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Sennheiser HDVD800 Headphone Amplifier - Page 100

post #1486 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by Windsor View Post
 

 

Thanks for this!

 

I see the sense in the vast majority of what you said, but can't see the truth in the cable having "nothing" to do with the difference in sound. Surely without a balanced cable it wouldn't be possible to hear the effects of a balanced signal in headphones plugged into a balanced headphone amp?! 

 

Semantics aside, I'm very grateful for this informative post, which - along with some of the recent posts in this thread about balanced amping - has definitely contributed to me more clearly understanding how the HDVD 800 creates a difference in sound when listening with the balanced and unbalanced cables. I will likely accordingly amend any further impressions I create. Thank you.

 

smily_headphones1.gif

Technically, it might be argued that there is no such thing as a "balanced" cable. Or that they are ALL "balanced". The cable has just been terminated in a fashion that it can be plugged into a specific kind of jack.

 

If you were to cut the plugs off of both your standard HD800 cord as well as your balanced cord you would have two "cables" that were identical. if you then compared their sonic differences either on a balanced amp or an unbalanced amp (forget the jack types, let's say you just use alligator clips to connect them to the amps), they would sound the same because the "cable" was the same. The termination of the cable is a function of the amp it is plugged into and not the cable itself. The quality of the sound differences are 100% a function of which headphone output jack you are using on the HDVD800

 

Your review was very useful, even more so since you actually had the same "cable" for both of the amp configuration types (i.e., balanced and unbalanced). This showed the true differences based on the amp configuration alone. If you had compared the standard HD800 cable and instead used a Headroom Fatpipe (a Cardas wire) headphone cable configured balanced, now you have two variables, cable type, and amp configuration. The review could then not be conclusive of anything. Was it better because it used the amp's balanced output, or was it better because the cable type (i.e., Sennheiser or Headroom) was different?

 

The issue is that there is a LOT of true cable comparisons in audio discussions. Implying that the balanced cable is somehow better than the unbalanced version when the cable itself in both cases is the same type and length of material is misleading. For example, if you were to try this same test using a Woo Audio WA22 instead (a balanced headphone amplifier) you would discover that they both sounded identical. What would that mean if you had previously concluded that one was "contributing different sonic differences" to the sound? Again, it is the amp and not the cable. The WA22 is balanced but its output is transformer coupled making each channel's output single ended, so regardless of whether you use the WA22 4 pin XLR connection or the 1/4 inch connector, the sound will be the same (and in this case the same volume as well).

 

One other way to view it is this: your test could have been done in a more difficult and unreasonable fashion, although it illustrates my pointtongue.gif. You could have had a long listening session with your standard single-ended HD800 cable. You could have then just hacked off the 1/4 inch connector and then soldered on a 4 pin XLR and then did your listening from the XLR connector on the HDVD800. You would have heard the same results as you did. But in this case you used the SAME cable in both cases. The different plugs used is only a necessary function of the jacks on the HDVD800 that you were connecting to for comparison purposes.

 

So what you were really comparing was the sonic differences available at the HDVD800 unbalanced and balanced output jacks when using HD800 phones and stock headphone cable. You could just as easily cut off the plugs from a pair of Sennheiser cables (balanced or unbalanced or both, it doesn't matter) and then opened the HDVD800 and Soldered the identical headphone cables directly to the backs of the jacks. Your results would have been identical. Unsolder from the jacks and swap the cables and resolder. Results would be the same. the Balanced output produces better sound regardless of which Sennheiser cable was soldered to it.

 

I hope that none of this sounds condescending at all (it sure ain't meant to be). I think part of the issue is that we have to spend >$200 and wait forever to get a stock cord so that we can use our phones on the HDVD800 the way it was intended, so the improvement in sound appears to be all about this cable that we have to acquire. When we plug that great expensive cable in and get far better sound than we had, we tend to think it's the cable. This is the kind of mis-direction in audio that can confuse things.

post #1487 of 2149

Thanks for writing such a thoughtful response and the kind words about my review. I see that the differences I heard when using each cable were due to the function of the HDVD 800's circuitry and that the cables facilitate the amp working to provide either a balanced or unbalanced sound. If I repost my review anywhere else I will amend it to reflect that! 

 

I love how new thinking completely changes one's perspective. :)

 

P.S. Love the quote in your signature. 

:beerchug:

post #1488 of 2149
I want to release the full potential of the HDVD800 so much that I've currently got 2 orders for balanced cables. I think it sounds better than any other amp I've heard from the standard jack. I am a cable skeptic and I am only getting a balanced cable to tap into the balanced circuit on the HDVD800, if one was available for £50 in the uk I would buy it. now... The one thing that plays on my mind when buying a £250 cable (or any cable) is how much does balanced design(amp circuit) REALLY improve SQ? He who must not be named said this .....

No Balanced Outputs – Balanced audio is great for pro use with long cables and electrically hostile environments. But it’s generally more of a liability than an asset in home audio gear. All else being equal, balanced stages usually have higher overall noise and distortion than their unbalanced counterparts. Headphone drivers don’t magically somehow work better when driven by a balanced source. Most of the stuff you hear and read about balanced audio for home headphone gear is myth, hype and even snake oil.

So, even though my logic tells me otherwise I'm sure I will convince myself that the balanced output is better on the HDVD800 after the amount of money I've spent but can someone convince me that it's not JUST volume matching/gain that is accounting for the improved SQ in balanced mode.
I'm not trying to cause an argument or ruffle feathers it is a genuine confusion on my part.
post #1489 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by James-uk View Post

No Balanced Outputs – Balanced audio is great for pro use with long cables and electrically hostile environments. But it’s generally more of a liability than an asset in home audio gear. All else being equal, balanced stages usually have higher overall noise and distortion than their unbalanced counterparts. Headphone drivers don’t magically somehow work better when driven by a balanced source. Most of the stuff you hear and read about balanced audio for home headphone gear is myth, hype and even snake oil.

So, even though my logic tells me otherwise I'm sure I will convince myself that the balanced output is better on the HDVD800 after the amount of money I've spent but can someone convince me that it's not JUST volume matching/gain that is accounting for the improved SQ in balanced mode.
I'm not trying to cause an argument or ruffle feathers it is a genuine confusion on my part.

 

1. Balanced audio is great for pro use with long cables and electrically hostile environments.

 

Yes, this is the advantage of balanced circuits and cables. It is better at rejecting noise and thus allows long cable runs to remain "hum" free. This is why it was developed.

 

2. But it’s generally more of a liability than an asset in home audio gear. All else being equal, balanced stages usually have higher overall noise and distortion than their unbalanced counterparts.

 

I think this is an exaggeration. In the real world, todays modern opamp based circuits are so quiet that adding a relay here, resistor there, or even another opamp doesn't add any significant (audible) noise. A balanced amp design is more complex and more expensive, but it doesn't necessarily add noise or distorion.

 

3. Headphone drivers don’t magically somehow work better when driven by a balanced source.

 

Correct. Comments about balanced amps holding a "tighter grip" because of more power, or sounding more dynamic because of faster slew rate are completely absurd. An amplifier like the HDVD800 has many times more power than what is needed to drive the HD800 - balanced or unbalanced. There is abosolutely no difference in the sound of the amplifier from plug to plug - it's the same amp, with the same electronics, and the same output impedance. The changes people think they hear are all completely volume based. Period. How many of you have compared different amps side-by-side and found the differences can be so difficult to perceive that they may be simply imagined? And I'm talking about different amplifiers of completely different origin, with completely different parts, designed and sold by completely different companies. If you can relate to this, then ask yourself how two completely different amplifiers can sound so much alike, and yet its possible for THE SAME AMP to sound drastically different depending on which plug you use? Think about it... it's ridiculous.

 

4. Most of the stuff you hear and read about balanced audio for home headphone gear is myth, hype and even snake oil.

 

Yes.

 

5. So, even though my logic tells me otherwise...

 

Trust your logic. Save your money and buy more music.


Edited by palmfish - 9/3/13 at 6:45pm
post #1490 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by James-uk View Post

I want to release the full potential of the HDVD800 so much that I've currently got 2 orders for balanced cables. I think it sounds better than any other amp I've heard from the standard jack. I am a cable skeptic and I am only getting a balanced cable to tap into the balanced circuit on the HDVD800, if one was available for £50 in the uk I would buy it. now... The one thing that plays on my mind when buying a £250 cable (or any cable) is how much does balanced design(amp circuit) REALLY improve SQ? He who must not be named said this .....

No Balanced Outputs – Balanced audio is great for pro use with long cables and electrically hostile environments. But it’s generally more of a liability than an asset in home audio gear. All else being equal, balanced stages usually have higher overall noise and distortion than their unbalanced counterparts. Headphone drivers don’t magically somehow work better when driven by a balanced source. Most of the stuff you hear and read about balanced audio for home headphone gear is myth, hype and even snake oil.

So, even though my logic tells me otherwise I'm sure I will convince myself that the balanced output is better on the HDVD800 after the amount of money I've spent but can someone convince me that it's not JUST volume matching/gain that is accounting for the improved SQ in balanced mode.
I'm not trying to cause an argument or ruffle feathers it is a genuine confusion on my part.

You will eventually have what you need to do comparisons with but to help "ease the angst", here's a few things to think of:

 

1) Sennhesier has been making "Pro audio" (i.e., balanced) systems for ages. It's their bread and butter. If they decided to really build a "top quality" balanced system for audiophiles, then they probably know about all those shortcomings that you've heard of and have mitigations of some sort in place already. (note that they don't seem as adept with DAC circuitry though)

 

2) For what it's worth, this is my personal experience with the balanced and unbalanced modes of the HDVD800 using T1s.

 

2a) The 4X increase in power that you get with balanced gives the amp additional headroom so in addition to volume, the dynamics are slightly better but hearing this difference may not be obvious initially if you are not used to the sound. It will come over time.

 

2b) The unbalanced mode has a very slight "congestion" to it. Sounds of certain instruments aren't totally distinct. When you use balanced mode, that congestion tends to go away. As a result the "air" around you seems to open up or expand a bit and it is easier to sense individual instruments better. To me, this increases my "involvement" in the sound but others may experience it different. As in most high quality component comparisons, this can be quite subtle, But when you hear it and discover how to identify it, you will probably decide that "it's a nicer sound" and will be desireable to you.

 

2c) Toneality really doesn't change, although the greater impact in the dynamics may make bass passages appear to be slightly louder, although I think that the bass is just working better rather than playing louder. (there is a difference)

 

3) Is it worth another £250? well that's for you to decide. That's way too much for me, but I have the advantage of my cable-building and soldering experience so for about $5 to $10 US cash, I can reterminate the stock unbalanced cables that come with HD800 headphones to perform sonically identical to the expensive balanced versions that Sennhesier sells. The only difference is that my XLR connector doesn't stick out half way across the room (man that thing's long). Now there are a couple of reasons that I won't go into, but I had the dealer that sold me the HDVD800 and my T1 reterminate the T1s to balanced for me. They charged me $50 for that service. They also provide reterminated HD800 cables as well (when you buy headphones) but now the off the shelf Sennheiser balanced seems to be all the rage.

 

Hope this helps some

post #1491 of 2149
It never ceases to amaze me how, even when faced with a logical, factual, time proven explanation for an aural phenomenon, some people still must cling to pseudo-science and voodoo. And somehow, the only way to benefit from this psuedo-science/voodoo is to spend more money on yet another product...

My advice is to simply think before you go out and spend $200 on a balanced cable, or a cryo-treated USB cable, or power conditioner, or any other such product, and spend a little time reading articles by Floyd Toole, Douglas Self, And Peter Aczel, to name a few. It could save you a lot of money and drama and let you simply enjoy your music.
post #1492 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by palmfish View Post

It never ceases to amaze me how, even when faced with a logical, factual, time proven explanation for an aural phenomenon, some people still must cling to pseudo-science and voodoo. And somehow, the only way to benefit from this psuedo-science/voodoo is to spend more money on yet another product...

My advice is to simply think before you go out and spend $200 on a balanced cable, or a cryo-treated USB cable, or power conditioner, or any other such product, and spend a little time reading articles by Floyd Toole, Douglas Self, And Peter Aczel, to name a few. It could save you a lot of money and drama and let you simply enjoy your music.

psychological/placebo effect is there though. whether the electrical properties changes with an expensive cable is one part, but ultimately we perceive music with our brain and if somebody truly believes that the cable makes everything sound better, in their mind it probably does indeed sound better.

 

of course i'm not supporting people spending massive amounts of money on cables. but if you have already "maxed out" the rest of your system, have cash to spend, and truly believes that they do make a difference, the buying expensive cables could indeed improve how your system sounds to you, even though it might be purely imaginary.

 

personally i get aftermarket cables not for sonic improvements (but believing that there might be one helps a bit :P), but for better microphonics (he500 stock silver cable omfg), durability (if stock cables break), and aesthetics. of course they have to be reasonably priced

post #1493 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jd007 View Post
 

psychological/placebo effect is there though. whether the electrical properties changes with an expensive cable is one part, but ultimately we perceive music with our brain and if somebody truly believes that the cable makes everything sound better, in their mind it probably does indeed sound better.

 

of course i'm not supporting people spending massive amounts of money on cables. but if you have already "maxed out" the rest of your system, have cash to spend, and truly believes that they do make a difference, the buying expensive cables could indeed improve how your system sounds to you, even though it might be purely imaginary.

 

personally i get aftermarket cables not for sonic improvements (but believing that there might be one helps a bit :P), but for better microphonics (he500 stock silver cable omfg), durability (if stock cables break), and aesthetics. of course they have to be reasonably priced

 

Sorry, but your argument in a nutshell is that "ignorance is bliss." That may be acceptible to you, but it isn't for me. However, this isn't a discussion about cables - it's a discussion about the cause and effect of the perceived improvement in sound quality using XLR connections vs. TRS connections.

 

Since the HDVD800 is marketed as a consumer product (as opposed to a pro product), it's intended buyer is a home audio enthusiast. A home audio enthusiast will likely be using this product in their home, connected to a source with cables under 6' long, and listening through headphones with a cable less than 10' long. Minimal EM interference in the environment and short cable runs make the XLR cabling superfluous.

 

Do some audio enthusiasts like owning gear with XLR connectors? Absolutely! Just like some car enthusiasts like putting 21" rims their BMWs. I'm totally fine with both of these scenarios. It's only when the BMW owners start telling people the wheels improve acceleration and cornering that I take notice. And when these BMW owners don't know the difference between sprung and unsprung mass and can't explain the friction circle, I raise the bull$%*@ flag...


Edited by palmfish - 9/3/13 at 11:26pm
post #1494 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by palmfish View Post
 

 

Sorry, but your argument in a nutshell is that "ignorance is bliss." That may be acceptible to you, but it isn't for me. You buy aftermarket cables for logical practical reasons - you make a cost/benefit analysis and come to a decision based on facts. That's great. But you know that many others buy them for "illogical" reasons without the benefit of knowing all the facts. And we haven't even mentioned the products that are pure snake oil.

 

The Sennheiser balanced cable is identical to the unbalanced cable, with the exception of the connector on the end. There is no reason for a consumer or a pro to purchase this cable. Period. Of course, there is no reason why Sennheiser needed to include XLR connections on their amp either - except for marketing.

 

When the Emperor parades in his "new clothes" you have a choice; you can be a sheep and tell him he looks great, or you can be a man and tell him he's buck-ass naked.

Well, I would suggest that if you're not getting enough "bliss" out of a hobby, it's time to look for another :D Obviously it's good to avoid "ignorant purchases" based on just speculation, but we're talking headphone gear here. The only store inside of 60 miles here that I can go in and compare headphone gear only has two amplifiers that I can look at and the top Sennheiser cans that they have is the HD700. I really want to hear an HD800 but they ain't got it. so what do you do? listen to all the discussions, try to dertermine how folks evaluate things and listen to opinions. Then Buy something and listen for your self (or go into a store if you are lucky to be near one or have a friend with one).

 

And if I choose to buy something entirely because I just like the color and shape of the box, what's wrong with that (I know many women who've done this-it's a matter of priority) What if I don't care about the facts? I bought an HDVD800 because of a whole load of suppositions since there was virtually nobody out there that had even touched the thing at the time. 

 

Your second paragraph, 1st sentence I agree with. The second one I completely disagree with, but that is probably because the third is just plain wrong. The HDVD800 is a box that contains TWO distinct and very different stereo amplifiers that just so happen to also share some common parts. To use the first amplifier, you must plug your headphones into that amplifier's output jack which just so happens to be one of two 3 teminal 1/4 inch jacks. To use the second amplifier, you must plug your headphones into the second amplifier's output jack which just so happens to be one of two 4 terminal XLR-4 jacks. The second amplifier is so different from the first that it has nearly 2 times the number of electronic components in it. It also contains 4 different DACs instead of just 2 like the first amp. Because the second amplifier is so different from the first, it also sounds a bit different from the first. You'll have to listen to it sometime, I think I like the second amplifier in the HDVD800 box better than the first. It sounds more pleasant to me I think.

 

Of course, I'm a complete slobbering idiot because I think I hear sounds that a lot of folks would rather try to prove away instead of just listening first--So maybe the two very different amplifiers in the HDVD800 box really DO sound identical -- after all, they ARE inside the same box, right?

 

There is plenty of reason for a person to buy a balanced cord. It they want a stock, off the shelf, cord that comes with a Sennheiser warranty, is designed to work with the HD800 headphones, and can connect to the second amplifier in the HDVD800 box, well you have no choice. You MUST buy the cable! The only marketing here is that Sennheiser has refused to provide an exchange program of some sort so that purchasers of HD800 that do not need the original single ended cables can get them exchanged for balanced for free. After all Sennheiser's cost on both the balanced and unbalanced cables have to be identical.

 

And when I meet that Emperor guy when he's running around downtown naked with a set of cans on and some kind of portable DAC/Amp combo, for sure I'll go right up to him and ask him if they were manufactured by Sennheiser, because if they were I will already know exactly how they sound because *I* have an HDVD800!

 

Oh my! please excuse me, I just realized that it has gotten pretty late and I haven't had my meds...:confused_face_2:


Edited by wisemanja - 9/4/13 at 12:24am
post #1495 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by palmfish View Post
 

How many of you have compared different amps side-by-side and found the differences can be so difficult to perceive that they may be simply imagined? And I'm talking about different amplifiers of completely different origin, with completely different parts, designed and sold by completely different companies. If you can relate to this, then ask yourself how two completely different amplifiers can sound so much alike, and yet its possible for THE SAME AMP to sound drastically different depending on which plug you use? Think about it... it's ridiculous.

When I owned both the V200 and SPL Auditor (had had them both at the same time for well over a year) I did several comparisons, some volume matched. In the volume matched comparisons the perceived difference was smaller than when I just did my regular listening where I switched between them every few weeks or so. The differences were smaller, but still clearly audible and similar to the non-volume matched comparisons. In this case I was very familiar with them both and knew exactly what to listen for, so I guess I zoomed in on the right places when I listened. I assume most people would describe the differences between the two in that comparison as "10%", or some other clichéed term like that. When you own them for as long as I did you notice that the "10%" difference in character between the two color the sound of everything you listen so that it grows in importance well beyond the 10% difference it appeared to be at first listen. It did for me anyway, but I guess that's what makes me an audio enthusiast since I care to this extent about the smaller details.

 

When it comes to the HDVD 800 balanced vs unbalanced the difference I've noticed isn't what I'd describe as drastic or anything of the sort. It's the same as unbalanced, except a bit better. It's the same sound signature, style, tone etc etc except a bit better. I don't doubt it'd be harder to hear the differences in volume matched comparisons of balanced/unbalanced vs volume matched comparisons of different amps. Would there be no difference at all? I doubt it, but since you're so adamant about there not being any difference I'm tempted to try it out. I'm probably not doing it any time soon though since it would involve switching cables back and forth and constantly matching volume between each switch. Much easier comparing two amps from a logistics perspective.

post #1496 of 2149
Thanks for the responses and opinions it puts it back into perspective . I think I had convinced myself that the difference was going to be a noticeable improvement even though my own experiences and logic have always had a hard time noticing differences in audio gear that had been built well. The HDVD800 was the biggest change I've heard going from one solid state amp to another and it turns out there is a logical reason for that , it's output impedance . Again my experience of this 'big' change is still subtle in the grand scheme of things. What's worse is all my on reading and knowledge built up in this hobby has got me thinking that no way should the balanced output sound 'better' and probably not different (maybe slightly different ) based on gain alone. BUT as palmfish has pointed out the biggest change is probably going to be a perceived change, yet my order for the balanced cable remains in place! I'm going against my better judgment which is bordering on slight madness but I suppose that's the way this audio hobby goes! I am at least willing to admit that I have a problem.

My name is James and I'm an audioholic smily_headphones1.gif
post #1497 of 2149
Hi guys - as I read the last few posts, there's something that keeps coming to mind that may be useful when considering the HDVD - and head-fi and/life in general - and that's enjoyment.

For me, regardless of what amp, headphones, or cable I use, the number one priority for me with headphones, and life, is enjoyment, and as it relates to the HDVD 800, regardless of what cable I use with it, I just know that I enjoyed the sound with the balanced cable much more than with the standard cable. Despite the logical technical explanations of why it may or may not sound better, emotionally, to me listening with the balanced cable was a much more satisfying and immersive experience than with the standard cable, a fact that revealed itself to be true for me across repeated comparisons between using the HDVD in either balanced or unbalanced mode. I am definitely opting for the HDVD in balanced mode and have already pre-ordered a balanced cable, which I also think is also aesthetically beautiful, another factor that contributes to my enjoyment of head-fi gear and life.

Sometimes, our heart tells us what we prefer despite how we rationalise something to be. I was talking with Axel Grell about this a few months ago, specifically about the subject of headphone burn in. He told me that he experimented with burning in a brand new pair of HD 800. He measured the frequency response of a brand new HD800 and listened to music with it before burning it in with music for 100 hours and then remeasuring it and re-listening to ti. After 100 hours, Axel and co. compared the differences in the frequency response graphs and found the differences to appear minuscule and very very minor, almost negligible, but the music after burn-in just sounded much better to Axel and the others who listened to the HD 800 before and after this experiment.

I guess that my main point here is, rather than analysing and making decisions purely based on logic, trusting your heart and/or what is most enjoyable to you is the most enjoyable way for you to experience. If, to your ears with the HDVD 800 sounds clearly better with the balanced cable, then that is the option I recommend to you. And, in my experience the only way to know what works best is to experience it and know.
post #1498 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by wisemanja View Post

Your second paragraph, 1st sentence I agree with. The second one I completely disagree with, but that is probably because the third is just plain wrong. The HDVD800 is a box that contains TWO distinct and very different stereo amplifiers that just so happen to also share some common parts. To use the first amplifier, you must plug your headphones into that amplifier's output jack which just so happens to be one of two 3 teminal 1/4 inch jacks. To use the second amplifier, you must plug your headphones into the second amplifier's output jack which just so happens to be one of two 4 terminal XLR-4 jacks. The second amplifier is so different from the first that it has nearly 2 times the number of electronic components in it. It also contains 4 different DACs instead of just 2 like the first amp. Because the second amplifier is so different from the first, it also sounds a bit different from the first. You'll have to listen to it sometime, I think I like the second amplifier in the HDVD800 box better than the first. It sounds more pleasant to me I think.
 

 

Your description above sounds more like some kind of hybrid quad-mono, fully balanced bridged amplifier with a second, discrete single ended amp driven off a single power supply. Where are you getting all of these specifications?


Edited by palmfish - 9/4/13 at 8:23am
post #1499 of 2149
This time last week I got my balance cable,and I put a post about it on here Basically saying how much better the sound quality was.l have just looked at some of posts from some people on here, trying 2 say the only difference is,how much louder balance is,what a load of rubbish their talking.ive been listening all week 2 my music,and I'll say it again,sound quality is alot better,in every way with the balance cable.u can hear the difference with your ears very clearly.and what a fantastic difference it makes.
post #1500 of 2149
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheManko View Post
 

When I owned both the V200 and SPL Auditor (had had them both at the same time for well over a year) I did several comparisons, some volume matched. In the volume matched comparisons the perceived difference was smaller than when I just did my regular listening where I switched between them every few weeks or so. The differences were smaller, but still clearly audible and similar to the non-volume matched comparisons. In this case I was very familiar with them both and knew exactly what to listen for, so I guess I zoomed in on the right places when I listened. I assume most people would describe the differences between the two in that comparison as "10%", or some other clichéed term like that. When you own them for as long as I did you notice that the "10%" difference in character between the two color the sound of everything you listen so that it grows in importance well beyond the 10% difference it appeared to be at first listen. It did for me anyway, but I guess that's what makes me an audio enthusiast since I care to this extent about the smaller details.

 

When it comes to the HDVD 800 balanced vs unbalanced the difference I've noticed isn't what I'd describe as drastic or anything of the sort. It's the same as unbalanced, except a bit better. It's the same sound signature, style, tone etc etc except a bit better. I don't doubt it'd be harder to hear the differences in volume matched comparisons of balanced/unbalanced vs volume matched comparisons of different amps. Would there be no difference at all? I doubt it, but since you're so adamant about there not being any difference I'm tempted to try it out. I'm probably not doing it any time soon though since it would involve switching cables back and forth and constantly matching volume between each switch. Much easier comparing two amps from a logistics perspective.

 

Exactly!

 

By the way, if you were to make a small XLR-4 to 1/4 inch jack adapter, comparisons on the HDVD800 are much easier. You plug the adapter into one of the single-ended jacks on the HDVD800 and the balanced cable into the XLR jack. Now you can just swap your headphone jack between the XLR jack on the HDVD800 and the XLR jack on the adapter. Takes all of a second to do so.

 

Do remember to turn the volume all the way down first when doing this though to avoid damage to the amp's output.

 

Also, to do a "worst case" type of test try this: If you find you are leaning toward one configuration over the other, try setting the volume ever so slightly (like 1 or 2 dB) LOWER on the configuration that seems to normally sound better and redo the comparisons. If you can still hear the things that that seemed to make the one sound better now with the volume handicap applied, it may change your thinking about it. If you can't hear those things anymore, well that might change your thinking a bit too!

 

However, long term listening is really where you ultimately learn to hear certain things that you like or dislike about a system.

 

One other item. Psychoacoustics are real. There's kind of a trick that I've used to "calibrate" my mind occasionally. When comparing two components or systems, get a friend to come over and do a series of blind tests with you. If your score is less than, say 90%, then the differences in sound that you think you are hearing are approaching your "detection threshold" where you would need to start using double blind testing to determine if you really were hearing differences (and chances are the differences might not be there anyway). For all practicality, I have no need to be telling others of differences I hear if they are in the region of my detection threshold. So using this trick I can go into a comparison and have a fairly good confidence as to whether difference I think I hear are "obvious" (i.e., I will continue to hear it over time) or "marginal" (i.e., small enough that it doesn't matter to me and may very well be psychoacoustic in nature)

 

The real issue is knowing what to look for. Most people that do formal reviews have a whole collection of recordings that they use, each intended to more easily reveal different characters or flaws in the system.

 

Anyway, there's a few ideas for you're "review" session. :D

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