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nice even-handed review @currawong
Currawong - Excellent review - thank you
Above is a post I made two days ago in reply to a question which was asked of me by a previous poster. By coincidence the Z1R's arrived 2 days ago (my second time with them) and, much like the first time, I still remained impressed. There is definitely something to their musical, toel tapping and fun presentation which keeps me engaged with the music.
Last night I had the chance to try them in bed while my wife watched tv. They passed the test! No leakage to bother her and, while they did not 100% block out everything, they blocked out enough to let me fully immerse myself with the music.
I want to comment on what you said about playing with different cables to "adjust" the tuning - mostly to ameliorate the "dark" sounding nature of these cans. It is a funny thing because, as you stated, they do have a tremendous amount of detail retrieval - it is perhaps due to this dark nature that this detail is sometimes not readily evident on the initial listen to the music. With my Utopias all the detail remains quite out there and readily accessible.
On the Z1R thread someone posted some very promising comments about the Wireworld Platinum Nano silver cable and, based on their description, it sounds like this might be a serious cable to consider. I had a conversation with Jason from TSAV and he seemed to concur with this choice of cables. Quite interesting as he sells the Z1's and sells and has access to Kimber Axios, Nordost etc. yet he said that if one wants to lose some of the dark nature of these cans the Wireworld will do the trick. An additional bonus is that they are cheaper than the Axios.
Excellent video! Good depth and articulation of thought. I just shot a comparison video of the Z1R to the Ether Flow C and my video didn't flow like that ha. We do share similar thoughts though!
I think the Sony MDR-Z1R is better off for being entertaining vs neutral as I don't think any closed-back could beat an open-back chasing pure neutrality at a medium to flagship price level. Based on various accounts and reviews closed-back headphones seem to hit a high end engineering wall much sooner. However, I have more need of a closed-back vs open-back for most times dunning headphones, so that makes the MDR-Z1R my next headphone to test drive / purchase. And sometimes entertaining is more fun than neutral if the neutral headphone lacks a bit of energy or is just to the side of too reserved.
Essentially why I also wanted the Z1R. I am extremely pleased with the Z1R and due to quality of construction design throughout, if you need to tweak the signature in a few places or what have you, the Z1R is quite capable of responding. I basically leave it alone but I may experiment with the 5K boost Amos was discussing and see if it meshes with my tastes. If somebody is seriously interested in a musical tilt in a closed headphone, very difficult to not think the Z1R has to be right up there with any possible closed back competition. Look forward to your impressions if you do end up trying the Z1R. They have a deceptively dark character as has been discussed, yet somehow they don't feel restrained or veiled and do indeed provide quite a bit of detail.
I'll get the MDR-Z1R in about a year or perhaps a bit less than a year, no doubt. I was just thinking instead of an A&K DAP if I should just get the new gold flagship Sony Walkman to go with it. Is there any sonic difference between the gold and non gold flagship Walkmans?
I cannot comment as I do not own either of the Sony DAPS however, based upon what I have read, the A might be a better pairing with the Z1R. People have said the Z is a touch warm sounding and might not pair well with the equally warm sounding Z1R
I wasn't a fan of the Z1R with Sony's desktop amp/DAC when I heard them together. Warm-ish headphone + warm setup = not the greatest pairing. But say the Benchmark DAC-3 HGC (roughly the same price as the Sony desktop amp/DAC) is a brilliant pairing! The DAC3 is a wonderfully neutral and balanced DAC (and headphone amplifier) that works great with these headphones!
I did like the really pricey TOTL DAP though...thought it was a better pairing than the Sony desktop setup actually.
I read online a bunch and from what I can deduce the $1200 NW-WM1A is the one to get over the $3200 NW-WM1Z and $3500 AK380. The extra money seems better off invested elsewhere. Sony must have some massive trickle down or a highly competitive base product with a bling version. I'm especially digging the NW-MW1A for its Pentaconn connection now that I'm after the Sony MDR-Z1R. The Sony PHA-2A DAC headphone amp also has Pentaconn and iOS support - nice.
For desktop headphone use I want to run a Hugo 2 into a Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amp. Then I can take the Hugo 2 with me when I'm in semi-mobile mode with my laptop. The Pass Labs HPA-1 can also be a preamp for a Pass Labs / Focal Sopra home stereo.
To cover all my bases on headphones I plan on buying the Focal Utopia (home flagship), Sony MDR-Z1R (closed-back private semi-portable), Noble Kaiser Encore Custom IEMs (isolating portable), and possibly an open-back planar magnetic for sonic diversity. But which? I suppose that's the HE1000 V2 but I don't like how picky it is with amplifcation or the build quality. The Ether Flow seems ok but being such an all a rounder it's not really different enough. And Audeze has seemingly taken a backseat to the HE1000 V2 or Ether Flow hype lately. Researched to a dead end, I will just have to do a bunch of demos and see for myself. Or wait for the next earth shattering planar magnetic to come along.
If you are planning on buying the Utopias, I don't think Ether flows are going to get much mileage... Mine are upstairs in the bedroom with my laptop and WA8 for the convenience of not carrying my Utopias up and down and switching the cables, etc. The Ether flows were definitely a step up from HD800S. They are so good in so many ways without much weakness. They are, and sound like, planars and do deliver higher doses of every frequency than the HD800S. Well, the Utopias blow both of them out of the water. I no longer own the HD800S. The Utopias do not sound like dynamic driver headphones to me. They are as fast as the Ethers, though not as fast as the KSE1500s, I don't have any reservations about their speed. You will not regret getting the Utopias. Compared to the Utopias, the Ethers sound a bit muffled and lower in volume overall. Separation and imaging are inferior. That hazy, "ethereal" sound signature and imaging that used to be cool compared to the HD800s, is now a problem compared to the Utopias. But, at the same time, they cost less than half and probably not a fair comparison.
I just got my Encores last week and love them. I am curious about the Tia Forte and Dita Dream, but to be honest I am perfectly happy with my Encores and will be for a while. Good solid choice there too.
I am not happy about my AK380's balanced output. I am not the only one to think that the balanced output on the AK380 sounds like a $500 phone. SE is the way to go, and if you are a fan of balanced output like I am, this is something you should consider. This is embarrassing for something that costs... well, you know what I paid for my copper version. I do like Tidal on the AK380s because I do listen to Tidal quite a bit. Can't with the Sony's. Even if the Pentaconn connection is awesome, I will miss listening to Tidal, because Tidal sounds heavenly on my AK380s.
I am curious to compare the Z1Rs with the Ether C flows. Since Mr. Speakers know how to make good closed headphones, this will be a worthy comparison. I think these two represent the pinnacle in closed headphone technology which is probably nearing its ceiling. So far, sounds like the treble is a bit of a problem for both. The sound signature of Ether C flow cannot be too different than the open flows, but I do hear that people are more impressed with the closed flows.
Thanks for the info.
I'm going with Noble Kaiser Encore as I always wanted a flagship IEM from Noble. My first custom IEM taste was $850 Westone IEMs and they were heavenly. I only returned the Westones as I ordered a cherry red color, they came, sounded amazing, and they looked pink!! I'm picky about design as a former commercial artist. With Noble I can pick a previous custom design I love in pictures with the Wizard Reprint option. Low risk. Audio wise I was eyeing a new, hyped IEM flagship from JH Audio when forum responses here let me to the Wizard.
I considered the Ether Flow C. One, the Sony looks better. Two, it has those Pentaconn Kimber Kables with a nice screw on connection. Three, as I previously mentioned, I think chasing neutral in a closed-back might be a mistake. I found the PM-3 neutral and boring to own and I wish I kept my MDR-1A's fun sound signature instead. It's just a hunch, but I think the high-end open-backs can naturally do an awesome neutral sound signature much better. Closed-backs might just be fundamentally flawed. If they were not, we would have more $4000 closed-back headphones and Focal would have made a closed-back Utopia. I mean, who doesn't want audio privacy over open-back?
I never used Tital yet. Perhaps I'll love it. Currently I would prefer the high end file instead.
Personally the HPA-1 is overkill and I would go with the Benchmark DAC3 HGC or Hugo2 with the Z1Rs. They don't require a lot of power. The one thing that I didn't like about the NW-WM1Z is the weight...much too heavy for a "portable" player IMO.
I'm also on the hunt for a more portable non-IEM set of headphones. For times when I don't want to bring the Sony MDR-Z1R or wear IEMs. But I do envision the Sony as semi portable.
The idea of the Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amp is that it's also a nice matching preamp for the Pass Labs X260.8 monoblocks. That it does not include a DAC is a plus. DACs come and go, I don't want to replace my home headphone amp every time I need a DAC. I think the HPA-1 will sound awesome with the Focal Utopia. The Sony MDR-Z1R isn't what I'm primarily thinking of using when I'm at home. I'll use the Sony at times when I can't use open-backs.
I think the HPA-1 would be great for both the Utopia and Z1Rs. Pass Labs knows their stuff that's for sure. I enjoyed my limited time with the HPA-1. I'm using the HeadAmp GS-X Mk2 with both and love it...drives them and all of my non-stat headphones with authority and transparency.
At first I wanted a Pass Labs INT-250 intergrated amp. Then I realized I still would want the matching Pass Labs HPA-1 headphone amp which is also a preamp. Because matching aesthetics, sound signature, and good reviews. The similarly priced Pass Labs X260.8 monoblocks remain in Class A operation for 34 watts vs the INT-250's 17 watts. Mr. Pass said to me in an email that the HPA-1 makes for a great little preamp and that he would start there in my case. So the move to the HPA-1 headphone amp pre + X260.8 monoblocks was a no brainer. Add a Hugo 2 for DAC and mobile use and it's a nice system. And I'm not tied to a single DAC.
Sorry if I detailed the thread topic. It's just I'm planing an entire headphone friendly audio system and it helps to talk about all the pieces. And by the way I found the reviews very helpful, so much thanks to the original poster.
Can anyone recommend me a good closed-back headphone that's more exciting than the PM-3 but more travel friendly than the MDR-Z1R?