I would look for a Focal headphone in you price range and look to Schiit for a DAC. Focal are really efficient and well balanced and Schiit is great budget gear. I have several pieces of both. You can see my primary headphone system under my user ID.
Sennheiser tend to be a bit more trebly and less full bass unless you can provide enormous power to them. I swap my Focal Utopia and Sennheiser HD800s all the time. I used to listen to my Focal much more than my Sennheiser until I got my big Woo 300B amp (~$7K)… finally the Sennheiser have perfect tonal balance and airy er… but the Focal still have better bass.
@ghdprentice Since you mentioned the HD800’s I’ll jump in and tell you about how I run mine.
I got a custom wired Cardas clear to a pair of XLR females so I can plug them directly into my Atma-sphere pre amp since Ralph stated it can drive headphones well. I’ve never had a dedicated headphone amp to compare, but I’m pretty happy with the results. I have done the felt/foam ring mod, and have removed the dust covers, all to good effect.
With your budget, I'd give the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX a look. I have about a dozen headphones including a few costing 10 times as much or more and they are the ones I reach for the most. They aren't "audiophile" headphones, in the sense that there are others that have more detail or punchier bass, or are better in other ways, but they are really easy to listen to, just a tad on the "warm" side, and super comfortable and relatively easy to drive. They are basically a rebranded HD 650 which retail for around $500-$600 if memory serves me correctly.
That leaves you with enough money for a decent DAC. A Schiit Bifrost and the HD 6XX should leave you with some money in your pocket and provide lots of enjoyment.
An HD 600 / 650 would be a great choice. I've owned the HD 800 and it doesn't sound as natural through the midrange and treble as the 600 / 650. The only weakness is that bass frequencies < ~50 Hz aren't as well represented. This is a trait shared by all open backed headphones, though.
For a closed back headphone, I recommend the AKG K371. Very similar in midrange and treble to the HD 650, but with more complete bass response.
Can’t beat the Akg closed back but open sounding k550’s excellent headphones, although you would have to settle for mk2 version. Shure makes two nice options in the closed back 1540’s and open back 1840’s. Also, now discontinued Audioquest nighthawk and nightowls. AQ got out of the headphone business, but these two were highly regarded headphones. As for an Amp to drive them, I like the Graham Slee Novo or the solo. I’ve had those aforementioned AKG k550’s for years now, they are my go to headphone, comfortable and non fatiguing sound, with plenty of detail and sound like an open back, but no sound leakage whatsoever. I own the Graham slee novo headphone Amp and it drives just about anything. Not sure why people always mention a dac to go with headphones, as the dac I use, the Border Patrol dac, is used within the system for cd playback, connected to a Cyrus cdt. Unless you are just doing a desktop dedicated headphone only set up, then I guess you would need a dac, idk. When I need to listen to headphones, I use the Novo, as I can play all sources through it, as it is a daisy chain style Amp. It is unique In this respect. I can listen to my cd’s, turntable, cassettes, fm tuner, and streamed music through my Novo, all I have to do is change the source selector on my integrated amp.
I use a Synthesis 41DC+ integrated tube amp (ECL82/6BM8 in a Single Ended 2W class A), source is USB from a PC usually running Tidal using CD Lossless quality. My headphones are the Audeze LCD-2. I am very happy with this arrangement. It's clear and huge, and has a ton of bass for the clarity. I also run low capacitance litz cables and an IsoTek Evo 3 power conditioner.
@youngerd This is not yet released widely (next month) but the $2K RAAL CA-1a will likely be incredible on your gear. I am using it on a $500 Schitt Jotunheim R and it is rather good. On my $7K RAAL VM-1a (tube headphone amp for ONLY the RAAL SR1a and CA-1a) we are approaching the best of the best in headphones and maybe even 2-channel. In 6 months or so, you may be able to get a used one for $1000. It is not a pretty headphone.
There is an $500 interface box that allows any headphone amp to play the CA-1a or SR1a. I never tried it. So, your tube amp should sound good. I use a Benchmark DAC3B ($1700) and a Topping D90LE DAC ($719) and they are amazing with either of my amps.
I have a 'better' DAC, Musetec 005, but I have not given it much of a spin yet on the headphones since the cheaper DACs are really working for me.
I am listening to the CA-1a and VM-1a in PENTODE mode and I think it will be a long night of hard rock.