Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by vbetts, Sep 24, 2018.
you are correct
The replacement earpads for my ATH-A900X LTD arrived a little earlier than expected, together with a case I'd ordered for my yet-to-arrive Flip 3.
I'd replaced the flaking earpads of the ATH-A900X LTD with the new ones and they sure feel more comfortable, below is a pic of it with my modded Fostex T50RP (using Alpha Dog earpads, I fell in love with sheepskin after trying them out)
As mentioned in my previous post, the cable I'm using is the very normal run-of-the-mill Amazon Basics USB cable to connect my HTPC to my Fostex HPA4 DAC combo.
I'm not a believer of all those snake oil mambo jumbo about 'audiophile' USB cables enhancing sound....
Actually bought what I'd thought was just a single USB cable, turns out to be a box of 24 such cables....gave away some to my friends but still have a whole bunch of these cables.
So, earlier today I received a package (my upgrade for my Serria 2's to 2EX) from Ascend Acoustics. Took about little over an hour to do, and everything fit perfectly, from the new mid-woofer, and screw in crossovers (see pic 1, left driver/crossover was the previous, and right set is the upgrade). I was surprise to see that they used threaded inserts in the cabinet to attached the crossover! Company is definitely on point when it come to details, even sent a new label to change from 2's to 2EX. First impressions, a little more dynamics, slightly fuller bass, and mid-range as advertised.
Bass should extend more over the next few hundred hours.
It will be interesting to see if you notice a difference in mid/treble subtlety + definition as their caps bed in.
i'm setting up a remote rig.
my mom is as old as the hills but the hills don't have gout, so i'm renting across the street. this is in a very small town 3 1/2 hours away from silicon valley in Mendocino county. i'm lucky there's broadband to be had, but i'm only going to be there weekends.
i'm doing a nice budget (excepting headphones) set up so i'll give some reviews as there's some updated kit.
iFi Zen Dac V2 (with iFi regulated power supply) this is a steal and highly touted even adding the $70 ac mains.
this is also relevant because iFi has a version (CAN) made for HD6XX which comes with that ac mains for the same price as i paid but all in one box.
i'll be leaving my Focal Elegia headphones there. i bought the Celestee for my main rig as a replacement. i'll comment on those once they're broken in (replacement for E.O.L. Elegia in product line).
Tannoy Gold 7 studio monitors. i love Focal, but not on a budget. Tannoy invented the studio monitor along with public address and home speakers (previously were built into Radio cabinets). Tannoy also was the first to use coaxial (Dual Concentric) drivers, but unlike KEF and ELAC, Tannoy's is horn loaded and thus more efficient. but the other reason is these are the most powerful 7" monitors on the market (300 peak wpc bi-amped) and with that efficiency i get in-class dynamic range second to none.
i'm using Gator Frameworks desktop clamp-on stands and a Asus TUF fast ips 27" 1440p monitor (good for price, edge-lit crap HDR400).
as for cabling, i'm using studio grade star quad balanced Mogami. there isn't better, only more expensive with a fancy jacket.
because of the funky pentacon 4.4mm balanced out on the iFi Zen V2 (one in back one in front) i'm using a 4.4mm to dual XLR that's made with silver plated copper AND one for the Elegia with dual 3.5mm (left, right) output for headphones.
more importantly because of the rural and fire-prone area there's a Tripp-Lite surge protector and a WAudio AC power filter.
half of the gear is delivered today the rest on Monday so i'll keep you posted.
ok first up:
iFi Zen v2 ($150) plus the iFi iPower ($80) supply
both came today.
first impressions are excellent as the Zen v2 is heavy and well crafted. it comes with a 30cm USB 3 A-B cable and nice RCA plugs.
i'm using an after market 4.4mm balanced to XLR to the speakers, but they haven't gotten here yet.
ok all reviews are using my trusty Focal Elegia headphones through the front 4.4mm balanced out.
i also have an ultralight DAC (for the road) which is the Sabaj Da 3. which is mated to an Aune B1s class A headphone amp for more oomph. the Sabaj is close enough in price for me to tell anyone using a DAC in a fixed location not to bother with the Sabaj as it's not even close, especially with the power supply.
and that goes for S.M.S.L. and Schiit too both of which sound close to the Sabaj.
1st some background. i worked for one of the "big 3" consumer audio companies from 1978 - 2003. i was the guy who had to teach what digital audio (and later video) is to the guys who then taught retailers when the Compact Disc came out.
if you had an optical drive before 2010 chances are it was one of ours as they were the largest oem of optical drives (from the days of 12" optical for mainframe to the Chinese flooding the market).
so i know good DACs from bad.
ok on to my "playlist of horror". i use this playlist because the recordings have known characteristics that trip up DACs.
1) "Appetite" from "Steve McQueen" ("Two Wheels Good" in US) by Prefab Sprout. this is an excellent song with some poorly placed mics that lead lesser DACs to sibilance and excessive brightness. the Zen v2 not only passes with flying colors, it's made me re-evaluate the $500 DAC in my gaming system and not in the favor of the more expensive one.
2) "Is It A Crime?" by Sade from Sade. this recording is strangely dynamically compressed which can lead to it sounding flat and tinny. the Zen v2 to this song was like giving a starving dog a pork chop. everything opened up and there was added depth, realism, and an appreciable amount of "air".
3) "Mr. Soul" by Buffalo Springfield from "Again". one of the most classic of "classic rock" songs, it was still Early Days for stereo recording. Buffalo Springfield "Again" had crossfades, pans, and a lot of what is now common.
plus there is just awesome guitar interplay between Stephen Stills and Neil Young. the Zen v2 goes through all of the layers and metaphorically sorts out the mud. even source noise (master tapes) sounds better.
4) "Danger" by "The Psychedelic Furs" from "Forever Now".
half of the cymbals in the drum shop are on this track, plus multiple tracks of alto sax (at least three) can create an impenetrable and fatiguing wall of sound. here the Zen v2 breezes through creating definition, eliminating sibilance, and achieving the effect the producer thought he was giving.
5) "ilomilo" by Billie Eilish from "when we all fall asleep where do we go"
this song is recorded as "hot" as it gets and is problematic (for inexpensive equipment) for the level and gain most speakers have problems with i.e. around crossover frequencies. the Zen v2 keeps the "slam" but controls the tautness of the bass for more definition and better imaging.
in conclusion the iFi Zen v2 is a unicorn, buy it it's worth every penny and then some.
and btw, the iFi iPower is a clever bit of kit. it comes with every ac mains adapter i've seen AND DC tips and dongles are included
the US plug is the base version, different AC plugs slide and snap right on. i recognized the UK and French style plugs and there were still another two
they make the DAC Signature v2 with an amp section for HiFiMan, the DAC CAN v2 with an amp section for HD6xx
geez, i suppose i'm a "content creator"
anyhow as it's now my sunday morning i decided instead of "problem child" music to talk about the iFi Zen v2 to talk about great recordings as i finish my last cup of coffee.
1) "Trains" - Porcupine Tree "In Absentia"
wow the bass is not less/more it's warmer than most DACs period. this really does have a "British" sound and to hear it in a (relatively) cheap DAC is a welcome treat. this will be an upgrade to an Audioquest Dragonfly priced above and below. but not portable. the imaging is rock solid and i can't wait for the Tannoy's to get here for their holographic soundstage.
the splash of the cymbals and the snap of the snare are crisp and clear with no oversaturation and the hand claps are clearly discernable.
2) "Us and Them" - Pink Floyd "Dark Side of the Moon"
Mel Collins saxophone is absolutely intimate before even the dreamy David Gilmour vocals.
i cannot say what my 17 year old self would be doing being faced with Floyd at the epic proportions of modern technology...but i'd probably need eye drops
3) "Hoe-Down" - Aaron Copland, Royal Philharmonia Orchestra
when you know how an orchestra is seated you know exactly what the stereo image should be and where or how it isn't.
this is one of the original stereo recordings and it is amazing how well it holds up.
the Zen v2 presents this with a subterranean noise floor that makes this very dynamic recording pop.
4) "Call Me (Carl Cox extended mix)" - Hannah Wants & Kevin Knapp
this is typical deep house/electro house with the bass and high bpm
the job here is feeling the club but being able to hear the music and the iFi does a great job
5) "Ten Feet Tall" - XTC "Drums and Wires"
the difference between this iFi and any DAC i've heard other than Chord under $700 is as dramatic as the first time you heard a high end audio system.
and that includes a $500 DAC i own
i feel now i have to A/B this iFi with my big boy the RME ADI2PRO (around $1700) so i'm going to bring it back to Palo Alto instead of leaving it here. i'll just bring it back next week before the Tannoys come.
the whole time i've owned the RME i've used this headset so the comparison will be pointed. not that i expect a $150 DAC to sound that good, but because i'm surprised at how musical it is and how good it does sound.
ok Tannoys (Gold 7) have arrived.
effortless accuracy soft to loud. holographic imaging that makes you want to reach out and touch. brilliant matched A/B bi-amped amplifiers that are 300 watts total. that class of amp and the neodymium magnets make this one heavy monitor.
they will sound better next week when they've broken in
but as i write this i'm hearing something in Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" i've never heard in all these years.
o.k. preliminary or not i will say this -
i will put the iFi Zen V2 and the Tannoy Gold 7 (plus all of the cabling) up against any combination of amp/speaker/dac under $1k.
and it is a lot less than that.
truly musical, highly recommended
o.k. Tannoys broken in and mounted (Gator), using the Asus Tuf VG 27 AQ monitor, my ROG laptop, the iFi Zen V2, and a Juiced USB 3.2 (with 4 USB C & 3 USB A) hub with power delivery (100 watts).
this is my weekend warrior rig across the street from my mother. after dealing with old lady chores i'm ready for some quality time with my rig
the Tannoy Gold 7 is extremely revealing and completely musical.
you will immediately draw the distinctions between your recordings down to the type of microphone used and quality of the mixing board. what sets the Tannoys apart (under $1k pair and these are $600) is the fact that they are enjoyable despite the flaws revealed in the recordings. Focal has one series in this range (Alpha 50 Evo) with a 5" driver and less power but that also is very fine, the Focal is never fatiguing but nothing images like a Dual Concentric near, medium , or far range driver.
some of the recording flaws may make the Tannoy sound "bright". the clarity and extended HF range is superlative.
room corrections (i.e. sound paneling or even just drapes) will correct hard reflective surfaces.
i have an old photo-on-canvas print of N.Y.C. circa 1900 that i'm just going to pad the back of the frame with fiberglass insulation.
the room for the home office is drywalled with a plaster "skin", so it's in need of treatment. this should do the trick nicely.
at home i make my own frames and buy canvas in different colors and hang them insulated with fiberglass like pictures in my studio.
Those Tannoys sure as heck look sick! I'd not mind getting a pair of them badboys....IF only I had the space on my desk. Sadly, due to size of monitors I use and the desk space, I'm restricted to soundbars.
The LG SL8YG on my main rig, the Philips Fidelio HTL9100 on my 2nd rig, and my recently acquired Philips Fidelio B97/98 for my HTPC are the best I could do given my 'handicap'. Seems I'm deeply entrenched in the soundbar ecosystem due to space constraints.
They look very interesting, having the tweeter/mid (and high freq woofer) in a single speaker, they look to be a 2 way design in one speaker package.
Earlier this year I bought new speakers that use the same method for mid and treble with the woofer below.
Having the treble and mid in the same package tightens the timing of everything to maximise the positive effects, your Tannoys appear to have the benefits of this too.
The imaging and 3D sound field they throw out into the room is astounding.
Depending on the album, sounds can come from all around the room, even behind my head, just with stereo speakers!
I am sort of used to it now so its hard to remember which albums do what but if interested I can dig some up to see what happens for you?
Although some of it may be down to my DAC, it spreads the soundstage a bit wider and is incredibly detailed.
They are KEF Reference 1. I'm not taking a picture of my room today, it needs a spruce up, theres a lot going on.
They are mounted on 2x SVS SB3000 subs with rubber tap washers to separate them. I didnt buy the ridiculously expensive stands and it works wonderfully. My brother has done the same but with the larger SVS PB16 Ultra and loves them to bits.
If you get some of what these do in such a small speaker, that you can sit close to, my hat is off to you!
I'm saying this because some of what you describe is very fitting.
Try pointing them straight forward, toe'd in just a little if it helps any.
It might bring out the 3D sound more, but every speaker is different.
Worth a try
Further apart can help too.
the KEF R1's are excellent by any measure. and you either have understanding neighbors or good separation between houses with two SVS's.
Tannoy invented the modern loudspeaker. they found (in the 1940's) that a coaxial placement of the HF driver inside the LF woofer
completely eliminates time based error and corrects for phase. they've been using it ever since.
the main differences between Tannoy and KEF is that Tannoys are horn loaded, making the Tannoy a vastly more efficient speaker (like Klipsch) and that KEF has a wider range of consumer products distributed in the U.S.
Tannoy mostly has a Very High End and commercial distribution in the U.S. in the rest of the English speaking world Tannoy has a mass market, enthusiast, and Very High End line. KEF only competes in the enthusiast sector.
the Very High End of Tannoy have custom built (and engineered) cabinetry plus mongo sized woofers.
the cabinets for the entry level of Tannoys high end cost more than the R1's without the drivers (in the Tannoys),
they are ideal for low power single ended (tube) amps but can handle massive power putting out SPL's in the +112db (and more) level. the kind of speaker i imagine in an English manor that you listen to while sipping sherry
but yes, KEF and Tannoy both have impeccable soundstages and unparalleled imaging. KEF is more room friendly than Tannoys which seemingly are made for very well furnished rooms. the Tannoy is more flexible in placement with a larger sweet spot, but either way you can't go wrong once you dial in the room.
the KEF LS50 is derived from a BBC spec for broadcast monitors that was issued in the early 1960's. first made by Rogers, then ATC (scm5) still in production and KEF. the LS50 looks the same but has improved over the years.
Heh, thanks for the primer, some I wasnt aware of.
A friend still uses his old Tannoy 636s he never replaced, they are the first speaker I saw with mid/treble combined.
I never was a fan though, but he doesnt believe in decent kit to feed them so not a surprise.
My Dad has a pair of largish standmount Rogers LS speakers still in use (I forget the model), they sound pretty sweet. Crossovers have been renewed.
The Ref 1s are spec'd at 111dB max SPL btw, rated by many as the loudest standmount speaker they ever encountered! Though I dont make my ears bleed any more, not much at least, need to keep whats left working lol.
We ran out of sherry so found the port, cheers!
My home is detached but still take care not to annoy neighbours, I only play loud on cold days when their windows are shut.
These subs do indeed kick some royal ass! My old BK Monolith sub is hooked up as well behind the sofa, taking a high level input from the front amp. Matches really well and also kicks some.
Its quite incredible throughout the f. range when everythings turned up.
Whilst I don't consider myself an "audiophile" because of how pretentious some communities are, I am somebody that adores music from all genres. Unfortunately there's too many arrogant clowns out there shilling snake-oil products - it's actually turned me off from communities like head-fi.
I have been looking into a bookshelf setup for some time (I've mostly been a headphone guy). Looking into the LS50 Wireless II but they're always on back-order regardless of the finish. Will probably end up pairing them with an SVS PB 3000.
Hehe, yep (to all you said)
I'll be getting a monitor mount that adds more space beneath it, enough for me to put my Oppo HA-1....will have to reorganize a little bit. Will be back with a pic or two....
do yourself a favor and pass on the LS50 wireless. buy an LS50 meta instead as it's far superior for about the same price.
i'm not going to knock on about the (lack of) merits of BT. what i will say as a headphone devotee you will definitely hear the difference. sure the LS50 wireless sounds fine by itself - but i think you like value for monies spent.
also...pass on the lovely desktop stand as it's quite expensive ($200) and get a pair of the 6" (metal) stands from Kanto for less than half the price with cable management and rotating top plate (to toe in the speakers).
there simply is no better small speaker than the LS 50 meta - there are those who cost more, but cannot touch the detailed imaging and spaciousness of the KEF. and besides these will be hooked up on a desk so no need for BT.
Thanks for the recommendations! Also thinking longer term the meta variant probably makes more sense.
Got my new monitor mount, it's got enough height that I can place my Oppo HA-1 in the void below, the mount is wider than my desk!
Also got two pairs of earpads, just replacing the stock earpads for fun...one's for the WH1000XM3 and the other's for my HD600.
Removing the stock pads and replacing 'em was easy peasy...and for those who wanna know, those are white dye-sub PBT keycaps on my Ducky keyboard, with a set of Spongebob PBT keycaps.