DC Area Head-Fi Meet - April 15, 2017 - Impressions

  1. kendavis
    Excellent meet, lots of unusual stuff, spacious convenient venue.
  2. kendavis
    Thank you, @gandhisfist 
  3. thyname

    Great venue as well.

    Lots of great people and great equipment/ headphones, including the mighty Orpheus!
  4. sheldaze
    As they say on Head-Fi, there was an abundance of unobtanium. It was certainly a treat to be able to listen to some of it. It was especially a treat to be able to speak with those people in attendance, faces both familiar and new.
    Sorry to all that JRiver lost its mind - this is twice now it has done this, and worked flawlessly immediately upon returning home. I will need to experiment running JRiver, with and without WiFi, and on different Internet connections, to find the source of the issue. I still enjoyed hearing people take sides between the Bifrost Multibit and the Grace Design m9xx. And that's what it is all about - listening and choosing that which is more in line with what and how one hears.
    The venue was a little too loud, I think, to do critical listening - having both Bifrost Multibit and Modi Multibit sourced and output through the same systems, it would have been nice to compare directly. Hope to hear these side by side again, in future.
    I'll try to post a few pictures. But please! Post pictures! Words are not describing the mass of people and stuff to see and hear!
    Thanks to @gandhisfist for hosting. And thanks to the WOW venue for allowing us to be there. The location is very convenient, close to highway, and with excellent parking adjacent the building. I hope we are privileged to be invited again!
  5. 100VoltTube
    My thoughts. All my opinion. Take with a grain of salt. Your milage may vary... All the other warnings:
        HD800 (SDR mod) w/ crack: Quite nice. Present, controlled bass, neutral, maybe slightly warm mids, and a bright-ish, but not piercing treble. Lots of detail and soundstage. I really enjoyed this combo.
        LCD-2F w/ Mjonir: Deep, hard-hitting bass. Warm mids and treble with a lot of detail, but I don't think quite as much as the HD800. The timbre  is spot on IMO, and the overall sound is relaxed. Intimate, but well-formed soundstage. I absolutely love this combo, and I'm looking into used LCD-2's now. My wallet hates me.
        HE-6 w/ Mjonir: Brighter than the LCD-2. I wasn't as ingaged by it as the LCD-2, so I didn't spend a lot of time with that combo.
        Elear w/ Jot from schitty tablet DAC: neutral-ish with slightly bright mids and a good amount of slam/impact. I'm guessing that a nicer DAC than a 4 year old samsung tablet will improve it. I wasn't a huge fan of this setup, but I would imagine many would like it.
        Nighthawk w/ momby->vali: Warm, but slightly sharp treble, I think. There were no tracks I was very familiar with on this setup, but there were some familiar artists. I know their voices/instruments well enough to make some probably very inaccurate, broad generalizations.
        DT-150 w/ momby->vali: thinner than nighthawk. same disclaimer as above
        Grado HF-2 w/ chord mojo. Very present and "there." Fairly bright, but not as much as I had expected. The meet was wrapping up when I was listening to these, so I didn't spend too long with them.
    My thoughts leaving: I need to get an LCD-2. I need to hear the R-10, Omega and Orpheus next time. I need to fix the buzzing my DIY amp is producing. 
    It was awesome!!! The venue was great, too. Thank you,@gandhisfist!
  6. TTNK
    This was my first headphone meet I've ever gone to, and it was a great time! Everyone was super nice, and there was some incredible gear! 
    I was the one who brought the Elear and Jotunheim. I thought the store's iPad on the table would be able to feed into my amp with a 1/8 to RCA, but it didn't work for some reason, so I apologize for that.
    I'm not super great at writing impressions, but here goes nothing.
    It was wonderful listening to the Orpheus. Every track I listened to, whether I knew the track or not, was mesmerizing. It was incredibly detailed, but euphoric and downright musical. As I was listening, I just didn't want to stop. Part of me wanted to go try other headphones, but the other part of me was just content to listen...and listen...and listen.  
    Listening to the Stax headphone there and akg K1000 was also an absolute treat. Having only read impressions and never having heard these headphones, it was a great experience. The AKG was bright sounding but MAN was there some impressive detail coming from those cans. The stax, havng never heard one before, were also jaw-dropping. I can't really add to what others have said about electrostats. It sounded just like what I've read about them from other people; airy, hyper detailed, out-of your-head, clean but tame bass. I may have to take a harder look at Stax headphones. 
    Some other highlights for me was the HE-6 being fed from the massive Audio-gd amp. I don't remember what the model was. Either way, dang. Again, first time hearing the HE-6, and that is one impressive sounding headphone. I tried listening to the HE-6 out of my Jotunheim (balanced), but as great as the Jotunheim is, it couldn't give the power needed to drive it fully compared to the audio-gd amp. If I had the money and the space for that amp....[​IMG]
    One pleasant surprise for me was the Audeze iSine 20. An open planar iem that is large but surprisingly comfortable. Carries the Audeze house sound, with amazing bass, and detailed, but distant sounding treble. 
    The ZMF Eikon was another show-stopper for me. I had not heard/read much about the headphone prior, but now I understand all the hubbub around it. It was being driven out of the Eddie Current OTL tube amp there (don't know what the model name for that was either. Anyone know??) And it was really fantastic. Also listened to the Focal Utopias and HD650s out of that amp. Utopias are detail monsters, but still musical and life-like. I love how the HD650s scale so well with fantastic sounding amps as well.
    This was an awesome meet, and I feel I got spoiled for it being my first one. Thanks to everyone being super nice and inviting and for bringing all of their amazing gear! 
  7. gandhisfist
    Thanks everyone for coming out, was another excellent DC Area Meet.  A special thanks to @Hirsch for coming out and bringing a mind-blowing collection of headphones, and apparently that wasn't all of it either (I can't wait to hear those Jecklin Floats).  Some of my impressions from the meet:
    Sony MDR-R10
    Really fortunate to be able to hear this one again, and amazed that there were actually two pairs of these at the meet.  Amazing treble clarity and imaging are what stand to me the most about this headphone.  The overall tuning is a little bright and bass light, with an upper mid emphasis that drops in the lower treble and then has a few spikes in the mid-treble area.  Lots of air, great sense of front-center imaging.  One thing the R10 seems to do that really impresses me is how it actually presents music like its on a stage, out in front and a little above you, its a really neat effect.  Bass is certainly not the star of the show here, which is surprising considering what we're used to hearing from bio-cellulose drivers, but what little there is seems fairly fast and tight.  One thing I feel Sony has always had issues with in their headphone is dynamics and the ability to convey texture, I think the R10 is better in this regard than most other Sony headphones I've heard, but still doesn't quite hit the mark compared some more modern headphones that really lead in that area.
    Sennheiser Orpheus
    This was probably the biggest surprise of the meet, hooked up to a Stax amp i don't remember the model designation for, but I'm pretty sure it was a tube stax amplifier.  The Orpheus is very impressive, taking the technicalities of something like the SR009, giving it a more pleasing (to my ears) signature that reminds me more of the HD6X0 series headphones with better bass extension.  The Orpheus does have some of that ethereality to it that Stax demonstrate that make sounds seem weightless, but not to the degree of Stax and so was more enjoyable to me in that respect, producing more impact and texture rather than a very smoothed over sound.  Staging, imaging and clarity are all things this headphone does extremely well and I'm told it improves further on a better amp, which I can't wait to hear. 
    Eddie Current Zana Deux Super
    I was looking forward to hearing this amplifier and taking on the single ended dac shootout that @sheldaze setup with it.  Using my Eikon's on the ZDS, it was immediately easy to point out the differences between the two dacs and to my somewhat surprised, I felt the Grace M9XX dac came out sounding better vs the Bifrost Multibit in that setup.  While I felt that the bass on the ZDS was a big soft and lacked control, overall I thought it was more held back by the DACs tested with it.  I'll need another session with a DAC I'm more familiar with on the Zana Deux to really say a lot more about the amp, but the fact that I was so easily able to tell the two DACs apart and identify which was which so quickly is certainly a testament to how clean it is.
    Audeze iSine 20
    I tried these briefly out of my DX80 DAP and was pleasantly surprised at how these sounded.  I felt they take the tonality of the LCD2 and miniaturize it.  I didn't think it was quite as smooth as the LCD2 overall and had a slight graininess to the sound, but still managed to capture a lot of the sound of a full size headphone which in itself is impressive.  I also felt the tonality was a bit darker than my LCD2 (which is probably brighter than the average LCD2).
    Campfire Audio Vega
    I also got to try the Vega briefly and came away very impressed.  Tonality seemed generally even and well behaved, albeit a bit dark for my taste.  The IEM seemed very detailed and dynamic, it also had great imaging and soundstage.  I do feel that dynamics were a bit restrained on the Vega, but it was still able to convey impacts and texture with great precision.  If the tonality were just a bit more balanced and had some additional treble extension I think I would be after a pair myself.
    Schiit Mjolnir 2
    Second time hearing this amp, but first time I was able to get a bit more time with it.  Overall, my impressions of this amp have not changed from the first time I heard it, this amp has really big macrodynamics and slam.  Impacts are big and come off a bit blunt.  I find this amp struggles a bit with lower level details, but that may have been because of the tubes being used.  Tonality of the amp was a bit warm and didn't have the low level texture and impact I normally expect when listening to string instruments.  Seems to be a great amp for laid back listening, not so much for dissecting the music.
    Thanks again everyone for coming out and bringing your gear.  Great crowd this time and hopefully we get a bigger one at the next meet.  I think the folks at WOW enjoyed the event as well and seem willing to offer us this space again, so hopefully we can organize somethign with them again soon.
  8. Psalmanazar
    Orpheus/Stax e-stat chain: Something was wrong with the Orpheus this chain (really bad synergy or physical headphone decay maybe). Leonard Cohen sounded like has singing through a voicebox like Peter Frampton while on the Lamda Signature, he sounded like Leonard Cohen. I don't really want to judge given that the source had some issues and the chain used a NOS DAC but the Lamda Signature has potential. I liked it more than the SR-007 and 009 but estats aren't really competitive with dynamics overall imho.

    Eddie Current ZDS: It was okay. Too soft and has OTL bass. Good staging. Reminds me of the Valhalla 2 scaled up. OTLs like this are still a great pairing for the Bifrost Multibit but it didn't let the treble transient dynamics of the Bimby, the best in any Schiit DAC, shine through. Mick Fleetwood sounded kinda wimpy instead of like a 6'6 cokehead going caveman on the drums. EC ZDS is very good for an OTL though but I prefer the Speedball Crack (also a great pairing with the Bimby as the OTL bass overrides the Bimby bass weirdness) as it hits harder despite being much more colored.

    Grace M9XX: I am still impressed by this thing. For a dongle, the Grace M9XX is amazing. I prefer the TI current-feedback based chip-amp in it to the EC ZDS and the DAC in it to the Modi Multibit and the Bifrost Multibit. Great unit. The only real drawback to purchasing one is the XMOS drivers for USB 2 audio don't work with Windows 10 AE but if you have a Mac? Amazing. Can't be beaten in the dongle market.
    HD 800, SDR modded: Shockingly listenable for the HD 800. Still a bit crunchy but listenable. I prefer HD 600/650 still though but the SDR is a massive improvement over the stock 800. The stock 800 I have never listened to at a reasonable volume for longer than twenty seconds.

    Eikon: Great for a closed can. More V-shaped, compressed, and tizzier than the HD 650 but for a closed can it sounds great. It's just a thousand dollars more for worse sound. Easily the best closed can ever for listening purposes. Improves heavily on amps without wet, warmed over sound dialed into them by rolling transistors but again, is limited compared to the HD 650.

    Holo Spring DAC -> Mjolnir 2, tube rolled: Well-detailed and hits like a beast. Staging is slightly flat but it's not a big deal for headphones. Much better than the stock Schiit tubes. The Holo Spring DAC is also the only NOS DAC to approach something resembling tonal neutrality but is still obviously a NOS DAC. Good chain feeding it into the Mjolnir 2 whose wide + flat stage negates some of the imprecise NOS weirdness and the hard-hitting, bestial nature of the amp deals with the NOS softness and roll-off. My favorite rig of the meet along with the M9XX, which isn't nearly as fun.

    Totem Rainmaker speakers: Very good sound and separation. Warm but not muddy. I like these. Cheapish too. Crushes Guitar Center stuff.

    KEF LS50 wireless: comparable to regular KEF LS50 but powered. Crunchy aluminum tweeter treble isn't nearly as bothersome as coaxial muddiness. That being said, these extend low (lower than the Totems) and image well. Best for pop music without a lot of stuff going on. Guitar powerchords  + an audible bass? no good as they will be muddied up. EDM or rap over 808 kicks? Sounds good. Not a universal speaker though.

    Focal Utopia: Best ever.

  9. GrindingThud
    WoW, sounds like I missed a great meet!
  10. h2rulz
    Thanks @gandhisfist and Wow to make the meet happen. I've only been to a few, and larger meets like this may not be great for critical listening, but is a blast for getting a taste for so many interesting stuff, and just being surrounded by so many people who share the same passion.
    One of my main objectives coming to the meet was to find the right amp for my LCD2. So, the personal highlight of the show was the NFB27h, if it wasn't already obvious to @gandhisfist. I don't know if it's the extra power, but there's something about it that just makes the beats and notes in music sound so effortless. Also, to my surprise, I liked it very much with the HD800. Even without any mods the NFB27h finds a way to smooth the HD800 all the while presenting great transparency and detail. No surprise, I just purchased a NFB28 yesterday from a fellow Headfi'er in Reston.
    Other highlights were the Utopia and its details, the mere fact that I actually got to experience the R10 and the first Orpheus (euphonic!), and the Zana Deux. Unfortunately, I didn't really get much time with the Zana Deux (seemed very popular at the meet), and the iSine 20 as I would have liked.
    Again, thanks for the awesome meet!
  11. sorrick
    This was my first meet too and I was very glad I came! Got a chance to listen to some headphones that I'd been hoping to hear someday, but didn't think I would ever have the opportunity. I was the guy with all the portable gear and the Grados. Here are some impressions
    Orpheus-->Stax Electrostatic amp: Sheldon mentioned that the limiting factor in the chain was the Stax amp, and listening to the Orpheus I definitely got the sense that the headphones were not being driven to their full potential. It was pretty noisy, so I wasn't able to get the full sense of these, but what stood out to me was their transparency and the ethereal effortlessness of the sound. By that I mean that it sounded as if the music was just conjured up out of the air without having any headphones or a driver creating it.  I was expecting to be completely blown away by these based on all the hype around them, and they were very very good, but (probably because of the  background noise and amp) I was not blown away. If there is ever a next time listening to these, I hope I can do it in a relatively quiet room.
    Sony R10: These I was pretty blown away with. Physically the headphone cups were larger than I expected, but beautifully made. I loved the briefcase they came in. Sound wise, they were tremendously impactful in the bass when it was called for, but they also were tremendously resolving, with more clarity and dynamism than I'd heard with any other dynamic driver headphone I had heard. I can see why these are have the reputation they do. 
    Focal Utopia: These seem to be the new hotness at the moment and I can see why. They sounded very very good. Lots of detail, very comfortable, great dynamics, clean and tight bass, and sparkly treble. They actually reminded me of my Noble Encores quite a bit with their treble shimmer. Of course they were more open and airy than the Nobles.
    Hifiman 400: I listened to these right after the Focal's and I liked them quite a bit. They were warm and smooth. Less resolving than the Focals, less treble shimmer, but overall very nice to listen to
    Oppo HA-1 amp: I listened to the Focal Utopias out of this and I liked it quite abit. It seemed very clean, very transparent. Hard to be too much more descriptive than that because I was listening to both a new amp and a new headphone, but overall I thought it drove the Elears very well.
    Campfire Audeo Vega: These were bass monsters! They reminded me a bit of my JH-16pros in that they had a ton of bass, but it did not totally overwhelm the mids or the treble. The dynamic driver definitely added some more oomph to the bass than you typically get with BAs. The treble was not as sparkly as the Noble Encores and perhaps a bit rolled off in direct comparison. Very very nice overall.
    (edited for typos)
  12. willsw
    Sorry I missed this one, it sounds great! I'll have to go by the venue anyway. Who brought the MDR-R10?
  13. doyouknowSBmean
    I brought the second pair of R10(late serial number) that day. I arrived there around 4 pm though.
    Last edited: May 8, 2017

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