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Austin TX meet impressions - Page 3  

post #31 of 64

EML 5U4G mesh > 596


Would like to try the Princess Sophia 274B, but my Decware would probably burn it up within a few months to a year.

post #32 of 64

More pictures.  I didn't take a ton.  I was too busy listening, sharing, and chatting.  

Full set...

DSC_6477.jpg DSC_6486.jpg DSC_6491.jpg DSC_6464.jpg

Full set...


Other than that I was lucky enough to be sat next to Mr Speakers himself (who shares my first name :) ).  He and his wife were very friendly and full of stories.  Such an interesting thing they have going.  The headphones themselves were remarkably good, especially for a closed can.  I generally don't like closed headphones... the only ones I've ever liked are the Denon D7000, Fostex TH900, and (as of Saturday) Audeze LCD-XC.  I'd say the Alpha Dogs rival any of those for less than half the price.  Sound signature wise I don't even know which I preferred between the LCD-XC and Alpha Dogs side by side.  I liked them both for different reasons, but would be happy either way.  It's a no brainer on which I'd end up with.  


Jesse with the reel-to-reel gear was extremely impressive.  It's so refreshing to talk to someone who so deeply cares about a hobby in the way he does.  Just wants to share his stories and end product with as many people as possible.  His live recordings were top notch and hearing the live masters off of those remarkable tape decks was awesome.  


Patrick from Nice Cans was also nice enough to bring in a bunch of flagship headphones to listen to.  The Beyerdynamic T1, LCD-2.2, LCD-3, LCD-XC, and the new AKG K812.  All of which were notably good.  I preferred the Audeze products (LCD-2 and 3 definitely sounded better than the LCD-XC), but that's just me.  I can definitely see why others would prefer something else.  They all have their own style.  I find the Beyers and AKG to have a bit too much up top for my liking.  The HD-800s are also very interesting (such a massive sound stage for headphones)... I just don't think I could live with their sound signature for day to day use.  They have a weird top end... cymbals sound wrong to me on them.  


The Koss electrostats that were there were extremely interesting.  I was pretty floored by how much I liked them.  Such an odd product though, but they definitely had a unique and pleasant sound.  Quite a bit different from the Stax sitting directly behind them.  I really liked the SR-009 when I heard them, but the boxier Stax (not sure which model they were...) didn't do as much for me (so much high end). 


I don't tend to be up on the current glossary terms used around here, so it's hard for me to explain, in words, exactly what I mean... I just know pretty quick whether a headphone or speaker is something I'd buy when I hear them.  


Most everything else around there I had heard and didn't spend a whole lot of time with.  I spent most of my listening time dancing around the expensive top end stuff and seriously listening to the LCD-2 and Alpha dogs as those are the 2 I'd consider buying in the relatively near future.  



Thanks again to Chris (Maxvla) for getting this thing together again.  Kind of a shame we had a lot of no shows, but those of us there had a blast.  Let me know if I can help with any leftover funds (seriously).  And, as always, nice to see familiar faces and have some nice chats with morbid and bbop. 

Edited by dan1son - 1/20/14 at 8:40pm
post #33 of 64
Thanks for the offer, Dan. I'm still waiting on Norris to return my email so I can pay for the room so I don't know how much it will total out to yet. I've collected $1220. A few others have offered to help as well, but I don't know where we stand yet.
Edited by Maxvla - 1/20/14 at 8:50pm
post #34 of 64
Still yet to do my impressions, sorry. Wanted to drop a note to everyone that we will be moving dates around for 2015. 2014 will continue with Dallas meets hosted by Nick at his condo activity room (30-40 people) around June and then again Sept/Oct. 2015 will see Dallas taking the March-ish time frame Austin used to try to make work and Austin will move to the June/July area with the other Dallas meet time unchanged at Sept/Oct. This is being done because Dallas doesn't conflict with SXSW in March, and there aren't any city wide conflicts in Austin in June/July that I know of (please inform me if there are). This also moves Austin away from the January we tried this year and got lackluster results.

I thought about not organizing a 2015 Austin meet since it seemed not enough people were interested this time, and that my time and money (hotel/gas/etc) would be better spent elsewhere, but I've decided to give it one last go with the time of year change and potential venue change and see what happens. I'm all for spending the effort to organize these things, but only if there is interest.

So this does mean 3 straight Dallas meets until the next Austin meet. If you are in Texas and want to attend a meet in the next 17 months or so, get used to the idea of Dallas. wink.gif
Edited by Maxvla - 1/20/14 at 9:22pm
post #35 of 64
Thread Starter 

I'm up for some driving, provided pedestrians keep to one side of the sidewalks.

post #36 of 64

Just curious, are there any Houston head-fier's out there besides me? I've seen a few profiles with Houston as the location but I don't remember which ones. I'd figure the largest city in Texas would be a good place for a meet. Regardless, I plan to go to both the Austin meet in 2015 and maybe the Dallas meet in Sept/Oct this year.

post #37 of 64
Originally Posted by jackskelly View Post

Just curious, are there any Houston head-fier's out there besides me? I've seen a few profiles with Houston as the location but I don't remember which ones. I'd figure the largest city in Texas would be a good place for a meet. Regardless, I plan to go to both the Austin meet in 2015 and maybe the Dallas meet in Sept/Oct this year.

Retired from Houston, now in La Grange.  There were at least a couple of Houston peeps at this Austin meet.  I think the problem is there are no organizers for a Houston meet.  I'd certainly go to one (100 mi.) but not organize it.  The Houston Audio Society would be a good bet and there are some can fans in it but, so far, nobody has ever stepped up.  There was a small meet some years ago at Sweet Spot Audio and More  in Webster.  Don't know if they'd be willing to host again or not.

post #38 of 64
Originally Posted by bbophead View Post

Retired from Houston, now in La Grange.  There were at least a couple of Houston peeps at this Austin meet.  I think the problem is there are no organizers for a Houston meet.  I'd certainly go to one (100 mi.) but not organize it.  The Houston Audio Society would be a good bet and there are some can fans in it but, so far, nobody has ever stepped up.  There was a small meet some years ago at Sweet Spot Audio and More  in Webster.  Don't know if they'd be willing to host again or not.

Yeah, it sounds like I might have to organize it if I really want to go to one here. Are there any resources/tips for organizing a head-fi meet?

post #39 of 64
Originally Posted by jackskelly View Post
Originally Posted by bbophead View Post

Retired from Houston, now in La Grange.  There were at least a couple of Houston peeps at this Austin meet.  I think the problem is there are no organizers for a Houston meet.  I'd certainly go to one (100 mi.) but not organize it.  The Houston Audio Society would be a good bet and there are some can fans in it but, so far, nobody has ever stepped up.  There was a small meet some years ago at Sweet Spot Audio and More  in Webster.  Don't know if they'd be willing to host again or not.

Yeah, it sounds like I might have to organize it if I really want to go to one here. Are there any resources/tips for organizing a head-fi meet?

I would check with Chris (Maxvla) who organized the recent Austin meet.  He's got it down.

post #40 of 64

Had a great time and enjoyed seeing some of you again, and meeting some new folk as well! 


Thanks for putting this together, Chris!  

post #41 of 64
Want to thank everyone who came to the meet Saturday. We had a lot of gear on display and those who didn't come sure missed out! Thanks to everyone who brought exact change. That really helps make check in simple and fast. Thanks to the vendors who came and had a good attitude despite the lower than expected turnout. It looked like most vendor tables were still busy almost all day anyway, though! The room turned out to be a great size, even if we had filled it a bit more it would have still been relatively quiet. The noise level was drastically down from last year until the very end of the day, when most of the listening had been done and it was time to compare notes. Special thanks to those who helped bridge the gap on funds.

As mentioned in a previous post, next year I will be scheduling Austin's meet for the summer time frame, around June/July. There will be 3 Dallas meets in a row before the next Austin, so please come to Big D if you want to hear lots of gear in the next 17 months. Patrick Sutton will be assisting me by finding a location for us, something difficult for me to do being 7 hours away! Something cheaper but similar size, hopefully.

I have some pictures I took, which hopefully came out alright. I'm not a photographer and my camera is just a cheapy Canon point and shoot. I'll try to get those up soon.

On to the gear impressions!

After getting all my rigs setup, my first stop was the Cavalli table. Everything on his table, save the Alpha Dogs, was completely new to me. The Resolution Cantata looked as good in person as I expected. Neat looking piece of gear. The Liquid Gold, Liquid Cobalt and Abyss were all things I'd never heard before so I wanted to get some time with those for sure. First up was the Alpha Dogs with the Liquid Cobalt prototype (price expected to be around $3200). This was the best I've heard the Alpha Dogs. Very nice sound from a closed headphone. The combination of the Cantata and the Cobalt did work on the Alpha Dogs, increasing treble quantity but also increasing resolution and soundstage depth. I've heard the Dogs on the Liquid Glass (don't recall the DAC) which is another fine amp, but the C+C combo was certainly better. The Cobalt itself has this port hole in the top for easy access to the tube for quick rolling. It's not showy with a clear panel in the front like the Liquid Fire had. The Cavalli way now seems to be ultimate understatement styling, almost to the point where you can't tell the differences between their products at first glance. Another thing I really liked about both the Gold and the Cobalt was the volume knob was easy to turn and smooth in operation. Some of the older Cavalli amps had stiffer knobs that is typical of the market, but these new ones feel great.

Next was the Gold and Abyss. First of all, I struggled to even get the Abyss on my head. I realize they are adjustable, but not easily, so I just shoved them over my ears and dealt with the pressure. Not a headphone I will be able to afford any time soon so I wasn't worried about perfect fit for an audition. The sound from the rig was very nice. It was clean and clear as is typical of modern orthos. Different from Audeze models was actual treble presence. At first I thought they had mostly fixed the center imaging issue I have with planar drivers, but throwing on a few more tracks revealed the same old problem. The bass was powerful without overbearing, and it wasn't one-note sounding like the Audeze and Hifimans can tend to sound like. Easily the best ortho I've heard to date. The treble did seem to have a softness to it as it there was a roll off in the mid to upper treble, but there was still reasonably good air and detail was excellent. They didn't fix my imaging/soundstage problem so I'm not interested in them, but I recognize their quality otherwise for those who aren't sensitive to my priorities. For the price I could never recommend them, it's simply too much for the sound improvements. I think an LCD-3 is overpriced and it's less than half the price of the moderately better Abyss. If you like the sound and odd fit and have buckets of cash you don't mind being without, I can't argue with the purchase. After I had the Abyss on for 10-15 minutes I couldn't really feel the pressure I felt at first, but I think a longer audition (1hr+) would have become painful. Sure, adjusting the headband would have helped, but the design meant it would contact the side of my head with certain pressure points that tend to give me headaches with other headphones. The HD800s spread the pressure over the entire pad which contacts the jaw and cheek which helps even more, making the HD800 supremely comfortable for me. I really meant to bring my HD800 over to listen to the Liquid Gold, but with my GS-X not making an appearance yet, the high end solid state shootout couldn't have happened anyway. Next time, Alex, we'll see who comes out on top!

I then made my way to the JDS table where they had the Objective+ODAC in one box, something I had previously been looking forward to, but then got a M-Stage before that was available. I listened with the DT880 they had connected and it sounded well driven. The DT880 is a fine headphone but is clearly outclassed by newer non-Beyer headphones. It lacks in bass volume, the mids are a touch rough and the treble is rolled in a way similar to HD600s. It's a polite clean sounding headphone but isn't very exciting. The O2/ODAC did what it could to push the music through, but the rig was somewhat boring. I've previously heard an O2 and ODAC in separate chassis with an HD800 and it was surprisingly good. Somewhat lacking in dynamic contrast, but very good in every other aspect. I looked at the C5 and liked the design of the case, how slim it was and how well made it appeared, but didn't listen to it.

Next I listened to a trio of amps and trio of headphones supplied from a pupDAC and signal switcher. I tried all 3 headphones (DT990, HD650, HE500) from all 3 amps (M-Stage ver 1, Bottlehead Crack, Asgard 2) and ended up preferring the DT990 with the Crack. Full bass with sparkly highs with slightly recessed mids, but not as bad as I expected. Really nice tone from this combo.

Moved over to Double Helix Cables' table and heard the HD800s at their brightest ever. Something in that rig was very bright. I later heard the LCD-X on that rig and had previously heard the LCD-X on my rig and the DHC rig had significantly more treble than mine. The rig was a QLS (I think) data player feeding a Master 7 DAC into Mjolnir with a PS Audio power conditioner connecting everything to power. The cable on the HD800 was their top cable which looked really nice, well terminated, though a little large, IMO. The HD800s sounded almost punishingly bright, something that would be fatiguing for sure with extended listening. This rig would be fantastic for cans like the LCD-X, though. The added treble brought them to the realm of acceptable frequency balance.

One of the stops I had to make was the Nice Cans table to listen to the AKG K812 and Audeze LCD-XC which Patrick managed to get his hands on right before the meet. First up the K812 from a Benchmark DAC2 HGC was impressive. I think these are as close to the HD800s as anyone else has come, but unlike the HD800s the K812 is not a soundstage/imaging champ. Frequency balance, impact, detail retrieval are in the realm of HD800. If the K812 had angled drivers to give a better center focus I'd have had to spend a LOT more time comparing them directly with the HD800. K812 is certainly a very fine headphone. I recommend everyone give it a try. The LCD-XC was an interesting phone. I expected the bass to be even more boomy than the LCD-2/3, It wasn't. In fact it sounded very like an LCD-2 with a lot more isolation. Similarly rolled off highs and boomy semi-one note-ish bass with great mids but still lacking in imaging. I liked the Alpha Dogs more, but the difference wasn't large. The price difference sure is large, though. Dan's cans are such a good value if you need isolation and can't afford high end customs.

I missed out on the Koss ESP950, something I meant to listen to for the first time ever, but never got to it. Next time, I suppose.

Rally555's tape deck.. was awesome! The sound was just as I expected, liquid, smooth, absolutely real, and that was just from the Nagra's headphone jack. Plugging in the tiny little iFi that Chris Martens had brought increased the effect somewhat. Adding a high quality desktop amp would have made it even more magical. I listened to the tape with my HD800s, knowing that listening with any other headphone would do a disservice to the recording. Tape and HD800 is a magical combo. The HD800s pull the crazy detail tape is capable of all the while tape's nature is keeping things ultra smooth. Using a more forgiving headphone like HD650s or LCD-2s would have just muddied things up and made it annoying to listen to, knowing what they were masking. Fantastic rig. I look forward to hearing it again next time. You better be there next year! biggrin.gif

Speaking of Chris Martens, he showed up early and stayed late chatting it up with everyone and demoing some pieces he brought that he is evaluating for a review. He had this miniature version of the long iFi amps that was still a bit bulky to be considered portable, especially lacking a DAC, but the sound was very good. Just as an amp I think I might prefer it to the Leckerton amps, but then you consider the Leckerton DAC/amps are significantly smaller and also include the DAC.. it's hard to argue in favor of the iFi if portability is a priority for you. Neither the Leckerton nor the iFi convinced me there was enough reason to carry another device for listening portably with my UERMs. It just isn't high on my list. I figure anywhere I'm using them, I'm battling exterior noise, some of which you can't block. Why bother increasing the quality, when you are still battling noise. Now if I needed a transportable rig, say from hotel to hotel if I had a traveling salesman type job, I could see the need.

Another item Martens brought was the Chord Hugo, a not really portable, more transportable DAC/amp that includes everything but the kitchen sink. Ports for just about everything. Filters galore. Handles all formats. I came away calling it a real desktop replacement. At $2400 (I think) it sure better be, though. The trick with this DAC/amp was that the processor is so low in power consumption that almost the entirety of the battery's power is used in the amp, giving the amp a good amount of force to work with. I listened to it with the HD800 and it drove them well, not perfect, but acceptable for sure. The odd volume control would take time to get used to, but it seemed to work fine. I'd call this thing the ultimate transportable all in one rig, but it carries a hefty price tag. Thanks for bringing it out to play with, Chris.

I listened to the newest Leckerton DAC/amp, the UHA760, a tiny slick little device. I was surprised just how small it was. I expected it to be twice the size. There were certainly some gains in sound quality over my phone (HTC DNA) while using my UERM, but as I said above, carrying another device isn't in the cards for me. The sound was significantly smoother and clearer, though I expected dynamic contrast to increase more than it did. Treble clarity in particular was greatly improved over my phone. Great DAC/amp for those who need it's features.

Getting to some of the items I had been sent by Arthur who represents Matrix and Violectric in the USA, the day I got them (Wednesday) I listened to various combinations all night long. I'd never heard Violectric gear before, so I was really curious about it. Also, stopping in Dallas on the way back to OKC letting Nick hear the demo gear, we compared notes. I thought the Violectric gear compared to other items in their respective price ranges, but were not strong contenders for best value. Items like the Mjolnir or CSP2+ seemed better deals than the V181 and V200, though they were in the realm of consideration. Those considering the first two should try the latter two to see if their personal preferences see it the other way around. The Violectric items are much smaller than I expected, making for a tidy stack that wouldn't be in the way on a busy desk. They are very well built, even down to the oddly soft texture of the case body. The craftsmanship takes a backseat to nobody. It was somewhat odd to see both amps were both balanced-in only while the V181 was the only balanced out. I really couldn't hear much difference between the V181 and V200, though the V200 features later designed internals compared to the V181. If anything the V200 seemed to be more resolving, but the V181 seemed to have improved soundstage depth and layering and just a touch more dynamic contrast. These differences were very small, though, and could be from other factors. I listened to both amps with every DAC in my possession, so I might be confusing things. The V800 was depressingly bad at first, using USB, until I recalled the V800 was a little long in the tooth, and that it's USB might not be up to snuff. I did a little digging and found the unit didn't even have asynchronous USB and it was limited to 24/96 using USB. I dragged over my CD player and connected with coaxial and wow what a difference. The V800 with coaxial might just be the most refined sounding DAC I've heard in a quiet environment. Effortless sound delivery with very good detail retrieval and not a hint of harshness anywhere. Things I felt lacking with the V800 were dynamic contrast and soundstage size/layering in comparison to the X-Sabre. While the V800 sounded ultra clean it was not as involving as the X-Sabre. I think the V800 is over priced, but it's worth trying if you are shopping this price point. There is a new DAC coming soon, the V820 with upgraded USB (XMOS) as well as DSD/DXD (possibly). If it is at a similar price point and shares the same sound signature, I would be more accepting of it. The inability to use USB with the V800 limits it dramatically.

I will be reviewing the new Matrix M-Stage HPA-2 and both Mini-I and Mini-I Pro in detail soon, so I will reserve comment on those except to say they perform at least at their price point or well beyond.

I'd love to hear people's comments on the demo gear from Violectric and Matrix, especially the just released update to the Mini-I line.

It was great talking to previous and new friends and swapping music suggestions (I haven't had a chance, yet, Dan (Mr. Speakers), but I promise I will!). As I'm toward the end of the gear treadmill, I am mostly only interested in new products, so I was glad to see so many new things to try at the meet. I look forward to transitioning more and more to music and less on gear, though it will always remain at the core of our interest.

Dinner at Hopdoddy's across the street took forever, but was tasty. I particularly enjoyed the blueberry soda. Some of my favorite sodas are from the Blue Sky brand so this was similar and I enjoyed it. Thanks for the invitation, Travis.
post #42 of 64




















post #43 of 64

Thanks again for bringing the gear, Chris. In the past I've heard a solid-state amp or two capable of playing in the Decware CSP2+'s sandbox, but the Vioelectric gear wasn't among them. I felt their V181 and V200 were noticeably outclassed. Just didn't do it for me at all. But I agree the V800 DAC was quite resolving indeed. I think Vioelectric has a little work to do in the price/performance arena though. The USB weakness of the V800 is a pretty massive dealbreaker for computer-based digital music listeners. Looking forward to hearing their next offering with improved input.


The new Matrix Pro was a decent all-in-one unit for the money. $500-ish for a capable DAC/amp combo that also does DXD/DSD? Pretty good value there indeed. Though it's hard to recommend it since another $300 gets you into Concero HP territory which doesn't require AC power and performs at an entirely different level. Of course, for the money, if you're talking budget best buys, the M-Stage really is where it's at. At a smidge over $300, it pretty much eliminates the need to pursue an inexpensive DIY solution. Unless it's for fun and learning... that's always worth taking the journey. :D


Glad to hear Dan's excellent Alpha Dogs are still the bees' knees. They were the breakout star debut at the last Dallas meet. I suspect the Alpha Dog + Concero HP would rank as a price/performance champion in the "closed" headphone camp (not to mention portable). We will likely have this combo on hand at the next Dallas meet. I only hope I can resist purchasing them afterward...

Edited by Nick Dangerous - 1/21/14 at 9:56pm
post #44 of 64

Great pics, great gear, great impressions.


Thanks for sharing what looks like a great meet!

post #45 of 64

Looked like a great meet!  Great job Chris.  Disappointed I couldn't make it.  That sucks about the low turn out, it seemed like last year we were in the middle of a boom.  


This may not be the right place to weigh in -- but I'm not sure about a main state meet in the middle of summer.  Lots of folks taking vacations, and not to mention the brutal summer heat leads to some less than hygienic situations. 

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