Closed-Back Planar Magnetic vs. Open-Back Dynamic Headphones: Which One Wins Out?!
Apr 25, 2021 at 2:13 AM Post #106 of 122

bigshot

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I grew up with the first few LZ albums. They had a huge sound on vinyl. Even with a cheap stereo with small speakers, they sounded amazing. The more recent remixes sound wimpy in comparison. They have a wider dynamic range and cleaner sound, but it doesn't sound as strong and powerful loud, which is the way LZ sounds best. The Rolling Stones are similar, except when they remixed those, they used digital plugins instead of analogue slap backs and wire reverbs. They also took that phone futz off of the vocals. It sounds cleaner, but again, wimpier. I don't want Street Fighting Man to sound clean.
 
Apr 25, 2021 at 12:33 PM Post #107 of 122

mobbaddict

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YW!

Generally speaking, if something is labeled Hi-Res, its master should be taken as close to or equal to studio quality as possible. That's my take on it anyway.

I've compared enough of my Hi-Res purchases with previous Hi-Res, but more so CDQ and def mp3 copies, and as I'd said, the overwhelming majority of the time, the Hi-Res version sounds the best. Sometimes you'll hear it on every song, sometimes maybe only on certain ones. It's never gonna be the same every single time.

With regards to how Apple handles its Hi-Res masters, I remember reading up on it a few years back, and this document by Apple pretty much answers everything you seem to be looking for, so check it out.

Sure, you can try that. Those Zep Hi-Res remasters were all done very well (produced by Zep's lead guitarist himself, Jimmy Page, who was also very involved in the original studio recordings), so any of them will do. But might as well start with the debut! The Fleetwood Mac ('75-'82 era), Eagles, Tom Petty, The Who, and The Rolling Stones ones are fantastic too. Other more recent Hi-Res greats that I have include Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" album, the Pearl Jam ones, U2's "Achtung Baby" (which is w/o a doubt one of my all-time favorite albums), etc. Or any of the ones I'd mentioned a few posts ago too. I'd prob start with Zep though, just b/c they're my fav band (along with The Rolling Stones). lol On that debut, aside from "Babe", "Your Time Is Gonna Come" is another one I consistently use to sample new headphones, including the comparison I'm doing now. The drums that come in after the organ intro are by themselves fantastic!

If any of those other bands are ones you like, lemme know and I can check and see what songs I've used and let you know which ones they are as well.

Yeah, I like convenience too. I mean, I use a SEMI-wireless setup for my premium listening (since the connection b/t my phone and xDSD is BT), though it outdid my old LG V20's "Quad DAC" FULLY-wired setup. And also when I workout I use my BT Samsung Galaxy Buds+, but IMO, when you're working out, you're simply NOT gonna be listening as closely or as seriously as when you're chillin'. And if you are, you're not working out hard enough. LOL But the AKG-tuned Buds+ sound great anyway esp w/ my custom EQ. Not "headphone" great, but not far off at all.

Some ppl don't hear a difference from streaming. And that's fine. I do though, so for me, I keep it to a minimum, like for previewing albums I may wanna purchase. If you don't though after a few tries, then just stick with streaming. No sense in forcing it. But if you do, then purchase only the songs or albums that really move you. Leave the rest for streaming. lol
Thanks for the recommendations, I've checked a few of them and compared them in realtime between Spotify and Tidal (I can't use MQA but at least I'm using their master). Honestly I'm unable to hear the difference haha, but it seems they have similar remasters of those albums despite the MQA label on Tidal. If you have a specific song to compare, I'd be glad to test it. Maybe I'll just need to test Apple music again to hear the difference.

On streaming versus downloads, what do you think would be the technical reason for downloads being better? I mean, those should be the same files being steamed I supposed, there shouldn't be any loss, especially when the streaming service is advertised as lossless.
 
Apr 25, 2021 at 2:59 PM Post #108 of 122

RockStar2005

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I suppose it is all subjective to a large degree but I generally prefer both the early Barry Diament or the current remaster CD over the LP for LZ1 (I only have an early original LP) and even then it is a track by track proposition.

Like @RockStar2005 my preference is the current Davis remasters (the hi res version sounds the same as the Davis CDs), particularly 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' but I can't go past the Diament CD for the more bassy tracks such as 'Dazed and Confused'. In fact my Led Zep albums on the server contain tracks from either of the two masters, depending which sound better to my ears, except for LZ IV, which are rips from the 'Porky' LP - ironically, the Marino mastered CD is probably the best of the digital versions of this album but the worst for the rest.

Thanks for the recommendations, I've checked a few of them and compared them in realtime between Spotify and Tidal (I can't use MQA but at least I'm using their master). Honestly I'm unable to hear the difference haha, but it seems they have similar remasters of those albums despite the MQA label on Tidal. If you have a specific song to compare, I'd be glad to test it. Maybe I'll just need to test Apple music again to hear the difference.

On streaming versus downloads, what do you think would be the technical reason for downloads being better? I mean, those should be the same files being steamed I supposed, there shouldn't be any loss, especially when the streaming service is advertised as lossless.
Yeah sure!

Yeah comparing one streaming to another, I can't say much about that. lol My thing is downloads.

Well again, if you happen to have a bad connection (or even if it just diminishes for a few seconds), that's gonna affect your quality for sure. Even with my BT earphones, if my phone's in my pocket AND I happen to my place my hand or arm over it, many times it VERY noticeably Fs up the connection. It basically goes back to my post earlier where I compared streaming audio to streaming video, and all the pros and cons that come with that. Another thing is that I feel like the standard players that play downloaded music like Poweramp and others seem to do a better job in rendering the song (I'm talking even with EQ off too) than the streaming ones do. I've listened to plenty of songs on streaming, and they always sound kinda compressed or more lifeless than if and when I buy the same songs off iTunes Store (Hi-Res, or even CDQ) and play them on Poweramp. Now, I haven't tried streaming Hi-Res songs as of yet, but I still suspect those will be the same.

Plus another thing, for me, I may go months w/o buying an album. It's not like there's something new (or remastered) that I wanna hear every day or even every month, so why pay for Hi-Fi/Hi-Res Tidal etc in that case vs. just buying an album if & when I want it? I do pay $8/mo for Amazon Music, but it's just the regular plan which I believe is mp3-quality. But Tidal Hi-Fi is currently more than double that @ $19.99/mo. I guess for me personally, I just don't see the point man. But to each his own. The amount per month to store my songs is only like $1.67 since I chose the annual storage option on Google Drive and so I get an extra discount there for 102 GBs. So even there it's still quite cheap, and I still have a lot of room before I would need to upgrade that. The convenience factor is nice though I guess with streaming, so if you prefer that and CAN'T hear a difference, and don't mind paying $20/mo, then have at it. lol
 
Apr 25, 2021 at 5:15 PM Post #109 of 122

bigshot

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There shouldn't be any difference between streaming and downloads as long as both are audibly transparent. Downloads you own and can keep. That is the difference.
 
Apr 30, 2021 at 7:44 PM Post #110 of 122

mobbaddict

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Yeah sure!

Yeah comparing one streaming to another, I can't say much about that. lol My thing is downloads.

Well again, if you happen to have a bad connection (or even if it just diminishes for a few seconds), that's gonna affect your quality for sure. Even with my BT earphones, if my phone's in my pocket AND I happen to my place my hand or arm over it, many times it VERY noticeably Fs up the connection. It basically goes back to my post earlier where I compared streaming audio to streaming video, and all the pros and cons that come with that. Another thing is that I feel like the standard players that play downloaded music like Poweramp and others seem to do a better job in rendering the song (I'm talking even with EQ off too) than the streaming ones do. I've listened to plenty of songs on streaming, and they always sound kinda compressed or more lifeless than if and when I buy the same songs off iTunes Store (Hi-Res, or even CDQ) and play them on Poweramp. Now, I haven't tried streaming Hi-Res songs as of yet, but I still suspect those will be the same.

Plus another thing, for me, I may go months w/o buying an album. It's not like there's something new (or remastered) that I wanna hear every day or even every month, so why pay for Hi-Fi/Hi-Res Tidal etc in that case vs. just buying an album if & when I want it? I do pay $8/mo for Amazon Music, but it's just the regular plan which I believe is mp3-quality. But Tidal Hi-Fi is currently more than double that @ $19.99/mo. I guess for me personally, I just don't see the point man. But to each his own. The amount per month to store my songs is only like $1.67 since I chose the annual storage option on Google Drive and so I get an extra discount there for 102 GBs. So even there it's still quite cheap, and I still have a lot of room before I would need to upgrade that. The convenience factor is nice though I guess with streaming, so if you prefer that and CAN'T hear a difference, and don't mind paying $20/mo, then have at it. lol
Hey that makes sense. I'm wondering if you're trying your web browser when you use streaming services though? It might be the issue for the worse quality. I'm using mobile apps for music streaming. But yeah I like the convenience of finding out and streaming new music, I always listen to a lot of new stuff these days, and only sometimes I get back to my classics. So streaming is very adapted to my personal use.

By the way I ordered the little THX dongle, we'll how it works with my planars.
 
Apr 30, 2021 at 8:28 PM Post #111 of 122

bigshot

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Browsers would just send the sound file through the exact same DAC as the app wouldn't they? The phone or comp itself decodes the stream I believe. The browser shouldn't have anything to do with it.
 
Apr 30, 2021 at 8:36 PM Post #112 of 122

mobbaddict

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Browsers would just send the sound file through the exact same DAC as the app wouldn't they? The phone or comp itself decodes the stream I believe. The browser shouldn't have anything to do with it.
Yeah you're probably right. I know that in some cases like when using a Chromecast device, streaming from the browser can degrade audio quality, but I guess that's a different issue related to the way the Chromecast works.
 
Apr 30, 2021 at 8:37 PM Post #113 of 122

bigshot

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Chromecast might be negotiating a lower streaming rate.
 
May 1, 2021 at 4:13 PM Post #115 of 122

RockStar2005

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Hey that makes sense. I'm wondering if you're trying your web browser when you use streaming services though? It might be the issue for the worse quality. I'm using mobile apps for music streaming. But yeah I like the convenience of finding out and streaming new music, I always listen to a lot of new stuff these days, and only sometimes I get back to my classics. So streaming is very adapted to my personal use.

By the way I ordered the little THX dongle, we'll how it works with my planars.
Hey mob,

No I'm not. This is all through apps, like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

That's cool. So I guess we both specifically utilize streaming apps to at least check out new music.

Oh awesome!! Yeah, let us know please.

I had a busier than usual week, so still haven't finished my K702 vs. Sundara comparison just yet. Prob next week I'll know.
 
May 4, 2021 at 12:35 AM Post #116 of 122

Stubearblack

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So instead of doing a full comparison review, I've decided to just do a quick summary post here now on the whole K702 vs. Ella thing:

Using my iFi xDSD portable amp/DAC (only used Ella's on-board analog amp separately to test it out, not in comparison........sounds good and pretty good volume bump too), I tested out both headphones to get a feel for how they sound alike as well as different from each other. About a dozen Hi-Res tracks (downsampled to 256-320 kbps AAC) were played back & forth several times over 3 (not 4) hour long sessions, with different songs (for the most part) each time.

Overall, I think both headphones sound amazing. The soundstage on the Ella is actually quite good and wide for a closed-back headphone. On at least 1-2 songs, I actually thought the Ella offered a bit more detail, but I think it was actually more b/c the K702's wider open-back soundstage made it so those extra details were there but not AS easy to hear w/o at least a little volume bump. Still, it took less effort with the Ella. But overall and the vast majority of the time, the open-back soundstage of the K702 simply gave it noticeably better instrument separation rendering than the Ella could offer. Bass, mids, and treble were excellent on both, with the Ella giving a SLIGHT touch more bass, though in a good way. But I've never felt my K702 was lacking in that dept like some ppl have.

In terms of looks and comfort, both look very nice, with the Ella offering a more premium experience in terms of materials. One plus for the Ella is definitely the ear-shaped earcups/pads. Although I find both to be very comfortable, even though the Ella weighs more, the shape of the cups I feel makes it a bit more enjoyable to wear. If I was ever to switch up my beloved K702, it would HAVE to be for over-ear open-back (dynamic or planar) headphones that offer oval or ear-shaped cups for sure! (So if anyone has any suggestions on THAT front, let me know please!!)

Although I've decided to return the Ella 'phones, I have no regrets in trying them out, and I def have a newfound respect for Blue after having tried the Lola years ago. The Lola was great too, but it seems Blue has made improvements here both in design and comfort, but also with its tuning (most pro reviewers feel the same way from what I've seen). If you can get these for a discount like I did, I can't recommend them more if you want a fantastic closed-back planar experience w/o the need to EQ beforehand (as well as that amp)!

So thanks to all who left comments here and/or offered up advice/info on the topic of planars vs. dynamic headphones! And please feel free to continue to post and comment here on this topic (and this post!) and/or these headphones as well.
Nice! Hadn't even heard of the Ella. K702 is my daily driver now though, so cool to know you love it as well :)
 
May 4, 2021 at 6:52 PM Post #117 of 122

RockStar2005

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Nice! Hadn't even heard of the Ella. K702 is my daily driver now though, so cool to know you love it as well :)
Hey man, glad to see ya on here! Welcome!!

Yeah. Blue isn't as popular with headphones as they are with mics, and also vs. other headphone companies. But they DO make rather interesting headphones. lol

Yes, I do. It is fantastic! Though this Hifiman Sundara is REALLY swaying me towards itself. lol
 
May 7, 2021 at 6:28 AM Post #118 of 122

mobbaddict

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Hey mob,

No I'm not. This is all through apps, like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

That's cool. So I guess we both specifically utilize streaming apps to at least check out new music.

Oh awesome!! Yeah, let us know please.

I had a busier than usual week, so still haven't finished my K702 vs. Sundara comparison just yet. Prob next week I'll know.
Hi there! Hey so I got the Onyx this week and it works really nicely! Drives my planars with authority and the detail is quite good when using UAPP in bit perfect mode. I was wondering if that was placebo effect or a real improvement, I need to find a way to blind test it against non bit perfect mode. It really feels like switching a HD mode compared to the standard Spotify or Tidal application. But maybe I'm just imagining things. Anyway the device itself is fantastic, it's super compact and low profile, and it can definitely replace a basic desktop dac-amp.
 
May 12, 2021 at 1:19 PM Post #119 of 122

RockStar2005

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Hi there! Hey so I got the Onyx this week and it works really nicely! Drives my planars with authority and the detail is quite good when using UAPP in bit perfect mode. I was wondering if that was placebo effect or a real improvement, I need to find a way to blind test it against non bit perfect mode. It really feels like switching a HD mode compared to the standard Spotify or Tidal application. But maybe I'm just imagining things. Anyway the device itself is fantastic, it's super compact and low profile, and it can definitely replace a basic desktop dac-amp.
That's awesome man! Glad to hear it sounds so great and that it offers up enough power to drive your planars too! :ok_hand:

You can try doing an ABX Test or maybe just ask a couple other people to compare but blindly. That's what I'd prob do.

Yeah I like that it's small but powerful. Not easy to find that.

So after like 3-4 weeks of back & forth, I've finally decided to go with the Sundara! On the sound side, I find the the Sundara to be more satisfying overall because I feel the bass rendering is a bit better and detailed than the K702, but also the treble seems to offer more detail as well. Now maybe this is b/c the K702's soundstage is wider (but am still happy with the Sundara's as well!), and therefore you don't hear everything AS easily? Not sure. But it just seems a bit more balanced-sounding to me overall. However, I won't argue with anyone who prefers the K702's sound more. This was an ESPECIALLY difficult comparison to undertake b/c BOTH headphones honestly sound outstanding to me! So it wouldn't be crazy at all to me if someone said they liked the K702 more. At this point, it's not about compromises really, but more just about preference IMO.

On the comfort side, I find both to be very comfortable, though a bit more with the Sundara. However, I think taking the K702 on & off my head is a bit easier to do than with the Sundara, but this is a very minor thing.

So there ya go! Gonna sell the K702. If anyone's interested, lemme know.
 
Jun 29, 2021 at 1:44 PM Post #120 of 122

RockStar2005

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As an update to the Sundara headphones I now use as my main "daily driver", I just bought and tested out this balanced cable vs. the "upgrade" cable I had for the Sundara. Didn't have high expectations as usually upgrade cables don't do anything for me at all normally. However, I now have a very DIFFERENT take on this, mostly because balanced cables aren't about it using better materials (i.e., OFC or Oxygen-Free Copper), but b/c of the science behind balanced cables.

Essentially, the two main factors affecting sound quality are that each side (left & right) has an extra wire along with it (vs. just one wire handling both sides) and the polarity is reversed on the negative wire of each side (aka, a mirror image of the positive side signal is placed on the negative) until it reaches the amp/DAC (or headphones). If the amp/DAC or headphones are balanced-compatible, they will switch or invert the polarity of the negative wire of each side back to normal, resulting in the cancelling out of any additional noise/distortion from the positive wire of each side. (There's also a grounding wire on each side vs. the single shared one found in unbalanced. It carries some of the signal as well. By having a non-shared ground wire on each side, signal leakage ((aka crosstalk)) is eliminated.) This leads to a much cleaner sound, as my review details. The second factor is that balanced uses more power, which means more volume as well.

This diagram should help you visualize the above explanation better:

1624988929782.png


I wrote a review for the cable as well on Amazon. Click here if interested.
 
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