Originally Posted by Asr
Continuing my impressions, moving on to the heavy-hitter stuff:
- Sony Z7 | source: Sony DAP: I've been reading about the Z7 and was really interested in getting to hear them. It'd be a stretch for me to call it great because it didn't sound all that amazing, but I did think it was very good overall. It had a lot of the trademark Sony-type treble and clarity that I've heard before from such headphones like the V6 and SA5000, but it didn't have those headphones' thin mid-ranges either, which was good. It was about as bassy as I'd expect for an upper-end closed headphone, which is to say that it wasn't a bass monster but still had good extension and quantity, at least that I could tell. It was definitely promising enough that I'll probably end up buying my own pair eventually.
- MrSpeakers Alpha Prime | source/amp: Schiit Gungnir / Mjolnir and Cavalli Liquid Glass: I wasn't really all that impressed by the Alpha Prime, mostly because it didn't sound all that different from the Alpha Dog (I took some time to swap between the two on the same amp). But when I told Dan (of MrSpeakers) about it, he told me that in order to hear the difference one should use acoustic music, particularly jazz (I was admittedly using Daft Punk's Random Access Memories). Since jazz isn't one of my preferred genres (and I couldn't find any acoustic music on MrSpeakers' computer that I was really familiar with), I sort of just stopped my audition there. That's not to say that I didn't hear a difference between the Alpha Dog and Alpha Prime, because I did, but it wasn't huge to my ears. Just a marginal difference with the Alpha Prime sounding a bit more trebly to me, and a bit more spatial. Still, I thought the Alpha Prime sounded very good on its own and there's a decent chance that I'll properly ABX it against the Alpha Dog on my own setup someday, probably after I re-acquire something like the Garage1217 Project Ember to drive it.
- HiFiMan HE-560 (at HiFiMan and Moon Audio): I had these before on HeadAmp's demo program for a few days where I used them only out of a HeadAmp Gilmore Lite, so I thought I'd check them out again on the better equipment at the show. Didn't overly impress me out of the electronics at HiFiMan's table, or at Moon Audio's for that matter, but I'll admit they're strong headphones with very good clarity and soundstage. At Moon Audio, they also sounded way better out of the April Music Stello MKII stack than out of the Bryston stack—enough of a difference that I thought the Bryston stack pretty much sucked in comparison. Personally I'd call these headphones something like an HD800 replacement for those who can't afford the HD800, because to me they had very similar strengths (open soundstage, strong treble—not that they sounded similar though, since I can't say that for sure).
- AKG K812 (source/amp: Bryston BHA-1/BDA-2 and April Music Stello HP100/DA100 MKII): Another headphone that I've really been wanting to hear, so when I spied them at Moon Audio's table, I had to check them out. They weren't terrible on the Bryston stack, but holy crap did the April Music Stello MKII stack really transform these! The K812 nearly became bass monsters on the Stello stack, enough that I was really satisfied with the bass for electronica (Moon Audio happened to have one of my reference electronica albums by The Crystal Method on their source device). The K812 sounded really promising to me, with AKG's trademark open soundstage (from the K7xx, but even more open-sounding) and delivered very good clarity too. It didn't quite have the mid-range presence that I would've liked and seemed a bit recessed, but now I'm definitely more interested in acquiring my own pair in the future.
- Schiit Ragnarok & Yggdrasil: Not really an "amp" impression per se but I sat down at Schiit's table because I wanted to find out if the combined amp/DAC would transform the LCD-3 for me, because I don't have a high opinion of the LCD-3 (it just isn't enough of a sonic upgrade over the LCD-2 for me). The LCD-3 certainly sounded good on the setup, but I can't say that my opinion of it changed, it sounded just as lacking in clarity and musical dynamics as what I've heard before from it (when I previously compared it to the Stax OII MKI on the HeadAmp BHSE that I also owned at the same time). Not to say anything negative about the amp & DAC of course, just that they didn't help improve the LCD-3 for me when I thought they might. The Audeze headphones just aren't what I consider great—Schiit, on the other hand, is delivering fantastic value in the Ragnarok and Yggdrasil, even if I can't say anything about how they sound. But I doubt I'll be buying either of them for myself because they looked just too physically big for my desk space. If either of them were smaller I might consider buying one.
- April Music Stello HP100/DA100 MKII: As already pointed out in the above impressions for the HE-560 and K812, this stack of equipment was totally amazing. I'd never heard anything by April Music before (never got the chance back when they made the MKI versions of the amp & DAC), but this stack blew away the Bryston stack set up next to it at Moon Audio. It delivered deep, heavy bass into all 3 headphones that I plugged into it (the HE-560, K812, and another I'm forgetting) while the Bryston sounded positively bass-anemic. It was so much of a difference that it was obvious the Bryston stack was incapable of driving high-current loads. Turning up the volume on the Bryston stack didn't really increase the amount of body to the mid-range, but on the Stello stack, more and more bass and mid-range was filled in as I turned up the volume.
If there was ever a case of "night and day" differences between electronics that I've heard, the Bryston stack versus the Stello stack was clearly one of them. Now I'm totally interested in buying the Stello stack for myself someday to pair with the K812. That combo in particular was just awesome. I'd love to hear what the Stello stack would do with my Audio-Technica AD2000.....