London, UK (April 23, 2021) – Cranborne Audio has shipped its new N22H Reference-Grade Headphone Amplifier, designed for tracking, mixing or mastering.
According to the company, the headphone amplifier takes much of its design from the Cranborne Audio 500R8 interface, in an effort to similarly provide a flat frequency response and low distortion. The new unit offers both high and low power modes, which can be applied via a switch. A custom, logarithmic level control allows performers to control the headphone output.
To provide flexibility, Cranborne designed the N22H to be powered in multiple ways. Users can power the N22H unit with the included 9V DC power supply, a typical guitar pedal power supply, variously available pedalboard power supplies or a 9V battery that provides up to 10 hours of operation.
The Cranborne Audio unit can be also be positioned anywhere using a single, shielded Cat 5e, Cat 6 or Cat 7 cable using Cranborne Audio’s C.A.S.T. system. With a range of 330 feet, N22H can be used as a solution for headphone distribution or as a connectivity hub for mic/line sources as an all-analog, Cat 5e snake.
VZR Model One Hands-On Preview The story of the VZR Model One is a rather curious one… it’s not often I get to write about a product like this. The story is extraordinary, and the product itself is special and unusual in ways that are novel, at least to my ears. We begin with, of all people, Mark Levinson. After the eponymous company, he began building tube electronics under the name Red Rose Music, in partnership with Vic Tiscareno, the head engineer and technical force behind VZR. Red Rose even had a retail presence in Manhattan, with customers as illustrious as Steve Jobs and other tech royalty. Through these connections Vic came into work building the first audio testing lab at Apple, and participated in building some products which are likely familiar to you. Needless to say, Vic is an incredibly smart guy. After chatting with him a few times, the impression is reinforced. This guy knows a ton of stuff about audio, certainly well more than I do. Words by Grover Neville Over the course of several chats with both Mike and Vic, they gave me a peek into some of the tech that goes into the VZR Model [...]
When Joseph Mou told me about this new company he was building, Metal Magic Research, and this strange IEM with an even stranger name, I found myself gripped by a savage need to know more.
Shortly thereafter, Homunculus arrived at my door.
From my understanding, everything MMR makes will be metal-housed, and Homunculus is no different. They take their metalwork seriously, too. The build quality is top shelf, making for a handsome finished product. I’m not a huge fan of the fit, however. While they stay in place well enough, they do tend to get uncomfortable after an hour or two. If you have large Western ears, the sharp rim makes contact with your ear, and over time, that becomes a hot spot which can become painful.
The cable is from Eletech, a newer company which came out of the gate with a slew of extremely high quality cables that easily compete with the best the industry has to offer. Furthermore, the internal wiring of Homunculus is also an Eletech conductor. This is an area most companies overlook. Whether it makes any audible difference or not, I can’t say, but it is a nice tough you don’t see very often.
Homunculus is a 3-way hybrid IEM: dual Electrostats, one vented Balanced Armature, and a “Bespoke” 9.7mm Foster Dynamic Driver. MMR’s website isn’t the most coherent, but if I had to guess, the eStats are for high frequencies, the BA is for mids, and the DD is for bass. Though, it’s possible there’s some serious crossover. Hell, it’s just as possible that all drivers are attempting to cover all ranges. But if I had to guess, well, I gave you my guess already.
Lightweight and comfortable, Folding design, Super soft lambskin leather, Superb balance and linearity, Strong fine detail retrieval in class, Cable orientation always correct
Less bass extension than some competitors, Not the most spacious or open sounding headphone, Unorthodox cable design, Plastic build scratches easily
The LCD-1 provides a balance of qualities and conveniences unmatched by immediate competitors.
Who hasn’t heard of Audeze? The US-based headphone manufacturer are an icon of the headphone industry, their LCD line-up having both huge success and staying power. If there’s one thing that alienated buyers from these models, it’s likely their price followed quickly by their large, heavy design. The new LCD-1 is their solution to these qualms, and their sleekest LCD headphone yet excluding the on-ear SINE. It implements the same technologies in a compact form factor designed for all-day comfort. Furthermore, the sound signature has been tuned with monitoring in-mind, pivotal as such a balanced sound is not so easy to come by around this price range.
The LCD-1 retails for $399 USD. You can read all about the LCD-1 alongside Audeze’s technologies here and treat yourself to one here.
I would like to thank Ari very much for getting me in contact with Audeze and making this review of the LCD-1 happen. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Style: Over-ear, open-circumaural
Transducer type: Planar magnetic
Maximum SPL: >120dB
Frequency response: 10Hz – 50kHz
THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
Impedance: 16 ohms
Sensitivity: 99 dB/1mW
The Pitch –
Audeze implement waveguides to avoid unwanted resonances and destructive interference. This enables greater high-frequency extension and resolution in addition to increasing efficiency. Audeze also promise greater phase coherence resulting in better resolution and sharper imaging. Furthermore, the waveguides can help reduce turbulence and enhance damping enabling higher driver control and a more agile transient response. You can read Audeze’s description here.
Audeze headphones utilize very strong N50 neodymium magents – the higher the number, the stronger the magnetic force exerted, with N52 being the absolute strongest currently available. This equates to a greater ability to exert force onto the diaphragm meaning a quicker transient response, higher efficiency. This enables Audeze to implement a single-sided array that contributes to the LCD-1’s very light weight design. You can read Audeze’s description here.
Ultra-thin Force Diaphragm
Audeze headphones use an ultra-ligthweight diaphragm just 0.5 microns thick – 1/10th of the thickness of a red blood cell. In turn, the diaphragm is very lightweight which permits quicker acceleration and deceleration – a quicker and cleaner transient response. Alongside the more uniform force application with Audeze’s fluxor magnet array, their drivers offer high resolution and low distortion at high frequencies due to the reduced inertia. You can read Audeze’s description here.
While the box doesn’t have the luscious velour interior of Hifiman’s headphones, the LCD-1 upholds a premium unboxing experience. Sliding off the outer sleeve and opening up the hard box reveals the compact Audeze carrying case. It’s a tough and protective zippered hard shell with rugged fabric exterior. There’s an elastic internal pocket with Velcro holder that enables the user to store cables and accessories without them scratching the headphones. The headphones are comfortably secured within the case, which also showcases how they fold-up for storage. Audeze also includes a 2m cable and 3.5mm to 6.25mm adaptor and papers to verify warranty and authenticity.
Futuristic is one of the descriptors that came to mind when I first lay eyes on the LCD-1. It’s a compendium of clean lines merged with Audeze’s signature faceplate design merging minimalism and the tradition that came before. The plastic construction is a departure from the tanky builds we’ve come to expect from Audeze, however, it is premium where it counts. The earpads and headband make an especially strong impression, employing a gorgeous lambskin leather with plush memory foam on the earpads and soft sponge on the headband. The swiveling mechanism features a metal reinforcement plate that will provide more reliable function over time. Though not the most premium in terms of overall material choice, the LCD-1 feels relatively sturdy and upholds a strong user experience.
The LCD-1 can both fold flat and fold down for storage making them very portable when paired with the included case while enabling them to hang comfortably around the neck. They offer more axis of adjust-ability than most and a nice ratcheting headband slider that lacks position markers but retains its position well. The design of the headband may present issues if you have an especially large or tall head as I found myself using the 2nd largest setting where I usually hover around the middle setting on most competitors. The tolerances are also impressive, with only a slight wobble due to the folding mechanism, but zero rattles, hollowness or creaking indicative of a long-lasting product. The clamp force is slightly higher than average but this is mitigated well by the plush earpads while contributing to strong fit stability. My only personal gripe with the design is that, when folded flat, the earcups are prone to scratching one another.
It is easy to append using some adhesive vinyl, even tape if you don’t mind the ghetto aesthetic. However, competitors such as the Oppo PM3 have small tabs that place the earcups apart, mitigating this issue. It doesn’t help that the LCD-1’s matte finish scratches quite easily even if providing a generally pleasant in-hand feel. The LCD-1 is extraordinarily lightweight in return, especially for a planar. At just 250g it is lighter than most portable dynamic driver headphones. Due to the plastic build and soft leather, I would treat the LCD-1 a little more carefully than most headphones, however, in my experience lambskin wears much better over time than the Faux leather used on the majority of competitors that are prone to pealing.
I am also enthusiastic about the included cable. It’s a dual entry design with TRRS 3.5mm plugs on all terminations. Note, even the headphone side are TRRS which means aftermarket cables are unlikely to fit, and the sound will be in mono if using a regular dual-entry TRS cable. In return, the cable is always in correct orientation since both sides offer stereo that aligns with mono connectors in the earcup jack. The cable itself is of good quality. It’s braided and smooth, but also very supple with zero memory. Microphonic noise is minimal and the cable coils very easily for storage. The metal connectors feel premium and the straight plug has great strain relief in addition to a protruded plug that makes it case friendly.
Fit & Isolation –
I am a huge fan of the LCD-1’s fit and comfort, the lambskin feels superbly soft and supple, while the heat-activated memory foam conforms perfectly to the head over time. They are an over-ear headphone and, as others have stated, the pads are on the smaller side, measuring in at approximately 3.5 x 6 cm but with a larger cavity behind. As the pads are quite deep, they did fully engulf my ears so I didn’t personally find this to form discomfort over time. As always, YMMV here. The headband is reasonably thin but well-padded. Due to the lightweight design of the headphones, they don’t wear on the head like many other either, so I was able to wear them for hours with no issue. For professionals, this will be a prime selling point of the LCD-1, their all-day comfort and the excellent wearing properties of the lambskin leather. Of course, being an open-back design do expect sound leakage in addition to minimal noise isolation. Though compact and fold-able, this makes them less ideal for portable use.
Mostly large and heavy design, Note presentation can sound unorthodox relative to competitors
The HEDDphone offers summit-fi performance at high-end pricing, I applaud HEDD for perfectly balancing long-term listenability and huge resolving power in their modern masterpiece.
When it comes to premium products, story often precedes performance and Heinz Electrodynamic Designs (HEDD) has such a wonderful inception. Founder and CTO Klaus Heinz is more than a successful entrepreneur, he’s a physicist who designed and built the first commercial units of Oskar Heil’s Air Motion Transformer under ADAM Audio – where it has been a staple in their high-end studio monitors to the current day.
We’ve seen this technology pop up in other speakers such as the Kanto TUK and many of oBravo’s ultra-premium designs. By freeing up his focus from expanding ADAM’s line-up, Klaus was able to further his innovations at HEDD with his son Dr. Knop, where the team was inspired to build the HEDDphone. There’s been a lot of noise surrounding this model recently, not only due to its pricing, but also since it represents a world first in two regards – the first headphone sporting an AMT driver, and the first full-range AMT driver design. In fact, the full-range nature of the driver here has netted it another name, the variable velocity transformer (VVT) representing an evolutionary step in geometry over the tweeters built before. The HEDDphone is a true statement product, yet also a piece of innovation at a price point that remains attainable to a wide range of enthusiasts.
The HEDDphone is available for $1899 USD. You can read more about the HEDDphone and its technologies and treat yourself to a set on HEDD’s website here.
I would like to thank Klaus from HEDD very much for his quick communication and for providing me with the HEDDphone for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the earphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.
Klaus has extensive experience with Oskar Heil’s (1908-1994) air motion transformer designs under his previous company Adam Audio. This driver type was adopted and is desirable due to the velocity of the sound output. Traditional speaker designs, including DD, Estat and Planar drivers operate like a piston and therefore, move sound at the same velocity as the diaphragm itself. AMT drivers differ in that they employ pleated mylar folds that permit the driver to accelerate sound output up to four times higher in an accordian-like fashion. This is significant since it results in a higher efficiency driver, substantially faster transient response and higher fine detail retrieval and resolution. When considering the full-range implementation utilised within the HEDDphone itself, the AMT driver also poses benefits for bass response due to its space-efficient pleated design that means the effective surface area of the driver is up to five times higher than what may otherwise be permitted in a headphone design. You can read more about the AMT driver and its benefits here and here.
The AMT to VVT Evolution
AMT drivers are conventionally able to extend down to 650Hz and are, therefore, mostly implemented for their ability to provide accurate high frequency reproduction as tweeters. Headphone design presents different challenges than studio montitors, but also some desirable traits such as a more efficient seal aiding bass reproduction. HEDD have approached this by altering the geometry of the AMT driver folds. Rather than sporting consistent width, the VVT driver features larger and deeper ripples for the low-end and smaller for highs. In so doing, the VVT driver is able to reproduce a full-range frequency response, alow greater flexibility over the desired sound signature and still uphold the desirable characteristics of a traditional AMT driver. Though the HEDDphone is not truly the first headphone using AMT technology, it is the first to solely use an AMT driver (others such as oBravo’s HAMT range being hybrids).
Like many at this price, the HEDDphone comes in an enormous hard box that reinforces its premium status. Within is a card information page providing insight into AMT technology and usage instructions. The HEDDphone itself is snugged within a laser cut foam inlet with the cable in a separate hard box below. No other accessories are included such as a pouch or case, nor balanced cable. Still, perhaps especially at this price point, many headphones do not include these accessories as they are not intended for portable use – though I would say it would be a reasonable expectation for them to include a balanced cable. HEDD sell their OEM balanced cable at an additional $189 USD. It should also be noted that though the HEDDphone uses mini-XLR connectors, the wiring pattern is reversed so cables for other headphones will have inverted phase. This should not be audible to the vast majority though the OEM HEDD cables are most recommended for this headphone as a result.
If you are in the market looking for a decent headphone, there is no way you have never considered a European brand. The mid budget IEM market might be dominated by Chinese manufacturers but the headphone market is dominated by brands like Sennheiser, AKG, Philips, Beyerdynamic, Grado and a lot many brands from European origin.
Incepted by former employees of AKG, Austrian Audio (Obviously from Austria) wants to make a mark for them by offering a couple of closed back headphone in two fitting styles. The Hi-X50 is an on-ear headphone with exactly same drivers as the bigger sibling HI-X55 which is an over the ear headphone.
I am reviewing the X55 here. It comes in only one color and sells for 299 Euros or $329. X55 faces plenty of competition from handful of competitors like Ollo S4X, ATH-M50x, MSR-7B, AKG K712, 702, Sennheiser HD650 and many more.
The engineers at Austrian Audio have designed and produced some of the world’s most acclaimed headphones and drivers. When it came time to create our first family of professional headphones, we took all the time needed to create them and to exceed many of the goals and challenges that came before.
Introducing the new professional Hi-X (High Excursion) headphones from Austrian Audio. Whether you choose the Hi-X50 or Hi-X55, know that you are getting “Made in Austria” quality from a team that stands behind this all-new design. You won’t find off the shelf drivers and key components here – everything is crafted by Austrian Audio right here in Austria.”
WHAT’S IN THE BOX:
The X55 doesn’t have anything fancy in its retail package. There is a 3 meter/10ft long cable, an 6.5mm adapter and a velvety draw string carry pouch inside the box.
HOW IS THE CABLE:-
The X55 comes with a 300cm/10ft cable which is long enough to be used at studios and work stations. It would have been cool if it had a coiled (telephone like) cable which retracts when not stretched as the length feels a bit annoying when working at the PC. The cable is just hanging without any protection. Thankfully this cable has similar locking mechanism which most of the brands are using and X55 is compatible with the Sennheiser HD6 mix. So, you know which cable to get if the stock cable is not exactly comfortable.
Quality of the wire is nothing special. It is slightly on the thicker side and has a layer of rubber on it which introduces some bounciness but it does not result into much microphonics. The 3.5mm jack is on the bulkier side and does not fit into my mobile phone (LG G7) with protective case.
P.S. I would like Austrian audio to ship their headphones with a Coiled cable or ship it with another shorter cable for those who want to take this comfortable and clean looking headphone outdoors.
BUILD, FIT AND AESTHETICS:-
I have had a few studio monitors on past, I have 5 with me now and 3 of them fold flat which is convenient but that is not a necessary feature for a studio monitor. I like these headphones a lot but I won’t take most of these full size cans outside.
Thankfully the X55 is one of those few studio monitors I would like to take out with me. It has a simple and minimalistic design to it. It looks clean and classy, without grabbing unnecessary attention. I love the way it folds and lays on my collarbone without weighing down on the neck. In other words its fairly light weight and more than comfortable while on the move. Ergonomically the soft and thin walled memory pads help these headphones fully cover the ears without applying much pressure resulting into long term comfort. These cups have a bit of sideways movement too which lets it adjust to some angle created by uneven boney areas around the ears. The head band is very flexible and will fit any head without much problem. There is a bit of padding on it and it can be replaced without any problem.
Build of the x55 is excellent with mixed usage of metal and plastic. The hinge and bow are made with metal while the support on them is made out of plastic.
Due to a bit of clamping force and memory foam X55 delivers excellent isolation. Much better than any headphone I have ever used.
TECHNICALITIES AND MATCHING WITH SOURCES:-
The X55 is rated at just 25ohm and has an SPL level of 118db which makes these headphones get fairly louder without much problem. But are these easier to drive? Not really. The X55 triggers the “Quad DAC” every time I plug it into my LG phone and it take around 80% volume to sound good out of other devices. This is a professional headphone and is barely made for casual use. Yes, it sounds okay with most of the mobile phones but its advisable to use a decent DAP or USB DAC/amp to get the best out of the X55.
It does not change a lot with plenty power but it does start sounding stress free.
Ollo Audio, Not many are aware of this brand, they are not a huge brand with a lot of wave behind them but they are something. Originating from the beautiful country of Slovenia, surrounded by the Alps, Ollo Audio is the home to one of the best headphones for under $500. Ollo have been in the market for a few years but have not caught a lot of attention, they do not ride the hype waves. Their headphones are not aimed towards the mass market with a thumpy or fun oriented sound. All of the Ollo audio headphones are aimed at studio use and critical listening. Ollo as a brand do not make a lot of models in a variety of price ranges, they only have had 3 models and they pay a lot of attention to quality control and details. Their headphones look aesthetically classy with a retro kind of Vibe. Interestingly one can buy whatever spare parts they desire from their website and.. The headphones themselves have 5 years of limited warranty!! 5, that is one year, five times (This does not cover the pads and cables though).
Ollo has only two Headphone on sale now, one is the S4R and their flagship the S4X reference headphone, which I am reviewing here. It does not have any options for the wood but hey, the stock wood looks classy too. Priced at 399 Euros these headphones face some competition from another growing brand, Austrian Audio HI-X55 and other headphones in its price range like Hifiman Sundara, HD600 and a few more.
P.S. I reached out to OLLO Audio for the S4X review and they responded kindly.
WHATS IN THE BOX:
There isn’t a lot of stuff inside the box, a cable, a 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter, a carry pouch and a few documents rounds up the list of accessories.
HOW IS THE CABLE:-
The Ollo audio ships with a 200cm/78inch long basic looking cable, with 3.5mm TRS and dual 2.5mm TRS terminations, nothing fancy here. It has external braiding from the 3.5mm jack till the Y splitter, it protects the wire from accidental damage and wear too. But due to this braiding the cable ends up being slightly on the stiffer side. The splitter is small and barely has any weight to it. The cable above the splitter is kind of flashy with red rubbery coating over the wire which gives it a bouncy feel but doesn’t result into any microphonics thankfully.
Even when the cable has L/R markings, the ear cups don’t have anything like that. Thanks to frequency matched drivers plug any on any side and it is good to go.
BUILD, FIT AND AESTHETICS:-
I already have a very similar looking headphone in my inventory with a slightly different type of wood. Aesthetically the S4X looks more premium with a slightly darker but natural and sober looking wood. The drivers are held in place with two screws on both sides of the cups. The open style back plates give S4X a retro classic vibe. The stainless steel head bend feels a lot sturdier and stable. The spring loaded leather headband does not have any cushioning but due to the wider design feels very comfortable. The headband is held in place with simple screw which can be changed without any problem.
Ear pads have a hybrid design with velour on the face and artificial leather on the sides. With an outer diameter of 90mm and inner diameter of 55mm the Level of comfort is fairly good for a few hours but have to be adjusted after that. I would have liked a slightly bigger pad. The size is somewhere in between on and over ear sizes.
In their words:
“Timelessness of stainless steel coupled with luxury nautical leather and velour for maximum comfort. Paired with a smell of a fresh sustainably sourced wood.”
EAR FATIGUE NO MORE
“Custom designed velour earpads fit around your head snuggly while the self-adjusting strap provides for a perfect fit. Combined with a balanced sound, it will enable you to work on headphones for hours.”
Ollo S4X’s refreshingly simple yet intriguing deign has been awarded with German Design council recently.
TECHNICALITIES AND MATCHING WITH SOURCES:-
Since i have bought a few LG devices with dedicated DACs they have become my first source of music. The S4X sounds kind of edgy with mobile phones, be it the Vivo V19 or LG G7. The S4X demands a bit of power, even when the rated impedance is at just 32ohm it is not the easiest headphone in the market and doesn’t comply excellently with weaker sources. Not that the S4X doesn’t get loud, it gets fairly loud with the mobile devices but the sound is not at its prime, it kind of feels being dragged, notes are not full enough and doesn’t have the best tonality either.
Driving it out of a dedicated DAC/Amps delivers a much more desirable output. It is an open back headphone after all and is not meant for outdoor use. Driving out of the Burson Audio Playmate is a pleasant affair. It starts to behave well with excellent details and control over notes. It does not feel like being forcefully pushed any more.
Driving the S4X out of a dedicated dap like Shanling M6 yields excellent resolution and details. It starts sounding a bit more mature and perfectly reflects the true characters of the DAP without breaking a sweat.
I’ve long been enamored by the craftsmanship of Kennerton Audio Equipment. Their headphones showcase an artistry and elegance which cannot be denied. I so wished to try them, but never got around to it. Until the Magni.
When I saw Kennerton released a new, reasonably priced, portable oriented model, I thought this might be my chance. I reached out, and Kennerton was generous enough to send me a unit for review.
I requested the Zebrano wood, because it looked so goddamn gorgeous. The CEO, Valentin Kazanzhi, explained this is not the best wood for most of their models, but Magni plays really well with it. Which I guess means I lucked out. The best looks and the best sound! Actually, Valentin feels Bog Oak is the best for Magni. But… I’m glad to take second best for these rich hues.
The build is all quality all day. Metal framework, beautiful wood cups, and fine, stitched leather, every aspect tended to by patient hands. Magni isn’t particularly compact, however. Don’t get swept up in the notion of extreme mobility. They won’t fold in on themselves, for storage in a small bag. The leather carry case is rather large, taking up most of my messenger bag. Since I was traveling with the ZMF Atticus before, this is little inconvenience to me. It may be an issue for you, though. Considering the sound, I must say it’s worth it.
The only thing I don’t fancy about Magni is the cable. I gave it one look-over and never touched it again. Part of that is most of my devices are setup for balanced audio, and the cable is not. The other part is how thick and stiff it is. I loathe that! I want a cable that doesn’t fight me, drapes comfortably, and disappears from thought and mind. Luckily, I had a few alternatives lying around. Meze Audio makes a few upgrade options for the 99 Classics/Neo that work. A few years back, I even built one setup for 2.5mm TRRS, before Meze sold a balanced option for the 99C. But the cord I settled on for Mangi was a custom copper design from Double Helix Cables.