Reviews by Armaegis


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: potential improvement for devices with limited or compromised output capabilities
Cons: for the most part does not offer improvement over sources with good output stages
I have a more comprehensive review posted here:

But in summary, the Cable+ is an active buffer held back by needing a good power source (better than the one supplied). Without one, you're not doing the sound any favours. With one, it's a bit of a tossup whether you'll find improvement or not, and at that point the setup is complex enough you might as well consider adding an active preamp to your chain.

The build quality itself is nice. Cable length is sufficient for most uses, although the supplied power cord needs to be longer.

In the world of audiophile cables, the pricing is not ridiculous and you do get the active element which has potential benefit with sources which have weak output stages. For the general schmuck though, I'd give this pass and spend funds on upgrading the rest of my equipment first.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: loads of power
many features to play with
Cons: features don't live up to the hype
I had the iFi Pro iCAN on loan for a few weeks and have assembled my notes below. They will remain mostly in point form, because no one wants to read an essay. I ran it through a fairly extensive gamut of different headphones and speakers.

Since there is a lot of "stream of consciousness" in these notes, it would be prudent to not examine any particular section by itself. At the very least, read the section immediately above it so you know where the relevant comparison is coming from.

Also be aware that in point form, my notes are very nitpickish. I do not dispense with pleasantries here, and my editing will be minimal. This is simply the style of my note-taking, so don't get your knickers in a knot if you disagree with something.

Main equipment used for evaluation:
Hifiman HE-6: well known as the most power hungry brute in the headphone world, and serves as my main reference can, low-ish impedance and stupid low sensitivity
Sennheiser HD650: my other reference can, and should be well known by most headphone users, high impedance and medium sensitivity
Sennheiser HD598: little brother of the HD650; horrible impedance curve
Nuforce HEM8: multi driver iem, low impedance high sensitivity
Fostex TH-x00 Purpleheart: closed, low impedance medium-high sensitivity
Bryston B60 - integrated speaker amp and my primary amp for the HE-6
Prism Lyra and Prism Callia - both pro level dac/amp, the latter being the "hifi" version with a more powerful amp
RME ADI-2 Pro - pro level dac/amp
iFi iCAN Pro - well d'uh
Stereoknight transformer based balanced preamp

Reviewer Bias:
- purist
- leans to preferring dry/clinical sounds
- snarky

Build Quality
- chassis overall very nice build quality; no complaints here
- casing is solid and feels good
- large rubbery pad on the bottom isolates it from the desk
- good feel to the volume knob
- very slight play to all knobs/switches, but nothing unreasonable
- gets warm but not hot; avoid stacking though, especially if it's a component underneath that needs to breathe since the rubber pad will insulate
- remote: cheap plastic thing, it works most of the time but doesn't seem to detect sometimes depending on angle
- switches are good, stick out just enough to be functional but not feel too fiddly or obtrusive

First listening impressions
- first: hey this is nice
- later: new toy syndrome has worn off, still good but not as enthused
- kinda brutish, not an ogre, but more Fezzik than Inigo Montoya
- I have a really hard time matching volume, because the iCAN "feels" louder all the time
- overall feels slightly on the V-shaped side (both warmer yet brighter)

On the inputs/outputs:
- the actual switching mechanism itself is quite seamless
- use the balanced XLR inputs; they sound so much better than the single ended
- I'm certain it's not my source, because mine does both and I've evaluated on other gear and found the differences to be marginal*
- single ended seems muted and loses energy (especially treble) and impact/punch compared to balanced inputs
* however, I cannot fully discount that this is a function of how my source is interacting with the iFi inputs
- but noise floor is higher with balanced input while using single ended output... not sure why this is; could be a cabling or power thing but it's unusual and I can't fully track it down
- switching inputs (both with nothing connected or the same source connected to both xlr and rca), there is a higher inherent noise from the balanced inputs which is opposite from expected
- however this noise is not affected by gain
- but it is affected by the pot... so the origin of the noise is coming from in between? It's not a huge problem, so I'm not chasing it down anymore after this
- balanced output is always quiet, regardless of input

Noise floor:
- not detectable with HE-6 (no surprise there)
- very slight noise floor with HD650 on balanced low gain with volume turned up all the way (can't tell with music)
- more noticeable with HEM8, but again it's low enough that your music would be deafening by the time you reached audible levels of noise

Impressions with HE-6
Note that my primary amp with the Hifiman HE-6 is the Bryston B60 which is a speaker amp. Most of my comparisons will be against that unless otherwise noted. Yes the HE-6 is a power hungry beast, so that makes it a good stress test so to speak.

General musings:
- in single ended mode, Callia and iCAN are somewhat close, with iCAN carrying more grunt but Callia feels more refined
- in balanced the iCAN pulls closer to the Callia in refinement
- Callia headamp is cleaner (single ended) while iCAN seems stronger and punchier (same impression from both HEM8 and HE-6)

Initial thoughts on Balanced vs single ended (HE-6) with the various options:
- no issues with power in either single ended or balance, it gets plenty loud
- initial feelings on all the various options and knobs: I am not a fan
- the character of the various settings actually changes depending on single ended or balanced
- typically I found myself preferring balanced solid state
- the two tube modes seemed stronger in single ended mode; going to balanced seemed to take out some of that tubeyness or changed the tone to something odd
- on Xbass and 3D most of the time the first setting is ok-ish, but anything higher I did not like

Mode: Solid State (single ended)
- does not hit as hard as the Bryston B60 (but more than Prism Callia)
- slightly more sibilant yet softer at the same time; the initial "sss" is stronger but the trail is softer or drawn out
- midbass has a slightly hollow impact (sort of like emphasized at both edges); I can see how this might make people feel it is more detailed and impactful
- so maybe this is simply how it handles a transient; harder front edge, perhaps more overshoot then followed by ringing?
- initial feeling is more air and more zing, but this fades after some time
- coming back to B60 immediately feels fuller and more balanced, even though it's hard to quantify and doesn't have the same "kick" as the iCAN
- overall prefer solid state over tubes after listening back and forth

Mode: Solid State (balanced)
- more power, seems to have more control
- feels a bit more full bodied, but it's a very slight difference here
- midrange presence seems slightly smoother, but marginally so
- upper range unaffected
- still doesn't feel as full as the B60, but brings a bit more kick to the game
- if I had to pick one mode of the six possibilities, it would be this one

Mode: Tube (single ended)
- definitely not neutral
- you can easily tell there's a bass hump/harmonics
- more thump (different from kick), but softer on edges
- pretty much what you expect of a stereotypical tube sound
- you'd think this would be nice on music that was a little bass light... but adding those harmonics into stuff that doesn't have it in the first place doesn't work and you get a harmonic warmth but not any actual body; it actually makes those mids feel... not quite honky, but too thick

Mode: Tube (balanced)
- less hump, less thump
- seems like less of a deviation from normal compared to single ended
- still warmer compared to solid state, but in a different way than the single ended mode
- let me rephrase... feels like warmer with a tilt?
- perhaps slightly cleaner sounding than single ended, but tone is slightly offput
- I find myself marginally preferring single ended over balanced in tube mode

mode: tube+ (balanced)
- so I thought: ok if you're gonna go tube, might as well go all the way???
- seems like richer deeper sound? nope I lied, that's not what I get
- not any thumpier or softer
- but definitely an extra harmonic or something that pulls on the ear in an odd way; I'm guessing it's odd order harmonics here
- upper end feels less refined
- it's not a treble glare, but maybe a high order distortion product
- I actually feel like this one is more fatiguing than regular Tube mode
- not sharp, but seems kinda hissy/sibilant
- feels like... a delay in the upper registers? (rather than harmonics?)

mode: tube+ (single ended)
- ok this one seems richer compared to balanced
- adds more warmth
- too much of a "good thing"
- midbass steps forward
- does not tame bright recordings; just smooshes it out
- feels like a reverb
- even as an outside listener while someone else is wearing the headphones, I could tell this sounded different

Crossfeed / 3D Holographic:
- bleh? maybe I'll try a different song... nope, still bleh. Maybe a different setting, wow nope What is going on. Let's try a mono recording... nope, now it's just further away.
- loses impact and sharpness
- I do consistently feel that there's less "centre", but it comes at the expense of everything else.
- Let's not pretend that we're emulating speakers here. I prefer the stock crossfeed plugin on Jriver, or better yet just get the free ToneBoosters Isone Pro vst plugin (but this requires all the software shenanigans)
30: dips the middle
60: dips the middle more
90: boosts the edges
- really not much more to say here; overall this mode did nothing for me
- but note for later, this feature redeems itself a bit on the preamp outputs

- oh the lowest setting is kinda nice... but the others are just too much; in fact distractingly so
- even with metal recordings which I find are typically mastered bass light, the boost just didn't seem right
- you can't use this to correct for bass deficient headphones, because then you're pushing past what the headphones are really capable of and it turns into a muddled and distorted mess
- on bass-light recordings... eh I guess sorta it works, but you can't really amplify something that isn't in the recording
- so really this is only ok with bass capable headphones but bass-light recordings, and only on the first setting
- this feels like a bit more than just a typical EQ bass shelf, like maybe there's a tiny bit of harmonics added in too? I wouldn't be surprised if there were some crossfeed effect happening too, but don't know that for certain and am purely guessing here
- I suppose if you're in the "MOAR BASS" category of listeners then you'll be happy with this; I tried this using some bass heavy Fostex TH-X00 Purplehearts which are already bass heavy and this was simply too much

Gain (level match as much as possible by ear and multimeter)
- I'm surprised that it seemed like there were differences here
- low: kinda weaker? vocals seem slightly strained, but smoothest mid and treble, least impact
- med: "stringier" (not necessarily bad per se) upper end, impact seems cleaner
- high: hissier and slightly more sibilant, impact same as medium or ever slightly stronger, feels a bit like midbass boost again
- overall I stuck with Medium gain as my favourite and most of my listening was done here

Impressions with Sennheiser HD650
- all the fiddly knob stuff is less disagreeable on HD650 than the HE-6, like it's not as sensitive/resolving
- initial impressions seemed positive, but this dissolved after fifteen minutes
- soft touch/edges
- I thought it would be warmer but that's not the case
- still sounds brighter compared to my Bryston, it's not a "tss" sound but the trailing edges have a slight upturn to them
- resolution is ok, but not the best I've heard with the HD650
- Lorde - Royals: good kicks, but metallic, snaps don't have the body that they should
- all above impressions in solid state mode (balanced)
- Tube mode (balanced): ahh What?? distorted wonk wonk wonk
- Tube+ mode (balanced): huh better, like returning more to solid state, less sibilant, but slightly more fatiguing than regular tube mode
- SS mode (SE): sounds about the same as balanced, maybe a touch more metallic
- Tube mode (SE): warmer, hazier, this is the softest sound of all the modes and configs
- Tube+ mode (SE): too much harmonic, almost feels like an echo? even fuzzier, loses kick; vastly prefer balanced in this mode
- overall I do no not recommend the HD650 with this amp; it was not an ideal pairing

Other headphones:

Fostex TH-X00 Purpleheart (single ended only)
- this is a bassy headphone going into what I feel is a somewhat bassy amp...
- as expected combo produces too much bass overall for my tastes, but could be fun for others
- Xbass: too much; it overwhelms
- crossfeed: meh... too mushed with all the bass, it just makes things feel hollow in the middle and flabby everywhere else
- tube mode: is ok, definition goes down, but rumble and thump increase (no surprise there); if I wanted to go for a stereotypically tubey sound with lots of warmth, this is it
- tube+ mode: also ok; it's just softly thumpier, same definition as regular tube mode but has a softer tonality, not warmer but low end feels stretched out, upper end
- this would be a basslover combo

Fostex T50rp (single ended)
- just not a good match
- top end feels withdrawn regardless of setting
- midrange is there, but feels detached
- bass hits quite hard, this was about the only part I lked
- tons of power, but it simply didn't mesh well
- I gave up on this

Sennheiser HD598
- very similar tone as the HD650
- similar changes with the various settings, but overall effects are less so and this seems to work in its favour
- I would pick the 598 over the 650 with this amp
- solid state: single ended is good, balanced feels somewhat tubbier
- tube balanced: not as wonky as the HD650; I can tolerate this one
- tube SE: warmer, softer, lazy-ish
- tube+ balanced: like a slightly edgier solid state
- tube+ SE: mush mush mush, stick with balanced
- crossfeed is actually no too bad, the middle doesn't dip as much, overall feel is more like a sideways stretch
- Xbass: it's weird that the 598 feels more comfortable boosting bass than it's big brother 650; still not my cup of tea, but it's workable here

NuForce HEM8 (from the 3.5mm jack)
- the 3.5mm jack is lower in volume compared to the 6.5mm
- congested? what the heck is going on? I'm having trouble trying to do a volume match because something doesn't sound right
- no seriously, what's wrong with this thing... is it broken?
- loses cohesion
- snaps and plucks are in the wrong place in time???
- is this just some sort of L-pad going on to bring the level down? feels like something more than that
- in any event, the sound is a mess and I'm abandoning this
- reading the manual... oh this is the iEMatch thing? I have no idea what that's supposed to be, but it's clearly not working for me

3.5mm jack with Fostex T50rp
- not as messed up as the HEM8, but still feels slightly muted

NuForce HEM8 from regular TRS
- ok, so right away this is miles better than the 3.5mm output
- seems a bit bassier
- does not feel as neutral as my NuPrime uDSD
- midrange is flatter, treble has good extension if very very slightly upturned
- slightly cloudy in resolution...
- REVISED: balanced inputs cleans this up (don't know why, but the above when I was using single ended inputs the sound sucked)
- overall tone still slightly fuzzy, but not cloudy like before
- overall tone balanced is restored
- Callia headamp is less stuffy, like a veil has been lifted
- midrange clarity improved, feels much better and breathes
- bass hits harder and cleaner now
- all above noted with solid state mode
- tube mode: there's a tradeoff here... seems cleaner up top but muddier down low
- tube+ mode: wow big pop when switching mode here so be careful; did not get any cleaner like tube mode but did not get muddier either... but sounds withdrawn
- actually just be careful with sensitive iems with the knobs; they all seem to produce pops when changing modes
- Xbass: even 1st notch seems too much, 3rd notch gets distorted
- 3D: 1st notch collapses the middle stage and becomes withdrawn, 2nd notch not much different, 3rd notch adds elements to the side (but lower, unlike speakers which was placed higher) but still sounds artificial; overall staging feels better with this turned off
- Callia headamp is cleaner (single ended) while iCAN seems stronger and punchier

Impressions on Speakers

Speaker "3D Holographic" settings from the preamp outputs:
- does not have the middle dip like with headphones; general balance is better
- staging is better preserved than with headphones

+ mode: it's ok, seems to add more air? very tiny smear but yeah I guess it feels like a different room or speaker setting; placement of side instruments moves further out and slightly up; with a mono vocal and my speakers slightly offset, I can hear this distortion effect like a comb filter? (yes this happens with offset, but I've never heard it this apparent before and it disappears with the crossfeed turned off)
30+: feels like a reverb now, angle doesn't really change but speakers have moved further away
60+: really pulls it out to the side, it's gone past reverb and is almost like an echo; instrument location has moved further behind and up, a bit like I have some satellite speakers in a surround mode behind me; the middle is a bit of a weird null zone

- overall 3D effect is less noticeable in Tube and Tube+ mode

- with desktop speakers the effect is very noticeable; likely most of the processing occurs in the upper registers of the frequency range, so the entire speaker and staging flies out to the side
- the various bookshelf speakers I tried exhibited mostly similar behaviours (main ones I had on hand: Celsus Sound SP-One, Centrance Masterclass 2504, John Blue JB3)
- the one that sounded best was my John Blue JB3 which feels like a horn and has a very narrow sweet spot; the + mode expanded this and gave it more space (almost too much air, though the speaker veers that way to begin with)

Larger speakers used: Genelec 1030, Yorkville YSM8, Yorkville U15 (full sized PA cabinets), a couple Paradigm bookshelves
- with larger full range speakers that have a deeper reach, the 3D spatialization is not quite so drastic since the lower energy range doesn't move, thus helps keep things in place
- but the effect here is that I felt like I moved closer to the speakers (increasing effective angle) rather than have the speakers widen out
- it's still a bit hazy and/or feels buzzy out at the furthest edges and raised up higher (again like I have some small satellites above and behind me, though their location is much higher here than compared to the desktop movement); the middle isn't a null zone like with bookshelf speakers, but does feel squishy
- the better the bass reach of the speaker, the less egregious the effect of the spatialization
- sub integration is kinda odd though; I feel like I'm getting phase discrepancies and walking around the room feels weird, so it's probably better to stick with a regular 2.0-ch setup rather than 2.1

- but overall I find it easier to adjust my ears to the speakers with the 3D effects; with headphones it just doesn't work for me

XBass speakers:
- if you're trying this on desktop speakers, you're gonna push them past what they're capable of and get a horrible mess because you're just distorting the speakers
- this did not sound good with any of my small bookshelf speakers
- on speakers with very good bass extension, you'll get rumble but not impact, it does feel deeper but also like you're in a bass bubble
- my Genelecs gained body, but still the strain was showing
- with my full range Yorkville PA speakers, this was generously room filling
- like on headphones, I find the first notch ok, 2nd is passable, but third is way way too much
- also similar to my headphone assessment, this setting really only works when you have bass-capable speakers and bass-light recordings.

How about as preamp?
- I wish there were a way to mute the preamp outputs
- all the fiddly knobs pass through in their own way
- not as transparent as the Stereoknight (but this is one of the best preamps I've ever heard); feels slightly mushier in comparison
- SS (balanced out) - soft yet a bit hard somehow; feels like a slight V emphasis
- tube (balanced out) - softens the sound, sharp plucks and twangs are smoothed out
- tube+ (balanced out) - actually less soft than regular tube mode; there's roundness to the sound but not warmth
- SS (SE) - same as balanced; maybe just a tiny bit more definition?
- tube (SE) - ever so slightly different flavour from balanced but hard to describe
- tube+ (SE) - more warmth than balanced

Closing thoughts:
- no, I didn't hate it, despite my snarkiness
- I did not read other reviews before taking my notes, so my observations are fairly untainted
- solid state mode strikes me as a very competent amp
- preference for balanced vs single ended depends on the mode used
- there is an impressive amount of power on tap; it is rare that I find an amp that can handle the HE-6 and not struggle
- all the variable functions strike me as trying to do too much in such a small space; I understand the appeal and it's a tweakers' delight, but for me those added features were detractors
- just because I didn't like the Xbass or 3D spatialiazations doesn't mean others wouldn't enjoy them; the only feature that baffled me was the iEMatch
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Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: high efficiency planar, lighter weight, good comfort,
Cons: channel imbalance, resolution stumbles
This here is a micro review and formatted primarily as a direct comparison vs a fully modded HE-6.
There are enough flowery reviews here to paint you a pretty picture, so this will be all point-form and very direct.
- potentially more comfortable
- lighter weight, larger cups
- personally I find the cup slightly too long and it presses down into my jaw
- headband kinda big overall; I am on the smallest setting and it still feels too low
- that said, the HE-X needs to hang low on the ear to sound right; too high and it seems off
- does not reach quite as deep
- top feels like it rolls off a bit earlier as well
- slight midbass emphasis, some rumbles are stronger
- not as clean... has higher distortion probably
- there are mild channel imbalances which are throwing me off
- at this price I would expect better driver matching
- possible notches in the midrange??
- produces a funny feeling where sometimes I feel like where a voice or cymbal should really shine but it doesn't
- but other parts come in bright and seem to linger
- slightly darker sound overall, laid back tone
- staging is slightly behind my ears; this changes a bit depending on where the headphones sit on the head; people with larger heads that get a better fit will very likely get something different
- Slightly plastic timbre that rings; I intuitively want to say this has to do with the enclosure and it could use some dampening and/or additional stiffening support, but I'm not going to crack it open to find out
- Lady Gaga - Do What You Want: the metallic pulses feels drawn out and hissy
- Metallica - Enter Sandman - the “neverland” whisper is muted
- Bela Fleck - Flight of the Cosmic Hippo - good reach but not quite as deep
- There's this odd bass property that immediately makes you think it's stronger and thumpier
- but I think that's just a harmonic distortion in there
- You listen a little longer and you realize it's not actually any stronger
- resolution ultimately lags behind the HE-6
- there's a certain speed and lightness that is better
- but at the same time slightly "papery"
- or that plastic timbre annoyingly show through
This is more expensive than the HE-6 and has better comfort and sensitivity, but unfortunately does not beat it for sound quality.
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For me it is strange to compare the HE6 to the Hex. Why ? If we compared the performance of a HE6 on a mobile source ? I think the Hex is similar to any other high performance headphones designed to operate on mobile sources. For me this headphone is the best on moblie source, and hifiman creat this heaphone for specific performance ! 


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: low power consumption, great dac and optical bridge
Cons: might block adjacent usb ports
See my full review here:
Concluding paragraph from my review:
It's a decent amp, an even better DAC, and a snazzy usb-optical bridge that brings some pizazz to your regular dacs. Based on those pieces alone I'd expect something around $150-200, but all this for $60-70? Jimminy crickets what are you waiting for? If this is something that you've been shopping around for, you've got nothing to lose here and the value is fantastic.
The crowdfunding campaign ends in less than a week!
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Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: superb build quality at this price
Cons: none at this price point
The Rockmaster OE (along with its sister product the Rockmaster IE) is a new offering from Encore that explores crowdfunding as a way to produce high quality yet low priced items. They can do this by selecting OEM manufacturers and customizing the tooling to save on time and costs, and the crowdfunding angle allows them to significantly reduce operational costs such a advertising, storage, distribution, and all those other things that we as consumers don't really think about. The result is the ability to offer products to us at a fraction of the cost of typical consumer good.
Overall I would classify this as a "consumer" sound with elevated bass and treble for more punch and snap respectively. It is a bit weak in the midrange as most headphones of this type are, but it also avoids the pitfalls of a spiky treble so there's little to no fatigue for long term listening. I particularly enjoyed these for movies. The build quality is amazing for this price range, with memory foam pads and metal parts and no squeaking joints. I have literally tossed them down the stairs with no ill effect.
Here's the link to my full review and the indiegogo page:
For $30 you can't go wrong. Get in on this while you still can!


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: good bass, cohesive sound
Cons: none at this price point
The Rockmaster IE is a new offering from Encore that explores crowdfunding as a way to produce high quality yet low priced items. They can do this by selecting OEM manufacturers and customizing the tooling to save on time and costs, and the crowdfunding angle allows them to significantly reduce operational costs such a advertising, storage, distribution, and all those other things that we as consumers don't really think about. The result is the ability to offer products to us at a fraction of the cost of typical consumer good.
This would be all for naught if the Rockmaster IE didn't sound good however, but it does not disappoint. It has a firmly bassy but not overblown sound, and remains remarkably cohesive whereas others feel muddled and the bass is a separate entitiy from the rest of the sound. The build quality is about as good as one can expect at this price range, and it comes with a reasonable set of tips (including several different sized silicone and foam tips).
Here's the link to my full review and indiegogo page:
In short, the Rockmaster IE is a phenomal bargain at $30 if you get in on the crowdfunding. As an extra bonus they're also including an OEM NE-600X (original msrp $25) for free. Seriously folks, this one is a no-brainer. Even if you don't need one or are already into the high end, these would make great gifts or even just serve as beaters to use at the gym or tossed into a bag for backup.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: nice build, nice accessories, bassy heavy if you like that
Cons: sound is a distorted mush
My longer impressions here: (post #83)
The short version:
A nice first try by Alpha & Delta, and the tuning is obviously geared towards a bass heavy "consumer" sound which isn't bad by itself... but there's much more to sound than just the frequency response. I suspect there's some heavy distortion and decay products in there, because while it "sounds" ok at first, it "feels" awful. That said, the build quality and accessories are really nice.
Poorly written review. You did not state the source that you use and the type of sound signature that you prefer. Basing on the limited things you wrote, I guess you are a headphone user. Comparing the sound stage and resolution of a headphone with an IEM is completely unfair. 
I kept my impressions short on here because I had a negative experience and people don't need to read at length about all the nuances that I didn't like. I kept my notes brief and to the point, and tried to describe things from a neutral standpoint without leaning into preferences... as any reviewer should. Rather than spell out my entire background in every review, people are welcome to look at my profile and see all the gear that I have gone through, as well as glance through any of my other reviews. This ain't my first time at the rodeo.
Yes of course I'm a headphone user. I'm not quite as involved with iems, but I've reviewed my fair share of those as well, as well as amps and dacs. I've also owned quite a variety of speakers, am involved with PA setups, attend live concerts frequently, yadda yadda. At the end of the day I'm just one data point in a sea of subjectivity. I don't need to prop up and justify my impressions, but at least give me the benefit of the doubt and assume I've done reasonable due diligence in auditioning the AD01.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: good clean sound, good isolation, reasonably portable
Cons: small-ish cups
Full review here:
Here are my closing thoughts from my review:
The HammoS markets itself as a competitor with the M50, but I think that's the wrong comparison. The fit and styling is all Beats, not the M50 (nor other “studio” headphones). Soundwise, I actually think the overall shape is reminiscent of open Sennheisers, except closed if that makes sense.
I've reviewed quite a few closed-back headphones in the past that all floated around the $200 range. I feel the HammoS competes quite well against all of them for half the price, and even bests them in some regards. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a gamechanger, but Noontec is certainly setting the bar for good quality at budget prices.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: comfort, build quality, isolation, nice even sound
Cons: pucker on the ears, very warm
Mini review of the Oppo PM-3
Build quality is very nice, and unless you look really close you wouldn't even notice the difference from the PM-1/2. The pads are different though, and not nearly as nice or comfortable as the PM-1. They're good pads, but the PM-1 pads are extra comfy and real leather makes a difference. These ones don't breath very well and get warm very quickly.
The frequency response is reasonably balanced with a gentle downwards slope, except for one dip in the treble and the early rolloff, but no peaks (remarkable for a closed cup).
The overall tone is slightly elevated from the midbass down but not overly humped. I feel like there was a bit of a distortion blip somewhere in here, but that could have been a hair or dirt particle. So it has good extension, but isn't really powerful and doesn't have real impact.
It has a noticeably closed sound, but it also has a closed feeling caused by that pucker effect on my ears due to how it seals on my head. It's rather uncomfortable until I pop my ears (when I pinch my nose shut but try to push air out my nostrils).
Soundstage is ok, but sounds like it's slightly behind my ears. Some would say it's cozy. Unfortunately, the whole pucker thing makes it feel slightly claustrophobic for me.
Isolation is very good. I'd say above average for a closed can.
Interesting phenomena: the bass develops a “thicker” feeling after wearing it for a while and feels more satisfying; more impact and energy. I think this is just the clamp and heat from my head letting the pads settle and seal better. It's related to that pressure/pucker effect too however. Maybe I'm just really sensitive to this, but after a couple songs my ears feel odd. It sounds better... but I keep wanting to pop my ears. If I take the headphone off even just for a second, it'll take a half minute to settle back in (the midbass comes back right away, but the deep energy takes time).
Addendum: This odd puckering feeling does not develop if no music is playing
There's something in the sound that bugs me. The sound is smooth and clean, but lacks clarity? no that's the wrong word. Everything sounds... a bit wet. String and metallic percussive sounds lack shimmer and air (probably that treble dip). I guess I could say it sounds polite, but this changes when I use it on the go.
I really like it as a portable; seal and comfort improves a lot with slight movement and the PM-3 settles in without that puckering feeling. In this state the sound is really good. The midrange is still nice and clean, but bass has more energy, and that top end no longer has the wet feeling. Never discount the effects of physiology guys, especially with sealed headphones.
It can be driven from a portable player. I have a puny Sansa Fuze and it gets more than loud enough. There's no other planar that can claim that right now. It does sound a bit better with more power behind it, but I wouldn't consider it mandatory. Save that stuff for a home rig and keep your portable life simple.
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Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: solid build quality, great sound
Cons: none at this price
See here for my full review:
TL/DR: A clear step up from the uDAC-3, and is equal in price with the trade-in program. A very neutral sound from all outputs, enough power for most headphones, all while maintaining a small form factor.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: build quality, user interface, bluetooth integration
Cons: bright dac, bright amp
Micro review of the Oppo HA-1:
rankings (because the bars to the side for some reason are not representative of the rank I gave)
audio quality: 2/5
design: 4/5
quality: 3.5/5
value: 2.5/5
- build quality is great
- nice pot, motorized, smooth and solid feel
- user interface is simple and clean, intuitive menu system
- connectivity is top notch
- I can easily see this becoming the centrepiece of a system
- but I couldn't get the usb drivers to work
- bluetooth from your smartdevice, operate both as a streaming device and as remote: fantastic!
The dac
- um, no thanks, it's headache inducing
- really edgy transients, I could maybe see this being good if you have older ears or mild hearing loss, but for younger ears this will be very fatiguing
- otherwise good definition
- chain: fed coax from a NuPrime uDSD and coax/optical from a Peachtree X1
The amp
- can't handle the HE-6; at full power into the headphone jack the HA-1 shuts down (likely a safety, it happened twice, I'm not going to push that further)
- but otherwise seems ok
- good energy
- I think it sounds better in low gain, even if perhaps lacking a tiny bit of dynamics
- but bright sounding, somewhat "pushy" in the upper mids
- especially guitar picks
- if using the dac, this combo is especially bright
The preamp
- clean and functional, has a bit of gain to it so not a direct pass through (not affected by the headphone gain selection)
- also slightly bright, less so than the amp section, but similar characteristic
- This would be good with darker cans like the Audeze LCD-2/3 or the Oppo PM-1/2 or Sennheiser HD600/650, but it's a terrible match with the HE-6.
- Preamp output still retains that bright characteristic, even when using analog inputs.
- For the price as an all-in-one unit, it really comes down to how the dac sounds for you. I have some friends who really love the sound, but for me it doesn't work. Feature-wise, the HA-1 hits all the right checkmarks.
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I was speaking in generalities, and of course sometimes posted specs are wrong. Headphone outputs are never tested as rigorously as speaker amps, and oftentimes the posted specs are no more than reprinted datasheet numbers. The fact that the Oppo balanced numbers are a flat x4, as well as the fact I could drive it easily into clipping... well I'm not saying they're wrong, but I have my doubts.
If you like it, hey by all means enjoy it.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: great bass and wide soundstage
Cons: no isolation, no mic or controls
Full review here:
These were my closing thoughts:
Headphones and iems have come a long way in terms of public acceptance and what “typical” consumer pricing should be, but earbuds still have this stigma of being poor both in price and sound quality. Well, I hope the Gramo One will start changing people's minds on that (yeah yeah, probably nothing will actually do that unless your name is Apple or Sony).
I consider the sound quality on par with IEMs in roughly the same price bracket.
The applications of an open backed earbud may seem very narrow at first, but take a moment to consider when you'd like to have music playing but don't want to lose awareness of your surroundings. It may be more useful than you realize, and if that appeals to you, definitely keep the Gramo One on your shopping list.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: great design, light weight, comfortable, portable
Cons: pricey but with caveats
I was part of the Canadian leg of the Oppo PM-1 loaner program. For reference, my primary rig is my modded HE-6 (significantly “darker” than stock): regrilled, removed rear and front foams, J$ leather pads with additional front damping, modified “fuzzor”. Amping is from a pair of Nuforce HA-200 monoblocks. My dac is an Echo2usb. Most of the review will be point-form-ish because who wants to read a long blather of purple prose? I also haven't read any other existing reviews or impressions, so I'm coming at it rather blank slate.
My very initial reaction: wow, I like these and I want one”. After a bit more time, my not-so-initial reaction: “ok the wow has worn off but I still want one, and the build quality makes me want to punch Audeze and Hifman in the face”
First impressions were that the sound was fairly clean, with good staging, though a bit dark sounding. Second impressions were that it was not quite as clean or distinct as the HE-6, the staging is cozier, still dark-ish but pleasant nonetheless for a low fatigue session.
Stock pads:
- Very “polite” sound (ie: moderately downturned treble)
- slight bass rolloff
“Alternate” pads:
- more treble, more energy overall, a bit more tizz though which makes it a touch grittier
- holds lower energy better as well
Velour pads:
- less bass, more upper mid/lower treble when compared to alt pads, feels cleaner but contrarily a bit more fatiguing
- to my ears the brightest of the pads, but still darker than my modded HE-6 which I hold as reference
best uppers: alt pads
best clean sound: velours (short term), alt pads (long term)
best bottom end: Vida Guerra? Uh, I mean the alternate leather pads
Comfort and Design vs the other big planars
- Everyone else go home. Seriously, the Oppo is lightweight and actually looks like a polished product, unlike the others that kinda look like they were cooked up in a high school shops class because they spent their R&D on drivers then panicked and got their kid to make a headband.
- Pads are not memory foam but still nice and soft and feel great
- Light clamp that doesn't put too much pressure and rests easily on my head for hours
Vs Hifiman HE-6/500/560
- The HE family is known for being a bit bright up top, especially in comparison to the PM-1 which I would characterize as moderately dark. The HE-6 hits the hardest in the lower bass, whereas the Oppo has a noticeable drop in the very lowest registers. It doesn't hit hard, but what it does have is smooth and not boxy or muddy. Comparisons in the upper registers are kinda apples to oranges as the Hifiman's in stock tend to be too much, and I feel the Oppo not enough. In terms of technical prowess and midrange/treble resolution, I would slot the Oppo somewhere between the 500 and 560.
Vs Audeze LCD-2
- I have honestly never been a fan of the Audeze family, finding them uncomfortable and way too oomphy in the bottom and too inconsistent in the upper mids from one headphone to the next. That said, the Oppo bass doesn't even compete in terms of extension or impact. Where I find it better is in that midbass to midrange transition where it is more even handed compared to the LCD hammer. Moving upwards... hey if I ever heard two Audezes that sounded the same then I'd be able to offer a decent comparison, but I can't.
Vs LFF Enigma
- I find the Enigma and PM-1 are much closer in tonality, with the Enigma sounding cleaner but even darker than the Oppo. Both have a relaxed signature, but I can relax better with the Oppo which is significantly more comfortable.
Vs Modded Fostex T50rp
- My own modded pair are actually tuned fairly close to the PM-1 sound. Mine perhaps have a touch more bass and the advantage of being closed, but other than that they're ugly and ginormous on my head compared to the Oppo. Really, the longer I have the Oppo the more I resent the size and weight of everything else.
- Holy cow these get uncomfortably loud from my little Sansa Clip+. That's practically unheard of for a planar magnetic headphone and starts entering into the realm of actual portable-ness (that carrying case is pretty sleek too btw).
- I'm serious, just run it off your dap of choice and call it a day
Other notes
- A tiny bit recessed/spooky with female vocals, like in an empty chamber (good example: Eva Cassidy - Wade in the Water)... yet contrarily it doesn't sound like a big room. This lends to a soundstage that is only moderate in size; not cramped, just a nice intimate feel though with recordings that already have a lot of room reverb it might sound a bit off.
- Those open cups are neat. They're really more semi-closed with light isolation, but you can wave your hands in front and there's no change in sound which means they're actually designed to minimize outside interference. Cool beans.
Irrelevant gripe
- The cable came wrapped with velcro, but the velcro picks a bit at the cloth sleeving and leaves fuzzy tiny patches which nags at my ocd audiophile nature
- Very nice built quality, very low microphonics, I dislike TS shorting-style plugs into the cups but they have a little stub which makes them feel secure
- What's with the short 1/8” cable? Really needs another 6 or 12 inches.
Why you should get this
- You want that planar sound but don't want to carry a separate amp because you're not that crazy (yet)
- You want some audiophile cred and are willing to spend moolah, but also want it to not look ridiculous on your head
- You don't have a wrestler neck and would like something lightweight-ish
Why you should not get this
- because headfi is a terrible wallet draining hobby and you should escape now before you wind up with monoblocks like me and wondering how you're going to get your next upgrade fix
- but really, the PM-2 is the far better value because it's virtually the same headphone (as told directly from their rep) except the PM-1 gives you: really really fancy wooden box, nice headphone stand, better cables, three sets of pads instead of one (and real leather, not synthetic), all metal construction vs some plastic
- to be fair, considering the extras I think the PM-1 price is reasonable
Max Minimum
Max Minimum
Nice review.  Very helpful.  I was wondering about your comments regarding the Audeze LCD-2.  When you say their sound is inconsistent from one headphone to the next, do you mean this is the case when comparing the LCD-2 to the LCD-3 to the LCD-X, or the LCD-2.1 to the LCD2.2 to the LCD2.2F, or between different headphones that are both the same model and the same version?  I'm considering an Audeze as my next headphone purchase, but if the sound I'll get is unpredictable that's a killer.
I've heard variances all within the LCD2.2 line, and have had a couple friends return their Audeze's for repair/driver failure.
Max Minimum
Max Minimum
Combining that with what I'm reading in the EL8 threads is not encouraging, haha.  Thanks for the reply.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: good build, good sound for the price
Cons: user interface is meh
Overall build seems quite nice. It has a solid metal feel in your hand and there's some heft to it (good or bad, depending how you feel about weight). Edges are all clean, and there's no looseness. Buttons are firm and responsive. The only thing I don't like is the wheel, which feels a bit wobbly. If there are no buttons built into the wheel, it should be steadier than that. It's also too smooth for my liking; a more textured surface would have been better for grip and being able to feel if I'm actually spinning the wheel or not.
The power switch is recessed which is good so you don't accidentally bump it, but the rubber sleeve has a nub on the inside which increases your likelihood of accidentally pressing it, so... one step forward, one step back?
Screen resolution seems decent. It's enough to display the cover art which I don't really care too much about. *shrug*
No internal memory? Seriously?
User interface
The UI is reasonably intuitive and fairly smooth. I didn't go through any manuals and was able to figure out how to move around the menus without any issues. Updating the firmware is also a cinch. That said, I still have a bunch of gripes over the UI.
First of all, why doesn't the wheel control volume? This is the most intuitive thing and it practically seems backwards to not have that. You can get rid of two buttons in one stroke. On that matter, the volume buttons are then no longer volume buttons when the screen is off and instead switch tracks if you hold them. Changing button assignments is just confusing for the user and really makes no sense. If you want to implement a hold-to-activate when the screen is off to prevent accidental button presses, ok I guess that's fine, but don't change what the buttons do.
I also don't like the lack of memory on poweroff. It'd be nice if it jumped back to the last song/playlist when you turn it back on.
Back to the scroll wheel, the lack of texture also makes it difficult to be precise. I can't feel if I'm actually moving the wheel at times which makes control sloppy.
These several factors make the X1 not that great for pocket fumbling use while on the move, which in my mind is a big detractor from the portability factor.
My main comparisons for sound here are my aging Sansa Fuze and Clip+. I listened primarily while walking around, which some will argue is not an ideal time for critical evaluation, but to me that is the intended usage.
Even with the din of people, traffic, nature, etc, I could tell that the X1 was more defined across the board. Deep bass on the Fuze feels mushy in comparison, and the treble presence wasn't nearly as good (though the bigger difference was easily in the bass).
Powerwise, it's got plenty of oomph for a dap. I even plugged it in directly to the newfangled HiFiMAN HE-560 and got reasonable sound out of it. Just for a laugh I tried the HE-6... I got volume, but felt like I was listening through a cardboard tube.
I played with the EQ for a bit, but really was not impressed. Turning up the bass produced a tubby sound, and messing with the treble made things sharp and tinny. I have a few different EQ plugins on my computer and those all produced a nicer sound than the X1.
Pro: It's a step up in sound quality from my Fuze. Not huge, but noticeable in a “busy” environment so that's good
Cons: UI is ok but annoying, bigger and heavier than my Fuze, no internal memory.
Verdict: For me personally, even though the sound is better, it isn't enough to justify the increase in bulk and clunkier interface.
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Hi Armaegis
I think I can help with the UI issues.
1. The whel can operate as a volume control. While screen is on - press and hold center button, then volume mode for the wheek comes up.
2. The buttons still act as volume buttons when screen is off. Tap to raise or lower volume. Hold to change tracks. Dual function - it's actually pretty smart.
3. Resume after switch off. This is controlled through "Player Settings" (2nd menu opton from right). Resume mode is 2nd option down. Yours is probably set to "off" you can also set it to "Song" or even "Position"

Hope this helps. For the price - once you get used to the features, I'm finding this little DAP to be amazing value.
PS - sorry about some of the spelling above. Doing this from a mobile device - so not conducive to accuracy.
And the included silicone case makes it more textured if one finds it too smooth.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: very clean sound, improved headband
Cons: higher clamp, picky with amps
That's a lovely box it comes in. I'm not being snarky at all; it really is nice. Totally for presentation though, not for transport/portability.
The headband of the new Hifiman models is a great improvement over the old ones. The suspension design is more comfortable, and the gimbals feel more solid. The headband adjustment has more of a reassuring feel to it, unlike the old headbands which had a tendency to become loose over time. Gripes: there's a higher clamp force though (for me it pressed under the ear, around the jawline), and the headband adjustment snags my hair sometimes.
The overall weight of the 560 is much lighter than the HE-6, which is a welcome change especially after a recent car accident which has left me with whiplash making it difficult to support my HE-6 on my head without aggravating my neck
That plastic wood veneer on the cups though... what is this, the 80's? I would have preferred they stuck with the glossy plastic. Or how about some real wood? A resin-reinforced wood cup wouldn't be that great of an expenditure on a nearly $1k headphone.
Sound and Stuff
A lot of the sound changes with the pads, so bear that in mind as I present my notes. Overall, I considered the sound to slot quite comfortably between the HE-500 and HE-6. It's a noticeable improvement from the 500, and I could see personal preferences pulling it ahead of the 6 for some although I feel the 6 still leads on technical capability.
I felt the sound was rather sensitive to placement on my head, moreso than the HE-6. It really needs to be forward ahead of the ears to sound right. Even then, at times I felt the soundstage had an exaggerated width and was behind me.
There's an overall brightness to the tone of the 560, which gives it a strong sense of “detail”, but can start to feel slightly plasticky and artificial after a while. The upper vocal range comes forward a bit and is slightly pushy* on some recordings (reminds me of a bad Audeze). I feel as though there's a very slight emphasis in the midbass which gives it a bit of punch, but it doesn't carry that impact elsewhere except the uppermid region as just mentioned. These two components together give the 560 this sort of very very mildly V-shaped sound to my ears, though it really isn't, but that's where the energy feels most prominent and gives it an overall “fun” sound which I think a lot of people will like.
*The best way I can describe these upper mids is that they are slightly “angry” sounding. There's a bit of an aggressive bite to them that I can't attribute purely to frequency response. This property changes depending on pads, which I'll get to later.
Compared against the HE-500 (from memory), the 560 has overall better clarity and bass. Really just take all the good points about the 500, and bump up a notch. The treble timbre is somewhat similar, but feels a bit stronger on the 560. Like perhaps the peaks and energy are mostly the same, but moved to a different spot which may or may not agree with a person's ears.
Compared against the HE-6, the 6 still carries a better sense of technical prowess and the bass is noticeably more defined. The midbass on the 560 punches a bit harder, but that's about it and comparitively mushes into the lower mids. The subbass is an easy win for the HE-6, which is much stronger compared to the 560 which feels loose in comparison. Across the treble region, the 6 is still sizzly but across a broader range, while the 560 is narrower and feels more like an “edge”. Again, individual tastes will determine preferences here. As a rather compulsive modder, I found it easier to work with the 6 than the 560 since dealing with broad areas is easier than trying to pick out narrow spikes. Midrange across the 6 is cleaner than the 560, but only by the faintest of margins. With mods, I might just prefer the 560 for light acoustics and vocals over the 6. Well, not really, but it's really close.
In terms of amping, the 560 is not nearly the gluttonous beast that the HE-6 is, so it will be easier to reach full “potential”. However, the 560 seems to be really picky, moreso than my experience with other Hifiman cans. So a bit of experimentation is in order as the sound does change from amp to amp. For the record, my primary amps are a set of Nuforce HA-200 serving as monoblocks and I thought the pairing was very good. For fun, I tried running the 560 from a FiiO X1 and was surprised that I could get quite serviceable volume levels from it.
Notes on pads...
With Focuspad
- very open sounding, but slight unnaturalness to it
- something “angry” in the upper mids, on some songs it's unlistenable for me
... interestingly, I prefer focus pad on my (modded) HE-6 vs focuspad-A
With focuspad-A
- slightly better, doesn't have that angry tinge anymore but still a bit sharp, has a bit of that stock HE-6 feeling which to me was bright-ish
- upon further listening, I feel like maybe it just moves that peak somewhere else less bothersome
- with a crisscross of felt, ok that's pretty close to where I like it
with J$ leather pads and damping
- better, some more naturalness and bass, damped a tad too much though
- I think the thicker spacing helps a lot with comfort and staging
- pads are discontinued though, so this is moot for most people
I mentioned earlier that I am a compulsive modder, so looking at what I wind up modding does give a sense of how I feel about the headphone. Most of my efforts went into reducing that bright edge in the uppermids/treble, but then I seemed to lose that sense of detail which I feel is one of the main appeals of the 560. With the HE-6 that peak is broader, so damping down the entire uppermid area brought it down to where I liked. On the 560 though, this bright region is narrower and trying to tame it down usually brings down too much of the surrounding area making it feel muted. I'm sure more experimentation can yield a better result, but I only had a short time with it so could only run through a couple modding iterations.
Re-grilling (more open backed)
- almost an unnoticeable change, unlike the HE-6 where the change is immediately noticeable with more air and better staging
- with the 560 it's just barely more open sounding, and really verging on placebo.
- as mentioned above, changing pads alters the sound quite a bit
- I would encourage experimentation here
- I wish I had a chance to try some Audeze pads on here
- dependent on the pads used
- I felt a crisscross of soft felt with the Focuspads-A were the best
Pretty darned good, mild V shaped fun emphasis, doesn't need that much power but can be picky with amps. Quick mods that I use to get it where I want: Focuspad-A, two strips of felt arranged as X on ear-side, regrill optional. Doesn't dethrone the HE-6 but comes really close.
Just a simple cross of felt.

Later on I put this underneath the pad.

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Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: highly versatile, lots of options, remote
Cons: slight etch to the sound, non-intuitive remote at times
Just some brief notes and impressions since no one else has put one up yet.
Nice compact form. The little rubber cone feet are useless though and start wearing out. Surprisingly lightweight (the power supply is in the "wall wart" as far as I can tell and provides the multiple voltages required)
Remote control is a plus. The downside is that there is *only* remote access to the dac. The remote itself is functional, though I wish labeling were better (or perhaps colours, so I didn't have to squint to read the buttons each time). Volume adjustment via remote is of adequate speed.
Tons of features let you control dac output, headphone output, phase, balance, etc. I honestly hardly used them beyond testing things out, though if you like to switch gear around a lot, the extra versatility in matching gear could be handy.
Dac output ranges from 1, 2 or 4V, which is nice when I needed that extra push with amps that have low gain.
Headphone amp output is surprisingly strong. Enough to push my HE-6 to loud levels. It's not the best amp I've ever heard with them, but that fact that it can even get there means it has enough grunt for just about anything else you can throw at it. For more sensitive headphones, you can turn the output down, which is again nice for versatility.
Switching the output ranges for the dac and headphone amp (or any of the adjustable features really) though is a bit of a tricky thing, requiring a specific non-intuitive sequence of button presses on the remote. You know the early days of 8-bit gaming where you had to enter special button sequences to activate a secret? Yeah it feels like that. This is where having a screen on the Wadia would make life a lot easier, and reduce the complexity of the remote as well.
Performance as a headphone amp is very good. I would say sonically on par with the Nuforce DAC-100 which is more of a lush and warm sound, while the Wadia is a bit more crisp. The Wadia has far more power on tap though, so it wins in that regard. The Wadia also does well enough with planars, which the Nuforce does not. Nothing in particularly about the Wadia amp really wowed me or stood out. It is simply a solid sounding amp, if perhaps a tick on the dry side. The one tick in the Nuforce favour is that it pairs really well with the HD800. This is kinda moot now though, since the DAC-100 is discontinued and replaced with the DAC-80 (which doesn't have the amp).
In terms of dac performance, again the Wadia is very very solid. Very clean and crisp sound, veering ever so slightly to an etch in the treble-ish region. It gives initial impressions an immediate sense of detail and refinement, but I find after extended periods I feel slightly fatigued. I'm nitpicking here though. I can't say for certain if this would be attributed to the Sabre dac or not. In terms of sonic performance, I feel that it betters the Nuforce DAC-100 and the Schiit Bifrost, which were the two most recent dacs that I could compare.
Chris J
Chris J
Hey man, excellent!
A very fine review!
Well written and very informative.
Thanks. I was actually kinda surprised how long it turned out considering I was just going for short notes.


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: truly superb sound and zero noise
Cons: no supplied headphone cable, difficult to adjust gain individually
Here is the link to my full review:
Earlier thread and discussion:
This is the summary from my review:
So it's obvious I'm quite happy with the Nuforce HA-200. As a single ended amp it's fantastic. As dual monos, doubly fantastic and totally worth the price. If you can't afford the mono setup, start with one and upgrade later! Of course if you're just jonesing for monos, as of this writing it's the only dual mono headphone amp option I know of for under $1k so it's really your only option unless you start bridging or go DIY. For $350 it's one of the best amps I've heard in that bracket. For $700 as monos I think it's actually ahead of the diminishing returns curve.
It pairs fantastically with the HD800, and has enough juice for the HE-6. The noise floor is also low enough that you can use it with iems.
Obviously if you're running monos then you'll need a preamp or a dac with volume control. Either that or you'll have to mark knobs somehow and control each individually. Your headphones will also require the appropriate terminations, or have an adapter made.

glamour shot with the sliding xlr cap


DIY cable dual XLR3 to XLR4 adapter for my HE-6
thanks for the review
this is a really good amp


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: rugged and utilitarian, good sound at this price, isolation one of the best, practically industry standard and most people know what it sounds like
Cons: good isolation comes at the cost of high clamp
Just a point form review... really just notes for myself comparing vs the HD25-1-ii. If you want something with more sonic impressions, read any other Amperior or HD25 review below or the excellent one over at InnerFidelity.
pads: Amperior has this supple pleathery material which is way nicer than the HD25 pads and more comfortable
isolation: but somehow the HD25 pleather pads isolate better
clamp: really the same
build quality: Amperior clearly better in every way with nicer cups and cable assembly (and changeable cables with iDevice capability)
sensitivity: the Amperiors are a bit easier to drive
impedance: much lower than the HD25, which may be an issue with amps that have a high output impedance if you're the sort that worries about damping factor
amping: not really needed, nor much of a difference noted
bass: midbass still humped like the HD25 but to a slightly lesser degree
midrange: same 'ol
treble: again a tiny bit cleaner than the H25
overall sound: it's really just a slightly cleaner sound overall
upgrade from HD25? eh... if you already have the HD25 I don't really see the point unless you want the colours
Extra comparison of HD25-13 vs HD25-1-ii...
pads/isolation/clamp/build: all exactly the same as HD25
impedance: boom we're at 600ohms
sensitivity: not surprisingly lower than the HD25, but actually not by much; you can still get plenty of volume from a portable dap
amping: makes a difference, but don't go breaking the bank for it; it's a mild improvement and more useful here for the headroom
bass: take the HD25 midbass hump and stretch it out lower
midrange: same 'ol
treble: less wobbly than the HD25, more "hifi" but less useful for DJ use where you want that extra sharpness
overall sound: more even response across the frequency range
upgrade from HD25? only if you already have an amp, otherwise stick with the regular one


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: tiny, robust, multifunctional
Cons: driver and stability issues, not a real step up from the uDac-2
Full review and images here...


Modern Modder Man of Manitoba
HTML... uphill, both ways!
Pros: lots of bass, durable build
Cons: sub par sound for the price, uncomfortable
The Pro40 is Munitio's first foray into full sized headphones. The manufacturer is well known for their range of iems, though I haven't heard any of those so I carried no expectation of “brand sound” at all into this review.
So let's start off with outward appearances. The box is pretty standard: Nice picture, specs are listed, feels solid and probably something you could wrap in paper and mail to somebody without worrying about it getting crushed. Pop open the box and you'll find the protective case and the headphones inside.
The travel case
The case is a semi-hard shell covered in a nylon-like material that seems reasonably scratch resistant. There's a rubber badge on the shell that says “SOUND PRECISION // MDR-01... SPEC.MIL-GRD” which I suppose means the product name of the shell is the MDR-01. No confusion with Sony there. As for military grade, well, no. It'll keep your Pro40 nice and neat, and the zipper seals up tight, but that's about it. Actually a note on the zipper is that it almost looks like one of those waterproof kinds, but it isn't. Please don't try sailing your headphones on a river.
The insides of the case aren't anything special. There's no foam cutouts or supports. Retract the headband all the way and the Pro40 sits very snugly inside. You might even have to prod just a little bit to get everything to slide in. There's a netted pouch on one side for you to stow the extra cables and adapters and maybe a small dap (like a Sansa Clip), but you'll have to wiggle the contents to the middle of the pouch otherwise they'll impede the headband and you won't be able to zip up the case.
Build Quality
Overall build feels fairly solid on the Pro40. The headband adjustments slide on rails on the underside of the headband and feel quite sturdy. There is no pivot or rotation here, which often makes for a weak joint on other headphones. The literature says aluminum and polymer construction. I'm guessing the aluminum must be the framework inside. On the outer surface it looks to be all plastic, but there's a bit of extra weight to the headphone.
The cups are actually not connected directly to the headband. The headband ends in a pair of large rings, and the entire driver and earpad assembly pivots on a gimbal system within this ring, giving free movement in two axes to fit the earpads to your head. It's rather akin to AKG headphones. It's not a huge amount of movement (maybe +/- 10°), but it should be sufficient for most people.
The earpads are very nice, made of a protein leather and feel like they will last a long time. The materal feels thick, and there's good padding inside (possibly memory foam, but I'm not sure). The headband stretches quite wide and feels strong enough and can probably take a couple drops on the floor, but I wouldn't bend or twist it like a V-Moda headband.
I wanted to take the Pro40 apart, but honestly can't find a good starting point. There are no visible screws, and the earpads are quite firmly glued down and held in with small tabs. Pad rolling does not look to be an option for this headphone. There isn't much padding on the headband to speak of. Instead, the entire underside is a soft-ish rubber. It appears to be a custom formed piece that wraps around a small lip inside, rather than glued.
The provided cables are nice and thick. The cloth cable is a bit thinner and comes with remote buttons; it's light but kinks a little. The coiled cable is rubber and thicker/heftier. Both feel solid and capable of withstanding a little abuse. Both have straight 1/8” jacks on one end (for plugging into the Pro40), and a straight threaded 1/8” jack on the other to fit with the provided adapter.
Given the stiffness of the headband, clamping force is rather high which ultimately limits the long term comfort of the Pro40. While the soft pads help, I have a rather wide head and a particularly wide jawline, which results in pressure beneath the ears that become uncomfortable over time. Those with narrower heads may fare better here.
My ears are average sized and just fit inside the pads. There's some decent depth in there and my ears do not bottom out on the grill inside. However, those with big ears might have to squeeze them in. Comfort on that aspect will be highly dependent on the individual. The pads themselves are a very nice protein leather and do not feel overly sweaty or warm after use.
There is no real headband padding. As mentioned earlier, it's just a rubber undercoating. Not super stiff, not too soft, it does the job. Most of the weight will be held at the ears anyways, so you don't notice much on the top of your head. While the rubber does have a slight stickiness to it, it won't tug on your hair like some other headphones with similar headbands.
Portability around the neck is decent. The cups are small enough to not squish against my neck/chin.
The isolation on the Pro40 is really just average for a closed headphone. There's decent attenuation of the treble, but there's a rather bad resonance in the midbass that reminds me of the Skullcandy Aviators. The result is an actual amplification of noise in that band, like a weird form of specific superhearing. With no music playing and sitting in a quite household, I find I can easily pick up the sounds of my furnace blowing air, and the sounds of traffic outside.
For portable use, it's not going to block out much noise on a commute and might in fact make it worse with all the engine noises, but should at least cut out some of the human chatter. On the flip side, for someone walking around it might mean you won't get hit by a car I suppose.
Well right off the bat, these are far far from neutral. They've got what I could call a “typical consumer headphone” sound. Basically starting off with a strong bass and sloping downwards into the treble.
The bass is quite emphasized with very good subbass extension. While I can be a bit of a basshead at times, it's almost too much of a good thing. I find on certain electronic tracks that the pressure build up from all the bass rumbling becomes quite fatiguing. There's lot of rumble here for all those synthetic tones, but not so much impact if you're a fan of kick drums. The bass definition is average for a closed can; not bad, no great, I was hoping for a bit better in this price point.
The midrange kinda hits a brief shelf after the downwards slope from the bass. So the response here is relatively flat, but with all the excess coming in from the midbass things are unfortunately a bit blurry. The caveat here though is that this is where trying different amplifiers produced the greatest amount of change in the sound. Coming off my Nuforce HDP, the music was bloated and ill-defined. The Nuforce uDac-3 and FiiO e17 fared much better, and coming off my iBasso D10 was probably my favourite of the bunch giving it some of that needed punch and improving clarity (and before you ask, the dac used for all the above was the uDac-3 feeding analog input into all the others). I have a suspicion that there's an impedance peak in the midbass and what I'm hearing is interactions with amp output impedance.
There's a bit of a dip in the midrange somewhere around the 800Hz range, which unfortunately takes away from some vocal and instrumental definition. Above this the response slopes back up and gives us our first upper-mid/low-treble peak. I find this gives a bit of immediacy with strings and brass, which is perhaps their saving grace in what is otherwise just an average presentation.
Moving into the treble is like stepping down onto another shelf, albeit a wobbly shelf typical of virtually all closed headphones since the cups produce the characteristic resonances in frequency response. To the Pro40's credit, the wobbles here are much less pronounced than other closed cans. The overall treble presence is reduced quite a bit from the bass range and rolled off at the top, so the energy here is quite low. It's better than the TMA-1, but that's not really a great comparison. There's little to no sibilance to speak of, even on harsh recordings, so if you're very sensitive to that sort of thing then this could be a plus. I actually prefer a downturned treble tuning, but this is a bit further than I would take it. Strings and brass might have presence, but lack in that “shimmer” aspect. Cymbals fall quite flat as well.
Overall detail is meh. It's there, but hiding. Bass has thump, but isn't quite visceral beyond the oomph. Vocals within a specific range (tenor?) sound ok, strings and brass are ok, woodwinds lack air, drums have energy but are clumsy, cymbals hit but don't shine. If you're not adverse to EQ, playing around with some treble boost really opens things up. The treble EQ on the FiiO e17 did a pretty good job here actually.
In terms of staging, well with recessed midrange and treble there isn't much staging to speak of. It's rather muffly and closed in feeling. Sometimes closed headphones offer this illusion of openness; like the directionality is present but you still feel like you're in a box. The Pro40 doesn't do this, which is neither a good or bad thing. At times I felt like the stage was artificially wide or I was stuck right in the middle. The whole transition area in between would be missing. Again, that's pretty much what I would expect from a recessed midrange and is similar to what I've heard in other closed headphones of similar sound signature. The wideness was a bit odd; I could almost see it being useful for gaming.
Sensitivity is very high. Portable amps with modest power outputs work just fine, but stronger home amps are just too much. The FiiO e17 had a suitable range that I could use on the pot, but even the uDac-3 which isn't a particularly power amp I could barely turn it up before it was beyond comfortable levels.
Concluding thoughts
Ok so maybe I've been a bit harsh on the Pro40. My primary headphone is the HE-6 which is really just an utterly unfair comparison. As Munitio's first headphone, I think they did a commendable job on the build quality and aesthetics, but veered too far into “consumer bass heavy” sound. The closed headphone segment in the $300 bracket is crowded. There's a lot of stuff that's come out in the last year that I haven't heard yet, but I've owned or heard a lot of the “standards” from previous years and have reviewed and/or compared before. Just to give a sample so you know where I'm coming from:
So how do I feel the Pro40 competes against these? I'm afraid it doesn't. At the $300 mark you've got the likes of the Pioneer HDJ-2000 and Shure 940 (which are easy to find even cheaper) which trump the Pro40 on sound and comfort and portability. Even the Audio Technica M50 which you can find on sale for a third of the price is better in nearly every category.
Were the Pro40 in the $150-200 bracket I could see it being more competitive, but in the $300-350 segment I think it bit off more than it could chew. It's pretty obvious what demographic you're targeting when you've got a bass heavy headphone and you slap a $300 price tag on it though. So is it better than Beats? A hundred percent yes in every category. Is it better than all the other stuff that's better than Beats? Nope.
I would call them a decent buy at $115. Still, you can find a used M50 around there which would be superior.
Thats a good point.  Believe it or not, after owning both for extended periods of time, I would gladly take the M40x over the M50x.  The differences are quite negligible in my opinion, and I do enjoy the neutral sound signature.  I like to have a variety of diff style and sounding head gear at any given time, and I'm ready for a new bass monster to satisfy the urge when needed.  I've been loving the Sony MDR-XB950bt for some time but it's time for a new sensation. I also tend to seek models outside the box, that offer a little uniqueness compared to the current mainstream fan fav.  I appreciate your response thanks! 
Thank you for eliminating these from my curiosity list too.