My incredible two-man head-fi meet
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Joe Bloggs

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(not too much of my impressions came unexpected in the meet proper, but the Grado audition at the end was really something new for me—I suspect you might want to read about that real quick)

How this meeting came about
A few weeks ago, Gino (nickname), a guy in Hong Kong, started reading Head-Fi. Due to the amount of my posts he saw, (
) plus an interest in my homepage, (which is here; go and take a look if you want; he knew a friend whose expertise is in the area I’m working on.) he started mailing me, asking me for advice about his forthcoming headphone purchases. He’d just bought an Apple iPod before emailing me, and soon after we started corresponding, he acquired the following:
HD600s
Ety ER4P with Ety 4P->4S cable
HeadRoom Cosmic Reference
HeadRoom Base Station 1

This guy has it going pretty good
After all, Gino’s a professor and the head of a whole department in a university in Hong Kong…

After getting all that gear, he invited me to go hear his stuff out ;D

Gear that I brought along for the meet:
HD580s
Ety ER4P
Porta Corda (power supply: 3 9Vs in series. They measured at 21V total before I left for the meet.)
Sony D-CJ01

The weak link in our meet today was source. Throughout our auditions we used either the iPod playing his mp3s, which were mostly downloaded, or the line out of my discman.

When I came to the place he gave me, I found that it was the office of his department—imagine setting our meet there, I just couldn’t!
To my relief, he told me we could set up in the lounge next door. But rather than sitting on chairs, we sat on bean bags or crouched on the floor throughout the audition; these somewhat awkward positions affected my concentration somewhat. Of course, when we were both auditioning the HD580 or HD600 next to each other, we added some noise to each other’s audition too. Still this is the first time I’ve been able to audition one of HeadRoom’s amplifiers, and their top-of-the-line portable amp, no less :)

Listening impressions:
HD600: I didn’t bother trying to find a difference between these and the HD580. As the meet went on it became obvious that I wouldn’t settle down enough to be able to do the deep meditation necessary for discriminating their differences. We used the 600 and 580 interchangeably in auditioning different source / amplification combinations.

HeadRoom Cosmic Reference: Compared to the Porta, the Cosmic Reference is less bright. I have no idea who is ‘right’ (although this may be tied with the timbre issue described below). Bass is as tight and punchy as anything I’ve heard, but that’s not the main reason I find the Cosmic superior to the Porta. Rather, it is because I feel that it conveys the true timbre of instruments more faithfully than the Porta. I saw the term ‘transistor-y’ here just a few days ago, and this word springs to mind, seeming to fit the description for the Porta compared to the Cosmic perfectly, even though both are op-amp based designs and by that token ought to be as transistor-y as each other. Mind you, I do not hear this transistor-y sound when listening straight out of my discman; what bothers me there is the higher noise floor and even less bass punch, though again, the latter does not seem to be something that can motivate me to take issue with an amplifier. It’s just not anywhere up there in my priority list for some reason


Ety 4P->S adapter: can’t discern the 4P and the 4S yet. 4S does lower the sound floor if your source / amplification is ever so slightly noisy, like my discman headphone out is. Volumewise I can power the S directly out of my discman’s headphone out well enough; may prefer it to the 4P because I get to tune the volume in finer steps with the 4S, because I’m at something like 20/30 with the 4S whereas with the 4P I’m at more like 8/30…

HeadRoom Base Station 1: you can switch between the Base Station 1, plugged into its special power plug and an el cheapo PSU plugged into the standard plug while never breaking the playback of a song. I did this quick switching many times and could not convince myself that anything was going on… maybe I could pick out the difference in a blind test? Maybe the bass was a bit tighter with the BS1 as power supply? (but as you know bass does not have such a high place in my mind and ears) Gino said that he’d spent half an hour switching between the BS1 and el cheapo brick and finally convinced himself he could hear a difference in the bass, but nevertheless feels that he’d be sending this back. (As he says in the middle of my fruitless switching between these two, ‘300 bucks for this?)

Well, that covers all the stuff we brought to our meet.

Wait, there’s more!

After he showed me around his department (lots of groovy stuff including a studio with motion capture equipment, computer games development…) we went out to Ap Liu Street to audition the MG Head and Twin Head. Having the Porta and the Cosmic in our bags, this promises to be a great 4-way shootout…

Unfortunately both are out of stock at the dealer.


Then we went to Mong Kok for dinner—but before that Gino wanted to show me this place where they have the Sony R10 on display!


Well, they’re shrink-wrapped in their box, so I guess we can’t audition them… but they sure look great
and huge


I’d been to the shops that he led me to, to audition the Sony XA777ES and McLaren F1 CDPs, but apparently there’s MUCH more stuff on this floor…

There was a shop with a pair of Technics RP-FDA100 (you can take a look http://www.avland.co.uk/technics/rpfda100/]here[/url]), selling for close to $300US (converted price). This time these look all set for auditioning, and audition them we did
Although the place was quite noisy and these are open phones, it was easy to hear that they have little bass and a sucked out midrange.

Then we found a Grado dealer!
They have two phones available for audition:
Grado SR60 with flat pads
SR125 with bowl pads

Grado SR125
: I started off by auditioning these with soft music (Miriam Yeung’s The Last Song) and was quite surprised that I heard little of Grado’s reputed harshness or aggressiveness. Detailed they were even in the somewhat noisy shop, but harsh they were not. Sibilance was much less of a problem than I thought it would be. Switching over to a harder track on the same album, with some (some kind of drums with high frequency content, I don’t know what the name is; they don’t just sound like one of the small drums in a drum set; it has a full bodied onset but in the following decay it is most high frequency) and synthetic noise; still my impression was not changed. I was about to toss Grado naysayers and frequency response graphs out the window when I switched to Iron Maiden’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Powerslave—in a rock recording the signature aggressiveness of the Grados came out fully and I did not find it to my liking. The hi-hats in particular are piercing and what’s more, they don’t even have the correct timbre—it sounds like what happens when I EQ a pair of phones or speakers and get it all wrong, emphasizing a small chunk of high frequency—the high frequency decay of the high-hat is way overblown compared to the full-bodied attack, so that the resulting sound does not sound like any real instrument.

Grado SR60: Quite similar to the SR125, except the high end seems to be somewhat attenuated by the flat pad covering the driver. However the sound is even more coloured, already sounding like I’d done something wrong with the EQ when listening to Miriam’s The Last Song where the SR125 did not show its flaws yet. With the Iron Maiden tracks these are less harsh than the SR125, but just as coloured in the high end and more so than the 125 throughout the whole spectrum. The Grado highs need to be attenuated but to my ears the flat pad is not the way to do it.

Overall: I might pick up one of these as an alternative to what I have now if I have a lot of money to spare… for anything BUT rock, and anything that doesn’t include high hats…

Gino’s impressions: he quite liked them—at first he preferred the SR60 because of it’s relatively softer high end, but later switched preference to the SR125. Both he like for lifting the veil that he hears with the HD600. I hear the veil too with my 580, but for me the etys part them well enough for me whereas the Grados in the case of rock seems to rip the veil apart and leave jagged pieces behind, sounding none too pleasurable.

We brought along one of Gino’s colleagues to Ap Liu Street and Mong Kok, and all along the way we acted like first-time HK visitors, (which is pretty much what the colleague is, having stayed here for just a few weeks) photographing the amazing sight of hawkers selling loudspeakers, mock-very-expensive-brand mock-gold watches and Mont Blanc $4000+ pens for under $20… finally we had dinner together.

It was an amazing day, getting to hang out with professors in virtue of sharing a hobby with one of them…
 
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linnem

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god damn...some people have all the fun...
 
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kerelybonto

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But Joe, the hi-hats in a rock act are supposed to hurt! None of this cushy stuff. You're just not hard core enough.


So how much were the R-10s in the window?

kerely
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Like I said, it's not just that they hurt--they don't even sound like hi-hats.

The R10s--that's a secret
 
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Duncan

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Quote:

Originally posted by kerelybonto
But Joe, the hi-hats in a rock act are supposed to hurt! None of this cushy stuff. You're just not hard core enough.


To be honest, I think the 125s really suck, there is something very seriously wrong with their treble.. combined with a crappy fit, and a less than prodigious bass... and you're left with a tinny 'phone that you'd expect to pick up at an 'everyting for a $' store!!


(imo of course
)
 
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N@Z

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Sounds like you had lots of fun! Been meaning to do a 2 man head-fi meet but haven't got time yet.

You mentioned photos...
 
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taoster

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sure sounds like fun
 
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bootman

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What a great time!
We are still waiting, how much was the shrink wrapped R10?
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Quote:

You mentioned photos...


You're playing with my head N@Z! I said no such thing!


Though, Eric the prof that tagged along with us to Ap Liu Street and Mong Kok did take along a DC a took a lot of pictures... Maybe you might see those photos in a few days :wink:

Quote:

To be honest, I think the 125s really suck, there is something very seriously wrong with their treble.. combined with a crappy fit, and a less than prodigious bass... and you're left with a tinny 'phone that you'd expect to pick up at an 'everyting for a $' store!!


(imo of course
)


Since the whole SR line consists of the same drivers at different build quality and tolerances, doesn't your comment apply to everything from the 40 to the 325?
I think their sound is worth quite a bit more than a $
, but they are definitely flawed in certain genres for anyone who has normal HF hearing


Oh, and the Grado dealer had an RA-1 running off a CD player too.
Nice little amp--they're selling it for a bit more than $400 (converted price). Being the anal retentive potter that I am
, I'm amazed that this amp can maintain perfect tracking within the small range that I turn it to go from silent to too-much-for-comfort listening volume (about half a clock digit) and at the same time puzzled that Grado would set the gain so high as to allow so little turn when coupled with their own phones, taking signal from a CD player line out...


It sounds neutral in the sense that I didn't sense it standing out in any way from all the competing amplification options...

Don't really remember the CDP, except it loads discs upside down and skips on my old Battlezone game CD which my discman plays perfectly and my computer CD-ROM drive rips perfectly, EAC hardly having to re-read... ?_? well they did have monstrous cable running from the CDP to the RA-1.

/Me remembers to forget to read part of this thread
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Eric's pictures are here!

This is the ASL shop in Ap Liu Street. Left: gino Right: me

And the pictures taken in the Mong Kok HiFi stores:






 
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Duncan

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Ooooooooh, lots of tubes in your picture Joe


We don't seem to have anything like that here in the uk
 
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N@Z

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Joe, I see lots of ASL amps...


I don't think our hi-end store here would even let me take a photo in their shop! They got lots of Sonic Frontier gear & the lovely sounding Theil speakers. Huge soundstage especially using McCormack amplification. Sigh... can't afford it, yet
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Last I asked, the speaker rig they run there is a pair of 10W Wave monoblocks driving some efficient, supposedly horn-loaded speakers. They're huge though... not my idea of efficient speakers
They're also Altec Lansing


Duncan: no such shops in the UK? ASL found room for this place, like, in the first floor attic or something (I know this doesn't make much sense, but the point is it's not big) lots more room in the UK... or are things just too spread out for you to find the place you're looking for?


The other photos will be unlocked in a few days... patience
 
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zbuddah

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Quote:

Originally posted by Joe Bloggs





OOOO does this aquistition involve an R10
 
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Duncan

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Quote:

Originally posted by Joe Bloggs
Duncan: no such shops in the UK? ASL found room for this place, like, in the first floor attic or something (I know this doesn't make much sense, but the point is it's not big) lots more room in the UK... or are things just too spread out for you to find the place you're looking for?


Joe...

I was referring to the fact that in the UK... tubes definetly don't seem to be favourite... i'd love to see a tube amp outlet...
 
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