Super Best Audio Friends

The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists

Snorry NM-1 Impressions. Thanks to @Failed Engineer for loaning these to me! :bow:

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They are probably the best tuned stock ortho I’ve ever heard. Very well balanced from bass to treble, very neutral. Nothing sticks out and there’s no Audeze midrange suck-out. vocals are forward but also there’s no upper mid peak. Bass is nicely layered and textured. They are really meticulously tuned.

They also have the best soundstage of any ortho I’ve ever heard. I don’t know if it’s the driver or the combination of the very deep pads with the very open back or all 3. Instruments are pulled apart and separated with space between them, sometimes even artificially so. Bass lines are easier to follow than Audeze headphones simply because they are separated more from the rest of the spectrum even if the quality isn’t’ as good. Very airy presentation.
The following is a visual guide to amplifier distortion vs amplitude with a schiit Vali 2+ and Ultron 7DJ8 tube as the example.
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Above is a typical tube or hybrid amp 1 KHz distortion spectrum. This graph will look unusual due to the dual axis delineations. On the y-axis blue is linear in units dBu while yellow is logarithmic in % distortion. Only the log scale is showing. The x-axis also has dual delineations with blue logarithmic in units Hz while yellow is linear in units dBu. This graph has been initialized for a measurement sweep of amplifier % distortion vs level in dBu.

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Compare and contrast the foregoing extensive amount of data obtained from measurement sweeps against a single observation such as:

0.46% 1KHz THD+N at 2V.

Not only is the level ridiculous as being far above a normal use case, such a simple, single point observation represents a profound reduction of information to evaluate amplifier performance for this attribute.
Today we are taking a look at T+A (Theory and Application) of Germany’s flagship headphones, the Solitaire P. This is a headphone I have been incredibly interested in since its release back in early 2020. Since its release, T+A have also followed up with the Solitaire PSE, which retails at roughly half of the price of the Solitaire P. I hope I can get ears on a pair of those someday as well, as the Solitaire P itself is an incredibly compelling headphone overall.

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The Solitaire P, which for the rest of this review I will refer to as the “SolP” is a planar magnetic headphone, with a sensitivity rating of 101db/mw and 80 ohms impedance rating. Overall, they are quite an easy to drive headphone, and will play well even from lower power source equipment. With that being said, they do seem to enjoy a healthy supply of power behind them, and scale well with an increasing quality of source equipment. The reason I note that they play well from lower output power equipment, is that generally speaking, top of the line planar magnetic headphones have been fairly difficult to drive in the past. There are obviously a few exceptions, but things like the Hifiman Susvara and Abyss 1266TC, are both difficult to drive, the Susvara notoriously so. I was worried the Solitaire P would not play at the level of the very upper echelon of planar magnetic headphones, especially given its $6900USD MSRP ($6200USD at launch.) Thankfully, they absolutely do play at the very top level, and also manage to do some things I have not heard before.
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Hi, I'm a random dude who lives in Corpus and I happen to know Marv. Marv knows that I am an audiophile so he drops by the office stuff so I can check it out. Most recently, Marv dropped off a ZMF Atrium headphone and Decware Taboo amp. I really liked the Atrium and stole it from Marv. When I got a chance to try out the Decware Taboo, I thought this combination with the ZMF was super. I asked Marv if I could take the amp home and borrow it. I've never loved any pieces of gear that much that I asked to borrow them. He replied that I could borrow it for an extended period of time only if I wrote a review, so here it is. For context, I listen to speakers at home. My speakers are the Tekton Lore non-floorstanding model. I have a Bifrost for a DAC and an Emotiva integrated amp. I listen to both speakers and headphones.

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I am going to keep my comments brief because I don't normally write reviews. I tried the Taboo as a speaker amp with the Lores. The immediate thing that I noticed was big the soundstage that expanded outside the boundaries of the speakers. This was noticeable on Yosi Horikawa's music where he went to a forest and recorded sounds all around. The downside was that I could not get enough volume from the Taboo. I like to listen very loud. I think the Lores are 94db efficient. I cannot say if the Taboo didn't have enough power or gain or if Tekton fudged the specs on the Lores.
Finally had time to get my big Moth up and running well. And it is a treat.
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My ZD is really sorted right now and very good with my HD800. Reminding me how good it is. Not a ZD Super, but has had some work by Craig/Marv a few years ago to update it some.

The Moth is better with modded 650. I tried lots of headphones with Moth the other night. I suspect I could roll NOS in place of the new production 6SL7GT driver tubes but it it is already very good! The leading edge transients on Moth are ridiculous, lots of good/quick detail with mids to treble. But with 800 needs some smoothing on top and a bit more bottom end. Elex would be good but bass is missing some control, probably due to needing to adjust internal jumpers for lower impedance. I need to see where the jumpers are at for the speaker impedance inside.

Still some lower level hum with Moth at higher volume levels that might be a ground thing. Using an Isomax though for everything on the table...not as bad as when resistors were bad on regulators. Pulled out the HD600 today. Craig did recommend that exact headphone in the Moth manual...prefer Marv-modded HD650 for cleaner bass.
I can't remember anymore what caused it, but at some point 2-3 months ago, the Dave caught my eye. I don't remember if it was a post somewhere, or a video on Youtube. But something made me pay attention to it. It was then that I started reading more about the Dave and watching some of Rob Watt's presentations. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Chord products don't have a good rep here at SBAF, so I hadn't ever even considered them or paid attention to them or their tech outside of seeing people meme about the tap counts Rob Watts talks about.

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The more I read about the tech inside, the more intrigued I got about the Dave. The things Rob Watts was saying about digital filtering lined up alot more with what I know about digital sampling from my signals and systems classes in school and reading I've done since. (As an aside, Rob Watts has alot of ideas, right or wrong, about why we hear differences in things that we do, his blog on head-fi is an interesting read). I never in a million years thought the Dave would actually be my preferred DAC versus the Wavedream. Based on the other impressions I have read I thought it would turn out to just be soso, and I would sell it off and go about my business, but I was still interested enough to want to hear one, and I wanted to give it a fair shake, postulating that the filtering may take time to appreciate, so I decided to purchase one.
I had planned on getting a Cambridge Audio Azur 851N in for review until COVID messed up the world. Like the Convert 2, the Azure 851N uses the AD1955 part. This is a part that I feel could be one of the best delta sigma chips around, along with the prior generation AKM4399 (used on the Burl B2). I've simply never heard a bad sounding DAC using the AD1955. This is where the ERC-4 comes along. I'm a cheapskate, and I also look for very basic functionality. The Azur 851N is $1500 and has a lot of functionality that I don't need. This is when someone reminded me of Emotiva. Of course! How could I forget them. After all, I've been recommending Emotiva Class AB amps as entry level alternatives to Class D horrors for years now. The Emotiva ERC-4 comes in at $600, which is a bargain. It also can be used as a CD Player (or transport). I know this is extra functionality; but I still have old CDs around and my wife prefers physical media instead of having to mess with Roon.

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The downside is that there is no USB input. The ERC-4 only has coax and optical inputs. If we want USB functionality, grab a cheap used Schiit Eitr (good synergy) or Singxer USB to SPDIF converter. A little bit extra cost, but the ERC-4 at $600 is somewhat of a steal. The sound is closer to that of the well-regarded Convert-2 than the Lavry DA11. The tl;dr version is that the ERC-4 doesn't have the murkiness in the lows of the DA11. It exhibits the clarity, excitement, and sweetness of the Convert-2, and may actually be more resolving...
Hey man. So this was a really good question. We started off in the wax cylinder days of just using one mic direct to disc or film. We moved people around, changed the sound by different mic positions and mics, and eqs were invented in the 20s and were broad to make one mic sound like another than to correct sound problems. This lasted until the Germans developed analog tape. We, the English speaking world, had good RCA mics yet no idea how German radio broadcasts repeated themselves so clearly (we had... shellac lol) until we found tape machines in the rubble of World War II. Suddenly there was a canvas on which to process sound. You could bounce between two of them! And as tape machines got more tracks, more processing and more realistic recordings became possible...
I'm just going to announce after d'ing around with over a dozen gaming headsets that the PC38X is the one to get above all others. The only exception would be if one needed closed headphones, of which I do have a recommendation (it also happens to be second place), which I will discuss later. I've tried Turtle Beach, Hyper X, SteelSeries (yuck), etc. All of this is stuff is basically garbage made by OEMs in China. I need to check out more EPOS / Sennheiser stuff, but I suspect it could be reshelled variants of PC37X and PC38X.

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The PC38X is an update to the PC37X reviewed here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...nnheiser-pc37x-review-and-measurements.11072/ All of the great things I've said about the PC37X apply to the PC38X. The PC38X appears to be a tweaked PC37X that brings up the mids. This is a good thing for gaming because I felt the PC37X mids were just slightly recessed. The PC38X has less of that Sennheiser broad bass bump too.
As with other ZMF headphones, a number of pads will work with the Atrium. The only pads I've tried so far are the Universe, which I believe is the stock pad, and the Be pad. I have the Auteur pads too, but I haven't tried those yet. The Atrium also comes with some sort of mesh in front of the driver. I believe @zach915m has developed other mesh designs. Basically, there are some pre-set options to play with, as well as system synergies, thus a stream of consciousness approach would be best (basically when I have time to get to it or if somebody asks me to look into something specific).

In general, I would say that the Atrium is bassy and dark sounding headphone. There's a slight mid-bass boost (the bass is hefty and punchy). The lower and mid treble are muted, although there's some decent air, at least with the Universe pads. Unlike the Verite, there doesn't seem to be as much of a upper-mid depression, if there is any at all. Plankton seems to be on a similar level. Overall speed of transients isn't quite as fast, although the attacks are more biodyna crisp. Again, these are early and initial impressions (before any measurements were taken). FWIW, I have the Verite Closed headphone as part of my regular rotation of three or four - this going on for years now.

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AmirNAD is 114db

Schiit Modi 3E
AmirNAD being defined as SINAD with a steady-stage 1kHz tone at 0dbFS output using 20kHz bandwidth using an APx555 with the cheat-mode High Performance Sine Analyzer turned on.

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The Schiit Modi 3E at 114db AmirNAD is a bit off the pace. In Formula 1, the Modi 3E would finish near the back of the pack. Therefore if you believe that AmirNAD is a primary determinant of sound quality and state of the art-ness, then I could only somewhat recommend the Modi 3E. Part of what limits the 3E is that the powerplant isn't as good. The 9018 (or 9016) isn't anywhere as good as the ESS9038 parts used at the top. However, some credit should go to Schiit as they've betterered the prior AKM4490 based Modi 3+'s AmirNAD by 3db or so! ...

The Modi 3E slaughters its competition when it comes to AmirNAD per USD. It's not even close. In fact, scientifically and objectively speaking, we cannot hear anything different when AmirNAD is better than 110db. This said by the man himself (not I). Therefore there is no reason to get any other DAC if you looking at this objectively and belong in the cult of AmirNAD.