The New Color Shifter Paradox – Excellent sound with (now) incredible build quality!
About half a year ago, I placed an order for a Premium pair of Paradox from LFF. The Premium line had just gotten underway, and I ended up having the first Vader pair out in the wild. As a new product still in the early stages of its life cycle, there were a few aesthetic issues at the time that I had questions for LFF on, and that he was kind enough to address.
From email exchanges in Sep 2012, comments by Luis in bold:
- The stitching on the suspension headband and the actual headband cover itself are not completely uniform – The headband cover is handmade by a local artisan here. She has been out of work for quite some time and this is my way of helping her out a little. The type of material and the design make it difficult to have a completely uniform stitch. She also makes the headphone bags.
The suspension headband is actually from a luggage company and that is made by machine. I think the form factor makes it difficult to achieve uniform stitching whether by hand or machine. I have looked high and low for bands that have a perfect stitch and feel and have yet to find one that meets my needs at an affordable price.
- There is a small rip on the outside fabric seal between the left driver and cup - That's not an actual tear but a separation of some sort. I have noticed it on various HM5 pads.
- The paint job left a small bump on the left driver - That is just the nature of the paint. We found out that the flat black paint is extremely sensitive to dust and blemishes. We are currently looking for a replacement paint. We actually repainted yours 3 times.
- The rubber band-like contraption holding the suspension headband together has a minor tear on the right side - That is a rubber hair tie. That has never been a secret and is usually called "No pull" or "No Ouch" hair ties. The tear isn't a tear. It's the bonding of one side of the string to the other by heat to make it into a band that leaves that "tear". All ties have that cosmetic flaw.
Please know that I do care about any and all blemishes and that I have tried to address these problems as well as many others in the framework of keeping them affordable while providing something that is tailor made to the client.
Since my initial impressions, I have a few more issues to discuss:
- The clamp on the headphones is a bit weak. So long as you aren’t head-bobbing to your music, this isn’t an issue. However, excessive movement will cause the Paradox to move around.
This week, LFF was kind enough to loan me a new demo pair of Premium Paradox, intended for the Austin meet in Texas. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the meet due to last minute circumstances, but I thought the new Paradox was a fantastic revisit and worthy of a short review.
The New Paradox - Premium Paradox with Color Shift option, black powder coated sliders, custom headband and mini-xlr install.
What’s new? Well, they look fan-effing-tastic now. The paint is flawless – it doesn’t fingerprint and has a slightly glossy beautiful finish. The color shift effect is very cool, I spent a good amount of time just moving around the cups of the Paradox under the light and admiring the purple to green transitions.
The stitching on the headband and the suspension headband has greatly improved and scream quality; the jacks were a brilliant addition. I love that they’re no longer hard-wired, as I’m a huge fan of detachable cables.
The fit feels more secure. Not sure if any changes were made to this particular point, but I no longer had any fear of the Paradox falling off my head with a little bit of movement. Comfort is excellent.
Luis emphasizes that all models of the Paradox sound exactly alike. In other words, the $495 basic Paradox will sound just like the TOTL Paradox I am reviewing. The aesthetic benefits to a higher end Paradox are up to the individual to decide if the price is worth it.
I can quickly give an affirmative nod to his statement that the Paradox maintains a consistent sound signature regardless of mods – from my memory, this new Paradox sounds identical to the one I heard just a few months ago.
Laptop -> ODAC -> O2 -> Paradox
Amber Rubarth Binaural+ - Sessions from the 17th Ward
EGOIST - Extra terrestrial Biological Entities
Supercell – Today is a Beautiful Day
Thrice – The Alchemy Index Vol. I-IV
Sennheiser HD 800 (Stock)
Nothing fancy about the chain. I also never use audiophile-centric recordings for reviews, choosing instead to listen to albums I greatly enjoy. I chose to compare to the stock pair of 800s over the modded pair because I feel like the stock pair is more readily available, and more people will be able to take away something meaningful from the comparison. Wasn’t a direct A/B with the Senn 800s in the sense that I listened to each song with each headphone one after the other and compared each cymbal hit and bass guitar thump – I just listened to each at my leisure when I felt ready to make the change over.
“The balance of the bass, mids and lows is different!” was the first impression. And it hits really hard. Songs that I was intimately familiar with sounded somewhat alien to me. Disorienting to say the least! Significantly more listening and a weekend later…
Palate Cleanser. The foodie term that comes to mind when I listen to the Paradox. I become accustomed to whatever headphone I’m listening to. The Momentums (at work) and Sennheiser 598s/800s (at home) have been dominating my listening time recently, so it took my brain a good while to adapt to the sound signature of the Paradox.
Here are my takeaways:
- I generally listened to the same songs at a significantly higher volume on the Paradox than on the stock HD 800. The 800s get fatiguing for me quickly at louder volumes, whereas the Paradox is very enjoyable. No harsh treble peaks, no graininess to be heard.
- The HD 800's detail and speed make it a clear winner listening to complex passages.
- This one was difficult for my brain to grasp. Soundstage. I’ve gotten used to the very impressive and expansive HD 800 soundstage that envelops the listener. At the beginning, I was quick to give the HD 800 the thumbs up in the comparison, but now I’m not so sure. After a weekend, the soundstage of the HD 800 sounded almost artificial on some songs, whereas the Paradox more accurately placed where I expected instruments should be. Still a toss-up, I’d want more time before giving a definitive opinion.
- I enjoy colored headphones. The Sennheiser 598s have my absolute favorite sound signature and are my go-to set whenever I just want to casually enjoy music while multi-tasking. They’re wonderfully fun and seductively sweet. The Paradox has been generally proclaimed as a neutral headphone. Neutral does NOT mean boring or uninvolving. I was still toe tapping and head bobbing with the Paradox on all of the songs that I get a kick out of on the 598s.
- Going off of the previous statement, I view the Paradox as a stellar companion headphone. The Paradox did not always win out in the songs I listened to, but they had excellent moments and allowed me to appreciate subtle nuances that weren’t as noticeable on the HD 800s.
Conclusion: $495 for a basic Paradox. Compared against an HD 800 and holding up quite well. Can’t think of another closed headphone I’d rather have at that price point. You’ll learn a bit about your preferred sound signature and gain appreciation for a very different sounding headphone to boot.
Edited by HideousPride - 3/4/13 at 10:39am