Four Way Portable (Sony ZX2, iPhone 6, AK100ii, Chord Mojo) Shootout w/ Andromeda IEM

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by purr1n, Jun 10, 2016.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Four Way Portable (Sony ZX2, iPhone 6, AK100ii, Chord Mojo) Shootout
    with Campfire Andromeda IEM (and UERM and Jupiter to a lesser extent)

    DSC_2306.JPG

    The Chord Mojo really isn't a self-contained portable player, but I threw it in there because it's a good reference, it's not terribly expensive, there has been a lot of interest from members, and also to show that I am not a Chord hater. (This does not mean I don't think the Hugo is a terrible rip off). As usual, I am not going to use a lot of words, or cut and paste specs from the manufacturers' website. I'm sure you guys' Google and Internet skills are as good as mine.

    Headphones were used to evaluate the portable sources. I wanted this to be purely an IEM thing for people on the go. The results for headphones could be quite different. Just want to be clear. I also did not use the TRRS out from the AK100II because I did not have balanced cables for the Andromeda or UERM. I heard that the balanced jack doesn't do much for the AK100II anyway because the output isn't balanced. The Mojo was used with my big desktop PC's USB ports, which do happen to sound better than the USB ports from any of my laptops, so there is a bit of unfair advantage I am giving the Mojo. The Mojo sounds notably more "digital" from the laptops.

    Here's the good 'ol heptagon (or octagon in this case). I'm sure most of you are familiar with this by now; if not, please feel free to ask me questions or for me to make specific examples of what I mean. These charts are by no means a perfect system, as everyone hears differently and uses their own set of criteria. But I feel this gets the message across with a minimum of words and fluff. If things are very close, the score will be one notch apart. Two notches if I feel there is a notable difference. As always, please don't add up the numbers and come up with what is best based on the total. Use the chart to what sonic criteria are important to you. Additional notes are provided below the spider chart.

    portable comparo spider.png


    TONAL BALANCE / EXTREMES

    SONY ZX2: Slightly dark, but not rolled in the treble. There is great extension at both ends. Sub and low bass are particularly strong. Some warmth, but doesn't extend into the mids, so I wouldn't necessarily call it lush mids, but definitely, not thin mids at all. I can see some people not liking the bassy tilt of the ZX2. I was debating whether to give this a 9 instead of a 10, but decided on a 10 because it just "works" for what it is with no disjointedness or lack of cohesiveness throughout the audio band. (Update: the tonal signature is absolutely neutral once the "Sound Enhancement" process is killed).


    AK100II : The opposite of the ZX2. Very airy. That would be alright if everything else where fine - but the AK100II lacks deep bass extension. The highish output impedance makes the AK100II sound the leanest with the Andromeda. With UERM, not so much of a problem, but overall still has the most top end emphasis of the bunch. I hesitate to call it bright because that could have negative connotations which just doesn't apply.

    CHORD MOJO: Slightly warm with great extension both ends. Nothing more needs to be said.

    IPHONE 6 PLUS: Mid-centric, but lacks in bass extension. Rated a 7, it's not horrible by any means. Just that the competition here is super tough. In contrast, my Samsung phone would probably score 5.


    HEADSTAGE

    AK100II: Super open in all directions, but lacks fine layering and separation. Blobs things together. Stuff tends to be off to sides and suffers from a slight hole in the middle effect.

    SONY ZX2: Not as wide as the AK100II. Has the best center image. Has depth, layering, separation, and imaging precision.

    CHORD MOJO: LIke the ZX2, but just a bit more fuzzy.

    IPHONE 6 PLUS: Not as wide as the AK100II but wider than the Mojo and ZX2. Definite hole in the middle and two blob off to the sides effect.

    Note: I personally do not like overly wide headstages in relation to depth.


    OTHER NOTES


    SONY ZX2: The most explosive and controlled transients. Almost too damped, especially when new. Burn-in (as recommended by Sony) loosens and opens up the sound. The Sony S-Master stuff is known for being under-powered, and I think this still might be the case with full sized headphones. However, the UERM did exceptionally well; as usually the UERM likes to have a Leckerton UHA-7 amp tagged on after a source to get the most clarity out of it. (The UERM when underpowered sounds soft and veiled). Brand new, the ZX2 sound feels constricted. After 100 hours burn it (Sony's advice, not mine), it sounds more lively and open. The database update takes a while, especially when a new card is inserted. The physical controls are buttons are amazing. The buttons are under detents on the right side of the case. The raised dots on specific buttons allow easy identification of volume up, down and play/pause, foward, back buttons. The battery lasts forever and power up is super fast as the unit goes to sleep and doesn't really turn off.

    DO NOT FORGET TO TURN OFF ALL THE DSP CRAP ON THE ZX2. SETTINGS -> APPS -> SOUND ADJUSTMENT - FORCE OFF


    CHORD MOJO: Very similar sounding to the Sony in technicalities with more neutral signature. With quality desktop PC USB, has less of the staticky prickly digital sound common with the Chord FPGA based gear. The warm tonal balance helps. It does take a while to notice the digititus, but it is hardly objectionable and no worse than a Schiit Modi 2. The buttons to control volume up and down are super neat with changing colors to denote volume level. It's a cute little unit with easily accessible inputs and outputs - much better designed than the Fischer Price Hugo unit.

    AK100II: Little bit flat. Sounds more digital than the above two, but hardly nasty. Hard glare and stridency that can build up over time - again probably not discernible to digital listeners, but vinyl guys will pick up on this easily. The treble has a bit of jumpy or lively personality. The attack is sharp. The most "detailed" or macro-detailed of the bunch. I've heard a lot of people complain about the UI, and I initially didn't think it was that bad. That is until I came back to it from better designed UIs. The power up cycle takes forever, the forward, play/pause, back buttons are small and difficult to reach. The screen layout with artists, albums, songs, looks amateurish and randomly laid out. The UI is not horrible by any means and I found it to be perfectly functional. Just that, functional. I do like the volume knob.

    IPHONE 6: Surprisingly did not get left in the dust. The least resolving, soft in the bass, but clean sound and black background. Less of the brittle sound of the IPHONE 5, but still a bit of glare and hardness over longer listening sessions. As far as UI, it's Apple. Pointless even talking about this because it's Apple and Apple doesn't make mistakes. Despite finishing last, the iPhone 6 with the Andromeda is super respectable, coming very close to or even meeting many sonic attributes of the dedicated portable music player units.



    OTHER RESOURCES

    Frequency response of Andromeda (super sensitive to source impedance) from the portables above: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...o-andromeda-iem-measurements.2088/#post-56933

    Why my initial experience with Sony ZX2 was lackluster: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/best-daps-2015.174/page-18#post-56818

    Sony ZX2 in a nutshell: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/best-daps-2015.174/page-18#post-56814


    OTHER STUFF

    1. Ravi will be sending me the A17 and AKJr. at a later date for a continuation. Probably won't happen because I won't have all this gear together in one place anymore.
    2. Thanks to Christian and Will at Massdrop.
    3. Thanks to Minidisc in Sydney Australia: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/minidisc-in-sydney-australia.2177/
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  2. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    Some of the slighty edgy digital weirdness of Mojo seems to be mitigated by coaxial input, IMHO.

    I sense a deathmatch between ZX2 and my current Mojo when Andromeda arrives.
     
  3. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Looks like the Mojo is the best bang for the buck, although I'm not sure I'd personally need it since the iPhone is fine for my portable use.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Just don't forget to go into Android Settings to turn off the Sound Adjustment App. I am convinced the app applies a massive amount of digital attenuation as a pre for digital EQ and other processing. Huge gains in SQ, but at the expense of no EQ.
     
  5. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    @Merrick same boat here. mojo is a strange lil device to me. if i'm using it at my desk, i'd love to plug it in and not worry about the battery. but it's a little too brickish for me to use with my iPhone. so it seems a bit too narrow functionality-wise to use with a laptop on the go... it'll be iPhone for me for the foreseeable future, since the DAPs that seem solid also cost a smallish fortune. i'm glad the iPhone hung in there with the Andromeda (and possibly Jupiter as well?).
     
  6. mulolomu

    mulolomu New

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    Nice comparison @Marvey

    I only use mojo with my Sony portable CD player D-E01 via optical connection, i rarely use it with my smartphone/laptop via usb connection, because to my ears when mojo connected via optical sounds more analogue or less digital compared to the usb.
     
  7. jowls

    jowls Never shitposts (please) - Friend

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    Strangely enough that is exactly how I use Mojo. I don't have a 'desktop' at the moment so I need a transportable DAC/amp to use with my laptop and IEMs. For that scenario (and with a Singxer F1 bridge in between), Mojo is pretty amazeballs.

    My iphone has served me well as a DAP with UE4 (I have to use a Line Drive with UERR). I'm glad to hear it can drive Andromeda reasonably well too...
     
  8. Panohm

    Panohm Friend

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    Wow, first time i've seen anyone reputable praise the ZX2. I should revisit my ZX1 after some burn in, any thoughts on this unit?.
     
  9. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    The Mojo will eventually become a stand alone unit. Chord is working on a attachment module that will be a SD card reader with a screen. A few months back they said they were about 12 months out from release. Haven't heard further updates recently.

    They also have two other optional modules coming out. Probably the first to come out will be a little add on that you can hide your Apple CCK into and the second module will be a Bluetooth adapter.
     
  10. jacq

    jacq Top 3 poster - friend

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    Nice review, would you be interested in trying the Red Wine Audio modded AK240 for a review?
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    @jacq: I'll take you up on that offer in a month! Probably when I get the A17 and AKJr from Ravi, we'll do another comparison.
     
  12. PoochZag

    PoochZag The Shadow knows - Friend

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    I am happy to add the Onkyo DP-x1 to shootout #2 if interested
     
  13. Griffon

    Griffon 2nd biggest asshole on SBAF

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    Please do it!

    I'll add some bits about Sony ZX100.

    - Essentially the same playground against AK100ii. I felt the same airyness, which compensates nicely with UERM.
    - Slightly less digital. Note that I can't even tell 320kbps or lossless. Digitalness is not really a problem for me.
    - Better layering. Which is almost the weakest of AK100ii.
    - Heavy. Slightly sluggish stock Sony UI. It's the same as A17's.
    - With Jupiter ZX100 is notably bassier than AK100ii. With UERM the bass remains the same. Probably as Marv indicated, such change may be related to O.I.
     
  14. yaluen

    yaluen Acquaintance

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    As a counterpoint, here are some links to performance figures in the form of RMAA results:

    Read first:
    http://nwavguy.blogspot.ca/2011/02/rightmark-audio-analyzer-rmaa.html
    (tl;dr resorting to RMAA for testing is probably a bad sign, don't assume accuracy of the absolute values of the results, do compare results for different devices from same tester, don't compare results from different testers)

    NW-ZX2:
    http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-sony-nw-zx2-24-bit
    http://www.soomal.com/doc/20100006603.02.htm

    iPhone 6:
    http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-apple-iphone-6-24-bit
    http://www.soomal.com/doc/20100005390.htm (6 Plus)

    AK100ii:
    http://www.soomal.com/doc/20100005635.htm

    Mojo:
    http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-chord-mojo-24-bit
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Does anyone know what the voltage levels are for ohm-image's RMAA measurements into various loads? I can't seem to tell.

    Did this fool just measure shit and make pronouncements of gear based on those RMAA measurements (of which he has no idea what the voltages are, much less the impedance curves of the loads) or does he actually listen to shit too? He says the ZX2 hisses more than this Nano. Is this based on measurements (which show imperceivable amounts of noise) or actual listening? FWIW, the Andromeda has very slight noise / hiss (must strain to hear it) from the iPhone 6. From the ZX2, there is none.

    If you want make pronouncements of gear based on solely on measurements, just go with ODAC and O2, or even better, Modi 2 and Magni 2, and call it day.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  16. zachchen1996

    zachchen1996 Friend

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    If interested, I have an Audioquest Dragonfly Red on order and would be glad to add it to the shootout.
     
  17. Warrior

    Warrior RIP 2021

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    I'll throw my X7 and all its amp modules in as well. Right now I have the am2 (medium), am5 (high), and will order am3 (balanced) as soon as it's released. I also have the one included, but it's a complete waste.
     
  18. yaluen

    yaluen Acquaintance

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    As it's RMAA, no way to tell unfortunately if the tester doesn't give the value separately, and no way of knowing if it's consistent across the various tests.

    Oh, and in case people didn't catch this, ohm image is shigzeo's site (http://www.head-fi.org/u/41964/shigzeo).
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2016
  19. Sqveak

    Sqveak Friend

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    With the A17 now up for comparison; May I request that some entry level IEMs also be tested with it?

    I'm particularly interested in how it pairs with the upcoming RE-00 if you are still in posession of one.
    Its 64Ω impedance has me wondering if the A series players are powerful enough for it.

    The 40Ω TE-02n you recently measured could be a nice alternative if the RE-00 is a no go.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2016
  20. TraverS

    TraverS New

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    I think he did listen to it. He is a (subjective) reviewer for Headfonia after all.
     

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