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Seattle BottleHead HQ Cracks and Stax Spring Meet 2014 - Page 2  

post #16 of 36

Thanks to Doc B. and company for hosting the meet, and Big Poppa for initiating and managing it.  It was a great meet.  It got to see some familiar faces from my last attended meet a few years back and new ones as well.  I think Seamaster's photos represents the whole meet enchilada, so I'll leave mine out that was taken with my crappy camera on my dumbphone. 

 

In contrast to my last meet when the Audeze was the new, big hit and half the setups had them, it was nice to see a nice mix of gear covering the spectrum of audio candy.  My envy was well hidden from most of the setups.  It was a great experience to audition most of them even though on the way to the meet by ferry, I swore to myself that I would audition everything.  Well, that didn't happen.  Here are my (IMO) impressions in chronological order with an ending that left my memory in trauma:

 

I arrived at Bottlehead HQ with miceblue and his friend, and new member, blownaway (nice gentleman with a very nice portable rig - AK120/VorzAMP Pure II/HD650), a good number of members were there setting things up.  I counted a total of five setup rooms with the grandest being upstairs, which I can only describe as a perfect man cave to die in. Doc didn't show off his speaker setup, but he did show off a familiar treat with his tape reel setup.  As always it sounded sublime on the most speaker like headphone ever made, the AKG K1000.  This connected to the Mainline amp was jaw dropping and impressive.  Its features of fine tuning the volume levels were high in the precision department. 

 

Almost equally impressive was his modded Monoprice cans. I overheard the Doc talking to another member that the Monoprice cans is tweaked by his ear and other than replacing the stock drivers, there aren't any more mods to be done.  On a similar note, I heard the Mad Dogs with Alpha pads for the time and I concur with the hype that it deserves.  It's a well tuned, neutrally voiced can; so well that it's on my shopping list.  I can't say the same for the ZMF version because either something was wrong with it, or just didn't sound that good to me.  On the same setup the two T50rp modded cans aren't in the same playing field.  Before I left upstairs, I got a chance to listen to the HD800 and AKG-812 on Doc's setup with Jazz track going through his new DAC.  In the past, I've always found the HD800 too relaxed and it still holds true.  However, the AKG-812 surprised me with it resolving capabilities.  The stage wasn't as wide as the HD800, which was a good thing for my ears, but man was it very realistic and detailed can.  I'm not sure how much help came from the Mainline amp and DAC, but  I thought it was a great combo. 

 

Down stairs in the other four setup rooms, I recall each had at least one STAX setup. In terms of quantity, STAX was very well represented.  There were maybe ten STAX models present from the mid level all the way to the previous and current flagship models.  I don't know how much each setup cost, but my gut feeling tells me KingStyles takes the crown with his Balancing Act and STAX flagship cans.  Indeed, like Seamaster had posted, KingStyles rolls like a King, including the wheels he drove.  I couldn't call out or describe all the components in his setup, but man did it sound sublime.  The imaging on this setup, or on any other STAX setup at the meet is truly out of this world.  To my ears, they were the best for live tracks.  In the setup room that had four STAX models side by side, there was one long out of production model that really suited my ears. During that audition, I discovered a new album that I'll be purchasing by artist, Kokia - wonderful and haunting voice.

 

Next to KingStyles setup, was what I think is the LCD-3, or maybe it was the LCD-2. These are the heaviest headphones I tried on.  I couldn't drop my head down a bit without fear of gravity taking over.  I found them darker sounding over the two STAX.  It's a great sounding can, but due to the weight, it would prevent me from my natural tendency to head-bob when the right track is playing.  Sitting to the right of the LCD-3 were the Fostex TH-900. Besides the pretty burgundy red can housing, it reminded me of my beloved Denon D7000, and it sounded like it too, but with a lot more balls in the bass.  It was tight, it had snap, but a little too much for my taste; perhaps enough for a bass head. 

 

Going clockwise in the same room, I finally was able to audition the DT-880.  I'm guessing it's the 600 ohm version being amplified by the SPL.  It had a nice bright sound and very spacious.  I can see why these are used professionally for mixing and recording.  Sitting on the perpendicular table was the almighty HE-6 powered by the Odyssey Cyclops.  This is the second time I've heard the HE-6, and man this combo sounded awesome.  I felt it was definitely driven with authority.  Audioslave, Metalillca, Soundgarden, and G&R tracks sounded the best on this setup.  The energy and treble produced by this setup with the chosen tracks had me to tapping and head bobbing like nobody was watching - kind of.  If my wallet allowed it, this setup along with the STAX I mentioned above would remain permanent for the sole purpose of non-stop eargasms.  Glorious is an understatement.

 

Across the hall, my Grado RS2 setup accompanied two STAX setups, Mad Dogs and ZMF, and the HD800 and HD650.  Off to the side was the 009 STAX powered by the KGSSV.  I agree with miceblue's impressions on how this setup sounded warmer like tubes compared to KingStyles Balance Act.  The KGSSV looks like a monster and impeccably built.  I was able to max out the pot on a few tracks with zero distortion.  The volume steps were extremely linear and very close. For me, it was the smoothest volume control experience at the meet. 

 

Time flies when you're having fun and this meet was no exception. Doc B.'s humor is undeniably witty.  His pre/amplification products are called S.E.X, Crack, Crack /w speedball, Foreplay, and Quickie.  If you look at the 5th picture taken by mechgamer123, that image is what starred right at me when I was drying my hands after nature's calling.  I wondered if the paper towels dispenser was purposely empty so that one would have to turn around and use the roll of paper towels that was placed directly under the picture with high probability that the eyes would gravitate up to eye level and meet eye to eye with the naked Doc. 

 

And so, I left the meet with a disturbing image of Doc B.'s efforts of a Greek like body with nothing more but a tape wheel.  If you look at his feet area for a second, the tape made it look like the Doc was wearing high heels.  I hope time swiftly burns out that image (no offense Doc).

 

In closing, this was an excellent meet, and always a lot of fun. I look forward to the next one scheduled sometime this summer, and I plan to attend the after meet festivities.  I highly recommended all members who haven't attended one to try it out.  At best, you'll walk away knowing you're content with your gear - or at worst contemplating on how to make your wallet lighter in exchange with how long you can consume ramen and water for x number of days, and/or what you're willing to sell.

 

A big thanks to everyone at the meet.


Edited by alpha421 - 4/27/14 at 10:28pm
post #17 of 36

I thought I saw at least one of the new HiFiMan phones there, anybody has any input on those. So now what is the best headphone money can't buy. I am thinking it is probably made by Stax.

post #18 of 36

Nope, none of the new Hifiman 'phones were there. I think there was an HE-4 and HE-6 but that's it.

 

As far as the K812 goes, I felt it was hyper resolving of micro details and whatnot, but it was way too ruthlessly revealing of any marginal recording flaws. Even "Sandman" by America, which I think is fairly well recorded for a classic rock song, sounded harsh at times. I was blown away though, since it made the HD800 sound dull in comparison.

post #19 of 36
Thread Starter 

At this meet I see a trend that people are moving away from LCDs. There were at least 1 or 2 LCD per table at last two meets. Stax sound good even the lower models. To me (only) the resolving power of AKG 812 ruined the music. It make me to analysis to detail instead enjoy music. They sounded very small and not engaging at given price.

 

One observation:

KGSSV did not have much headroom (for a dedicated amp). I listened it with volume is set at 5:00 and my usual volume level is 1 O'clock back at home from my experience. Big Poppa maxed the volume out at 7:00 that turned the Stax into real speakers!


Edited by Seamaster - 4/28/14 at 10:24am
post #20 of 36

Yeah, I had to max the volume on the KGSSV and still wanted at least another 1/4 available turn for my listening levels.  I think I must listen to higher than head-fi average levels.  I got some stares when I was rocking out on the HE-6/Odyssey combo.

 

I forgot to mention about the Fiio X5 that was on the same desk as the HE-6.  If you like a warm and bass punchy DAP - this may be for you.


Edited by alpha421 - 4/28/14 at 10:40am
post #21 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by miceblue View Post

Wow. Every time we have a meet at Bottlehead, I always think the meets can't be any better. I think this meet was one of the best ones yet!

A big thank you needs to be given to Doc B. and the Bottlehead corporation for hosting the event, and BIG POPPA for organising it. It was a lot of fun seeing some newcomers this time around, and enjoyable to talk to some of the regular folks. BIG POPPA suggested that this meet be called the "Cracks and STAX" meet due to the sheer number of Bottlehead Crack amplifiers (at least 5) and STAX headphones (at least 7) that were present at the meet, hahaha. Another big thank you needs to be given to alpha421 and lugia862 for proving a ride from the ferry terminal to the venue and back, respectively.



Similarly for the STAX SR-009, I didn't get a chance to hear it during last year's Bottlehead meet, so it was interesting to hear it this time around. For the two SR-009 setups that were here this year, I enjoyed it out of KingStyles' rig more with the Eddie Current Electra. It was weird that the Kevin Gilmore Solid State amp sounded more warm and tube-like to me than the tube-based Electra. The timbre of instruments consequently sounded off to me with the KGSS and I didn't enjoy it as much as with the Electra. I had mixed feelings for the SR-007 MK I on the Electra. Maybe it was the music selection, or maybe it was the Electra, or maybe even the media format (digital files) but I didn't quite get the "wow" effect that I did on sachu's SR-007 MK I rig with the Cavalli Audio Liquid Lightning and CD transport 2 years ago.




sachu's SR-007 MK I Rig from the Bottlehead Meet Two Years Ago (Click to show)


 

 

Great impressions! And wow!! Had totally forgotten I owned a Cary CDP at one point haha.  Making me miss electrostats again now with that image heh. My LL is packed away in a box at dBel84s house in Milwuakee now that I sold off my O2mk1.

post #22 of 36

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos and comments all!  Looks like it was a great time, and I wish I could have been there.

 

Echoing Loquah's question on page one, did anyone come away with any distinct impressions of the bh dac?

post #23 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
 

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos and comments all!  Looks like it was a great time, and I wish I could have been there.

 

Echoing Loquah's question on page one, did anyone come away with any distinct impressions of the bh dac?

One thing, the BH DAC sure doesn't sound like come from a digital source (Mac Mini), very organic, very natural, and dynamic is there too, no complain. I tried it with the Mainline amp + HD800


Edited by Seamaster - 4/28/14 at 12:22pm
post #24 of 36
Speaking of Audeze headphones, does anyone have plans to get a newer LCD-2 unit? Tyll at Innerfidelity is planning to post his impressions and measurements, but I was wondering if any local folks were going to get one too. I'd be interested in one if the treble bite is reduced and of course I would get the lighter bamboo one. XD
post #25 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seamaster View Post

 

One observation:

KGSSV did not have much headroom (for a dedicated amp). I listened it with volume is set at 5:00 and my usual volume level is 1 O'clock back at home from my experience. Big Poppa maxed the volume out at 7:00 that turned the Stax into real speakers!

 

I only had the volume control on my Oppo turned up about 2/3rds the way up, just to be safe for meeting conditions.

 

For the attendee who really enjoyed the volume control on my KGSSHV, I just recently put in a Goldpoint 50k attenuator.  I've been very happy with it thus far.

post #26 of 36

The meet was a great time.  I really enjoyed listening to a number of great setups, and picking Doc's brain about a R2R setup for my stereo at home.  I wish I could somehow transport the upstairs listening room to my place in Seattle.  What an awesome space!  I think this picture really sums it up well:

 

 

 

Thanks again to Big Poppa for leading the charge on organizing the event, and to Doc B. for being a gracious host!

post #27 of 36
And the video footage I took has just been uploaded to YouTube.


It's always interesting to hear myself when using the binaural microphones in my ears since the audio being played back sounds so similar to what I hear when recording (e.g. my "stuffy-sounding," monotonous voice in the audio recording sounds like how I hear myself talk in reality).
Edited by miceblue - 4/29/14 at 2:21am
post #28 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by miceblue View Post

Wow. Every time we have a meet at Bottlehead, I always think the meets can't be any better. I think this meet was one of the best ones yet!

A big thank you needs to be given to Doc B. and the Bottlehead corporation for hosting the event, and BIG POPPA for organising it. It was a lot of fun seeing some newcomers this time around, and enjoyable to talk to some of the regular folks. BIG POPPA suggested that this meet be called the "Cracks and STAX" meet due to the sheer number of Bottlehead Crack amplifiers (at least 5) and STAX headphones (at least 7) that were present at the meet, hahaha. Another big thank you needs to be given to alpha421 and lugia862 for proving a ride from the ferry terminal to the venue and back, respectively.


I think the biggest highlight for me was with curbfeeler's setup with the Benchmark DAC2 and the Light Harmonic Light Speed cable. I'm still not a fan of the LCD-2 (revision 1 I believe) since I find the treble to have some bite to it that I find a bit annoying, but as a system, the DAC2 was simply marvelous compared to my ODAC/O2 pairing (which was modeled after the Benchmark DAC1 PRE). Compared to my ODAC/O2, the DAC2 had more resolution (providing more of the micro-details of the music), soundstage depth (the ODAC/O2 always sounded more wide as opposed to rounded/balanced or deep), image separation/blacker background, and provided more oomph in the low end with the LCD-2s. This wasn't a fair comparison though since the DAC2 was connected with the Light Speed cable and super-duper power-conditioned AC power, whereas my setup was with a Monoprice cable, so I'll need to give these comparisons another go in the future. Regarding the Light Speed cable, I felt that it did improve the clarity of the music overall, but I wouldn't even consider spending $1000 on it. As with what I noticed with the DAC2 vs ODAC/O2 comparison, I found the Light Speed cable to improve the resolution/microdetails, soundstage depth, and bass definition when compared to a run-of-the-mill USB cable.

Colour me surprised.
 

miceblue, thanks for the capsule review of my system. I was beginning to wonder if anybody had noticed. There are many other provisions in this lash-up that contribute to the sterling results. Your picture shows the cryogenically treated Marinco connector and CryoMax III power cable as well as the Stillpoints OEM footer resonance control devices beneath the DAC2 HGC. Not visible are the Cryoparts power distribution strip fed by another CryoMax III cable terminated with Furutech FI-111 connectors.

JRiver Media Center deserves much of the credit, too.

The Benchmark DAC2 HGC is a most special piece of kit. Its USB implementation trounced the battery-powered jkeny MkII HiFace S/PDIF streamer I had used previously. It is more transparent and it has more headroom. It supplanted the Bryston BDA-1 in my home loudspeaker system. The HPA2 headphone amp incorporated in the Benchmark DAC is simply stated one of the best all-around.

The iFi USB is stated to be a lower-noise USB 5V power source than any battery-fed device.

My experience informs me that rational cabling, optimal power distribution and effective resonance control contribute greatly to successful high-fidelity music reproduction. Indeed, I consider these to be the foundation of any high-performance audio chain. Many would consider a $1000 USB cable to be irrational. I assure you it is not. It is surpassingly well-engineered. It may seem insignificant compared to a piece of gear that is housed in a spectacular chassis with glowing valves, but its contribution to good sound is perhaps more significant.

If I did more listening over headphones I might lavish a larger outlay on associated equipment. I would rather put that money toward improvements in my loudspeaker system, which is my principal font of musical nourishment.

My LCD-2 are Rev 2 with the replacement of the plastic blocks with the metal blocks meant to support the fitting of the cans to the listener's particular head dimensions.

Stan, aka curbfeeler

post #29 of 36

Is anyone interested in portable gear in the Seattle area? I am trying to organize a subset of Seattle Head-Fi to attempt to bring up the representation of portable gear at meets and start bringing in demos from the major IEM, CIEM, HP, AMP, and DAP manufactures. If you are interested, I started a thread at: http://www.head-fi.org/t/716631/seattle-head-fi-portable-club#post_10501219. I would love to hear from you.

post #30 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by curbfeeler View Post
 

[...]

The Benchmark DAC2 HGC is a most special piece of kit. Its USB implementation trounced the battery-powered jkeny MkII HiFace S/PDIF streamer I had used previously. It is more transparent and it has more headroom. It supplanted the Bryston BDA-1 in my home loudspeaker system. The HPA2 headphone amp incorporated in the Benchmark DAC is simply stated one of the best all-around.

[...]

My LCD-2 are Rev 2 with the replacement of the plastic blocks with the metal blocks meant to support the fitting of the cans to the listener's particular head dimensions.

Stan, aka curbfeeler

Curbfeeler, are you still using your HD-650's or have you completely gone over to the Audezes?    I still remember your DAC1 running with the HD650s 

(from the meet at the Greenwood Library?) and thought that was a great combination.

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