Equation RP-21: impressions about sources
Jul 30, 2007 at 3:17 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

ounkchicago

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I've already posted initial impressions about the RP-21 in another post, but I'll recap briefly here. About 100 hours of burn-in so far, relatively neutral soundstage with tight, accurate bass, very smooth and detailed mids, but a slight inaccuracy in the treble that isn't a dealbreaker. Good isolation, initially bad comfort but is improving with each listening session as the headband is getting stretched out (decreasing clamping force over time), and build quality seems durable.

As stated in the title, this thread is concerned with how the sound of the RP-21 changes with different sources / DACs / amplification. So far, I've had the pleasure of testing the RP-21 with the following setups. They are listed in order of decreasing fidelity.

(1) Cambridge Audio Azur 640v2 CDP > Creek OBH21-SE > RP-21
(2) Apple Lossless > EMU 0404 USB > RP-21
(3) Apple Lossless out of an iMac G5 > RP-21
(4) Apple Lossless out of an iPod Nano 1G > RP-21
(5) 192 kbps Mp3 out of an iBook G4 > RP-21

Now I'll skip directly to the punchline. The surprising observation is that the overall difference in overall quality between (1) through (4) is very small. This means that, to my ears, the RP-21 do not improve much (barely noticeable difference) with amplification, and they are more forgiving of poorer quality DACs. The greatest distinction here is between any of the above setups and (5), but that's more because of the file quality than the DAC in the iBook.

My conclusion is pretty straightforward. Out of all the headphones I own, the RP-21 improves the least with amplification, and is the most forgiving of poor sources. Therefore, it is best matched with DAPs, other portable music players, or straight out of a laptop or desktop PC sound card.

I'll conclude by re-iterating the above comments in headphone rankings on various attributes. The headphones I own are: Beyer DT880, AKG 240S, Grado SR-225, Senn PX-200, and Equation RP-21.

Improvement with Amplification (Highest to Lowest)
1. Beyer DT880
2. AKG K240S
3. Grado SR-225
4. Sennheiser PX-200
5. Equation RP-21

Overall Sound Quality (my preference) using a quality DAC + headphone amp
1. Beyer DT880
2. Grado SR-225
3. Equation RP-21
4. AKG K240S
5. Sennheiser PX-200

Overall Sound Quality (my preference) out of an iPod or laptop (Apple Lossless)
1. Equation RP-21
2. Grado SR-225
3. AKG K240S
4. Beyer DT880 (just because they're underpowered)
5. Sennheiser PX_200

Comfort
1. Sennheiser PX-200 (because it's so small and light)
2. Beyer DT880 (very comfy but full sized)
3. AKG K240S (also very comfy, but closed design makes it a little hotter)
4. Equation RP-21 (reasonably comfy, but they still feel like studio monitors)
5. Grado SR-225 (stock bowls make my ears hurt after about 45 minutes)
 
Jul 30, 2007 at 3:23 AM Post #2 of 15

EsthetiX

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Yep, these are probably one of the best un-amped headphones out there right now. They're actually great portables. I've mentioned that to other people. I hate carrying an amp around. Sold my portable amp after finding these.
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Jul 30, 2007 at 3:32 AM Post #3 of 15

ounkchicago

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Quote:

Originally Posted by EsthetiX /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Yep, these are probably one of the best un-amped headphones out there right now. They're actually great portables. I've mentioned that to other people. I hate carrying an amp around. Sold my portable amp after finding these.
smily_headphones1.gif



As long as you have space to carry them flat in a bag (with the drivers rotated 90 degrees), I would say they are EXCELLENT portables. I am a student that carrys around a heavy backpack, but these seem durable enough to place in a bag full of books, so long as you don't accidentally crush the bag by stepping on it or sitting on it. These are definitely my go-to headphones for traveling now, as well. I used to use the PX-200 but they sounded TERRIBLE out of my iPod Nano. At first I blamed the Nano, but then I tried it out with my RP-21 and the improvement is drastic and remarkable.

I used to own the Grado SR-60, and I used to think that was a good portable headphone. But I think the RP-21 beats the SR-60 as a portable in almost every category (at least in my opinion). It has greater isolation, equal or better comfort, equal or better detail/resolution, less bright treble (that's really my least favorite aspect of the SR-60), and has a much better cord. The cords alone make the Grados a huge pain to travel with.

RP-21... not quite audiophile but hands down the best portable / work headphone in its price range for the moment (at least until I try out the AT and Denon's).
 
Jul 30, 2007 at 4:55 PM Post #4 of 15

Max F

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Very nice review!

Since you are familiar with the sound of the RP-21, how would you described the sound compared to your DT880s and the SR225? Amped or unamped. I'm interested in getting some nice open phones and those two are on my list. Thanks!
 
Jul 30, 2007 at 5:14 PM Post #5 of 15

tbonner1

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Quote:

Improvement with Amplification (Highest to Lowest)


This is a great category and we need more info regarding how much, or little headphones improve with amplifiers.
 
Jul 31, 2007 at 2:40 AM Post #7 of 15

ounkchicago

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Max F /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Very nice review!

Since you are familiar with the sound of the RP-21, how would you described the sound compared to your DT880s and the SR225? Amped or unamped. I'm interested in getting some nice open phones and those two are on my list. Thanks!



I would say that the RP-21 do a good job of sounding like open headphones, even though you never quite forget that they're closed. This is meant to be a compliment. Overall, their sound signature is closer to the Grado line than the Beyer DT880. The RP-21 and Grado line are not reference-type headphones in my opinion. They have a colored sound, but it's a fun coloration. The Beyers are the closest I own to neutral, reference quality headphones. They sound as close to the recording as I could possibly imagine. If you want to try something different from you RP-21, I would say go with the DT880. If you like the sound signature of the RP-21 and want something open, the SR-225 may be a good choice, but see the following comments.

Unamped: SR-225 are easy to drive, so you can use them with a portable. The problem is that they're so detailed and they have that coloration (kind of a U-shaped frequency response, where the bass and treble are slightly emphasized) that they can make some recordings sound awful, particularly poor quality recordings. Therefore, while they can be used with a portable, I do not recommend it. The DT880 cannot be used with a portable at all, as the headphone out won't have the power needed to drive these phones. So in summary, I don't recommend either phone unamped. If you were to go unamped, something like the SR-60 might be better than the SR-225.

Amped: This is where both phones come alive. Again the DT880 sound more neutral (a "flat" frequency response) than the SR-225, but with a good headphone amp you hear a lot more bass from both. The SR-225 win the bass battle, and it's the tight, punchy kind (not boomy, just the way I like it). The DT880 have adequate bass but it's not as noticeably present, not as impactful as the SR-225. Both cans have very very good mids... probably some of the best in the business. Both cans also have very sparkling treble. In fact, some people call the DT880 treble bright, but i disagree. I think they are just as neutral as the rest of the frequency spectrum, but they can sound bright on harsh or silibant recordings. The SR-225 sparkles just as much as the DT880, but it does a better job of controlling sibilance. Overall, I prefer DT880 with about 60% of my music collection, and the SR-225 with the other 40% (namely rock/guitar/punk music).
 
Jul 31, 2007 at 6:25 AM Post #8 of 15

bebanovich

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Without taking issue with any of your observations, I have to say that I recently purchased a Lunchbox II tube amp and I'm amazed at the synergy between it and the RP21s. This combo was first pointed out by Skylab in his impressions of the LBII.

The 21s were splitting time w/ my SR80s but I haven't taken the 80s off of their stand for more than a week. The bass on the 21s is even more lush (without losing any tightness). The treble - which can sound strangely plastic when unfoamed - is rounded out rather nicely.

While I agree with your basic premise that the 21s are very forgiving and easily driven, I think they are a great candidate for a tube amplifier with a classic, tube-heavy sound.
 
Jul 31, 2007 at 6:56 AM Post #9 of 15

kamal007

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bebanovich /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Without taking issue with any of your observations, I have to say that I recently purchased a Lunchbox II tube amp and I'm amazed at the synergy between it and the RP21s. This combo was first pointed out by Skylab in his impressions of the LBII.

The 21s were splitting time w/ my SR80s but I haven't taken the 80s off of their stand for more than a week. The bass on the 21s is even more lush (without losing any tightness). The treble - which can sound strangely plastic when unfoamed - is rounded out rather nicely.

While I agree with your basic premise that the 21s are very forgiving and easily driven, I think they are a great candidate for a tube amplifier with a classic, tube-heavy sound.



now you make me want to try out some tubeys
 
Jul 31, 2007 at 1:41 PM Post #10 of 15

tbonner1

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Quote:

now you make me want to try out some tubeys


Tube amps also help with the soundstage with most closed headphones.
I prefer rich sounding tubes as opposed to sharp, lean tubes with the RP-21's.
 
Jul 31, 2007 at 2:32 PM Post #11 of 15

ounkchicago

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bebanovich /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Without taking issue with any of your observations, I have to say that I recently purchased a Lunchbox II tube amp and I'm amazed at the synergy between it and the RP21s. This combo was first pointed out by Skylab in his impressions of the LBII.

The 21s were splitting time w/ my SR80s but I haven't taken the 80s off of their stand for more than a week. The bass on the 21s is even more lush (without losing any tightness). The treble - which can sound strangely plastic when unfoamed - is rounded out rather nicely.

While I agree with your basic premise that the 21s are very forgiving and easily driven, I think they are a great candidate for a tube amplifier with a classic, tube-heavy sound.



That's great news. Of course, my "improvement with amplification" rankings are based solely on my own listening experiences with my Creek amp, which is not a tube amp. If you have found an amp that has good synergy with the RP-21, I'm glad it works out for you and I would encourage others to do try the same.

That being said, I wouldn't say that my RP-21 have *no* improvement with amplification with my Creek. I am only saying that they have *less* improvement with amplification than all the other headphones I own.
 
Jul 31, 2007 at 5:41 PM Post #12 of 15

Max F

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Thanks ounkchicago for your comparisons. I had the DT880 and the Grado on my list but will likely scratch those off for some good open cans. Sounds like I would consider them rather bright. I did have experience with the MS-1s which i sold for being too bright with very little bass. My ears are definitely sensitive to the upper ranges. I do really like my RP-21s and will keep them (for those occasions where the sounds would bother my wife) but would like something open for the extra soundstage. Right now I have the AKG K701 and the Senn HD600 or 650 on my list. I'm concerned the the K701 would sound too bright for me and the Senns would be too bassy and recessed in the mids. I may just pick up the HD595 just to get an idea of the Senn sound. Thanks again for you write ups!
 
Aug 1, 2007 at 10:49 PM Post #13 of 15

ounkchicago

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Max F /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks ounkchicago for your comparisons. I had the DT880 and the Grado on my list but will likely scratch those off for some good open cans. Sounds like I would consider them rather bright. I did have experience with the MS-1s which i sold for being too bright with very little bass. My ears are definitely sensitive to the upper ranges. I do really like my RP-21s and will keep them (for those occasions where the sounds would bother my wife) but would like something open for the extra soundstage. Right now I have the AKG K701 and the Senn HD600 or 650 on my list. I'm concerned the the K701 would sound too bright for me and the Senns would be too bassy and recessed in the mids. I may just pick up the HD595 just to get an idea of the Senn sound. Thanks again for you write ups!


Max, if you think your ears are sensitive to upper ranges, I would try to stay away from the DT880. While I don't find them excessively bright, I do find them to be brighter than the SR-225 and the RP-21.

I think the SR-225 may suit you better, but they have a very upfront soundstage. It sounds like you are on the stage with the performers, which may not be the kind of soundstage you're looking for. But I thought the Grado had the best blend of having sparkling highs without sounding bright. And the soundstage is a huge improvement over the closed RP-21.

If there is retailer that allows returns, I'd say give the SR-225 a shot. I paid $159 + sales tax for mine from a local dealer in Chicago, so they can be had for less than the $199 list price. I think that they are a can that needs to be experienced, rather than discussed. For example, some people say they are bright, but others do not. Some people say they are bass monsters, but others say they have tight and punchy bass. Some people say they are perfectly comfortable, but others (like me) have problems with the stock pads for anything longer than 45 minutes. They also look cheap and the plastic they're made from looks awful, but they hold up surprisingly well. They are definitely an odd can.... what you see is definitely not what you get.



I would also like to try the K701 sometime but I don't think I want to fork out the cash for it at this time. I guess I'll see if I can listen to someone else's in the meantime, and see if they live up to the hype!
 
Aug 2, 2007 at 1:28 AM Post #15 of 15

skullguise

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bebanovich /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Without taking issue with any of your observations, I have to say that I recently purchased a Lunchbox II tube amp and I'm amazed at the synergy between it and the RP21s. This combo was first pointed out by Skylab in his impressions of the LBII.

The 21s were splitting time w/ my SR80s but I haven't taken the 80s off of their stand for more than a week. The bass on the 21s is even more lush (without losing any tightness). The treble - which can sound strangely plastic when unfoamed - is rounded out rather nicely.

While I agree with your basic premise that the 21s are very forgiving and easily driven, I think they are a great candidate for a tube amplifier with a classic, tube-heavy sound.



Interesting, I'll have to try it with my Lunch Box. Thanks for that, I missed the Skylab post.

One other good combo: RP-21 and M^3. Eeks out a good bit of the best of the RP-21's. I'm considerng a recable if cheap enough, I read somewhere here that it made a good bit of difference.
 

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