Big Sound 2015: Jonathan Pays a Visit
Visitor number two today was Jonathan, a super nice guy who specializes in fine watch repair. I can tell you I had a fun time chatting him up about those gizmos during our lunch on my back porch.
Jonathan is a relative n00b in the world of headphones and is mostly a lurker on Head-Fi and Changstar, but he's done well with the purchase of an HD 800, self-built O2, Objective DAC, and then a move to the Schiit Vali to step up his amp. Sound's like very cost effective purchases to me!
He, like Alek yesterday, had his first experience with blind testing today...and it wasn't easy....never is. I've decided not to go into the scoring much as I write my daily reports of visitors. I don't want to make people feel embarassed when it's difficult, and I also don't want to tip off the result in the long run either, so you'll not hear me talking of these scores anymore, other than maybe a reiteration of how difficult it is, or, hopefully, a remark on how extraordinarily well someone did.
In any case, both participants so far have remarked on how this process really opened their eyes and ears to the technicalities of critical listening, and how they felt it made them better listeners for having had the experience.
After the blind testing was over, Jonathan was free to roam around the room sampling from all these great headphones. He worked at it for about an hour, then we broke for a little light lunch, and then he was back at it for another couple of hours. In the end, his favorite four headphones in order were:
- Sennheiser HD 800
- HiFiMAN HE-1000
- Stax SR-007
He also made a couple of notes about pairings with amplifiers, calling out the Ragnarok (fed by the Yggdrasil DAC) as particularly good with the HD 800 and HE-1000; with a mention of the Violectric 281 as also pairing well with the HD800; and the HE-1000 pairing well with the Simaudio Moon NEO 430HA. His other amp pairing of note was the Audeze LCD-3F with the Burson, which he felt managed to do something nice with the otherwise slightly uneven treble of the LCD-3.
You know, after seeing a guy work so hard on the blind testing and not getting too far, and then hearing all his detailed impressions of the headphones so neatly resonating with the things I hear, I've got to say that this blind testing stuff is not a particularly good pathway for most folks to get their listening impressions. I think it was great to have the experience and rock his boat a bit and keep him humble, but when it came down to listening to the headphone his impressions were very detailed and, in my view, aptly descriptive.
Personally, I think the whole blind testing and ear training thing is most valuable in putting the world of audio into context. Anyone going off on a hype train, or on and on about how cables and break-in totally changed their headphones is just so obviously full of crap after you've heard just how small these differences really are and how hard it is to tell the differences between stuff.
And then further, once you get good at it and can tell the subtle differences between things, you can begin to more closely identify those subtle characteristics with your own sense of musical pleasure, and possibly do a better job of honing in on the gear you like as you put together a system within your budget.
But in the end, it matters very little with regard to the exquisite experience of listening to music you love. Except that maybe you'll have a sense of confidence in the gear you've acquired and feel more comfortable knowing there's no need to keep looking anymore, rather than being unsure and worried that there may be something better out there.
Anyway, have a listen to Jonathan and check out how much he managed to glean from three hours of perfect listening conditions with the world's best headphones.
Thanks Jonathan, that was a fine day of headphone listening we had!
AURALiC Vega DAC ($3499) and Taurus MkII headphone amp ($1899)
Simaudio MOON Neo 430 HA ($4300 w/DAC).
HeadAmp GS-X Mk2 ($2800)
Schiit Ragnarok ($1699) and Yggdrasil ($2299)
Burson Audio Conductor Virtuoso ($1495 w/PCM1793; $1995 w/ESS1908)
Woo Audio WA-234 ($15,900)
Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum DSD DAC, Voltikus Power Supply, and 10M Rubidium Atomic Clock. ($13,045)
Apex High Fi Audio (TTVJ) Teton ($5000)
Eddie Current Black Widow ($1248)
Violectric V281 ($2299)
Bakoon HPA-21 ($2995) current output headphone amplifier.
KGSSSRE (Kevin Gilmore Solid State Special Reviewer's Edition E-Stat Amp ($Unobtanium)
Sennheiser HD 800 ($1599)
Audeze LCD-3 ($1945) and LCD-X ($1699)
JPS Labs Abyss AB-1266 ($5495)
Stax SR-009 ($4450) and SR-007 ($2350)
HIFIMAN HE-1000 ($3000)
Mr. Speakers Ether ($1499)
Enigmacoustics Dharma (~$1200)
Audio Zenith PMx2 ($1398)
Headphone stands by Klutz Designs