InnerFidelity December 2012 Update

Headphone Measurements
Had some interesting headphones come through the lab this month. As usual, I've updated the AllGraphs.pdf of course, and added the cans to the measurement datasheets page. New additions include:

  • You may have read the review by now, but it's worth a second mention here. The Sennheiser Momentums were measured and boy do they measure well. That's a pretty good set of measurements to use as a reference for a competent pair of headphones.
  • I've got a pair of Sony MDR-1R in the lab and measured. Not quite as good as the Momentums, and not quite as good sounding. But I'm going to try to get my hands on all three variants because the 1R is probably good enough for a review, but I'd certainly like to hear what they did with the noise canceling and Bluetooth versions. The 1R won't hit the Wall of Fame as a sealed headphone, but the Bluetooth and Noise canceling versions might best the current WoF cans in those categories...as long as they don't fiddle with the bass too much.
  • Monster sent in their Inspiration headphones. I have to say they're quite a bit better than their previous offerings eartuned by Dr. Dre. Unfortunately they're a bit strident and wooly, and don't quite cut it for a review, but I do hear progress there. I also heard the Diamond Tears and Vektr at RMAF and found them similarly "just okay." Gonna give Noel Lee and his Monsters a little golf clap though, certainly a step in the right direction.
  • I've reviewed the Logitech UE6000 and UE9000, but I never did the UE 4000. They sent me two pair in the purple color, and there appeared to be a problem with a big missmatch in the bass between left and right channels. I called and got two more pair, one black and one white, which measured much, much better. It leaves me in a bit of a quandary because I really like the sound of the ones that worked, and I'd really like to do a review, but I don't want to be writing reviews about flaky products. I'm hoping it was just a problem with early production runs, and I'll likely ask them for a couple more pairs to see if they measure well. If they do, they'll get a review, because they're quite good. Until then, as stupid as it sounds, I guess I'll just recommend staying away from the purple ones. Anyway, I've posted a measurement spreadsheet of one of the good pairs.
  • Dinny FitzPatrick recently got a new iPhone with the new Apple EarPods, and being the curious monkey he is, he sent them off to me for measurement. Earbuds are notoriously crappy, and the measurements of the EarPods are likewise poor in a number of ways. But...they did measure and sound quite a bit better than the previous iPod Earbuds. I'd say Apple has done some darn good work making a cheap headphone that sounds quite good. Interestingly, a new app has become available, "The Dirac HD Player" that claims to modify the output of your iDevice so that it pre-compensates for the characteristics of the EarPod (and the old Apple Earbud) to improve their sound even further. Seems like an opportunity for an interesting article one of these days.
  • The PR push for AirBuds was strong enough to get my curiosity up, so I requested a pair. Strangely, try as I might I wasn't able to get the left ear to seal properly. Doesn't really matter as I was pretty disappointed in the sound quality. Oh, well.
  • AKG sent in a pair of K619 on-ear headphones. Pretty much a basshead can, but I think they may be quite good for $99 in that category. One of these days I'm going to have to do a shoot-out between $100 sealed on-ear headphones. I think that category may have some strong contenders for fun headphones with these, the Skullcandy Hesh 2, UE4000, and Audio-Technica ATH-WS-55. I'll try to get that lined up.
  • Start-up Mayflower Electronics has a modified Fostex T50RP for sale. They sent in a pair for measurement. It was okay, but I liked the Paradox quite a bit better.
  • Meze kindly sent in two pairs of headphones, the 88 Classic circumaural and the 66 Classic supra-aural. Very pretty and nicely made, but the sound and measurements show a somewhat colored can. Sorry, not going to make the review list.
  • And lastly, three IEMs that just showed up at the door: PNY Uptown, Final Audio Adagio III, and Phiaton Moderna MS200. Nothing caught my attention, but I dutifully measured them and sent them off to ljokerl for him to have a good listen and see if there's something there to like.

Upcoming
The Sennheiser Momentum review bumped the promised HD580/600/650 review into this month, so I'll be spending some time with the Woo WA6 and my BottleHead Crack playing with these classic cans.

AND!!! I'm sure you've noticed the picture at the top of the article. I thought it would be a fun Christmas present to InnerFidelity readers this year to do a review of the tippy-top in electrostatic amplification. The HeadAmp Blue Hawaii SE and Cavali Audio Liquid Lightening are in the house, Woo Audio's WES and Ray Samuels' Thunderbolt are in transit, and I've got the Stax SRM-007tII and SRM-727II to round out the field. The main headphone to be used will be the Stax SR-009, but I've got a Stax SR-007Mk2 and Sennheiser HE90 to spice things up as well. I've borrowed an Ayre Acoustics QB-9 as the source for the testing...boy, does it sound nice!

CES is coming, and with the holidays I suspect we'll not see a January update next month. I'll be in Vegas Jan 7-12. If you've got any particular headphones you'd like me to check out, feel free to make your request in the comments.

Mele Kalikimaka!

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COMMENTS
khanhrad's picture

Hi Tyll,

 

New reader here.  Thank you for the very informative reviews on this site.  Just wondering if you are going to do a full review of the Ultrafocus 8000.  I read your comments about it on the Noise Cancelling headphones comparo, and you seem impressed with the audio quality.  Thanks again.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Dunno. It's probably the best sounding noise canceler.

It just doesn't cancel noise well...then what's the point?

Thing is, there's a crop of good noise cancelers come/img out, and with that type of headphone (lots of important variables: batt life, isolation, sound quality, durability) it's better to compare a bunch of them 'cuz the weaknesses and strengths are all over the place. I feel like it's better to compare it later against more cans. (Sony MDR-R1 for example.)

 

Okay. I really should go listen to them again. 

tacobff's picture

Maybe a basshead can shootout? :D

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Many are bass emphasised, so why not. The kids dig it, I'd like to give them good advice, so yeah, that would be fun.

clovernine's picture

You say you gonna review this pair last month, did you cancel the review ?

Thanks you for you response mister Tyll, keep up the good work.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Sadly, I haven't revceived them yet.  I'll poke them again for a pair. Sometimes just getting my hands on the headphones is the tough part.

clovernine's picture

Thank you for the response hope you get them soon ;)

lol I need a pair for my new job (mixiing engeneer)--> I hesitate betwin the DT880 Pro (I find a little bright) and a HD600 (I would like it to be a little bit more reaveling in the Highs) and the DT250-250. 

I hope that the DT250 will be les bright than the DT880, but with a little bit more highs than the HD600, so we can hear the details in the mix better (and of course with as flat as those)

Merry christmas !!!!!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

As I remember it, the 250-250 is a little muffled sounding.  I don't think it'll have the resolution of the 600. 

donunus's picture

They are exactly that. Less bright than the dt880 but more than the hd600. I also like their more coherent sound vs the hd600 even though there is some extra detail in the open cans.

clovernine's picture

Thanks, both of you,

I was going to buy the HD600 tomorrow, but now I will wait until I can test the DT250-250ohm. Or Maybe I will save and buy both ! (Actually I can't lol ! I have other things to buy too)

You're both saying that It may miss something in the highs... when compared to the HD600, that's very helpful !!!!! I will wait one week and see if I can find them for testing (in france it's hard lol)--> if I can't, it will be the HD600...

Thank you so much you really helped me a lot

Can Crazy's picture

Fantastic to hear about the upcoming electrostatic flagships showdown, Tyll! Not that they're within my budget at the moment, but the temptation of selling some gear to get there sure haunts me lately. Anyhow, it's always fun to hear about about state of the art components and what they're really capable of delivering.
Seeing you there with the gear in the picture and knowing about the gear you've got coming your way, I would sign up for voluntary review assistant or something, lol. Looks like x-mas really got to you early this year.

Regarding your offer to cover suggested headphones at CES, I'm really curious about the ones you've already got on your list, but I was surprised that you missed the CEntrance booth at RMAF, and their new hifi M8 DAC/Amp. My guess is you're waiting for the M8 to be a difinitive product, but If Michael Goodman and team happen to be in Las Vegas, the hifi M8 would be my humble request. 

Cheers!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I saw that amp on Sunday as the show was shutting down and realized I'd missed out.  I will indeed make a point of looking up CEntrance at CES (they'll likely be at THE Show actually, but I'll be going there) and check out the amp, because it does look cool.

JAD's picture

Hi Tyll, I'm the same guy who asked you about the not so appealing SR-007mk2 SZ3 measurements you made.

SZ1 vs SZ3:

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/StaxSR007.pdf

http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/StaxSR007SZ31576.pdf

Quite a remarkable difference in performance, isn't it?

If those you've got currently are SZ3, you should check out how they measure compared with your previous datasheet. A good chance all the way.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I'll check into and make some measurements after the shoot out but before I go to CES. In fact, I'll measure all three estat headphones again because these weren't the units measure previously. Always nice to get a few more data points.

Jazz Casual's picture

Glad you're revisiting the SR-009 and SR-007 MK2 Tyll. I'd also like to see a review of the SR-507 and how it compares with the two top Stax models. Its frequency response looks impressive on paper. It would be most interesting to see a review/comparison of the Fostex TH900 and Audio-Technica W3000ANV deluxe closed woodies. That shoot-out feels well overdue.

markus's picture

Looking forward for your review of the Sennheiser HD cans 580/600/650. I recently bought a Sennheiser HD 560 Ovation II, the predecessors. It is no longer sold by Sennheiser unfortuately. Do you own one Tyll? Cannot find any measurements for them.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I had a piar way back when at HeadRoom and thought they were the best cans available at the time. HeadRoom no longer has a working pair, so no measurements currenty.  If you're interested in sending them in sometime in the spring I'll be glad to measure them and put them into the database.

ultrabike's picture

I been looking forward to that 580/600/650 review. Last week a coworker of mine brought his HD580s. I thought they were very good.

I'm also interested in your and Dinny's thoughts about the Dirac app. Sometimes I feel that equalization may be overlooked relative to other elements of the portable audio rig, and I'm interested in how this app performs.

I saw that Cavalli Liquid Lightining + SR-009 in your table. I really liked that combination when I heard it at the LA meet.

... and Merry Christmas! smiley

Dinny FitzPatrick's picture

It's funny, for so long I had been of the mindset that EQ was the devil's business because, well just because, but now I'm curious.

ultrabike's picture

In the past I had my fare share of classic 5 and 10 band audio equalizers, and to be honest I didn't think much of them. However, the 5 band parametric in the Rockboxed Sansa Zip is pretty good IMHO. Hopefully these apps (Dirac and Accudio) will make a positive difference... my iPad mini is on it's way smiley

There was some interest shown in these threads:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/636115/dirac-for-apple-earbuds

http://www.head-fi.org/t/624660/iphone-ipod-equalizer-app-for-best-music-listening-experience

I'm a little more intriged about Accudio mainly because they cover more and better headphones than just earbuds... possibly including my semi-fi HD558.

Seems like a hard problem if certain headphone models have too much sample to sample variability though.

EDIT:

Got my iPad mini and installed Accudio into it's little self. To soon to make decisive statements about the Accudio experiense, but so far so good! It does have the HD558 as reference and can simulate with it what GE considers flat, HD600, HD650, Beyer T1, Beyer T5P, DT770 Pro, AKG 701, PFE 112, ER-4S, and ER-4P. Liked flat mode the most, DT770 Pro the least (LATER I checked their measurements and according to them, their pair seem to have measured like this: http://en.goldenears.net/8535 surprise) Would be interesting to do a quick A/B test. Probably not perfect, but would be intersting to know how close and how well this app does at emulating other cans...smiley

guerillaw's picture

Sennheiser IE 800. they are out in the wild and would love to hear your take. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Heard them breifly at RMAF and thought they had promise.  I'll see if I can get a pair in for measurements, a quick listen, and then I'll send them off to ljokerl to see if he wants to review them. But yeah, they're on the radar.

RPGWiZaRD's picture

Hey Tyll, any plans on reviewing the AKG Tiesto (K67, K167 and K267)? I think at least K167 and K267 should be looked at seriously, the K167 is already recieving RAVING feedback by any1 who tried them, currently the K167 seem to sound better than UE6000, Momentum and D2000 for example for the person who got those as well... this for only $199...

The K167 are suprisingly balanced for a "DJ" headphone, actually AKG mentions it as a "Studio monitor" more like but it has a bit of a bass emphasis but of very good quality so that doesn't affect the beautiful mids and highs at all. Even a jazz lover has praised it highly and it seems to handle all genres well.

PLEASE review it. :D

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I put in a request, but haven't heard anything back yet.  I'll poke them again.

Beagle's picture

....after extended listening, I notice they do have a rather pinched, nasal midrange if you listen to them right after the K550 or PSB M4U1, for example. Kind of a boxy character with a hole where the lower midrange "soul" resides. 

But if you just use these cans exclusively and get used to them, they are fun and sound terrific.

Attika's picture

Hi Tyll,

It would be nice to see the Philips Fidelio X1 reviewed, sice the L1 is on the WoF. smiley
I don't know when it comes to the US though.

 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Got a few requests for this.  I'll see what I can do.

AveryChim's picture

Any chance you might do a review on the Essence one? You mentioned it in one of your reviews and it was mentioned during the headfi buyers' guide, which got me interested. An extremely good looking unit with the interesting option of op-amp swapping. Impressions and reviews of the unit are relatively scarce and mixed, so I would love if you could chime in with your thoughts on the unit and how it stacks up against other amp/dacs.

Cheers and keep up with the fantastic work!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I have had one of these for a while and did do the op-amp change to the Muses.  I really liked the product and thought the price/performance ratio quite good.  I've sent it off to Dinny, if he likes it, he'll be doing the review.

Dinny FitzPatrick's picture

I've got it in my little handses, just need to find the time to listen and compare to the other shiny DACses.  I'm looking forward to listening to it.

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