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Cascadia Audio Talos

Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. AndyDandy
    Fun and addictive
    Written by AndyDandy
    Published Nov 20, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - great clarity, good bass extension, enjoyable highs, good soundstage, very comfortable
    Cons - slightly hollow sounding
    First review whoop whoop! Quick heads up I'm not an audiophile, so I'm not gonna be talking about "the lush, subtle but grainy treble" etc... This is purely just my thoughts on the Talos, as someone who's into headphones and listening to music.
     
       Apparently I'm the only person outside of the US to own a pair of the Talos. As a UK resident, you will be paying considerably more to buy these. The pound falling in value did not help, making them approximately £200, plus the worldwide shipping and high import tax made these cost "approximately" £300 ($370).
     
    With all that said, I think the Talos are still certainly worth buying, even at a higher price.
     
     
    Looks:
    I love the industrial utilitarian design of the Talos, the orange coloured cups contrast well with the black of the headphone. However, and this is really a nitpick, I do not like the orange wires that stick out between the headband and the cup on both sides. They just stand out like crazy when you wear them. If the wires were coloured black (for example) then this wouldn't bug me so much. I do not consider this a con because this more Fostex's fault than Cascadia Audio, plus as I said this gripe of mine is really petty.
     
    Comfort:
    Amazing. You wear them and they feel like earmuffs they are that comfortable. You are still conscious they are on your head, but they are not too heavy and have the perfect amount of clamping force. The added strap and the HM5 hybrid pads feel like such a luxury.
     
    Portability:
    Forget it. They are very hard to drive. You can get to a decent volume on an iPhone 6, but you have to max out the volume and they begin to distort horribly. If you take these out with you, then I'd recommend the Oppo HA-2 amplifier. At home, plugging the Talos in a laptop or desktop works fine. Personally, I used a Schiit Magni 2 Uber amplifier on high gain at home.
     
    This is not a con because once again the hard to drive nature of these cans is not Cascadia Audio's fault, Fostex is to blame again. When buying the Talos, I assume people already generally know about the t50rp mk3, so when purchasing these, the buyer is already expecting them to be hard to drive.
     
    Clarity:
    First thing I can say is that they are far more detailed than my Oppo PM-3's (£350), the AudioQuest NightHawks (£499) and most mid-tier headphones sharing a similar price range. I cannot compare the Talos to other more "endgame" headphones over £1000 because I did not have the opportunity to. The Talos conveys almost every subtlety in the music for all genres. I would say the Talos are at the same level of detail as an Audeze el-8 Open Back (£600).
     
    They do not sound remotely murky or muddy, and they don't try and forcefully push every detail in your face (Sennheiser HD800/s, Audeze LCD-4, Technics EAH-T700) to the point where they get fatiguing. They have that perfect balance of amazing detail without sounding either artificially precise or blurry.
     
    Bass:
    More pronounced than the t50rp mk3, not as pronounced as the t20rp mk3. It isn't quite neutral: if 0 was no bass, 5 was neutral, 10 was insanely high, then the Talos would be at a 6 when it comes to quantity. As for quality, it has the "planar" sound with slap bass that gives shivers down your spine. Reminds me a lot of Audeze LCD-X, though the Talos's bass is more comparable to the Audeze el-8. The Talos has a really decent amount of sub bass as well, the pads rumble to the beat of a drum. The mid-bass does not remotely bleed into the midrange. The precision is really great, but not quite as exceptional as an endgame headphone which is to be expected given the Talos's price.
     
    Mids:
    Slightly recessed. I would not call the Talos V-shaped because the bass is not as pronounced and the treble is not harsh and so in your face. The details are just as present in this region of the sound. Honestly, the recessed mids really are not that noticeable, and is essentially a nice feature of the Talos. Vocals do sound a little distant, so whether or not you like that it's up to you to decide.
     
    Treble:
    Clarity is top-notch, and it's never overly present/harsh (which I cannot stand) or too laid back (like the Oppo PM-3). As a result, the Talos have a really fun and engaging sound.
     
    Con:
    The music does sound a little hollow. This does not have anything to do with the recessed midrange. I would say the sound is slightly resemblant of when you place a shell next to your ear. It is a very difficult thing to describe, and my shell comparison sounds far harsher than the reality. I should also add this problem is very minor and is not a deal-breaker of any kind.
     
     
    Conclusion:
    Buy them. Of all the headphones I've tried, they have the most addictive sound ever. When I put them down I want to put them back on my head and listen to some more music. Clarity is great, bass is quality and quantity, it has the "planar" sound, and best of all, they are super comfy!
  2. SanjiWatsuki
    Killer Planars at a Great Price
    Written by SanjiWatsuki
    Published Jun 17, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Well tuned fun sound signature. Resolving mids and treble. Punchy bass. Very comfortable.
    Cons - Lower mids slightly recessed. A bit on the heavier side. Sub-bass not as emphasized as the mid-bass.

    Introduction

    IMG_20160617_174311.jpg
     
    Finding a great isolating closed headphone has been my white whale for years. I’ve gone through the B&W P7, NAD Viso HP50, Denon D2000, Fostex TH-X00, a modded Fostex T20RP, modded XB950BT, and a Beyerdynamics T5p in my hunt. Every closed headphone I’ve tried had their own weaknesses and it became a game of trying to find out which tradeoffs I was willing to accept.
     
    When I saw hype about the Cascadia Audio Talos, a new T50RP mod, I was intrigued. Most T50RP mods I’ve tried, like the Mr. Speakers line, disappointed me in the treble. The Talos was a v-shaped, fun T50RP tuning -- unique, and more affordable than most T50RP mods. This was the first bright T50RP mod I’ve seen, so I needed to see if they had nailed the treble properly.
     
    I purchased the Talos a week ago and I’ve spent a lot of time with them now. I’ve been using them as my daily drivers at home and work.
     
    Long story short, the Talos is a bargain at its current price of $250. It’s a delightful headphone that works great in the home or office. The bass slams hard, the treble shines through, and they have all of the markings of a great v-shaped headphone.
     

    My Biases

    My daily driver for the past several years has been the HD800. I’ve used various mods on it, but I am currently using it with equalization to level out the treble peaks and boost the sub-bass. These are my reference most of the time.
     
    I tend to enjoy deep, extended, and even emphasized sub-bass. I like treble both neutral and emphasized, but I am bothered if the treble is too recessed or recessed with peaks. The DT990 is too hot in the treble for me, but I enjoy almost everything from darkness of the Audeze LCD-2 pre-fazor to the bright HD800 stock.

    Build Quality and Comfort

    Cascadia Audio replaced the stock pads on the T50RP with Brainwavz hybrid pads -- velour on the head, pleather on the side. These pads are very plush and big. Combined with the medium clamp of the T50RP headband, these are some of the most comfortable pads I’ve worn on a closed headphone.
     
    IMG_20160617_174335.jpg   IMG_20160617_174323.jpg
     
     
     
    There is a leather headband on the headphones under the stock headband. Thanks to the headband, the headphone distributes its weight more uniformly than a stock T50RP. The Talos has some heft to it, but the headband makes them very comfortable for a heavier headphone.
     
    The headband adjustment is the normal T50RP sliders. It’s a simple and effective system. You push the headband up to the right height on both sides and that’s it.
     
    Other than that, these feel like a standard T50RP. They’re built solidly and have a removable cable. They do use stickers for branding, but it’s a minor aesthetic detail. I personally use the V-Moda Audio Only Cable with them, but they come with an orange angled short cable and a black 1/4in longer cable.
     

    Sound Impressions

    For a $250 closed-back headphone, the Talos sounds great. They’re very fun sounding, but maintain a tasteful v-shaped tuning. The DT990, for example, is a fun and v-shaped headphone but overdoes the treble. I had to mod my DT990s to be a bit more subdued to enjoy them, but the Talos are great without mods.
     
    Most planar headphones have linear, extended bass, but the Talos opts for an emphasized punchy mid-bass. If you’re a basshead, you’ll love the Talos’ impact. The sub-bass is a few dB quieter than the mid-bass, but still rumbles strongly. The bass quality is solid, but not phenomenal. The bass is a bit looser and warmer than the bass on the NAD Viso HP50. The bass presentation is more musical than tight and detailed. That said, the bass quality is quite controlled, just not top of class.
     
    The Talos presents more natural mids presentation than most T50RP mods I’ve heard. Due to the v-shaped tuning, the mids are a bit recessed, which can be noticeably heard when listening to a select few female vocalists. That said, the mids are clean and have a rich tonality to them. Overall, I find the mids to be competitive with other closed-back competitors in its price bracket.
     
    The treble is unlike any other T50RP mod I’ve heard so far. It’s very bright and forward as part of the Talos’ fun sound signature. I normally find T50RP mods to be too dark, so it’s a welcome change. It’s bright, sparkly, but doesn’t run too hot and provides solid detail and air. I don’t find the Talos to be fatiguing despite the bright tuning.
     
    The soundstage isn’t the widest I’ve heard from a closed back headphone, but it is above average. The Fostex TH-X00 and the Beyerdynamic T5p both cast a wider image, but the TH-X00 is more expensive and leaks much more sound and the T5p is a significantly more expensive headphone as the Beyerdynamic closed flagship.
     
    The Talos sounded great out of every amplifier I’ve tried and don’t seem to be very source dependent. I have to crank my amplifier a bit to get these to a good volume. Although they can work out of a mobile device, I strongly suggest pairing them with an amp. I personally found even the Fiio E10k was sufficient.
     

    Closed Back Comparisons

    Vs. TH-X00

    The Fostex TH-X00 had more sub-bass slam and slightly cleaner bass than the Talos. The mids clarity was roughly the same, but I didn’t notice any dips in the mids. The upper midrange on the TH-X00 struck me as being a bit more emphasized and shouty, but the Talos was brighter in the treble. The TH-X00 had a wider soundstage, but it also leaked a lot more sound and isolated much worse. On a technical level, the TH-X00 trumped the Talos, but the Talos’ superior isolation is why I use it in the office.
     

    Vs. NAD Viso HP50

    Like the TH-X00, the HP50 trumped the Talos in terms of sub-bass extension and bass clarity. Noticeably, the Talos sounded more open and had a more air-y sound than the HP50. I preferred the treble presentation on the Talos, as parts of the treble sound recessed on the HP50.
     
    Both headphones isolated very well, but the HP50 was much less comfortable. The HP50’s pads are thin and presses the headphones against my ears. The Talos’ pads were much more thick and soft and stopped the drivers from pressing against my ears. The HP50’s headband touches your head at a point, placing all of the headphone’s weight on the very top of your head. To contrast, the Talos suspended headband distributes the weight better across your head. Even though the HP50 was the lighter headphone, I found the Talos to be much more comfortable, both on the ear and on top of the head.
     

    Vs. Beyerdynamic T5p

    The T5p and the Talos are both very comfortable headphones. The T5p is much lighter than the Talos and has bigger pads, but the pads are less plush. Overall, they're both supremely comfortable over-ear headphones. My T5p has a more lean sound signature. Both the Talos and the T5p have resolving mids and treble, but the T5p definitely edges out the Talos in terms of bass quality. The bass is tighter and more defined, while the Talos is a bit looser. The soundstage on the T5p is wider is wider than the Talos, although that should be expected given the price difference ($1000 vs. $250).
     

    Talos - Summary

     
    The Talos delivers a killer listening experience without being picky about source. It’s not quite a super resolving, detailed reference headphone . . . but it’s also $250 fun closed headphone, rather than a flagship reference. Sure, the bass could be tighter or the mids a bit more full, but . . . it’s a $250 fun closed headphone. For that price, these are wonderfully detailed and transparent. Honestly, you’d be hard pressed to find a better closed headphone for even $500. Personally, the Talos have dethroned the NAD Viso HP50 as my isolating closed back headphone of choice.
     
    Cascadia Audio has done a great job with their first headphone and I look forward to seeing what headphones they bring in the future.
  3. mrstrangeguy
    Praise Talos!
    Written by mrstrangeguy
    Published Jun 15, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Fun Signature, Very Comfortable, Great value for money
    Cons - Not the last word in technicality, Build Quality could use improvement, Treble emphasis may not bode well with some recordings
    (1st product review, so critique away!)
     
    Overview:
     
    The Cascadia Audio Talos is a new T50RP mod by mad_economist of r/headphones. With a price of $250 (Launch sale of $200), it is one of, if not the cheapest commercial T50RP mod on sale at the moment, which is a breath of fresh air in the face of escalating pricing of head-fi equipment. Given the high pricing of most other T50RP modifications on sale today, the Talos has an opportunity to create a nice niche for itself, does it succeed?
     
    Source Gear:
    1. Geek Out 450
    2. Fiio E10 (Line out)
    3. Schiit Magni
    4. Hifiman HM650 (Balanced Card)
     
    Comparing Headphones:
    1. Hifiman HE400i (Grill-modded)
    2. Fostex TH-X00
     
    Non-sound bits:
     
    From the outside, the Talos is basically a stock T50RP with the following additions:
    1. Suspension Headband
    2. Brainwavz HM5 Hybrid Pads
    3. Orange Vinyl sides
    4. Cascadia Audio Stickers
    The rather stock look of the Talos is to be expected for the price tag, the frame is a stock, sturdy T50RP frame we know and love/hate. Of more concern regarding the build quality is the aesthetic elements, namely the stickers and vinyl, on my pair, the vinyl isn’t perfectly matched with the headphone sides, and there is some unevenness regarding the opening for the removable headphone jack. Time will tell how these aesthetic elements hold up.
     
    On the comfort side, these are a very comfortable pair of headphones, they’re not particularly light (~385g), but the suspension headband distributes weight very well, and the combination of low clamping force and earpads means low pressure on the ear area, much lower than that of the HE-400i. They are decently isolating (better than TH-X00), but don’t expect IEM levels of isolation.
     
    Sound:
     
    Overall, the Talos are a v-shaped pair of headphones with an emphasis on a more exciting/fun sound.
     
    Bass:
     
    There is a definite bass emphasis in the signature, while not as bass-heavy as the TH-X00, they are definitely north of neutral (HE-400i) in this regard. There is a mid-bass hump, with a rolled off subbass, these cans can slam hard and provide plenty of rumble, but stop short of being noticeably boomy with most recordings. The rumbly nature of the bass means that it’s not as quick as some other cans. In DOOM (2016) OST - Ultraviolence & End Boss, there are some very quick kick drums, where the HE-400i, with it’s quick and linear bass, can reproduce very well, and the Talos can’t quite keep up in terms of texture and detail.
     
    Mids:
     
    The Mids of the Talos, relative to the Treble and Bass, take a slight back seat. There is good presence in the lower-mids region, which is good for male vocals. However, there is a dip in the upper-mids, which can make female vocals somewhat more distant. It’s rather similar to the TH-X00 in this regard, but with more lower-mids and less upper-mids. The cans appear to be fairly resolving in this area, just don’t expect intimate vocals.
     
    Treble:
     
    Treble is another point of emphasis on the Talos, it appears to be well-extended, with instruments having good sense of airiness. There is some sibilance present in more ‘hot’ recordings due to the elevated treble, but it’s a general elevation without significant peakiness (as I can tell), it’s more even than the HE-400i, which has a 9-10k peak, and maybe the TH-X00 as well, but it’s not clear due to the darker signature in general of the Massdrop cans.
     
    Soundstage:
     
    Soundstage is not particularly large either depth-wise or width-wise, as expected for a closed pair of headphones, but the imaging is pretty good, with decent separation between instruments/vocals within the stage.
     
    Portable Use:
     
    These are good cans for use out-and-about, with several caveats:
    1. Power: These headphones are pretty inefficient and will not be adequately driven by phones, or likely many DAPs. I normally turn the HM650s, at Balanced + High-gain mode (extremely powerful in portableland), between 5-6 (out of 8) on the volume knob, in comparison, the HE-400is are at between 4-5 (out of 8)
    2. Size: They are pretty bulky headphones and pretty conspicuous on the head
    3. Sweating: The closed design and pad combination is going to induce sweating, especially in hot weather.
     
    Plugged straight into a GO450, they are a highly transportable and enjoyable setup.
     
    TL;DR - A great pair of headphones that hold up well against more expensive competition, great ergonomics and exciting sound signature, highly recommended.
  4. Aornic
    High price-to-performance upgrade over the stock Fostex T50RP
    Written by Aornic
    Published Feb 1, 2017
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Fun sound signature with full low-end body and comfortably extended highs, use of comfortable HM5 earpads, lightweight, isolation
    Cons - Hard to drive, flimsy stock T50RP cable option, slightly v-shaped sound signature making vocals sound a bit distant compared to instrumentals
    Thumbnail.jpg
     
     
    Background:
     
    My very first review, in March of 2016, was of a Fostex T50RP mod – specifically the ZMF Vibro Mk. I. Any in-depth impressions I have of the prolifically modified T50RP were of ZMF Zach’s tuning of the Mark II driver. This was used in the ZMF Vibro and both ZMF Ori/Omnis that I have owned and reviewed in the past – but the Mark III Fostex driver was what Zach has switched to for the Vibro Mk. II. Confusing right?
     
    In any case, it has been months since I sold my last planar magnetic headphone and chose to focus on the two dynamic options that I currently own. Approached by a fan nearby for my impressions of the Cascadia Audio Talos, I jumped at the chance. I knew of them, as I frequently peruse Reddit’s r/headphones subreddit where an announcement was made last year. The creator of the Talos is a fellow who goes by the moniker MadEconomist. I read some impressions back then about how it was slightly V-shaped, not a sound signature I prefer personally, and left it at that.
     
    So, thanks to Armand for lending me his pair to find out more firsthand.
     
    Specifications, Build Quality and Comfort
     
    Impedance: 50Ω.
    Maximum input power: 3000mW
    Weight: 385g (without cable).
     
    As with all T50RPs, the impedance is 50 ohms. Make no mistake however, they all require a good amount of power to come into their own – with the FAQ section on the site painting an ideal scenario of having an amplifier that can inject “3Vrms or more into 50 ohms.”
     
    The headphones come in the original box for the Fostex T50RP, along with the original cable – a single-ended affair that plugs into the left cup. Given its $250 price, it makes absolute sense for MadEconomist to not push the envelope of remodeling the cups and wiring properties (as done by ZMF and previously MrSpeakers by changing the cable plugs).
     
    What you’ll get is something that looks absolutely like the original Fostex headphone, with stickers on it. The stock cable is also provided, and it is not impressive at all. Armand provided his own V-Moda cable as an alternative he chooses, which I used instead and found preferable to the overly springy stock option. Both are terminated into 3.5mm jacks, so a converter was necessary to use it with my amplifier.
     
    You have to understand just how naked the Talos feels in my hand compared to what I have experienced before – T50RPs tricked out with wooden cups with thick audio jacks that had room for mini-XLR terminated cables. However, it is because of the minimalist nature of the Talos’ modification that it is quite a bit lighter than both the Vibro and the Ori. Nevertheless, it is a solidly built headphone even in its stock form – with the plastic design not feeling overly flimsy and quite rugged. The metal sliders are intact and as I remember them, with no incremental adjustments but staying in place well.
     
    Because of the relatively light weight, comfort is not an issue with the Talos. The choice of using HM5 Hybrid earpads is commendable, as they are not overly thick and make an effortless seal on my ears – while being very, very comfortable and plush. Extended listening sessions did not reveal any ear fatigue, but I could see them getting a tad hot in the summer – but that’s a concern that is unimaginably far right now as it’s a cold February in the UK.
     
    2017-02-0112.11.26.jpg 2017-02-0112.13.21.jpg 2017-02-0112.13.32.jpg 2017-02-0112.13.41.jpg
    Sound
     
    I was pleasantly surprised that the Talos is not as deep of a V-shaped sound signature as I had anticipated. The overall presentation has somewhat of a clean characteristic to it while being elevated at the edges – bass and treble taking centre-stage. Jumping through my library, I immediately preferred the Talos with warmer rock music productions than I did the Vibro Mk. I for its ability to not feel too stuffy or congested.
     
    The bass of the Talos is north of neutral, but not overly far reaching in the sub-bass region. However, it is punchy and not sluggish like the Fostex x Massdrop TH-X00 or even the earthier sounding Meze 99 Classic. It is not deeply textured, but it occupies a place that lends a “full” sound to the music – injecting a lot of body into each and every recording. I find this a tricky endeavour to implement because of the risk of midrange bleed (which did happen on the Vibro Mk. I), but the mids of the Talos bypass this issue – giving the lower midrange and bass space to come into their own quite well. Every bassline is heightened in presence in a pleasing manner, but do not expect the intense accuracy of the Sennheiser HD800 in this regard (and you really should not, apples and oranges).
     
    Despite having its V-shaped characteristic, it was actually the midrange of the Talos that made it for me. I could not help but directly compare it to the TH-X00, which has sucked out mids and sharp treble – in my opinion. The Talos, however, has a manner of making the instrumentals of songs work well around its dip. While the soundstage is not, understandably, wide – the instrumentals of most genres fit as they should. The jangling guitar work of Spanish Bombs by The Clash sounds as it should, and well separated to boot. However, it is the vocals that take a backseat in the overall presentation of the midrange – with an upper mid dip especially hitting the female vocal range and making it sound distant. Male vocals are not hit nearly as hard, but it is still obvious that the instrumental will always be emphasized when using the Talos. It should be noted that you will not experience an especially detailed midrange from the Talos, as it is a bit hazy because of the dips.
     
    That being said, the good aspects of the midrange far outweigh the negative. A quick listen to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac confirms this. The vocal layering is not absolutely drowned out by the instrumental, but the harmonies come through quite well in a manner that can be complimented. I prefer its presentation over the Vibro Mk. I for sure.
    The treble is very comfortably extended, but not overly far reaching. It does not feel too stuffy, but it is certainly not very airy. I greatly appreciate the lack of peaks that I endured when I had a TH-X00 – as the Talos has a more linear approach to the treble. I also appreciate that it extends further than the Vibro Mk. I, which would get too stuffy (especially on older tracks like Led Zeppelin) – although this could be a characteristic of the T50RP Mk. III, something the Vibro Mk. II is built upon and supposedly has more treble extension than the Mk. I. (another confusing statement, I know) This means that the snare drums have a more impactful sound and cymbals are not completely drowned out in the mix.
     
    One significant weakness that both headphones share is the slightly “scratchy” and unnatural nature of the T50RP treble in general. I had gotten used to it back in the day, but spending so much time with dynamic headphones has made it stick out just that much more.
     
    I went hunting for sibilance in songs that make me grind my teeth on the HD800 (despite it being SuperDupont modded). One example is David Lee Roth’s vocal on Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher, which can give me a headache on some headphones. While it did run hot at certain vowels and on a ride cymbal, the Talos did a great job at giving the song a thick low-end with decently opened-up highs in a manner that didn’t irk me. This is a non-fatiguing headphone, plain and simple.
     
    Conclusion
     
    As an overall listen, I greatly prefer the Talos with energetic songs coupled with slick production. Its strengths are not very compatible with low-fi recordings, despite it being quite a forgiving listening experience.
     
    It is not a true-to-life and “natural” sounding headphone that will give you an especially live sound, but it is a very pleasing “fun” tuned headphone that works well as an all-rounder among planar magnetics in its price range – and is an impressive first release by Cascadia Audio.
     
    2017-02-0113.16.16.jpg
     
    Comparisons:
     
    Bass Quantity: TH-X00 > Classic 99 > Talos > ZMF Omni = Elear > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > K7XX > HE-500 > HD600 > HD800
     
    Mid Presence: HE-500 > HD800 > HD600 > ZMF Omni = Elear > Classic 99 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > K7XX > Talos > TH-X00 > DT990
     
    Treble Quantity: DT990 > HD800 > HE400i > TH-X00 > Elear > K7XX > Talos > Classic 99 > HE-500 > HD600 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I
     
    Soundstage: HD800 > K7XX > DT990 > HE-500 > ZMF Omni = Elear = HD600 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > Talos > Classic 99 > TH-X00
     
    Comfort: DT990 > HD800 > K7XX > TH-X00 > Elear > HE400i > HD600 > Talos > ZMF Omni > Classic 99 > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE-500
     
    Aesthetics: Elear > HD800 > Classic 99 > TH-X00 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > K7XX > HE-500 > Talos > HD600
     
    Lightness: HD800 > Classic 99 > K7XX > DT990 > TH-X00 > HD600 > HE400i > Talos > Elear > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > ZMF Omni > HE-500
      HungryPanda likes this.
  5. keanex
    THE best v-shaped headphone under $500
    Written by keanex
    Published Jun 30, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Price/Quality ratio; Comfort; Bass quality/quantity; Musicality; Imaging.
    Cons - Requires a powerful amplifier.
    The Good: Price/Quality ratio; Comfort; Bass quality/quantity; Musicality; Imaging.
    The Bad: Requires a powerful amplifier.
    Tonal Balance: V-Shaped
    Style: Circumaural semi-open.
    Cost: $250 at Cascadia Audio
     

    Reviewing Process & Background

    I knew Mad Economist as a fellow mod on Reddit’s /r/headphones community. A while back he had mentioned that he was working on a Fostex T50 mod and asked if I’d like to hear it when he finished the tuning, and enthusiastically I agreed. After some time I finally received a prototype, a standard T50 shell with the tuning applied inside. I gave them a listen for an hour and sent him a payment via PayPal to buy the first pair, I wasn’t letting these go!
     
    I’ve had them for about three months or so and have used them exclusively for music and gaming - primarily Overwatch. I have used these long enough to have an informed opinion on them, but reviews are always subjective. Personal experience always trumps reviews!
     
    Thanks Mad Economist for the opportunity to “beta” test these and purchase them!
     

    Build & Fit

    Build
    The Talos are a modded T50rp MK3, but the mods are centered around comfort, sound, and aesthetics, no structural changes have been made that would affect the durability of a stock T50rp. Overall I feel the T50rp are a solidly built headphone with no concerns of durability for long-term use, this has been shown time and time again in the many other T50rp mods.
     
    Comfort
    Oh man the Brainwavz Hybrid pads are comfy! The leather comfort strap relieves the downward pressure and does a good job dispersing the weight as well. They never disappear from the head, they’ve got a little bit of heft to them, but they are comfy to wear for hours! The pads remind me of the DT770 Pro 80 for what it’s worth - super soft and comfy.
     

    Sound Quality

    Bass
    Oh man the lows kick. Digging incredibly deep and providing an authoritative rumble in the sub-bass. I’m a huge fan of how powerful the sub-bass is while also being controlled very well, no noticeable midrange bleed at all. The sub-bass lingers slightly, but not to the point of slowing down the pace of quick electronic tracks. The bass has a tendency to push itself to the forefront of the soundstage, though the fantastic imaging qualities keeps the instruments in their own space.
     
    The mid-bass is tight and punchy, not as prominent as the sub-bass and I appreciate that as mid-bass bloom distracts from the midrange. The punch of the mid-bass gives the Talos a very lively and exciting sound. No midrange bleed at all.
     
    The bass is powerful and tastefully so, very few headphones compete with the quality in the low-end in my experience. The low-end is reminiscent of the ZMF Blackwood for reference.
     
    Mids & Highs
    The midrange has a similar texture that can be heard in the Vibro, Blackwood, or Omni. A slightly smokey pleasing texture that’s neither highly resolving, or veiled. It sounds slightly smoothed over in a pleasing way and it seems to be unavoidable with this driver for better or worse. The midrange has a noticeable dip, yup these are definitely v-shaped, but the midrange isn’t drowned out.
     
    The highs are bright and are as forward as the bass. They push the limit of what I consider to be acceptable brightness before becoming fatiguing or grating. No doubt some people are going to find these too bright, but I find them less bright than the DT990 for reference. Mild grain, but the highs sparkle and add to the excitement of the tuning.
     
    Soundstage
    The soundstage feels like an intimate club with great speaker placement. There’s a sense of air though that keeps them from feeling boxed in though. Imaging is fantastic, I have absolutely no issues using them for enemy placement in Overwatch, and left/right pans in music dance across soundstage accurately. Instruments also have hard defined edges between them, I’ve had no issues with instrument bleed at all, which gives each instrument it’s own space.
     

    Conclusion

    The Talos get a whole-hearted recommendation from me for those looking for an affordable v-shaped headphone. From the moment I put these on my head I knew that they weren’t leaving my house. These outclass any v-shaped headphone in it’s price range and it’s not even close. They’re comparable to the ZMF Blackwood in sound quality, and I must admit I actually enjoy the Talos more. The Talos get my highest recommendation, I haven’t had a headphone make me this excited to listen to music in a long time. I’ll confidently label these the best v-shaped headphone under $500.
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  6. Cinder
    A Tidy Upgrade
    Written by Cinder
    Published Dec 19, 2016
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Great V-shaped sound signature, nice color scheme, comfortable, high-levels of detail retrieval
    Cons - stickers, proprietary (but circumventable) locking mechanism

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    Cascadia Audio Talos Review: A Tidy Upgrade

    I’ve heard my fair share of T50RP mods. Be it ZMF’s Omni (or is it Ori now?) or a DIY sock-mod (yes, that’s a real thing), I am consistently surprised at what people manage to be able to do with a $150 pair of headphones. Cascadia Audio is another player in the T50RP mod scene, with only one model currently available for purchase, the Talos. However, are the structural and sonic improvements worth the $100 premium added to the Talos by Cascadia Audio?
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    You can find the Talos for sale here on Cascadia Audio’s official website for $250.
    Disclaimer: This review is based upon a loaner unit provided to me by Cascadia Audio in exchange for my honest opinion and un-edited words. I do not profit in any way from the writing of the review. I would like to thank Blaine at Cascadia Audio for giving me this opportunity.
    Preference and Bias: Before reading a review, it is worth mentioning that there is no way for a reviewer to objectively pass judgment on the enjoy-ability of a product: such a thing is inherently subjective. Therefore, I find it necessary for you to read and understand what I take a natural liking to and how that might affect my rating of a product.
    My ideal sound signature would be an extended sub-bass with a leveled, but textured, bass. The mids should be slightly less pronounced than the treble, but still ahead of the bass. I prefer a more bright upper range.
    Source: The Talos was powered like so:
    PC Optical out -> HifiMe 9018 SPDIF -> 3.5mm out -> headphones
    Hidizs AP100 3.5mm out -> FiiO A5 (high gain) 3.5mm out -> 3.5mm out-> headphones
    PC USB -> Sound Blaster E3 3.5mm out -> Sherwood AD230B 1/4-inch out
    -> headphones
    Standard 3.5mm out from both my Nexus 6P and HTC One M8 was inadequate to drive the Talos. While the FiiO A5 did a decent job powering the Talos, I got my best results when using my desktop amp, the Sherwood AD230B.

    Sound Signature

    Initial Impressions:
    The Talos sounds V-shaped at first listen with a solid bass response. Extension is good on both ends, though upper treble seems a tad bit rolled off. Mids are dynamic, but recessed behind both the treble and the bass. Detail retrieval is quite good for the price.
    Treble: Songs used: In One EarMidnight CityOutlands
    Despite the upper treble seeming a bit rolled off, there is still plenty of high-pitched goodness to go around. The treble is tuned well, with no sense of coloring. The high-hats from In One Ear were very clear to the point where I could distinguish each and every cymbal hit individually. The attack and decay of the treble is similarly well tuned, leaving the upper-range with a quite natural sound.
    Mids: Songs used: Flagpole SittaJacked UpI Am The HighwayDreams
    I personally prefer my mids to be more emphasized than on the Talos, but I’ll be damned if it still didn’t show me a good time while using it. Every song I listened to through it sounded lively and dynamic. Be it the mish-mosh of Flagpole Sitta or the organized chaos of Jacked Up, I found that the Talos was able to present guitars, pianos, drums, and synths with no issues. Tonality is pretty natural, with no overt coloring.
    The pianos of Jacked Up had a medium hardness, indicating a healthy and natural level of decay in the mids. This is a pretty subjective area, as I tend to like my decay speed faster than natural, while others find such a speed a little off-putting.
    Vocals are presented well and are placed well within the mix. I find often that it is a bit difficult for headphones makers to strike a good compromise between making the lyrics clear, yet cohesive, with the rest of the sound. Thankfully, it seems that Cascadia Audio has largely succeeded in doing just that.
    Bass: Songs used: Lights(Bassnectar Remix)Gold DustIn For The Kill (Skream Remix)Leave Me
    While the Talos does have a healthy amount of both mid and sub-bass I wouldn’t rate it a bass-head’s headphone. In order to avoid compromising the listenability of acoustic-based genres, it sounds like Cascadia audio chose to go with a slightly above-average mid-bass boost and a standard sub-bass boost. I have no qualms with this, as it does what is needed to do. Sub-bass extension and dynamism is good, as demonstrated by In For The Kill.
    While bass is satisfactory for electronic genres, it really does shine in classical songs. Listening to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack (which is an unholy classical and electronic hybrid) really impressed me.
    Clarity: Songs used: ThroneMap of The ProblimatiqueI’m Not Alright
    Clarity was fairly good for a V-shaped pair of headphones, and I was consistently impressed with the detail retrieval these cans regularly exhibited. The Talos exhibited minor smudging in the chorus of I’m Not Alright, but didn’t entirely drop any particular detail.

    Packaging / Unboxing

    My loaner came in a standard T50RP box.

    Build

    Construction Quality
    While Cascadia Audio hasn’t done quite as much of an overhaul as other brands that are modding T50RPs, I still quite like the changes they have made. No longer are the plastic cups of the headphones a dull matte-black — Cascadia Audio has instead opted to use a semi-glossy solarized orange that shifts colors in direct sunlight. It’s cool, and is certainly and eye-catcher. However, it looks to my eyes as though this is not a paint, but is instead a very well-adhered sticker. Cascadia Audio has reached out to me to let me know that these are actually made from automotive vinyl, the same material that are used on the Mad Dogs series. This type of vinyl is much more durable than standard industrial stickers. I would still much prefer that paint was used, as this would open up a lot more of interesting finishes and allow Cascadia Audio to come closer to a true “solarized” look.
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    The headband has also undergone some changes. Cascadia Audio has introduced a soft inner-strap tasked with distributing the weight of these large drivers across the wearer’s head. This works well, and while the headphones don’t “disappear” they certainly don’t weight too heavily down on my head for extended periods of time.
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    The cable is detachable, but has a proprietary locking mechanism. This isn’t Cascadia Audio’s doing, but rather is a feature introduced by Fostex. Thankfully, this locking mechanism isn’t too intrusive, so some third-party TRS cables, such as those from Monoprice, will likely work, which is a plus.
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    Accessories

    The Talos comes with two cables: an orange 3.5mm cable and a black 1/4 inch cable. They are both made from a standard plastic, but feel good enough in the hand. Neither cable is especially prone to microphonics.

    Summary

    The Talos is a pretty compelling headphone for the price. While I do really like the sound it offers, I am skeptical about a $250 headphone having stickers. I understand the logistical difficulties introduced by having to paint each cup, but I think at that point I would see a lot more value in the construction itself. However, if this doesn’t bother you at all, and you are willing to invest in a setup capable of driving the Talos’s demanding drivers, then by all means pick one up. It is an extremely capable V-shaped headphone.
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