Super Best Audio Friends Leaderboard (out of date)

Discussion in 'Leaderboard, Overboard, and Deals' started by The Alchemist, Sep 26, 2015.

  1. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    Super Best Audio Friends Leaderboard by Marvey Page 1


    DYNAMIC HEADPHONES

    Koss KSC-75
    Buy one for yourself, and several more to mod and give to your friends.

    NVX XPT100
    Otherwise known as Fischer FA003, Brainwavz HM5 etc. Good clean sound, good mids, good tonal balance but with some minor treble funkiness which can be overlooked because of its low price.

    Sennheiser HD558/598
    Find it for cheap - the occasional special. This is where to start for open backed headphones. A touch more upper-mid / lower-treble than HD600/650. Less clear and resolving as HD600/650. Not quite as high fidelity sounding, but that's OK considering discounted street prices. A great entry level open headphone to start with. The next logical step would be the HD600/HD650.

    AKG K7XX
    Nice warm sound as opposed to the leaner and colder K701. Tonal balance less irregular than Q701. Slightly sharp and rougher in treble compared to HD600, but also less shrill in upper mids. Also a bit less resolving than HD600, but has marginally better quality bass. A Massdrop special at $200 that's hard to complain about.

    Beyer DT880-600ohm
    Even frequency response except a little hot in the mid-treble which can be corrected with EQ. Some people run tubes to take the edge off. The higher ohm versions are considered better sounding with smoother less metallic treble. Avoid 80 ohm version. Semi-closed back.

    Focal Spirit Pro*
    Warmish and mostly laid back but sometimes with a touch of upper-mid forwardness or mid-treble sizzle. Voicing reminds me of the big Focal speakers. Overall a good tonal response. Conditional recommendation because of fit issues. The original owner of mine sold them to me because of fit issues. And I sold them to someone else because of fit issues. Small ears and hobbit sized heads may fare better.

    Sennheiser HD600/HD580
    Well balanced open-back headphone. Make sure pads are in good condition, otherwise vocals can sound shrill. Smooth treble. Bass quality, especially sub and low bass is biggest weakness compared to most orthos. Scales like mad - keeps on resolving. Throw this headphone on a TOTL amp with good power and you will be amazed. Many of us have commented that we would have saved a lot of money had we started with this headphone.

    SennheiserHD650
    Darker with laid back upper mids compared to HD600. Make sure you have newer silver driver version. The older driver versions are supposed to sound more veiled.

    Sennheiser HD800*
    Extracts low level information like no other. Conditional recommendation. Requires pristine non-bright recordings, suitable gear combination, and/or modifications. I don't think much more needs to be said about it. Tends to work well with a lot of classical records - because of the way most classical recordings are mic'd and mixed.

    Fostex TH900*
    Thunderous but very clean sub-low bass which does not intrude into the mids. Nice clear sound - possibly the clearest sounding dynamic around. These two qualities (clean bass and clear sound) are very notable for this dynamic can. However, sharp treble, but can be made to work with appropriately chosen upstream gear. Technically, it's a closed headphone, but don't expect it to seal well. There's lots of sound leakage. Quite expensive, but materials quality is top notch.


    PLANAR HEADPHONES

    HE400S

    Holy crap amazeballs deal! Fairly neutral sounding headphone, lowish distortion. Slight mid-treble peak, and some bass roll-off, but tweak with Focus pads $40 or wrap electrical tape around the stock pads to extend bass down low. A no brainer introduction to orthodynamic sound.

    PM-3
    A bit fun bassy and lush sound. Great comfort, great form factor, at the right price. Drive with a good solid-state amp or low output Z amp.

    HE-560*
    Needs careful matching and maybe some tweaks like the Focus-A pads or various mods which reduces treble shrillness. I've heard this can sound bright. It's recording dependent. I've heard it sound neutral. More comfortable than the prior generation. Efficient, but avoid most tube amps. Really picky with equipment. Significantly more resolving and high quality bass than the HE-500. Transient response not quite at HE-6 levels. At its best in a good setup, sounds like a baby Abyss.

    HE-6*
    Outperforms all other HFM headphones in technicalities, but conditional on mods and appropriate amp. Ask Clem, Gourami, or Purplegoat on what they did to theirs as I could never stand the treble etch stock HE-6s. Need high quality amp with decent power. Vintage amplifiers with the high output Z headphone outs tend to work as they soften the treble edge; however they also leave a lot of things behind.

    Abyss
    Best bass quality evar. Separation and layering akin to high performance two channel setup. Realistic non-diffuse image. Very clean with great blackground. Fast transient response. Not as resolving as the resolution king, the HD800. Infinitely tweakable with cup angle, pads, cables of choice. Somewhat rough treble. Heavy, but suspension headband works for most people. Make sure amp and DAC treble characteristics are smooth. Insane price, but fills a unique niche. This is the SR-009s evil twin.

    ESP950
    Get it whenever it goes on sale. Comes with free amp. Neutralish electrostatic headphone. No deep bass, but hey, nothing's perfect.

    STAX SR-009
    Headphone with the best "get out of the way" characteristic of any other headphone. Mid-centric headphone that lacks visceral bass. Takes the trademark STAX ethereal delicate sound to another level. Smoothest treble evar.

    Paradox/Slants
    Closely related so counting them as one. Paradox is more neutral. Slants more a tad more bassy with better stage depth. Has a slight emphasis in mid-treble, but otherwise two of the best tonally balanced headphones out there. The most "coherent" or "together" of the T50RP based headphones. Built to order. Not cheap, but not priced fairly for its performance.


    IN EAR MONITORS
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2016
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  2. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    PORTABLE GEAR


    Geek Out 450
    Amazingly powerful, black background, hyper-detailed, for its price. Get rid of your Hugo. Now. One must is to install the latest firmware which fixes the coarse volume control (now controlled via PC instead of the two buttons) and offers two digital filters. One digital filter has a more full-bodied sound for those who are allergic to SABRE.

    Leckerton UHA-6S
    All variants. Forget the built-in DAC. The amp is best part and actually beats a lot of desktop crap. Every other founding pyrate owns some variant of this.

    Astell & Kern AK Jr.
    Good UI and sounds good - maybe better than some of its bigger brothers (Wolfson chip > Cirrus), although less features. Actually sort of affordable at $500.

    Sansa Clip+
    Rockbox it. Dirt cheap and it works.

    Schiit Fulla
    Dirt cheap and has a volume knob. Needs a device capable of providing juice from a USB port.


    DIGITAL(value)

    AMB Gamma2
    Great tone with good slam for such a small DAC.

    Schiit Wyrd*
    USB power conditioner and data-reclocker. Wyrd can add focus, balls and bass extension to $99 Modi, making it sound like a $400 DAC. Wyrd can make an MSB DAC sound better. Wyrd can make a lot of DACs sound better. Or it can make a DAC sound different. Or possibly worse.

    Schiit Gungnir Gen 2 USB
    Ensure quality power or use a Tripplite Isobar for best results. Add a Wyrd too to improve microdynamics, microdetail, and deepen soundstage. Smooth. Not SABRE. Sweet vocals. Hits damn hard. Sounds like a DAC some dude from Theta would make.

    Matrix X-Sabre
    A tad lean sounding with some Sabre treble hash in the last octave that some may find difficult. Otherwise tonally cohesive and pretty darn resolving with good attack, clarity, and blackground. Real-time convert PCM to DSD and feed via DoP to the X-Sabre for best results. This Sabre DAC stands above other Sabre DACs near or above its price range, give or take a few hundred.


    AMPLIFIERS (value)

    Schiit Vali
    Holy schiit Jason, this is better than the Lyr (1)! Yeah, yeah. No one will believe me.

    Schiit Valhalla 2
    Neutralish, clear, highly resolving tube implementation. Best with high impedance or high sensitivity headphones.

    Bottlehead Crack
    The speedball upgrade is highly recommended. DIY or have someone else build it for you. Roll tubes and tweak parts like capacitors to your delight. Doc Bottlehead's contribution to good sound must be noted. High output impedance, so ortho headphones need not apply.

    Project Ember V2

    ECP Torpedo (DIY)



    DIGITAL (no limit - make Nwavguy minions barf and ridicule you for your stupidity)

    Bricasti M1
    Best delta-sigma DAC we've heard so far. Hyper-detailed but not hyper-detailed, dynamic but not, bassy and trebly, but not. Making no sense at all. I think that's a good thing.

    MSB Analog + Power Supply
    Smooth and buttery. Natural timbre. Neutral response. Dynamic. Great soundstage. Porsche like options do add up.

    Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 5
    One of the best USB digital transports out there with most connectivity options. Even the standard no-frills version sounds good.

    Schiit Yggdrasil
    No comment. Read stuff about it on this forum and HF.

    Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2
    Find one for a great deal now that the Reference Series has been released. The downside is that it needs a top notch transport or USB converter. Has a lot of similarities to the PWD2 (upgraded from 1) units, but with better tonal characteristics, i.e. less digititus.


    AMPLIFIERS (no limit - make Xnor and other nwavguy minions hurl and get very very angry at you)

    Eddie Current Studio
    Sold out. You can't buy one right now.

    Cavalli Liquid Glass
    Do not use crappy new production tubes. Only as good as the tubes you throw in. Plenty of power and smooth.

    Donald North Stratus 2A3
    A touch of intimate tubey goodness. Appease the gods by lathering her toobs with soapy suds. Avoid power hungry headphones.

    Schiit Ragnarok
    Team America! Fuck Yeah!


    FOR CONSIDERATION (still debating)

    Beyer DT1350
    V-Moda M-80


    VINTAGE OR OOP STUFF

    Audeze LCD2r2 (non-veiled)
    HiFiMan HE-5
    Joe Grado HP1000
    Reference Sounds Code-X
    Sonic Frontiers TransDAC
    Spectral SDR-2000
    STAX 007mk1
    STAX SR-Omega
    Sennheiser Orpheus
    Sony MA900 (no longer available in USA)
    Theta Gen V
    Theta Data III
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 28, 2015
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  3. The Alchemist

    The Alchemist MOT: Schiit - Here to help!

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    Page 3
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 22, 2015
  4. JK47

    JK47 Friend

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    How about nominating the Geek Out V2? It's balanced output drives the HD650's nicely :D
     
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  5. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Geek Out V2 definitely. I'm soldering the adapter. Will wrap up my GOV2 review hopefully today. Time for me to start adding content here.
     
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  6. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    How about moving the EC 4-45 to out of production and perhaps a larger overhaul of the no-limit amps section? I'm not sure how that is going to work with Marv's MOT status though.
     
  7. SeaBupter

    SeaBupter Friend

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    What do the asterisks indicate?
     
  8. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    Conditional recommendation. Basically saying the item needs certain gear/modifications before it is considered leaderboard-worthy. Stuff like the HD800's source sensitivity and treble spike and the HE-6's extreme amping requirements.
     
  9. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I nominate Studio to take the place of 445. They actually remind me of one another in certain ways
     
  10. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    Is that feasible given how limited its production run is? Even if I could stump up the cash right now I probably wouldn't be able to get a hold of it.
     
  11. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Definitely agree with the AK Jr being up there. It is a phenominal little DAP for the price.

    What no love for Audeze? Personally I love the sound signature and bass slam of my LCD-2 (non fazor)
     
  12. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    You are probably newer here, Audeze's were discussed extensively on CS, and it was felt that their products each had showstopper issues combined with an outsize price tag, disqualifying them.
     
  13. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Didn't realize that I might have to review into some more of the older posts to gather others thoughts. Personally I love mine especially the tight bass slam and amount of fun I have while listening but then again I also play video games with them as well as watch movies. The price tag is a little steep I agree and the EL-8 didn't do any justice for the brand.

    Thanks.
     
  14. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    QC was another major problem with them, with channel imbalance issues and driver failures happening too often. You could see that in the old LCD measurement comparisons. I enjoyed the mids on the LCD-2 quite a bit, but the disappointingly thin treble was a dealbreaker for me.
     
  15. Koth Ganesh

    Koth Ganesh Friend

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    With the Audez'e, just to summarize what I've understood and experienced, if you have a really well-built HP, then its a worthwhile acquisition, e.g. Marv refers to Craig's Audez'e. Unfortunately, the QC is not great. I bought the XC in 2014 and the left driver failed twice in three months. Next, the midranges on the X and the XC are not natural. The XC is shouty, IME. I think the way to go with the Audez'e is to get a non-fazored 2.2.
     
  16. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Added Audeze LCD2r2 (non-veiled) to vintage.

    Fazors have been discussed at length. Something is seriously wrong when the current LCD-3 Fazors are sounding worse than HD650s with even slower bass and crappier transient response. I am not the only one to experience this.
     
  17. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    Wasn't there that Russian guy that tore up a pair of LCD-3Fs and used calipers to measure the fazors? I remember him showing mismatched width on the Fazors and misalignment with the drivers on that unit.
     
  18. Aelms

    Aelms Rando

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    I've always kinda wondered why the Torpedo never made it to the leaderboard. OJneg was quite vocal of it's strengths compared to the rest of its price class and Marv seemed to agree in the impression threads.
     
  19. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday! - Friend

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    When I emailed Doug recently about the L2 kit, he told me the newest Torpedo 3 with Cinemag OPTs was nearly as good as the old L2. Maybe when that rolls out we should take a look.
     
  20. No_One411

    No_One411 Fired by Jude

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    I think the ECP Audio L2 uses some SMD parts, which may or may not dissuade some people.

    Also need to build separate power supply. I'd honestly just wait for the new Torpedo, unless you absolutely can't live with that form factor.
     

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