Collecting music, music listening, playing with amps, modding headphones.
Current Headphones: (I only like closed or semi-closed headphones, I'm weird I know :) I may update these impressions periodically as I listen to the headphones more.
♦MrSpeakers Aeon Flow Open- [Open, Fun, Musical cans] This headphone is my newest addition, and being the only open headphone I own, it is the 'odd man out'. My impressions of it are anything but odd, however.
This headphone is super attractive and looks futuristic. It has excellent comfort and in my case is glasses-friendly. The included tuning filters are a great touch; I found the headphone to sound its best with no filters due to its excellent resolution, but the black foam mellows things just enough to mimic the effect of a tube amp..delightful.
The best way to describe how this Aeon Open sounds is extremely forgiving and musical.
This is the most pleasant headphone I've heard yet; powerful bass, best midrange I've ever heard, natural and gentle highs, lovely!
My other current headphones (and previously owned ones) have some distracting brightness in varying degrees in comparison. I liken it to a portrait where each instrument or sound has varying amounts of 'sheen' or metallic edges and the brighter the visual sheen, the brighter the sound..strange analogy, but bear with me.
Whenever I cue up a song on the Aeon Open, the portrait of the music has no blinding glare or distracting sheen.
Instead, there is a warm, liquid and realistic character; its as if every song is presented in a warm glow and with none of the 'edge' and even the harshest of songs are quite digestible to the ears. This non-fatiguing quality is most apparent when playing aggressive metal and other poorly mastered music that can bombard you with treble at times; you can really hone in on the music itself and focus on the instruments in a song.
Its not mushy, either; decent speed and bass impact helps hold the musical portrait together. Speaking of impact: Drums come through very well and drum heavy tracks are quite satisfying to experience on the Aeon Open.
Soundstage is the only weak link, imo. Everything sounds quite close and spatial cues are not as well defined as my other headphones, but because the other sound related attributes (imaging, separation, tonality) are so well balanced and executed, the soundstage is a rather small gripe, imo.
As for genre pairing it is superb for hard rock, metal and any genre containing stringed instruments. Both male and female vocals excel as well. I say this because the forwardness of the midrange of this headphone gives you the 'feel' of the music rather than 'just hearing it'.
In relation, the headphone itself has very low distortion, and as a result, you can crank the volume with little to no break up or harshness - likely a benefit of the open-back design.
With the hardware bass eq (3 dot setting) on my ifi iCan SE, the Aeon Open becomes a formidable match for E.D.M, Trap, Hip Hop, Dub-step (basically, any bass and sub-bass heavy stuff). Even without the boost, the bass body and low-end sub-bass rumble closely resembles a closed headphone - this is a major plus in my book and is my favorite attribute of the Aeon Open besides the midrange.
Another thing I love about the aeon is its relatively easy to drive. My ifi iCan SE has 3 gain settings, it gets them loud on low gain at 12 o'clock.
Isolation is interesting. AFO provides a moderate deadening of in/out sound leak. At low listening volume, it cancels out background noise a decent amount. External leak is controlled quite well and keeps things private in all but the quietest of environments, but won't prevent you from hearing a phone ring or knock on the door at home. I love this design!
I could go on and on, but for now, I will state that the Open Aeon is a headphone to be heard. It exceeded my expectations and has a permanent place in my collection.
I would even go far as to say that in years time, this headphone will likely have a large following among audiophiles for its total-package quality as well as its powerful, analog sound.
♦T50RP MK3 Mayflower-V1- [Midrange and Neutral cans] Even with owning the warm sounding Ori and relentlessly detailed Alpha Prime, I still use these in rotation for their neutrality. A happy middle ground headphone. They are also cheap, so I am not afraid of damaging them or taking them outdoors with a portable amp.
Their sound consists of hammer-like bass that strikes a nice balance of precision and impact. The midrange is upfront and clear as a bell, treble is neutral with a touch of excitement. The overall presentation is an in-your-face style. Their only fault is a lack of bass extension, but most of my listening does not utilize that spectrum of sound.
This headphone is the lightest of the three and very comfortable. It has the most accurate tonality of the three as well, everything just sounds right! Like an HD600 with a touch more speed and bass. They are so..forward in their presentation, but in a way that I truly enjoy.
The Mayflower mod does darken the headphone a bit, relative to the stock mk3. As a consequence the impression of detail is not nearly as impressive as something like the TH900 or Alpha Prime, but detail-wise they still beat most other headphones due to their decent speed in rendering music.
They are a potential endgame headphone for some people, but you need to feed it power...POWER. You need at least a Magni 2 Uber to power it, nothing less (particularly for quietly mastered tracks). For what they can do at their price, they render cost = performance as irrelevant.
If you own the stock MK3, you NEED to mod them. So much potential to be found.
♦Alpha Prime - [Detailed and Analytical cans] When I feel like taking a song apart or combing through every detail, the Alpha Prime is my go-to headphone. Not only are these my favorite MrSpeakers headphone, they are my #1 top pick for sound quality.
Having tried every single other closed MrSpeakers headphone, I feel the Alpha Prime suits my musical preferences perfectly.
Compared to the Ori and MFV1 they have the coldest and least accurate midrange tonality, but the way they present music as a whole cannot be denied..you get every little detail.
My original set of alpha primes had the most prominent sub-bass I have ever heard in a headphone without EQ. Initially, my second set had a definite drop in sub-bass level..difference in tuning? After 50+ hours of burn in and frequent listening and comparing to my other headphones, they have improved drastically to the point of making me a true believer in burn-in.
The Ori takes the crown for bass and sub-bass after a recent comparison, particularly in impact and presence. However, I found that while the Ori's bass is ever present and involving, the Prime's bass is chameleon-like; super -transparent and well integrated into any recording.
The mid-bass sounds perfectly balanced to my ears; its just low enough in level to keep rhythm and bass guitars ringing clear, but without affecting the superb quality of percussion instruments.
The entire midrange is smooth and neither forward or recessed, though at times they seem to veil vocals a bit on some songs (this is the only flaw I can detect on the Prime). The treble is the most detailed and airy compared to the Ori and MFV1 but its never sibilant to me.
The Prime has exceptional imaging and incredible soundstage. The soundstage is the one thing that sets it apart from any other headphone I have ever heard; it has a unique spherical quality that surrounds you with music and the performing instruments. Everything has its own space with superb separation.
The Prime also has the best imaging I've ever heard in any closed headphone (and anything on this list), it is VERY specific with well recorded tracks.
These are my primary can for metal music and they have among the best detail delivery of anything on this list. The Primes have the unique ability to let you analyze music and enjoy the heck out of it all the same, and that is why they are the endgame headphone for me, no doubt. I sold them once before, but am taking ownership of a new set...they are quite special.
If the Mad Dog Pro and Alpha Dog had a baby this would be it. They are also slightly easier to drive than any other T50 I have tried, modded or stock.
One funny story regarding isolation: My girlfriend once was listening to music right next to me with the Primes. It was being powered by the Schiit Fulla 1 and she had the volume knob turned VERY loud..like 70%-80% volume...louder than I would ever listen. Regardless, I had to get within 6 inches of the ear cups to hear the sound leak. The Prime has superb isolation..at least as good as the Aeon.
♦ZMF Ori Bocote - [Laid back and Bass cans] [Sold on 9/20/18] This is a great headphone for taking a 'treble break' and it works very well for music that is thin and needs added warmth. I would liken the Ori as similar to using a tube amp. They have a very 'tube-like' sound.
Besides the Alpha Prime, these are top-level in the bass department. The sheer impact these can put out beats anything I've heard, and they can really liven up certain recordings.
This headphone straddles the fine line between a bass head headphone and a neutral headphone. About as warm as a sound signature can be without imparting muddiness, though the warmth can negatively (but very rarely) affect a song and make it sound too thick.
On the contrary, there are many times that I play a song through the Ori and think 'direct hit' and that 'No other headphone can make this song sound THIS good!' It is a real treat to rediscover forgotten music when this happens! Just like the way tubes can gel with and 'fix' certain music tracks and make them more enjoyable, the Ori is all the same.
It is also spacious and wide enough in stage to hold some upper-frequency detail. Its not going to impress a treble head, but the treble detail is adequate...like a less-glossy HD600 in treble response.
Speaking of soundstage, the Ori is a bit more direct with its presentation (again, comparing to the precise and holographic alpha prime). Everything sounds closer and less spacious, but because of the immense bass and being able to crank the volume high with minimum distortion, I feel the Ori holds its own in soundstage ability. Its a tough call, but both headphones seem to have roughly equal width.
The midrange is quite transparent and neutral to my ears, despite its warmth. I rank the midrange a notch above the alpha prime for its superior vocal presence
The only con that I can identify with the Ori is that it seems a tiny bit sluggish on some faster songs. This is due to the sheer warmth of its signature. However, when you're having this much fun listening to music, it is irrelevant.
The Ori projects a pure wall of sound that is super powerful and enveloping, and never muddy to boot. It is also quite possibly the least sibilant headphone I've ever heard (next to A.P. and HD600).
On an aside, I must mention the Ori is the hardest to drive headphone in my collection. On quiet songs, I find myself using the high gain 24db setting on the iCan just to get loud enough.
I also tried a set of the ZMF Cowhide pads on the Ori, and while they took a bit to settle in (they are quite stiff), I found I preferred them overall for sound quality. The sound became a lot smoother with greater impression of details vs the Ori pads. Maybe the increased soundstage is the culprit here.
It is odd because I have seen in other reviews (and on ZMF's product page) that the Cowhide pads are supposed to be darker and more bass focused, but for me that was not the outcome. However, I enjoy the sound more than I do with the stock Ori pads.
Even though I favor the technical prowess and clarity of the Alpha Prime over the Ori, I still adore the Ori for its craftmanship, great looks and its unique sound.
Overall ranking of the above (this is for personal reference, your results may vary based on amp and music preference):
Comfort (None of these are uncomfortable): AFO > AP > MFV1 = Ori
Distortion(linearity at high volume):
AFO > Ori > AP > MFV1
Sub-bass quality: AP > AFO >/= Ori > MFV1
Sub-bass amount: Ori > AP > AFO > MFV1
Mid-bass quality: AFO > AP > Ori >/= MFV1
Mid-bass amount: AFO > MFV1 > Ori > AP
Bass quality overall: AFO >/= AP > Ori > MFV1
Mids quality/texture: AFO > MFV1 > Ori > AP
Mids presence: AFO = MFV1 > Ori > AP
Lower-Treble presence: MFV1 > AP > Ori > AFO
Upper-Treble detail: AP > MFV1 > AFO > Ori
Treble pain (fatigue; most to least): MFV1 > AP > Ori > AFO
Imaging: AP > AFO > MFV1 >/= Ori
Soundstage: AP > Ori > MFV1 = AFO
Clarity: MFV1 > AP > AFO > Ori
Speed: AP = AFO > MFV1 > Ori
Fun factor: AFO > Ori > AP > MFV1
Current favorite overall: AFO >/= AP > Ori > MFV1
Used to own and description of each:
♦Aiwa Shellz - Purchased in 2001, my first actual headphone(of the ones I can remember). I had a version of these with the ordinary vertical headband (a'la Koss KPH7). They blew my mind. I was on a musical pursuit ever since. I used them for countless hours until channel failure. It was a sad day when they died; being in high school and usually broke kept me from replacing them.
♦MDR-G57 Street - Still own them, actually, but only use them to test for amp hiss and other testing. They're fairly good.
♦MDR-V150 - Cheap fun, used them until they broke. Taped them back together until they broke again. Then I used epoxy to no success. I did not want to let them go. Poor things :[
♦RP-HTX7 - Best $30 I ever spent on a headphone. If I was poor, they would be my daily driver. I sold them to a co-worker and now he's become an audio junkie as well :)
♦ATH-M30 - Pleasant and warm but muffled and uncomfortable..just average.
♦MDR-V6 - My audio 'gateway drug', these changed my life. These turned my audio world from a hobby to an obsession. They have always been special to me and still are. Euphonic and sharp. After the pads fell apart I sold them :[
♦ATH-M50x - Great first impression, bass for days. Then after a while the narrow stage, boring/flat midrange and comfort really got to me. HAD to sell them.
Actually had my girlfriend listen to them back when I first got them. She immediately said: ''Oh my god, you can hear everything!''
So, yes, they are impressively detailed, but in an uncomfortable way (to my ears).
♦Shure SRH840 - Think M50x but with no glaring negatives in sound, though they may be a touch bright for some people. Comfort is just average, but better pads than M50X at least. Neutral. Moved onto better things eventually.
♦Nad HP50 - Best bass on this list (except the V6 and the planars). WHY do these have to have such small pads and weird build?! The sound is...damn good. If NAD/PSB could make another version of this headphone with bigger/comfortable pads and a more 'stock headphone' build quality, I would be all over it. You can always hope and dream :[
♦HD598 - Amazing overall quality, but I like bass. Wanted to keep these so bad :[
♦HD600 - Owned these longer than any other headphone, LOVED them (especially with tube amps). They can bring out emotions (much like the V6). The only open-back headphone I truly liked. Unfortunately, after I moved on to planar headphones, they were done. Long live HD600.
♦Mad Dog Pro - I am biased a bit towards MrSpeakers headphones. These are fun. You want to turn them up loud, I mean LOUD (few other headphones are blessed with this trait). They never hurt and are comfortable like none other. I upgraded them to Alpha Dogs. Personally, I feel they provide the best bang for buck in the MrSpeakers lineup.
♦Alpha Dog - Neutral with sub-bass. Great all around traits. Among the most neutral, but maybe too neutral for me. I'm pretty sure a powerful hybrid tube amp would work quite well with them. Upgraded them to Alpha Primes.
♦Ether C Flow - I had a love/hate relationship with these headphones. They are very much like the Alpha Dogs; excellent extension of sound from bass to treble, but also like the Alpha Dogs nothing really jumped out at me. Their soundstage is huge but strictly wide; not very tall or containing much depth. Due to this, a lack of presence was obvious and a deal breaker for me.
I don't want to call them bland or boring because I don't think my Ifi iCan SE amp was quite the right match for them. A powerful tube amp and/or running them on a balanced amp would probably do them the most justice. When some people are calling them the best closed headphone ever, and others are calling them painfully boring, its highly possible that Amp / DAC / Cables / Source are at play more than just individual impressions.
♦Fostex TH900 MK2 - Had a great time with these phones. They are super-detailed (among the most detailed I've heard yet). They have an unmatched combination of high-speed, superb bass response and articulate treble. High resolution is a good description.
They are somewhat bright, however. My occasional upgrade-itis kicked in recently and I could not give up my Ori for its easygoing nature or my Mayflower-V1 due to its superb tonality.
♦MrSpeakers Aeon Closed- These are the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn, also the most isolating I have experienced. They make perfect sense as a portable headphone in the MrSpeakers line. I also found them very attractive and with excellent build quality.
Soundwise they are most like the Alpha Dog, staying true to the MrSpeakers house sound. Add to it some amazing high frequency detail; these are no doubt the most detailed headphones I've ever heard. Everything from bass to treble is incredibly detailed and everything plays so fast! Drums are spot-on.
I ultimately returned them as they are just a bit too bright for me (I like a slightly darker sound), but I wouldn't call that a bad thing because they have such a clean and lively sound. Very wide and spacious soundstage as well, suprised me. They are a definite A+ headphone in every respect, but in the end I prefer the Alpha Prime by a nose. These headphones may still be a future purpose for me, but others will have to be sold first.
Headphones I have heard:
-Sennheiser Momentum V1
Headphone Amp Inventory:
●Fulla 2 - This is my new workhorse DAC after my Modi 2 Uber stopped being recognized by Windows 10. When used as DAC only, it has 2 main benefits: Line-level output (no double amping) and no drivers are required. The Fulla 2 is great for simplicity's sake; it auto switches from Headphone to DAC when you plug in/unplug your headphones.
Actual Line-out DAC-only performance is excellent; it is certainly as clean and transparent as my former Modi2U DAC, it certainly beats using my Origen+'s pre-out because you avoid double-amping your signal.
Early Fulla 2's had some issues like crooked volume knobs and grounding issues. My unit has no build or sound issues, schiit has allegedly improved their QC since the rocky product launch.
I tested the amp section briefly with my AFO. The volume knob has a nice wide swath of adjustment (7 to 5 o'clock). The volume change is extremely gradual from zero volume and gets loud at around 12 o'clock. I can take it to 3 o'clock easily with my Alpha Prime (Prime is much harder to drive than AFO). The amp section is equivalent to my Micca Origen+ on Low Gain and is only slightly more powerful than my Fulla 1, but it is nice and clean.
●Ifi iCan SE - 4 watts, class A, compact, low power usage, superb gain implementation settings, hardware e.q. switches...just amazing. This is my primary desk amp for good reason.
It has 3 gain settings: low (0db), medium (+12db) and high (+24db).
In particular, the high gain setting (+24db) turns it into a monster which is great ONLY if you need to power inefficient planar magnetic headphones (specifically on quietly mastered tracks that need extra volume).
●Micca Origen+ - Convenient all-in-one that does nothing wrong. If you need an entry level amp/dac combo, this is the one. It can run off the same micro usb cable as most phones do and its portability is a huge positive. The volume knob is also amazing; it feels perfect in operation, but also has a large and easily visible indicator, something that most other amps lack..
On high gain it will power anything to listenable levels, though the Magni 2 Uber and Ifi amp win out very slightly in the power department with inefficient headphones. It is no slouch in the power department, but when you need to listen to something that is quietly mastered, the wall-powered likes of the M2U and iCan SE have it beat. Overall, the actual product is flawless, but it does have driver issues with windows 10.
Despite the strange driver issue, it can be remedied by restarting your PC and holding Shift until the special boot menu appears, then you reboot in mode ''(7) Unsigned Driver Mode''. I had to do this when the recent Win10 update (6/13/2018) rendered my Modi2U unreadable by any of my laptop's USB ports. It took multiple attempts of uninstalling the VIA Device driver from the Devices Menu and attempting to install the Origen+ 1.2.5 drivers, but it does work, and even remains installed after restarting the PC and DAC itself..fingers crossed for now.
The Origen+ functions excellent as a DAC only, just be sure to max the volume knob (the DAC output is pre-out only) and use the low gain -10db setting for the best linearity.
●Fulla 1 - Powerful little Dac/Amp. I still own it, but don't currently use. It puts decent power into any headphone I have tried including Fostex Planars, T50 MK3 included. The Origen+ on high gain beats it slightly in the volume department, when using inefficient headphones, but the fulla 1 has no driver issues like the Origen+ does.
●E10K - My first ever amp/dac upgrade. Great cheap and convenient solution, but there are better.
●E11K - Powerful, I used it for a while with my E10K as DAC. I eventually moved onto my current DAC/AMP combo (Origen+).
●Magni 2 Uber - My first 'real' desktop amp. It does the job, providing equal drive to headphones as the iCan SE. I get similar performance in Low gain and High gain as I do with the Ifi in low (0db) and medium (+12db) mode. If you don't need the ludicrous +24db mode to power your headphones, the M2U is a GREAT choice.
●Valhalla 2 - HD600 partner in crime, sold for Lyr 2 after moving onto Planar headphones.
●Lyr 2 - It was intended to be my endgame amplifier, got it with LISST 'tubes'. I sold it for the Ifi iCan SE. This is only due to the iCan being smaller in size for more desk space and it doesn't run as hot as the Lyr 2.
●Acer E15 Laptop -> Fulla 2, Micca Origen+
●Modi 2 Uber: This was my desktop DAC for 3 years, it worked great, no complaints at all. I used it until the 06/13/2018 Windows 10 update rendered it unreadable by my laptop. I tried every possible thing: Multiple restarts, reinstall drivers both new and old, disabled usb power management, plugged it into a powered usb hub. Has never worked right ever since the Win.10 update :( Seems like a hardware issue, good riddance.
Other Audio Equipment:
Vizio 28'' sound bar
Music that is engaging and exciting..lots of stuff. Metal, industrial, and some EDM and/or electronica. Whatever sounds good to me.
I'm just a guy that loves music; headphones are my passion and escape.