I continued testing the ED12 direct off of source components I had around the house, remembering that I tested the Senn HD700s direct from an old CD player we've got laying around(sounded really bad...) I decided to try the same test with the Ultrasones. The sound I got was good, as in better than my computer system. Confused I then hooked up one of my vintage amps to the CD player and again used it's headphone port. The sound improved. Confused I hooked up the same amp to my DAC(having been using the other amp for a few weeks now) and played the same album... earbleed. And the campfire crackling away during the song's intro that sounded lifelike off the CD player/amp combo... just harsh noise. For curiosity's sake I cracked open the CD player and it's headphone amp is nothing but a simple op-amp. ED12 easy to drive? Guess so! Though that doesn't mean that an amp won't improve the sound.(if my 50+ yr old receiver does... what will a modern amp bring to the table?) The good news here is that if you're short on cash, you can pick up the ED12 and a $20 CD player off ebay, and get good sound while you save up for the rest of your system.
It looks like I'm going to have to go DAC shopping again. I bought the Ultra-Fi DAC41 when I was mainly using my STAX. I concluded that it was the first DAC more detailed than said CD player(which was highly resolving but far too glassy/harsh). Now it seems as if the reverse is true with the Sones. I don't get how that can be as I'm using the same set of amplifiers I tested with the STAX. Could it be that the STAX was un-able to fully resolve the high-end of the CD player?(Both the CD spinner and STAX are mid-80s designs.) Then why did the UF sound less harsh? Anyways, I have a lot of reading to do on the topic of OS vs NOS DACs. The Ultra-Fi is NOS and I'm wondering if I'm hearing those 'high end artifacts' OS fans talk about. Things would be a whole lot easier if I could figure out which technology the CD player uses. While I was in there I noted down that it used a 'Toshiba TP6709N' DAC chip, but all I could find about it is that it's 16-bit. Anyone know if there are 16-bit OS DACs? Or when OS technology was first introduced? The CD player came out in 1986.
EDIT: I've been researching DACs most of the day and was just reading a pdf published by Hagerman Tech on why they don't do 'non-filtered NOS' DACs. "The final problem with non-OS, non-filtered DACs is the amazing level of ultrasonic output content. Without a brick-wall filter, both switching edge harmonics and aliased images are sent downstream for other system components to deal
with." Perhaps I should have been focusing on the one thing I changed in my system all along, the Ultrasones. The older STAX are probably not playing anything above 18khz, 20 tops. The Sones are rated up to 42khz. Perhaps because of this, a flaw of my UF that was not obvious before is now brought to the forefront. I know we supposedly can't hear that high(with the hearing tests on YT I've tried, I top out around 17.5khz) but perhaps it is doing something with the headphone drivers that makes music more fatiguing? The Sones are less bright than the STAX with every source but said DAC(the CD player actually being listenable with them confirms this), so I'm really confused with this issue. Funny really, the CD spinner has that 'you are there' feeling of which I've never really experienced before despite all it's other shortcomings. I've got my computer tweaked out the wazoo and I run Jplay.(which brought my digital rig up more than any DAC upgrade I've done) I'm not sure what else I could do besides replacing the DAC.
Anyways, I know I'm the only one with the ED12 so far, but I'm curious what DACs you guys would recommend for your Sones. I'm a bit annoyed that the harshness I was blaming on my old amps was actually coming from the DAC, but I suppose that's what revealing headphones like this are good for. They'll let you know when something is up for sure.
On another note, I'm thinking of getting the Graham Slee ULDE as my amp. I loaned one out when I was trying out the Beyer T90s, it wasn't the best match for them unless you really like smooth & mellow, but it may be just what the Sones need. Plus I use a Graham Slee phono stage that I'm really quite fond of. An additional plus is that it's a smaller amp, and easier to move around the room. The way this room is laid out I need pretty long cables to connect my phono-amp to my desktop amp. So, I should be able to pick up a short pair of 'audiophile' ICs rather than being stuck with a long(and bulky when I'm using my DAC as source) pair of Blue Jeans.
On a third note that I was wanting to mention, the ED12 keeps the 'magic' of the PRO2900 that led to me keeping them so long despite the painfully bright sound. As I've said before, it's almost like you can hear the guitar amp and it's cabinet rather than just guitar notes on their own. It's just a sense of realism that I really don't know how to describe. I was afraid that this was only there with the 2900 because of it's super brightness, but it looks like you can have your cake and eat it too. I'm very happy with this headphone purchase, for whatever reason I seem to make my best buys on instinct alone. Whenever I get myself stressed out researching things and focus too much on minor things, I end up quite unhappy. Anyone else able to relate to this?
Edited by MohawkUS - 10/9/13 at 4:57pm