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Comparing 84 components, 3 at a time (55 HPs, 9 IEMs, 8 DACs, 6 amps, 4 wireless, 2 DAPs)

  1. ruthieandjohn
    Over the 5+ years I have been active on head-fi.org, I have compared many components in groups of three, comparing on a total of 10 acoustic features (e.g., transparency, subbass,...) and ranking the three for each feature comparison as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

    Having not compiled a list of all of these comparisons in one place for at least 4 years, I thought it worthwhile to put them all in one place, sorted by type of component (player, DAC,...). This comprises a total of over 180 three-way comparisons covering 84 components, taken three at a time.

    For each component type, a model number (e.g., Apple iPod) is listed in black. In the following line(s), a three-way comparison is listed in blue that indicates which two other components the (black) component is being compared to. Clicking on the blue sends you to the full post that describes the comparison, often with photos of the components and some discussion of aspects of the comparison.

    At the end of the list here is a detailed description of the comparisons, including the music used, the acoustic features compared, and how to read the tables that describe the comparison results.

    Players:

    Apple iPod Touch 6:
    Hugo 1 / Hugo 2 / iPod Touch 6 (must scroll down to 6th review)

    Lotoo PAW Gold:
    Schiit Lyr 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Joseph Grado HPA1 all with Grado GS2000e
    Hugo 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Schiit Bimby

    DACS:


    CEntrance HiFi M8:
    Sony PHA-1 / CEntrance HiFi M8 / Senn HDVD 800
    Joseph Grado HPA1 / Sennheiser HDVD 800 / CEntrance HiFi M8

    Chord Hugo1:
    Hugo 1 / Hugo 2 / iPod Touch 6

    Chord Hugo2:
    Hugo 1 / Hugo 2 / iPod Touch 6
    Hugo 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Schiit Bimby


    Schiit Bifrost Multibit:
    Schiit Bifrost Multibit / Stockholm MHDT
    Hugo 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Schiit Bimby

    Sennheiser HDVD800:
    Joseph Grado HPA1 / Sennheiser HDVD 800 / CEntrance HiFi M8
    Sennheiser HDVD 800 / Stockholm MHDT
    Sony PHA-1 / CEntrance HiFi M8 / Senn HDVD 800

    Sony PHA1:
    Sony PHA-1 / CEntrance HiFi M8 / Senn HDVD 800
    V-MODA VAMP VERZA & M100 / V-MODA M100 / SONY PHA1 & V-MODA M100
    V-MODA VAMP VERZA and M-100 / M-100 / Sony PHA-1 and V-MODA M-100

    Stockholm MHDT:
    Schiit Bifrost Multibit / Stockholm MHDT
    Sennheiser HDVD 800 / Stockholm MHDT
    Joseph Grado HPA1 /Stockholm MHDT


    V-MODA VERZA/M100:
    V-MODA VAMP VERZA & M100 / V-MODA M100 / SONY PHA1 & V-MODA M100

    Amps:


    Grado RA1:
    Grado HPA1 / Grado RA1 / JDS Labs CMOY BB 2.03

    HiFIMAN EF5:
    Joseph Grado HPA1 / HiFiMAN EF-5 / HiFiMAN EF-6

    HiFIMAN EF6:
    Schiit LYR2 / Grado HPA1 / HiFiMAN EF6
    Joseph Grado HPA1 / HiFiMAN EF-5 / HiFiMAN EF-6

    J Grado HPA1:
    Grado HPA1 / Grado RA1 / JDS Labs CMOY BB 2.03
    Joseph Grado HPA1 / Sennheiser HDVD 800 / CEntrance HiFi M8
    Joseph Grado HPA1 / HiFiMAN EF-5 / HiFiMAN EF-6

    Joseph Grado HPA1 /Stockholm MHDT
    Schiit LYR2 / Grado HPA1 / HiFiMAN EF6
    Schiit Lyr 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Joseph Grado HPA1 all with Grado GS2000e

    JDS Labs CMOY BB 2.03:
    Grado HPA1 / Grado RA1 / JDS Labs CMOY BB 2.03

    Schiit LYR2:
    Schiit Lyr 2 / Lotoo PAW Gold / Joseph Grado HPA1 all with Grado GS2000e
    Schiit LYR2 / Grado HPA1 / HiFiMAN EF6

    Headphones:

    AKG K712:
    Senn HD 598 / AKG K712 / Philips Fidelio S2

    Allesandro MS2:
    Grado SR325i / Alessandro MS-2 / Grado PS500

    Beats Pro:
    Beats Pro / Yamaha Pro 500 / Beats Studio 2013
    Senn HD 598 / Beats Studio 2013 / Beats Pro
    Senn H 598 / NAD VISO hp50 / Beats Pro

    Beats Studio 2013:
    Senn HD 598 / Beats Studio 2013 / Beats Pro
    Parrot Zik / Beats Studio 2013 Wireless / Sennheiser PXC 300 BT
    Beats Pro / Yamaha Pro 500 / Beats Studio 2013

    Beyerdynamic T 5 p:
    Beyerdynamic T 5 p / Ultrasone Edition 8 (Ruthenium) / V-MODA M-100

    Fostex TH900:
    Ultrasone Edition 8 / Fostex TH900 / Sony Z7
    HiFiMAN HE500 / HE560 / Fostex TH-900

    Grado Bushmills X:
    Grado GH1 / Grado Bushmills X / Grado RS1i

    Grado GH1:
    Grado GH1 / Grado Bushmills X / Grado RS1i
    Grado GH1 / Grado GH1 with G Cush / Grado RS2e
    Grado PS1000 / Grado PS1000e / Grado GH-1

    Grado GH1/G:
    Grado GH1 w G Cush / Grado GS1000e (w > 250 hrs use) / Joseph Grado HP1000
    Grado GH1 / Grado GH1 with G Cush / Grado RS2e
    Grado PS1000 / Grado GS1000i / Grado GH1/G
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000e / Grado GH1/G

    Grado GH2:
    Grado RS2E / Grado GH2 / Grado HF3

    Grado GR10e:
    Grado GR10e / Shure SE535LTD / FiiO FH5
    Grado GR10e / AKG K3003i / Sennheiser IE800

    Grado GS1000e
    Grado GS1000e / SR 325 / SR325e
    Grado PS1000 / Grado HP1000 / Grado GS1000e
    Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e / Grado GS1000e
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000e / Grado GH1/G

    Grado GS1000e (250 hrs):
    Grado GH1 w G Cush / Grado GS1000e (w > 250 hrs use) / Joseph Grado HP1000

    Grado GS1000i:
    Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e / Grado GS1000e
    Grado PS1000 / Grado GS1000i / Grado GH1/G
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado PS1000e
    Grado PS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e
    HiFIMAN HE-6 / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Grado GS1000i
    Grado RS1e / Grado Rs2e / Grado GS1000i
    Grado RS1e / Grado RS1i / Grado GS1000i


    Grado GS2000e:
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado PS1000e
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000e / Grado GH1/G
    Grado GS2000e / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS2e
    Grado GS2000e / Sennheiser HD800 / HiFiMAN HE1000

    Grado PS2000e / Grado GS2000e / Ultrasone Ed 10

    Grado HF1:
    Grado HF-1 / Grado SR125 / Grado PS500

    Grado HF3:
    Grado RS2E / Grado GH2 / Grado HF3

    Grado HP1000:
    Grado PS1000 / Grado HP1000 / Grado GS1000e
    Grado RS1e / Grado HP1000 / Grado SR325i
    Grado GH1 w G Cush / Grado GS1000e (w > 250 hrs use) / Joseph Grado HP1000

    Grado iGrado:
    Grado SR80i / Grado SR60 / Grado iGrado

    Grado PS1000:
    Grado PS1000 / Grado HP1000 / Grado GS1000e
    Grado PS1000 / Grado PS500 with G CUSH / Grado PS500 with stock L bowl
    Grado PS1000 / GradoPS1000e / Grado GH-1
    Grado PS1000 / Grado GS1000i / Grado GH1/G
    Sennheiser HD 800 / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS1i
    Grado GS2000e / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS2e
    HiFiMAN HE1000 / Sennheiser HD 800 / Gradp PS1000
    Grado PS2000e / Grado PS1000e / Grado PS1000

    Grado PS1000e:
    Grado PS1000 / GradoPS1000e / Grado GH-1
    Grado PS2000e / Grado PS1000e / Grado PS1000
    Grado GS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado PS1000e

    Grado PS2000e:
    Grado PS2000e / Grado PS1000e / Grado PS1000
    Grado PS2000e / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Sennheiser HD800
    Grado PS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e

    Grado PS2000e / Grado GS2000e / Ultrasone Ed 10

    Grado PS500:
    Grado PS500 / Stax SR-5 / Klipsch S4i
    Grado PS500 / HiFiMAN HE-500 / Shure SE535
    Grado PS500 / Grado SR325e / Grado SR225i
    Grado PS500 / HiFiMAN HE500 / Sennheiser HD598
    Grado HF-1 / Grado SR125 / Grado PS500
    Grado SR325i / Alessandro MS-2 / Grado PS500
    Grado PS1000 / Grado PS500 with G CUSH / Grado PS500 with stock L bowl

    Grado PS500/G:
    Grado PS1000 / Grado PS500 with G CUSH / Grado PS500 with stock L bowl

    Grado RS1:
    Grado RS1 / Grado RS1i / Grado RS2i
    Grado RS1 (buttoned) vs. Grado RS 2

    Grado RS1e:
    Grado RS1e / Grado Rs2e / Grado GS1000i
    Grado RS1e / Grado RS1i / Grado GS1000i
    Grado RS1e / Grado HP1000 / Grado SR325i


    Grado RS1i:
    Grado RS1 / Grado RS1i / Grado RS2i
    Grado RS1e / Grado RS1i / Grado GS1000i
    Sennheiser HD 800 / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS1i
    Grado GH1 / Grado Bushmills X / Grado RS1i

    Grado RS2:
    Grado RS2 vs. Grado RS2i vs Grado RS2e
    Grado RS1 (buttoned) vs. Grado RS 2

    Grado RS2e:
    Grado RS2E / Grado GH2 / Grado HF3
    Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e / Grado GS1000e
    Grado RS1e / Grado Rs2e / Grado GS1000i
    Grado GH1 / Grado GH1 with G Cush / Grado RS2e
    Grado RS2 vs. Grado RS2i vs Grado RS2e
    Grado GS2000e / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS2e
    Grado PS2000e / Grado GS1000i / Grado RS2e

    Grado RS2i:
    Grado RS2 vs. Grado RS2i vs Grado RS2e
    Grado RS1 / Grado RS1i / Grado RS2i

    Grado SR125:
    Grado SR225i / Grado SR125 / Grado SR80i
    Grado HF-1 / Grado SR125 / Grado PS500
    Grado SR80e / Grado SR125e / Grado SR125

    Grado SR125e:
    Grado SR80e / Grado SR125e / Grado SR125

    Grado SR225i:
    Grado SR225i / Grado SR125 / Grado SR80i
    Grado PS500 / Grado SR325e / Grado SR225i

    Grado SR325:
    Grado GS1000e / SR 325 / SR325e

    Grado SR325e:
    Grado PS500 / Grado SR325e / Grado SR225i
    Grado SR325i / Grado SR325is / Grado SR325e
    Grado GS1000e / SR 325 / SR325e

    Grado SR325i:
    Grado SR325i / Grado SR325is / Grado SR325e
    Grado SR325i / Alessandro MS-2 / Grado PS500
    Grado RS1e / Grado HP1000 / Grado SR325i

    Grado SR325is:
    Grado SR325i / Grado SR325is / Grado SR325e

    Grado SR60:
    Grado SR80i / Grado SR60 / Grado iGrado

    Grado SR80e:
    Grado SR80e / Grado SR125e / Grado SR125

    Grado SR80i:
    Grado SR80i / Grado SR60 / Grado iGrado
    Grado SR225i / Grado SR125 / Grado SR80i

    HiFiMAN HE1000:
    HiFiMAN HE1000 / Sennheiser HD 800 / Gradp PS1000
    HiFIMAN HE-6 / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Grado GS1000i
    Grado PS2000e / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Sennheiser HD800
    Grado GS2000e / Sennheiser HD800 / HiFiMAN HE1000

    HiFiMAN HE500:
    HiFiMAN HE500 / HE560 / Fostex TH-900
    Grado PS500 / HiFiMAN HE-500 / Shure SE535
    Grado PS500 / HiFiMAN HE500 / Sennheiser HD598

    HiFiMAN HE560:
    HiFiMAN HE500 / HE560 / Fostex TH-900

    HiFiMAN HE6:
    HiFIMAN HE-6 / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Grado GS1000i

    NAD VISO hp50:
    Senn H 598 / NAD VISO hp50 / Beats Pro

    Sennheiser HD598:
    Senn H 598 / NAD VISO hp50 / Beats Pro
    Senn HD 598 / Beats Studio 2013 / Beats Pro
    Senn HD 598 / AKG K712 / Philips Fidelio S2
    Grado PS500 / HiFiMAN HE500 / Sennheiser HD598

    Sennheiser HD800:
    Sennheiser HD 800 / Grado PS1000 / Grado RS1i
    HiFiMAN HE1000 / Sennheiser HD 800 / Gradp PS1000
    Grado GS2000e / Sennheiser HD800 / HiFiMAN HE1000
    Grado PS2000e / HiFiMAN HE1000 / Sennheiser HD800

    Shinola On Ear:
    Sony MDR-1A / Shinola On Ear / Shinola Over Ear

    Shinola Over Ear:
    Sony MDR-1A / Shinola On Ear / Shinola Over Ear

    Sony MDR1A:
    Sony MDR-1A / Shinola On Ear / Shinola Over Ear

    Sony Z7:
    Ultrasone Edition 8 / Fostex TH900 / Sony Z7

    Stax SR-5:
    Grado PS500 / Stax SR-5 / Klipsch S4i

    Ultrasone Edition 10:
    Grado PS2000e / Grado GS2000e / Ultrasone Ed 10

    Ultrasone Edition 8:
    Ultrasone Edition 8 / Fostex TH900 / Sony Z7
    Beyerdynamic T 5 p / Ultrasone Edition 8 (Ruthenium) / V-MODA M-100

    V-MODA M100:
    V-MODA VAMP VERZA & M100 / V-MODA M100 / SONY PHA1 & V-MODA M100
    Beyerdynamic T 5 p / Ultrasone Edition 8 (Ruthenium) / V-MODA M-100
    V-MODA VAMP VERZA and M-100 / M-100 / Sony PHA-1 and V-MODA M-100
    V-MODA VAMP VERZA and M-100 / M-100 / Sony PHA-1 and V-MODA M-100


    Yamaha Pro500:
    Beats Pro / Yamaha Pro 500 / Beats Studio 2013


    IEMs:

    AKG K3003i:
    Grado GR10e / AKG K3003i / Sennheiser IE800

    Apple Ear Pods:
    Klipsch S4i / Apple In-Ear / Apple Ear Pods

    Apple In-Ear:
    Klipsch S4i / Apple In-Ear / Apple Ear Pods

    FiiO FH5:
    Grado GR10e / Shure SE535LTD / FiiO FH5

    Klipsch S4i:
    Klipsch S4i / Apple In-Ear / Apple Ear Pods
    Grado PS500 / Stax SR-5 / Klipsch S4i

    Philips Fidelio S2:
    Senn HD 598 / AKG K712 / Philips Fidelio S2

    Sennheiser IE800:
    Grado GR10e / AKG K3003i / Sennheiser IE800

    Shure SE535:
    Grado PS500 / HiFiMAN HE-500 / Shure SE535

    Shure SE535LTD:
    Grado GR10e / Shure SE535LTD / FiiO FH5

    Wireless:

    Jaybirds BlueBuds X:
    Parrot Zik 1.0 / Parrot Zik 2.0 / JayBirds BlueBuds X

    Parrot Zik 1.0:
    Parrot Zik / Beats Studio 2013 Wireless / Sennheiser PXC 300 BT

    Parrot Zik 2.0:
    Parrot Zik 1.0 / Parrot Zik 2.0 / JayBirds BlueBuds X

    Sennheiser PXC 310 BT:
    Parrot Zik / Beats Studio 2013 Wireless / Sennheiser PXC 300 BT

    Method of Comparison

    I have used this test method many, many times on many headphones. I used four songs, all encoded in Apple Lossless Format at CD quality (I actually bought the CDs and ripped them... no internet download involved) and played by my Apple iPod Touch 5th Gen. Because each of the 10 acoustic tests used a limited segment of music (2 - 10 sec), an infinite loop was used to repeat the appropriate segment of each song while headphones were switched in and out.
    • "You're Going To Miss Me When I'm Gone," by Band of Heathens, from their album One Foot In The Ether (used for fidelity of drum sound, positional resolution of two vocalists, and ability to discern pitch of string bass passages);
    • "Spanish Harlem," by Rebecca Pidgeon, on The Ultimate Demonstration Disc of Chesky records (used to assess female vocals, transparency, the attack of finger on bass string, and high resolution discrimination of differences in shaker shakes);
    • "Symphony No. 3 in C Minor Op. 78 (Organ Symphony) - IV" by Camille Saint Saens played by Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (used to assess the "ripping" sound of well-rendered lower brass and organ reed pipes, and the ability to hear a very small entrance amidst a bombastic chord of orchestra and organ at full tilt);
    • "Throwback" by B.o.B. on Underground Luxury (used to assess ability of a bass tone, specifically lowest C on piano at about 32 Hz, to pick me up by the throat and shake me!)
    The 10 tests were as follows:
    • Transparency: What is between me and the music? A felt cloth? A "Sennheiser veil?" A frosted window? Dirty window? Clear Saran wrap? or nothing? At its best, makes me forget I am listening on headphones and am in room with musicians. [I use the 12-second segment 0:00 - 0:12 of "You're Going To Miss Me," which is kick drum, guitar, piano, and cymbal for this test]
    • Width of sound stage: How far to the left and to the right, (yes, AND up and down in best cases) does it seem the musical sources are arranged? [I use the same 0:00 - 0:12 segment of "You're Going To Miss Me," which starts with kick drum center, guitar #1 right of center piano far right, guitar #2 far left, to see 1) to what extent am I among rather than in front of the musicians, and 2) how wide an angle do those positional extremes of instruments form?]
    • Positional resolution: Can I distinguish a difference in position of two singers in Song 1? [I use 0:30 to 0:38 of "You're Going To Miss Me," where one vocalist ends a verse and a second vocalist, standing next to him, takes up the next.]
    • Bass visceral: Does the bass in third verse of Song 4 actually shake me? Or do I just hear it? [This test uses 0:31 through 0:33 of "Throwback, " where the bass drops to the lowest C on the piano.]
    • Drum "twang": At start of Song 1, do the bass and tom tom drumhead have a tone and a pitch, rather than just a thump? ["You're Going to Miss Me" 0:00 - 0:12]
    • Bass pitch perception: For the complicated bass runs in Song 1, do I hear a pitch with sufficient accuracy to sing or transcribe the part? ["You're Going to Miss Me," 1:02 - 1:23 to see if I can hear the pitch of not only the bass glides and accented notes, but also the grace notes]
    • Bass finger pluck: Do I hear the actual impact of fingers on the bass string just before hearing its sound on Song 2? ["Spanish Harlem," 0:00 - 0:04, listening most carefully to the repeated 3-note pattern to see if I not only hear an initial attack but some structure immediately following, before the finger leaves the string and the sound just rings)
    • Shaker variation: In Song 2, verse 3, do the various shaker shakes sound a bit different from each other, as they should? ["Spanish Harlem," 1:40 - 1:47: there are clearly loud and soft shakes, but how many more volume levels of shakes can I distinguish, and can I hear structure within each shake as the seeds hit the shaker wall?]
    • "Ripping" of organ / brass: In Song 3, is there the sensation of hearing each vibration of the French horn and low organ reed tones (sort of the tonal counterpart to hearing a "pitch" from a drumhead in Test 5); ["Organ Symphony," initial chord from 0:00 - 0:04 and French horn passage 0:06 - 0:12]
    • Discern added chord: About 1:38 into Song 3, after the full orchestra and organ hold a chord at the top of a passage, can I hear a small number of orchestra instruments join in, as sort of an echo, in the second measure of that chord? ["Organ Symphony," in the passage starting at 1:08, how well can I hear the small additional chord added at 1:16 on top of the full strength organ/orchestra chord in progress? Clearly enough to have noticed it if I weren't already listening for it?]
    These tests generally emphasize what I find most pleasing in a headphone, namely high-frequency-related features including transparency, upper harmonics of sounds from drum-head, brass, organ pipe, and string bass, and high-resolution effects such as fine detail of each shaker sound and the finger on the bass string.

    Here is a sample of the results that appear in each of the three-way comparison posts, this one for the Grado PS2000e vs. the Grado PS1000e vs. the Grado PS1000.

    In the chart below, we reinforce the ranking on each row by a color based on the traditional prize ribbon colors (blue = 1st place, or 3 points; red = 2nd place, or 2 points, and yellow = 3rd place, or one point). We allow two-way ties, either for first place (purple = blue + red, 2.5 points) or for second place (orange = red + yellow, 1.5 points). We also tally a total, shown at the bottom of each column, of the sum of the 10 ranking scores, and color code it appropriately as well. Due to uncertainties in measurements, total score differences of 3 or more are considered meaningful.

    The figure shows the results of comparing the Grado PS2000e, PS1000e, and PS1000. The PS1000 has the most first-place rankings, excelling in transparency, positional resolution, visceral bass power, resolution of a shaker (a treble detail measure), and the reedy, "ripping" quality of brass. The PS2000e excels in capturing the "twang" (rather than a "thud") of a bass drum, the ability of a string bass to maintain higher-frequency content and ease the determination of its pitch, and the moment of attack of the finger upon a plucked bass string.
    [​IMG]
    PS1000 wins first place in 5 of the 10 acoustic feature comparisons, scoring the highest, with the PS2000e second.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2019
    lesale08 likes this.

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