New Beryllium driver JM Audio Hifiman R7

General Information

In this labyrinth of sonic exploration, where artistry and engineering intermingle, the JM Audio modded HE-R7DX headphones emerge not just as a product, but as a profound statement of acoustic philosophy. With the ingenious hands of John Massaria, the founder and chief designer at JM Audio, at the helm, his headphones are far from mere tools for listening; they are vessels of musical revelation.

Is John Massaria a sorcerer of sound or merely a cunning artisan of audio marketing? Such was the debate that raged like a tempest with the analytical and mainly pedantic minds at ASR, where measurements reign supreme. They challenged the notion that the modest internal volume of a headphone cup could benefit from John's unique fractal porous fiberglass innovation—deeming it impractical, even absurd. a viewpoint they dismiss as sheer folly. Yet, they stand firmly by their methodology, championed by their venerable head scientist, Amir, whose ears are as much a part of their toolkit as their instruments. Yet, in the audiophile realms where the ear, not the oscilloscope, is the final arbiter of truth, John's simple retort was to ask his clientele—the true connoisseurs of sound—to lend their verdict through experience.

I count myself among these fortunate patrons, having first dipped my toes into the JM Audio waters with the Kennerton Gjallahorn, JM Edition. Upon John’s suggestion and seduced by the allure of sonic perfection, I leapt at the opportunity to upgrade to his version 2 mod. Dubbed by some as mere 'bass cannons', these transducers, to my ears, delivered a symphony of improved articulation and an expansively deeper soundstage —attributes any self-professed 'audiofool' would revel in.. Following this, I indulged in several of John’s pad upgrades, each further refining the auditory experience. Though not considered accurate it was a fun listen.

My journey continued with the acquisition of the JM Audio XTC open headphones—near flawlessly fun save for an initial harsh sibilance which, over prolonged engagement, proved too jarring and when compared to the finest, lacked some refinement. They were returned to JM for an update, post-revision, they returned transformed, the sibilance vanquished, now exuding a sublime tonal balance that could coax tears from a stone with the melodies of Sonny Rollins or Pat Metheny.

Not one to rest on his laurels, John has since introduced a plethora of new designs: the XTC2 and several iterations of closed-back models. Amid these innovations, I have also been upgrading my system, dabbling with internet connections and audio equipment, seeking the perfect symbiosis of technology to complement these auditory wonders.

Recently, I ventured again into John’s auditory realm with a Hifiman R9 for modding, only to pivot to a custom Hifiman R7 at his suggestion—purportedly superior and adorned with bespoke 32-ohm Beryllium drivers from his XTC series and, by the way, the first of its kind. Though initially underwhelming, as I embarked on this latest auditory quest with the R7, initial encounters were bewildering—tones and textures seemed amiss, a discordant symphony between my expectations and reality. Yet patience proved a virtuous ally. Over time, the R7s shed their initial shroud of mediocrity, revealing a soundscape so rich and vivid it could only be described as revelatory. The once-compressed soundstage now unfurled like a grand tapestry, not so wide but intricate, displaying each musical element with a precision and vivacity that brought to mind the opulent expanses of a grand orchestra. After a suitable break-in period, they revealed their true potential, delivering clarity and a nuanced sound signature that belied their modest price. Though I believe something was awry with the system not the headphone, I cant’t contribute the change to break in. In my ceaseless quest to perfect the harmonious marriage of technology and audio, I have methodically upgraded my system, refining internet connections and audio equipment with a craftsman’s touch. This sonic pilgrimage has been supremely graced by the alliance of the Burson Voyager Deluxe and the GoldNote DS 10 Plus augmented by an EVO power supply. This triumvirate of audio magnificence forms a bastion of electronic prowess that robustly punches above its weight class, endowing each musical note with an uncanny clarity and vigor that one might scarcely expect from in this world of the super highend such a modestly priced setup.

Today, I ventured to carry these modded JM Audio wonders into the world, visiting a local Atlanta haunt, the coffee shop known as Drip. Here, amid the casual clink of coffee cups and the low murmur of morning discourse, I connected them to a diminutive yet capable Audioquest Dragonfly, cueing up Stanley Clark’s live rendition of "School Days." While the Dragonfly managed to propel these headphones with surprising adeptness, illustrating their remarkable efficiency and versatility, it became apparent that the Dragonfly and R7, while mighty, could not excavate the full sonic depth that Stanley's performance demands. The foundational elements, those resonant echoes that vibrate through one’s core, were palpably subdued. While these phones could not subdue the shop’s noisey nature. It was highly apparent these were not John’s usual bass cannon fair.

This experiment underscores the dual nature of these JM Audio creations—they are amiable companions to virtually any source, from the humble outputs of an iPhone to more ascendant audio devices. Yet, they truly ascend to their full potential when paired with stalwarts like the Burson Voyager and GoldNote DS 10 Plus, supported by the EVO power supply. In such company, these headphones transcend their physical limitations, offering a clarity and scale that rival far more opulent systems.

The R7, despite the limitations imposed by their plastic cups and pads, deliver an acoustic performance that soars beyond their price point, offering a clarity and speed reminiscent of far pricier models. From Eric Bibb to Diana Krall, their ability to traverse the musical spectrum with finesse is nothing short of remarkable. The soundstage, while not the widest, is meticulously defined, allowing each note to resonate with pristine clarity. Bass while textured and wet seemed to miss the utmost in authority.

However, there exists a singular caveat in this otherwise stellar setup: the propensity of the included cables to tangle itself with serpentine determination. This minor foible can occasionally mar the user experience, reminiscent of a snake coiling in a relentless quest to confound. For those seeking a more manageable alternative, John offers a selection of exemplary cables. Should you find yourself in need of a cable with 3.5mm connectors, do not hesitate to seek John’s recommendation. His guidance in selecting a cable can ensure that your auditory journey is as seamless as it is profound.

Thus, the journey continues, as these headphones reveal themselves to be as versatile as they are remarkable, capable of delivering audiophile-grade performance across a spectrum of sources. Whether tethered to the simplicity of a smartphone or the elaborate circuitry of high-end amplifiers, they adapt and thrive, proving that true auditory excellence is not merely about the equipment but the symphony of components that together create the music.

In the denouement of this grand auditory adventure, the modded Hifiman R7s ascend to their rightful place among the pantheon of high-fidelity champions. At a modest $450, these headphones defy economic gravity, offering a sonic purity and excitement that challenge even their more illustrious brethren in the 1500.00 price point. Though, if this was the only set I am ordering I would spend a few more bucks for the wooden cupped XTC 1.5 or XTC open at 799.00. Again, a more personal and economic choice, this is a remarkable value at 450.00.

In the hallowed halls of audiophile greatness, where the quest for perfection is eternal, John Massaria’s latest creation stands as a beacon of innovation and value, a testament to the magic that still dwells in the heart of music reproduction. Indeed, in this latest chapter of sonic exploration, the modded R7s are not merely heard but experienced, leaving a lasting imprint on the soul of the listener. They are not merely devices for listening but vessels that transport one to the very essence of music. As I eagerly await the opportunity to craft my XTC 2.5 iteration, it is clear: in the world of high-fidelity audio, JM Audio continues to carve its legacy with each ingenious stroke.