I must say that I like my presentation and performance to match the likes of AKG K1000, Sennheiser Orpheus, or Etymotics as opposed to Sony R10, Omega II, and Shure respectively so I predicted I would have a natural affinity toward the Qualia 010.
When I put on the 010s, I was greeted by it's feather light weight and soft supple touch. This was easily the most comfortable headphone I've ever worn. In comparision, putting on Grados felt like sandpaper, the K1000s were like a vice, and the R10s were like a vaccuum. Getting the right size headband was crucial for driver placement. Most of us felt the medium size were perfect.
My first impression of the 010 before this meet was through the headphone jack of their SACD player. It was a raw sound with weak bass and untamed highs. Although this was unbearable, you could tell it had great potential as I could hear detail that's usually hard to get easily. Fast forward to this meet. I first listened to the 010s through the Philips/Krell combo and everything was immediately better. The bass was present and the treble was tamed. It was evident that a better amp was needed.
The treble was well extended and I would agree with Sony that this would work well with high res material. Just as with AKG K1000, the better and greater treble can get out of hand if not controlled well. Today on these systems I felt neither were that out of control. Certainly I've heard much crazier chalkboard scratching combos. I felt the 010s had the best detail today.
The bass was detailed and layered well along with the rest of the spectrum. That's something that I find hard to accomplish as the bass gets lost. It can be complained that the bass was lacking some punch but I felt that the R10 or K1000 weren't at their best today either so I won't make that conclusion about 010 here either. I wonder how broken in these headphones were.
The midrange was just ok for me. I think it needs some tubes to flesh it out a little or some other components to synergize more.
What I find the most amazing about the 010 is the detail and soundstage. The sources weren't the best yet it was still able to extract that info from them. It makes me wonder if other headphones are really holding back. If I were using the 010s in these systems today and wanted to get a better sound, I would try another amp or do some other tweaks. If I were using other headphones, I felt I'd need to try a better source to get more detail and soundstage.
The only real con with the 010 is the microphonic cord.
I would really like hear 010 in my system as I wasn't really liking the systems I heard today. I find the 010s to be like a racing car. You'll feel all the bumps on the road, the engine shaking, and there are no amenities like cupholders. It's the brutal truth about the road. If you don't like it, stick with a luxury car like the R10
K1000 - It had a well balanced sound today. No complaints here as I usually don't like K1000 in systems I've heard at meets. To me it felt a bit underpowered though. So if you really liked this headphone here today (Jahn and Romanee), you are in for a surprise with a better source and amp. I felt the 010 today had more extended highs and more enveloping soundstage but with the K1000 being a bit more two dimensional than usual and 010 being a bit unrefined with a small gap in the middle, there was no clear winner today.
R10 - Um... I do not like this headphone
It's too colored for my tastes. I can't really say more since everybody's perceptions are different. You just have to try it and decide for yourself.
modded Toshiba 3960 - I wasn't digging this source at all. I felt the tonal balance was off. It seemed to have emphasized the midrange most. The treble seemed recessed or something. The bass was just ok. I wonder if the "hot" cheaper sources are the ones that are not offensive to begin with. Certainly this player when modded wasn't offensive but it just couldn't match the stock SACD1000. The sound seemed closed in (not compressed or congested).... claustrophobic if you will.
ER6i - Great "budget" earbuds. The highs are clear and the bass is adaquete I think.
SR71 - Easily the most refined portable to date. I can't believe it's a portable though because it outclasses most if not all portable sources. It's too large and heavy for my tastes.
Koss SportaPro and KSC35 - I also have the PortaPro and these are easily a fav portable can of mine. The fidelity for portable listening works well since they have just the right amount and kinf of bass, punch, midrange, and treble to compliment the ambient noise. I find some headphones to try to down out the ambient noise with more bass, treble, or something and that is just annoying. Certainly you shouldn't be trying to compete with outside noise if it is too loud outside so in those cases a noise attenuating headphone is preferable.
- awesome with the Kosses mentioned. Where's the power switch on this thing? Any mods available? haha.
Well that's it for now.