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Official 2016 SF Head-Fi Meet Impressions Thread - July 16, 2016 - Page 3

post #31 of 186

Thanks to everyone for letting me listen to a lot of cool gear. :)

 

My impressions:

 

Mr. Speaker Electrostatic Prototype Headphones

My favorite setup of the meet was the mr. speaker electrostatic prototype headphones hooked up to the headamp blue hawaii. Going back and forth between it and the sr009's I thought they had comparable detail/soundstage/impact but the sr009's suffered from a bumped up highend while vocals sounded fuller on the mr. speaker and the highs more relaxed (which is to my liking). The sr009's are a lot easier to drive. I'd love to spend more time with them to get to know their sound signature better outside of meet conditions.

 

Focal Utopias

My first listen to the focal utopias on a woo audio tube amp was really nice. It was some audiophile music and then a couple of adele songs and the detail and 3-d spacial separation was really good (stax sr009 level detail). Later I listened on some other setups and other music and there seemed to be a little funkiness/brightness in the highs and thinness and sibilance in the vocals depending on the frequency range of the voice. So it does some things really well, but I don't think its a jack of all trades. I would love to hear what they sound like in my system.

 

Mr. Speaker Ether Flow

The Mr. Speaker Ether Flow sounded pretty balanced and I think its a more steady performer then the focal utopias. I didn't hear the same level of detail or 3-dness but they were different systems so that's not a fair comparison. I'd love to hear these in my system as well.

 

Audeze Lcd-4

I got to compare the lcd-4's to the he1000 in the same system and I preferred the sound of the lcd-4's. To be fair the he1000's sounded a lot worse then when I owned them so possibly it was an amp mismatch. The he1000's sounded soft and thin and sibilant and the lcd4's sounded more authoritative and vocals more realistic. The lcd4's are a lot less efficient to drive.

 

Jds Labs Abyss

I tried the abyss headphones and I felt like I was cheating on real headphones. They sounded great out of the woo audio prototype amp, but I don't consider these to be headphones.

 

Sennheiser hd800s

I listened to the hd800s's and still found them to be too bight for my taste. It was an improvement over the hd800's, which set my ears on fire. :P

 

 

I didn't see a single grado at the event doh. I still think the hf-1's with flat pads are the best rock headphones for casual listening.

 

I was trying to listen to the same songs on each system and from the stuff I knew there were 2 albums that everyone seemed to have: Michael Jackson Thriller and Daft Punk: Random Access, so Billy Jean and Get Lucky were my go to references. I was hoping there would be more Radiohead fans hehe.

 

Biggie.

post #32 of 186

A few quick notes, speaking only for classical music. As always, in my opinion, given my taste, biases, prejudices, what I had for lunch, etc.

 

- Tungsten and Gold are both great, but I couldn't hear a difference on the AKG K1000, at least not with the 3 classical pieces they had. Tungsten was more powerful, seems to sound better with HE-6.

- I absolutely love K1000. We need to get the engineering specs and bring them back on a DIY basis. That schiit has the most holographic soundstage in the biz short of speakers. I wish I could have A/B'd with Stax. Probably my nominee for once and future king of classical, though being in production, being 9000x more comfortable, and perhaps having more bass heft make HD800 stiff competition.

- Orpheus clone was cool. Wish the CDs provided hadn't been scratched up so badly.

- I could hear no audible difference with audiophile cables. My verdict: bullschiit. 

- SR009/BHSE isn't night and day beyond HD800/GS-X (or HE-6/GS-X). But when a solo double bass plays (ala pantomime leading up to death scene in Verdi's Otello), they render that bass SO WELL. Oh my God. The low orchestral strings, especially by themselves, are ridiculously immediate. I see SR009 in my future, but it's a far-off future.

- HE1000 is better than I thought it was. I still find it lacks the detail retrieval and clarity of HD800, but the round, forgiving tone is seductive.

- HE-X is a crippled waste of money and engineering. Wooly bass, unremarkable treble and mids. Get an HD650 and call it a day.

- Why didn't Schiit send a rag/yggy stack?!?!

- HD800S is a step backward. It smears details and guts the treble. With a multibit DAC and a bit of EQ, the peakiness is easily tamed.

- HD630VB is a weird one. Noise cancellation is a prerequisite for travel phones for me, but I didn't hear much of an effect from the bass dial, and didn't find the sound all that much better than Bose. Heresy, I know.

- The new WA22SE apparently stands for 'special edition,' and is balanced the whole way through. That beast has a lot of power. HD800 at 9am, HE-6 around noon, Abyss at 11:30. Amazing tone, one of the best engineering feats I saw today. My pick for best dynamic headphone amp I've heard, ever, period. K812 maybe 8:30.

- That said, it's still hugely overpriced (estimated 5K), and I almost certainly won't be buying one.

- Abyss is kind of hilarious. For certain tracks (Lisitsa playing Rach 2) there's so much bass in the recording that it's bloated and gross in the bass. In others (Vivaldi's Gloria in D Major, R. 589), it's a very treble-heavy recording, so the effect is incredibly open and refreshing. All in all, so hit and miss for classical that they could never be recommended at their list price.

- K812 has unequivocally lost classical war to HD800. I cannot think of a situation in which I would recommend them over HD800. They're more immediate, placing you on the podium rather than in the audience, but that's really just a roundabout way of saying the soundstage isn't holographic and kind of surrounds you (the soundstage criticism is my only one for 009). The tone is shrill and sibilant, and the overall effect is not very transparent, not especially neutral, and certainly not euphonic. In the Benchmark school of sound, they seem to be harsh for the sake of being harsh. Also, single ended for the sake of being single ended.

- LCD4 is cool, and more amp dependent than previous models. On GS-X, neutral-ish (as it is NOT with WA-5), but A/B/C/D/Eing with 009, HD800, HE-6, HE1000 it just can't compete in classical. 

- On that note, that five-way listening sesh was the highlight of the meet. Go HeadAmp!

post #33 of 186

hey bosiemoncrieff

 

Have you tried to compare WA5 vs WA22SE?

post #34 of 186

Great meet, was only able to attend in the afternoon.  Great to see old friends and make some new ones.

 

I really wanted to check out the n3rdling Clones because I had heard about them prior and brought my own SR-009 to compare.

 

Meet conditions are never ideal and it was a bit loud, but I did get to do some great direct a/b comparisons of the SR-009 vs the clones on a BHSE.  Sensitivity wise they are not that far off, luckily I only had to adjust the volume slightly (009 being slightly more sensitive).  For music I mostly used the Bertini/WDR Cologne box set of Mahler symphonies.

 

Due to my limited time with them I will just comment about what I was able to directly compare.  The clones have better effortlessness and clarity than the SR-009.  In a large tutti section of a large scale orchestral work with a large amount of percussion (tam tam and gong) combined with full brass and orchestra, the SR-009 sounded congested in comparison.  For me that was shocking.  I am coming from my home collection of Abyss, HE-6, HD-800, SR-007mk1, HE-1000, and so far the SR-009 has bested them all in terms of absolute clarity and transparency (not to mention other aspects, but for the sake of this comparison I am only mentioning these traits).

 

And the Clones bested the SR-009.  These headphones need more examination due to the meet conditions, but this is perhaps the one headphone I am most interested in at the moment.

 

I also got to hear the new Ether and both Focals, all very nice, but once you hear what the SR-009 can do there is very little that impresses you.

post #35 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by knerian View Post
 

Great meet, was only able to attend in the afternoon.  Great to see old friends and make some new ones.

 

I really wanted to check out the n3rdling Clones because I had heard about them prior and brought my own SR-009 to compare.

 

Meet conditions are never ideal and it was a bit loud, but I did get to do some great direct a/b comparisons of the SR-009 vs the clones on a BHSE.  Sensitivity wise they are not that far off, luckily I only had to adjust the volume slightly (009 being slightly more sensitive).  For music I mostly used the Bertini/WDR Cologne box set of Mahler symphonies.

 

Due to my limited time with them I will just comment about what I was able to directly compare.  The clones have better effortlessness and clarity than the SR-009.  In a large tutti section of a large scale orchestral work with a large amount of percussion (tam tam and gong) combined with full brass and orchestra, the SR-009 sounded congested in comparison.  For me that was shocking.  I am coming from my home collection of Abyss, HE-6, HD-800, SR-007mk1, HE-1000, and so far the SR-009 has bested them all in terms of absolute clarity and transparency (not to mention other aspects, but for the sake of this comparison I am only mentioning these traits).

 

And the Clones bested the SR-009.  These headphones need more examination due to the meet conditions, but this is perhaps the one headphone I am most interested in at the moment.

 

I also got to hear the new Ether and both Focals, all very nice, but once you hear what the SR-009 can do there is very little that impresses you.

 

Were you able to check out the Mrspeakers Electrostatic prototype and compare to SR-009?

post #36 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by artemart View Post

hey bosiemoncrieff


Have you tried to compare WA5 vs WA22SE?

The wa5 was not at the meet. Wa22se is a prototype. Will sound even better next Jan.
post #37 of 186

I enjoyed the meet, despite only being able to make it around 4:15pm, and thank you Jude for your wonderful hospitality.

post #38 of 186

AmpsandSound had a fantastic day on Saturday and we really want to thank Jude, and Ethan for putting such a great event. Jon and Ralph from Sonic Studio did a great job as usual and we hope that people enjoyed listening to the #Mogwai and #Kenzie.

 

Thanks,

Ian White

Ampsandsound

post #39 of 186

This was my first time to SF and I had a great time and quite a few WTF experiences on the streets of downtown. 

 

First I'd like to thank HuddlerSteph, Warren, Ethan and Luis who helped me out with suggestions about where to stay and how to get here. Also thanks to velvetx who brought a huge tub of Isotrip Lites and extension cords for people to use and very kindly lent me a power board after I'd forgotten to bring (or get) one. 

 

Thanks also to everyone who came to my table to say hi and try out the IEMs and DAPs I'd brought with me, as well as letting me try their gear. Thanks also to Dan Clarke (MrSpeakers), Focal and the Kimber Cable guys for making sure everyone had headphones to demo with. It was possible at the show to try the new Focals and Ethers out of numerous different rigs, from DAPs through to high-end systems.

 

The Focal Utopias were very interesting. My impressions were of a high-end speaker driver mounted in a very inert high-end-speaker enclosure before being put on your head. It wasn't really like any other pair of headphones at all. Whereas, say, Stax 009s have this gentle delicacy of sound leaving the music floating to your ears, like the best Russian ballet dancer twirling with uncanny precision, the Utopias were all Muhammad Ali at his very best and too fast for opponents to get a handle on. This regardless of what they were being driven by, from my Mojo and the Liquid Spark, through to the awesome Liquid Tungsten. Everything else I listened to sounded asleep, or maybe even veiled in comparison, except possibly the LCD-4s. If there is one criticism, I think some people will want more bass from them, and they are so brutally revealing of everything in the chain, even more so than the Ether Flow, that nothing less than a well-synergised system will be ideal for them.

 

The Focal Elears were more like a good $1k pair of headphones, with a more relaxing, yet quite detailed sound. In a way they were more enjoyable, being more tolerate and more lulling you into enjoyment. Even if they were more relaxed-sounding than the Utopias, they did make me feel I simply wanted to relax and enjoy listening.

 

MrSpeakers Ether Flow were on just about every table, including mine, so like the Focals, it was possible to audition them on a large variety of gear. Kimber cable also brought a selection of HD800 and MrSpeakers cables which are stunning to look at.  I'll post more detailed impressions later, but the open-backed Ether Flows are a very solid upgrade to the original, with deliciously precise bass. A bit more foam has been added in front of the driver, so that the treble is reduced a bit more from the original. Think a much more detailed K7XX and you aren't far off the mark.  They seemed to be a bit less amp friendly than before, working best with amps that had a fair bit of power.

 

The Members' Room had a stunning collection of gear brought by Velvetx, TMONEY and others, ranging from Eddie Current gear to a custom ECP amp.

 

Mike Kubota 1 listening to the Ether Flow at my table.

 

aamefford's set-up.

 

Jazz Fan (standing at rear) brought a small rig. 

 

Alex and Nina from WyWyres brought a wonderful rig with a ModWright tube amp.

 

aamefford (right) next to his rig. 

 

velvetx and his wonderful custom ECP power headphone amp. He had a large Pass Labs pre-amp and Schiit Yggdrasil feeding it.

 

Velvetx's Zana Deux Super prototype. 

 

EC's latest solid state amp peaks from behind a computer. I had a quick listen and it was a very dynamic and powerful-sounding amp.

 

 

DecentLevi's crazy amp. It sounded smooth and mellow from his Wyrd/Bifrost.

 

The Headamp rig with LCD-4s and the Ether Flow.

 

Audeze LCD-4s.

 

A microZotl. I sadly forgot to try it.

 

HeadAmp GS-X MKII and LCD-4s.

 

 

The Blue Hawaii SE with Stax SR009s.

 

Kannon Tactile headphones. This was a weird listening experience which worked very well with jazz and classical, but less so with "club" music, as the tactile driver primarily focusses on the mid-range, whereas the beat of club music is in the bass.

 

Apogee Groove.

 

Wells Audio HeadTrip. 

 

Woo Audio WA22 prototype. Sadly the right channel had failed by the time I got to the room.

 

WA8. Lovely relaxing sound without sounding obviously like a tube amp.

 

WA8 on stand. The amp is smaller and much heavier than it looks. 

 

WA22 from another angle.

 

The "Ministry of Magic" room was appropriately named for all the gear in there.

 

Liquid Tungsten.

 

Liquid Carbon.

 

Liquid Spark with the new AK70

 

CEETEE (middle of the three people seated) trying the Cavalli Audio gear.


Edited by Currawong - 7/18/16 at 2:45pm
post #40 of 186
Picture from dinner after the show.
post #41 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by bearFNF View Post

Picture from dinner after the show.

Damn. So sad I missed this.

post #42 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by bearFNF View Post

Picture from dinner after the show.

Dinner and a show??!! Sorry I could not make it. Looks like another great time with good friends...Oh and some cool gear.

 

:beerchug:

post #43 of 186
Quote:
Originally Posted by aamefford View Post
 

I had a blast!  It was nice to meet new friends and see old friends.  Joe (great to meet you), Amos (great to meet you too, I'm glad you made the trip!) and Jude get the travel awards as far as I know.  Got to share a table with Larry (@jazzfan), see @shane55 after a loooooong time, @CEE TEE, @warrenpchi, @mrspeakers and @MrSpeakersPeter, @Stillhart (Nice to finally meet you also).I talked to two people who preferred the Ether C over the Ether C Flow based on the brighter presentation.  My take on this - if you like a bright presentation, you may prefer the non-flow.  Everyone else liked the Flow version better, some found the difference more profound than others.  For me, the flow wins hands down.  Just a more realistic, "smoother" presentation for me.

 

Oh, I'm so lousy with names - whomever sponsored me a piece of the "vendor pizza - THANK YOU!  I was starving! 

 

Great to see you as well, as always! Great to see all my sonically astute mates. Great chatting up sound and gear.

 

Thanks to everyone for a great, great show. To all who organized and assisted and attended, and to all the amazing vendors. How very lucky we are and have been to be treated to such a wealth of excellence!! The wallet was in a very bad mood, desperate to be opened.

 

I was one of the 'brighter, brighter, brighter... is better' (to a degree) devotees. I admit to preferring the Ether C (non-flow), as it seemed more detailed (a byproduct of the slightly increased highs), and that helped me place instruments in space. While I loved the Flow, it just didn't do all I need sonically. But of course this is a personal preference, and I'll gladly admit that the Flow was probably more neutral and flat.

 

Thanks to Jude for bringing the Ebony (and Onkyo DAP). And it was great to have THX measure the Ebony and my Denon D7000's. Siblings, without a doubt.

 

The gear was amazing... TUBE CITY!! Wonderful.

Apogee GROOVE is extremely good, and may wind up at my office.

 

All in all a great show, and a real pleasure!

 

Cheers.

post #44 of 186

This was my first time attending any Head-Fi meets and have to say, I loved it!  Extra special thanks to everyone who put it together and the companies who traveled all the way to to SF!

 

Personal highlights

- Everything Woo Audio makes  (haha seriously ,thank god those guys make gear)

- Both new Focal models (Could easily live with the Elear, $999 model)

- Mr Speaker Ether (wasn't sure if it was the Flow model, but blew me away with a very realistic imaging and incredible bass energy. Liked these better than the HE-1000, which might be #2 favorite headphones at the meet)

- Everyone's Friendliness.  Such a positive experience!

 

Looking forward to more of these!

 

Thank you, again!

post #45 of 186

Great meet! Great gear!

 

I had a blast hanging out with the usual meet crowd, but also really enjoyed talking to new members. I particularly enjoyed conversations with @jude and @currawong. A personal highlight was getting both Jude and MrSpeakers Dan to have extended listens on my rig.

I spent most of the meet in the member area auditioning headphones on my own rig. For reference I ran Tidal > Schiit Yggy > Pass Labs XP-10 Pre > ECP DSHA-4. All headphones were run via balanced 4-pin XLR. All impressions are from my own rig unless listed otherwise.

Gear impressions listed from most impressive to least impressive.

Focal Utopia (thanks Jude for bringing your pairs of Focals to the member room!):

  • A real contender for best dynamic headphone.
  • A bit heavy, but otherwise very comfortable to wear. Build quality appeared excellent.
  • Sound was very clear and very detailed. Background noise at the meet was a bit of an issue, but you could tell Utopia is a very technically competent headphone, potentially better on technicalities than the HD800 but would need to evaluate at home to be sure.
  • Not a bass monster and does not compete with planars in that regard.
  • While soundstage is good, does not have the uniquely massive soundstage that is my favorite thing about the HD800.
  • The $4k price is unfortunate. This is a headphone that needs to cost $2k at most for it to be a good value.
  • I can’t wait to hear what @Tyll Hertsens thinks about Utopia.


MrSpeakers Ether Flow (open):

  • The real deal, a fabulous headphone.
  • Ether Flow is not a great name for a headphone.
  • I loved the way it sounded on my rig. Deep, tight bass and great balance overall. This is now the “go to” planar if the Ether wasn’t already.
  • I would need to have a regular Ether side by side to discuss improvements in the new model, but I felt Flow was better balanced high-to-low and sounded a bit more open than its predecessor.
  • This will easily make Tyll’s “wall of fame.”
  • At $1,800 it is clearly positioned to rival the HD800S. I probably still take the 800S (if I had to pick one) as it plays more to my tastes, but loving seeing the Ether get better and better and make that decision harder and harder.
  • There is no way the Audeze LCD-4 can cost $4k when Ether Flow sounded just about as good, is much more comfortable to wear, and costs less than half as much.
  • If Ether Flow was $1,200 I would buy one today, $1,800 feels like a bit of a stretch.


N3rdling HE-90 Clone (on @velvetx's BHSE):

  • Very fun to listen to.
  • It is awesome to hear a DIY headphone this good.
  • @knerian and I did a comparison with the 009 and Clone. It made me sad I don’t still own an electrostatic rig.
  • Between the two, I still lean towards the 009. I hear the 009 as better balanced high-to-low and having vastly superior bass to the Clone.
  • I heard the Clone as having a bit more of a warm, mid-centric tone. The Clone is the more “romantic” sounding of the two, but my preferences tend more towards ruler flat neutrality. I can see why some would prefer the sound of the Clone, but for me the 009 is still the king-of-the-hill (along with 007mk1).


Focal Elear:

  • The buzz is that Elear sounds somewhat like a HD650 plus. I would agree with that assessment.
  • Should be a must listen for the HD650 fans.
  • As I much prefer the HD600 to the HD650, the slightly tonally dark Elear isn’t a headphone I’d consider buying.
  • Priced at a grand, it is nice to see a step in the right direction on price. Should be $600, but at least its not $1,500.
  • Between Utopia and Elear I lean very strongly towards Utopia.


Audeze LCD-4:

  • This was the “fixed” version with 200 ohm impedance.
  • I thought it actually sounded pretty great.
  • Would love to do a shootout between LCD-4 and Ether Flow as I thought they both sounded very good.
  • The problem with LCD-4 isn’t the sound, its everything else.
  • For me the LCD-4 is way too heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Does Audeze just ignore user feedback? They are making the same comfort mistakes over and over and over again.
  • There is no way this headphone can cost $4k when Ether Flow is $1,800. I’m not at all sure LCD-4 is the better headphone of the two, let alone the better sounding headphone.
  • Ether beats LCD-4 easily on comfort.


Eddie Current Black Widow 2.0 Amplifier: Used HD800S and Utopia to evaluate.

  • Liked it a lot better than the BW 1.0.
  • BW 2.0 is no longer a dark sounding amp.
  • Sounded powerful, but boring to my ears.
  • Good match for planars I think, but at the price point there is other stuff I’d rather have.
  • No Ragnarocks were at the meet but would be fun to compare the two amps side-by-side. I think I’d take the Rag over the BW, but would need to compare to be sure.




last and least...

MrSpeakers Ether Stat (used BHSE):

  • Not a good headphone at all.
  • Easily the worst headphone I listened to all day.
  • Compared it side-by-side with the 009 out of the BHSE in the head-amp room.
  • Ether Stat needs to go back behind closed doors for a while.
  • Not anywhere close to matching the Stax on sound quality.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Meets, Get-Togethers, Factory Tours › Head-Fi Meet Impressions, Trade Show Reports, Factory Tours › Official 2016 SF Head-Fi Meet Impressions Thread - July 16, 2016