Super Best Audio Friends

The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists

These headphones were very difficult for me to get consistent results with. I was able to get a better seal a few days ago, but it seems that I could not replicate the result today no matter how hard I tried. I spent maybe 20 minutes readjusting, fluffling the pads, but I could not get better bass extension than this.

[​IMG]

Here is a photo of of the earcup, swivel mechanism, and part of the headband. The construction is cheap but serviceable. I have no idea of the robustness of the design, only time will tell. For $40, that's what we are gonna get through. I was able to get my ears just into the cups. My ears touch a bit so it's slightly uncomfortable, but not overbearingly so. Those with larger ears should definitely skip this model. It looks look like Turtle Beach has won the race to the bottom. I thought they were supposed to be a high-end brand, but that was 25 years ago.
FiR Audio, a relatively new in-ear manufacturer, was founded in 2018 and released their first in-ears in 2019. However, the man behind it, Bogdan Belonozhko, was previously part of 64 Audio (and previously 1964 Ears). I haven’t had opportunity to hear any other models from FiR, so the VxV will the first. Fir Audio graciously provided the unit for review.

upload_2021-5-22_12-43-53.png

The VxV (or 5x5), coming in at a price tag of $999, is one of the cheaper models in the FiR lineup and was recently on Drop for $799. It looks like the VxV is the only one in the lineup that only comes as a universal. Apparently it is a limited run but I’m unsure of the number of units that will be made. The VxV consists of a 6.8mm dynamic driver and 4 balanced armatures: 2 for midrange, 1 for treble and 1 for super-high frequencies. The VxV is equipped with a pressure releasing vent system. Rather than being placed on the faceplate, its tucked away under the cable connector near the top of the housing. As far as I know, these aren’t user replaceable like the larger faceplate mounted options in 64 Audio in-ears. The 2 treble armatures are spoutless and I assume are positioned inside the housing bore, as described on FiR’s TECH page: https://www.firaudio.com/tech.
Interest has developed lately for the ECP Audio/Beezar Walnut X DAC. My intent, if you will all allow, is to start this as a detailed build thread, similar to what I did with the T4 Headphone Amplifier. Posts with photos and detailed descriptions will be posted almost daily, once the actual build begins.

I'll be building 5 DACs, counting the personal one for me.

[​IMG]

Of course, the first thing I did was contact Doug Savitsky, the DAC's designer. Maybe some of you have heard of the DSHA-3F or T4? (Tongue in cheek, of course) Those of you who've invested in those amplifiers are well aware of Doug's achievement as probably one of the most pre-eminent headphone amplifier designers in our headphone culture. I personally think he's the best, but I'm obviously biased. ;)
It's clear from reading SBAF that people are missing out on a lot of the potential from Volumio or frustrated because it doesn't do what they want out-of-the-box. This is my second or third attempt to create a writeup of Volumio tips. The writeup has proven to be too grand an endeavor and my earlier draft has disappeared, so I'm starting a thread and will aim to consolidate tips at a later stage.

[​IMG]

When I initially raised the possibility of this thread, some suggested putting it under Pi2AES or Raspberry Pi based streamers, which reflects a common misunderstanding about Volumio - it isn't necessarily tied to any hardware. So I'll try to get the basics about this software out-in-the-open first.

I'm not affiliated with Volumio, and I don't claim to know everything about it. But I have used it a lot and customised it quite heavily. And no-one else has stepped up with a similar thread, so you're stuck with me and whoever else joins this thread.
The M7 is a dark warmish sounding IEM. Pinna gain is tuned to a minimum, just a bit. The upper mids and lower treble are scooped. Basically those into a stereotypical Chinese IEM kind of voicing that enhances the genre of beautiful female vocal should stay away, far away from the IER-M7. Think of the tonal balance of the M7 like the Andromeda, but without the mid-treble peak, or like the Andromeda 2020, but with crappier technicalities: the resolution isn't anywhere close, the upper mids on to the highs are OK, the top octave is muted, the lows to mids are veiled like the HD650 on mediocre amps. I sense a lot of distortion. My bet is high second order just as much third order. I do find the frequency response agreeable and rather smooth throughout the audio band. This is the M7's greatest strength. The rest is rather questionable.

upload_2021-5-17_22-9-4.png
https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/05/apple-music-announces-spatial-audio-and-lossless-audio/

MQARIP.jpg

Amazon Music just announced that it will offer hires for no extra cost. Now we have Qobuz, Apple, and Amazon offering hires streaming. Only Spotify is behind with only CD lossless, but it's probably only a matter of time before they too offer hires. These are big players in streaming and with them on board, there is no need for lossy Tidal MQA hires which requires unfolding in software and yet another unfolding in hardware to reach its potential.

MQA is dead meat. Toast. Fini.
I heard about this little USB-C dongle DAC/amp called the Helm Bolt from Michael Lavorgna's website Twittering Machines. He used to write for stereophile and audiostream, I always liked his writing style and alternative taste in music even though I was not always a big fan of the types of products he was pushing.

I hooked up the Bolt to my 2008 Mac Pro using the included USB-A adapter, to my iPhone XR using a USB-C to Lightning adapter, and to my modern Windows desktop PC. sound quality was rather crummy from the motherboard of my desktop PC, excellent on my Mac, and in between the two with the iPhone although leaning much closer towards the quality of the Mac. I mention this as YMMV depending on what you USB source you plug the Bolt into.

[​IMG]
Rockna Wavelight - Holo Audio Spring2 KTE listening evaluation Blind ABX testing used to confirm ability to discriminate differences between DACs. The results are shown below

IMG_2866_small.jpg

During the first run (training) challenge step 5 was not correctly discriminated. The two successive runs were perfectly discriminated.

At this extraordinary level of performance Wavelight and Spring2 KTE sound more similar than different. Please keep in mind the differences described below are subtle but differentiable as demonstrated in ABX testing above.
Let's take a look at IEMagni measurements. First off, let's do 1kHz steady-state sine waves. This is the one that rules them all and of the SINAD is derived from. Note that the voltages I use are lower than that of another site. I run the output -3dBU which is ~0.550mVrms.

PXL_20210512_155515254.NIGHT.jpg

Schiit IEMagni Medium Gain
1kHz Steady-State Sine Wave
-3dbU output into 30-ohms, normalized to 0dbC
[​IMG]
The timing of this conversation and the necro of the Leben CS300XS thread is rather very very interesting! It's super funny because I fortuitously happened upon another classic push-pull pentode amp just last night. This one is much better IMO! So instead of Leben, why not a reconditioned Fisher KX-200?

PXL_20210511_063616661.jpg

And how much do vintage (real NOS is practically non-existent today) EL84's cost today? Let's keep in mind that for a two-channel PP, we need four of them. I don't know how hard the Leben runs the power tubes, but these things tend to be driven harder in a speaker than DHTs used in headphone amps. That is, they are wear items that will die. Finally, there's no way for Leben to offer vintage tubes because of cost, availability, and reliability. A good percentage of "strong" or "NOS" tubes bought on eBay aren't really so when I put them on the Amplitrex tube tester. I also eschew amps that need spheshal tubes to sound good (mids and highs will be better, but the lows will still be loose). Great amps IMO sound good with current production tubes, but sound better with exotic tubes. FWIW, the KX-200 uses the rather unknown 7591. Unknown is that it isn't a EL84 or EL34. I am beginning to think that the 7591 is darn good sounding tube overlooked by PP amp designers today. I'm using new production JJ 7591 in my KX-200 right now and the amp sounds darn good.
I do not want to buy a pair of bloody HD650’s to have as a general reference. If I did I would want the most neutral version/mod/whatever possible. no thank you

I hate the HD650 except when powered by nuclear reactors and I’ve bought one like 3 times trying to like it. And I think they are way overhyped here on SBAF and would like to prove ortho superiority some day. but i find myself in a situation where a reference would be a good thing and the HD650 seems like a good candidate since it’s kind of the opposite of the skewed sense of neutral I have wound up with and it’s used everywhere and there’s tons of measurements.

I’m thinking a KISS modded pair or other mod that has been measured by @purr1n with no extra tweaks from the measured version. One which is neutral not bright at all. and I don’t like electrodynamics in general hence the dark side. I currently only own one electrodynamic driver and that’s in my Solaris og iem.

[​IMG]
First off, I’d thank Evans and ETA friends for adding me to the loaner tour of ESX900 (along with Genesis brothers as well). Was extremely excited about this opportunity largely because (1) I heard too many good things for Evan’s works since he messed with HFM but couldn’t have any chance so far (shame on me...); and (2) I am now planning to prepare post-covid life – more specifically, I must pick up a very serious closed-back pair for myself to alleviate hard work and tough schedules at work.

IMG_7279.jpg

Before moving forward, I want to make it hyper clear that no matter how harshly I will go, this is one awesome pair I have ever experienced. Good things were already well documented elsewhere, and to make my post as concise as possible, I took out all the shameless love-lettering statements, which could alter tone of this post greatly. Anything I don’t describe in this post would be no less than good/decent.