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Music; playing, listening
Empire Ears ESR - After much looking for a Noble Katana, I went with the EE ESR. At first I was a little underwhelmed but over time these have grown on me. They are very natural sounding and I think that "underwhelming" quality is actually a good trait as they don't try to grab you with "parlour trick" tuning. Every time I leave them for a few days or a week and get back to them I'm really impressed at how good they sound across the freq. spectrum. The longer I have them the less I feel the interest in getting something else except for perhaps a Zeus down the road. I did find though that the ESR sounds a lot better with more power. I am amping my AK300 through the Cayin C5 with the plan to get a Mojo in the future.
Noble Audio Savant... Not perfect by any means but just a more enjoyable presentation to me than the Andromeda. Even though the Andromedas are more accurate and have better detail and realism in actual sounds, the whole layout of the soundfield is more "real" to me in the Savants. I think it reminds me of listening to speakers. Hopefully I'll get a Katana soon and also hopefully the presentation will be the same and everything will be better.
BGVP DMG - Interesting as my first foray into iems with tunable nozzles. In the end I prefer the stock middle nozzle. Overall a very pleasing iem with nice detail and good bass with the typical soundstage from slightly recessed mids. Better dynamics and detail than the IT01's.
Previously owned (and why I sold them)
IBasso IT-01 replacing the Shure SE-215 BT. - for work. I'll keep the Shures around but the IT-01s are just better sounding in everyway. Supplanted by the BGVP DMG
Campfire Audio Andromeda... Couldn't resist trying these and they are just so nice.
Not the greatest impact in the bass and coming from the HE560s that rumble is gone unfortunately but everything else just sounds so right. They really show that mid dip in the Jupiter making them seem like there's a spherical hole right in the middle of the music. That nagging feeling of something slightly off with the Jupiter is fixed in the Andromeda.. Nice!
**sold because of all things, the Noble Savant. I just prefer the presentation of the Savant over the Andromeda even though the Andromeda is technically better in every way. I just find that the Savant's imaging and soundstaging are done better for my taste, which is like speakers. Even though the Andromeda had lots of detail, the midrange was too in my face after listening to the Savants.
Campfire Orion - take 2... Got them in again and they do sound really nice but just get overwhelmed easily. They are remarkably similar to the Andromeda in tonality but can't hold a candle to them in ability. It's weird though, it feels like I'm listening to the Andromeda but something is kinda muffled. Again with presentation. I would never prefer these to the Savants except maybe listening to Eva Cassidy on the Songbird album..
Campfire Audio Jupiter.. I shouldn't have studied the freq. chart compared to the Andromeda... ha.ha... They sound really good but there's an interesting dip where the Novas have a slight rise and I can hear the difference in some instruments. Overall a very good sounding iem and highlight the flaws of the HE560 such that I am going to sell them. Andromeda killed these...
HE-560.. well I got them again. At the close out prices, these are a steal. Upgrade the cable to a Norne cable (draug3) and FocusA pads with the inner liner remove and these are almost as resolving as Stax.. Just not quite the same staging but I've gotten used to the planar presentation. I think I'll be living with these for a good while. Decided to simplify and sold everything including these.
Campfire Audio Nova... Not sure if they will stay now that I have the Jupiter but engaging in many ways. Definitely not perfect though... The Jupiter kinda killed these. I think I might try Orions for my out and about instead.
HE- Edition X V2 - These are deceptively good. Coming from the he560, the rolled off treble takes some getting used to but the scale and accuracy of the soundstage is addictive. Once I got used to the presentation, the detail is clearly better. In the end though, they are expensive for the constant awareness of the upper end roll off. Just not enough sparkle for me to keep them at this price.
DUNU DN-2000J - Very good sound. Definitely seal dependant as improper seal accentuates the highs. Replaced by Campfire Nova which are worse in some ways but more engaging in others. Since the arrival of the Campfire Jupiter though, these are not going to get used.
Campfire Orion - pretty good sound but the 2000J has better extension and better soundstage. If I didn't have the dunus I could be happy with the Orion but there's no point having both.
HE-400i - Not quite as clear and resolving as the 560's but from memory, they are quite similar. A little upper midrange peak that can bite as, like the original 400, I find myself upping the volume a little to get the extra detail. Still, for the price, this is an amazing headphone. Paired with a Oppo Ha-2 makes for a budget, very competent set-up. As someone said, planars are like stepping into a "room" of music and these are like that; you are right in the midst of it. I tend to prefer being back a few rows but that's because I came from a speaker set up and that has formed my sense of what's "right".. Makes me long for Stax again...
*** Sold ... just wanted to upgrade as I can clearly "hear" what's missing..
Focal Sphear - (10/17 - broke the jack... arrgh) My S2's died so I trusted the reviews and got these. At first I was disappointed. I found the bass loose and overwhelming. I kinda gave up and used them for a lot of podcasts and such but then when I went back to some music, they seemed to have balanced out. Some of the deep bass was truly remarkable. I really did get that sense that some reviewers mentioned about these sounding like full sized headphones. I am quite pleased with the sound. -- [b] but then after a month not using them, I found the bass bloated again... Don't think I would buy these again [/b]
Focal Listen.. Very good sounding headphone when positioned properly. I found the earcups too small and if they shifted, I lost all clarity and definition. They tended to close off my ears if I tilted my head forward at all. I just found the variable sound irritating so I returned them.
Denon D5000 for the second time but with J$ pads.. Very happy.. Going to get off this merry-go-round for a while..
Got a little bored with the sound so they are gone now.
Beyerdynamic T50P - Got them slightly damaged (now fixed) for $30!! - well.. not sure I'd want to pay much more for them but they are okay for the computer) - died! One channel crapped out and I couldn't seem to fix it..
Philips Fidelio S1 and S2 - Reviews suggest that the S2 is only a marginal improvement over the S1 but to my ears it's a significant improvement. The S1 is much smaller and more distant and has a much leaner sound. The S2 sounds closer and richer but with more depth and clarity. This makes them seem larger in scale as well.
- The cable came loose on the S2's at the earbud ends exposing bare wires. the sound basically started to disappear; very faint.. what a mess.. Kaput!
HiFiMan HE560- Well the long wait is over and I am very pleased. If you don't believe in burn-in, these will convince you otherwise as they become more and more refined and everything improves. Still early days but these are arguably the best in class. The HD800 may do some things better but I think I prefer these overall. Stax still reigns supreme in my experience but these are a very competent alternative. I am very happy with these.
Well.. sold now. Though very very nice, there is a trait to planar magnetics that seem to put the "main part" of the music right between the ears. Lots of nuance and depth and imaging but still the main drive is right in your face.
Back to the D5000s and there are many sacrifices but the overall sense of distance that reminds me of listening to speakers is preferred. Plus it freed up some cash..
Beyerdynamic T90 - pretty good headphone. Not the life and immediacy of the HE400 but good detail. I get what some people say about a politeness or non-engaging quality. Quite good otherwise.
NAD VISO HP50 - I don't know if they just needed a lot more hours to "burn in" but I didn't really get that "room-feel"
I guess they sounded good for the price but not better than the HE400 that can be got for about the same prices.
Ultimately I couldn't keep them as the were very uncomfortable. The pads were a little too small and squished my ears. The clamping force left me feeling like they were on long after I had taken them off. I guess my head is too big for these.
HiFiMan HE400 - In retrospect, a very good headphone and an absolute bargain at current prices. I was a little shocked at the intimacy of the presentation and that kind of put me off as I wanted something with a little more depth. As I got used to them though I like them more. I found the pleathers a little peaky and could be fatiguing as I turned the volume up a little to compensate for the recessed mids. The velours balanced that out but were a little less clear overall.
Fostex TH-600 - Well, just not good enough to keep around. I found the bass a little loose and muffled. Maybe not enough power. Reminds me of the clunky driver transition in Martin Logan speakers. Hard to fill the Stax shoes though..
Stax SR-007mk1 and SRM-717 - audio nirvana - some day when finances are better I will have these again.
Stax SR-507 and SRM-007tA The amp was the nice part of this equation and made the 404LEs sing. I just don't really like the SR-507s I guess. With the upgrade to the O2mk1 I decided to try the SR-717 amp as it's a better pairing. The tubes are nice but suffer in the low end and the lower power means higher volume setting and some loss of dynamics. (this is for the O2s though, not the Lambdas)
Stax SR-404LE and SRM-006t - Very nice sound. If I ever get the chance I will get the 404LE again.. gorgeous.
More intimate presentation than the SR-507. A little closer to the older lambda models but with much better extension.
Beyerdynamic DT880 600ohm. - Well they couldn't last. The Stax haunted me. Amazing for the price but ultimately like a T1 through a light mist. Matched very nicely with the Bottlehead Crack with upgraded tubes.
Sennheiser HD800 with Black Dragon Cable (the sheer scale is amazing. Detail galore except in one narrow lower midrange band where detail suffered. I would chalk it up to amping but other phones sound much better in that band but trail in the dust everywhere else. But maybe a little too audiophile. There's a tendency to listen to sounds over music sometimes)
Sennheiser HD600 with Norse Audio Cable (good but the lower midrange killed it. smeared and indistinct)
Beyerdynamic T1 (balanced) (overall a very good headphone that is very susceptible to the amp driving it.. I had them at the same time as the HD800. Thought I would still say that the HD800 is better, with the gear I had at the time the T1 were more musically satisfying in that they tended not to draw attention away from the music with their abilities. ...And for that annoying freq band problem I seem to hear in all Sennheisers.
LCD2 Rev.1 (owned too early on and poorly amped to judge fairly but the soundstage was unnatural, very left and right with the plane running right through my head)
Stax SR-507 (nice from an audiophile point of view but not as engaging as the Lambdas)
Stax Lambda Signature (beautiful spacious midrange. buttery smooth yet detailed - a nice taste of what makes Stax special - These are probably the only phones I could imagine justifying having 2 set ups with this one specifically for baroque chamber music and female vocals)
Denon D5000 (pre 2012 model and not worth the extra over the D2000) EDIT** I just had these at the same time and the D5000 is clearly a superior sounding headphone. The shortcomings of the D2000 aren't that apparent until you hear them side by side..
Denon D2000 (fun with good rumbling bass)
Symphones Magnum V3.5 (a little piercing in the treble and small scale but good sound)
AKG Q701 (loose in the bass but great mids to upper mids)
AKG K702.65 (Couldn't listen to them. Unnaturally forward mids and lacking clarity or coherence )
Shure SE535 (wonderful sound. But I would rather put the $300+ towards having one good set of over ear headphones than keep these)
Shure SE-315 - As much as I tried, (even adding a 75ohm inline resistor) I just couldn't enjoy these.
Headphone Amp Inventory:
Sold the amps and am just a DAP and Andromeda now.
Lake People G-109P -Fantastic amp!! So clean and clear. Really pairs well with the HE-560
Cayin C5 - seems a good amp. Highlights the faults of low-res mp3 but sounds good with the good stuff. An amazing deal for the $85 I spent!
Oppo HA-2 - I was so impressed until I got a A&K Jr. At first I thought the A&K was lean and distant, lacking in air but as I got used to it it made the HA-2 seem forward and a little shouty at times. Still, detail is quite good.
Violectric V181.. I found it very dry but with good authority.
ALO The Continental V2 - I've owned this twice, It doesn't mate that well with the HE560s but is very nice everything else I've tried it with.
JDS Labs O2
LG v30 - remarkable sounding
Astell & Kern AK300 - so nice but it made sense to go with the LG and ditch apple as well.
Astell & Kern Jr.
Ipod Classsic 160G
IMac with Audirvana
Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo - original version - now sold.
Teac DS-H01 (now sold)
Norne Audio Draug 3 - man I like Trevor's cords. They really increase detail and air.
Audioquest Golden Gate RCA to 3.5mm for AK300 to amp
Saving these for later:
Oyaide R0 Beryllium outlet-Audio Mijinko Sig. model
DCCA PowerWave 6 - some people don’t believe but power cable and a good outlet make a big difference.