Boston head-fi meet impressions
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dvr

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First, thanks to Zin_Ramu for hosting the (first-ever, I think) Boston head-fi meet. The thing that prevented a meet from happening earlier was the lack of someone willing to open their living room for the afternoon to a bunch of strangers. Zin was great to do this.

And now the gear:

A few of us did blind testing between the Corda and a meta42 (Angus might chime in with the exact configuration.) Two people would listen to the amps while facing away from the amps; a third person would switch the plugs between the amps. When I turned around and said "That's the better one", I was plugged into the meta. The two sounded very similar, but the meta had fuller vocals and less grain. Given that the meta is also smaller and cheaper, I wouldn't recommend the Corda unless you plan to mod it.

One qualification: The difference might be due to the interconnects. The Corda was connected through a pair of Outlaws; the meta was using a pair of... Cardas Golden Reference. Using the Outlaws for both amps might have resulted in a tie, but given the meta's smaller size and price, I think it would likely still come out the winner.

Edwin and I had a Melos-Max face-off. The Melos had a pair of Sylvanias 6922s that I found on ebay for $6.49 (and which outperform by a large margin all my Amperex tubes.)

Over the past few months, I've owned the Melos, the RKV, and a ZOTL, and I felt that the Melos was the most neutral and accurate of the three. In comparison to the Max, the Melos is like a fun-house mirror. The Max speaks with such authority that you know you're being told the truth.

Our first test track was the opening to Clapton's Unplugged, a well-recorded acoustic track with no vocals. The Max amazed me. Everything seemed more vivid than I remembered. The position of the guitars on stage could be seen with more clarity than I thought possible, and the bass was strong and tight. The Melos seemed meek in comparison.

Compared to the Max, the Melos favors vocals. Voices are richer, sweeter, and your attention is drawn to them because they sound so good. For the other tracks Edwin and I used (which all contained vocals), I preferred the Melos. At the end of the day, I think it comes down to your priorities. Since vocals account for a large fraction of the enjoyment I draw from my music collection, I'm happy sticking with the Melos. If I listened mostly to classical, I'd likely sell the Melos and get a Max.

Update (something important I forgot to mention): All my listening was done with the Ety 4s.
 
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post-198212
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[size=xx-small] Quote:

Originally posted by dvr
....One qualification: The difference might be due to the interconnects. The Corda was connected through a pair of Outlaws; the meta was using a pair of... Cardas Golden Reference. Using the Outlaws for both amps might have resulted in a tie, but given the meta's smaller size and price, I think it would likely still come out the winner....


[/size]

Thanks for already posting impressions, dvr! Sounds like you cats had some fun.

Regarding the interconnects: it should be pointed out that the Outlaws retail for approximately $50/meter/pair (if I remember correctly), and the Cardas Golden References retail for $917/meter/pair. One of my overdue reviews is of the Cardas Golden Cross and Golden Reference, and the Cardas Golden References are the best interconnects -- to my ears and in my rigs -- that I've yet used. Though I'm in no way trying to invalidate your conclusions, I just thought that these things (especially the prices) might be worth noting.
 
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post-198213
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Vertigo-1

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Quote:

Originally posted by dvr
One qualification: The difference might be due to the interconnects. The Corda was connected through a pair of Outlaws; the meta was using a pair of... Cardas Golden Reference. Using the Outlaws for both amps might have resulted in a tie, but given the meta's smaller size and price, I think it would likely still come out the winner.


I can gurantee that cable was the difference as far as less grain and more smoothness goes. FYI the Cardas Golden Reference costs more then both the Corda and META combined.
So that was definitely not a fair comparison...

LOL, and Jude agrees it seems...we posted at the same time. Damn us cable freaks.
 
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post-198214
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pigmode

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I'm glad to hear about the results with the Melos coming out on top.
On the other hand, your blind test using cables hunderds of dollars apart in price is little else than irelevant, imo.
 
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dvr

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Quote:

Originally posted by Vertigo-1
So that was definitely not a fair comparison...


I think we realized the configuration only after we started packing things up. I didn't know the mystery black cable was so expensive when we were listening. We'll give it another shot at the next meet.
 
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post-198242
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Vertigo-1

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I don't blame yah...Cardas has this magical way of making $900 cables look like they were worth $5.
 
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post-198245
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markl

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You didn't mention which headphones you were using!

Also, was this a "new" Max?

Mark
 
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dvr

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Quote:

Originally posted by markl
You didn't mention which headphones you were using!


Damn, sorry about that. I did all my listening with the Ety 4s.

Quote:

Originally posted by markl
Also, was this a "new" Max?
[/B]


Edwin's profile says it's a 2001 max.

By the way, Edwin is "edwinaviles"
 
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post-198249
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Edwin

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Not me Nick. I don't have time to fly to every Head-Fi meeting!
 
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RunsWithScissors

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I'd also like to thank Zin_Ramu for inviting a bunch of strangers into his home and hosting this meeting. Very kind.

Some more details of gear:
Zin: Sony NS755V, Outlaw PCA, Corda HA-1, Senn HD 600s
dvr: Melos SHA-1, RKV, CIAudio DAC, Beyer 831s, and Senn HD600s
AngusMcToon: Tangent-built meta42, HD-600 with Cardas, and a Headroom Little
RunsWithScissors (possibly): Beyer DT250-80, KSC-35, RioVolt and Sony pcdp
edwinaviles: HD600, Headroom Max, Cardas Cable for HD600, 2 pairs of 0.5 meter Cardas Golden Reference interconnects


I have some pix of the gear on hand (AngusMcToon packed up before I remembered to take out the camera - damn!)

Can anyone help me get these pix posted here? It looks like I can't directly link to the web server I use for on-line pix using the tags here so I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to get these up on this post. I've got 5 jpg pix in a zip that total 157Kb.

dvr covered the issues with interconnects which influenced our A/b tests of the meta42, corda and Max amps. Even so, one thing I noticed that may not have been due to the interconnects was that the Max was quieter than the others during quiet passages in tunes. With the setup we had in place, the meta42 and corda sounded similar to me in comparison. I thought the meta42 might've been a litter faster and bit more extended in both the highs and lows. Hopefully Angus or Tangent can tell us what's inside this amp.

I was surprised by the RKV. I compared HD600 with the Beyer DT250-80 and a few of us agreed that the Beyer sounded better matched with this amp than the HD600. More dynamic energy and just plain fun!

Listening to the Melos compared with the Max I found the Melos to be a bit more pleasing to my ear. I can't describe it well just noted my preference. Not that the Max sounded bad by any means...just in A/B comparison the melos was preferred.

Looking forward to another meeting [img]http://www.head-fi.org/forums/images/smilies/smily_headphones1.gif
 
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Zin_Ramu

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Well it was a pleasure to host the first Boston meeting. I’d never met anyone in person I met on the Internet, so I figured may as well start with a bang. I was pleasantly surprised; everyone was a quite nice and normal (well besides a strange audio fixation).

Well before I get into what everyone wants to hear about … the gear, I’d like to note that I’m quite new to this hobby and was really lacking in the vocabulary and auditioning skills to adequately describe differences I heard. Additionally, as dvr mentioned a few of our tests were “unscientifically” performed. I think we got the hang of it in the end, but our earlier tests lacked proper methodology.

Test 1: Corda versus Meta. Sony NS755V as source, Corda had Outlaw ICs, Meta Cardas GR, my headphone was a HD-600 (stock cable). Another issue in this test for me was volume differences, while we tried to equalize as much as possible by ear, there was still a slight difference I noticed. With all these issues I guess the only real conclusion I want to make is that these amps are very similar in perceived quality. I was positively impressed by the Meta and with its price and size advantage anyone looking for an entry level amp should definitely check it out. Also one thing about the Corda that continues to bother me is the introduction of some foreign signal (I think it may be a radio signal) at very low volumes. With the same power supply and environment the Meta did not display this nagging issue.

Test 2: RKV versus Melos. I briefly listened to both of these amps with my HD-600, through dvrs source (Mantraz CD and CIAudio DAC). I was impressed with both amps. This is the first time I’ve listened to a tube, or hybrid tube in the MELOS’ case, amp. There really is an interesting difference in sound. In terms of preferences I would hard pressed to adequately describe them. I found them very close.

Test 3: HD-600 stock cables versus Cardas. I was a bit surprised, but I did not note glaring differences in the cables as some have reported. While there were some differences in presentations, I found them to be of relatively minor.

Well sorry I couldn’t provide better reviews of the different equipment, but I think I’ve learned a few things and hope to be much better prepared next time around. Either way, it was fun to test and see some of higher end gear and meet some fellow head-fi members.

Zin
 
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AngusMcToon

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Yes, many thanks to Zin_Ramu for the hospitality. There was a bit of anxiety in the air, and a certain unscienitific quality as we got oriented to the whole experience, but after a bit of trial and error, we got ourselves moving and focused on specific comparisons.

The op-amp in my Meta is the AD843, incidentally...my request of Tangent was that he build me the best amp he could, and he was at least at that time convinced that this was the chip of choice for a non-portable Meta. Fast and forgiving, with an inoffensively bright character is how I'd describe my Meta. It's a nice amp.

As RunswithScissors mentioned, the Beyer's really did impress us on the RKV. dvr called his own, and everyone else's, HD 600s "wooly" and this idea has taken hold for me--except that I suspect that I actually rather like wooliness in my phones. HD600 really do need the right signal path to open up, and consensus in the room yesterday was that they're not really pumped in the mids enough for rock. Yet I like them for rock and listen primarily to rock. So who knows. My primarily listening is Meta+600 these days, and I find the speed and brightness of the meta complements the 600s for rock. But this is of course the sound I'm most accustomed to these days...

I did find the Melos/600 combination more satisfying than the RKV/600 combination though the differences were pretty subtle. dvr argues the Melos injects some edginess and character, and I think I see that.

I also compared the Melos with HD600 with Clou Red compared to the Cardas. This was also a pretty subtle compare, but I think you can detect some small differences in sound stage that are difficult to put adjectives to. In this case, I preferred the Cardas.

Alas, child care issues meant I had to leave before the Max was put up against Melos...but I did listen to the Max through the HD600/Cardas combination from the SACD, and this amp offers a clean quiet authority that makes you want to sigh.

All the cabling mixups were really the source of the unscientific comparisons we made...so I suppose next time, it will be valuable to think through the setups a bit, and focus on equality of cabling to reduce more variables.

Still...a nicer bunch o' headphone guys could not have been assembled, and however unscientific, ultimately there's still some value in comparing sounds and systems. Even for relative newcomers, there's that wonderful moment when you hear and dinstinguish decided differences, but don't yet know how or why to talk about them authoritatively. The experience is quite educational.
 
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Thanks for sharing all of the thoughts! Helpful, indeed.
 
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