Review: Sony R10 vs. AKG K1000 vs. Sony CD3000
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Edwood

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I will preface this review with the fact that I have never ever heard or seen the R10's in person before buying them. This is not the first time I've bought something sight unseen.

I am also going to primarily compare the R10 to the K1000 and CD3000, with more to follow.

Will my leap of faith be worth it? Let's find out, shall we?



REVIEW SYSTEM:

Headphones:
Sony MDR-R10
AKG K1000
Sony MDR-CD3000
Sennheiser HD600 w/ Zu Cable
Etymotics ER-4S

Amplifiers:
Grace Model 901
AKG SAC K1000 Amp
Gilmore V1


Sources:
RME digi96/8 PAD (Stock, Modded with Capacitor Bypass and Various OP Amps, mostly OPA627, Modded with Analog Output Stage Bypass) Analog output
NEC CDR-602-->Grace 901's DAC.

Power:
PS Audio P300 Power Plant
PS AUdio Xstream Plus Power Cable
Brickwall Series Mode Surge Suppressor

Interconnects
Custom Orpheus Signature Cables
Headphile XRS
Headphile Black Silver
Custom Balanced Cables (Canare Starquad)



Materials, Industrial Design, and Finish:
The Sony R10 wins hands down. Sony kicked out all of their bean counters when they designed the R10. (which partially explains their astonomical retail price) The materials are ridiculous. Exotic hard wood, magnesium, Greek Lamb skin, and drivers are grown with the use of special bacteria. The CD3000's are essentially the mass production little brother of the R10. The materials are all mostly plastic with the CD3000, with the usual softer edges you get with injection molded plastic. The R10's have hard edges that blend into soft radii. Pictures will speak for themselves here.

I'll admit it, these cans are beautiful. The case is ridiculous, clad in full leather. The case would make me look like hitman. There's no carrying this case to the airport.

Hype or not, much like the Grado HP1000's, the quality of craftsmanship and materials cannot be denied.
Of course looks aren't everything......



Comfort and Ergonomics:
Man, the Sony R10 is lightweight. About as light as the CD3000's. The headband mechanism is a little different from the CD3000's, and not as loose. Sony R10's have a nice "hugging" grip on your head, nowhere near the clamping force of the HD600's, tighter than the loosey goosey CD3000's, and nowhere near the vise grip known as the K1000's. The R10's poofy lambskin pads are very comfortable and soft. They feel great on the face, and do not feel at all "tacky." (now, how you'll look wearing the R10's, is another story, don't look in the mirror!)
In the heat department, I am sad to say that being closed phones, no ventilation will cause those that are sensitive ears to overheat easily in hot weather. The ear pads' openings where your ears fit into is a bit on the small side.

This small space could potentially be problematic for those with large ears. My ears are pretty small, so it's perfectly fine for me. The cutout shape is almost like a "D" shape, similar to the Stax Omega II's ear pads.
Overall comfort goes to the R10's in three seasons.
The K1000's are my only choice in the summer. Other than the Ety's any other headphone is just too hot to wear. I don't like sweaty ear pads.



Frequency Response, Extension, and Dynamics:
High Frequency- K1000's win in the high extensions. But they keep on running once they cross the finish line. So with fairly unforgiving amp and source I have, some songs can be rather painful to listen to for long periods.
The R10's treble is considerably more laid back compared to the K1000's. But it is less "shrilly" sounding at the highest of extensions. The high frequency is not rolled off, I can hear the upper extensions quite well, it's just not as piercing as the K1000's. (I realize that many others don't have this experience with different Tube amps, but I am comparing to single solid state amps here.) Cymbals crash and decay smoothly without distortion. Tamborines. Hahah, I must admit that I have always seemed to over"look" them with all other headphones. It is almost hypnotic discovering them with the R10's. Snare drums and just about every percussion instrument really makes me forget that I am supposed to be focusing on highs here.....so moving on.....

Mid Frequency- The R10's are certainly more "warm sounding", especially compared to the K1000's. But being a person that is used to more "neutral" sounds, this perceived warmth is not a bad thing. Vocals really come to life with the R10's. I really begin to find myself focusing on the every breath and syllable uttered from the mouths of Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Sting, the list goes on. With the K1000's "S" sounds are sometimes agonizing hissing. I have found that modding my RME digi96/8 PAD really helped alot here. As the original was not exactly what I would call "smooth" and was full of alot of harsh sibilance distortions. While the K1000's are no longer piercingly harsh. They are still on the fatiguing side.

Bass/Low Frequency- The K1000's infamous 50Hz roll off simply makes it no match for the R10. The R10's bass is far more pronouced. CD3000 has more bass and extends lower than the R10, though. The bass of the R10 has more detail and is a bit tighter than the CD3000. Percussions with the R10's are the most pronouced, with snare drums and bass drums impacting with tightness and clarity that is unmatched by the CD3000 or the K1000. If I had to pin down one "Wow" factor that the R10's excel at the most, it would be Percussion instruments.

I find myself rediscovering alot of my music, particularly bass and kettle drums in the orchestra, and upright bass. Drums in general. However, the K1000's bass response is tighter overall. From my memory, the R10's remind me alot of the Omega II's With tighter and somewhat leaner bass in comparison to the Omega II. In fact, many aspects of the R10's "sonic signature" reminds of Electrostatic in general. I will have to compare more critically in the future.

Overall, the K1000 has tighter bass. While the K1000's bass rolls off, the R10 is feels boomier and loose in comparison. Perhaps this is because I am used to missing part of the bass frequency spectrum, perhaps not. I will have to live with the R10's more to get a thorough impression. (Upgrading my source and living with the R10's longer has me realizing that the R10's bass is a lot flatter, tighter, and faster than I once thought.)

Dynamics- The K1000 takes a commanding lead here. Again, the K1000's have a definite "wow factor" when heard for the first time. Far more impact can be felt from the K1000's drivers. So much so you can feel the "ear speakers" vibrate at high volumes sometimes. This fact alone makes the R10's sound "boring" by comparison to the K1000's. The R10 is far smoother compared to the very aggressive K1000's dynamics. While the K1000 punches you right in the face, the R10 in comparison, pulls it's punches. But there is more to it than just viseral slam as I will go into soon enough....

Soundstage, Imaging, and Detail:
Soundstage- It is inevitable that I compare the R10's sound stage to the K1000's legendary soundstage. The K1000 has a larger soundstage. The closed in "feeling" of the R10 takes a bit getting accustomed to if you are used to the K1000. The K1000 is as wide open as it gets. That said, the R10's do not sound closed in. I do not hear any weird reverberation or other echo related distortions.
The K1000's make music sound like you are further back in a concert. Almost like I'm listening to the orchestra at the back of the concert hall. And with some recordings, like I'm in the doorway at the back exit of the hall. R10's have you sitting closer to the action. The K1000's sound more like really great speakers, while the R10's sound more like "being there." Of course I have not given the K1000's a fair chance with a fully balanced output amp, as they were originally designed for.

Imaging- The R10's win here. The sounds of individual instruments are more clearly separately as they go from either side of the sound stage. Even with the natural crossfeed that the K1000 has, the imaging is finicky to get right. Even with the ear speakers angled "just right", centered sounds (and especially just off centered ones) tend to oscillate very subtley left to right. With the R10's, this is not the case. The sound stay's firmly put. The CD3000 also shares a similar imaging quality to the R10. There really is something to angled drivers.

Detail- Again, the R10 takes the lead here. I am finding many sounds that I am missing in the K1000. The relative volume levels of each instruments are more balanced with the R10. No single instrument completely overpowers the other. You can concentrate and pick out different instruments in each section of the orchestra. The K1000's do not have this level of "balance." The lead instruments are often so overpowering that they obscure others near them. Particulary when it comes to strings. While the K1000's have me focusing on the lead player, the R10's let me focus on the background players.
At the furthest edges of the soundstage, the K1000 sounds like it's dropping off some of the detail. Instruments are more difficult to distinguish. The R10's have a narrower soundstage, but the details are easier to hear and distinguish across the entire soundstage.




Conclusions:
So the $4000 question is:
Would I buy the R10's at their full retail price?
No. (but I got them used.
)

Are the R10's better than the K1000's?
No.
But neither is the K1000 better than the R10. They are very different headphones, in both sound and ergonomics. It will really come down to personal preference. Of course if you factor in a budget, K1000's will win hands down.
Although, you will spend more money on sources and amps to get the "right" sound out of the K1000's. (I'm still trying to get there.)

If I had to choose only one, which one would I keep?
I know this may seem silly, but it depends on the weather.
In hot weather, the K1000's are my favorite, because my ears overheat easily. (this was a big reason why I sought the K1000's originally)
In cooler weather, the R10's would probably be my choice, because I can wear them seemly forever. It's one of the few headphones I've ever worn, in which I forgot that I was wearing them.
A good analogy is the K1000 is to the R10 as a Herman Miller Aeron Chair is to a Plush Italian Leather Couch you sink into.
(I later bought an portable air conditioner to cool the room down before listening sessions. Silly? Not for the R10.
)

So, does this mean I'm keeping both the R10 and the K1000?
Time will tell. To be fair to the K1000's, I have not auditioned tube amps with the K1000's yet. The system I have now is synergistically a better match for the R10's than for the K1000's. It seems that the K1000's are almost opposite of the R10's synergistic preferences.





-Ed
 
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gsferrari

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Stunning review


The R-10 is a very swell looking headphone isnt it


Also - wearing it is like nuzzling between the breasts of your lover


Truly special and something worth saving up for...the R-10, K1000, Omega-2, HP/PS-1 etc.

Top of the line and not without reason...
YGPM
 
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ooheadsoo

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Way to go Ed.
 
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Prince

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Quote:

Originally Posted by gsferrari
Also - wearing it is like nuzzling between the breasts of your lover



 
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Edwood

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Sorry if this review seems like deja vu.

I was asked to post it for ascension to the Reviews section.


I hope the archives aren't gone. I can't find the original thread. I want to post my CD3000 comparisons too. Perhaps to me amended in a later post.


-Ed
 
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GlowWorm

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Awesome review Ed! Very informative, great read.
 
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Swampwalker

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Ed- I've never heard the R10s (not many have), but I would highly recommend you try the K1Ks w/a high quality CDP and a good tube amp. I'm using mine with a Chinese Bez 2A3-based one source integrated, and a CAL Audio CL-10 CDP. I know that Kentamcolin also really liked the K1K w/his Moth 2A3. I would not call them "shrill" at all, and the bass is very good for an open phone. I think you need to go to something better than a PC/soundcard based system. With highly resolving transducers, you are going to have all of the upstream deficiencies magnified. HOwever, loved the review, and happy to see that someone else besides me sometimes has a conflict btwn their ears and their earpads (only real deficiency of the 650s compared to the 600s, IMO).
 
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daycart1

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Nice writeup!

I gather that you do not think the AKG SAC amp is the end of the road for K1000 lovers. What direction are you thinking of taking for amping the K1000?
 
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Sugano-san

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Hi Ed,

Nice review! But please help me understand the statement quoted below.

Thanks,

Gioacchino
Quote:

Originally Posted by Edwood
Are the R10's better than the K1000's?
No.
But neither is the R10 better than the K1000.



 
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gsferrari

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I am sure he meant the following :-

[BEGIN]
Is the R-10 better than the K-1000?

No

But neither is the K-1000 better than the R-10
[END]
 
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Edwood

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Thanks for the feedback guys. I guess I still have some editing to do. Specifically, some CD3000 to R10 comparisons.

Also, a disclaimer that I am still not done with the K1000's yet. While it is a good amp, the AKG SAC K1000 Amp is most definitely NOT the end all be all of the K1000 amps. Far from it. It was a little dissappointing compared to the Grace 901. Upgrading my source helped a great deal with the K1000's. As I stated in my K1000 review a while back, the K1000's are not a pair of headphones to lie to you about your music and whisper sweet nothings into your ears. They will slap in your face if your source is not up to the task. Especially the recording quality. There is always room for source upgrades. Only budget is the limitation (and it always will be, damn, it always will.)

As for what direction I want to take amping the K1000's? One word: Balanced.

Either a speaker amp or some other balanced output amp. The K1000 is still the king of soundstage IMO, having discreet signals and grounds will really help to bring out the K1000's even more.

I'm focusing on the R10's now. I'm kinda in a little bit hot water with the missus' with my purchase of the R10's. ("They cost HOW much?!?")
So the K1000's are on the back burner a bit for maxing them out. I'm trying to balance my system out more.

-Ed
 
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Edwood

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Sugano-san
Hi Ed,

Nice review! But please help me understand the statement quoted below.

Thanks,

Gioacchino




Heheh, thanks for catching the mistake. I corrected it.

-Ed
 
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mikeg

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I've spent hours and hours listening to a K1000 and an R10, with both driven by the same high quality tube amp containing excellent 300B tubes. IMO, Edwood's review is an excellent description of my experience with these headphones. I've also compared the R10's performance, when driven by the tube amp., to it's performance when driven by a high quality SS amp. No comparison; i.e., the tube amp is clearly superior. As for keeping the R10 and K1000, I'll retain both, since they sound different enough to provide great, though different, listening experiences. But, IMO, listening to the K1000, without "fill-in" by a good subwoofer is not satisfying. Overall, I still prefer the R10.
 
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Is it just me who sees most of Ed's review in an annoying double-spaced format? I can't even bear to read the thing.
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by jpelg
Is it just me who sees most of Ed's review in an annoying double-spaced format? I can't even bear to read the thing.


I see it too, and yes it's kinda annoying. I don't remember it being like that when I first read the story, but maybe it was...
 
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