The NAD RP18s were pretty awesome.
They've been a naught, naughty girl and they know it. That's why they beg you to open them up and work them over.
The NAD RP18s were pretty awesome.
They've been a naught, naughty girl and they know it. That's why they beg you to open them up and work them over.
just reflecting on the meet and I hope I never forget this feeling down the line when that newbie is over everybody and every gear thanks again for organizing, for the headfi idea. Thanks to all for mentoring
First off, thanks to everyone who attended and a double thanks to those who helped to organize the meet.
I finally got some time to type up all my chicken-scratch notes about things I had a careful listen to into something something useful so here goes..
HD700 – Apex Arete and Volcano - Weiss DAC202 – Burmester CD transport
These seem to be tuned for a more "fun" consumer sort of sound. The sacrifice detail for color at both ends with thick sounding bass and peaky treble which is akin to over sharpening something in photoshop. It looks clearer and more detailed at first but a closer look reveals all the information that's been discarded. The mids are pretty lackluster for a Senn as well. The 598, 600, 650, and 800 all beat it in a smooth and natural presentation of female vocals which is something I'm picky about.
From purrin’s earlier graphs I guessed that they probably sounded like cyborg John Grados. The “form” is the same but with all the humanity (midrange lushness, most of the resonances including the ones that add more color than pain) removed and replaced with cold unfeeling machinery. I think that turned out to be correct. I like a lot of things about Grados. They make nearly everything sound exciting and can put me into an alert or energized state of mind. I just wish they didn’t have to hurt my ears so much to do it. The HD700s don’t hurt my ears like Grados do but they don’t have the same “exciting” edge to them either.
Given the price I find the technicalities also fail to impress. The soundstage and imaging make a good little brother to the HD800 but the rest of it falls significantly behind due to the added coloration and the peaky FR. The ups and downs in the treble mask quite a bit of detail. It’s the kind of thing that usually sounds impressive at first until you realize that the subtleties are missing.
Overall, I think they look, feel, and sound like they should be slotted between the 598 and the 600 and given a gimmicky "Xtreme" marketing campaign as the "cool" Senn or something.
T70 - Cowon D2+ - Leckerton UHA-4
For about 30 seconds I was really impressed with this. Sure it may have that big ~9khz spike that nearly all Beyers have and it inescapably imparts a metallic timbre to the treble but hey, I could fix that with EQ. It didn’t have the high order harmonic distortion that most other Beyers have and which makes everything else sound metallic too. That’s not fixable with EQ and it lends the T70 the most natural mids I’ve ever heard from a Beyer. Beyer’s I’ve heard from worst mids to best (from a slightly fuzzy memory) include T50p, DT880/250, DT880/600, T1, DT770 Pro 80, DT990/250, DT990/600, DT770/600, DT1350. The T70s top them all in natural midrange and seriously impinge on the territory of the better Senns.
The bass was nice too. Tight and deep with more rumble than punch, just the way I like it. It also had a good sense of open-ness and space for a closed headphone. Not closed in, constricted, or claustrophobic at all. The pads were soft and comfy and they provided pretty good isolation too.
Unfortunately they also have a rather fatal flaw that keeps me from adding these to my collection since I’m always after good closed headphones. They have a very narrow and very nasty zone of ringing in the treble. I’m picky about the way female vocals are presented and the T70s are smooth, beautiful, and maybe just a bit too forward until you hit just the wrong spot. Then all of a sudden it’s an explosion at the consonant factory as harshness flies in every direction and your ears are filled with shrapnel from the shredded remains of S’s, SH’s, つ’s, and し’s. Tracks that even something as notoriously revealing as the HD800 renders with only a slight amount of harshness to remind you that the recording engineers should have taken a little more care set off this painful chain reaction in the T70s.
That’s it. Game over.
They T70s do many things better than the DT770s they replace but their flaws are also much larger than the DT770’s which have a few smaller errors of commission (slightly boomy bass, uneven bass response, a metallic tinge from it’s harmonic distortion products) instead of one giant one.
Ultrasonne Signature Pro - ODAC - O2
In person these actually look pretty good. The build has a solid feel with stiff and dense plastic and smooth joint and swivel mechanisms. Much of the outer surface is also rubberized which gives it a nice feel and prevents dreaded “cheap plastic gloss” look. It has a decent amount of isolation but as well. Noticeably more than the usual home use woodies but not as much as the T70 or DT770. They were fairly comfortable overall and bliss compared to the HFI-780s I briefly owned. The joints had the right amount of tension to stay put and in place without tons of clamp and the pads had the right amount of give to comfortably conform to my head. Since Ultrasone uses a lot of similar parts in their headphones those who have previously dismissed them for comfort might want to give the Sig Pros another try.
Sonically they were neither particularly impressive nor distasteful, but just not my style. They weren’t as open sounding as the T70s and had a bit of plasticky resonance. They feature a fairly tasteful mid bass emphasis with similarly elevated highs which weren’t overly harsh or sibilant, though they weren’t completely free of such problems either. Overall the treble had a slightly metallic timbre to it. The mids were clear and not hidden behind the rest of the spectrum but vocals just sounded “off” in an odd way. Not quite “cold” or metallic. I think something was wrong with the FR and some harmonics were missing.
For me, the Sig Pros face death by a thousand cuts. I didn’t hear any glaring errors but I did hear a lot of things that happen to be pet peeves of mine. I prefer sub bass rumble to mid bass punch, want either dead neutral or warm mids, and I usually can’t stand elevated treble unless it’s of very good quality. OTOH, from memory, they have smaller flaws than any other full sized, closed, and easily transportable ‘phone I’ve had a chance to hear.
In short, the Sig Pros were sent to reform school for their product category. They graduated with a C- average but became the valedictorian by default because the rest of the class is in prison for capital murder.
LCD-3 - Yamaha SACD player - Liquid Fire
The bass is amazing, bottomless and tight. The midrange is as smooth as butter with no extra harshness. After the shelved upper mids and lower treble the highest octave comes back strong and clear. The soundstage does sound fairly closed in, at least compared to other open headphones in the price class, but the imaging within it is quite accurate and well defined.
I do think the upper mids/treble shelf is too deep though. Sometimes I would hear something resembling bloated bass intruding on the mids or just general “confusion” where separation goes to crap and you can’t make out the details anymore. I don’t really think that’s what it is though since it comes and goes to fast. I think it’s just simple psychoacoustic masking. I didn’t have the opportunity to test it but I think a simple high shelf with a PEQ would remedy the problem.
Not perfect but I want one just for the bass. The definition and texture is just intoxicating.
Mix Master Mike - Yamaha SACD player - Liquid Fire
dBel84 brought a few different closed headphones for me to try because I’m always on the lookout for something non-IEM with isolation that sounds good. The glossy plastic on these looks cheap. Fischer Price or Playskool like. The feel inspires a more confidence but still not enough to be in line with it’s price bracket. It’s not the most comfortable or isolating either, but it’s not hard to find stuff that’s worse in either or both departments. The FR is generally dark and smooth, lacking annoying peaks and the highest octave is almost MIA. The bass extends fairly deep and doesn’t bleed into the mids. Above the bass they’re somewhat indistinct and gloss over the smaller details. I’m not sure exactly why. Slow attack or decay? Odd harmonic distortion patterns? Something else?
Overall, the mids sound veiled and the highs are grainy, though not in a painful way. To use a visual metaphor the mids are Gaussian blurred and the highs are pixilated. It’s kind odd sound since those things don’t usually overlap with a smooth frequency response. Transients are also blurred a little. This probably contributes to their below average imaging and soundstaging.
I found their sound thoroughly “meh”. The bass is pretty good but nothing else grabs me about them and there’s something I don’t like about the vocals though I’m pretty picky about that. OTOH they don’t really fail anywhere (sonically at least...) and would make for good “easy listening”. Some people say that about HD650s which I actually like. That would probably make the MMMs like HD650s on tranquilizers or something. I don’t know what sort of recording you’d need to make these sound harsh or annoying but I’m pretty sure the Geneva Convention requires that such things be kept at least 100 yards from all Stax, Beyers, and HD800s. Still probably worth a look if you like a dark and relaxed sound.
Phillips M1 pre production - Yamaha SACD player - Liquid Fire
The build on these is pretty solid feeling. They look good with decent comfort and OK isolation. The sound isn’t in the same class as the build though.
Even for a supra aural they have a small and congested soundstage little separation or imaging. Vocals are nice when the bass bloat doesn’t intrude on them. Unfortunately it will be doing that a lot. Pretty much whenever there’s any bass at all from what I heard. I’d call the treble grainy but I think there’s a threshold after which you have to call the “grain” a rock instead - or at least a pebble. The mid bass has quite a bit of pounding but there’s no sub bass rumble.
They could be kind of fun for non critical background music sort of use if the treble and bass bleed was cleaned up some. If the production version doesn’t address those issues they get a solid un-recommend from me.
Senn PX 200 - Yamaha SACD player - Liquid Fire
These are small closed supra aurals with so-so comfort and a touch of isolation, Maybe if you have really small ears and can get the small cups to cover more of them you’d get a little better isolation.
I think these sound quite good. You probably won’t be able to make a total package at that price point or form factor so they didn’t even try since it just leads to more and more compromises. Instead they made a pleasant sounding mid-centric headphone and focused on the most important part of the music. The ends are rolled off but not completely MIA so you’ll still get a fairly complete picture of the spectrum. Though not champions of detail or transparency the mids have natural tone and vocals are quite enjoyable. Despite the fact they have next to no soundstage and little in the way of imaging they still manage not to sound congested.
I think they might make a good alternative for those who don’t like the sound or fit of the more bass heavy and quirky Porta Pros.
NAD RP18 Kapton - Yamaha SACD player - Liquid Fire
It’s a shame these haven’t been made in decades because they’re awesome. The highlight is clearly the mids. They’re absolutely liquid and downright lustful. Female vocals are presented beautifully. The bass was also plenty deep and tighter than any dynamic I’ve heard but not up to Audeze levels. The highs are its weakness. On the whole they aren’t bad or offensive but just not up the same standards as the rest of spectrum. They’re a bit peaky and grainy but still better than many other ‘phone. That probably contributes to their average imaging abilities. The stage still has a fairly open feel though. More so than the LCD-3s at least.
TH900 - ODAC - O2
I think these look absolutely gorgeous in person. They really live up to the pictures. The TH900s are quite comfortable as well. These also seem to have a bit more isolation than I remember the Dx000 series having but I didn’t compare side by side.
Sonically they have a smile curve EQ and execute it quite well. There’s ample bass but only the very lowest notes sounded a bit loose. The mids have a bit of pleasant lushness to them without sacrificing clarity and the highs have a bit of sparkle without being harsh. I was also impressed with it’s fairly open soundstage and nicely defined imaging. It managed to keep all up even with the elevated bass response kicking fairly hard which is pretty impressive.
Overall I think it makes a nice package. It’s pleasant, fun, and looks good. A lot of the cash goes just to the looks though so it might to be hard to justify for some people.
JVC DX1000 - ODAC - O2
The first thing I noticed was that this actually has a useful degree of isolation. If only more closed models did...
Bass is ample though fairly loose. It’s loose in a pretty pleasant way though. I didn’t hear a dominant frequency or a sharp demarcation. It seemed more like reverb. It’s sure not accurate but it can still be quite enjoyable because it hits hard and you can still hear the individual instruments. The mids were a little lush and inviting with female vocals. The treble had a bit of grain to it but I didn’t find it too objectionable and I didn’t hear much in the way of sharp peaks or ringing.
The soundstage had a good amount of width and depth and imaging was pretty well defined except for a few blind spots at 11 and 1. It wasn’t “3 blob” sort of soundstage where everything pretty much only has 3 positions but rather a cohesive sound field with two arcs excised from it. Crossfeed, which I normally use, would probably improve that I don’t use it for these kinds of evaluations.
Overall I think it manages to combine pretty good technicalities with a fun, bassy sound and usable isolation which makes it a win in my book. I’d imagine this would be great for movies and games and an alternative to the TH900 for those who can neither afford it nor stand the Dx000’s lower treble razor of death.
HE-6 - EF-6 - D2+
I found the HE-6 clean and snappy but with a bit of sharpness in the treble from time to time. I’d prefer it wasn’t there but some other ‘phones do that sort of thing far worse so it’s probably not a deal breaker. The bass is quite nice but not quite as deep or tight as the LCD-3’s. There wasn’t trace of bleed or psychoacoustic masking and separation and imaging stayed exceptional throughout. The mids could sound a little “dry” sometimes and not quite give the right feel with female vocals but they didn’t cross over into cold or flat. The soundstage was also quite symmetrical with a nearly even amount of width and depth.
Fang was interested in the fact that I was talking notes and after I told him what I did and didn’t like about what I heard he flipped a switch on the back of the EF-6 to add more negative feedback. It seemed to make the treble a bit cleared and reduce the sharpness a bit.
HD800 - O2 and ODAC vs. Eddie Current Balancing Act (TRS jack) and Modwright Sony XA5400ES
The HD800’s best trait is its soundstage and imaging. It has just the right amount of width and plenty of depth to the soundstage and does out of head projection quite well. The BA/Modwright combo imparted a reverb-like effect which the Objective combo lacked. It increased the perceived space a bit but it also blurred the imaging a bit.
The HD800’s FR OTOH could use some work. It peaks in the upper bass and slowly rolls off in each direction which IMO emphasizes the wrong frequencies reducing its perceived tightness and even bordering on bloated with the BA (presumably because of its extra output impedance) and messing up the imaging when the music gets busy. The O2 had tighter bass and kept the imaging together better but the HD800 lagged behind the HE-6/EF-6 in those areas either way.
The midrange was liquid smooth on both setups but the BA imparted a bit more viscosity. I found the upper mids a bit too sucked out as women hitting the high notes in Jpop faded into the distance. The O2 may have been ahead by a hair here but I’m not really sure.
The treble remains strong and is quite well behaved except for a hint of grain and the rough spot around ~6khz which only stands out as troublesome in comparison because the rest of it is so good. Something will excite it occasionally but it more annoying than outright painful. The BA took some of the edge off the treble and the treble didn’t make a nuisance of itself known as quite as often.
Overall I’d take the Objective combo since I prefer its tighter bass, better separation, and sharper imaging over the BA/Modwright’s slightly bigger soundstage and I could probably mod away just as much, if not more, of the HD800’s treble issue as the BA fixed.
Is Jude going to post the photos he took in this thread or possibly make a blog?
If anyone is interested, Hailie just re-released her Stages CD with some bonus material and its recently just received a great review as well:
for those who might be interested, we have another meet planned.