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Today's "mini meet" at Red Wine Audio - with Isabellina HPA and some nice cans!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
All,

This morning, one of my Isabellina HPA customers (headfi memeber "decur") came to visit me at Red Wine Audio. He brought his Isabellina HPA (with approx. 150 hours burn-in), along with some very nice headphones:

- Sony R10s
- Senn HD800s
- Denon D-7000s

Sources were our Macbooks, and using decur's Polestar USB cable to feed the USB input of his Isabellina HPA. We played a wide variety of music, covering rock, jazz, classical, folk, and stuff in between. Our listening meet only lasted a few hours (we both had to get back to work - it was a busy Friday!), but it was a lot of fun and we could very easily hear the differences between all three of these headphones being fed by the HPA. We would basically pick some tracks and each take turns listening to them, and then switched headphones and compared what we heard and jotted down some notes so we didn't forget our impressions.

Please note that these were just our findings using the Isabellina HPA as the dac/headphone amp with these headphones. Also, please takes this all with a grain of salt, and your findings (even with the same equipment) may vary and this it to be expected. In no way is this meant to be a formal review. These are just brief and to-the-point findings of our listening session this morning:

Sony R10s (no longer in production, hard to find on the used market, and expensive!):

- Offered the richest tone our of the three headphones. Total "tone mongers!" :-)
- Nice soundstage that we would say is on par with the HD800s, but not identical. We found that the R10's soundstage went a little deeper, while the HD800's soundstage was a little wider.
- Offered more bass than the HD800
- Best midrange of the three
- Overall, most balanced sound and sounded fantastic with pretty much everything we threw at them.

Senn HD-800s (MSRP of $1399 - in-production)

- Definitely the most transparent of the three
- They were also the most revealing. The HD800 just unravel the finest details in the recording on the macro and micro levels, and they do it with such a crystal clear quality that is most impressive!
- Offered the widest soundstage and the most "3-D" sounding of the three.
- We found the HD800s to be the most accurate overall.
- The bass was lighter than the other two, but it was very tight and accurate.
- Less warmth and "lushness" in the midrange vs. the R10s, but again, more accuracy.
- More dynamics than the R10s
- Really excelled with the jazz and classical tracks that we played

The HD800s left us wondering how they will sound with a cable change. Ken at ALO is working on a few prototypes, and if he can get the right wire that can fill in the bass a little more and add just a touch more "sweetness" to the top end, these are going to be very hard to beat! Knowing Ken, he is going to work hard at this and will do us proud!

EDIT: Ken has been hard at work (as usual) and I'm really looking forward to hearing the HD800s with this!
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/5935477-post15.html

Denon D-7000 (MSRP of $1000 and in-production)

- These by far had the "thickest," heaviest bass. At times, I found it to be too much and there was this "over-hang" of the bass. You'd hear the fundamental, but there was almost this extra reverb-quality of the bass that followed. The heavy bass kind of mixed into the midrange a bit.
- We also found the upper midrange had a bit of a boost, or peak to it - bringing a little more "forwardness" to it.
- These were tonally richer in the midrange than the HD800s, but still not quite as rich and seductive as the R10s
- There was less transparency and extension with these than the HD800s, but perhaps more than the R10s.
- The D7000s also seemed to have the smallest soundstage of the three, but it was still quite good for closed headphones
- For rock and electronica, these were more fun than the others at times. I wouldn't call them accurate headphones like the HD800s, or as balanced and seductive sounding as the R10s, but they still were impressive to listen to and I can see why some really love them (especially if you like bass that is very present!)


Wrap-up


It would have been nice if we both had more time to listen (with even more music), but these are our impressions that we walked away with today. I know decur loves his R10s the most, but he also told me that he is not looking to part with his HD800s or D7000s anytime soon. Each is its own specialized instrument to hear deep into a performance and experience it in a different way, and I can see why many have (or would like to have) a few different pairs of reference-level headphones to play with. I don't think there is one "best" headphone for everything, and there are times when our moods and tastes just want a different listening experience... just like with wine

Most importantly, it was a pleasure to meet with Decur, a happy RWA customer who happens to live less than an hour away. He mentioned that he will be posting detailed Isabellina HPA impressions soon - he is just waiting to exceed the 200+ hour mark on the burn-in time. Decur also owns an Amphora, and knows very well how the Vcaps take their time to stabilize and really show off what they are all about. But he can hear the difference that the 12V SLA battery (and silver in cotton wiring in the signal path) bring to the Isabellina HPA, and what a difference the burn-in time makes...

Thanks for your time in reading this post, and I look forward to your feedback and discussion!

Vinnie
post #2 of 12
Nice mini review. i agree with the d7000 and hd800 comments. If I could just combine the qualities of those two cans into one, I think I would have my perfect can.
post #3 of 12
All I am going to say is being a college student with no money, (not much anyways) sucks a lot. Though a Amphora is in the future.

Kevin
post #4 of 12
I agree with everything above about these headphones (with a variety of amps including the Amphora). You really should hear a pair of Lawton Audio modded D7000, aka LA7000. Most of the faults with the D7000 are gone, and while they are not as good as an R10 they get much closer than you'd think possible based on their stock sound.
post #5 of 12
Really nice write-ups.
Sure sounds like the Isabellina HPA is a nice match for those three headphones. Meaning you have hit the spot once again...
post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinnie R. View Post
All,

This morning, one of my Isabellina HPA customers (headfi memeber "decur") came to visit me at Red Wine Audio. He brought his Isabellina HPA (with approx. 150 hours burn-in), along with some very nice headphones:

- Sony R10s
- Senn HD800s
- Denon D-7000s

Sources were our Macbooks, and using decur's Polestar USB cable to feed the USB input of his Isabellina HPA. We played a wide variety of music, covering rock, jazz, classical, folk, and stuff in between. Our listening meet only lasted a few hours (we both had to get back to work - it was a busy Friday!), but it was a lot of fun and we could very easily hear the differences between all three of these headphones being fed by the HPA. We would basically pick some tracks and each take turns listening to them, and then switched headphones and compared what we heard and jotted down some notes so we didn't forget our impressions.

Please note that these were just our findings using the Isabellina HPA as the dac/headphone amp with these headphones. Also, please takes this all with a grain of salt, and your findings (even with the same equipment) may vary and this it to be expected. In no way is this meant to be a formal review. These are just brief and to-the-point findings of our listening session this morning:

Sony R10s (no longer in production, hard to find on the used market, and expensive!):

- Offered the richest tone our of the three headphones. Total "tone mongers!" :-)
- Nice soundstage that we would say is on par with the HD800s, but not identical. We found that the R10's soundstage went a little deeper, while the HD800's soundstage was a little wider.
- Offered more bass than the HD800
- Best midrange of the three
- Overall, most balanced sound and sounded fantastic with pretty much everything we threw at them.

Senn HD-800s (MSRP of $1399 - in-production)

- Definitely the most transparent of the three
- They were also the most revealing. The HD800 just unravel the finest details in the recording on the macro and micro levels, and they do it with such a crystal clear quality that is most impressive!
- Offered the widest soundstage and the most "3-D" sounding of the three.
- We found the HD800s to be the most accurate overall.
- The bass was lighter than the other two, but it was very tight and accurate.
- Less warmth and "lushness" in the midrange vs. the R10s, but again, more accuracy.
- More dynamics than the R10s
- Really excelled with the jazz and classical tracks that we played

The HD800s left us wondering how they will sound with a cable change. Ken at ALO is working on a few prototypes, and if he can get the right wire that can fill in the bass a little more and add just a touch more "sweetness" to the top end, these are going to be very hard to beat! Knowing Ken, he is going to work hard at this and will do us proud!


Denon D-7000 (MSRP of $1000 and in-production)

- These by far had the "thickest," heaviest bass. At times, I found it to be too much and there was this "over-hang" of the bass. You'd hear the fundamental, but there was almost this extra reverb-quality of the bass that followed. The heavy bass kind of mixed into the midrange a bit.
- We also found the upper midrange had a bit of a boost, or peak to it - bringing a little more "forwardness" to it.
- These were tonally richer in the midrange than the HD800s, but still not quite as rich and seductive as the R10s
- There was less transparency and extension with these than the HD800s, but perhaps more than the R10s.
- The D7000s also seemed to have the smallest soundstage of the three, but it was still quite good for closed headphones
- For rock and electronica, these were more fun than the others at times. I wouldn't call them accurate headphones like the HD800s, or as balanced and seductive sounding as the R10s, but they still were impressive to listen to and I can see why some really love them (especially if you like bass that is very present!)


Wrap-up


It would have been nice if we both had more time to listen (with even more music), but these are our impressions that we walked away with today. I know decur loves his R10s the most, but he also told me that he is not looking to part with his HD800s or D7000s anytime soon. Each is its own specialized instrument to hear deep into a performance and experience it in a different way, and I can see why many have (or would like to have) a few different pairs of reference-level headphones to play with. I don't think there is one "best" headphone for everything, and there are times when our moods and tastes just want a different listening experience... just like with wine

Most importantly, it was a pleasure to meet with Decur, a happy RWA customer who happens to live less than an hour away. He mentioned that he will be posting detailed Isabellina HPA impressions soon - he is just waiting to exceed the 200+ hour mark on the burn-in time. Decur also owns an Amphora, and knows very well how the Vcaps take their time to stabilize and really show off what they are all about. But he can hear the difference that the 12V SLA battery (and silver in cotton wiring in the signal path) bring to the Isabellina HPA, and what a difference the burn-in time makes...

Thanks for your time in reading this post, and I look forward to your feedback and discussion!

Vinnie
yesterday was pure joy,like vinnie i only wish we had more time in our listening session.unlike all head-fi meets ,vinnie turned off the a/c unit in his building,and we were in "dead silence". this was key for the senns hd-800,as these phones need a quiet environment.
the r10,d7000(un-modded) hd-800 and hd-650(not present) are my favorite
phones. my new isabelina hpa is a great match for all 4 of my favorite phones,and i look forward to reviewing it,once the internal v-caps inside have more time on them! "burn in"
during the meet,vinnie asked me if i plan on keeping the hd-800s?
the fact is,the 800s both thrill and frustrates me!
ok the thrill
on extremely well recorded material,the hd-800 is right there with my r10s,and bests it with a "wider"soundstage" more transparency and a little more 3d! for this,the hd-800s are keepers,and like my denon d7000,they are very very comfortable,that just vanish on my head! making my listening more enjoyable with maximum comfort!
ok the bad!
on average or poorly recorded material,the 800s can sound thin and bright!
im hoping a great quality copper cable will do the trick for these phones!
and make them as balanced throughtout the spectrum of good and bad recordings and genre as my other favorite phones.
i look forward to reviewing a copper based cable ken (alo) is working on.
also,looking forward to do a review on my new hpa amp from vinnie!
yesterday was a blast
great spending time with you vinnie!
post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphoneAddict View Post
... and while they are not as good as an R10 they get much closer than you'd think possible based on their stock sound.
Sorry Larry but IMO the modded Denon sound better than the R10! I know many will disagree but so I hear.

Decur and Vinnie, good point on turning the HVAC off. We tend to forget how loud they are until you do not hear them. BTW my Isabellina HPA has about 175 hours of burn-in and it is maturing nicely, the funny thing is that it has an incredible synergy w/ my re-cabled Ultrasone HFI-780. Did not see that coming!

Vinnie, I have a request that I will be sending you via PM. I know it will be a lot to ask but I hope you can accommodate it. Thanks in advance.
post #8 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrarroyo View Post
Sorry Larry but IMO the modded Denon sound better than the R10! I know many will disagree but so I hear.

Decur and Vinnie, good point on turning the HVAC off. We tend to forget how loud they are until you do not hear them. BTW my Isabellina HPA has about 175 hours of burn-in and it is maturing nicely, the funny thing is that it has an incredible synergy w/ my re-cabled Ultrasone HFI-780. Did not see that coming!

Vinnie, I have a request that I will be sending you via PM. I know it will be a lot to ask but I hope you can accommodate it. Thanks in advance.
Ray Samuels, I and Blutarsky spent some time comparing them at the Colorado meet 3 weeks ago. That's where I get my opinion - see the meet impressions linked in my signature and feel free to ask questions.

And, if you recall I used to say that my recabled/modded HFI780 sounded very similar to my Edition 9, and I've posted before that the Amphora (same amp section) is flat out the BEST amp I've ever used with the Edition 9. I only discovered that after I had already agreed to sell my Edition 9 to help fund my Eddie Current ZDT.
post #9 of 12
Larry I do not doubt that some prefer the R10. One of the R10's I used was Vicki's (Boomana) and IMO the Denon sounded better.

I am currently listening to an APureSound V3 re-cabled AKG K501 and it also sounds very good out of the Isabellina HPA, the volume is at the highest I have needed. Up to 10:30 o'clock but on average 10 o'clock, normally I do not go past 9 o'clock w/ the rest of my cans.
post #10 of 12
Vinnie and Decur,

Thanks for post guys!

I spent the weekend doing some more HD800 cables and have to agree with your assessments regarding the HD800. I prefer the copper cables I am making for the HD800s. In fact it’s kind of a home run actually! I did some critical listening and found;

The stock cable comparably - Was horribly thin and boring, had a deep lack of bass and rather tinny. Of course I was really pleased when going back and fourth between the cables. Its pretty much what you would expect from a 36awg gauge headphone cable. I have no idea what the engineers were thinking? I am sure there is some theoretical reason for them to decide on this stock cable. I mean I am sure it sounds good compared to some other off the shelf stock cables. Moreover I think the comparatively enormous ALO cable is really not going to be for everyone due to its sheer hugeness. But if you want to very best sounding cable for your HD800, this is it. I hardly ever make smart a&& statements about the stuff I make but these are just too yummy to sit on my hands.

The SXC Cryo (silver plated copper) was fully warm enough as its not solid silver but I did find it to be faster than the OCC copper version I am making see below. So to me I rather prefer the OCC copper myself, it is a very good match for the HD800 - your preference might like the SXC though, but for me the 100% OCC copper was the choice.

The ALO 100% OCC copper, did a good job taming the really high highs in my assessment everything was nice and full. What really floored me about the 2 cables was how wide and deep the sound stage was vs. the stock cable.

Ok enough rambling!

Tada..! the final version.



Ken
post #11 of 12
I just got HD800s and I feel dirty listening to the stock cable. As soon as my custom wire comes in next week they're getting el recablo. I agree with everything the review says about the HD800, they are the soundstage and detail kings but they're always going to lack that special something that people say R10s have. I would agree that the HD800s are so true to the source that lots of music is unlistenable, and it may take a new cable to tame that but it's hard to say. You really need very specific music and the music being 1400k wav (ideally played through Amarra) to enjoy it optimally.
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by KB View Post
Vinnie and Decur,

Thanks for post guys!

I spent the weekend doing some more HD800 cables and have to agree with your assessments regarding the HD800. I prefer the copper cables I am making for the HD800s. In fact it’s kind of a home run actually! I did some critical listening and found;

The stock cable comparably - Was horribly thin and boring, had a deep lack of bass and rather tinny. Of course I was really pleased when going back and fourth between the cables. Its pretty much what you would expect from a 36awg gauge headphone cable. I have no idea what the engineers were thinking? I am sure there is some theoretical reason for them to decide on this stock cable. I mean I am sure it sounds good compared to some other off the shelf stock cables. Moreover I think the comparatively enormous ALO cable is really not going to be for everyone due to its sheer hugeness. But if you want to very best sounding cable for your HD800, this is it. I hardly ever make smart a&& statements about the stuff I make but these are just too yummy to sit on my hands.

The SXC Cryo (silver plated copper) was fully warm enough as its not solid silver but I did find it to be faster than the OCC copper version I am making see below. So to me I rather prefer the OCC copper myself, it is a very good match for the HD800 - your preference might like the SXC though, but for me the 100% OCC copper was the choice.

The ALO 100% OCC copper, did a good job taming the really high highs in my assessment everything was nice and full. What really floored me about the 2 cables was how wide and deep the sound stage was vs. the stock cable.

Ok enough rambling!

Tada..! the final version.



Ken
Hi Ken,

We are VERY much looking forward to listening to this one!

Thanks,

Vinnie
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