Aurorus Borealis Measurements and Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by purr1n, Apr 12, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I came on these late because I had the troops take a look at this first (that is screen it because I don't like wasting my time these days) to see if this was worthy of contention. Now I wish I got these direct and earlier because I am rather smitten by them. Do I feel the clouds have parts and I have been touched by the hand of God? No. However, these do two things particularly well: bass extension (for an open dynamic driver) and "speed". If there is anything that comes to mind, it's the STAX SR007. Yes, we can say that these are a dynamic driver version of the SR007 (with the both the limitations and strengths of dynamic drivers). I could be that I am just happy that there have been more dynamic driver designs lately. A few years ago, it seemed like "do we really need yet another planar" when it seemed that everything new that was being released was another ortho, usually with an letter appended on a prior model's name.

    BTW, here's a photo. I'll post more later on ergonomics. I didn't have any major issues, but I think people with bigger ears or ears that stick out could have fitment issues. Also, the seat belt suspension strap, is well... a seat belt. It doesn't conform to shape, flops and twists, so sometimes it is a minor bitch to have to adjust before putting on my head. I'd rather just have something I can put on immediately without having to fiddle with something.
    IMG_20200411_152309.jpg

    I usually start with frequency response measurements. Today I will do something different. I will start with burst decay, one aspect of "speed".

    Aurorus Borealis vs HD800 Burst Decay
    ezgif-4-0544a6a2cbc8.gif

    Nothing surprising here. No one considers the HD800 to be a "fast" headphone. The HD800 has many strengths, but "fast" is not one of them. I actually feel the HD600 (at least the latest iterations) faster than the HD800. And now that I think about it, it's probably on the slower end in terms of transient response for high-end headphones in 2020.

    Aurorus Borealis vs Elex Burst Decay
    ezgif-4-514c26353604.gif

    Now this is interesting. The Focal headphones were known for their transient speed. Looks like the Borealis nudges it out at every frequency above except for 1500Hz.

    Aurorus Borealis vs SR1a Burst Decay
    ezgif-4-b9b060cf81ad.gif

    Can it beat the SR1a? Nope. But holy cow. This is a fast headphone - at least in terms of decay.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2020
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Aurorus Borealis Frequency Response
    EARS - SBAF compensation
    upload_2020-4-12_17-25-6.png

    This in some ways is representative of what I am hearing. I say some ways because the lows and low mids are somewhat thicker than what this may represent. There is unevenness in the highs, a depression in the upper mids, and something that sticks out in the highs (these are the subjective comments which @brencho and I discussed before even looking at any measurements). There is a little peak there that may emphasize some sibilants. I think "something that sticks out" or "something that is off" or "uneven" are good descriptors here. It's nothing painful and honestly I didn't find it distracting at all while listening to music. It could be an easy fix with just a layer of Kirkland TP considering that I also found there to be more last octave air than I am usually accustomed. There is some rolloff in the bass, but it's limited and at no point does the bass response drop like a rock. I'm sure the large 50mm driver helps.

    Let's move on and do analysis on distortion and CSDs next, which may explain further. There is no one measurement that explains it all. Anyone who would take a single measurement number, and plot it on a comparative bar graph to display on a home page of a website, is a moron at best and a zealot at worst. This also applies to graphics card FPS bar graphs (I always thought HardOCD, RIP, did the FPS stuff more right compared to other sites.) Ah, am I so glad that we aren't masturbating to Tyll's headphone square wave measurements are the one that rules them all. Remember those days on HF? Horrible.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Aurorus Borealis Distortion L
    Aur Bor Dist L.png

    Aurorus Borealis Distortion R
    Aur Bor Dist R.png

    Do the distortion characteristics remind us of something? The HD650 sort of? Well yes. As I mentioned, the lows and low mids are somewhat thick, not too different from the HD650. I think "somewhat thick" but also "not veiled" like how the HD650 is would be a good way of describing this. The reason for "not-veiled" is because of the Borealis' transient response.

    Note that the SR1a has particularly high distortion as well, however with most of it being 3rd order and generally with the 2nd order being lower. The point is that distortion isn't everything, as with FR, CSD, burst decay, etc. It's all these pieces that when put together finally start telling us a story.

    Another similar case, the Verite. The Verite isn't spectacular with its measurements bass distortion either, but it has good speed.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Now let's take a look at the 7-8kHz peak. Is it there? By some subjective reports, talking with @brencho, yes. Does it get into the way? Perhaps, as I don't want to speak for other people. Again, personally, I didn't think it was that bad, and honestly the upper-mid depression was more noticeable to me! (As I said, dynamic version of SR007). Let's explore.

    Another way to look at things is with the flat plate coupler or FPC. I like the flat plate coupler because it is more immune to placement variations. Also, the lack of an ear helps us to get more consistent measurements in the highs (sometimes, as the measurements lie). The downside with FPC is that because it doesn't have an ear structure, 2-6kHz can be all over the place and not necessarily reflective of what we hear. Here are the results. Note that I've squished the Y-axis slightly to make differences more apparent.

    Aurorus Borealis Frequency Response
    Flat Plate Coupler
    upload_2020-4-12_17-0-29.png

    The FPC doesn't seem to capture the upper-mid depression for does it exhibit the small lower treble spike. Or maybe it does!. As I have pointed out many times before, that 7kHz dip could be a peak in disguise. But how bad? The frequency response plot a few posts back may lead us to take pause.

    Let's check out the CSDs next.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Aurorus Borealis CSD L
    FPC Aurorus Borealis Lt.jpg

    Aurorus Borealis CSD R
    FPC Aurorus Borealis Rt.jpg
    So yes, that 7kHz dip was a peak in disguise. We can see a little ridge. It's slightly rose on one side compared to the other. However, the ridge are not long lived at all! This probably explains why I did not find it bothersome.

    BTW, that CSD is damn clean.

    Here, let's go challenge mode and lower the floor of the CSD to a whopping -45db (because I know one of you will ask for it). The results are spectacular!

    FPC Aurorus Borealis Lt.jpg
    FPC Aurorus Borealis Rt.jpg
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    If there is one nitpick from the measurements, is that I wished the drivers could have been better matched. One channel has a few db more bass than the other. We can barely see this in the EARS FR. It's more evident in the FPC FR because of its 70db vertical axis range. Normally I would attribute this to human measurement error or pads (it still could be pads). However, the impedance measurement (with a seal, not open air) confirms that one channel has a lower resonant frequency than the other. That can be enough to result in one side having a few db more bass than the other.

    upload_2020-4-12_17-17-46.png
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Otherwise in closing, and on the other subjective aspects, this is the kind of headphone that I would love. Super efficient - be careful with the gain setting on your amps - lively and super-responsive to signal inputs. Gentle solid state or tubes recommended to get the most plankton out of it and to ameliorate the unevenness in the highs. I haven't had a chance to try it on TOTL amps yet, but I found it high-performing already from the likes of Magni 3+. I suspect this will scale like mad on something like @ChaChaRealSmooth's DNA amp.

    Lastly, I expressed there could be some concern for those with bigger ears. Here is a photo why. The open is barely larger than credit card size.
    IMG_20200412_173605.jpg

    This is compounded that by the fairly shallow earpads and lack of cavity or space for larger pinnae to rest inside. I personally have no problem with this and actually kind of prefer shallow earpads (versus almost excessively thick pads which I find to feel too much like ear muffs).

    The cups are weighty and appear to be made from some kind of high density plastic. It's not feather light. A lot of the weight is in the cups. However, the headband is effective and and it isn't anywhere near Audeze headphones which I feel I need to work up my neck muscles or need a neck brace. And it isn't anywhere near as unwieldy as the HE1000 where is seems all the weight is on the cups. I didn't have any problems last night falling asleep in bed with these on my head.

    Bottom line these days is do I listen, and never listen to it again (only taking measurements), or do I listen, and want to listen again (and take measurements to find out why I want to listen again). The Aurorus Borealis falls into the latter category. I want to take another listen!

    P.S. And trust me, there is so much shit I don't want to listen to again. :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
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  8. neomax

    neomax Acquaintance

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    there is serious channel imbalance at the higher frequencies. the csd waterfall plots show this as well.

    hows the treble on these? any tonal issues?

    i will wait until the headphone has better matched drivers and they do away with the seatbelt headband. it still looks like an in progress prototype.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I'm usually a little more hesitant to call that in the higher frequencies where human and placement errors play a higher part. This could also be pads. But yes, there are differences.

    --

    Listening to this more, the only tweak I would consider for myself is maybe an additional piece of foam or paper over the driver. I prefer darker signatures. I don't know if it's more air, zippier transients, but there seems to be more top end air than what the measurements would suggest. Maybe it's because the mids to the highs are so clean from a CSD perspective.
     
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  10. SeanT

    SeanT Acquaintance

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    Could be it subjectively has more top end air because it has such a flat response, too? Very cool CSDs. How bothersome is that upper mid dip?
     
  11. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    Yeah just to follow up from marv, these are promising. I’m not treble sensitive like Hands and other sensitive flowers around these parts and with a fairly neutral setup of amp and source I definitely found the 6-8k peak and unevenness kinda bothersome, more than I expected. It was more bothersome than say a hd600 or Auteur (can’t compare to focals cause don’t have any but the biodyna drivers do timbre better than focals anyway). Also in reference to the sr1a burst responses above, I’d much much much prefer these to the sr1a and their demands for a “idiosyncratic” setup and weird sexless old man ear speakers vibe. I love the extension and flatness of the borealis up to the upper mids, very punchy and lively, which I value a lot. I would like the build to inspire more confidence before I pay near a grand for them. I’m sure that producing a good cup and headband system is a fucking huge PITA so props regardless for looking for a lightweight and flexible solution. All in all, they are almost awesome, and if you have a warm and smooth setup — say a black widow or dna tube amp and bifrost 2 — maybe these would be perfect. I just put a lot of emphasis on clean and clear sources, and so they’re not quite there for me. I’d love to hear further iterations if the folks that made them decide to go that route. I’d just offer a word of caution to not become MrSpeakers (or is it Dan Clark audio), Part Deux.
     
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  12. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    I'm with you on this. It's weird not being able to bob your head to the music or move around at all for fear of moving the ear speakers too far out of any kind of sweet spot. These Borealis are much more interesting to me. I want to be able to lie down and listen to music, dammit.
     
  13. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    ^^ this. improvements without being inconsistent headphones is a grand goal.
    always good to hear when someone new advances the bar one step further.
     
  14. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    The headband system now is loose like sleeve of wizard but at least you won’t be a fucking old sexless audio wizard with ear speakers
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
  15. tommytakis

    tommytakis Friend

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    I just to share my thoughts and add on to @brencho has stated, especially to the people that have read my impressions on these headphones. I'm currently using the Bifrost 2 + Black Widow, which many would consider to be a warm and smooth setup. Before the Borealis, I primarily used the JAR650 as my daily driver. Back then, I thought the BF2+BW setup was a bit too warm w/ the Sennheisers and was about to sell the BW to @ChaChaRealSmooth . Then when the borealis came into the picture, I was amazed how dynamic and lively it sounded and decided to keep the black widow. Also, I recently had the opportunity to do a side by side comparison between the soekris and the BF2 w/ the Borealis and the treble peak became more noticeable when I used the Soekris. (which is why I ended up selling the Soekris) I'll try to do a more thorough write up after I've owned them for a lot longer, but just remember that synergy matters as no headphone or setup will go well with every gear.
     
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  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Additional data points can be found here in the original measurements thread. Direct links to Vtory's and my results for your convenience.

    I realized I forgot to follow up and add distortion results way back when, of which this thread reminded me. So I'll add that here and include old stuff for completeness. I'll summarize my subjective impressions first. I figure why not since more folks are talking about these recently.

    Subjectively good stuff:

    - Tasteful, isolated bass hump. Punchy.

    - Tonal balance as a whole was pretty good, especially bass up until upper-mids.

    - Generally lively sounding in a fast, dynamic way. Though I can't say I found them particularly fast by any means, i.e. they reminded me of the HD650 more than anything.

    Subjectively "opportunity area" stuff:

    - I had to purposely make sure these sat and clamped on my head very lightly or else they became rather thick and overbearing sounding.

    - Sharp depression in upper-mids, which sounded worse than measurements suggest. Deal breaker for me. Music lost necessary bite.

    - Some grain and glare, like a stock HD650 but worse. Still, it was tolerable.

    - Treble timbre as a bit rough and grainy. Again, tolerable.

    Other Points and Takeaways

    - If you have a wide, fat head and don't generally have problems with seal on headphone (no glasses, lack of hair, no weird lumps and bumps, etc.), you might find these to not sound ideal. I had to make sure I wore them as lightly as possible, then sat perfectly still, to get decent listening results.

    - I preferred these with more breathable pads, like the Brainwavz XL Velour pads, though those weren't perfect either (too tall). I think the headphones themselves have solid potential, so don't write them off without trying other pads if you're not at first satisfied.

    - Both the Borealis and Australis had screws that came loose and were stuck to the driver magnet on arrival, I believe from the gimbal attachments.

    - I don't really own all that many amps with a low output impedance and found even a few ohms to be too much on these, so I'm not the definitive source when it comes to low impedance headphones.


    Measurements

    I purposely didn't line up the Borealis at the 1K point because I don't think that best represents how it sounds relative to flat/neutral. Here you can see how it measures vs the HD6XX.

    Slightly better bass extension, slightly lower bass hump peak, much less bleed into mids. Though, if not worn lightly, I heard it as noticeably thicker and and more cumbersome than the HD650.

    And while the general upper-mids through treble response is somewhat similar to the HD650s on a macro scale, there's a solid 5dB dip around 3-4KHz that I found particularly bothersome, for some reason. And there's a little peak above 5KHz, but nothing too awful, though it took some fiddling with fit to minimize its effect.

    Aurorus Borealis vs HD6XX Left Channel Frequency Response.png

    CSDs with floor set to -36dB and -45dB. The treble peaks did seem to come with a bit of extra decay for me. In general, the HD600/650 have cleaner results for me, particularly above 2KHz, though the Borealis decays faster around 200Hz.

    Aurorus Borealis Left Channel CSD.png
    Aurorus Borealis Left Channel CSD 45dB.png

    My distortion results for the Borealis consistently turned out like this. That is, there's nothing bad here, really, but generally higher than something like the HD650 across the board. Though I do think the Borealis had slightly better bass distortion.

    Aurorus Borealis Distortion.png

    I mentioned that I preferred the Borealis with Brainwavz XL Velour pads, and here is how that affected the frequency response, at least. Will have to generate CSDs and distortion later, or forget like I did before.

    That ~3-4KHz dip gets filled in considerably, but is instead replaced by a broad, slightly less severe depression between 1.5KHz-4KHz. Something about this sounded much more even to me regardless. I think the slight treble boost in general helped as well. However, I do believe I recall wishing the baffle were just a little less permeable with these pads to bring up the bass a tiny bit more.

    Aurorus Borealis Stock vs Brainwavz Velour XL Pads.png



    If you're the type of guy that always has to extend the headband on a headphone someone else, anyone, just listened to, whether it be at a meet, RMAF, Can Jam, or whatever, and have your trusty HD650 stretched out enough you could easily put it around a basketball or two, these might not be for you. At least, that's the nagging feeling I always got when I tried these, that they just were not going to sound as good as they should with my fat head.
     
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  17. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Hey, I've got people calling some headphones I like "too bright" these days. I've graduated to being old and deaf like you now.
     
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  18. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    Yeah dude I was gonna say, was surprised to read your jar600 post given that I like em too haha. Welcome to the old and deaf club I guess.
     
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    LOL. I had no idea there was a thread on these from last year.
     
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  20. Lyander

    Lyander Too sensitive for SBAF

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    EDIT: @purr1n is this flat plate coupler with new compensation? So shouldn't be directly comparable to your old flat plate stuff.

    Looks like these might be grand for someone who prefers HD600 to the HD650, though that needle blip with a trough on either side looks scary. How's microdynamic nuance compared to the Senns? Guessing the super open nature means there's less strain in presentation at the expense of things getting easily muddied up by ambient noise, sigh.

    Glad to hear these scale but aren't poo out of a lower-end rig, haha. Think a G1217 Horizon/Sunrise might do these justice, maybe de-bollix the treble a tad?

    Bass measurements come at a bit of a surprise considering impressions, curious how good bass definition and control is relative to HP-3, and macrodynamics (already thinking micro-stuff is on par or better than the Klipsch)? I'm probably headed down @E_Schaaf route of wanting something to kick me in the face, just that I listen at lower SPLs than he likely does, so I kinda care about that too :p
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2020

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