I did not have dх100. So I was wrong.
- 88 Posts. Joined 6/2013
- Location: Moscow
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I am still in shock.
One of my best and oldest friends is a music producer in London, he does a fair amount of work at Abbey Road and in his own studio. I have spent countless days in his own studio where he has tens of thousands of pounds worth of equipment. I have heard him record, sample, mix, sequence, master and do just about everything else.
If I close my eyes and simply listen I am there.
It sounds and feels exactly like being in his studio.
It is like being at live recording sessions, it is like being in the audience of a live concert.
In fact, it is almost disappointing.
As an audiophile I have been on a journey to find the perfect sound. For me portable is more important than a home based setup as I work on ships and spend about 6 or 7 months a year away from home. My portable Hi Fi rig is my one unabashed luxury that can make the rest of the world fade away and give me an oasis of perfection wherever I am: it could be in an airport lounge in Norway, a flight over the Atlantic, a bus ride in Western Africa or lazing on my bunk in a cabin in some random ship on the oceans. Wherever I am the Hi Fi rig in my pocket is my gateway to sanity and peace.
Over the last few years, almost every trip I have made I have come home with ideas about how to improve my portable system.
I have spent thousands making small tweaks: this DAC, that DAC, this amp, that amp… cables, cases, various headphones, various file types, batteries vs. mains, etc.
And it is almost disappointing because I just can't do it anymore.
I cannot justify wasting one more second on making tweaks and changes.
It is perfect. I have found the holy grail. The lead has been changed into gold.
The Ray Samuels SR-71a amp was that missing link in my chain. It took an excellent clean signal from the AK120 and just inflated it with life. Every single detail is pristine yet it seems to scintillate. I knew my Ultrasone's (edition 8s) were good. I had no idea they were that good. They seem to hum with musicality. To my ears there is no one part of the sound range that seems wrong. The bass is extended and transparent but dynamic. The midtones are airy, distinct and vibrant and the the trebles just seem to bring the whole soundstage to life without sounding metallic or overly sweet.
In fact it is the first closed can setup I have ever heard where the soundstage sounds larger than your head. It just opens the sound wide out and makes it all feel panoramic.
So, for now at least, it's time for me to put away my reviews, to stop trawling through technical reports and comparing statistics. For now at least I can stop spending those thousands on bits and pieces.
So, while I am a little deflated about losing my pastime of tinkering with boxes I can say that I am more than happy with the sound quality, more than happy. I honestly never thought I could get there but these little magic boxes have just taken it to the next level. It is where I had dreamed it would be but honestly never believed it was achievable in a portable rig.
It also made my wife happy as we'll probably be able to afford an extra vacation with the money saved on trying new kit this year.
So, now, finally, I can do what I have been wanting to do for years…
I can just relax and really listen to the music.
P.s. Someone was asking about the quality of the DAC stage in the AK120.
It is awesome. There is absolutely no detectable jitter to my ears. I would say it is better than the CLAS -dB which to my ears was better than the Schiit Bifrost. The bottom line is that unless you start timestamping the audio data and use a GNSS or atomic clock with corrections I don't see how it can get better, even then that would probably just add some more lag to the processing, perhaps introducing other undesirable effects.
Listening to a broad range of music, from Melody Gardot's The Absence (a light, jazz/folk feel) through to decades old recordings of Solti's Wagner, to psy-trance albums from Ultimae every single aspect of the sound feels chiseled out of darkness. There is no smudginess, the edges of every wave form feel smooth and crisp, they sound analogue in the best sense.
The CLAS -dB I thought was awesome just 6 months ago. This separate channel DAC processing in the AK120 is brilliant. It is so good I can see it becoming the norm.
I have heard a lot of people gripe about the cost of the AK120 or about the firmware or this or that. Sure, there are a few things I'd like to improve myself, like being able to swap out batteries (I don't like sealed in power - it means the unit has a lifespan relating to the battery and tI think that sucks). However, if you pair the AK120 with a good amp stage and a decent set of cans it is the most musical thing I have ever put in my pocket and has about 200GB of storage and the ability to swap the cards out so you can really carry a lot of high resolution music in your pocket.
Get one today!
Then get an RSA SR-71a and a pair of Ultrasone Edition 8s and then close your eyes and then don't ever bother coming back to Head-fi.org or leaving you chair or anything. Just float in perfection until you die.
Ok, so I'm going on vacation for 2 weeks and decided i didn't want to lug my HD600's......and wanted to try something besides my custom Shure 535's to pair with my AK120. I was going to get a pair of Westone es5's but didn't have time to have them made. Saw a post here about Crutchfield having a 60 day no questions asked return policy for full price without restocking fee etc. So I decided to give the IE800's a whirl. Here are my initial impressions:
1. Some of the best sound i've ever heard through in-ear, over ear, or closed headphones.
2. Accentuated base. I see what people are talking about, but was able to tame it to fairly neutral and tight with AK 120 equalizer
3. Best midrange i've ever heard.
4. Highs are a bit sharp.....may be a bit fatiguing, but i'm not sure yet.
5. Cable microphonics and length: I see where people are coming from, but i'm generally still when i listen to music. I don't think the cable length will be a big deal to me, but my guess is Sennheiser will come out with an extender.
6. The fit and finish of these buds and the cable are amazing.
For me, the real issue will be how I feel about using non-custom buds. The seal is good but it's not what it's used. to.
Is the AK120 and ie800's the holy grail? Probably not. Is it pretty darn excellent? Sure.
OK, next question from a relative newbie:
AK120 plus ie800 sounds pretty great with a ton of punch (see above).
Do i need an amp? Is it really going to improve enough to warrant carrying an extra box?
Thanks....that's what I thought. I rarely have the volume above 35 - 40.
Next question: Is there any problem with using the AK 120 equalizer to tame accentuated bass or should i be looking for different headphones?
I started going thru the various permutations of IRiver and Listrid FW releases to find the best sound for me with my IE800's. Didn't care for 1.21 by itself or with Listrid 1.0 and 2.0. Now on 1.1 beta and I find it much more to my liking - closer to what I recall with the original 1.00 release. Biggest difference for me is a more open and transparent sound that still has weight to it. Only drawback is that I've lost true gapless with high resolution FLAC (24/96) - still experience a tiny gap between tracks that should be gapless. Works for FLAC 16/44 or if display is on. I think I'm going to live with this FW version for a while, eventually try the Listrid's on top of it.
I'm currently finding the IE800 to work well with Iriver 1.1 beta with Listrid 1.0 FW. No doubt that the IE800 can be finicky though - slightly different orientation in the ear makes a huge difference in the sound. For me, shallow insertion especially helps tame the propensity for excessive bass.