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

  • After my journey of gear cycling, I’ve basically accepted that no open back headphone fits me better than my trusty JAR650. However, as much as I love my 650s, sometimes I crave for that subbass and monster slam to blast me off into another dimension. Previously owning the Borealis gave me a taste of what good slam can sound like, but I wanted more.. This is where Evan’s ESX900 comes in.
  • I’m not sure how useful my impressions will be since mine is slightly tuned differently with a one-off monkeypod wood cups that are slightly deeper than the typical Fostex cups, but I imagine most of its inherent technicalities will be similar to Evan’s original and upcoming pairs for the loaner tour.
  • OK so how do they sound?
  • Tonally, it has some resemblance to Verite Closed, no joke, @ChaChaRealSmooth heard these briefly before me and we had similar thoughts regarding the tonality. Evan’s pair has a different set of pads than mine for a slightly more downsloping, smoother FR while my pair has the “pancake pads” that are flat, but very soft and pillowy.
Oh that's right. I almost lost my train of thought. This was the meet where I heard not one, but a bunch of people going around saying that there would be a successor the the HD800. You know, it's one of those bullshit secrets that go: "don't tell anyone because it's super secret, but I heard...": Sennheiser has something in the works with the HD800's technical ability, but with the tonality of the HD650. I kept eagerly waiting, and waiting, and waiting. It's 2020 now. I don't care anymore.


Evidently, this successor to the HD800 was the HD700.
The P1 is a very neutral iem (one of the most neutral I’ve heard, probably only bested by the CA Ara) with excellent tonality throughout the whole range except for some rough treble that makes itself heard basically only on clean cymbals but ruins them for me. Great detailed bass that has good but not perfect extension. Flat lower midrange which is very rare with headphones. Congested soundstage with only mediocre instrument separation which is strange because separation is usually something orthos are great at. Sounds are smeared together and bleed together in an unfortunate way. Creates a kind of "wall of sound" effect. The plus side of this is that it gives them a speaker like sound, not in terms of soundstage but sounds are not totally isolated all around your head, there’s a little mixing going on. Doesn’t really bother me a lot even though it is technically a weakness and I prefer the presentation of other iem’s that have better separation and space between notes.

It's good to be reminded. The Utopia is just as amazing as ever and definitely belongs on my top five list. However, I don't use it. You know why? It's because from a great amp, I cannot put the headphones down! I don't have much free time these days as I need to concentrate on my RL job and SBAF, so I try to get as much listening in to music as possible. The Utopia is one of those headphones which is "eh, pretty good" on modest gear, but boy once you pair them up with a True Hi-Fi™ components, it can just suck you right into the music and you will get absolutely no work done. I tried, but I just had to take them off every time because I couldn't get that network architecture document or executive PPT presentation done! I got distracted from work every five seconds.


Sure the HD650 sounds great from the above. So do the Grados. Those are distractingly good. But the Utopia is on a whole 'nother level that sucks you in and won't let go.
Since the hype machine had recently gotten it’s hands on them, I wanted to revisit them. Many of us have experience with at least one or two models and see it as possibly Beyerdynamic’s best headphone. I wanted to see again what the difference is between not only the 250 ohm and 600 ohm versions but do some analysis of the “black edition” that is all over the place. Below are my data analysis and subjective observations.

I have a story behind this. Well, not the coaster. The original Vali amp. The coaster Vali isn't quite as good as the original Vali, but it's close. I was going for a futuristic Ancient Aliens look with the Lego blocks, one that would be compatible with the Schiit aesthetic.


@Psalmanazar mentioned something about idm in another thread. I am listening to early 90s The Future Sound of London.
Not sure if this is some kinda collaboration with Sony. In USD, $1,240 for dynamic driver version and $4,850 for planar driver version.


The Kali KP-6 monitor has taken the world by storm for two years now. For good reason, it's dirt cheap for 6.5" woofer, and so popular in fact that it's brought down prices across in the board. @Psalmanazar asked me about the Kali a while back and I mentioned that I would do a more formal review. Here it is.

Kali LP6.jpg

One of the most amazing things that Kali has done which I don't think any other competitor has done, at least not to this extent, is provide an insane level of adjustability. There is serious pro stuff here. There are adjustments for half-space, quarter-space, free-space, and anything in between such as how far away from the wall the speakers are place. In addition, there are separate LF and HF trims with a center point of 700Hz with a slow rise to the shelf. The LP6 is also enormously versatile in terms of inputs, offering RCA, TRS, and XLR. There is a variable gain knob in lieu of an input sensitivity switch. Everything is illustrated on the back of the cabinet! There is no need to RTFM. Kali makes it easy.
The amp started off as a 445, but getting easily bored, Craig wanted to try something different. He rigged it up to use 6L6 power pentodes wired up for ultralinear operation. There are x2 pentodes per channel, so one may think this would be push-pull, but it isn't. It's single-ended all the way. The original OPTs were for single-ended designs anyway, so Craig had to keep this single ended. The outputs of the 6L6 are paralleled. This amp doesn't have any interstage coupling caps either. It uses interstage transformers.

IMG_20200629_111116 (1).jpg

Ultralinear is more powerful, punchy, with sharper and stronger attacks. Triode is softer, more rounded, but offers space, texture, and plankton. Ultralinear is clean, with straight lines, maybe even a bit simplified. Which one is more true? I'll be a weasel like the audio magazine reviewers and say that I do not know and that the listener must decide! My bias is obvious, but it's not nearly so black and white, it depends.
A few weeks years ago, I called the Garage1217 Project Ember a POS** on SBAF. Probably not a fair thing for me to say; but nevertheless, I still don’t care for the Ember. I don’t remember exactly which version of the Ember I had (I think it was 2) ; but I did play around with all the switches to get the best sound, and even used Yggdrasil as the source, as well as several different headphones (HD800, HD600, Code-X, Abyss, etc.). The Ember sounded bloated, veiled, too tubey, slow, unlively, glossed over, and with some grain and dryness in the highs. My experience with Project Starlight wasn’t all that great either (boring and unengaging). So I completely wrote off everything from Garage1217 for years.


@Luckbad, seeing my post, offered to send me his Project Horizon to try, assuring me that the Horizon was different – better. I decided to accept this offer. I may have strong opinions, but I want to be fair. My motto has always been “prove me wrong”. BTW, the Horizon supposedly has a different topology from the Ember. I am not sure about this, so I would defer to all questions to either Luckbad for Garage1217.
As well as high-end two channel speakers, headphones, and nice car speakers, Focal makes monitors for the professional market. It's my understanding that one goes Focal for the service. For professionals, service can be crucial. The Alpha 80 is Focal's model with the 8" woofer paired with a 1" tweeter. Focal also has an Alpha 65 and 50 with 6.5" and 5" woofers respectively. The woofer looks to be some sort of glass impregnated paper. The tweeter is an aluminum inverted dome mounted on a shallow waveguide.