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CanJam@RMAF 2011 Listening Impressions Thread - Page 34  

post #496 of 678

Thanks for taking the time to write about your impressions.  

I always pictured these types of events as too crowded and attendees not being able to get long listening times with the equipment.  However, it seems like they are a blast, no pressure to buy, and you get access to the makers.  I might have to plan on attending one in the upcoming years.  Good stuff guys.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lofty View Post

Got back from Denver late last night. I am not one to post much, but thought I would share my views on the show and the gear I got to see and hear. First and foremost, I went to Denver to learn more about computer audio, and to search out the best approach for improving my front end. I am late to the game here, as this is the weakest part of my system. I attended an excellent two hour seminar called "The Future of High-Resolution Computer Based Audio". This led me to some amazing people doing amazing things. Check out pugetsoundstudios.com, playbackdesigns.com, and mytekdigital.com. Bruce Brown of Puget Sound and Cookie Marceno of Blue Coast Records are making amazing recordings, while Mytek and Playback Designs are producing wonderful DSD DACs that can decode the downloads with great detail. After three days of intense listening, I was really able to appreciate just how important the source material and the ability to decode it made one room stand out over another.

 

Now, on to CanJam. Spent some time listening and conversing with Dan at the Bottlehead table. For a small financial commitment, you can get a nice DIY tube amp that sounds great. Dan does produce his own re-master tapes and had an amazing tape deck as his source, and I am sure this had a big positive effect on the sound being produced (all the best rigs I heard at the show had reel-to-reel as the source). Still, I came away impressed by how these inexpensive amps performed, and I was certainly not the only one.

 

The Woo Table: Jack and family in my humble opinion make some of the best and sexiest gear to be had. I can sit at their table for hours, and probably did just that. They had some interesting new gear on display that has been covered quite thoroughly here already. That being said, I do think their new mono blocks are over-kill. At ten grand for the pair, there is simply to many great amps that are equal to, or better for one third the money or less. That will lead me to RSA.

 

RSA Table: Spent a lot of time at Ray's table. I bought an Apache in June of this year and am thus, quite familiar with his sound signature. I can also tell everybody that it really is special to attend an event where the creators of the gear we all love are together in one  room, and you can just sit there and pick their brains. And this is exactly what I did. Ray is an amazing guy (so into it), and everyone can see by all the photos just how much amazing gear was packed at that table. All this led to a real eye opener for me. I have never liked my listening experiences with the HE-6 Headphones. I have always found their sound signature too bright. That all changed while listening to them through Ray's new Darkstar amp. It will be hard to find a better combination out there. Beautiful massive sound stage with lots of depth and incredible bottom end. The extreme highs I found irritating were now tamed. Everything just sounded right to my ears. Ray explained how and why he designed the amp, and why the phones would never sound great on my Apache. The HE-6 needs massive amounts of power to make them reach their full potential, but there is obviously a lot more involved than just a lot power, and I guess that's what makes Ray such an amazing designer. This is a good lead in to the Cavalli Liquid Fire. An equally great amp with the HE-6, I had the same listening experience as with Darkstar. Both these amps have the power and synergy to make these phones shine at there absolute best. All though I thought the Darkstar sounded better, Ray's table had a huge advantage based on his front-end gear. In closing, anyone who owns or is considering owning one of these amps should considering adding a pair of HE-6s to their headphone collection.

 

The Audeze Table: Spent a lot of time with Alex. Actually, we sat around till 7:30 Saturday night listening and talking long after the Fest had closed for the day. I've read a lot of the complaints here about the release of the new phones, along with their huge price increase. I also was not too thrilled myself. I busted Alex's chops quite a bit on this, and I can tell you he is not one to take a lot of crap. He doesn't have to. His short answer was "nobody is putting a gun to your head to buy them." To that, I had no reply. I did have plenty of time to pick his brains on the changes and upgrades that have been made, and their overall effect on both the sound and large cost increase. I also had breakfast Sunday morning with his head engineer/designer and peppered him as well with the same questions. All I can say is that I have a pair on order, and that should explain what I think about the way they sounded and how I feel about Alex's explanation. I hope to have them in time for the Westchester meet next month. They will mate well with the Apache.

 

post #497 of 678



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by lofty View Post

 All I can say is that I have a pair on order, and that should explain what I think about the way they sounded and how I feel about Alex's explanation. I hope to have them in time for the Westchester meet next month. They will mate well with the Apache.

 

 

 


As an Apache owner, I would be very interested in your reasoning about the LCD-3 and the Apache.  Also, did you get a sense from Ray or otherwise that the LCD-3 would be better on the Dark Star, or is it just that the HE6's power needs far exceed that of the LCD-3? 
 

 

post #498 of 678

LCD-3 sensitivity is 93 dB @ 1 mW while HE-6 is 83.5 dB @ 1 mW, meaning that the LCD-3 needs 1/9th the power as the HE-6 to reach the same volume

post #499 of 678


Make sure you go at least one time in your life, you will make memories that will last forever. Of course after the one time, you will probably have to go many more times.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by WNBC View Post

Thanks for taking the time to write about your impressions.  

I always pictured these types of events as too crowded and attendees not being able to get long listening times with the equipment.  However, it seems like they are a blast, no pressure to buy, and you get access to the makers.  I might have to plan on attending one in the upcoming years.  Good stuff guys. 

 



 

 

post #500 of 678

Alright, time for some impressions.  I'm not a highly-experienced veteran reviewer, so most people probably don't/won't care what I think.  Anyhow, here goes.

 

 

ALO: The highlight here was the Rx Mk.III.  Best-sounding portable amp I've ever heard.  It easily bests the RSA SR-71B.  Good pairing with CLAS and LCD-2.

 

Audez'e: The LCD-3 out of the Liquid fire was one of the best combinations I heard at the show.  Deep hard-hitting bass, but incredibly clean, without any flab.  Treble was excellent, and mids were solid.  Comfortable to wear, felt lighter than the LCD-2.  I was hard-pressed to find something these headphones did wrong.  The array speakers were amazing, some of the best at RMAF.

 

Bottlehead: Reel to reel is super cool.  Great jazz recordings on there.  The Bottlehead Crack, priced at $219, has amazing value.

 

Cavalli Audio:  The Liquid Lightning was one of my favorite products at the show.  I found the pairing with the Stax SR-507 good, better than a lot of dynamics, but still somewhat underwhelming.  However, it was when we had a chance to plug the SR-009 into this thing that we were really able to get a sense of what this amplifier was capable of.  Incredibly musical presentation, almost a tube sound out of this solid-state amp.  The BHSE still bests it in soundstage and micro-detail, but the CLL has the edge in pure fun factor.  I had my own demo CD there with me, and it had never sounded better.  I didn't want to stop listening.  If you're at all invested in electrostats, or if you intend to get into this segment of the headphone market, it behooves you to try this thing out.  You won't be disappointed.

 

CEntrance: Two products stood out.  The Dacport sounded better than I expected it would based on its size.  I'd consider this as a portable single-unit solution if I was often on the move with a laptop in tow.  The DACmini PX is a DAC/pre/power amp one-box solution.  It was able to drive the HE-6 off the speaker taps, and sounded great.

 

Eddie Current: The Balancing Act has amazing soundstage.  The Super 7 didn't sound as good, but it's also a third of the price of the ECBA.

 

Fostex: The HP-P1 was my favorite at this table.  Sounds excellent, built like a tank, good versatility.

 

HeadAmp: The BHSE is amazing.  Amazing clarity and detail resolution.  I didn't find the SR-009/BHSE combo bright or fatiguing like some people did.

 

HeadDirect: The EF6 amp is where it's at.  It's clear this was made for the HE-6.  The HE-6/EF6 combo was great.

 

JH Audio: The JH-3A DSP bass boost is great.  If the switch is toggled off, the 3A has ruler flat response.  If you toggle it on, you get a +4db bass boost.  You can then turn the potentiometer up to decide how much bass you want.  Awesome.  Also, to clear up a bit of confusion, the JH16 Pro are *not* married to the JH-3A.  The JH-16 Pro, when purchased with the JH-3A, is terminated in an eight-pin plug.  Jerry makes an eight pin to 1/8" jack adapter, so you can use it with any amp.

 

Moon Audio: The CAD-300SEI is one amazing amplifier.  Great with the HE-6 off the posts, and with other headphones out of the 1/4" jack.  A truly special amp.

 

Ray Samuels Audio: The Dark Star and HE-6 combo was phenomenal.  Never heard that kind of bass coming from the HE-6.  The A-10 Thunderbolt with the Orpheus HE90 gave a very romantic, beautiful presentation of classical and jazz music.  I really don't like the HE Audio Jade.  No bass.

 

Schiit: Bifrost + Lyr was very good with the HE-6 and LCD-2.  I A/Bed Bifrost USB vs. S/PDIF input, and they're quite comparable in sound quality.

 

Sennheiser: The RS 220 are excellent.  Mr. Mahmood Rosmadi told me they use the same driver as the HD 650, and had me A/B them.  The RS 220 had a bit more grain/noise, but they were pretty close in sound quality.  This may not seem very significant at first glance, but in truth it's a giant leap in the world of wireless audio.  I've never heard wireless sound this good.  The Resonessence Invicta is a really good DAC, and isn't bad out of the 1/4" jack either.

 

SPL: Marty had some Ultrasone Ed8, loaned to him by Ultrasone, but I found these underwhelming with the Phonitor.  SPL was next to Sennheiser, so we borrowed a pair of HD-800.  The Phonitor/HD 800 combo has fantastic soundstage and sounded wonderful.  I'm not a huge fan of the HD 800, but they sound great off this amp.  Marty showed me how to use all of the features. This thing is packed to the gills with customizable options.

 

TTVJ: The Butte put out incredibly clean sound for its size and mundane appearance.  The Pinnacle sounded good to me, with good clarity and detail, but doesn't warrant the price tag.  Mr. Marcel James brought around an Antelope Zodiac Gold, so we got to listen to the Gold DAC with the Pinnacle and LCD-3.  Sounded awesome, though I do still prefer the LCD-3 out of the Cavalli Liquid Fire.

 

Woo Audio: The WA 234 monoblocks sound good, but don't really warrant the price tag.  The DAC is okay, the CD transport has pretty slick design.  The revised WES sounded pretty damn good with the SR-009, though I still preferred the CLL and BHSE.  All three electrostatic amps were great, just comes down to personal preference.

 

 

Other general thoughts:

-Big thanks to all the exhibitors.  Everybody was extremely courteous and professional.  Jerry Harvey, Jack Woo, Todd Green, Alex Rosson, Sankar Thiagasamudram, Dr. Alex Cavalli, Brian Kurtz and Jason Stoddard each chatted with me for literally hours, and were all extremely polite and well-spoken individuals.  This is a large part of what made CanJam such an enjoyable experience for me.

-When the show was over and I had time to reflect on my impressions, I realized that I was ultimately somewhat confused.  If you read my impressions, you would have noticed that a large number of products I listened to sounded good to my ears.  This reflects a greater overlying theme, which is that many of the products currently available in the personal audio sector have excellent sound and build quality.  So how does one go about picking apart what's good and what's bad, and deciding on what they end up wanting to buy?  Auditioning is probably the best answer.  I can't underline the value of shows like CanJam enough.  If you're like me, and you enjoy and appreciate a variety of different sounds and presentations, there are bound to be tough choices ahead of you.

-Those of you whom I met at the show: Thanks, and I hope you guys had as good a time as I did.  I hope to see you guys again soon.

-Props to Maxvla for his awesome equipment permutation/comparison write-up.  I saw him in action at the Schiit table when I got there.  He is truly industrious.

-Great job to JP and the other event organizers.  Wouldn't have happened without you guys.

-The panel discussion on headphone audio (Steve Guttenberg, Tyll Hertsens, Chris Martens, Jude Mansilla) was informative and highly entertaining.

-Make it out next year, if you can.  You won't regret it.

 

Hope this helps.  If it doesn't, oh well.  I tried.


Edited by sridhar3 - 10/19/11 at 8:52pm
post #501 of 678

Sridhar3, thank you for the nice report! You're fueling my upgraditis though so not sure my wallet is so grateful ;)

post #502 of 678

Great report sridhar3; thanks!

post #503 of 678

The point I was simply trying to make was, if I owned the Darkstar or The Liquid Fire for that matter, I would want to have a pair of HE-6s, because they work so well with those two amps. But I just bought the Apache this summer, and have no intentions of replacing it. The amp is great, as you should well know. I sat with Ray for hours over the course of three days, and when you see the works of art he designs and builds; the amazing array of front end gear he owns (his home looks like an audiophile store), I just trust what he is doing and I certainly trust his ears. The man has been doing this for awhile now and you can't create gear that sounds this good without having a good pair of ears.

 

That said, he explained to me that he designed the Darkstar specifically with the HE-6s in mind. That does not mean you can't use them with the Apache, they are just not going to reach their full potential. And he is right, because I heard the difference as plain as night and day, right there at that table. The Apache just does not have enough power to get them over the hump. Yet, this does not mean that the Darkstar is a better amp than the Apache. I sat down at that table with that exact thought in my mind. Newer design, bigger and more imposing looking with ball busting power, must be better, right? And if Ray wanted to, he could have worked off my insecurities and probably sold me the new amp. But as I found out, he fortunately is not that kind of man. He is passionate about what he does and stands by his designs. (The amps by the way are about the same price) He instead asked me what I am using with my Apache (Audeze-2s, Senn-580s, K701s). His response was those are all great, the Apache will bring out the best in them. Now we know which of the three are the better phones, despite personal preferences. I the think 3s are even better, a lot better. Thats how I feel after three days of listening in a multitude of set ups, so I decided to buy them. 

 

Let me finish up by saying that there will always be great new equipment coming out. The neurosis of always wanting the latest and greatest drove me out of audio for a long time. The pure enjoyment of listening got lost in the attainment of owning the newest and slickest gear. Listening became more of a critique session of what was lacking in my system. I bought Senn-580s in 1996 and they became my primary listening source for a very long time, and I was satisfied just listening to music again. I paid little attention to the advancements being made in the industry for years. I got into Head-fi about two years ago, and I know I don't want to go down that neurotic path again. With that said, I have been slowly upgrading my rig. I have been borrowing a pair of Audeze-2s, and I think there amazing. If I already owned my own pair, I might not be plopping down the cash for the new cans so fast. But I was getting ready to order my own 2.2s when the new cans came out in time for the show. I listened:End of story!

 

I am now two thirds of the way there with a great amp and soon to be cans. The final stage is to upgrade the front end. I learned a lot this past weekend on this front, as I alluded to in my post. With the high level achieved in owning an Apache and pair of Audeze headphones, improvements in hardware will be incremental at best. The biggest improvement in fidelity will be achieved with better source material and the processing equipment to decode it. There will be better and better high resolution down loads coming. DACs will need to continue to evolve to decode them. This area is so unsettled and will continue to evolve for a long time until some type of standard can be achieved. I also heard such great sound from people using Reel-to-Reel at the show, old Studer decks playing tapes remastered from the original master tape. These are the real game changers. 

 

So the front end is where I intend to put my energy and resources in the coming years. I hope this convoluted babble answers your question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ctemkin View Post

 

As an Apache owner, I would be very interested in your reasoning about the LCD-3 and the Apache.  Also, did you get a sense from Ray or otherwise that the LCD-3 would be better on the Dark Star, or is it just that the HE6's power needs far exceed that of the LCD-3?  

 



 

post #504 of 678
Quote:
Originally Posted by sridhar3 
ALO: The highlight here was the Rx Mk.III. Best-sounding portable amp I've ever heard. It easily bests the RSA SR-71B. Good pairing with CLAS and LCD-2.

Can you go a bit further in detail regarding this? Thank you.
post #505 of 678
Quote:
Originally Posted by sillysally View Post

Thanks for your review, easy to read and understand.

 

Can you tell us using the Liquid Fire with the LCD-3 and the HE6, what HP did you like best and why?

 


I can't, it was meet conditions and I didn't have that much time with them, plus the LCD-3/LF was at a different table.  Both were great.

 

I do recall being taken by surprise when I heard the HE-6 with the LF, because at first they had the dynamics, punch and volume that made me think that they were the HE-500, since I didn't know the amp had enough juice to drive the HE-6 like that.  But I also thought to myself that I'd never heard the HE-500 quite that open, airy and spacious either.  Then I looked at the phones and saw they were the HE-6, which explained the improvement.  Interestingly, on the EF6 amp I preferred the HE-500, and now I wish I'd tried the HE-500 on the LF as well.

post #506 of 678

 

 

 

What on earth is this?  Does anyone have any listening impressions?

 

ALO prototype tube amps

post #507 of 678

One more----one of the things that fascinates me is this pre-occupation with headphones over headphone amplifiers.  My own experience is that differences in amplifiers make a big difference on almost all headphones.  A lot of members appear to be investing circa. $1,000 plus in headphones and, yet, being quite stingy when it comes to amps.  It's hard for me to believe when I read, for example, something like "my Schitt Lyr sounded almost as good as the Eddie Current Balancing Act on my $2,000 Babubu wood inlaid Zuperoni headphones."

 

Is that really your experience, too?

post #508 of 678


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frihed89 View Post

 

 

 

What on earth is this?  Does anyone have any listening impressions?

 

ALO prototype tube amps



If I'm not mistaken it's a prototype tube amp from ALO with the tube cage off.

post #509 of 678

Well, that much is pretty obvious.  I can also add that it has a transformer output stage and that the rectifier is 5AR4.  But, beyond that, i can't tell very much. I can't identify the input, driver or power tubes.  Are those  2 chokes for the power supply in the upper left or inter-stage transformers to couple the drivers to the output tubes?

 

Did anyone actually listen to it?

 

If so, what did you hear?

post #510 of 678

Quote:

Originally Posted by arnaud View Post

Sridhar3, thank you for the nice report! You're fueling my upgraditis though so not sure my wallet is so grateful ;)


Quote:

Originally Posted by AiDee View Post

Great report sridhar3; thanks!


No problem guys.  Glad I could help.  Sorry for your wallets.

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Girls Generation View Post


Can you go a bit further in detail regarding this? Thank you.


Sure, I can elaborate a bit.  I found the Rx Mk.III to be great-sounding in almost all respects.  It doesn't have the clarity and pinpoint detail retrieval of a full-size amp, and it sounded a bit warm and "tubey" to me.  But it gave off a forgiving, musical sound and made for engaging listening.  The Rx Mk.III at the ALO table was hooked up to a CLAS and LCD-2.  It drove the LCD-2 with ease.  Great bass, treble was decent, mids were solid.  It didn't throw a very large soundstage, but then again, that's never been the strong suit of the LCD-2.  I actually regret not trying the HE-6 with this thing, just to see how much power it can put out.

 

If there are any specifics you'd like to ask about, please feel free to do so.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Frihed89 View Post

What on earth is this?  Does anyone have any listening impressions?

 

ALO prototype tube amps


I believe m0gwai answered your question.  Justin of HeadAmp came around to listen to the ALO prototype when his own booth was quiet, and requested to see the amp with the tube cage off.  

I snapped a picture while he was taking a look.

 

As far as how it sounds, it generally sounds okay, but I really didn't find it to be leaps and bounds ahead of anything else I've heard.  It performed generally well in all areas, and has typical tube sound.  The value proposition is really going to depend on what they price it at, which I neglected to ask them when I was at the booth.  Definitely not a show-stopper though.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Frihed89 View Post

One more----one of the things that fascinates me is this pre-occupation with headphones over headphone amplifiers.  My own experience is that differences in amplifiers make a big difference on almost all headphones.  A lot of members appear to be investing circa. $1,000 plus in headphones and, yet, being quite stingy when it comes to amps.  It's hard for me to believe when I read, for example, something like "my Schitt Lyr sounded almost as good as the Eddie Current Balancing Act on my $2,000 Babubu wood inlaid Zuperoni headphones."

 

Is that really your experience, too?


Well, I'm kinda in a similar boat personally, truth be told.  At home, I'm running a pair of HE-6 (MSRP is what, $1300?) off a Lyr and a Virtue TWO.2, both of which are about $450.  I don't know if it's to do with being stingy.  In my case, I was using HD 650 with the Lyr for a while, and I wanted to upgrade my headphones before I upgraded my amp.  I'll eventually upgrade the amp too.  I'm a regular guy who works a regular job, so I'm not rolling in dough, and as such, upgrades occur slowly and progressively over time.  It's a process.

 

At the risk of stating the obvious, better amps sound better.  At the risk of stating the obvious, better amps also tend to cost more (though this isn't a steadfast rule).  If I could, would I own a Dark Star or an EF6 for my HE-6?  Absolutely.  If I had a pair of LCD-2/LCD-3, I'd most definitely consider buying a Cavalli Liquid Fire.  So yes, amps do make a difference.  And the phenomenon of the magical synergy observed between certain equipment combinations (HE-6/Dark Star, HE-6/EF6, HD 800/Phonitor, HD 800/ECBA, LCD-2/CLF, LCD-3/CLF, etc.) certainly lends credence to the concept that your choice of amp matters.  We just need to spend within our means and remain fiscally responsible, despite the urge to throw caution to the wind and go nuts.

 

Until people can really afford to go for top-of-the-line gear though, buyers need to take a good, long hard look at each piece of equipment in order to discern the value proposition of said equipment.  And for the most part, they do, and rightly so.  Seeing how quickly diminishing returns set in, when making the earlier purchases of one's personal audio experience (i.e. Schiit Lyr), one is typically searching for gear that hits above its price point.  As far as something sounding like something else, listening is still (and always will be) a subjective experience.  If somebody tells me their Lyr sounds as good as an ECBA, more power to them.  That's a whole bunch of money they'll save on not buying an ECBA.  There are a few factors at play here.  One is diminishing returns, which I already mentioned.  The other is listening experience.  Subtle differences and nuances only really present themselves with prolonged listening in an optimal listening environment.  That's why it's difficult for me to say anything other than, "This amp sounded good," or, "These headphones sound nice," namely because large meet conditions aren't ideal for such listening.  I don't have golden ears by any stretch of imagination.  As I said, I'm just a regular guy.

 

If you guys have any other questions, I'd be more than happy to field them.

 

Thank you for your time, consideration and kind words.

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