Indulgence Show London Impressions - 14-16 Sep 2016

Discussion in 'The Meeting Place' started by Rthomas, Oct 15, 2016.

  1. Rthomas

    Rthomas Friend

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    Hi Guys,

    I wanted to share my experience while it is still fresh in the head. I spent a few hours this morning in London at The Indulgence Show organized by headroom. Please see below for my short takeaways. Of course meet conditions are far from ideal but fortunately the show was less noisy than Canjam London 2016.

    All my notes are short. I don't have the talent to write hundreds of words on audio comparisons. Also in meet conditions I can only get rough impressions of gear. So apologies if this is not more detailed

    I will compare some of my impressions to my home rig (Bifrost Multibit>Mojo 2>HD650 Stock)

    1. Schiit Jotunheim (with DAC) > Mrspeakers Ether Flow & Ether Flow Closed
    Song: Superheroes by The Script

    This combo was super harsh/bright. I don't know if it was the song but I could not listen to this for more than a minute. I love this song but it sounded horrible.

    Just listened to this on my home rig and it was much better.

    2. Chord Dave>Hifiman HE-1000 V2
    Song: Lonesome Day by Bruce Springsteen

    Hifiman have upped the build quality to the point where they look like 500 GBP to 1000 GBP headphones. Everything looks more polished and less homemade. Man these headphones are comfy!

    They sounded nice to my ears, well balanced nothing irritating or missing. Not sure why anyone would pay 8000 GBP for a Dave......My Schiit rig at home seems to be more punchy and detail retrieval is good as well.

    3. Naim Ugly 80s VCR Box? > Focal Utopia
    Song 1: Just Cant Get Enough by Depeche Mode
    Song 2: Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits

    Not sure why Naim-Focal would connect their beautiful Utopia's to this ugly box but that's what they did.

    These distribute their weight very well. The pads are the softest I've felt on a headphone (maybe a bit too soft?)

    They sounded nice. Plenty of detail, well balanced, Seemed a tiny bit bright/lean to my ears but then I'm used to the HD650 by now. Without a better DAC/AMP and a silent listening space I cannot pass judgement.

    Someone in the UK please buy these and lend them to me for a week! :D

    The price means I will never even consider buying them. They have just increased it from 3250 GBP to 3400 GBP.

    4. Audeze Deckard>Audeze LCD-4
    Song: Get Lucky by Daft Punk

    Decent. A bit dark but pleasant with punchy bass. 3299 GBP? Why? (I don't care about carbon fiber or wood, grey plastic is good enough for me, It just needs to sit on my head :D)

    5. Sennheiser HDVD800>HD800S
    Song: Some classical track

    Oh I have to listen to only classical? No Tidal, no touchscreens/computers anywhere....I think I'll go to some other booth.

    Conclusion:

    I came away feeling satisfied with what I have. I love to have the best of everything but then if I'm paying 10 to 20 times more I have to experience more than a 5% to 10% improvement.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  2. pedalhead

    pedalhead Friend

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    A few of my thoughts from the show...

    1. The HE1000 v2 has way improved build quality over the v1. Tight construction, more headband adjustment (actually fits me properly now). For such an open headphone, it was hard to get a sense sound-wise at the show, but I do feel it is a bit more forward & punchy than the v1 (not a bad thing). I'm deliberating whether to go for the upgrade...mostly for the improved fit...but it's bloody expensive, and as you may have seen from some recent ranting, I'm not happy with HFM at the moment.

    2. Utopia - kind of a shame it was being driven by a Naim streaming brick, but nevertheless, my previous impression holds true, that I've never heard drums sound so realistic. I really need some quiet time with these to figure out if I need to sell a load of stuff to acquire them...but honestly at the moment I'm thinking I'd rather spend £3.4k on a Michell Gyrodec and a nice tube phono stage. Puts it into perspective a bit. Crazy money.

    3. Oriolus IEM (the $1300 one) - This one impressed me a lot (and I'm not an IEM guy). Open-sounding, dynamic, a bit U shaped but not enough to be a problem imho. Wonderful deep, tight bass extension, it monstered my bass test tracks, sounding more like a full size headphone than an IEM. I don't think I'd ever spend this much on an IEM, but if I did, I'd be tempted.

    4. @Muse Wanderer 's Andromeda - Same applies to this IEM...if I were an IEM guy, I'd be all over this one. Doesn't extend as far south as the Oriolus, but is just brilliantly balanced & natural sounding. Quite sensitive, so probably need to be careful with pairings. Yummy.

    5. Sonoma electrostat package - paraphrasing my post from the Sonoma thread....now that the DSP has been adjusted since I last heard it, I thought this was a nice, balanced sounding system. The amp needs more gain (they're working on that) as it was turned to 3 o'clock for a decent level granted, show conditions, but they'll be looking at sorting it.. As it stands, on some quiet recordings it'd be lacking in volume I suspect. The amp has an analogue input for an external dac, but that's fairly pointless as the signal will go through their ADC so that the DSP can be applied & then back out via the Sabre dac. I dunno, non-defeatable DSP always suggests to me that it's making up for problems with the transducer. Maybe it doesn't matter if they get it right? Probably not the most exciting of listens, but maybe a grower.

    6. RHA DACAmp L1 - I really liked this. I'm not super experienced with portable stuff, so I don't have a lot to compare it to, but with my Noble Savants (and the Andromeda) it beat the hell out of my Sony Xperia. Mostly I really really liked the tone controls (analogue). I'd really love to see the return of (defeat-able) tone controls on more gear, and it's particularly useful on a portable amp as IEMs seem to be all over the place when it comes to tuning. Lovely construction, seemed plenty powerful, I'm probably going to buy one when it's out.

    7. Audeze headphones, all of them - I fail to understand why Audeze still haven't come up with a comfortable design for their mid & top range headphones. Bonkers.
     
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  3. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    The HE1000 V2 did indeed look more substantial than the original- though driving it from a Chord DAVE seemed to be a poor idea- it didn't have big enough balls to drive them properly over the noise of the room. Sticking a £400 Jot in front of it and giving it a balanced cable would possibly have shown it off a lot better. "Unilet Sound And Vision" (Audio Sanctuary?) probably could do better at understanding the stuff that they sell, beyond price tag.

    Sadly, similar things applied to the Utopia- why connect it to a crappy Naim streamer? Not the best way to show off such an impressive headphone. Very comfortable and well-made headphone, with remarkable punch and tonality, even in a noisy show environment. Yeah, it was good, but what did you expect? Very clear staging, though not as wide as the almost dizzyingly wide stage that you get from some Stax. Very nice headphones, though- I don't mind if you buy me some.

    The Radius HP-TWF41 IEMs (linked because they're a bit obscure) were really interesting and a bit divisive. I could tell that when I first listened to them- as they have a strong signature, extremely solid hefty bass- plus punchy (but not shrill or sibilant) highs. I think that's due to a weird dual driver setup- beryllium-coated (dynamic?) woofer and ceramic piezo tweeter. The industrial design was a bit weird, they look like mislaid body parts from a very bourgeois robot- but it wasn't a deal-breaker. I am perversely interested in these- the (very patient and friendly) dealer was throwing around $400 as a ballpark. I liked these, even though they had a big low end and a startling top (I'm like that), but @pedalhead made a sad face after listening.

    The Oriolus Second Gen MK.2 (linked, because they're obscure) were really nice, too- though they bloody should be at the price. Detailed, smooth, well-integrated sound. They sounded pretty solid at the top and bottom end. The highs were beautifully smooth and crisp- I tried to make them shouty with "Waitress" by Tori Amos, but to no avail. They really deserved more of a listen than I gave them. Impressive stuff.

    The RHA DACAMP L1 was really interesting. It is apparently slated to be priced at £399, so a direct competitor to the Mojo. I winced at the news that it was dual Saber DACs, but I think I'm a bit of a spoiled bitch these days. However, I gave it a go, and it sounded quite decent- even in show conditions. It is balanced, it has MFI support (so you iPhone types wouldn't need a CCK). It's built like a tank, all hardware controls and no bullshit menus- and a nice brutalist futuristic industrial design aesthetic- Aliens meets Mechano. Definitely one to watch- I really want to see this reviewed and measured properly by people in decent conditions. I couldn't be 100% sure about the sound in the typically noisy and brief exposure that you get to kit at a show.

    RHA couldn't answer the question about whether it has better EMI rejection from USB than the Mojo (which is a nightmare hooked up to a phone in low signal areas), but have promised to poke their engineers for me, if I remind them- which I shall try to remember to do :cool:

    I tried both models of the Audeze spiderman planar IEMs (iSine 10 and 20), even though one of them already had one of its flimsy and terribly-designed earhooks broken. They are as huge and weird as you'd expect. I was having hard time getting a good fit, and even if I held them in place, I wasn't getting great sound. They don't seem to isolate very much, and they feel very large and flimsy. The ear hooks didn't look anything like the ones on their website- they were really thin white plastic- and as I say, one of them had already snapped off.

    Weird, uncomfortable Audezes, you say? Shurely shome mishtake!

    I also tried a bunch of Audeze planars, including LCD-3, LCD-4, and LCD-XC. Obviously the LCD-3 and LCD-4 were not benefiting from the ambient noise, though they were being driven pretty well by Audeze's own Deckard. They didn't sound bad, though, if a little dark and U-shaped.

    The LCD-XC fared a little better, as it's closed- but the weird, clumsy pads and spazzy, simplistic headband design made it hard to get a correct seal- they seemed badly angled in two axes whatever I did.

    All of the big Audeze were heavy and uncomfortable. Rather than using a band which spreads weight across the top of your head, and helps keep the pads clamped gently but firmly against the side of your head, they use a band which seems to put all the weight on a small point at the top of your head, and also at the bottom of the pads, against your cheek. They were some of the most uncomfortable headphones that I have ever worn. They could learn a bit from modern HifiMAN, let alone Sennheiser.

    It was unfortunate that the Deckards were all driven by Tidal, over Wifi. There wasn't enough bandwidth free on the venue's SSID, and the players started choking as the show got busy. The guy running the Audeze stand was extremely apologetic, and seemed to know that it was a really bad idea- but had no real recourse to fix it. In the end, I ran out of patience, and plugged my phone into a Deckard when no-one was looking.

    @Muse Wanderer refused to take "no" for an answer, and more or less insisted that I gave his Campfire Audio Andromedas a listen- they're very nice-sounding.. but you knew that. I thought that the big low-polygon capsule design was weird and uncomfortable, but I am sure that you get used to it in time. Very nice IEMs indeed, surprisingly nicely-voiced for classical rather than just RAWK, too. They're some impressive IEMs, the sound is really well-integrated.. none of that "multi-driver sound" that you sometimes get, with dubious driver tuning/crossover issues. Everything just sounds... right.

    I tried the new Sonoma stats, but to be honest, the energiser didn't have enough gain for the show conditions when I tried them, so I couldn't hear too much. I didn't hear anything that sounded horrible, but I wasn't bowled over. As @pedalhead already mentioned, they're doing DSP correction for the headphones, which means that there's an extra ADC and DAC stage if you're plugging in your own DAC. This is a massive turn-off for me. Also, that sort of compulsory DSP tuning reminds me of my Bose QC25, which isn't a compliment. Given that the price will be firmly in midrange Stax territory, I don't expect these to fly off the shelves.

    The best thing about this outing (other than meeting @pedalhead and @Muse Wanderer of course) was that I didn't really come away with a burning case of upgradeitis. The Radius IEMs and RHA DACAmp have piqued my interest, but not in a "OMG I MUST HAEV OR I DIES" way. If anything, I am more in danger of picking up a little Vali 2 for fun, after being so amused at how damn cute they are, in the flesh.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
  4. Muse Wanderer

    Muse Wanderer Friend

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    I could start and finish off my impressions based on listening to the Utopia again, but I'll leave this to the end.

    I listen to classical music almost exclusively, my main rig consists of Yggdrasil DAC and Ragnarok amp, and the only transducer I have at the moment is the Andromeda as I sold my HD800S and Monitor Audio GX100 speakers these last 2 weeks. My objective is to simulate live orchestral, chamber and acoustic instrumental music rendition with realistic tonality, natural timbre, loud dynamics and resolution.

    Speakers
    I heard all the speaker rooms, sometimes for less than a minute, at other times for some more. Somewhat impressed by the PMC 25 range, especially the 2-driver tower speaker. Bass was quite good for such small drivers, but then the music as with all other systems was kind of crap to my tastes (but that's just me).


    Amps
    Jotunheim - fast, clear, dynamic, - sounds like my Rag. Holy cow! Love it, but I'll keep my Rag as need to drive speakers as well.

    Vali 2 - sounds better than my Vali 1, no microphonics for a change. Going back and forth from Vali 2, Lyr 2 and Jotunheim - Jotun clearly wins.


    DAPs / portable DAC-amps that fit my Andromedas...
    My ears are used to the Yggdrasil DAC, but I still subconsciously want that sound with me on the go, so take this with two pinches of salt...

    Questyle QP1R
    Silent background, good soundstage, tight bass, treble can be peaky. I was unable to listen to my own music so it is difficult to judge it well. User interface was very clunky.

    RHA DAC/Amp L1
    I have to disagree with @pedalhead and @Kattefjaes on this one. It did not impress me. I returned to the table today and have to say, the sabre DAC does bite when the treble is rendered. I used Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' as it uses a Celeste (a piano that is similar sounding to the glockenspiele) showcasing the treble nicely. Other glockenspiele pieces were also used as well as cymbals on Wagner Ring cycle. Besides the treble, the sound is flat sounding at times, kind of boring. I'll have to pass, despite the good price.

    Pioneer XDP-300R (newer model with MQA - who cares!), XDP 100-R (old model) , Onkyo DP-X1
    Three sabre DACs ...sigh.
    On the Pioneer DAPs there was just some John Williams crapola music on but at least there was Richard Strauss 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' intro to listen to. The Onkyo had Mahler 5th symphony adagio.
    Background is black on the andro, no hiss. Bass and mids great sounding. Dynamics are full and well bodied. Staging is fine. Treble is complete and utter piercing, drove me nuts! Here I am with a reasonably priced DAP but etchy as hell treble again.

    AK 320
    There was barely any music I like, as if on purpose (I wonder) - Bach cello suite, Chopin nocturne and a Mass that sucks a bit...
    The Astell and Kerne is kind of the opposite of the Sabre Dacs. Smooth sound, that is pleasing initially coming after the sabre harshness, but it kind of gets a bit too fuzzy and murky. The AK4490 DAC is probably the culprit. It is an OK DAP but for the money I was expecting better.

    Mojo
    Now the treble is just right but a tiny bit less than I would like. There is not much air and extension (Andromeda permitting). Strangely enough, the bass is good despite the low output impedance (I listened to it at Canjam and the bass was overpowering at the time). However the sub-bass was a bit prominent on some organ recordings.

    No Sony ZX-2 I am afraid. I may have to go to a Sony store to chase it out. I'll also wait for impressions of the WM1A before buying a DAP for now.


    Headphones

    Audeze
    ALL the Audeze headphones sound abhorring! There is no way these headphones are good to listen to classical music which kind of defeats the purpose for me. Too U shaped, even their LCD X. LCD 2 is lifeless, LCD 3 is a bit like a zombie phone and the LCD 4 has magical disappearing lower treble that is a bit of a joke.

    Sonoma stats
    Tried this just for fun, barely any power - had to turn the knob all the way. No dynamics at all. Sorry but this is not an excuse for a headphone. Try again thank you.

    Ether flows
    Listened to Jotunheim through this. They have become more energised compared to the Cavalli tube amp I listened to at Canjam. Still recessed mids, a break point for me as always. No dynamics coming from Utopia. Why bother?

    Sennheiser
    I won't go into the HD800 or HD800S as I lived with them for the past 2 years and I now feel relieved of letting them go. Whilst I loved their imaging, soundstage and clarity, their warped mids are not to my liking.
    I asked for the HD600 and HD650 and the Senn rep offered the most amazing headphone of the planet the HD630 VB. When he noticed my smirk he offered the 2nd best headphone - the momentum. No thanks!

    Hifiman HE1000V2
    Still nice sounding with a bit more oomph. Coming from Utopia, mids and especialy dynamics are not great. The Chord Dave it was attached to did not do it any favours. No dynamics whatsover. I tried to convince Keith from Audiosanctuary to borrow the Jotun and try the HE1000 V2 through it but Schiit UK was busy showing off the Ether flows.


    Focal Utopia

    This is it for me. I listened for 35 minutes yesterday and 46 minutes today... I know, I know, every minute counts! I was literally glued to these headphones and the Focal rep probably worried that he had a maniac in front of him!
    My thoughts at Canjam were relayed in this thread...http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...ocal-elear-and-utopia.2270/page-28#post-69751

    I tried to listen to the classical music selection within the boxy Naim streaming thing, that was not ideal. However there was enough mix of music that hooked me.

    Bass is gorgeous. My god, the double bass, cello and organ is rendered beautifully. Listening to Mozart's 4th string quintet was exhilirating.

    Mids are articulated wonderfully. Now that I looked for it, I kind of understand the 1K honk experienced listeners talk about. Female vocals however do sound right. I listened to a soprano singing Mozart's Laudate te from his C minor Mass and the voice was piercing at times. However just yesterday I listened to a soprano singing a Mozart piece live, and her voice was equally piercing.

    Treble, I have to say, is a tiny bit bright. Coming from the Andromeda, the treble can sound a bit edgy leading to some fatigue with prolonged listening. I listened to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy again and the sparkle was a tiny bit too much. Cymbals crashing sounded right however on Wagner's Ride of the Walkure. Sounds strange but the Celesta and Glockenspiel probably render treble at different wavelengths but cymbals produce treble all over the spectrum with different results.


    Highlight of the day


    My highlight of the day was listening to a live orchestra yesterday playing amongst other works, Schumann's piano concerto and Mozart's Jupiter symphony. It made my day and I am still in awe at what I heard. It brought things into perspective - a measly £15 admission ticket brought so much joy to my senses.

    Nothing compares to this, so I wonder what am I looking for by paying so much money to try and simulate this with speakers, let alone the Utopia. However I love my music so much I will probably give in, buy new speakers as well as the Utopia and hopefully forget about major hifi upgrades for years to come.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2016
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  5. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    I had the exact same response from the Sennheiser stand, too. The woman I spoke to seemed a little condescending and dismissive, apparently asking for an HD650 to try with an amp was like asking for a quill pen or an abacus.. or maybe people had just been asking her that all day, as no-one wanted the other crap?

    It's funny that the standout amp for you was the Jotunheim, given its modest price. I really found myself wishing that I'd brought one with me to better audition some of the headphones on show, rather than some of the expensive but mediocre crap that we encountered.

    Also, you're a bit of a bastard for more or less forcing me to listen to your Andromedas, you knew I didn't want to listen to them in case I liked them too much. Oh, the humanity!

    (I love the sound, but oddly feel no urge to purchase a pair, not sure why.)
     
  6. Muse Wanderer

    Muse Wanderer Friend

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    :rolleyes:Yeah yeah yeah.... now you heard it and you cannot unhear it!

    Now think about that amazing sound carried with you whenever you leave the house, go for a long walk along the (not so) sunny river Thames, just before you go to sleep, on the loo in the morning... oh memories!! :D
     
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  7. limesoft

    limesoft Acquaintance

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    I was at the show on Saturday, took my Chord Mojo.

    * Most impressed by the In-Ear Prophile-8; very neutral and balanced with good instrument separation, nothing felt off, but man that price of 1300 euro.. I feel it's too much

    * Not too impressed with the Stagediver 2 with their small soundstage, not dynamic enough, something was off - Pinnacle 1 sounds more holographic and natural, and is almost half the price, but maybe I wasn't getting a good fit.

    * Audeze Sine - not bad, quite neutral sound, but a little hot up top with the treble.. for the few minutes I listened to it I didn't have any discomfort, not sure how the on-ear pads will pan out over longer listening session. I didn't feel the need to buy them however, didn't think they offered a lot more over my Focal Spirit Pro which are half the cost.

    * The iSines; I wasn't getting a good seal, probably that's why the sound was terrible.. I gave up on them quickly because I would never use them as an IEM in real life, their open back design limits them to mostly home listening for me, and for that i have the HD600

    * HD800S; very good

    * Devialet Phatom speakers: impressive bass for their size, but there was a little lack of refinement, they seemed a little shouty. For my room size I prefer my Genelec 8330 with DSP room correction (for half the cost)

    * KEF LS50 wireless; sweet sound.. how much?

    I walked away feeling quite happy with my current equipment, there was nothing at the show that made me feel like I was seriously missing out. The stuff that I liked was only slightly better than my current setup but significantly more pricy... just need to figure out a savings plan to buy the Prophile-8 :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2016
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  8. BenjaminBore

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    Hey there @Rthomas, fancy meeting you here ;)

    The reason Focal will have demoed the Utopia with the Naim Headline(?) is because the UK distributor represents both brands, and perhaps some others. I can tell you from experience with another Focal product that dealing with a warranty issue where dealer, distributor, and overseas manufacturer have to communicate with one another can be a slow and headache inducing process. Ultimately they were helpful throughout, so no real complaint.

    Though I'm not sure I would have ever been able to justify buying the HEK, you guys sure are putting me off even dreaming of it!
    Thanks for all your impressions. The general sentiment seems to be "not really worth it" for most of it, except for the Utopias :bow:
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
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  9. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    @limesoft - sounds like you can't work out what the hell those iSine spiderman IEMs are for, either. Can you imagine a situation where you'd actually feel like spending your own money on them? I'm still wondering what on earth they're smoking.
     
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  10. limesoft

    limesoft Acquaintance

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    Focal + Naim have merged apparently, so it is likely we will see this pairing a lot more in the future.. I also saw the new Naim Uniti paired with Focal speakers at the show
     
  11. limesoft

    limesoft Acquaintance

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    @Kattefjaes the iSine was one of the most disappointing products at the show for me, makes no sense and sounded bad, the fostex te07 following closely behind (shrill and lean).
     
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