Pros - Very resolving, neutral sound with a slight bass boost; large soundstage; super comfortable
Cons - Minor rolloff in highest treble
Recently, I purchased the very first "Starving Student" edition Paradox Slant. Since receiving it, I've spent a significant time listening to it and I'm starting to get a grasp of what this headphone really is.
LFF describes the Paradox Slant as a "classic" (my own words) Paradox with a slight bass boost and an enhanced soundstage. I haven't heard the original Paradox, but having read some impressions describing the bass as anemic and the soundstage as somewhat small or closed, I can only assume that LFF achieved his design goals with the Slant. I would never describe the bass as anemic and I wouldn't call the soundstage on the Slant small unless you listen exclusively to studio recordings which generally offer smaller soundstage on any headphone.
This headphone is neutral sounding overall, with a very slight emphasis on the bass response. This doesn't mean that the bass is boomy, muddy or excessive by any means. It's still very close to neutral. It simply offers a touch of extra "oomph" for listeners that prefer to feel the kick drum in addition to hearing it. The midrange is fantastic. It is neutral, clean and detailed. This headphone exhibits the now cliche planar midrange. It never sounds grainy. It is smooth and it just sounds right. The treble sounds like it may have a slight roll off toward the top, similar to other T50RP mods. However, the roll off is less dramatic and the treble sounds very close to neutral as a result. This is brighter than the Mad Dog 3.2, for instance. The treble sounds a bit more similar to the HD600, if memory serves me right. Unlike the MD, I've never listened to the Slant and felt a need to bump up the treble using EQ. It is never harsh, but it also doesn't ever sound like anything is missing.
The Slant is also very comfortable; I would say that it is the most comfortable one I've owned. The HD600 and MD 3.2 tie for a close second place, for different reasons. The HD600 is very light and has a comfortable headband but had a pretty strong clamping force for as long as I owned them and though the velour fabric was soft to the touch, the earpads were pretty firm and did little to alleviate the pressure that the headphones applied to my head. The MD 3.2, on the other hand, is heavier, but offers a similarly comfortable headband and some more cushion-y pads. The Slant is similar to a combination between the two. Despite being nearly as heavy as the MD, the Slant offers far better weight distribution using a suspension headband. It's a very simple solution to the weight problem; LFF hangs a thin, wide strip of soft leather between the risers on the headphone, using elastic. This allows the headphone to "float," for lack of a better way to describe it. It also uses angled leather pads, offering an experience close to MrSpeakers' Alpha Pads. The end result is a headphone that feels lighter than it really is, with a softer clamp than many other headphones.
Of course, for $700, you should expect a pretty high level of excellence. LFF delivers this and then some from the T50RP. The problem is that there are a lot of people who can't afford a $700 headphone, especially amongst the younger Head-Fi population. LFF goes the extra mile and solves this problem as well.
The "Starving Student" Paradox Slant is the same thing as the regular Paradox Slant, minus the fancier paint and cable. Externally, it looks like a plain T50RP with an additional leather suspension headband. It's not exactly pretty, nor does it look impressive, but it carries the sound of LFF's $700 headphone, at a significantly lower price: $525. This increases the value proposition by a great deal. Students, then, can get the Slant for only $30 more than the basic Paradox, offering them the ability to choose between LFF's original reference T50RP mod or the newer enhanced version without having to stretch their budgets too much if they want the Slant over the Paradox. This offer is currently only available to students. Anyone interested should contact LFF and ask for additional information.
Cons - Slightly small soundstage, no aftermarket cables avalible if you do not get different connectors into Paradox(other than V-Moda Cable)
LFF’s T50RP Paradox
LFF is a well-known modifier of numerous headphones and Head-Fi member. His mods for the T50RP feature both the Paradox T50RP mod and the Slant T50RP mod. He works with a partner who covers the paint side of the business; I cannot comment on the quality of his partner’s work, as I have not seen it in person.
First off: The packaging is very minimalistic: what arrives to you is a Paradox in the standard T50RP packaging. No accessories are present, only the T50RP and its cable. Speaking of the cable, it is the standard T50RP cable; it features a ¼ inch plug and is ten feet long. The input into the Paradox is a ⅛ inch jack. There are no microphonics to speak of when the cable rubs up against something. My one caveat with the cable is there is no way to buy an aftermarket cable, as there is not a plug to be found that can be inserted into the ⅛ plug featured on the stock T50RP. It is a very small hole, and no right angle plugs have been found to fit. Now, you cannot open up the headphones either, to install a mini 4-pin XLR, or something of that nature: The headphones are hermetically sealed.
Now for comfort: Comfort, to me, is one of the most important parts of any headphone. The pads LFF used with the Paradox are the Brainwavz HM5 ones. They’re extremely comfortable and allow for extended listening sessions. A comfort strap is also included, which is incredibly comfortable, and. I find it superior to the comfort strap on the Mad Dogs by MrSpeakers. Utilizing the leather pads, the isolation is fairly good with music playing, but without music playing, you're able to hear all things going on around you. But who wears headphones without listening to music?
The aesthetics of the headphone is the stock Fostex T50RP look. I am not a big fan, but this part of the headphone is up to personal taste. Furthermore, it feels very durable; I couldn’t see this headphone breaking anytime soon. Nothing creaks while moving it on and off your head: it feels solid.
To start off with the sound: I am going to speak of soundstage first and then imaging. Soundstage on this headphone is a bit cramped, and does not sound like an open headphone. The Paradox is quite airy though. Also, the imaging is fantastic. Compared to the Alpha Dogs by MrSpeakers, the AD’s beat the Paradox in terms of soundstage and sense of air.
These headphones are extremely natural, portraying the music perfectly. The low-end you hear is detailed, tight, and punchy. The bass on the song, “Limit To Your Love” by James Blake, is deep, but doesn’t attract too much attention to itself. The Paradox is a neutral headphone, and the bass isn’t center stage, the mids are. The mids are articulate and sweet. Bob Dylan’s voice on, “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” is produced beautifully, with no sibilance to be found. They’re very transparent, allowing the music to take center stage with very little coloration to be found.
Onto the highs: They take back seat to the mids, allowing them to do their magic; not to say they aren’t amazing though, which they are. Highs on the Paradox are light, airy, and detailed. The vocals on the song “Sylvia” by the Antlers are perfectly splendid. They are filled with emotion, and the Paradox conveyed just that.
These headphones put a new spin on the word natural and set a new bar. I have never heard such a headphone that just threw itself out of the way, and allowed the music to do all the work, applying no coloration. They are an absolute joy to listen to, a very musical headphone.