Hello everybody, and thank you all for the insights and thoughtful posts that helped me immensely to make up my mind about getting a Float vs. not getting a Float. I have a Float now. But let's start at the beginning:
I am a composer and producer (of more experimental electronic and contemporary music), and upon changing cities, and having to currently work in an intermediate kind of setup that is not sound proof nor properly acoustically treated (while we are building a new studio), I was starting to grow more and more frustrated with the headphones I used to work with, that were ok for HAVING to work with them SOMETIMES, but certainly not for prolonged sessions, nor for final judgement, let alone for having them on for 8-12 hours at a time. The headphones I have are Beyerdynamic DT 250, DT 770, and Sennheiser HD25II for live monitoring, all of them ok dynamic cans and studio standards, but nothing fancy.
So I started looking into getting new headphones- I admire the sound of my precious Rogers LS3/5a's (with AB1s), IMF, and my Klein&Hummel O96 mid field monitors, I wanted to find something that somewhat resembles the sound signatures of the monitors I am used to and that I enjoy working with, or, in the case of the LS3/5a's, even grew to love.
Quad Musikwiedergabe used to help me here and there with the repair of voice coils of blown speakers (happened once, to the B110s of the LS3/5a's), and I was aware of the existence of the Float, but never actually heard them. Mr. Stein once said to me that he loves the LS3/5a's because they are the closest to the ESL57 as far as dynamic speakers are concerned, and considering that the Floats are supposedly the closest to ESL's when it comes to headphones, I thought the Floats might be just down my alley.
Luckily, I found a pair of Float IIs with the last revision of the PS2 for a fair price on Ebay, and there started the journey. Upon arrival, they were with no doubt MUCH better than any dynamic headphone I had listened to so far, but had a few very aparent downsides. Bass reproduction had a steep rolloff at approx. 70-80hz, and the high frequencies seemed to be somewhat distorted, also effecting the imaging. Very little so, but it was noticeable that there were problems in the extreme frequency spectrum.
Reading more and more articles and forums, It became clear that the transformer box was to blame for a lot of the downfalls of the system. I was considering various options, from building a new dedicated amplifier, to getting better, custom made transformers from Sowter in the UK, but since I needed a reliable solution quick and have too much work to do to fiddle around with my soldering iron, I ended up buying the new Jecklin QA tranformer box from Quad Musikwiedergabe.
I have to say that it solved ALL issues I had before. The reproduction is stellar now, in both extreme frequency ends. Hiss is gone. And I find myself working with the Floats more and more, even in situations in which I could also use my monitors. Imaging is amazing, and they play with a sense of ease and resolution that I would have not considered possible for head phones, or ear speakers if you want.
I run them in a rather humble, "no-nonesense" kind of setup (without getting into details of the rest of my studio setup)- the chain is a Motu 828 MKII with Black Lion Audio modifications, Black Lion Audio Micro Clock MkII, Mackie Big Knob Monitor Controller, Quad 520 power amp (highly modified), and cables are Sommer Albedo and Mogami.
The greater frequency range they are able to deliver now, especially in the lower range, forced me to put some work into the frame, as now all of a sudden I had rattling and all kind of vibration related issues that weren't there before (the Floats just didn't vibrate so much before...). I solved that with fixing the drivers in place (with some very thin 5mm x 1mm self adhesive rubber tape that I would usually use for air tightening of speakers) on the sides where they touch the chassis of the frame.
Also the metal grilles behind the foam of the ear pads (both inside and outside) needed some anti rattling re-sealing on the sides.
I am quite sure that these are the last headphones I will ever need, and well, if they die one day, I will get myself a pair of QAs. But I see no reason to do so as long as these last. The pair I have had a Quad Musikwiedergabe driver service before I bought them (and only very few hours of usage since), and I am quite positive that there won't be that big of an audible difference between the QA and my Float IIs (despite the fact that I haven't heard the QA headset yet). The biggest problem was the transformer box, and with the new QA Power Supply, these are the most neutral, non fatiguing, yet stellar headphones, I have ever had the pleasure to work and listen to music with. I tried various Stax models before, but none ever were to my liking. And some days I work with these for up to 12 hours a day.
Music reproduction has many objective and subjective parameters, and I am sure that there are a lot of great systems out there. But to my ears and liking, the Float IIs with the QA transformer box are among the best monitoring systems, be they speaker or head phone based, I have ever heard. My quest to find the perfect headphones ended right here.
Amp matching seems important, I had them driven with a (also highly modified) Quad 405 before, but I was missing the last bit of resolution that my Quad 520 is able to deliver. As everybody knows, they are certainly not efficient, but I was even able to drive them to ok levels with a small Indeed 2x25 watt T-Amp. So my travel setup now consists of the small T-Amp, the old PS2 and my amazing Floats.
I read somewhere: Life without a Float is possible, but pointless. I second that.
Edited by Glitterbug - 2/25/13 at 4:07am