PHONON SMB-02 - HOLY GRAIL
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Mitchell Lee

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It depends on what you like. If you like neutral (they aren’t completely neutral but better than most) and accurate these are pretty good. Although for $100 more you can get the Neumanns. But if you like a warmer sound signature there are definitely better options. The problem with the headphone is the earpad size. It’s too small and ends up squishing the top half of your ears. This causes comfort issues after about an hour. The upgrade pads are the same size so you’ll still run into the same issue. What I ended up doing is getting a pair of ZMF ori pads. It expanded the soundstage and improved bass extension. However, the ori pads are meant for much larger headphones so the fit is loose. The pads rotate around and fall off sometimes because the fit is so loose.
 
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crazywipe

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Yes as Lee said, it depends.
It's kinda unique reference dark sound signature. This is the best I can describe. For rock and electronica it's a no go for me. There also the earpads problem (too small). Nowadays I am listening more to my dt770 80 ohm than the Phonon's.
 
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WHO23

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Bump!

Would this still be an awesome option for about $300 nowadays?
The PHONON SMB-02 has a really great frequency response for a closed back. I wouldn't say the signature is dark. I feel the bass is tastefully boosted but unfortunately is just lacking the sub-bass, which makes it sound just like studio monitors without subs. Comparing it to a Harman target unit like the Moondrop KXXS & Starfield, the SMB-02 has more treble and better soundstage, but is lacking in sub-bass and transient response. It's not good enough to be your primary pair but it's amazing for nighttime listening though.

Comparing to other closed back alternatives: The Beyerdynamic DT1770 that I demoed quite a while ago was pretty good so the Drop Beyerdynamic DT1770X should be a pretty good option. Audio-Technica's MSR7 has good soundstage and sounds very diffuse field (like the Ety ER4SR) for a closed back but bass is lacking so I got it to where I want it through a Dolby EQ preset for my MSR7SE. Although the Ether Flow was super comfortable, I wasn't impressed with it considering it's price but CSD measurements do show that the closed versions (Ether & Aeon) are better so you can consider them too if you're willing to spend more for comfort. Crinacle also ranks the Sony MDR-CD900ST highly so you might also consider looking into that though I've never got a chance to try it. I've ordered the Drop + THX Panda so I'll inform you if it's any good.

Oh if you're wondering what's my favourite closed back at the moment: A Dolby EQ'd Sony MDR-EX1000. EQ fixes the frequency response. What's left is amazing transient response, quality bass, and excellent decay. The timbre was great to begin with and just becomes amazing with EQ.
 
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PHONON SMB-02 DS-DAC Edition Measurements
(MiniDSP EARS. Uncompensated. 500Hz 84dB normalized. 1/12 smoothing)

Below is the Harman IE 2019 Target. For your reference when judging uncompensated measurements. Do note that the effect of resonance frequency is not accurate for my MiniDSP EARS rig.


Right Only: PHONON SMB-02 Default Pads (black) vs Moondrop KXXS (green) vs Moondrop Starfield (blue)
Moondrop.jpg


Right Only: Audio-Technica MSR7SE (red) vs Etymotic ER4SR (grey)
msr7.jpg



Right Only: PHONON SMB-02 Default Pads (black) vs Audio-Technica MSR7SE (red) vs Campfire Andromeda S (orange)
Andro.jpg
 
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Wow you have huge collection of headphones and IEMs. Can you please compare phonon smb to Senn HD660s ? Thank you.
Sure here it is. You really shouldn't be comparing Open Back VS Close Back through measurements though. 1) The resonance frequencies are different so it is hard to compare the peakiness of treble <https://ocharaku.jp/sound/technology_english/> 2) We prefer more bass in closed back headphones because of a lack of reflections and the isolation of background noise (which are usually low frequency).

Right Only: PHONON SMB-02 DS-DAC Default Pads (black) vs Sennheiser 660S (teal)
(MiniDSP EARS. Uncompensated. 500Hz 84dB normalized. 1/12 smoothing)
660S.jpg


Subjectively I would say both headphones sound great for me and both headphones are clearly lacking sub-bass. Vocals and timbre sound great on both. Transient response of both headphones are just not in the same level of more expensive headphones.
 
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Sp12er3

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John video on the phonon, I kinda missed this.
 
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Hi everyone,

First post here - thanks for all the great posts so far!

I am writing on this thread to ask for advice on whether my first pair of "audiophile cans", the Phonon SMB-02s, are dysfunctional or not.
Indeed, after first receiving the Phonon 4400 I was quite disappointed as I felt that there was a difference in sound between L/R, not related to the records listened through it. After sending those back to the Phonon Europe service, the Europe rep told me he couldn't hear the difference. I then decided to trade up to the SMB-02s, and still notice that the left ear is a little heavier on the lower sound ranges, and quite low on the higher sound ranges, whilst the right ear is quite the opposite - giving the feeling when listening through them that most of the punch and highs come through the right side, and the bass, surrounding comes from the left. It is almost as if a part of the range is missing on both sides.
I did A/B testing, switching sides and still notice this difference (also switching my source to mono to make sure I am not missing a point here).

Has anyone else felt this difference? Is this part of sound signature? Due to the cables? May this be due to a lack of listening to them? I would say they have 40-50 hours of listening.
Thinking of sending them back otherwise for the guarantee, although them being with Yaxi pads at the moment, and having lost the stock pads whilst moving places may be a little bit of an issue.
On a side not, I haven't felt this important difference through my other cans (Technics RP-DJ1210 which I use for DJing, and the Sony MDR-7506).

Thanks for your help!
 
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Sp12er3

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have you tried changing your source entirely?
 
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Moumin

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have you tried changing your source entirely?
Hi Sp12er3,

Thanks for your answer! If you mean input by source (? - apologies, if I misunderstood otherwise), I did indeed try different settings, amongst which the following: iPhone XR (Spotify premium / soundcloud), Microsoft surface (again, Spotify premium / soundcloud) and eventually a mixer (Ecler Nuo 2.0).
Still feeling that one side is brighter whilst one is more muffled and present in the bass area.
 
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me69

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My experience with Phonon

I have had a mixed experience with owning a pair of Phonon 4000s (actually two pair) and wanted to share.

My pair of Phonon 4000 headphones have broken. These are my second pair, as the first did exactly the same thing and broke in the same place; the pivot attached to the hinge. This time it is on the left earpiece, although the right pivot is also partially broken and also at the point of breaking. I have attached photos.

My second pair were a replacement for the first pair, under the warranty replacement policy. Both pairs have lasted just over a year each. After the first pair broke I took great pains to handle the second pair carefully so as to avoid a repeat of the first breakage, however it still happened. I believe this is a flaw in either the design or the quality of the materials used in the manufacture. While the second pair were sent under the warranty replacement policy, I still had to pay a $65 "replacement fee" which I suspect is enough to cover the cost of manufacturing them as well as freight, thus costing the company nothing to actually replace them and honor the warranty.

I really love the Phonon sound, but obviously not the design/quality. As a side note, when I first heard the original pair I was extremely impressed, but when the second pair arrived (after several months of using other headphones) I was a little underwhelmed. Anyway, this latest mishap leaves me without a usable pair of headphones. From my experience last time, I know they are not repairable. They are outside the warranty period now so I have no recourse.

I have been looking at the site and have seen the new Phonon Kurumi phones which look very good, especially in the fact that they use a different hinge design which I assume would be much sturdier than that of the 4000. I would assume they use the same drivers as the SMB-02 and the 4000s. However, I am loathe to part with my money if I am to experience another catastrophic failure as I have already done twice.

I emailed Phonon twice in the last two weeks, but have received absolutely no response. My experience last time was similar, it took repeated emails and follow ups to get a response, and things took an excessive amount of time.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? Or are the SMB-02s and Kurumis much better built?
 

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crazywipe

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My smb02 it's build quite well. It looks like an headpone that you can leave in the backpack without worrying too much. I would rate the build 7/10.
 
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me69

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My smb02 it's build quite well. It looks like an headpone that you can leave in the backpack without worrying too much. I would rate the build 7/10.
Thanks for that. I do like the look of the hinge on the Kurumi which looks to be the same as the SMB02s. I also had an idea of how to fix my 4000 hinges although it would mean I would need to cut the wire running through the headband, necessitating converting the headphone cable to dual input, not that that would be a bad thing.
 
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me69

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I had my 4000s fixed.

The hinge now has a screw in it to fasten it together, as shown in the pic. I also had them wired directly to each driver. I didn't change them to balanced but can do that further down the road. The guy who did the work for me said the hinge design is pretty crappy.

I would say get the 4000s or 4400s for a good time, but not a long time. Hopefully mine will last a lot longer now.
 

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Sp12er3

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interesting, sadly I only ahd very little ear time with SMB 02 and the price make it not much of a popular market to hunt for a used pair locally, so I'm just slightly interested with Phonon.
 
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