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

4 New Campfire iem’s Impressions: Holocene, Mammoth, Satsuma, Honeydew
iem loaners courtesy of @Bloom Audio
Gungnir A1 -> Drop 789 with Sigma 11 LPS (Loki set to bypass)


The Holocene and Honeydew are the standouts here and the only ones I can recommend, though with reservations. Less reservation with the Honeydew and foam tips, but the treble exaggeration bothers me. It won’t bother most people though.
Don't worry, I'll get to the good stuff this weekend (the Amps and Sound Ovation). For now, we get this piece of entertainment. The K5Pro was of interest because a member mentioned that while it's not great in technicalities, the headstage is good. Good is that it's inside one's head, or that the plane isn't at one's ears. I can confirm this. The headstage is the best thing about the Fiio K5Pro. It's open and spacious. Actually almost as open as spacious as one of those EC DHT amps with the high-frequency AC filament heaters.

Fiio K5Pro.JPG

Unfortunately, that's where the fun stops. The amplifier in the K5 isn't incompetent. However, it's a bit below average (in all other respects except headstage) considering what is out there today. The highs are bit glarey and sometimes a bit sharp. The lows are murky. I don't know what's in the K5, but the presentation is slightly insipid. Think of it as a Magnius sort of presentation, same murky bass, glarey highs, but leaner and less warm. Or think of it as a Topping L30, but brighter and more difficult in the highs, less overly forgiving. Wait, think of the K5Pro as being similar to those default headouts from the RME ADI Pro. Yup, that's it: meh. Something's gotta give if you want expansive headstage for cheap.
Allow me to introduce the LTS v3 (formerly LTA) headphone. It is a beauty! Reminds me of the Sony Qualia 010! Allow me to post one of my janky photos here (ignore the super fake Google background blur - it's so bad that it gives me a headache).


The V3 I believe uses a 2" Peerless headphone driver which is widely available. The driver is angled in the frame and positioned similarly to the HD800/Qualia/SA5000. I would describe the sound as light on its feet, fast, zippy. I have not played with all the configuration options yet. Out of the box, the frequency response is neutral. There is some early bass roll-off (expected given the design of the cup and the driver) and if I wanted to nitpick, maybe a small narrow dip in upper mids and a small narrow peak in the highs. I think most will find the LTS V3 tonally lean or bright because of the bass roll-off combined with what seems like very flat bass response (most dynamics seem to have a small bump in the midbass, but not here).

he headstage is not particularly wide which may turn off some people. This is not a problem for me because I dislike wide headstages. However the headstage is quite deep, especially with the drivers hanging low and to the front of my ears, which is my preferred way of using the LTS V3. So yeah, headstage is narrow but deep! Like how real speakers properly set up the stage in front, except it's headstage instead of soundstage.
This is for the original Mjolnir, aka MJ1. The MJ2 has a thread here. Now, the original Schiit Mjolnir came out in early 2012. It was marketed as “end game performance at a mid level price.” Since then, in 2015, the Mjolnir 2 was introduced with the similar output stage, but now with a tube voltage gain stage, kind of making it a hybrid. In 2021, this was discontinued indefinitely because of parts availability and slow sales.


So for an amp that lived between 2012-2015, it makes this amp nearly vintage or ancient in terms of headphone hi-fi sub-market. However, once this hi-fi sub-market began to explode in the mid 00’s, it seems we have eschewed product after product, amp after amp, after DAC, after DAC, and many of us still use headphones that were designed and released in the early 2000’s. (HD600 - 1997, HD650 2003). Not to mention that most hi-fi stuff in the 2 channel world has a much longer life cycle, and even longer in the higher end pro-audio world and in the upper end hi-fi; and the reason that is because most of those products throw a bunch of technology so it is already packed full of quality and features, or it serves a purpose or fills a gap and now a staple product (SM58/SM7, SL-1200 etc.). But going back to 2-ch, there is still a whole lot of hi-fi in some of that vintage gear and even some of it going for major major buckaroos (JBL, Adcom, Sansui, Pioneer, Dual, Scott, Advent, Luxman, The Fisher, and a host of others including even PS Audio). I know many that still run amps, speakers, and even turntables from the 60’s and 70’s and still swear by them. Why not headphones? Why not headphone gear?
I don't think I will get to everything today, maybe in the next few days. What we have up are the following:
  1. @rhythmdevils modded HiFiMan HE560
  2. @rhythmdevils modded Fostex T50RP
  3. @ext1's JAR HD600
First up is the HE560. I took these to work and listened to them for days at my work desk. Here is the funny thing: I thought they were modded HE5s with the fast transient response, tight sound, and clarity. Well, that is until I realized that I wasn't getting that last little bit of low level information which I knew the HE5s were capable of extracting. Then I noticed a touch, just a bit, barely noticeable plasticky timbre... I took the headphones off, examined them, and then realized the gray HE560 letter on the black. Haha!

DSC00258(3) (Large).JPG
I came into this review expecting a very different sound than what I hear with the AirPods Max. I expected a fairly laid-back sound with a tuning not too unlike the 2016 to 2020 Audeze Era or the STAX SR-007, but with a bass boost.

Instead what I got was a brutally honest, revealing and neutral midrange and treble, but with still the same bass boost. The midrange tuning of these headphones is so spot on to my own tastes that it's almost scary. Seriously, the midrange reminds me more of my modded HD800s than my UERMs or, frankly, any other headphone does. I have no clue how Apple arrived at their target, but I know it's not a Harman midrange tuning (albeit the bass is very close to Harman tuning). Either way, hats off to the engineers who came up with the tuning. Think HD600, but kinda smoother somehow?.
I guess I will throw in my two cents with respect to the version 2 of the HD8XX. To be clear, I've been slightly involved in the tuning process for them. The prior HD8XX was pretty good already; but understandably I think people wanted more than a tweak; and the folks at Drop I'm sure wanted more. Something more evolutionary rather than a mere tweak. Well this is it. Well over tens ago, maybe around twelve, there was a rumor going around that Sennheiser would release a successor to the HD800. That this HD800 successor would not be bright, but be voiced like the HD650 or even the Audezes, but have the technicalities, fine detail, soundstage, etc. of the HD800. Instead we got the HD700. Yup the HD700. The colossal piece of this was that combined the worse aspects of the HD650 and HD800.

Well finally, I honestly believe that we have it! This the truly the HD800(S) for the folks who do no like the tonal signature of the HD800(S), but appreciate everything else it can do. During my time with the sample (one of many of which this turned out to be the production version), I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Wait I thought - this possibly can't be anything based on the HD800(S) - it's not bright at all!

Drop x Sennheiser HD8XX v2 Frequency Response
Some of you may remember my AmpCamp amp project posted here in a recent thread in August. Part of that project was to build up a pair of GR-Research X-LS Encores as speakers. Some of you may remember the photos of the cabinets in the ACA thread, well, those were damaged irrevocably in shipping, so the cabinet maker made me up a pair in "birch red" to match the Dynaudio Special 40s.


Once I had the cabinets lined with No-Res, the crossover and drivers installed, I have to say for an ~1.2 cubic foot standmount, these speakers are heavy! The cabinets are very stiff and also well-damped. I have beefier pair of speaker stands coming for them. My cost including built, veneered and stained cabinets, and speaker premium crossover parts and $45 sheet of No-Res: ~$915. This included the trick components in the crossover, like the Miflex copper caps (which are pretty pricey).
This DAC is an odd one. Subjectively whilst it's too soft sounding for me to want it as an 'only' dac, I do quite like it for many genres. For an R2R dac especially at this pricepoint it seems to do very well. BUT, the claim that it is a NOS dac is absolutely untrue. The 'NOS' mode on this dac is simply linear interpolation at 768khz/705.6khz. It is not NOS.

Additionally, whilst measuring this DAC there have been some....oddities which haven't occurred on other devices. It seems that Denafrips is doing a fair amount of DSP on this DAC which hinders some measurements.
John Atkinson of stereophile found that he was completely unable to even do a linearity test as the transfer function made it present a strange stepped zigzag result. Whilst testing this device I found that swept sine tests behaved unusually, with frequency response results often looking either outright wrong or with a strange 'rippling' toward the end which differed in appearance dependent on the length of the sweep.

This is expected to ship March 2021 and retail for $2500. I live near theSourceAV who is a McIntosh dealer, so hoping they will add one to their demo showroom and I'll have the opportunity to hear it and post impressions here. It does not have a built-in DAC like the MHA150, and also lacks the speaker outs and cross-feed. They've added 4-pin XLR and stereo 3-pin XLR outputs and four selectable impedances. I'm not sure what topology "Unity Coupled Circuit output transformers" implies.


Demo'd the MHA200 at theSourceAV today. Thank you to Wayne there for keeping me informed and letting me know when they came in, then assisting me with the listening session.

I heard two different units, one with stock tubes and the other with a pair of GE Military 5751's from Upscale audio. The stock unit took input from RCA's coming from a Chord Qutest and the 5751 unit had balanced inputs from an SPL Director. I was very curious how it would sound with a good R2R DAC like Yggdrasil or Gungnir Multibit, although I had none to try. Both amps were brand new with minimal break-in. Headphones demo'd were HD6XX, HD800SDR, LCD2.1, LCD-X, LCD-4, Utopia, Clear Mg,
Audeze Penrose X Review. Gear: iPod touch 7th Gen Bluetooth -> Penrose. How simple is that? No fussy cables, or extra amplifiers. Just a phone or DAP and the headphones.


Build: Simple, and solid. No problems. Just one quirk. The cups rotate so that they face down when the headphones are placed down on a surface. But they rotate the wrong way. When you’re holding them the way you wear them, with the left cup in your left hand and the right cup in your right hand, as if you just them off, the cups rotate towards you, which you can’t really do with your wrists, and certainly can’t put them down that way. They only rotate half way away from you. This feels like someone just goofed and they got 10,000 pairs in the mail and cursed to high heaven. Not that big a deal, it’s funny more than anything else. The headband doesn’t fold so it does’t really affect their use, it’s just a little awkward putting them down. I wind up just putting them down on their side instead of twisting the cups so they are facing down.
Wuut? When did the Loki Mini+, a revised Loki suddenly appear? That's the question no one seems to have an answer for - except for @rhythmdevils who I believe may have snagged one not too long after he was defrosted - after being trapped in the ice for decades by fascists. Oh wait, that's a movie.


The original Loki I never really gave much thought to. As an audio purist somewhat, the OG Loki was just another unnecessary piece of gear in the signal path, mucking things up. Yes, I could hear the OG Loki when it was switched in the signal path. However, the truth is that I didn't know what to do with the wide EQ bands of the Loki. I knew how to use PEQ and/or digital EQ to get the results I wanted - in a surgical way. This is where @rhythmdevils came in. I've always loved his approach because it's experimental as he uses his senses without the aid of measurements, numbers, etc. It's a human approach. Probably too much to the chagrin of today's objectivists. But who cares? When was the last time we went to a headphone to meet up with real people with shared interests and bumped into an objectivist. Never. Anyway, I heard that @rhythmdevils that the Loki EQ is supposed to be fun, a right brained activity. Do it Marv, you have good ears. Use the Force. I know you don't need measurements. Have fun. And you know what, he's absolutely right!