2015 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Impressions

Discussion in 'The Meeting Place' started by velvetx, Sep 28, 2015.

  1. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    I almost said the same on Twitter minutes ago in response to Guttenberg.

    We should have Ravi devise a bot that archives the Truth of what gets said on HF before bunghole Currawong and Jude delete it.

    Each SBAF member should get our Twitter accounts followed together so we can publicly comment on BS without getting our tweets deleted by HF mafia.
    Social media can help get legit info out. Maybe folks here can put their Twitter handle in Profile area?
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  2. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    Don't forget to purchase the same phone as Hands so your source matches also!
    :D:D:D:D|\/|
     
  3. YtseJammer

    YtseJammer Almost "Made"

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    Wow I just saw that paradoxper has been banned because of his comments about the LCD-4 and Audeze. Amos is on fire!
     
  4. thune

    thune Friend

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    For your inspection: yet another RMAF 2015 impressions post.

    The amount of new stuff since the last RMAF is overwhelming. I tried to get to a lot of it, and missed a number of things too (no IEM stuff). Anyway here it is. I assume most people just read the parts they are interested in. All caveats apply.

    Stax L700: NO IMPRESSIONS. Rep: "You can look at it." L700 has a rectangular driver with radially strutted stators like the SR009 and pads are from the 507, but otherwise it's the basic Lambda platform. The US release is on October 21st, and yet they wouldn't let ordinary attendees listen. Really stupid, now it goes in the 'whatever' pile for another year for me.

    Beyerdynamic DT1770 pro (with velours): Sounds similar to the McIntosh MHP1000: Beyer reps found this observation "not surprising". The cup venting hole is identical in size and placement to the MHP1000, but the cup is slightly smaller. Other differences: the DT1770 is 250ohms tesla vs. the MHP's 200ohms tesla. Sound-wise: large bass bottom, sort of u-shaped with somewhat of a 2k+ down-shelf that makes it sound big, highs clean enough. The DT1770 Pro could be very popular.

    Beyer T70, T90, T1mk2: I listened to these after the DT1770 Pros, and it was like going from middleweight class to bantamweight. The T70 wins for being the least thin, having the fairest balance of <1khz to >2khz, and for suffering the least screechy/scratchy treble. The T1mk2 also suffered from a slight honk.

    Lyrus Audio T9: To me this was all kinds of mud; sludgy quicksand on the bottom, murky water in the middle, chimp slinging splatters on the top. It feels like the diaphragm is not tracking the signal. Maybe some acoustic resistance could tame it? Anyway: it's a first effort, looking forward to next year.

    Kennerton Magister: Sounds like a fair $100 headphone.

    Kennerton Odin: From below about 1khz it sounds flat and extends low with fantastic slam. On first listen, this thing slots just behind the Abyss for bass quality: it hits clean and never rumbles, it's like you can hear the individual bass vibrations. Unfortunately the Odin is a disaster zone above 1khz, random peaks and crevasses with a drop off a cliff near the top.

    Kingsound Electrostatic Headphones (H2 H3 H04): H2 is an early effort and a tin-can joke. H3 is a real headphone, full sounding but a but U shaped with a hot grainy upper end. The H04, is a serious effort. The H04 has a very pleasing balance: Full low mids, good bass, not too much presence, upper-end down-shelf, and a clean/unexaggerated top. Sure, a Stax fan may never accept this romantic sound; but an Audeze, Ether, or Ed-X fan might find the H-04 right in the mix.

    Kingsound amps (M-03 M-20): Using the H04, the M-03 amp has tight bass but suffered a solid state edge and glare throughout. The M-20 has a looser low end but orchestral instruments sound wonderfully full with properly rounded sound envelopes. 3rd party amps are likely better.

    Oppo PM-3: Full sound, easy listen. For me it sounded rolled on both the top and bottom ends (seal issue with my glasses?)

    Sennheiser Momentum 2: Small sounding but fullish mid-upper bass, lightly u-shaped and tipped up on the top. Top end seems wearing when driven from the provided Iphone.

    Sennheiser HD-630VB: Bass adjust works well. Rolled off top, boring and recessed in all the places that would be a problem when phone driven. Odd and slightly hollow sounding, but I think the HD-630VB succeeds in being inoffensive.

    Fostex T50RP-mk3: Slightly lean sounding, but in a "flat and controlled low-end" way. Presence region is stronger than most headphones (as a monitor should be), and the upper end gets a little gritty. Good sounding on an absolute basis, and a great for the money.

    ENIGMAcoustics Dharma: weird spotlighting emphasis (3-6/7k?). some resonance/distortion issues somewhere (600-2k?). Top and bottom sound fine, but for me the middle is all wrong.

    Pioneer SE Master 1: Bass-head open dynamic headphone. Above 1khz things are slightly recessed and generally smooth but with few rough spots. The Master1 has a pretender/grey-poupon air of tastefulness and sophistication. The price is nuts.

    Audio Zenith PMx2: Sunny and cheerful, clean and competent. Personally I could use a bit less 2khz+ energy, but that's a taste thing. All the parts seem to pass inspection, but the overall experience for me never became involving.

    Audeze LCD-4: Didn't hear my tracks and the provided selection was tiny...so I can only guess: The LCD4 seems a tiny bit more open, a tiny bit less-shelved, and a tiny bit more present than the previous LCDs. Maybe a slight tendency toward honk, but not quite. Bass was good and hefty but nothing super special. However, more than most headphones the LCD4s sound like a good pair of speakers. They're decent, unlike the price. (Caveats reiterated: didn't really get a solid impression.)

    Hifiman HE1000 (HEK): If the HD800 is Edward Scissorhands; good hearted and sweet, harmless except for the occasional incident with those those sharp, unwieldy hands. Then the HEK is Freddie Kruger; willfully slashing you in the cochleas, molesting your teenage love for music, killing your hair cells by the swath. (For the lulz.) [I heard two HEK samples on different rigs with my music. One was somewhat less traumatizing than the other. There is just way too much 2k+ energy and a super hot and zippy top to boot.]

    Hifiman Edition X (Ed-X/HEX): Whew! back to the proper Hifiman lineage of orthos. Very good sounding, decent bass, u-ish shaped with a touch of the usual Hifiman treble rasp. Seems like an improvement on the HE-560. I would take this over the HEK every time. [Note, i had to turn the volume down when switching to the Ed-X from the HE400S.]

    Hifiman HE400S: Decent. A bit murky sounding in the resolution department. House HFM treble micro-rasp. Likeable.

    Hifiman Edition S: Removable rear shields concept headphone (dynamic). I listened to it, but it's just a form-factor/design-concept demo.

    Audioquest Nighthawk: Sounds just like a good stereo (from the next room with the door closed) /// This is what deaf people sound like when they talk.

    MrSpeakers Ether: Other than being on the edge of having too much 200hz-1000hz energy, and having a slight midrange glare, it's solid headphone. It paired nicely with the Woo Portable WA-8 in the two tube mode.

    MrSpeakers Ether-C (production tuning): On the technicals, it doesn't seem to hang together, it's lean and small sounding with a few 2khz+ quirks. But I found this headphone to be an easy listen and I admired the clear headstage and good imaging. The faults of the Ether-C aren't attention drawing. They are "sins of omission". But after 20 seconds I stopped caring about what was missing and listened to the music. Perfection may be the enemy of the good in headphones: evidence Ether-C.

    Schiit Gungnir Multibit (with Mjolnir2/LISST): A bit more grit and grain above the Yggdrasil. It's clearly got the multi-bit sound that is its reason to be.

    Soekris dac1101 USB: Soren is a nerd genius. Fully discrete R2R dac, USB input, no loop-feedback discrete output stage that easily drives headphones...for $650! It delivers the clear-open-vintage-detailed R2R sound one expects. That said, the dac1101 has a bit of treble grain and scratch, somewhat more than a Yggdrasil and slightly more than a Gungnir Multibit. Still... it's a distinct sound, a good value, and a sign of great things to come. I kinda want the DIY version to develop a forward correction scheme as a hobby project.

    Apogee Groove: with the HD650 it sounded really good, in a unique way too. (Yes, there was a boost in the mid-bass due to the current source amp driving the impedance peak, but that can be eq'd away.) I dug the smooth/edge-free sound and muscular midrange. Remarkably, the envelope of sounds had a sustain on the notes that didn't weaken after the attack, the entire note stayed strong. On many headphone rigs an orchestra can sound loud, but on the Groove/HD650 it sounded powerful.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  5. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Thanks for the impressions you have been added to the table of contents on the front page. Please everyone keep them coming. If you have something to say about RMAF and were in attendance by all means say what is on your mind. Don't be shy we don't bite.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  6. money4me247

    money4me247 Friend

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    hi, I wrote up a pretty long RMAF impression on head-fi. @velvetx suggested that I post it here as well.

    RMAF overall impressions
    Odin & Lyrus
    Planar Magnetic Thoughts

    edit: I know some of you guys don't like going on head-fi or cannot access head-fi, so I will be copying the text here as well. kinda feel bad since it's a huge block of text. If any of you guys know how to do a spoiler tag, please let me know.
     
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  7. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Added to the front page this was a very detailed writeup and thanks again for providing your insight. Also would you do us all a huge favor and post your LCD-4 Impressions as you know you are in good company here (if you feel like it that is).
     
  8. money4me247

    money4me247 Friend

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    RMAF 2015 Impressions by money4me247

    cheering octopus were my personal favorites! :) Items in Blue are items I own/owned, Items in Pink are items that I first heard at the meet and greatly enjoyed. (lol octopus emoji does show up here, replaced with :D)

    ***Disclaimer: I absolutely hate writing first impressions (especially first impressions done in meet conditions). So please be aware that these are just some very subjective impressions here that have a very high likelihood of being biased just based on outside factors such as source material, external components used, and my personal mood at the time that I was trying out the item. Would love more in-depth time with every item and the ability to run more thorough testing on everything to really confirm my sonic impressions to a more exacting standard, but I just can’t afford to buy everything I saw at RMAF. Take all of the following with lots & lots of salt sprinkled between words!! No offense meant by anything I write, and feel free to disagree! Anyways, as always hope it is an enjoyable read :)

    ~~~Flagship-priced $1k+ Headphones~~~

    Abyss
    - I always thought the Abyss was ridiculously overpriced. I did gain newfound appreciation and respect for its unique presentation and sound, but I still think it is overpriced. Very interesting hard left and right separation. Visceral impact of its bass was definitely the most subwoofer-like I’ve heard now. I can see why certain people would be willing to pay that premium for its unique presentation and sound, but ultimately not really for me.

    Audeze
    - lol. no comment. prefer not to get in a flame war.
    I guess I think if you can afford them & are interested, there is no harm in trying them out since they have a 30 day full refund policy. Heck, I may take them up on that offer.

    :DAudio Zenith - Greatly enjoyed his Audio Zenith PMx2 headphones. Great tonal balance!! Sound was very well-balanced to my ears. I actually did not really find any fault with its detail resolution. I would only note that it does seem to have a slightly thicker presentation. Alex is hilarious. I innocently asked if I could rip apart his headphones to see his mods & he gave me this expression of pure disbelief. His explanation of his mods was extremely interesting. Even earpads were modded so each side had different foam densities calculated for ideal sound with a channel built into the edge of the earpad for venting pressures. Earpads non-removable. Driver completely reworked even using different magnets. Would love to learn more, but don’t know if I would really understand hahah. Super funny and very friendly guy. Very passionate guy about this hobby. Overall, I see it as a quite solid option, though perhaps a bit pricey using my old performance price scaling. With now the release of some actually absurdly overpriced newcomers that do not deliver sonics, I feel my views on price performance may be outdated. hahah. I would imagine very competitive price considering the amount of testing, man-hours, labour, and modifications put into this baby, and delivers a very well-tuned sound signature. Some very great innovative ideas and actually R&D going into headphone products. Very solid product overall. First time I ever met Alex or had any experience with Audio Zenith.

    Beyerdynamic - T1 Gen2. Good upgrades to the T1. No issues with overt brightness. Solid flagship pick with very competitive pricing for its performance. Never really spent much time with the T1 Gen1 so hard to say for me what the differences were, but T1v2 should hit a sweet spot in price point for many flagship purchasers and appears to have the resolution and tonal balance to chill in the flagship class from first impressions.

    :D:D:DEnigmAcoustics - Dharma was the STAND-OUT flagship of the show for me. Most interesting headphone to me at the show and likely my next purchase. Wrote much more in-depth impressions, but will hold off on publishing those as just meet impressions. Highly highly recommended to try out!!! Cannot wait for the loaner tour of the Dharma to get to me. Very excited to extensively critically test these headphones.

    Final Audio - I do personally preferred the Dharma over the Final Audio flagship (even prior to hearing price point). Originally thought they were joking about the price point. I feel like I am still be dreaming/misremembering, but the number was $5k. No flaws that I could find with its flagship’s sound, though a touch of warmth/extra bass. (there was another model that had more warmth, which I thought was too much and detracted from the overall clarity & FR balance, while I view the flagship’s tonal balance to be fine overall, just more catering to a specific preference type). I view this option to be a better value for me personally than the LCD-4 since its sound really resonates with me, fit my tastes, and had no noticeable flaws even after a quite extensive critical listening. But still, no way I personally would pay $5k for it. However, may still a better value than some of the other releases at the show lol. Weight may be a concern as well. Heavier than most other dynamic headphones.

    :DHifiman - HE-X is solid. Was strongly considering picking up one of these despite having the HE-1k, then realized how dumb that sounded & no way I can justify it in my head. HE-X very competitive keeping the cohesive tonal balance of the HE-1k and not sacrificing too much in terms of technical ability. Would love for extended time to play with them. I was actually really afraid that I would feel intense regret due to diminishing returns after doing back-and-forth comparisons of the HE-X against to the HE-1k, but actually at the end of the weekend, I did feel perfectly content with my purchase of the HE-1k. For planar magnetic fans who can’t afford the HE-1k but have similar background/perspective/impressions/values as me, the HE-X should be high on your radar.

    Kennerton Audio - lollerwagons. no comment as I know there are some Odin fans here. To be fair, also meet conditions. Overheard some discussion about flexibility in pricing. I do personally feel these are overpriced at MSRP and expect to see the price point to fall.

    Lyrus Audio - lol Kennerton clone or maybe the other way around. flagship was very mid-centric with a bit of a more mainstream consumer-orientated type tuning. Just not very good. earpads too shallow. weight was reasonable, but still quite heavy. I can say that these are definitely not worth MSRP and I expect to see the price point fall.

    More critical comments following up HERE (not for the easily offended though, and remember just my personal impressions. YMMV & feel free to disagree.)

    Fostex - TH900, still love it. still will not buy it until it hits the $800 or less price point. Ether closed is a better value IMO due to its overall tuning. TH900 has an extremely fun and exciting sound especially for those wanting a bit of that v-shaped coloration. heard rumors of new versions so asked them directly. Official response is no planned flagship refreshes, but may see something at a lower-tier. Asked directly about another very interesting rumor that I know to be true, and the answer was no comment.

    :DMrSpeakers - legit. It really saddens me to say this since I am trying to sell my Ether open (review here/FS ad here), but honestly, I really think the Ether Closed is better than open. Wish it came in the cool red-black finish, but apparently only 3 of those in the world (Dan, Peter, and Questyle dude - sorry, I’m terrible with names). Better bass extension on the closed version. Bass quantity pretty similar. I thought the closed had better bass texture and slam though Dan claims that the open should have better impact. Open treble is nicer by a hair. Dan states that the open has a more mid-bass emphasis which I agree with. Many people who had the Ethers on their top 5 list liked the Closed over the Open. I would agree. Still though, Ether open has its place for certain tastes and is a very competitive option overall in the open headphone market. Closed Ether likely has no real competition at this time though (imo) in the high-end closed market. Off the top of my head only other nice neutral-orientated closed headphones are the Alpha Prime, PM-3, NAD HP50, and K553 pro. Price point doesn’t equal quality, but for those looking for a closed $1k+ neutral-orientated pair of headphones, there really only seems to be only one choice. Dan is going to make a killing here.

    Pioneer - SE-Master-1, Mmm… overall fine, but not worth $2k. I would choose a classic flagship over this. Bass a bit loose and overdone. A bit room for improvement, but then again may be a personal preference type thing. One guy who loves the Abyss stated that the SE-Master-1 was the stand-out headphones for him at RMAF, so fans of bass in particular may want to look into this option.

    :DSTAX - First time hearing any electrostatic gear was at this meet with the Koss ESP950. With the Koss ones, I thought it was cool, but did not feel any itch that I really needed to buy them. When I got to Stax, totally different story. lol.

    I actually did not really get the sense that things sounded more realistic or the most revealing or most transparent or whatever like everyone claims, but the notes definitely had a very unique feather-light touch and a lack of weight that was extremely unique.

    I do have to say that the Stax SR-009 on the BHSE are [email protected]#$%^& NIICE!!! On the BHSE, there is no missing bass quantity at all to my ears. Does not have ANY weight to its presentation though, but that is what makes it so unique. Notes seem to float out from space in a way I haven’t heard before. Differences were smaller than I expected from reading the forums, but easily noticeable. I wouldn’t spend that much money on a headphone rig in general though, but easily one of my newfound “if-price-not-a-consideration” favorites and definitely wins my respect and admiration. Probably my second favorite headphone after the HE-1k (with the caveat of that I only heard the SR-009 on the BHSE specific system). I do think the Dharma provides that Stax experience with a weightier/more impactful (though slightly looser) bass. I don’t see anyone preferring the Dharma over the Stax SR-009 on the Blue Hawaii specifically, but Dharma may rise to the top depending on other factors (such as a desire to have some weight to the low frequencies) or if that specific combo of the SR-009+BHSE is just unaffordable. Basically, that 009+BHSE combo is quite close to perfect in my mind, so very hard to beat. I am strongly considering purchasing the Dharma as my next complementary pair of headphones to provide that Stax experience without the other drawbacks such as the high price ceiling and need for specialized amplifiers. The Dharma was actually my standout pick of the show.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  9. money4me247

    money4me247 Friend

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    ~~~ Mid-tier-priced sub-$1k Headphones ~~~

    Audeze - EL-8 (open/closed). Owned the EL-8 closed previously. Tried them again. Haven’t changed my mind on them. I would just say strong warning to try these prior to purchasing. Goes very far away from the Audeze house sound and brightest Audeze pair of headphones in their line-up. Interesting mid and treble variations to my ears, but I can see some folks really enjoying them. I think Grado fans should consider looking into this option. Open EL-8 definitely better, but still neither was really the right fit for me.

    Audiofly - tried their flagship IEM and over-ear. more consumer-orientated tuning imo. not too bad at all, but just didn’t catch my interest. At the right price point should be very competitive. Don’t really remember much otherwise though.

    Audioquest - Nighthawk. Didn’t really see the appeal. Did not stand-out sonically to me. I think overpriced.

    Beyerdynamic - Good upgrades to the DT1770. Definitely v-shaped especially if you swap between the new T1v2 against it, but very well-done v-shape. Price point a tad high, but nowadays, what price point isn’t a bit too high. Should be solid even at retail price I think. Great upgrade path for those who enjoyed the original DT770s. DT880s are still my favorite classic beyers though.

    Final Audio - The rest of their over-ear models did not really impress from a price performance perspective. Entry-level model is competitive for its price point, but not really the ideal tuning for me. Many of their options was a bit too warm for my tastes. I think their products are priced a bit too highly if just judging based on sonics. They explained due to being all hand-made and they use some premium materials, which is fine and cool. Just I personally am pretty apathetic to whether the product is hand-made or machine-made or alien-made with wood or steel or plastic or diamonds or dragon-scales as long as it doesn’t break while I am using it. Final Audio is a very stand-up company though and welcomes honest feedback, so I didn’t bother to censor my thoughts. Told them my sonic impressions, but never wrote them down, so don’t really recall exact model impressions anymore. Overall solid products, just very premium pricing. I preferred the options that were less warm as there was always like one warmer version & one less warm version (catering to different tastes I think). For reference, I prefer their Heaven VII IEM over their VIII.

    Fostex - TH500RP mid-centric did not standout at its price point. Likely competitive for specific tastes if just a bit cheaper. T50RP mk3 was surprisingly well-balanced throughout, but soundstage a bit lacking and gave very closed feel for a semi-open. Earpads also quite shallow for me. Amazing performance price ratio though. Did not spend too much time with the other two models, but now greatly regret it. I think this line-up should give the PM-3 and HE-400S quite a bit of fun new competition and it is always refreshing to see advancements in sound quality offered at new lower price points. I do think that I may still prefer the K553 Pro over these as my personal budget orientated pick though would need more extensive side-by-side comparison time to really know. Interesting to me that the most interesting news in budget over-ear headphone is the addition of mods that have been added by DIY-ers for quite a long time to a pair of 10+ year old headphones… lol sometimes I wonder where all that “R&D” money that headphone companies talk about goes.

    ZMF - pretty solid. interesting to see how its price point works with the new Fostex Mk3 models out. Not sure of the model names of the two ZMF headphones I tried at the JDS booth since the people weren’t there when I swung over both times. Wonder what they were doing. JDS and Centrance booth people always seemed missing in action when I went over. hahah.

    Koss - Impressed with their “budget” electrostatic set-up. Reference monitor was nice, though I think I still prefer the K553 pro personally.

    :DOppo - They had nothing new, but stated that the colored versions of the PM-3 are coming soon (November IIRC?). I’ve already tried/owned all their gear. I personally feel the PM-3 (my review here) and HA-2 are stunning values. PM-3 is my personal closed portable pick and HA-2 is my daily external dac/amp. Did not see anything else at the show that made me want to upgrade.

    HA-1 also extremely good, competitive against my Lyr 2 + Bifrost Uber combo (I actually slightly preferred the HA-1 as I thought it had a bit better bass extension). Schiit stack vs HA-1 has different treble presentations, but likely more of a personal preference type thing. Didn’t go for the HA-1 since reselling and buying is a hassle. HA-1 may be too bright for certain preferences though. Of course, some $2k per individual amp and $2k per individual dac may sound better, but this is definitely venture off into the waters of diminishing return. Solid performance price ratio and great place to settle down at.

    While the PM-3 is my favorite closed portable headphone and the HA-2 is my favorite portable dac/amp combo, the PM-1 doesn’t really do it for me and I think there are more competitive options if looking for a flagship. PM-2 is a good value if you like the Oppo’s house sound (very rich slightly syrupy pleasant forgiving tuning with some additional warmth over what I personally consider neutral). I would personally never pay premium for just nicer build quality, but I appreciate how Oppo is transparent about that and strives to keep their best tech in all headphones whenever possible with cost savings being only made in material quality rather than sound quality. On the other hand, many other companies intentionally put lower-performing drivers (or have worse sonics) in step-down models in order to justify pricing premiums. Oppo is a solid and stand-up company in my book. Love the loaner tours they do on head-fi.

    V-Moda rumors - Revolver coming next year!!!!! =P Val reports they will be tuned for the “modern audiophile” so likely similar to the M100 for fans of that sound signature. Ergonomics will be highly emphasized, clip-folq planned. Price point not decided yet with no hints. (I personally speculate in the $300+ to $500 price range, $700 may be pushing it I think). Likely an amazing option for EDM type music and music using samples. Val explained something about analog tuning based on samples particularly percussion instruments. Pretty cool and friendly dude. Always snappily dressed. Very happy to stop and take the time to talk to people. V-Moda’s sound signature is not really something I look for anymore, but I really appreciate his approach and appreciation of the head-fi community.

    ~~~ IEMS/CIEMs ~~~

    Adele - interesting concept. only tried their budget model. the adjusting ambient noise feature is interesting, but for me personally, I think I would be too OCD about trying to make sure that both side were exactly matched that it would be more of a headache than a benefit.

    Alclair - Never heard of them before. Couldn’t really get a good fit with their IEMs, so no real comments here.

    :DAtomic Floyd - I really liked this brand!!! Their balanced armature model (I believe mini-darts?) was my favorite in general. The balanced-armature-only model is very neutral to my ears. I kept confusing model names because they all looked exactly the same. Not sure if there is a sonic difference between Titanium vs non-Titanium version. I mainly played with their balanced-armature-only model and the Titanium model. The SuperDarts Titanium version (balanced armature + dynamic driver model) is probably more versatile. SuperDarts has a more natural sound that is neutral enough for work with classical. Amazing at EDM and rock. Build quality excellent. Cool practical flat travel case. Killer price point for its performance. Only cons would be the majority of their other offerings probably too warm for my tastes. The balanced-armature-only option (I believe named mini-darts) was almost perfect (just needs a little bit more bass) while the Titanium was almost perfect with just barely too much bass. I would likely get the SuperDarts at the end of the day and let my brain adjust to the sound sig. A bit more bass than HD650 I would estimate for most of their models, but I would highly recommend checking out the Titanium and whatever model their balanced-armature-only version is. Balanced-armature model seemed like the HD600 to me. I would likely purchase one of these when the Android remote version comes out. Leaning a bit more towards the SuperDarts Titanium upon reflection.

    :DAurisonics - Legit. My experience with IEMs is limited, but from a performance price ratio and a general sound quality perspective, I think they have some very compelling options. Would need to spend more time with them in the future. Price point competitive for their offerings. Played with their Bravo Series: Eva, Forte (treble-focused option), Harmony. Didn’t try Kicker (bass-focused option) as felt Harmony already had ample bass. Forte was not too bright for my tastes which is nice. Both the Forte and Harmony felt like workable options for my needs and along the lines of what I would be looking for.

    Echobox - Their IEM was too bright for my tastes. May be an option for trebleheads or Grado fans to consider. Unfortunately, their IEM is probably not the first one to use titanium housings based on my limited knowledge of the IEM market, but who knows. I have no interest in DAPs, so didn’t play with their whiskey-flask-shaped Dap. Wish them better luck next time, their booth was in a weird hard-to-find spot.

    Final Audio - liked the Heaven VII. Fi-ba-ss was solid as well. Improved comfort on the Fi-ba-ss and that would be my personal pick if going for one Final Audio IEM. Premium pricing though. Thought FI-BA-SS was an improvement in all areas over the VII (especially comfort-wise in ergonomics that was my only complaints of the VII beyond price point). Ran into another head-fier here, but lol. I’m horrible with names. Perhaps @evashrug?

    Jerry Harvey Audio - order of preference was JH16 > Roxane … Aegis and Layla did not stand out to me at all. Turned out to be my least favorite CIEMs out of the big three (UE, Noble, JH). First time hearing them.

    :DNoble - Noble is LEGIT in terms of sound quality. Savant and Noble 6 were my favorites. I have no experience and never even read anything about Noble before. Did not know price points or any other info. Bearded person with glasses just handed me options to try based on how I said the sound signature was lacking per my tastes.

    We started with the Noble 4 (too bright for me), Noble 6 (felt it was very well balanced), Savant (natural sounding and overall no glaring peaks/dips - extremely engaging and vivid high energy presentation without being bright at all - loved this sound signature). Savant was my favorite CIEM sound of the show. Strongly considered purchasing. K10, did not really catch my attention. Overall all seemed to be solid IEMs, but I would chose the Savant regardless of price point. Only found out afterwards the price point and tech in each. I really don’t think the number of drivers matter after this experience. Noble was my favorite CIEM company of the show just based on sound quality. Price points seemed a tad high, but then again, I am not too familiar with CIEMs anyways. Really strongly considered purchasing, but I do think the CIEM market will hit some better price points in the near future as some newcomers and new companies get into this game.

    :DUltimate Ears - Really cool tech being displayed here. The ability to rapidly play with all the different UE sounds with their customized IEM housing all the different drivers was extremely nice and eye-opening. Can run lots of A/B direct comparisons. UERM is quite nice though actually not my favorite. Track dependent I liked the UE7 (rock, jazz, vocals) and UE11 (EDM). The UE VRM (male-vocal-focused) and UE VRM (female-vocal-focused) sucked terribly. Not worth it imo and does not work well for their intended usage. UE18 is bassier and more vibrant with a very nice sense of ambient atmosphere, air, and soundstage, though not really what I would personally pick. UERM is the most versatile option though and I think if I was to purchase one it would be the UERM. Not the most exciting CIEM, but extremely solid pick I think especially for those who crave a very even sound without any particular emphasis. Well-done treble that was detailed and present without being overly bright for my tastes. I was so close to purchasing one honestly, but kept talking myself in/out of it. Ran into @Cotnijoe here helping out for UE =P He knows his CIEMs/IEMs much better than me so really appreciated him showing me around.

    :DRHA - really impressed with their budget model S500i. Killer option. Very slick fit with sound quality and overall balance extremely competitive per price point. Would have guessed a much higher price point. Their flagship did not fit well for me. Overall flagship competitive at its price point, but the budget option is the really legit option here that should be looked into. Would have purchased on the spot if it had an Android remote. Unfortunately, no Android remote in the near future, but a mic-less option is available. iOS version play/pause button press actually does work with Android phones. May look into getting one in the future.

    ~~~IEM Accessories~~~

    :DComply - I love Comply tips, only issue with them is durability. I think Comfort versions with olive-shaped tips are the best. Non-wax-guard Isolation version comes in different colors though which is cool. Sportfit versions seem to run a bit smaller (probably need large for those, medium for everything else). Ended up buying a bunch of these.

    :DSpinfit - I love Spinfits. comfy, solid isolation. currently, the color of the spinfit canal is supposed to correlate with fit (white = small, red = medium, yellow = large). early batch had some color variations, but newest models will all be color-coded. old man taking a nap at spinfit table was cute & nice. Purchased a set of spinfit mediums :)

    Luckily for my wallet, eartip purchases were the only things I bought at RMAF, but was sorely tempted by many other items.

    ~~~Amplifiers~~~

    The reason I went to RMAF ‘15 was to hunt for the perfect end-game amplifier. Final contestants were whittled down to the Liquid Gold, GS-X MK2, and Schiit Mjolnir 2. If anyone has any helpful opinions, I don’t care. Just need a loan for $3-4k or someone who is really good at driving very fast & keeping their mouth shut. bank opens at 9am =P ...PM me?

    :DCavalli - Legit. Pricey. Possibly unique sound. I did get the sense that things were smoother on Cavalli but that just might be placebo effect from Mr. Cavalli’s smooth soothing voice. Very tactful guy. Doesn’t play favorites or say personal preferences. Great poker face. Very friendly and welcoming. Cool dude. He did give me the warning to be careful as his products could be addicting. Which I appreciated his advice, I totally disregarded it… and wound up circling back to his table repeatedly =S ...again… and again… and foreverr…...

    The Cavalli Curse. That is what his next dang product should be called. Dr. Cavalli always waved with a knowing grin when I swung by again hahah.

    Unnamed Liquid Portable (silicone codename now) seemed baller, could drive the HE-1k. 15 hours battery life. Carbon nice, two models had different volume pots and were still prototypes. Final version would have one of those pots. Not sure if volume line or Cavalli dot will be drawn on the pot. Prototypes didn’t really have any markings on pots. Dr. Cavalli did say certain IEMs may have noise on Carbon, but no noise if you use balanced connects. He lend me his own IEMs (K10 maybe?) which was super nice. HE-1k can be driven on Carbon, though I did seem to be getting a bit high with the volume (probably due to meet conditions). November shipping was anticipated. Tried Crimson extensively since it was on sale. Fell in love with the Gold by accident instead. lol. fml. Glass was at MrSpeakers’ table. By then, I had totally learned my lesson and definitely did not go anywhere near trying it. Stayed on the safe Mjolnir 2 + GMB stack since that is gear that I could actually afford lol.

    Centrance - mini-M8 is a pretty solid portable if interested in portables dac/amps. Centrance people kept disappearing when I was trying to find them before scavenger hunt deadline. lol.

    Creative - E5 is actually quite legit. probably not going to appeal to audiophiles, but bluetooth and SBS features work quite nicely. Very solid product for normal people. Joked that the X7 should have came in two version red/black for gamers and wood/black for audiophiles. Apparently, that was actually discussed, but shot down by the idiot in charge. Imagine the wave of head-fi interest if there was just a bit of nice audiophile-grade wood on that X7. Both solid products. Just wouldn’t bring me enough audiophile street cred on head-fi, so I reluctantly passed. lol who am I kidding, I am actually planning on buying both in secret without updating my head-fi profile (mwhahaha!)

    :DHeadAmp - GS-X MK2 - strongly strongly considering purchasing this item. looks sexy. Badass piece of gear that sounded better every time I went back to relisten. Nothing to say about this amplifier because you don’t even hear it. Just the headphones and your music.

    iFi Audio - all pretty solid. cool little tower stack of iCans or iNaos looked really fancy with lots of components that all did various things. Tried the iRetro. Got to demo the upcoming Pro desktop solid-state/tube switchable class A desktop amp. Not tube rollable unfortunately and someone stole its volume knob. Still working out small details and tuning. I think this was the product with an April-ish release date. Wrote down a bunch of dates, but lol, did not write down what the dates were for.

    :DJDS - Element is nice. Volume knob is nice a big. Very black background with a black knob on a black chassis. Sounded very elemental to my ears. lol who am I kidding, accordingly to my lord and savior, thou cannot really hear differences in amplifiers anyways & thou shalt only buy the o2+odac. I cannot consider this new sexy option until a extremely detailed list of measurements & graphs that I don’t understand is posted to a blog comparing it favorable to the one perfectly measuring set-up that has been preordained by He-who-shall-not-be-named.

    :DMcIntosh - lol for some reason I really like the way the MHA-100 sounds. Heard this previously. Not the most resolving amplifier I think, but adds this rich warmth and textural thickness and weight that is quite enjoyable. Still not worth it for me from a performance price perspective though as I would be using a different dac and not using the speaker amp at all. Would consider if I could find this type of sound at the $2k price point. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

    :DQuestyle - badass cma800r amplifiers. not really a fan of the dac. Booth was baller. Had all the flagships there for me to play around with and rep was down to shoot the breeze. running dual monoblocks does make a difference even when I volume-matched by ear. works well with all the headphones I tried. Probably too pricey though. I think you can probably find similar sound quality at a more competitive price point. But damn, what an appealing option. Just having two amps instead of one made me feel so much more badass. so in laymen terms current mode amplification superior because it is faster than voltage-based amplifications at reproducing the signal? Current mode amplifications is fast enough for create microwaves current mode amplification is what got us cellphone tech? Only issue is fixed impedance, so switching to voltage mode at both input and output to allow for lots of headphones to be used? No idea if I repeated what he said right or what any of this really means, but appreciate the time taken to try to dumb it down for me. Should have paid more attention in physics class. Really enjoyed chatting with the rep here. Super chill guy. Was cool with me running A/B testing of single CMA800r vs dual CMA800r and doing different headphone comparisons at his booth. lol.

    :DSchiit - Turned out I preferred the Mjolnir 2's sound signature over the Ragnarok. Wallet-friendly finding. maybe Raggy a bit bright/harsh/clinical for me? Or maybe they sounded the same? or maybe the tube distortion more euphonic to my ears? Or maybe... omg, ******* A/B testing is annoying. Just go with the damn cheaper option & I don’t have room on my desk for that satanic beast from hell named Raggy anyway.

    ~~~DAC~~~

    :DAudio.GD - Noticed a Dac19 (probably @Stillhart’s, saw him busy strutting around with some badass huge trophy so didn’t ask) hooked up to the Carbon. Seems solid. Not going to get into a Gungnir Multibit comparison since we all know that since I now own the Gungnir Multibit, everything else is therefore inferior & everyone who disagrees is wrong.

    :DSchiit - Already bought Gungnir Multibit (Gungnir Multibit) prior to RMAF. Tried Bifrost MB (They only had Bifrost MB there. So no frame of reference against old Bifrost Uber or Bifrost 4490 though as none at show. Only had Modi for D/S comparisons, but I’ve already graduated past the Modi so my golden ears cannot be contaminated with such low quality dac-ing, so I didn’t try it). Tried Yggdrasil. Lots of fun experience!! :) Basically I think, if you need balanced, go Gungnir Multibit. If not, BuMBlebee. If you want all the ladies to talk about your huge monstrous audiophile street cred, Yggdrasil it out.

    Didn’t bother auditioning any other dacs, because per head-fi discussion, R2R rules the world and no reason to even consider anything else. ever.

    ~~~Other~~~

    Darin Fong Audio - Impressive, but not really my cup of tea. Recalled that his software (with the “all enhancements off” actually added distortion & was not identical to my original set-up when I tested at home). Was told that it was a bug that he will fix. Wondered if he fixed it yet, but felt it might be rude to ask.

    Kimber Kable - failed their test. I went with bassier but the answer was more spacious. just fyi.

    MIT cables - enjoyed listening to their technical explanation. Loved their intro: “Have you heard of MIT?” Ah… MIT, of course I’ve heard of MIT…..

    ~~~Conclusions~~~

    So that concludes my RMAF impressions. Only half serious with half the stuff I wrote & the rest was scribbles that I can’t really read anymore so I just made up stuff. Just very enlightening experience for me overall & I had a great time :) Cheers!

    edit: Will add pictures later, but I'm really not a take lots of photos type guy. Only took pictures of stuff I was interested in.

    edit2: Planar magnetic summary for folks just really focused on those. Link here. May not be the most PC post on head-fi, so reader beware. Likely many opinions written will cause controversy. Just take a deep breath & realize that just one subjective opinions of one member of a vast community. We can all play nice in this large sandbox & feel free to agree to disagree with very different impressions without getting into any flame wars. No issues on my end if you call B$ on my impressions. They are only my personal impressions. Also, found out at RMAF that my ears are ACTUALLY LITERALLY full of wax!!! ROTFL. perhaps some of my impressions will change after a daily regiment of saline solution to clean out all that gunk =P

    Hope everyone has a chill week! :)
     
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  10. money4me247

    money4me247 Friend

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    So this is not as PC of a comment as I typically try to write. Some uncensored thoughts. Do not read if you are easily offended.

    lol note on Kennerton Audio Odin & Lyrus Audio Designs flagship (lol didn't even bother to catch its name). basically just CLONES of each other. actually hilarious funny when you see them in person.

    Differences:
    • Odin's design was worse than Lyrus, poorly thought-out screwing mechanism that needs to be loosened to adjust the headband.
    • Lyrus basically using the old-school Hifiman design (HE-4/HE-5/HE-6) with additional padding on their headband.
    • Odin "felt" heavier despite having suspension strap. Just going by feel though, as I couldn't measure weights.
    • Lyrus's earpad depth shallower, too shallow IMO.
    • Odin's grill faced "V"-ways. Lyrus's grill faced "^"-ways. lollerwagons (purely my own uncensored thoughts but seems to me they are probably sourcing components from whatever random same chinese company =P)
    Similarities:
    • both quite heavy, basically throwback to the days of terribly heavy planars... wtf. Both quite noticeably weighty when worn. Not likely suitable for long listening sessions. There was nothing about either model's sound would make me tolerate the extra weight and discomfort.
    • both gunning for the $2k+ price point
    • both companies hilariously have no previous experience designing planar magnetic headphones (not-PC thought, but I would not be surprised if the same drivers used.)
    • Both models did not seem to be seriously respected by other vendors. No one really wanted to have their external components paired with these headphones hahah.
    Sonically (Personal subjective opinions from demo conditions - YMMV!):
    • Sonically Odin > Lyrus's flagship to my ears. Neither impressive enough to justify a $2k+ price tag though.
    • Both have eerily similar mid-centric tunings.
    • ODIN: Odin's bass was acceptably well-done for a planar magnetic, still a bit loose. Soundstage not going to win any awards, but likely better than Audeze (which is hilariously easy imo as Audeze typically have a bit congested sound stage & smallest soundstage of flagships in general IMO). Mid-centric type tuning. Bit of weirdness with upper mids made vocals sound a bit off to me and things appeared a bit thin despite the loose bass - which is a very interesting achievement. Treble variation at the top end. Would need more time to say exactly where. Lower-mids and bass would be its strength, but not remotely interested in re-listening or purchasing. Would easily pick any of the previous flagships over this model. Overall, no glaring flaws I think but no really exceptional strengths either. Not worth its price tag compared to what you can currently purchase. Spent a bit more time with them since such previously positive hype. Conclusion afterwards is that I personally probably hear very differently & cannot rely on the impressions of people on the French forum.
    • Lyrus: lollerwagons. After I heard it, I had to ask if this was a prototype or the final version. Unfortunately, it is the final version. Strongly mid-centric to my ears. Overall sound signature not well balanced and bass quality not up to the standards I typically associate with planar magnetics. Quite a bit of bass bloat, consumer-oriented tuning I think. Did not bother listening to for too long. Not really worthwhile.
    For Odin fans, you can feel happy that odin has "slayed" another flagship planar magnetic competitor sonically. Unfortunately, definitely falls terribly short against everything else even the really old school Hifimans in terms of practicality of design.

    neither the odin or the lyrus flagship brings anything new to the planar magnetic playing field, and if people start associating their sound quality with what you should expect at the $2k+ price point... well, I think at least manufacturers/distributors can rest happily. I was caught off-guard on how poorly their price points reflect my own views on performance. Does not compete well with previous generation planar magnetics if using their price points as standards as what you can expect for performance. With the new LCD-4 really muddling up performance price expectations, I can see some people thinking these items are worth $2k.

    I personally would expect severe discounting of price on both models relatively quickly. Not really sure if these are really even that competitive against mid-tier or discontinued offerings by other companies.

    For planar magnetic fans in general, sad day.
     
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  11. money4me247

    money4me247 Friend

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    General Planar Magnetic Follow-Up

    feel free to agree or disagree with my opinions. they are just meet condition impressions. take it however you like. large helping of salt recommended! =) I was just teasing with the french comment (I seriously trust @Sorrodje's impressions with my life though I've never met him just based on his well-articulated insightful posts on the internet! if he disagrees with me, I would say go with his impressions hahah)

    some background & disclaimer: typically I prefer Hifiman over other planar brands from my personal comparisons. Currently, use the HE-1k as my main pair of headphones. Owned the LCD-X, EL-8 closed, HE-400, HE-560, HE-1k, PM-1, PM-3, Alpha Prime, Ether open. Prefer the LCD-X over the LCD-3. Prefer the HE-560 over the LCD-X. PM-1 weakest planar flagship imo, but at the right price point for certain tastes can be very appealing (hence PM-2 can be a very good option for some). PM-3 is the strongest closed planar magnetic from a price performance perspective and offers a relatively clean linear tuning imo. May no longer be the case with the new Fostex revisions though I did not spend enough time with them. Audeze headphones are all strongly colored to me. For me, the less said about the EL-8, the better. If you hear no faults with the EL-8, I don't think my impressions will be reflective of your experiences, so I strongly distrust people whose impressions of the EL-8 differ from mine. I also view the LCD-XC in a very poor light. I view Audeze headphones in general as more of a complimentary pair of headphones than a main. LCD-X and LCD-3 are the only Audeze headphones that I view to be competitive and I feel like it is a personal preference pick between those. I have audition experience with all the flagship planars on the market except the Isophones and HE-6. My priorities are sound & comfort... could really care less about looks or build quality or premium feeling (as long as it won't break on me, I'm chill).

    ~~~Most Impressive Planar Magnetic Flagships to Me at RMAF '15~~~

    The most impressive high-end planar magnetics that I haven't heard before at the show were the audio zenith, ether closed, and he-x.

    I would estimate both the audio zenith and ether closed is a bit pricey for what you get, but in comparison to the odin/lyrus audio and new LCD-4... lol. not really sure how to view performance price anymore. Seems like there are quite a few offerings are escalating in price without bringing significantly improved sonics to the table. Odin and Lyrus are the two extreme examples of this imo. May be suitable for certain tastes and do have their own individual strengths, but do not offer a competitive overall package. They are more focused on looks and giving a premium feel rather than the sound and comfort. I disagree with those priorities. At $2k, their sound should leave no question marks. I feel like the Ether and Audio Zenith is able to achieve that at about $1.5 or less, so at $2k it should be expected.

    Audio Zenith offers very solid overall tuning. Concern for me is price point. Everything else is excellent and if viewed from a perspective of the new pricing trends, it's price is competitive. Disagree that it is lacking resolution per some other people's comments, but I do think it has a slightly thicker feel which may contribute to that sense. Alex is a hilarious guy. Very passionate about what he is doing and passionate about this hobby. Very proud of his work. First time I met him.

    Ether Closed is likely better than the Ether Open (at least for what I am looking for in overall sound signature tuning). Sad for me as I am trying to sell my Ether Open. Technical abilities close enough that it is hard to call in meet conditions. For those who think the Ether Open is overpriced and the HD650 is better, Ether closed will likely not impress. For those who are impressed with the Ether open, the Ether closed will be even more impressive. My only concern with them is price point. They nail everything else. With the new pricing trends, price is no longer a concern I think. Reports on Dan being hard-working is not exaggerated. He was always either talking to reps or distributors or fans. I did not see him take any real breaks. First time I met him. Very nice guy. Very business-minded guy. Very proud of his products.

    HE-X's price point not announced (estimates from $1.5-$2k). I would view it extremely highly from a performance-price standpoint (basically 5/5) if priced anywhere in the $1.2-$1.5 range. Above that, $1.6-1.7 would be still be solid (4.5/5) as I see it beating out the LCD-X and Ether that play in that price range (of course always depending on personal preferences). at $2 or higher, hard to say & not sure anymore. I would personally prefer the HE-X over the LCD-3 or any of the newcomers at the $2k price point, but I do personally view all those ~$2k or more options to be quite overpriced. Not really a price point I typically buy at.

    I feel that $2k or more options can always be found at discount. Hence, if considering the upcoming $2k options, I would say no rush and wait for more impressions or do your own audition. Overheard some distributors, dealers, and reps having personal discussions that suggest pricing extremely flexible to the market. Makers of these headphones will be making a huge profit regardless of whether you purchase at $2k+ or not. I would advise waiting and voting with your wallet that first time manufacturers not focusing on tonal balance and comfort should not be charging $2k+ on their products. Feel free to disagree.

    Honestly, Odin is not too bad overall. Just at a $2k price point, lol really? Did not hear any technical sonic attribute or special FR tuning that commands that type of premium. Lyrus Audio's flagship definitely needs a hell of a lot more work though.

    ~~~Impressive Non-Flagship Planar Magnetic Offerings~~~

    The impressive budget-orientated planar magnetics that I haven't heard before were the Fostex mk3 line-up. I already have great respect for the HE-400s(for its performance at that low price point, exceptional value), HE-400i, and PM-3. The T500RP did not really impress me for its price point, but I can see it competitive for mid-centric tastes if the price was a few hundred lower. I do find it funny that the greatest improvements in planar magnetics at the show were in the budget end. Also funny that the incorporation of done-before DIY mods to a really old pair of headphones by the manufacturer is the cutting edge and likely one of the most exciting things at the show at the budget-end of the spectrum. Still always good to have improvements regardless how late.

    Also listened to some of ZMF's offerings at the JDS table. No one was there, so no idea which model was which. Not bad at all, but I wonder about the viability of Fostex T50RP mod based companies with the new refresh of the mk3.

    I think that covers all the new planar magnetics. just some of my personal uncensored thoughts. take them for what you will. feel free to disagree, I won't be offended.

    edit: lol. I totally forgot to write about the Abyss, HE-1k, & LCD-4

    ~~~Other Flagship-priced Planar Magnetics~~~

    ~~~Abyss~~~

    Had the pleasure of hearing the Abyss for the first time. It turned out to be quite impressive. While not $5k-worth of impressiveness to me & my tastes, I can see their appeal now. Strength is an extremely good sense of L and R separation (probably the best that I've heard), has that almost speaker-like feeling similar to the HE-1k & perhaps even better, and a subwoofer visceral hard-hitting impactful weighty bass that was just ridiculous. I would say treble tuning would be its weakness, but can be migrated somewhat with the right amplifier pairing. The Abyss + Liquid Gold combo was extraordinary. Among the best system combos I've heard, but not really one I would buy. Listened to that combo for quite a long time & kept going back to try it again though. Has an extremely detailed presentation without being clinical/analytical in any sense with a very lush smoothness throughout. That would definitely be what I would go for if I wanted an Abyss. However, for me, I think the Stax SR-009 or Stax SR-007mk1 + BHSE would be more worthwhile for my needs if I was to spend $10k on gear. Abyss is definitely unique and special, but ultimately not really what I crave or am looking for. Developed a bit of respect for the Abyss now, and I can see why some folks deem that its crazy high asking price is worthwhile. Very unique pair of headphones. Does take quite a bit of fiddling to get the sound perfect as you actually ideally want an almost seal but not actually sealed of earcups to get the best sound. Counterintuitive and opposite of every other headphone in the world. Not worth it to me, but I can see why some folks love it. Still the pricing of the Abyss is everything that is wrong with this hobby to my eyes. A $5k pair of headphones that has treble issues unless paired with a $4k amplifier?? I dunno. seems a bit off to me.

    ~~~HE-1k~~~

    I own these and wrote an extensive review on them in my signature. Only update is that I think the HD800 paired with a TOTL tube amplifier (ALO studio 6) probably beats out the HE-1k in L to R sound stage width. Also, Abyss has much more emphasized bass than the HE-1k with a harder attack transient and longer decays. Gives an even more visceral sensation to the Abyss and sense harder-hitting impact. A lot more reverb with the Abyss. I would still pick the HE-1k over everything else I heard even the Stax SR-009, but the Stax SR-009/SR-007mk1 were very very competitive. Likely have a different opinion if I could afford a $10k rig. On the SR-009, very different presentation to notes with a very light weightless type of sensation. Treble is unlike any other treble I've heard before. However, the differences were not as extreme as I was expecting from what I've read. I don't really view the SR-009's presentation to be more realistic, but it is certainly different with an very very nice sense of air. Notes have a light and "body-less" sensation. Very cool to try out.

    Every amp/dac component table had a HE-1k set-up there. Other common options were the Ether open, Ether closed, and HD800. I do feel like those headphones are all extremely competitive and revealing of the upstream components. Lots of Audeze headphones floating around as well, but I do feel like those are less revealing with a bit of inherent coloration. Still Audeze commands a large fan base, so good for people with those tastes to be able to try out that gear. So sure, while people may hate on the Ether, HE-1k, HD800, LCD-3/X, these are the flagships that have built a reputation based on experience working through multiple previous revisions. These are the standards that we judge other gear by. Random companies with no previous headphone experience or planar magnetic experience looking for a quick buck and cashing in on growing interest in the high-end market by throwing out some half-assed effort priced above the majority of reputable long-lasting options just because the market will bear it is bad news for this hobby.

    ~~~LCD-4~~~

    this may be the "most exciting" pair of headphones from the perspective of people not at RMAF, but not really for me. Their set-up was of unfamiliar amp/dac and also only their own source material. Did a side-by-side comparison of the LCD-X and LCD-4 with a few songs, and my personal conclusion is that I wouldn't spend the extra money, but I can see some people thinking it being worthwhile with many others rotfl.

    Per white coat guy, the LCD-4 is tuned most similar to the LCD-X (which would be happy/sad news depending on your feelings of the X). He states that the LCD-4 has deeper bass extension compared to the X and tuned more linearly farther up compared to the X. I thought it was cool how white coat guy mentioned volume matching when I asked for permission to try side-by-side comparisons. White coat guy turned out to be pretty funny & cool! I like how his white coat excludes confidence and science. My mind always jumps to bacteria-breeding-grounds when I see white coats, but that is just me hahah. Audeze reps were really chill, and I like how enthusiastic white coat guy was about his LCD-4. He seemed generally very sincere about wanting feedback, but he seemed actually surprised if the feedback was not the same as his own thoughts. Very passionate about his product and I do think that he really does believe in what he is selling and that the price point is reasonable.

    Per my listening comparisons with only by-ear volume matching, I would say that the X still has better bass quality than the LCD-4, and I think the LCD-4 is based more on the LCD-3. LCD-4 sounded more mid-centric to my ears compared to LCD-X. White coat guy strongly disagreed with my impressions. White coat guy also thinks LCD-X is very neutral though. I view LCD-X as quite colored, so I felt more mid-centric is a compliment since LCD-X has a bit of a recession in their upper mids and a bit of spike in the ~4 kHz and 6kHz treble region. White coat guy told me that for sure the bass on the LCD-4 is better than the LCD-X. To my ears, I thought the LCD-4s bass was definitely a touch softer in impact compared to the X. (though I recognize that the inability to do precise volume-matching can make my own impressions rather meaningless & inaccurate).

    Overall, the sound signature of the LCD-4 goes away from that "traditionally associated darker house sound of Audeze," but I feel like that has been the trend ever since the fazors and the LCD-X were released. Still unmistakeable a Audeze-type tuning, so not as an extreme change as the EL-8 models were. Strikes a good balance of having less random FR coloration while still have a "Audeze" type house sound of an organic "smooth" presentation rather than a clinical/analytical presentation. Fans of the darkness of the pre-fazor LCD-2 will likely be disappointed though. I can see some folks who like the LCD-X not to see the upgrade as worthwhile. I do prefer the LCD-4 over the LCD-3, but I didn't really like the LCD-3's strongly mid-centric sound. I think the LCD-4 straddles in between the LCD-X and LCD-3, but sounds more like the LCD-3 to my ears. Likely improved treble extension as well, but difficult to tell with the tracks that were being played.

    There are small, but audible improvements over the LCD-X. Sound stage improved, but likely still won't beat out the HD800. Detail resolution improved but also still probably not at that level of Sennheiser and Hifiman flagships imo. Definitely not going to be beating Stax (even though only first time I heard the Stax, I do feel extremely confident saying that). Speed improved with much better note spacing. I think that is the biggest improvement of the LCD-4 over previous generations. However, that also loses out on that bit of organic smoothening and lushness and impact that many traditionally associate with Audeze. Treble kept in control so not sharp, but likely will not be the airiest or best treble extension option that you can find. I also don't feel that it has the overall tonal & FR cohesiveness and technical abilities (in sound stage/imaging/speed) offered by the HE-1k to justify its higher price point. (feel free to remember I am a HE-1k owner so bias there. I personally would not do a straight trade my HE-1k for the LCD-4 despite the cost difference. Definitely still prefer the HE-1k, so a breath of relief from my credit cards hahah.)

    However, if build quality is extremely important to you, the LCD-4's build quality is excellent and it looks extremely premium and very very gorgeous. One of the most beautiful headphones to see in person. Increase in weight is disappointing but people who enjoy Audeze headphones likely have no issues with current weights. The suspension design does make it feel lighter compared to a stock LCD-X, so a welcome long-awaited improvement there.

    Biggest issue for the LCD-4 isn't really anything intrinsic about them, but rather controversy about its price point. No one that I spoke to placed the LCD-4 on their top 5 headphone list, and I personally wouldn't either. I don't think many people in the industry think that its price point is justified. Everyone is just waiting to see if the price point will be accepted by the audiophile target audience.

    I would guess yes, because I honestly do think that the majority of people who are into this hobby may actually have really poor perspective considering their spending habits or the type of items that they invest their money into.

    Overall, not really anything too negative or too positive to say about the LCD-4. Basically, if you don't want electrostatics and don't want a clinical/analytical type presentation, but still want a sense that they aren't technically gimped by excessive coloration, these should be a good choice. If you are looking for a technical improvement over the LCD-X or LCD-3 or want a more balanced sound signature, yes, the LCD-4 will deliver.

    Also, if you really enjoy knowing that the wood on your headphones is cut from an rare endangered species of exotic wood from a tree far far away in a jungle, I think these headphones should be very well worth the money for you. =P (a joke here, please don't get offended).

    The question is really why the LCD-4 is not replacing the LCD-3 and being priced at the same level?? The answer is that audiophile manufacturers have realized how idiotic the audiophile enthusiast community can be regarding spending due to their passion so why the hell not. Audeze has nothing to lose. Only people who has something to lose are the people who actually love this hobby as the mark-up costs spiral more and more out of control.

    Let's play a game. How much do you think the mark-up costs is from manufacturer to dealer? At least 30%. That means dealers can still make profit giving you a $500 discount on a $2k pair of headphones. Guess what, the manufacturer also has to make money... How much mark-up is there? Well, they made the goods, dealers just distributing, so their profit margins deserve to be higher. is it 40%, 50%... 60%... etc...?

    The answer is the mark-ups are simply what we as a community are willing to tolerate. Now that mark-ups are getting more ludicrously large, more companies will jump in trying to grab a piece of the pie. Oppo has proven a newcomer in the planar magnetic industry can succeed, so there is going to be an influx of people trying to grab a piece of the market-share pie. Are we ever going to demand more exacting reviews featuring precise measurements and actual descriptions of pros & cons of specific gear? Or are we going to still ho-hum our way along blindly jumping on every positive impression of people who may or may not be getting kick-backs from manufacturers. Odin is not even in stock yet!!! How do you think the lucky people who get a chance to write an exciting preview of new products are picked? Manufacturers aren't idiots, they know poor first impressions instantly kill their product.....

    So really the only reason for my rant is just that we should NOT view critical opinions as omg, you dislike my favorite headphone, let's grab our pitchforks. we should view it as the only way we as consumers can keep manufacturer's honest. Fact is that there are still no perfect pair of headphones out there. I am hilariously surprised how so many reviews can fail to find even one flaw with some of the gear that is getting released (especially when some of these flaws seem so glaringly obvious). Anyone remember the EL-8 thread? lol!!!

    ~~~My Favorites after the Meet~~~

    My top 5 list after the meet would be HE-1k (any amp), Stax SR-009 (only tried on the BHSE), Dharma (only tried with Questyle CM800R amp), HD800 (only ranked here if on the Studio Six or a Cavalli amplifier, preferred the Dharma against the HD800 on the CM800R), Ether Closed (on any amp) in that order.

    Notes: I am not sure which I prefer, SR-009 or SR-007. Both had that neat weightless feel and the SR009 actually felt like it did have the perfect amount of bass on the BHSE. Definitely did not feel the Staxs were lacking in bass. Unfortunately, that was the only Stax set-up I really tried, so not sure how it sounds on other amps. If the HE-1k was removed from the competition, I would slot the HE-X in top five as well. Not sure where though.

    After that in order: I think HE-560, Ether, Audio Zenith all about tied followed by the LCD-X, LCD-4, then LCD-3. LCD-X over LCD-4 only since I feel like the LCD-X is more unique in its coloration as the rest of this list would likely be a secondary pair of headphones for me rather than my primary pair. Primary pair of only Audezes, likely LCD-3/LCD-4 over LCD-X I think.

    My ideal combo would be the HE-1k (any top tier amp with Liquid Gold and GS-X MK2 being my favorites) + SR-009 (with the BHSE). Budget version would be HE-X + Dharma (with any solid mid-tier amplifier). That combo would check all the boxes for me personally while saving quite a bit of money.

    I am actually strongly considering purchasing the Dharma anyway after my demo impressions. The DHARMA was the standout flagship of newly released headphones I haven't tried before at the show. Dharma had no crossover or treble issues that I could detect but gave that extremely unique light-feathery touch to the overall upper frequency presentation that is just so different and special. I view it as an excellent complimentary or primary pair of headphones. Only issue was the bass was not as tight as I like with my planar magnetic background, but still good enough. Price point and ability to pair with any amplifier extremely appealing and I am actually strongly considering adding this headphone to my collection.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 6, 2015
  12. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    In all fairness I forgot to mention the guy in the white lab coat who now has a name (Mark Cohen). Before I knew his name though at lunch with everyone I thought he was the sperm sample collector.
     
  13. Colgin

    Colgin Friend

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    Great write up, Money4me247.
     
  14. sorrodje

    sorrodje Carla Bruni's other lover - Friend

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    Paradoxper banned from HF ? wtf ?
     
  15. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    Yo, so all the ELAC talk, I saw a nice detail:

    http://www.audiostream.com/content/elac-my-favorite-room-rmaf-2015-man-thats-just-crazy
     
  16. Jeb

    Jeb Friend

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    @money4me247 - Hi, really great read. Thanks!

    You briefly mentioned the Studio-Six when talking about the HD800 - do you (or anyone else) have any more thoughts on this very expensive amp based on your short time with it ?

    Ever since it was released I've hardly seen any critical reviews of it , just a few glowing ones in the usual places.
     
  17. Rotijon

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  18. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Great impressions in this thread. I'm considering either a HD800, Dharma or PMx2 after the first of the year and the impressions have been very helpful. Hopefully there will be a few more detailed Dharma impressions.
     
  19. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    I am going to Torrance for the source AV event (day trip) and I am going to really listen to the Dharma so I will post my impressions on that thread.
     
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  20. FlySweep

    FlySweep Friend

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    LMAO. I'm dead. You're a savage, thune.
     

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