JM Audio Editions XTC Headphones
Jan 13, 2023 at 2:31 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1,116

rlawry

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Hello Everyone:

I wanted to start a thread on some great headphones new to the market designed and built by John Massaria of JM Audio Editions. JMAE, jmaudioeditions.com, is a startup headphone company dedicated to improving and modifying standard headphones and is now developing and building their own models. John is a well-known figure on the Kennerton Headphone threads as he provided effective modifications of several of their models including their Gjallarhorn GH50 which later became standard models available directly from Kennerton. I myself owned a pair of Kennerton Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition phones which I later sent to John for further modifications to the JM Mark 2 models, now standard directly from Kennerton. Due to his success with modifying these phones he started his own company to modify phones from other manufacturers and to develop and build his own line.

From the attached pictures you can see one of the new JM Audio Editions Line, the XTC-Closed model, which I own. The build quality and sound of these phones are superb, details of which will follow on later posts of this thread.

I want to make it clear that I have no financial interest in JM Audio Editions or anything else from John. I am merely a very satisfied customer and wanted to make others aware of these terrific products.

Please visit the JM Audio Editions website for further information. www.jmaudioeditions.com.
 

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Jan 13, 2023 at 9:42 PM Post #3 of 1,116
OK, so I promised to give my take on the JM Audio Editions XTC-Closed headphones that I recently bought new from JMAE, pictures of which are in post #1 above.

Having never heard any of the various JMAE headphones listed on the www.jmaudioeditions.com website but having previous dealings with the owner, John Massaria, the "JM" in the company name, I contacted John and asked if he had any recommendations in his line for my favorite headphone sound. I have owned a number of headphones in the past and still have a working pair of Stanton Dynaphase 60 phones that I bought new in 1975 and have survived numerous moves around the country. Obviously headphone, and audio, technology has evolved over the ensuing 47 years, and I now own the phones listed below in my signature. I would term my favorite headphone sound as fast, detailed, transparent, and spacious. Generally if you get that type of sound you don't get a lot of warmth, midrange body, and bass weight and dynamics. The RAAL SR-1b and Kennerton Rognir Planar phones I own are proof of that postulation. So I told John that I wanted it all, the above characteristics but more bass to underpin certain types of music such as all types of rock and fusion jazz music. Still, I am willing to give up warmth and bass to get the speed, detail, transparency, and spaciousness that I so desire. So John sent me a pair of the larger-cupped, black automotive painted, beryllium driver phones shown in the pictures and described them as "nearly scapel" versions. He also employs the use of fractal mesh and perforated carbon fabrics to improve spaciousness. The important thing is that John has a real ear for music and headphone technology and sound and can custom produce phones that move the sound in the direction desired by customers.

The phones arrived in a cardboard box encasing a bombproof thick plastic case designed to withstand a nuclear holocaust, the ones I refer to Zero cases. Inside were the phones, an information card, and a nice, flexible braided OFC copper cable with fabric jacketing. The cable connectors are twin 3.5mm TRS male plugs for the headphone connections and a 4 pin XLR cable for my Benchmark HPA4 amp. And let me tell you, these phones are gorgeous with the black automotive paint like that used on luxury cars. In fact, I polished them up, not that they needed it, with some carnauba wax I had in the garage. Or maybe I should have used headphonenauba wax. Anyway, I feel the need to bring the phones in every 5000 miles for oil change and tire rotation. Terrible jokes aside, I hooked the phone up to my amp and played a variety of music, from Thelonious Monk's 1957 album Monk's Music, to Mark Knopfler's El Macho, to the China Crisis Autumn In the Neighborhood album, to Steely Dan's Everything Must Go.

My initial impressions were of a great sound, a nice mix of extended and dynamic bass, a full and vivid midrange with lots of body, and a clear and detailed treble. John mentioned that the small oval ports on the top of the earcups can be tuned by placing tape over part or all of the port. I used some black electrical tape that is normally hidden by the gimbals during use, starting first with no tape where the bass was a little heavy for my tastes, then to fully covered which reduced the bass significantly, then to the Goldilocks version by covering half the port that was just right, the best combination of bass and midrange, i.e. it tipped up the frequency balance. Dynamic range is great with these phones, detail is nice, they are quite spacious for closed-back phones, and there is good liquidity in the robust midrange.

So in comparison with my other phones (see my signature), the JM Audio Editions XTC-C phones are quite different th.an my other TOTL phones, the Kennerton Rognir Planar and RAAL SR-1b. No, the XTC-C does not have the speed and detail of ribbon drivers nor quite the spaciouness, with the sound in a smaller space around your head. These phones are more up-front and robust, kind of what a tube amp does to the sound. They are closer in sound to the planar magnetic Rognir Planars with a similar-sized soundstage with images easy to pick out. But the bass of the XTC-C is something else. The RAALs are certainly not known for the bass weight and dynamics and are eclipsed by the XTC-C, as is the midrange body and warmth. The Rognir Planar can have great bass on the right recordings but the XTC-C has bass to die for if that is your desired sound. I had a great time listening to the bass on Mark Knopfler's El Macho, one of my favorite songs. So as in most, if not all, cases, your choice of phones will somewhat dictate what type of recording you reach for, and I would say that if you like your music underpinned by a bass foundation, the XTC-C is your guy. Not to mention that they are not that much of a compromise in the spaciousness and detail departments.

I forgot to mention fit and finish. I was surprised at how light these phones are and the size can easily be adjusted using the stepped rods. Clamp was perfect for my slightly-smaller-than-normal head (my wife sometimes calls me a "pinhead" and not sure if that is a compliment or not). The earcups are large enough to envelop my ears fully and they do not touch the drivers.

I would conclude by saying that I am pleased as punch with these phones and they rate right at the top of any closed-back phones I have owned including the Kennerton Rognir Planars and Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition Mark 2. I am going to hold off on discussing pricing of these phones as I think John is still trying to determine long-term pricing but at any reasonable price I would consider them a steal.
 
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Jan 13, 2023 at 9:52 PM Post #4 of 1,116
One thing else: I appreciate John Massaria's adding my initials to the XTC-C phones. R on one earcup and L on the other. Really nice of him :L3000:.
 
Jan 13, 2023 at 10:21 PM Post #5 of 1,116
OK, so I promised to give my take on the JM Audio Editions XTC-Closed headphones that I recently bought new from JMAE, pictures of which are in post #1 above.

Having never heard any of the various JMAE headphones listed on the www.jmaudioeditions.com website but having previous dealings with the owner, John Massaria, the "JM" in the company name, I contacted John and asked if he had any recommendations in his line for my favorite headphone sound. I have owned a number of headphones in the past and still have a working pair of Stanton Dynaphase 60 phones that I bought new in 1975 and have survived numerous moves around the country. Obviously headphone, and audio, technology has evolved over the ensuing 47 years, and I now own the phones listed below in my signature. I would term my favorite headphone sound as fast, detailed, transparent, and spacious. Generally if you get that type of sound you don't get a lot of warmth, midrange body, and bass weight and dynamics. The RAAL SR-1b and Kennerton Rognir Planar phones I own are proof of that postulation. So I told John that I wanted it all, the above characteristics but more bass to underpin certain types of music such as all types of rock and fusion jazz music. Still, I am willing to give up warmth and bass to get the speed, detail, transparency, and spaciousness that I so desire. So John sent me a pair of the larger-cupped, black automotive painted, beryllium driver phones shown in the pictures and described them as "nearly scapel" versions. He also employs the use of fractal mesh and perforated carbon fabrics to improve spaciousness. The important thing is that John has a real ear for music and headphone technology and sound and can custom produce phones that move the sound in the direction desired by customers.

The phones arrived in a cardboard box encasing a bombproof thick plastic case designed to withstand a nuclear holocaust, the ones I refer to Zero cases. Inside were the phones, an information card, and a nice, flexible braided OFC copper cable with fabric jacketing. The cable connectors are twin 3.5mm TRS male plugs for the headphone connections and a 4 pin XLR cable for my Benchmark HPA4 amp. And let me tell you, these phones are gorgeous with the black automotive paint like that used on luxury cars. In fact, I polished them up, not that they needed it, with some carnauba wax I had in the garage. Or maybe I should have used headphonenauba wax. Anyway, I feel the need to bring the phones in every 5000 miles for oil change and tire rotation. Terrible jokes aside, I hooked the phone up to my amp and played a variety of music, from Thelonious Monk's 1957 album Monk's Music, to Mark Knopfler's El Macho, to the China Crisis Autumn In the Neighborhood album, to Steely Dan's Everything Must Go.

My initial impressions were of a great sound, a nice mix of extended and dynamic bass, a full and vivid midrange with lots of body, and a clear and detailed treble. John mentioned that the small oval ports on the top of the earcups can be tuned by placing tape over part or all of the port. I used some black electrical tape that is normally hidden by the gimbals during use, starting first with no tape where the bass was a little heavy for my tastes, then to fully covered which reduced the bass significantly, then to the Goldilocks version by covering half the port that was just right, the best combination of bass and midrange, i.e. it tipped up the frequency balance. Dynamic range is great with these phones, detail is nice, they are quite spacious for closed-back phones, and there is good liquidity in the robust midrange.

So in comparison with my other phones (see my signature), the JM Audio Editions XTC-C phones are quite different th.an my other TOTL phones, the Kennerton Rognir Planar and RAAL SR-1b. No, the XTC-C does not have the speed and detail of ribbon drivers nor quite the spaciouness, with the sound in a smaller space around your head. These phones are more up-front and robust, kind of what a tube amp does to the sound. They are closer in sound to the planar magnetic Rognir Planars with a similar-sized soundstage with images easy to pick out. But the bass of the XTC-C is something else. The RAALs are certainly not known for the bass weight and dynamics and are eclipsed by the XTC-C, as is the midrange body and warmth. The Rognir Planar can have great bass on the right recordings but the XTC-C has bass to die for if that is your desired sound. I had a great time listening to the bass on Mark Knopfler's El Macho, one of my favorite songs. So as in most, if not all, cases, your choice of phones will somewhat dictate what type of recording you reach for, and I would say that if you like your music underpinned by a bass foundation, the XTC-C is your guy. Not to mention that they are not that much of a compromise in the spaciousness and detail departments.

I forgot to mention fit and finish. I was surprised at how light these phones are and the size can easily be adjusted using the stepped rods. Clamp was perfect for my slightly-smaller-than-normal head (my wife sometimes calls me a "pinhead" and not sure if that is a compliment or not). The earcups are large enough to envelop my ears fully and they do not touch the drivers.

I would conclude by saying that I am pleased as punch with these phones and they rate right at the top of any closed-back phones I have owned including the Kennerton Rognir Planars and Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition Mark 2. I am going to hold off on discussing pricing of these phones as I think John is still trying to determine long-term pricing but at any reasonable price I would consider them a steal.
Nice. How w you describe what you're hearing in comparison to the Gjallarhorn you previously owned?
 
Jan 13, 2023 at 10:38 PM Post #6 of 1,116
The XTC-C is a little more balanced-sounding in frequency response, closer to the regular Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition than the the JM Edition Mark 2 where the JME2 has absolutely titanic bass weight and dynamics and a smoothed-over midrange and treble where detail was found wanting, at least in my experience. The XTC-C has more detail and a more neutral bass but just right for me. Of course, I am not really a fan of bass-prominent phones like the JME2 and numerous others I have heard, especially if the bass overwhelms the rest of the music. The XTC-C has great bass weight, dynamics, extension, and good pitch definition and speed, but it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the frequency spectrum. The XTC-C has a more prominent and detailed midrange as well as a little more treble energy in comparison to the darker sound of the GH50. If you like your bass fast and furious I would stick to the Gjallarhorn. You can tune both phones to have different levels of bass but the GH50 just has a lot more and is fun on some recordings but I like the more neutral sound of the XTC-C. Heck, I even like the fast, detailed, and thinner bass of the RAAL SR-1b.
 
Jan 13, 2023 at 10:47 PM Post #7 of 1,116
The XTC-C is a little more balanced-sounding in frequency response, closer to the regular Gjallarhorn GH50 JM Edition than the the JM Edition Mark 2 where the JME2 has absolutely titanic bass weight and dynamics and a smoothed-over midrange and treble where detail was found wanting, at least in my experience. The XTC-C has more detail and a more neutral bass but just right for me. Of course, I am not really a fan of bass-prominent phones like the JME2 and numerous others I have heard, especially if the bass overwhelms the rest of the music. The XTC-C has great bass weight, dynamics, extension, and good pitch definition and speed, but it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the frequency spectrum. The XTC-C has a more prominent and detailed midrange as well as a little more treble energy in comparison to the darker sound of the GH50. If you like your bass fast and furious I would stick to the Gjallarhorn. You can tune both phones to have different levels of bass but the GH50 just has a lot more and is fun on some recordings but I like the more neutral sound of the XTC-C. Heck, I even like the fast, detailed, and thinner bass of the RAAL SR-1b.
Sweet, thank you. I have the 1st edition of the Gjallarhorn (not modded), and I find the bass to be pretty close to perfect for my tastes. How much additional treble extension are we talking about with the XTC? I prefer slightly dark tuning, but I'll admit that the Gjallarhorn can be a little too dark at times. More prominent and detailed mids sound lovely. Any harshness or unnecessary zip and zing in the upper mids and lower treble that you're hearing? That's my bugaboo.
I've been thinking about grabbing the open XTC, I just want to make sure it won't be too similar to the Gjallarhorn. I purchased a Vali Neo, but am waiting on a cable I need before I can listen. If I don't care for it, I'll likely grab the XTC. Any other comparisons and contrasts with the original Gjallarhorn would be most appreciated!
 
Jan 13, 2023 at 11:08 PM Post #8 of 1,116
Sweet, thank you. I have the 1st edition of the Gjallarhorn (not modded), and I find the bass to be pretty close to perfect for my tastes. How much additional treble extension are we talking about with the XTC? I prefer slightly dark tuning, but I'll admit that the Gjallarhorn can be a little too dark at times. More prominent and detailed mids sound lovely. Any harshness or unnecessary zip and zing in the upper mids and lower treble that you're hearing? That's my bugaboo.
I've been thinking about grabbing the open XTC, I just want to make sure it won't be too similar to the Gjallarhorn. I purchased a Vali Neo, but am waiting on a cable I need before I can listen. If I don't care for it, I'll likely grab the XTC. Any other comparisons and contrasts with the original Gjallarhorn would be most appreciated!
Well, don't get the RAAL if you don't like zip and zing in the upper mids and treble. I myself like this kind of fast and detailed sound but do add a few db of bass and a dip in the upper mids/lower treble using Roon parametric equalization. Not a lot but it is a little more balanced that way. I didn't really like the Gjallarhorn, especially the JME Mark 2 as it was just too dark and smoothed over with entirely too much bass. The XTC-C has a more robust midrange with body, a more up-front sound but certainly not treble prominent, nowhere near the RAAL or even the Rognir Planar. The XTC is also somewhat more spacious and has better dynamics overall but the bass in my mind is almost perfect for a closed back. I do like the quality of the RAAL bass but on some recordings it is a little anemic. Unfortunately I can't comment on the Vali Neo as I have not heard it. I use a Benchmark HPA4 amp which is way leaner than tube amps I have owned and is extremely fast and detailed so if you use a warm-sounding amp it might not be the best match for the XTC-C. Using a tube amp with the GH50 JME2 was just way too much of a good thing.
 
Jan 15, 2023 at 2:13 AM Post #9 of 1,116
Really looking forward to these! I have a pair on the way to me in the mail.

I have the R7DX JM modded headphones and he did a fantastic job with those.

Looking for my endgame closed back upgrading from the Focal Elegia and AQ Nightowls. Fingers crossed here!
 
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Jan 18, 2023 at 9:12 PM Post #10 of 1,116
They came today! I'm super excited. Between a few work meetings for I don't know, 15 minutes total? I really was liking what I was hearing. Excellent detail and imaging. Fantastic sound stage. Can't wait to give it a thorough listen tonight.
 
Jan 18, 2023 at 9:15 PM Post #11 of 1,116
They came today! I'm super excited. Between a few work meetings for I don't know, 15 minutes total? I really was liking what I was hearing. Excellent detail and imaging. Fantastic sound stage. Can't wait to give it a thorough listen tonight.
Did you grab the open or closed version? Looking forward to reading your impressions 👍
 
Jan 18, 2023 at 9:40 PM Post #12 of 1,116
Did you grab the open or closed version? Looking forward to reading your impressions 👍
Closed, the "near scalpel" tuning...at least starting from that point based on the review on head-fi here. I'll explain in my own review. Buying these headphones is much more than just a transaction, it's truly an experience.
 
Jan 19, 2023 at 6:14 PM Post #13 of 1,116
Still formulating thoughts, but these headphones really have the right amount of bass, tight and under control. They are very detailed. They are dynamic too, but not as aggressive in your face as Focal. So they haven't been fatiguing. This just may be my end game closed back, but I won't jump to conclusions just yet. I have to find a Stellia to compare...but yea, these are on the level.

The XTC has more detail than the Meze 109 Pro. Tighter too. I think it has a superior driver. The 109 Pro are less dynamic, but more fluid/musical if you will, and I find the 109 Pro's fit/comfort better. So that still leaves me with a nice comfortable open back counterpart. The 109 Pro still offers something different and worthwhile.

I haven't taped the holes in the cup to try the difference there. I also haven't tried different ear pads. So lots to explore still.
 
Jan 29, 2023 at 5:50 AM Post #14 of 1,116
I wish there were more reviews on these... But I guess JM's just getting started. I placed an order with him yesterday for the closed-backs and look forward to reviewing them for you once they arrive. I've demo/owned the D9200, D7200 and TH900 (which were good, but not perfect), and I think they would be good comparisons.
 
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Jan 29, 2023 at 10:10 AM Post #15 of 1,116
I wish there were more reviews on these... But I guess JM's just getting started. I placed an order with him yesterday for the closed-backs and look forward to reviewing them for you once they arrive. I've demo/owned the D9200, D7200 and TH900 (which were good, but not perfect), and I think they would be good comparisons.
Yea, I want to compare the D9200 and TH900 to the XTC when I get a chance.

From memory, the XTC is basically in this group. Listening to the XTC and describing how it sounds, it just brings something new and I'm reminded of or think about the D9200, TH900, Stellia, ZMF VC, and some others.

I won't know how it competes technically (at least to my ears) until I can compare them side by side.

I should be able to compare some of those today though.

Whether it's the sound quality and technicalities or the sound signature and characteristics that remind me of all these others, it's exciting to see a new headphone that fits somewhere in this group.
 

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