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Worst "high-end" equipment you've heard  

post #1 of 435
Thread Starter 
I admit n_maher's post in the RWA Signature 30.2 thread was my incentive for starting this thread.

I'll start with one contribution: dCS P8i CD/SACD player.

In a general sense, yeah this CDP was ok, I guess. But for a machine that cost $14K when it was production, it sounded pretty terrible - I mean we're talking $14K here! It should sound freakin' amazing!

I gave this machine a really good chance and the benefit of the doubt with two different pairs of XLR interconnects (Analysis Plus Silver Oval & VH Audio Symmetry) on a 4-channel balanced Beta 22 with the AKG K701, Audio-Technica W5000 & AD2000, and Grado HP1000. But even with all the nice supporting equipment, and four different filter settings (along with optional upsampling), I never got a sound from the P8i that I thought was good. It was downright unacceptable for $14K.

I'm sure I'll eventually audition the current-production dCS players, but the P8i turned me off to dCS, big-time.

Oh and the fact that dCS makes this model near-impossible to take apart further soured it for me.

I would like to say to dCS: you've got to be kidding me. I thought the Ring DAC would be great-sounding but it was a major let-down.
post #2 of 435
Meridian G08. To me there's nothing high end about this player except arguably its price. Shoddy components, switching power supply... the only secret to its sound is its over zealous DSP. It isn't resolving at all nor does it perform well in the other areas of sound.

All you get from it is music run through the happy/warm/saccharine software filter. It sounds cute, but past the superficial cuteness there is nothing.
post #3 of 435
Ditto on the G08, a truly awful CDP that does nothing well.
post #4 of 435
Acoustat 2+2
post #5 of 435
G08: shocking how much it differs from the 508.24, on of my favorite players.
Apache: Paired with a slow and thick source and it may sound good, eg:G08
Predator: How is there so much praise of the amp section? The SR71 is much better.
Edition 9(Not as bad as I anticipated, but still mediocre nonetheless.)

I actually like the R10 for classical. I love the SA5000 for electronic and after hearing the Qualia, I want one too.
post #6 of 435
This could be a long list

Meridian G08 - slow, boring, lacking in dynamics, everything played through it has the same glossed over signature
AKG K701 - sterile and lifeless, they are also way off the mark tonally
Audio Technica W5000 - hollow sounding and a nearly non-existant midrange
Sony R10 - artificial soundstage, lacking bass and an at times overly aggressive treble
Sony SA5000 - these are so uninvolving and bright it's almost impressive
Sony Qualia - these do have some strengths, sound staging and detail being the main ones but don't sound natural at all. instrument attack and decay is way too fast and tonality is almost completely wrong
Ray Samuels Raptor - can't drive low impedance phones at all, every time i've heard a grado or low imp AT out of the raptor they always have a muddy sounding midbass/bass and totally lack extension
Ray Samuels HR2 - highly colored, gives everything an overly rich tonality
Ray Samuels Tomahawk - phones sound better straight out of an ipod compared to this thing
Ray Samuels Predator - pretty awful as a dac, veiled, and no extension at all
Grado GS1000 - these are possibly the brightest headphones ever made and have about as much midrange as the dt770s do

Do we want to include speakers in this thread as well? My list gets even longer then .
post #7 of 435
Wilson Speakers.
Expensive, extremely well made, technically do everything right, but are boring & lifeless.
I listened to the 45K pair (Maxx?) and was completely unimpressed. Heard the Watt/Puppies a couple times at different places and had the same reaction. The Sophia was probably best of the line but still not that great for 12K.
They don't do a thing for me.

As for headphones, the GS1000.
Wispy, distant, lightweight. Heard them twice and didn't get them at all.
post #8 of 435
Worst value maybe, but bad components regardless of the price shouldn't be considered "High End" because (for me) High End is specifically SQ related not price dependent.

Any Horn speaker. To me they always sound like horns, not music. Play big band music on a set of Avantgarde's and it's mighty impressive, they do horns well, but play a solo cello or violin and they sound nothing like it does in real life.

Creek Integrated amps - I used to work at a dealer that sold these and if it wasn't for Sam Telligs numerous raves of them no-one would buy them. In side by side comparisons the half as expensive Rotel always smoked them. Literally the only people who purchased them were the people who came to buy them and did no comparisons.
post #9 of 435
Ultrasone Edition 9

For a flagship $1,800 headphone I expected a lot more.

[edit]more info at johnny blossom's request - these cans were hopelessly colored sounding to my ears, skewed so far to the bottom end that I simply could not enjoy the rest of their presentation (good or bad). At the time I was auditioning them I had them side by side with a pair of HE60s (similar ballpark price) both fed from a very nice Opus 21 CD player and amped properly. The E9 driven by a Rudi RPX33 IIRC and the HE60s were driven by a Stax trafo box.
post #10 of 435
How could I forget the Ultrasone Edition 9, easily one of the worst headphones ever made, and absolutely abysmal at their asking price. Overly bassy, extremely colored midrange and surprise surprise another headphone that gets tonality completely wrong.
post #11 of 435
Ah, yeah I've only been thinking about sources lately.

Apache/B-52 - Similar to the G08 RSA to me have a very fun sound that is easy to listen to, but again they aren't very resolving and all have that signature RSA sound signature just more so in the higher priced cases. And that's fine. If the maker has a vision then he should execute that vision. I don't dispute the sound that comes out is fun, lush and warm, but I look for transparency in what I consider the high end. And you know? I just recently realized that what transparency reveals isn't necessarily harsh/analytical/cold/lifeless/boring. Until recently I was afraid that if I had a highly resolving/transparent system I would be able to objectively tell such, but it would not be fun to listen to... But if I had thought things out a little more I would have realized that was a silly thing to think. There is a reason that musicians get record deals and that's thanks to their ability to play music well and that implies not only a certain level of technical prowess but also their abillity to convey emotion. So if I can hear what's on a recording at max resolution with no coloring... why should these musicians (Some of whom I've heard live) sound harsh/analytical/cold/lifeless/boring?

I used to think the benchmark sound = transparent. Then I heard a modded 90s DAC which not only had all the detail, better imaging, better soundstage, a more black background BUT also had a fullness/tone that the Benchmark DAC did not have. It was a revelation.

Anyway, I personally am not looking for merely an enjoyable sound. I am looking for transparency and that generally involves good designs and parts that measure well and are able to pass a clean signal with low distortion. That stuff costs money thus exceptional examples encroach and enter the domain that is "High End." I cannot consider the Apache/B-52 high end no matter how polished/professional looking their chassis' are.

Edition 9s - They sound weird and don't scale. Compare that to the Qualias which I own and love and are also known to have a weird sound. The difference is the Qualias scale. The sound changes fairly drastically with what I put upstream to them. While the Edition 9s sounded pretty much the same to me driven by the meanest portable amp to balanced powerhouses. Again that implies they are kind of hamfisted with their sound signature. Also I'm not partial to their weirdness. A littleee too much focus on the bass and the whole S-Logic thing (I assume that's what's making everything that goes through these headphones sound reallyyyy weird in all areas) I don't get.

Darth Beyers - Price-wise these headphones certainly begin to encroach where people seem to vaguely draw the line between mid/high end. These definitely can be high end in looks. But sound-wise? I wish all sonic flaws in gear could be solved with shaped/polished wood and a recable. I don't even think it can be definitively said that Darth Beyers are an improvement from regular Beyers which decidedly are not in the high end by anyone's measure unless your only yardstick of quality is quantity of bass.
post #12 of 435
one suggestion in this thread is maybe just not listing the item you found lacking but supporting it with what was lacking like Yikes did.

There were a few items that over time I found to be dissapointing in the 'high end' arena. I often then thought they were not high end at all just high priced.

Meridian G08, thick sound with less defininition then players at hald the price. Typically when you have lack of focus that might be traded for a midrange musicality unfortunately this was not the case. All around fail in my opinion that sells to this day on the manufactures name cache. This player is obliterated by the Ayre cx7e and exemplar 2900/3910 players.

VPI scout and scoutmasters, lifeless and thick and plodding signature that just astonishes me given their popularity. They need to be matched with bright carts to offset the thick overtones that table exhibits. 70s/80s direct drive high end consumer tables eat the scout for lunch and are on par of better than the scoutmaster for pennies on the dollar. The aries tables I have heard do seem to be better for some reason not sure why as they share many of the same design characteristics but they are better.

AKG 701 I will never understand this headphone as IMHO it is the official headphones of androids as it is sterile and lifeless. If you want to bored into submission buy this headphone. One caveat is I am a jazz and rock listener and the 701 may play well in the classical genre I'll never know.

Many newer dacs that are highly touted here and elsewhere, benchmark, lavry... these have a treble glare and haze that makes them tough to listen to after about an hour. Give me a good 10-15 year old dac with a well made output stage over these modern marvels anyday.

At the end of the day it is imperitive that the listener make up their own mind on what their sonic objectives are and align their purchases with those objectives. DO NOT blindly follow reviews particularly from magazines as they have an adgenda. Professional reviewers at times are better writers than listeners and are hired for thier writting skills as much or more than their audio listening prowess. One thing I found helpfull was to go to meets and get an idea of the sound I liked and seek out headfi members that aligned with my preferences this provided a better guage for on target purchases more than hyperbole in magazines, I still read the mags but more to keep up on whats out there.
post #13 of 435
Originally Posted by jp11801 View Post
VPI scout and scoutmasters, lifeless and thick and plodding signature that just astonishes me given their popularity. They need to be matched with bright carts to offset the thick overtones that table exhibits. 70s/80s direct drive high end consumer tables eat the scout for lunch and are on par of better than the scoutmaster for pennies on the dollar. The aries tables I have heard do seem to be better for some reason not sure why as they share many of the same design characteristics but they are better.
Owned both.
I agree with you, but I wouldn't call them thick or plodding. Dry & lifeless maybe...
My problem with them was I could never get a solid image from either one, it was always vague & wandering.

My LP12 is so much better & fun to listen to (with the same cart & phono stage!)
post #14 of 435
Sony R10... pos won't even plug into my ipod.
post #15 of 435
I don't accept the premise of the question. So there.
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