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

It's been a about a year since I last reviewed a Topping product. The last was the D10s (reviewed here) which was forgettable - that is I actually don't remember anything about it. I know Topping gear has next to zero interest here, but I think it's important to take the pulse of things Topping every now-and-then to see how far they have progressed. We never know, maybe one day their audio engineers will design by ears first and measurements second, rather than design purely by APx555*. I know expectations are low from everyone here; but hey, I love to be proven wrong. And in the past, I have been proven wrong and admitted it.

My 40th Birthday Fundraiser! I’m 40 years old! And I have been sick with a severe chronic illness for which there are few treatments and no cure for 19 years.


I actually have been doing a birthday fundraiser for the last 4 years since 2020 but haven’t shared much about my illness here, so I haven’t posted them here.

But after reappearing suddenly in 2020 after being absent from this community for 7 years (I know a lot of people here didn’t understand this at least at first) and then becoming very close with this community for 3 years and then disappearing again suddenly this last summer for 3 or 4 months I would like to explain what has been going on with me and explain the illness and my story a bit and also give you all a chance to donate to the best cause you could possibly donate to. There is no other illness that causes so much suffering and is so neglected, where your donation will have such a huge impact on the quality of life of millions of people around the world.
First of all, don't listen to me. Check out the plethora of honest Douk Audio U3 reviews on YouTube:! I think one guy even said it got him to listen to music again! Wow, this $40 amp must be really amazing! A giant killer even! A new standard in HiFi? Crafted by the ancient elves!


Second Harmonic (H2) Distortion Product
When I started to look at how to effectively integrate my REL R-305 subwoofer with a pair of "mains" speakers using a statistical approach called Design of Experiments to optimize integration of subwoofers for a given room with a set of "mains" speakers.

To start with here is an introduction to Design of Experiments.

Design of Experiments (DOE) is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of experimental situations. DOE allows for multiple input factors to be manipulated determining their effect on a desired output (response). By manipulating multiple inputs at the same time, DOE can identify important interactions that may be missed when experimenting with one factor at a time. All possible combinations can be investigated (full factorial) or only a portion of the possible combinations (fractional factorial). Fractional factorials will not be discussed here.


An example trace as my starting point for reference is shown. The purple trace is where I started with the sub in, the brown trace with the sub out, before optimizing things using the DOE approach. The following is the real-time, IN-ROOM measured response for the right speaker:

I just saw they’ve released a new, higher-end Phono stage: the Skoll…
Figured we’d need a thread (didn’t see one on searching).
Anyone out there tried it? I really like the price (a lot), and am sorely tempted.


MOD EDIT - Impressions start here:
It's been a while since there has been a Socal meetup and a few of us have decided to organize a casual meetup.

The event will be on Sunday Nov 12th from 10AM - 5PM. The location has been finalized - it is going to be in a ~900-1000 sq ft hotel conference room by the 5 freeway and Disneyland. I will PM the venue and address to those of you who are attending. You can stay for as little or as long as you'd like and can come and go freely.

It will be $28/person to attend - this is to cover the cost of the room, taxes, and other associated fees (I have already paid for the venue). There will be no charge for parking and you can exit/enter anytime with no extra parking or other costs. To book your spot, please PM me and I will provide you with a paypal address for payment. For now, no refunds after Wednesday 11:59PM Nov 8th as it's too much to shuffle people around with less than 2 days before the event. If you need an alternate way to pay OR are not comfortable sending money to me individually, we can discuss via PM and work something out through SBAF as well,
Recently, I was jamming out to my Olina SEs on an Apple Dongle and wondering why I had so much expensive equipment on my desk when this sounded fine. Still, I didn’t want to give up my Custom Cans-modded HD6XX, my Atrium, or my Bottlehead Crack. But since I got the Crack, I’d been using my RebelAmp a lot less except as a Preamp for my cheapo speakers (I’m not able to use speakers much because of my living situation). I did have a Schiit Bifrost 2/64, but if the Apple Dongle sounded pretty good to me, did I really need something so expensive? Anyway, the 2/64 seemed to add a little bit too much, I don’t know, texture? Graininess? Something. Anyway, I also have a Schiit Modi+ in my closet and that sounded pretty good, but what if I replaced the Rebel and the Bifrost with a nice, compact little package that wouldn’t take up much space on my desk? What if I replaced them both with the inexpensive, feature-rich, and well-reviewed Fiio K7 Pro? Think of how much money and desk space I could recoup then!

So I bought the K7, plugged it in, wired it up and…

And it was terrible. Just glare-city, glassy, overbearing treble without much depth or detail. Keep in mind I’m listening to this with the HD6XX and the Atrium, and in both cases using the balanced out so getting the (theoretical) optimum experience. Likewise on my cheapo Edifier R1700BT speakers, there was a glare and treble that I’d never experienced with the Bifrost/Rebel setup.

How does this thing have so many good reviews? I’ve even seen people on Discord say this is the default budget recommendation over the Modi/Magni stack. Is there something fundamentally different about my hearing from other peoples? Because this thing sounds unbearable to me, and it clearly doesn’t to a lot of people, I just don’t get it.

But this isn’t the first time I had an experience like this. My first proper DAC/amp was the Zen DAC which I loved and paired with a Sundara. I then added the Zen Can to it and thought it was even better.
Estron provided the DualBaX Zebra cable reviewed here. I normally don’t talk much about cables beyond always desiring thinner IEM cables that are soft, pliable and with little to no memory. Ever since I first handled a Linum cable nearly a decade ago, I have been a fan of their approach to cable design. Their design aesthetic matches my own- simple, minimalist and functional.

Photo from Linum product page

Back in 2014 I first became acquainted with Linum cables, when I reviewed their OG BaX balanced cable for Cymbacavum. That particular model, along with the Music and Vocal models, are the thinnest they make. According to my old review, that model was 0.9mm in diameter and weighed around 2.7 grams (0.095 oz), although the newer generation may weigh slightly more. That’s a seriously thin cable. It had a pull strength of 60n/13lbs, so it was fairly durable considering its minuscule size. The OG BaX was joy to wear, as it was virtually invisible and completely disappeared with regards to feel over the ear, even when wearing glasses. The downsides were that model tangled really easily and was a bit of a bear to untangle. Also, due to the light weight, heavier IEMs couldn’t just be dangled over your ears, if you removed them to talk to someone. Perhaps another downside to such a thin cable, or perhaps a benefit depending on use-case, were the impedance specifications:

Vocal: 3.9Ω (out of production)
Music: 2.0Ω
BaX: 1.5Ω
Moondrop has largely made their fame by creating IEMs that hit certain target responses pretty reliably - be it Harman or Crinacle's. Of course, it's up to you whether you subscribe to that target.


Enter the Moondrop Para. Not their first foray into full-size cans, but I'd say that it's their best.

Para vs HD6XX.jpg

Both are supposed to be measured on the same rig, so the curves should be comparable.
So let me do a quick summary. A while ago, and this was on the tail end of the AmirNAD fad (SINAD at full scale, 1kHz stimulus, 20kHz bandwidth, 100/200kHz loads for SE/BAL respectively), Jason decided to hop on board because Texas Instruments had a new DAC chip that could do up to 120db AmirNAD. It wasn't an audio chip, but the given the DSP chops of MM, Dave, and Ivana, it wouldn't be much of a problem to get audio data into the chip. The chip in question was this:


So I guess the story is that TI calls @schiit and tells him: Hey, we have this new B version that fixes the measured ultrasonic f'ery. Wanna try it out. Of course we know @schiit will not refuse, at least to try it. And thus voila, the MIL-B (or whatever it's going to be called). I asked Jason if I could borrow this because, you know, we like real science here. Actually exploring and learning new things is fun! Sticking to an old dogma is dumb (and yes, the THD+N cult has been around forever, read up on Doug Self)

So fast forward a bit, I pick up a Mjolnir 3 for myself and try out a few DACs to see which ones I preferred best, you know, the synergy thing. Turned out the DAC11001B based MIL-B was the winner. Not only that, but the MIL-B had been baking for a few weeks now. With a more resolving setup in front of me, I didn't realize how much it had changed.
I hadn't intended on covering the Midgard so soon after its release, but there seemed to be quite a bit of interest in this product, particularly the Halo topology. Some deal about error correction by incorporating the transducer in the feedback loop. I haven't read into the papers on this really, so I can't say much. The Halo thing only works through the XLR output for obvious reasons. One noted downside is higher output impedance, 2-ohms in this case. I figure the reason we never saw this much with speaker amps could be this higher output impedance. As with most things, I am guessing that by the time the paper(s) on how to do this came out or become well known, the industry was obsessed with "damping factor". Yeah, the audio industry goes through fads too. There is a reason why some speaker amp designs in the early 80s, even by guys who were really good at discrete designs, used opamps. THD was a selling point at that point in time (thanks to Doug Self). Eventually people stopped caring about THD. Until NWAVGUY. Then NWAGUY disappeared for a few years. Only for Audio Science Review to appear and take the THD zealotry to the next extreme.


That being said, I will offer my subjective impressions. I would have liked to do a blind test with the ABX machine. However it's not possible to hook up an ABX test with a balanced and single ended output because the comparator machine is SE only.
Too hard to do. Personal preferences are different. There's the ortho vs. dynamics thing which cannot be reconciled. Throw in the source or amp first people in this argument too. Then there are people more sensitive to timbre in the low-mid treble, which takes me out of the running from many TOTL planars. But then again, I shouldn't speak because I'm OK with the funky upper-mids of Grados, which many people are not. And then there are people who get annoyed with timbre of metal diaphragm dynamics. About ten or more years ago, some guy on Head-Fi wrote a big comparison on various headphones. What he wrote really hasn't changed much.

Inspiration from Battle of the Flagships by David Solomon

Nice nod to Changstar back in the day!