sound signature of the cans simply because you haven't been listening to them, just like how my cans sound exactly like I remember them the day I got them after I don't listen to them for awhile and my ears aren't so used to their sound. And each of them have thousands of hours of use on them, so why no change in sound? Because that is purely psychological. Humans are creatures of custom and habit as David Hume observed, so we get used to/adapt to things very easily, even things we dislike but have to do (such as a job we dislike at the start but then come to be able to stand later simply by exposure to it day after day). This perceptual ability we have easily and more reasonably explains such non existent effects as "burn in" than the claims that drivers (much less other electronics) sound somehow change with use/time when there is no empirical evidence of this (besides a very brief time perhaps).
  13. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    I had to take another peak (listen) at them today, and it really seems that sound isn't changing (so far) Maybe I just haven't given it enough time. The sound just seems to be entirely dependent on the source material I'm listening too. Trust me, psychologically I want them to sound better, but that doesn't seemt to be what my ears are telling me. Also the difference i previously noticed from my realistic to the sansui is now moot. The difference in sound was caused by the turntable/cartridge setup (440ML vs V15 Type IV) not really the receiver. When I tested the cans out with a digital (reproduceable on 2 receivers) source, the sound was indistinguishable between the two receivers, or even my laptop directly and the sansui.

    I'm reluctant to get rid of these headphones because they sound really nice sometimes. When I listened to a lossless quality file of Lifehouse - Hanging by a moment, right at the beginning (0:12) the line "starving for truth" those S's just dug into my ears and I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. I always thought that that album was fairly well recorded, but the way that sounded just made me instantly furious. I've never heard that song sound so sonically irritating on any set of speakers or headphones.

    I really don't think that their sound is changing one bit. Any changes in sound I've been able to attribute to either different source material or any components in the signal chain that colors the sound. If I was listening to vinyl all the time with the Shure V15 type IV, there wouldn't be a problem. But the overly harsh clarity on digital sources (combined with my frustration) just makes me want to punch something. Everyone (including the people at head-fi) say they're going to mellow out though ARGHHh. :sigh: Not sure if my frustration is going to hold up over "hundreds of hours" of burn-in or if I'll just send them back. Hell, I don't even know if B&H will take them back without charging me more money.

    If the sennheisers are really that muddy sounding, that doesn't sound like a particularly good option. After hearing the clarity of the ultrasones, my grados (while still warm sounding) sound like they're missing a lot of the high end clarity that I'm getting now. Nothing is good anymroe, everything is ruined. ...ok maybe not that bad, but still. There's so many choices out there, everyone has their opinion, and it is difficult, costly, and time consuming to try out anything different. I just don't know what to do.

    By the way my budget is <$200 (sorry, that's all I can afford), and what I really "want" is a pair of headphones with full bass, full, warm vocals, clear highs, and no harshness, nothing "offensive" in the sound. I also want to not have to ship gear back and forth for 3 months until I find something suitable.

    Thanks for reading and responding to my rambling nonsense about how I can't find anything I like. FML
  14. Permanent Waves

    Permanent Waves Digital Man

    Yep, again, the sound won't change with physical "burn in" for it doesn't exist, but it can change somewhat with psychological "burn in", i.e. just getting more used to the sound and it's defects (and strengths).

    That's interesting you found the amps didn't make any difference either, I would of thought perhaps they would of based ome with receivers/integrateds/headphone amps. But I wouldn't expect that to be too significant either, but still noticeable. Of course I'm still unsure about all of this myself: I could just be hearing the placebo effect between different headphone outs/headphone amps as I've said numerous times before.

    Anyway, I think what you are finding is twofold: cans are usually more colored than speakers and since they are so close to your ear can be VERY fatiguing if you don't find ones you like for at least the majority of your music and tastes. And they all (at least in the low to mid price range) have their strengths and weaknesses.

    So you will find the US to sound good with some material but harsh/bad with other material. That is because, for one thing, they are tuned to have sharp highs and powerful bass but recessed mids from your description and what I've heard about them before. Your Grados (and mine) otoh have overemphasized mid-bass and forward mids while they lack real bass and delicate/detailed treble (but their low treble does seem emphasized to me), as well as a wide sound stage.

    For my part I don't find any of my 3 cans I regularly use to sound actually bad in their coloring or with any material, but some certainly do better, much better, than others with certain material. The same for my 4 IEM's. It's hard to find a good all-rounder can, especially in the lower price brackets or for certain tastes at least.

    About Senns: yea, I'm not a fan. They have the infamous "Senn veil" which to me seriously sounds like I put some cotton in my ears before putting them on. They are muffled, rolled off, thick, muddy, slow, dark, etc. However, IF I did listen to them with more acoustic based music (classical, singer songwriter, folk, etc.), then I can see some of their appeal for they have a sort of warm natural timbre and verve (iow: very overdone low/mid bass and rolled off highs) that is good for those genres. But I only listen to that material on speakers mostly (except for recently while in bed reading...but more on that in another thread I need to make about some IEM's I got for that purpose).

    But don't just take my word for it about Senns! I'm hardly a headphone guru: I've heard less than 10 "real hi-fi" cans my whole life and only own 3 (4 if you count the Senn 595 which I don't...5 if you count the Senn 515's which I definitely don't) and it's jmo. I really like my AKG 702's but I know others dislike their "sterile/clinical" sound signature and I can understand that.

    Anyway, I really can't think of any can for under $200 that will give you all of what you want. That might actually be in the $500ish range in fact. You can get full/deep bass (your US for instance) or a warm/forward mid range (Grados) or clear highs with no harshness (the AKG 271's or my 702's which are $250ish), but I can't think of any that will truly combine all of that. Something is going to be sacrificed. But then maybe I'm totally missing something someone else knows of.

    I'm sorry about your frustration and I fully understand. It sucks to spend a good amount on something that you don't really like. I really don't know what else to recommend to you though. :sigh: Maybe go for some used "higher end" phones?

    One note about Hi-Fi: It's a great site with a lot of info, but the problem can be is that everyone seems to like/love every headphone/IEM (including some I won't even bother to listen to I dislike so much...and I'm certainly not THAT picky). There seems to be no bad cans on that site! I've actually been disappointed in a few cans/IEMs I got based somewhat on the recommendations and glowing reviews I got from there (as well as elsewhere). I've found them to be good for some material but bad for other material and either way I wasn't exactly jumping up and down about them like so many in the threads were. None were bad so far, but some are mediocre (and too much for what they do) yet they get high ratings.

    And yea, the "burn in" delusion is prominent there as it is in many audio forums. Actually, the problem really is that there aren't many like me who wish to post dissenting viewpoints about cans or the "burn in" scam for fear of offense and even censure on such forums. I can certainly understand that! So it seems that no one thinks any can is not that great/bad or that burn in doesn't exist. But they do, they just don't comment.
  15. DarkTiger892

    DarkTiger892 Member

    Final Verdict


    So in case anyone is wondering, I've had a chance to spend some more time listening to these headphones on my system at home. On my stereo at school (Realistic STA-2250/AT440ML cart), 1 click down on the treble tone control makes them takes just enough edge off the vocals, and at home driven by my Carver C-1 the sound fills in very nicely, and the harshness is brought well under control with the tone controls flat. Carver <3

    Offensive sibilance and harsh vocals are completely non-existent when listening to vinyl through my Denon DL-110 cart. Just a nice clear, rich, warm sound. I'm much happier than I was with them when I bought them, partially because they have toned down a little bit, partially because I am driving them with different equipment, and partially because I have gotten used to hearing an overall brighter sound. I'm definitely going to be keeping them. Hopefully they live a lot longer than the Grados did. I've finally got the synergy I have with my speakers now with my headphones setup. Come to think of it, probably because everything other than the amp IS my speaker setup...:scratch2:

    By the way, did I mention the vinyl sounded great? :banana: :music:
  16. Hifirob2

    Hifirob2 NEC and Klipsch rock! Subscriber

    Woo-hoo! That's great to hear.

  17. Permanent Waves

    Permanent Waves Digital Man

    I agree with this part. :D

    Either way, I'm glad you got used to their sound signature and matched them with beneficial components/source material enough to enjoy them. I had a feeling you would since you enjoyed some aspects of them right away, but then I thought maybe not since you didn't like other parts of their sound.

    I actually just went through this myself (for about 20 minutes lol) with some IEM's that I got (which I will try to actually post some impressions of soon). They are really great for some genres (classical, singer songwriter/folk rock, acoustic, jazz, etc.) and just not good at all for others imo (rock/hard rock, synth pop, metal, etc.).

    When I got them I put on Rush's Tom Sawyer right away (pretty much my first test track for any new gear) and they just didn't work as I suspected since they just aren't for that genre (low and mid bass was just so boomy and overwhelming/muddy). Then I put in some classical and singer songwriter and wow! that's why I bought them! They still do not work with Tom Sawyer and other material well imo and never will no matter how used I get to their sound, they aren't all-rounders but are great for certain genres (which is why I bought them anyway). So though I wasn't really disappointed as I specifically bought them for some genres over others, I was disappointed/surprised (and still am) at just how badly they do with some genres.

    Happy listening! :music:

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