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

Before I say more, I should mention that the iFi GO blu sounds fricking great as long as we are using efficient IEMs and headphones. I tried a Sennheiser HD600 via the balanced out but presentation was one the soft side. However, I would expect the HD660S, HD560S, HD558 do do well. Personally, I been using Grados with the F pads and the Oriolus Isabellae IEMs for the past few days, obtaining excellent results.

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Yes, the iFi Go blu is tiny.

The sound of the iFi GO reminds me of the first A&K players which used the Wolfson DA chips. This was before A&K went to Cirrus which IMO were more boring sounding in units at x4-10 the price. Despite Wolfson based DACs having the most varied sound signature compared to DAC using other chips, I've always liked the Wolfson. I've owned the AMB Gamma 2 and PS Audio Perfectwave 1 and 2. Except here's the problem: the Go blu uses a Cirrus logic. This left me puzzled, until I realized that Cirrus had purchased Wolfson many years ago. I'm betting the Cirrus chip used in this thing is based on a older Wolfson design if not recycled outright. I'll leave the rest of you to do the investigation. I have no idea what part is used in the GO blu.
Audeze made a ribbon. Oh my, the clouds in sky parted. God reached down his hand. I was touched by the hand of God! Nope. However, the LCD-R more than holds its own. It's solid offering which is a bit of break from their standard lineup. And dare I say it: it's also quite a steal. How could $2500 be a steal you may wonder. Well, the package comes with the Jotunheim A, an amplifier which was specifically made for the super low impedance load of the LCD-R which is around 2.35-ohms. I mean all of you guys in the market for this kind of product would already cough up $1k minimum for an amp right? And we're talking about a special amp too.

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I have a big head. Note maximum extension. I do like to wear the LCD-R low and forward.

While the LCD-R is super sensitive to voltage, requiring barely any potential to move that ribbon, the LCD-R loves that massive firehouse sized stream of electrons. Unfortunately your amp is more than likely a garden hose. At best we'll get increased distortion. At worst, the output devices will catch on fire. Word of warning: if you want to try it on your regular heads amps, monitor temperatures with with a FLIR. You will also need to re-terminate because the LCD-R uses the SR1A's style of termination (female 4-pin XLR). Another option I think could work would be to add a resistor in series because of the LCD-R's sensitivity. That would result in effectively higher output impedance and also throw most of the power from the amp away into heat.
This is a low-end BA driver IEM, but these distortion characteristics carry throughout all BA type drivers. Higher end BA drivers or perhaps better implementations will have lower distortion, but the kind of distortion, the harmonic pattern, stays the same. What I've been below is provide a 1kHz signal at four different levels in increments of 10db
  1. Pervasive high 3rd order distortion, regardless of sound level. It sticks our like a sort thumb and never goes away, even at the softest levels. The BA sound is likely killing you softly with this song.
  2. At moderate higher levels, we see an increase in all harmonics which is typical, but it's the odd order harmonics that really rise. That's the 3rd and the 5th.
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I thought about adding this review to the regular Moondrop thread but after reading the following review, you'll probably understand why I started an independent thread. I was so inspired, I actually took my own pictures, which I haven't done in a long time. Also note I've not provided my normal measurements, as my StudioSix AudioTools for iOS continues to produce unexplained bass rolloff on all in-ears. I need download and learn to use REW on my Mac.

TLDR: Just go buy the Kato and don’t look back; my new defacto recommendation
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The IEM world is a constantly evolving, new model dropping, never-ending carousel that seems to move faster and faster. If one wants to stay relevant, it seems one must keep up with the Joneses, so don’t blink! Moondrop is back with a new model named Kato. Kato is an acronym which stands for KXXS Advanced Technology Optimized. Moondrop, in its marketing, has used the word ‘flagship’ in conjunction with Kato. Since $190 is a far cry from their TOTL models, I’m going to take this to mean this model is meant to be serious step up from the previous models this one replaces in the Kanas Pro, KXXS and KXXX.
I was hoping the G111 would sound more like the V281/280 rather than V200. Unfortunately, it sounds more like the V200. The G111 doesn't even do headstage well. Well, this depends upon your definition. The G111 has a wide wide headstage. It's got a holographic effect as if there was some sort of DSP. Unfortunately, this holographic effect only spans in one dimension, from left to right. The headstage sits on a plane right at my ears. There is zero front to back layering. There isn't much separate either. Imaging is diffuse on that one plane. And because the plane is flat, there is no sense of openness. However, those who really love a wide headstage will find themselves happy. While I do not expect headstage to sound anything like soundstage (speakers), I at least would like headstage to have some depth and a degree of openness. I ain't getting either.

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I had a much longer review of the Lake People G109A (the 2016 [Mass]Drop special edition of the G109S commemorating Lake People's 30th anniversary) with glamour shots and all prepared but somehow contrived to lose it. This is probably for the better because I can be a lot more neutral and offhanded about the thing, haha.

Sources used: Micro iDSD (as a DAC) and Bifrost Multibit A1
Other amps: Massdrop/Eddie Current ZDT Jr (RIP), Garage1217 Sunrise III.
Headphones paired: Klipsch HP-3, Fostex TH-X00 Ebony, Beyerdynamic DT880[250] w/ felt disc mod, Sennheiser HD600/HD650/HD800 (w/ Anax mods), HiFiMAN HE-4XX, Meze 99 Classics.

Full disclosure, this amp was loaned to me by the same friend that got me back into audio about half a decade ago, back when I was under the blissful assumption I'd be happy stuck in entry-fi, which was the AKG K550 straight out of whatever phone I had at the time. He didn't mind letting me keep it indefinitely since he has a Senn HDVD800 that he prefers to the discrete amp, which probably says a lot about the G109A, really, price of the Sennheiser AIO notwithstanding.

Personally, I don't hate the G109A; I just think it's pricey for what you get. I use this amp for measurements since it's leagues quieter than the Sunrise III even with the benefit of running it through a LPS, and the channel separation somehow seems much better than on the Sunrise or (from my notes) ZDT Jr.— hard-panned items seem angled further to the side, and sonic images are reasonably large, almost as much so as on the ZDT Jr. Hell, someone on a far more measurements-oriented site gave this amp a glowing review. This makes me feel kinda icky about it but affirms that it's good for measurements and pretty typical of solid state performance.... kinda.
Man with one meter always knows the reading, man with two or more less certain.

Laboratory work requires well specified, calibrated devices. Fluke 62 max plus is an example for non contact infrared thermometers. However, for DIY and hobbyist use lower cost devices allow those on a budget to make thermal measurements over a qualified operating range. This led to pondering the differences between standards such as Fluke and less expensive, less well known IR thermometers.

Ice bath calibration
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The official subjective review and many others' impressions can be found in this thread. Any subjective impressions here will be brief and are mostly consistent with what some others have already observed. I passed around the headphone at work among non-audiophiles or entry level audiophiles. The comments were "slightly thin or bright" with respect to tonal signature. Depending upon the recording, I did feel the XC retained a bit of that upper-mid "honk" (more precisely a peak around 2kHz) from similar type of closed Audeze I heard many years ago. Or another way to look at this is thin - a lack of body - often the result of slightly recessed lower mids or lows. All these impressions BTW were gathered before I took a single measurement. The "technicalities" of the XC are excellent.

One thing which I have been curious about are the EQ profiles which Audeze provides for their high tier headphones at a modest fee. Roon actually includes these profiles; so naturally, this was the first thing I wanted to test.

Audeze LCD-XC
Frequency Response
(FPC compensated)
GRN = no EQ, YEL = Audeze LCD-XC DSP preset on
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This is a continuation of my earlier efforts starting here where I rolled different tubes (WE396a on adapter, stock 6BZ7, Telefunken 6D78), on the Vali 2 before I did Texas or bust. The same methodology was used as back then to keep things consistent. Volume knob was maxed and output level set to about 0.550Vrms. Gain set to low. Load is 300-ohms. This voltage level is enough to drive HD650s to near 100db SPL.

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WARNING: Oh, if your religion is dogmatic and based on AmirNADS, then get a JDS Atom, Geshelli, or Schiit IEMagni and go away. (We do not recommend the L30 because of some issues with it exploding headphones and fixes which we do not feel will fix the problem, especially with the ESD prone OPA1612). DO NOT SPEND MORE MONEY THAN $149 and certainly stop here and do not read further.

Electroharmonix 6922EH standard (new production, barely used) #1
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This thing is a tank. It feels very high quality with aluminum sides and a very solid feel. The device has curved edges, but is a bit flattened on the edges where you hold it which makes it feel really nice in your hands. It’s a bit heavy and thick when you’re used to a phone, but there are important parts inside and I’m sure Shanling doesn’t have the engineering savvy of Apple or Samsung to cram parts in tight spaces as well. The volume knob is a nice touch, I hate touch screen volume adjustment. It turns nicely, and it also moves in small increments which is very nice for sensitive CA iems. I can get the volume exactly where I want it easily. Which is impossible on an iPhone or even my Drop 789 amp on low gain because there just isn’t enough play in the volume knob (ok, I can get the volume where I want, but it takes tiny tiny touches to the volume knob). Also nice, is that in settings you can set what level the volume goes to by default after it shuts down so it’s not always crazy loud when you turn it on by default. Nice. The only thing that is annoying is the touch screen isn’t as sensitive as good smartphones, which makes interacting with it a little more cluesy than a good smartphone. The (optional in settings) double tap to turn it on isn’t as reactive as an iPhone and the alternative is pushing the volume knob which is a little awkward and tends to change the volume when you push it. I think the touch screen could be a little more sensitive to make this easier but I’m really nit picking here. Once you get used to it, it’s fine. And I don’t think you can expect better at this price and for a DAP.

Surprisingly resolving and dynamic. It really grabs iem drivers by the balls and slams hard. Dynamics sound tighter than my desktop rig (see above) but that could be because of the tonal balance (a bit bass lite). Resolution is behind but surprisingly not by that much. The tonality is a bit brittle sounding if I’m nitpicking, my desktop setup sounds more natural and organic while not loosing any control or having any bloom. The FR feels slightly thin and tipped upwards but the M6 Pro not bright at all. It’s just not a warm sounding DAP. Just slightly on the thin side of neutral and slightly bass lite. Most people will probably perceive this as "neutral". Those who like solid state amps will not notice this at all, it’s much warmer and has more body than most solid state amps but my desktop rig has noticeably more body, weight and bass than the M6 Pro. When switching back to my desktop rig I kind of breath a sigh of relief from the more natural tone and more balanced presentation. Great soundstage for such a small device, it’s not close to my desktop rig but it’s still good.
To start, I'd like to say a big thank you to DUNU for voicing this IEM for North American ears. Many of us do not like super emphasized upper mids and spikey highs as prescribed by Dr. Olive's preference targets. The bass is slightly emphasized with the EST 112, but that OK's because everybody wants moar bass. I did eventually dial down the bass on the Loki EQ just a bit. I would also like to thank DUNU for creating something that looks classy. It fact, it's so classy that I let it sit in the opened box (among many others) because I didn't know what I was. Anyway, this is appreciated because I feel that I can wear these IEMs in public. They aren't screaming bright red with winged demons, nor do they look like Fisher Price toys, nor are there stylized lizards with gigantic testicles hanging under their tails. We have a phrase here at SBAF: keep it classy. You guys have certainly done that. And BTW, finding a good fit was super easy with a variety of tips.

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I actually did not know that these utilized electrostatic drivers. I guess this is a DD, BA, EST hybrid. Integration of the different drivers types sounded pretty good in the crossover areas. However in the end, I felt the sound of the drivers was simply too different. The DD lows carried heft and physicality, were well textured, but were a bit plodding and thick. The balance of the midrange was good, maybe just nick more volume with the pinna gain spot pushed just a slightly higher in frequency than I would like - but close enough. The timbre of the mids and upper mids sounded very stereotypical BA, which tended to dominate over the electret drivers in the highs. I kind of wished I could have heard the sound of the electrets more to themselves without the BA drivers getting in the way.
Well, the Less Is More - LIM - is the extension of this prototype (let's call it development idea) to a flagship level product. The end product is very similar to what I had heard from the little prototype box. The tonal signature remains very even. The LIM doesn't have the OG(A2)'s organic lows and slightly emphasized top octave. The LIM doesn't have Gungnir A2's midbass reticence or forward upper mids. The LIM doesn't have an emphasis or recession in any one area of the spectrum. It does however have a very slight dark tilt. It's also slightly harmonic richer sounding than the prototype, but less rich than the Gungnir and Yggdrasil.

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Everything else in terms of technicalities is raised quite a bit from the development idea. Proper bass slam is now restored - as good as the rest of the Schiit DAC lineup > $700. Bass articulation is better than Yggdrasil. Clarity is better than Yggdrasil and Gungnir. The macro-dynamics are on another level to earlier Schiit DACs. I think the 8812 chip has been unleashed by the Yggdrasil motherboard (which really is the power supply for all the components). The SE and BAL outputs sounded more or less the same (trying to take into account other unavoidables which makes a true apples-apples comparison impossible). Retrieval of low level information is behind Yggdrasil OG, maybe on par with the current Gungnir (maybe even somewhere in between Gungnir A1 and A2 - still no slouch). If you are a microdetail whore, you may miss this. I consider myself a resolution whore; and TBH, I didn't miss it that much because it was a matter of the totality of the parts. This is why I have to say that my preference for the LIM must be caveated with other considerations. (BTW, most people need not worry about the microdetail / plankton thing - they don't have systems resolving enough - this goes for many https://www.ORFAS.org audiophiles I know.)