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NorCal Regional, August 25th, 2007 - Impressions - Page 2

post #16 of 166
A huge thank you to the Head-Fiers that brought their rigs and importantly ASR and the trade members--a truly excellent meet!

Here are some pics, impressions to follow...













post #17 of 166
does anyone know what model is the stax headphone on justin table? man that thing was punchy powerful.
post #18 of 166
what a meet! Hats off to asr for organizing a "local" meet with an impressive line-up of of gear and great headfi-ers! As ironbut wrote a couple of posts above, Steve if you came up short please let us know... that's what paypal is for!

As much as I admired the EMM/Zanden/K1000 rig, the highlight of the meet for me was ironbut tape setup. I plugged in my K701 into the mighty Zana Deux with the intention of doing some critical listening and instead spent 20' enjoying some great music, hypnotized by the spinning reels. ironbut told me I looked happy, and that's exactly how I felt

Coming back to earth, I was impressed by mikeymad cryo-ed Oppo. Connected to his Stax rig it compared very well to bazile CI VDA2/VAC1. Speaking of which, it was very nice of bazile to let me hijack his Channel Islands DAC and headamp combo for a little shoot-out with my Opera. I was really impressed by the DAC: like the Meier it is very musical, but it does a much better job at creating air,volume around the instruments.

Moving to headphones, I think I was the first to try the UM-3 that Westone sent to wakeride for this meeting. I compared them briefly to my E500. In short both are great phones. The UM-3 has better tonal balance, while the e500 are more "fun". Kind of an AKG/Grado difference.

Oh yeah, Grados. I decided it was time to me to give them a serious try, so I listened to quite a few of them all the way up to the GS1000. The MS2(i?) were the ones I liked best for the money. Sure they are bright, but they are very refined and a great match for the classical music tracks I was trying them with. In many way they reminded me of the Beier DT880, but with an added sweetness that really paid off when listening to female voices. If anyone has a spare MS-2, PM me: I want to buy one!
post #19 of 166
Only a few photo's here, but can you say mmmmmmmm...

AMB Handiwork


SDS Exotica


post #20 of 166
To echo foo_me, it's another great meet for the record book. ASR did a great job keeping up with everyone/thing (save perhaps that little raffle snafu ) and the membership certainly did not disappoint by hauling in a massive collection of goodies. I ended up doing a lot more talking than listening, but when so many great folks are around, it's hard not to.

The new Headamp "Pico" DAC/amp was the item of most interest to me, since learning that Justin had managed to cram an upsampling DAC with a flagship D/A chip and USB to I2S all into a pocket-sized amp. Given what he has done in the past, I expected it to sound good, yet I was still surprised when a couple of tiny boards pumped headphones full of great sound in a manner consistent with (if not better than) my much larger Apogee Mini-DAC. The bass control was much better than I expected from a portable amp, and the DAC was quite impressive with a detailed, yet smooth and unfatiguing sound. I can't wait to hear some more from this little wonder. Thanks to AMB we were able to do some comparative RMAA testing of the Pico and Mini-DAC, and found the Pico performed significantly better in nearly every measurement.

Another goal of mine was to get a good listen to a well-burned-in Edition 9 (thanks Lawrence!). As compared to some not-as-well burned in examples I've heard in the past, some minor roughness to the high end was cleared up resulting in a smooth sound. Also, the bass seemed a bit more present and forceful than I'd previously heard. The Ed9 certainly has MORE bass than the L3000, which by comparison sounds rather balanced. I agree with blessingx that the Ed9 is a bit more of a genre-specific headphone; it really didn't sound natural enough playing orchestral music for me. But it certainly can be a ton of fun for electronica, and rock as well (though I still prefer the L3000 there). Considering the current availability of the L3000 and PS1, the Ed9 is certainly the bass king of the market at the moment.

To echo a few others, foo_me's modded K1000/Zanden/EMM Labs rig is certainly the best I've heard the K1000. I think the screen mod is pretty significant as I've never heard the K1000 sound as effortless or smooth as it did there (but still very very detailed). I can't say it surprises me, considering that the screen material of the K1000 never looked as if it would be very acoustically transparent.

A switchbox comparison of the Transporter and Squeezebox (analog outputs) as well as a Lavry DA10 was interesting. The differences were less significant that one might have expected, but I wonder how much potential difference was um.......covered up by the HD650 and Aria? At any rate, it did make the Squeezebox look like quite a competant analog source for a mid-level system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by manhattanproj View Post
does anyone know what model is the stax headphone on justin table? man that thing was punchy powerful.
The only Stax I ever saw on his table was the Omega II, which does have quite the bass for a 'stat.
post #21 of 166
I had a great time at the meet, as well. I was able to see some old friends like robm, rhythmdevils and asr (who did a great job of organizing). I also got to meet some new people, and put faces to some names that I’ve seen around on the boards.

RSA Apache:

I heard this amp using the Ayre CX7e and it was a completely underwhelming experience. This was the first thing I listened to and I spent over 30 minutes on it. It simply did not engage me in any way shape or form when I was using my 580s and listening to some CDs I had brought with me. The sound was extremely dull and devoid of dynamics, especially with Eric Clapton Unplugged and the Eagle’s Hell Freezes Over albums. The mini cubed performance edition running out of kramer5150’s Sony PCDP was just a much more engaging experience with superior imaging, impact, soundstage and dynamics. I also feel that the Eddie Current Redtop and Zana Deux were much better performers in this regard over the Apache.

Eddie Current Redtop:

I was able to go into the K1000 room to listen to this amp on Craig’s JVC CDP with his Moth DAC. It was a very very good sounding amp with articulate bass, and imaging. It is definitely a contender at it’s pricepoint (~$600). As I said, above it definitely contends with the big boys. I also was able to have a brief chat with the man himself and he shares a definite enthusiasm for his work.

Headamp Pico:

This is definitely a winner. I listened to this out of Justin’s Mac Laptop and the sound was really nice. Very articulate and definitely comparable to some of the bigger set ups out there. The preciseness and imaging were phenomenal for something so small. I definitely will be looking to see how this progresses. This was something that seemed to attract a lot of attention and I’m glad I know why.

Xin Reference:

This was also a really good sounding amp. The soundstage was definitely much larger than what I’ve heard in the past from portables and from some home amps. Listening to kramer’s PCDP, my 580s with one of my favorites Eric Claton Unplugged, it was definitely a very bouncy combination with a good midrange and really nice imaging. Not yet sure I believe the hype of this amp, but it is definitely something to consider. If only the wait wasn’t so long…..

Amb Labs mini cubed:

This amp is a definite star. The soundstage was large, the imaging was precise, vocals were crisp and articulate with the bass being done really well. I had a great time listening to this amp using my headphones of choice and my music of choice. I was really surprised as this amp went toe to toe with some heavy weights. I thought I was done with portables, but this amp has me thinking twice as I feel it can definitely compete with other offerings and would definitely have a place in my system. As I told Ti at the meet, I also feel that the battery saver and performance editions do give off somewhat of a misleading vibe as I do feel that on performance alone that there are some who would easily prefer the battery saver version’s presentation.

Zana Deux:

I listened to this on the reel to reel system and it was very nice sounding. The resolution was fantastic with this set up. I did feel however that it was a tad bright and rough. But it was very good otherwise.

L3000:

I heard this with 909’s Reimyo and Moth 2a3. I felt it was overly lush and warm to a syrupy slow consistency. I can definitely see why some would like the combination, but it was definitely not suitable for my tastes. I also realized that the wingtip’s and my head do not have good synergy.

GS1000:

I heard this using amb’s mini cubed and it was bright. When I started cfranking up the volume, even before I hit what I feel is my normal listening volume, it was too bright for me.
post #22 of 166
Some very nice gear! My wallet is in hiding.
post #23 of 166
Quote:
Originally Posted by PFKMan23 View Post

Amb Labs mini cubed:

This amp is a definite star. The soundstage was large, the imaging was precise, vocals were crisp and articulate with the bass being done really well. I had a great time listening to this amp using my headphones of choice and my music of choice. I was really surprised as this amp went toe to toe with some heavy weights. I thought I was done with portables, but this amp has me thinking twice as I feel it can definitely compete with other offerings and would definitely have a place in my system. As I told Ti at the meet, I also feel that the battery saver and performance editions do give off somewhat of a misleading vibe as I do feel that on performance alone that there are some who would easily prefer the battery saver version’s presentation.
SK138 is getting one of these setups as a balanced amp for his balanced HD650. This will be real nice sound.
post #24 of 166
Quote:
Originally Posted by PFKMan23 View Post
L3000:

I heard this with 909’s Reimyo and Moth 2a3. I felt it was overly lush and warm to a syrupy slow consistency.
Wow, I listened to this very setup last week, and "syrupy slow" just simply doesn't describe the wonderful combo. And I'm an AKG K1000 guy

Which reminds me...K1000 covers are coming OFF tonight!
post #25 of 166
Agree with previous posts. This was a terrific meet in all respects. Thanks to ASR and all involved in putting this together.

I was fortunate to have my system next to Ori’s who was very knowledgeable and nice. That goes for all of the vendors there. I learned a lot and realized that even they have completely different views from each other and preference is still alive and well.

K1000: I have to agree with foo_me, after hearing the K1000s in his system, I think they are the best headphone in the world to my ears, and his set up was the best K1000... no, best headphone set up that I've heard, period.- except for the reel to reel which was all about the source.

R10: I heard this out of Ray’s B52 and it was a much better sounding headphone than I heard at the last meet, but the funny thing is after Ray told me that he believed the Senn HD600 to be the best headphone ever made – I tried them back to back with the R10 and wow, they were soooo close that I’m not sure which one I preferred to be honest. $200 vs $5,000 - makes me want to hang on to my pair.

Qualias: Ray had these recabled. He said they were too bright with the old cables and after hearing them, they were still too bright and metallic sounding. I tried all positions, so that had no bearing. They sounded good, very detailed, but frankly not my taste at all.

Ed. 9s: These along with the L3000s were what I wanted to hear at the show. I was impressed with the Ed. 9s. They would seem to fit perfectly into my system since they isolated very well and had a smooth polished sound to them. I think they are on the same level of the L3000s. They didn’t quite give me the resolve or grainless sound of the HP-2s, but were very smooth with very nice and extended highs. The bass was on the L3000 level. I guess I’m not a basshead at all because the L3000s and Ed.9s seem to be a bit much, however, very tight. I think I understand what people say when they mention how the Ed.9s do everything right, but…. They seem to not have that last bit of something that the GS-1000 or other top phones have, with the caviat that the GS-1000 I realize simply needs tubes or specific amping to not sound harsh and bright. I tried them with my singlepower PPX and realize tubes are the way to go. NO harshness at all, but they need current and my PPX isn't slammed, so at least I have direction (hmm, audiofiler was right). In an average system the Ed.9s would be the better choice as they seem more polite. Overall, I preferred the GS-1000s for the "bringing music to life" quality and because it's my tastes

L3000s: These were pretty much as everyone described. They had solid bass. Frankly, I was expecting more and dare I say, still prefer my HP-2’s bass for flatness and warmth over the L3000s textured and punchiness. The midrange was smooth. The highs were not as extened as the Ed.9s, something that bothered me just a bit. The sound was tight and punchy. I heard them out of my system in the K-1000 room, and realized that these cans don’t isolate well at all. Honestly, I felt the HP-2 just had more resolve and that grainless smoothness that works for me. I also prefer the GS-1000 to both, but would feel they are all on the same level. I guess I just got a thing for the HP-2 presentation. I felt the HP-2 was a step above the ed.9 and L3000s. I could see how others would value the L3000 as top rock phones though.

The reel to reel set up: As good as foo-me’s system was, the reel to reel with any headphone was the best there and simply sublime. That source takes everything to a whole new level, even above vinyl.

I was surprised at how much I liked the AT AD2000s, very nice overall.

BTW, Oris amp for the K-1000 has huge promise. He told me he was looking into beefing up the power in order to give the K-1000s more juice, but the sound quality was every bit as good or actually better than my Aleph 3 except with dynamics. I will be interested in this amp when it comes out. Also, his X2 cables are about as good as you’re going to find, and I’ve heard a lot of what’s out there.

What I learned:

The L3000 and Ed.9 would make things hard for the a basshead to choose between, and that the Ed.9 in that repect is a superior value by far.

I still prefer my GS-1000 to the L3000s and Ed.9s and now that I can rule them out, I will look into amping the the GSs properly. The Melos sounds great but leaves the top end a bit hot.

My K-1000s need to be equinoxed with screen removed…happy with my aleph 3 till Ori releases his amp since I'm a bit short of $20K for the Zanden

Great meet!
post #26 of 166
Thanks again to ASR for arranging the meet. I had to leave early to catch James Carter at Yoshi's in Oakland, but enjoyed the time I had there. Ti had me listen to the two versions of the Mini^3 before he told me which was which, but I had built the high performance one and there was enough of a difference to pick it out. The extended runtime version sounds quite nice but a little...less extended and more polite compared to the high performance one. But I agree with PFKMan23 that there are situations (like with the GS1000) where the extended runtime version may be preferable. Speaking of the GS1000, this is my first time hearing them and I found them only slightly bright, not nearly as bad as some MS-2 phones that I also heard there.

I listened to the ASL MG Head MkIII with some Senn. 600 and it was quite instructive to which it back and forth from OTL to transformer mode. The transformer mode always sounded more veiled to me. At the same table was the Oppo AV-970 that was cyroed, and it sounded impressive, as did the Stax setup at the same table.

It's always nice to see and talk to Ray Samuels, and I was happy to meet Craig from Eddie Current. His lunchbox II sounded pretty good to me with some Senn HD600s, although I wasn't familiar with the music playing. I also briefly heard the Redtop with both the HD600s and the AKG1000. I liked the fact that it's not a huge amp, but it sounded very good.
post #27 of 166
Quote:
Originally Posted by slwiser View Post
SK138 is getting one of these setups as a balanced amp for his balanced HD650. This will be real nice sound.
Do you happen to know who is doing it for him?
post #28 of 166
Quote:
Originally Posted by PFKMan23 View Post
Do you happen to know who is doing it for him?
Sent SK138 a PM and ask. He told me but I am not sure I remember correctly.
post #29 of 166
Excellent meet, I'll post up pics when I'm not lazy.

HD650 vs. Denon D2000/5000-
My entire goal of the meet was to find a victor of the D2000/5000 and HD650's, for myself I feel that the Denons emerged victorious. What makes them great to me is that they are similar cans to the 650's, yet improve on some of the things that just didn't really work for me. They are noticeably more forward, bass is less overpowering, much less dark, and comfortable as hell. Arg.... I might just need to jump ships here.

My favorite rig by a mile was blessingx's macbook/WA6/Lavry setup, especially considering how economic a setup like that is (relatively speaking, of course :P). It looked gorgeous with everything perfectly matching and more importantly, nearly every headphone I threw at it sounded terrific. It was really a joy to pair with the the D5000's. The software he was using was very fun to play with as well. However, I may be biased in that he had Pavement and Sufjan Stevens on his rig :P.

The Pico was amazing, I was completely mystified as to how such a small DAC and amp sounded that good. I ran E9's and HD600's on it and was very very impressed like nearly everyone here. That thing was smaller than a freaking tomahawk, hats off to headamp!

I also really enjoyed the singlepowers and a lot of the higher end setups, however I try to avoid becoming too enamored in things I clearly cannot afford :P.
post #30 of 166
Fun beans. I did not do anything productive. =]

My list of favs:

Qualia: the liquid sound was nuts.
HeadAmp Pico: lots of drive and detail in that little guy.
Westone 3: very complete sounding universal, bit of a hope I get to
put my hands on one with comply or silicon tips. Those foamies just never work for me.


I listened to the Denons that are loved so much - something strikes me wrong about them. There is a bit of bloat in the bass, and upper midrange feels boosted. Nice headphone for the money though, very musical.
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