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Charter Oak SP-1: I'm Impressed!

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

 Hi Head Fi folks. I'm new to this forum but I've been lurking around here for awhile. I just wanted to share my thoughts on what I think are some very cool headphones, the Charter Oak SP-1. I won't go into details about the company or how the SP-1's are basically rebranded German made headphones. You can find that elsewhere around here. I did get an outstanding deal from Hello Music; nearly $100 cheaper than the typical retail price. 


I write and record my own music. It's mostly guitar based alternative stuff sot of like Bon Iver but I don't sing in a falsetto voice. I own a bunch of very cool guitars and amps along with Pro Tools 10 and a MacBook Pro. I've used several firewire and usb interfaces over the years, but right now I have a Focusrite Scarlett that I really like. I needed a pair of accurate headphones for mixing. I like to mix with headphones first and then work with studio monitors. But I listen to so much music through headphones these days that it's become second nature to me. Not only that, but with so many people listening with earbuds and headphones, the question is why wouldn't you optimize mixes for headphones?


OK with that out of the way, I will say that I've owned lots of cans over the years. Right now I have a set of Grado 325i's, Aiaiai TMA-1's, and some Sennheiser HD600's. I use them for different things. The Grados sound great with pop and rock; the Aiaiai's work fantastic in noisy environments, although they lack detail and have a narrow soundstage; the Senns are good for mixing in conjunction with the Grados.




So, onto the Charter Oaks. I was hesitant because the word on the street was that they lacked bass. Well, I'm not sure how or where this rumor got started, but I'm not noticing any issues with the low end. They are quite accurate and not hyped below 200hz or so, which is what I prefer, but the bass is present and accounted for. They do require a headphone amp--maybe that's part of the problem with some users. Also, if you want hyped bass, you can get it with a simple EQ in iTunes or whatever music player you use. Bottom line (get it:-) hey are quite capable in the low end.




The most impressive thing about the SP-1's though is their ability to sound like a high end set of loudspeakers placed at the optimum listening position. The vocal detail will blow you away, and you'll figure out why Norah Jones is so highly regarded by music producers. It's almost a spiritual experience. Transients are well tailored, and all frequencies come together quite naturally.


For mixing in Pro Tools, I've discovered that when I get things right through the SP-1's, the music sounds fine through just about any source: iPhone, my high end Focal component system in my little roadster, my old Infinity loudspeakers from the early '90's, even through a crappy set of computer speakers. At this point I almost completely trust them to give me a good monitor mix. I still check things through my Tannoy studio monitors.




The earpads fit around my ears perfectly. I do not notice any wearing fatigue, and listening fatigue isn't a problem. The only issue so far is that I tend to turn them up too loud since the response is so lifelike and balanced. There are no annoying frequency spikes. Also, my left driver may be slightly louder than the right. I say maybe because it could be that the earpads seal differently because of the asymmetric shape of my head or ears (no, I'm not a freak, but we're all al bit uneven...). They are lightweight, comfortable, cool (very important when it gets toasty in my studio), and seem reasonably durable. For tracking, I use my Aiaiai's because they leak very little sound and are virtually indestructible. Plus, they have a frequency dip in the upper mids to counteract listening fatigue and tinitus when tracking loud guitar parts. The SP-1's aren't quite as durable and they will leak more sound, almost as much as my Senns and Grados.





post #2 of 7

Doc Jeff,


Not sure if you're still using these guys or not, but as a long time owner of these sleeper cans I can vouch for your enthusiasm.


I've talked with the man at ChaterOak and I know they switched out the earpads at some point to the velours that you seem to have.  My set (S/N #0042) came with the original leatherette pads that came stock on the MB Quart QP450 PRO.  These pads fell apart over time, but when I got the velours as a replacement I noticed some sonic trade offs - and I actually didn't prefer them as much.


I went ahead and ordered the leatherette pads from German Maestro which come stock on the GMP450 PRO.  Much higher quality and sounded identical to the old pads which came stock with the SP-1.  I very much recommend you checking them out, especially since it's pretty cheap.  It will bring the mids even closer, help with the already amazing detail and flatten the headphones signature out even more.  At least that was my experience... of course, YMMV.


And man do these guys scale well... sound like a flagship offering at a not-so-flagship price.  They've kept me away from spending $$$ on new cans, that's for sure!

post #3 of 7

Are these any different from the German Maesto's? they look to be the exact same thing. Just wandering if anyone knows.

post #4 of 7
Originally Posted by maxmays1 View Post

Are these any different from the German Maesto's? they look to be the exact same thing. Just wandering if anyone knows.

It's kind of a long story--


But they are very subtly different according to the literature.  I haven't heard a GMP450PRO or QP450PRO to confirm.  My guess is that they are somewhere in the middle, seeing as they are advertised as a "custom QP450 PRO" but have the GMP cable among other things.


I also wouldn't be surprised if it changes based on S/N


Either way, tough to drive, scale really well and are the fastest dynamic I've heard if you can give them the volts

post #5 of 7

What is the amp you found to be most useful with these cans? Thanks for the review!

post #6 of 7
Originally Posted by mvtt971 View Post

What is the amp you found to be most useful with these cans? Thanks for the review!



D100 Amp did not sound that great, in fact the cheap FiiO E9 did better with these cans,


Currently using the Bryston BHA-1.  Substantially better than either of the above and adds some weight to the sound without giving up any of the PRaT.  One of these days I will actually recable the SP-1 to be balanced...

post #7 of 7

To answer my post from 2014 the Fiio Mont Blanc is a fantastic amp for these headphones. It really doesn't impose its own tone, however you will get a bit of electrical noise if you are using these while charging. 

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