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iCAN Amp Review: A New Amp that Gives You More: More Bass, More Soundstage and More Detail - Page 17

post #241 of 392

Got my upgraded (gain/dip switches) iCAN yesterday.  Prelim assessment:  Same clean sound but needs some breaking in.  As expected, the Woo continues to wipe the floor with it.  I wish there was still more adjustment possible.  With the 325is, I went from 9:30 to 10:30, with the 880/600 I can (oops) go to 1:00.  Still, it would be nice if it had even more range.  Too bad manufacturers in general feel like they have to have all the gain between 6:00 and 10:00 or so.  How many times have we all heard from someone, 'wow, I only have to turn it up to 9:00 and it's freaky loud, it must be really powerful'. Nope, that's how they designed the volume control to work, to impress you.

 

$67 ($50 + $17 shipping) gets you the gain switches.  It was a hassle free transaction thanks to the folks at Avalon Acoustics in Georgia.

 

Here they are on the underneath side (sorry, upside down).  They're very small.  1 & 2 seem to be left and right, 3 & 4, also left and right give more attenuation.  I'm not sure why iFI thought it necessary to have individual adjustments for each channel.  Hmm.  Oh, well.

 

 

AppleMark

post #242 of 392
Thread Starter 

It is funny to me how my perceptions evolve in this hobby. I have been enjoying the sound of my new Sony MDR-MA900s in part because they offer a contrast to the sound of my Audio Technica ESW9As.

 

But then tonight, I was listening to the Sony's and there was something missing. I could not quite figure it out because all of the elements seemed to be there. Clarity, details, spaciousness, solid tight bass, etc. And then I switched back to my ESW9As and it was obvious what was somehow missing: the emotions in the music. I think it has to do with the fullness of tone in the mids with the ESW9As. They convey the feeling in the music so much better than the Sony's even though on many other specific aspects of the sound, the Sony's come out ahead. It is not that the Audio Technica's are slouches in any department, but somehow even though some of the technical aspects of the sound are better with the Sony's, the totality of the sound is less satisfying than with the ESW9As. I suddenly felt more engaged with the music when I switched to the ESW9As. Before that I was more in my head and busy analysing the sound of the Sony's.

 

Of course all of this is with my particular setup of Tera and iCAN. As always, someone else's setup or someone else's ears might lead to the opposite conclusion. And it could just be my ears like the change in the sound after having listened to the Sony's for a week or so.

 

I will keep the Sony's for a while, as it might be fun to switch to them occasionally for a different sound....but tonight I am really liking the Audio Technica's again.


Edited by Nirmalanow - 8/25/13 at 8:30pm
post #243 of 392
Variety IS the spice of life. I could never be happy with one headphone and one amp.
post #244 of 392
I decided to forego the free upgrade to the version with gain control since I don't use IEMs. The gain switches seem unduly complicated. To me at least.
post #245 of 392
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgelai57 View Post

Variety IS the spice of life. I could never be happy with one headphone and one amp.

I will see if I like the Sony's better after a week of listening to the AT's rolleyes.gif

post #246 of 392
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgelai57 View Post

I decided to forego the free upgrade to the version with gain control since I don't use IEMs. The gain switches seem unduly complicated. To me at least.


Same here, I find the volume control is just right for the headphones that I use. But I do think it was smart of iFi to start including the switches.

post #247 of 392
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nirmalanow View Post
 

I will see if I like the Sony's better after a week of listening to the AT's rolleyes.gif

Well, as could have been predicted, after a few weeks of just listening to my ESW9s, the Sony MDR-MA900s are sounding really good again. I do find that with the Sony's I need to adjust the settings on the iCAN more often. On particularly bright recordings, I end up turning off the 3D effect....but then on other songs it adds a nice sparkle and spaciousness. In contrast I leave it on 99% of the time with the ESW9s. As I have mentioned several times in this thread, it is nice to be able to easily adjust the sound according to my mood or the way the music was recorded.

 

And the Sony's have a very spacious sound even without the 3D effect. They still seem to work well with the higher setting on the bass boost except for a very few songs.

 

I guess I do not need to find the one perfect headphone and can enjoy some variety. Especially since I paid about $150 each for both the ESW9s and the Sony's. They both far exceed my expectations at that price point, and sound as good as or better than many of the more expensive phones I have had in the past.

post #248 of 392
Hello,

I really like iFi products lineup, so I've made a review on my own site. It's in Russian, so only Google Translate, sorry: http://translate.google.ru/translate?hl=ru&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fhi-news.ru%2Faudio%2Fobzor-produktov-kompanii-ifi-soberi-svoj-audiotrakt.html

Maybe I'll manage to make a good translation to English, but anyway — you can look at photos smily_headphones1.gif I simply want to share my iFi excitement.
post #249 of 392
Thread Starter 

I am still really enjoying the MA900s again with the iCAN. I just listened for a couple of hours and never felt the need to turn off the 3D even once. It is really only on songs with  a lot of reverb or echo already in the mix that there is too much going on.

 

The rest of the time, the sound is amazingly wide open and spacious. And again the instrument separation is the best I have heard. I have never tried the HD800s, but these Sony's are amazing in that regard to me.

 

The huge soundstage of these Sony's means that I can enjoy music with a larger scale like orchestral music or dramatic music that has a big almost theatrical scale. On most headphones I find the sound is so compressed that it is distracting, and I tend to skip to the next song on random play. But these MA900s have the spaciousness to handle big epic sounding music.

 

And still the x-Bass really helps on these headphones. I love the impact and fullness of the low frequencies with the higher setting turned on. Actually reminds me of the LCD-2s I tried but could not wear because they were too heavy for me.


Edited by Nirmalanow - 9/20/13 at 8:08pm
post #250 of 392
Thread Starter 

The Sony MA900s continue to surprise me. I hadn't used my TDS202 sound enhancer in a while, and my instinct was that it would not work well with the Sony's as they are already so spacious and open with the iCAN.

 

But no harm in trying, so I pulled it out and hooked it up between the Tera and the iCAN. The TDS202 is a strange little device that boosts low level sounds in the mix and thereby brings out the details in the music. It also has the effect of expanding the soundstage. So it is similar to the 3D on the iCAN.

 

And at first it maybe seemed like too much of a good thing, but after a bit of mental adjustment there was a growing sense of wonder at the effect with the Sony's. First of all, there is an abundance of details and resolution. As Highflight described it when he bought the TDS on my recommendation, it is like removing cotton from your ears. But the surprising thing is how it also seems to fill in the body of the sound from top to bottom. Everything sounds fuller and richer, even the bass. I do not remember this happening with any of my other headphones when I have used the TDS202 in the past. Maybe it is in part because I am using the xbass on the high level of boost with the Sony's also. But there is definitely a fullness to the bass and mids with the TDS in the chain. In the past, it seemed to tilt things more towards the higher frequencies.

 

And then there is the spacious almost hallucinogenic soundstage with the Sonys and the 3D on the iCAN and the TDS202 all working together to create an amazing sense of wide open sound and almost supernatural instrument separation. This is the thing that my brain has to adjust to, but as I get used to it, it is quite addictive. The Sony's do this well by themselves, but add in the other two effects and it moves into another realm of spaciousness. And as always, if on a particular song, it really is too much, I can just flick a switch on the iCAN and bring things back down to earth. In fact with the TDS in the chain, I find I also enjoy the lower "one dot" setting on the iCAN which is a more typical crossfeed. Without the TDS, the sound can tend to flatten out a bit and be a little lifeless with this setting on the iCAN. But with the TDS, I can enjoy the benefits of the crossfeed filling in the middle and tightening up the soundstage without losing the aliveness and even an overall remaining sense of open spaciousness and still very good instrument separation. On some music, it is just what is needed. But most of the time, I just go into hyperdrive and fly through the vast reaches of interstellar sound with everything maxxed out for space and more space.

post #251 of 392

Interesting. Sounds like you like the TDS202 then. It seems like most people on Head-Fi who had it hated it.

post #252 of 392
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by blueangel2323 View Post
 

Interesting. Sounds like you like the TDS202 then. It seems like most people on Head-Fi who had it hated it.

I have found it is very system dependent whether it sounds good or not. I have used it in some setups and not liked it, and then in other setups it has been a great addition to the sound. There are also a lot of very positive reviews on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Acoustic-Research-TDS202-Enhancement-1-Speaker/dp/B00005QZ16/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

 

The price went up recently to $50, but it still is not a lot of money to try it out. And with the iCAN and the Sony's, there are lots of ways to adjust the sound quickly while listening, so that makes it easier to adjust if a song comes on that was mixed in a way that the effect is too strong. I just reach over and turn off the 3D on the iCAN or reposition my headphones to shift the tone a bit as described in this post I just put up on the MA900 appreciation thread:

 

I want to remind anyone new to the MA900s to try playing with the position of the headphones on your head. I find these headphones respond a lot to being moved forward or backwards. It seems that moving them all of the way forward so that the slanted earpads are tucked tightly in behind your outer ear works like a tone control and shifts the center of the tone lower and calms an overly bright treble. Whereas moving them back to center or even as far back as they can go adds a lot of energy to the treble. Because of the slanted earpads and the large drivers, you can change the position of these headphones a lot compared to other headphones, as there is a lot of space inside the headphone.

 

With the setup I described above, I find they sound best as far forward as possible since the iCAN 3D effect does boost the upper mids and lower treble. So shifting the headphones forwards balances this out and brings back a warmer sound. This effect can work like a quick and simple EQ where you can adjust the tone to suit your mood or the particular recording you are listening to.

 

The position also affects the soundstage with the forward position giving the most open spacious sound. I recently read a description of Ultrasone's S-Logic that suggested much of what they feel makes the soundstage more natural in their headphones is the position of the driver. Specifically, they feel that the driver should be further forward and down low, so that the sound enters your ear canal after reflecting off of the outer ear, which is the more typical way sound enters your ear when listening to speakers or live music. So maybe it also makes sense that I like wearing my Sony's as far forward and also as low down on my head as possible most of the time. A good part of the pads are down on my cheek and jaw, so the driver is very far forward and lower than my ear. Again this especially works well now that I have the TDS202 in the system which brings out a lot of detail and the iCAN 3D effect which boosts the upper frequencies. With a different setup or on an overly bright song, a different position might work better.

 

It is a nice feature of these headphones that they can provide a very different sound depending on how you wear them. It is kind of like having more than one pair of headphones for the price of one!

post #253 of 392

I have to chime in.

I recently purchased an LCD-3 (the original plan was to go for the LCD-2, but I got a good deal on a s/h LCD-3).

I have heard it with the Woo WA6-SE, Lehmann Black Cube Linear and the iFi iCan.

The Lehmann was not a good match with the LCD-3, they sounded very sterile together.

With the Woo the LCD-3 sounded very relaxing, a bit bloated and on the VERY warm side.

With the iCan the LCD-3 came alive! Dynamic swings, big BASS and airy highs - a match made in heaven (and the iCan goes for only $250!).

 

If it wasn't for the dealer I would not have had looked at the iCan, he insisted that I'll try them (as he also represents Audeze and knows they are a very good match).

My budget was $1000 but I settled for a $250 head-amp - I think this says a-lot...

post #254 of 392
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Axel View Post
 

I have to chime in.

I recently purchased an LCD-3 (the original plan was to go for the LCD-2, but I got a good deal on a s/h LCD-3).

I have heard it with the Woo WA6-SE, Lehmann Black Cube Linear and the iFi iCan.

The Lehmann was not a good match with the LCD-3, they sounded very sterile together.

With the Woo the LCD-3 sounded very relaxing, a bit bloated and on the VERY warm side.

With the iCan the LCD-3 came alive! Dynamic swings, big BASS and airy highs - a match made in heaven (and the iCan goes for only $250!).

 

If it wasn't for the dealer I would not have had looked at the iCan, he insisted that I'll try them (as he also represents Audeze and knows they are a very good match).

My budget was $1000 but I settled for a $250 head-amp - I think this says a-lot...


I just wish the Audeze headphones were not so heavy or I would probably be using them. But they hurt my neck after a while.

post #255 of 392
Ditto on the Audeze headphones. As much as I like their sound sig, their weight and clamping force is just too much for me.
With regards to the iCan, it's very hard to find quite value for money amp that can drive headphones 5-6x their prices. I'm using it to drive either the Senn HD800 and Fostex TH600
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