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NorCal - SF Bay Area Feb 27 Meet Impressions  

post #1 of 83
Thread Starter 
First off -- thanks a million to Voltron for a super organizing job!!

And to the friendly Head-fi'ers who let me try their phones and amps. This was my first meet, and it accomplished my purpose admirably in just a couple hours. I'd been wondering if I could hear the difference between my phones -- not bad ones (AKG K240S and K240DF) -- and more expensive phones with audio-quality amps. Sure enough. Now I know better what I need in the way of an upgrade.

For my purposes, which is primarily monitoring orchestral arrangements that I make in notation software and play back with sampled orchestral sounds, I need detail-oriented cans that let me focus on the source. To me the AKG K701 sounded best all round, though I was only able to sample a few of the several dozen cans on hand. Listening to the clarinet solo opening of Rhapsody in Blue, the instrument sounded warm, rounded, natural with the 701s, while with my 240 pair there seemed to be some slightly unpleasant distortion.

I also tried Beyerdynamic 990s, 880s and 770s, really dramatically different in themselves. The bass presence in the 880s was overwhelming after the AKG phones. A big, warm, enveloping sound that could probably please a pleasure listener, but not at all what I'm after. Then it was a shock to hear the 770s on the same piece (a Beethoven piano concerto). Too bright, almost thin in comparison. I wouldn't have guessed it was the same manufacturer. My impression was more positive after a couple minutes' listening. I began to get the idea that it may not be fair to any of these cans to make a definitive judgment after a brief listen.

After half a year of reading curiously on this forum about the Sennheiser HD800, I could finally spend a few minutes listening to the can of cans. Unfortunately ambient noise and chatter (the Laphroig had been flowing for quite some time by late afternoon......) interfered with objective judgment, but my initial impression was that these are a very impressive instrument that would reward a lot more listening than I had time for at the end of the day. I hope next time to be able to do with the 800s what I managed to do for the better part of an hour with the two K240 models and the K701 -- switch back and forth between them while listening to the same music.

The amp aspect is a bit more daunting than headphone evaluation -- so many boutique brands to keep track of. There were probably more different amplifiers than phones on hand, scads of them. Justin's GS-1 amp which I listened through for quite a while was clean as a whistle. I didn't manage to compare it with others, unfortunately. Thanks to jdmoorman for the comparison of solid state and tube amp differences (and to the Beyer phones).

So -- when's the next meet?
post #2 of 83
Ditto. Al is awesome!

upload some pictures first:

post #3 of 83
Finally hearing HD800 and T1 side by side:

Ironbut's baby:

first time hear HE-5. Very impressed:

Linuxworks' crazy fancy DIY gears with REMOTE CONTROL!!!

Woo Audio's Electrostats Amp:

Something to behold:

The Rise of China:
post #4 of 83
Wow great attendance! I wish I was there
post #5 of 83
Looks like a great meet. I wish I was there.

I'll have to make plans to attend next time.
post #6 of 83
My stuff was pretty boring, but here's a pic anyway.

linuxworks netbook -> usb/spdif converter -> toslink "spider" ->
A. gamma 1 -> three channel b22 -> Grado SD80
B. buffalo 32S -> four channel b22 -> Senn HD650

My other pictures were more or less duplicates of ast's.

As for other folks' stuff, I really enjoyed Ti's HD800's as well as the ones plugged in next to the T1's... Voltron's I believe. It was nice to be able to A/B the T1's and the HD800's. They both sounded great, but I preferred the Senns. Not surprising I guess given I have a predisposition for Senns. Or maybe it's just that I'm used to my HD650's. Oh well, not really relevant given I think I would ever be able to talk myself into $1400 cans. Then again... now that I've tasted the good life, my HD650's seem kinda muddy in comparison. The analogy I used in talking with Ti was like paying $30 for mezzanine seats vs. $150 for front row seats.

The HE-5's were really nice as well! I hadn't heard anything about them but I thought the clarity in the midrange and treble was fantastic.

One thing I was surprised about was not really liking the K1000's. Maybe it's just not the right environment to use them. Or maybe the form factor and fit just didn't jive with me in the short time I used them.

I was only there for the first couple hours as I had to go home and help take care of the kids but I did leave my stuff there for people to try out. Hopefully next time I'll be able to get to spend some more time chatting with you all.

BTW, did anyone come up with an extra 1/8" to 1/4" plug adapter? When I picked my stuff up, the adapter that I had for the Grado's into the 1/4" jack was gone.
post #7 of 83
Originally Posted by oneplustwo View Post
linuxworks netbook -> usb/spdif converter -> toslink "spider" ->
not a spider; octopus. I don't like spiders

BTW, did anyone come up with an extra 1/8" to 1/4" plug adapter? When I picked my stuff up, the adapter that I had for the Grado's into the 1/4" jack was gone.
perfect! I got your connector and you also forgot to pick up the wood clamps; that I now have in my car trunk all the way there and now back home again
post #8 of 83
Well, the meet helped me reach some personal conclusions about my next (lack of) purchase, including comparisons of old and new HD650s, and HD800s (with several different sets of electronics).

I'm glad I met so many of you, but I wasn't feeling well enough for a longer day, so I went to a friend's house nearby to rest. Missed all the Whisky!

Got home later, and tested my headphones again.... And somehow this system pleases me more than any I heard there. Not more revealing, but a top-to-bottom consistency that makes music sound complete and whole, not broken up into frequency bands, or strengths and weaknesses. Just goes to show system matching is as important or even moreso than the ultimate quality/cost of each individual component. I has to all work. Maybe I should have brought my equipment after all... a sleeper system.

For example, my HD650 are older and a bit dark compared to the recent ones with metal mesh (at least according to the one I tested today, using the same balanced cable). The newer is probably a better balance in most systems, or at least is a more revealing can. But, with my SCD-XA5400ES SACD player, either from the supplied headphone out or from my WA6, the tonal balance and lack of "veil" of my older HD650 is about right (Cardas helps, and removed the foam). I don't think I need more treble, at least no more lower treble (I do wish for a better top octave).

What the HD800s at the meet had includes much better bass, extended treble, and greater retrieval of detail and reverberation. But the brightness, the discontinuity between neutral midrange and forward lower treble, makes, for example, voices sound far less live, more forced and artificial... reproduced. I just could not live with that flaw, despite the many improvements. I found it hard and irritating.

On my 5400, which is already "literal," a bit forward, this would be even less tolerable... My so-called "dark" HD650s sound just great at home, no problems. The brigher, newer HD650 is possibly too bright for my system. The HD800 would be painfully out of balance here. My wallet is glad I don't have to upgrade to be happy!

Part of this may be a fortuitous choice of Delco 5V4G for the rectifier. I just happened to have it in my 25 year-old box of spares. Wow. Tighter bass, flat midrange, extended treble, detail... really disappears. My phones rig matches my Vandersteen speaker setup very well in presentation and balance. Of course, the speaker beats it considerably and has been tweaked over years to my tastes.

Anyway, the meet was fun and very useful. I hope you don't have hangovers in the morning.

Some highlights:

Frank Cooter's home-brew (where do I learn more about it?) with HE-5 was a revelation... even Supertramp sounded spatious and spookily realistic.

Ironbut's Linda Ronstadt's (reel-to-reel) album has more great songs on it besides the airplay hit "You're no good." I probably have a MFSL version somewhere....

Enjoyed the Eddie Current Balancing Act.

I respected the various Audio Technica's more than I loved them. I'm just not a closed can guy. Admire Connolly leather, but not enough to pay for it! ;^)

I never have to audition a Grado again. House sound is just not realist to me.

I've loved the Woo WA5 in the past... I guess I just don't love the Marantz SA-7S1 SACD.

The β22 and the HD800 was a good pairing. Voices sounded more "whole" here than on any other HD800 setup.

Digital servers sure are convenient and addicting.

The balanced Little Dot amp seemed like a good value... does it have that reputation?
post #9 of 83
Just got back from the After after After party... and just enough energy to unpack the car. Thanks again to Al for putting together a great gathering and JP# for starting it all out.

Had a great time with the gang. Didn't get to listen to that much, but had a great time talking with people and showing them my gear.

Oh yeah and Franks New Amp Rocked as always... makes me sweat thinking about it... yep it was that good and that warm... :-)

post #10 of 83
This was my first meet and it was a blast! Thank you all so much for sharing your equipment and experience. I'm a newbie to the head-fi world but I'm excited to hopefully be a participant in future meets. Got my very first setup on order that I could bring to the next meet (if of course I get the ZDT by then ): Zana Deux ZDT + DAC Magic + K702 and Denon AHD-7000.

Your setup was awesome and thank you for letting me listen to it. The Stax was so comfy and sounded great with your WA5! Gorgeous setup.

Thanks for setting up the DAC1 vs AMB DAC sound-off. It was a great way to compare the two side by side. Although they sounded VERY similar with minor differences to my ear.

Your LittleDot mark VI had me floored on good it sounded. Seriously thinking about getting one later for a bedside setup. It's a tossup between that and jdmoorman's Elekit TU 882. I was very impressed!!

I was very impressed by the sound of your Elekit TU 882 + DT990 combo. Great clarity, punch and warmth. Only if the DT990 had the comfy velour pads of the DT770 )
post #11 of 83
Was the Pico Slim present - if anyone listened to it would be grateful for your comments
post #12 of 83
The funny thing, was that for me, my favorite rig was my own, JH5 custom headphones,, i feel like none of the headphones there or rigs compared to the 5's with a balanced cable and amp.. was like butter..
post #13 of 83
While I can appreciate Gene, Matt, Al, Peter... passed out cold in a pile of beer, bourbon and scotch bottles, we the unwashed masses want pics, impressions, stories, random musings....

post #14 of 83
Well, something like that,

post #15 of 83

So bummed I missed this one, I know you guys had a stellar time. I really don't even care so much about the gear as much as the pre/post meet gatherings
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