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12/12/04 NYC - 3rd (Unofficial) Qualia store Mini meet

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Today we had me, 1911, Romanee and Lan visit the Qualia store in NYC, lured by the promise that there was a fully broken in 010 to be listened to. I found this be true - the Medium sized Qualia (my size) was nicely broken in imho, and yes, there was bass this time. Not huge punchy big bottomed bass, but a nice tight bass balanced with the rest of the spectrum.

Most of my listening happened with a ART DI/O modded unit fed by the store's 9000ES player. Digital out = no SACD signal of course. This went to my Solo, then to the Qualia.

For most of the meet the DAC needed to warm up so it sounded quite funky and was doing strange things up until the end. In the meantime, the RA-1, the solo using the analog out with magwires, and even the headphone out on the SACD player all sounded better than the cold DAC - no fault of the DAC, that's just the way it was. After everything settled down, the Qualias showed their nice revealing detailed nature. But honestly, it still didn't knock my socks off.

1911 brought his RS-1, and I felt it had more bass slam and was more "fun" - but at the expense of gobs of detail and clarity and reality etc etc that the Qualia provides. But in the end, commercial coloration has its place and I wouldn't necessarily ditch the RS-1 for the Qualia if that's the signature you prefer. The Qualia is eye-popping in its accuracy, but it gets the brain racing - not necessarily the gut.

If i was a "purist" i would now 100% recommend the Qualia - it's burned in and ready to convert the select few (with the right headphone amp).

BTW I'd like to thank (Jay! Sorry I forgot your name!) for being helpful and informative, something all the folks at the Qualia store exhibit in spades, even when it doesn't look like the sale is going to happen (1911 decided to stay with his RS-1, i can see his PoV).

He even handed out the new english-language brochures for the 010 - lovely pics guys, it's like a Audiophile Playboy. sure, i read the articles

BTW i expected the combo of the 9000ES and the RA-1 to be super bright and annoying, especially with the RS-1. but it was actually a very pleasant combo. some of that has to be due to the Magwires smoothing it out (possibly at the cost of some detail? my ears couldn't tell. but definitely not bright or harsh).
post #2 of 20
jahn, nice post.

the salesman's name is jay. the qualia is a winner on my rigs. all of them! it just needs heaps of burn-in time. the cable is microphonic when it is not even plugged in. immtbiker suggests wearing a pirate shirt of taffetta or velveteen to reduce the cable noise. anyone know where i can buy a pirate shirt of the material described?

the qualia is a very nice compliment to any serious headphone selection if you can afford the price.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
thanks for the right name, i updated the first post!

oh btw they do have an amp there now to power the player, but it's a sony receiver's headphone out. we didn't bother using it. jay took notes on some headphone amps that might do the trick (The Cary 300SEI, the Singlepower Supra, the Emmeline The Stealth, and the Rudistor RP010 all got mentions).
post #4 of 20
I had a pleasant time today at the Qualia store. I was looking forward to hearing a more burned in Qualia. I think there was more bass and more importantly less etchy treble.

The setup was a "budget" one, 9000es -> GWLabs DSP (modded by me) in 24/96 mode -> ART DI/O (modded by Boldercables and futher by me) but at the end I found it to be superior to the 9000es's redbook playback. A Grado RA1, and the headphone jack from the CD player were also used. I believe 9000es is like $2000 player and the cheaper stereo version is like probably 1000+ (I don't know the model) but certainly these aren't the cheap players so our setup wasn't that budget. I also voice my mods/tweaks for neutrality and detail which is how I like things.

I think the DAC and amp needed warm up time. I don't think anybody liked these things cold although you could still make out the Qualia did sound tonally different than before (with more bass and less etchy treble).

>>>>But honestly, it still didn't knock my socks off.

If you want to be wowed, it'll take a case of lots of bass or soundstage or some particular characteristic BUT I think it's fairly balanced. It should sound natural enough that you should just forget about the headphone. I think it's more faithful to the recordings and showed good variation with them. When a system is more colored, I tend to tire of that easily since the same sonic signature is imparted to all recordings. Staying in that fine line in the middle is hard to juggle.

>>>>But in the end, commercial coloration has its place and I wouldn't necessarily ditch the RS-1 for the Qualia if that's the signature you prefer. The Qualia is eye-popping in its accuracy, but it gets the brain racing - not necessarily the gut.

Certainly if you can handle the coloration all the time or you can take a break with another headphones or system, it's cool. I don't consider more accuracy too brain racing as I find it easier to forget. You still have some leverage with the "power" of the system when choosing the source, amp, power conditioning, cables, etc. As you witnessed with the PS1 system last time, it was over the top for you but that same system could pass that extra energy into other headphones also.

Wasn't it Cyrus (the tall fellow) that helped us first and Jay the other guy who came in?

>>>BTW i expected the combo of the 9000ES and the RA-1 to be super bright and annoying, especially with the RS-1.

RS1 is smoother in the highes than the SR325s and lower end grados in my experiences. Magwires are also so I didn't expect this to be a bad combo especially out of the 9000ES.
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Cool comments Lan. After reading that I realized I'm still chasing after that initial "rush" of audiophile impact when I switched from a lifetime of crappy cans to the MS-1. I guess at this point in the game it's best to just let my ears accept that I've heard enough different sonic signatures to determine what I like, and that the rest of the hunt should be for a rig that will impart that pleasurable sound for as long as I'd like to listen to it that evening.

For me, as you pointed out, the modded Melos and the PS-1 was just over the top. It was like a rollercoaster ride, and the combo was amazing but I knew that I'd be overwhelmed with something like that as my regular rig eventually. That I found the Qualia to have not as much "wow" factor might actually mean it's easier to lounge with, and as you pointed out, just forget you have cans on your head.

I might mention that the webbing on the top of the headband, tho we make fun of it, really helps spread out the headband pressure, so again you feel like you can put them on and forget them. It's not even like the CD3K which was like "I have comfortable cans on." it's like "what? i forgot i had them on!"

Keep in mind, the Qualia isn't a boring can. It's just not an exciting can (to me) - but then again on the right setup i'm sure it is transparent enough to impart whatever energy you want from it.
post #6 of 20
the funniest part to me was when jay(supernice guy and helpful) said that "you know that we find that people that critically listen rarely buy the qualias but the majority of their buyers are just rich people who want the best"...i tend to agree...if you are listening and trying to find value for the bucks it is a tougher sell..

jahn...excellent point...you are right i was anticipating/hoping for the sonic impact going from rs-1 to 010 as we had when going from a lifetime of crappy cans to rs-1...but it wasnt there...the differences were more subtle..so it looks like the cash will go towards a better source first as most of you already realized i had to do...
cheers
post #7 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1911
it looks like the cash will go towards a better source first as most of you already realized i had to do.
I echo that statement. The RS-1's are a seductive can, and it would take a lot to overthrow it in that department. A better quality source will only improve on that experience.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jahn
the Qualia...is transparent enough to impart whatever energy you want from it.
This I do not understand. To me, the word "transparent" means that it simply allows whatever is coming thru to do so unhindered, without imparting anything.

I also don't understand when someone says that the 010 was designed for the latest & greatest hi-res sources, and that (even a really good) vinyl setup will not do the Qualia's justice.

Are people looking for accuracy and transparency (ie. trueness to whatever source you are listening to), or a coloration? I know what I prefer, but I read a lot of conflicting comments in the recent Qualia threads.
post #8 of 20
EDIT!!!

I've deleted my initial post after reading jpelg's comments (immediately below). I wasn't aware that Sony had an XA-9000ES player, which is a much newer and more expensive model than the S-9000ES that I was referring to. Thus, my previous comments were irrelevant, and to keep them here would just cause confusion.
post #9 of 20

9000es?

The Sony SACD player in the Qualia store is the SCD-XA9000ES, like this one:



Retail price is US$3000, with street prices ranging from just under US$2k.

Unless someone brought their own 9000es (a completely different, and older model), then that is the deck used as the transport. Which was it guys?
post #10 of 20
jpelg,
the one sony uses is the one you posted..3000 retail piece of work....i liked the player a lot...
they had a cheesy es amp hooked up but decided to bypass it as they felt it didnt help the sound...
they actually asked jahn what type of headphone amps to get and didnt limit the choices to sony products....jahn can explain what he told them to get so if you go to nyc and dont like their setup blame jahn....
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by 1911
the funniest part to me was when jay(supernice guy and helpful) said that "you know that we find that people that critically listen rarely buy the qualias but the majority of their buyers are just rich people who want the best"...

jahn...excellent point...you are right i was anticipating/hoping for the sonic impact going from rs-1 to 010 as we had when going from a lifetime of crappy cans to rs-1...but it wasnt there...
I believe he also said most of the people who buy it are into classical and jazz.

After a certain point, you can't really notice the greatness of a headphone without better everything before it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpelg
I also don't understand when someone says that the 010 was designed for the latest & greatest hi-res sources, and that (even a really good) vinyl setup will not do the Qualia's justice.
I believe a better headphone will show everything before it colored or not. It shouldn't matter what was before it.

Sorry about the 9000es confusion. This XA9000ES was the SACD player not the DVD player. I recall bozebuttons has the DVD player.
post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 
to answer the imparting question, yes indeed the Qualia was transparent - or should I say, "more transparent than a ton of stuff i've listened to, and of course more transparent than the RS-1." When I first heard the Solo, I felt it got out of the way. But then I started missing the Bass. I realized that my amp was holding back on the bass present in the original signal, and the mods cleared it up. i don't feel that the solo is now colored to bring an artifical bass to the table - rather, it's more faithful in showing the bass that was always there and i didn't know it.

the 010 feels, to me, to be very transparent in that across the board it gets out of the way of the music as i believe it to be (should be? who knows.) i concentrate on the music, and not worry about if the 010 is bringing anything else to the table. "impart" as in, hands to me on a silver platter untouched. not "impart" as in, adds a dash of tabasco then hands it to me. the fact that i heard bass this time around tells me that the solo didn't get in the way of the bass, and that the qualia didn't either. because, you know, MJ likes his bass, and i KNOW it was lurking in that "Scream" track!

the fact that the RS-1 made that bass thrumming and punchy? now that i believe to be coloration lol - pleasing, but definitely not neutral or transparent.
post #13 of 20

Pete's points (head included)

Hi, Y'All!

I'll start this with an almost-quoted 4 paragraphs that I posted elsewhere to Bosk, who was wondering if it was possible to spend all the money on the Qualias and drive them with a cheap amp since they're so efficient ... and then I'll reply to the comments here.

The Qualias don't require a lot of power to produce a loud, pleasant sound, but they won't be anywhere near their best without a superb amp that's well matched to the very sensitive and revealing phones.

Quality recordings are important as well. Poor quality recordings can sound much better on other forgiving phones, while the Qualias pass all inadequacies thru and you might think the Qualias are the problem -- until you compare the "forgiving" cans and Qualias with a great recording and the Qualias open up a window to the music that the lesser cans can't access. Amps that are poorly matched to the Qs (especially with troublesome recordings) can make you want to yank the Qualias off you head (only a tiny bit exaggerated to make a point).

To give a more practical compromise viewpoint, I heard them briefly on Sunday (12/12/04) at the Qualia store through the diminutive Grado RA-1 amp, and also Jahn's Pink-Mod GSP Solo and the Qs were very listenable through both amps, in slightly different ways. I expected the Solo to sound pretty good which it did, but the RA-1 was a nice surprise. No huge bass impact, but bass was there and very tight. Mids were almost "silken" with plenty of nuances, air and ambient sounds. The RA-1 sounded better with the Qs than with the Grado RS-1 which should have been the better match (yes I felt the Qs sounded better, based on my comments down at the bottom).

Anyway, as you have or will read around the forums, the Qualias transmit so much "information" that they really need the best available ancillary components -- amps, cables, power, transport, "source", recordings, etc. -- to sound their best. Seriously -- every link in the chain. On Sunday we just changed interconnects and the sound changed dramatically for the better. (...so much for the "cables are minor tweaks" gangs that keep reappearing...).

I had to leave early so I can't say for sure whether or not some or all of that improvement was still the Art/DIO warmup issue. Perhaps Lan, Jahn or 1911 can sort that out.

The RS-1 obviously had more bass boom, but was so colored (all sorts of additions & subtractions) that it would really set my nerves on edge if I had to listen to it more than a short while. I happen to like big bass impact, when it exists in a performance, but I like to hear bass that's tight, fast and well-integrated so it doesn't obliterate the midrange and throw the whole spectrum out of balance -- which I felt the RS-1 did.

As Nik and a lot of other experienced Qualia listeners keep repeating, you will not hear all the bass the Q can produce -- or the best of any of its sonic capabilities -- without the best amp, etc.

STEVIEO -- what amps do you feel send great sound through your Qualias, based on your personal experiences?

We know about Nik's RP010, and have heard (heresay, not listening) that Rudi's RP-033 is promising -- and we'll personally hear more in January at Aaron's.

Anyway, once again what we heard was necessarily just a tease. Watch out -- Nik will jump on our heads again! No point judging and writing off the Qualias based on the modest chain we used. In my mind, it was the best option available to give 1911 an idea of the Q's sonic character -- and a progress check of how burn-in may have improved them -- so keep an open mind for future, more suitable auditioning.

For me, even the brief hour with those modest components, was fun. I like the Qualias more every time I hear them -- and I always keep in mind the perspective of the limitations of the electronics preceding them. Can't wait 'til Jan. 30 ... More fun!

Cheers
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
With Romanee pitching relief, I think everyone who showed up added a comment!

I agree with Romanee - the RA-1 was just kicking the Solo's arse for a while when the Solo was giving out some funky DAC/DIO vibes or something. Even the headphone out of the SACD player was lol. But then we took the magwires that were hooked into the RA-1 and plugged them into the Solo's second input bank, then flipped the Solo's output to that bank - BAM much better! So imho the Solo, being fed analog direct from the player via magwires beat the RA-1 in the same setup. Flipping from analog to the DAC channel in the Solo was like going from smoothness to cottony.

But again, it was some kind of burn in issue, or "too many things plugged into the SACD" issue or something, because after everything else was unplugged from the SACD, the Solo sounded better with the DAC input than the analog in from the SACD. The analog output still sounded smooth, but when you flipped up to the DAC'd signal the output became more focused and detailed and a "veil" was lifted. Curse you, finicky components!

This kind of subtle nuance couldn't be heard for comparative purposes unless we were using the 010 - the RS-1 was just a beast all over the place, and the only time i heard a big diff between inputs using the RS-1 was at the very beginning when the RA-1 was obviously sounding better than a cold ART DI/O.
post #15 of 20

Minor....

Jahn -- a minor clarification of my notes. I was still there when Solo opened up. I certainly prefer(red) the Solo to the RA-1 ... I was just noting that I was surprised at what a nice sound the RA-1 created with the Q010, but I did not prefer it over the Solo by any means. I was just startled that the Q010 sounded much prettier thru the RA-1 than the "matched" RS-1.
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