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

Too hard to do. Personal preferences are different. There's the ortho vs. dynamics thing which cannot be reconciled. Throw in the source or amp first people in this argument too. Then there are people more sensitive to timbre in the low-mid treble, which takes me out of the running from many TOTL planars. But then again, I shouldn't speak because I'm OK with the funky upper-mids of Grados, which many people are not. And then there are people who get annoyed with timbre of metal diaphragm dynamics. About ten or more years ago, some guy on Head-Fi wrote a big comparison on various headphones. What he wrote really hasn't changed much.

Inspiration from Battle of the Flagships by David Solomon

Nice nod to Changstar back in the day!
I only like the HD800S under certain conditions. The frequency response of the HD800S, despite the Armin Zola resonator (that lessens the 6kHz peak) is still bit too screwy for my tastes. I find that EQ doesn’t work well for the HD800S because its screwy frequency response is caused by super early reflections from how the driver is suspended and angled in front of the ear and by the large ribs and mounting structures of the cups. The treble is hot, the mids are recessed, and the lows are a bit cloudy (the HD800S took a slight step back in the lows), especially compared to the awesome low-distortion planars available today.

This guide should still be applicable to those with the OG HD800 with mods (BTA, Sandevistan, Superdupont, etc.)

As far as amping, tube amps are recommended, but solid-state amps are definitely getting there. What we are looking for is one or more of the following traits:
  1. Wetness or bloom (the HD800S can be on the dry side)
  2. Smooth highs (to counter the hot and grainy HD800S highs)
  3. Commits few sins of omission, capable of rendering microdynamics and microdynamics (the HD800S is super resolving, subpar gear and subpar recordings won't make the HD800S any more special than lesser headphones)
  4. Capable of slam (the HD800S can hit like a truck with the right gear)
Also, tube amps which are overly warm, syrupy, slow, or romantic (cathode follower OTL designs, OPT with cheap output transformers, Chi-Fi push-pull cathode bias, etc.) will not be mentioned. They do cure the HD800s dry sound, but at too high of a price in terms of clarity, transient response, microdetail, microdynamics, etc. Personally, I think you are much better off with an HD650 and LCD-2 with a very technically and musically capable amp. If you like the romantic smoothed-over-to-shit kind of sound, best to seek advice somewhere else. Trying to make the HD800S into sounding like an LCD-2 is plain wrong. It's like trying to convert someone who is gay into being straight.
Grados elicit strong reactions from the headphone community. Many readers may be too young to know that during the infancy of headphone audio, before the start of Head-Fi, and even for many years after, there were two big camps in headphones: Sennheiser vs. Grado*. Tyll of Innerfidelity** was known for not saying much about Grados. If we could corner Tyll, we may get him to admit that he didn't care much for Grados.

Most veterans today who wield Sennheisers, Audezes, HFMs, will admit that they had owned a higher-end Grado in the past or at the very least started with a Grado. The entry level Grados were (and still are) cheap, accessible, and didn't need an amp. I myself gave up on Grados in favor of Sennheiser after a period time only to come back. After so many years without Grados, I had realized that I missed Grados' punchy mid-bass, snappy transients, lively reactivity, crunchy mids, and woodie reverb/decay. Today I still have my JAR600, but it's always with a Grado next to it. The RS1X is always in my backpack.

Grado in my backpack
These are the PS500e. @rfernand sent them to me for science. Based on memory from a long time ago, I thought they were bassier. Maybe I was thinking PS1 or maybe the PS500e I heard were from of an amp with higher output impedance. Tonally, the PS500e, with the included L cush pads, measure with the classic Grado frequency response, tilted upwards, some midrange emphasis (although less crunchy), and punchy midbass (with tube amps). Being from the e series, there's a bit of sssss in the mid-treble above the sibilance area that emphasizes definition similar to the RS2e. The high end is quite airy too. Despite the bright tonal balance, I find the PS500e to be quite livable even with the L cush pads without the coarseness compared to the lower end Grados (where I prefer the F pads). Perhaps the wood inner cups (the outer are metal obviously) helps to mollify the edge or coarse of the highs.

The Audiolab 6000CDT is no joke - despite it being sold by online retailers such as Crutchfield and Audio Advisor, where in my experience stuff being pushed by them is often garbage or poor value. The unit isn't like the entry level Marantz CD players with flimsy tops and lightweight chassis, which require additional mass damping to sound decent. The chassis is hefty. Tapping on the chassis returns thuds instead of resonant pings. It's a slot loader, but I found the loading mechanism to confidently grab the CDs and swallow them, unlike my typical experiences with CD slot loaders in car audio systems.


The included remote is nice, not a cheap Topping job where it looks like they repurposed an OG Amazon Fire TV remote (although this remote has too many extraneous buttons for companion components such as receivers from Audiolab). The 6000CDT doesn't offer AES or BNC outputs, only Toslink and SPDIF coax. I did forget to mention: The Audiolab 6000CDT appears purely a dedicated transport. There are no RCA outputs on the back. This may be a good thing because I see a lot of used and B-stock deals, probably because some sites are advertising this as a CD player and getting a ton of returns after customers realize there are no analog outputs.
Hello again everyone, Bringing some news regarding my little project.

I've been away from social media for quite a while now, mostly because I've been extremely occupied in med school, and I've been building the current headphone models on the side, and with the costs of production during the pandemic skyrocketing, meaning profits from making them were minimal, I didn't do much promotion and didn't introduce any new models. That being said, I've learned a lot from building the headphones and found many places where improvements could be made. I've been working on several new models, the new V10/V10Pro are the first ones. The pricing of 3D printing and CNC machining was going through a bit of a wild phase in the last 2 years, literally doubling up in a matter of a few months at one point, so I had to wait for prices to calm down before releasing a new model. Costs of production are now back to where they were pre-pandemic, more or less, so it's a good time to start the production and have them start shipping right in time for winter holidays.

First of all, it's a model based on the V2, combining some V1 mechanical characteristics and V3 acoustic qualities together into one package, and fully utilizing all I've learned in the past 2+ years of building these headphones in order to design a headphone that's even more well-rounded and polished, it takes my favorite parts from the previous models and combines them into one headphone, and adds some new features as well.

Read all about this DAC here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...dac-for-750-that-stomps-most-modern-dacs.508/

I'm happy I now have modern instruments to measure this DAC, just out of curiosity. To summarize, I once owned this DAC, sold it, and regretted doing so. @Carlos CPA mentioned he was going to put a souped up one for sale at special member prices when he saw me mentioning my regret. I thought the price he was offering was too low, so I threw in a little extra. (Point is that we have a great community here. We have members who care about each other to the point of things not really being about profit or greed, keeping things in the community to deserving people who as passionate about stuff).


Anyway, this Sonic Frontiers SFD-1 MK2 looks to have the level 99 upgrade treatment based on the BOM from For those who do not know, Chris Johnson who started Sonic Frontiers decade ago now heads up pcx. This specific unit sounds more resolving, more neutral, and less syrupy than the one I owned before which only had the level 1 upgrade and possibly an older iteration of the UltraAnalog DAC module.
Distortion Surface: old measurement, new approach

The following metric is typically included for amplifier manufacturers’ specifications:

THD+N < 0.05%

The above specification is incomplete, with operating conditions left out.

2Vrms 300 Ω load 1 KHz THD+N < 0.05%

This is a specification that allows replication of the measurement conditions exactly.

It is my long held opinion THD+N at a single operating point is nearly useless for assessing audio sound quality. Please see the following posts for reference:

01 Distortion surface iFi Diablo 300R ECO 5 dBu max wm small.png
iFi audio GO pod + IEMs = brilliant wireless sound on the GO! Plug a pair of ‘GO pod’ wearable Bluetooth DAC/amps into high-performance IEMs to make the best-sounding true wireless in-ear headphones in the world.

Above iFi’s ‘GO pod’ wearable Bluetooth DAC/headphone amp, connected to Symphonium Meteor IEMs

Southport, England –
Joining iFi’s GO series of ultraportable headphone enhancers, the GO pod is a pair of wearable Bluetooth DAC/headphone amps designed to make any pair of corded in-ear monitors (IEMs) wireless. Given the quality of the GO pod’s circuitry, when combined with a well-chosen pair of high-performance IEMs, the resulting sound is far in advance of any ‘true wireless’ earbuds or Bluetooth headphones.

Using a pair of GO pods is simple. First, detach the cable from your favourite IEMs and connect the earpieces to the left and right pods. Then, pair the pods with your source device (a smartphone, for example) and hook the ergonomically designed ear loops behind your ears to ensure a comfortable fit… the result is unrivalled TWS (True Wireless Stereo) headphone sound.

Cat's outta the bag I guess. I got to hear this at the recent Schiit meet in Corpus. Didn't listen super long, so don't have a ton of impressions, but it was very fluid, smooth and resolving... I wanna say warm, like a souped up Jot 2, but please take that with a grain of salt because it was a while ago and my memory is hazy. But I came away impressed.


TomNC: This weighs 16 lbs. Highly interested in impressions of its performance with both dynamic and planar headphones, in particular, the moderately hard to drive LCD-4 (200 Ohm).

ColtMrFire: @purr1n was there, maybe he can chime in? Not sure if he got ears on it, or has had it for an extended listen.
Shanling ET-3 sitting on up of an Emotiva ERC-4

Well, I guess the ET-3 is it. And at $729, it's priced right! This is something that normal people can afford without eventually becoming 65 year old goofball incels disowned by their wife and kids. When I first saw the ET-3 at a distance, my magic eight ball foretold: IT WILL BE GOOD. First of all, I like the sound of top loaders. I noted that the ET-3 followed the top-loader philosophy of the ancient Shanling CDTs. A Rega Planet CDP which was also a top loader (with mechanism mods) sounded great, that is until my youngest shoved a carrot into it. Second, Shanling tended either dampen or massload their transports by design (something I've done extra as mods to with mediocre cheap CDTs). Although I wasn't sure back then, I expected Shanling to carry forth this approach. Turns out to be true. The ET-3 is a decent weight for its quarter form factor size. The chassis of the ET-3 is well dampened with a thud and doesn't ring. The ET-3 represents the best of what Chi-Fi has to offer. Quality at relative good value. And no, Chi-Fi isn't a bad word. If anything I think it's companies like Topping/SMSL and forums like ASR that have promoted the temple of SINAD which have ruined Chi-Fi's reputation in the past five years.
I could go and start with a preamble about the how and why of my falling in love with the Campfire Solaris, but that'd add at least a few more minutes' runtime to this whole mess so I'll cut to the part where I get offered a pair of Solarises for a ridiculously generous price. I turn this offer down because I'm trying to be responsible with my money. The guy who offered them to me says he understands and we agree that I'm to ping him when I feel I'm able to justify the expense; what he doesn't know is that I at this point am fully intending for him to find another buyer so that I need not be tempted to be dumb with my money.

This was in December of 2020.