Tag Archives: Headphones

The Audeze LCD-R Headphones + Schiit Jotunheim-A Amplifier – A Killer 1-2 Combination!

When I first heard of Audeze’s first foray into a headphone utilizing ribbon drivers, my heart jumped. Traditionally a pioneer in the world of planar magnetic headphones, the possibility of hearing what this world-class producer of personal audio could do with ribbon drivers. . . I still very much put the LCD-4 / LCD-4z in my personal “Top 5 Headphones of All Time”, but the ability to experience a brand new technology within the ecosystem of the Audeze experience was something that really just appealed to me. Ribbon-based drivers usually end up with very low impedance headphones and the LCD-R are no different. Coming in at a very low 2 ohms, these headphones required a special dedicated headphone amplifier that can handle extremely low impedance. So the folks at Audeze and Schiit Audio put their heads together for this venture and came up with the Jotunheim-A amplifier. Very similar to the Jotunheim-R for the Raal Requisite SR1a ribbon driver headphones; however, the –A version has a lower gain setting than the –R version as these are not open-baffle headphones plus they have a higher efficiency in their design. I was very curious to hear Audeze’s take on a ribbon-based headphone and just how far they would differ from their previous releases. As with the LCD-4 / LCD-4z, the LCD-R utilizes the Double-FluxorTM magnet array to maximize their ability to reproducibly portray the music with the upmost in transparency. Beautifully constructed and very comfortable on my head, these headphones were a pure joy to review and re-experience some of my very favourite albums all over again. The beautiful Lichtenberg Fractal earcups really pop visually and are handcrafted by shooting precise pulses of high voltage electricity to enhance the natural patterns of the maple wood. This process makes every pair of LCD-R headphones truly unique. With only a limited run of 67 units before they are all gone, the LCD-R and Jot-A will surely be gone quickly, but I’m sure they will leave behind a very long and lasting impression for personal audio aficionados everywhere!

The full list of specifications are listed below:

StyleOver-ear, open-back
Transducer typeRibbon
Magnetic structureDouble Fluxor™ magnet array
Phase managementFazor™
Magnet typeNeodymium N50
Diaphragm typeUltra-thin Parallel Uniforce™
Transducer size106 mm
Maximum SPL>130dB
Frequency response5Hz – 50kHz
THD<0.1% @ 100 dB SPL
Sensitivity103 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
Impedance2 ohms
Custom connectionOCC monocrystal copper with female 4-pin XLR
Weight615g
Jotunheim-A amplifier voltage115V or 230V depending on model

For my entire review, I used my Chord Electronics DAVE DAC (digital to analog converter) as my source to feed the Jot-A and LCD-R setup. After a few days of enjoying these headphones and allowing the drivers to burn in, I decided to take a closer journey into this setup with Billy Joel’s classic album “52nd Street” streamed from Qobuz. This is one of my favourite albums by my favourite crooning piano player and right from the title track “Big Shot” I could tell that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. What I heard was such an incredible quickness with a level of transparency that I’ve only very rarely experienced in audio! With electro-static-like precision, the LCD-R’s drivers were incredibly revealing of this classic recording from the 1970s. Along with say the Stax SR-009 and Raal Requisite SR1a, the LCD-R are among the fastest headphones I have ever experienced! How could I come to this conclusion so quickly? Well, let’s just say you have to hear them to understand just how easy it was to come to this statement…these drivers really move air so precisely and tightly that you have to experience them for yourself to fully understand! Sound staging was equally impressive and offered a very pleasing virtual soundscape that was not only impressively wide and deep, but very realistic overall as well. For the fans of the world-class bass response that Audeze has provided in the past with their venerable LCD series of headphones, you will be exceedingly glad to learn that YES, this flat, impactful, detailed and nuanced bass has successfully translated over to the LCD-R headphones. As an added bonus, the quickness of the bass seems to have also been improved upon over previous LCD planar headphones! The ribbon drivers for these headphones seem to offer such realism and clarity that it truly set them apart from literally every headphone that I’ve owned/reviewed/experienced in the sub-$3,000 market segment. Considering you also get a dedicated amplifier as part of the offering, it was off the charts for me!

Focusing on the piano closer, the LCD-R + Jot-A combination was a revelation for me! I have heard this song so many times through the years and with this setup, I swear I could hear things that 98% of other top-of-the-line setups only glossed over at best. The piano is a very fickle instrument in audio to reproduce accurately with its very complex overtones and decay. Well, I can very safely say that these new ribbon drivers by Audeze hit the ball out of the park! Billy’s piano playing has never sounded better or more life-like than what I experienced with this setup! The midrange was meaty and upfront with an incredible amount of detail that just left me smiling from ear to ear! The treble was in perfect proportion to the lower frequencies and seemed to dance on top of the midrange with such an airy and delicate balance that very much reminded me of an electro-static presentation. Yes, it does appear that you can have your cake and eat it too! Simply put, this was one of my most enjoyable listening sessions to one of my favourite Billy Joel albums!

I then decided to switch things up a bit and play the “Beethoven: Triple Concerto & Symphony No. 7 (Live)” featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra on Apple Music (lossless audio + Dolby Atmos version). Right from “Allegro”, I felt I had to buckle in for the audio experience. I do own a 192kps version of this album, but when streamed off Apple Music in Dolby Atmos, I felt that I was transported to the 25th row of the concert hall to experience this recording live. To say I got goosebumps would be very much an accurate statement. The incredible quickness and transparency of this setup really jumped out at me with such a level of realism that I have only very rarely experienced in audio! The satisfying sound staging allowed for plenty of air and space between all of the players on stage and enveloped me with such a sense of naturalness that it was easy to transport myself to a completely different place mentally! The tonality of the violins was very much in the vein of the world-renowned LCD-4 and definitely one of my favourite portrayals of this instrument. Yo-Yo Ma’s cello equally sounded life-like thanks to the Audeze bass that delivered the goods with such a sense of impact and definition that really hit on all levels for me. Finally, the treble range again was in perfect proportion to the midrange and bass. It never came off as strident, nor fatiguing. As well, I didn’t find it as pushed-back as say the Audeze LCD-4 flagship headphones, but still seemed to work so very well with classical music. These headphones really hit all the right notes! The level of clarity and detail extraction was right there with some of the very best setups that I’ve reviewed through my many years in this hobby and I wholeheartedly recommend the LCD-R and Jot-A to any fan of orchestral music as you won’t be disappointed in any way.

Never being a company to rest on their laurels, Audeze is always looking at pushing things forward and with the LCD-R and Jotunheim-A combination, they have definitely done this and then some! With the very natural frequency response that we’ve come to know and love from Audeze, the LCD-R offers a level of quickness and clarity that is among the very best out there! For $2,500 for both the LCD-R and Jotunheim-A, the value that this setup provides is very strong as you end up with one of the very best personal audio setups around. Think: planar-like mids/bass with electrostatic-like treble and quickness…you can have your cake and eat it too! Just be sure to provide it with a source/DAC that is up to the task and these headphones will reward you in spades! The sound staging was one of the best from their already impressive line-up of headphones and with such an incredibly high level of transparency, this setup will have you smiling the entire time. Highly, highly recommended!

Price: $2,500

Manufacturer’s Website: www.audeze.com

The post The Audeze LCD-R Headphones + Schiit Jotunheim-A Amplifier – A Killer 1-2 Combination! appeared first on Headphone Guru.

Original Resource is Headphone Guru

Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds

Three years ago I reviewed the first truly great Noise Canceling headphone I had ever heard, the Cleer Flow. That is not to say that other headphones didn’t have great noise canceling, but that in itself was the problem, their focus was on the noise canceling and not on the sound. On the other hand, Cleer set out to make a good-sounding headphone that would not only sound good with the noise-canceling off, but with the noise-canceling on and via Bluetooth as well. And it offered unmatched range and unique extremely useful features such as “Ambient Voice” as well. Not being a flavor of the month manufacturer, the Cleer Flow are still in their line, and I had not heard from Cleer since. So I was thrilled when a month ago they offered to send me a review sample of their newest headphones the Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds and the Cleer Enduro ANC (review pending).

 The Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds:

Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Cancelling True Wireless Earbuds

Like the Cleer Flow, IEMs offer quite good isolation from noise without active noise canceling, but ANC (34dB in the case of the ALLY PLUS II) is certainly a welcome addition, especially in noisy environments, like airplane flights. Equally important to me is the Ambient Mode feature since I find it very uncomfortable to talk on the phone when I cannot hear my own voice. The ALLY PLUS II also offers extended battery life over the previous model with 11 hours of continuous play time (which I was able to easily verify during my burn-in cycle) with an additional 22 hours via the charging case giving you a whopping 33 hours when traveling (the quick charge gives you 1 hour playback for five minutes charging a full charge will take 2 hours). Cleer Acoustic Labs custom-tuned 10mm dynamic graphene drivers are employed to offer optimum sound quality along with Bluetooth 5.2 plus AptX and AptX Adaptive codecs. Dual microphones are also provided to enhance call quality. IPX4 certified sweatproof water resistance is incorporated into the ALLY PLUS II design.

On top of all that there is the Cleer+ App that not only allows you to tailor the sound to your preferences via a five-band equalizer, but also allows you to customize the button functions, as well as perform firmware updates. Furthermore, and most exciting is that the ALLY PLUS II will soon offer Sound Optimization via Mimi Hearing ID, which will be made available through a firmware update (I will also perform a follow-up report on its effectiveness when available). Easy to use, the Mimi Hearing ID will put you through a 2-minute hearing test and automatically adjust the sound to match your hearing.

The body of the ALLY PLUS II is round and contoured to fit the ear. It comes in two colors; midnight blue and stone (the pair I received are stone which makes them a just little darker than my flesh tone) and are relatively small. The matching charge case is also fairly small (1.5” x 2.5” x 1.25”). Two styles of eartips are included, three sizes of a cone-shaped tip and four sizes of the more conventional dome-shaped tips. Also included were a USB C charge cable and instruction manual.

Of further note, the charge case is wireless charge capable though a wireless charge platform is not included.

Living with the Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds:

Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Cancelling True Wireless Earbuds

For most of the testing, I used my Motorola Moto  G Power running Qobuz. For burn-in I used my FiiO M11 since I could run Qobuz 24/7 on that.

Joni Mitchell’s “The Reprise Albums (1968-1971)”

I began my listening tests with the medium-sized conventional tips as they were pre-fitted and seemed to work fine. As I cued up Joni Mitchell’s “The Reprise Albums (1968-1971)” (24-bit/192kHz) on Qobuz, and launched the Cleer+ App I discovered that there was a firmware update available, which I was able to download while listening only having to pause for the install and reboot, and discovered that a variable control for the Ambient Noise Control had been added, as well as player controls. Playing with the EQ I found I liked a slight boost at 64Hz and a slight dip at 8kHz. I then tried the cone-shaped eartips and noticed that the nozzles were flattened-oval shaped rather than round, similar to my custom IEMs, whatever the reason, I felt the cone-shaped tips were more comfortable.

With the ANC on, Joni’s voice was sweet and musical and the acoustic guitar was crisp, robust, and natural-sounding in an intimate but spacious soundstage. “Songs To Aging Children Come” was a true pleasure to listen to dredging up all the emotion that ethereal song represents.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Seeing Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Angel Dream” among the new releases I actually navigated Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ eponymous first album and selected “Breakdown”, my favorite tune by the musical legend, and turned the volume all the way up. The percussion had real snap and the bass weight. The power of Tom’s vocal was fully realized, as was the Rhodes piano and Tom’s razor edge guitar. The sound was clear without a hint of clipping even at full volume.

Switching to Ambient actually opened up the sound a bit making things sound a little more airy. That being said the soundstage collapsed slightly with the ANC off and bass dropped a bit. On the other hand, the ANC appeared to compensate for a bad seal (reseating the IEM improved performance with ANC off, but had no effect while ANC was on).

“Léopold Stokowski: The Stereo Collection 1954 -1975”

 Listening to Léopold Stokowski’s performance of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue, BWV 565, in D Minor” ( “Léopold Stokowski: The Stereo Collection 1954 -1975” – 16-bit/44.1kHz) the sound was most natural with ANC on in full Ambient mode. The orchestra was rich and full with excellent detail and a large soundstage.

“Palms (feat. Puddles Pity Party)” by Sxip Shirey

My next selection was “Palms (feat. Puddles Pity Party)” by Sxip Shirey (16-bit/44.1kHz) because Puddles Pity Party’s operatic baritone makes him one of my favorite contemporary singers. The vocal was up close and personal in a large room as was the acoustic guitar, the bass dug deep and had impact, while the percussion was crisp just a few feet away and the strings hovered in the background.

Dario-Baldan-Bembo

Deciding to give the ALLY PLUS II a real workout I brought up “Non Mi Lasciare” by Dario Baldan Bembo (“il meglio” – 16-bit/44.1kHz) another operatic pop singer, though in this case a tenor, with some of the deepest sub-bass in my collection. The piano was resonant and full, along with Dario’s vocal. The sub-bass was pervasive and resonant.

As to voice calls, the ANC worked very well as well as the Ambient mode, and callers felt the sound was clear.

Conclusions on the Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds:

Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Cancelling True Wireless Earbuds

The Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds are not only a great value but sound great for the money, and have excellent noise canceling characteristics. They did a great job cutting out the noise of the high winds in my area, as well as the air conditioner, and computer fan noise, yet made talking on the phone a pleasure with the Ambient mode which retained most of the noise canceling. Like most ANC headphones, there is a change sonically between ANC, Ambient, and No-ANC but it is fairly subtle. For music listening I found I liked the Ambient mode the best, followed by the ANC mode. The sound quality is good and fairly neutral with a little hump in the mid-bass and a slight uptick in the highs that can easily be compensated by using the Equalizer in the Cleer+ App. The Cleer+ App does add a dimension of flexibility that is not offered in other IEMs.

Unfortunately, the Mimi Hearing ID was not available yet at the time of writing, but I will post an update when it is released, I believe it will be a real game-changer.

I will note a minor high-pitched tone when no signal is being received (this is mostly noticeable when first starting and when switching ANC modes, but it goes away as soon as the music starts.

All in all, the Cleer ALLY PLUS II is a winner and receives a full recommendation.

Manufacturer’s Website:

cleeraudio.com

Price: $129.99

Specifications:

  • Superior sound with 10mm Graphene drivers, tuned in Cleer’s acoustic lab
  • Active Noise Cancellation suppressing environmental sound by 34dB. Noise cancellation can be adjusted in the Cleer+ app
  • Industry leading 11 hrs of battery life with the earbuds and a quick charge feature providing 1 hr playback after 5 min charge
  • Included charging case provides an additional 22 hrs of playback and is Qi enabled for wireless charging
  • Qualcomm’s cVc 8th generation technology, call quality is enhanced so you can come across clear and above any background noise
  • The Cleer+ app allows you to personalize and effortlessly control your listening experience with noise-canceling and ambient adjustments, EQ settings and user interface. App will also allow for firmware updates
  • IPX4 water resistance certified

The post Cleer ALLY PLUS II Noise Canceling True Wireless Earbuds appeared first on Headphone Guru.

Original Resource is Headphone Guru

REVIEW – Dan Clark AEON 2 Headphones

As you read into the Dan Clark website, about their new planar driver, they use the word knurly to their approach to this design. To simplify, (or you can go to their site here), other planar phones have a flat diaphragm that bows more during excursion, the DC V-Planar design looks more like a diaphragm from a ribbon tweeter with a semi-folded surface.

Where it differs from a ribbon driver, the DC driver doesn’t have the deep folds like a ribbon, it looks more like a sawtooth wave on an oscilloscope trace. If you aren’t one to use a scope, it just looks like a string of V’s. Starting my listening with Charlie Sexton’s Under the Wishing Tree, which features a lot of acoustic guitars and deep bass, it’s easy to see how well this works. These are some incredibly natural sounding phones.

Though these will be referred to as “AEON 2” throughout the review, we are talking about the AEON 2-Noire version, which has perforated ear pads, which DCA claims tunes these phones closer to the “harman curve,” gently boosting bass and treble compared to the standard AEON closed. Because headphones are such a personal thing, (pun intended) getting the perfect fit can be a big part of your listening experience. Damn, if these phones don’t fit my ears perfect. It’s like so many things, if it feels right immediately, you know you’re in for a treat.

As you unbox your AEONs, you’ll notice the quality of materials used. We’ve tried a lot of phones in this price range that are way too plastic-y. The headband and baffles are built from a titanium alloy, with aluminum and carbon fiber used throughout. Black is the only color available, but let’s face it, what doesn’t look good in black?

Looking forward, looking back

Comparing them to my ten-year old Auzeze LCD-2s, it’s a quick contrast in how far planar technology has come. Much as I love the old-school (remember headphone years are like dog years times two – this is where stuff is happening!) LCDs, the AEONs are smoother, clearer, and cleaner. Both ends of the frequency spectrum go further, it’s almost like my LCDs feel like an old pair of 80s Acoustat speakers, and the AEONs sound like a new pair of MartinLogans. All the things you like about implementation of a planar phone are in both units, but the new phones are more revealing, without ever being harsh.

It’s also worth mentioning here that the team at Dan Clark Audio had some help creating the V-Planar design from Bruce Thigpen at Eminent Technology. If you aren’t familiar, Mr. Thigpen has developed a unique line of magnetic planar loudspeakers in their own right. (Not to mention, some amazing linear track tonearms) This is all exciting enough to earn the team a patent, so this isn’t just marketing double speak.

Switching to the self-titled debut from Crosby, Stills, and Nash instantly shows off the depth that these phones are capable of. Heading straight for “Helplessly Hoping,” the AEON 2s keep these four voices, all recorded at nearly the same level, separate and distinct. You have to spend a crazy amount of money on speakers to get this. You can have it on your desk for $899. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Getting current, the killer bass line in Holli Dior’s “Gumby” is awesome. This track is infamous for making phones distort like crazy, but the AEON 2s just roll with it. Everyone has their preferences, but I love closed back phones for this reason. They always seem to have a little more grunt on the low end. You may crave something else, but the AEON 2s will impress you with your favorite bass heavy tracks. Roon sent me to DJ Sensui’s “M’s on My Mind Zawrudo’d” and that was trippy AF. Those preferring open back phones can tick the “Open” box and get the AEON 2s in an open back version.

Rather than go on with track after track, suffice to say that the AEON 2 phones have no shortcomings, and in addition to their tonal and dynamic prowess, they have great top to bottom tonal balance. A hallmark of planar speakers and phones. Just like with loudspeakers, I must confess a bias to planar drivers. The AEON 2s make for incredibly immersive listening in a way that nothing else does.

Head friendly

The AEON 2s come nicely packaged, and well built. A quick look at the carbon fiber on the back of the ear cups, the headband, and the firmness with which the cables plug in makes you feel good about the purchase. The box and case are well thought out, and well executed, but not to the point of overkill, where you might get jumpy that too much of the purchase price went to the packaging.

Only weighing 328 grams (11.569 ounces) that’s 100 grams less than a Wendy’s Baconator. Or about as much as a Baconator with three big bites out of it. Save the empty calories and pack a pair of AEON 2s on your next trip. The light weight and durable case will make these easy travel partners.

Amplifier friendly

Most listening was done with our reference Manley Absolute Headphone Amp. (Please click here if you’d like to read that review…) This seventh wonder of the tube world is fantastic, because it offers plenty of adjustment for different impedance phones, along with incredibly useful tone controls. Not to mention it looks incredible and has its own built-in headphone holder. The Absolute really enhances the desktop experience, though not everyone that purchases an $899 set of AEON 2s will spring for a $4,500 headphone amplifier. Though if you do, you will not be disappointed in the least.


So, to be fair, we enlisted the Feliks Audio Elise ($1,949 – also tubes) an old ALO Audio portable, and the output jack of my (very) vintage Nakamichi 600 II cassette deck. Even driving the AEON 2s from an older iPad isn’t hateful, though to be fair, you will lose some dynamics and low frequency grunt. However, if you value traveling light over audio obsession, you can probably live with plugging your AEONs right into your mobile device for short trips. That one’s your call.

Additionally, there are five different cable terminations available – 2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm, ¼ inch and XLR, in 1.2, 2, or 3mm lengths. There’s even a premium VIVO cable upgrade for $200-$250. So, whatever system you’re rocking, you’ll be able to connect. Thanks to the quick disconnects at the earcups, should your needs change, a cable with different termination is at your fingertips.

Excitable boy

If you aren’t a regular TONE reader, you don’t know that I’m not really a major headphone enthusiast. The Dan Clark AEON 2s are really pulling me back into the fold, and this is what’s so exciting about headphone tech. This is the kind of sound you would have paid quite a bit more to get, five years ago.

The lack of graininess and restriction the AEON 2s possess is spooky good. Thanks in part to their extreme comfort and light weight, with the cumbersome factor lifted, it’s so much easier to enjoy the music and not feel like I have a pair of cans (the tomato soup kind, not the headphone kind) on my head. I suspect that this will go a long way to entice a potential user. Even after hours of sitting in the chair listening while editing, these are lovely headphones.

One of the things I’ve always found incredibly exciting about headphones is their minimal size requirements. It’s easy to have three, five, ten (maybe more) pairs of phones for different moods, types of music, or just because you welcome change. Whether you need a single set of headphones, or just want to add one more pair to your collection, I can’t suggest these highly enough – these are an easy choice for one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2021.

danclarkaudio.com

Original article: REVIEW – Dan Clark AEON 2 Headphones

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Original Resource is TONEAudio MAGAZINE » TONEAudio MAGAZINE

Dan Clark Audio Æon 2 Noire Headphones

Dan Clark Audio Æon 2 Noire Headphones

Once upon a time in a land before globally life altering virus events, I vaguely remember my scant headphone listening time as merely a fun change of pace to my beloved loudspeaker set up. Interesting how a one-time dalliance is now a mental health necessity in my house which stuffed tight with a full time working wife, two elementary-aged daughters, and a fluffy pandemic puppy. I don’t think it is a quantum leap to see why I was champing at the bit when I got wind that the new closed back Æon 2 Noire headphones from Dan Clark Audio were ...

Original Resource is Hi-Fi+ Articles

How I inadvertently became a vinyl nerd | Engadget

Blame the pandemic. I don't consider myself an audiophile. For years, my primary pair of headphones were just the wired earbuds that came with my phone. I’m hard-pressed to tell the difference between MP3 and FLAC. Yet, I recently bought a U-Turn Audio Orbit Plus turntable, a pair of Kanto YU4 …

Original Resource is Vinyl Records

FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM

FiiO is one of the most productive manufacturers in Personal Audio creating a steady stream of new products, each an incremental improvement on a previous product (except in the cases where it is a groundbreaking entry into a new category or application). They are a reviewer’s dream because there is always a new FiiO when everyone else has gone dry (which explains why we do so many FiiO reviews), in fact, there are so many FiiO introductions that we are forced to pick and choose. There is of course one constant with FiiO products that makes them a pleasure to test and that is excellent craftsmanship and extreme value, generally clocking in at a fraction of the cost of competitors, often with superior performance. This month’s entry into the mix is the FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM.

FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM

FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM:

Despite sharing the same moniker the FiiO FH5s is not an improved version of the FH5, but instead, a completely new model with a very different design, involving two Knowles TWFK-30017 Balanced Armature Drivers, one 12mm Beryllium-plated Dome with PU (Polyurethane Polymer) gasket Dynamic Driver and one 6mm Beryllium-plated Dynamic Driver, essentially a sub-bass, bass, midrange/tweeter driver configuration offering a linear frequency response of 10Hz – 40kHz.

The FH5s employs a semi-open TRISHELL Acoustic Design 5-axis CNC machined aluminum-magnesium alloy shell, body, and front cover solidly fixed together at three points to greatly reduce excess resonance and distortion.

FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM

To complement the FH5s’ unique driver complement is a user tunable crossover network with three two-position switches for Bass, Midrange, and Treble offering eight different crossover settings in addition to the five differently tuned eartips (bass, vocal, balanced, foam, bi-flange), meaning the FH5s can be adapted to almost any listening taste or preference.

FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM

The cable provided is FiiO’s Litz Type 2 braided cable featuring a four-strand 120 core, high-purity monocrystalline silver-plated copper cable, with Expanded MMCX connectors and FiiO’s 316L stainless steel twist-lock swappable audio jacks provided in 2.5mm TRRS, 3.5mm TRS, and 4.4mm TRRRS.

FiiO twist-lock connectors

Of course, the packaging is elegant and practicable with the usual multi compartmented black box in an outer picture sleeve. Pull tabs are provided to lift out the various inserts containing the different items.

As to accessories other than the eartips the FH5s comes with an HB5 carrying case, an MMCX assist tool, a cleaning brush, and of course the manual. (Note: though I didn’t have reason to use it during this review, the MMCX assist tool is a godsend as it is often practically impossible to separate an MMCX cable after several months of use.)

FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM

Living with the FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM:

I burned in the FiiO FH5s with the FiiO M11 and the FiiO M11 Plus LTD (review pending) and I used the M11 Plus LTD via the 4.4mm balanced output for sound test as well as my iFi Pro iDSD and my MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier (driven by the Audio-gd R2R-1 DAC).

Mingus_at_Carnegie_Hall

I began my listening using the M11 Plus LTD with the “balanced” tips and the tuning switches set to neutral (all switches off). Pulling up Qobuz I selected “Mingus At Carnegie Hall” (16-bit/44.1kHz) a rerelease of the 1974 live performance featuring an extra 72 minutes of previously unreleased material. “Peggy’s Blue Skylight” opens at lightspeed with all five saxophones and trumpet competing for attention in a chaotic crescendo. The tonal balance was neutral with excellent timbre and texture on the horns in a huge soundstage, with a feeling of distance between the listener and the musicians. Charles on bass was solid but not artificially loud as one would expect from an acoustical instrument. The piano was rich with quick attack and subtle decay, while the percussion had snap and a bit of impact.

Yes - Close to the Edge

Moving onto more familiar ground to test the crossover switches and tip options I cued up “And You And I — I. Cord of Life, II. Eclipse, III. The Preacher the Teacher, IV. Apocalypse” by Yes (“Close to the Edge” – DSD). Again, in the base setting the sound was very neutral leaning slightly into the midrange creating a large soundstage, with solid but not accentuated bass exhibiting fairly deep if light sub-bass, and smooth mids and highs offering moderate musicality, and only slight sibilance to esses. Using the special tip on the cleaning tool designed for such purpose I first ticked on the bass switch. This brought the FH5s to life giving the bottom end a bit of meat without adversely affecting the soundstage. As expected the mid switch slightly enhanced the mid-bass and added presence to the midrange offering the tonality you expect from the better $200 – $300 IEMs. I’ll admit I turned down the volume a bit in anticipation of activating the treble switch. While retaining a good deal of their musicality, this approached but didn’t quite reach the sterile sound of Pro-Audio IEMs. Switching to the bi-flange tips came closest to this, though there is no escaping the solid bottom of the FH5s. As advertised the vocal tips do kick up the midrange a bit (more so than the mid switch which affects the mid-bass as well). While I am not a fan of foam tips comfort-wise they do occasionally improve the sound of some IEMs so, setting the switches back to neutral I gave them a try. These vastly extenuated the mid-bass creating a muddled sound with harsh depressed upper mids, bright high-end, and almost no sub-bass, which admittedly is the tonal balance preferred by most inexpensive IEMs. Next was time to try the bass tips, which with other models of FiiO IEMs is my preferred tip but given the response with the balanced tips was not sure would apply here. These did create a richer sound without becoming boomy and took the edge of the mild sibilance in the high frequencies. As a final test of the voicing, I flipped up the bass and mid switches expecting to get that warm poppy sound you get with the HiFiMan HE-1000 or the Dan Clark Audio ETHER2, but was treated to a much more musical presentation while retaining a natural tonality that seemed more appropriate to the music.

Who's Next

Figuring it was time to see how the FH5s scales up I flipped the iFi Pro iDSD into tube mode and set the gain to low cueing up The Who’s “Getting In Tune” (“Who’s Next” – DSD). The first thing I noticed was the bottom end was a little mellower and tighter, with lots of midrange presence. Nicky Hopkins’ piano had a real honky-tonk feel, spritely and forceful, in a huge soundstage. Entwistle’s bass was melodic and tuneful making great counterpoint to the piano and Keith’s drums were sharp and impactful. One new experience was being able to identify the different band members as they provided choral backup to Roger’s vocal.

Judy Garland - Miss Show Business

Switching to the MANLEY Absolute Headphone Amplifier and Audio-gd R2R-1 combo selecting Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow” (“Miss Show Business” – 24-bit/96kHz) for a sampling of orchestral material I was handed pure magic, despite the recording being mono there was a great feeling of space, and the dynamics were epic, and Judy’s voice was liquid and emotional.

phantom of the opera original cast recording

Since mono is not a proper source for orchestral soundstage, I quickly moved to “Think Of Me” as performed by Sarah Brightman (“The Phantom Of The Opera (Original Cast Recording) [REMST]” – 16-bit/44.1kHz) and was not disappointed. While this is an unlikely combination of components given the price of the FiiO FH5s the synergy was absolute, and the musicality was unbelievable.

Conclusion on the FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM:

A couple of points that have become so ubiquitous with FiiO IEMs that I almost failed to remark upon them, first the fit and finish is top-notch and the shells are very attractive, secondly the left/right marking of the cables and shells is easy to see. Furthermore, the comfort of the silicone tips paired with the open back design that eliminates that plugged ear feeling you have with most IEMs, makes them almost disappear, a prime candidate for long hours of listening.

With a large soundstage, excellent detail, and better than average tonal balance, like most FiiO products, the FH5s punches well above its weight class easily competing with IEMs at twice the price. And though they paired very well with the FiiO M11 Plus LTD, they clearly leveled up when run through reference-quality gear.

The FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM is not just a value proposition, but is a true music lover’s IEM, and with the multitude of user-accessible sound profiles, I can’t think of any reason that they can’t be adjusted to fit anyone’s particular listening tastes. Well done FiiO, I am happy to offer a hearty recommendation of this product.

Manufacturer’s Website: https://www.fiio.com/fh5s

Price: $259.99 USD

Specifications:

Headphone Type – Over-the-ear

Drivers – 12mm beryllium-plated diaphragm/PU gasket + 6mm Beryllium-plated + Knowles TWFK-30017 compound BA

Frequency Response – 10Hz – 40kHz

Impedance – 40Ω(@1kHz)

Sensitivity – 106dB/mW

Max Power Input – 100mW

Headphone Plug – 2.5/3.5/4.4mm  gold-plated plug

Cable Length – 120cm

Weight – Approx. 8.8g (single ear unit)

The post FiiO FH5s BA/Dynamic 4 Driver Hybrid IEM appeared first on Headphone Guru.

Original Resource is Headphone Guru

LSA Diamond Headphone Review: Revelation in Detail Musicality

Living Sound Audio is a company that Walter Liederman started with the intent to build world-class speaker designs that are offered at real-world affordable prices through Walter’s retail outlet Underwood Hifi (www.underwoodhifi.com). As an extension of this LSA began sourcing headphones made exclusively for them under their brand name manufactured by Kennerton, a world-class headphone company that specializes in designing and manufacturing dynamic planar drivers. The Diamond has an 80MM Planar Magnetic Driver that has a frequency response of 10-55000 Hz with an easy-to-drive 105 dB efficiency, making it easy to match with portable music players and low-powered amplifiers.

The Diamond is made using lightweight wood outer cups with comfortable leather pads. Unique to the Diamond is the headband which adjusts automatically on the user’s head without moving the band. The design makes this one of the most comfortable planar headphones on the planet.

Presented in an attractive case with a cable that is lightweight and sounds excellent, the Diamond uses the same connectors found in Audeze headphones, so after-market cables are readily available, though again, not really necessary as the stock cable is excellent. The Diamond’s lightweight is a welcome addition to the planar headphone marketplace and is well-engineered, The design was made for enthusiasts looking for ultimate comfort in a lightweight headphone.

Listening Sessions

 Listening to “Live at Studio A”, Lyn Stanley’s latest release, using the Diamond paired with the HeadAmp GSX Mini brought the music to life. Lyn’s vocal was pristine and the live studio recording was outside of my head and felt as if I was in attendance at the recording session. Lyn spent a lot of time producing this studio live recording.

Lyn Stanley

The soundstage and bass were recorded exemplarily and the musicians used in this recording were all top-tier artists. Lyn’s vocal was alive and her synergy with the live band was as if they were one.

“Blue Moon” spotlighted Lyn’s voice and was incredibly romantic while the musicians were synchronized with Lyn and the sound was incredible. I was able to hear subtle piano keys clearly and the sound was live and involving.

Diamond captured the musicians in their own space with ample air and spacing. Lyn sounded as if she was in my room and with my eyes closed, I could see her in front with excellent imaging. The Diamond captured this live performance majestically and took hold of me and never let go. The musicality was sensational and created a listening experience I won’t soon forget.

Patricia Barber’s  “Company” from “Modern Cool” is an excellent song to test a headphone or speaker’s dynamic range. The Diamond came to life with excellent bass detail and high-end shimmer from the cymbals that had excellent decay.

Patricia Barber

Trumpet sound was excellent with clarity and inner detail retrieval that was exceptional. Bass while not thunderous had a lifelike texture. Percussion on this track is a treat to listen to. Listening to the drum section on this recording I could hear the instrument’s skins and the high-end was pristine with exceptional shimmer and had no harshness noticeable.

The soundstage was excellent with good space between performers. Vocal transparency once again was spectacular, Barber’s vocal was sibilant free and the Diamond delivered a believable performance that left nothing out in the presentation.

Inner detail retrieval, speed, and transparency were all top tier. Impressive was Diamond’s ability to extract detail and exceptional treble and bass performance that is rare in headphones in this price range.

Holly Cole’s new extended play was recorded live in Montreal. “Little Boy Blue” was excellent and the acoustic bass with David Piltch playing was to the rear of Holly while her magical vocal was alive, it was as if I was in Montreal at the performance.

Holly Cole Trio

Holly’s vocal is always seductive and alluring. David’s acoustic bass had nothing missing, I could hear the sound of the instrument clearly and it sounded realistic. The recording was top notch and the Diamonds once again showcased this artist with exceptional musicality. Never did I feel anything missing in the delivery of this performance.

John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band’s new recording “Leftover Feelings” was a treat. Jerry Douglas, who is one of the world’s best dobro players and best known for his work with Alison Krause, had his band in full gear.

John Hiatt

“Long Black Electric Cadillac” with John Hiatt’s vocal was electrifying and the Douglas Band was exceptional. The soundstage sound expanded in this rockabilly tune and had all the musicians in their own space with excellent separation and air between the performers.

The Diamond never sounded small on this recording and was detailed while the dynamic range was exceptional, as well as, enjoyable and the massive soundstage was impressive. It felt as if the Diamond had disappeared and all I could see was the band and John Hiatt in my listening studio.

“Hallelujah” as performed by the legendary Jeff Buckley is a memorable performance I gravitate toward frequently when I want to hear Leonard Cohen’s anthem, Jeff’s masterful performance of this song is the best I have ever heard it performed.

Buckley’s untimely death from a swimming accident stunned the world, but his performance on this track will never let us forget this performer who was one of the world’s most talented musicians.

Jeff Buckley

Switching to Beethoven once again showcased the Diamond’s speed and dynamic range with Gil Shaham on violin and Eric Jacobsen and the Knights were amazing. Shaham violin playing was packed with detail and never harsh.

Gil Shaham, Eric Jacobsen / The Knights

The sound from the instrument was smooth and you could hear the music coming alive with exceptional clarity. The orchestration was sensational and once again I was impressed with the transparency and soundstage that the Diamond was able to reproduce. Classical music enthusiasts will not be disappointed.

Final Thoughts.

Listening since 1979 to high-end gear and thousands of headphones the Diamond is one of the best designs for comfort and inner detail I have experienced.

Sound reproduction was explosive and dynamic. The Diamond had nailed the midrange and the treble and bass were outstanding. The transducer’s ability to extract detail was exceptional.

The Diamond’s strengths far outweigh any deficiency. Is it perfect? I have heard better layering in soundstage but usually with much higher priced headphones. Priced at $1999 this is a sure bet for any enthusiast looking for exceptional top-tier performance.

Diamond with its exceptional comfort and will satisfy even the most demanding listeners. If you’re looking for a transducer that gives you outstanding performance with any genre of music you should audition the Diamond. Musicality and transparency are what I look for in a top-tier headphone and the Diamond nailed it, never making me feel I was missing anything. Big thumbs up and highly recommended.

As a final note I would like to add that LSA will be offering the headphone with a new special Ear Cup that by design allows for a slightly boosted bass via “different pressurization”. They tell me that half of the production will have the original Ear Cup (ECL-01) and the other half will have the ECL-02.

Price: $1999

Manufacturer’s Website: www.underwoodhifi.com

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Original Resource is Headphone Guru