Picked these headphones from Noisy Motel on the 18th of March and had a good chat with the owner there. As a reflection of the nature of these being hand-made, the first pair had a slight imbalance and it was swapped on the spot as the headphones were opened while I was there. The next pair sounded great out my PB2 and the O2. Great service by Noisy Motel there as they let you hear and even opened a few pairs for me to listen.
The headphones were tested using the following gear:
Amps: iBasso PB2/DB2, O2, Sherwood AD2220, Headstage Arrow 4G.
Source: My home-brew PC with Optical out from an Asus DGX to the Sherwood.
Current open air cans: STAX-SR5, Hifiman HE-6, Sony MDR-F1.
Tracks all in FLAC ripped from CD except the 24 bit ones.
Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men.24/96
The Keepers by Santigold.
Purple by DJ Schiller.
Phoenix by DJ Wippenberg.
Dessine Moi Un Mouton by Mylene Farmer.
Bombers Over Ibiza by Hans Zimmer.24/192
Hasta La Verdad by Javiera Mena.
Lost by Hammer&Bennett.
So I started with the PB2/DB2 running on battery and plugged into my PC using Optical out and
Wasapi Foobar. The PB2 had the HA5002/AD797 opamp combo installed by me.
Sounds smooth and syrupy with a hint of sibilance. The midrange was clean on all tracks with no hint of recession and the bass had good punch and impact. The track by Javiera Mena has some mid-lower bass in the beginning that can be tough for a lot of headphones to resolve and they didn’t get it perfect but handled it competently enough. Overall sound was clean with a very mild hint of sibilance in the upper registers when cranked up really loud. The treble has sparkle and control but loses it when pushed REALLY hard. With +4 db at 55hz and +2 db at 77hz in Foobar, they sounded perfect to me as the bass really started hitting hard on the Trance tracks and the sibilance cleaned up.
Moving on to the O2, the immediate surprise was the soundstage as it really opened up compared to the PB2 and the bass tightened. The sound-staging is huge and it was a clear winner over the PB2. There is still a tiny amount of sibilance though that was eq'ed out by me. Overall a very satisfying combo with the DB2/O2 on all tracks but a swap of the incoming LME49990 in the PB2 might change that.
With the headphones next plugged in the Sherwood connected to the PC using the DB2, the whole setup did a 180 and became sibilance free. The vocals very slightly recessed and the sibilance was dead as a duck. The headphones became very enjoyable on this setting as the EQ was set to 0 and there was no artificial boost of any sort. The bass became a bit forward and the treble reined in. On certain Trance tracks, the bass control was in the negative on the Sherwood as it was overloading the phones. Mylene Farmer,s vocals were silky smooth and the presentation of the whole track was beautiful with a very warm and liquid presentation. I could hear her for weeks on end and still be not satisfied. Her voice never went into the “ssss” stage and. Phoenix by DJ Wippenberg was punchy with again a slightly recessed midrange and 0 sibilance.
Moving on to the Headstage Arrow 4G, this amp has a lot of options and would be my choice for portable usage. The sound was very in depth and the soundstage was big. Sibilance was minimal and the headphones happily ran on the middle gain setting with bass at max and treble at 1. Again the sound was very clean and vocals seemed to be a bit more forward than before. Trance is a joy to listen to on these tracks and I tried hard to fault them at this price point but cant really find any shortcomings.
To conclude, this is a great choice in this price range and while it might not possess the technical brilliance of the MDR-F1 or the effortlessness of the Stax and can only hope of touching the HE-6s shadow, it is a “fun” headphone for all practical purposes and can be happily used around the house with decent amping. There, s a better rendition of the mid and lower end when powered properly and the highs could use a bit more taming.
In my personal opinion, its the anti-thesis of a Grado. (Them fighting words).