TOPIC DESCRIPTION As a natural continuation of the previous SBAF thread originated by me (Neutral(ish) headphones), due to a significant progress made, this topic intends to track my audiophile journey focused on neutral(ish) headphones. I hope others will find useful information here too! Copy/pasted from the other thread: "In simple terms, by 'neutral' I mean subjectively as true to the source as possible with headphones, ideally also confirmed objectively (e.g. by measurements). This, from my current understanding, in practice involves a suitable combination of frequency response, distortion characteristics, internal construction/damping and possibly other parameters too." ============================================== TOP CONTENDERS SO FAR: 1] TONALITY (frequency response neutrality): First place: Hifiman Susvara (ZMF auteur hybrid solid) Runner-up: ZMF Auteur (stock eikon) 2] TIMBRE (sound purity): First place: Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC (stock) Runner-up: Audio Zenith PMx2 rev2 (stock) NOTE: Difference between tonality and timbre is discussed in this post. Depending on your subjective preference, you might be putting more emphasis on either flat tonality or authentic timbre. (My overall sonic preferences are outlined in this post.) Headphones listed here are top performers in at least one of the categories. 1+2] PRESENTATION (overall naturalness): Honorable: Hifiman Susvara (ZMF auteur hybrid solid) Honorable: ZMF Auteur (stock eikon) Honorable: Verum Audio Verum 1 (ether angled) Honorable: Sennheiser HD650 (stock) NOTE: Headphones listed here are great enough in both categories to provide natural/versatile sound reproduction. This list is not ranked at this point. ============================================== REVIEW LIST: Audeze LCD2 Classic (vegan) Audio Zenith PMx2 rev2 (stock) Sennheiser HD650 (stock) Beyerdynamic DT880 Edition 600 Ohm (stock) Hifiman Edition X V1 (stock) Sennheiser HD600 (stock) Fostex TH7 (stock) Sennheiser HD660S (stock) Verum Audio Verum 1 (ether angled) Sony MDR-MA900 (stock) Hifiman HE-500 (stock) Koss ESP950 (stock) LFF Paradox Slant (stock) ZMF Auteur (stock eikon) Bose QuietComfort 35 II (stock) Jabra Elite 85h (stock) [bonus] Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless (EQ) Hifiman HE-6 (ZMF universe hybrid solid) Hifiman Susvara (ZMF auteur hybrid solid) DCA Stealth (stock) Audeze LCD-5 (stock) Abyss AB-1266 Phi TC (stock) ============================================== APPROACH TO THE MEASUREMENTS: REW -> Schit Fulla 2 -> MiniDSP EARS chain setup according to instructions from MiniDSP for 90dB SPL at 1kHz. Customized FR compensation curve used, combining HPN and HEQ curves from MiniDSP with some customizations. Both sides of headphones are setup identically prior final measurements (headband extension, cups angle, earpad mounting, ...). No additional adjustments to control seal (artificial pressure, ad hoc fixture, ...) are used unless clearly stated. Once optimal headphone setting is found, both channels get measured at least 5 times at different positions against MiniDSP EARS and the most visually similar graphs are selected = no averaging is used. Frequency response graphs are published with 1/12 octave smoothing for 15Hz to 15kHz range, including visual comparison with Sennheiser HD650 (stock) for those in doubt regarding my compensation curve. Other types of graphs are not published unless interesting enough from my perspective. I only find FR graphs to be truly understood enough to provide consistent value for this kind of thread. Former experience with measurements, using in-ear mics, is applied here too. I actually prefer to measure at the outer entry of my own ear canal ( = in-ear measurements) rather than near an eardrum of a dummy head (MiniDSP EARS). The use of EARS is more convenient in the long term though. MORE ON THE COMPENSATION CURVE: The primary goal is to supply a truly effective compensation curve (HCUSTOM), to achieve that straight line = perceptually neutral response. The default curves provided with MiniDSP EARS (HEQ and HPN) are utilized as much as possible across the frequency spectrum, with some adjustments. To sum up, upper mid to low treble region is adjusted since even the HEQ curve is a bit too "much" there based on my findings. Peak around 4.5kHz and resonance around 50Hz are artifacts present in some measurements due to EARS that cannot be fully avoided based on my knowledge. If in doubt, you can still rely on a visual comparison of each measured headphone with Sennheiser HD650 (stock). MORE ON UTILIZATION OF MEASUREMENTS: Do NOT look too much into subtleties as there are way too many variables involved in headphone measurements, leading to significant (multiple dB) discrepancies among measurement rigs or even measurement sessions on a single rig. The more experience you have with measurements, the more cautious you are about them. Therefore only utilize frequency response measurements as a general guideline to assess tonality. (Enough bass? Deep enough bass? Enough mid bass compared to mids? Linear lower to middle mids? Present upper mids? Too bright or peaky treble? Some significant wide-band trough located in treble? Some significant resonances visible? Is the overall response rather smooth, or ragged?) Do NOT purchase headphones solely based on a single frequency response graph. Always try to consult other measurement sources, and correlate measured data with subjective impressions posted by people. Other measurement sources I recommend to use: RAA @Hands @purr1n measurements not done by EARS / @cskippy (treble is typically a bit too rolled-off) RTINGS (bass is typically a bit too rolled-off) DIYAH (bass is typically a bit too rolled-off) All other EARS measurements compensated via default SBAF compensation curve (e.g. @purr1n , @Vtory , ...) oratory1990 (look for raw curve up to 1 kHz, compensated for the rest) crinacle (upper mids are typically a bit too present) headphones.com / Resolve (GRAS measurements - upper mids are typically a bit too present; EARS measurements - refer to my HCUSTOM vs HPN vs HEQ compensation graph for differences) ============================================== NOTE: This thread is identifying top neutral(ish) headphones for your consideration rather than providing exhausting details on every product. The reviews are therefore focused accordingly, and the vast majority of headphones on the market do not qualify to be included here.