Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion

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adydula

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Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« on: 8 Oct 2019, 04:57 pm »
OK folks, thought I would try to stimulate the discussion in this thread about comparing things like amps and dacs...

We all have different hardware and gear and its hard to do blind AB testing properly at times.

So I did simple experiment this morning and I will share more details once I am sure what I am doing makes sense.

So if you want to chime in as to how you compare headphone amps, dacs etc please feel free to add to the discussion.

My simple experiment is adding a couple of Y RCA connectors of the back of my primary dac to be able to quickly listen to
two headphone amps, level set, and just unplug and plug between two different amps...in less than 2 seconds.

Same source, same dac, the same simple method Tyll over at Innerfidelity used when he was there many times.

I mucked with this for a few minutes and was very surprised at the results so far...stay tuned!

Alex


displayname

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #1 on: 8 Oct 2019, 06:04 pm »
I don't get very scientific about my comparisons. I see the value in doing that if you're trying to review something, but in general I try something, decide if I like it or not. Then focus on the details that I do/don't like, the "key points" of the combo. If I really like it, and it's in my price range, I take it home.

I'm a big believer that system synergy is a big part of things. Overtime you find some components that have more synergy with a wider range of gear, but overall you are always listening to a system. Listening to a piece of gear in a few systems helps you more quickly define what elements of that piece stand out. But no matter how objective a test can be, sometimes you just like something better. I think the ability to articulate WHY you like that system more is what helps you find gear down the road that you'll likely also enjoy.

adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #2 on: 8 Oct 2019, 07:53 pm »
Those are good points and I understand what your saying...

Many of us look at specs but I think many of us place value on how things look, fit, feel, operate and integrate into our own situation.

It gets a bit harder when your looking at one piece of gear in your chain, IMO...or rather comparing an amp or dac to other amps and dacs.

I have 11+ amps here and some seem to work better for me than others....

If you try a new amp in your chain, you have to keep all the other parts the same to be able to have a good chance of honestly coming to some
conclusion of  whether its better or worse or the same.

Recently I took one amp that I really like and did some blind AB testing with the help of a friend and I could not tell the difference between the two!

One was recently torn apart by a objective source as being mediocre at best and the other was at the top of the food chain is specifications.

Coming from an objective analytical background its unsettling!!!

But the good news is they both provide the same sonic experience in my system chain....

Its a bit different with actual headphones...

Alex


adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #3 on: 9 Oct 2019, 01:25 pm »
Testing Session with Amps and Focal Clears....

Fun times!




Alex

brooklyn

Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #4 on: 9 Oct 2019, 04:33 pm »
Gee whiz Alex, it looks like a laboratory at your house.. lol

The fun is gonna be starting for me, as I was reading your post I received a delivery of an
Auralic Taurus MK ll headphone amp that I recently purchased. I’m interested to hear what
it sounds like with the Senn, HD 800S using the balanced connection.

I’ll let you know how things pan out. fun, fun fun.. lol

Jerry

adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #5 on: 10 Oct 2019, 11:53 am »
Jerry.....enjoy the journey!

My stuff was and still is obtained over a long period of time...budgets, sales, discounts etc....

I made a "jig" that fits over an earpad and I can insert my SPL meter in a hole and play a 1KHz audio tone and set the volume level.
This is helpful with all the different amplifier gains etc.....

Its a humbling experience to think your most expensive amp is better than your other lower cost amps....

Without level setting its easy to make or think one amp is better just with a little twist of the volume knob!!

So far I have come to the conclusion that most SS amps are pretty much the same in sound signature all across the board that I own!
Differences are in the gain settings, power output and connectivity.

I can tell a euphonic difference in between my tube amps and the SS gear....

One amp I have is the DIY T2, now called the Noir over at diyaudio...one person measured it and pretty much states is a really mediocre amp and his
conclusion was it even sounds mediocre at best.

BUT when I did a double blind test here I could not tell the difference between it and other "great" measuring amps.

So what does that tell you?

This "mediocre" amp has given me an immense amount of listening pleasure. So this all points out to me that measurements are important but when your down in the mud
it really doesnt matter that much!! IMO of course.

What really matters most is the source material and your headphones.....

But gosh I have spent lots of dollars doing this !!  LOL

.....its always FUN to get new stuff and test and listen....even coming to the realizations from my years of mucking with this stuff I still
buy, build and test stuff just because I like to...

Please post some pics of your new amp!

All the best
Alex






jawks

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #6 on: 10 Oct 2019, 03:36 pm »
Gee whiz Alex, it looks like a laboratory at your house.. lol

The fun is gonna be starting for me, as I was reading your post I received a delivery of an
Auralic Taurus MK ll headphone amp that I recently purchased. I’m interested to hear what
it sounds like with the Senn, HD 800S using the balanced connection.

I’ll let you know how things pan out. fun, fun fun.. lol

Jerry

Congrats on the purchase of the Auralic, Jerry!  Please let us know your impressions!  I considered the Auralic as a potential amp for HD800S but ended up going with a Violectric V281 (got a good deal on a used one in great condition).  I did read a lot of positive reviews about the Auralic.


jawks

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #7 on: 10 Oct 2019, 03:37 pm »
Testing Session with Amps and Focal Clears....

Fun times!




Alex

Love the pic, Alex.  I agree with Jerry - it looks like you have a sound lab in your home, and it looks awesome!  How's the Magni 3 faring against all those bigger sized amps?


adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #8 on: 10 Oct 2019, 06:58 pm »
Here is another pix with 4 more amps !!

I have a few more but they are smaller cMoy type altoids tin amps, but very very good!!



As far as how the Magni 3 fairs....its an exceptional $99 amp that I paid $79 for, B-Stock...

In my blind AB level matched testing its very hard to detect what SS amp is playing!
Its really like splitting hairs here....

So I would say with a good set of cans and the Magni 3 you "can" be very happy.

Its a very clean, transparent amp....if you can be honest with yourself and not fall into the trap of more is better ($$$$)...
(and I think myself and others fall into that one !!!).

Having chased audio nirvana so long...and spent soo much $$$

Life is Short....enjoy the music while you can!

Alex







jawks

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #9 on: 10 Oct 2019, 07:00 pm »

Life is Short....enjoy the music while you can!


Truer words could not have been spoken.   :D

adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #10 on: 22 Oct 2019, 02:13 pm »
Ok often we buy new stuff and state and or think its the best thing since sliced bread.

Then after several weeks this "sliced bread" starts getting "stale" and we start thinking hey whats up with this, why doesnt this new
stuff sparkle like it was when I got it a few weeks ago?

Interesting acoustic - brain phenomena going on here??

This in one of the reasons I rotate thru my stuff, headphones and amps...the dac I have settled in on the Schitt Bifrost MB, but may "upgrade" to the
new Bifrost 2 early next year...($100 discount for Bifrost 1 owners!).

So My Focal Clears yesterday started sounding ho hum!! WTF over!

So I started listening to other cans, this am its the HD 600's and wow they are different and sound accurate but a small soundstage and missing that body and weight of the clears..

Of course the differences will vary widely with differing sources...so listening to my demo favorites my brain and ears are telling me hey its pretty good!!

So how long before the "hey thats pretty good" to wear off and onto the next set?

Coffee is good here!

Alex

 :D


brooklyn

Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #11 on: 22 Oct 2019, 05:06 pm »
Alex,

I’ve had that (something doesn’t sound right) to me on occasion and also thought.. WTF..  Last week I was listening
to the Ananda’s with the Auralic headphone amp and the listening experience wasn’t up to par.. Maybe the amp wasn’t
warmed up enough or the Ananda’s still weren’t broken in.. I listened to the Ananda’s with the Darkvoice last night for
a couple of hours and the sound quality was superb to my ears..

I also rotate my amps and headphones every few days and making it a point of listening to different recordings that I
haven’t listened to in a long time. So far, I don’t have much to complain about…

Well… with Christmas coming, I was thinking of a new tube amp or new tubes for the Darkvoice. I read on some forums
that the Darkvoice could sound better with a different set of tubes.. I really don’t want to start going down that rabbit hole.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while now but the answer I want to hear (while talking to myself) has not happened..
lol and WTF

Jerry
« Last Edit: 23 Oct 2019, 04:20 am by brooklyn »

adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #12 on: 22 Oct 2019, 06:55 pm »
Jerry,

Its good to see I am not alone here in the "WTF" swamp of audio!!

I think we spend too much money on this stuff...but you cant take it with you!!

I just got off my butt and found my APL adapter I made to level set headphones with a 1khz test tone and set up the levels
for my Schitt $79 amp and the new Pete Milletts "Butte" amp, which by the way I just modified the gain resistors and new low gain op amps OPA 551's..

One the level set was set at 75dB we started playing tunes and the sound from both amps are almost if not identical!!

But just touch that volume know and one really starts being "better".... :lol: 8) :roll:

Boy if you start chasing tubes good luck...this is another audio black hole and money pit IMO...been there done that..with similar results..

Most vacuum tube amps you will find MANY folks who swear by tube swapping and finding what they think are the best etc...

I have found that if the tube is operating within its design parameters in the linear portion of the curve etc...all things being equal they all sound the same...

That said tube do vary alot in their characteristics and these may make a difference, not all tube can be used in the same circuit and I believe the circuit design is
very important to how things play out rather than the tube itself..

Circuits that are well designed and laid out tend to have less differences in audio output due to its design...again IMO.

Bottlehead folks will tell you this in spades, lots of folks pay mega bucks for tubes and think they are the best in the world...but do a simple level set experiment with them
and they are often bewildered....

This is an area that has been discussed and argued about since the dinosaurs were on the earth!! LOL!!!

Oh by the way I have a bunch of vacuum tubes here from when I went thru my search for THE tube to end all tubes!!

Its a fun hobby for sure..and if you go after some tubes please enlighten us!!

Alex



jawks

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #13 on: 23 Oct 2019, 12:19 am »
Allow me to echo the "WTF" sentiment.

I think it's our human nature.  As "audiophiles", we are constantly striving for that last bit of musical enjoyment.  I hesitate to say musical perfection, because we all know that that doesn't exist.  I think the more we spend on gear and equipment, the higher our expectations are that the products we buy will provide a higher level of musical satisfaction.  When we don't reap the satisfaction we expect, we say "WTF".  There are so many variables, though, that confound our perceptions.  There's the choice of music.  Quality of recording.  Pressing of recording (if vinyl).  Quality of source components.  Our mood at the time of listening.  The time of day when listening.  The list goes on and on.

Alex, I empathize with you and your feeling with the Clears.  I just bought the HD800S.  It sounded absolutely amazing in the store when I auditioned it.  It sounds wonderful at home through my iFi IDSD Pro DAC and Violectric V281 amp.  Then I listened to my ZMF Aeolus and my world was turned upside down.  The sound signature was so different - not as open as the HD800S, but there was a warmth and organic nature to the sound that was so appealing.  The bass had that much more heft to it.  I went back to the HD800S and asked myself, "WTF?"  I paid a lot more for the new HD800S than for the used Aeolus.  Then I tried listening to the headphones using the headphone amp of the iFi DAC and compared it with the sound from the Violectric.  It wasn't a night and day difference.  Maybe the Violectric had a slight upper hand, but again, "WTF".  Could I have been just using the iFi as both DAC and amp?  Could I have been as happy having purchased a less expensive DAC and amp?  Is this all in my head that I expect that these "quality" items should bring me to a level of musical nirvana?  Or is it wrong to expect anything to begin with?  WTF!   :lol:

Sorry if I am waxing philosophical here, but I've been mulling these questions throughout the day.  Reading your posts just made me want to put my thoughts down in words. 


Freo-1

Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #14 on: 23 Oct 2019, 12:55 am »

I think we all have had those moments.  Recently, when I picked up the Sonarworks  True-Fi application hosted on an Alienware computer, the headphone experience took a dramatic turn.  Using a pair of Sony MDR Z7 cans, they suddenly sounded outstanding with streaming music from You Tube.  The difference is remarkable.  I wish there was a way to apply the curves to a portable music player, such as a AK KANN.  While the nth degree of dynamic contrast is not quite there with the headphone out, it's still damn good.  I also tried a pair of Focal Elear headphones with and without the equalization, and noticed a similar set of effects, though not as dramatic with the Elear phones. 


I have tried connecting the headphone out from the computer through the headphone amp, it does provide more drive and a bit more dynamics, but it does get offset slightly by the extra amp stage.  The degree of deltas varies with the specific recording, along with the headphone being used. 






The Sonarworks app really exposed the limitations with headphone playback without equalization.  It seems as if all dynamic headphones have some sort of resonance issue with playback.  Decided that I needed to try a different type of dynamic driver (planar magnetic).  Since I had just recently obtained the Focal Elear, the dealer allowed me to trade them in for their demo pair of Audeze LCD-3. 


So, will report on the LCD-3, as they should be here within the week.  I'm hoping they will sound similar to ESL phones. 

hagtech

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #15 on: 23 Oct 2019, 07:23 am »
Quote
My simple experiment is adding a couple of Y RCA connectors of the back of my primary dac to be able to quickly listen to
two headphone amps, level set, and just unplug and plug between two different amps...in less than 2 seconds.

I find if I have to stop the music, swap RCA cables or whatever, then play the same track again, enough time has gone by that the comparison becomes really difficult.  At least for me.  I'm sure a few others can do it.  But I like the ability to swap A/B in real time.  Makes those tiny differences possible to notice. 

jh

adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #16 on: 23 Oct 2019, 01:36 pm »
Good Morning,

Its good to see that some of you have the same listening experiences!!

I guess we could categorize these as "WTF Moments" !!  :thumb:

hagtech I agree about changing stuff and letting you memory fade abit its really hard to be objective. When you mention "the little things" I agree that
with most well designed audio stuff with the exception of transducers, the differences are often indeed "little"...

I do take great pains in matching levels with a SPL meter and using the same track and section of a song for at least 30 seconds etc, try to examine
a certain portion as best as humanly possible...sometimes its when a treble part cuts in or a section of percussion or "looking: at the tonality of strings or tone of a saxophone.

I dont have an AB box, but its not hard to build...but I use a simple y adapter at the RCA outs on my dac, have two sets of cables attached run them to two different amps....simple.

Tyll H at Innerfidelity did this all the time.

So level set and plug in start music, unplug, plug into the second amp , right beside the other amp....less than 1-2 seconds.

With Dacs I have several amps that have dual dac input selection so its even faster here, flick the switch or press the pushbutton!


jawks:

Yup, the same exact feeling about the HD600s vs the Clears! WTF where is the bass with the 600's...recently I had my wife listen to the HD600's and Clears...she picked the
600's out almost immediately ...said the 600's were clear and the Clears were "muddy"...OMG I was devastated!! LOL.

When I did this I much preferred the Clear sound....better soundstage, imaging, bass heft...tonality less analytical....but my wife has good ears and listens for an overall sound type...
but clarity or articulation is one she likes alot...she would really like the hd800s (I think)...this would be another $1500 experiment!! Nope!

Freo-1!!

You got rid of those Elears!!!! I cant wait until you tell us about the LCD3's, when I auditioned the Clears the dealer had the full lineup of LCDs, and the saleman owns the LCD4's, heavy! but he listens
to them in a "bed" on a pillow!! Ha! I had LCD 2's for several months...just too dark for me...but many, many folks really love them.

Did you ever buy Sonarworks?

Good AM to all!

Alex



Freo-1

Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #17 on: 23 Oct 2019, 02:45 pm »

I think my past experience with electrostatic headphones has permanently biased me toward that type of transducer. Having said that, they have their own set of issues (expensive amps required, not robustly built, can be bass shy, etc.)  So, the planar magnetic transducer hopefully will be "close enough" to mimic the best aspects of both ESL and dynamic cans.  We shall see.


I did purchase the Sonarworks True Fi app.  To me, the upgrade was very much worth it.   The MDR Z7 is transformed with this app to a high end set of dynamic cans.  The fact that the Z7 is closed back allows usage in a variety of usages.  The True Fi app can also be loaded on the smartphone for portable use, as well as laptop/notebook computers. 

adydula

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Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #18 on: 23 Oct 2019, 03:05 pm »
These might interest you!

https://raalrequisite.com/sr1a-earfield-monitors/

I think Schitt is making a custom amp for these as well?

OMG...these look good!!

 :duh:

Only $3495?

Alex

Freo-1

Re: Listening, Comparing, Headphone Stuff Discussion
« Reply #19 on: 23 Oct 2019, 10:04 pm »
These might interest you!

https://raalrequisite.com/sr1a-earfield-monitors/

I think Schitt is making a custom amp for these as well?

OMG...these look good!!

 :duh:

Only $3495?

Alex



They sure look nice! 


However, I do not trust ribbon drivers to last.  I would just as soon use ESL phones for those prices.  Plus, it only goes down to 30 Hz?