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Reviews by: Currawong

RHA's T20 are a robust and entertaining pair of IEMs.

Posted

Pros: Very sturdily made. No micro-phonics. Excellent packaging. Switchable nozzles with different tuning. Good sound with fantastic bass.

Cons: Plug sticks out quite far. Cable is very chunky. Getting a good seal can be troublesome. Not the most refined or detailed sound.

  At the 2015 Spring Tokyo Fujiya Avic Headphone Festival I had the pleasure of meeting Lindsey from Reid Heath Acoustics and talking to her about their new T20i IEMs. Lindsey was insistent that I try the new models and I almost forgot with the overwhelming number of products I was busy trying and photographing. On a Sunday afternoon at the end of the show is the hardest time to impress me after all that has been seen and heard, but the T20is didn’t disappoint, with some very punchy bass that I felt needed further investigation, so I agree with Lindsey to review a pair.   The T20 use a very interesting and unique driver. Where a normal dynamic driver has one voice coil, the...
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The Sony h.ear on wireless headphones deliver outstanding audio quality for the money, despite being noise-cancelling.

Posted

Pros: Long battery life, excellent sound quality, portable case, noise cancelling, ease of use, good comfort, wide sound-stage.

Cons: Some background sounds can still be heard. Recessed 3.5mm socket only works with supplied cable. Ear-pad replaceability not clear.

  It's always a pleasure to meet Nao Tsunoda of Sony at the Tokyo festivals as there is plenty of interesting technology being developed and on display. At first when I saw a row of colourful "h.ear on Wireless" MDR-100ABN headphones it didn't bring up my interest (a range of colours is usually strike 1 for good sound quality) being told that they were Bluetooth (strike 2), and noise cancelling (strike 3!) didn't encourage me any more. However Nao did want me to try the new high-res LDAC Bluetooth transmission, which can send 96k-quality audio from one of their Sony NW-A25 Walkmans. So I got out a micro SD card and plugged it in, put them on to have that weird shell-cupping...
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The Brainwavz Hooka gives your headphones a good time hanging from your desk.

Posted

Pros: All-metal design is very sturdy. Attaches using a large pad of strong 3M VHB tape. Deep pad allows plenty of room. Hooked end prevents slipping.

Cons: None so far.

The unfortunately-named Brainwavz Hooka was offered to me via email from Brainwavz. I didn't realise you could buy a Hooka online, but now you can on Amazon, for only $15.95.    The Hooka is designed to stick onto, say, the side of your desk, and unlike the Truss and Hengja, offers a deeper metal plate for your headphones to rest on. This means that a full-sized pair of headphones can hang without bumping the surface the Hooka is attached to. It also has an upturned hook at the end, good for catching your headphones from falling, and thankfully you wont catch anything else from it, except maybe your pants, if it is protruding from your desk.   The Hooka uses 3M's VHB...
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The Brainwavz Truss is handy if you want to hang two pairs of headphones under a desk, but needs to be wider so they don't bump.

Posted

Pros: All metal design makes the hanger very solid. Can hang two pairs of headphones or one pair with cable.

Cons: Narrow design results in headphones banging together, unless they are both Grados or similarly small.

Brainwavz sent me this hanger along with two others and to what seems to be other people as well.     Like their other hangers, the Truss is an all-metal design, making it nice and sturdy. It attaches using some serious 3M VHB tape. This is not the kind of thing you want to stick on the forehead of your passed-out friend in a moment of drunken inspiration, as having them wake up with a double-sided headphone hanger would be hilarious for all of a couple of minutes until someone had to get the thing off.     However, such serious tape is needed to have have the headphones accidentally drop on your foot because the tape gave way. Similarly, the Truss is hooked...
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The Brainwavz Hengja is a basically decent all-metal desk-clamp headphone hanger.

Posted

Pros: Sturdy, all metal design that can be adjusted for a vertical or horizontal clamp. Doesn't take up much room.

Cons: Hanging section could be a bit longer. Needs some form of non-slip material on top for best results.

Like everyone else, I was sent the hanger by Brainwavz to review.      It's a very straight-forward product: It clamps to your desk or shelf in a horizontal or vertical position, which can be changed by undoing the main screw and clamps using a common screw mechanism.    When mine arrived, I attempted to undo the main screw to change it to vertical orientation and found the screw was so tight that I had to use enough force to bend the included hex key, to the point that the plating started to fall off. That was on the only problem I had, as otherwise the hanger works as intended.     The hanger will clamp onto desks or shelves that are...
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The ALO Audio Rx is an excellent amp for driving all types of IEMs.

Posted

Pros: Seemingly transparent sound quality, light weight, free quality micro-USB cable.

Cons: No gain switch, not as small as some other alternatives.

  If I was to rate products by how easy they are to review, I’d pick amplifiers as an easy first, and headphones and IEMs last. While both have their complexities, with amplifiers those lie with the engineers and manufacturers, and it is fairly easy to determine to what degree the products goals have been met, whereas the complexities of headphones related to the listener, such as music tastes, how loud one listens, comfort and whatnot.   In that regard, the new Rx from Ken Ball at ALO Audio is on the dead easy end of the scale: Do you need an amp that drives IEMs well, especially high-end models with multiple balanced armatures? Do you not mind that it is not the...
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Soundaware's D100PRO transformed the sound quality of my DACs, but the software has serious flaws.

Posted

Pros: Transformed the sound quality of a Schiit Yggdrasil and Chord Hugo greater than more expensive components on hand.

Cons: Software playback is extremely limited, supporting streaming only from old versions of Windows and limited file types.

Danny from Dita Audio tipped me off that I should check out Soundaware and that they had some pretty clever technology. And so it was that Mary from Soundaware contacted me about sending me both  the M1 Esther DAP and the D100Pro music server for review.   Opening up the box revealed a fairly standard, but attractive aluminium device, unusually with three pointed aluminium feet underneath. Along with fairly comprehensive instructions that suggested that the best sound quality would be achieved after the front screen had switched off suggested a company familiar with audiophile nervousa of the type that wont relax until the basic tweaks are taken care of. As I'd had positive...
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The FiiO X5II is a good improvement in all areas over the original and brings it back into contention as a good, bargain DAP or digital transport.

Posted

Pros: Dual micro SD card slot storage, long battery life, including standby, neat design, good software features.

Cons: iPod like UI slow to navitate, poor playlist support, digital output needs a custom cable, no optical output, heavy, full-size HP drive not great.

Unboxing   Review   If you head into the headphone audio section of the major electronics retailers here in Japan, you can buy a veritable smorgasbord of Head-Fi’s most well-known brand-name products, from ALO Audio through to Ultrasone. However, the brand that got in there before all the others that didn’t make headphones was FiiO. While they started out making simple apps to add between your iPod and a pair of headphones, they have come all the way through to making full-blown Digital Audio Players (DAPs). Top of the range, at least until the up-coming X7 is released is the X5, which is now in its second iteration.    The X5 took the Head-Fi world by storm....
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The Schiit Audio Vali 2 is a killer bargain of an amp. Grab a nice tube off eBay and it will power high-end headphones like a champ.

Posted

Pros: Small, cheap, powers even HE1000s like it owns them and IEMs are also OK. Entertaining, slightly loose sound. Huge range of tubes can be rolled.

Cons: Stock tube is so-so. Pre-amp isn't great. Casing has sharp edges. Your GF/wife will steal it and you'll have to buy a second one.

  For a long time there has been a fascination with cheap tube amps on Head-Fi. For many years Little Dot and Darkvoice had the lead. The last small tube amp I reviewed was ALO Audio's now discontinued PanAm. It was a unique amp in that it had an optional 12V battery power supply which made it (trans)portable. It also had a 24/96 capable DAC built in and used very cheap tubes.   Like the Vali 2, it was a hybrid, that is a tube voltage gain stage with a solid state output. The PanAm was pretty good with high-impedance headphones but struggled a bit with low impedance and low sensitivity planars. Schiit Audio original Vali used sub-minature tubes originally intended for...
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Antonio Meze's 2 years of effort have resulted in a good-performing pair of headphones that look stylish and sound good.

Posted

Pros: Light-weight and comfortable with an easy fit. Sound quality covers most genres well. A good case and portable cables are included.

Cons: The cups don't fold, so they are bulky and not so portable. A bit of congestion in the sound. Ear pads are a little small. Cable noise.

A few years ago a company from Romania caught my attention with some wood headphones that had attracted a few members. They quickly spotted that they were a rebrand of some Chinese wood headphones and nothing much came from it. However in the intervening few years after that initial bad start, Antonio Meze has been hard at work on making a pair of well-designed, good sounding, and most of all, unique headphones. The result of his toil are the Meze 99 Classics. Suffice to say the new design is certainly eye-opening with dark wood cups, black steel arcs, black leather and touches of gold-colored metal that he has been careful not to overdo.      Antonio Meze sought to...
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Head-Fi.org › Currawong › Reviews by Currawong