ngoshawk's review thread
Jul 6, 2017 at 10:43 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1


Headphoneus Supremus
Dec 13, 2015
Good day, all! In the spirit of coordinating and coalescing my reviews; I thought a new dedicated thread would work. This will allow a central location where I can post links, but more importantly keep track of them for my doltish mind! In keeping with the spirit of reviewers with MUCH more ability than I, as well as simply put, MORE reviews; I thought I would also include why I review, and a BRIEF methodology as to HOW I review. I will be the first to admit, my reviewing skills are still building, as are my critical listening skills. I have not (to this date) recorded any graphs Scientifically, but do plan so in the future. I am still building the requisite gear (and ability!!) in which to use for testing, but I do believe I do a pretty fair (to midland) job. My hope is that I can give back to the Head-Fi community, as well as take advice from more experienced listeners and reviewers. I do thank you for the privilege of reviewing; it is a blast to do! I will add a mini-review of the item, to give you, dear readers an idea of what that little critter actually does...Please enjoy.

*All opinions in the reviews, and listed below are mine only, under no duress or pressure from any manufacturer, even for that cool $10mill slipped to me by an unknown (even to me!!!) manufacturer.*

I am older. I am happy that I have rediscovered the joy of music, through personal listening devices. Through this opportunity, I have become exposed to some wonderful kit. Much I now own, much I covet. Much I would never purchase, for various reasons.

My listening style has changed somewhat over the years…from old time Rock-n-Roll to the Blues to Reggae, to Bluegrass. I cut my teeth on Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws, The Who, Santana, Bob Marley, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Bob Marley, and Pink Floyd. But the music I hold dearest and nearest my soul, is Stevie Ray Vaughan. I was lucky enough to see him perform four times…twice in open air venues, followed by (that evening each time!!!) smoky blues bars, where intimate would be an understatement. Each holds a very special place in my psyche, and I can almost remember the whole of each concert in their entirety…

I enjoy a warmer signature in my equipment, and listening, with a good bass line (but not basshead), complimented by outstanding vocals. Combine the sweetness of SRV’s guitar and Billy Holiday’s voice, and you get my musical grove.

Reviews by category (new to old...I think!)

Upcoming reviews:

XDuoo TA-30
ifi hip-DAC
Shabbat E12 Ultra
Helm Audio TWS 5.0
Shuoer Tape
Noble Savant II
ZMF Eikon
Audeze LCD-3
Empire Ears ESR
TFZ Secret Garden
TENHZ Audio P4 Pro
UM Mentor V3
64Audio U12t/tia Trio
LQi cables
Null Audio cables

iBasso PB3
Shanling M3s
Unique Melody Maestro V2
Shanling M5s

Shanling M2x
Aune M1s
Hidizs AP-60
Tennmak Pro
thinksound ON2
FiiO A5
(That should keep me busy for a bit...:sunglasses:)


Andover Audio PM-50: $499 A really nice interpretation of a $500 planar. The sound is quite good, and worth a listen. Smaller than others as well. Andover PM-50

ZMF Atticus: $1099 An incredible closed-back headphone, which not only looks stunning, but sounds stunning as well. The pair I had was one of 20 in Ash, and borrowed from @PinkyPowers An incredibly wonderful offer from him. ZMF website: Review:

Campfire Audio Cascade: $850 A fitting Flagship from the people of CA, and ultimately the sound is typical Campfire Audio...and it is good.

Mixcder HD601:
Follow up to the excellent MS301, but with more bass. I do think Mixcder slightly missed the mark with this one, adding too much bass...and that is without the bass boost switch. Good BT headphone for those who want an inexpensive bassy "near-portable" headphone.

Mixcder MS301: My first (and only) Bluetooth headphone. For the price, you would be hard pressed to find anything that can better this worth the extra price you would pay...A neutral sound, with decent-enough bass and very good fit and finish, this little gem is worth it for its affordability and portability. Give it a try!

Grado GH-2: A limited edition open headphone made from Cocobolo wood, and in the finest Grado tradition (I just made that up, since before this fine critter, which I now own...I had never heard a Grado before...) made in Brooklyn, NY. The overlying characteristic of this excellent critter is an open airy sound, with good bass reach and a sound stage to be quite jealous word? Stunning.

Meze 99 Neo: The little brother that could...and it does! With more bass (but somewhat unruly) than big bro', the Neo enters into the "I can do what Beats do, but better" territory, for the same price (actually less!). Well worth an audition, if you want a very good closed back headphone.

Focal Elear: My first foray into the upper echelons of headphonery, and I am darn glad I had the chance. Still today, the finest headphone I have heard and reviewed (and yes slightly better than my Grado's...). A slightly warm sound, with excellent bass reach, a sound stage second to the Grado, and a fit bestowing the Royal Palace. In one word? WOW! Another word? Incredible. A third? Stunning.


TinHiFi T4: $109ish. The best iteration yet, with a below par cable. Overall cleanliness of sound, with enough bass to satisfy most, this is the best T-series yet.
Linsoul link
Review link

Vision Ears Elysium: $3400. A true flagship, TOTL worth its price. This is about as good as it gets. The Vision Ears clarity of sound is a marvel, and with bass to back it up, makes this a wonder to listen to...give it a try.
VE Elysium

Audiofly AF180 mk2: $500. A mid-fi worthy of a listen, but not as good as the 1120mk2. Open and airy sound highlight this competent model.
Audiofly AF180 mk2

Audiofly AF1120 mk2: $700. A flagship from an Aussie company, that merits a look. Excellent sound, affordable price, crummy cable. Give it a listen, it is quite good.
Audiofly AF1120 mk2

TRN V80: $42ish usd An excellent affordable IEM worth any look.

Simgot EN700 Pro: $145, from Simgot: Check out the Simgot EN700 Pro if you are in the market for a sub-$200 IEM, that does pretty much everything well, and has a unique look. It will not be mistaken for anything else!

Meze 11 Neo: $59usd, from Meze:
Take a look at the Meze 11 Neo if you want an affordable commuting partner, that acts like a well-fitting earbud. Good clarity, good fit and a microphone for when "those people" bother you during your music. Good stuff!

Knowledge Zenith AS10: $69.99, from Linsoul Amazon site:
AliExpress link:

Review link:

A quite good sub-$75 IEM, which provides solid bass, good reach up top and detail befitting a flagship at this level.

Geekwold GK3: $19.99USD. Linsoul Amazon site: Review: GK3 is a very decent little IEM, for less than $20USD. A nice find, worth a go for that throw in the bag pair.

AAW-Shozy Hibiki MK2: $65USD. Linsoul Amazon page: The Hibiki MK2 provides good reach down low, and an inoffensive sound, worthy of a listen. This would be a good "throw in the bag" pair to have.

Advanced Sound GT3: $199USD. Advanced Sound: sub-$200 IEM, which should be listened to, upping what the Pinnacle P1 starter (IMO). Give it a try.

Simgot EM5: $499USD. Musicteck:
A very nice IEM, with a wonderfull laid-back signature, sure to please you on a cold winters night. Give it a listen.

Kinera iDun: $139USD. Can be purchased directly on the Kinera AliExpress shop. A gorgeous IEM to look at with sound to back it up. Good bass, a bit of sparklet up top, and just a well rounded sound. Give it a listen.

Kinera SEED:
$50 USD. The next iteration from Kinera, the Yin to an upcoming Yang. Unobtrusive and pleasant describe the SEED characteristics, and it is worth a listen as a Smartphone replacement. I did enjoy it!

DITA Dream: $1800 TOTL IEM of which Robert Johnson would choose. This is a superbly built IEM with an excellent overall sound sig let down by shy treble, and a thinner overall sound. Love/hate that cable... That said, I would purchase one to compliment the other IEM's I have. It is good.

Lypertek Mevi: Another affordable first attempt, from China. Inoffensive, good build, fairly weak cable but and overall pleasant sound highlight this $29 IEM with mic.

Tin Audio T2:
An affordable quality IEM, worth a look for its neutral capable sound and excellent fit and finish.

Hypersense Hex2: I REALLY like this IEM, especially for $25 USD. Good solid bass, very engaging mids, and decent enough treble to keep one involved.

64Audio U18 Tzar & tia Fourté:
Not much else can be said about these stunningly detailed representatives of the top. Excellent details, superb bass control and layers, which would make a Crepe-maker jealous are just a few of the superlatives thrown the pairs way. Incredible.

Mixcder X5: For $16USD, this is an excellent IEM/bud, which I now use quite often as my go-to for workouts. Advertised as a "sports IEM," the X5 conveys top quality, excellent ergonomics, and good fit. A slightly warm sound, belies the price, well worth a listen. And, for $16? Definitely worth a looonnggg listen.

Rockjaw Resonate: an inexpensive (relatively) changable-filter IEM from the makers at Rockjaw. A very nice alternative to the FLC8S, the Resonate has many faces, but exudes a quality build as well as good sound quality. A cable that can get messy, downgrades what could be an exemplary unit.

RHA CL-1: The new RHA flagship, the Ceramic CL exudes (that word again...) typical RHA quality and a build worthy of Bob The Builder, no really! With a sound mated to the L1 for best uses, the CL tends towards a very bright sound, which needs the L1 for the bass. Vocals? Sumptuous. Competes in the "flagship" range at a pretty darn nice price alternative.

Vibro Labs Aria: My only "custom," I was in love after my review (and now own one...). With an attitude sound that states matter of factually, LET'S GO!, you had better hang on. A slight U-shape gives you excellent bass reach and treble, yet the mids and vocals do not suffer. Only bettered by the Unique Melody Martian in my stable, Vibro not only has an outstanding unit but one, which does not garner the acclaim I think it deserves. I love my Aria, plain and simple. Well done, @Luke Pighetti !

Campfire Audio Nova: My first foray into the world of "mid-fi," the Nova treated me extremely well. An honest sound, which also runs across the Campfire Audio range; you could do much worse than the Nova. An excellent sound stage with vocals, which make you melt. Pick one up and you shouldn't be disappointed.

MEE Audio Pinnacle P1: My very first review, used to get my feet wet. The Pinnacle has a very good sound, belying the price point of two Ben Franklin's. A lack of bass, and early quality control problems, hindered what was (and still is) a very detailed sound, regardless of the price. I do miss mine, but it took IEM's of much higher price to replace the P1's. That says a lot, right there...


Kinera Limited Ed Earbud:
As thanks for previous reviews, several were given these limited run earbuds. Most wish these fine critters would be produced...for a reported $23, these would be a fine addition to your earbud collection. Not obtrusive in any manner, they are simply enjoyable.

FiiO EM-3: Part of the "FiiO revolution," the EM-3 was marketed as a replacement for Smartphone earbuds, and the VE Monk. It comes very close to the Monk (in some ways I like it more...), but quite a bit ahead of the Smartphone bud of that same time...A bit on the big side, but good bass, and worthy treble highlight this affordable little critter.


thebit Audio-Opus Opus #1s: An excellent mid-fi DAP, without the bells and whistles associated with other mid-fi Android "do all" DAP's. Refreshing to see, clear and concise clarity rule this critter worth a good long look. Refreshingly simple...

AGPTEK Rocker v2: A DAP, which is a replacement of the very affordable v1, a new Firmware did this low-fi (price-wise) DAP proud. A somewhat quirky UI, a decent screen and a sound, which comes close to higher priced DAP's, the v2 is worth a listen for the gym, workouts, etc...

Cayin N3: Learning from the i5 UI hiccups, the N3 has a new UI, and a hepatic control area. The new Firmware provides exemplary sound, which competes very well within this segment, and above. I REALLY liked the N3, and it competes very well with the Shanling M1 and M2s. In other words, you have great choices, and this is one of them!

Shanling M1: My go-to "sports DAP," the M1 is a very small, affordable package, which works extremely well. That wheel is my cup of tea, wven if it is a bit to work with...That said, its small size is also the downfall, making the button functions on each side easy to hit accidentally. That Shanling house sound is what I really like. I mean REALLY. Warm, lush, rich and inviting; the M1 sees the majority of my use (when not reviewing...), and is my go-to for all workouts, runs, mowing, etc... I really like the M1 and its complete package.

RHA L1 DAC/AMP: The flagship amp, complimenting the flagship IEM. The L1 has a multitude of adjustments, with which you can tailor your sound like a fine suit. In this price range, it better, or it will be eaten alive. This device can stand shoulder to shoulder with the Mojo and Black Label, RHA has a winner. If I didn;t have the Black Label, I would probably have this as my main amp...

FiiO X5III: FiiO's first full-on Android, web surfing, bluetoothing, streaming DAP. Wrought with initial problems regarding co-mingling with certain Apps, the x5iii is a very worthy DAP, with an adjustable Line Out volume, balanced headphone jack, and an acceptable Android (now stable) OS. I still like mine...

Cayin i5: Cayin beat FiiO to the punch, here...and they had problems. With the addition of the N3, the company learned from their mistakes, and now have a stable excellent sounding Andriod-DAP. I will admit, I heard it before the Firmware upgrade, but appreciated its honest sound, with as neutral a sound as I have heard in a DAP (IMO).

Amps/DAC's (portable and desktop):

iFi xCAN: ($299usd): iFi xCAN webstie: The iFi xCAN is a wonderful portable amp, which provides plenty of power for all but the neediest headphones. Well worth a listen.

Burson Play: ($549), Burson Website: A wonderful desktop/PC amp, which should turn Gamers heads. It is realistic, detailed, and just plain quite good! Give it a listen.

iFi xDSD: This is the near-go to BT amp. For $399, and portable one would be hard pressed to find a more affordable AND go to portable amp. This is a very good amp.

Ray Samuels Intruder: What an incredible amp! Small portability, power, balanced sound, deep, full, rich sound. Look for it, listen to it, buy it.

Aune B1s: An excellent affordable class-A amp, brought slightly down by Class-A battery life and only single ended. Otherwise worth a good hard look for your portable use.

Apex Pinnacle2: I cannot say enough superlatives about this is the best audio equipment I have ever heard, and may well. Superb detail, tube rolling with a part of history, this unit is stunning.

Chord Hugo2: What can I say about this that has not already been said...the standard by which all portable/home use DAC/amps are judged. A thoroughly recommended piece, worthy of a listen.

iFi Pro iCAN: Another excellent iFi product, which I was honored to review...Excellent adjustability, excellent tube/solid state sounds highlight an "affordable" product. For the price of a Hugo2, you can have this and an iFi iDAC2, and change. I prefer the combo to the H2...and the H2 is phenomenal.

iFi Micro iTube2:! I mean GOODNESS! Wow, doesn't even begin to describe how much I like this fine critter. The historical aspect of the tubes used is worth the price of admission (and a fascinating read...). Used in conjunction with my Black Label, I was enthralled and bestowed with tubey-goodness. The warm rich sound can make most any system sound better (as witnessed by some that placed the critter in their multi-thousand dollar HOME systems). This is quite the unit, and I will probably have one in the near future...

Aune S6: Top quality build, top quality sound, and top quality variety of usages highlight this mid-fi alternative amp. this is a stellar unit, which is flying under the radar. coming off the Kenzie, I had to tell myself that this really is a good amp. With good power, and all those functions, this really should be on your short list if you are looking for a desktop amp. Neutral, excellent quality, and a price, which sit below many "top amps," the S6 is good. Very good.

Shanling UP: A small DAC, which can brighten any laptop; the UP is Shanling's version of the "little DAC/AMP that DOES." It provides a small kick in the amp department, and bypasses inferior DAC's of your laptop or Smatphone. Small and portable, this affordable little unit is worth a look.

ampsandsounds Kenzie: the best amp I have ever tested, and one in which I still miss...everyday...That tube sound is phenomenal. A somewhat quirky top set up, this is a beautiful amp (I found myself just looking at it for long periods...), which sounds incredible. Witness my "favorite set up" in my sig, and you will undertand...I want..

iFi iDSD Micro Black Label: Before the Kenzie came the BL. And this was my first foray into mid-fi amps. I found myself being thrown off a cliff at the sound, floating freely getting ever closer to the ground. Multi-adjustments (of which I am still exploring) when the BL went on a quick sale, I bit. I have fallen hard for this black rectangle...

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