Just my 2 cents
Mar 28, 2006 at 2:09 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1


New Head-Fier
Jan 14, 2006
First of all, I want to thank everybody on this forum who posts their hands-on impressions of all the wonderful equipment that is now available to headphone hobbyists.

Secondly, I want to state that I am a "newbie" in regards to critical or "high-end" headphone listening and equipment. I do have many years of enjoying multiple playback systems (through speakers).

There is much to praise on this forum and I only have one criticism (I find myself mumbling to myself when I read SOME of the user impressions, whether they be raves or slams): Too often, I notice that many critical evaluations of 'phones and amps are offered where the source is a PC soundcard or a DAC fed by a PC, or a portable MP3 player.

In many cases we are talking about beautiful top of the line cans and amps capable of delivering every nuance available on a high-resolution source and someone is attempting to evaluate or differentiate these products using crummy (relatively), encoded source material. Audio has always been about balance throughout the reproduction chain.

I know not everyone has a 3000 dollar SACD player. Personally, my ears were conditioned by years of quality vinyl playback and then I went through every generation of CD player ever made until that format began to sound even remotely good. Presently, I listen to vinyl, CD, and SACD/DVD-A. I'm not an audio snob and I do plan to get some portable gear. I would be careful to put my opinions in context (MP3 or similar), if I did a review. I would never use a portable digital player, playing back downloaded, compressed music files or even stuff ripped from my own CD's and then give a definitive opinion about the bass, the gorgeous mids, sweet treble, awesome soundstage, dynamics and so on. These digital files do not sound as good as 16 bit lossless audio from 20 years ago. Many 'philes agree that even today's BEST 16 bit CD sound is limited.

It seems like it is quite possible that some equipment is undeservedly gushed over, and on the other hand some stuff gets slammed that might sound quite different with a decent source. I know that back in the hey day of Stereophile magazine when they really attempted to find out why some circuits sounded good or bad and what measurements equated to good or bad subjective sound, nobody liked op-amps in the audio path. I know we are talking headphones here, but given a choice, I would think discrete is the way to go (except for portable use and then the compromise would be justified).

I know that lots of members here are very experienced and have great sources and do careful reviews. I guess what it boils down to is, the enthusiasm is all fun and there is tons of good advice here. I just see a lot of impressions that are hard to take too seriously because of source limitations. It's tough enough that everyone has different taste and hears differently too, but that's just part of the game.

Maybe some of the younger crowd here just hasn't had a chance to hear high-end vinyl playback or even DSD. I hope you don't spend thousands on amps and phones just to hook 'em to your PC or i-pod.

One quick example: I bought a used Perreaux SXH1 Rev 0.3 here on the forum. Just wanted to see if I would get into the whole headphone "thing". I think I have and I probably will upgrade soon because I am curious just how good the experience can get, not because the SXH1 is bad. I think it is pretty good actually. After I listened to the amp and my HD-650's, I did some searches just to see what people here thought of that amp. Aside from the whole Rev 0.3 vs. 0.5 problem, it appears that at first a lot of folks raved about the amp and later dismissed it as mid-fi or entry level and probably best ignored.

On paper, the Perreaux looks pretty good: a nice power supply, decent discrete class A design. The company has vast experience in building amps and generally their products sound good and review well. (Yes, this was a budget product designed to a price point).

I did not find the amp, with HD-650's no less (not broken in), to be warm, ripe, tube-like, bloomy, slow, sverely colored, etc., as so many indicated. The only criticism I have is perhaps the upper treble is a bit "unrefined". Personally, for me, I am thinking that if so many people think the 650's are warm, veiled, and laid back and the SXH1 is more of the same, then why doesn't this combo sound like mud-it does not. I wouldn't want anything leaner, thinner, more upfront or aggressive, etc. I am guessing a lot of listeners here might be liking a hyped-up, aggressive sound-I would think that to be "colored". So much depends on individual taste. The meets are a great idea.

I would be willing to pay top dollar for equipment that creates a sound that is as natural as the source allows. If the source contains information with real transient detail, natural decay of notes, extended, I want to hear it. If the music is supposed to be dynamic or have pace and realism with that jump factor, I want to hear it. No, the Perreaux is not a high-end amp, neither is it a highly colored amp. Feed it a good source and it does just what it is supposed to. I will enjoy discovering just how much high-end headphone listening will cost me and whether it will require tubes or solid state for my taste to be met.

But, I am sure just like with regular hi-fi, it costs big bucks to go from competent or measuring well, to get the "magic", where you just can't stop listening.

I know what my music sources sound like over decades of listening to them over quite a variety of speakers, and electronics. My audio reference would have to be that listening experience, granted, translated to a different medium (headphones). What is the equipment doing to my music, period. I don't think you can tell unless the "music in", is everything it can be.

Thanks to all-just watch those sources before you slap a definitive label on an amp or a pair of 'phones

Users who are viewing this thread