My experience with Headphone Lounge:
About 3 months ago, I had just purchased my first set of Ultimate Ears TF10's. Before this, I only had experience with a plethora of cheapo IEMs such as the stock Apple Earbuds, Brainwavz M2, Skullcandies and a couple not so cheapo IEMs such as the Shure E3c. All of these IEMs broke on me within 3-6 months of usage due to one common factor, cable breakage. Now, I don't yank or pull my IEMs but I exercise, bike, run, jump, and lift weights with these things. In other words, I live life with them. I love music and listen to it every chance I get whether it's in the restroom, in the car, working on homework, and so forth but I was spending at least $100 a year buying replacement IEMs. After reading a couple threads on Head-Fi, I discovered that re-cabling could be a viable option for not only better sound quality but increased durability as well.
This is when I began contact with Chris_Himself at Headphone Lounge. I instant messaged him on a weekday around 2 A.M and surprisingly enough, he was awake and extremely responsive to all of my questions (trust me, I had a lot). In hindsight, I asked many stupid and basic questions that would drive even the most patient person crazy but Chris answered everything in a friendly manner. I quickly forgot that I was talking to a business representative of Headphone Lounge and felt like I was talking to an old friend. After several hours of talking, I sent payment for a Silver Ray IEM cable. I was excited as Chris could not keep emphasizing how much better my TF10's would sound with his cable. In all honesty, I am a skeptic when it comes to claims of huge boosts in sound quality but I didn't really care as I purchased the cable for durability rather than performance.
3 months/$2000+ later, I have owned/listened to the following gear:
Earsonics SM3 V2
Headstage Arrow 12HE 4G
Ultrasone Pro 900
Audeze LCD2 R2 (friends)
AKG 701 (friends)
I now only own two sets of gear, the TF10's and the Magnum V4 build.
You may be wondering, why would you sell such highly renowned sets of equipment? In all honesty, I could not tell the difference in SQ between my Headstage Arrow 4G and my Fiio E17, not one difference. I was beginning to think I was crazy but I then purchased the Nuforce HDP. Again, there was really no clear difference that would indicate it was $300 than the previous two amps. My Earsonics and UM3X's sounded great technically but they didn't give me the same emotion that my TF10's gave. I felt the same way about my friend's LCD2s. The point of this paragraph is to highlight the reasons why I am a skeptic to high-end gear sounding so much better than mid-tier equipment. People have claimed a 20-30% increase as you move to the next tier. In my experience, it is not even half of that. Call me crazy but I judge with my ears, not with what I read or how much money I spent.
Fast forward to the present and I now own a Grado build decked out in Headphone Lounge Gear. Here is what the build looks like:
Symphone Magnum V4 Drivers
Headphone Lounge Onyx Manta Headband
Headphone Lounge Silver Ray Headphone Cable w/ Neutrik Right-Angled 1/8"+Viablue Y-Splitter
Vibro Labs Classic Mahogany Cups
Detatchable Cable Mod- SMC Connectors to 1/8"
I'll cut right to the chase. These things sound amazing, even plugged in straight to my phone or laptop. Compared to the stock SR225i drivers/cable, the level of clarity and energy is noticeably heightened. Imagine what they would sound like amped through a proper DAC? Treble emphasis/clarity has increased by a good amount, bass has tightened up, and even though the soundstage on Grados is notoriously bad, the soundstage is more than enough enough to satisfy me, even after listening to the TF10's, SM3's, and LCD2's. In terms of build quality, it can only be described as nothing short of a masterpiece. The wooden cups themselves are a work of art. From the design, cutting, and production, Luke from Headphone Lounge is a one man operation that takes pride in his work and it is evident in the final product which looks AMAZING. I can't stop staring at how good they look. The detachable cable mod/cables themselves were made by Ted at Headphone Lounge. Ted is an awesome, very friendly guy that is down to earth and as honest as they come. Ted was responsible for making the cables for both my TF10s and the Grado build as well as performing the detachable mod. We decided on SMC connectors (same connectors as the Hifiman cans) and the level of detail and craftsmanship is top-notch. Ted used 24 gauge wire inside the drivers with heat shrink for maximum durability and the solder job looks freaking great. I have complete confidence everything will hold up Everything feels sturdy and durable. Moving onto the headband, the stock SR225 headband was thin and did not offer much support or comfortability. Jin's Onyx Manta headband is made of quality materials and feels much more comfortable and I can barely feel anything on my head during listening sessions.
Overall, the Magnum build is wonderful and greatly exceeded my originally skeptical expectations of how good they could really sound. Not only that but the Grados no longer feel like a huge piece of plastic held together by glue but rather a piece of high craftsmanship. These are now 1 of 2 of my favorite pieces of equipment, the other being my Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10's. Speaking of the TF10's, what happened with the cable I purchased from Chris that started off this entire adventure? Well, after plugging them in for the first time and not expecting to hear anything different (a feeling of disappointment I became accustomed to after purchasing and listening to high-end gear without any noticeable difference), there was actually a HUGE difference. My god, all my skepticism subsided once I listened to them. The treble emphasis on the already treble-emphasized TF10s became even more pronounced except everything became more clear. Vocals were more crisp and life-like. The bass has definitely tightened up and does not bloat the entire frequency spectrum as much as before. The overall quality has improved and is DEFINITELY noticeable. For all the skeptics out there like me, trust me, a quality cable changes and may even improve the sound signature.To summarize, I believe my Grados sound better than my SM3s, my UM3Xs, and can even compete with the LCD2s head-on. I don't feel like I am missing anything switching from the LCD2s. My friend who owns them was instantly wowed at the overall sound and asked me how much they cost to build? I told him the amount, which was a little bit over half of what it cost for his LCD2s and was in shock, and for good reason.
In conclusion, everyone at Headphone Lounge is wonderful. After working and keeping in contact with them for several months now, I feel like they are my friends that I can come to to talk about anything whether it be about headphones, music, food, life, and so forth. They are all friendly and take pride in what they do. They all love music just as much as the next guy and genuinely want to provide the best experience you can have, all at an affordable price. Although I am still skeptical of high-end gear being so much better than much more affordable gear like my TF10s and Grados, I can tell you without a doubt that a re-cable from Headphone Lounge WILL make it sound better. I can say this with confidence even without the prescribed 100 hours of burn-in that they recommend. In addition to a re-cable, if you ever need any other headphone related services, Chris and Ted are the guys to go to. Their prices are more than affordable without any sacrifice in quality.
Edited by lawlz - 8/27/12 at 3:59pm