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Detroit - Ann Arbor Impressions Thread - 2/18/12 Meet  

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

First off, a huge Thank You! to Jude for hosting us all, and to everyone for their warm welcomes, good conversations, and generosity! Having been a member of Head-Fi for a week or so, I was extremely apprehensive upon arrival, but everyone's friendly demeanor (and the Panera bagels) corrected that immediately.


I could probably blab on and on but I'll do a quick Hi/Lo of the events I experienced today.


High Points:

- A three hour debate about ear pads on the Audio-Technica M50s. Shrimants' Shure pads made a huge step forward in cleaning up the bass on these cans. It took the bloat out of the bass and brought the mids forward a little bit, which really rounded out the sound.


- The FiiO E11 > E6. With flat EQs on both pieces, the E11 just sounded much more clear and clean. In comparison, the E6 sounded kind of grungy and distorted. Save up a few more $ and get the E11 if you're considering it.

- I put on a pair of HD800s.... backwards. Thanks Jose for pointing that out to me. confused_face_2.gif

- Hifiman HE-6s on any setup that could drive them properly.

- Darkstar!

- Jet's Pizza!

- Spending a day in aural heaven. Thanks again everbody!


Low Points:

- Blown Grado SR-1s.... eek.giffrown.gif

- Having to leave


All in all, I had a blast and learned a lot today. I will surely attend future meets!


- Dan

Edited by ILOVEPOTTERY - 2/19/12 at 8:13am
post #2 of 36
Sorry my photography is rather weak. I didn't even get any shots of the other room. :/

musicman59, Michael in the background

musicman59's tower of power

My brother, Alex, listening to my LCD-2's

My setup

Kibble Fat amongst an office mess

elrod-tom 1 second before he gave the camera a wave

shrimants having a listen to the HE-6 on musicman59's Dark Star rig
post #3 of 36
It was really great today to see the regulars and some new faces, too.

I tried out a whole lot of headphones & equipment. A lot of them sounded nice, but here are some notes about the ones that stood out:
  • José's HE-6 from his Dark Star rig. Ray's amp drove the HiFiMAN phones effortlessly and with great authority. I should disclose that I do a bit of side work for Ray's website, but I cannot deny that this rig sounded amazing.
  • My own LCD-2 Rev2 from my RPX-33, SR-71B, and José's Dark Star. I did just get these headphones the other day, so they are somewhat new to me still... and even when compared to Jude's and José's LCD-3, I still feel they hold their own. I didn't spend a ton of time with either LCD-3, but if there is a significant difference, it's not something worth twice the price to me, personally.
  • Jude's Philips Fidelio headphones. Jude had a pair of these, and I was very impressed with their great combination of comfort and fidelity. The circumaural design was very comfy, not putting any pressure I didn't like on the ears, and the sound was warmish and hifi-ish.
  • Jude's Audéo PFE 232. These universal IEMs have a steep price at $600, but boy did they sound nice! Very hifi sound with great everything. If it's an option, it seems a better buy to go with an entry-level custom for this kind of price, though.
  • Jude's Sennheiser RS 220 was amazing. He calls it a wireless HD 600, and I can't really argue. Great sound from these and didn't cut out from across the office. Hard to believe it's actually wireless.
  • Shrimants's M50's with Shure pads was unexpectedly tasty. I think he is onto something with that mod as it seemed to tame the extra bass found in Dan's stock pair and make them a smoother, more neutral, and less bloaty sound signature.
  • Eric's adorable red DIY stack -- AMB DAC and O2 amp. Forgetting the small price in parts he invested, the sound was really quite good from both my HD 25-1 II and JH13 that I tried from it. Impressive!
  • José's ADL Cruise amp/DAC from Furutech seemed like a really slick transportable unit with great sound quality.

Big thanks for Jude for his hospitality and to all of you who came to hang out!
post #4 of 36
Here are some shots of the gear from this year's meet. My camera lens doesnt have image stabilization and even at maximum aperture it was difficult to get enough light for a quick shutter time.

I'll be typing up my thoughts and impressions later as it is pretty late by now. I learned a LOT and probably saved myself an upwards of 6000 dollars in gear. I decided that my next upgrade will definitely be HD650's and that my end-game will be HE-6. Those will both be a huge challenge to design and build amplifiers for in the future.

Also, sorry for linking to the album on imgur but there are a LOT of pictures and I didnt want to make a gigantic thread. Plus, this way I can share with reddit.
Edited by shrimants - 2/18/12 at 8:51pm
post #5 of 36
Hitting the Buy button on the Portapros right now... lol.

Tens of thousands of dollars in audio gear at my disposal and my ears get fixated on a $35 pair of headphones tongue.gif Good meet everyone! I will also give some impressions tomorrow.
post #6 of 36
Looks like a great meet with great gear. Looking forward to more impressions and photos.
Edited by Audio Addict - 2/19/12 at 5:03am
post #7 of 36

It's was nice to see all of you headphone experts.  I wish I could have stayed longer, maybe next time. Thank you so much for Jude and his hospitality. He has one of the best man caves I have seen for headphones. I had a great time. Jeff Miller

post #8 of 36
First of all, I would like to thank everyone for showing up. Having a face to face discussion in real time with examples strewn about was absolutely amazing. It has completely changed the way I look at headphones and their sound, and it has especially changed the headphones that I recommend and how I feel about their sound. Most importantly, the meet taught me about various aspects of sound that I considered important and unimportant, and that has also changed.

Secondly, my girlfriend would like to thank you for being so nice and answering her questions with a smile instead of the typical big-headedness you find online sometimes. She really enjoyed meeting everyone and will “probably eventually” make an account. I’ve been goading her to do it for a while now and I think once she saves up for her desktop computer she will make audio her next focus.

On to the impressions! I’ll just go in the order in which I took pictures and kind of the order in which I remember things.


Audeze LCD-2 (Rev 2, I think): These used to be my “end game goal”. I tried them and although I really enjoyed the sound, they were somewhat disappointing to me in certain key aspects. I was expecting the pads to be extraordinarily soft and plushy. They were actually kind of hard. I liked the shape of the pads and the seal they made. I MUCH preferred the wood color of the LCD-2 to the newer LCD-3 (Jude’s “cherrypicked” versions, anyways lol).

I listened to the LCD-2 out of thread’s SR-71B portable amp and also out of the Schiit Asgard, and also out of my puny but flat Fiio E11. I had the fiio E11 turned to high power mode (extra current), and high gain mode. I still had to crank them kind of high to get decent sound out of the LCD-2’s but I was extremely surprised that any sound came out of them at all. The biggest difference was made by what I think was current. The Schiit asgard was by far the best at driving them out of the three. The sr-71B did a very nice job too but since I didn’t have any music I was familiar with I cant be too sure. The Fiio E11 did a great job considering its small size and relatively low power output.

Through the SR-71B and the Fiio E11 I noticed that although there was plenty of bass, it wasn’t “fast”. I felt that the bass quantity was excellent, as was the presence, but I was really looking for some thump and I was disappointed with what there was. The asgard really made the tracks I played sound great. The SR-71B also did a fairly formidable job but I think the asgard was the clear winner over the 3. I’m just proud that my fiio didn’t simply sputter and die with the LCD-2. I didn’t realize they were THAT efficient. Also, they clamped harder than I was expecting.
TL;DR: It wasn’t what I expected, less comfy. The Asgard made it sound much closer to what I expected. I liked the balance but there wasn’t enough punch in the low end.

Schiit Products
: The Asgard did an amazing job at driving the LCD-2 and I would love to take a production model out for a spin with a few other pairs of headphones to see where it stands. The Valhalla and Lyr had tubes inside but I would have liked for the tubes and subsequent tube glow to be more evident and visible. I find tubes to be a beautiful contraption and I like to see tubes more than a plain metal box. I was not a fan of how small the Schiit products were. I was kind of hoping they were big honking amps that almost left the impression that the buyer was compensating for something… They were a VERY manageable size though and in a hifi room they would fit excellently.
TL;DR: Smaller than what I expected, very classy looking. Would get asgard over the other two, but didn’t try the other two.

Jose’s Setup and Jude’s “cherrypicked” LCD3’s: I am not entirely sure what I listened to out of Jose’s woo audio amp, or if I listened to anything at all. I am pretty sure I listened to the LCD-3 out of the woo audio. I was only able to listen to Jose’s music collection and I was unfamiliar with many of the tracks. Hotel California sounded so close to live that the lack of screaming fans left me wanting. I never realized there was 2 guitars playing in AC/DC’s back in black. The LCD-3’s also had exactly what I was expecting the pads to feel like. I wish I was able to listen to the LCD-3’s with my own collection out of Jose’s setup. I feel like they may have been able to knock out my current favorite if I had known how it performed with my own music. In retrospect, I probably should have simply taken the LCD-3’s to the asgard room or to the back room to test with the Beta22 and my iPod as a line level input source. The LCD3’s were exactly what I expected the LCD-2’s to be like in terms of build and maybe in terms of sound.
TL;DR: Wish I could have listened to LCD-3 with my own music. More research required. VERY comfortable. Sounds excellent but don’t know about bass punch.

HE-6, both Jose’s and Nasa Shirt with B22/O22+Aleph Pass3 + Emotiva Dac/Preamp: I think nasa shirt guy’s name was Ben. I’ll just call him Nasa from here on out, but I do apologize for not remembering your name. I tried the HE-6 with my own music out of both the Darkstar and the Aleph amp that was present. I preferred the sound of the HE-6 the most out of any headphone I tried, and I preferred it out of the Aleph more than anything. I think it may have been because that back room was so quiet but I was able to concentrate on the bass detail a lot better, and it was easier to forget the HE-6 were on my head. The detail and resolution was superb on the HE-6. It completely rocked my head when I played Pendulum and Nero. When I listened to radiohead, it felt like a duo of sexy swimsuit models were using kittens to gently massage butter into my eardrums. The sheer fanaticism I feel for these headphones is honestly ridiculous. I used to want the LCD-2’s but so far it looks like all of my future projects and aspirations will go towards owning these fine works of craftmenship. This high up into the stratospheric range it is difficult to say what set these apart from everything else. I guess the complete and utter transparency is what did it for me. I could not for the life of me think of any possible other way that the artist would want me to listen to their song. Some headphones, like the “downtown”, sounded like they were straining to add bass emphasis. Other headphones sounded good but not natural. The HE-6 were VERY transparent to me. Even with the HD800’s playing radiohead’s In Rainbows I felt that the HD800’s were straining to produce a few of the bass notes and that the instrumentation was not quite “gelling together”. With the HE-6, I could close my eyes and reach out to grab each sound effect. Yorke’s voice was in my head while the background sound effects were all around my head. I think with the HE-6 I would be afraid to listen to any dolby headphone effects or play a scary game because of the exact way in which they separated instruments. My only qualm about them was hearing that Ray Samuel blew his up using the dark star. I was listening to the dark star at about 60% volume and Jose was initially a bit worried that I would blow them up. He listened and was satisfied that they were not being driven too hard, but I am now very apprehensive about whether or not they would be a good purchase. 1200 bucks is a LOT to lose with a simple twist of the volume knob. I would love to hear about what happened when they blew up regarding if it was a weird freak occurrence or what. I might shoot the hifiman people a mail and ask them for the maximum limitations for input for the HE-6.
TL;DR: Mother Of God…

Beyerdynamic Tesla T1 and DT880 600 ohm: I was not terribly impressed with the T1. It had a great sound but the HE-6 had long since ruined me by then. I totally understand what people say about those harsh highs. They aren’t that bad but I guess after listening for more than an hour or two they would get tiring. My ath-m50’s are severely harsh in the high range and the T1’s would still be a welcome upgrade from them in any case.

The DT880 600 ohm sounded good too but I didn’t AB between the T1 and the 880. The 880’s had that same slight loudness in the high end, and they also did not have the punch I was looking for in this price range. Something about that bass punch just seems to be elusive to many headphones, perhaps because I’m used to the ATH-m50’s slap-in-the-face bass reproduction, even with the 840pad mod (more on this later).
TL;DR: Sounds great but not a fan of the highs in either. Would recommend for gaming, I think.

Sennheiser HD598: Very nice sounding. HUGE bass improvement over the HD595 and presumably the HD555. I wasn’t a fan of how hollow they sounded, though. Also that color scheme is weird. I would recommend these as a budget entry level model for people.

Sennheiser HD600 and HD650
: These were my next-upgrade winner. In particular the HD650’s. I did not at all feel that the HD650 were “veiled”. I liked the increased bass response and punchiness of the 650 over the 600. I was not a fan of the build quality. I feel that if you spend 600 bucks on a pair of headphones, there better not be a single molecule of plastic, and if there is it better be painted nicely. I felt that both models felt like they had a cheap coating of Testor’s spray can model paint. The HD600 had a very weird color scheme and the HD650 werent really nice to look at either. They definitely are not for portable or library use as they broadcast something fierce. However, I loved their sound quality, even out of my Fiio E11. Granted, I had to crank the volume to near full power to get some proper listening levels but that just gives me an excuse to upgrade multiple things when I finally buy them. Another huge plus is that they are pretty much always on amazon for around 300 bucks. The biggest eye-opening thing with these two headphones is that many people consider them neutral with slightly increased bass response. I felt that they had the perfect amount of bass and this taught me what a “neutral” bass signature actually sounds like. HUGE eye opener.
TL;DR: HD650 will be my next upgrade. They will also open the path for a lot of prototype amps and builds.

Shure SRH-1840: I loved the build quality but there was pretty much no bass. Bose would have been proud. They didn’t sound unacceptable, but I would have been pissed if I had actually bought them. They were darn comfortable though.

Sennheiser HD800: These were basically exactly what I expected. They would actually do amazingly with quite a lot of types of music. Basically anything without sub bass. They look weird with their reverse D design, and I’m not a fan of how they look, but I think they look better than the upcoming HD700. I wasn’t expecting it to be so spacious inside of the cup.

Koss PortaPro: These sounded EXCELLENT. I felt they sounded different than the koss clip ons that used the same driver. Perhaps because of the fit or perhaps because of the way the two are ported. I think the Portapro would be a great modding headphone. If it was modded with some really soft earpads and a covering for the head band, they would be a VERY nice headphone.

Sennheiser IE8: I am very glad I didn’t jump on these. They are very warm. I was not a fan of the bass response on these. Unfortunately, now I have to go back to researching which IEM’s I need to try to get a proper indication of bass response and neutral-ness. I liked the sound signature of monster turbines and was expecting something similar but these kind of sounded “fuzzy” or “furry” in the bass department.

ATH-M50 Stock pads vs SRH-840 pads: My straight cable ATH-m50’s have SRH-840 pads on them. Another new user had his ATH-m50’s with stock pads. The difference between them was staggering. We applied all logic to figure out why his ATH-m50’s had an overpowering bass response while mine were almost neutral, had nice bass punch, and slightly harsh highs. The pads were only millimeters apart in thickness. His headphones were newer but burnt in longer whereas mine were older but less used. His pads were a bit stiffer than mine but both would compress to the same thickness when the headphones were worn. By all logic, the headphones should have sounded exactly the same. Eventually we decided to simply switch the pads and see what happened. Everyone was blown away. The pads changed the sound signature of the ATH-m50’s to an almost neutral beyerdynamic-ish sound. All the punch was there but the deep humming notes that the ATH-m50 would overemphasize were gone, and there was a harshness in the treble. The ATH-m50 with SRH-840 mod sounds NOTHiNG like stock ath-m50’s. I’d say the ATH-m50’s are a headphone well worth the money, especially if you can get an entirely different sound signature with a reversible 20 dollar mod. The stock pads would be much preferred to me while driving because my car drowns out all bass. The 840 pads are preferred to me pretty much all other times.

Misc. Thoughts: All the orthodynamics that I listened to had this weird effect on my hearing. It felt like a weird vacuum pressure difference thing. It went away almost immediately after the headphones got situated and adjusted, but on the ones that made a particularly good seal like LCD2 and 3, it was quite noticeable initially. The HE-6 did not do this as bad. It wasn’t really uncomfortable, it was just unexpected.

Monster Turbines go up in durability as you get through models. Jude has never even heard of driver flex whereas my bassline model is plagued by it so much that I haven’t even bothered opening the warranty replacement unit I have. I honestly didn’t even put in a pair of monster headphones because of how much I detest the durability of my turbines.
post #9 of 36

You were needing to raise the volume of the Dark Star to 60% because you were using your iPod as a source which will not provide the voltage required and normal out a good source.

Ray's HE-6 were driven by his Dark Star and the source was a $25,000 Boulder CD player. He was experimenting how hard the Dark Star could drive the HE-6 and said they were actually sounding like speakers that you could hear from the distance until finally he took the DS to high and the extra power blew his driver.


I was concern for the headphones when I saw the volume knob all the way to 60% but when I listened to he actual sound realized it was ok due to the low voltage output of the source (iPod).


You should not be concern about blowing the HE-6 driver with the DS. You will be damaging your ears way before that happens so I am sure you will not get up to that level.


post #10 of 36
musicman59, I want to hug you so hard right now for saying that smily_headphones1.gif. I'll definitely be getting the HE-6 as my end-game rig. I havent been able to stop thinking about them since the meet. I was even wearing them in my dreams last night!

I figured my ipod via LOD was giving me line-level voltages. I'll have to test the actual V_out levels but now that you've mentioned it, it seems silly to expect true line level power coming out of the ipod's DAC chip without seriously draining the ipod's battery. I'm going to research what proper line level voltage/current "specifications" are (if such specifications exist) and I'm also researching some amplifier topologies and technologies so I can design and build a nice DIY one. It wont be anything exceedingly fancy like the darkstar, which has multiple inputs and outputs and can go from unbalanced input to balanced output, my design will probably do RCA input and maybe balanced output but most likely RCA output. Since I'm only in intermediate level electronics class and have just started learning about transistors, my first design will most probably be meant to power sennheiser HD650's. I will be saving up for those in the coming year.

Can you comment on why I felt that the Pass Aleph 3 sounded a bit better than the darkstar? I thought that the PA3 was a bit better in the low end (20-40hz) than the darkstar, but I'm almost 90% sure it was only because it was a significantly quieter environment in the back room compared to the "main" room. The PA3 is a speaker amp if I understand correctly and although it has plenty of power, I find it hard to believe that it sounded better than the darkstar given that the darkstar was designed to be able to drive the pants off of the HE-6 (and whoever was wearing them, haha)

Also, is there a reason apart from looks/aesthetics that some of the solid state amplifiers had acoustic spikes?

EDIT: I did a bit of research. From wikipedia: US Professional Audio Line level voltage is 1.228 Vrms and/or 1.737 Vpeak. From anythingbutipod forums, a guy tested his ipod's (among other devices) voltage outputs. For dock output, he got ~.780 Volts RMS. Assuming he has the correct line out output voltage from his ipod classic via apple's universal dock, that means my ipod is running "line level" output at less than half of what it should be. That would explain thoroughly why I had to crank the darkstar to 50-60% to get normal listening levels in a semi-noisy environment.

Other conclusions: Holy cow, that darkstar must REALLY pack a punch. The website says that in balanced mode operation it has a +/- 160volt swing!
Edited by shrimants - 2/19/12 at 8:10pm
post #11 of 36

I know the Ipod has a lower voltage than a normal source because I use an Ipod in a dock as source to my V200 in my nightstand and I need to either raise the volume to the V200 to high or set it's deep switches in the back to +12db. I am almost sure that the normal voltage of a source is about 2 volts. I think my Wadia 27 DAC is set for 2.4 volts.


Tim's (NASA guy as you call him) Aleph used to be mine. I sold it to him. It is a Class A 30 watts per channel at 8 ohms which will give you about 5.4 watts at the 50 ohms of the HE-6. Yes it is a single ended speaker amplifier design by Nelson Pass (from Threshold and Pass Labs). In our summer meet I compared the Aleph 3 to the Dark Star and IMO I could not really hear much of a difference. I currently also have a Threshold T50 speaker amplifier (50 watts per channel in 8 ohms Class A) driving the HE-6 and they sound as good as out of the Dark Star.


The spikes drain vibration from the units down to the shelf or floor making the unit work more efficiently and improving the sound.

post #12 of 36
Where would vibration come from in a solid state unit with no moving parts though?
post #13 of 36
Originally Posted by shrimants View Post

Where would vibration come from in a solid state unit with no moving parts though?

Transformer for example.



post #14 of 36
Ah that makes sense. What do you think is a good power output for a 300 ohm headphone? I was going to try designing an amplifier that would put 2 watts per channel into a 600 ohm headphone. I'm still researching the intricacies of voltage/current relationship and what kinds of changes the amplifier needs to deal with. For example, if I design the amplifier to put 2 watts per channel into 600 ohms load, what will change if I plug in a set of el-cheapo earbuds that are only 32 ohms. I am not sure what this would cause just yet if my amp design cannot accomodate the gigantic swing from high voltage/low current to high current/low voltage. I was thinking 2 watts per channel into a 600 ohm load would be enough, but now I am not sure if I did my math correctly after looking at the above figures. 30 watts into 8 ohms means 15.5 volts and 2 amps. If that 8 ohm load turns into a 50 ohm load, is the amplifier supposed to change voltage and current draw and provide the same power? Or does it still provide the same voltage/current but the actual power output changes? I am having a hard time understanding this portion of the concept.
post #15 of 36

Sorry I am not that technical oriented to answer those questions. Probably Tim (WOTTS) or Walter (DECLINEDESIGN) can help you with that.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Meets, Get-Togethers, Factory Tours › Head-Fi Meet Impressions, Trade Show Reports, Factory Tours › Detroit - Ann Arbor Impressions Thread - 2/18/12 Meet