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A quite nice review of the Mysphere explaining main features of it -
Yup, I plan to do a written review too.
All righty, here are my more in-depth impressions of the MYSPHERE 3.
Firstly, I want to thank @hrklg01 for letting me use the MYSPHERE 3 in my own listening environment for a very generous 3 weeks. Meeting Mr. Renner at CanJam at RMAF in 2017 was really fun, and it's cool to be able to meet the guy behind the legendary AKG K1000.
I first heard the K1000 in 2012 and was really impressed with its ability to image and produce a convincing soundstage presentation. The Bottlehead Corporation in Seattle uses a K1000 as their reference headphone and hearing it on their reel-to-reel rigs was always a pleasure to listen to. I've always wondered if there would be a successor to the K1000 since it's so highly regarded, and hard to come by.
29 years after the initial release of the K1000, a successor has finally been released: MYSPHERE 3. Like the K1000, these headphones (or earspeakers) have sound pieces that don't go around your ears, but rather either rest on them or are angled away from your ears.
Some of you may have seen my video review of the MYSPHERE 3 already.
Since I did get too listen to this in my own listening environment, it's important to know the whole system:
JRriver Media Center 24
iFi Audio iUSB 3.0
Supra USB cable
LH Labs Pulse X Infinity powered by their Linear Power Supply 4
Included 3.5 mm/6.3 mm cable with the MYSPHERE 3
I chose single-ended because it's a more accessible output.
I also used the Pulse X Infinity's line-outputs with:
Massdrop THX AAA 789
Woo Audio WA8 3 triode output
DESIGN: 4.5/5 and COMFORT: 3/5
I'll start my review with the design, build quality, and comfort. Why? As soon as you take the MYSPHERE 3 out of the case, you can immediately feel and observe the premium materials this headphone uses and how different its design is. I've never held a headphone that felt more solid and robust as the MYSPHERE 3. Given its price, I think the MYSPHERE 3 sets a new, high-bar standard for how any headphones in this price range and beyond should be designed. It seriously puts some other headphones' build quality to shame.
The headband is made of a spring steel-feeling material that's both able to be stretched and doesn't feel like it will break. As much as I like MrSpeaker's headphone designs, the NiTinol headband feels like it could snap at any moment even though it likely won't. The headband is also sandblasted (or something of the sort) to be matte finished so it isn't a fingerprint magnet, nor super reflective and shiny. The MYSPHERE logo on the top of the headband is laser etched onto the metal, not stamped like other popular headphones.
The removable padding that attaches to the inside of the headband is probably the weakest part of the headphone's design, and that's why I lowered the MYSPHERE's ratings from 5.0 to 4.5. For one, I find the padding to be on the lean side. This headphone might be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time because of: 1) the lack of supple padding and 2) depending on the shape of your head, there might be some pressure points on your head because of the headband's design. For me, reason #1 wasn't an issue, but reason #2 was and the headband put pressure on the area of my head directly above my ears. Stretching out the headband helped a bit with the pressure relief, but it still wasn't gone and this is why I'd give the comfort level a 3 out of 5.
Although the inside of the headband has fiberglass-looking plastic attached to the steel frame, the padding itself is held to the frame by regular plastic tabs. These tabs felt a bit flimsy to me since (at least on this sample unit) they were loose enough to let the SOUNDFRAMES be removed from the magnetic rails without having to remove the padding first. You can actually see this at 2:44 in the video above, where I have to grip the padding to the frame.
Speaking of the SOUNDFRAMES, they add to the incredible build quality of these headphones. The magnetically-attached SOUNDFRAMES carry the audio signals through the pins that connect to the frame, which carries the audio signal symmetrically to the other SOUNDFRAME. This, again, is the first time I've seen a headphone use this kind of technology and it's really interesting to see. The SOUNDFRAMES themselves are likewise solidly built and they have magnetically-attached mesh earpads. The glass-fiber drivers are protected by a water-resistant mesh material, and all the space around the drivers are made to be acoustically transparent and open. The SOUNDFRAMES feel heavy in the hand and upon taking the earpads off, one can see that they have a very solid build to them with a metal outer frame that's filled with a hard material that almost looks like it's been 3D printed with metal (3rd photo below).
An interesting thing to note is that some of the MYSPHERE 3's design is patented; a smart move. I tried looking through Google Patents to see if I could find anything, and possibly explain here, but alas, I didn't find any information.
Each side of the headband has a 4-pole female 3.5 mm TRRS jack, so you can easily have the MYSPHERE 3 cabled in a balanced configuration (L+, L-, R+, R-) or single-ended (L+, R+, ground, ground). In this sample unit, a short 3.5 mm single-ended, long 3.5 mm single-ended, long XLR balanced, and short 2.5 mm balanced cable were included in the case.
The MYSPHERE 3 is rated at 96 dB SPL/mW of power (for both the MYSPHERE 3.1 and 3.2), so this can easily be driven with portable gear. Devices offering even just 2 mW (pushing the MYSPHERE 3 to 99 dB SPL) at 110 Ω aren't too hard to come by (or the equivalent voltage to have 80 mW at 32 Ω).
SOUND QUALITY: 4.5/5
I'll first describe the sound differences as you open and close the SOUNDFRAMES on your head. When you have them closed, the imaging sounds like a typical open-back headphone in that it sounds pretty spacious and airy, but sounds are still very much in your head. There haven't been any headphone that can convey sounds being outside of my head apart from the STAX SR-Σ Pro and the AKG K1000. However, as you turn the SOUNDFRAMES more and more outward, the imaging becomes increasingly more out of your head. When the SOUNDFRAMES are open at the maximum point, it very much sounds like you're listening to a pair of near-field speakers; it's pretty cool to hear, and I encourage others to experiment with the openness. When listening to self-recorded binaural recordings, I got the impression that I was listening to binaural sounds on a speaker setup, which I have heard before. It defeats the purpose of a binaural recording, but it's interesting to be able to hear that kind of effect from a headphone setup. One can get a similar-ish sound from a crossfeed effect.
On the other hand, when you have the SOUNDFRAMES more open, you also lose more of the bass frequencies, which is to be expected. These are non-sealing headphones, so the bass response easily rolls off the farther apart the drivers are from your ears. I listen to mainly pop, electronic, R&B, soul, jazz, and classic rock songs, so I prefer to have a more prominent bass response. The SOUNDFRAMES positioned so that they were about 1/3 open gave me the best balance of bass roll-off and imaging. With the few orchestral tracks I listen to though, I opened the SOUNDFRAMES more just because that sense of space and imaging is wonderful to hear for those types of recordings. That being said, I found the treble to sound more sizzley and grainy, and the upper-midrange to sound too bright as the SOUNDFRAMES were opened up. This, too, likely has to do with the distance the drivers are from your ears; the farther apart the drivers are from your ears, the less fidelity you get.
As convenient as YouTube is, it doesn't do the binaural recordings justice since YouTube's video conversion cuts off all frequencies above ~15 kHz. Here are the original FLAC files that were used for the video (volume-matched with ReplayGain, so the SOUNDFRAMES open sample has a higher noise floor).
https://mega.nz/#!uRZyCKqJ!n6qpwCSzJ8vlSKvQ4MGhuOjVwJw4Cx8W_9vLw6CKy4w [SOUNDFRAMES closed]
https://mega.nz/#!GJZ0mQQa!a3EfO8KWXcQyXW_a1BEit8CU5mQ5xJZrOklJygkJO7s [SOUNDFRAMES 1/3 open]
https://mega.nz/#!qYZCHQZD!0-HYhTV3UyZ1byjdV_T2YVtXqVWc_1Pj9zQVrWq_QZU [SOUNDFRAMES open]
The second thing I'll describe are the different SOUNDFRAME options one has when purchasing the MYSPHERE 3:
MYSPHERE 3.1 [15 Ω]
MYSPHERE 3.2 [110 Ω]
MYSPHERE 3.1 is meant to be used with amplifiers that have a HIGH output impedance, such as some tube amps like the WA8. Using it with amps of low output impedance makes the drivers over-damped and thus results in a bright and harsh sound, which sounds terrible with hotly mastered music. I'm not 100% certain on the explanation for why the lower-impedance SOUNDFRAME is over-damped, but that's what I was told from Mr. Renner. I can say for certain though that on the WA8, the MYSPHERE 3.1 sounded superb with soul and R&B music.
MYSPHERE 3.2 is meant to be used with amplifiers that have a LOW output impedance, like most solid state amps out there. That being said, the MYSPHERE 3.2 doesn't sound bad with amps of high output impedance either. Compared to the MYSPHERE 3.1 on the WA8, the MYSPHERE 3.2 sounded a bit leaner overall in terms of its sound signature and I didn't enjoy it quite as much with my music. On the solid state amplifiers I used with the MYSPHERE 3.2, I pretty much enjoyed every song I threw at the system.
With all of that explained, I'll move on to my main sound impressions with the MYSPHERE 3.2 at the 1/3 open position.
I'll start off with the bass. The bass is fairly well-extended and has a good presence in the overall sound signature; I would say it's fairly neutral-sounding, but more on the warm side. It sounds very clean and textured for a dynamic headphone, but I think planar magnetic enthusiasts would be missing out on impact if they switched to the MYSPHERE 3. I much prefer the MYSPHERE 3's bass response over that of the Utopia or HD800/800S, for example (except for the Utopia on the Benchmark HPA-4). I generally like the Focal Clear as a dynamic headphone, but the MYSPHERE 3 made the Clear's bass sound like mud in comparison.
Moving on to the midrange, it too sounded fairly neutral to me, with the upper-midrange only sounding a tad bit bright. Sometimes female vocals would sound a little more pronounced than what I would consider neutral, but they never came off as being shouty (like my SR-207), bright (like the HD800), or sibilant (like the Utopia for me). It's kind of like a presence peak for a microphone. Instruments or vocals that emphasize the lower-midrange sound absolutely wonderful through the MYSPHERE 3. The weight from the bass frequencies carries into the midrange without making it sound muddled, and gives the midrange a nice timbre.
Going up the frequencies into the treble, I find the treble to be quite smooth. There aren't any very prominent peaks that I could hear, but there is a slight presence peak at around 10 kHz that gives it some sparkle. Extension is also very good as drums and hi-hats had good texture. Compared to some electrostatic headphones out there, the treble didn't quite sound as grain-free to me, but for what it is as a dynamic headphone, it definitely belongs in the top tier of headphones. Like electrostatic headphones though, I felt comfortable turning up the volume on recordings and I didn't hear any sort of breakup or distortion of the drivers. I was able to enjoy music at loud volume levels without having the sound be piercing to my ears, which is not a common trait of headphones in my experience.
Switching it up and moving to the instrument separation, soundstage, and imaging abilities of the MYSPHERE 3, I definitely think these are all strong points for the headphone. Listening to self-recorded binaural recordings, imaging and instrument separation sounded very life-like, more so than my regular arsenal of headphones. Perhaps it's due to the angling of the drivers relative to my ears, but everything just sounded so clear to me in terms of analyzing tracks. Going through my usual array of test tracks, instruments are well-separated and placed around my head. Even while gaming with fast-paced first-person shooters like Overwatch, I seemed to perform better than average since spacial cues were more obvious to me.
This is an entirely subjective rating, but I'll include this section anyway. I'll just state that I don't have $4000 lying around to justify purchasing this headphone, or any headphone in this price range for that matter. I'm guessing a lot of people are in the same position.
That being said, considering the MYSPHERE's incredible sound for a dynamic driver, ability to customize the sound with the angling and positioning of the SOUNDFRAMES, and overall design, this headphone is a fairly easy recommendation for me considering the other headphones in this price bracket. For the money you're paying, I think the MYSPHERE 3 is an exemplary piece of engineering.
Even from just the design of the unit, it definitely stands out from any other headphone out there. I absolutely love the fact that you can dismantle the whole thing for portable storage, and re-assemble it in less than 30 seconds. Relating to portability, the high sensitivity of the MYSPHERE makes it a good candidate to use with portable gear, something the original K1000 definitely could not achieve.
My only concern for this headphone is the comfort, and I do think this headphone will be a hit-or-miss because of it. It's not the most comfortable headphone out there, and especially so compared to some of the other headphone choices people have. Similar to the JPS Labs Abyss headphones, I would highly recommend people give this headphone a try for proper fitting. A headphone is no good if you can't stand wearing it.
SOUND QUALITY: 4.5/5
OVERALL SCORE: 16/20 = 4/5
Thank you for taking the time to read through, or watch, my review!
Great review, thank you.
I thought that the padding on the headband is also attached to it using magnets, the same way the earpads are attached to the soundframes. Considering that some people are going to disassemble the Mysphere quite often to put it into the slim case, it can be a problem. Some room for improvement here, I guess.
This is true, yup. The magnets felt kind of weak on the sample unit though; they didn't take too much effort to detach from the headband.
You mean these two magnets are not strong enough?
No I meant on the padding:
The SOUNDFRAMES' magnets were also a bit weak, but they held on to the rail just fine for the most part since they're also inset into the headband.
Ordered and looking forward to the Mysphere 3.2! I love the concept, the engineering, R&D, and innovations. This looks to be a real jewel in the collection? OR the newest FOTM? Dunno but I have a place for it in my kit - it will sit next to my HD800, SR-009, Z1R, RS-1, and SR-007MK2. I think this might just be a very unique headphone listening experience. 4 Weeks per wooaudio and so I will wait. Merry XMas to all and to all a good listen.
That doesn't make sense – it should be the other way round. (I know it's not your own idea!)
I was very excited about this design but after listening to them at last HighEnd I found out they were not fitting my head.The most comfortable Headphones on that show were the Meze Empyrean. I got Abyss Diana instead and with proper placement they are quite comfortable and their sound quality is even better but I miss the completely open feature of the Mysphere.
Heh. I found the Diana uncomfortable to wear, more so than the MYSPHERE 3. To each his own!
For me, Mysphere is generally the most convenient. In five minutes I forget that it on my head.
I am very pleased that they are becoming more and more. Discussion moved forward. This headphones deserve it!
Okay, here's the first half of my long-form Mysphere 3.2 review The second half will be about Amp/DAC pairings, headphone-to-headphone comparisons and other user-experience related comments. Check back here in a couple days and it should be up.
Edit: the entire review is up!
“Is this review too long?”
To preface this review, I did receive a modest discount on my pair of Mysphere 3.2’s (henceforth “3.2”) in exchange for my unbiased feedback and impressions. Instead of doing what any sensible human being would and demo them before pulling the trigger, I took a leap of faith and paid to own a pair without first trying them out.
A big part of my decision to jump in blind is Mr. Heinz Renner’s infectious enthusiasm and amazing communication. I don’t think I have ever interacted with a headphone designer as communicative or as passionate about his products as Heinz. He advised me on amp choices for the 3.2’s and responded promptly to my concerns. With the original K1000 designers at the helm of Mysphere, passionately leading the project, in addition to the “made and designed in Austria” moniker, what could go wrong?
Apparently, not much. The super-condensed version of this review is that I have zero regrets about that decision. I like the Mysphere 3.2 so much that I've decided to seriously invest in a desktop system specifically for driving these. If you are a fan of the AKG K1000, the Mysphere’s are a worthy successor in every sense of the word: an update to the K1000’s that not only retains the good but also, utilizing modern materials and technology, elevates the “head-mounted speaker” concept.
But even that comparison seems to me slightly disingenuous - not unlike comparing a young athlete to his retired, hall-of-fame-inducted father instead of his peers. Of course the 3.2’s should be and are better than the K1000: to not outperform a 30-year-old pair of headphones coming in at a third of the cost today would be a damning verdict. So how do the 3.2’s measure up against other modern, summit-fi open-backs such as the Abyss 1266 phi, Focal Utopia, Hifiman Susvara and Audeze LCD4? Surprisingly well - I’ll elaborate on each of these comparisons later in the review.
I’d like to also thank Jaben Hong Kong, In Living Stereo and Goodwin’s High End for giving me access to equipment used for this review. A shoutout goes to Goodwin’s in particular for setting up a listening environment for me to compare DACs.
Build quality, ergonomics and design.
“As good as a first-gen product could be”
I have mixed feelings about the overall choice of materials and design on the 3.2. Getting to the sweet spot for listening can be a bit of a task: there is exactly one place on my head that feels “right” when wearing these, and it takes me a few adjustments to the headband’s positioning to get there. With my glasses off they are actually quite comfortable, but the arms of the headband creates a bit of uncomfortable pressure on the glasses’ frame. They’re also not the best headphones for in-bed listening since the cable exits from behind the ear.
My advice is to spend some time figuring out the best configuration for your ears when demo’ing the 3.2’s. Just like the LCDi4, performance is severely impacted if the drivers are in the wrong position relative to your ears. My preferred experience is with the drivers fully extended outwards and slightly above my ear canal. Closing the drivers in increases bass quality at considerable cost to the soundstage. There’s a lot more variability in terms of sound signature here compared to the average pair of TOTL cans - the flavor you get depends not only on driver placement but also driver angle.
Build quality is generally excellent, with some caveats. I love the liberal use of metal on the headband and drivers, and the headphones have a reassuring heft to them. Fitment is quite good with nothing loose or creaky, almost uncharacteristically good for a first-gen product. What I like a lot less is the use of what seems to be 3d-printed plastic parts on the inside on the headband and on the frame for the removable padding. The material itself is sturdy but scratches easily: mine came from Mysphere with some finish marks and a tiny bit of glue residue and has picked up more scratches since.
The modular system is a great idea - I am intrigued by the possibility of upgrading the Mysphere drivers and headband individually, a true headphone “system” that can be gradually improved over time. Even though it is currently not an option to purchase a “3.1” kit for 3.2 owners (and vice versa), it’s nonetheless nice that interchangeability is possible at all in an industry that seems to thrive on getting customers to pay as much as possible for upgrades. Taking the logic further, a future 600-ohm “3.3” module or a lower sensitivity “3.4” version to match strong push-pull tube amps would be seriously cool as add-ons.
That said, the drivers are finicky to re-align after someone else adjusts them. Putting the 3.2’s inside a generic travel case can indeed push one or both drivers away from the sweet spot. It seems to me that the entire system could be made slightly more robust to knocks and pushes, perhaps with a locking system or notched adjustments instead of a smooth slide scale.
The supplied cable is sturdy and resists knotting fairly well. Switching to a more expensive silver-gold hybrid cable (Neotech chassis wire) adds a bit of extra sparkle to the highs which I enjoy personally. If you are looking to custom-build a cable for the Mysphere’s, it’s important to choose the smallest 3.5mm trrs jack that works for the wire that you have in mind: the headphone’s cable exit sits quite close to the skin. Anything thicker than a Eidolic jack (the one on my cable) might push on the user’s head quite uncomfortably.
Putting all of this into perspective, the 3.2’s are no less comfortable than most of its peers. It’s not the unmitigated ergonomic trainwreck that is the 1266phi (and yes, I own a pair) but also not nearly as solidly put together. The Focal Utopia’s are stuffy, beautiful fingerprint magnets that feel delicate in a way that the Myspheres do not. And the LCD4’s, while rock-solid, are so heavy that Audeze might be deliberately inducing spine damage among the Head-fi community. The fact that these hyper-expensive cans are somehow not comfortable on an actual person’s head is a whole discussion of its own. At the least, I feel that Heinz gave careful consideration to the actual experience of wearing the Myspheres. It’s an unusual take on the problem, and I hope that the end product can - as Heinz has assured me - continue to evolve with the benefit of modularity.
General Sound Impressions:
“Just like the K1000’s, but better”
The two outstanding things about the 3.2’s sound are the same as that of the K1000: the midrange and soundstage. Driven properly with a high-end solid state amp, the midrange on the Mysphere’s is downright amazing - I don’t use that term lightly - and possibly the best midrange of any pair of non-electrostatic headphones period. It’s a different kind of midrange from what you get with the 1266phi’s, precise and well-regulated, clean and smooth and not analytical in the slightest. On the Mass Kobo 394, which pairs with both cans quite well, I would place the midrange performance as distinctly above that of the 1266 phi. The K1000’s relative lack of resolution is completely gone. While the signature shares some similarities with the K1000, switching to the Mysphere’s still feels like lifting a veil: better imaging, smoother transitions, more details.
It’s not easy to compare the Mysphere’s soundstage with other cans not only because of its sheer width but also because it’s a different kind of soundstage. It’s not smaller than a well-driven pair of K1000’s, and coherence is superb. An apples-to-apples comparison to the 1266 phi or LCD4 is difficult in this regard: you may as well be comparing these cans to the Sennheiser Surrounder. The mids on the 3.2’s are good, but the expansiveness and overall quality of the “sphere” of music is unique. If you enjoy the K1000’s, this aspect alone might make these worth the price of admission. That said, it’s certainly possible to prefer one interpretation of soundstaging to the other.
Treble quality is decent at the price point, not spectacular if you put it up against the Focal Utopia. The Stax 009 on the SRM-T8000 gives you far smoother treble than any amp combo I’ve tried the Mysphere’s with - but that applies to just about every pair of DD cans when you measure them against high-end electrostats. Extension is quite good as well as resolution, distinctly not as bright as the Focal Utopias and roughly in line with the LCD4. Switching to the silver-gold cable brightens the treble considerably. If you want to use these with electronic music, a cable upgrade might be something to consider.
Bass and in particular the <150hz range is the biggest weak point of the K1000’s and the Mysphere still (somewhat) struggle at that. Sub-bass is much improved from the K1000, but the goalposts have also moved since and, compared to other cans in its price range, it’s just not quite as good. The bass on the 3.2 is slightly on the lean side, clean, with bass extension that’s competitive with the HD800S, but wanting in resolution and severely lacking in energy compared to the LCD4 and 1266 phi. I suspect that in spite of the big leap in driver technology, energy transfer is still not efficient enough in the lower registers with the Mysphere’s design. A basshead’s headphones these are not.
It is possible to close the speakers on the 3.2 in all the way, until the padding touches my ears, to drastically add to the quantity and quality of bass on the 3.2. However, I've found that at the closest point the drivers have an almost crossfeed-like effect: the imaging is distorted because each channel blends into the other. When the drivers aren't so close to my ears, I personally feel that the amount of soundstage given up for every bit of bass improvement isn't worth closing the drivers in at all. The 3.2 is indeed a more well-rounded pair of cans with the drivers away from the fully open position. It's also less K1000-like and hence, in my opinion, less interesting. But if you do care a lot about the quality of bass and don't mind throwing away some of the (still vast) soundstage, Mysphere gives you the option to do so.
The good news is that bass performance is not dependent on POWER in the way that the K1000’s are. Moving from the SP1000 to something like the Mass Kobo 404 will still produce a big leap in bass quality, but improvements are small with much better amps. The K1000’s bass doesn’t quite show up until you funnel floor-standing-speaker-level power through them, and I’m happy to report that the Mysphere’s don’t require nearly as much juice. Indeed, you can get excellent sound from the 3.2’s with strong portable, solid-state sources. Sound quality is even serviceable on most DAPs, but imaging suffers from the the lack of power.
A relevant point about amp selection is how similar the 3.2’s respond to amps compared to the HD800S. In both cases the cans benefit from density and mid-range energy and work best with respectable but not excessive power. The Mass Kobo amps are famous for being great complements to the HD800/800S and they work extremely well with the 3.2, adding much-needed bass energy and mid-range density. The same applies to the Moon 430HA and quite possibly to high-end Rudistors, although I haven’t tried the 3.2’s with the 030. More on this in the next section.
Mass Kobo 394. By a considerable margin, this is the best headphone amp I’ve tried with the 3.2. Provides authority, bass, some sparkle in the treble and much-needed density. The synergy is so good that I think Heinz should consider an official collaboration with Masuda San and sell these as a package. If I had to be critical, the 394 is a bit too polite and the soundstage on the 3.2 could be larger with other amp combos. One thing to mention is that I personally prefer the 3.2’s when driven in single-to-balanced mode on this amp instead of full balanced, since the full balance pulls apart the imaging in a way that feels like slightly hollowing out the soundstage.
Moon 430HA. Probably the second best in terms of synergy. Silky smooth, powerful and neutral. I think the slightly bass-biased profile of the 394 works better with the 3.2. Isn’t as linear as the 394 in the treble which could be a plus or minus depending on your tastes. Otherwise, this is a solid combination. Might be even better than the 394 if you enjoy restrained bass. The onboard DAC is a bit weak compared to the amp section - I would invest in a separate DAC for this pairing.
Schiit Ragnarok. Has enough power for the 3.2 and the precise gain control helps dial in the exact trade-off between soundstage and smoothness. Resolution is not up there with the 430ha or the 394 but you do get more versatility. Nothing to complain about at the price point, of course.
Mass Kobo 404. The baby 394, designed around the idea of creating a truly portable system that can drive the HD800. Drives the 3.2 surprisingly well for a portable amp. Gets 7+ hours of use with the 3.2’s on rechargeable AA batteries at pretty respectable volume levels. Same issue with the soundstage and reservedness as the 394 and overall a little less good in every aspect. A great option if space is a severe constraint.
GS-X Mk2. Bright and sharp. Overall I feel like this amp is more suitable for headphones with a stronger “personality” (LCD4, TH900). A little analytical with the 3.2. At a similar (used) price point I would go with the 430HA which is smoother and somewhat more versatile, but the bright treble does work well with the 3.2’s.
Woo WA5/WA22 Both are too euphoric and laid-back for the 3.2. Heinz did mention that the 3.1 might be a better pairing with non-OTL tube amps. The WA5 can be regulated with solid state rectifiers and better 300b tubes. It remains less than ideal with the 3.2, though. Interestingly I think that the WA5 is one of the very best amps for the K1000 - it seems like it’s not a given that amps that work well with the K1000 will also work well with the 3.2/3.1.
Leben CS600 Better synergy than the WA5. Gets the density part right and is quite good with the 3.2 as far as tube amps go. A little soft in the bass, the midrange signature is excellent. I have not had a chance to demo the 3.2’s with an OTL amp yet and am not sure if OTL combinations will be better. I do suspect, without trying the combination, that the Allnic HPA5000 is going to be the better pairing with the 3.2.
Nagra Classic INT This is the best amp that I have tried with the 3.2’s period. Despite being rated at 100Wpc at 8ohms, the INT has an incredibly low noise floor and manages to somehow be both quieter and more powerful than the Headtrip. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that this amp is, with the possible exception of the Mass Kobo 406, on an entirely different level compared to every single solid state headphone amp ever build.
Signature-wise the INT is fairly neutral with a tiny bit of midrange emphasis. With powerful DACs the amp can run a bit hot for the 3.2’s and it gels a tiny bit better with the 1266 phi in general. A DAC with adaptable line level is highly recommended if you do decide to drive the 3.2’s through a speaker amp K1000-style. That said, I had been debating between this amp and ordering a 406, and a demo session with the 3.2’s settled the debate.
Spectral DMA 150/30SS combo An extremely fast, crisp combo that plays particularly well with electronic music and synthetic vocals with the 3.2. Sounds almost like an ever faster, more energetic version of the GS-X mk2 but the signature is a little more pleasing to my ears. The noise floor on this combo is a pretty big issue with audible current noise, although playing around with line level setting on the DAC and preamp managed to cut it down to a mostly manageable level.
Comparisons with other headphones:
Abyss 1266 phi This is my other pair of “serious” cans and an interesting contrast in design philosophy. The 1266 phi’s are much more demanding and benefit a lot more from high-wattage amps, and I have not tested a truly portable system - not even the 404/Hugo 2 combo - that can drive them with authority. On the other hand, the 3.2’s are perfectly happy with the 404 and even lesser portable amps, although I would not recommend directly powering them through a portable DAP. The 3.2’s excel at mid-range presentation and soundstage, while the 1266 phi has more treble extension and considerably better bass presence.
While the 1266 phi’s scale more drastically with better amps, at no point in climbing up the amplifier ladder, not even on the Classic INT, did I feel that the 3.2’s were outclassed in every regard. The 1266’s graininess in the mids does clear up but soundstage wise the Mysphere retains a not insubstantial edge. I came away from the comparison with the impression that the 1266 phi’s might still be the better everyman’s headphones with their superior bass, general compatibility with tube amps and marginally better noise isolation. However, the Myspheres have their unique SQ advantages in additional to a small price edge and a much more comfortable wearing experience.
Audeze LCD4 These are less neutral with a strong mid-bass presence and slightly darker tuning. Also quite power-hungry and difficult to get good sound from. While similarly suitable for vocals, the LCD4 lays it on thick and warm with just a hint of graininess while the 3.2’s mids are more regulated, clean and comes with resolution in spades. Bass is even more overpowering on the LCD4 than the 1266 phi’s and, if you listen to a wide range of music, the LCD4 could be a great compliment to the Mysphere’s for bass-heavy genres.
Focal Utopia A closer competitor in terms of drivability and mid-range density, the Uto’s have an intimacy in the vocals that the Mysphere don’t have, and they edge out the Myspheres in terms of mid-range resolution on less powerful sources. On high-power desktop amps the 3.2’s retake the advantage in resolution. Treble quality is notably better on the Uto’s regardless of source power, and on portable sources the Uto's also hold a slight edge in bass quality. If your source is very weak (e.g. a smartphone) the Uto’s are indeed the better choice to the 3.2’s, although I do not know how the 3.1’s factor into that comparison.
I previously owned the Uto’s and traded them for the 1266 phi’s because I felt that the phi’s are a clear winner when driven by the desktop amps I had back then (WA5, 394). The same argument is largely also true for the Mysphere’s, although preferences for the style of delivery of vocals could definitely swing either way, depending on personal tastes.
Hifiman Susvara The Susvara’s are very open and linear with just a hint of hotness in the mid-upper registers. They are also very, very demanding of amps and are IMO not only even more power-hungry than the 1266 phi’s but also more sensitive to particular amp-headphone pairings. The 3.2’s are more reliable in the sense that they need density and will sound good with most amps that have enough density, while it is difficult to predict which amps pair well with the Susvara.
With a good pairing (the egoist 845 and ALO studio six comes to mind) the Susvara is IMO slightly more technically strong than the 3.2’s with much better bass and treble extension. It is however also nominally a much more expensive pair of cans (MSRP $6,000 as of writing, street price notwithstanding). And similar to the 1266 phi’s, the 3.2’s with the right amp could still be superior to the Susvara’s in terms of pure mid-range resolution, vocal tonality and sound staging.
The experience of being an early adopter of the Mysphere’s has been an interesting one. Many of my friends who are into the headphone game are extremely intrigued by the idea and have bombarded me with questions about them. The mythology around the AKG K1000 is perhaps even more developed in the Asian head-fi circles than that of North America, and the Mysphere’s - for better or worse - are both an extension of and a challenge to that mythology. The avant-garde aesthetics, modular design, and claims of drivability are all things that people have legitimate reasons to be skeptical about.
And yet as a first-generation product, Mysphere knocked it out of the park. I don’t like to adulate over headphones because of their emotional impact. Of course a $4,000 pair of cans should make you enjoy whatever music you’re listening to, but they should also perform well over a variety of music genres, be comfortable to wear, have great build quality and after-sale support. Judging across all of these dimensions, the Mysphere 3.2’s are right up there with the best of the best: reference-level products from well-established companies such as the Utopia and LCD4. I really enjoy my pair of 3.2's - I've decided to build an entirely new system around them, and am pretty excited about what the company will bring to us in the future.
thank you for the open minded report, even it's just the first chapter!
A few comments from MYSPHERE:
1) Yes, we are working continuously on the built quality for the plastic parts as well as the fixation of the "Soundframes" into the head-bow. The modular system allows that.
2) Thank you for the idea with 3.4 and 3.5 ... honestly I was requested for that by a German guy already 1.5 years ago. However it's difficult to make the necessary coils with the extreme thin wires connected well to the lead wires to get the requested long life time.
3) A great amp pairing is and will be the little new upcoming Woo-Audio WA11 - tried prototypes with 3.2 .... really unbelievable! Please take your chance and try this combo as well!
How is production going ? Ordered on 11/16/2018 and was told there is a 4 week wait? Also, thank you so much
for your ongoing communication Mr. Renner and, though it's totally an American Holiday, Happy Thanksgiving!