My dream headphone system
post-746206
Thread Starter
Post #1 of 18

mikeg

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 4, 2002
Messages
3,171
Reaction score
11
Joined
May 4, 2002
Posts
3,171
Likes
11
My search for a truly outstanding headphone system, one that relies on only a single headphone, and one that gives the finest reproduction for all of the kinds of music to which I listen, has now ended successfully. This system consists of a Sony MDR-R10
headphone, ASL AQ-1005DT Power Amp. with TJ Mesh 300B Gold Tubes, ASL UHC-Signature Headphone Adapter, ASL Passive T1DT Preamp., and Marantz SA8260 SACD Player.

My “discovery” of the MDR-R10, and my evaluation of it with the above equipment, came about as a consequence of a meeting this past Sunday with Head-Fi members agile_one, matt, gsferrari, and NightWoundsTime. A detailed description of this meeting is provided in agile_one’s thread at:
http://www5.head-fi.org/forums/showt...threadid=67166

Unfortunately agile_one had to leave the meeting early, but he kindly left his MDR-R10, and other equipment, for the others to use until the end of the meeting. Then, after the others left, I spent many more hours evaluating and comparing all of agile-one’s wonderful amps and headphones that remained at my home, pending their retrieval by him. I was also able to intermix his equipment with mine, in order to achieve optimal performance.

To my great surprise I discovered that the conclusions that I reached during the meeting, i.e., while the others were present, were completely wrong. I originally concluded that the MDR-R10 had too much base, and therefore sounded too heavy to be acceptable. I also concluded that the HD650 with ZU Mobius cable sounded better than the MDR-R10. In addition, I also felt that the Audio-Technica ATH-L3000 had a total lack of base, and
was therefore inferior to the HD650. I reached these conclusions while hurriedly switching back and forth between the various items of equipment, while sharing the equipment with the other participants. But, following the departure of the other participants, and after spending hours and hours with the equipment myself, I realized that all of my preceding conclusions were wrong. In fact, had agile_one not left his MDR-R10 behind, I would have rejected it as an unacceptable headphone, which would have been my loss.

I concentrated my tests on the MDR-R10, which I first connected to my own amp./CDP system, consisting of an ASL AQ-1005DT Power Amp. with TJ Mesh 300B Gold Tubes, ASL UHC-Signature Headphone Adapter, ASL Passive T1DT Preamp., and Marantz
SA8260 SACD Player. The sound of the MDR-R10 was unbelievable. What I formerly thought of as too much base, now revealed itself to consist of layer upon layer of rich deep sound. While the sound of regular CDs was exceptional, the sound of SACDs was truly glorious. The sound reproduction of the R10, when connected to this equipment, was truly amazing in terms of reproducing a true concert-hall effect. The sound-stage was
extremely broad, with rich and unbelievably detailed waves of sound in every frequency range. And, when I momentarily switched to the HD650 with ZU Mobius Cable, the HD650 sounded terrible in comparison to the R10. The sound field of the HD650 was shallow and flat, with the sound lacking terribly in detail in comparison to the R10. These results also occurred when I switched briefly to my RS-1 and K1000 headphones. These headphones were clearly not in the same league as the R10.

Further tests with the MDR-R10 clearly showed that it’s glorious output was dependent to an extraordinary extent on the amplifier to which it was connected. When connected to
a solid state amp., the performance of the R10 lost it’s breathtaking beauty. When connected to the HeadRoom Max (with stepped atten.), or to the Rudistor RP5, the sound
produced by the R10 was rather ordinary; i.e., cold, flat, sterile and devoid of beauty. It was a typical cold SS (as opposed to warm tube) sound. Although the sound obtained
with the Max was clearly better than that obtained from the RP5.

The MDR-R10 requires a tube amp. in order to reach it’s potential of producing glorious sound. So, when connected to the Stealth Emmeline II, it began to show its potential. The sound became richer, more detailed, and warmer, with a wider sound stage. But, it was still no where near the full potential of what I was to hear. This full potential was only achieved after the R10 was connected to an amp. equipped with 300B tubes. The TJ
Mesh 300B Gold Tubes in my ASL AQ-1005DT amp. were, according to reviews, among the very finest tubes available when I bought them about 2 years ago. So, the glorious
sound that I obtained from the MDR-R10 when connected to my system, seemed to depend heavily on the use of these exceptional 300B tubes. I confirmed this by replacing these tubes with O & J Enterprises Valve Art 300B tubes, which were less expensive tubes that I originally obtained with my AQ-1005DT amp. The result was a very noticeable loss in sound quality. I also connected the R10 to ASL Wave monoblock
amps., and the loss in sound quality was immediate, substantial and clear.

As a consequence of my preceding tests it was clear that the sound produced by the MDR-R10 is extremely dependent on the type of amplifier and tubes that are used to drive it. This headphone benefits from tube amps. much more than from solid state amps., and its performance is extremely dependent on the quality of tubes used. I think that the MDR-R10 only achieves its full glory when connected to a tube amp. that’s equipped with the finest 300B tubes.

I also briefly evaluated the Audio-Technica ATH-L3000 headphone, and found its sound, when connected to my preceding tube amp., to be clearly superior to that of the HD650,
RS-1, and K1000. It produced fine, rich and detailed sound, but with a substantially smaller sound stage than that of the R10. It’s sound was not nearly as rich and broad as
that of the R10. Thus, the L3000 is clearly an exceptional headphone, but it’s not in the same league as the MDR-R10.

I apologize for writing such a long review, but I really didn’t have sufficient time to write a shorter one.
 
     Share This Post       
post-746215
Post #2 of 18

gpalmer

We are the weird ones.
Joined
Apr 27, 2002
Messages
7,080
Reaction score
12
Joined
Apr 27, 2002
Posts
7,080
Likes
12
Nice setup, glad you found something that met your tastes so well, Oh and sorry about your wallet!
 
     Share This Post       
post-746245
Post #3 of 18

lan

Videographus Supremus:Makes audio cables using super-advanced materials, like "some clear tape" and "some not so clear tape."
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Messages
8,604
Reaction score
13
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Posts
8,604
Likes
13
Good to see you found a combo that you like. I have found my joy in my K1000s + TJ mesh 300Bs combo. 300Bs are magical
 
     Share This Post       
post-746290
Post #4 of 18

Mastergill

500+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jun 17, 2003
Messages
815
Reaction score
11
Joined
Jun 17, 2003
Posts
815
Likes
11
Quote:

Originally posted by mikeg
The MDR-R10 requires a tube amp. in order to reach it’s potential of producing glorious sound. So, when connected to the Stealth Emmeline II, it began to show its potential. The sound became richer, more detailed, and warmer, with a wider sound stage. But, it was still no where near the full potential of what I was to hear. This full potential was only achieved after the R10 was connected to an amp. equipped with 300B tubes.


Same for HD-650, IMHO. Nice review man. You've tried HD-650 vs R10 on the same amp and source, right ? What kind of music do you listen with ? Does R10 has really the same bass quality than HD-650 ?
Thanks.
 
     Share This Post       
post-746460
Post #5 of 18

mikeg

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 4, 2002
Messages
3,171
Reaction score
11
Joined
May 4, 2002
Posts
3,171
Likes
11
Quote:

Originally posted by Mastergill
Same for HD-650, IMHO. Nice review man. You've tried HD-650 vs R10 on the same amp and source, right ? What kind of music do you listen with ? Does R10 has really the same bass quality than HD-650 ?
Thanks.


Mostly classical, but also some jazz and folk.

The base of the R10 with my 300B tube amp. is much deeper and more detailed than that of the HD-650. It's like comparing an BMW to an ox cart. It's amazing, but you actually seem to feel base impact. I know that's impossible from a headphone, but it sure felt that way. BTW, this terrific base reproduction and impact seems to really depend on using a tube amp. with really high quality 300B tubes. Perhaps it also occurs with other kinds of tubes, but use of the other tube amps that I tried didn't match the results with my best amp (ASL AQ-1005DT), and TJ Mesh 300B Gold Tubes.
 
     Share This Post       
post-746602
Post #6 of 18

bozebuttons

Co-organized 1st International HF Meet (NY 2006)
Godfather of Babylon
Joined
Mar 29, 2002
Messages
4,005
Reaction score
200
Joined
Mar 29, 2002
Posts
4,005
Likes
200
The R10s like 300b tubes In my Cary I prefer the WE300b tubes over the tj meshplate gold tubes,had them both ,sold the tjs.
The longer you live with the R10s you realize how special they are.Glad you got some quality time with them.OH yeah Sorry about your wallet
 
     Share This Post       
post-746620
Post #7 of 18

philodox

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Dec 12, 2003
Messages
10,244
Reaction score
16
Joined
Dec 12, 2003
Posts
10,244
Likes
16
its bass... lol, just bugging you

very nice review... I think that you make a very good point about meets... that you can't trust what you hear that them and really need some 'alone time' to make an informed decision...

good luck with the R10 complex... I think I developex a stax complex at a meet that I went to recently


this place kills me


oh well, its a fun way to go
 
     Share This Post       
post-746669
Post #8 of 18

lan

Videographus Supremus:Makes audio cables using super-advanced materials, like "some clear tape" and "some not so clear tape."
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Messages
8,604
Reaction score
13
Joined
Sep 4, 2002
Posts
8,604
Likes
13
That bass presentation must be from the TJ Mesh tubes. They have this thing going on in the bass which does make it seem "impactful". I've only had mine for a few weeks so am still burning them in but I definitly notice something about the bass which wasn't there with my Svetlena tubes.
 
     Share This Post       
post-747042
Post #9 of 18

mikeg

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 4, 2002
Messages
3,171
Reaction score
11
Joined
May 4, 2002
Posts
3,171
Likes
11
Quote:

Originally posted by lan
Good to see you found a combo that you like. I have found my joy in my K1000s + TJ mesh 300Bs combo. 300Bs are magical


They are magical, but for the K1000 I didn't find a significant difference in sound between the two brands of 300B tubes that I tried. But, for the R10 there was a substantial quality difference in the sound produced by the two brands. The sound reproduction using the more expensive tubes was substantially better than that produced by the less expensive ones.
 
     Share This Post       
post-747050
Post #10 of 18

mikeg

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 4, 2002
Messages
3,171
Reaction score
11
Joined
May 4, 2002
Posts
3,171
Likes
11
Quote:

Originally posted by bozebuttons
The R10s like 300b tubes In my Cary I prefer the WE300b tubes over the tj meshplate gold tubes,had them both ,sold the tjs.
The longer you live with the R10s you realize how special they are.Glad you got some quality time with them.OH yeah Sorry about your wallet


I considered buying the WE300b tubes, but they were out of my price range at the time. That's why I settled for the tj meshplates. But, if/when I buy an R10, I'll also buy WE tubes.
 
     Share This Post       
post-747097
Post #11 of 18

ServinginEcuador

Founder of the Head-Fi Pay-to-Post Program.
Joined
Sep 1, 2002
Messages
8,384
Reaction score
14
Joined
Sep 1, 2002
Posts
8,384
Likes
14
Quote:

Originally posted by mikeg
Further tests with the MDR-R10 clearly showed that it’s glorious output was dependent to an extraordinary extent on the amplifier to which it was connected.


Hirsch and MarkL would both stand and applaud at your discovery. They are 100% dependent upon the amp to which they are connected. Moreso than any other cans I have ever heard. They did well with the EAR HP4 Hirsch had, but he says it is now a lot better with his Supra. I can't wait to hear it with the new equipment.
 
     Share This Post       
post-747206
Post #12 of 18

mikeg

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
May 4, 2002
Messages
3,171
Reaction score
11
Joined
May 4, 2002
Posts
3,171
Likes
11
Quote:

Originally posted by ServinginEcuador
Hirsch and MarkL would both stand and applaud at your discovery. They are 100% dependent upon the amp to which they are connected. Moreso than any other cans I have ever heard. They did well with the EAR HP4 Hirsch had, but he says it is now a lot better with his Supra. I can't wait to hear it with the new equipment.


With regard to tube amps, differences in R10 sound quality may be more a function of the quality of tubes, rather than the brand or model of amp used. I'm uncertain whether use of better tubes in the ASL Waves, or Stealth Emmeline II would have produced a sound that matched that of my 300b tube amp.
 
     Share This Post       
post-747221
Post #13 of 18

rsaavedra

Headphoneus Supremus
Joined
Jan 20, 2002
Messages
5,819
Reaction score
21
Joined
Jan 20, 2002
Posts
5,819
Likes
21
Wonderful setup Mikeg, congratulations!! I remember once pmming you asking about your Marantz SA8260. Here's another question for you, if you've heard the Sony SCD555ES by any chance, and preferred the Marantz. I'm still on the lookout for a good source, and that Marantz seems reasonably priced for a Stereophile class A. Maybe there aren't many mods for it, but precisely because it might be already too good as it comes.

PS. Wonder if your so far final conclusion between R10 and HD650 was influenced by possibly a bad amp-headphone matching for the 650?
 
     Share This Post       
post-747306
Post #14 of 18

ServinginEcuador

Founder of the Head-Fi Pay-to-Post Program.
Joined
Sep 1, 2002
Messages
8,384
Reaction score
14
Joined
Sep 1, 2002
Posts
8,384
Likes
14
Quote:

Originally posted by mikeg
With regard to tube amps, differences in R10 sound quality may be more a function of the quality of tubes, rather than the brand or model of amp used. I'm uncertain whether use of better tubes in the ASL Waves, or Stealth Emmeline II would have produced a sound that matched that of my 300b tube amp.



Mike,

Even the best tubes Hirsch had in place using the EAR HP4 couldn't match up to the Supra. The amp was his limiting factor IIRC, not the tubes. The Supra, according to Hirsch, simply let's the higher quality tubes run right thru to the cans. So, in the case of the Supra, yes, the tubes will make the difference. In the case of the HP4 it appeared that the amp wasn't capable of pushing the R10s to their best sound.
 
     Share This Post       
post-747327
Post #15 of 18

Eric F

100+ Head-Fier
Joined
Jan 25, 2004
Messages
113
Reaction score
0
Joined
Jan 25, 2004
Posts
113
Likes
0
My dream headphones would be Muddy Waters singing in one ear, and BB King in the other.
 
     Share This Post       

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Top