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

Like the OG Autuer before, the Auteur Classic is the most "neutral" sounding of the ZMF lineup. The Atrium is bassy, the Verite Open is laid-back, the Verite Closed maybe a bit midcentric, but these three are rich and full sounding. The OG Auteur had been said to be somewhat HD800 sounding (well not that bright, but you get the idea). The Auteur Classic is somewhat like the HD600 of the ZMF lineup. Because my JAR600 are out on loan, I've been using the Atrium and RS-1X (Gerod pads) recently, so it took me while to acclimate to the change. I found the timbre in the highs slightly artificial while using DS DACs, but a switch to a multibit DAC fixed this.

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With respect to technicalities and scalability with better upstream components, the Autuer Classic is behind the Atrium and Verite. It's not far off though. This seems appropriate given its about $1k less. Depending upon the recordings one listens to, this may not matter. (I feel a good discussion on source first, amp first, or transducer first is warranted because a lot of this will depend upon the recordings one listens too - and of course one's experience and budget). Now getting back to the HD600 reference? Well the Autuer does share the HD600's small bumps in the presence region and midbass. The lower-mids aren't emphasized so this contributes the clarity aspect. Finally, transient response is somewhere between Atrium and Verite.
The reason I got these was to have Grado RS1 series that weren't too thin sounding. Per my Grado RS-1X review, I found the RS-1X to be thinner in the lows - it did not have the localized mid/upper bass bump of the prior RS1e. See below graph where the 1E (in gray) has a bass bump centered around 160Hz.

Gerod S-Small pads (left) vs standard Grado bowl (right)
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While I loved the more resolving driver of the RS1X, and the fancy wood resonance from the triple wood sandwich, I preferred the nice punchy bass bump of the RS1e. So what to do? I think @Philimon turned me on to alternate pads. I know Amazon had a set that were similar to the Grados, but more squishy so they set closer to the ears. These Gerod bowls take a slightly different approach. Taping the standard bowls helped a bit, but this approach seemed ungainly or unwieldy. It felt too cheap, too DIY.

My ultimate goal was just to get back that RS1e bass bump without changing too much else. That is to retain the charm of the RS-1 upper mids (or the terror of it depending upon your point of view). The latest F-cushions worked wonders on the SR-225X and HF2 to make them rather neutral sounding, but simply do not work on the RS1e/x series. The F-cushions on the RS1e/x series results in too dark of a sound with significantly depressed mid-treble. So I took a small gamble on the Gerod pads on Amazon.
It's a different flavor of neutralish compared to the C. Instead of a slight midrange emphasis, the Mini S has low bass emphasis. Subjectively, the bass emphasis is there but not as high as the measurement above would suggest. The bass doesn't intrude into the high bass or lower mids. There's no excess thickness often heard on bassier headphones. There's a very tiny BBC dip going on in the upper mids which I find desirable, especially with natural mic'd recordings in reverberant venues. Note that this BBC dip is the opposite of the Harmon target when it comes to the upper mids.

ETA Mini S
Frequency Response
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The Mini S is a semi-open design that often comes with associated usually "better" sonic qualities: snappier transient response, more spacious headstage, improved responsiveness to small signals, etc. The Mini S does scales a bit better the the Mini C with more expensive gear, but like the C, it doesn't need an "amp" or "DAC". It sounds good great from the Android dongle and great from the iFi GO Blu. (Audioslave and STP are sure sounding pretty good and energetic instead of softpoo).
I can't think of any closed headphone (other than a tweaked Sony R10) that did not sound wonky. Usually the higher-end we go, with corresponding superior "technicalities", the wonkier in frequency response it sounds. There are some exceptions at the very high-end, for example with Dan Clark's Stealth, which are tuned toward the Harmon target (for better or worse - I know Dr. Olive's target is not popular here on SBAF), but what about something affordable that sounds tonally correct for a closed headphone?

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ETA Mini Closed on left, Mini Semi-Open on right.

Walking around the major film studios in Hollywood, the closed headphone of choice seems to be the ATH-M50x reviewed here. But oh gawd, too much bass. The only closed alternative I can think of is the HD439 which wasn't bad with respect to frequency response, but the sound from it was downright low-fi.

Well, the ETA Mini C is it. More than any other headphone I can think of at this time, the Mini C is the most deserving to have the moniker of "studio headphone". In fact, both my daughter and I have been using the Mini C when we are playing the drums. (And BTW, the Sony MDR7506 don't count either, they sound all sorts of messed up tonally)
This has been an exhaustive review to write, so I’m going to post it a bit brief so we can get the loaner tour going. But I hope it’s enough to give you the idea. There will be a loaner with all 10 of these iems, along with a roll of micropore tape to mod the ones that need it (S12, GL12, PMV PP). Ortho iems in this roundup
  • Audeze Euclid
  • Tin Hifi P2
  • TRN Kirin
  • TFZ Balance 7
  • Gold Planar G12
  • Gold Planar GL20
  • PMV PP
  • Letshouer S12
  • Timeless 7hz
There are a few more out there I did not buy because they cost $1,000 and I have no idea how they sound, or they are ortho/DD or ortho/BA hybrids which is just stupid. Ortho drivers have plenty of extension on both ends and have no problem reproducing the entire FR range with perfection. Theres’ no need for moar drivers. It kind of just defeats one of the great benefits of a single ortho driver which is coherency.

Gear
1) Yggdrasil A2 -> Liquid Gold X -> iems
2) Yggdrasil A2 -> Vali 2+ -> iems
3) iphone -> iFI Hip Dac/ Nano BL -> iems
4) iphone -> RU6 -> ems
5) ipod touch 7 -> iems
The ER-4S was finicky. Most complaints revolved around it sounding too thin, having too much emphasis around the pinna gain region 2-3kHz, and having a small spike in the treble. The secret to using the ER-4S was super deep insertion, usually with the treble flange penetrator tips. Naturally, most people did not like the feeling of having their ear holes penetrated so deeply.

Now what seems like 15 or more years later, the folks at Drop have collaborated with Etymotic to make a new version called the ERX for people who did not want their ear holes assaulted. There's now a normal IEM body instead of a phallic tube. In addition, a set of tips is included that provides a good seal with a good tonal signature (that is not lean or spiky in the highs). At least for me it did. FWIW, I did try the triple flange tip and could not get it to work properly because the body of the IEM prevents deep insertion. Anyway, why did it take so long?

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Drop + Etymotic ERX IEM

I would have to say that this is the most agreeable Ety yet to my ears. There's a good amount of bass that extends low. It's not overdone. Of course tastes and gear references vary, thus I can see many IEM users wanting moar bass, moar upper-mids, more treble, a la the Harmon Curve, which this community on average happens to somewhat disagree with (or vehemently disagree when comes to its IE target).
I couldn't find a thread, so I thought I'd create one, mods pls move if I've missed it. Stax's new flagship. I've been listening for about 4 days so far. These are legit, but I'll report back with longer thoughts once I've done my full review.

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Overall I'm very impressed. Based off of others impressions, I thought that in terms of overall character they might be a laid back warmer listen, but they aren't coming across as that, at all really. I don't really feel like they are an improved 007, or an improved 009(S.) They are doing their own thing. More treble than I was expecting, or maybe it's just a spike somewhere in the treble rather than an overall elevation of the highs. They are the "biggest" sounding stax I've heard but not as big as the Shangri-La Sr sounds. When I say "big" I mean in terms of the overall sound, not necessarily soundstage width etc. Its hard to explain, but to me there is a difference between soundstage, and how "big" the overall sonic picture is.
SBAF thread for listening impressions and audio wisdom of two well regarded products by

https://ferrum.audio

The Oor amp: https://ferrum.audio/oor/
The Hypsos power supply: https://ferrum.audio/hypsos/

perhaps a new glorious trinity
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The BL-91 is a belt-driven table and as such not my initial intention. I had originally wanted a direct drive table. I chose Micro Seiki because of what I perceived as value after studying their designs and noting the poor values of used tables on the 'gon. No one seems to know that Micro Seiki tables are, so I guess that's a good thing. This particular BL-91 caught by eye because of the substantial platter, the copper plate record mat, and the SAEC 407/23 tonearm. The wide band as the drive belt reminded me of what I did on my Classic 4 where I ran three belts to get a more focused sound closer to direct drive. After my experience with the Ikeda tonearm, I felt the 9" SAEC would give me the drive, the heft, which the 12" VPI unipivot arm on my Classic 4 lacked. The long unipivot arm has certain strengths: smooth sailing, fluidity, refinement, grandeur. But drive, boldness, heft - it didn't do these. Different not better.

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The Ikeda arm on the BL-91? Now that would interesting. Heck, maybe the longer Ikeda arm as a complement to the shorter one the Classic 4 (if I can figure out how to mount it on the BL-31). The SAEC 407/23 isn't in the same class as the Ikeda IT-345, but knowing that these were often paired with SPU cartridges back in the day, I figured it would do the job with the low-compliance DL-103 - which it does. I've got an SPU on order from overseas, but I have no idea when I will receive it.
There are basically no reviews of this amp on the internet, and due to a kind local headphone enthusiast I met on USauduiomart, I was able to borrow it. He has now joined SBAF and his username is @tinker . thank you @tinker ! So I figure I need to write something about the amp.

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I don’t have any electrodynamics to use, and wouldn’t know what to say except "eeewwww electrodynamics" (in a whiny voice) even if I did. In other words, I don’t really like electrodynamics no matter what the amp is (for the most part), so it’s hard for me to evaluate an amp with transducers I not only don’t know well, but don't really like. So keep that in mind. I suspect that given the design of this amp, it is a good implementation for orthos so it doesn’t make much difference. Upscale Audio recommended this amp to me when I was looking at the Felix Envy (mostly with lust) as a powerful amp for orthos.

This is a big amp with a completely unique design unlike any headphone amplifier you’ve ever seen. Huge heatsinks on the sides are raised above the bottom of the amp and the front face is forward from the base, giving it a kind of floating look while still looking quite muscular. A LOT of work went into the design of this amp. I believe a lot of work went into the acoustic design as well. But the question we have to ask is: how much?
Schiit Vali 2+ vs Cayin RU6 for iems Review. This might seem like a silly comparison because they have such different use cases one being a desktop amp and the other a dongle - the most portable device possible. Let me explain.

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The RU6 has an R2R DAC and an analog section that has a euphonic richness reminiscent of tube amps. My Vali 2+ rig is a Yggdrasil R2R DAC and the Vali 2+ is a tube amp. The Vali 2+ costs $150 and the RU6 costs $100 more at $250. While the Vali 2+ doesn’t come with a DAC, we all already have desktop DACs, so the cost of adding one of these to your system is $100 less for the Vali 2+. Which is what makes this interesting, along with their similar character - R2R plus tube euphonics.

From my experience and from what others have said about iems that work with the RU6, I think they synergize with a very similar group of iems. However, the Vali 2+ can be tube rolled to tailor it’s sound brigther, warmer, more/less bass etc so it has more versatility than the RU6.