That's really hard to believe they have only been used for 15 hours. It usually takes me months if not years to bring my cans to such a level, if ever at all given that I also replace my pads.Morning Tom
Thought to share a couple few thoughts - picked up some NAD HP50's (A$302) and some Airport Max's (A$900) - the former to see if I can tolerate headphones before spending any money and the latter to see if BT quality is good enough for me as an audio solution.
For context I've owned a slew of headphones / amps in the past - but never really gravitated to them. Circumstances more or less force me to now - domestic harmony, and no spare rooms following Covid working from home etc.
I can certainly see what you report about the NAD's, and I certainly share alot of your enthusiasm for them. They are very easy to drive, and are an engaging listen straight out of my M1 MBA - bass is quite good, mids are lovely and treble is nice and clear. I found they made most music sound great - no problem enjoying the Furtwrangler Beethoven's from his War Years all the way along to something like Billie Eilish. At their price point - nothing to complain about SQ wise.
I didn't get the sound-stage you report - but that's probably me and my ears. The NAD's were all abit 'between my ears', but that is a compliant I have with nearly all headphones I've heard - including open backs - unless really well driven. But then I haven't heard the top cans - HD800s, Meze Empyreans/Final D8000's/Stax 009's etc.
Comfort was for me average - the pads are on the smaller side, and didn't really fit my ears. They clamped abit as well.
Cf the Airpod Max's - well different - the Max's are initially much more comfortable for my ears - but after a couple hours it evened out - both cans got tiring - the Max's are heavier and clamp, the NADs are lighter, the pads didn't feel great and after a couple hours they clamp.
The biggest grip I have with the NADs is their build quality. The pads disintegrated after less than 15 hours use, and the supplied cord was faulty from day 1 - had to jiggle the 3.5mm connector to engage left and right channels. I also thought they looked and felt cheap - but that is highly subjective. But then they are what - US$200 or something. I wasn't expecting a Meze Empyrean.
That said - to me the build quality is levels beneath eg AKG 701/Senn 6xx type headphone - both of which can be had for around the $200-300 mark on Drop nowadays. By contrast the build quality on a good set of studio cans - say the tried and true Sony MDR7506's - is subjectively to me much higher: they are - what - $120 or something on sale these days.
Here is a photo of the pads - so you see what I mean. That is after less than 15 hours use.
View attachment 81466
Long story short - they are being returned. Happy enough with the sound quality - I think it is pretty good for their price - but I can't live with the build quality.
Onto the Max's - I had high hopes I could get away with a BT headphone as a solution to listening at home, and being iOS/OSX, these in particular. I don't use Apple Music. I use Spotify and PrimePhonic.
Unfortunately after a few days of using them, I can't share your enthusiasm for their sound quality. Given the next stop would be Ananda BT's at many more $$ (and which can't be returned here) - I'm giving BT up as a viable option.
I should say I've owned the Airpod Pro's for years (I think I have around 3 or 4 pairs lying around now). They have been a work and travel staple. Great for calls, perfect for airports, easy to have about you - I usually have a pair in my pocket - and useful for music/podcasts when I was doing something like cooking, or late at night when speakers would disturb the household - ours is a very open plan house. Hence why my humble but to me good sounding 2 channel got sold off and I'm heading down the headphone route of late.
I found that the Pro's got annoying to me after a couple hours or so use - I got sore ears - but as an iOS user who needs a bluetooth ANC for work - they are a no brain purchase. They also deteriorate after a year or two's use, which is annoying: very much a disposable product.
Funnily enough - my wife doesn't like the Pro's - she gets pressure build up, no matter which size ear piece she tries. Go figure.
Now onto the Max's. Build quality is typically Apple - very good. That said the case they are meant to live in is useless for any sort of storage protection, much less travel protetcion, and the aluminium (metal?) ear pieces I thought would scratch easily - suffice to say they have been handled very carefully since I got them knowing I may want to return them: have to love the 14 day no questions asked return policy with Apple!
Controls were pretty cool - and for someone used to the Pro's - entirely intuitive. Loved the dial up volume on the top. Pairing etc was flawless.
Onto SQ: hate to say it but to me they just aren't very good.
The folks over on HeadFi rave about their sub-bass. I thought it complete mush. Lacked any sort of impact and it all blurred into one. Worse it bled over into the mids.
Listening to eg Notorious B.I.G. "Hypnotize me" or Sneaker Pimps "6 Underground" (actually any trip-hop) or White Stripes "In the Cold Cold Night" , Tool, Led Zep etc wasn't great. The bass lines no impact at all, what bass there was, wasn't crisp and clean, the mids merged... and well...you get the idea. I like deep bass, if tried to be reproduced, to be crisp and hard hitting. I'd rather equipment just not go there if it can't do it well. The Max's went there, badly, IMHO.
More positively - the NADs were much better in this respect. Much.
I won't get onto to Classical - which makes up about 80% of my listening - other than to say the Furtwangler Beethovens - or any Beethoven - wasn't a fun day out. The War Year Furtwangler have a really high noise level - and IME it takes a good set of cans to cut through that. The NADs did a great job of that - the Max's - not so. I don't even try it with the Airpod Pros.
Oddly back to back - I thought that the bass on the AIrpod Pro's was of better quality - principally because they just don't try and reproduce sub bass - its MIA - as well it might be. But what is there is punchy enough. I'd rather listen to eg Mees Dierdorp (deep house EDM I guess you could call it) on my Airpod Pro's than the Max's. The Max's go much deeper, but to me were slow and sloppy.
The mids were to me hopelessly coloured, and the highs lacked air. Overall I thought they were veiled. I guess by now you can see I really didn't like them much.
Sound-stage and imaging weren't bad - about the same as the NAD's - but still between my ears. Maybe that is just something I will find with all headphones.
Apple iOS "EQ"
A number of folks on HeadFi have been playing about in the iOS/Settings/Accessibility/Airpods/Audio Accessibility Settings/Headphone Accomodation - in which basically you have a limited ability to mess around with Apple's "true tone' .... a limited EQ ....specific to that iOS device. Talk about buried in iOS settings...
As usual on HeadFi you get some folks telling you about some miraculous change in character by changing one of these settings - and that may be so - for them.
I found all I achieved was that in trying to fixing one problem I created another - and eventually I just turned the Headphone Accommodation off. Chasing my tail on that one.
Compared to the NADs - well - I much preferred the sound of the NADs. Agree with you 100% on that.
So - all up - I wanted to thank you for your recommendations - I enjoyed trying them both, and share your enthusiasm for the NADs - build quality aside. I have trouble accepting that they were - for me - up to the standard I would expect of a high end can.
So I'm returning both - one (NAD) for build quality, the other (Apple Max's) because I don't think they are worth the money. I just didn't think they were very good. Compared to the AIrPod Pros they were better in some ways for sure, but they aren't for me.
But that is the great thing about this hobby - we all can enjoy different things, and have different experiences.
In this post please don't think for a moment that I am questioning your experiences or listening - I share alot of your enthusiasm for the NADs, but not the Max's.
That's really hard to believe they have only been used for 15 hours. It usually takes me months if not years to bring my cans to such a level, if ever at all given that I also replace my pads.
I am not saying that I have got Dobby's or Yoda's ears, but I'd say that the size of my ears is above standard, and the HP50's seem quite small.
You mentioned Meze Empyrean as a reference point.
First, I think Meze is a great company and the people who are running it know what they are doing. Two years ago after a nice dinner, Antonio gave me a pair of Empyreans and I cannot complain about them. They are definitely one of my favourite headphones. Fantastic SQ, easy to drive, comfortable during longer sessions, ovoid shape of the earcups is the right fit. A little suitcase they are packed-in, that is also a nice touch.
Exactly, perhaps a third party replacement pads would do? I'd have to conduct some more research to know the answer.Yup - .... what I thought as well. I've had MDR7506s that took years of abuse to get to that state.
That is nice to hear about Meze: I've never owned or heard a pair - just referenced them by reputation: their build quality is said to be excellent. Thanks for your experience of them. I'll keep an eye out for a secondhand pair here.
Sad about the NADs - they do alot right for a cheap set of cans. I looked at HeadFi - sure enough - a couple hundred pages of folk looking for suitable replacement pads; and a host of other build quality problems. Most pretty happy with the SQ. Pity.
Exactly, perhaps a third party replacement pads would do? I'd have to conduct some more research to know the answer.
Recent experimentation has revealed an even more sonically satisfying configuration for these two devices in my system:If you look at my system description, you will notice that it now includes both the Uptone Audio EtherREGEN (ER) and the GigaFOILv4 (GF). In my system, the ER feeds the GF, which feeds the Lumin X1.
I am very much aware that the manufacturers of both the ER and GF state that their unit should be the last item in the chain before the streamer/DAC. In fact, the manufacturer of the ER is on record stating that fiber optical isolation such as that provided by the GF should not be necessary either before or after the ER in the signal chain.
Well, both units can't be the last one in the ethernet chain. And in my system I have tried the units with the ER feeding the GF, the GF feeding the ER, and with the ER alone. To my ears, in my system, the best sounding result is the ER feeding the GF feeding the Lumin X1.
Using the GF fed by the ethernet cable which comes from my router and having the GF feed the ER does not really result in any improvement over the sound of the ER alone.
The ER alone also is far superior sounding to my old set up of the Netgear Nighthawk S8000 Pro Gaming Switch feeding the GF feeding the Lumin X1. If you had never heard the system with the ER feeding the GF, you would never know what you were missing.
But using the ER feeding the GF removes additional noise/blur/grunge around each note and further blackens the background. In my system, to my ears, this is the way to go.
I too have experienced similar levels of improvement with replacement of the stock DC cable on a Kesces LPS with Ghent Audio DC cables. Don’t recall which Ghent DC cables, ( they offer several different levels) however the two I tried both were an obvious improvement, in the ways you described.Making Roon Sound Better: The Gotham GAC-4/1 11301 UltraPro Star Quad DC(JSSG360) Cable
I've long had a bit of a love/hate affair with Roon. On the one hand, I love the GUI. On the other hand, playing things through Roon always seemed to add a slight layer of brightness, grit, and crud compared to playing the same material through the Lumin App. This is not so obnoxious as to cause me to not use Roon. However, whenever I wanted to hear things as best my system could reproduce them, I usually would switch to the Lumin App.
I have a pretty good Roon set up, I thought, with the Roon Nucleus+ as the Roon Core, the Lumin X1 as the Roon Ready player, and the aftermarket Keces P8 LPS supplying the juice to the Nucleus+. While I'd swapped out the stock power cords of everything in my system for my preferred Absolute Power Cord MkII (the blue one once marketed by GTT Audio), to connect the Keces P8 to the Nucleus+, I was using the DC cable which came with the Keces.
I bought the replacement Gotham DC cable about a year ago. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that, with one system change and another, I sort of forgot about it. It has taken me that long to get back to swapping out the stock DC cable for the Gotham.
I should not have waited.
I'm not usually one to trumpet the benefits of extremely expensive aftermarket cables. Yes, I hear differences among power cables, but I usually find something not too expensive that sounds about as good as the really high-priced spread and sometimes, to my ears, even better.
With the Gotham the price is not high as audiophile cables go, only about $85 plus shipping from China for a one-meter length. But I knew within seconds of swapping out the stock DC cable for this Gotham that most of the problems I'd heard with Roon sound could, at least in my system, be laid at the feet of that stock DC cable. Not only were the problems I mentioned either eliminated or greatly ameliorated, but the background is blacker and the three dimensionality of the staging increased.
Only more listening will tell if the Lumin App still sounds a bit better. But now Roon's sound is truly competitive. A huge improvement for an $85 investment. Who knew? I certainly did not.
The model needed for this interconnection has a 2.5 millimeter inner diameter at both ends. That's the right size for the DC power jacks on both the Keces P8 and the Nucleus+. Ghent Audio makes up the Gotham cable with different connectors at either end if you need such, so you won't have to use an adaptor.
Congratulations on finding your final headphones! Did you have any other contenders besides electrostatics?I just added the Stax SR-007 Mk 1 to my headphone stable for use with my computer desk audio system. I acquired these used (of course) from Mjolnir Audio. These are vintage 1999 or so. Birgir/Spritzer of Mjolnir Audio regards these as the finest Stax electrostatic headphones of all time. He says he always has a pair of these for use in his system. He greatly prefers these to the later SR-009/009S (I previously owned the 009S) and the latest SR-X9000 which I also currently own. On his website, in the blurb about the SR-007 Mk 1 he had for sale (which was the set I bought) Birgir said he regards the current Stax SR-X9000 flagship as "misguided." Birgir/Spritzer's online review of the SR-X9000 which compares it to other Stax phones can be found here.
While I would not go that far, I must say that this SR-007 Mk1 has been a revelation to me. From the very first notes, I knew that these are the finest sounding headphones I have yet heard. The Stax electrostatic clarity is all there, but the bass goes deeper and has both greater definition and greater fullness, tonal balance is warmer, the midrange is clearer yet, the highs are perfectly balanced and extended, the staging and imaging are yet firmer and more precise, and the background is somehow blacker. They strip away a layer of high-frequency "grunge" and over-emphasis of the SR-X9000 that was in no way obvious before I heard the SR-007 Mk 1. There is an easy, natural balance to these that is instantly appealing and unmatched by other headphones in my experience.
Yes the presentation/soundstage is a bit smaller and less open than from the SR-009S and SR-X9000, but I regard the greater precision of imaging and less diffuse sound of the staging as a net gain in realism and listening pleasure.
Since I'm using these with a Mjolnir Audio Carbon amp which Birgir regards as an ideal driver for these phones, I think I'm hearing them at their best.
One set up note: Unlike newer Stax headphones these have no automatic adjustment for the length of the leather headband. On Stax headphones the leather headband adjusts how low or high the headphones sit over your ears/head. On my pair of the SR-007 Mk 1, the elastic tensioning within the leather headband was either just too long for my head or the elastic had stretched out a bit with age. I suspect the latter. As a result, the headphones sat just a bit low on my ears. The only easy fix, according to Birgir, is to physically shorten the elastic tensioning. This worked very well and fairly easily for me. You unscrew two small Phillips-head screws at one end of the adjustment band to get at the end of the elastic band, cut off a bit of the length of the elastic with scissors, flame the end of the elastic to prevent any future fraying, make a new small hole in the center of the elastic near the end to fit it over the positioning stud, apply a bit of glue to hold the elastic more firmly in place, and reassemble. This fix is easy to do once you find the right size (small) Phillips screw driver. The fix only took about 10 minutes once I got the two screws loose.
An insightful, balanced review of these headphones by someone other than Birgir/Spritzer is here.
To sum up, until I hear better, my overall personal reaction is that these are my "it" headphones. Wow!
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