North-London Mini-Meet 16th April '06
Apr 16, 2006 at 2:59 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 12

stewtheking

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So, I thought I’d just post a few impressions from our Short-notice Mini-Meet we had in North London. First of all, I’d like to offer a big thank-you to Vic for hosting the meet and keeping us all going with regular coffee.

So who made it down to Crouch end then? Well, there was Vic, Justin (Doctorjuggles) and Myself. As you can see, the short-notice nature of the meet meant that it was kind of under-attended, but that meant that we each had lots of time to hear each other’s gear.

The gear that made it was as follows

Me
HD 580’s
SR-60’s
E2c’s

Cmoy
Millet Hybrid

Creative Zen Xtra

Justin

HD 650’s
ATH-A900LTD
E5c

ANT Amber

5G iPod.

Vic

ATH-W5000 (Raffinato)

Lavry DA10
Xin Supermini

MF xray v3
iRiver H140 (FLAC)

So, one of the main things I wanted to hear was the 650’s vs. the 580’s. I am thinking of making this upgrade when moneys allow, and so I was interested in hearing the differences. I compared them from Vic’s iRiver, and my millet. The 650’s have a very similar sonic signature to the 580’s, but just many things are tightened up. The bass is just that bit deeper and more punchy whereas the 580’s can be a bit uncontrolled. The other comparison that was cool was seeing just how the senn pads squish over time and become less firm. My older pads were much more squashable than Justin’s newer ones, showing how the foam changes over time. However I found both ‘phones still very comfortable.

Next I tried out some amp comparisons. I used my 580’s for this because I know how they sound, and it is unfair to change too many variables at once. This was the first time I had heard my gear out of a decent solid state amplifier apart from my Cmoy, and I was interested to hear the differences. The amps were the A.N.T. Amber and the Lavry’s Headphone out. Both amps gave my Senns a bit tighter bottom end, and had much more speed than my Millet, which in comparison seemed a little laboured. However I felt that at places the midrange sounded a little flat, so I guess I need my tube warmth for vocals, however on electronica such as “The Notwist” this more defined sound was better. From speaking to Justin, who just sold his Earmax, I recon this level of tube-ness is about right for me, as he found the Earmax to be a bit sluggish whereas my Millet sat a bit more in the middle. This was good to know, as I can now stop drooling over the beautiful earmax, and save my wallet from some more torture. The DA10’s headphone out was really nice, however I didn’t get on very well with the crazy digital volume control. The ANT amber was just a little bit tighter all round, with what seemed like more accurate separation, but considering the Lavry is mainly a DAC, the headphone out was pretty exceptional.


Next I got a listen to both of the Audio Technicas. I listened to both of these out of various amps and I really enjoyed the way they sound. The best closed can I had heard prior to the meet was my HD201’s and both of the cans were an order of magnitude more lovely. I was impressed by the funky wings on the top, which look like they are going to flop about and not hold the cans on your head, but in fact are really well engineered, and hold the cans at a really comfortable position. The A900’s seemed to do this a bit better than the w5000’s, which hung a bit further away from your ears. The w5000’s were better when pushed a bit closer to your ears, which tightened up the soundstage and the bass a little bit. This prevented me from enjoying them as much as I otherwise might have done, because I really liked the resonant qualities that the wood gives to the sound, which the A900’s lack a bit of. The w5000 lived up to it’s name, raffinato, being a rounded and refined can, but the a900 seemed to have more immediacy and a more engaging sound to my ears, and I ended up preferring the A900’s.

At some point around here, we broke for a couple of refreshing beers and a bit of food (Vic using his expert local knowledge to get us a seriously nice Kebab). And we got straight back to some serious listening.

The most profitable part of my day was listening to Justin’s e5c’s, he was kind enough to bring a multitude of spare tips so we could try them out. Having just sold my RS-1 to pay for some better portable audio, I was about 1 day away from pulling the trigger on some custom UE5c’s, but hearing the sound from Justin’s told me 2 things. 1) I was going to be more than happy with the sound from these, and 2) I needed to hold more money back for a source/amp upgrade. Going for the UE5c’s would have left my bank balance in need of some serious TLC, and I would have been gutted to have spent that money only to be confronted head-on with horrid CPU noise from my DAP. Although my Cmoy was a bit too hissy, Vic’s Xin Supermini gave some really nice clear sound (even with the bass boost setting on, as Vic seems to love his BASS with a capital BASS) and showed me what they were going to be capable of. This was great to hear, and stopped me from spanking all of that money on the ultimate ears and leaving me in a precarious audio situation.

Before we left, we did a bit of speaker listening as well, through Vic’s sublime Unison Unico Amp and Totem Arro speakers. These are gorgeous speakers, and a lot of envy went on here, but I’ll leave that for elsewhere, this is head-fi after all. I must also mention that we listened to his home cinema as well, especially Vic’s monster sub. Remember me saying that Vic loves his bass? Well this thing, even at less than a quarter, was enough to start knocking things off shelves and stripping the wallpaper. Serious amounts of air movement!

Right, I think that’s enough of my impressions. This was my first head-fi meet, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of great sounds, and even better company. I look forward to the next one!

PICS!!!!!!!

Justin’s camera beasts mine, so I’m sure he’ll post some better pics, but here’s a selection of mine anyway…

Here is the table as we started, a next of remote controls, and a couple of cans.
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Here’s my millet, hangin’ out next to the Lavry, like a star-struck fan, and the iRiver on top, like a groupie hanging off him…
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The raffinato and my millet… mmm.. eye candy…
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The battle of the shures… e2c and e5c. Similar size, but completely different shapes.
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The other AT’s, also eye candy, and mighty fine too.
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The meet table got more interesting after a nice lunch…
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And finally… THE BEAST!!!… also one of Vic’s very pretty Totems, with a much better spousal acceptance factor!!!
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Right, that’s all folks, hope to see a few of you at the next meet!

Stew
 
Apr 16, 2006 at 7:27 PM Post #2 of 12

Vic

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Really excellent review Stew, I hope it gets the attention it deserves, as I don't know if many people read the meet impressions.
It was really a fun day of hard work, good to hear you liked the kebabs and the beers.

I do agree with most of your findings, although I did not try the IEM, since I already have the Sensaphonics; so I mostly focus on comparing the W5000 to the HD650 and the 900ltd, and was also very interested in comparing the Lavry head amp to your Millet and the ANT Amber.
Your Millet added some nice tonality to the Lavry with maybe a slightly less tight bottom end; certainly a different presentation that I prefer with several kind of music, although perhaps not with rock.
The ANT Amber had a signature very close to the Lavry, but was definetely a bit better than the Lavry amp, more notably so with the W5000 than with the HD650. This was a nice surprise, as I knew nothing about this amp.

I had tried the HD650 several times before, with Graham Slee and MF X-Can and they sounded much better than I expected out of the Lavry, probably they never sounded this good to me, although they were with stock cables. I certainly want to get a pair in the near future, too bad they leak sound out almost as much as my speakers.
I liked the 900Ltd, probably the best closed cans I have heard apart from the Raffinato. I must say that I do prefer the W5000 a bit in all departments: much wider soundstage, much faster, punchier, better tonality, more bass. Well I think is normal given the difference in price. After several weeks of use I have learnt some tricks on how to get a better fit with them, I am sure you could have enjoyed them a lot more after playing around with them for a few days.

I hope I did not scare you too much with the subwoofer on "War of the worlds"; well at least the house did not fall apart.

I hope we'll be able to organize another fun day like this one in a few months, maybe involving a few Londoner headfiers
 
Apr 16, 2006 at 8:24 PM Post #3 of 12

doctorjuggles

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First up, thanks a million to Vic and his family for putting up with us invading their space. Your hospitality, and that of your family, is much appreciated. Cheers, Vic!

Right, onto the meet.
Well this all started out as a few emails between Vic and I about an Earmax amp I was selling. At one stage, Vic was interested until we found out that the Earmax is best driving high z cans. One PM led to another, and eventually it was decided to meet up and hear a few bits of kit that each other had anyway. In the interim, the Earmax was sold, but there was plenty of remaining gear on either side to keep us interested.
A quickly and hurriedly posted 'Mini meet' thread, a few searches on head-fi and a few PMs to London/South UK based folk two days before the meet on a long weekend meant we were always leaving it late to attract head-fiers, but the point was just to be able to hear anything new, and in the end, with the arrival of Stew, we had a nice array of really different kit and plenty of time to try and re-try all of it.

After a good introduction and chat with each other, it was on to the listening.
The meet provided me with my first chance ever to hear Grado kit. It was the entry level SR60. A quick readjustment of some unusual (to me) friction based arms for fit and I was on my way. I'd heard they were best for rock, so I fired some up. Now these are a £60-£70 set of cans, so I wasn't expecting things to be perfect. I have to say, though, I really think it's one of the sweetest midrage sounds I've ever heard. An album I have been listening to regularly for well over ten years immediately sounded different, and I heard some instruments that I hadn't even picked up on, nevermind appreciated. I real eye opener, and I'll walk away from the meet and my first Grado experience with that as the thing that stands out the most. Anything I say about them from now is something that's based on my own idiosyncratic preferences, and should be taken with the pinch of salt it deserves. Now I've never made any secret of my inablity to cope with certain types of top end, most love it, but my ears really do hurt with high frequencies, and the Grados really shot through my head on certain pieces. Bass was good for the level of these cans, the Grados do so much right it's hard to fault them, but my own listening habits mean that, for all they do right, the one thing they do wrong (and that's only in my opinion) means that I cannot spend much time with cans like these.
It was a great experience, and an eye/ear opener, nontheless.

Next up was the Xin Supermini, paired with my iPod and a Sendstation Pocketdock lineout into my Shure E5cs. I'm hugely familiar with the iPod/E5 pairing, it's been my exclusive portable rig for 2 years now, and with a portable amp on the purchasing menu in the very near future, I was very interested in this.
Vic had the bass-boost jumpers set on this baby, and my goodness, it didn't half boost that bass! The Shures became different animals through that setup. They seemed to reach an extra note or two lower, without really losing composure or control. I tried a few different style and genres, each one producing the same results, and there's no doubt in my mind that the Xin improves many aspects of the E5/iPod pairing. My only regret in retrospect was that I forgot to ask Vic if he could remove the bass-boost jumpers, as I'd like to have heard what the Xin could do for the rest of the frequencies. Bass-boost did seem to overpower the rest of the spectrum a little bit, and I'd be interested to hear the Xin again to hear how it handles the mids and highs.
As Vic mentioned though, it's very useful for the loud surroundings of London and the tubes/public transport, as the iPod can be a little light on bass at times, and the internal bass boost setting.... well the less said the better.
All round, though, it's an interesting prospect. I'm interested in a Hornet, which I'll almost certainly be buying, but I'm worried about the size of pairing a Hornet/iPod, so I really am considering the Xin in addition to the Hornet as well. Damn you, Vic!

Next up for me was a swift comparison of my A900LTDs with Vic's W5000s. The fit issues have been addressed by Stew and Vic already, I won't bring that up except to say that I preferred the 900s as did the other two. In sound though, it was much more interesting. I got to hear these cans against each other a few times throughout the day and my opinion changed throughout the day. I'll summarise my final opinion though, save you all the boredom of hearing the changes.
Firstly, with my listening tastes, there's absolutely no doubt that the W5000 has the edge. Most important is the control the W5000s have over the top end. It's smoother and silkier across the higher freqs and that's just how I like it. Midrange has a beautiful resonance and timbre to it, a really full and whole sound, and the bass is just as sweet. As Vic has mentioned, this is without doubt the best closed can I have heard. A few interesting things happened as I compared, though, and that's the performance of the 900s with electronic music. Firstly, although I preferred the W5000s, I don't regret my purchase as the price difference isn't something I'd say is justified. The difference was noticable, but not vast enough for my needs to justify the price. If I was richer, I'd probably change my mind. As things stand, though, I feel the 900s do enough right to make me feel more than happy with my recent purchase. As I said, though, it was electronic music that yielded the interesting results. I've already mentioned the signature that the wood provides, but while listening to Underworld's 'Push Upstairs' it really did bring the 900s strengths to the fore. I actually found the bass and midrange to be suprerior in the 900s, more impact, extension and overall, I thought the W5000s only shaded things in the control stakes at the bottom end. The only other thing I preferred with electronica about the W5000s was the smoother treble, but if I was to own both, there's no doubt I'd pick up the W5000s for rock/natural music, while any 'computer made' music such as electronica, I'd pick up the 900s every time. Maybe one day......

Special mention now must go to that awesome looking Millet Hybrid. I especially love the LED at the end of the switch, but the all round qualities of the amp really impressed me. I love the home-made look, and there's plainly love and care in that amp. I truly wish I had the skills and knowledge to make something like that, it looks great and sounds like brilliant fun to make too.
But you guys only care about the sound, so let's get to it. Well, I was pretty impressed. Knowing what the Earmax sounded like, I was interested in this amp. I have to say, it's a fine sounding little chap. A warm sound that hits you straight away, and it seems to enjoy playing at moderate levels, which is were you're rewarded most. It brings out great detail and resolves well, an involving sound. I really enjoyed the Millet/W5000 pairing the most in this setup. Again, my experiences with tubes and higher volumes were revisted, although not to as great an extent. Slight loss of control on the lower frequencies, but only at levels you shouldn't really be listening at. All round, the Millet is a fabulous little amp, and I applaud Stew for his craftsmanship.

The most profitable part of the afternoon, for me, was in two pieces of Vic's kit. Firstly, his Lavry DA10 DAC. A well built but bland looking piece of machinery, its plain looks hide a monster of electronics beneath. When a single piece of equipment reveals a detail in a song I've been listening to for years and years, I'm always sold, and the Lavry did it on more than one occasion. I'm going to avoid getting too involved in superlatives, I'll just say that I'm on the market for a DAC and I've certainly found one.

Next was Vic's Musical Fidelity X-Ray V3 CD player. It took 15 seconds of Pearl Jam's "Go" for me to utter something I thought was under my breath, but Stew heard it and said "that sounds like a good thing then?"
It's true, I hadn't heard enough and I'd already heard enough. I hadn't heard enough to enjoy any songs yet, but I'd heard enough to know that a good CD player is thrown onto my purchase list as well. It's getting longer by the second, isn't it?

This review is getting too long. I'm going to summarise my final findings and thoughts.
HD580 - not as far from the 650s as you might think. There's no doubt that the 650s find that extra note, that extra bit of detail, but there's also no doubt that these guys are a wonderful member of the same family, and will do most music many favours. I was very impressed, the performance gap isn't as large as the price gap might indicate.

iRiver - I love this player, the optical out is a fantastic feature. The OS is a little sluggish, if I'm not imagining it I think Vic mentioned Rockbox, which might explain things. Performance is undoubtedly good though, it's the combination of the iRiver and Lavry that I heard many great things from.

Finally, two other important things to talk about are Vic and Stew. Guys, it was great to meet you and even greater to find out what terrific people you both were. My past experiences on head-fi have been almost exclusively with the equipment itself (with the notable exception of StevieDvd, who this also applies to.)
While it's great to know that head-fi is a superb place to find outstanding kit, it's just as nice to learn that the people on the other side of it all are more impressive than the equipment they teach you about.

Guys, it was great to meet you and have a good afternoon chatting about all manner of things. Thanks for one of the most interesting days I've had in a long while.

iPod & Xin Supermini
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Lavry DA10 & Stew's rather funky Millet Hybrid
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A lonely A.N.T. Amber (modified with Hammond casing, for those who know the usual Amber looks.)
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Amber

DA10 & Millet again
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DA10 & one of Vic's iRiver's, hooked up through the optical cable.
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An assortment of cans: Top: Sennheiser HD650s, Bottom L-R: audio technica ATH-W5000, audio technica ATH-A900LTD, Grado SR60
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A rather luscious looking Musical Fidelity X-Ray V3 CD player
img01711gs.jpg


Vic's home cinema set-up
img01781or.jpg
 
Apr 16, 2006 at 9:43 PM Post #4 of 12

roblo

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Crouch End, a dim and distant place from the west. I would love to see a bigger London meet, seems to be a few of us on here, could gather a rather nice lot of gear I reckon.

Stew, where did you get the Millet from? Just got my first amp (LD II) and im loving the warm tube sound but wouldn't mind a hybrid to get away from the layed back sound for a bit of Euro Happy House.

looks like you had fun, make some noise if you are doing another and I may be able to make it.

Rob
 
Apr 16, 2006 at 10:55 PM Post #6 of 12

Jasonharkin

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Great meet guys, I will try my best to get to the next one, and I might even bring some goodies
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Apr 17, 2006 at 9:48 AM Post #7 of 12

stewtheking

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Quote:

Originally Posted by roblo
Crouch End, a dim and distant place from the west. I would love to see a bigger London meet, seems to be a few of us on here, could gather a rather nice lot of gear I reckon.

Stew, where did you get the Millet from? Just got my first amp (LD II) and im loving the warm tube sound but wouldn't mind a hybrid to get away from the layed back sound for a bit of Euro Happy House.

looks like you had fun, make some noise if you are doing another and I may be able to make it.

Rob



The millet was a self-build (though I have to admit that the work was shared between me and my Dad, who has to take the lion's share of the credit) I bought a circuit board from a guy on the DIY boards here, and finished it off with components from Maplins, RS and Digikey.

Stew
 
Apr 17, 2006 at 2:44 PM Post #8 of 12

bangraman

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Sorry I couldn't turn up. I was in an air-conditioned noise factory otherwise known as a datacentre. I guess since I'll be Orpheus-less by this weekend my interest factor as a guest may dramatically diminish for other meets
biggrin.gif
 
Apr 17, 2006 at 3:18 PM Post #9 of 12

doctorjuggles

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Quote:

Originally Posted by bangraman
Sorry I couldn't turn up. I was in an air-conditioned noise factory otherwise known as a datacentre. I guess since I'll be Orpheus-less by this weekend my interest factor as a guest may dramatically diminish for other meets
biggrin.gif



My guess would be that your past experience/gear history alone would make you a worthwhile guest to have around and hand out opinions, and I'm pretty sure you have more than just an Orpheus in that ever changing collection of yours anyway.
We were mentioning getting another meeting together for Londoners with more advanced notice, we'll be sure to let you know when it happens. Orpheus or not.
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Apr 17, 2006 at 5:17 PM Post #10 of 12

doctorjuggles

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More impressions:

Right, now that I have some more time on my hands, I just wanted to mention the set-up that Vic has for his home cinema.
I'm sure that many others in here are almost as keen on home theatre/cinema as we are on music, I know I certainly am, having poured thousands of pounds into my home set-up.

As has already been commented on, the Totem Arro speakers are absolutely gorgeous to look at, and in strereo mode we found them just as beautiful. I can't stress enough how envy inspiring they are, looking pretty and sounding better. But they're also part of a nasty beast that Vic has created, a scary monster that shouldn't be let out....

Anyway, just as we were about to leave, Vic said "guys, have you got three minutes, I want you to hear the beast.
How could we refuse?
Settling in to the central viewing position, both Stew and I sat back to watch the show. Vic set up the "emergence from the subway" scene from War of the Worlds, and quickly moved out of the firing line, as he knew what was coming from that menacingly placed SVS in the corner.
If only Stew and I had been that smart!
I can only say that I'm pretty sure the reason Vic hasn't posted further impressions on this meet is because he's spent the last two days repainting the inside of his house after that monstrous sub peeled the paint off of it! The house was rattling, I was rattling, things were moving, I was worried for anything that wasn't nailed to its spot. That SVS moves an unbelievable amount of air. Sure, it's no shrinking violet to look at, but I still never expected that level of bass and sub-bass.
As we left, Vic proudly grinned at us. "That was only on about 25% volume. I can't turn it any higher because the house resonates too much."
basshead.gif
 
Apr 17, 2006 at 5:30 PM Post #11 of 12

Vic

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Quote:

Originally Posted by doctorjuggles
I can only say that I'm pretty sure the reason Vic hasn't posted further impressions on this meet is because he's spent the last two days repainting the inside of his house after that monstrous sub peeled the paint off of it!


Hi Justin,
I have just finished moving the rubbles from my house after the movie
biggrin.gif
., I also manage to play a round of golf with today's beautiful weather.

That was a legendary mimi meet and really great fun.

You did an excellent job organising it. I am sure we'll be able to make a bigger one sometime at the end of the summer.
I will keep you posted on my impression on the Nat meeet in NYC next week from where I hope to bring back a pair of RS1.

Cheers,
Vic
 
Apr 18, 2006 at 6:45 PM Post #12 of 12

viper_45

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Sorry I missed out on this one guys. I appreciate the PM Justin, thanks. Hopefully I will be able to make it to the next meet with a pair of HE90s that I stole from another head-fier
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I hope you can all make it to the UK meet (if it ever goes ahead).
 

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