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Initial impressions of Cosmic amp and Senn 600

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
I didn't know exactly where to put this because it discusses both headphones and headphone amps.

I received my order from Headroom yesterday and today had my first audition of the Cosmic and the Sennheiser 600. I can't believe that I haven't listened more to headphones! It's a unique and enthralling experience. When listening to Susan Graham sing "Le Roi de Thule" from Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, I for the first time in my life had the sense that she and the orchestra were playing in a concert hall for me alone. It was a magical moment.

I compared the Senns with my Grado 125 by listening to "Melodien" on the new Gyorgy Ligeti disc on Teldec (a chamber orchestra piece with solo and small ensemble moments throughout).

Equipment is: the Cosmic amp, Musical Fidelity A220 integrated amp, and Arcam Alpha 5 cdp. Here are my initial (very subjective) impressions.

To listen to the Grados I had the amp turned to between 9:00 and 10:00. To listen to the Senns at an equivalent volume I turned it to 1:00. Comparing the Senn 600 and Grado 125 I was at first disappointed by the Senn's lack of presence. It seemed to miss much of the dynamism (oomph) of the music -- in part I attributed this to a loss of lows. The Grados filled my whole head with sound, whereas the Senns kept the music at a slight distance.

I soon discovered, however, that what I heard as a loss of presence in the Senns was more likely a loss of color. Whereas the Grados coat the various instruments with a smooth, uniform bath of color or darkness the Senns etch out a silence between the instruments. This makes the instruments sound much more distinct and more visually placed on the stage. The Grados tend to substitute clarity for more dynamic power -- this makes instrumental attacks more exciting but separate, overlapping instrumental sounds seem to get lost and it's easier to lose track of individual instrument lines with the Grados.

The Senns are very laid back (perhaps too much, given the loss of instrumental attack). They are not necessarily bright (and certainly not harsh), but I don't get a real strong sense for the lows -- they're there; they just don't draw attention to themselves.

In the end, I like the Senn's detail but I wish the sound was more snappy, less relaxed. I haven't steadily listened to the Senns for an extended period of time, so perhaps the more laid back sound will be less fatiguing in the long run. Anyone have opinions on this?

It's too early for me to make any conclusive decisions regarding my purchase. The Cosmic is the only headphone amp I've listened to and I don't have immediate access to others. There are some things in the Grados that I miss in the Senns but overall I prefer the Senn's detail.

Do people think other headphones or a different headphone amp might be worth trying given my comments? How would the MD Head compare to the Cosmic? I'd like to keep the headphone amp price below $500.

Thanks for any assistance,

Bob
post #2 of 13
I've heard in a thread that the cosmic wasn't really worth it's price... so there is a possible chance an MG Head would be a better option (especially with Sennheisers as they prefer valve rather than solid sate)... If you want portability, maybe the Grado RA-1 might be the ticket, or maybe a Corda or some DIY amp.

Strange thing is, most people who complain about the Senn's lack of energy come from listening to Grados. Did the same thing with my Beyer DT831s, however now I realize how inaccurate Grados were and I vastly prefer the DT831s... I suppose you adapt to the new headphones eventually.
post #3 of 13
Quote:
In the end, I like the Senn's detail but I wish the sound was more snappy, less relaxed.
I you want snappy, less relaxed, it seems like an upGrado may be in order.
I also purchased the Senn HD-600s awhile ago from Jan Meier and have never really gotten used to the laid back sound they possess, except when listening to classical music and I' want to go to relax. I love them with the MG head. It really opens them up, and with some tube rolling I'm able to squeeze a bit more presence out of them. But for anything else, particularly vocals and acoustic music, I reach for the Grados. I think the upper end Grados (325 and up) expand the soundstage a bit and impart a bit more fullness to the sound. They retain the punchy, dynamic sound that Grados are famous for. If soundstage is your primary concern, the Senns are the way to go. Otherwise........Go Grado!
post #4 of 13
The Cosmic if anything is probably on the more lively side as a SS amp, I doubt tube is going to do anything but give you more of what you don't want.

Beyer DT931 is basically more snappy and lively/forward, but I'd bet it might come off way too bright on that low impedance Cosmic. Beyers are inbetween Grado's and Senns in terms of impact.

Senns definitely are long listening phones. Personally I don't find myself listening to phones for so long that would make me want Senn sound especially for the music I prefer.
post #5 of 13
While I can't comment on the new Cosmic, I can say that the old Cosmic was not as lively as my (tubed) Wheatfield HA-1 ($529 from Headroom). It sounded flat -- not in terms of frequency response, but in that it was a little dull. It was not as dynamic and was slower than the Wheatfield, and in general just didn't sound good at all compared to the Wheatfield. The new Cosmic is reportedly much better, but I haven't listened to it on a system that I know and in good listening conditions. I would suggest trying the Corda amp (although you can't return it -- that's a major problem) or maybe the Wheatfield HA-1.

By the way, the comparison between the Wheatfield and Cosmic was done using my RS-2 headphones (which are for sale, by the way -- look in the Marketplace forum).
post #6 of 13
Yep it is kinda annoying that you can't return something like the Corda...but far far more annoying to me is that I can't find anyone that wants to sell theirs!
post #7 of 13

Re: Initial impressions of Cosmic amp and Senn 600

Quote:
Originally posted by holderlin
To listen to the Grados I had the amp turned to between 9:00 and 10:00. To listen to the Senns at an equivalent volume I turned it to 1:00.
Holderlin, I listen to the Senn 600 and Grado 325 on a Headroom Max, which ought to be pretty similar to your Cosmic, in terms of gain per unit knob setting...

You're listening to your Grados about where I do (9-10 O'Clock), but I only turn the Senns up "one or two hours" (i.e., 10-12 O'Clock) for rough loudness equality. 1 O'Clock is REALLY LOUD, if the level on your source input, CD recorded level, amp output and all are comparable to mine.

You may be trying to subjectively compensate for the detailed quality of the Grados, with extra volume.

I'm just noting this; I don't know what it means in terms of increasing your listening pleasure. I do know what it would mean for me: I'd get a headache (or at least clenched teeth) from the excess volume of the Senns, and I'd interpret this as "listener fatigue", and I'd eventually abandon the Senns...

If you really care a lot about the relaxed presentation the Senns provide, which I crave with most classical music, less is more. If you value the sheer instrumental detail which the Grados give you, indispensible on dramatic and percussive orchestral sections like Bernstein's "Age of Anxiety" Symphony, then wear the Grados for that music. But the two aren't interchangable, any more than musical tastes are. That's why I cherish both phones, and both listening experiences.

When I'm going to listen to an opera, or a couple or three hours of pieces, I almost always reach for the Senns. However, your mileage may vary...
post #8 of 13
Quote:
MessierObject said...

You may be trying to subjectively compensate for the detailed quality of the Grados, with extra volume.
That's a very good point, and is something I catch myself doing every once-in-a-while. I really don't think a new amp is going to solve your problem. As a former MG Head owner, I can tell you it can't transform a Sennheiser into a Grado, and I don't know of any amp that can. Check out some other headphones, that will probably be your best bet. The Sony 3000, Beyer. 931, and Ety. 4S should be on your short list.
post #9 of 13
Keep in mind that the new cosmic (if i'm not terribly mistaken) has a hi/med/lo gain switch. Thus listening at 1 on the lo switch wouldn't be very loud at all.

so what level were you using them at?
post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 
Sorry, I should have been clearer. I bought a class b old Cosmic from Headroom (the price of $300 was irresistable). Todd said the new Cosmics won't be available for a month or so.
post #11 of 13

Re: Initial impressions of Cosmic amp and Senn 600

Quote:
Originally posted by holderlin
The Senns are very laid back (perhaps too much, given the loss of instrumental attack). They are not necessarily bright (and certainly not harsh), but I don't get a real strong sense for the lows -- they're there; they just don't draw attention to themselves.
First time I heard my hd600s, the same thoughts occured to me. Upgrading my IC to Van Den Hul D-102 III changed all that though, giving bass some added clout, and generally giving percussive instruments some extra punch. Not to mention improving the presence of vocals, especially backing vocals.
post #12 of 13

MG Amp?

Hi,

I apologize in advance for my ignorance, but what is the MG amp?
I am looking at the Corda and the Headroom Little more power. I prefer solid state stuff.

I would be grateful if someone could please comment on what they think the best of the three is?

Thanks,
post #13 of 13
The "MG amp" is referring to Antique Labs' MG Head DT (a tubed amp with questionable build quality). I would suggest that you also look into the Creek OBH-11 and Grado RA-1 solid state amps at that price range.
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