I've been enjoying Out of Your Head for the past week or so. It hasn't been perfect but I can't imagine going back to standard 2 channel headphone listening with a limited soundstage.
I should state upfront that I have never had the pleasure of listening to software like Isone or hardware like the Smyth Realiser. I've long desired to purchase the Smyth Realiser but it's clear to me now that it is not in my future. One of the questions that future reviewers of OOYH will have to address is how it compares to listening experiences with software like Isone and hardware like the Smyth Realiser. I'm as curious as anyone else to hear from users of those products but, at this point, my enjoyment of OOYH is so substantial that it is almost beside the point for me. Others, of course, will disagree but this is just my person resolution and, as they say, YMMV.
So, to begin, what is my current setup? I have a Dell core i5 Windows laptop running jriver version 19. I am using the Audioquest Dragonfly DAC plugged into the laptop and sending the audio out to a pair of 10 year old Sennheiser HD 600's. I have a pair of used Sennheiser HD 800's coming soon but I have yet to listen through anything other than the HD 600's. The Dragonfly maxes out at 24/96 so it works well with OOYH which, as you know, is limited to 24/48. I also have signed on to receive a Geek and a Geek Pulse but they won't be arriving until january and april, respectfully(assuming that Light Harmonic's targeted release dates are on schedule). Warren P. Chi and Mike Mercer have talked up the Geek and Warren has gone so far as to say that it is essentially head and shoulders above the Dragonfly. Well, we've have to wait and see but the future does seem bright.
Thus far, I have listened to all of the OOYH presets and I have purchased the Home Theater 7.1 and Sasha 2.0 presets with plans to ultimately purchase the Egyptian Theater preset for computer-based and LCD HDTV based(via HDMI for video) movie watching and surround listening.
I have enjoyed listening to the other presets and I believe that the pricing of 25 USD per preset is reasonable. Nonetheless, based on my personal preferences, my equipment and, perhaps, my anatomic features and older adult hearing (with my hearing frequencies topping out at 14kHz), the HT and Sasha presets are the ones that work best for me. Opting not to purchase a given preset is largely an indication that the given room selected for preset is not to my taste. This is not dissimilar to the judgments we all make when we listen to a given sound system at the home of a friend or in a dealer's showroom. Having said that, my preset preferences are a reflection(no pun intended - as a friend says, that would be "punishment") of where I'm at at this point in time, and I reserve the right to develop changes in preference and perception as time and experience increases.
19 presets can be a bit overwhelming at first blush but I also see no reason why Darin couldn't add even more presets as he finds more speaker setups in rooms to sample in the future.
Regarding purchasing new presets for each computer used, I do understand Darin's reasons for this, nonetheless, it would be great to be able to remove OOYH from a computer that you no longer use and transfer it to a new computer that you do use. This would effectively mean having only so many active preset licenses at a given time, in some ways similar(and ethically the same) vis a vis how it is now. When you retire your old PC(or, in the future, mac when OOYH is available for mac based systems) you would be able to transfer your preset license to your new computer. When you buy a license for Windows 8 for a single user you can only run it on one PC at a time.You can remove it from your old PC and put it on your new or other PC(or mac with bootcamp). In my mind, the same policy should exist for OOYH. Having said that, I fully understand that it is Darin's software enterprise and potential buyers can either play by his rules(well, as with all other software you do have to click "Agree" before using it) or otherwise choose not to purchase his software and spend your money elsewhere.
I do find that the sound volume needs to be increased or decreased when going from one preset to another (HT is one of the louder presets, Sasha one of the quieter ones). I also find the Bypass setting to sound a bit more bland when compared to listening to conventional headphone 2 channel listening without a crossfeed option though this may be somewhat of a subjective experience in some measure based on the lower sound volume of the Bypass preset.
What about OOYH works best for me? It's like selling real estate, i.e., "location, location, location." The soundstage is absolutely wonderful. Does it sound like I'm listening to a 2.0 or 5.1 sound system in a real listening room? For me, the answer is not really but close enough for me to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Some recordings do sound best in 7.1(tome) while others sound best(to me) in 2.0. Joni Mitchell's For the Roses album, for instance, sounds good in both but the vocals are too isolated in the middle channel with the 7.1. James Taylor's Flag and Hourglass albums sound great either way, but his voice sounds less nasal and more natural in 2.0 configuration. I find the timbre of musical instruments to sound more natural and engaging in 2.0 but there are still recordings where the wow factor of 7.1 overrides my preference for a more natural sound.
What do I find fault with re: OOYH? I wish that I could take a trip to visit Darin Fong San Diego to have the software calibrated for my own headphones. That is unlikely to happen, at least for now(I live in Massachusetts but I do have in laws in the Los Angeles area). I am, nonetheless, happy to make do with what I have for now.
Second, the 24/48 limitation is an issue given that I have an extensive library of music which includes a number of 24/96, 24/192 and DSD files. jriver is great is that it converts all of the above to PCM at 24/48 on the fly, as it were. I also have to admit that high resolution FLAC and DSD, while greatly impressive when listening to loudspeakers in an actual(versus virtual) room, is much less of an issue of me when listening through headphones with OOYH engaged. In truth, redbook CD rips sounds wonderful and engaging when listened to via OOYH.
The 3rd disadvantage for me is one of software compatibility. While I have experienced ZERO dropout problems through properly setup jriver(thank you Darin for your excellent responsiveness re: customer service), I have found that the DAC in the Woo Fireflies has, thus far, proved a nonstarter with OOYH as the Fireflies' DAC specifies an ASIO driver(see the Fireflies manual). OOYH specifically does NOT work ASIO per Darin Fong and per my experience.
Like all headphone listening, OOYH will not give your visceral experience of palpable, thunderous bass that a good room based system will. I know that the
Smyth Realiser sells a physical board to give back some of that experience and it remains to be seen as to whether Darin might ever contemplate and perhaps release such hardware in the future.
I understand that OOYH is, in this very thread, reported to work with WAPASI, so I am also looking forward to pair the Fireflies with my excellent and well reviewed Auralic Vega DAC which is also configured to work with WAPASI. This is something that I will set up on thursday(2 days from now) when I have more time.
Regarding customer service, I have traded a few emails with Darin and he has been wonderfully responsive. At the same time, I would recommend that he post a pdf file on the OOYH website detailing specific settings with specific music software programs to make set up of the program more streamlined for the buyer(also obviating the need to answer the same questions over and over again). The Auralic website has a similar pdf which I've found incredibly helpful in setting up the Auralic Vega with various software programs without having to bother the folks in Auralic customer service. As has been done with Auralic, Darin can post a pdf with screenshots specifying set ups with the more commonly used audio software programs.
The online demo page, BTW, is awesome. When watching and listening to the videos I was totally engaged and I was disappointed for the videos to end.
I've rambled on enough in this post but I just wanted to share my early thoughts and impressions of OOYH with other Head-Fiers. I look forward to reading others' experience Darin's new software.
Edited by esimms86 - 11/12/13 at 8:57pm