Started out my day with a breakfast at La Madeline by Research. Quiche Florentine, Potato Galette, and a side of sausage with an OJ. Very good, but expensive. They gave me a free loaf of bread which I've had a few slices of now and it is fantastic. Getting to the meet, the early bird winner goes to Adrian and Mark, getting there before even I did. Thanks for the help with the table cards and showing people where to go, guys.
Moving on to gear:
Onkyo C-7030 - Matrix M-Stage - AD900
Notes: Medium stage size, center surprisingly good. detail is good, but not much air. bass extends nicely and has more volume than expected. vocals are thin. mids could be better. similar frequency balance as HD800, just lacking refinement.
Comments: Nice headphone for the cash. Expected a treble happy headphone but found some nice bass. A junior HD800 in all aspects, I would say, even down to the mids being a bit thin.
Notes: Lots of bass - more bass in it's balance than LCD-2 has I think. Mids better than expected. Treble not too hot. Not too bad for partial closed. Sibilant shimmery vocals, center is decent. Kind of harsh overall.
Comments: Not the right balance for me, but there wasn't anything that stood out as terrible. About what you can expect from a low to mid-fi closed can.
V-DAC - Liquid Fire - TH900
Notes: These are definitely different than the prototypes. Much more bass. Very clean though. Medium size stage. Detailed but somewhat rolled treble. Hints of sibilance but not distracting. Center is decent but still fuzzy, perhaps better than LCD-2. Good HPs but not one I will buy. Ultra refined Beats, IMO.
Comments: Heard the prototypes of the TH900 at RMAF 2011 and have taken crap for saying they are fairly balanced so I wanted to hear a production pair. They are clearly different. If you like bass but still want a refined mid and treble range, this is the can for you. Just make sure you pair it with an amp that has ample control or the bass will get out of hand.
With Ultrasone Signature Pro:
Notes: Treble, where did you go?? No air, no sparkle. Bass at least isn't overdone. Center pretty good. Everything just sounds a bit off?? No attack on anything. Narrow but deep stage. Weird.
Comments: Not sure what to say about this phone. A significantly rolled off headphone that doesn't have overpowering bass.. just.. weird.
With Ultrasone Signature DJ:
Notes: Sig pro but with more bass and even less treble. Vocals rough and distant. Mids and low treble need a bump. Not for me. Small sound stage.
Comments: I'm guessing only a DJ would like these.
With V-Moda M100:
Notes: Subwoofers with treble and mids as addons. Vocals smooth but lacking attack. Bass overdone and not that impactful surprisingly. Bass is clean but has sort of a wall of bass effect. Hard to describe.
Comments: Was a big fan of the M80. Disappointed they went this direction with the M100. Can't recommend these to anyone. I've come to realize Soundfreaq is actually more of a Bassfreaq! Note the similarities on all of these headphones...
Lavry DA11 - EC Super 7 - HD800 (SE)
Notes: Similar to mine in balance but lacks attack. Softer on treble. Not as much air. Stage similar. Really like the cymbals, amazing. Vocals are slightly fuller than mine. Bass needs more impact, but it's pretty good. Very nice rig. Would be happy with a few tweaks. Tendancy to harshen on some vocals like mine with the Gungnir instead of X-Sabre.
Comments: A near mirror of my own rig. Liked vocals and cymbals better on this than mine, but felt it lacked attack and air.
WTL Amadeus - Leben 300 - HD800 (SE)
Notes: Stage is very large. Bass is big and bold. Upper mids seem compressed. Voices can be harsh at times. Natural smooth presentation with imaging. Impact is good, attack is not as crisp as I would like, but not bad. I don't think the HD800 is a good match for this rig for my liking.
Comments: This sounded almost identical to Travis' Harbeths. It took me almost an hour to get adjusted to the Harbeth signature and while I thought it was good, it's not the pairing for me. Same with the 800s on the rig.
Denon DVD-3910 - Liquid Glass - HE-6
Notes: Sibilant occasionally. Center is very good. Imaging perfect otherwise. Stage is large, slightly smaller than HD800. Overall just get a feeling of the sound being thin. Vocals need more body.
Comments: Sound overall was excellent, just a little thin to my taste. Hifiman fit is awful.
Notes: Treble took a vacation. Mids too shouty with the lacking treble. Midbass too much, lacks attack across the range.
Comments: Never been a fan of the HD650. Too dark and lacks energy. Glass didn't do anything to fix this.
Notes: Wow - really smooth. Not the most detailed. DAC probably holding it back. Attack is very good. Need to try with X-Sabre. Very promising.
Comments: One of the amps on my shopping list, though not too seriously (not a tube roller). Liked what I heard with the Denon's built in DAC, but needed to try with better. X-Sabre cleaned it up and gave more sparkle and air, but in the end I felt like it was sort of a wash between the LG and BHA-1 with just balance differences separating them. More on that later.
PS Audio DLIII - WA2 - T1
Notes: Big and open but not all that smooth. Guitars sound weird. Tone is really off. Lacks attack. Somewhat thin in mids and lower treble. Center is decent not great. Imaging is so-so. Most sounds come from middle then way off to the side like there is a gap at 10 and 2, but dead center still fuzzy. Odd.
Comments: Never been a fan of the T1, and this is textbook why. All sorts of oddities. Not for me.
Gungnir - BHA-1 - K550
Notes: Good center - very good. Bass volume needs a bump. Mids and treble attack is good. I like the treble. Not the cleanest but has a similar presentation to the HD800. Vocals are nice. Medium to large stage.
Comments: Thought I would not like these, but tried them anyways. Surprised to find out I really liked them. For their price I can certainly suggest them to anyone wanting a HD800 but doesn't have the budget for it. And they are closed... wtf??
X-Sabre - Glass - HD800
Notes: Smoother than BHA-1, a bit less detail, but better body. Very good, just give and take between the amps. On similar performance level.
Comments: I'm not a tube roller, so whatever it has in it when I listen will determine if I like it or not. Unfair to the tuberoller's dream amp, but I knew going in that I was much more interested in the LAu than the LG. With the tubes it had in it, I thought it's performance was on a similar level as the BHA-1, just with frequency balance changes. Impact, texture, attack, all the same. For me, not worth the increased cost.
Oppo - GS-X mk2 - HD800
Notes: Smooth and detailed, a nice combination. Lacks air and stage is smaller than I'm used to. Attack is dull, frequency balance is good. Promising for sure.
Comments: As I did with all rigs I eventually tried with my DAC I listened to it as it stood first. Despite it having some glaring issues, I was confident they were source related.
X-Sabre - GS-X mk2 - HD800
Notes: Best in show, no doubt, IMO. Smoother still than the Glass, but somehow still detailed like the BHA-1. How is this possible...
Comments: My future setup. Loved it.
That wraps up my listening impressions. I got quite a bit of listening done as you can see. More than I figured I could do while running the show.
On the way out of town Sunday I stopped at Milano Trattoria again (as I did last year) in Georgetown, and had their Risotto con Pollo, which wowed me last time. It was just as good as I remember this time. Waited all year to have it again, since no restaurants in OKC make it, and it didn't disappoint. Fantastic. If you guys like Italian you really owe it to yourself to eat here. Prices are reasonable and it's a casual place, not stuffy at all. It's worth the 20-30 minute drive from downtown Austin.