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Grace m903 report with HD800, LCD-2, LCD-3, T5P.

post #1 of 123
Thread Starter 

So I've been testing out this m903 with some different headphones for the last few days. I wanted to share my results with you guys since you all helped me when needed information.


First of all, the m903 is sick. The conversion is stellar and the feature set is unbeatable for a DAC. If you have studio monitors also, I highly suggest this box. 


Now to the headphones.... 


LCD-2 (Rating 9.5 out of 10):


Sound: Incredible. Natural. Deep. Impactful. Detailed. Warm. Punchy. Wide, but controlled.


Comfort: Heavy, but still easy to wear.


Build Quality: Really sturdy, although the cable connection points stick out a bit far and could break with a bit of leverage, but would take quite a bit of it.


Misc: Came with a very useful hard travel case.



HD800 (Rating 4 out of 10)


Sound: Shrill. Painful. Seriously weak bass. I do not see the appeal at all. Not only was it not incredible, but it was honestly bad. As soon as I put them on my ears began to hurt even though they were at approximately the same level as the LCD-2's. The highs are brittle like a chalkboard. I suspect that anyone who thinks that this combo has a great high-end has been listening too loudly for their whole lives and probably has some hearing loss (natural hearing loss usually occurs in the higher frequencies). I've had my hearing tested recently and my loss is near the average natural loss for my age (25), so I don't think it's my own problem. They sounded a little bit better with my Apogee Duet 2, but I only suspect because the Duet is not as revealing as the Grace - and even then, still painful in the Duet. What are you people smoking who like these things? I would liken it to a regular TV that has the brightness turned all the way up and then marketed as "HD". These are absolutely a worse listening experience than even my AKG k702s. 


Comfort: Lightweight, comfortable ear pads, although the band is a tad big.


Build Quality: Crap. Plasticy. Feels cheap. Exposed speaker cone that can be easily damaged. The only upside to the crap materials is that it's light, but it's almost so light that it feels like it's going to fall off of my head.


Misc: Doesn't come with any useful accessories.



BeyerDynamic T5P (Rating 7.5 out of 10):


Sound: Rich, balanced, great tone. The only that really separates these from the great quality sound of something like a LCD-2 is the "closed" feeling to the sound. But, that's what you get when you wear closed-back headphones. If you need to have very minimal sound leakage to the area around you, then I would definitely recommend these headphones. Otherwise, get an open pair. I don't even find the open cans are really all that loud at normal listening volumes, although they can be like small desktop speakers when cranked all the way up.


Comfort: Good. No complaints. Not amazingly luxurious, but good.


Build Quality: Solid. They feel firm. Nothing is going to break.


Misc: They are powered well from anywhere....the m903, the Duet, my laptop, my phone, etc. It doesn't really affect them too much. They also come with a nice protective box and an extension cable.



(I will receive the LCD-3 today and will write here again with what I think of them).

post #2 of 123

lol. Thanks-kinda.



post #3 of 123

Thanks for the impressions, I think the Grace would do well with cans like D7000, TH900 as well. Look forward to hearing how the LCD3 runs through the Grace.

post #4 of 123
Thread Starter 

I tried really hard to get a hold of the TH900 but I couldn't find anywhere that I could get them until October, except from Japan which wasn't really feasible for me because I'm leaving the country in a couple weeks and they weren't sure if they could get them here on time. I will try them out eventually because I really, really would like to have a closed pair that will be just as good as my open pair. I may be dreaming to think it's even possible, but I'm willing to try the best there is to at least make sure. The T5P, while good, weren't worth the price. I'm now using an in-ear in place of a closed headphone - it's a lot cheaper and, for mixing, if the sound isn't accurate and detailed then it's not accurate and detailed, period...might as well not spend a grand on that.

Edited by delano22 - 8/16/13 at 3:44pm
post #5 of 123


post #6 of 123

Why spend so much on multiple pairs of headphones but then not even a headphone amp?

post #7 of 123
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by kn19h7 View Post

Why spend so much on multiple pairs of headphones but then not even a headphone amp?


For one, the Grace m903 is an amazing headphone amplifier. That's why they built it...


Secondly, it's for a semi-portable rig. Not necessarily for on-the-go action, but I will be traveling a lot so it needs to fit in luggage, backpack, etc. I should have mentioned that. I had another thread last week talking about it, but I forgot to include it in this one. I needed a 1 box solution. The Grace is the top-tier for that. 


Lastly...all of the headphones are going back except for 1 pair.

Edited by delano22 - 8/16/13 at 4:41pm
post #8 of 123
Build Quality: Crap. Plasticy. Feels cheap. Exposed speaker cone that can be easily damaged. The only upside to the crap materials is that it's light, but it's almost so light that it feels like it's going to fall off of my head.

I always thought lcd-2 is so heavy that it falls off so easily whenever you tilt your head, didn't understand how the other way can be true. I thought whether the headphone will fall off depends on the moment created by weight of the hp > moment created by friction between your head and hp. So the lighter the hp, the harder it is to fall off, and that is definitely what I experienced with both LCD-2 and hd800. I don't remember reading such a complaint of hd800 either before. By the way, given your limited experience with other amplifiers, it may not be a good idea to start judging the headphones as if your "amazing" Grace m903 is the best/end tool to do that. On top of that, your explanation of why the amp is so amazing "that's why they built it...." Is pretty amazing too smily_headphones1.gif
post #9 of 123
Thread Starter 

While I am not familiar with a wide array of headphone amps, I am extremely familiar with Grace Design and their A/D and D/A converters and microphone pre-amps. I have been in high-quality audio for years, I have just never ventured into headphones. I have much experience with studio monitors and digital and analog signal processing. You are out of your bloody mind if you think that the m903 is not an accurate tool. I'm sorry, but it's true. Grace's engineering is renowned world-wide. I am in pro audio - not the hi-fi world. Grace is very well respected for their accuracy and clean signal processing. No it doesn't have "tube warmth" like your Decware Mini Torii because professional users like me don't want tube warmth. While pleasurable at times, it's not an accurate representation of the signal - it's the original signal + harmonic distortion from the tube. The entire point of this piece of equipment is to deliver the sound as it was intended to be heard. If the artist wanted harmonic distortion in the song, then they would have added it in the recording, mixing, and mastering process.


Furthermore, I never claimed that any of my statements are totalitarian judgements. They are judgements BASED ON THIS PARTICULAR GEAR for anyone who is considering a similar setup. I didn't mean to rustle your jimmies, because I can see in your profile that you are an HD800 owner tongue.gif


As for the weight issues - it's also a fit issue. The reason I can tolerate the weight of the LCD-2 is because they fit more snugly to my head. The HD800 doesn't grip my head and due to the light weight, it flops about when I move around and that's strange considering I have a relatively big head and a lot of hair.

Edited by delano22 - 8/16/13 at 7:23pm
post #10 of 123
Just because I owned it doesn't mean I can't be objective, likewise just because you don't own it doesn't mean you are objective. We have all read many people not liking HD800, I was one of them and even now, I still find them lacking in some areas. For example, I find my westone ES5 gives a more realistic sound/tonality than HD800. Just giving my share of views, will let others take over what they think of the review. Thanks for reviewing anyway, guess i wont be looking for a Grace M903 to match HD800 then.
post #11 of 123
Thread Starter 

Exactly. I can only tell you what I am hearing with the gear I have here in front of me. I think most people can do that relatively objectively. I'm not disparaging the brand out-right. There may be a great DAC and amp for the HD800 that makes it sound better than the LCD-2 does to me on this amp. It's just not really relevant unless someone is asking what the best amp for the HD800 is. This is more of a "best headphones for the m903" thread since the m903 is the non-varying factor in all of the tests.

post #12 of 123

Third-Eye, I thought you liked the HD800/M903 combo-or was that just with another amp in the chain?



post #13 of 123
From your descriptions, the Grace must have a forward mid to highs sound. That would make the 800s sound bad. Conversely, that would wake the 2s up. I'm thinking a HE-500 would also sound good on it. The 800s on the GS-X II and Master 7 or speaker amp and Hilo, they sound very good with no lack of bass. The detailed bass sounds less than the LCD twack for sure but I get tired of that all the time. When the material has it to offer, the 800s can put it out.
post #14 of 123
Thread Starter 

I believe you. I've heard what you just said elsewhere, too. I can see listening to orchestral music softly through this setup, but not much else. I was cringing at every beat.

post #15 of 123

I absolutely love both the HD800 and the Grace m903 but I do run the Stratus in between. I don't think it's unlistenable as the OP suggests in the mini-review and actually lived with that combo for a couple of months before getting the Stratus........it just sounds like he has a preference for the Audeze house sound. I very much liked the HE500 directly out of the m903 for example, but with the HD800 it's now only the Stratus for me.

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