Sennheiser HD 820

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by iDesign, Apr 29, 2017.

  1. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I think the Utopia sound better than the HD820 too.

    They definitely handle stage and imaging differently ... as the Utopia has almost NO stage compared to the HD820.

    Not that it's a remotely apples-to-apples comparison. There's a $1,600 price difference and they're two different types of headphones. If you need some degree of noise isolation, inward or outward, then one being "better" than he other is immaterial, as only one of them is even a candidate in the first place. And if you don't, then why even consider a closed back (absent only being able to have one headphone, maybe)?

    Utopia remain my favorite open-backed dynamic headphone, and overall favorite headphone period. The HD820 are just the best closed-back headphone I've heard properly ... meaning at length and with gear and music I know inside out and in a sensible environment. Not perfect, just the best closed-back I've heard.

    I still think it's very interesting that I haven't seen a negative review of the HD820 that has any photographic provenance that isn't also show/meet conditions, and probable pre-production hardware. Given how vocal and aggressive some of the negative comments are regarding them that's especially surprising. That many of those comparisons are to totally different types of headphones just further devalues them in my personal opinion.

    BUT ... what I think shouldn't matter; take a listen and buy based on what you like and what you need. Which still, to me, means don't buy closed-back headphones if you can use open-backed ones instead.
     
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  2. Maxx134

    Maxx134 no one will touch his boy parts without $$$

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    I agree.
    I have to put my expectation in perspective.
    There are literally no real "closed" top contenders out there.
    None have drivers that are performing in the same level of the 800 resolve/technicalities.

    I generalized too much.
    I was actually assuming you would eventually get tired of them.
    When you put the flaws in perspective, they don't have any worse than others.

    You just pinpoint my issue with them.
    They were not at level as the open HD800S I compared it to.
    I see now that its Apples & oranges.
    I realize it shouldn't be expected to perform as good as an open can.


    Sorry my crappy Google search is not showing SBAF review so would be helpful to post link please.
    I'm Not lazy so I will look more.

    Another point I will agree that all users/members must trust their own ears as Everyone has their preferences.

    This is like a "stereotype" saying... that "show" or "meet" conditions invalidate your impressions. To me this is false.
    It certainly can mask impressions or detract, but that's what time is for.
    Spending time with a unit will offset doubt.
    Especially a closed can has more isolation.

    As for doubt.
    Dont allow yourself to have Doubt. Doubt is the killer of desicion making.

    Your point is excellent when you limit the comparisons in perspective of their type (closed headphones) only.

    I know its "wrong" to compare, but still we have our preferences.

    I am spoiled because I mod headphones to my liking, so I can understand your statement of haven't hearing a better closed headphone, (yet).
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2018
  3. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    It isn't an SBAF review, and it is no longer the first (or second) Google result, so here it is.
     
  4. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    Looks like there's a few more reviews out there now. Just google HD820 headphone review

    rtings

    Torq's is still first in my google search :)
     
  5. Ardacer

    Ardacer needs to read more, post less

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    Is the 820's driver bigger than 800 and 800s?, or is this just the concave lens?
    Can't find any info. Seems bigger to me.
     
  6. money4me247

    money4me247 Friend

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    So I don't post frequently anymore, but I wanted to offer a different perspective. Of course, the usual disclaimers, my opinion only, ymmv, not looking for an argument, feel free to disagree.

    I purchased the HD820 and have been listening to it for more than 2 weeks now. For high end over-ear gear, I have the HD800S and Focal Utopia for comparison. I don't have any 'true' totl closed headphones at home now to compare it against, though I've demoed/home auditioned the majority of the usual high-end suspects before. My chain is Schiit Multibit Gungnir Multibit and Mjolnir 2 with LISST tubes.

    In direct head to head comparisons, both the HD800S & Utopia technically outperforms the HD820, which is not unexpected. I was surprised that the Utopia's soundstage was larger than the HD820 as I personally felt like the sound stage of the Utopia is quite small for a TOTL open flagship. I was also surprised that the HD820 has more bass quantity & a thicker sound than the Utopia as I do think the Utopia already has warm overall presentation. Prior to my personal listening comparisons when I was reading all the hype around the HD820 being the most open-sounding closed headphone ever, I was expecting that the HD820 would be able to perform similarly to the Utopia in certain technical aspects as my personal ranking is the HD800/HD800S being overall much more technically proficient compared to the Utopia (while the Utopia's strength was its tonal balance), but realistically, at the end of the day, the HD820 still will sound closed when compared to an open headphone (even open headphones with smaller sound stages like the Utopia). Switching back and forth from an open headphone (even a mid-tier like the K7xx or HE-400i) to the HD820, the HD820 does feel like listening in a comparatively smaller room. So forget the hyperbole that the HD820 can be mistaken for an open headphone. However, as a closed headphone, it definitely does have great sound stage (though my direct comparisons are limited to more mid-tier closed like the Fostex TH-xxx series, Oppo PM-3, Audeze Mobius, and the HD820's sound stage easily outperforms all of those)

    I have seen the FR measurements of the HD820, and I've done extensive frequency response sweeps, and I am happy to report that during the sweeps, the dips & valleys are not as noticeable as I would have predicted from the measurements. From the graphs I've seen, there are 10-15+dB swings present in the measurements. Does not sound to be that much when listening to sweep. There was a long video on head-fi saying that the FR variation are supposedly an intentional psychoacoustic choice. I personally would think more likely the inherent limitations of a closed design and damping system forced a compromise and this tuning was the ideal that they came up with. But if you are just listening to the HD820 or only comparing with other closed headphones, the HD820 definitely sounds generally well-tuned and any flaws that I talk about later are the nitpicky type flaws that only hard-core audiophiles really stress about or even bother discussing.

    Most glaring thing I would say is that there definitely appears to be a loss in upper bass and lower mids, and there does appear to be a very subtle disjointedness with the bass and the rest of the frequency response. The bass is definitely tight and does not bleed into the mids at all, but it is quite elevated in quantity compared to the rest of the FR. It has the strange characteristic of being heavy in bass quantity but not really warm-sounding due to the lack of upper bass and lower mids that typically make that warmer-sounding presentation. Overall, there is definitely sufficient bass quantity (I can see some audiophiles thinking maybe even slightly too much, I would guess that the general population would be happy, the extremely hard-core bassheads may still end up EQing it up lol). The quality of the bass in terms of tonality and timbre is good. Bass overall is a strength and definitely does not bleed into the mid-range at all. Which actually does sound a bit strange at first when you first hear it as with that amount of bass prominence I expected an overall "warmer" tonal presentation. The HD820 does not have that syrupy Audeze warmth/thickness. Impact and slam is fine, but not as visceral or hard-hitting as some of the planar magnetic like the Abyss or HE-6. I would describe the bass as emphasized, mid-bass focused, and tight.

    The place where the HD820 struggles a bit more in my personal opinion is the mid-range. There does appear to be a subtle emphasis on the middle of the mid-range and loss of both the lower and upper mids which causes certain vocals to lose that underlying fullness of their voice, the "chestiness" or husky raspiness sounds a bit more subdued. A bit almost hollow sense to certain voices. The edginess or crispiness that can contribute to both either negatively to sibiliance or positively to improved definition is a bit dulled off which is surprising in a Sennheiser headphone. It can sometimes give the perception of a honkiness to the midrange. To be honest though, this effect is really only noticeable when you are doing rapid direct AB comparisons against other headphones. I think the way we naturally hear it is not unrealistic for us to really hone in more to the middle region of the mid-range with the upper and lower mids less pronounced. So I think more of a different presentation than a 'flawed' presentation as it does prevent any muddiness or tinniness to the sound signature. I did get used to the presentation after extended listening but there is a bit of a small adjustment when switching from different headphones. If the HD820 will be a primarily pair of headphones, I doubt this will be an issue.

    Treble is a great strength of the HD820 in its smooth tuning but it is less present in quantity compared to the HD800/HD800S. Sounds extremely smooth throughout with very minimal peaks or valleys in the upper registers. Unfortunately, while the region is non-fatiguing and smooth throughout, I do think trebleheads may be disappointed with the quantity of the treble as often listening to certain busy songs the subtle treble elements do get lost behind the bass and mid. The breathy quality of voices often more subdued in comparison, and cymbals are not as bright and piercing. Not as sharp-sounding and airy overall compared to prior HD800 headphones. While I do personally prefer a bit more edge and bite to my treble, that can often lead to harshness. The HD820 never does get too piercing or brittle, but the airy elements are not as obvious as prior HD800 tuning. I would describe the treble as pleasing, smooth, and non-fatiguing.

    Instrument separation is excellent. Positioning of audio cues is extremely precise. Sound stage is impressive for a closed headphone but can still tell that it is closed. Great transient responses, no issues with speed. Overall, technical performance is excellent for a closed headphone.

    Comfort is excellent. Good padding on the headband, good distribution of pressure, earcups very large, earpads are breathable and no issues at normal temperatures, but I can see it definitely getting stuffy in actual humid/hot weather. Is noticeably heavier than the HD800S. It is quite bulky headphone. Primarily plastic construction. But does not feel flimsy. Looks gorgeous in person of course.

    Overall, I think that the HD820 is a very technically capable closed headphone with a pleasing non-fatiguing tuning and definite mid-bass emphasis. Easy to enjoy with no glaring deal-breaker level flaws. Price point is definitely high and you can better a better price-performance ratio with a flagship open over-ear headphones or flagship IEM.

    At the end of the day, is the HD820 the best closed headphones ever? It's a very good headphone overall, so I certainly wouldn't waste my time arguing with those who think it is the best. However, there are a lot of other capable flagship closed headphones out there, and I do not think that this headphone can be easily crowned as a clear-cut step above the other flagship contenders. I haven't seen direct HD820 comparisons against the current Beyerdynamic, Audeze, or Mr Speakers closed flagships. While I will not be keeping these headphones, I can definitely see their strength and appeal. I also do think that other manufacturers will be happy to get into this race of price escalation on their flagship closed headphones as well lol.

    This will sound a bit silly in a uber-flagship type review, but I still remember how amazed I was with how well performing the AKG K550 was with great overall sound signature with excellent sound stage for a closed headphone, and their amazing value. There were definitely moments in this hobby when I am swept off my feet by the flagship gear's performance (ie: 1st time I heard the HD800 on the Studio Six, 1st time I heard the Stax 009 on Blue Hawaii, 1st time hearing the gs-x mk2 with any headphone, 1st time hearing the UERM, 1st time hearing the Orpheus). There has definitely been a lot of buzz & excitement surrounding the HD820, but after hearing the HD820 myself, I personally do not think that any particularly revolutionary has been achieved. I actually think that the best closed headphones are still in the mid-tier category and it is not necessary to chase up the price point up to flagship levels to achieve good overall tonal balance because all closed headphones (...even the HD820) sound closed in comparison to open headphones.

    And realistically speaking, an in-ear monitor headphone would bypass some the inherent issues regarding a closed cup design while achieving noise isolation with additional benefit of portability. I've only started comparing the HD820 against my collection of IEMs, and right now, I have not really found any specific sonic or technical benefit that HD820 offers that makes me feel the need to grab it instead of a flagship IEM. While there are definitely a group of users who require noise isolation may prefer closed headphones over IEMs, I think that you can achieve TOTL flagship levels of performance at the $1k level with IEMs. I actually strongly preferred over-ear styles over IEM for quite a long time especially due to my sensitive ear canals made it hard from me to wear IEMs for long periods of time, but nowadays, I lean more towards IEMs, even sometimes instead of using my flagship open over-ears.

    To be honest, I think almost all users would be better off spending the $2.5k on getting both a flagship open headphone and a flagship IEM (example: $1.5k HD800S + $1k Campfire Andromeda).

    So those are my personal thoughts regarding the HD820. Agree or disagree, hopefully this perspective is informative.

    Side note: one thing I do really dislike is the tendency for people to look for ways to discredit or devalue other people's opinions that do not agree with them. in the realm of audio where just individual ear anatomy can influence sound not even going to personal sound signature preferences, it is a bit ridiculous to think that everyone will agree with each other. And no, I do not feel like I need to post pictures of myself holding the headphones to prove that I am worthy of talking about them. And yes, I do think it is perfectly fair to discuss closed headphones against open headphones against IEMs, keeping in mind different usage scenarios & the inherent strengths/limitations of the design form, because when we are making the purchasing decision, we are not limited by headphone design, we are looking for what best suits our needs & evaluating comparative strengths/weaknesses.
     
  7. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Copy/pasta my RMAF impressions on the HD820 for thread continuity here:

    Sennheiser HD820 - I know this isn't something brand new or announced at RMAF, but it was a good opportunity to check one out nonetheless. I didn't hate the HD820, but I didn't care for it. The bass was surprisingly full and pronounced, though not as tight as I remember the HD800 being. The midrange as a whole sounded fairly normal. Treble wasn't too bright overall, though I could hear some hot spots wanting to poke out a bit.

    By and large, it's not the thin, overall bright sort of HD800 experience at all. But my disappointment stemmed from an overall incoherent sort of feel to the sound signature. At times, the bass had a clear separation from the mids, and could vary between sounding thin or thick depending on the music. And the midrange didn't transition smoothly into the treble either, with the latter sounding a bit confused and trying to go in different directions all at once. It just made for a weird listening experience. Again, lack of coherence is the issue here.
     
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  8. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    agree with @Hands on the 820, almost hollowish sounding on some material. 800s was way more to my liking, but for some reason the chap from senn was pushing the heck out of the 820. Got to hear a 660s and was not blown over either, better impression than 820, still prefer my 600.
     
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  9. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    I too listened and compared it directly (off same amp) with the 800s. The 800s was better to me. Something was off on the 820, but it wasn’t as bad as when I heard it before. It did isolate somewhat, so I guess there’s a use case for it, but it should be 800 less
     
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  10. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Was reading head-fi's 820 measurement thread out of curiosity since we don't have one yet. Found this link to an unlisted youtube video of a presentation by Axel Grell on the design of the 820 thats pretty interesting imo. Really helps explain some of the impressions in this thread :
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2018
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  11. Maxx134

    Maxx134 no one will touch his boy parts without $$$

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    Here is my interpretation on this video:

    OMG stated with a bit confusing, side-tracking, and long-winded history of headphone introduction, but prob done for the masses & to somehow tie Senn to that history.

    Poor guy, Senn have him do so much explanin he does seem stressed lol.

    His mentions topic about bass.
    He points out resonances.
    Yes we know they are bad.
    Although IMO, the 800 seems to selectively use that 6k resonance in the chamber to create a difused nature.

    I Can agree this was a big design challenge to try keep the 800 into a closed design.

    Lots of talk...
    On a technical standpoint, if they "have to" (reflect), then why are they reflecting ALL the rear sound, when all you needed to reflect was the low frequency (bass) ...
    Like what many other closed designs do..

    There really should have been rear damping to absorb the higher frequencies in that center chamber glass..

    Around 22min in, he admits they could have used a "damper", but then says it was intentional.


    At 16min in, He admits to why the design was done with glass and transparent aluminum(!)..
    It was intended to display the transducer, which he says he feels is still the best.

    Edit: I am going to agree there is a good reason why they havent changed the driver.
    IMO, you are essential listening to a voicecoil, as it is not traditional diaphragm.

    He admits they using same exact driver as the 800S, and that all versions use same exact driver as 800 except with the center piece in the 800S.
    Good to know.

    So in retrospect, we talking Zero major driver changes since the inception of the 800 driver...
    This equals about 11 yrs.(!)

    I may not agree with the overall latest 820 design, but it was Sennheiser choice.

    I do agree there driver "design" is truly excellent. One that should have changed the world, but they never produced anything else other than these flagships with it.

    Pretty long video not sure why so much to explain a headphone unless your trying to state your case "why" you feel the new design should sound the way it does.

    My guess is that they wanted it to look as original as possible, so as to not offend public, OR the Company(!) with any radical designs.

    Lots more talk.

    I am dismayed they still using the same tiny connectors that I had break on me when internally rewiring (in one of my old threads here.)

    At 39min in his head nodding no(in disagreement) when trying to explain design choices show he was having much difficulty in explaining what he wanted to say.

    Anyways...
    I think to put in perspective, it should be noted that the 800 driver has really not been desicively dethroned by any other dynamic driver yet.
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2018
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  12. Thenewerguy009

    Thenewerguy009 Friend

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    Considering Audeze, Hifiman, MrSpeakers, ZMF & now Focal & JPS are putting out new high-end headphones every other day, this is very perplexing.
     
  13. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    Audeze is probably doing it to hide the fact that they've been getting their manufacturing shit together.

    Hifiman is recycling old headphones while completely chasing a new planar sound thats closing in on stats.

    MrSpeakers is still developing a house sound...ill leave it at that.

    Zmf has 5 models including the new ones, with 3 different drivers. Zach himself admits that choice between drivers are subjective.

    Focal is adding new models that use the "lesser" aluminum driver while keeping the Be for Utopia.

    JPS has only had one big revision and two models with obviously different design goals, weird as they are.

    So Senn is closest to Focal to me in that they got their manufacturing down to a tee years ago and that they already have their idea of the perfect compromise for a dynamic driver down (high impedance, ring-tweeter based, micro over macro,...) and are not willing to change the driver itself. Whats odd/dumb is their willingness to drive costs beyond $2k while admitting that its still not truly optimal. The real interesting part is when then mentioned their philosophy of making the enclosure as small as possible, which is the exact opposite of @Garuspik's philosophy: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...losed-back-headphones.6602/page-2#post-218880
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
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  14. AllanMarcus

    AllanMarcus Friend

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    I'm gonna guess the Quad ERA-1 is a ChiFi remake of something, but I don't know what. It's probably on par with the closed Aeon, but side by side, It might compete with the HD820. At some point my guess is Jason at TSAV will get the quad and someone can go down there and compare the two.
     
  15. taisserroots

    taisserroots Friend

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    I got to try these at the last day at thr festival of sound, with acorn audio just behind me with his stock of zmf and his personal iha1 (my favourite amp so far). Headphone section at a British speaker show where the "biggest" companies are focal, naim, b&w, chord and all other brit-fi stuff which sounded dreary. So it was really quiet for a show.

    Sennheisser subverted my expectations a lot with this. Starting from the bass, it's immediately lost the control and resolve that was a significant part of the original hd800. The bass comes across as one note compared to the eikon and hd800S. It was definitely a lot warmer than the hd800S, yet it felt flabbier.

    The transition from bass to mids is basically a dip, upper bass is missing, the lower middle are missing. While I would say that the eikon has a mid honk, the hd820 seems to be much worse in this regard. What it does aside from the honk is contribute more to the thickness of the mids that the hd800 variants have. Rather than just having dipped upper mids, the lower mids are dipped too. This makes it really congested, which is worse on this than the hd800 because it doesn't have the same openness due to the air.

    This seems to have a significant effect on the timbre, I already found that the original hd800 decayed slightly too quick. This seemed to decay a lot faster and lost a lot of the texture resolution that the hd800 has, it made the timbre really plasticy.

    This smoothed over plasticy texture described how I heard the general timbre and resolution of this headphone. It just seemed like every subtle nuance was just smoothed over, compared to an hd800 or an eikon.

    Sure I could hear effects like doubled vocals or reverb and tell them apart, but the same happens with balanced armature iems. I can hear the macro detail, but I can't hear the body around these things, the decay, it's texture or any of the small details which bring life to music like I can with other competitors.

    I'd say the resolution beats out my trusted hd580, but falls short of something like the eikon, while I didn't compare them directly at the time, it's probably around where the Atticus sits.

    The treble was quite interesting for me, since it wasn't as extended or as bright as the hd800. But for some reason it sounded really harsh. I'm usually fine with treble, the hd800 and the brighter adx5000 don't bother me. Stuff like the emu teaks, b&w speakers and now the hd820 do, there is this harsh brittleness to them which is fatiguing.
    It isn't fatiguing in the same way the edge from a violin or the sizzle of a drum kit is, these seem more like mid treble issues.

    The dynamics and staging of these headphones weren't my cup of tea.
    The original hd800 has that upper octave extension and because of that the stage expands quite far to the point of being somewhat diffuse. This doesn't have that, the mix of the mid congestion and the lack of air makes this headphone closed in soubding. Even if the stage is a bit further back than the eikon it doesn't sound as open.

    The dyanmics don't sound as clean and there is a general fuzziness to them, I'd consider the eikon superior in this sense as dynamic range is rendered a bit more naturally and matters because there isn't an overwhelming sense of congestion.

    While the hd820 shares the hd800S it doesn't share the same imaging quality, it images fine without any major issues, but that sense of fuzziness gets in the way.

    Considering the hype around these and my own sennheisser fanboyism, it's kind of dissapointing to hear these. My main issue with these is that they take the original issues I had with the hd800, made them worse whilst adding a couple of other issues, whilst also taking away what makes you deal with the issues the hd800 has.

    Technical capabilities aside, I feel that the tonal issues with these headphones are enough to take many cheaper alternatives over these, because the tone doesn't sound normal by any stretch of the imagination.
    I would rather have the eikon with it's warmth, midrange honk and laid backish presentation because despite these colourations, it's not as far off normal.
    For those people who stick with their hd6x0 instead of utopias and hd800s, I can see why you would have an emu teak instead of these.
     
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  16. bazelio

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  17. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Oh man, I'm still geting caught up on things. The fact that Sennheiser thought a closed back HD800 (with glass enclosure!?!?!)was a good idea is barf-tastic.
     
  18. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

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    The Source still hasn't been able to move one. I think a lot of people are like wtf?
     
  19. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I imagine big companies like Sennheiser count on their audiophile customers being a bunch of suckers with cash burning in their pockets. The idea that this product is getting terrible feedback from customers and dealers brings warm feelings to my heart.

    The new generation of head-philes are much more discerning than the aging boomer 2-channel crowd which will buy anything that is sold to them.
     
  20. Mithrandir41

    Mithrandir41 Friend

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    The circle jerk that is the LAOCAS.
     

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