Category Archives: Headphones

Audeze LCD-1 Review

The Audeze LCD-1 is the company’s new entry-level planar magnetic headphones with an open-back, foldable, and light-weight design. It is priced at $399. Disclaimer: The Audeze LCD-1 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Audeze for giving us this opportunity. To read more about Audeze products we […]

Original Resource is Headfonics https://headfonics.com/2020/05/audeze-lcd-1-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=audeze-lcd-1-review

Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Closed Review

The Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Closed is a new foldable upgraded design on the original AEON closed-back planar magnetic headphones. It is priced at $899. Disclaimer: The Dan Clark Audio AEON 2 Closed sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Dan Clark Audio for giving […]

Original Resource is Headfonics https://headfonics.com/2020/05/dan-clark-audio-aeon-2-closed-review/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dan-clark-audio-aeon-2-closed-review

Hifiman Deva – First Contact

The Hifiman Deva is the company’s second Bluetooth capable full-sized open planar headphone. Offering BT5.0 and LDAC decoding it is priced at $299. Disclaimer: The Hifiman Deva is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion. We thank the team at Hifiman for giving us this opportunity. To read more about Hifiman products we reviewed on […]

Original Resource is Headfonics https://headfonics.com/2020/05/hifiman-deva-first-contact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hifiman-deva-first-contact

Headphone Guru + Hifiman Deva Headphone Giveaway

Headphone Guru fans – we are proud to announce our first giveaway in partnership with Hifiman!  Starting Friday, May 15th, and running for one month, Headphone Guru will be taking entries for a chance to win a Hifiman Deva Headphone.  The hybrid, wired + wireless wonder headphone epitomizes the best that planar magnetic headphones can offer.  The headphone features an ultra-thin diaphragm for low distortion and high details. Now is your chance to score this amazing headphone for free.  

Hifiman Deva Hybrid BT & Wired Headphones, Drooling Allowed

We are planning a future Newsletter with associated promotions and giveaways, in order to promote this, we are having a contest to giveaway a pair Deva headphones, to enter all you need to do is login by entering your name and email address. Note: entering the contest will automatically opt you in for the Headphone Guru Newsletter and future promotions. 

At the end of the month, one winner will be chosen at random to receive the Deva headphone.  We will notify the winner via email and give them a shout out on our Facebook page to show our appreciation for their, and your continued support. Then stay tuned for updates from Headphone Guru and Hifiman in your inbox.

What are you waiting for?  Click here to Enter now!

(Limit 1 entry per email address)

The post Headphone Guru + Hifiman Deva Headphone Giveaway appeared first on Headphone Guru.

Original Resource is Headphone Guru https://headphone.guru/headphone-guru-hifiman-deva-headphone-giveaway/

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor – REVIEW BY ENJOY THE MUSIC.COM

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor

Worth The Wait: Meze delivers an artful and meticulously crafted masterpiece.

Review By Dave Hanson

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor Review

  I first encountered the Meze Rai Penta ($1099) at CanJam SoCal in 2018, and at the time, I found myself absolutely floored by it, noting that it had the potential to be a best-in-class all-rounder. Of course, at that time, it was only an early prototype, but seeing it again and again at subsequent shows over the next year, I always came out feeling the same way – wow, this is the real deal. Getting the product to market took quite some time, as the team at Meze wanted to ensure the final design aligned with their ambitious vision. The name, translated, stems from the words “Heaven” (Rai) and “Five” (Penta). The five, of course, refers to the five-driver array format, consisting of four balanced armatures and one dynamic driver.

The precision machined housing, however, is where the genius lies. Each piece is milled to perfectly align the phase and timing from the drivers to your eardrums, eliminating imperfections generally found in many plastic tubes and dampener systems. The design also incorporates a Pressure Equalization System – a small port in the housing that helps regulate internal chamber pressure in front of and behind the driver assembly. The shape of the build itself is rather unique, with one of the most attractive and ergonomically-sound designs I’ve seen from a universal fit IEM. The edges of the anodized aluminum housing are nicely rounded, and the earpiece has an incredibly low profile – it’s not one of those designs that protrudes from the ear in an unsightly way.

Provided you have the right tips, the Rai Penta seats snugly and very comfortably within the ear – which is great for both aesthetic and practical purposes. After a little initial trouble out of the gate, I found it required very minimal periodic adjustments, relative to most other IEMs to keep in an optimal position with a good seal.

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor Review

As I said previously, tips played a very key role, as they often do, in getting the sound and fit dialed in. While this will depend a bit on your unique individual ear shape, I had some trouble getting a good seal consistently with the rubber stock tips, due to the smaller body shape of the IEM. I found foam tips to be a poor match sonically to the point that at one juncture, I thought there might be something wrong with the IEM itself.

The last option I tried was the much-lauded Azla Sedna EarFit tips, and once I had those installed, everything changed. All the good things I remembered from the early auditions came rushing back into focus and the Rai Penta once again began to show its potential as a best-in-class all-rounder. I would highly recommend auditioning these tips with the Rai Penta – particularly if you aren’t 100% sure about the integrity of the seal, because for me they were a game-changer. (Do note that the Sedna Earfit tips generally run half a size or so larger than normal – I generally use medium tips, but with the Sedna Earfit, I had to order a size S/M.)

Once that was sorted out, I found the Rai Penta to be a fantastic piece, using it for everything from video production to casual and analytical music listening.

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor Review

Winning Hearts And Minds

The Rai Penta offers a sweet and pleasant overall tonality, with a good body sound and some sparkle through the upper midrange and treble that emphasizes detail and sweetness. In this regard, I found it did a great job of bridging the gap between analytical and musical. Detail to stimulate the mind, with enough sweetness to stimulate the soul.

The bass frequencies offer decent extension, seeming to roll off a bit just around 30Hz. Through the midbass, there is a decent sense of weight, but I would say the Rai Penta is more neutral here than anything. The bass frequencies are exceptionally clear and well separated, giving you a great view of what’s going on down low.

I wouldn’t call the Rai Penta particularly punchy or impactful, though I wouldn’t say it is totally deficient in that department either. It generally falls within a “safe” range for most people, if you’re looking to cover genres like rock, classical, jazz, etc., this is going to be an outstanding fit. If you want something to punch your lights out for electronic, hip-hop or metal, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

Digging in further to the Rai Penta’s sound, the lower midrange offers good body and weight for what I would consider a neutral-class tuning. The upper midrange frequencies were very sweet and detailed, but came with a slight catch 22, as they were also prone to some very slight brightness. How much of an issue is it? Not much. Think along the lines of the Stax SR-009 or Focal Utopia – both are also prone to some intensity in this region, which can enhance detail retrieval, but can also make more aggressive genres such as metal and electronic slightly fatiguing, depending on the recording.

This gels pretty well with my observation on the bass response – again, paired with rock, jazz and classical music, the Rai Penta usually acquitted itself very, very well, offering a potent combination of detail and body that was exceptionally satisfying. I would say this makes it more of a diverse specialist with wide appeal, rather than a pure all-rounder. Given most audiophile tastes, and their proclivity for procuring high-quality recordings, Meze is catering to the 70 or 80% here by giving them something that is going to be extremely friendly to their tastes.

Treble is incredibly clear and grain-free. I think one could safely say the Rai Penta and Campfire Andromeda sit at the top of the hill at this price point when it comes to clarity and resolution; and will likely be joined at the hip as audiophiles mull a decision between the two highly regarded, identically-priced IEMs for years to come. Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with either one. I imagine many will be agonizing over this choice, so to that end, I’ll add a few comparison notes that should shed further light on the Rai Penta’s sound.

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor Review

Benchmarking Against Andromeda

Comparing the Rai Penta to the similarly priced Campfire Andromeda is an interesting proposition. Both could be considered almost perfectly neutral, but in two different shades. The first thing you’ll notice out the gate is that the Meze offers slightly more bass and lower midrange body and stays a little more reserved out through the treble region. The Andromedas on the other hand, are slightly brighter and extend further up top giving the music just slightly more air. Which one is closer to reality? I think it depends on your personal experience. Accuracy here becomes somewhat subjective based on one’s cumulative experience of hearing music in different ambient settings.

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor Review

In my experience, the Mezes probably offer a little bit more realistic sense of body and weight, whereas the Andromeda’s offer a crisper cleaner sense of extended air and space. To be a little bit more tangible, the Andromedas are like listening to music in a slightly larger concert hall whereas the Rai Penta is like listening in a slightly smaller concert hall. In the case of the Andromeda, or the larger concert hall, the music is more diffuse. With the Meze, for this comparison’s sake, the extra reverberations of a smaller room add slightly more warmth and fullness to the sound. Neither one is ultimately that much more or less accurate in terms of portraying the music, it is more a matter of perception and preference.

The ultimate point being, the Rai Penta adds very little in the way of coloration and it would be fair to call it a true reference point. At the end of the day, compared to just about any other IEM, each of these aforementioned pieces will come off as neutral.

Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor Review

Final Thoughts

The Rai Penta is a fantastic accomplishment, and well worth the wait! In terms of technicalities – clarity, resolution, attack, decay and imaging, Meze absolutely hits it out of the park here. How you like the tuning will depend on your genre tastes, but as I said, for jazz, classical and rock – particularly with good recordings, the Rai Penta will put a huge smile on your face. If you’re in the market for a beautiful, revealing piece that fits the “neutral, but not boring” mold, you absolutely must give the Meze Rai Penta an audition.

Equipment Used in This Review

Campfire Andromeda
Campfire Vega
Westone W60
FiiO FH7
Periodic Be
HeadAmp Gilmore Lite MkII
Chord Hugo 2
iFi Audio Micro iDSD Black Label
Monoprice Monolith Liquid Gold
FiiO M15
FiiO M11 Pro
Stax L300 Limited
ZMF Auteur
Sennheiser HD800
iFi Audio iDSD Black Label
Roon
Audirvana
Adobe Audition
Tidal HiFi

Tonality
Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)
Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)
Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)
High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)
Attack
Decay
Inner Resolution
Soundscape Width
Soundscape Depth
Imaging
Fit And Finish
Self Noise
Value For The Money

Check out Enjoy the Music!

See many great reviews by Enjoy the Music.com at this link.

Specifications

Type: In-ear monitors
Frequency response range: 4Hz to 45kHz
Sensitivity: 110dB @1mW
Impedance: 20 Ohms
Driver Configuration: Four balanced armature, one dynamic
Cable Connection: MMCX
Price: $1099

Company Information

Meze Audio
Iuliu Maniu Street
Nr. 38, 1st floor, Ap. 2 
Baia Mare, Romania 430131

E-mail: [email protected]
Website: www.MezeAudio.com

The post Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitor – REVIEW BY ENJOY THE MUSIC.COM appeared first on Headphone Guru.

Original Resource is Headphone Guru https://headphone.guru/meze-rai-penta-in-ear-monitor-review-by-enjoy-the-music-com/

The New Earsonics STARK In-Ear Monitors – Get Ready & Buckle Your Seatbelt!

When I was asked to cover Earsonics’ newly released STARK in-ear monitors (IEMs), I absolutely leapt at the opportunity as I was a huge fan of their previous offerings! Founded in 2005 by Franck Lopez (a musician and sound engineer), Earsonics looked to improve upon the quality of the in-ear monitors available 15 years ago. With their mainstream release of the renowned and highly well-received SM3, Earsonics became a serious player in the audio reproduction marketspace. These IEMs floored me with their outstanding level of transparency and clarity and really put Earsonics on the map here in North America. Well, here we are approximately a decade and a half later and after many successful and impressive releases, the folks at Earsonics have released the new Hybrid Range of in-ear monitors. At the pinnacle of this range: the STARK. Composed of an electronic architecture of 5 drivers: a newly designed dynamic driver (DD) for bass, 2 balanced armature drivers (BAs) for the mid-section and 2 BAs for the treble, the STARK offers a new hybrid approach to offer a highly extended frequency response that can be found lacking in so many IEMs today.

When the package arrived, I could tell that a lot of attention to the smallest details was put into putting the entire package together. Everything from the box and associated documentation to the IEMs and accessories really impressed me from the outset! After a quick check on the Earsonics’ website,  the $1,500 US price tag, though not easy on the pocketbook, seemed well commensurate with the product provided. Simply put, these are beautiful IEMs that are built like tanks. The anodized zinc and magnesium alloy was chosen for both its resistance to oxidation and impact. Throw in its relatively light weight and Earsonics hit the trifecta in outstanding design. I found the overall long-term comfort of these IEMs outstanding and could use them for hours on end without a hint of discomfort. 100% made in France, these IEMs bring a new approach to in-ear monitors from the world-renowned Earsonics and I, for one was very excited to see and hear how things turned out!

Here is a full list of specifications for these IEMs:

Sensitivity: 125 dB / mW
Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 20,000 Hz
Impedance: 18.5 ohms
Drivers: 1 Dynamic Drive (bass)
4 Balanced Armature Drivers
3 way crossover
Accessories Included: 4C High-Res cable
4 Comply tips (various sizes)
8 Silicon tips (various sizes)
Cleaning tool
Carrying case
User manual
Earsonics STARK In-Ear Monitors

After a few weeks of thorough burn-in, I decided to begin my critical journey of the STARK IEMs with my iPad Pro (and a USB-C to stereo adapter) and the Qobuz high-resolution music streaming service. I quickly decided on Leonard Cohen’s posthumous release: “Thanks for the Dance”. The songs from this album were composed of “sketches” that were left over from Cohen’s previous recording “You Want it Darker” that were finished by Adam Cohen (Leonard’s son) in a garage near his father’s old house. Leonard’s final work earned him a Juno Award Nomination (Canada’s version of the Grammy) in 2020 and I, for one, really enjoyed hearing the bard one last time. The outstandingly deep and defined bass really helped bring Leonard’s vocals back to life with his strong baritone styling and insightful narration. If you are a fan of Leonard Cohen, then I strongly suggest you give this album a try as you won’t be disappointed. And if you own the Earsonics STARK, you need to listen to this album as soon as you can to hear just how brilliant these IEMs can offer a full-sized headphone experience in such a small form factor. The bass quantity is north of what I would classify as “neutral”, but after approximately 100 hours of burn-in, I found that it never interfered with the warm and upfront midrange. In fact, over the years, I have come to really appreciate this sound signature for its extremely inviting warm signature that I can listen to for hours without a hint of fatigue. Conversely, I found the treble well extended, detailed and airy; while never offering a hint of stridency throughout this entire album. Finally, what truly impressed me was the ability of the STARK in-ear monitors to throw an impressive sound-stage. Both wide from left to right and front to back, the sound-scape offered was among the very best that I’ve ever experienced with a universal IEM. I was so impressed with what I heard, I simply replayed the entire album for a second listen once the final track finished up.

A few days later I decided to use my FiiO M11 Pro DAP (digital-to-analog player) and a DSD favourite of mine: “A Distortion of Love” by Patricia Barber. Being very efficient and easy to drive, I quickly put my player on low gain and started to play this amazing album. Right from the initial bass and maracas played from the lead track “Summertime”, I was amazed at just how distinct the two instruments were and so very realistically portrayed in both time and space. Again these in-ear monitors did not cease to impress me with their ability to portray a wonderfully expansive sound staging that put them among the very best IEMs that I’ve experienced over the years. Throw in a complete lack of smearing between each instrument and player and you end up with a laser-like focus that will have you hearing things on your recordings that you likely missed previously. Back to the stand-up bass in this album and boy does it shine with the STARK IEMs! The dynamic bass driver has the ability to make this instrument sound life-like with impressive depth, impact and detail. I could easily hear the fingers strum on the strings immediately prior to hearing from the instrument itself and this was to a level that I felt transported to the recording studio right next to the musician as he played. I’ve very rarely had this experience outside of full-sized flagship headphones; let alone an IEM. Patricia’s inviting and sultry vocals were impressively portrayed and danced on top of the bass in perfect unison. While the bass is certainly more impactful than strict neutral; again, I never once felt that this began to impinging on Patricia’s voice throughout this album. In fact, I found this added bass heft a very inviting and pleasurable portrayal. The treble region was both well extended with a hint of a very fun sparkle that offered a very pleasing and fun experience that can be enjoyed for many hours without any listening fatigue. Overall I felt that the STARK IEMs and the FiiO M11 Pro really paired brilliantly and if you own this player and are on the look-out for a great TOTL (top of the line) pair of in-ear monitors, look no further than Earsonics’ STARK.

Earsonics STARK In-Ear Monitors

While I am not a big fan of electronic music, I do have a great appreciate for Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”. If you are like me and mostly stick with rock and jazz, you need to open your horizons; at least a little bit, and give this amazing album a listen! Thanks to the impactful and tight bass offered by the STARK IEMs, this album will have you smiling throughout the experience. I found that with this genre of music, these in-ear monitors really shine and if you are a fan of this genre, you really need to check them out. Bass notes hit both hard and fast and never linger beyond what the recording calls out for. This taught bass also comes with incredible detail and is textured brilliantly underneath the midrange. I’ve very rarely come across a pair of IEMs or headphones that can offer such impressively impactful bass and still stay out of the way of the midrange. Conversely, the midrange was liquid and upfront with some of the very best detail retrieval that I’ve come across in any pair of in-ear monitors. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. “Get Lucky” with Pharrell Williams had my head bobing up and down with both an incredibly fun and transparent experience. The treble was perfectly layered on top of the midrange and offered both an easy-listening experience and one that allowed me to dig even deeper into this recording and hear details that many other headphones and IEMs would only gloss over at best. Overall, these IEMs truly pair brilliantly with electronic music and will have you rediscovering your favourite albums over and over again.

Earsonics STARK In-Ear Monitors

What else can I say about these new IEMs by Earsonics that I haven’t already? I absolutely love both their extremely fun and extremely transparent sound signature. You will never find yourself bored or unmotivated when listening to them thanks to their impactful bass and impressively high level of detail retrieval. Throw in truly world class build quality and the ability to isolate outside noise to such a level that you can finally get rid of your noise cancelling headphones, the STARK IEMs will tick off every box on your list. If you have been previously been put off with the “in your head” sound from many universal in-ear monitors, the STARK break this barrier and will give you a very pleasing and specific sense of space and air within a recording. Earsonics has been at this game for a very long time and I am very impressed with their latest offering and I can easily give these IEMs two big thumbs up and my strongest recommendation to give them a try and thorough audition!

Manufacturer’s Website: http://www.earsonics.com/store/produit/stark/

The post The New Earsonics STARK In-Ear Monitors – Get Ready & Buckle Your Seatbelt! appeared first on Headphone Guru.

Original Resource is Headphone Guru https://headphone.guru/the-new-earsonics-stark-in-ear-monitors-get-ready-buckle-your-seatbelt/

Andover Audio PM-50 – First Contact

The Andover Audio PM-50 is a stylish walnut finished entry-level open-back planar magnetic circumaural headphone. It is priced at $499 SRP. Disclaimer: The Andover Audio PM-50 sent to us is a sample in exchange for our honest opinion and does not have to be returned. We thank the team at Andover Audio for giving us […]

Original Resource is Headfonics https://headfonics.com/2020/05/andover-audio-pm-50-first-contact/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=andover-audio-pm-50-first-contact

Meze Audio Rai Penta In-Ear Monitors

Worth The Wait: Meze delivers an artful and meticulously crafted masterpiece. Review By Dave Hanson With this article, Positive Feedback continues its content-sharing relationship with Enjoy the Music. Dave Hanson shares his thoughts on the Meze Rai Penta In-Ear Monitors. Dr. David W. Robinson, Editor-in-Chief I first encountered the Meze Rai Penta ($1099) at CanJam SoCal in 2018,... Read More »

The post Meze Audio Rai Penta In-Ear Monitors appeared first on Positive Feedback.

Original Resource is Positive Feedback https://positive-feedback.com/reviews/hardware-reviews/meze-audio-rai-penta-in-ear-monitors-2/

Shure Donates $79,000 in Earphones to Students

Shure Donates $79,000 in Earphones to Chicago Students
Shure has donated $79,000 worth of Shure SE215 Sound Isolating earphones to Chicago Public Schools. Dave Baum

Chicago, IL (May 8, 2020)—Remote learning isn’t always easy, especially if you don’t have the right tools. With that in mind, Shure has stepped up and donated $79,000 worth of Shure SE215 Sound Isolating earphones to Chicago Public Schools.

Thousands of Shure SE215 earphones were donated as they are compatible with smartphones and laptops, help eliminate distracting noises and were designed with an eye towards being worn for extended periods of time. They also have an inline mic for two-way communication between students and teachers. Select Chicago Public Schools on the South, West and North sides of Chicago have received the earphones to distribute to those who need them.

How Pros Are Livestreaming During the Pandemic

“Once schools were closed, teachers, staff, and administrators were forced to move toward a new normal by having students and teachers use online learning tools like Google Meet,” said Jeffrey Finelli, principal at Edison Park Elementary School. “Shure made a donation specifically for families who were not fortunate enough to have the proper tools to help their child learn effectively at home. It made a world of difference for so many families. Students are now not distracted when they are participating in the live video conferences and able to communicate with their classmates. This was not possible before Shure made their generous donation.”

During the pandemic, Shure has also responded to COVID-19 in other ways, from donating N95 masks to a Chicago-area hospital, to providing support for the Chicago Independent Venue League, a collection of more than 20 music halls and performance venues, to making a corporate donation to Direct Relief, an organization working with authorities to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) to health care workers in affected regions of the world.

“We are pleased to lend our support to Chicago Public Schools students and educators during this challenging and unprecedented time,” said Mark Brunner, vice president of Global Corporate and Government Relations at Shure. “This significant need for online learning tools presented an opportunity for Shure to fulfill what we consider to be a vital part of our corporate responsibility to our community.”

Shure • www.shure.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com https://www.prosoundnetwork.com/business/shure-donates-79000-in-earphones-to-chicago-students

Dan Clark Audio Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle! Review

The 2020 COVID-19 crisis has put us all in isolation, separated from friends and family, and left many for want of entertainment, not to mention what it has done to the Personal Audio community which is by and large made up of small privately-owned manufactures. Dan Clark and Andy Regan of Dan Clark Audio have decided to stand up to the challenge by not only staying in business while practicing proper social distancing and protecting the health of their employees but also offering relief to their fans and customers by offering the Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle! and supporting the Personal Audio community at large. To achieve this, they have partnered up with Schiit Audio and Antlion Audio to put together a complete package for “Zooming” online with friends and family, online interactive gaming and of course listening to film and music, all for less than the price of a pair of headphones!

Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle!:

The Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle! consists of a pair of Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow (Closed or Open) Orthodynamic Headphones ($799) including their custom travel case and personal tuning kit, a Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications ($189) and an Antlion Audio 3.5mm ModMic Uni microphone ($49) all for the low price of $649.99.

Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow Closed / Open Orthodynamic Headphones:

Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow

I don’t know if Dan and Andy sent me the AEON Flow Closed-back Headphones with the Bundle! because they knew it was my preferred sound or if it was because they knew I already had the AEON Flow Open-back Headphones or if it was pure random happenstance, but as it stands it means I have both to test the Bundle! with. For my money, not a lot has changed in the headphone world since I first reviewed the MrSpeakers (now Dan Clark Audio) AEON Flow Closed-back Headphones here and the AEON Flow Open-back Headphones here, well actually a lot has changed, there have been a bucket load of new and exciting headphones since then, but what hasn’t changed is that the AEON Flow whether closed or open represent the best value in sound quality out there and if I didn’t already have the ETHER C Flows and the ETHER2s they would be my first choice in a headphone purchase given you can get the sound signature of both for the price of one, though sadly the Corona Virus outbreak has robbed me of the opportunity to hear the new AEON 2 headphones which promise to produce sound even closer to my reference headphones.

For those who haven’t had the chance to read my previous reviews, the AEON headphones employ Dan Clarks unique V-Planar Drive and Trueflow technologies, producing a planar magnetic headphone that approaches an Electrostatic on speed and detail while maintaining a dynamic range that will rival many dynamic headphones with an efficiency that allows them to be driven by portable devices including cell phones. The carbon fiber capped ear-cups are ear shaped rather than round and about two thirds the size and mass of their big brother the ETHER. They use a NiTinol “memory metal” and leather strap adjustable headband with a single anchor point on the ear-cup. The earpads are a thick flat leather pad similar to those used on the ETHER headphones, but again ear shaped. The DUMMER (Distinctly Un-Magical) dual-tip (1/4″ and 3.5mm) headphone cable is fitted with quick release SN-8-4 BNC connectors (my personal favorite in headphone connections which combine secure connection with ease of use) and is light and flexible with a sound quality that will match many aftermarket cables. All in all, the build quality and comfort are exemplary, while the design is elegant and functional. The AEON Flow Closed came in an elegant black magnetic clasp box, which contained Dan Clark Audio’s signature leather hard shell travel case and the AEON tuning kit which allows you to tune the sound to your individual preferences.

Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications:

Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications

When it comes to value you’re going to be hard-pressed to beat Schiit. Like Dan Clark Audio, Schiit is a local Southern California based company, that, like Dan Clark Audio, not only designs but builds all of their products here in California, using to the extent possible locally sourced components (some things just aren’t made in the USA, and some foreign-made components are just better). The Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications (say that three times fast) doesn’t incorporate Mike Moffat’s legendary Multibit DAC circuitry (since it sells for less than the DAC module itself, it is hard to expect otherwise), but it does use what I believe to be the most musical DAC chip available the AKM AK4490 with a custom TI OPA1662-based filter stage. The Hel is a USB only digital device, but it does have an analog input for other sources along with an analog preamp out to drive powered monitor loudspeakers.

Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications circuit board

While the Hel has the signature Schiit rolled aluminum chassis, its look is stunningly original, I especially like its lurid red and black color scheme. Size-wise it is about on a par with your average DAP with a large knob set in the top, so it retains the appearance of a computer accessory rather than an audio component, which I believe is the whole point.

Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications

On the back, you will find along with the power switch and the 3.5mm TRS analog input and output two Micro USB connections, one for the digital signal from your computer, tablet or other USB source and the other for the provided 2.1-watt power supply (you definitely want to use the provided power supply, I tried using an alternate that was already connected with less than optimal results). If you turn it around to the front you will see the ¼” TRS headphone jack, a gain switch, a source switch, and then the feature that makes the Hel truly unique a 3.5mm TRS microphone input and input level control. On the top is a huge knob that is the volume control.

Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications

For accessories, the Hel came with two USB A to Micro USB cables, a gold plated ¼” TRS to 3.5mm TRS adaptor, and a 3.5mm TRRS (female) to two 3.5mm TRS (male) adaptor for use with headphones that have a built-in microphone.

Antlion Audio 3.5mm ModMic Uni Microphone:

Antlion Audio 3.5mm ModMic Uni Microphone

A name that was admittedly new to me was Antlion Audio. Based out of Portland, Oregon, Antlion Audio is the brainchild of James “Jimmy” Console, M.D. who invented the ModMic. The Antlion Audio 3.5mm ModMic Uni Microphone is a noise-canceling cardioid voice microphone designed specifically for computer gaming that incorporates Antlion Audio’s patented ModMic magnetic clasp system allowing it to be permanently mounted to any headphone yet remain removable for convenience. One of the nice things about the magnetic clasp system was that it was notched so that it could be pivoted 90º when you simply wanted it out of the way or removed completely if you just wanted to listen to music. The boom is 5” long and rigid yet bendable so that it can be oriented near your mouth, though they caution against placing it directly in front of your mouth to avoid percussive blasts. There is a unique bend in the boom that prevents cable torque so once adjusted, the boom stays in place. The cable is 7’ in length with toggled mute switch about 10” from the microphone and comes equipped with a handy Velcro cable tie and a removable foam windscreen. For accessories, the microphone came with a very nice hardshell zippered travel case, a spare mount, two extra adhesive pads, an alcohol wipe, and five cable clips that were the perfect size for the Dan Clark Audio DUMMER cable.

Antlion Audio 3.5mm ModMic Uni Microphone

Living with the Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle!:

Upon receiving the Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle! I set it to burning-in for several days while I wrote the preceding descriptions using my 1000 track Qobuz playlist purposely created for that use.

Okay, I have to confess that I am not a hardcore gamer and I don’t indulge in MMORPGs at all, but to test the microphone I felt I needed to simulate that environment, so I booted up a session of Counter-Strike on YouTube, turned up the speakers and did some recording. As a musician, I am always a bit skeptical of microphones that cost less than an arm and two legs, but I was really impressed by the performance of the Antlion Audio ModMic. Not only did it suppress the background noise, my voice was clear and natural, easily able to cut through the noise of the game when running simultaneously. As a microphone preamp, the Schiit Hel was fantastic with more than enough gain for even low sensitivity recording mics.

Which brings us to the sound of the Dan Clark Audio AEON Flows with the Schiit Hel. I started my listening tests with the Closed-back AEON Flows as that was what was sent to me for this review. I began the session with the Hel set to low gain given the AEON’s high efficiency and selected Sylvan Esso’s new live album “With” on Qobuz. The bass on “Wolf” was lush and authoritative and the piano was rich and natural though clearly run through the PA system. Sylvan’s vocal was emotional and seductive. The saxophone had a deep didgeridoo quality with flute-like highs. The soundstage was large and spacious with live performance dynamics.

Selecting “La Bohème: Act 1 – “Che gelida manina”” as performed by Luciano Pavarotti (“Pavarotti 24 Greatest” – 24-bit/96kHz) to see how well the Bundle! handles Orchestral music with operatic vocal, I was treated to an immersive expansive soundstage and incredible musicality. The resonant reflection of Pavarotti’s dynamic peaks off the theater walls was palpable and tear-inducing extending well beyond my ability to listen (volume-wise) without distortion or breakup, and this all on low gain with the less efficient of the two headphones.

Even low-resolution 16-bit/44.1kHz recordings were treated with an organic and rich presentation as exhibited by Hoagy Charmichael’s “Lazy River” from “Hoagy Sings Carmichael” which had a dynamic stage side live taste, the timbre and tonal balance of the horns spot on.

Switching to the Open-back AEON Flows for a little rock & roll, I cued up my favorite Heart song “Mistral Wind” (“Dog & Butterfly” – 24-bit/192kHz). The bass was lush and impactful without being boomy and Anne’s vocal was heart-rending. The kick drum had a physical thump which is as real as you can get with headphones. Every detail was clear, dynamic, and exciting while remaining above all musical.

Obviously this review wouldn’t be complete without a little gaming so I launched “Portal 2” for my daily session. For those unfamiliar, this is a game where sound is often the only clue you have to the solution of the puzzle (not unlike many first-person shooters) and the Bundle! made it a breeze to pinpoint audio clues in a sonically VR world. I think many will prefer the Open-back AEON Flows for gaming, giving that extra oomph to gunshots and explosions though the Closed-back go a little deeper in the subsonic, gaming is like film, you want larger than life, and this system really delivers.

Conclusions on the Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle!:

Hel Yeah Home Office, Gaming, Video and Music Bundle!

I won’t pretend that I was surprised that this marriage of two of my favorite Personal Audio manufacturers was spectacular, I really got nothing more than I expected, though, on the other hand, I got nothing less either. Often anticipation spoils the delivery, but not so in this case. I suspect those unfamiliar with Dan Clark Audio or Schiit Audio will be overwhelmed with how good a $650 system can sound. This system gives you everything you would demand from a $1,500 system (other than access to sample rates over 192kHz, which in Schiit’s philosophy are superfluous due to the dearth of actual software recorded in those sample rates) in sound quality, dynamic range, tonal balance, detail, imaging, soundstage, and musicality.

While this may not be a reference quality system, it is close enough that most won’t care, and for the gamer, it is just what the doctor ordered, Okay, for everyone sequestered in their homes during this crisis it is just what the doctor ordered, whether you game, listen to music or watch movies. Both thumbs up!

Price: $649.99

Manufacturer’s Website: https://danclarkaudio.com/bundles/hel-yeah-home-office-gaming-music-and-video-bundle.html

Specifications:

Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow Closed:

Frequency response: Yes (sorry, this specification is abused to the point of silliness, so we don’t publish one)

Efficiency: 92dB/mW

Weight (without cable): 340g

Cable: Dual entry

Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow Open:

Efficiency: 92dB/mW

Weight (without cable): 321gr

Detachable 2m premium dual-entry cable with 3.5mm and 1/4″ termination

Impedance: 13 ohms

Frequency Response: Yes*

Schiit Hel High Power Dac/Amp For Gaming, Music, And Communications:

Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, +/-0.3db

Maximum Power, 16 Ohms: 1200mW RMS

Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 1000mW RMS

Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 650mW RMS

Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 200mW RMS

 THD: <0.0015%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS

IMD: <0.0015%, CCIR

SNR: >108db, A-weighted, referenced to 1V RMS

Crosstalk: >-80dB, 20Hz-20KHz

 Output Impedance (headphones): 0.25 ohms

Output Impedance (line out): 75 ohms

Input Impedance (rear 1/8″ jack): 10k ohms

 Gain: 1 (0dB) or 5 (14dB)

 USB Receiver: C-Media CM6631A

DAC: AKM AK4490 with TI OPA1662-based filter stage

Sample Rates and Bit Depths:
Playback: 16/44.1 to 24/192 supported without drivers on Windows 10, Mac, Linux, Android (UAC 2 device)
Input: 48kHz

 Output Stage: TI OPA1688 (4 amp stages per channel) 

 Power Supply: Via USB, with +/- 12V rails via high-current dual-polarity switching regulator, with inductor filtering and local regulation

 Power Consumption: 2.5W typical

Size: 5 x 3.5 x 1.375” (including knob)

Weight: 13oz

Antlion Audio 3.5mm ModMic Uni Microphone:

Microphone Pattern: Uni-Directional

Frequency Response: 100Hz – 10kHz

Sensitivity:-36±3 dB

Impedance: 2.2(Max) kΩ

S/N Ratio: 67(Min) dB

Maximum Input Sound Pressure Level: 110(Max) dB

Standard Operating Voltage: 3.0 Vdc

Operating Voltage Range: 1.0~10 Vdc

Cable Length: 2 Meters

Termination: 3.5mm TRS jack

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