Tag Archives: OPEN BACK

Audeze LCD-1 Review – Mindfulness

Pros –

Lightweight and comfortable, Folding design, Super soft lambskin leather, Superb balance and linearity, Strong fine detail retrieval in class, Cable orientation always correct

Cons –

Less bass extension than some competitors, Not the most spacious or open sounding headphone, Unorthodox cable design, Plastic build scratches easily

Verdict –

The LCD-1 provides a balance of qualities and conveniences unmatched by immediate competitors.


Introduction –

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.

Disclaimer –

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.

Specifications –

  • 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
  • Weight: 250g

The Pitch –

Fazor Waveguide

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.

Fluxor Magnets

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.

Unboxing –

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.  

Design –

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.

Next Page: Sound, Comparisons & Verdict

The post Audeze LCD-1 Review – Mindfulness first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Ollo Audio S4X review : As good as it gets

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.

Get one for yourself from here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/OLLO-Audio-S4X-Professional-Headphones-Brown/dp/B08KGLRSTP

And

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:

PREMIUM MATERIALS

“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.

The post Ollo Audio S4X review : As good as it gets first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Hifiman DEVA Review – Ode to Progress

Pros – 

Premium design, Well-balanced presentation, Natural midrange voicing, Good imaging, Great BT implementation, Strong value

Cons – 

Cheaper build and feel, Sponge earpads aren’t as comfortable as memory foam

Verdict –

The DEVA’s versatility makes it an easy recommendation, best suiting those looking for wireless convenience for their TV or PC setup without compromising musical performance.


Introduction –

Hifiman is a staple in the audiophile industry, renowned for their high-performance yet cost-effective headphones. Their planar headphones are perhaps most lauded and are wide and frequent recommendations by both users and critics. Having experienced many of their old and new models, I would say that Hifiman’s headphones, in general, carry quite balanced and appealing tonalities. This becomes most exciting when filtered down to a lower asking price and the new DEVA usurps the Sundara as the cheapest headphone in their line-up. It also brings a slightly revised design alongside wireless connectivity from an included Bluetooth module. The DEVA promises the Hifiman sound beloved by so many at a lower price with the added convenience of dual wired/wireless input.

The DEVA is available for $299 USD or $219 without the Bluemini module. You can read more about the DEVA and treat yourself to a pair on Hifiman’s website here.

Specifications –

DEVA

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz

Impedance: 18ohms

Sensitivity: 93.5dB

Weight: 360g (+15g with Bluemini)

Bluemini

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz

Output power: 230mW

THD: <0.1%/1KHz

SNR: 95dB

Battery Life: 7-10hrs (depending on volume and codec)

Weight: 25g

The Pitch –

Bluemini BT Module

The DEVA much like the Ananda revision released last year offers wireless connectivity. However, unlike that model, the headphone itself doesn’t contain any additional circuitry, rather a separate module does the heavy lifting. This is to be taken as a bonus as it permits a completely unadulterated wired experience should users want to extract maximum performance from the headphones with a larger dedicated source. The module itself is also very promising with huge codec support including LDAC, Apt-X HD, Apt-X and AAC. Apt-X low latency is the only notable omission, though source compatibility is limited on this one and regular Apt-X has low enough latency to service videos and movies.

Neo Diaphragm (NsD)

Hifiman’s headphones all employ planar magnetic drivers (PMD) that offer a cleaner transient response than traditional dynamic drivers. Their large surface area combined with more uniform force distribution permits a more physical bass response and sharper imaging. PMD’s also offer lower distortion as they are less susceptible to modal break up. Hifiman take this one step further with NsD that was first introduced with the Sundara if memory serves me correctly. It comprises of a “supernano” diaphragm that is 80% thinner than prior designs equating to an even sharper transient response and increased detail retrieval. Though I am unable to confirm whether this is the same driver as the Sundara, many similarities are to be observed. Further comparisons will follow my sound analysis.

Unboxing – 

DSC08452 (1)

The DEVA has a similar unboxing to the Sundara which is quite rewarding for the consumer. An internal tray slides out from the outer sleeve showcasing the headphones in a satin fabric inlet. There’s a cutout containing the Bluemini module, a 1/4″ adapter, 3.5mm audio cable alongside a type-C USB cable. Overall, a simple yet effective setup for the headphone’s intended uses.

Design & Build –

The DEVA resembles its closest sibling, the Sundara, most while introducing a distinctly different aesthetic with its revised headband design and colour scheme. The colour choice is clean and very appealing to my eyes, a tasteful tanned leather combined with metal-esque satin silver frame. That said, though appearing premium, the construction has obviously been subject to some cost-cutting, being entirely plastic in nature. It’s also a bulkier headphone overall, the Sundara feeling noticeably more premium with its sleeker metal build in the hand. Nonetheless, this does not feel like an explicitly poorly built headphone, with convincing solidity and even joins and finish across all components forming a coherent and well-realised product.

DSC08462

The headband design is also markedly different, a thick and heavily padded unit as opposed to the suspension band on Hifiman’s other models. This is in order to accommodate a single-entry input for the Bluemini module, necessitating wiring running from left to right. In wearing, it provides a relatively low-profile fit, conforming well to my head shape, though those with wider temples may have issue as a result. Still, the consensus appears to suggest this is a comfortable headphone for many. Though heavily padded, I still found the suspension headband on the Sundara to spread the weight of the headphones more evenly which will be something to consider if you plan on using the headphones all day long.

DSC08456

Both the included Type-C and audio cables are pleasant braided units and a nice step up from previous Hifiman accessories. That said, they are still very stiff with a lot of memory, meaning they retain kinks and bends in addition to carrying more microphonic noise than usual. Still, the cable otherwise demonstrates good construction, the fabric jacket is nice as are the metal terminations albeit lacking strain relief of any kind. A nice QOL feature are the split colour jacks, silver for the source and black for the headphone side which makes orientation a bit easier. Altogether, it’s evident that this is a cheaper headphone than the Sundara and Ananda, but it is not a cheap headphone in isolation; and it’s good to see that Hifiman are starting to set higher standards with their build quality.

Fit & Comfort –

DSC08461

Despite employing a plastic construction, the DEVA remains quite hefty at 360g or 385g with the Bluemini module – making it around 15g heavier than the Sundara. I found that they would still produce a mild hotspot at the top of my head after a few hours while the Sundara would remain comfortable all day long. Meanwhile, we observe a similar earpad construction; cloth on the inner surface and pleather on the internal and external faces. The lush memory foam padding of the Sundara has been replaced with simple sponge here, however, as the hangers now articulate, I still found the DEVA to conform well to my head shape. Still, the DEVA simply doesn’t feel as planted on the head as the Sundara so fit stability is reduced. Though remains sufficient for stationary listening if easily tipped when out and about. In isolation, the DEVA is a comfortable headphone, but it is a noticeably less premium experience compared side by side with the Sundara.

Bluemini Module –

I’m actually quite enthusiastic about the Bluemini, it isn’t compact but is far from as large as it could’ve been. The case is a simple matte plastic but with convincing texture and finish. It feels light but purposefully so, likely to minimise asymmetry of the headphone’s weight when installed. You do notice the additional 15g but it wasn’t even something that caused discomfort nor required me to stop using them. It interfaces via a 4-prong TRRS 3.5mm plug and there’s an indent on the face of the headphone that provides a guiding groove to ensure the connection is stable and reliable. The ability to remove the adapter is a generational step up from the Ananda BT as it permits unimpeded wired use too. The Bluemini is a streamlined wireless experience but also a non-frills one so don’t expect great app support, eQ, etc.

Connectivity

The bottom contains the main controls, one power/MFB and one for pairing in addition to a Type-C connector that both enables charging of the device in addition to firmware updates and USB-DAC functionality. It also houses an LED that denotes connection and battery status. My main qualm is with this indicator LED, it’s very bright and flashes constantly when connected, I’m hoping a firmware update can address this in future. The adapter has very wide BT codec support (LDAC, Apt-X HD, Apt-X, AAC and SBC), essentially as good as you could ask for in 2020. Pairing is intuitive and it reconnects to previously paired devices in just a few seconds. Wireless range is also good but not the best I’ve experienced.

DSC08472

I was able to traverse within the same room while maintaining a rock-solid connection, but leaving the room quickly saw the sound become intermittent. They do reconnect quickly, but again, work best with line of sight to the transmitter as with all wireless devices. Those with a home-theatre setup or larger living room may want to position the transmitter in front of the screen while those at any size PC setup will likely have no issues. Latency was also perfectly usable, with just very slight lip sync when watching videos, one of the lesser affected BT implementations I’ve come across likely due to the wide codex support. I don’t personally see a lot of users buying these for commute but know there is a market for that. Of course, there is no passive isolation, but the connection was strong enough not to drop on the train or in the CBD where there’s substantially more interference than home environments.

Battery Life

When connected over BT, Hifiman quote 7-10hrs of runtime depending on volume, and I was receiving a good 8.5hrs consistently on 25% volume and found maximum volume surprisingly generous. In USB-DAC mode, the runtime curiously drops to a quoted 4-5hrs due to the higher maximum volume. Considering the sensitivity of these headphones, necessitating a dedicated amplifier when wired, these are both very good results and very usable for the headphone’s intended purposes – think, a few hours of wireless use with a TV setup or PC. I’ll be detailing my sound impressions of the module below.

Next Page: Sound, Comparisons & Verdict

Original Resource is The Headphone List