I'm glad I got to meet a lot of knowledgeable people at Kirkland. Came all the way from Vancouver, WA and it was worth it. There was a ton of gear that I never had the chance to demo before like the Little Dot MK III and Objective2, as well as the Sennheiser HD 600 and up. It was a real treat. Here's a few of the highlights I'd like to post my impressions of. Abyss AB-1266: I'm going to go against the grain here and say that these headphones... were not good. At all. That is, of course, given the five kilobuck price. This headphone is easily the worst price-to-performance headphone I've ever tried. It's not that I expected a whole lot for how much it cost, but I expected it to at least sound better than headphones that were a tenth of the price and lower. A Sennheiser HD 600 is not ten to eleven times worse than this - and in fact, I think it might actually be better. These headphones were described as sounding like a pair of speakers, which I'm not prepared to agree with. It sounded like any pair of headphones, doing nothing to stand out, and having one of the worst fits I've ever seen in a headphone. Maybe it's not supposed to seal properly, but it bothered me having the headphones hang the way they did on my head. I'm not really disappointed since I knew no matter what, it would never sound worth its ludicrous price. Any expectations that could be placed on it would have been unfair. But I at least expected it to do better than headphones a tenth of the price. AKG K1000: Oh my. I've always kind of dismissed this headphone as a bit gimmicky. That's not really as bad as it might sound, it's just that I didn't think it was really that impressive a headphone. I was skeptical because of the design. What surprised me was how much like a headphone that these earspeakers actually sounded like. I enjoyed listening to them; they had a sound signature I'd describe as fun, in spite of its odd design. If anything, I have to admire the technical prowess. Would I buy one? Probably not. But if you already own this piece of audio history, it's worth hanging on to for when you want to enjoy its massive soundstage and fun sound. Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium (600ohm): This was amplified by the Little Dot MK III that I mentioned prior, and it sounded fantastic. With a full-bodied sound that I'd almost describe as euphonic, this was one of the headphones I just wanted to keep listening to. I don't know if the tubes were stock or not - and the owner didn't seem to remember, either. All I know is that I enjoyed my time with this headphone. I've heard the DT880 before - the Pro, specifically - and enjoyed it thoroughly, like a less-bassy but more detailed Fidelio X1. This sounded similar, but more refined. Focal Spirit Professional: "Professional" is right. I don't know if these are the right choice for monitoring audio, given that it seems to have a design geared towards the general user, but they sounded pretty much flatter than anything else I tried - to the point of sounding kind of boring, actually, and I enjoy neutral sound signatures. It was a comfortable headphone with quite a lot of clamp. I don't mind clamp, but I can see why this would bother a few people. If someone were looking for a sound as flat as possible without frills, these are the headphones I would recommend. Probably with an asterisk. Grado RS2: To those who have seen me on the forum, it's no secret that I have a distaste for Grado products. They are remarkably uncomfortable, and even if you can tolerate the poor ergonomics, the sound is just not worth it. The high-end Grado headphones, I could never wear for more than a few seconds, and the low-end ones were almost as uncomfortable - saved only by the S-cushes. Yet they were also some of the worst-sounding headphones I've heard. The bass on low-end Grados is non-existent; they sound like answering machines circa the 1990s. THAT ALL SAID: I managed to wear these for some time and I actually did not despise the sound signature. While I'm anything but converted to the Grado house sound, if I had to rate my distaste for Grado products on a scale of 1 to 10 (one being the lowest), I went from a 3 to a 6 with these. The bass was there and it still maintained the sound signature Grado headphones are known for. These have been described to me as the anti-Beats, and yes, I am inclined to agree. Not worth it to me, but I can respect these products a little more now. HiFiMAN HE-500: The star of the show for me. Powered by the new Bottlehead Quicksand amp, these were the most surprising thing I heard at the meet. It's no secret that the HE-500s are famous for providing an excellent value, but I never got to hear them until now. When I heard an applause at the end of a track that I didn't think was actually playing, I looked around to room to see who was clapping. That is how crystal clear this setup sounded. The source was reel-to-reel, so if you're someone who thinks analog is the ultimate source, well, I certainly can't prove you wrong with a setup like this. I was pretty dead-set on getting the Sennheiser HD 600s when I had the money, but I'm inclined to change my decision now, after hearing these. A headphone that sacrifices nothing and does well at everything: comfort, detail, impact, and so on. A+, HiFiMAN! HiFiMAN HE-6: What gives? This sounded worse than the HE-500. I don't remember what was amping it, but it was this giant beast of electronic prowess that - upon looking at it - you'd think was powerful enough to drive these. I think you could count the number of reliable pairings with this headphone on one hand. Having listened to it, it was everything the HE-500 had, but worse. I refuse to believe this was properly amped. There's just no way, unless it really is worse. It didn't sound bad, but when compared to a much cheaper headphone that sounded leagues better, yes, it is - strictly speaking - "bad." Sennheiser HD 600: No, there is no Sennheiser veil. Moving on: these sounded incredibly close to neutral, yet did not forgo the lush sound that the HD 650s had. It wasn't quite as warm and full-bodied, but the trade-off was that it sounded closer to neutral, with a little more detail. I hated the plastic build; it actually did not feel that sturdy, to me - particularly in the hinges. That said, it probably won't break after extended use - and replacements (EXPENSIVE replacements) are available for the headband assembly. Sennheiser HD 650: Again, that Sennheiser veil is a fairy tale. I know it's been beaten to death to the point of having an emote on this very forum, but I did not hear a veil. Okay, maybe compared to the HD 800s, they sound veiled, but that's a completely unfair comparison. Would you compare the HD 598s to the AKG K701s? Probably not. The HD 598s are - to me - the poster child for warm sound. This was a little bit like that, but sounded thoroughly detailed all the same. At $500, I don't really recommend it unless paying for less detail at the expense of more refined mids and mid-bass is worth the extra $100 to you over the HD 600s. I like both headphones, though; while I prefer the HD 600, I don't think either one is better. It boils down to preference. If they were the same price, I'd easily see these as twin brother headphones. Sennheiser HD 800: JC on a pogo stick, these are bright. I hate how the term "analytical" has become synonymous with boring and fatiguing. To describe a headphone as analytical these days almost seems to be an insult. But wow, these headphones do deserve that designation - to an extent. That, however, does not make them bad. In fact, of all the headphones I tried, this consistently sounded like the closest to real life. The source was an Astell & Kern AK120 - and while I'm not entirely sold that sources make a massive difference in sound (unless they're colored) other than to draw the signal away from a noisy environment like a computer, this setup sounded amazing. The guitar resembled a real guitar, cymbals had that timbre you would expect from actual cymbals. I'm not a fan of the massive enclosures, given that it just feels too loose. I actually like a bit of clamp to my headphones. However, these were incredibly comfortable, and just as fun to listen to, when my young ears weren't tired out by the highs. The owner was playing it at a slightly louder volume than I would normally listen to, but I can see why he liked them. He was older than me, and with age, the frequencies you can hear shrink. He said these didn't sound as tiring to him, and I think that might be why. I'm only in my twenties. Still, as good as my hearing is, if I had the money, I would buy these headphones. Of any "summit-fi" headphone I've tried, these are the closest to being worth their full street price - assuming you don't count the HE-500s. V-Moda M-100: Someone once told me that the V-Moda XS (which I tried at the meet) didn't sound anything like this, and I really have to disagree. I might have changed my mind if I wasn't busy trying out several different headphones and setups, but yes, they sounded identical to me - although one was, of course, a supra-aural, and came with the advantages and caveats of such a design. I've only heard one other V-Moda headphone before this meet: the Crossfade LP2, a headphone that I downright hated. Although the LP2 sounded like a fart cannon with the most recessed mids and highs I've ever heard, and wasn't very comfortable, and was not worth its street price, I knew that if the M-100 was earning a lot of accolades and praise, that I wasn't hearing the really good stuff from V-Moda. I was right: these sounded great. Without a doubt a basshead's delight, these had deep, impactful lows, somewhat recessed mids (but I wasn't really uncomfortable with it), and highs with enough brightness to underpin the bass. The bass and treble gave this headphone a v-shaped sound - although I'd probably describe it as more of a backwards checkmark. I tried these with the XL pads on, so I don't get why people would say that they're uncomfortable, but I wouldn't know either. The XL pads definitely made these comfortable, and my ears fit in them properly. The enclosures weren't tiny to the point of not deserving to be almost falsely advertised as a circumaural (which I can't say for the Sennheiser Momentum or V-Moda Crossfade LPs, although my fit issues aren't as pronounced as other peoples'). The XS was, as I said, pretty much the same, but in a smaller form factor. The XS is to the M-100 as the Momentum On-Ear is to its big brother. Although you get less with the cheaper one, you still save money and get to enjoy about 70-80% of the same sound. I also tried out the MrSpeakers Alpha Dog, Ultrasone Edition 8, and Stax SR-207. However, these headphones didn't make much of an impression on me. When I heard the Alpha Dogs, I was hoping for something better - although I wouldn't say anyone has described their sound erroneously. I just wasn't really "blown away," for lack of a better term. Other than that, none of these headphones really impressed me. I don't even really consider myself to have listened to the SR-207. These all sounded good; clear and detailed. But I can't really say anything about them that nobody else can. I also got to try out a couple of Ultimate Ears IEMs, but I'm not really the IEM guru. I did enjoy the In-Ear References, which sounded close enough to earning their "Reference" moniker, though I was less impressed with the 7 Pros, which had an almost wooly sound. I'm probably going to save up for a Bottlehead Quicksand or Crack and pair it with an HiFiMAN HE-500. The Quicksand blew me away with its fidelity, despite its entry-level price. Again, thank you everyone for making this meet so enjoyable. I don't get a lot of opportunities to hang out with people that share my interests in real life, and that made this all the more exciting. The event may have been somewhat low-key, but the fun wasn't.