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Reviews by: Currawong

HiFiMan's HE1000V2 are a worthy pair of TOTL headphones, giving electrostat-like levels of detail and realism.

Posted

Pros: Precise imaging, great comfort, fantastic detail retrieval.

Cons: Needs a correspondingly expensive system to get the best results. Bass a bit lacking in quantity to be ideal. Materials a bit cheap-feeling. Expensive

  Back when I owned a modified Denon D5000, I went to a local hi-fi store and demoed a Stax system. I almost bought it on the spot, only hesitating because it would have been the most expensive audio purchase I'd ever made. Later on I ended up using a vintage Stax rig as my primary system which I've since regretted selling. It consisted of the Lambda Nova Signature, but with newer, thicker ear-pads and a borrowed SRM 717. The thicker ear-pads increased the bass, resulting in very entertaining listening. I don’t know what made me decide to sell them, as given all the experiences I’ve had since, it would have been simpler to just stick to what I had and upgraded my digital source...
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The Campfire Audio Vegas are fantastically resolving and entertainingly bass-strong IEMs.

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Pros: Great resolution, great non-IEM-like treble, clear mids and bass, great coherency, small size, high quality materials and cable.

Cons: Some people wrong like the endlessly swivelling MMCX connector. Bass and v-shaped sound can be too much with some music.

Video Review   It's not unusual to find a headphone or IEM manufacturer to branch out into making their own amps, and then their own cables, but Ken Ball is one of two people who have gone in reverse, at first making after-market headphone cables, then amps and DACs, and now IEMs.   To that end he has been quite successful with his range of balanced-armature IEMs, topped by the Andromeda. It was to my great surprise to hear that he had designed a range of dynamic IEMs as well.   When I go to the Tokyo Headphone festivals, I get asked to try a LOT of gear. I don't doubt that I could come home from the show, if I desired, with a few dozen pairs of IEMs if I desired....
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The Continental V5 packs a lot of punch for such a little amp.

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Pros: Surprisingly good headphone driving ability. Small size. Beautiful case. USB charging. Changable tube. Sophisticated circuit.

Cons: Too much hiss for sensitive IEMs. Can't charge and listen at the same time.

  A few years ago I remember meeting Ken Ball at one of the Tokyo headphone festivals when he had announced the RX3-B balanced portable headphone amp. All the rage at the time, the amp was challenging some desktop amps when it came to driving headphones. However one of the nicest amps at the show was the original Continental hybrid tube/solid state amp. With a touch of warmth and a fair degree of effortlessness it was a popular amp.    As getting the tubes was troublesome, the amp was available only periodically. As time went on, it saw changes and improvements to the design and is now in its 5th iteration. Unlike previous versions it is considerably smaller, holding...
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The APEX HiFi Sangaku delivers a high-end tube sound in a small package.

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Pros: Well-made, excellent headphone driving ability. Great as a pre-amp for active speakers. Flexible inputs and outputs.

Cons: Tubes are noisy when the selector buttons are pressed. No balanced pre-amp option. Not quiet with IEMs.

Video review.   Big transformers. Bulging tubes. Heat radiating all around the orange glow. That's what we imagine when we think about tube amps. However Pete Millet, long known for his amplifier designs joined us at the 2016 Autumn headphone festival in Tokyo and brought along with him his new and unique amp.   The Sangaku uses the Korg Nutube, essentially a modern re-design of a single-ended triode. To quote the Nutube site:   Quote: Nutube, similar to a conventional vacuum tube, has an anode grid filament structure, and operates exactly as a triode vacuum tube. Also similar to a vacuum tube, it creates the same characteristic rich overtones. By applying their...
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The Shozy Zero IEMs are inexpensive, yet well-made and deliver a high quality sound at a very low price.

Posted

Pros: Well made, good sound and overall balance that works with a variety of genres. A lack of harshness or distortion at moderate levels. Price.

Cons: Rubbery cable gets tangled easily and is a bit noisy. Not so great at louder volumes.

  Some time ago I received a package in the mail inside of which was a small bag with a pair of IEMs and a note to burn them in for 100 hours with orchestral music. The IEMs turned out to have come from Charles at Shozy (and Cozoy), the maker of the Alien DAP.  Very small with wood and metal housings and in-built cable (which uses high-quality wire according to Charles from Shozy) their only negative is the rubbery outer sheath of the cable which makes it tangle easily and transmits a bit of noise.   The first time I listened to them, knowing nothing about them, I was very pleasantly surprised at the good, and fairly evenly-balanced sound, and general lack of any...
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The Soundaware M1 Analog and Pro are very pleasant to listen with, but are let down by lack of battery life, power and high output impedance.

Posted

Pros: Great sound, button layout is intuitive, digital coax mode makes for a great transport.

Cons: Lower power, short battery life, high output impedance, compromised UI.

Video review (M1 Analog with beta firmware).   Danny from DITA Audio tipped me off that I should check out Soundaware's products so I contacted them and they provided me with a D100PRO music server and the M1 Esther "Analog" to test initially, the M1 Pro arriving sometime later as part of the review tour.   From the outside, the M1 looks fairly unremarkable, with something of "yet another Chinese DAP" aesthetic. While I didn't appreciate the design visually, the curved layout of the buttons came to be handy when pressing them in a pocket or in the dark. I hope, however, that they'll follow FiiO's lead with the X5II and update the design to make it look more modern.  ...
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The Sennheiser HD800 S brings a more pleasant sound signature in exchange for technical accuracy.

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Pros: Profoundly large soundstage. Accurate imaging. Fantastic comfort. Light weight. Easy to drive.

Cons: Stock cable is expensive and, IMO, degrades the sound. Ear pad and head pad materials are not very robust.

  As the first truly new high-end dynamic-driver headphones to hit the market in quite a few years, when Sennheiser's HD800 was introduced at CES on the 8th of January 2009, they caused a massive storm. Since the last truly high-end pair of dynamic driver headphones at this level had been, arguably, Sony's R10s (the Qualia 010 is another matter altogether) and the only equally expensive headphones available at the time were Ultrasone's Edition 9s, it became something of a  re-awakening of the high-end headphone market, which subsequently exploded with Audeze and HiFiMan's planar headphones.   Not only is the design technically fantastic, but the large cups and...
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The Campfire Audio Andromedas are spacious and detailed-sounding IEMs.

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Pros: Detailed, cohesive and spacious sound. High-quality litz cable included. Well made. Nice case included.

Cons: Some people may not like the memory wire and Shure-style connector. The unusual shape may not be comfortable for everyone.

Ken Ball from ALO Audio is a big fan of the outdoors. If you see an image of nature on the ALO Audio, and now Campfire Audio web site, it will have been one he took himself. So for his new venture into in-ear monitors it was only appropriate that they be named after features of the night sky.    While I did have a listen to his first three models of IEM at a previous Tokyo headphone festival, I wasn't so enamoured by the brightness of the Jupiters, which seemed too strong for my tastes. It wasn't until this year, when I heard the Andromedas for the first time, that I was really moved by the sound. I was moved not so much because of any particular feature of the sound, but...
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The Ausdom ANC7, while sounding OK and being comfortable, don't do a good job at noise cancellation.

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Pros: Light and comfortable. Sound quality is OK.

Cons: Almost no passive noise isolation. Noise cancellation barely works at all.

  I was contacted by Ausdom to ask if I was interested in reviewing their ANC7 wireless Bluetooth headphones. I'd been asked a few times to review these headphones, especially after I reviewed the Sony h.ear model, so the timing couldn't have been better     Like the M05s, the AN7s were initially attractive out of the box -- lightweight and seemingly fairly well-built with most of the outside surfaces having a rubberised texture. This texture should last a few years before it deteriorates which I think is OK on a pair of headphones at this price. The controls are fairly straight-forward, the buttons have bumps on them making it easy to feel for the control you want....
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The Meze 11 Neo IEMs are an incredible bargain, with sound quality normally found in much more expensive models.

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Pros: Well made with metal parts and nice cable. Excellent sound with fantastic bass and crisp treble. Tip rolling works well. Comply tips included.

Cons: Somewhat upper-mid forward with stock tips. Smartphone-only version. No "choker".

  When Anthony Meze revealed the 99 Classic full-sized headphones, he surprised everyone with their unique design and good sound. Not content to stop there, he turned his attention to IEMs, the result of which is the 11 series and the latest metal "Neo" version. Like the 99s, he sought both a classy design and good sound, and from my initial impressions has managed to pull of both. Out of the box they are elegant, from the aluminium earpieces, splitter and plug, to the translucent cable through which you can see the braided shield of the high-quality cable.   A small, round pouch is included in the box, along with Comply isolating foam tips and a cable clip. ...
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Head-Fi.org › Currawong › Reviews by Currawong