AZBAF Micro-Meet - July 15, 2017

Discussion in 'The Meeting Place' started by M3NTAL, Jul 16, 2017.

  1. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    @cskippy hosted an impromptu meet in which myself and @gbeast attended for a very informal listening and measuring of some of our gear.

    @cskippy showed off his newest modifications to his HE-6 and HD-650 which are both improved since the last time I heard them. He has also added a nicely modified original Zana Deux that plays very nice with a wide range of dynamic driver headphones and is surprisingly not sh*t with the HE-6. I don't have any experience with a stock HE-6 or HE-6's on amplifiers other than cskippy's - so my impressions aren't the most informed. I can however state that his HE-6 left me craving one for myself.

    The main source for most of my HE-6 listening was through JRiver -> Gumby -> Freya -> Jotunheim.

    @gbeast brought some really interesting gear that I was very happy to get a change to hear. He brought his Metrum Pavanne, Ampsandsound Mogwai, Focal Utopia, ZMF Atticus, Custom Woody T-50 mod, and an assortment of cool cables.

    I'll get the closed headphones out of the way first - I'm not a closed headphone guy, so the Atticus and T-50 just don't work for me. His T-50 has some great looking wood cups on them!

    The Focal Utopia was a hard one for me to wrap my head around. It is kind of like how the Andromeda was to me at first listen. Ergonomics, build quality, comfort - all excellent and worthy of the luxury pricing. Here comes the rub for me though... There was something going on in the sibilance region that was just barely present that bugged me. I'm kind of thinking it is something to do with the metallic driver, but I have no clue (duh - no-sh*t). The low-end on them is amazing, but it begs you to turn them up a little to get the full-effect.. This caused the sibiliance issue to be too much for me personally. Worth $4,000? IMO - no. No headphone is worth that much.

    Lastly the Pavanne. I didn't get too much listening time with it, but through the Mogwai - I thought it was a very nice sounding setup with the Utopia. It's hard to judge 3 pieces of completely new to me gear all joined together, but it was enjoyable and that is all that matters in the end to me.

    I ended up bring a bunch of stuff that wasn't as worthy as the rest of the gear to get measured. Modded HE-560, Magnum V7, Black Driver HD650, KSC35 and a few in-ears - Pinnacle P1, Noble X, VSonic GR07 BE

    Closing statement TL/DR : I'm not a writer, wall of text FU! and THANK YOU VERY MUCH to @cskippy and @gbeast for a very nice day of joking around and enjoying some cool gear. Thanks SBAF for bringing us together.

    Cheers - enjoy the music
     
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  2. cskippy

    cskippy Friend

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    This meet was a lot of fun! I contacted @gbeast when I saw that he moved down to AZ from Portland and suggested we do a mini meet with a few SBAFers. It ended up being @gbeast, @M3NTAL, and myself with a nice little assortment of gear and a quiet listening environment to really do some critical listening.

    (Sorry for the crappy phone pics)

    @gbeast juggling 3 HD650 and enjoying himself. Pictured left to right, Atticus, woodied T50, my custom HD650, Adam's old black driver HD650, Mogwai, Pavanne, Jot, Freya, Gumby.
    [​IMG]

    Source was custom PC>firewire>Steinberg MR816X >coax to Pavanne/optical to Gumby streaming Tidal, Google Play, and Soundcloud.
    [​IMG]

    Philharmonic Audio AAM, Zana Deux with upgrades and Pioneer Elite DVL-90 CD player (we didn't get around to trying it).
    [​IMG]
    @M3NTAL rocking with the Utopia and bad ass SBAF shirt!
    [​IMG]

    We tried a couple different arrangements but primary chains were:

    Setup #1: Gumby>Zana Deux: used with Utopia, HD650s, Atticus, and HE-6 for shits and giggles

    Setup #2: Gumby>Freya (Sylvania VT-231 gain stage, stock tubes in ouput)>Jot: Primary system for HE-6, Atticus, HD650, woodied T50, Magnum V7, HE-560 and KSC35.

    Setup #3: Pavanne>Mogwai or Jot: Utopia, Atticus, HD650, and a little HE-6.

    Setup #4: Gumby>Mogwai: Utopia, HD650

    This is the second time I've heard a Utopia and this pair had more bass than the first and was pretty well mannered in the treble. I thought that they sounded best with Setup #1 as Gumby provides an energetic sound which commands attention and Zana Deux sets the stage wide, high and with plenty of air and separation. Utopia is without a doubt the closest a headphone has come to sounding like real speakers, creating true depth in the recording with sometimes startling dynamics. Absolutely FANTASTIC! Which makes me sad as I will never pay $4000 for a headphone. Listening to the Jot and Utopia was crystal clear but Jot's lack of stage depth and slight blurring of imaging hurt the presentation too much. The Mogwai wasn't as tubey as I thoght it was going to be. It had a warmer and thicker sound which IMO, didn't work well with the Utopia for my tastes but resolution was still very good as well as dynamics. @gbeast had both speaker tap and 1/4 headphone output available on the Mogwai. I didn't get to compare them sufficiently but he said that the headphone out was ballsier but less controlled, while the speaker taps were more refined.

    Atticus was a very cool looking headphone and I was excited to hear it. However, like @M3NTAL, I don't care for the sound of most closed back headphones anymore. I thought the tuning of the Atticus had a warm and engaging sound that was not fatiguing but also not boring, a very hard thing to get right. My biggest gripe was the decay in the lower mids and bass. It seemed like it couldn't decay fast enough so sounds became buried under a wall of sound. This also seemed to hurt imaging. My TH-X00 was out of commission but it would have been fun to do a closed back shoot out. Don't get me wrong, there are few closed back headphones that get the tuning right, and I think the Atticus is one of them.

    Woodied T50rp. These were gorgeous! They had custom cups on the outside but also a unique sound hole or baffle made out of wood inside. Pads were super plush and comfortable. They had good balance across the frequency response with some dips in the usual spots for a closed back headphone. Very inefficient. I didn't get much head time to form a good opinion of them.

    HD6XX coin mod, dynamat, and rear foam removal. These were too similar to stock for me. The dynamics and imaging were top notch like my HD650 but the mid bass bump made the rest of the frequency response seem too low in comparison. Music had all of the detail and natural tone but it was tilted too far down for my tastes. We compared 3 pairs of HD650, this one, a black driver old ass HD650 and my modded silver screen pair. The HD6XX was the darkest with kind of a wooly sound to it. The black driver HD650 is stock, and yet it sounds very forward and dynamic with very little mid bass bump, and extended but slightly rough treble. My HD650 sits in the middle. Don't get me wrong, they all sounded like HD650s but they were different enough that most people would be able to hear it.

    HE-560 modded with Focus A pads, rug liner and pads vents are filled and adhered to the cups. These were better than the last time I heard them with stock focus pads. Treble was more in line with the mids and bass, and they seemed to extend very low. They didn't have as much impact as the HE-6 but they didn't do much wrong. I've said this before but I don't care for the major dip @ 2kHz. This helps alleviate some brightness and creates a more expansive diffuse sound but things like snares, claps, and too a lesser degree, strings, loose their natural timbre. Still a very good headphone at the prices I've seen lately.


    Magnum V7 was very cool! It had 3D printed cups and was super light and comfortable to wear. The sound wasn't really my cup of tea but as @M3NTAL said, they're Grado done right.

    KSC35 was a shocker for me. I REALLY dug these! They were forward but very balanced, not too much treble which would get fatiguing. I didn't spend much time with them but I knew they sounded good and will easily recommend them for their price.

    My HE-6. I'm not going to talk much about them as I'm incredibly biased toward them. They are my reference headphones, which I kind of have a love hate relationship with. I've spent too many hours to count modding them, screwing them up, getting frustrated, setting them aside, enjoying them, getting frustrated again, etc.

    I finally settled on a simple set of mods that keeps the dynamics of the stock headphone but cuts through what I call the glare, like looking through shallow clear ocean water to a coral reef on a sunny day. You can see all of the details, depth, colors, and features along the bottom but the sun glare that is always reflecting back at you and changing obscures your view just enough to not be able to truly appreciate everything. The glare gets in the way.

    I think with a good power amp fed by the Aficionado or Freya, the HE-6 will finally shine. They are being held back slightly by the Jot.

    HD650 cskippy modded. I've posted my original mod, and then an update to it, which has less damping and only requires part of a cotton nail pad in addition to some of the foam in the box. The results are exactly what I wanted. The mods reduce the mid bass bump by ~4dB will leaving the rest of the frequency response untouched. The impulse response, distortion, and CSD all show improvements. They still sound very dynamic but might be too bright for some with the coin mod.

    MEASUREMENTS: (the AC was on the whole time so the frequency response in the bass doesn't look as clean, but that's just an artifact. You can draw an averaged line through it too get a better idea of the true frequency response. Channel matching is most likely better than they show but serious imbalance is usually real.)

    Focal Utopia
    [​IMG]

    ZMF Atticus
    [​IMG]

    Woodied T50rp
    [​IMG]

    HD6XX dynamat, coin mod, rear foam removal
    [​IMG]

    HE-560 Focus A pads rug liner pad vents sealed
    [​IMG]

    Magnum V7 custom 3D printed cups
    [​IMG]

    KSC35
    [​IMG]

    HD650 coin mod, rear foam removal, spider delete, plus cskippy mods
    [​IMG]

    HE-6 cskippy mods
    [​IMG]

    I can provide additional measurement details upon request but distortion will be artificially high, CSDs will be pretty good.

    If you made it this far thank you for riding the cskippy train of fucked up babbling brought to you by ADHD and poor writing skills
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  3. gbeast

    gbeast Mighty Moral Power Ranger

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    Thanks for sharing the impressions!
    BTW @cskippy can you reload those pictures via something like imgur or something? I would like to see them!

    Firstly,

    Gotta thank @cskippy for providing a kick back spot with nuff room. I felt pretty chill kickin it with them as him and @M3NTAL are not all snobby about what music to listen to, or what something should sound like. If anything, it was moreso about what our individual preferences were instead of what is right or wrong. There was something to appreciate about each individual's different takes on what sounded right to them.

    Couple of things I learned or was reminded of:
    • It may be more helpful for people to hear frequency ranges mentioned instead of words like upper midrange or upper bass because most usually those kinds of terms can mean different things depending on the individual.
    • How my preferences may be a bit more eclectic than the average person
    • How to lift weights and what type of iems I should use in the gym!!!
    • It's revelatory how acclimated you become to your own gear. When you listen to someone else's set up it is like stepping into a whole new world of preferences and selected choices made to achieve personal tailored sound. No two are identical!!! I have never seen everyone agree on everything either.
    Some impressions:
    Mentals HD650
    Pretty even sounding and actually tonally sounded the most neutral to me.

    My Modded 6XX(measured up top) vs @cskippy's
    Mine was warmer in the lower mids from the warmer bass energy and steeper slope in the mids but I kind of preferred it for male vocals which I actually listen a lot too. Sounded the best to my ears for EDM. The snares were just as punchy throughout all of the pairs but @cskippy's pair was more forward with snares and a little brighter sounding. My pair sounded a little more meaty, just as transparent, but less open sounding. It was almost as if his modded pair had a bigger soundstage in a way because the music was more open even if certain instruments sounded a little more in your face due to the brighter sound.
    I couldn't declare a winner though I am sure he prefers his. I like the bass warmth (not surprising to anyone) but think his is the one I would recommend to most people. It sounded more HD than mine and the bass was still pretty darn good even if it was a little less. The kicker was that I didn't try these on his Zana Deux.

    Modded HE-6
    Very evenly balanced with the nasty HE-6 treble surprisingly null even on gear that I felt underpowered it. The other thing was that it managed to sound really clear and clean even though the treble issues were mostly mitigated. Whatever magic was done to the treble, it didn't effect the clarity much. The thing for me though was that overall it was a little too thin sounding and didn't have enough body. I know a lot more power would have given it some flesh on the bones but I also know that the differences won't be enough to make me want another HE-6 regardless of how it is modded with the Utopia here.

    Utopia
    Yeah dude, I need to really try my best to hold on to this one. Not sure how I will be able to scrounge up this much change again for one especially with the Aficionado imminent. I was planning on letting the Utopia go so I can put down the rest for the Aficionado but I have to think of another way now. Meeting with these gentlemen really helped me see that. Favorite headphone ever. M3NTAL said it so true when he commented on how the bass seems like it could be more in presence but then when the track calls for it, it definitely responds. I actually prefer it on the Mogwai to the Zana Deux (3rd iteration...please correct me....:confused: not T or S) because I like the heavier handed sound the Mogwai brings. It gives it a bit more body, midrange warmth, and girth.

    Zana Deux
    Very even tonality. Words like lush, thick, warm, bright, euphonic, and tubey didn't apply. It had good control, decent clarity, good resolution, but an expansive soundstage. Even though it did a lot of things right, I actually felt it was just a bit boring for me... *ducks tomatoes* and in the end I preferred my Mogwai. Definitely not saying the Mogwai was the better amplifier as the soundstage immediately shrunk in when switching but also the timbre became emboldened and a little more rich with just as much clarity with the Utopia which I prefer. I am more accustomed to thicker, more meaty sounding deliveries (as long as it is clear ) in general as my tastes for things like the Odin and Atticus would dictate.

    Sony MDR MA900
    This headphone was somewhat enjoyable but had an odd soundstage. It felt like it had height above the ears, lots of air and good clarity, but like the music didn't fill up the soundscape below the ears if that makes any sense. Maybe I was wearing them wrong. I can see the appeal of them but overall they are not for me. The bass lacked a bit of slam and focus for me and overall it didn't make the music sound grounded.. It almost reminded me of grado in timbre not FR which is a bit dry. I actually found them pretty resolving for the price. I didn't hate em though that is for sure. Kinda itching to hear them again at home and spend real time with them.

    Magnum V7 custom 3D printed cups
    A little unusual for my tastes but I actually liked these. Super comfortable...well as comfortable as something directly on my ear can be. Clear with enough mid bass punch to sound natural. A little bright but tolerable. Wouldn't really get one but it wasn't bad at all.

    Gumby
    I felt like it was unfair to compare it to the Pavane in certain aspects. The clarity was a little behind and it sounded more digital but the overall presentation made the details more forward. I don't mean it sounds more detailed but just a little more forward with the details. I also kept going back to my memory of the yggdrasil at my house with the Rednet3 and Audirvana and I remember the yggdrasil sounding brighter with a very very similar soundstage presentation but more clarity and resolution (the resolution can be for other reasons as I know for sure the gumby is resolving). I actually felt the Gumby sounded more balanced than my memory had the Yggdrasil. Despite this tonality I think I would like the yggdrasils brightness better with my darker gear, especially the Atticus.

    Well anyways... I am off to sleep now.

    Hope we have another one.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  4. cskippy

    cskippy Friend

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    Awesome impressions guys! Images rehosted, hopefully you can see them now.
     
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  5. Mr.Sneis

    Mr.Sneis Friend

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    Sorry I couldn't make it guys! Thanks for all the write up
     
  6. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    pictures?
     
  7. cskippy

    cskippy Friend

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    @Marvey Are they seriously not showing up? I originally used google photos and then rehosted them on Imgur at @gbeast request.

    Don't know what I'm doing wrong...
     
  8. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Oh, now I see them. Senility...
     
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