John Massaria

500+ Head-Fier
Kennerton Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition - As Good as My Original Mod or Better?
Pros: precision, bass, timbre, notes stop and start on a dime, liquid, intimate when recordings call for it, wet when recordings reveal such wetness in vocals, addictive sound, comfortable for long periods, upgraded soft ear pads made of lambskin feel better than stock GH50 pads, heirloom wood finish, hand crafted not some assembly line piece of gear- pride of ownership
Cons: Band has to be bent to accommodate a tight fit/seal and may not be easy for many, standard trs 6.3 wire is a bit stiff
Kennerton Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition
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Special Edition Color + Box Can be Arranged Directly with Audio46 or Kennerton


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Custom Edition Added 6-19-21 Can Be Arranged By Audio46 Special Order
Hybrid All Leather Ear Pads with Suede That Touches The Skin- No Perforated Holes.
Indigo Dark Blue/Gray Stabilized. Karelian Birch- Custom Rognir Head Band Added.




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I know it is truly strange for me to review a headphone with my honorary name on it- but who better to critique the design production released from Kennerton Audio than the person who started the mod in the first place. It has my initials on it and my name on the description on their web site. Yes, its cool and I am truly honored, but what if Kennerton screwed up the mod? Could they have made it worse? Or make it better by testing it with crazy geeky gear like the occluded ear simulator and by using audio measurements with Harmonic distortion analyzers, multi-tone and frequency graphs. Things I do not have at my home. I just used my ears to make the mod.
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HEADBAND/CUP FIT If you want to see how I recommend adjusting the headband for maximum impact and fit - see https://www.head-fi.org/showcase/the-kennerton-gjallarhorn-modified-review.24478/

I have to compare it to my original mod- which mainly was two fold. In the original mod I did - I slightly modified the horn design with what I called "flat flexible little fluffy dots" and I modified the bass port. If you read that review, you would know I did this modification out of my own necessity and obsession to enhance things. Originally I opened up the Magni to see if I can do any mods to that to enhance sound- nope that thing is set- no real mods I could asses - probably the reason so many people including myself like the sound from the Magni. But the GH50 was different- I dreamed of the design at night after my initial review and seen a way to enhance the horn driver in my head. The next day I got to work - my wife said I was crazy to be taking apart a $1200 (€1,080.00 to USD $1,277.97 at the time of this review) headphone but hey, I was confident I could do this without any harm but the pay off would be potentially high in performance enhancement. Well- I turned the GH50 mod into my favorite headphone of all time. As I explained in my ecstatic review - I had to share with the world what I had discovered here- how selfish it would be if I never told anyone? I discovered something here that was truly special and I had to see if others felt the same way.
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Moving on to the review- My new "DUSK" colored production model called the Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition- The Bottom line Kennerton took my modification and enhanced it through exhaustive tests by both measurements through machine and by ear- their entire team went to work and improved my simple tweaks. My initial impressions even before I had 3 hours of break in on the new GH50 JM edition - the dynamics sound spot on, instruments and placement all sound excellent, bass seems to be tuned optimally similar to my one open one closed port mod - I think their version sounds more detailed??? what??? but they need to break in. I just plugged them all in to the RSA Apache and my Pass WHAMMY. Break in will be 3-4 days at low/medium volume is all you need to get them optimized. I should mention- Breaking in headphones at high or loud volume will not be good for anyone- - you may break the drivers if you go over THD for drivers to get optimized, and since songs vary in volume a low volume is safe. But at this point I can say I love the pads on the JM Edition more than the stock pads on GH50 and the band and leather on exterior seems more premium. The chocolate brown gloss finish is gorgeous and complements my matted stain I did for my GH50. I did have to bend the HP band to fit tight and create best seal as I explained in my original review. Overall I am in audio bliss... and only expect it to get better from here on out. Again- to early to call- but I can say Kennerton may have perfected my edition. I should mention do not try and strain this horn design with tons of volume - like real horns these sound best when played at nominal volume - you will get it to be as loud as you can possibly stand but don’t try to go for the normal high twist of you volume knob. You don’t need to go full tilt- to get dynamic full body sound - if you push these too much you will know it. Less is more with these very easy to drive horn headphones. As I listen the new GH50 JM sounds more wet on China by Tori Amos- its so intimate and luscious. No sibilance at all- and this song can highlight sibilant earphones right away if their is any- it just sounds intimate like she is whispering in my ear and I feel her tickle my ear with her wetness. The mic they used is intentionally recording this way and these translate the intention so well- I can only describe the recording as sexy and intimate. With the JM Edition- detail pops out a bit more than the mod I made. I like it...
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Now I understand- I talked with Kennerton- and they said my particular boxed and shipped version of the GH50 JM Edition was already broken in at the factory- before they shipped it- they wanted to make sure it was working properly for me and my review. They said they test all their headphones before shipment and will not ship any that don't meet a stringent test period. But breaking them in usually is up to the owner - but to be clear they broke in my pair in already- do not expect Kennerton to do that for your pair. The reason I mention this is- I just got my set yesterday- and almost immediately I could hear it sounding better than my own GH50 I modded- and I knew this couldn't be right - no way a brand new driver sounds this good out of box of this caliber. But surely I was right- and it does. Man my ears are happier and really excited. A new favorite.
I am re-checking for claims of sibilant sound (one French reviewer claimed the regular GH50 was slightly sibilant. When I heard that, I repeated under my breath, "no way” to that right away - “modded or not these are not sibilant"- I checked voices or instruments with my sibilant torture test list - and again none on Carry Me Home (Accoustic Version) by The Sweeplings and Song To The Siren by This is Mortal Coil on the album It'll End in Tears remastered. I have the DSD version of The Story of Sonny Boy Williamson by Sonny Boy Williams and that too sounds so damm good... these are songs that shine on great systems and break down faults of others. I already started some techno heavy music like Travel Without Moving by Sonic Entity and man soo dam good soooooo good. They do surpass my mod. Bass seems more controlled but doesn’t shake my head as much as my mod. I looked at the bass mod they did and it looks more refined- and still increases bass accuracy but just not as much as an completely open port like my mod. But they do have one open port and one closed port like my mod- but their mod is slightly covered with thin cloth. The cellulose foam you see in the pictures adds more depth - creating a more cavernous space - 'tricking notes' into thinking the headphone is in a larger space than just fabric alone. Cellulose is also better than say fiberglass, cotton or long fiber wool or wool batting for insulation wadding. The specific cellulose used here is the best for tricking the notes into thinking it is in a larger more controlled space, absorbing and re-directing at the same time. Well looking at the insides here you can see they took everything I did and just made it better at Kennerton.

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After opening the GH50 JM Edition- I knew my design tweak was beat and what I was hearing was a fact- these latest versions do the headphone better justice to maximize its potential - their has a bit more detail, more air, more wetness and tighter bass, my modded headphone has now been beat by the newest production model. I am glad and relieved at the same time. The question of what if it got screwed up is no longer a concern- Kennerton has perfected the mod here. Imagine if other companies like Sennheiser or Focal took mods so seriously and offered them to the public for purchase? I guess that's the difference between hand made non assembly line pieces of gear and this amazing company like Kennerton.

This is the new King of headphones for me- no matter the price or type. My new favorite headphone I think is tuned to perfection. Highest of recommendations.

I will repeat my old review and add this is even better than what I explain here-

I have never heard a headphone come close to this sound as much as the Kennerton modded Gjallarhorn. I can't grasp that this type of dynamic headphone does so much right and so little wrong. Beyond the best sound I ever heard in any IEM, ANY headphone or even most speakers systems.

I don't need to EQ anything- the sound is as recorded from the source. Vocalists like Chris Issac or Alison Krauss, Bjork, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday etc all sound excellent as an example. Deep voiced recordings where the recording engineer wanted intimate sound with the singer and the listener like Jane Monheit, Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan all sound as close to perfection as they should. From crazy electronic music like the Gesaffelstein or The Crystal Method to rock such as Van Halen to Muse all sound insanely great here as well. What don't these headphones do? They aren't bloated they aren't sibilant, they are pinpoint accurate, sound warm, mids all sound right, high end detail is all there without fatigue AT ALL. The stage is huge- the placement on the stage is pinpoint.
The only limit here is the recording quality.

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Gjallarhorn JM Edition Limited Color Karelian Birch Indigo Blue

I know so many people are going to doubt the sincerity of this review mod, but I can't explain it better than wholly sh$t balls this is the best dam headphone I ever heard bar none. Of all the trade shows like Cam jam and AV Shows like T.H.E... no kidding... And for all the naysayer's- well I can tell you- you haven't heard these modded yet have you?

I know this review will garnish a ton of doubt... I could care less. I am always truthful and passionate about music and equipment. I don't know what else to write so I will stop here.

The GH50 JM Edition - MY NEW FAVORITE HEADPHONE BAR NONE. Easy to drive, easy to live with and the price to performance is beyond expectations.


A special thank you to Kennerton, although I do not make one penny from the sale of your headphones- I want to say how honored I am in the work you put in here on this modification and naming the edition after the mod I did so innocently. I never expected this to be a reality and here it is for all to listen to and hear. I hope many headphone lovers alike get to enjoy this version as much as I do.

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Gjallarhorn JM Edition Limited Color Karelian Birch Indigo Blue


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(Picture by Andrew Green and his GH50 on facebook- he loves em too)



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[SIZE=5]Photos By Head-fi Member Strayngs[/SIZE]
(Left) Kennerton Thekk in Karelian Birch Indigo Blue
(Right) Kennerton Gjallarhorn JM Edition Raspberry Jam

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Limited Edition Gjallarhorn JM Edition Baltic Sea

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A VERY LIMITED COLOR IN STABILIZED MAPLE BALTIC SEA BLUE

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Looks much better in person! LOVE IT!

Recent user's are hearing what I hear... please feel free to leave comments if you decided to try them-
-JM

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John Massaria
John Massaria
John Massaria
John Massaria
a new playlist for all headphone lovers:

frost15

100+ Head-Fier
Kennerton Gjallarhorn "JM Edition" - A triumph for innovation, a victory of concept design.
Pros: - Elegant, tight, perfectly distributed bass.
- Outstanding timbre and dynamism rendition.
- Accuracy: notes stop and start when they should, which creates an incredibly realistic sound, specially in live recordings.
- Soundstage and depth unheard of in closed-back cans. Music meant to be played in big theaters or audiences in general is unbeatable (classical, some jazz recordings, soundtracks, etc…).
- Perfect balance between detail and musicality. Instrument separation is unreal, yet it never ends up being too analytical.
- Vocals: Quoting John Massaria “liquid, intimate when recordings call for it, wet when recordings reveal such wetness”. And throwing in my two cents: explosive & vibrant when recordings call for it as well, such as in soprano and operatic voices in general.
- Unique, non fatiguing, immersive, addictive sound signature.
- Comfortable for long periods, (upgraded soft ear pads made of lambskin).
- Aesthetically gorgeous: heirloom wood finish, hand-crafted, laser engraved logo.
Cons: - First and foremost: YOU HAVE TO BEND THE METAL BAND to get a tight and comfortable fit for the proper, intended sound. The horn design is very sensitive to headphones head position, so having such a clamp is a MUST to get their true sound. Bending the metal band is a tedious task that should be done with certain precautions (using both hands, all cables detached…) but do not bend it shyly or otherwise you won’t get the perfect fit. Once it’s done it’ll last forever -see review
- Supplied cable is useless (even though it’s indeed very high quality) if you don’t have a 6.3mm headphone adapter (and I don’t even recommend those because they are prone to destroy jack outputs).
- Microphonic headband if touched while wearing (which happens very rarely but still…).
- Highly recommended break-in (burn-in) of 75-120 hours in order to have an optimal sound reference.
- Revealing when it comes to bad recordings. If there is an imperfection you will almost certainly notice it straight away.
- May lack frontal impact for some genres intended to punch you in the face. - see review.
- Mids can be "funny" in mid-range rich music. I think they go hand in hand with the uniqueness of the JM horns sound signature (depth - some instruments sounding more distant than others for example) but some people may think otherwise... - see review
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From the author’s web page: JM Edition is an acoustic modification of Gjallarhorn headphones, which was made by John Massaria, one of the first owners of Gjallarhorns. We considered it quite worth to be a separate model and now we are offering you the official Kennerton workshop version of it.
You can read in depth about the modifiacion from the first hand, from the author himself.
The main differences touched the bullhorn form and change of phase inverter. It did significantly changed the accent of the sound of the headphones without dropping any quality at all.
We named the model after the author, JM Edition.


Since the main goal of this review is to talk about the sound I will not go into detail about the design and development process. You can read about that in Kennerton’s web here https://kennerton.org/shop/gjallarhorn-jm-edition-dusk/ (trust me, the graphene membrane technology and the horn specs, among other things, are interesting things to read).

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Also, I want to mention that from this point on I will refer to these cans as the JM horns.

I will say though that aesthetically these are one of the most beautiful headphones I’ve ever seen. Their wooden finish, leather pads and Kennerton’s logo metal pin on each side make them so beautiful that everyone around you will notice sooner or later.

For the purpose of this review I used a Sony NW-WM1Z (Modded) as source (balanced output), the JM horns were connected through a 4.4mm balanced OCC cable and all music was played in FLAC (default for this review) (I will specify bitrates and bitdepths when necessary) and Native DSD (will specify). I always aim to keep the audio chain as short as possible so no amp or “middle chain” devices, just source and headphones.

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Let’s start then. So, what do we get when we buy the JM horns apart from the headphones. Well, we get a very nice, genuine leather case, a high quality cable with 3.5 mm rhodium plated connectors and gold plated 6.3 trs connector and a strap to comfortably carrying the case. I’ve used the leather case (strapped) to carry the JM horns and my DAP (Sony NW-WM1Z) and I can say everything fits perfectly. There are two inner pockets where I can store the DAP and a set of cables separately and then put in the headphones, and everything feels safe and sound.

The stock cables are a bit useless unless you have a 6.3mm to 3.5mm (or 4.4mm, or whatever you use) adapter and I really missed the option to choose a different cable or to have an adapter included. I ordered an Audiocrast HIFI 8 cores 7N OCC cable from AliExpress and I couldn’t be happier with it.

The first thing I noticed out of the box was how comfortable these headphones were, yet the clamp wasn’t great and they tended to move up and down too much, which generated a kind of inconsistent sound. I found myself re-adjusting the cans too often and it became a bit problematic. That’s when I realized how important is to bend the metal band just like John Massaria specified in his review. At first I went a bit shy on the bending and I did not like the results I was getting, then I went too strong and the clamp was too hard. It was a tedious task and it took me about 2 hours of different bending angles to find the sweet spot, but once I found it was pure bliss sonically and comfort wise.

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The bend should be done with both hands simultaneously, pulling inward at the same time shylessly. Repeat the operation on both sides. Test the clamp and re-bend outward/inward to find the right spot.

The cans are weighted at 406gr, but once you find the right clamp they’ll feel lighter than that. I can now wear them for 4 hours non-stop with no problems.

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This is how my JM horns look right now. A bit crazy, but it’s a must for all sound related purposes.

Speaking of the sound, out of the box the cans sounded a little bit bright and bass-shy, and the midrange was weird in a funny way, yet I was already blown by the depth and soundstage, simply unheard before in closed back cans. I then proceeded to the burn-in process. I burnt them for 20 hours before testing them again, and I kept doing the same thing for 4 times until they reached the 80 hours mark. I reckon the most significant change happened around the 60hr mark, where something just clicked in my head. It could be placebo, it could be the adaptation process but at that mark everything started to sound cohesive and unique in an incredible way. Before, I wasn’t fond of some midrange sounds, such as snare drums (which sounded a bit muffled and kind of distant for my taste), but from the 60hr mark my mind changed completely. Everything started to sound so good that when I went back to my Shure 1540’s (very precious headphones to me) I just could not believe the difference. In some genres (rock, metal and pop) the Shures were sounding kind of lifeless and flat now… really flat. And when it came to classical music the Shures sounded just bad! That was an inflection point. The JM horns had completely won me over.

It’s from this point I started to review the sound seriously and everything from now on is written with the sound I got after the 80hr burn-in mark in mind and the metal band bent perfectly, which is key for the purpose of optimal, perfect sound.

Before delving deeper into the sonic aspects I should mention here that the JM horns are extremely easy to drive. At just 33 Ohms of impendance you can plug them pretty much anywhere and they will be easily crankable and enjoyable. You don’t really need an amp with these, which is a pro in my book.


Soundstage, imaging and depth

When we think about closed back cans we imagine good bass response, good noise isolation and hard impact. Well, the horns have arrived to completely change the game. We still get good bass response (perfect, actually) and good noise isolation but we trade a bit of that front impact for great soundstage and imaging, and incredible depth. It’s the first thing I loved about the JM horns. It caught me completely by surprise because I was just not expecting that level of layering and separation from a closed back. Music recorded in small halls, chamber music and music where the soundwaves hit walls sooner is reproduced with such realism you won’t believe it. The combination of the pinpoint, perfect timing of notes, the reverb, the soundstage and the depth makes you easily imagine where the instruments are being played, their size and how big is the hall, theater, club or whatever the place. Other types of music like metal and rock also benefit from this in different ways. For example fast drumming or percussive tracks that use stereo imaging are very, very pleasant to hear with the JM horns. This all comes without any significant loss in musicality. Actually this sound signature is very immersive in its own, unique way. If you feel analytical you will easily be able to do analytic listening given the excellent instrument separation, but should you change your approach and decide to just enjoy the music, you will be able to do that as easy. Carefully mastered and produced recordings such as anything Steven Wilson’s hands touch will sound sublime with the JM horns, but I will close this chapter warning everyone that having this amount of detail, layering and separation comes at the cost of noticing bad recordings straight away. If a recording it’s poorly done you will certainly notice.
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This is the perfect scenario for the JM horns to do their magic.

Let’s talk about bass, midrange and treble response now. I don’t judge sound based on graphs and numbers. That’s all interesting tech talk but in the end the most important thing for me is how I feel when I close my eyes and listen to the music. How far can these headphones take my mind? Do I feel like I’m in the audience? Does the singer sound like if he/she in my room?! Do I feel the bass or is it just overreaching and distorted? Can I hear and feel the electricity coming from the electric guitar? Those are some of the instinctive questions that look for an answer when I listen to music, so let’s go for it:


Bass

The first thing I noticed about bass was its elegant, perfect separation, tightness and detail. We live in a day and age where bass is often played exaggerated and overblown to a point it’s just completely distorted. Many people can’t “feel” the bass anymore unless it’s completely overblown, and I really dislike that. The way the JM horns cast bass is simply perfect for my taste. It’s the most naturally realistic bass I’ve ever heard. For example, when I was listening to Vivaldi’s ‘L’estate Presto’ by Rachel Podger [DSD] and the violoncello entered the scene it sounded EXACTLY like a real violoncello. Also on Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew” [DSD] the bass line is perfectly heard, tight, with each pluck discernible from the next. It’s the type of bass that you feel in your body not by distortion or loudness, but by it’s extended, natural frequency. You feel it’s huge and you know the size of the instrument it’s coming from. Truth be told, string instruments in general are simply fantastic on the JM Horns. I don’t know if it’s the nature of the wooden horned acoustic chamber but they sound so real it’s unbelievable. When we move to electronic music bass the low frequiencies keep its qualities. In Die Antwoord’s ‘Pitbull Terrier’ or Igorrr’s ‘Hollow Tree’ for example the bass is huge and tight when it hits, you feel it all over, but it’s not in your face. You are not next to the huge rave speaker, but in the second row, and that’s something you should be ready to expect. These headphones are elegant and never punch you in the face. They don’t want “blood on your hands” or ears, they want you to feel and see everything, from the size of the instruments to the width and depth of the stage, so they take you one or two rows back to give you the whole picture. You keep feeling the impact but in a different way. At first I did not know what to think of this but now I simply can’t go back to the front line, “I want to keep driving the Mercedes
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instead of the Monster Truck”
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and I’ve found out I’m more comfortable sitting a few meters back from the front line of the jazz club,
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cup of wine in hand, enjoying the bigger picture. Atmospheric music with huge bass gets the best of the horns. Soundtracks specially are end-game level with the JM horns. Take Star Wars III ‘Anakin vs Obi Wan’ [24 bit], every time the bass enters in the scene I get goosebumps. Trust me when I tell you things can get really huge and immersive with the JM horns if the music calls for it. My friend was so moved by the horns performance with the Star Wars OST that he assured it was like hearing it in a big theater again. Now take a bass heavy metal album like Sunn O)))’s ‘Monoliths and Dimensions’, well, it sounds like I feel it was intended to sound; Like being played from a huge, deep, dark cave in the center of the earth. The “twisting, creaking wood” sounds on the first track are creepier and unnerving than ever. A completely cathartic experience. Of course all of this should give you an idea of how great they are for epic/fantasy/action movies/videogames... I could keep talking about the bass section but I don’t want my review to reach biblical proportions (I’ll fail anyway…) so I’ll leave it here. I hope I have made myself clear so you have an approximate idea of what to expect. Summing it up, the bass is perfection for those who like natural, tight, extended bass that's felt for all of those qualities and nothing else.


Mid-range

Midrange on the JM horns is the most debatable aspect of their sound signature.
Depending on the type of music, mids can be close to perfection or weird in a funny, totally enjoyable way. Igor Boitsov’s review aimed most of its criticism to the mids, calling them out for being uneven. I can totally see why. When I started the sound tests I remember I experienced a problem with the mid-range similar to what he describes as “some mid-range sounds heard as if from a distance” and “some mid-range instruments give the impression of a low-frequency component removed from their sounding”. The second problem was fixed when the clamp was good (remember to bend the metal band like Beckham!, a step which I think Boitsov’s skipped judging by the pictures of his review).
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Now for the first problem, I remember that perception improved with the correct clamp as well. It was only noticeable in busy midrange music, where two or more instruments are “competing” for protagonism along the same range of frequencies, and after listening to the JM horns for so many hours I don’t know if that “problem” is part of the amazing depth they are able to create, to the extent I barely “hear” it anymore, or maybe I just don’t care, at this point I don’t know. I am well aware Dire Straits ‘S/T’ album sounds a little bit different now. The midrange sounds deeper and sometimes more distanced in the vocals department, but I really like it. In my mind it just makes sense for the music to gain that layering and separation. It creates a livelier sound that may decrease the perceived “warmness” of some records. It happened to me while listening to one of my fav prog rock albums of the last decade, Opeth’s ‘Pale Communion’. It’s a mid-range rich album and it sounded more detailed, deep and separated than what I was accustomed to. At first I found it a bit weird but repeated listens made me appreciate things I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate if I had not listened to it through the JM horns. It’s definitely a different listening experience for sure for mid-range rich music. When the mid-range is more focused and controlled and there is no battle for the attention spot these cans manage to deliver things with a delicate, yet full bodied taste. They somehow read the intended atmosphere of the recording and reproduce it. This is specially palatable in the vocals area. Listening to Becca Stevens sing in Ambrose Akinmusire’s ‘Our Basement’ [24bit/96khz], from his masterpiece , ‘The imagined saviour is far easier to paint’, is the perfect example for this. The chorus vocals remain back in the sides giving Becca’s sweet voice the attention spot. Paraphrasing John Massaria, vocals are “liquid, intimate when recordings call for it, wet when recordings reveal such wetness”. If you close your eyes with Johnny Cash’s ‘American IV’ you’ll be surprised to “see” Johnny playing for you in your room, for real. JM Horns cast the best reproduction of Johnny’s voice I’ve ever heard, goosebumps all over the place. So, what happens with explosive, vibrant voices then? Well, the JM horns are great playing them as well. Listening to Simone Simons in Epica’s ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ I heard a vibrance, and timbre in her voice I had not ever heard before. That album in general sounds outstanding because, let me tell you, the horns were made to play epic symphonic arrangements. Not to anyone’s surprise brass instruments (specially instruments) sound just like they were meant to sound. And mixing them with ‘epicness’ (like in soundtracks) is the perfect combo for the horns to shine. When it comes to heavy brass jazz the horns shine, specially in live recordings, but be warned once again, do not expect to be in the front line and hearing the trumpet right in front of you, the JM horns will take you to a table a bit behind in the jazz cafe to enjoy the show from a safe distance. John Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train’ [DSD] sounds just like it’s being played exactly from that distance. When it comes to more energic and aggressive music such as rock and metal (favorite genres of mine by the way) the JM horns perform great in the mid-range section. The layering and depth makes artists with “big sounding” productions (lots of guitar reverb, echoing and such effects) sound HUGE, like if playing in a huge festival stage with no crowd, which makes the sound travel freely and clean. Sometimes I also imagine myself witnessing the band playing in a huge studio. It’s truly an immersive experience. Rush’s ‘Moving Pictures’ or Devin Townsend’s masterpiece, ‘Ocean Machine’ are the first examples that come to my mind. Then with genres such as death or black metal you will soon realize that, without the JM horns, your death metal is suddenly not coming from the catacombs anymore
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and black metal will lose its windy coldness


or its dungeon like aura,

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and do not get me started on how the JM horns work with prog/tech death metal... I completely rediscovered albums like Dead Congregation’s ‘Grave of the Archangels’ or Deathspell Omega’s ‘Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice’ (specially when the Gregorian chant comes at the mid section of ‘Carnal Malefactor’, the atmosphere was so greatly improved I got lost in it, again proving that human voices are read perfectly by the JM horns). For the first time ever I was able to discern everything in Defeated Sanity’s ‘Passages Into Deformity’ and keep enjoying it. Alkaloid’s ‘Rise of the Cephalopods’, which is one my favorite metal songs ever, gets to a whole new dimension with the JM horns. Aggressive electric guitar genres like Thrash Metal and Metalcore sound awesome too. Guitar lines are delivered fast, vibrant, tight and with perfect precision. Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’ invites you to raise the volume and enjoy the hell out of every single wave of electricity coming from its guitar tracks. Besides, the horns makes the rock of bands such as U2 or Oasis shine in all of their glory. Flamenco is another genre that gets the blessing of the JM horns to sound as good as it gets, transporting you next to the ‘tablao’ to enjoy its intricate guitar melodies and vibrant ‘cante’. Listening to Paco de Lucía and Camarón de la Isla joining forces in ‘Como el agua’ is greatly improved by the horns, giving it a very colorful, live and vibrant vibe that is really hard to beat. Summing it all up, the midrange will possibly be the most disputed aspect of the JM horns. It’s influence vary from genre to genre and even from song to song in some cases, but in my experience it’s never a deal breaking experience, on the contrary I feel it makes a lot sense given its peculiar sound signature. In the end it will be up to each person to decide if they like it or not, but I think it wouldn’t ever be a decisive hindrance.


Treble

Usually I don’t pay much attention to treble, but I consider its qualities to be fundamental for a headphone to sound good. If it’s not worked on properly certain treble problems can be an instant no for me.
I usually like a treble that is present enough to give a natural, lively sound without going too much into the bright side of the force. I also hate treble shy sound signatures, they sound really unnatural to my ears and ruin everything else for me, so I was really, really pleased when I found that the treble of the JM horns felt actually close to perfect. I’m in absolute love with the hi-hats and cymbals sound, which are heavy in the genres I listen to the most (rock and metal). Also the kind of high frequency sound from percussive hits and clangs from objects such as kitchen cutlery hitting plates and sounds of that sort is so real it’s almost scary. It’s the kind of realistic treble reproduction that could pass for a real object noise in the room you are. Again, the pinpoint precision of the reverb and echo is key to reach this level of detail. Miles Davis “Sketches of Spain” [DSD] treble dynamics completely passed the test with the JM horns, which made the album sound totally alive! I also did the What Hi-Fi treble test and I was really glad to hear the JM horns passed it with not a single problem. I also realized during this test how amazing the piano sounds with the horns as well (that Keith Jarrett’s track sounded absolutely fabulous!). There seems to be a peak at 11khz mentioned in Igor Boitsov’s review. I went on and tested the material he provided to proof his point, but after testing the same material with two other pair of headphones I came to the conclusion that it was more of a recording problem than a JM horns treble frequency response peak one. So all in all I give the treble a close to perfect score. It makes everything sound spacious and lively without ending up too airy sounding. I’ll repeat now that due to its treble, along with depth and separation, the JM horns will lift the warmness veil from some recordings. These recordings won’t sound bad at all but they will surely sound a bit different and more live-like. To get finished, the excellent treble reproduction is just the icing on the cake for these cans, period.

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Conclusion

The Kennerton Gjallarhorns “JM Edition” are a triumph for innovation, a victory of concept design.
It’s not easy to design headphones based on a new, never seen before concept, and Kennerton have not only succeeded, they have surpassed all expectations with these cans, creating one of the best sounding headphones ever. I’m right now on John Massaria’s train, these are the best sounding headphones I’ve ever heard and they have the King’s crown for me. I think we’ll be seeing more horned headphones designs very soon, but these Kennerton’s Gjallarhorn cans will always be in the history books as the proud, marvelous sounding pioneers of that concept.
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John Massaria
John Massaria
I had two made by Kennerton already and added the perforated holes myself, they add more to the higher end sparkle I think and they are much more conformable than standard foam and the suede is beyond comfortable too - so adds to how long I can wear due to comfort and adds a slight more amount of detail to shine through- I also tried the Dekoni hybrid elites which were some what of the inspiration for the Kennerton JM Dream Pad I call it -
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Buckeyedentite
Does anyone know how the gjallarhorn compares to the verite closed? Are they different enough to consider having both? Thanks!
John Massaria
John Massaria
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