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They might be Kings: Focal Utopia, Sony MDR-Z1R, HiFiMan Susvara, HE1000 V2, MrSpeakers Ether Flow & Meze Empyrean

Discussion in 'Currawong' started by currawong, Mar 6, 2017.
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  1. Currawong Contributor

    Thanks to @AnakChan, Dan Clark and HiFiMan Japan I'm going to be spending the next couple of weeks listening to and comparing these flagships.

    Sennheiser HD800, modified with a bit of damping material internally, which tightens up the imaging a bit. Norne Audio cable.
    MrSpeakers Ether Flow with DUM or Norne Audio cable (almost no difference in sound). (Review here)
    Sony MDR-Z1R with Kimber Cable. (Review here)
    Focal Utopia with Moon Audio Silver Dragon. (Review here)
    HiFiMan HE1000 V2 with stock cable. (Review here)

    Mac Mini with Audirvana Plus, TIDAL and Roon → iFi iUSB 3.0 → S/PDIF converter → Schiit Yggdrasil → ALO Audio Studio Six.

    What has been apparent so far, only spending a couple of hours rotating through a few genres is how one moment a particular pair of headphones might nail it, and the others don't, switching tunes can turn things right around. Comparisons are evil in this way, as you find out more about what is wrong with a pair of headphones than anything.

    Since the Z1R and Utopia arrived last night and I got right into listening with them, here is what I posted in the Z1R thread:

    Updates and Links:

    Focal Utopia and Ether Flow impressions.
    Sony Z1R Frequency response graph.

    Sony Z1R and TH900 graphs.
    HiFiMan HE1000 V2 review.
    Focal Utopia review
    HiFiMan Susvara Review

    Meze Empyrene
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
    RCBinTN likes this.
  2. boomtube
    Excellent thread! I just bought Utopia's...haven't been delivered yet.
  3. phaeton70
    very interested in this. thread subscribed [​IMG]
    montanari likes this.
  4. sdwong
    Since I already have the Utopia. Will be interested in your review the combo with the Studio Six.
  5. rnros
    Brilliant. Subbed.
  6. gb21011971
    Can't wait!
  7. Currawong Contributor
    Some more notes about the Utopia, and introducing the Ether Flows into the impressions:
    Now that my system has warmed up, the Utopias have lost their "closed-in" feeling with a lot of music. I remember that many of my impressions of them with equipment at the Wikia meet, including straight out of a Chord Dave, had me feeling that their macro speed was fantastic (memories of my first impressions of the LCD-2 now quite a few years ago) but there was something missing in the micro detail. Now the micro detail is coming through. I had an almost freaky impression with one standard 2-mic piece of acoustic music where I felt I could hear the notes of an instrument on one side move across the soundstage an off the opposing wall. The echo decay in the studio is very apparent in quite a few recordings. 
    I think where they are masterful is in how they manage to have the capabilities of a 'stat (something I'd want to test in the future) yet are capable of the kind of impact a regular dynamic is. However they don't have enough bass, and I very much want to try Elear pads on them. If I switch to a simple piano piece of any kind, it levels the playing field amongst the headphones, as much of how they differ is in the bass. Music where you want to really want to be kicked hard in the head, like Massive Attack's Angel is still best through the Sony, but I did enjoy that track extremely (despite the poorer recording quality) with the Utopias. Another example of how comparisons can be ruinous. The Utopia didn't sound quite as good with it if I was A/B'ing, but was magnificent on its own, as the track was mastered with strong bass, making up for the more neutral tuning. 
    Interestingly MrSpeakers Ether Flow sits nicely in the middle, having a similar presentation to the Utopia, but with more bass kick, but a nicer mid-range and treble than the Sony, which seems to get a bit harsh, very especially if a recording has any harshness. At first I was starting to think I'd like to get a pair of the Z1Rs, but the strange tuning of the upper mids and treble has put me off, ultimately, at least on my system. I'm thinking I will try them with other gear, or roll different tubes and play with an EQ to see if I can't get a different feeling from them. 
    x RELIC x likes this.
  8. TimeLord
    So far your review is matching my own impressions of the Utopia and Z1R. I couldn't agree more that the Utopia demands the best of the entire signal chain. On the Z1R, I too was having issues with the upper mids and treble. But I'd like to try it again with better gear.

    This is going to be a very good thread. I would like to hear more of your thoughts on the Ether Flow as well.
    Z1R for the world !!!!. That's one heck of a shootout. 
    What i liked about the Utopia/Elear better then the Z1R was the forward vocals. I kind of like it more then a large soundstage. 
  11. phaeton70
    How much playing time those Utopia have?? from experience, real Utopia's bass will come out only after 150h.... 
  12. BunnyNamedCraig
    what were the thoughts behind choosing the HD800 for the shootout over the HD800s? Or are all these your personal cans?
  13. MidFiMoney
  14. MacedonianHero Contributor
  15. Currawong Contributor

    They are my personal cans. My review pair was borrowed.
    I began playing with an EQ today. Starting with a ~+4d low shelf below 100 Hz for the Utopias, that made them more interesting.   On the other hand, boosting 5kHz by about 4.5dB on the Sonys seems to fix their muffled sound. After I'd done that, I found this graph in the thread that I'd missed, which reveals the problem quite clearly:
    montanari likes this.
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