Unjacked the T1 from the Denon AVR-1905 last night for a short audition over the EVS-modded Oppo 970HD and the WeeeeeeSquirrel 336SE (w/Sylvania 6AS7G and RCA 6SN7GT). The T1 have approximately 130 hours on them.
Listened to Digital Duke (Perdido and 22 Cent Stomp), Earl Thomas Conley (What She Is, Who's Gonna Tell Her Good-bye), Loretta Lynn (You Ain't Woman Enough, Fist City, You're Looking at Country) and Brian Auger's Oblivion Express (Voices of Other Times, Sundown).
At first, I a/b-ed the DT880/600 and the UP-OCC K501 for comparative midrange performance. The horns on Perdido and the vocals from What She Is sounded, unsurprisingly, more complete and better integrated with the K501. Again, excellent clarity and detail from the DT880/600, but ultimately tipped toward the upper midrange, a bit thin and without the depth and soulful reach of the K501.
O.K. "Now", says I, wringing my hands, "it's time to unleash the T1".
First of all, Earl Thomas Conley's What She Is sounded tizzy, with the sibilance being almost unbearable over the T1. Granted, this is known to be a bright recording to begin with, but it was rendered with much more smoothness over the DT880/600. The T1's midrange had arguably a better sense of depth than the DT880/600, with more detail and better pitch definition and tonal variation, but I still preferred the midrange of the K501, which was better integrated and more lifelike and credible. In fact, I preferred the DT880/600 to the T1 on this track as well.
Next, Loretta Lynn. O.K., these are the MCA recordings, not re-mastered, and they are poor. But even those disadvantages don't hamper a great voice like Loretta's. Again, the T1 sounded unlistenably strident. After switching over to the DT880/600, I again reckoned with a smoother presentation. In addition, I heard more high and low frequency extension with the DT880/600--reminiscent of the DT880/2003, which lent a greater sense of transparency to Loretta's Fist City. Sure, the overall detail retrieval of the DT880/600 was below that of the T1, but I still preferred the ease and conviction of this track with the "lesser" of the Beyers.
Brian Auger's vocal on Sundown, again, came across as overly strident with the T1.
At this point I was becoming annoyed. First, because the T1 were obviously proving themselves a disappointment; second, because that strain of annoyance was similar to my experience with the DT880/250 (2005), a design which I believed irrevocably and deleteriously compromised what I had come to most appreciate in the DT880/250 (2003): boundless and airy high frequency extension, coupled with sometimes formidable low frequency extension. To me, that was the magic of the DT880 (2003) which was lamentably absent in the 2005/250 ohm rendition. And it was this same lack of magic that was now honing my pang of discomfort and disappointment with the T1 at this point.
What I was preferring in the sonics of the DT880/600 was their greater faithfulness to what I had come to positively identify with the quintessential DT880 (2003) sound, which to me bespoke "Beyerdynamic" best of all. For the remainder of my audition, that disconcerting awareness of the T1's infidelity to the DT880 (2003)--whether real or imagined--gnawed at me and undid everything else the T1 were doing so well.
On a more positive note, the T1 reproduced the cymbal strikes on the much-more-well recorded Digital Duke with amazing detail and shimmer. The mouthing of the muted trumpet solo in 22 Cent Stomp was enthralling. The differentiation of the various massed brass instruments in the climactic, concluding burst was also remarkable. But I just couldn't get over that definitive sense of truncation at the HF and LF extremes triggering the gag reflex I had developed while listening to the DT880/250 (2005).
No. The T1 do not generate a midrange on par with the K501 (and I did not expect them to, either). And no. The T1 do not faithfully convey the magic of the DT880 (2003) at the frequency extremes, whereas, I believe the DT880/600 do retain a modicum of that elusive fairy dust. Maybe I am being unfair to the T1 in not letting them be the stand alone performers that they are in their own right. But unfortunately, they characterized just enough of a sense of the "not quite" relative to the K501 in the midrange and relative to the DT880/600 (and DT880 (2003)) at the upper and lower extremities to make it very difficult for me to enjoy them without being incessantly nagged by these shortcomings.
Perhaps you judge me as being unjust, but this write-up is based upon my ears, temperament and my history with the Beyer DT880. Besides, even in the most comfortable bed, on the quietest night and after having enjoyed the most sumptuous meal, the finest wine, the most aromatic cigar and indulging in the most rewarding and relaxing conversation, it only takes one rogue mosquito to reek havoc on the good night's sleep one would have quite reasonably expected to follow.
The T1 are not sufficiently broken in.
The T1 are mercilessly unforgiving of recording flaws.
My T1 are defective (I have noticed a microphonic tendency when plugging/unplugging the T1 that I do not notice with the DT880/600 or K501).
The tube/amp selections for this audition were nemeses for the T1.
Again, these are first, critical impressions under the conditions specified, and are subject to change.
God willing, I plan to swap the WeeeeeeSquirrel 336SE out for the Fitz-Max Bada PH-12 (with 1x Amperex ECC33 and 2x Russian 1578) or at least to re-tube the DV336SE prior to further auditioning. Meanwhile, I will replug the T1 into the Denon AVR-1905 for more cooking time.
Edited by pataburd - 6/17/10 at 11:49pm