February InnerFidelity Update

My CES is now: a week of prep; a week at the show; a week prepping photos, video, and writing it up; and then a week of follow up letting people know about the articles and requesting review samples. I enjoyed it in sum, but it was a bit of a trudge. OTOH, it's given me food for reviews for a good long time to come. In that regard, CES lasts all year long for me. Hmm ... it's what I'm about now ... and I guess I'm fine with that.

Because of CES I didn't get a lot of headphones measured, but because of CES I did get some very interesting headphone measurements. You'll find the new measurements in the updated "All Graphs" pdf, and as individual sheets on the Datasheet Download Page.

  • Two more LCD-3s were measured, and I've got one or two more on the way, so I'll have at least five sets of measurements for these cans. I think this is important because of some controversy around manufacturing consistency of the drivers. Got to say they're looking fairly consistent so far.
  • I've received four of the new Philips headphones for review and now have measurements for the: Fidelio L1; Fidelio M1; Citiscape Downtown; and Philips O'Neil Bend.
  • The new Shure SRH1840 and SRH1440 made their way through the lab. I found them a bit harsh and lacking in the low notes. Bummer.
  • Ran the new Sennheiser Amperior through its paces and it fared well. Looks quite close to the HD 25-1 II, but sounds better to my remembrance. Gonna have to get my hands on a current HD 25-1 II and Adidas version for a comparison.
  • Finally got a chance to listen to and measure the Sol Republic Tracks. Sigh. Really missing the highs. Plenty of bass, of course.
  • And last but not least by a long shot, Head-Fier pbandstefanwich sent in some Stax Lambda SB headphones with passive transformer box, and a pair of the Grado Magnum V3 with some really cool Cocobolo wood cups made by Marty. Both were measured, but sadly I didn't have any listening time. (Sometimes I just gotta keep moving on.)
I'm gonna do the LCD-3, dammit! I've got four here now for listening tests, and that starts tomorrow.

Other than that, you can look at the list above and make some guesses. Basically, from here on out, I'm going to be trying to get all the slots filled on my "Wall of Fame." Lots of good headphones will be reviewed for the next 6 months or so.

Headphone amp measurement routine progress will be reported as well.

Been a weird winter here in Montana. We've had more days above freezing than below ... that's unheard of. Poor skiers.

Mystery's picture

About the new Shures...it's a pity. I had high hopes for these.

Citiscape Downtown vs. Sennheiser Amperior...

Which is the better outdoor Headphone?
Do they stand a chance against the Beyerdynamic DT 1350?

Maxvla's picture

From the graph it seems to be a slightly bassy headphone. Does that match your experience?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Yeah, slightly warm, a little funny in the highs (lacking real detail), but a good all arounder headphone for many, I think.
svyr's picture

thanks for the measurements Tyll!

inarc's picture

Thank you for the update.

dyl1dyl's picture

Hey Tyll, any idea when we'll be able to read your review of the LCD-3s that you have? I'm currently loving my pair and would just be interested to know what you think, plus see what kind of amp/dac combinations you find work well as I'm in the market for a new SS amp as well as DAC :)

MacedonianHero's picture

Looking forward to your LCD-3 review and headphone amp measurements. :)

Sadly it looks like Shure used the SRH940s to voice their new open headphones. :(

dalethorn's picture

Just went through the new PDF - fills in lots of blanks - much appreciated. When I get the 1840 I may have to find a tube amp - my new Objective2 doesn't particularly love the 940, but for a really dazzling review of what the 940 can do with the proper amping, read the recent comment on the 940 review at headfonics dot com by 'Amclaussen', using the Lehmann Audio BCL amp. It's a real eye-opener.

MacedonianHero's picture

I'm sorry, but nothing could save the SRH940s for me. I've heard them on a few $1000k+ respected gear (tube and SS) and they were still a horrible mess to my ears. Sadly, looks like their open headphones are going to follow suit.

How can a company that knows good sound like the SE535s, lay such eggs?

13mh13's picture

"How can a company that knows good sound like the SE535s, lay such eggs?"
Since several IFers think the SE53x as "good" ... you know, I think I may plop down for the SRH940s. I've been lookin' for a new low-cost ref. and I think I've finally found one.

dalethorn's picture

I was fortunate enough to stumble across a German Maestro 8.35D, which is an excellent contrast to the Shure 940. Where the Shure disappoints some users as being tilted slightly away from the bass and toward the treble, the GMP 8.35D is the opposite - tilted slightly away from the treble and toward the bass. It's not a bassy headphone in the slightest in my view, nor is it anything less than detailed and clear in the highs, yet in my listening for the past couple of weeks, mostly with the Objective2 amp, it seems to be a perfect or near-perfect answer for people who almost like the 940, but demur due to the items stated.

dalethorn's picture

I followed the massive thread on headfi which was hugely uninformative for the 940. However, if readers here would like a very well written and extremely informative mini-review of the 940's capabilities, they can go to headfonics and see Amclaussen's review/comment. Very detailed and very specific. While I'm sure that there must be someone who likes to see headphone bashing in print, I think most readers would like to read specifics. I have found that the new O2 amp I bought does not like the 940 nearly as well as it likes (loves actually) the Senn 800. But that's one amp, and probably typical for solid state. There are other options and most people (about 85 percent) are finding them.

MacedonianHero's picture

Why would I care about another review of these headphones? I have first hand experience on many very good rigs, and still I really, really dislike them.

The had very light (almost anemic bass) and that's coming from a happy HD800 owner, the mids were average and the treble was piercing. Sound staging was average for a closed headphone as was comfort.

I much preferred the DT770/600s or even the SRH840s...and both cost less.

dalethorn's picture

This is exactly what is so wrong with headfi - repeated statements that don't say anything. Opinions are fine when they contain information that can be tested. But there is nothing that can be tested here. I've done extensive tests, and I also followed up on three specific tests suggested by three users at headfi. But the senior members at headfi not only would not cooperate in suggesting tests they were quite hostile. That's not a good recommendation for the headphone community.

I would suggest that instead of continually repeating "My opinion is..." that you point to reviews or commentary like Amclaussen's that demonstrate actual tests with real amplifiers, which inform readers here.

MacedonianHero's picture

Your kidding right?

What the heck do those reviews matter? Really...its about what the individual hearing the headphone hears that counts...not what some random dude on the internet says.

How could you ever expect anyone to take a random review on the internet and give it more credence than their own first hand experiences? If that's the case, I've got some swamp land in Florida or a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. ;)

On any headphone forum your position would be lambasted for what it is...pure silliness.

What the heck does opinions are ok if they can be tested mean? LoL, you're not oldshoe99 are you?

I am advocating that others get out there and listen for themselves and NOT rely on obscure reviews like the one you pointed out.

dalethorn's picture

If you think those reviews don't matter then why are you posting so much? My reviews have a lot of details that help people, and all you can do is post negative diatribes that drive people away. Try contributing something.

MacedonianHero's picture

So a positive review for your beloved SRH940s is a good review...but anything negative is "just opinions". Gotcha.

Your comments are no more valid than my own. We both formed first hand experience listening to these cans. You obviously love them (though I don't know how or why), and I think they are amongst the very worst I've heard over $100.

So there you have it. Link all of my comments on this thread with this post and there's my review. Honestly, there is nothing positive I can say about these headphones. One can own better cans (like the DT770/600, DT1350s, HD25-I-ii or SRH840s) and all for similar or less money.

My contribution is to give other people better options over these poorly sounding headphones. So, if I drive people away from them, I think I've done a good job. And Shure should learn from their mistakes and produce better cans. I know Shure knows good sound. Their SE530/535s are amongst the very best universal IEMs out there, but the SRH840 was the only full sized headphone I could in good conscience recommend to others.

dalethorn's picture

But since your "review" contains no facts, and is at odds with nearly everyone else's, how useful is that? And answer this: Why did not one of the senior members of headfi offer test examples? That forum is open to be read by the public in case you weren't aware of that. Three members did if I remember correctly, now that's useful.

And BTW, I'm not the one hiding behind a 'nym. I'm pretty well known.

MacedonianHero's picture

For all that is good and holy, what the heck are you referring to with "facts". You are oldshoe99, no doubt about it.

I have news for you, your review is not FACTUAL...its your opinion...no if ands or buts. Just your 2 cents. No facts what so ever.

Tyll's measurements are FACTS that show these headphones to be inferior to other cans in the same or lesser price range....that you can take to the bank. Your "factual" review isn't more factual than mine.

BTW, if you're so well known, then why haven't I heard of you ever before? I've been in this hobby for years and this is the fist time I've come across you. Tyll, Jude, Skylab I know...

dalethorn's picture

Very simple then - you review with your facts and I'll review with mine and we'll let the customers decide, unless you think that's a bad idea. And as I said before, I'm in a thousand places on the Web and I *never* use a 'nym.

Neither would I claim that my audio interests are a hobby. Generally I don't pursue hobbies because they're a time killer. But my membership to the Audio Engineering Society, and ownership of Stax, Koss 'stats, Beyers etc. all began in the late 1970's, so I have some experience.

MacedonianHero's picture

Will do...but for the record, neither of our reviews will be facts. That is to say like Force = Mass * Acceleration. Something that is quantifiable as correct. They will be our opinions, both equally valid.

I would rather "the customers" decide for themselves by listening with their own ears.

FWIW, here is a mini review/comments by Jude on the SRH940s since we're linking in other people's reviews and no one (except for Tyll) has been at this headphone thing longer:


dalethorn's picture

So Jude or Tyll have been testing headphones since the 1970's .... hmmmm - they don't look that old.

MacedonianHero's picture

Whatever dude. That comment says so much. ;)

AGB's picture

I just love the jousting. Can I send you guys a couple of refurbished flintlocks that you can point at each other? Really, both of your opinions are opinions.

And mine are facts.

Just kidding.

On the longevity of reviewing however, since we all can put our weapons on the table and have a measuring contest, I submit I also have a weapon of, shall we say, considerable length and girth. Figuratively speaking that is.

C'mon guys, ease up. You're OK, I'm OK, your headphone's ok. Mine is just better.

I built headphone amps with Julius Futterman on West 72nd Street before most readers who just pissed themselves reading this discovered that headphones existed. These were transformerless amps specifically built for the STAX SRX series of the time. Julius potted his own power transformers. Hand wired of course.

Julius was a nice, kind man, whose work is still in vogue in some circles.

In any event, from what I hear STAXes have been improved a great deal, but so have others.

Actually, a revolution in home listening is taking place, thanks to digital technology and careful engineering in the headphone field.

My suggestion? Let's exchange useful information, opinions and facts, and enjoy and be grateful for what we have.

We are lucky and live in a great age. Have you guys noticed?

Smell the flowers.

Jazz Casual's picture

MH, I really do wish that you would confine your brow beating of people who don't share your opinion to Head-Fi.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
.... I'm wondering what the posts will start looking like when there's only one word per line.

FWIW, I think the SRH 940 is very poor sounding.

And I also think Dale using the word "facts" is indicative of a poor understanding of what he's doing in providing evaluations for others. I find myself very often in significant disagreement with his findings.

dalethorn's picture

Shure Corporation vetted the review and linked to it from their product page for several months until I requested they unlink it, which they agreed to do. That's real credibility. Grado links to my PS-500 review from their product page. The votes on my 940 review at Amazon are currently 36 for 41, or 88 percent. When you subtract out the certainty of negative headfi posters, it's closer to 100 percent. But even with the negative people it's 88 percent.

When you look at the comments at Amazon, it's hilarious. There is one troll who had a very, very positive response in November, who then had a radical change of heart when someone convinced him that he didn't actually hear what he actually heard. How about that?

Personally I have no problem with disagreements, and I even concede that despite my caveats about the actual differences in the two headphones, some people still got the wrong impression and thought I said they were exactly the same. I did ask for tests of the bass and nobody challenged me on that.

So again, I don't have a problem with disagreement, but when someone tries to claim that I or Amclaussen et al did *not* experience what we experienced, or that we are not as qualified as some other people in the business, well that's ludicrous. You Google Dale Thorn and see who he is. Even when you don't see AES membership and other "hobby" interests, you can still see the relevant history. I did extensive audio testing with 3 DT-48's, a Koss ESP-9, a Stax SRX MK3, and quite a few other headphones beginning in 1974 and continuing from there.

Am I claiming I'm right? How can that be? This isn't an exact science. But unlike some have suggested here, I'm not wrong. And the votes all across the headphone sites are heavily in favor of the Shure 940, which tells me most of those people must be finding amping solutions that work well enough for a satisfying experience. I can repeat what I said about my new O2 amp - the HD-800 sounded glorious and the 940 did not. So, pick your poison and amp as you wish, and lots of luck.

MacedonianHero's picture

We are all entitled to our opinions. What gets me is when someone (who I've never heard of) says his is more valid than the individual listener just because he doesn't happen to agree with them.

I however would concede that Tyll certainly knows good sound on headphones better than anyone I know.

I'm cool that Dale enjoys the SRH940s (good for him), but to say others who happen to not like them aren't presenting "facts" or their opinions are less valid is just plain wrong.

Oldshoe99 (er, I mean Dalethorn) has been at this game for too long. I simply advocate letting your own ears be your own guide.

dalethorn's picture

You've been watching those paranoid movies again, yes? Wag the Dog?

My opinion more valid? My opinion based on what I heard and doing actual tests is quite valid. If someone else says "I disagree" and that's it - they disagree with no other facts, then how does that compete for validity?

Tyll has measurements, which seem accurate to me. That doesn't say *exactly* how they will sound, but it's much better than nothing, yes?

So yeah, I'll consider any opinion, if it comes from actual tests and has something in it I can test myself. But if it just says "I disagree", then that's a vote, not an opinion.

Edit: I'd like to add also, whether Tyll disagrees or not, I don't mind. I sent him my Beyer DT-1350 and DT-48E for testing at my expense last April. He didn't like the DT-48. There was quite a bit of subsequent discussion from that test, lots of disagreement even, but pretty civil and not unfriendly as I remember. I think the disagreement on the 940 could have been the same - civil, not unfriendly. But unfortunately the 940 became very popular (or controversial if you prefer) and there you are. I tell people to this day these tales of the 940, and those who are not big-time headphone mavens look at me with eyes as big as saucers and exclaim "All that, over a headphone?"

pulleyking's picture

What tests have you done, on what equipment, to come to these "factual" conclusions? Is it a fact as you see it (ie an opinion) or an undeniable, universal truth?
"My opinion is based on what I heard" - yes this does make what you say valid, in that it expresses your SUBJECTIVE opinion. So you like the headphone, good for you, based on so called "tests" which entail what exactly? You can plug the things into as many measuring machines as you want, but headphone listening boils down to exactly that - listening. Tyll's doing great work with headphone measurements, but its meaningless until you shove those cans on your head and HEAR it for yourself. So other people have a different opinion to you, based on headphone listening, the only truly accurate and valid way of testing how much you like a headphone. What else is the purpose of a review than for the writer to express their personal opinion on the product.

PS. You're comments are always the most annoying and have an attitude of self-conceited arrogance and egotistical disregard of others.
Just my can of beans, and no doubt many others who visit this site.

Jazz Casual's picture

I'll submit my hackneyed request for some PS1000 measurements. ; )

Tyll Hertsens's picture
.... again. And humbly ... I've again not asked HeadRoom or Todd for a loan.

Sorry. I'll try harder to remember. (Maybe I should Sharpy a note on my hand.)

RPGWiZaRD's picture

Any Philips review of those new headphones planned? Would really look forward to read more about those.

dalethorn's picture

I plan on buying a Philips L1 when they become available. I expect up front to have to trim some of the bass to get a more neutral sound, but I don't have any problem with that, since I think a little extra bass is better than too little bass. I'm curious about Tyll's comment concerning the highs - if Philips doesn't get this L1 pretty close to right then that could set them way back on their entry into the audiophile market.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
The Downtown and L1 are on the list at a minimum.
sgrossklass's picture

Tyll - It seems you've usually been measuring earbuds with no foams on, is that correct? I was looking at the measurements done by the Golden Ears folks lately, and their presence seemed to make a fairly big difference, up to the point where e.g. the better Sennheiser buds obtained a fairly flat frequency response. Considering this, foam/no-foam measurements should under no circumstances be mixed, IMO.

Shame about the open Shures. By the standards of tech-driven companies, their measured performance has to count as a FAIL. I guess their engineers just don't have the kind of experience needed (yet). (Maybe some Dilbert-style action going on behind the scenes?!) Let's hope they can get things sorted in a revised version.

dalethorn's picture

Here's a small example of where reviews answer some questions but can't possibly answer every question (as though they are supposed to answer every question?)

With my old amp I hear things one way, with my new amp it's different. On my desktop computers or even iPod Touch, the 940 and 800 sound quite similar, as many experts have testified in great and believable detail with whatever amps they were using. On my laptops they're still similar but neither as good as on the desktops or iPods.

With my new O2 amp, the 800 sounds glorious, but the 940 sounds slightly thin and wiry, as some complaints have stated. But where Amclaussen found a helluva solution, other complainers have stayed stuck in their ruts. Pity them.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
"... as many experts have testified..."

Which experts? Court docket number?

svyr's picture

Tyll, any chance you'll be measuring IE80? (senns)

Pablo's picture

Please don't turn this into head,fi.

The Monkey's picture
mikeaj's picture

I'm not interested in a lot of the squabbling, but we should be more careful in interpreting the data.

Tyll works hard to measure the buggers, and it provides a very valuable resource for us all to use. But let's not ignore the limitations here.

The data is what the microphones in the dummy head saw: more or less that's the fact. Everything beyond that is not really.

1) If your head, ears, ear canals, etc. are different than those of the dummy head, then the measurements may not apply exactly to you if you were to use the same headphones as were actually tested.

2) There is variability due to headphone placement on the dummy head. There is some averaging done for at least the FR, but of course it's not going to be perfect.

3) There is some variation in headphones of the same model due to manufacturing tolerances.

4) The test chamber is controlled well, all things considered, but it's not going to match a high-end testing facility.

5) The D/A path, headphone amplifier, microphone, and A/D path are clearly good but not perfect.

6) Evaluating if headphone B is better than headphone C just based on some measurements, is difficult. How much do you weight certain parameters being better than others? Could you come up with a credible final score (e.g. 63.9 / 100) to assign with only the measured data as inputs? What would the algorithm look like?

On a side note, consider that 1-4 and part of 5 are pretty much non-issues for measuring headphone amplifiers.

dambient's picture

Hi Tyll,

Followed your excellent coverage of CES 2012 with great interest. Was pleasantly surprised by Philips' entire lineup, and your informative video with Jennifer Lalli pointing out the salient features of a number of different models. Consequently, earlier this week, I ended up buying a pair of the O'Neill Stretch headphones for potential use in the gym (running/cardio on various arc trainers/elliptical machines). They sound pretty good for their street price (warmish, slightly congested, but no egregious missteps in any part of the frequency spectrum) and delivered excellent fit, isolation and comfort. However, there seems to be a rather major design flaw in this model. The "auto-adjusting" padded band that sits under the more rugged plastic band that forms the outer shell of the headphones is not geared towards any active use that I can foresee. The two bands keep "auto-adjusting" themselves with even the slightest step, be it walking or running, resulting in an audible thumping/clicking sound that makes any kind of listening impossible. I was wondering if you had experienced this yourself when auditioning these particular phones in Vegas (I think I remember you pointing out the rather good sound of what appears to be a greenish O'Neill Stretch in that Philips CES video). I've spent some time on the phone with the Philips reps earlier today but they're predictably not connected to the engineering department or anyone who had a role in their design. Perhaps it's something you could ask Philips about or consider should you get a review sample.


Keep up the excellent work covering, reviewing and measuring headphones. I've yet to find a single instance where I've disagreed with your subjective impressions of the sound, fit and long-term comfort of a pair of headphones.