In Quest Of Neutral Headphones [Reviews / Measurements]

Discussion in 'Audio Science' started by Magnetostatic_Tubephile, Dec 30, 2018.

  1. mokobigbro

    mokobigbro Acquaintance

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    What an awesome thread!

    Thank you for doing this Magnetostatic!
     
  2. Elmer Danilovich

    Elmer Danilovich MShenay trying to pretend to be an old man

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    This I have to sincerely thank you and @Hands for, I've been sitting on a rather unimpressive set of LCD 2 Classics for maybe a year or two now? An after seeing and reading this post more than once I finally bit the bullet and snagged a set of the Vegan Pads, and after almost an entire days worth of listening I'm finally IMPRESSED with what this headphone has to offer... tho it's a shame the pads are more difficult to find these days
     
  3. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless would for sure not qualify among the best headphones of this thread but I am loving them anyway. While something as Bose QC35 II is more of a toy trying to act like a smart device, this is a serious product that actually functions and therefore serves the user well.

    To demonstrate what I mean by "functions well", this is what you can do with the built-in hardware DSP that incorporates equalizer:
    [​IMG]

    The above is just a rough comparison, haven't spent much effort to make the measurements as precise as possible. But hopefully it demonstrates the point. You EQ the phone using the 3-band equalizer in the dedicated smartphone app to suite your needs and it stays that way regardless of which source you use Momentums with then.

    What I also love about the Momentums:
    • Leather pads for more natural timbre over pleather
    • Steel for more durability over plastic
    • Playback allowed via analog cable, USB-C cable, and bluetooth (incl. aptX and aptX LL)
    • Hiss-free performance with ANC ON as well as OFF
    • Talk-through mode allowing simultaneous music playback
    • Fast and automated bluetooth pairing
    • Fully over-ear but very compact and portable too
    These are surprisingly good timbre-wise and mid-tone wise, definitely reminding you of the brand (Sennheiser). Use the built-in EQ functionality to tune the bass and treble for something more neutral... and you might be surprised how good the phones are for something primarily intended to be used outside with bluetooth.
     
  4. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    Great write up @Magnetostatic_Tubephile! To put a quick percent number on it, how much larger ear cup size over the QC35 II would you say?
     
  5. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    From what I recall, the Momentum's pads are considerably wider and deeper which makes their inner space larger and more round compared to the Bose (oval). Subjectively, it feels a bit more spacious physically (for my ears) as well as subjectively (headstaging). Btw, Momentum 3 destroys Bose in terms of bass viscerality and timbre quality.

    It's the first "modern" headphone that (EQed) feels (to me) good enough to use for audiophile listening. Again, we are definitely not talking about top-tier audiophile performance of the great passive models... but it feels so great to walk around and yet being able to enjoy not just the music but the sound as well.

    =====================

    I am looking forward to THX Panda. They are supposedly working on developing an app that would utilize the internal DSP hardware for permanent EQ, the same way as with Momentum 3 Wireless. And, due to drivers similar to PMx2s, the Panda might make me even happier than the Momentums. Let's see!
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2020
    Elmer Danilovich and crenca like this.
  6. pure5152

    pure5152 Friend

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    Being pedantic, but the drivers in the panda are actually more similar to the pm3 than the pmx2 (iirc pmx2 driver went throught a heat curing process and other things that Alex did to customize it to his liking). Again being pedantic because you’re probably referring to the general driver design, but just wanted to make the distinction in case someone reading gets confused.
     
  7. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Hifiman HE-6 (ZMF universe hybrid solid)

    NOTE: Based on experience with my previous Hifiman HE-6 as well as given the available knowledge, the evaluated pair is an early 6-screw version in its stock configuration except for ear pads. By trying many cushions from manufacturers such as Audeze, Mrspeakers, Dekoni or ZMF, only the ZMF Universe hybrid solid ones subjectively offered an acceptable tonal balance while keeping the characteristic "old school Hifiman" timbre intact. (Ether Flow Angled pads would be my second pick.) Apart from the ear pad swap, removing quarter foam pieces underneath pads as well as replacing outer grills with an acoustically more transparent solution is highly recommended.

    [​IMG]

    MEASUREMENT COMMENTARY:

    • Channel balance is excellent! Small observed differences towards treble are caused by the quite big and "fluffy" ear pads from ZMF. Moving the headphone around on your head can shift response within the area quite a bit too.
    • Bass linearity and extension are absolutely phenomenal, reaching down to at least to 9 Hz on both channels! Since my poor Fulla 2 couldn't handle the Hifimans, I had to unleash DNA Stratus which is likely at its limits here. Ignore measurement artifacts around 50 and 100 Hz.
    • Middle mids are slightly elevated due to the cushions, subjectively reminding me of Audeze LCD headphones. On the other hand, higher mids are somewhat depressed and "thin" sounding, not too much to become unrealistic though. The well-known resonance around 4-5 kHz contributes to a very energetic/vibrant nature of this headphone. While it cannot be fully eliminated, not keeping it in check makes the Hifimans kind of rough and rustling in their sound and can cause ear fatigue rather quickly.
    • At the very least, selection of pads definitely helps to control the treble - namely another known resonance area around 11-12 kHz. The more elevated the response in this area, the zingier the sound signature you get.

    [​IMG]

    HIGHLIGHTS:
    1. Very linear, deep and hardhitting bass with extraordinary tactility and sustain.
    2. Subjectively 'pure' timbre that uniquely combines and contrasts physicality (magnetic driver sound) with smoothness (electrostatic sound).
    3. Unlike the similar HE-500, HE-6 offers a clear and energetic sound signature from bass to treble with no signs of muddiness, softness or smearing.
    4. Clean, lush and involving mids, quite reminiscent of Audeze LCD-4.
    5. The well-adjustable headband and solid chassis design contribute to satisfying build quality and wearing comfort.

    WHAT TO COUNT WITH:
    1. Requires carefully picked aftermarket ear pads to reasonably control the headphone's tonality and resonances while keeping the great timbre intact.
    2. Stock outer grills have a clear negative impact on resolving ability of the headphone.
    3. The tendency for vibrancy and roughness/rustling in upper mids cannot be fully "modded away".
    4. Compromised ergomics - very hard to drive, cables supplied with most HE-6s tend to corrode over time, strange choice of cable connectors.

    TOP CONTENDER (as of 2021-01-21): YES!
    The headphone replaces Verum 1 as a Runner-up in TIMBRE category.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021 at 10:23 AM
  8. gepardcv

    gepardcv Almost "Made"

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    Your description of the HE-6 matches my (years-old now) recollections. A spectacular headphone. I didn’t realize it measures this clean. Truly gorgeous bass without the excesses of the Meze Empyrean or the (shudder) Abyss 1266. I’m still kicking myself for not buying one back when it was readily available. I even have a (mostly-working, need to spend a bit more time with the ol’ soldering iron) Dynahi amplifier for it...

    Have you tried it with a speaker amp yet? I’ve heard it with a cheap class D/T (meh but not awful) and with a vintage Yamaha receiver (must’ve been class AB), and it was a pretty cool. Not light years better than just a reasonably powerful headamp IMO, but definitely interesting.
     

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