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

I was reminded the other day that I had this amp in my care when @Luckbad popped up after an absence. @Luckbad actually wrote a comprehensive article on how to put this darn thing together here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...project-horizon-iii-project-sunrise-iii.1478/


I had compared this amp to two hybrid other inexpensive amps a few years ago. I felt it definitely had its place back then and even now it's a contender. The downside to the Project Sunrise is that there's a bit more elbow grease with respect to having to set bias and deal with jumpers, The upside is that people who love to mess with stuff or like to roll tubes can have a lot of fun.

OK, I know somebody has this. Cough up the deets. Donald. KT66. Enuff said.


I haven't really been on top of things and from what I understand, many of you guys have already been tipped off about this or possibly even heard it before me! @jexby sent this to me in a box and after sitting on it for weeks (I have a ton of other boxes of stuff, mostly crap), I finally opened it. It wasn't like @CEE TEE was pressuring me or anything, but I did finally set it up in my bedside rig. I immediately texted Christian. I figured I'd post it here because my first impressions are often the best ones (speaking of myself, because I don't remember ever changing my mind after 1000 hours burn-in, and I kind of know how the burn-in or warm-up deal goes)

Zach is at it again, this time with the latest TOTL $5500 wonder! Just kidding. This time around, Zach heard the pleas of the working class: can't we have ZMFs too! It's my understanding that the Bokeh will be priced affordably. Not only that, the Bokeh is easy to drive. I believe normal impedance is 80-ohms (I will measure later) and it barely takes a turn of the volume to get Bokeh to high volumes. We are taking Grado or ETA sensitivity here. No need for the "most powerful" transformer coupled single-ended triode amps capable of driving the most current hungry planars. (I hope you guys know I am being sarcastic because most of the type of amps only output 1-2W at most into 32-ohms).

Zach sent a bunch of sundry accessories to let me tweak the Bokeh to my liking: two meshes, the Bokeh Burst Mesh and Solid-Mesh; and three sets of pads, Protein, Suede, and Hybrid. I think Zach read my mind or knows what I like because the Bokeh was set up exactly to my preferences with the protein pads and bokeh mesh. I tried other combinations, but kept coming back to how Zach shipped the Bokeh in the box.


The look and feel of the Bokeh is very elegant, perhaps the most elegant of all ZMF headphones so far. The Bokeh really feels like something directly from Fostex. (What's the joke? tTat ZMF makes the best Japanese headphones - except he's not Japanese). The rodblocks are plastic instead of metal, but they don't feel cheap nor do they look designed by a Chinese outfit overly obsessed with SINAD without any design sense. The cable connectors are 1/8" TS jacks instead of the mini-XLRs. I assume this is to keep costs down. The inside of the pads are cavernous, so people with big ears won't have to worry about the tips of the ears being squeezed.
So recently I got my hands on some new toys and thought about writing up impressions, except then there were too many things in front of me (first world problems right?) and the task was just too much because who has the time for that? So instead I decided to make a grid and do a rapid(-ish) fire impressions and scribble down the first things that came to mind.

I *mostly* put on a single set of headphones and rotated through amps over several songs back and forth. There might be a touch of up and down but no promises. Impressions done over three listening sessions on three separate days, at least one repeat of each headphone on different days. Sometimes my impressions changed from day to day and I would squiggle my notes a bit. My hearing ain't infallible, blah blah.

Rankings are purely subjective and at times a coin toss. I might do another table but focused on an amp at a time and rotate headphones. Maybe.

Argh someone help me out, how do I create a table? I've done it accidentally before

Uploading as an image for now...

Amps: Nitsch Piety, SPL Phonitor 2 (balanced tap off the back), Massdrop Liquid Gold X, Nitsch DSHA-3FN
A while back, Audeze released their ribbon LCD-R headphone to much fanfare: ( The package was $2500 and included a Jotunheim-A, designed to drive the 2-ohm ribbon load. Generally, it's considered a bad idea to drive these kinds of loads from regular headphone amps because 2-ohms is pretty close to a short circuit. Maybe not as close as the RAAL ribbons at 0.2-ohms, but close enough to that, or far enough from today's super low Z planars at 8 or 15-ohms.


Evidently, at a recent corpo audio show, the Schiit guys brought along the Audeze LCD-R, and reported that a lot of attendees loved the LCD-R with the amps that they brought, presumably Magni Unity, Mjolnir 3, a few others.

I'm putting this under the mods and tweaks section despite the mention of the Modius E. @JK47 brought the Modius E to my attention when he mentioned the use of this DAC with the CMLI-15 Line Input Transformers. There had been a lot of talk about these transformers back in the day when people were trying to get better clarity out of their Yggdrasil A2/OG for feeding the single-ended inputs of their amps. The single-ended outputs of the Schiit A2 DACs were said to be more grey sounding or veiled compared to the balanced outputs.

I have enjoyed Moondrop in-ears for several years now and they have been one of my favorite go-to brands. They consistently offer good tunings, as a whole, across their line-up, and are high value to performance ratios. I’ve had high hopes of Moondrop staying the course on this proven track, while continuously improving upon previous efforts, so needless to say, I was looking forward to hearing the new Aria 2.


The Aria 2 is a 10mm single dynamic that has purportedly seen improvements in the driver itself, as well as the acoustic chamber in which it resides. Moondrop claims the driver structure is patented and contains a TiN ceramic-coated dome composite they developed. As to what other improvements have been made, the Moondrop marketing material doesn’t really specify.

The housing is all metal construction (alloy casting, CNC milled) and supposedly is held together with customized screws versus the typical adhesive. The nozzle and screw on caps are gold-plated brass. The screw on nozzle cap, which is easily replaceable, contains the screen and filter (no more stick on mesh filters to lose). The underside of the body, still contains 2 vents in similar location as the previous model, but the inner-most pressure-relieving vent, nearest the nozzle has been redesigned inside a recessed area of the housing.
I had planned on getting to this later, after everybody else had theirs (like what I did with the Mjolnir 3 where I was later adopter), but I changed by mind. What the heck? Besides I know lots of you readers want to know. Quite a few have already asked me.


I don't read Jason's column regularly. I catch up to it after the fact, maybe months later. I would assume that the Magni Unity is an endeavor from Schiit to unify its Heretic and Magni+ lines, the Heretic made for people who like listening to measurements, the Magni+ for people who like listening to music. The irony is that the Magni+ already measures damn good with respect to measurements, well over 100db "SINAD" (per Audio Science Review's definition of SINAD), but this isn't good enough for some people. Nevertheless, there are very audible differences between Magni+ and Heretic.

I can't find the post, but a while ago I pulled out an ancient Magni 2 Uber and was surprised how well it measured. I think it was 113db "SINAD". This amp came out when? 2015? That was eight years ago. I think it's funny how Audio Science Review a few years ago made it seem that Schiit only made gear that measured badly while the Magni 2 Uber was sitting in front of everybody's face the entire time.
I was hoping to get through my backlog of gear reviews before the end of the US Thanksgiving Holiday. With this teaser, I guess we can say that I partially kept that promise. I will follow up on measurements for this and other gear during the coming week. The EC Mini is a transportable CD Player! Yes, CD Player. On the cusp of 2024. Are CDs making a comeback like vinyl? Maybe, who knows? I know there are more than a few readers who still use their spinners.

What I can say so far is that the EC Mini is sooo fricking cool!
EC Mini.jpg
Shanling EC Mini and ETA Mini C Headphone

I have not yet had the time to test all features of the EC Mini. The EC mini has a number of outputs. On the front panel are a 1/8" phono jack for headphones and a 4.4mm TRRS jack for balanced connectors. The back has RCA lineouts and a USB output to feed DACs (coaxial, optical, and AES digital are non-existent). There is a little switch for vehicle mode which I assume activates a buffer in case the laser loses tracking for bumps.

There are buttons on the front of the EC Mini for power, play, stop, eject, forward, back, and volume. The display on the top of the unit has iconography for repeat, back, play/pause, forward. To my delight, these icons are not decorative, they are functional - the display is touch sensitive! Shanling after all did make it tempting for me to press them!
Recently, I bought @jexby 's Schiit Piety and mentioned I was pairing it with an Arya Organic (which I ended up not getting because the HE1000 Stealth was only a hundred dollars more and I never had a good experience with any Arya I've tried.) He brought up that there aren't real impressions of the Arya Organic (or any of the Hifiman thousand dollar tier of headphones.)


And honestly, I could see why. I have a very varied history of trying Hifiman egg-shaped headphones and absolutely hating them for one reason or another. The only ones I liked were the original HE1000 and the HE-X - All the Anandas, the Aryas (minus Organic,) and Edition XS all had SOMETHING in the treble that ruined the timbre completely and I couldn't listen to them long. Or, in the Ananda's case, the dynamics being so bad that everything sounded like it was all the same volume and there wasn't any real nuance to it (I.e., the wall of sound.)

I had heard the Arya Organic (and the HE1000s) had fixed a lot of these issues, but...well, that was from a few youtubers. Then I looked a bit deeper (and watched Resolve's review) and came to the realization that the treble was probably entirely too hot and spikey in the FR for me to enjoy. The HE1000 Stealth, however, had a very similar FR except for higher lower-mids and a lot smoother treble.
In theory, I should have not be able to tell the difference, but I did. The test procedure was kind of clunky with an assortment of cables and a primitive switch. I'm sure the "objectivists" cried foul and moved the goalposts as always, pointing out that 103db "SINAD" may not have be sufficient for transparency or the manual procedures used for switching the sources was inadequate, i.e. my kids or wife who did the cable switches telepathically beamed what they did with the cables to my brain. This time around, I wanted to be more sure, so I used a machine, the Van Alstine ABX comparator to conduct the randomized ABX tests.

I did this really quickly. The way the Van Alstine ABC comparator works is that it lets the listener go back and forth from Test 1 to Test 8 at their leisure for a long as they want. For each test, the amp A or B is randomly selected beforehand for the set of 8 once the formal "test" button is depressed. I decided to speed through like mad man, as if I hated the tests. Normally I take practice sessions, but I felt pretty confident I could tell the difference. Modius E, a high SINAD DAC was used as the source. The outputs of the devices were adjusted with a 1kHz signal so that they were within 0.1db. My JAR600 was used for the test. One of the reasons for this is that the E50 seemed to have issues driving 26.4-ohm loads into 2Vrms with one channel, but no problem with driving 300-ohm loads. Both amps were selected because of their high "SINAD". The Unity no better than 115db. The Topping 121db. Per objectivist theory, both are transparent and one should not be able to tell the difference.