Heads Up - A REALLY Wordy Reply with ImpressionsHello Nik – and all “listening in” !
I’ve been following this thread on your new 010s with great interest, and your 2 postings earlier today seem to be very consonant, in some respects, with my initial experience of them this past Sunday at the NYC Sony Qualia Room – along with bozebuttons, jahn, jpelg and Lan. Your remarks also resonate with my intuitive feelings about the phones that day, despite the all-too-brief time available and what we all agree was a few makeshift configurations . . . though to have had that wonderful opportunity was definitely better than not having heard them at all! No slight intended on the very respectable components that their owners generously carried in and set up – it’s just a matter of lack of synergy with the Qualia.)
If you (and other members viewing this) haven’t yet done so, go the Member’s Lounge / Meet Impressions (“Sony meet at Qualia store”) and glance at our first impression comments. Our comments are, of course, inadequate – so please take into consideration the conditions of our mini-meet. I am most surprised that Sony Qualia did not endeavor to prepare the ultimate system configuration to best show off their new golden child! They’ve really left it – and prospective buyers -- to flounder, with just the Sony 9000ES and it’s headphone jack as source and system. As I noted, the resulting sound from the 9000ES headphone output was raw and untamed, with sizzlingly hot highs and thin disjointed bass. I couldn’t tolerate listening to that sound long enough to form an in-depth description of it. (I’m sure the Qualia engineers know how sensitive it is to every component, so I wonder if Sony’s marketing group eagerly rolled out their pride and joy without the benefit of expert advice and preparation?)
I think you will find in my remarks – both here and in the “Meet Impressions” pages -- some of what you’ve expressed, though I was and still am very tentative, not knowing and trying to guess at how the various components were affecting what I was hearing, and not sure what the 010 is really capable of. I am genuinely wary of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome and I found lots of problems or obstacles with the Qualia, but I may have felt more positive than some of the others at the mini-meet.
You are in a wonderful position to explore their possibilities and I will watch for your future discoveries and reports.
I definitely feel that the Qualia 010 is an immensely sensitive, detailed and revealing instrument and I am really eager to experience it with some really intelligently and thoroughly prepared systems – and hopefully in a well-isolated and damped environment. They are incredibly transparent to ambient sounds, and have almost no attenuation whatsoever to even soft external sounds. The K1000 was more able to mask the conversation in the room than was the Qualia.
Auditioning the 010 via bozebuttons’ Phillips SACD1000 / Krell amp combo, I was able to hear some hints of what the phones may be capable of: rich, complex & subtle texture, harmonics and detail around instruments, voices and objects -- and a sense of the surrounding environment. I did not hear a wide 3D soundstage in that setup, but there was good separation, distinct placement, and air around performers, and depth. (The R10s did some of this, but very differently, in a muscular in-your-face kind of way.) The stage was wider thru the 010 than with the R10. The character of the phones seemed to me to change significantly with different software – SACDs and Red Book CDs, Live Jazz – Country/Bluegrass – Orchestral - Choral – Pop – Rock - etc. Compared to the Qualia, the R10 seemed like a “plush armchair of a headphone”, which the Qualia will likely never be. Through the Phillips/Krell, the R10 had a big and powerful bottom end while retaining a good bit of mid- and upper-end detail, placement of instruments and a fairly deep soundstage. It was immediate and engaging, and I understand why bozebuttons and jpelg are addicted to it. It’s just not my cup of tea. I prefer not to sit with my face right in front of the stage or next the bass player’s amp. I like to have a big picture of all the instruments and a complete, well-rounded, lucid sound . . . not lightweight, just more revealing. I do want to hear and get an impression of feeling the mass and impact of the instruments that I feel at a live performance. I don’t want to hear a tinkly piano that seems to have lost its entire huge wooden case. I love the deep resonances of a string bass, the gut-rumbling throb of electric bass and kick drum, the head and spine tingle of a great trumpet or sax, the ripping attack of electric guitar, the thrilling soaring oneness of a great string section, etc. I do like to sit fairly close to a stage, but usually not in the first row with the bass amp’s air punching my cheek bones. I’ve got my own neuroses and obsessions.
My particular quest is to experience headphones/systems that bring me ever closer to at least the sound (if not the experience) of a live performance – and I don’t feel the goal is even close at this time -- but it is a fun carrot to keep us trotting forward. Great live performances are intensely textured, visceral, chilling & thrilling. In a small club, the sound waves move around and through your whole body (and of course the performers’ energies are the most unique and unreproduceable element of the event). It’s obvious that whereas a good speaker system will really move air, shake the floor and walls, and more easily create an illusion of an immersive, viscerally-felt soundspace – headphones simply cannot move volumes of air around your body (until an entirely new paradigm of sound reproduction is discovered). The best to hope for now is a pretty good holographic illusion in one’s head.
My own highly subjective take on the neutrality-versus-colorations issue is that when attempting to reconstruct/recreate the sound and ambience of a performance, everything adds colorations. RayEarth mentioned this on page 6 of this thread. I look for devices that allow to pass through to my ears more of the complex nuances that made up the original performance sound. Since all audiophile technologies are ever in a state of becoming, just chose your preference of colorations – what sounds right to you. Rather than declaring that a device is neutral, flat, colored, euphonic, etc. – offer detailed subjective descriptions of the perceived sound in its environmental context (all components from the music up, and relevant info about the conditions…).
The Qualia seems able to recreate lots of complexities and nuances. It does seem like a raw and powerful tool in need of control and direction. Our brief audition of them in the NYC Sony Qualia room was such an improvised and ultimately unsuccessful assemblage of very nice equipment that I could only get “glimpses” of the power and possibilities of the phones. Even bozebuttons -- who still love his R10s and went back to them most of the time – said he’d like have both (the 010 as well as his R10). It seems that jpelg developed a real distaste for the Qualia, and I can understand that. There was much that sounded wrong with them in that context. I hope he (and I, and all of us) get to hear them soon at their best.
It seems like a big challenge to experiment and discover the “ideal” system for the Qualia. I don’t think anyone is going to come up with one “in the twinkling of an eye”, and I’d be a skeptical if someone easily claims to have done so.
It would be wonderful if the upcoming Fall NYC Meet includes the Qualia 010 with one or more systems that could reveal the 010’s best capabilities and a variety of great program material to play-through.
I’m sure my chat here rambled far afield, but I really wanted to give my “impressions”.