InnerFidelity Update November 2015

Headphone Measurements
Big Sound delivered some pretty interesting measurements—the Dharma and HE1000 are particularly interesting. Quite a few IEMs were measured; some sent to me were backed up by Big Sound, and Joker sent me a nice surprise box full. A number of enthusiasts sent headphones in for measurements—thank you!

If you'd like to participate with the headphone measurement program by sending in cans that aren't already measured and displayed on the measurement datasheets page, simply go to this forum page, read and follow the instructions, and we'll get it done.

As usual I've updated the AllGraphs.pdf of course, and added the cans to the measurement datasheets page. I've also linked to the measurement sheets to the headphone name in paragraphs below. New additions include:

  • Enigmacoustics Dharma - This is the best sounding dual-driver circumaural headphone I've heard; the frequency response profile is quite good. The impedance plot swings above 1kHz are indicators of the second driver. The manufacturer claims the electret transducer turns on at around 10kHz. Very high frequency ringing appears in the impulse response.
  • HiFiMAN HE1000 - Like a number of audio products that are musical, the HE1000 measurements are a bit lackluster compared to the pleasure they deliver. While quite well behaved elsewhere, the frequency response shows some disconcerting wiggles through the mid-range. Spikes in distortion at 100dBspl coincide with FR features. Impulse response is quite fast—subsequent high-frequency noise is common in planar magnetic headphones (Ortho-wall).
  • AudioQuest NightHawk - The jury is still out in my mind on these. They're dark, that's for sure, but other things intrique me. Their very low distortion for example, or what appears to be a quick impulse response despite the lower treble level. Interesting.
  • Audeze Headphones - Quite a few Big Sound attendees brought Audeze headphones along as reference cans. Two LCD-3F were measured here and here, and a pair of LCD-X headphones were added.
  • DIY Modded Cans - Another by-product of Big Sound, a couple of folks showed up with their DIY modded headphones and asked if I'd measure them. Absolutely! JK47 offered up his modified Fostex T50RP, and Hands brought his extra special Sennheiser HD 600 headphones. Both measure quite well relative to the stock model.
  • Fostex RP Mk3 Models - I'm really only familiar with the T50RP, so I'm not sure how much of an improvement the other two models have undergone, but the new T50RP Mk3 frequency response is quite a bit better than the previous version. I also measured the new T40RP M3 and T20RP Mk3 headphones. Pretty sure I'll review these some time soon—the T50RP sound is quite good.
  • Enigmatic Audio Paradox - Thanks to a Big Sound participant we get to see the rare but worthy Paradox—a very heavily modified Fostex T50RP headphones, and one of the best of its kind.
  • Westone W20 - Heard the new Westone W60 at RMAF; it impressed me. Just as impressive is the much less expensive Westone W20—a very balanced sounding IEM at a reasonable price.
  • Fidue A65 - Joker's box of chocolates IEM shipment is always a treat; measurements always vary widely. The standout flavor this time (rum raisin, if you must know) was the Fidue A65. It's a bit unusual to see plots with as little noise; I think this one is an over-achiever.
  • Torque t096z IEM with Filters - Torque was likely the first maker of filter adjustable IEMs with their t130z. At RMAF I was introduced to their t069z, which has 6 filters (neutral, bass boost, warm tilt, mid-centric, treble boost, and U-shaped). Took me all day to measure the darn things, but the finished plot of the various filters sure looks cool.
  • Submitted Without Comment - 1More Crystal Piston; 1More Multi-Unit Earphones; 1More Voice of China; AKG K601; Audiofly Adgio Club Life; Audiofly AF140 and AF160; Master & Dynamic ME05; NuForce Primo8; Venture Electronics Duke; Xaomi Piston 3 and Piston 3 Youth Edition; and Yutai BA502.

Reviews of select Big Sound contenders will continue through the holidays, but the big event on my horizon is a short trip to L.A. for a one-on-one with Axel Grell and Sennheiser's new HE1060/HEV1060 electrostatic headphone system. At a cool $55,000 the new system breaks the previous record also held by Sennheiser with the $14,000 Orpheus, which was certainly one of the very best headphones in the world at the time. Wouldn't surprise me if they pulled that off again as is Sennheiser after all.

Anyone gonna kill their own turkey?

nicdub's picture

Really interested to see a review of this headphone! It seems like people are really loving or hating it. Seems like Audioquest was really trying to do something different, and maybe some are turned off by that.

Guitarist9273's picture

Ha You couldn't help yourself at the end.

TMoney's picture

Surprisingly disappointing measurements from the HE1000. I'm looking forward to giving it an extended listen but the measurements are mediocre enough that I'd never consider purchasing a pair.

If Hifiman can make something that sounds as good but measures better then they may really be on to something.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

it was extremely open sounding and fluid, and balanced,
though it was surprisingly grainy, a bit course though not biting and abusive and a bit fuzzy, in the upper treble region,
not the resolution I'd expect from this kind of headphone (worse than a Dt 880 600 ohms which is 300 dollars), at this price and as a flagship, though everything else was "A" okay and great. I wasn't too surprised when I first tried them (with my own music of course) since I seen the measurements and expected it to sound a bit grainy though neutral. The measurements are a very accurate reference as to what they sound like, I was also familiar with many hifiman products as well and knew what to expect, I feel
Hifiman headphones have most of their troubles in upper treble transient wave forms as all there headphones overshoot and a lot of them double shoot as well, distortion figures are very similar on all of their headphones. They're extremely comfy and light though, much more then Audeze phones and even lighter and comfy on my head than a HD 800. I still do think these headphones are along the lines of an LCD 3 or an he 500, not in it's own ballpark or anything like that,
not better than a 009 if that's what you've been wondering, though a good, and polite headphone that inviting and well... Free sounding,
and is atmospheric and sparse like the Hd 800, just better, smoother, and much better bass haha :)

jewbear's picture

Hey, was just wondering if you have plans to review the Ether-C in the near future.

TMRaven's picture

How dark is the Nighthawk in comparison to the LCD-X? The X I bought was quite dark in the upper mids-- darker than the 3 I had throughout mids.

johnjen's picture

It just keeps on ringing.
My guess is its due to its ultra light membrane.
Which, is my guess why it has such a 'smooooooth' character.


potterpastor's picture

I love the reviews, but I think I look forward to the updates and the measurements as much as anything else. We learn about a lot of different headphone products in one succinct post.

Was the Momentum 2.0 wired good enough to warrant a future review? It looked less promising with the last update...

Argyris's picture

Wow. I remember reading somewhere on HF that the K601's tuning is one of the closest to the idealized DF curve, and those measurements, even more than the K612 ones, suggest there's some truth to that. Not that this necessarily makes for a good sounding headphone--I imagine it would have glaring upper mids and lower treble--but purely from an engineering standpoint it's impressive. They had a target and they hit it.

Aufdemaury deus ex machina's picture

Over all the K 612's have less overshooting in square-waves, better bass extension, and far less distortion in Thd plots, The K 612's are definitely a step up!!

Argyris's picture

I agree. The K612 definitely does measure better. I was merely commenting that the K601 sample is closer to a flat line when the compensation was applied. Assuming that was what the engineers were aiming for, this shows they hit their target when they were tuning the K601, implying that they're very competent.

From what I understand, the tuning on the newer Kx12 models was intentionally tweaked. The K612 measurements look better both from a technical standpoint (as you've pointed out), and from a balance standpoint, since I don't feel that a flat line on Tyll's charts is really the ideal tuning for a good sounding headphone. I would much rather listen to the measured K612 sample than the K601 sample, though I think both would have a bit too much upper midrange and lower treble for my taste.

inventionlws's picture

don't forget that the compensation curve used right now is not very indicative of a good tonal balance. From my listening experience and comparison with the curve, the relative flat curve after 1~2K would be too bright and thin sounding, plus in the K612 case the bass not elevated.

Argyris's picture

Indeed. I think the preliminary version of the Harman curve that Tyll demonstrated in a post a few years ago is closer to ideal. If the K612 were run through that, it would have a noticeable upper midrange and treble lift, like other headphones that track closely to the DF curve (or DF-like, since I don't think Tyll's rig actually uses DF for its compensation, but a proprietary derivative).

Since the current Harman research didn't exist when the K601 was tuned, I think it's reasonable to assume a DF-like curve was the initial tuning target. Even if current thinking suggests that something like the Harman curve is a better ideal, it's still impressive that AKG's engineers were able to come so close to their theoretical target with an actual design, even if the result is no longer ideal.

inventionlws's picture

yeah, that is indeed impressive. I guess we have been seeing a downgrade of AKG engineering effort and product over the recent years, what a shame.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

$55k eh? Im tempted...but i think i'll spend that money on 137.5 pairs of HD600's. hahahaha

I assume that the 55k price tag includes:

* The amplifier is hardwired to every recording studio in the world. When you want to listen to a particular band, that band actually goes into the nearest studio and plays live for you.

* Next day delivery, guaranteed, as they are delivered via helicopter to your front door. Feel free to keep original packaging..and helicopter.

* Sound reproduction utilizes different method than dynamic or ortho magnetic uses a state of the art room filling tower speaker system, which has been shrunk down 1000% by Sennheisers newest Shrink Ray.

* 16/44? Lossless? Flacc? 320 MP3? No worries. The DAC in this Amp/DAC uses a new technology which first reads the source file, then immediately tells you why its not nearly high-quality enough, ignores it, and proceeds to play the one pre-loaded song with the system, on loop, endlessly. That song? "The Pina Colada Song". Hope you like "getttinn caught in the rain".

* Unadvertised Virtual Reality Headset included. Preloaded with every concert footage ever recorded and option to virtually replace any band member for concert. (Note: there is an additional upcharge of $75,000 to unlock Backstage option pack. Thus far all orders have ordered this option..immediately).

Peace .n. Living in Stereo


elpibe72's picture

Tyll, do you have plans to discuss the HD800S when you meet with Axel Grell? I have no doubt that Sennheiser can outmod the Anax mod, so the HD800S could be a big thing in the sub-5K category (which used to be SOTA pre-Orpheus announcement :) ). Given that the HD800S seems to use the same driver and similar overall structure as the current HD800, it would be good to know if Sennheiser will offer a factory upgrade to S status for existing HD800 owners. Thanks a lot and love your site and your work, by far the most informative site for all things headphones.

drm870's picture

I, too, am curious about this, and was just about to write a post to inquire about it.

Seth195208's picture
Headphone4life's picture

I'm really looking forward to that review. I'd like to see what you think of the NightHawk vs the Sony Z7. I have the Z7 (which I love) and from what I've read about the NightHawk they seem to have a similar dark signature. I do love a warm smooth headphone so the Night Hawk seems to be right up my alley.

Guitarist9273's picture

What's special or different about it?

Tyll Hertsens's picture
He's done some modifications to it.
Tyler Schrank's picture

It's basically the mods found in this thread, just without the Dynamat, and with a layer of drawer liner over the silver mesh, front side, but under the foam. Same idea, though.

Differences are subtle in measurements but subjectively very pleasing.

Oh, and it's an HD650, not HD600. ;)

elfary's picture


Did you ever get to hear the Shure SE846 iem? i miss your take on what i deem as a great tech leap in the in ear realm. Bass performance is on a league of its own amongst iems.

Seth195208's picture most musically pleasing iem I've heard so far for under $30.00. I was very curious about the measurements, thanks!

Guitarist9273's picture

I just joined a gym and started trying to get in shape. My audiophile oriented headphones just don't cut it when the sweat and movement come into play. I've tried a couple headphones labeled for active use that were awful, so I went looking through InnerFidelity to find some reccomendations without much luck.

In the future, can you please include this segment of the headphone market on InnerFidelity? I would love some help sorting through the garbage from the site I most trust.

elmura's picture

Wow. Fantastic measurements (non compensated). Seem like a fantastic chill out listen.

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