Monday, June 18, 2012

iBasso D7 vs. HRT Music Streamer II

iBasso D7 on left, HRT Music Streamer II on right

iBasso D7
  • Darker sounding than Music Streamer
  • More engaging, more musical, higher resolution
  • very "black" background
  • Asynchronous
  • 24bit/192khz

HRT Music Streamer II
  • Slightly larger sound stage
  • Asynchronous
  • 24bit / 96Khz
Winner iBasso D7.  A surprise, the D7 is much smaller than the Music Streamer II, I would have thought the Music Streamer the better DAC, but the D7 is just more engaging.  The deciding factor is the "black background" of the D7,  just love the quiet 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

iBasso D7 vs. D4 with Topkit

iBasso D7 on left, D4 with Topkit on right
Really didn't expect the D7 to sound so much better than the D4 with Topkit.  Listening side by side, the D7 is so much quieter.  The back ground is dead silent compared to the D4.  Before listening to the D7 had not realized how much "noise" there was in the quiet passages of the D4 or the headphone jack.  The D7 the quiet and sound stage is bigger and the instruments more detailed than the D4.

iBasso D7
  • Quiet background
  • Large soundstage
  • Very detailed, with "space" between instrumentation
  • Have to restart computer to "sync" asynchronous
  • Only USB power 5V
  • Error Message of "drawing too much power.." 
D4 with Topkit
  • More headroom than D7 when used with 9V
  • Noise in quiet passages
  • Smaller soundstage

DT770 vs. ATH A900x vs D2000

Denon D200 on left, ATH A900x on right
Beyerdynamic DT770 250ohm
  • More of a monitor style headphone, great for critical listening.  The sound is a little "dead" a recessed distant sound, easy to listen for multiple hours
  • Love the fit, easy to wear for a long period
  • Comes with travel bag
Audio Technica ATH A900x 42ohm
  • More of a "fun" style sound quality
  • I find the "wings" bothersome the headphone keep sliding down
  • Very large and detailed sound stage
  • Too heavy on the head
  • Better isolation than D2000
Denon D2000
  • Wonderfully made
  • More musical than 900x
  • Not as large a soundstage as 900x, but more musical and accurate
  • A joy to use, so well made
  • Left / Right separation, incredible, "outside the head" experience
  • Reproduces lower bass than 900x
  • Quieter than 900x
  Winner D2000, returned the 900x and going to sell the DT770 250ohm

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mingo's in Hong Kong

I was in Hong Kong for a few days of meetings, googled "Headphones Hong Kong Kong"and found Mingo's:

Mingo's, Hong Kong
Shop No 115, 1/F Sim City
47-51 Shantung Street
Monbkok, Hong Kong

What a place!  Amazing!  They have four stores, I spent time in both the portable headphone store and the home headphone store demoing headphones, what I found:

Home Headphones:
  • Audio Technica Art 900x, great sounding closed headphones, better than DT770, bought a pair
  • Grado SR80 Great sounding 
  • Stax entry level, thin sounding
  • Headfiman HE-300 Muddy sounding
  • Beyerdynamic 990 no sound stage
  • Dac Magic looks well made
  • Audio Technica ATH-TAD300inexpensive great sound inexpensive open headphone, not as good as Grado SR80
  • Ray Sammuels, SR71B first time I have seen one
  • Shure SE535, no where near ACS T1 sound quality, Westone UM3X better
  • Etydynamic MC5, thin sounding and brittle
  • iBasso PB2 sounds great, great range, great soundstage, addictive, 2500HK, also listened balanced with balanced cables
  • iQube, not as large a sound stage as PB2 or the dynamics
  • Miu Audio lit portable tube amp, looks and feels cheap
  • iphone dock to 3.5 silver strand LOD, opens up soundstage
  • Listened to Demo version of JH8 Audio, better sounding than UE16, muddy sounding, ACS T1 still better
While in HK also visited Kingsound, not as good selection as Mingo's and can't demo.  If you are in HK, check out Mingo's !

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Westone UM3X vs. ACS T1

ACS T1 - Silicon, Three Balanced Armatures IEM
I have been looking forward to this comparison.  How does a $950 IEM compare to a $350 IEM?

At first, going back and forth between the two, I was disappointed in the T1.  I missed the bright lively sound of the UM3X, then I realized that the UM3X were overly bright.

The T1 is musical, reproducing the music as it was recorded, where as the UM3X makes almost any music sound good.  There is a noticeable straining of the T1 to have clean separation between the three armatures.  Going between the two, I wanted to go back to the T1, it might not be as fun sounding, but it is a really rich musical experience.  With the T1I feel like I am sitting in a leather chair, oriental carpet on the floor, listening to my Thiel speakers.  Hard to believe the sound quality is coming from an in ear monitor.  After listening to the two, I would say the T1 is an in ear monitor and the UM3X is an earphone.  It is amazing, that with the T1 I can hear Coltrane's fingers on the keys of his sax!

It is easy to put in and take out the UM3X, comfortable to wear.  The T1 is a pain to get into my ear and take out, but once they are in my ear I forget about them, amazing comfort.

Sound Quality
The UM3X is really fun, great for listening to music, but not a piece of reference equipment.  When I put in the T1, feel as if I am listening to a performance.

I now realize that isolation has big impact on sound quality, if you can separate the listener from the ambient sounds, you can create a more musical experience.  The T1, has amazing isolation, the UM3X fair to good.

Westone UM3X

  • Okay isolation
  • Noticeably brighter than the T1
  • Nice full sound
  • Good bass
  • Very good sound stage for an IEM
  • Comply foam tips comfortable, but fall off
  • More of a fun sound
  • More fatiguing 


  • Richer sound
  • Much fuller sound
  • More musical
  • Larger soundstage
  • Less bright than UM3X
  • Less like I am wearing IEMs, I forget I have them in my ears
  • A little muddy, lower frequencies to the lower mid range
  • More of a reference sound than UM3X, "notice more of the music"
UM3X or ACS T1 > iBasso D4 >  6" Monster USB > MacBook Pro > Pandora

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Custom IEMs

Today I took the plunge and ordered custom In Ear Monitors. Visited Dr. Craig A. Kasper of Audio Help Hearing Centers, very nice guy and very knowledgable. I had planned on ordering the Westone ES5 in clear with 50" black cable for $950.  Dr. Kasper said IEMs are in two camps hard silicon and soft silicon, the Westone ES5 are of hard silicon, although they have a soft silicon coating on the ear canal section.  He expressed concern about Westone and the recent sale of the company.

After some conversation Dr. Kasper recommended the ACS T3 £249 ($388USD), he feels five armatures is too many and only muddies the sound, saying the seal is more important than the number of armatures.  The T3 is a three armature IEM and does not have a removable cable, although the cable is made of a kevlar coated material.   ACS is a British company with offices on Long Island.Saying it is not possible to have five armatures separate the frequencies, and one, two or three armatures is better than five or more.   He offered to order both the ACS T3 and the Westone ES5 and let me decide between the two.

I found Dr. Kasper through an article in Stereopile, by Wes Phillips.   I was told to request an open jaw impression as the ear canal changes shape with an open jaw and the fit will be better with an open jaw. Dr. Kasper recommended an open jaw for the ES5 and a closed mouth for the T3.

Al Jarreau and Dave Matthews are clients of Dr. Kasper, being a musician, he enjoyes working with musicians. We spoke about Etymotic and their "reference sound" and the mistake that is Dr. Dre Beats.   We talked about Headfi and the flying opinions and the lack of transparency.  

Will go back in a couple of weeks to try the two different IEMs and make decision

Very nice comparison of ES5 and ACST1