Headroom tour: Los Angeles
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daycart1

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I just got back from a pretty intense almost 3 hours of listening and chatting. I'll make some selfindulgent observations after thanking some folks:

Todd, who looked pretty tired but was working hard to talk folks through everything. He even keep his cool pretty well when one of the earpieces fell off the Orpheus!

Shrieks, who gave me a listen on his ATH-2002. They are amazing! More transparent and better tonality than my beloved Senn HD600.

Edwin, who gave me a listen on his Sony R-10. Even more amazing. And comfortable! Like getting a massage. They look great too, but not as good as the ATH-2002 IMO.


I was wondering whether my ears would be up to it and whether I'm make any discoveries about how I hear things. I did learn a BIG lesson:


THE RECEIVED WISDOM IS TRUE! THE TIRED, STOCK CRITICAL COMMENTS PEOPLE ALWAYS MAKE ARE TRUE!

Here is what I heard:

1. The Stax Omega II sound just incredible with acoustic instruments and voices. No trouble at all with bass. But:

2. The Orpheus kicked Stax's ass, and everything else IMO.

3. Celebrity Smackdown: Senn HD600 vs. Grado RS1 on the Holmes-Powell. Well, the RS1 is not exactly bright, but it is brighter and more forward than the 600. And not as accurate on instrumental timbres. Clear winner: HD600. BUT,

4. When I listened to RS1 (or was it RS2) in another part of the room on the Grado RA-1 amp, it sounded GREAT! I couldn't do an A/B, but I think the Grado sounded better on the little $350 grado amp, than on the $5000 or whatever tube amp.

5. AKG 1000... Terrific soundstaging. A little light and loose on bass. I want these! (They were being driven by the outrageous EAR V20. The beauty of this thing is rivalled only by the Orpheus.)

6. AKG 501... Better soundstage than the HD600! (That's what Jopi said, too). I was surprised. Very accurate, but not quite as good on sound, especially bass, as the 600)

7. I really wanted to see whether I'd like the Ety's. With the er-4, I got a perfect seal and comfortable fit on my very first try ever! I want these! (Uh oh... Of course, I want too much).

8. Headroom crossfeed was very subtle on all the recordings I heard--much more subtle than the Meier. I liked it with no brightness boost.

In short, my news is no news!

One item on which I seem to disagree with other Roadshow attendees is the Blockhead. I loved it; it was driving the HD600s with (edit: tricky clou balanced?) cable. But, I thought Orpheus, top of the line Stax, and even the EAR v20/akg1000 better on classical and jazz. Perhaps the Blockhead rules for hard rock? I didn't have time to check this out. The Max with 600--Cardas was hard to distinguish from the Blockhead with the classical music that was playing...

Major disappointments: There was no setup for A/Bing the aftermarket Senn cables with stock, or each other. And the Cary is still dead.

Don't miss this when it comes to a town near you!
 
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erikiksaz

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Ahh, i didn't know Los Angeles was a stop! I wanna go...

edit- awe crud, it's only a one day thing?! Ayah
 
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jopi

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Thanks a lot to Headroom and their crew making it happen. I had a lot of fun today listening.

I'd also like to thank everybody bearing with me running the first three minutes of that darn 4th movement of Mahler's first symphony through the high end rack a million times. But this piece, I think, is very revealing when auditioning systems.
I've come to similiar conclusions as daycart1:

Orpheus was a clear winner here and I don't know what it is what sounds so good, perhaps that's the reason why.

Next up was the AKG1000 driven by the EAR and the Stax Omega system. Stax had deeper bass extension, but gosh the AKGs soundstage is unbeatable. It's a toss between the two and I had a heck of a time listening to these two systems.

Blockhead with Senns came up next and I've got to say I was a little bit disappointed. Classical music may not be there strongest suit and I value soundstage and tonality more than accuracy. I felt, that the Blockhead with the Senns was more accurate then the Stax and AKG1000, but it wasn't as much fun listening. Perhaps the Blockhead is too accurate, if that's possible? Almost like a medical instrument instead of something fun.

The Grado's powered by the Holmes amp came in last and that's probably because I'm not used to listening to a full blown orchestra from a 2.5 inches distance, at least that's what it sounded like to me.

Again, thanks to all the people making it happen.
 
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eric343

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Interesting... the East Ghost guys liked the BlockHead better (mostly), and the Wet Coast guys seem to be liking the Big O better...
 
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Tim D

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The turnout was great. I was thrilled to be able to listen to almost every badboy of headphonedom, especially with the appearances of the R-10 and W2002. The only thing lacking would be HP series Grados and in terms of amps, no META's, Sugdens, and the broken Cary (which according to the description is supposed to be a gorgeous sounding tube amp). I was very impressed by the Ear4 amp so it was sad to not be able to hear the Cary which was supposed to be one of the absolute sweetest sounding tube amps in that rack.

I liked the HD600's, but still only with the big buck sources, amps, and perhaps cardas or equinox. Not to say that the more modest marantz or the variety of $300 dollar amps weren't good sounding with Senn's...it is just that for me that last bit of improvement makes or breaks my personal enjoyment as IMO it just greatly effects how "transparent" the Senns sound. Off the BAT CDP + Max + Cardas, in the high-end rack there is a very noticable improvement of transparency making the HD600's sounding great IMO. But in the other racks, although a lot of the good qualities of Senns are still present, it is transparency that just seems to suffer first for me in lower end racks. I once tried Senns in my own setup more than a year ago with only an entry level amp and there weren't any aftermarket cables even existant at that time, and the transparency just wasn't there for me. At the meet it was still the same issue, only now there were aftermarket cables + great amps there to listen to, and I found the Senns only start to really agree with me after the Cosmic amp IMO, and even better with Cardas or Equinox. However they do agree with me which was a pleasant suprise!

Even though I once thought it took too much investment to make the Senn's sound transparent, after the show I ended up thinking that they definitely held their own against the other bad boys of headphonedom including the Orpheus, Stax's, R-10's, and W2002's with the appropriate cable amp match. Although a lot of the other headphones can be a bit more transparent from the get go, they are also typically more expensive from the get go, and I just felt that once you DO put forth the great amp + source with the Senns, it is like the underdog racing quickly to the heels of its more expensive competitors to a photo finish.

As far as the aftermarket cables...well I didn't really like the Clou's. I was one of first to complain that a stock SennHD600 sounded a little veiled or dark years ago when there weren't even any aftermarket cables for Senns. The Clou brightens things up for the Senns...but be it as it may...it doesn't particularly attack the exact negative qualities that I first heard from stock. Yes there were brighter and more pronounced high frequencies...but that never really was a problem before and there was still upper midrange recess/veil type qualities and slightly boomy midbass. Yep, cables make a difference...maybe a very extreme example, but the first few seconds listening to the blockhead + balanced Clou I heard distortion that Todd verified and eventually found to be cable related(thus leaving the second Blockhead display empty for the rest of the show). I didn't have much time to form any more impressions besides the initial ones between stock, vs clou, vs Cardas/Equinox.

I liked the Orpheus a lot...but was a little disappointed in the Stax Omega's. The Stax 4040's impressed me more than the Omega's did. Even though a favorite I don't think the Orpheus blew me away so much that I would ever save my pennies for it as I really think the Senns600 + Cardas with the Max is definitely "good" enough at a much more attainable price. Maybe I am just weird and even though a clear favorite and one of the "best" the Orpheus just didn't knock my socks off as I wish it would have. However it is all about refinement and nuances. Can't comment on the R-10 or W2002 too much since they weren't really there meant for display and auditioning, but both owners were more than happy to let you grab a listen. Both impressions were greatly positive, both being transparent phones with the W2002 having the slightly analytical slant and the R-10 having a very musical and sweet one. W2002's were gorgeous however.

Although I only was able to hear mostly soft music at the hi-end table I was still left with a sense that the Senns + Headroom amp setups would would win in the high-end rack on harder more aggresive music. Basically almost everything in the hi-end rack offered a greater level of refinment and nuance than the SennsHD600...but they make it up in dynamics. I thought the AKG1000 were fun to listen to with a soundstage that I actually thought were even more enjoyable than the Stax's...but again I personally don't ever see myself saving for that one either since it lacks low-end and comes off as a more "specialized" headphone. The Blockhead was nice, but I just don't think given its large footprint, the substantially higher price, and the less convenient double pots that I would personally ever really want it over a Max. Yes the bass is pretty awesome on the blockhead but I just don't think anyone is ever going to complain about bass or lack of detail on a Max. As far as price/performance it seemed to me that the SennHD600 + Cardas + Max was a clear winner at the high-end table. You can probably get that entire setup for quite a bit less than the cost of one Holmes Powell amp just to put a price/performance slant on things. The Holmes Powell was a good amp, but for the price it should have been a *great* amp, so it was not really winning in terms of price/performance compared to the other amps at that table (if price/performance still is a factor when you are at that table). I don't think it was a bad amp, I just think for the price the other amps were a bit better. This HP amp was just ever so slightly mushy...a forgivable trait in a headphone amp like the Creek...but definitely not so forgivable in the hi-end rack. It was a very musical amp...but so was the Ear4 while not sounding as "lazy"?

From the long hours being in an almost sultry cramped room, I just wasn't in the mood for bright annoying phones. I just didn't like the lower end Grado's at all. The only Grado headphones I really liked were the RS-1's. This is weird since I did like my MS-1's that I owned before which are supposedly like SR-80's, but I don't remember them being as aggresive as either SR-225/325's at the show. But I never put bowl pads on my MS-1's either. I think bowl pads on Grado's besides RS-1's is asking for earache. I remember getting the impression from the forums that the SR-325 is like a cost-effective RS-1...but to me they were just totally different beasts. I didn't like the Sony's. The Beyer 831/931 were some of the *least* bright of the group of bright phones...but they were still too bright from those Home amps. I've owned DT931's before to know that with the proper amp or resistor configuration their brightness is readily brought into the range of any of the great phones there. Koss Electrostatics were annoying as was the Baby Orpheus. The Senn590 were also a bit bright, and the SennHD280 Pro's were also a little abrasive and starchy sounding. My favorite non-Ety closed headphone were the Beyer DT-250. Comparing a slightly abrasive Senn280 to the slightly rolled-off Beyer DT-250...I'd prefer the latter.

Although having been there for basically the entire duration I didn't get too much critical listening time to make anything more than impressions. But I do gather my sonic impressions rather quickly. Hmmm I wrote a lot of stuff...this doesn't imply that I did much critical listening...but that I just had an almost 9 hour window of opportunity to get some quick impressions of everything.

I walked away with probably a greater appreciation for my current gear than I would have thought. Yes I still love my ER4's...and I still truly appreciate my AKGK240S (which I still like more than the 501's), but if I did walk away with inclination/ability to actually buy something it would be the SennHD600...but only after I can afford the Cardas/Equinox + Cosmic or higher amp + nice CDP in front of it.
 
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eric343

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Quote:

Originally posted by Tim D
I liked the HD600's, but still only with the big buck sources, amps, and perhaps cardas or equinox. Not to say that the more modest marantz or the variety of $300 dollar amps weren't good sounding with Senn's...it is just that for me that last bit of improvement makes or breaks my personal enjoyment as IMO it just greatly effects how "transparent" the Senns sound. Off the BAT CDP + Max + Cardas, in the high-end rack there is a very noticable improvement of transparency making the HD600's sounding great IMO. But in the other racks, although a lot of the good qualities of Senns are still present, it is transparency that just seems to suffer first for me in lower end racks.


You need to hear a META42
 
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