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UK National Meet 2011 Impressions (02/04/11)

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  1. Bizzel
    Looks like I'm the first one back from this (I did leave a little early) so without further ado I present the UK National Head-Fi Meet Impressions Thread! I'll be sure to post impressions as they come to me and while they're still fresh in my mind. I should first of all say thanks to jr41, nuwidol and EddieE for putting this meet together and I do hope you all had a good time today. Thanks also to our sponsors for arranging a nice venue for us and for the generous raffle prizes that they put together. Here are a couple of pictures to get the ball rolling; I only managed to snap a couple but there was a lot more on display than you can see here. I'm sure others will have plenty of close up gear porn photos that they'll post here as well.
    Update: More photos from AmpCity at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/AmpCity-UK/174836835899601?sk=info
    Okay, disclaimer time. My impressions come from a Sennheiser-loving background. My setup is currently a DAC1 feeding HD650s so I do like a reasonably dark sound with a reasonable amount of bass. I hope that helps somewhat when reconciling your own experiences with mine.
    Sennheiser HD800: Hearing these was one of the main reasons that I wanted to come along to the meet. Hell, I'd have come along if the only headphones there were the HD800! I spent about 25 minutes with these on various rigs during the day so I hope I can give a reasonable impression of them for you. First of all, the hype is mostly justified. It's true that these really are something special - detail retrieval and accuracy is out of this world and the soundstage is excellent too, though I found it depended heavily on the source material mix. If you're coming from the HD650s like me then the amount of bass might be a bit of a shock at first because there isn't much of it but this is also an advantage as the HD800s are clearly designed with one purpose in mind and that's to be a top-of-the-line reference headphone for critical listening.
    Dependency on the source is my only real complaint with the HD800 and that's where it fell down for me. With a well mastered album these cans really do shine - they display excellent tonality and sharp, punchy bass. With other albums though I found them to sound flat and often sibilant. I should stress that these are minor problems with an otherwise great headphone but for near enough £1000 I expected to be more wowed by them than I was but I suspect that they simply don't suit my tastes as I'm looking for a little more musicality and smoothness with my headphone choices.
    Audez'e LCD-2: These really were the star of the show for me. I hadn't heard much about them before today but having now heard them connected to several systems I think I can say that I'll be looking to purchase a set of these in the future. The best way I can describe them is as "a better HD650" and, given how much I like the 650s, that's praise indeed! They have a liquid smooth sound with a slightly prominent bass hump like the 650s but with a richer midrange and sharper highs. I should stress that the bass is extremely well controlled (due to the super thin drivers, I imagine) and doesn't seem to obscure any of the fidelity in the higher frequencies. Transient response on these is lightning quick so if you find the 650s to be sluggish in this regard then I can highly recommend the LCD-2s as a solution.
    Comfort was also surprisingly good. I often feel that my head isn't built for headphones with this design and I find the Grado headband in particular to be uncomfortable so the LCD-2s were a nice surprise. They are quite heavy on the head, it must be said, but never naggingly so and the ear cushions are lovely and comfy. Overall I walked away very impressed, a great sounding, musical and well-balanced headphone that deserves to be up there with the best of them.
  2. JoetheArachnid
    Had a blast, thanks to all the organisers and everyone who brought equipment. It was fantastic to meet you all.
    HD 800: So I sat down and was all ready to be utterly blown away... and bam. Nothing. Well, not nothing, but no real engagement with the music, no excitement. I realise that it's cliché to refer to the HD 800 as 'sterile' at this point but that's really the impression I got. I can see the draw of them, however.
    HiFiMAN HE-4/5LE/6: I'm lumping these all together because from my slightly hazy reccollections they all had a fairly similar sound signature and all shared the same kind of 'hardness' of sound that ultimately turned me off them. This came as something as a shock to me, because I'm a big fan of the HiFiMAN brand and had been seriously looking into an HE-4 as my next fullsize purchase. However, in an AB comparison I preferred the laid-back serenade of the HD 600s to the unabating slam-detail of the HE-4. I also found comfort to be a bit lacking given the prices; I didn't mind the weight but the hardness of the earpads was a real hindrance for me.
    AUDEZ'E LCD2: Well now, this is more like it. Smooth and sassy, plenty of weight in the bass, clear mids and snappy highs. Listening to one of my favourite tracks they just sounded amazing. The weight is slightly more of a problem here than with the HiFiMANs - as I think jr41 pointed out, you do really feel the inertia from them when you move your head. This is offset, however, by some fantastically comfortable leather earpads and a well-constructed headband. Overall very impressive, pity that Audez'e don't have a more affordable ortho to match the HE-4.
    K-1000: I only heard these briefly, but they were really, REALLY nice. A very balanced and detailed sound, and of course the presentation and soundstage is top notch.
    STAX: This was the rig near the back of the room. I can't remember the exact pieces, and the part of my mind connected to my wallet has somehow wiped most of my impressions beyond that they were very good, but not quite worth whatever that rig was worth. Honestly, I don't want to know.
    RE262 from Headstage Arrow: Oh gosh. Oh yes. I've never heard more things that I like in a sound wrapped up in such a spiffy little package before: Tight, deep bass that really grabs you by the gonads. Faintly sparkling treble. Mids so amazing that I can't really even think of words to describe them. And a really nice, large soundstage that's quite unexpected from such compact IEMs. I don't know how much the Arrow contributed to this, but it seemed to drive them just as well as my full-size amp and did wonderful things to my RE-ZEROs when I plugged them in and put one notch on the bass boost.
    So yeah, my favourite rig turned out to be $150 IEMs, with the $950 cans taking second place. My wallet is endlessly grateful for this.
  3. cn11
    Yeah, it was a great meet. But it totally rang true that I didn't get to make it around to hear nearly what I wanted to unfortunately.
    Justin's new portable amp sounded amazing, and was noticeably superior to my Arrow 3G. The bass was so deep and tight that I believe it equaled the Arrow's on +1, while being more tuneful! Wonderful little piece of gear.
  4. Ra97oR
    Just got back, somewhat tired so I am going to keep it short. There is a few true highlights for me today. One is the LCD2 which would have sounded totally perfect if not for to mediocre soundstaging, the HE-6 which was a dissapoint for me compared to HE5-LE, the awesome wooden cased class A amp sounding so perfect. AD2000 and AD1000PRM and AD2000 recabled have some very interesting outcome, I think I will post a more detailed followup on that. On top of that, Just audio's portable amp is very nice sounding too.
  5. EddieE
    Will offer some full impressions tomorrow, so tired right now, but quick message to everyone thanks for coming and it was nice meeting all of you I met and to say specifically to ZenPunk
    -  You left behind your Fostex T50 - don't worry about it I have them - drop me a PM and we can work out how to get them back to you - 
    Also I think I left behind my Grado 1/4inch to mini adapter, did anyone pick it up?
  6. alvin sawdust


    I don't think Didier will miss those fostex after winning the HE-4s in the raffle. His winning ticket literally jumped out of the box, lucky b*%$#@d [​IMG]
  7. zenpunk
    Well... I realised something was missing when I unpacked but I didn't worry much because I knew somebody will find them and I came back home with some some lovely HE-4 anyway. Maybe those Fostex should go toward next meet's raffle.:wink:
    What a day! Thanks to all for such a fun and exciting day. More impressions tomorrow when I gathered my thoughts. :cool:
  8. Severanth
    Lol how did I not get to hear your hd 650's Bizzel!  was looking for other cables.  Anyways.
    Great meet thanks again.
    Have to say thank you to Whiplash for the Beryerdynamic DT990 addition to the raffle. Real treat to win them.  I was so engrossed with listening back home I burnt my dinner to charcoal!   This is after i skipped lunch at the meet as well..
    Really enjoyed having a listen and a chat.  In general I found background noise a little intrusive to properly audition kit, but it was all good.  LCD 2 rather special cans no doubt about it.  Stax is nothing but trouble as I now know what I am missing. T1's not to shabby either.  
    Things I learnt from the meet.  
    Cable type and quality makes a real difference to my ear no doubt about it.  
    I prefer my cans balanced (which my hd650;s are, so my ears are attuned to this sound) think this means sound stage is a important factor to me.
    HD 650's are a fine pair of headphones and will do me nicely for the time being.
    Have to get upgraded cable asap though :wink:
    "Edit oh and the RSA SR-71B worth the extra money over the ibasso PB2 for me" [​IMG]
    Meet was great for learning the above, thanks all.
    Great to see so many like minded people, enjoyed getting to know some of you, look forward to getting to know more at future meets.
  9. pcf
    Some thoughts:
    -A very nice meet with a lot of friendly people.
    -lots of Hifiman and LCD2 on show. I guess that is an indication of what's popular these days.
    -Old favourites like the Stax 007 and the K1000 still grabbed my attention more than others.
    -I got to hear the Edition8 for the first time. They sound very similar to Ed9 with a "cleaner" top end and much more comfortable to wear.
    -The modded Fostex T50RP sounded really nice. I might in fact get a pair of those for myself!
    -headphones are too expensive in UK. I hope seller in the headfi for sale forum would consider selling outside of US more often.
    Look forward to the next one!
  10. MomijiTMO Contributor
    Looks like a nice meet. The LCD-2s are crazy popular so I'm not too surprised a few of you had them :).
    We need more pictures!
  11. MrJoshua
    I can't believe I chose today to come back from my Head-Fi hiatus!
    I'd have been down to this in a shot if I'd have known about it!  Looks like you had a great time :)
  12. P4Z
    LCD-2: A very nice set of headphones, everything is quite natural about them from their wooden appearance to their sound.
    While nothing offends and they are forgiving of songs which may normally hurt your ears, they also didn't wow me in any particular way.
    Used balanced from the Roc. There was an awful lot of expensive-looking cabling.
    Possibly the next step up from the AD2000 if the soundstage could be improved. I may have preferred the bass from a different amp, the Roc was solid-state.
    AD1000PRM: Similar to the AD2000, with a more open sound and slightly different bass. Softer cushions than the AD2000, but a bigger fit. If I swapped out the headband for the AD2000 I'd prefer these to the modded AD2000s I tried.
    DT770: It is hard to judge these as I tested them with the Smyth SVS Realizer and the settings could change the sound significantly (a very impressive piece of kit with some neat tricks up its sleeve), but they are bassy and sounded far fuller than from my Fuze.
    UE Triple.Fi 10: The biggest surprise at the meet, I spent a long while with them.
    Ra97oR's had custom silver cables and Sony hybrid tips (he went through a few cables to get this sound signature), so stock UE 10s will sound different.
    They could handle every genre I threw at them, the bass went down lower and was stronger than I expected to hear from IEMs. Female vocals seemed a little breathier than usual.
    Unlike all IEMs I have tried, I heard no booming noises from my footsteps, this would be due to the design of the tips and/or the IEMs. They aren't uncomfortable as they appear.
    All my music sounded lively and full.
    Denon D7000: THE BASS. There is a whole lot of it, and it's great. Do not compare these to the D5000/D2000.
    Audio GD C2.1: Clean sounding, I heard the word clinical used and agree. The D7000 sounded thinner on these than the EF5, I wouldn't have liked the HD800 on it.
    Audio-Technia WS70: Good value for money, although I prefer the fit of the PRO 900 they aren't as big, they seem like all-rounders and have decent bass.
    HiFiMan EF5: I am unfamiliar with tube/hybrid amps, but "basshead" music sounded very full, when paired with the D7000 I was quite impressed. Much smaller than the Jade, but comparable and without the large vulnerable tube,
    making it more attractive to me before counting the actual looks of the EF5, which I also preferred.
    Audiotailor Jade: I didn't get enough time with this amp, but it has a peculiar design allowing two different headphone outputs. I have read that you can change it further by plugging in a second set, but forgot to test this.
    Preferred to the C2.1
    HD800: To quote another attendee, the treble was "splashy" - I found it unpleasant. They did have a lot of detail, even in the bass, but they aren't bassy headphones. Tested on the EF5.
    W1000: I didn't get time with these as the system they were plugged into was playing a genre of music that I am unfamiliar with.
    HM-601: I really like the sound, but the controls, software and small screen mean this DAP isn't for me.
    Headstage Arrow: This thing is tiny! It does look bigger on the site. Using open headphones in that environment made testing the crossfeed futile, so I can't make an impression of that.
    I preferred bass settings 1+2 to 0, but all these options would make me indecisive. The auto-on feature is a nice thought.
    GS1000: While they weren't weak in any category, they were "uninspiring". From memory I prefer the RS1s, although the GS1000 are supposed to be difficult to pair with an amp.
    HD650: I used to own a balanced pair of these, which I've used with a Cyrus 1, iBasso D10, iBasso P3+, and balanced with a Cambridge Audio DACmagic and Little Dot MK VII. They didn't sound right at all with the HA500.
    HE-5LE: I prefer the AD2000/AD1000PRM, but the look and feel of these is of very high build quality. I do not recall the sound.
    If I could bring things home with me from the meet:
    IEMs: Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 with Ra97oRs accessories
    Portable cans: Audio Technica ATH-WS70
    Amp: HiFiMan EF5
    Full-size cans: Denon AH-D7000. These or (less so,) the Grado RS-1 would be nice as a set to compliment the AD2000, however I originally compared the HD650 (single-ended) to the RS1 (also SE) on my Little Dot MK VII.
    DAC: ...I never got the name of the white/silver curvy-looking DAC that Amp City had plugged into the EF5, but that one.
    Portable amps: The few I planned to try were not present, the Arrow didn't wow me with its sound.
    Things to consider about my opinions: If they are uncomfortable, I will not buy headphones unless the fit can be resolved (eg. stretching the HD650 to remove that awful jaw/skull-pressing clamp).
    I like bass full with good texture/detail. Mids must be present. Sibilance or strong treble is a dealbreaker for me, this is part of the comfort statement. The bright RS1s are an exception.
    Instrument separation and soundstage width and depth are ideally all on equal levels.
    I had a good time meeting you all, thanks again to the organisers of this meet, Mark for reuniting me with the use of my AD2000s*,
    and of course the other attendees without whom I'd have been sitting alone with my broken Sansa Buds and AD2000s in the venue Amp City kindly paid for.
    Six of us spent time afterwards at a pub, then an Indian restaraunt, and I have to say I quite enjoyed your company. Please don't take it personally, your faces were not forgotten but names don't tend to stick in my head.
    I saw lots of cameras. Expensive cameras. This thread isn't be the best place for a large gallery but perhaps one could be created elsewhere and linked here.
    *Apparently I "c*cked them up" a soldering iron and a mount would solve the problems I had.
    I'm eagerly anticipating the next meet!
  13. tranhieu
    Awesome meet. Though it was a little bit short that I couldn't audition all the pairs I wanted to over there, not to mention those DACs and amps (especially the Phoenix and the NFB 7).
    I will write down my impressions of some pairs that I think drew my attention the most. And too bad after listening for hours did I remember that I hadn't taken any photos since the morning. :frowning2:
  14. EddieE
    Am going to dribble impressions bit by bit rather than do a huge post. First - LCD-2s - what a wonderful headphone!
    It was funny seeing people do what I thought of as "the LCD-2 face" - eyes closed or half close, slightly hunched, curled finger over lips - all around the room. 
    Full bodied, rich, speaker-like authority on the bass. Rolled off treble? Sure, but that was just a part of its character and would make it a great companion in a small collection with a couple of other phones of different characters.
    Soundstage, as is the case with pretty much every ortho I've heard, is just not part of the nature of those phones. You can widen the walls of sound either side of your ears but you no one has yet seemed to manage real 3D-like imaging or depth yet.
    They were also very insistent on themselves. I think it was Mr Q who commented that while the beyer T1 has a great transparency and allows the music to dictate the sound, the LCD-2 give you their own unstoppable sound which permeates every track.
    Of all the LCD2 set ups I heard Mr Q's was the best for me, and was the only balanced one I tried in the room, I've never been certain about whether balanced cables were real or hype, and the jury is still not in as it could just have been the roc he had was the best for the LCD-2 - but out of the balanced out of that amp the LCD-2 (to my ear) were cleaner, more precise in the separation and generally more articulate. 
    ETA: They also look a lot classier in the flesh than they do in photographs. Up close and personal they reek of high quality build construction, although I maintain that the open cell foam on the headband is a mistake. If I got a pair I would commission a leather worker to make a snap-on leather covering for the whole headband, or at least replace the foam with a velour or leather coated pad.
    More later...
    Audeze likes this.
  15. jr41
    Thanks to everyone who came along, it was a great day - I really enjoyed myself and I hope everyone else had a good time too. I think we had a total of 42 attendees, and loads of great gear to listen too!
    The thing that stuck me most was just how nice, civil and respectful everyone was. I was a bit nervous about leaving all my pride and joys lying around but I soon realised there was absolutely nothing to worry about.
    Thanks to AmpCity for hosting the event, Crystals proved to be a great venue and the layout worked really well. Thanks also to everyone who donated to the raffle: smial1966, AmpCity, Whiplash Audio and Highend Workshop. We had four great prizes to give away - congratulations to the winners! [​IMG]
    Thanks to Musicol who got the ball rolling on this meet, sorry you couldn't be there mate.
    Don't forget you can still donate to the RNID via the justgiving page:
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