Senn 595, Senn HD 25, Beyer DT770, Alessandro MS-2 | Woo Audio 6, Lite DAC-AH (new impressions!) | Reviewed + Mini Photoshoot
Dec 9, 2008 at 7:22 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

danmagicman7

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EDIT: Lite DAC-AH arrived. See Post #10 for initial impressions!

I figured I'd hunker down and give some impressions and a full-blown comparison of these cans. Comparison threads are always a use for someone out there, and I've been itching to get my impressions out.

When I brought all the 'phones out for listening, I couldn't help but do a little photo shoot. So, for your viewing pleasure, the pics:

TheLineup.jpg

The Lineup.
Electronics (left side): Leckerton UHA-3 Amp/DAC, iBasso D2 Amp/DAC, iRiver iHP-120
Headphones, from left to right: Senn 595's, Beyer DT770's, Alessandro MS-2's, Senn HD-1 II's

DowntheLine.jpg

Down the line...

AmpsLight.jpg

The iRiver, UHA-3, and iBasso D2 lookin' good...

Senn595.jpg

595's <3

MS2.jpg

MS-2's. The Grado look is so photogenic.

DT770.jpg

DT770's.
dt880smile.png


SennHD25.jpg

HD-25's. Rugged good looks.


Now for some dramatic shots...

MS2Plug.jpg

Grado's plugged in.

595Plug.jpg

Senn's plugged in.

DT770AmpPeek.jpg

DT770's in the amp LED glow.

LightMS2.jpg

Mor Grado. (Yes, that's a hair that was plucked as a result of listening to the MS-2's too loudly...)

DarkMS2.jpg

MS-2. In the dark.

Stay tuned...full review to come.
popcorn.gif
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 7:22 AM Post #2 of 15

danmagicman7

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Saved for full review.
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 10:44 AM Post #4 of 15

Nocturnal310

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nice pics..always love the pics..now waiting to read ur review.
oh btw..i also got the D2 Boa
 
Dec 9, 2008 at 7:50 PM Post #5 of 15

danmagicman7

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Thanks to arteom for the MS-2's
smile.gif
 
Dec 12, 2008 at 7:13 AM Post #6 of 15

danmagicman7

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Well, my review has been officially postponed with the new family members soon coming to me:

wa6_right_bk.jpg


yhst-93764199751483_2032_2878025


Sorry if anyone was waiting on the review. It will get more interesting though now :)
 
Dec 12, 2008 at 12:12 PM Post #9 of 15

nowickia

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Nice pics...slightly unrelated but does anyone else absolutely hate those super bright blue LEDs that companies seem to be putting into everything???
 
Dec 18, 2008 at 7:55 AM Post #10 of 15

danmagicman7

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Alright, so to spruce up my headphone setup I caved and got a $200 budget (but very popularly modded) DAC, the Lite DAC-AH, and a nice Woo Audio 6 tube amp.

Anyways, the tube amp is custom made, so I have to wait for it. To be honest I wasn't very excited to get my DAC because it was like ho hum, it probably won't make that much of a difference. I mostly did it because it supported optical connections, and it was only right to feed my nice new tube amp a good analog signal.

I hooked it up, and plugged it right into the analog in on my headphone amp. I was in for a huge surprise.

I postponed my headphone impressions until all of my real equipment came in, but I thought I'd make a separate post about the DAC because of the results I heard. Here is a picture:

DSC03495.jpg


When I first heard the sound out of the DAC, I thought something was wrong with the unit. I was hearing distortion, all sorts of high end hissing, etc etc.

What I really came to realize was, I was hearing exactly what the recording was.

For a background on my headphone amp/dac history, it went like this: Yamaha RX-V557 receiver provided muddy sound. When I first got my Senn 595's, I thought they sounded great out of the receiver. When I got my UHA-3 Portable amp with its built in DAC, I thought the Yamaha sounded muddy and the UHA-3 sounded clean. The muddy sound from the Yamaha most likely was because of the headphone amp in there, but it may have had to do with the DAC as well.

Then I got the Lite DAC-AH. Hoooly crap. It was like a new dimension of music was opened up. I heard exactly what was recorded. In good recordings it sounded great, in bad recordings I thought it was fun hearing all the things they could have brushed up about.

Hearing "Distortion"

One of the first distorted sounds I noticed heard were some voices. At this point I thought something must be wrong with the DAC, but on further listening that was not true.

On one song, the part I was hearing distortion on happened to be distant-recorded vocals that were boosted to be the same volume as the rest of the track. Not only did the voices sound a little grainy, but when the voices were silent, I could tell when the recording studio faded in/out that channel because of the hissing noise that appeared and disappeared in passages around those distant voices. I thought that was truly amazing. I could go on with lots of other examples, but that was the most notable one.

When I listened to clean recordings, that all went away. They sounded great.

I...heard that?

In the same vein, I heard things like picks hitting the guitar strings, and also weird things like the guitar strings vibrating against the frets making a "buzz/boing" sound. A/B ing with my UHA-3 amp proved that these sounds were simply shuffled away in the background, and I was really hearing new things with the Lite DAC.

While some people might find these details annoying, I found them easy to look past while just listening to the music. This also made the music sound so much more real, rather than just recorded magic. Music has errors, odd sounds, and never sounds perfect. It's created by humans, and the DAC just opened up a new area of realizing the reality of that.

Some of the coolest things that I noticed with this extra detail was in classical music. There was one point where I was listening to Beethoven's 5th Symphony in FLAC, and at one point I audibly said "Holy...what...I just heard someone's shoe squeak!" It was also during a somewhat complex passage! I was amazed.

The Expanse of Sound

The sound staging was immensely improved. Headphones often suffer from the "3 blob" effect around your head where the soundstage is spread out into an area in the left, center, and right. While most fine soundstage delicacies are not very apparent in rock music because of the small range of instruments and the way it is mixed, Drums, guitars, vocals just sounded so much bigger. They had air, reality, and dimension added to them. Wonderful.

With classical music, it almost brought a tear to my eye. In complex orchestral movements, violins were layered just behind the violas on the right side, with each one taking turns poking out to the left and right of each other. It wasn't like they were moving very much, it was like I could hear the difference between someone sitting playing the violin sitting five feet to the right of someone playing a viola - while being 60 feet away sitting in the audience. Instruments were beautifully layered in the soundstage - slightly to the side of each other, slightly behind, slightly more forward, slightly more muffled - horns, drums, violins, cellos, oboes, cymbal clashes, piano - beautiful!

A note on dynamics

On my UHA-3 I ran into something I think can be best described as a "reaching the ceiling" effect. If I turned the volume up, it would start to lose dynamics. It was like the sound was getting squashed up against a ceiling. While the volume was getting louder, the top end of the dynamics was getting more compressed. In addition to the sound of compression when increasing the volume, certain frequencies became bloated and harsh (different freq's on diff headphones) that normally never sounded harsh before. At first I thought it was a problem with the amp, but was confused because it did not sound like telltale amp distortion. Upon receiving the Lite DAC-AH, this problem is almost completely gone. Pushing the volume up on my UHA-3 no longer results in compression of dynamics, but rather a wide range of dynamics at any volume level. Noticeable amp-like distortion does set in a little bit at higher volumes, and I can hear it now that the "ceiling" effect is gone.

I have tested the iBasso D2 and have noted similar compression sounds that the UHA-3 exhibited. Though I have the iBasso D2 easily accessible, it is not mine and I have not spent as much time with it as I have with the UHA-3. I actually started hearing this "effect" before I even got the Lite DAC, and this confirmed what I was hearing. I mentioned this to one of my other headphone-loving friends and he could not hear the compression I was talking about, but he has not heard the Lite DAC yet.

I still find it interesting that the DAC alone took away these effects.

I was also impressed with the Lite DAC's ability to maintain a very wide dynamic range at low volumes and with distant background noises.

Overall feelings and sonic ramifications

Overall, the DAC brought me really close to the music, and obviously added a whole level of so much more detail.

Some sonic ramifications were that it completely enhanced and changed the way I listened to my headphones. My Senn 595's used to be shy in the highs, but not so with the DAC. Loads of detail, a lot more punch. My Alessandro MS-2's (they are in the Grado family) were much more forward and bright. The MS-2 already revealed things I never heard with my Senn 595's before on my UHA-3, so with the Lite DAC-AH and MS-2's it was almost like an information overload - in a good way. I did, however, feel that some recordings were a little too bright and harsh if turned up to listening levels I was used to on the UHA-3.

I used to barely be able to tell the difference between a V0 encoded MP3 and FLAC. With the Lite DAC, I can begin to tell a difference if A/B'ing tracks...as long it is a well recorded album. If I'm listening to a V0 MP3, I'm not thinking "Oh, this sounds bad, this isn't a FLAC." I usually can't tell what the file format is just by listening to it without any other reference.

If an album is not recorded well, it's not like it sounds bad on a first listen, but it sounds like utter crap next to something that is recorded well. The Lite DAC rips bad recordings to shreds and eats them for lunch.

I'm beginning to learn that this is the one draw back as you march ahead in high-end audio equipment. Sometimes you look back in remorse because some of your favorite recordings were badly recorded and your setup completely butchers the sound. But, I'll take those losses over some amazing sound.

In closing...

All in all my only complaint is that I missed some of the warmness lost from my UHA-3, and the Lite DAC introduced some additional details and high end stuff that can sound bright/harsh. Of course, that should be fixed by my warm-sounding tube amp :).

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

I'll post full impressions of my cans once my WA6 arrives. Sorry for the wait, but I learned that an equipment upgrade just reveals so much more about cans.
 
Dec 18, 2008 at 9:03 AM Post #11 of 15

Henmyr

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Quote:

Originally Posted by danmagicman7 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
snip...

I'm beginning to learn that this is the one draw back as you march ahead in high-end audio equipment. Sometimes you look back in remorse because some of your favorite recordings were badly recorded and your setup completely butchers the sound. But, I'll take those losses over some amazing sound.

...snip



Thanks for the review
smily_headphones1.gif


And about the quote: I very much know that effect. But "high-end" audio has also opened up a great deal of new music which was very uninteresting to me before. One "genre" I've found after I came here is female vocals. Before head-fi, I didn't find it special at all, but now it's absolutely beautiful
smily_headphones1.gif
Same with calm rock, jazz and classical.
 
Dec 18, 2008 at 9:25 AM Post #12 of 15

danmagicman7

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Henmyr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks for the review
smily_headphones1.gif



My pleasure!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Henmyr /img/forum/go_quote.gif
And about the quote: I very much know that effect. But "high-end" audio has also opened up a great deal of new music which was very uninteresting to me before. One "genre" I've found after I came here is female vocals. Before head-fi, I didn't find it special at all, but now it's absolutely beautiful
smily_headphones1.gif
Same with calm rock, jazz and classical.



Female vocals are something I began to appreciate with my Senn 595's, and I just found a brand new appreciation in classical.
 
Dec 20, 2008 at 6:26 PM Post #14 of 15

NikZ

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great review and nice pics!.
 
Dec 23, 2008 at 6:09 AM Post #15 of 15

danmagicman7

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Well, after listening to my Lite DAC more, and digging deeper into my library of songs, I encountered some "hotter" recorded albums where distortion happened where I couldn't see why it was happening. A little googling and a little head-fi searching later...and I discovered the Lite DAC has a problem with distorting in loud/complex passages in some songs.

One particular song, "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor, the bass was distorting Regina's voice. It is kind of a techno-ish kick drum beat, but it maxes out the levels on the recording. Whenever that hit when regina was singing, her voice would distort, then everything would distort and sound like crap.

Come to think of it, most of the songs I used to listen to the Lite-DAC were well recorded anyways, and this distortion didn't happen. It never distorted on older recordings like rush and AC DC where the "loudness war" didn't exist yet.

For more details, look here: http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/cir...ml#post5180913

As such, I cannot recommend the Lite DAC-AH unless you complete this mod.
 

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