Aurorus Audio - Borealis & Australis

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by gandhisfist, Apr 2, 2019.

  1. gandhisfist

    gandhisfist Aurorus Audio - MoT

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    Headband rod replacement parts have arrived!

    All owners have two options, to send to us at their cost for the new headband installation and have it returned at our cost, or to have parts shipped out to them for installation themselves (this will require 1.3mm and 1.5mm hex bits/allen keys). All replacements also include our new "Strap Pad" which fits over the existing suspension strap. Warranties for headphones receiving replacements are now extended to 3 years from original date of sale.

    For second hand buyers getting headband replacements, we are doing a free one time warranty transfer as long as you can provide a picture of your warranty card and serial number. Subsequent warranty transfers can be done for a $50 fee and will be applicable from the original date of sale to the initial buyer.

    Please email us to initiate the replacement for any questions.

    Thanks to @SonnyMarrow for the photo:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
  2. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    If I may ask, any idea when the headphones will be back for sale?
     
  3. gandhisfist

    gandhisfist Aurorus Audio - MoT

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    In the middle of moving out and selling my house so things are a bit scattered. Hoping to start churning units out in the next week or so.
     
  4. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Thanks man. I hope I can hear one of the cans soon.
     
  5. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    I've recently parted with the Borealis, and wanted to leave some cautionary thoughts about the headphone for those who think it will be a straight upgrade from the HD6x0 series. Although I stand by everything I said in my earlier, mostly positive review, something about the Borealis' timbre and overall presentation began to bother me the more I listened to it, and when I had an HD600 right nearby to listen to, these bothersome thoughts metastasized. To put it quite simply, the timbre of the Borealis has a dry, stretched, artificial character, one that sounds a bit too taut and strained. Despite the long decay of notes, I felt that there was a lack of a certain kind of tonal density to them which I enjoy with the 6x0 series and ZMF headphones.

    I previously said that the instruments had a very "visceral, tactile" feel, and while I think this is still true with the Borealis, I've concluded this is really only true for the leading edge of the notes: the kick of a kick drum sounds sharp, precise, and natural in its immediateness, but there's something that leaves me wanting in the overall body of the instrument itself. Instruments have a pleasing immediacy to their presentation, in other words, but on closer inspection this immediacy is only gained at the expense of muting the overall body of the sound. Above all, what I feel instruments lack with the Borealis is a sense of saturation and fleshiness: despite their visceral presence, they do not feel rounded out and do not possess any sort of sweetness or richness. That, at least, is the best way of describing what I have heard. These impressions were at least somewhat confirmed when I had some of my non-audiophile friends audition the HD600 and Borealis side by side (albeit on the modest lyr 3 + modi 3), and, when asked for impressions, they preferred the HD600, saying it had a more natural, life-like presentation, even if the Borealis presented them with more musical detail.

    I'm still trying to sort through my own thoughts about this headphone, and what I have written here probably suffers from a lack of preciseness and economy. But to be honest, I knew for myself these headphones had to go when, after hearing the HD600 again for the first time, I found myself returning to the Borealis solely for the purpose of thinking about why it failed to live up to the old Sennheiser.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2020
  6. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    While I haven't had the chance to hear the Borealis yet, all the measurements and impressions so far across the internets seem to give the same kind of impression as Clears do - somewhat close to the HDx0 magic but not really there in the end.

    From my experience, ZMF headphones such as Auteur or Aeolus are probably the best option for somebody wanting to extend on what HD600/HD650 do.
     
  7. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    These are the kinds of impressions that are so useful. I've experienced the same thing where I initially have very positive feelings about some gear but over time niggles appear that erode the appeal. I was considering buying a Borealis second-hand but am now saving myself the hassle, as I feel like I know exactly what you're referring to as this problem sounds just like the issues I had with the Ether C Flow 1's. The detail was great but there is a lack of presence to the instruments. It's one of my biggest must-haves for headphones in my opinion. The Ether C's went from end-game worthy for me (based on listening at the Schiitr) to, for me, unenjoyable, in the course of a few weeks.

    If I hear the Borealis somewhere else someday and find I feel different then I'll get them at that point, but would rather not deal with having to flip them to someone else off of a total blind buy.
     
  8. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    Thanks, I appreciate it. For what it's worth, the Borealis is an excellent headphone that more than merits its price, but it's definitely been overhyped in certain circles, at least in my opinion. It's interesting how things that we hear as immediately impressive often later sour on us, while gear that sounds decidedly mediocre on first listen sometimes turn into our most beloved pieces of audio equipment. In fact, I had exactly that experience with the Auteur...
     
  9. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    I've said this before and I'll say it again - the closer we get to 'perfectly balanced' or 'perceptually neutral' or whatever terminology you prefer to use, the more obvious small deviations and colorations become. You can't un-hear a problem once it's drawn your attention, and its easier to spot a single flaw on something otherwise unmarred. Auteur and Borealis are both very 'perceptually neutral' at least in terms of the tonal quality.

    I would consider Borealis' treble presentation to be a problem when comparing against other beloved headphones, though I did have some success with pad rolling. Never pushed it to a place where the treble felt uncompromised to some degree though. With Auteur, the deviations from perceptually balanced are at least pleasant to listen to (very D2 heavy creamy mids and a tiny low-treble push) though it ended up feeling a bit opaque to me. I'd say they're both commissive vs omissive in terms of the presentation - adding more than what is there in a few ways. I'd say the Senns are more omissive than commissive, which isn't true of most headphones. Maybe a part of what makes them so easy to listen to.
     
  10. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    This seems to be accurate, in my opinion -- with amps and DACs as well. I didn't really understand what 'soundstage' meant in an amp until I heard the THX 789, which is pretty much straight-up neutral to my ears, but sounds somehow flattened and compressed to less "perfectly measuring" amps. I think it's possible that a 789 with more sparkle up top, let's say, may have distracted me from noticing the flawed soundstage in the first place.

    The more experience I've gained the more it's seemed to me that there may not be a 'perfect' sound out there that is utterly satisfying on all counts. Like, can you really have absolutely rumbling bass in a pair of headphones, without that same delicious bass negatively effecting perceived treble clarity and resolution? Not sure. Is it better to eat with a fork when you need a fork, and a spoon when you need a spoon? Or is a spork the ultimate eating utensil? (There's a reason it's not.)

    The closest I have to that kind of 'magic neutral' is probably my trusty ZMF Ori's, which are just about perfect timbre-and-tonality-wise... just not the final word in terms of resolution. But for that, I have my HD800's.
     
  11. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    I'd say that's definitely true if it's widely touted as a direct upgrade in all aspects to the 650's, but then more critical listening reveals it falls short in one of the 600-series' strongest areas.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Here is an update on the pads. No longer the "seatbfelt". They are quite nice and stay in the proper orientation. No more futzing around.

    PXL_20210316_153044225.jpg
    PXL_20210316_153110272.jpg
     
  13. dematted

    dematted Friend

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    Revisiting Borealis: Preliminary Impressions

    Recently, I got the chance to pick up a used Borealis. I figured I might as well, since this was a headphone I enjoyed when I had it, and I now have some new gear I can try it out on. I've only been listening to this for a day now, so these are preliminary impressions that will probably be supplemented by a longer review sometime later.

    Impressions

    Wow! It turns out my ZMF Pendant with Jupiter Caps gets rid of almost all my previous complaints about the dryness of the Borealis' timbre. Timbre actually now seems really spot-on: what I'd want the HD600 to sound like timbrally, but without the grain. It's still not as "wet" or euphonic as something like the Auteur, but there's not really anything for a reasonable person to complain about here. Overall sound is punchy, fun, and reasonably well-extended on both extremes with absolutely great tonal and dynamic contrast.

    However, I don't feel like the resolving ability of the headphone really exceeds the Auteur - it does sound -clearer- than the Auteur in terms of blackground and the sharpness of images, but I actually feel like Auteur picks up some more microdetail from its longer sense of decay, which the Borealis trade in for a better sense of speed and tightness. As for transients, as one might expect, the Auteur is slower, but though the Borealis are generally nimble and quick, they don't sound artificially sharp at all: in fact, I'd rate the general speed of the headphone well above its "Sharpness". Transients are, in other words, quick but somewhat rounded.

    My biggest bother with this headphone right now is the tonal balance. There's a touch of sibilance around the 7-8k region accompanied by a slight recession in the upper-mids, which is something that I really don't like (especially when they go together). I'll probably be working on fixing this through some pad rolling and mods that @tommytakis helpfully suggested to me.

    Even though there is a more immediate presentation of dynamic contrast on the Borealis, I don't feel like this is as microdynamically nuanced a headphone as the Auteur. The presentation is more immediate and "wowing", but lacks a little bit of refinement and sense of restraint. This applies to the staging too, which has something of a "Ball of sound" effect, which might be be perceived by some as just a very strong center image. I like a strong center image myself, but sometimes I think the Borealis' sense of stage and imaging is just a little too direct. The Auteurs wider, deeper stage allows for a bit more connection to the music with me and a better sense of realism.

    As far as bass goes, I feel like the Auteur wins pretty easily here. For all the comments I hear about the Borealis' sense of "Slam", I actually don't think that it has that much more impact than Auteur, even though macrodynamics are a tad better. Though the mid-bass is crispier and snappier, the Auteurs bass extends deeper, giving it more of a satisfying fullness and more sense of foundation. And the sense of bass texture easily beats that of the Borealis, though they draw even on things like pitch differentiation (With the Borealis perhaps even a smidge ahead).

    Overall, I feel like this is very much a worthy headphone for its price. About the biggest compliment I can give it is that I prefer to it on my Pendant to both my JAR HD600 and Kiss modded 650 right now. For under 1,000 dollars, this headphone is quite the accomplishment, and for those looking for a dynamic driver meaningfully different from the 6x0 series under 1,000 dollars this should, in my opinion, be the default one to consider.

    Conclusion

    I'm not sure that I'll hang onto this. I do generally prefer listening with the Auteur, but the Borealis presents a very nice change of pace that is nice when I want to switch things up. I will at least keep the Borealis until I get some my hands on some of the stuff that SBAFers have been cooking up lately, and then I'll consider whether I want to part with them.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 23, 2021
  14. animus

    animus Almost "Made"

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    First off, thanks once again to @Jonah for loaning this unit to me. I'd been looking forward to hearing the Borealis for a year and a half now, and without him it would have been an even longer wait before I got to hear one without my own wallet getting involved.

    Secondly, I want to say that I have immense respect for both Ruck and Eudis, or really anyone who sets out to shape a headphone to their image. I can't personally say I have the focus or dedication to do that, and even if I do disagree with the results, I can't disagree with what was attempted. Too much stuff on the market these days is playnars that all have the same fundamental issues or weird new driver types reliant on hype that will probably take another couple decades for engineers to really to crack. Between good old fashioned dynamic drivers, what actual good sounding options are there beyond the classic Sennheisers, ZMF and Focal? I'm not going to complain about another brand with a different philosophy from the aforementioned putting their spin on things onto the market.

    But I'm also not here to simply fellate small startups or the idea of small startups or dynamic drivers. This is supposed to be an indepth analysis and review of the Borealis, and not everything I'm going to say will be pretty.
    [​IMG]
    Macbook Pro USB > Wavedream Edition SE > EC Studio A SE out > Borealis
    Macbook Pro USB > Wavedream Edition SE > EC Studio A Bal out > Utopia
    Macbook Pro USB > Wavedream Edition SE > EC Studio A SE out > HD580 with super used pads (not a fan of fresh pads with this headphone)
    Studio A is using metal base GZ34, ACME 2A3 and GE 5670

    The first thing I should talk about with the Borealis is tonal response. To put it lightly, the Borealis sounds... uneven to my ears. The bass is about fine tonally (as bass usually is unless some sort of ridiculous bloat or rolloff is in the equation), but the midrange and treble are less than what I'd call ideal. There is a problematic hump at the 1khz region that leads into the headgain, which goes way too far and leads on to a 5khz peak in the treble response before dying down. I'll dissect these issues one by one and assess them combined later.

    The 1khz peak on the Borealis seems to create a somewhat harsh emphasis in the center midrange with some degree of upper midrange masking that really messes with the tonal response of instruments in the midrange for me. The upper midrange masking really affects the tone of instruments like violins, trumpets, and anything else occupying that soprano range. With string quartets, the center midrange emphasis is on full blast and borders on sounding cacophonous in a way that reminds me of hearing quartets play in poorly dampened environments. Female vocals sound overly thick and husky and oboes sound more akin to confused french horns. This wrecks havoc on piano as well, the lower octaves all sound about fine, right until you hit the top of the 4th octave/bottom of the 3rd octave, where an odd suckout occurs, followed by a really piercing rebound at the top of the 3rd octave with rather sharp and resonant harmonics (I'll explain this later). Outside of old fart boomer classical music, guitars have an odd grating nature to their harmonics, especially if distortion is in play, and similar can be applied to synths occupying the same ranges. To a degree, this somewhat reminds me of something like the ZMF Verite open or the OG Campfire Solaris, though not as prominent and pushed somewhat further down. It’s not unlistenably harsh, but it really prevents me from cranking a lot of stuff with the Borealis. It also just sounds wrong and uncanny with a lot of instruments, which is hard to spin as a good thing.

    The other issue with the Borealis' tonal response is treble. Much has been said about the Borealis' 5khz peak, both here and elsewhere, but I'd like to expand on it by really going in depth on what I think sounds wrong with it. The real problem with it in my eyes is that it introduces a fairly significant degree of treble resonance that sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the frequency range, which is actually pretty well controlled. This is where I think the resonance with piano notes stems from, and it's not the only instrument affected either. Brass instruments, especially those in the soprano range, are often times just downright painful to listen to, and not in a realistic way either. Utopia is too metallic here and can sometimes be harsh, and HD580 sounds like it mutes leading edge bite on brass a little too much, but neither of them sound as necessarily incorrect as Borealis' treble resonance. Cymbals aren't any better off either, things can legitimately get splashy at times, and it's not a pleasant to listen to at all. I find this treble peak to really f**k the timbre up for me. Too much stuff in the higher octaves sounds wrong, and the whole deal ends up sounding incoherent as a result.

    A sore spot for me with the Borealis is dynamics. I was led to believe that the Borealis should be a top performer in terms of overall dynamics, not too far off from the Utopia, or even the HD580 on my rig (which I find to have slightly lesser macrodynamics, but equally nuanced and delineated microdynamics). What I heard in comparison to what I expected was quite different, and I suppose it's shame on me for having preconceived expectations. But the Borealis seems to be something of a paradox and a mixed bag with dynamics. It has plenty of sheer macrodynamic range, and this is really apparent when called for. The problem with this to be a combination of two things conflicting with the Borealis' inherent macrodynamic strengths: microdynamic flatness and overly smooth attack transients. I'll tackle those one at a time again.

    Let's talk about the attack transients first. The Borealis has a rather peculiar element of being excessively smooth with attack transients. Note that I say smooth, and not soft, mushy, or any other synonym that may imply otherwise. The Borealis is clean and tight in decay, yet sounds like its attack transients are constantly smoothening out what should otherwise be sharp and clear transients. I'm not necessarily talking about stuff in the treble or percussive instruments. Take for example the sound of a string section playing an accented fortissimo in unison with a good conductor at the helm. Obviously this doesn't have what one might consider a traditionally "sharp" transient response, but it has a monolithic air-pushing quality that you want to hit you facefirst. Calling it slam is not quite right either, because it's not an element of tactility. Whatever one wishes to call it, the Borealis eschews it in favor of rolling into transients as opposed to snapping into them. I can see how one may enjoy such a transient presentation, but I find it extremely homogenizing on attack transients and extremely unsatisfying. In fact, bringing back the topic of slam, I'd go so far as to say that this smoothened, rolled nature to transients almost dampens the inherent tactility of the driver and takes away from how much it really does slam overall, to a point that I think my HD580 has more tactile force with timpanis and bass drums. I'm not entirely convinced that the Utopia or the HD580 are completely "correct" in their transients either; Utopia is at this point infamous for being too hard edged for its own good, while HD580 as mentioned earlier has some softening in the top end. Despite this, I hear far more nuance and variation in terms of attack softness and sharpness with these headphones. This leads me to believe, pleasing as it may be to some, that the Borealis' transients are more incorrect, more "colored" so to speak, than either of the aforementioned. Such a revelation does no favors in the eyes of my distaste for the sound in and of itself.

    And here we come to what is arguably my biggest issue with the Borealis as a whole: microdynamics. Simply put, the Borealis' microdynamics are... flat. Aliased. Lacking nuance. However you want to describe it. I expect smooth delineation between dynamic points but instead get uneven jumps and skips where there should be a degree of linearity or curvature. The same issues lie in the nuance department. I don't hear the dynamic wavering in a cello solo, I don't hear the small shift in volume that occurs when an instrument joins an existing one in the same voice, I don't get the sound of a pianist flowing through dynamic markings. There is a severe lack of engagement factor with the Borealis that makes me, well, not want to listen to it. Too much of my favorite music sounds lifeless and dull with the Borealis, which does no favors for a sound I already think is flawed even without this in mind.

    One may notice I have covered what appears to be nothing but flaws and complaints here, and they would be largely right. I have focused primarily on what I see as the Borealis' fatal flaws per my preferences. Of course, this isn't to say that the Borealis is a completely abominable headphone with no redeeming features. The first and most obvious thing the Borealis does right would be bass extension. Bass decay on the Borealis is super tight without sounding truncated like I find planars and estats tend to sound, and it has great tactility and texture. And speaking of decay, I think quite a bit has been said here about the Borealis' speed in this department, and I wholeheartedly agree. Treble resonance notwithstanding, the midrange and bass of the Borealis are easily as fast as the Utopia, which I already consider to be one of the fastest headphones I've heard that don't sound truncated in decay, though I don't necessarily think sheer transient speed is always a good thing. And again, if we exclude the treble, the Borealis' timbre is quite good as well. It's dry, maybe a little bit grainy in the center mid region (and the treble too, but like I said, excluding that), but I find it to be at least somewhat pleasant. There is a level of homogeneity that it introduces (which I'll talk about more later), but it doesn't introduce any glaring unpleasantries like the Utopia does. Or many, many other headphones do, for the matter. I do hear this homogeneity in separation to a certain degree as well, it reminds me of the Soekris 2541 DAC that I heard a few months ago in how similar but not identical sounding instruments can get confused with each other. It might seem strange to compare a DAC with a headphone, but if the shoe fits, it fits.

    A constant reference throughout these listening sessions was George Szell's recording of Schubert's 9th Symphony. This is a piece that I enjoy a lot, especially this recording where the dynamics of this piece are on full display with really tight playing and wonderful voice leading. With the Utopia and HD580, I had no trouble staying engaged throughout all my listening and managed to sit through all 50 minutes of it. With the Borealis, the unsatisfying attack transients, poor microdynamics and grating midrange and treble make me want to stop listening after a single movement. Not being able to hear the dynamic swells and all the fine nuances of the orchestra really sucks the joy out of music for me, and this essentially sums up my experience with the Borealis. I don't think there was a single piece of classical music I truly enjoyed it with. The absolute best it got was being tolerated, and at absolute worst it screwed up microdynamic delineation so badly that I didn't want to listen to it for the rest of the day.

    Something like the Overture or Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde conducted by Karl Böhm at Bayreuth (1966) would fall into the latter category. This is a recording that is incredibly smooth despite its age, almost wet and sweet in conducting and has wonderful microdynamic swells befitting for a work of the late Romantic era. Past the opening chords, the entrance of the whole orchestra seems to jump from one spot to another dynamically instead of performing a smooth crescendo. Anything that involves a decrescendo is the seeming inverse, with it drooping off in volume instead of a gradual taper. Small nuances like dynamic shifts from instruments as they flow in and out of the orchestration appear seem to be missing, and too much of Wagner’s blending of timbres between voices are lost between the overly smoothened transient reproduction, the confused and conflated layering and the ultimate lack of fine delineation and fine graduation. On the tonal side of things, oboes, flutes and clarinets in the high register sound absolutely sucked out of their harmonics, to a point where I struggle to even recognize the instrument. The string section climbing into the higher registers gets closer and closer towards the unpleasant center midrange hump constantly, especially in the building climax of the Overture. The only thing worse than this here is when the brass section joins in at the very peak and the Borealis' treble resonance is brought out in full swing. For a recording that regularly gives me chills, it's a combination of perplexing, disappointing and unpleasant to hear it portrayed in what is more or less a subpar manner.

    I listened to many other recordings, from orchestral works to chamber pieces to solo performances, with the Borealis, too many to list, and while I could go indepth into all of them like I did for the above two recordings, I won't because I can easily sum up the underlying problems all of them share: excessive treble energy that is often painful to listen to, a lack of general microdynamics and nuance that sucks the soul out of music, strange midrange balance that messes with different instruments timbrally and tonally from recording to recording and overly smoothened transients that excessively mute the tactile sensation of large dynamic movements and punch of percussive instruments. The more reliant a given recording is on nuance and timbre, the more stodgy and stiff it sounds, and the more top end it has due to recording age or mastering decisions, the more Beyer-like it becomes. For recordings that lean in neither direction, it simply sounds milquetoast and boring, albeit still with some oddness throughout and no gains in engagement.

    One might wonder why I have placed so much focus on classical music in this writeup, and the reasoning behind it is simple: this music is not music I have handpicked to kneecap the Borealis, but music that I regularly listen to and enjoy on gear that I own. A headphone that is inadequate at reproducing works like these and plenty others is simply not fit for my stable. The few rock and metal recordings I threw at the Borealis were, comparatively speaking, fine, but I saw no real reason to prefer them over the Utopia's portrayal of the same songs. If anything, the overly smooth transient attack and lack of emotional engagement made me prefer the Utopia here as well, even if it can be somewhat oversharpened, exaggerated in incision and more fatiguing in certain ways. Though the inverse can also be argued; it’s not like the Borealis’ treble or midrange is fatigue free either. And if we bring the HD580 into this discussion, both the Utopia and the Borealis cannot compare in terms of midrange linearity nor timbral accuracy or again, engagement, though it obviously loses out in bass extension and sheer excitement.

    Of course, this isn't to say that the Borealis is completely worthless. In the context of the larger market, it's in a unique position in the sub-$1k to low kilobuck zone where it serves as a more macrodynamic and energetic alternative to the Auteur that's not as metallic and aggressive as the Elex or Clear. The problem is that my issues with the Borealis make it a far less refined and polished headphone than any of those 3. The even larger problem at hand is that I wouldn't want to listen to any of the aforementioned headphones over any given HD6X0 variant. I see value proposition problems with all these headphones in comparison to the humble HD6X0, and even if we treat this as a cost-no-object game, they're all fundamentally flawed to enough of a degree that their strengths are simply not worth it to me in comparison to the all rounder that the HD6X0 presents. Perhaps this might be making my Borealis impressions more negative than they otherwise would be; had I not been exposed to the sound of a well amplified HD6X0 first, maybe I wouldn't be so disinterested with the Borealis. It's hard to say.

    Ultimately, I found the Borealis to be a disappointment. Even in a best case scenario where I used music that worked with the Borealis (the idea of tailoring music to a headphone rather than vice versa is ridiculous and counterproductive to me, but it's besides the point), I found it to be an unengaging and uninteresting listen. It has a large number of technical and tonal flaws that give a strong sense of lack of polish and struggling to get the basics like tonal balance and clean transients right. And the best I can say about it is that it's competitive against headphones I don't think are worth their asking price in the first place. The Borealis was promised to me as yet another attempt at a super HD6X0, but like the many that came before it, it fails at getting the basics right the way the Senns did and continue to do so nearly 30 years later.

    Regardless, I hope my impressions and writings have served as an unique enough counterpoint to the seeming prevailing opinion on the Borealis, and as food for thought for both people who like and dislike it. And at the end of the day, I’m open to hearing whatever Aurorus make next, be it be a continuation of the same sound or an attempt at a new one.
     
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  15. Ksorota

    Ksorota Friend

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    Borealis!

    Thanks to @purrin for continuing this loaner tour and offering to let me take part in the experience.

    For my setup I am currently running a Modi 3+, into Mjolnir 1 and Mjolnir 2 (7728 tubes) and between the two, the MJ1 (which has been modified with Elna Silmic II caps) synergizes better with the Borealis. The MJ1 is a bit better in the way it tames the treble peaks.

    I had a hard time getting head time with these even with the limited time allowance for the headphones. Luckily I was last in line on the tour and have had them some extra time…until I can send them on to the next member. Right off the bat I was underwhelmed because I have been listening to ETA’s Genesis G exclusively and playing around with tuning. Once I finally decided to give myself a chance to acclimate, I am finding that these headphones are quite good.

    To get it out of the way, the most lacking aspect, and biggest detraction is the headband. I am using the latest version, but I cannot get a good clamp with the headband and the sound suffers for it. If I add some pressure to the cups against my head, the mid frequencies come up a little bit to fill in the midrange and reduce the brightness of the treble. The bass also comes up significantly adding more punch, but also adding some muddiness. If it were my set, I might try bending the headband, but the closest I could come to a tight enough clamp was to angle the band back on my head and pushing the cups forward on my ears.

    Build Quality is pretty nice. It is a solid headphone that may be a bit heavier than it needs to be with the oversized cup assembly. It feels more premium that it looks


    Listening impressions:

    Good, sometimes great, sometimes not so great. Hard to sum up these headphones. On the whole, I like them but probably would not hold on to them for very long. They provide a nice amount of macro dynamics but have trouble with the micro dynamics and can come off as blurry sounding. I notice on complicated tracks that the mids and lows blend together a bit and hinder the detail presentation.

    I would consider the Borealis to be on the bright side of neutral, with a bit of treble harshness coming through on tracks when the volume is set up too high. I think that it plays very well with ambient electronic tracks…one track in particular that was pleasant was The Player by Kid Francescoli…but I could not turn it up to rock out levels due to the treble glare that can come through. I get the sense that vocals frequencies are a bit pulled back as vocals can sound distant at times, females in particular.

    Compared to ESX. ESX does not sound as (wide but it is very close), but excels in the detail and macro dynamics a solid 3-4 steps above the Borealis. The frequency from low to high is more coherent and does not present in a fuzzy fashion like the Borealis can. The Borealis, when given pressure against my ears has more slam/punchiness in the bass (surprised me with that). The Player on ESX comes through with almost as much bass punchiness, but has less of that treble glare and can be played at louder volumes without discomfort.

    Compared to Genesis G. Gen G has become a favorite headphone as of late and holds a lot of value for the price. It is a fantastic design that allows for custom tuning on the fly essentially. The Borealis and Gen have a very similar bass exension, but the Gen G sustains more low end energy. Its a bit difficult to tell which has more slam honestly. On certain tracks I am surprised by the bass response of the Borealis, but again, the borealis seems to be missing those smaller details and nuance in the music that the Gen G easily protrays. At the start of the song “The Player”, the synths sound extra artificial and blurry compared to the Genesis. In a way these headphones carry some similarities, like some extra low-end presence, but the Gen is a bit more natural, while the Borealis is a bit sharper sounding.

    Conclusion:

    The Borealis would suit me for a low level listening headphone pretty well. The suspension strap still needs some work, some more clamp and a diet to reduce overall weight. After a bunch of listening I think that the biggest negative for me is the quick decay Borealis, notes taper off more quickly than I would like, particularly in comparison to my other two primary headphones. The headphones have a nice sense of air and presence and will shake your head with the bass impact, but just left me wanting a bit more engagement and cohesiveness across the frequency spectrum.
     

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