Seems like every year the urge to overinvest in audio overcomes and a long night of HeadFi trawling lead to auditions which [possibly] lead to a fulfilling (read:no buyers remorse) answer. Can only assume others are in the same boat, so being the altruistic member of the human race that I am, i’m going to save you some time.

Please note in the world of personal audio, everything is subjective and the below will be disputed by every second internet expert you meet. The goal is to be right enough to make your investment noticably value-inducing and remorse-avoiding then get on with your life, not to research until you’re sure you’ve found the definitive answer to a question that doesn’t have one.

$250 budget, purpose = competitive gaming

Sennheiser HD598 + Antlion Modmic or used Sennheiser PC360 if price:performance matters lots

  • Don’t need to be externally (amp) driven
  • Amazing soundstage / positioning
  • Some want more bass and have long-wear comfort issues

$500 budget, purpose = casual gaming, casual music/movies

Philips Fidelio X1 + Creative Sound Blaster Z

  • Z will adequately drive X1 whilst providing great positional audio support
  • X1 soundstage is large enough for game awareness
  • X1 highs/mids/lows are very fun

$800 budget, purpose = competitive gaming, accurate music/movies

K702 65th Anniversary Edition aka ‘Annies’ + Creative Sound Blaster ZxR on Windows

  • ZxR easily milks the K702’s and includes directional desk mic
  • K702’s soundstage/positioning equally as ‘unfair’ as that of HD598/PC360 but far superior for movies and music.

$500 budget, purpose = student audiophile

“i want the performance of the below but i have no money, by the way whatever you recommend must aesthetically and culturally match my litany of apple products”

Sennheiser HD600 + Schiit Magni amp + Modi DAC combo

  • Legendary price:performance cans brought to life by minimalist, efficient DAC/AMP stack
  • Both carry the same brand recognition and plug-and-playability that saw you purchase an MBA/iPhone/iPad

$2500 budget, purpose = actual audiophile

Sennheiser HD800 + Woo WA7

Finally, configuration. For testing positional audio, use RightMark. For Creative soundcards, set Windows speakers to 5.1 and X-Fi to Headphones to properly enable CMSS-3D Headphone, as per documentation.

If you’re of a mind the above is horrifically, indisputably wrong, i’d love to be corrected – @falkenmire