Yet another headphone thread

MannishBoy wrote:

This looks to be a removable version of a pretty common mic mod I've seen around where people would take similar mics and mount them in nicer headsets, or velcro them to the sides. That's a bit pricey vs the mic's people were using, but I guess that's OK in a packaged deal.

I've seen those mods, but they always involve buying some other thing, essentially breaking it and taking the mic off, and then ghetto-ing it onto a pair of headphones. At least this is something designed specifically for this purpose.

I was really close to trying it a few times but could never quite bring myself to do it.

tuffalo: If you want a criticism of the D1, the volume knob isn't analog. It's got notches and volume increases in steps. There's reasonably small difference between those notches but it's not as nice as having a true analog knob like I have on my Little Dot. I'm not sure if it will be the same on your A1.

I'll be sure to let everybody know if the mic works out ok with stuff like Ventrilo. I've tried a bunch and to date the best mic by far has been the one with the Astro A40's. I'm hoping the modmic one will work as well without forcing me to use lesser headphones.

Holy Schnikes, I'm doomed. I just found this place. ALO Audio. It's in Portland.

I'm plotting a visit soon.

jonnypolite wrote:

Holy Schnikes, I'm doomed. I just found this place. ALO Audio. It's in Portland.

I'm plotting a visit soon.

Wow. Yeah you're definitely doomed. Or your wallet is.

*Their prices look to be MSRP, at least on their website. Way higher than online. The AKG K702's tuffalo just bought off Amazon for $250 are $400 on that place's website.

Thin_J wrote:

tuffalo: If you want a criticism of the D1, the volume knob isn't analog. It's got notches and volume increases in steps. There's reasonably small difference between those notches but it's not as nice as having a true analog knob like I have on my Little Dot. I'm not sure if it will be the same on your A1.

Interesting. I tried looking it up, and from what I can tell, the A1 uses a clicky type potentiometer too. I can live with that since the steps are small. I will let you know. Still haven't received an email with a tracking number, so I'm assuming my order hasn't shipped yet.

I still haven't picked up any sort of mic for my new headphones, so I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on that magnetic one.

I'm sure i won't get a bargain there, but i'm looking forward to being able to compare/contrast sets, and see a lot of headphone amps. I'm always willing to buy from a local shop, even if it costs me more, when it's a niche product and it's really local.

jonnypolite wrote:

I'm sure i won't get a bargain there, but i'm looking forward to being able to compare/contrast sets, and see a lot of headphone amps. I'm always willing to buy from a local shop, even if it costs me more, when it's a niche product and it's really local.

Generally I'm not against this myself, but $150 is a huge difference. That's more than the price of some very good amps right there in the price difference on the headphones.

Thin_J wrote:

Generally I'm not against this myself, but $150 is a huge difference. That's more than the price of some very good amps right there in the price difference on the headphones.

Yeah, a 60% premium is well above my desire to support local B&M.

I'd feel guilty if i went in and sampled all their setups, and then retreated to my home and ordered it online. Just seems wrong.

I also like having smart local guys who can help me out 2 years from now when i have a problem.

jonnypolite wrote:

Holy Schnikes, I'm doomed. I just found this place. ALO Audio. It's in Portland.

I'm plotting a visit soon.

I hadn't even heard of that place! From what I can tell, their products and the stuff they sell will be out of my price range, but I will have to keep them on my radar. It would be fun to go to one of the meet ups and listen to various setups.

Edit: Ha! Even if I went to listen to stuff and bought their headphone cables for the AKG K702s, it would cost me more than the headphones ($260). I'll probably steer clear.

jonnypolite wrote:

I'd feel guilty if i went in and sampled all their setups, and then retreated to my home and ordered it online. Just seems wrong.

I'm definitely with you there. As basically a rule I don't use B&M inventory to decide on online purchases. I occasionally make the rare exception if it's something I can check out at a big box store like Best Buy or Guitar Center. Even then I generally don't. Instead I end up relying on thorough online research or purchasing from someone, like Amazon, that makes returns easy. I understand that B&M's have a lot more overhead and service comes at a premium. I just personally believe that they need to be reasonable and not try to price like it's the 90s still.

The pricing on their amps doesn't look overly out of line with online. For instance, the HiFi Man EF-2A DAC/Tube amp is actually $200 from Head Direct, but only $170 at that store. That's a good price. And the Creek Audio OBH-11 is $225 everywhere.

But all of their headphone pricing appears to be strictly MSRP. Buy some other gear there if it makes you feel better, but I can't see massively overpaying for the headphones like that.

Agreed, Mantis. Although i have a hard time not using Best Buy for trying things out. then ordering online, or from a local dealer.

Yeah, i thought their amp prices were more in line. The online discounts for headphones is pretty crazy right now, no one local could ever compete. I'd probably do what you suggest, Thin_J, and buy an amp there, headphones elsewhere. I do want to hear those Audez'e headphones, though. Or maybe i really don't.

I was listening to the most recent 2 episodes of Home Theater Geeks today. Both are discussing headphones with the guy from InnerFidelity.com. I don't like Home Theater Geeks all the time, but there are some good interviews here and there. The second part had a lot of fun information. For example, the skin in your ear canal grows in an outwardly direction (that's as best as I can explain it) to push out ear wax. By wearing IEMs, you are blocking that natural process. Makes me want to quit wearing IEMs, as they can irritate my ears anyways.

If you're wearing IEMs long enough to slow down the growth of skin, you have too many frequent flyer miles.

Damned skin growth keeps making my IEMs pop out!

jonnypolite wrote:

If you're wearing IEMs long enough to slow down the growth of skin, you have too many frequent flyer miles.

It's not so much that as little bits of wax travel out of the ear as the skin grows outwardly. Every time you put the IEMs in your ear canal, you push the wax and maybe dead skin, back in your ear. I do tend to use IEMs a lot on my bus ride each day, though. I tend to rotate them with my Sennheiser HD 428s every other day so as not to irritate my ears, but I think I will cut back on them a little more.

Weight is also not a good measure of build quality. Audio manufacturers know that people equate weight with quality. It's be easy to use a thick case, and then cheap electronics and/or crappy soldering. The weight might mean that they used quality components for their analog section, but it can also mean they just wanted you to think it's good.

Sometime in the 1980s, I bought a phone at Radio Shack, in part because the box was satisfyingly heavy. When I got it home, what I took out of the box was a flimsy piece-of-sh*t phone and two slabs of metal to make it feel heavier. Most manufacturers are at least a little more subtle about it than that, but this sort of crap is still distressingly common, all these years later.

One of the better lines of cheap receivers on the market for a long time were from Panasonic, and weighed almost nothing -- people knocked them on quality because they were so light, despite the fact that they sounded amazing. They did apparently have flimsy binding posts, which was a valid criticism, but they were otherwise extraordinary for the price. But they didn't sell that well, and much of the reason was the extremely light construction.

Manufacturers know this, and almost all expensive audio gear will be heavy. This does not mean anything other than that this is a customer requirement.

Malor wrote:

Weight is also not a good measure of build quality. Audio manufacturers know that people equate weight with quality. It's be easy to use a thick case, and then cheap electronics and/or crappy soldering. The weight might mean that they used quality components for their analog section, but it can also mean they just wanted you to think it's good.

Sometime in the 1980s, I bought a phone at Radio Shack, in part because the box was satisfyingly heavy. When I got it home, what I took out of the box was a flimsy piece-of-sh*t phone and two slabs of metal to make it feel heavier. Most manufacturers are at least a little more subtle about it than that, but this sort of crap is still distressingly common, all these years later.

One of the better lines of cheap receivers on the market for a long time were from Panasonic, and weighed almost nothing -- people knocked them on quality because they were so light, despite the fact that they sounded amazing. They did apparently have flimsy binding posts, which was a valid criticism, but they were otherwise extraordinary for the price. But they didn't sell that well, and much of the reason was the extremely light construction.

Manufacturers know this, and almost all expensive audio gear will be heavy. This does not mean anything other than that this is a customer requirement.

I initially asked the question because one of the few very minor criticisms I had read about was that the screw holes didn't quite line up on an A1 review unit. Obviously, we are all more concerned about the audio quality, but in reviews, I hadn't seen many complaints. That's why I specifically asked about the build quality thing.

I agree with you that weight isn't a good measure of build quality, but it is certainly a factor to consider.

Yeah, time to move on. I vote we start in on this little sour nugget:

Thin_J wrote:

the saudering work

Bah! Stupid autocorrect. It always changes words halfway through, and then I try to correct them back the other way, and it ends up half and half. Solder, sauder, blah.

*sigh*

The build quality is fine. There's photos of the internals and the soldering work on Head-Fi and other places. It's fine. I made one comment about it having some heft to it and one more in response about there being no cheap plastics or other shoddy construction. I don't even know why this conversation is still going on. It's so not relevant.

I read it as Oghren. "The sodding work is fine."

The modmic doesn't make a great first impression (it shows up in a cardboard tube with one alcohol wipe to clean off your headphone surface, and nothing else) but the mic itself is very clear, clean, and actually comes through with less background noise than maybe any other mic I've used with a PC before. Going to use it for some BF3 today to make sure my testing is representative of what I'll get out of Ventrilo and other voicechat stuff like skype.

Thin_J wrote:

The modmic doesn't make a great first impression (it shows up in a cardboard tube with one alcohol wipe to clean off your headphone surface, and nothing else) but the mic itself is very clear, clean, and actually comes through with less background noise than maybe any other mic I've used with a PC before. Going to use it for some BF3 today to make sure my testing is representative of what I'll get out of Ventrilo and other voicechat stuff like skype.

I might have missed this but, does it just attach with double sided tape? If you end up not liking it I might be interested in taking it off your hands.

Tigerbill wrote:

I might have missed this but, does it just attach with double sided tape? If you end up not liking it I might be interested in taking it off your hands. :)

There's just a little adhesive pad on the bottom of the base. It looks a little thick to be double sided tape, but it's 3M something or other. Not much chance of me getting rid of it

I received the Maverick Audio A1 and D2 today! Initially, I hooked them up, and the right channel tube on the A1 wasn't getting any power (I could see that it wasn't lighting up). I popped the cover and jiggled the tube housing a teensy (and I mean teensy) bit and plugged it in to find that it worked. After putting the cover back on and plugging everything back in, everything works like a charm, and it sounds fantastic from what I can tell. Hopefully things just shifted a bit during shipping. I may email them just to see if that is a common problem.

I listened to a few things and they all sound pretty amazing. Here are the albums that I tried out (just a piece or two from each and I mostly tried out lossless stuff).

Esperanza Spalding – Chamber Music Society
Tom Waits – Bad As Me
Fabio Biondi / Europa Galante – Vivaldi's The Four Seasons
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sigur Ros – Inni
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew & Kind of Blue
Built To Spill – Keep It Like A Secret

Here's a meh picture of the setup where I have it sitting at the moment. I still haven't hooked up my bookshelf speakers to it. I'll report back on how that works later.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/4SUG3.jpg)

I don't really have much to say about the sound on the unit that hasn't been said in other reviews. The A1 unit has hardly any noise. Without playing anything, I could turn up the volume to past three quarters of the way to max before I heard a hum. You would never be able to turn it up that loud when listening to music. Everything sounds extremely clear and warm. I can pick out where sounds are coming from. Even with the tube amp, the AKG K702s are still pretty light on bass, but I like it that way for most things.

I noticed one odd thing. Both the lossless recordings of Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and Kind of Blue that I made have a substantial amount of background hiss (even it low volumes). It's actually quite annoying. Both versions are remasters, so I can't imagine it getting any better. I guess that is a consequence of good audio equipment. I'm assuming that it's just from the original recordings as I haven't encountered other pieces of music with that issue. I think those albums might just be better for listening to in my living room system on vinyl with warmer, less-critical speakers (which sounds awesome with those recordings).

I'm using jRiver to play the audio. To check for the bitperfect thing I imported and played back that Mendelssohn piece that Malor posted awhile back. That plays just fine. However, I did check, and I'm running jRiver with Direct Sound instead of WASAPI. I haven't taken the time to figure out if that makes a difference yet. Advice would be welcome.

I have an interesting update! I was listening to the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack by Jean-Yves Thibaudet just now, and in the first piece (solo piano), I can hear the damper pedal scraping against the felt. That's so cool!

Edit: It's probably not just the pedal scraping against the felt and more like a combination of things. If you've ever played the piano, you'll know what the sound is.

Edit 2: I was just listening to a Deutsche Grammophon recording of some Bach organ works by Helmut Walcha. There is some massive background hiss. I then went and listened to the Hilary Hahn Bach Violin concertos which Thin_J recommended and are pristine and clear. I fear I am ruined. Both CDs were ripped in lossless. Every recording I listen to now makes me scared that it's going to be crap. At least the Fabio Bionte/Europa Galante recording of Vivaldi violin concertos is excellent.

Edit 3: I've been listening to the Fabio Biondi/Europa Galante version of the 1st movement of Vivaldi's "summer" and I've heard many things that I haven't heard before. For example, there is a classical guitar (or something similar) part in the background that I'd never noticed. That recording and this setup is glorious. I love being able to hear the performers breathe as they play for example. It is truly amazing.

To check for the bitperfect thing I imported and played back that Mendelssohn piece that Malor posted awhile back.

If you can play back that file, that means there is something in your audio stack that's decoding DTS-encoded WAV files. This works as a trick to test bitperfect if you know the computer isn't decoding it -- if you're passing the stream to an external decoder, and the music plays, that means the computer is doing a perfect job of pushing the bits out the port. (If there's any change to the bits, the steam won't decode.)

This only works if the decoder is external, and if you know that that decoder's doing the work. (ie, it clicks and switches over to DTS mode.) I doubt very much that the Maverick gear has a DTS decoder, so JRiver is probably decoding it for you, and you're not really testing anything in particular.

Hearing the music isn't the important bit -- it's knowing that a DTS decoder works on the bits coming out of the computer. If it's pre-decoded, hearing music is meaningless.

A way of testing that: reduce the volume in your music program. If you get quieter music, then the playback program is doing the decoding, and you're not testing anything.

If it's nice music at 100% volume exactly, and either silence or audible hash at any other volume, then you're successfully demonstrating bitperfect transfer and decoding.