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The Basshead's Gazette - A Newbie's Journey Into the World of Personal Audio

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
     How's it going, people? My name is thatBeatsguy, and this is a little thread to commemorate my first year into the world of personal audio. Though technically it hasn't been a full 365 days, it's 2014 already, so it should be more or less accurate anyway. 2013 was a great year, filled with all sorts of stuff. But it was also the year when I begane my journey into the world of personal audio -- the world of Head-Fi.
     This journey has only taken a year, but it has been a really fruitful journey so far...though not so for my wallet. But over these 12 months in head-Fi I've learned a lot from you all, and I guess I could say I've made some friends as well. With 2013 behind me, a new year of opportunities await...and a lot more gear to buy. Hopefully the fruits of this year will be many, so that I may reap them and have them manifest into steps toward audio nirvana.
     I'm going to fill this thread up with a lot of reviews and stuff I've written on headphones (not that I've written much), but before that I would like to thank the Discovery Thread, the thread that showed me what Head-Fi really is: a community, a community of people who love great sound.
     This thread is kinda awkward since I haven't been part of the community for a whole year, but I've been lurking on Head-Fi for several months before I registered, so technically I could call it a year. I don't know what you guys might think, but that's what it is, so yeah. Besides, it's not like my first year is that far away, right? Oh wait...it is.
     But hopefully, you guys will like this little thread. It's a little podium from which I could most cordially thank the people whom I have learned from in my ever-continuing journey to find perfect sound. Here is a quick list of those people:
  • Dsnuts, the man who started the Discovery Thread, the place where I met some of the nicest people in the community.
  • D Marc0, an awesome reviewer and modder of sorts. One of the friendliest guys on Head-Fi. 
  • SFWalcer, u r da meng!
  • BHazard, the king of "Chi-Fi." I gotta say, you really opened my eyes to the many really high-quality headphones and earphones that I never realized were much, much closer to home. 
  • BillsonChang007, another of the friendliest people I've met. It is an honor to met your acquaintance.
  • JoeBloggs, the guy who introduced me to the Viper4Windows project, or what might be the greatest EQ on the face of the earth.
     To you guys and many, many others, I want to thank you for your guidance and all the fun I've had with all of you. Kudos to all of you!

Edited by thatBeatsguy - 1/12/14 at 6:57pm
post #2 of 4

Cheers and happy earsday, and may you discovery many many more gems!

post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 

Thanks meng!

post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

# The Anniversary Project #

     As you see from the title, the Anniversary Project is simply a project I'm starting on the anniversary of my first visit into Head-Fi and I will end on the anniversary of my Head-Fi registration, so essentially, it'll be spanning quite some time. This project will involve probably the most extensive review I've ever done, and will revisit the headphone that has started my headphone journey and symbolically graces my avatar - the Beats Pro (as well as my other headphones).
     My pair has been collecting dust for weeks since I purchased the Razer Kraken Pro (and even later, the Xiaomi Pistons), so it felt good to take it out again and listen to it. It's a symbol of, well, me -- or how I changed from being the audio newbie I was before to a true audiophile (sans the Summit-Fi rigs of a pretty large percentage of us here). Obviously, the little list I compiled above is hardly enough to thank the people who have guided me on this journey, so I would like to again give them a very big "Thank You".

     # Review Procedures

     Now, this little project will be a challenge for me, because the end product hopefully will be one of the most intricate and detailed reviews I will ever write. To me, this is my little way of saying "Thank You" again to everyone (on the Discovery thread and others) who have taught me so much. Hopefully this review might actually be good this time around, so sit tight!
     My reviewing process can't possibly just take a day; it has to span over at least a week's worth of reviewing because every day one might think it sounds good on one day and crap on the next. Since each day our preferences change, I will review the headphones once each week leading up to my one year anniversary and compile a summary of sorts form all the notes I've taken throughout the project. It won't be easy, but it should be worthwhile.
     My 'rigs' should still more or less be the same:
  1. ALAC and MP3 -> Creative SB 5.1VX ->  Line Out -> Headphones
  2. ALAC and MP3 -> HDMI -> Samsung monitor -> HDMI-Out - Headphones
  3. ALAC and MP3 -> iPod Touch 4 8GB -> Headphones
     Both 'rigs' have a slight difference from each other: The PC seems to give headphones a wider and deeper soundstage, which changes up the feel of the entire sound signature. I couldn't say that there is a bass boost or whatever, but the conclusion I've reached is a bigger soundstage, proven throughout all of my headphones on-hand.

# Report 001 #

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
     # start notepad
     Okay, so here we go...Report number 1. I'm pretty excited about this, seeing as it will be the first time I've ever written a review this extensive. So yeah. I might even put it up on my Tumblr account (as if anyone even goes there).
     But anyway, here is my playlist. Details (genre, bitrate in brackets) should be beside the album (representing all tracks) unless stated otherwise.
Test Trax: (Click to show)
1. Daft Punk -- Random Access Memories (Electronic/Dance) [ALAC]
    a. Give Life Back to Music
    b. Lose Yourself to Dance
    c. Touch
    d. Get Lucky
    e. Fragments of Time
2. Eagles, The -- Hell Freezes Over (Can't say) [ALAC]
    a. Love Will Keep Us Alive
    b. Tequila Sunrise
    c. Hotel California
    d. Take It Easy
    e. Desperado
3. Ben Prunty -- FTL Original Soundtrack (Chiptune) [MP3, 320kbps]
    a. Civil (Battle)
    b. Cosmos (Battle)
    c. Deepspace (Battle)
    d. Debris (Battle)
    e. Last Stand
4. Yiruma - The Best: Reminiscent 10th Anniversary (New Age/Solo Piano) [ALAC]
    a. RIver Flows In You
    b. Kiss the Rain
    c. Scene From My Window
    d. Indigo
    e. Reminiscent
5. Katy Perry -- PRISM Deluxe Edition (Pop) [MP3, 320kbps]
    a. Roar
    b. Birthday
    c. Unconditionally
    d. By the Grace of God
    e. It Takes Two
6. HAL Laboratory, Inc. -- Kirby's Epic Yarn: The Epic Soundtrack [MP3 VBR]
    a. Water Land (Latin-ish)
    b. Patch Castle (Solo Piano, Classical-ish)
    c. Secret Island (Latin-ish)
    d. Butter Building (Can't say)
    e. Yin-Yarn's Theme (Can't say either)
     If you want more info or maybe just a neat chart to read this from, you might want to take a look at this instead:


     Without further ado, the Anniversary project starts...now!

     # Beats Pro

     Random Access Memories sounds pretty decent through these headphones. Though, I would beg to differ, for its lack of soundstage and crappy clarity make it sound a little too plain. The heavily-bombarded complaint on "muddy bass" really shows itself while listening to Lose Yourself to Dance (really heavy bass) and Touch (a lot of instruments). Most of the really minute details that I could notice in other headphones doesn't exist here. The headphones' cramped and congested soundstage make any jazz track (or any track which needs a pretty large soundstage) sound like a muddled mess. I'm not sure if it sounds "dark," but since I'm a basshead, some would beg to differ.


     Simply put, it's a really, really bassy headphone which fails to deliver enough soundstage to have a fully immersive effect. It's also shy in the clarity, which takes away many of the little details that one might hear on higher-end headphones.
     The Eagles are a great band, or so I realized when I watched their Hell Freezes Over concert. As you know, I'm no guy from the 70s; I've only become interested in the Eagles because of my dad, who is a big fan of the Eagles. After watching their concert on DVD, I was thoroughly impressed with their unplugged version of Hotel California, so I set off to getting the audio-only CDs.
     Now, fast-forward some length of time later, and I find myself not enjoying the album as much as I'd like. The reason? These headphones which are on my head right now. They could hardly do any justice to the Eagles' awesome album -- or rather, they could hardly do any justice to anything at all. Live albums require great soundstages to really complete the experience of being at the concert. Grados, which are one of the best open headphones at a budget, do great at it.
     Ben Prunty's 'FTL' soundtrack was awesome, especially while I played the game. It fit perfectly with the whole theme and mood of the game (pixelated game where you're the captain of a starship). the album was also exceptionally well-mastered, which resulted in a really immersive soundstage. The Beats Pro sounded pretty good with this type of music, and I was pretty immersed. The clarity was still sub-par, and I noticed it throughout the review. I don't think it will improve any since I've burned it in for at least 60 hours already.
     It was still pretty good though, and though I didn't go "wow" over them, I felt that they fit the bill.
     Listening to Yiruma's really famous tracks were a pain with this pair. It wasn't the mastering, it wasn't the source, it was just the headphones, no doubt. Despite the beautiful melodies entering my ears, I was hardly captivated by them. The cramped soundstage (or lack of soundstage, for that matter) and muddy bass really took away the sheer beauty of the album. 
     Moving on to Katy Perry's Prism, I was pretty much liking the Beats Pro at this point. They did pretty well with most electronic genres, which was kind of a relief after listening to the previous album. The Beats almost got me dancing, even. Other than that, I felt that the Beats did pretty good in most respects. Still, my tastes vary each day, so the Beats Pro fail horribly as an all-rounder.
     For the final test album with pretty varied (acoustic-based) genres, I wasn't impressed with The Epic Soundtrack. It didn't sound as epic anymore. The details weren't that conspicuous anymore, and I was hardly immersed. I didn't like the Beats here.
     Overall, I thought that these headphones were pretty good when you listen to electronic genres, but that's about it. They have a really muddy bass, as well as a lack of soundstage and bad detail retrieval. If you listen to a lot of genres, you should steer as far away from these as you can. They are an absolute burden to listen to.

     # Razer Kraken Pro

     If you game a lot (mostly on the PC), then you've most likely heard of Razer. They specialize in really good gaming peripherals that are sadly overpriced because of their name. I haven't owned any of their peripherals before, but I have tried them at an electronics store some time ago. For my birthday I really wanted to get a Razer mouse (the Naga Hex, to be exact), but were too expensive, so I opted for a different, still good, and pretty cheap gaming mouse and bought the Kraken Pros with them. So in the end, I still bought a Razer product. Oh me.
     If you watch a lot of Felix Kjellberg (very popular Swedish gamer) on YouTube , then you most likely have seen the headphones which I have mentioned and have on my head right as I type this (although recently he has worn other headphones like the Monster DNA, NCredible N-Pulse, and the Razer Electra). Now, since most of you audiophiles haven't even heard of Razer's headphone line, I might as well get a little more in-depth with the review. But since aesthetics are easier to review, I'll just leave them out until, say, revision 10. 
     Oh yeah, I've burned them in, too (for at least 30 hours). The test tracks list are like always, so here we go!
     First thing I noticed about these things is really, really bloated bass. I never thought it'd be this bassy, since I've only used them in games. But after doing a little EQ-ing (with the help of Viper4Windows) I found that the reason for this bloat is a large low mid hump (about 300-500Hz, to be exact). Listening to music with these without any equalization is intolerable, thereby cementing the fact that these are gaming headphones, not exactly designed for music. However, I would like to note that these are analog gaming headphones as opposed to digital, USB-powered gaming headphones, so normally these would be great for a dual-purpose headset. However, these sound absolutely horrible without a bass reducer of some sort, so I would advise using these only while playing games.
     Honestly, I don't think I need to describe how the music sounds like with these in detail through each test album, because they're pretty much the same: bloated mid-bass, which definitely needs to be equalized down. However, after I did equalize them, I was met with a smile on my face.
     I equalized them like this:


     And the results were, I should say, spectacular. The EQ was no more than a mere bass reducer, especially key parts of the bloated bass (300-500Hz bands), but it sounded so good that I guess this way I would actually want to review them.
     Listening to Random Access Memories, I felt like I was in some sort of club or the studio, listening to the tracks. The bass was by no means punchy, but it was incredibly boomy (but strangely, in a good way). In Touch, where I  pointed out the Beats Pro's really muddy bass, I could say that the results are similar with these Krakens (they do sound rather muddy) but also just boomy. However, I did notice them to be great at capturing detail. I could actually hear the drum stick hit the snare in Fragments of Time, which the Beats Pro fails to reproduce.
     Another really strong point of these headphones are their exceptional soundstage, which is most likely the result of the really massive driver housings that they have. Listening to Hotel California was so immersive that I didn't type anything until the song ended. But when it did, I could remark that its mids were pretty recessed, probably because of the almighty bass that it produces. So, I did a little tweaking of the EQ again, and made it like this:


     ...And the results were even better than last, even with the previous album. Sibilance was tamed (really well, I might add), and the bass was still powerful (and quite overpowering for non-bassheads). The vocals took some more prominence, though not by much.
     Listening to Ben Prunty's album, the immersion factor pretty much blasted through the roof. I was really impressed with the soundstage, the imaging, and the detail. Of course, the bass was something to complain about -- I had a headache after listening to the first few seconds of Cosmos (Battle), though I didn't have much trouble with the other tracks. I don't know if I listened to it too loudly, but it was migraine-inducing. It wouldn't be hard for one to bow down to its all-powerful bass. It was tremendous.
     Listening to Yiruma's album, the Krakens still didn't fail on delivering its exceptional soundstage. Clarity could've been improved, but was decent nonetheless. I fell in love with the tunes...and almost fell asleep. Its detail was actually quite remarkable -- I heard someone clicking on a mouse at around the start of Indigo.
     As for Katy Perry, the leaner bass was perfect for all of the tunes, despite the still-recessed mids. I liked it, and almost wanted to dance to the tunes. When By the Grace of God came on, I was moved by Perry's vocals. It was a beautiful song, part of an equally beautiful album.
     But moving into the final album, I was mostly swayed by the excellent imaging and soundstage that they have. They really did the soundtrack justice, and it sounded "Epic." The bass really played its part in the final track of the playlist (Yin-Yarn's Theme), and I have to say, I was impressed with the way it did bass.
     Concluding this review, I have to say that this is the bassiest headphone I've come across, and I'm pretty happy I've made the purchase. Though it doesn't perform well in the music department per se, all it just needs is a little EQ and you've essentially "released the Kraken". Just hope the bass won't give you any headaches during or after your listening session.

     # Xiaomi Pistons

     And now, with the best IEM I've ever listened to so far, I present to you the Xiaomi Pistons. They are also one of the best (if not the best) headphones in the $20 range, and though some may beg to differ, I don't think there are any headphones that could come close to this type of performance at this price. They just...they just deliver everything (sight and sound) in the right way, and I've never been happier with these.
     I think that these might be the most difficult headphone to review amongst all of my other headphones, particularly because IEMs' sound can vary with different tips and insertion depths. But after extensive comparison, I selected  some stout double-flanged tips which gave me an easy fit and a similar sound (I didn't really get to notice much of a difference other than that the stock tips sound a little louder) The earphones have been burned-in for at least 30 hours as always. Test tracks are also as always.
     The first thing I noticed about them is their undeniably awesome clarity. They have so much clarity to them that it didn't matter that the mids were slightly recessed (in fact, their mids were more forward than any of the other headphones I've reviewed). Their detail retrieval was far beyond what I had anticipated. They managed to capture many of the details which I didn't get to hear in other headphones. The Pistons' soundstage was pretty good (though not excellent), and imaging was great. Another thing about them are that they are really great all-rounders. They have this really smooth sound signature that fits in with whatever music you throw at it.
     (NOTE: I don't listen to any heavy rock or metal, and have only listened to some punk and alternative rock, so I could not give any opinion on the Pistons' performance with rock and similar genres.)
     Daft Punk sounded great through them, and their tracks (which were actually recorded live, including the synths) sounded like you were in the actual studio with them. Some of the tracks even had this restaurant-like ambience to make it sound like you were there watching them perform live (although that was not the case, as stated by Daft Punk from one of their rare interviews).
     But sound effects truly cannot equate to an actual live performance recorded live, with a live audience, in an actual stage. Hell Freezes Over is the choice album which has all of that. And the Pistons deliver extremely well. As I listen, I don't exactly feel like I'm with the crowd, but more like I'm a ghost up on stage with them or something. As strange as it may sound, my perception of the lower volume of the audience relative to the performers confirms this.
     (NOTE: What I just said is my own personal opinion. No need to argue about anything here.)
     Now, stepping out of the stage and into a space station, I cue up Ben Prunty's FTL for a trip to the cosmos. Without much effort, I'm blasted off into another world, with a really immersive soundstage that makes you feel like you're on some other galaxy, piloting a starship with your crew, and on the run with special information which could save the entire universe from plunging into war with rebel forces whose warped minds desire nothing more than 'peace and equality throughout the galaxy.' What the hell did I just type back there? None other than the plot of the FTL game, of course! 
     ...I don't know what the hell I just wrote minutes ago. I guess I just need to take a step back and relax with Yiruma's album. It sounds so beautiful that I just want to sleep right now...but I must...review......never mind. I'll just listen to Prism instead. It sounds really good, as always. But with what the Pistons went through earlier, pop music might actually be a little too easy for these Pistons. They sound pretty much flawless. 
     As for the final album, I was floored, knowing that I went through all of the test tracks with nothing but a smile on my face. Everything sounded beautifully, with such a smooth signature that flows through each genre like water. Bass was lean and mean when the music needed it, and pounded it straight into my ears like a piston. Its midrange clarity was stunning and clear as day, and the treble was crisp and fresh.
     So with that...
     # taskkill /IM notepad.exe

Edited by thatBeatsguy - 1/12/14 at 6:56pm
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