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  1. Youtube review: http://youtu.be/6gaw0L6PSDU Photos: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Edifier_P841_01.jpg http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Edifier_P841.jpg Sources: iPhone XsMax/iPad Pro 11-inch with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC-amps. Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the Edifier P841 headphone ('P841' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Full-size closed-back), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the P841 (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues. Users who've followed Edifier for the past few years, particularly the H850 and its incarnations under various OEM brandings, tend to be very respectful of its sonics, and its physical quality to some extent. Although the P841 is ostensibly a replacement for the lesser H840, I'd place it above both the H840 and H850 in sound quality. Compared to "classic neutral" headphones like the Sennheiser 600/800 series and Beyer Teslas, the P841 is significantly darker, having a ~4db recess in the midrange (700 to 1500 hz), a ~5db emphasis in the upper bass (65 to 90 hz), and a ~5db emphasis in the upper treble (7 to 9 khz). After reviewing a number of other headphones from the P841's price level up to $700, I'd place the P841 right alongside most of those, with the exception of a couple (but not all) of the open-back models. Naturally, I stick to the High Fidelity standard** rather than the convenient fashion standards, and so I simply EQ'd the frequency ranges noted above and enjoyed hi-fi sound from the P841's superbly engineered earcup/drivers design. First impressions score big with me, and right out of the box playing some familiar tracks, I was surprised by the P841's clarity, dynamics, and detail - particularly the superior bass quality compared to the popular brands sold at (for example) the Apple Store. In spite of my EQ that suppresses the upper bass by 5db, the P841's bass still has great impact on my familiar test tracks. **When your headphone and music sound like live music, you're on the right track. Also note that while every headphone benefits from some period of burn-in, the P841 is very close to its final sound right out of the box. Although the P841 isn't considered to be a "high resolution" headphone, it has more than enough clarity and detail to appreciate the differences that can be heard with lossless and higher-resolution music tracks. Every popular headphone has some individual quality that leads to its popularity, but the cost versus quality factors of the P841 are well beyond any nit-picking I'd apply to most other headphones. I've purchased all of the headphones I've reviewed in the past couple of years, and so naturally I tend to like what I purchase, or send it back. Had I paid $300 for the P841, I might wonder about how much I paid given the minimal retail packaging and the included accessories (none), if not the headphone's plastic build, but I wouldn't question the sound at that price. I won't spend more time on the P841's sound for now, for these reasons: 1) The music tracks listed below, which were included in my tests of the P841, feature a wide range of music tonalities that highlight any sonic weaknesses in the headphone. 2) The sound is much better than I expected, and far better than competing brands anywhere near this price level. 3) The history of Edifier's better headphones and their attention to both build quality and sonic quality are a good heads-up that this P841 is building an even better future on exactly those qualities. The P841 comes with good-quality soft-plastic covered earpads, which are among my favorites because they don't tend to accumulate sweat and oils that can change the sound over time. The soft squishy foam inside these earpads make for an extremely comfortable fit, assuming a user's ears aren't unusually large. I've had headphones with shallow earcups, and worse yet - spiky protrusions on the driver covers inside the earcups. Neither of these occurs with the P841. The thin 4-ft "Y" cable goes into both the left and right earcups, and is terminated with a 3.5mm Apple-style miniplug. The cable includes an Apple-compatible 3-button control box, mounted just below the left earcup. The padded headband's size adjustment range is about one inch on each side, and given that my average head fits the middle of that range, it should accomodate a wide range of head sizes. Isolation is good - average or better for a circumaural closed-back design - good enough for most home use and outdoor use where it's not extremely noisy, but probably not good enough for public transport for critical listening. Leakage is just enough that playing music in a quiet office might not work, unless the volume is kept fairly low. In previous reviews I've included the following music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the P841 compares with each individual track. Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has great detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The P841 plays this extremely well. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the P841. Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the P841. Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The P841 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble. Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the P841. Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The P841 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track. Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are bright, crisp, and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The P841 reproduces the space and detail very well. Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the P841 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly. Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The P841 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact. Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable. David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The P841 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed, and the upright bass is amazing. Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The P841 plays this music perfectly. Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates an excellent deep-bass response. Overall, the P841 plays this music very well. Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The P841 plays this track extremely well. Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the P841. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy. Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The P841 provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the P841 plays those extremely well. Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The P841 plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone. Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2019, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the P841 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance. **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so. Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is impressive with the P841. Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the P841 renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone. Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The P841's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is not completely accurate. Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The P841 conveys that experience pretty well. The tympani also have good impact here. Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the P841 renders the tones and transients extremely well. Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The P841's reproduction is excellent, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite. Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The P841 delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound. -------------------------------- What would a review of a full-bass headphone be like without a selection of EDM music tracks? Incomplete - and so I continue with with the best of that genre here: Above & Beyond - We're All We Need (feat. Zoe Johnston): A very nice tight but impactful bass with crystal clear vocals - the P841 plays this with great ambiance. Anamanaguchi - Planet: A complex mix of percussion sounds and hummed vocals. The bells and other high-frequency percussion are highly detailed, the bass line has average weight, and the bass detail is excellent. Armin van Buuren - J'ai Envie de Toi (Orig Mix feat Gaia): Good bass impacts, breathy vocals, lots of fun noise - the P841 plays this perfectly. Avicii - Feeling Good: Classic female vocal in movie-theme style - the P841 brings this to life like few other headphones I've heard. Carl Kennedy-Tommy Trash ft Rosie Henshaw - Blackwater (Original Master): Nice strong tight bass impacts, female vocal, rendered delectably by the P841. Crystal Castles - Wrath of God: Atmospheric tune with vocal sound effects and strong bass line, plus some unique treble percussion sounds. The P841 brings these unique sounds to life. Digitalism - Pogo: A driving beat with a detailed bass synth and great vocals ("There's something in the air...") - the P841 makes this very enjoyable. Dino Lenny-Lino Di Meglio - We Will Make It: Atmospheric tune with mixed vocals - the female vocal is a special treat with the P841. DJ Shadow - Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: High-pitched tones and strong deep piano chords with a hummed female vocal - ultra-cool with the P841. Fairmont - Poble Sec: Awesome detailed bass impacts with some nifty pingy guitar/synth effects. I discovered this tune at the time I purchased my 3rd v-moda M100 - the P841 makes this even more enjoyable. Giuseppe Ottaviani - Lost for Words (On Air Mix feat Amba Shepherd): Strong bass impacts behind a female voice - a large-scale sweeping sonic image reminiscent of epic adventures in an exotic land. The P841 is playing on a whole new level here. Hecq - Enceladus (With Skyence): Prodigious deep bass and clean at that. This tune's melody is more abstract than most of the others here, but the P841 makes it a real adventure. Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix): Oh myyyyy, I love Katy B. The vocal mix here is awesome and the bass is solid. This is the P841 at its best. Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch: I first heard this in The September Issue film and soundtrack, as the backdrop for the opening catwalk (watch Andre grinning at 1:51 - all you need to know) - the P841 plays this amazing tune perfectly. Lee and Malinda - Truth Will Set You Free (V-Moda Mix): Lee Kalt is the master, this is the masterpiece. The drum (or tom-tom) hits here have a very realistic skin-tone, the female vocal is seamlessly integrated into the driving beat, and the synth effects also blend well - the P841 just owns this. Markus Schulz - Mainstage: The granddaddy of bass is in this track, and the P841 plays it smooth and clean. -------------------------------- Continuing my review with a few additional music samples, the following are some of the "odds and ends" I've picked up in the process of reviewing headphones. The sound of most of these tracks is good enough to complement any decent headphone, but they show off the P841's sonic qualities as well as anything I've heard. Some of these may be hard to find, particularly in the exact mix/remix listed here. One thing to be aware of when evaluating these music tracks (or any music tracks) is that the lower bass is easily drowned out where there is a lot of ambient low-frequency noise. For example, I would walk city streets with my original v-moda M100 using the latest iPod Nano (no EQ with the little square Nano), and the sound was perfect for those walks. Playing the same music at home, my perception of the bass was completely different. Le Voyage Dans La Lune: Soundtrack to a hand-painted color movie. A terrific variety of sounds that show off the excellent audio qualities of the P841. Muse - Madness: Awesome bass line with mass vocals. Clearly delineated by the P841. Mylene Farmer - Desenchantee: French vocal over a driving bass beat. Very enjoyable with the P841. Robyn Hitchcock - Autumn Is Your Last Chance: Acoustic/electric guitar with compelling vocal. Pure class as reproduced by the P841. Samantha James - Amber Sky: Reverberant instrumentation and ethereal vocal. Dreamy stuff that sounds amazing on the P841. Satchmode - Best Intentions: Atmospheric vocals over a very decent bass line. Exquisite reproduction by the P841. Sneaker Pimps - Underground (Nellee Hooper Mix): Slow-paced club music with female vocal and subtle but very effective bass impacts. The bass in this track will be fully appreciated only in a quiet listening spot. Soliquid - Shibuya (Paul Keeley Remix): Eight minutes and 50 seconds of heavenly beats and awesome musical synth effects as heard with the P841. Stones and Bones - Love Lockdown: Ibiza 2014 track with a very spacious atmosphere and a bit of contrapuntal vocal. Outstanding on the P841. Susanne Sundfor - Accelerate: High-ambiance noise with decent bass impacts and reverberant vocals. The P841 makes this track come alive. Third Sex - Monster Snack: One of the best of the Goth/RiotGrrrl genre, available on the Free To Fight CD. Somewhat primitive sound with aggressive vocal, but there ya go - as good as it gets with this headphone. Three-11 Porter - Surround Me With Your Love: Pleasant male-female vocal mix against a big-ambiance backdrop. Lush presentation by the P841. Visage - Fade To Grey: Atmospheric and reverberant recording supported by a luscious synth line. The P841 plays this perfectly. When Saints Go Machine - Love And Respect: Super-energetic music with reverberant vocal counterpoint. Strong bass impacts delivered cleanly by the P841. Yaz - Situation: Bright pop-EDM music from the past. Played exquisitely by the P841.
  2. Youtube review: http://youtu.be/EBNCAZ2LQkk Photos: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Grado_Wh1_01.jpg Sources: iPad Pro 11-inch/iPhone XsMax with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt/DAC-amps. Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the Grado WH1 'White' headphone ('WH1' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Full-size open-back), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the 'WH1' (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues. Disclaimer: This might be the most unusual headphone review I've done, at least since I purchased and reviewed the Grado PS1000e a few years ago. Hint: Read this paragraph to the end. Like the PS1000e, I found the 'WH1' to have a very lean bass and a strong treble, yet with a modicum of EQ to tilt the sound a bit to the right (warmer), the result has a compelling quality that I don't hear with my other (mostly closed-back) headphones. The 'WH1' is a completely different experience from those other headphones, yet the overall sound is very seductive, and I find that I can raise the volume and "dial in closer" to the music and musical details than with the other headphones. I can't really explain that, so I'll defer to my review of the PS1000e, which has a similar size with the large Grado "Bowl" earpads, where I described its sound as "effortless" and occasionally "breathtaking". The 'WH1' soundstage is quite good, but not as large as I would have guessed based on the size of the earcups and earpads. Still, very good as it is, the ease with which it reproduces sound (a property it shares with the PS1000e) raises the overall experience to near bliss. That, coupled with excellent accuracy and tonality make the 'WH1' a most interesting headphone - one that I eagerly await other reviewers' impressions of. The 'WH1' is completely open to outside sound, and to fully appreciate that, just press your hands to the outside center of the earcups, and hear the amazing difference when those ports are blocked. I won't spend more time on the 'WH1's sound for now, for these reasons: 1) I haven't heard headphone sound like this in years (if then), and at this point I don't know whether I've stumbled onto an accidental miracle via a unique combination of gear and tuning, or whether this sound was intended in the design. In any case I'll wait for other reviews to come in before commenting further. 2) The music tracks listed below, which were included in my tests of the 'WH1', feature a wide range of music tonalities that highlight any sonic weaknesses in the headphone. 3) I'm not concerned with measurements or other tech issues, since musical neutrality is my only objective. The 'WH1' comes with a straight approx. 5-ft non-detachable double-entry cable, terminated with a 3.5 mm stereo plug, with a 6.35 mm adapter included. It's a typical (heavy-duty) Grado cable, meaning that it's made for sonic purity rather than small-and-light convenience. The headband is padded some on the underside, but given the headphone's relatively light weight and how much of that is borne by the large earpads, the padding is more than sufficient. The headband's range of adjustment is 1/2 inch smaller and 3/4 inch larger on each side from where it fits my head, which should accomodate a wide variety of head sizes. The 'WH1' is not a portable headphone in the usual sense, but if you obtain the large (but compact) zippered Grado carry case from their sales site, the 'WH1' will be easy to take anywhere. In previous reviews I've included music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. In this case (note EQ comment above), I've chosen 30 tracks from a previous review that show off the strengths and weaknesses of the headphone, albeit with the 'WH1' the weaknesses (if any) are essentially nonexistent. Ana Victoria - Roxanne (Pop): Large soundstage around female vocal with good instrument detail. Anik Jean - Gaspesie (Pop): Another large-ambient female vocal, in French. Great test for the 'WH1'. Baaba Maal - Lam Tooro (Senegal Pop): The instrumental interplay here is unique to me, and sounds delicious with the 'WH1'. Babel Metis - Nips Naps (Pop/Electronic): Surprising bass here - sounds quite deep with decent impact. Belden-Carter - Everything I Love (Jazz): The instrumentation and ambiance are luscious here, especially the upright bass. Ben Goldberg - Root and Branch (Jazz): Another luscious jazz combo tune, with another decent bass line. Ben Heit Quartet - Suite-Magnet and Iron (Jazz): Energetic jazz combo playing, with a terrific piano tonality, especially the deeper notes. Benedictines of Mary - O Come Emmanuel (Choral): Large, deep ambiance, with excellent choral harmony. Betty Davis - The Lone Ranger (Pop): Atmospheric female vocal - just wonderful, with a solid bass line. Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (Pop/Jazz): My favorite of this genre, with great instrumental definition, particularly the loud piercing guitar at 0:42. Bob Dylan - Serve Somebody (Pop): Dark and moody Dylan-rap with soul chorus - a lovely tune with some decent bass detail. Bobo Stenson Trio - Indicum (Jazz): Wide range of instrumentation here, particularly the piano and bass instrument. Boz Scaggs-Booker T - I've Been Loving You Too Long (Pop): Great rendition of this tune by masters of the genre. The 'WH1' does this justice. Buckethead - Soothsayer (Pop): Good guitar tone with backing percussion. Played well by the 'WH1'. Camilla Johansson - Love is Blue (Pop): Bright treble instruments and fairly deep bass played perfectly by the 'WH1'. Candy Dulfer - Lily Was Here (Jazz): Sharp instrumental details abound. Carbon Based Lifeforms - Accede (Pop/Electronic): Atmospheric tune that builds in complexity and intensity. Carlos Mejia Godoy - Nicaragua Nicaraguita (Jazz): Sax, bass, piano, percussion - everything in a good combo, played well by the 'WH1'. Carmen Gomes - A Fool For You (Jazz): A very high-res recording played to perfection by the 'WH1'. Cat's Miaow - Neu Monotonic FM (Pop): Artistic musical noise - the song that never ends (or seems so). Changelings - Incantation (Pop): Atmospheric, ethereal, moody. Charlie Haden-Pat Metheny - Waltz For Ruth (Jazz): Very nice bass plucking with tonally rich guitar. Christophe Beck - Really Big Sandbox and Slayer's Elegy (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer): Atmospheric almost by definition - tonally worthy on the 'WH1'. Claire Martin - Too Darn Hot (Jazz): Great upright bass backing with female vocal. Clark Terry - Sugar Blues (Jazz): Some of the sharp trumpet blasts here can irritate with some headphones. Sounds good with the 'WH1'. Claude Pelouse - Paradise (Pop): Tune used in a popular tonal accuracy perception test - sounds fine with the 'WH1'. Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers (Pop): Excellent guitar/synth tones over an ethereal female voice. Commodores - Night Shift (Pop): The growling bass here is very satisfying. Cranes - Adoration (Pop/Goth): Nice deep piano chords lead off this atmospheric track. Scala and Kolacny Brothers - Creep (Pop): A female choral take on the Radiohead classic, with a decent piano sound.
  3. Youtube review: http://youtu.be/v5WyyNp5x70 Photos: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Ess422h_01.jpg http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Ess422h.jpg Sources: iPhone XsMax/iPad Pro 11-inch with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC-amps. Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the ESS422H headphone ('422H' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Full-size closed-back), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the 422H (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues. I'll get right to the point here: Compared to "classic neutral" headphones like the Sennheiser 600/800 series and Beyer Teslas, I found the 422H to have an ~3 db emphasis in the upper bass, a fairly large (~6 db) emphasis between 500 and 1300 hz, and a large-to-modest recess in the mid-treble from 3 to 6 khz. After reviewing headphones like the AudioQuest NightHawk and Focal Elear (just two examples of many), I came to realize that their large mid-treble recesses were becoming popular, probably due to the Loudness Wars and the boosted "presence" in those recordings. But the combination of the mid-treble recess and large midrange emphasis here makes the 422H's overall sound quite hollow and dull. Naturally, I stick to the High Fidelity standard** rather than any fashion standard, and so I equalized the 422H to its most natural sound. After doing so and playing some familiar tracks, I was amazed by the 422H's clarity, dynamics, and detail - particularly the superior bass detail compared to the popular brands sold at (for example) the Apple Store. **When your headphone and music sound like live acoustic music, you're on the right track. Also note that while every headphone benefits from some period of burn-in, the better quality headphones are closer to their final sound right out of the box. When using the 422H with a good DAC and headphone amp (taking note of the above), you'll really appreciate the difference with lossless and higher-resolution music tracks. Still, the 422H is very efficient, and plays well with decent bass quality from the better cellphones. Every popular headphone has some individual quality that leads to its popularity, and whether the 422H is popular or not, it does contain Heil AMT (Air Motion Transformer) drivers along with regular dynamic drivers. I hear enough detail with the 422H to suggest that the AMT drivers are responsible for that detail, but then again that detail would be missed without the EQ I did. I won't spend more time on the 422H's sound for now, for these reasons: 1) The music tracks listed below, which were included in my tests of the 422H, feature a wide range of music tonalities that highlight any sonic weaknesses in the headphone. 2) The EQ'd sound is better than I expected, and far better than I expected at this price level ($150 USD). 3) The history of the 422H as well as its build quality and EQ'd sonic quality are a good heads-up as far as value is concerned, yet the current prices are not sustainable should ESS get serious about marketing the AMT-hybrid design in a class-leading headphone. The 422H comes with high-quality pleather-covered earpads, which are my favorite because they don't tend to absorb sweat and oils that can change the sound over time. The soft squishy foam inside these earpads make for an extremely comfortable fit, assuming a user's ears aren't unusually large. The left earcup has a 3.5 mm socket for the headphone cable. The headband is scarcely padded and the headphone is heavy for its size, but the strong clamp and grippy earpads mean you'll feel that more than the weight from above. The size adjustment range is more than an inch, and given that my average head fits near the middle of that range, it should accomodate a wide range of head sizes. Isolation is good - average or better for a circumaural closed-back design - good enough for most home use and outdoor use where it's not extremely noisy, but probably not good enough for public transport for critical listening. Leakage is very low - enough that playing music loudly in a quiet office might work, unless someone sitting very close-by hears the sound faintly and objects. The 422H comes with a thin 4.5 ft cable and a bulky zippered soft/hard case. In previous reviews I've included the following music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the 422H compares with each individual track. These tracks were evaluated with the EQ settings linked above or on my website. Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has great detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The 422H plays this extremely well. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the 422H. Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the 422H. Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The 422H plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble. Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the 422H. Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The 422H plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track. Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are bright, crisp, and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The 422H reproduces the space and detail very well. Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the 422H renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly. Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The 422H plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact. Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sounds realistic - better than what I hear with most headphones. David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The 422H reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed, and the upright bass is excellent. Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The 422H plays this music perfectly. Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates an excellent deep-bass response. Overall, the 422H plays this music very well. Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The 422H plays this track extremely well. Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the 422H. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy. Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The 422H provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the 422H plays those extremely well. Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The 422H plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone. Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the 422H is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance. **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so. Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle but impressive with the 422H. Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the 422H renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone. Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The 422H's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is near-perfect. Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The 422H conveys that experience pretty well. The tympani also have good impact here. Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the 422H renders the tones and transients extremely well. Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The 422H's reproduction is excellent, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite. Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The 422H delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
  4. Youtube review: http://youtu.be/3-DeczwQ6s4 Photos: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Vmoda_M100_Master_01.jpg Sources: iPhone XsMax/iPad Pro 11-inch with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC-amps. Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the V-MODA M100 Master headphone ('Master' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Full-size closed-back), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the Master (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues. Users who've followed the M100 since the early days (late 2012), and its progress to becoming the ultimate Amazon headphone at one time, tend to be possessive about its sonics (not to mention physical quality) and rather sensitive about changes to its design. I'll get right to the point: Compared to "classic neutral" headphones like the Sennheiser 600/800 series and Beyer Teslas, I found the M100 to have a ~10 db emphasis in the upper bass, and a slight recess in the mid-treble around 5 khz. After reviewing headphones like the AudioQuest NightHawk and Focal Elear (just two examples of many), I came to realize that their large mid-treble recesses were becoming popular, probably due to the Loudness Wars and the boosted "presence" in those recordings, and thus I no longer consider the M100 or M100 Master treble to have any recess. Naturally, I stick to the High Fidelity standard** rather than the fashion standard, and so I simply adjusted the M100 bass down a bit and enjoyed hi-fi sound from their superbly engineered drivers and acoustically-correct earcups. Since then, the V-MODA Wireless continued the M100 signature, the Wireless-2 trimmed the bass emphasis to about 6 db, and the new M100 Master drops that emphasis to approximately 4 db. First impressions score big with me, and right out of the box playing some familiar tracks, I was amazed by the Master's clarity, dynamics, and detail - particularly the superior bass detail compared to the popular brands sold at (for example) the Apple Store. **When your headphone and music sound like the real thing, you're on the right track. Also note that while every headphone benefits from some period of burn-in, the better quality headphones are closer to their final sound right out of the box. The new M100 Master is "High Res Certified" (or something to that effect), and due to the large dual-diaphragm drivers with the new Roland-designed voice coils etc., you'll really appreciate the difference with lossless and higher-resolution music tracks. Every popular headphone has some individual quality that leads to its popularity, but I'm more than convinced that there's nothing within twice the Master's price that can compete with it on fidelity - clarity, dynamics, detail, tonality - the whole deal. I've purchased all of the headphones I've reviewed in the past couple of years, and so naturally I tend to like what I purchase, or send it back. The striking difference with the M100 Master is the detail, which is more obvious at the lowest frequencies since most headphones lose clarity there. I won't spend more time on the M100 Master's sound for now, for these reasons: 1) The music tracks listed below, which were included in my tests of the Master, feature a wide range of music tonalities that highlight any sonic weaknesses in the headphone. 2) The sound is better than I expected, and far better than competing brands anywhere near this price level. 3) The history of the M100 and its attention to both build quality and sonic quality are a good heads-up that this Master edition is building an even better future on exactly those qualities. The M100 Master comes with high-quality pleather-covered earpads, which are my favorite because they don't tend to accumulate sweat and oils that can change the sound over time. The soft squishy foam inside these earpads make for an extremely comfortable fit, assuming a user's ears aren't unusually large. The openings in my Master earpads measure 1.5 x 2.25 inches, or 3.8 x 5.7 cm. Both Left and Right earcups have a 3.5 mm socket for the headphone cable, and V-MODA supplies small rubber plugs to protect these sockets when not being used. The padded headband's size adjustment range is slightly over an inch, and given that my average head fits the middle of that range, it should accomodate a wide range of head sizes. I bent my headband forward slightly to give the earcups a slight toe-in, and users can take advantage of that to better fit their head shapes. The M100 Master is currently matte-black only, which is rather elegant a la stealth aircraft and other high-tech electro-mechanical products. Custom shields are available in various colors, designs, and 3-D printed metals. My current shields are the "Croc" design, included free with the headphone. Previous shields I've had include 3-D printed spikes and the laser-engraved "Immortal Angel" motif. I've had headphones with shallow earcups, and worse yet - spiky protrusions on the driver covers inside the earcups. Neither of these occurs with the M100 Master. The Master's isolation is good - average or better for a circumaural closed-back design - good enough for most home use and outdoor use where it's not extremely noisy, but probably not good enough for public transport for critical listening. Leakage is very low - enough that playing music loudly in a quiet office might work, unless someone sitting very close-by hears the sound faintly and objects. The Master comes with two cables: a ~4 ft black cable and a much longer red/black cable with an extra headphone "share" socket. The classic V-MODA zippered hard case for their compact CliqFold designs is also included. In previous reviews I've included the following music samples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the M100 Master compares with each individual track. These tracks were evaluated without any EQ settings. Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has great detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Master plays this extremely well. Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the Master. Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can really feel the weight they carry with the Master. Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The Master plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble. Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the Master. Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Master plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track. Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are bright, crisp, and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The Master reproduces the space and detail very well. Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the Master renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly. Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The Master plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact. Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sounds realistic - better than what I hear with most headphones. David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Master reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed, and the upright bass is amazing. Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The Master plays this music perfectly. Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates an excellent deep-bass response. Overall, the Master plays this music very well. Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The Master plays this track extremely well. Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce pretty well with the Master. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy. Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The Master provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the Master plays those extremely well. Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The Master plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone. Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the Master is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance. **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so. Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is impressive with the Master. Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Master renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone. Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Master's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is near-perfect. Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The Master conveys that experience pretty well. The tympani also have good impact here. Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the Master renders the tones and transients extremely well. Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The Master's reproduction is excellent, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite. Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The Master delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
  5. Youtube review: http://youtu.be/TE1KH4kDo78 Photos: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Dac_Amp_Audioquest_Dragonfly_Cobalt_01.jpg Sources: iPhone XsMax, iPad Pro 11-inch, Macbook 12-inch, Generic PC Tower, Meridian Explorer2/Oppo HA-2se/DragonFly Red DAC-amps, AudioQuest JitterBug, AudioQuest DragonTail USB-C. When I got word of the new DragonFly Cobalt, I hesitated - about three seconds - then I went for the phone and called TTVJ to get one. I understood from various conversations that there was a bit of angst about the price - 50 percent higher than the DragonFly Red, which was and is a great little DAC/amp for mobile devices. But $300 USD is not a stretch for something significantly better than the DF Red, as long as it meets that goal, which I believe it does. AudioQuest included a DragonTail adapter (USB-A to USB-C) that connects the DragonFly to an Apple iPad Pro or various Android devices, and that was the added touch that gave the purchase even more value. Comparing the DF Cobalt to the DF Red, and feeding 44 khz WAV tracks from my iPad Pro 11-inch to the DragonFlys, I played the first 70 seconds of Steven Wilson's Luminol (at the 44/24 data rate) playing the DF Cobalt first (3 times), then the DF Red second. Almost immediately my impression of the stereo image was that it's less open and full with the DF Red. That alone didn't seal the DF Cobalt deal though. I ended up playing the same 70 seconds 3 times with the DF Red, then repeated 3 with the DF Cobalt followed by 3 with the DF Red. I've always thought of the DF Red as a very smooth reproducer, particularly compared to the DF Black. But this time the DF Cobalt edged out the DF Red with a smoother yet detailed sound. Some users might not hear the differences, but if they are practiced at evaluating DACs, they should pick up on these differences pretty quickly. My next listen was the album Carmen Gomes Sings The Blues, which was recorded in DSD etc. at 352 khz or so, and then down-res'd to 44/24 WAV files for my 256 gb iPad Pro. The quality of the bass in this recording was noticeably better than with the DF Red, and the impact of the bass was more palpable, although I wouldn't describe the bass as "impactful" in the sense of many EDM recordings. It's jazz, and the sound is as good as they come - surprising for a live-in-studio recording, although in reading the liner notes one can appreciate how it was accomplished. My overall impressions of the DF Cobalt are mainly the greater realism - the palpable sounds in the lower registers, resin-y bowing, and the fullness of voices and instruments that aren't the least bit exaggerated. The wrong headphone could change all that of course, which is why I give attention to adjusting the different headphones' frequency responses with a modicum of EQ. I also incorporate listening with the AudioQuest JitterBug in my sample music tracks below, but I'll recommend the DF Cobalt straightaway for these users: 1) Perfectionists. 2) Those with good enough hearing and experience to appreciate the differences. 3) Those who won't hear the differences immediately, but who trust AudioQuest to put into the DAC what they say they put in. Don't place any unusual trust in my review, since the music you play and many other factors could net out the differences. Do read as many reviews as possible, focusing on the best-respected reviewers of portable audio gear, especially DACs and headphone amps. The following tracks were selected from my review of the Beyerdynamic Lagoon headphone, as that headphone (in wired use only) has the best overall reproduction of the headphones I've reviewed in 2019. The Lagoon review represents its sound when using the DragonFly Red, and the music tracks below represent the Lagoon's sound using the DragonFly Cobalt. Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has great detail and tone, the drums have decent impact, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The Lagoon/Cobalt plays this extremely well. Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel the weight they carry with the Lagoon/Cobalt. Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sounds realistic - better than what I hear with most headphones. David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Lagoon/Cobalt reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed, and the upright bass sound is near-perfect. Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The Lagoon/Cobalt plays this music perfectly. Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates an excellent deep-bass response. Overall, the Lagoon/Cobalt plays this music very well. Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce well with the Lagoon/Cobalt. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy. Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The Lagoon/Cobalt provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the Lagoon/Cobalt plays those extremely well. Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The Lagoon/Cobalt plays this with great weight and enough detail that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone. Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle with the Lagoon/Cobalt. Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The Lagoon/Cobalt's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is good, but not perfect. Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The Lagoon/Cobalt conveys at least some of that experience. The tympani also have good impact here. Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The Lagoon/Cobalt delivers the impacts with good weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
  6. This headphone under the Marantz name retails for $120 USD, yet I got it from a major hi-fi retailer for $60. The review explains why it's worth having, for those who are willing to tweak the sound or try mod'ing it. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/marantz-mph-4-around-ear-stereo-monitor-headphone-review.4550/
  7. Here's an interesting earphone - similar to the Airpods insofar as the earpieces do not go into the ear canals, but different in having a much more secure fit, yet the sound is a mixture - deep bass no better than Airpods, but from the upper bass to the top end much more like a typical IEM. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/marshall-minor-ii-bluetooth-earphone-review.4549/
  8. Here is a $400 USD bargain. It might not have the absolute resolution or toe-curling bass of the average $3000-and-up headphone, but I don't there's anything below double its price that can touch it for overall sound quality. Highly recommended, and Bluetooth and ANC are merely the icing on the cake. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/beyerdynamic-lagoon-around-ear-bluetooth-anc-headphone-review.4548/
  9. Now this is *really* different, so before I get back to the newer and much costlier headphones, consider that this $13 USD headphone may sound better (equalized) than many so-called flagships that are played "as is". http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/jvc-flats-on-ear-stereo-mini-headphone-review.4547/
  10. Another great bargain by Marshall, if purchased at the latest $99 USD price (B&H etc.) - This is the Bluetooth, but non-ANC version. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/marshall-mid-on-ear-bluetooth-non-anc-headphone-review.4546/
  11. A beautifully-made and good-looking headphone, less costly now at many locations. The major downside is a somewhat hollow sound from a lower-mids emphasis - looking inside the earcups I think I see why. Excellent with EQ due to the high-quality drivers and build. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/b-w-px-anc-bluetooth-headphone-review.4545/
  12. The bargain-priced Marshall Major III was a shot in the dark for me, and it paid off - not so great without an equalizer, but excellent with. Great comfort, good quality build if you get the genuine article, decent aesthetics. I highly recommended it based on the stipulations in this review. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/marshall-major-iii-on-ear-bluetooth-headphone-review.4544/
  13. Here is my latest purchase - a very excellent DJ-style headphone, which just might be an excellent audiophile choice as well. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/pioneer-hdj-x10c-carbon-fiber-edition-dj-headphone-review.4542/
  14. Here's my review of the newly price-reduced Beats Disney special edition headphone .... I like it for several reasons, and I recommend it if you don't mind the value equation. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/beats-solo3-special-disney-edition-bluetooth-headphone-review.4541/
  15. I had the Carbon Marsala edition in 2015, and I've had the urge to get this one ever since (same headphone but different colors), and now that they're discounted to less than half price, it was a no-brainer. One caveat - this was made for fashion, less for sound, although the sound does equalize very well. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/pryma-by-sonus-faber-2019-stereo-headphone-review.4540/
  16. This is a quickie review of the v-moda M80, a headphone I owned a few of circa 2011-2014 in its several incarnations (V80, M80, XS). The V80 was the True Blood(c) branded edition, the M80 was the same thing in shadow, matte black, and white, and the XS added the CliqFold mechanism as well as the form-fitting "Mind The Gap" headband design. All of these that I had sounded about the same, which isn't surprising since the earcups and drivers were the same. The drivers were (as best I remember) a dual-diaphragm design, which not only provided a strong deep bass, but really good bass detail as well. Using my "new" M80 (original 2014 packaging unopened), I note that the clamping force is very light - lighter than most on-ear headphones. The headband was easy to bend permanently so that the earcups sit flush on my ears. In cold environments, the pleather earpads don't immediately seal well due to the light clamp, but after a minute when they warm up on the head, they're good to go. This is not a wireless headphone obviously, but given how I use headphones and the options I have available, I consider this M80 just as viable for walkabout use. The single-side cable is detachable, easy to drop into a pocket, the headphone can be worn around the neck all day with no bother, and for better sound I use the v-moda Lightning DAC cable with my Apple i-devices in lieu of the standard cable. Here's the EQ curve I made in 2014, using just the Q=1 bandwidth defaults of the parametric equalizer. Although I boosted the low bass by 6 db then, I find that a 3 db boost at 33 hz is more than enough with this current M80. I wouldn't suggest this headphone for 32-ft (16.35 hz) organ pipe reproduction, but for any EDM and other bass-centric genres it plays extremely well. The original Innerfidelity review(s) noted the excellent sound, but with the caveat that it had a slightly "constricted" aspect to it. My EQ fixed that, and in my opinion the result is a smooth, detailed hi-fi sound. http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Vmoda_M80.jpg When all is said and done, snagging this M80 at half or less of the original price, I got the same v-moda build quality and sound, and the at-home use with various DACs is pure sonic pleasure. HERE is the new video review: http://youtu.be/ZTXTl8CQ4mE
  17. I just purchased the AudioQuest NightHawk Carbon at a closeout price of $299 USD in the U.S. The original price here was $699 USD, so the new closeout price is 3/7 of the original. The packaging was new with the NH Carbon, and so well packaged that it would survive severe moisture and humidity for 100 years or so. The sound is the same as the original NH, i.e. dull and cavernous due to the combination of lower-mids emphasis and mid-treble recess. Fortunately, when EQ'd properly the NH sounds marvelous. http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Audioquest_Nighthawk.jpg (Note: EQ curve is the inverse of a freq. response curve) About a year ago I also purchased the NightOwl Carbon, hoping for a better sound, but it was even worse than the NH. I really have to wonder, given the massive promotion by AudioQuest for these headphones and their designer (Skylar-somebody), whether anyone with an appreciation for high fidelity reproduction actually listened to these designs and signed off on them. I have my doubts.
  18. This is a bit different from the original review, addressing 4 common questions and testing with EDM music tracks. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/grado-gw-100-wireless-headphone-followup-review.4534/
  19. This is my followup review of the Grado GH3, with new video and text and new music tracks. The music track listings are from the same template I used for the Grado GW100, and as it turned out I made only one change - to the Fairmont-Poble Sec track, where the GH3 bass was obviously not as strong as the GW100 bass. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/grado-gh3-heritage-edition-headphone-followup-review-new-info.4536/
  20. Here's my comprehensive review of the new Grado GH3 in the Heritage Series. It's neutral, it's spacious, it's made for music, and nearly as light as a feather: http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/grado-gh3-heritage-series-stereo-headphone-review.4535/
  21. Grado's first wireless/Bluetooth headphone is both musical and fairly neutral. I admit to being pleasantly surprised by the sound quality. Highly recommended.http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/comm...e-review.4533/
  22. Ostensibly the same edition as my previous purchase in matte black, I ordered the white version with custom "Immortal Angel" shields for a few reasons - to test the codecs against the black version, check for sample differences and add a new video, and run the music tests with my standard set of tracks instead of EDM only. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/v-moda-wireless-2-codex-headphone-white-customized-followup-review.4532/
  23. The Studio3 was sitting there at the Apple Store, looking very tempting in its impressive "special edition" packaging, and I even got a 5-minute listen to the demo unit using my own iPhone. The demo sounded kinda thick - even a bit muffled, but the extra sweetening they added on the high end made it listenable. I've had a few Bluetooth headphones now, but not a Beats wireless, so I was curious what the potential of this headphone might be for quality listening, given that I'd re-tune it a little with my equalizer. The conclusions are in the review text, but one thing I can say up front is that while they get the middle frequencies about right through their ANC-plus-Bluetooth codecs, the extreme lows seem to have excess distortion. The extreme highs fare better, but I can't judge how much negative impact the DSP's have on those highs versus how much quality if any is lost in the basic design. One issue that popped into my head while writing this review is the so-called Loudness Wars. I wonder if the trend in many new headphones to have a recessed lower treble is actually compensation for the Loudness effect, to push the strong forward voices more to the background. Pure speculation there.... http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/beats-studio-3-wireless-bluetooth-headphone-review.4516/
  24. My full review of the new Beats Solo3 "Decade Collection" headphone - likely a purely cosmetic difference from the late-2016 original Solo3. Bluetooth == yes, Noise Canceling == no. http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/beats-solo3-decade-collection-bluetooth-headphone-review.4527/
  25. The NightOwl has great potential in having tonality superior to most non-premium or non-audiophile headphones, but the frequency response tuning needs a good bit of tweaking... http://www.hifiheadphones.co.uk/community/threads/audioquest-nightowl-audiophile-stereo-headphone-review.4528/
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