I’d like to start by thanking/cursing all of you for the recent/pending/future assaults on my bank account.
This is my first post to Head-Fi, tho I’ve been lurking for 6 months as first I was looking for sound-suppressing IEMs to wear while mowing my lawn for 4.5 hours each week. Based in large part on reading discussions around here, I ended up with the Etymotic MC-5s because they seemed the right price/performance trade. They are suitably protective and sound good enough over the noise from the 27-hp Kohler engine and the 60” of blades whirring and whacking at ~18,000 FPM. They certainly work better and are more comfortable in the heat than ear-muffs, and they make the chore much more enjoyable. So I thank you for your help in that.
But a funny thing happened while I was reading all of your posts… I started to learn about reference-level headphones… and the next thing I know, I’m talking to The Cable Company about borrowing phones and an amp to figure out if headphones can replace my old Vandersteen speakers and Adcom GFA-555 amp that just moved down into my home theater. My greatroom is a nightmare for speakers anyway (all live surfaces, crazy angles, very high ceiling in some places but not others), and with headphones I wouldn’t have to worry about acoustics. I’m the only music listener in the house (the dogs don’t care), so I can be selfish about my sound. Seems the perfect setup for quality headphones, so after suitable research here, I took the plunge and borrowed 6 pairs of top-end phones and a Burson HA-160 amp from the Cable Company:
- Audeze LCD-2
- Audeze LCD-3
- Grado PS-1000
- Sennheiser HD-800
- Hifiman HE-500
- Beyerdynamic T-1s
They charge 5% deposit, applicable to whatever you end up buying, plus shipping, which does not credit toward your purchase. Given the large amount of stuff I was auditioning, shipping cost me about $70, or about $12 per headphone, but for that unrecoverablef investment I got to compare 6 of the best headphones in the world, directly against each other, in my home environment, on my equipment (and the Burson) for 2 weeks (you get to use them over at least 2 weekends), without having to put any gas in the car or waste time driving anywhere. Even with the recent drop in US gas prices, I think this is one of the best deals I’ve seen in the electronics world in a VERY long time, and I encourage everybody to take advantage of it, because that might spur every dealer in the world to set up a similar program, which would really make electronics shopping much better in these days of fewer and fewer local high-end audio stores.
Okay, enough shilling for the Cable Co. I don’t work for them, never have, never will. And to prove it, let me say that they also included a bunch of alternate cables in the shipments, mostly Cardas, and I heard no discernible difference in the sound quality by swapping cables on the HD 800s or Audeze’s. None. Nada. Zippo. Maybe some between the silver HE-500 cable and the Cardas Hifiman cable. But definitely not $280 worth of difference. They have tried to convince me to let the cables settle after shipping, yadda, yadda, blah, blah. No sale there.
So my bucks will go into phones, not cables – and not into an amp either, since it turns out my ~25-yr-old Adcom GFP-555 pre-amp has a very good headphone section, with a separate SS amp. It sounded as good to me as the Burson, with about as much power, certainly enough to drive any of the tested phones very well. The only problem I found with the Adcom is that it doesn’t clean up dirty power very well: when the power went out last weekend and I was using my house’s propane generator, I could hear some noise that was not present using the Burson. Of course, the fact that I could hear anything at all when most of the DC area was in the dark was a bonus…
Oh… and the winner of my little competition is the LCD-3. I'll post a review with my impressions of each of them next time, but let me just say now that the accuracy and depth of the textures and timbres that the LCD-3 is able to reproduce -- and the others weren't -- were enough to convince me to spend the extra bucks.
That's all the time I have right now, but I just wanted to thank all of you headphone addicts for getting me hooked on true audiophile sound again.