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Face off: Senn HD600 with Clou Cable Blue vs. Sony CD3000 (long).

post #1 of 41
Intro:
Yeah, it's a long review, but I feel there is insufficient information on these boards about the CD3000s. I really had no sense of what to expect. Therefore, a long yet thorough review should be a forgivable offense and may actually help someone.


Associated Equipment:
Source: Denon DVM3000 DVD Changer
Amp: Berning MicroZOTL with NOS tubes

Musical Taste:
"Rock"-- some alternative rock, some classic rock, some punk, some electronic, some 60's soul music.

Backstory:
I've compared my beloved HD600s to all the major competitors in their price range with the exception of the K1000 from AKG. Grado RS1 sounded "fake" and colored to me. The ER4S was an excellent phone, but the ergonomics just wouldn't work for me. So, now I have ordered the Sony CD3000 just to satisfy myself that there is no better phone available than the HD600. I've had the Sonys for a little over a week, they have about 70 hrs. of burn-in, and I have logged over 30 hours on them. I've owned the Senns for over a year, and owned the HD580 for years before that.

Review:
If you consider the HD600 and the Grado RS1 to be two opposite ends of the high-end headphone spectrum, the Sony CD3000s are closer in sound to the Senns. Anyone who says "all Sony phones suck", either has a hidden agenda, a bias against Sony, or simply hasn't heard these phones. They are definitely in the same league in terms of performance as the ER4S, RS1, and HD600.

Ergonomics:
Extremely comfortable, but not as snug as the HD600s. I like the clamping action of the Senns. Don't attempt to boogie with the Sonys on-- they'll move about. Not as heavy as they look. Absolutely no isolation whatsoever-- they pass every bit as much noise out as the open HD600s. I do not like the covering on the Sonys cord-- it's flimsy and frail. The earcups are HUGE, so you will look like a total headphone dork (which, let's face it, you are). The large earcups enable the drivers to be set at an angle so the sound approaches your ears more like regular speakers (presumably to assist with imaging). I was able to turn the ZOTL down quite a bit compared to the level of the HD600s.

Soundstage/Imaging:
Much, much "larger" soundstage than the HD600s. You are moved to front row center. The sound is more "immediate" and "faster" than the HD600s. Left to right imaging exceeds that of the HD600s which already did a great job. Electronic effects that drift around make an unbroken line when they move left to right-- it's very realistic with no "hole" in the middle. I've never found a headphone yet that had a compelling sense of "depth", and the Sonys are no worse than any other phone in this respect. Verdict: a slight edge to the Sonys.

Treble:
This is the make-or-break area with any phone for me. If the treble is abrasive, spitty, gritty, or piercing-- I'm gone. Ditto if the sound is stifled, claustrophobic or muffled. I always found that the Senns with a tube amp did the highs better than any other set of phones I've owned. Listening to the Sony's has now made me aware that the Senns are slightly etched and hashy in comparison. The Sonys have an amazing clarity that makes horns, trumpets and female vocals sound just fantastic.
There is a lot more treble energy with the Sonys. In my system with my amp, this sounds clear and smooth, although a touch "sweet" compared to the HD600s. I don't mind the extra "sweetness", but it's a coloration that can be too much with poorly recorded, "tinny"-sounding music. It's fabulous on well-recorded records though, top notch. However, this comes at a price: I notice my ears ring a little after a long session with the Sonys. Verdict: I like the treble on the Sonys on most recordings over the HD600s.

Mids:
Slightly more midrange "presence" than the somewhat "hollow"-sounding Senns (possible hump in the Sony's midrange?). Detail and resolution is equivalent to the Senns, although I would say the Sonys are a bit "warmer" and "richer" sounding than the relatively sterile HD600s. You can't go wrong with the mids of the Sonys-- they're clean and appealing and draw you in to the sound. Verdict: I prefer the Sony's mids over the 600s.

Bass:
Most likely due to the larger drivers, the Sonys have much more kick and punch than the 600s. There is more bass information, but I still question if it really goes as low as the 600s. I don't think it delivers the lowest registers as well as the 600s. Drums, however really come to life on the Sony's. The low bass of electronica albums sounds pretty tight and convincingly deep. Verdict: a draw between the bass of the 600s and the Sonys.

About My Results:
My amp, the ZOTL has a very laid-back character with an incredibly smooth and easy presentation. I wonder how the Sony's would sound with solid-state? Would the sweet highs be a bit too much? Might the sound get a touch brittle and hashy?

Final Remarks:
I never saw the utility of owning more than one set of cans, but I'm leaning toward keeping both phones. I would take the Sony's out to listen to well-recorded modern discs and recently remastered older CDs. It's not so good with older "brittle"-sounding or poorly recorded discs. It may also not perform quite as well as the HD600 on very intense tracks where there are lots of loud instruments playing simultaneously. For those, the Senns seem to work better and keep sound separated and distinct.

Overall, very impressed with the Sony CD3000 and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. In some areas I believe it bests the HD600.

Cheers.

markl
post #2 of 41
Nice review markl, thanks! Could you elaborate a bit about the 600s maybe working better w/ complex passages? Are you saying that, though detail and resolution seem to be equal, the 600s are somehow better at instrument separation?
post #3 of 41
Hey Markl, i am just gonna post some of my opinions of your findings.

Soundstage/Imaging:
*Much, much "larger" soundstage than the HD600s*
Well, you get a larger soundstage at the expense of an artificial one. What I mean mean by that is the sound tend to echo and reverberate in a way.
This is NOT natural at all and to me, the HD-600 still has a more airier soundstage although smaller than CD-3000. However, I agree Sony do have better imaging than the HD-600s. but if you want the KING of soundstage, try the AKG-1000 as they have the most natural and widest soundstage period.

Treble:
Hmm, too me The Sony have sterile, but clear Treble and the HD-600 treble is very laid back. They are so clear, they tend to sparkle in a way. I don't agree with your sweetness though as I find the HD-600 treble sweeter although it has less of it.
To me, the CD-3000 sounds articulate although a bit in the dry side. If you want sweet treble, I suggest trying out the
Grado HP-1 and RS-1 as they have some of the sweetest treble period.

Mids:
I disgree here strongly as I find the mid in the Sony to be its weak spot. It is by no mean warm at all. In fact the reason I say this is because the CD-3000 mid is overpowered by its strong treble and bass. even with my warm DCT-1, I still find the
CD-3000 a bit dry for my taste. Didn't have the magic midrange of the HP-1

Bass:
I would like to add that although there is more bass information, the bass is by no means accurate. What I hear is that the bass reverberate all over the place due to the closed chracteristic of the phone. There is MORE bass because the sound tend to stay longer. Overall, the bass is good for dance and techno, but by no means are they natural to me ears at all. I like the tightness of MSP and HP-1 bass bests.

Anyhow, I was impressed at first by the CD-3000 by its unique sound. And most people will be impressed too because of its tilted frequency in the treble and bass. But, the more and more
I listen to it, the more I feel that the phone is indeed very unnatural. After listening to the ultra FLAT frequecy HP-1s,
the CD-3000 is just but another very unnatural phone to me.

Overall, the CD-3000 are very good phones but do have some drawbacks. Perhaps, the R10s fixes what the CD-3000 lack: According to Yohan & Jatinder, the R10s have sweeter trebles, warmer midrange, more natural bass and a even wider and more natural soundstage. Plus, the R10s are even more revealing than the CD-3000s....

Ok, back to headphone testing, hehehe
post #4 of 41
Think you'd ever go for the R10's and find out once and for all?
post #5 of 41
But, the R-10 cost $4000 in the United States and almost half in Japan. They seem to be more of a luxury item for rich people more than anything else. That said, they do have a reputation for being able to reproduce the human voice better than any other headphone in the world.

Anyway, good review and counter points everyone.
post #6 of 41
markl, I agree with all of your comments completely. I also agree about the RS1s sounding "fake" and coloured.

I do not agree with VKA's statement that these phones have echo and reverberation. I hear absolutely no echo or reverberation with my CD3000s. Given the additional detail these headphones produce, it may be that the natural ambience of the recording venue is being mistaken for echo.

The more I listen to the CD3000s, the more I like them, for all kinds of music, including classical jazz, rock, dance and techno/electronic. I am still of the view that these are the best headphones I've ever heard (while recognising that this is a matter of personal taste). Now that my Earmax Pro has arrived (review to be posted on the electronics forum), I will update my original review of the CD3000s to include their performance with the Earmax.
post #7 of 41
There is no such thing as PERFECT headphones. If I like CD3000, others may be don't. Human also have diifferent tastes about sounds. So picking right tools to listen the right sound is the BEST option available. IMHO, CD3000 is very good for classics, strings, vocals, winds/brass or anything from mid to mid high range of frequency.

















Vka







Quote:
What I hear is that the bass reverberate all over the place due to the closed chracteristic of the phone.














I had tried listening with my CD3000m with the cups removed. Yes, the bass level is down and the sound stage also getting narrower, but other than that, everthings just like normal.















Quote:
After listening to the ultra FLAT frequecy HP-1s, the CD-3000 is just but another very unnatural phone to me.












Actually, I doubt about phones that can reproducing ULTRA FLAT frequency. Also our ears are not PRECISION instruments/devices/microphones that can hear "FLAT sounds" FLAT.

So it is quite inaccurate if you said like that.











Anyway, thanks to markl for your good reviews.



















My blue MDR-CD3000m and TUX... Long Live Linux!!!




Happy birthday to Sony MDR-CD3000 and Linux. Them both are 10 years old this year.


July 1 1991 : Sony MDR-CD3000
Mid Septmber 1991 : Linux v0.01 publised.
post #8 of 41
Sorry Ross, maybe echo and reverberation is too strong a word. But the sound DOES stay longer according to my ears; thus, the auditorium feeling. Plus, if you hear the bass carefully, the bass seems to spread out more instead of being tight like the Etys or HP-1. This spread too me is reverberation.

It doesn't matter anyway as I will say that most people will find these headphone to ther liking as they tend to be tilted in the upper and lower frequencies. I had 4 of my non-audiophile friends test out my extensive headphone collection testing pop, jazz, dance, vocal and rock and they all agree the CD-3000 sounded the best to them. Most of them say, *I like the big bass and clear treble* which I feel tend to go very well with Dance & Techno. However, that doesn't mean other music shouldn't sound good either. Anyhow, when I firsts got these, I liked them so much I thought they would be my favorite phones period. Then again, after getting the Etys, HP-1, and AKG1000 the CD-3000 just started to sound unnatural to me. Those 3 are my reference phones now. For treble and upper mid, I look to Etys. For midrange and bass, I look to HP-1s. And for the best most natural soundstage, I go to AKG-1000.

And bakhtiar
"I doubt about phones that can reproducing ULTRA FLAT frequency"
I agree with you there buddy. BUT if one has heard and actually tried out all the headphones, you'll get a better sense of what is neutral and flat *COMPARE* relatively to all other headphones.
post #9 of 41
Vka

Quote:
BUT if one has heard and actually tried out all the headphones, you'll get a better sense of what is neutral and flat *COMPARE* relatively to all other headphones.


Anyway, my reference to evaluate sound quality, is the sound SOURCE itself. Anything that we heard from human-made devices are NOT PERFECT.



Example:

I want to record a piano sound. The simplest thing that I can record it, is using microphone[s], mic amp and DAT recorder. Although I had use ALL my knowledge on sound recording, still, I cannot GET and reproduce the PERFECT sound. Why? SImple, every devices have it own's audio characteristics, even I had elimated some of it during recording.



I am confident that every songs in CD's are not PURE anymore. Why? During recording/mixing, all kind of effectors had been used to MAKE the sound PRETTIER.



Then I reliased that, if I cannot get the PUREST sound from any devices, why should I need some expensive audio systems. Because of this, I am begining to ike to listen to any sound source and SATISFIED with it. That why I am not an audiophile anymore today. But, since I also have my OWN taste of sounds, and some devices might suit my TASTE, then I am going to love it always, and this is the basic point for evaluating audio devices.



By the way, how can humans can hear FLAT sounds, when human's ear also have it's own sound characteristics?
post #10 of 41
No headphone is perfect, but the 580/600s win on frequency balance.

Phones that try to emphasize certain frequencies the most usually sound the worst and become the most tiring after long listening sessions.

Try closely listening to Bose speakers for more than a minute.
post #11 of 41
bakhtiar,
In theory, a subjectively flat frequency response is of course possible. It just doesn't matter whether your hearing accuity is 10dB down (compared to average curves of human hearing) at the frequency extremes, for example. Because this is a systemic error introduced by your subjective perception, and therefore it is ALWAYS there. If you listened to a live piano it would be there, and given the goal of this whole high fidelity business, the frequency response of a live instrument is as flat as it gets. If you heard it 10 dB down, you would simply perceive it 10dB down when conveyed by ideally neutral equipment. Neither live piano nor neutral equipment care about one's hearing problems, those can simply be left out of the equasion. In theory.

I can't claim to have compared the Senn HD 600 and the Sony CD3000 directly, and I have only listened to the CD 3000 briefly, for about twenty minutes, but I came away with a distinct impression of brightness (didn't like it at all). There seems to be consensus about the considerable "treble energy" of the Sony's. markl mentions it in his review, and Ross has mentioned it in his initial review at HeadWize. I think this is true and I have my problems with it. When talking about energy in the sense of "kinetic energy", music has most of it in the mid frequencies. And if one talked about psychoacoustic implications - how a component focusses one's perception - it would still be a bad thing. As I have said, I tend to believe in "flat", I want tonal balance, I wouldn't want any part of the frequency spectrum emphasized.

There is an oft-quoted rule of thumb for speaker designers, about how to achieve subjectively flat frequency response: the "400,000-rule". In order to achieve convincing tonal balance, you look at the "corner frequencies" - the points where frequency response is at minus 3 dB, half as loud, and thus at the limit of usability. You multiply those, and the result should be 400,000. 20 Hz times 20,000 Hz = 400,000. 30 Hz times 13,333 Hz = 400,000. 50 Hz times 8,000 Hz = 400,000. 100 Hz times 4,000 Hz = 400,000. Problem is, a corner frequency not far below 100 Hz is very much realistic for most real-life speakers out there. Being 3 dB down at 4,000 Hz isn't. Furthermore, many designers think, that a subjectively flat frequency response in real-world situations demands a curve that is generally declinig from lower to higher frequencies.


For far too many headphones, this seems to be a very serious problem as well, leading to very bright tonal balance and screwed-up instrumental timbre. There might be tons of "detail" from many headphones, but at what price? I, for one, don't perceive reference caliber bass extension with either the Senn HD 600 or the Sony CD3000. To my ears, the Senn HD 580 has better, deeper and tighter bass as the HD 600, for example, and thus more reasonable tonal balance. All one has to do is to listen to a pair of speakers with true bass extension to realize how poorly most headphones perform in this area. Or even better: listen to the real thing.
post #12 of 41
From dhwilken:
"Could you elaborate a bit about the 600s maybe working better w/ complex passages? Are you saying that, though detail and resolution seem to be equal, the 600s are somehow better at instrument separation?"

Because the HD600 puts you at a distance from the music, to my ears, it is better able at adding more and more instruments without the sound "bleeding" together. The HD600 is very controlled and reserved compared to CD3000s. The CD3000 does an awesome job of separating sounds, just not quite as good as the Senns. This is why I say the midrange of the CD3000s is slightly "warmer" than the HD600. However, when there is only one instrument playing, the CD3000s are scary good and fully detailed.

From Vka:
"Well, you get a larger soundstage at the expense of an artificial one. What I mean mean by that is the sound tend to echo and reverberate in a way. "

I agree with Ross that there is no echo effect detectable to my ears. I remeber reading about this in another review, so i was looking for it.

"I don't agree with your sweetness though as I find the HD-600 treble sweeter although it has less of it.
To me, the CD-3000 sounds articulate although a bit in the dry side. If you want sweet treble, I suggest trying out the
Grado HP-1 and RS-1 as they have some of the sweetest treble period. "

Don't have the Grados to compare with, but to me, the top end of the Sonys is "sweeter" than the 600s. I would say the Sonys sweetness approaches the line where it might bother some people (including me), so maybe that's why the Grados always sounded "fake" to me!

"I disgree here strongly as I find the mid in the Sony to be its weak spot. It is by no mean warm at all. In fact the reason I say this is because the CD-3000 mid is overpowered by its strong treble and bass. even with my warm DCT-1, I still find the
CD-3000 a bit dry for my taste. Didn't have the magic midrange of the HP-1 "

Again, no HP1 (and no DCT-1, damn the luck!) to compare with. I am only comparing to HD600 which has a "scooped out" midrange. Compared to the HD600, the Sonys definitely provide "more" midrange to my ears.

"I would like to add that although there is more bass information, the bass is by no means accurate. What I hear is that the bass reverberate all over the place due to the closed chracteristic of the phone. There is MORE bass because the sound tend to stay longer. "

I've tried, but I just don't hear those reverberations. Either way, drums sound awesome (Thump! Thwak!). More realistic than the HD600s for drums. Bass notes and electronic synth bass notes aren't as "tight" and controlled as they are with the 600s though. There is more warmth with the Sonys, so it's a trade-off.

Ross,
Congrats on the Earmax Pro. I used to own one which I sold to pay for my ZOTL. Check my profile and you'll see all the amps I've owned-- the Earmax Pro is my favorite. I sold it because it had trouble driving anything other than the Senns (which it did BEAUTIFULLY). No idea how it will react to the load presented by the Sonys, but good luck! BTW: get a pair of Sylvania Gold Brand 12AT7s (from Upscale Audio) to replace the stock tubes. These tubes are OUTSTANDING in the Earmax Pro, and will give you a bass experience that will rip your head off! Best headphone bass ever, period (and I ain't no dum-bass, either).

BenG:
"Phones that try to emphasize certain frequencies the most usually sound the worst and become the most tiring after long listening sessions."

I want to emphasize that my comments about the Sonys treble is relative to the somewhat recessed (can we all agree on that?) HD600. The Sonys have more energy than the Senns, but they aren't yet to the range where this would bother the average person. Again, as pointed out by others in this thread, it is the treble that just may seduce some people. No, its not tiring or fatiguing to me.

Tomcat:
"There seems to be consensus about the considerable "treble energy" of the Sony's. markl mentions it in his review, and Ross has mentioned it in his initial review at HeadWize. I think this is true and I have my problems with it."

There was another thread about the importance of source with Sonys high-end phones. I agree. My CDP (a nice Denon DVD player, actually) is very precise, flat and mellow with no digital "hash". It is not a "crispy" metallic sounding machine. Furthermore, the ZOTL is similarly even, clear, and relaxed. In my review, I questioned whether a solid state amp would suit the Sonys. For example, I bet the Sugden Headmaster (based on the reviews) would be a BAD combination with the CD3000s. I would go tubed with these cans, but I would go tubed in general, so I'm biased. I think a good source and good source material (again noted in the review) are also crucial to getting the best out of these phones. Bad, tinny recording won't sound good on the Sonys.

markl
post #13 of 41
Vka, that's a great analysis of the CD3000s. I could never exactly put into words why the CD3000s didn't do it for me, and I think that's about as goof as you can get.
post #14 of 41
I suspect that many of the differences people hear in the cd3000's and most other cans too, are caused by interactions with different amplifiers. I have used my 3000's ,1700's, Senn 545's and the Grado 325's, with two different tube amps and three different solid state amps and the choice of amp had a suprising effect on the cans sound. Of course, the source I used was the same each time.
I will say that I never heard any unnatural echo or rverb type artifacts from the 3000's. The ear cups are well damped and not resonant, unlike the Grado's which did seem to ring on some notes.
The quality of the recordings made a bigger differance on the sound then any other aspect of the setup. Some recordings are proof that some recording engineers should be taken out behind the studio and shot. That is certainly not the fault of the phones.
I love my CD3000's at most times, but , They don't sound good at high volumes. The rare times I really want to crank it, It's the Senn 545's that sound best up loud. Any other time, the 3000's are the best can I have heard.
post #15 of 41
I'm puzzled as to how no one seemed to respond to what Bakhtiar said about listening to the CD3000 with the earcups off. He said that all that echo-y stuff you guys hate was still there. So it's not the headphones themselves pruducing that effect, it's got to be the recording. At least that's how I see it...
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