Tag Archives: Review

Nordost QKORE Ground Units and QKORE Wire | REVIEW

I enter the world of grounding, as it pertains to high-end audio, with some trepidation. When the Nordost QKORE products (website) first arrived at my doorstep—the QKORE1, QKORE 3 and QKORE6 Ground Units and quite a few runs of the QKORE Wire with various terminations—I instantly thought, “This is some serious equipment for grounding. Am I up to the challenge?” I’m not completely alien to the science behind grounding. In a past life I had to install Ufer grounds on new construction sites for the computer racks and associated hardware. But other than making sure the grounding lug is tight on the back of my phono preamplifier, I don’t think about grounding a lot these days—I haven’t had to hunt down a nasty ground hum in quite some time. The Nordost QKORE seems like an ambitious, all-out assault on ground hum and other spurious noise, and I started to wonder if I needed all this to combat whatever grounding issues I might discover. Was I walking into a minefield? Is this another controversy in the making that will make me hover over the comments section with my finger poised one steady inch from the delete button? Is the Vinyl Anachronist [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Charisma Audio Signature One Moving Coil Phono Cartridge | REVIEW

Let’s talk about the Passion Of St. Bernard. No, not the dog. No, not Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the Benedictine monk–although he was no doubt passionate about his stuff. I’m talking about the founder, and head of Charisma Audio (website), Mr. Bernard Li.THIS Bernard is deeply passionate about high fidelity home playback with a special focus on cartridges and all things analog. You’d also need to have the patience of a saint to go to the lengths that Mr. Li has in producing the supremely musical sounding Charisma Audio Signature One moving coil phono cartridge. At this point, it’s no surprise to me when I hear about the back stories of these passionately driven hi-fi industry folks. It usually starts with a deep connection to music and a fortuitous way into the industry. Bernard is no exception. From his 40 plus years as an audiophile, reviewer, dealer and distributor, Mr. Li’s knowledge and experience in this industry is deep. Actually, that would be an understatement. About eight years ago, Mr. Li began working with an experienced phono cartridge artisan whose identity must remain secret. The partnership produced a line of cartridges, adding to an already impressive lineup of brands that [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Sennheiser MD 435 and MD 445 Microphones – A Real-World Review

Sennheiser's MD 435 and MD 445
Sennheiser’s MD 435 and MD 445

In November, Sennheiser introduced the new dynamic MD 435 and MD 445 handheld vocal microphones for use in live sound settings. The heads on these mics are based on the legendary Sennheiser MD 9235 wireless handheld microphone head, used on the biggest stages and artists in the world. Many of my friends that mix big hip-hop artists rely on 9235s for their ability to handle loudness and their cardioid rejection—great for avoiding feedback from the monitors.

Fela Davis
Fela Davis is a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee at Full Sail University. She also owns 23dB Productions and One of One Productions Studio, which specializes in podcasting, video, and music production. Clients include the Holding Court with Eboni K. Williams podcast, Sirius XM, Atlantic Records, iHeart Radio and numerous Grammy award-winning musicians. www.oneofoneproductions.com

Those features can be found in these two mics as well: The MD 445 is a high-rejection, super-cardioid microphone and the MD 435 is cardioid. Both microphones are great for loud sound pressure levels (163 dB) like a snare drum or guitar amps, but they can also handle a delicate human voice. They’re not as sensitive as a condenser mic, of course, but each one has a great natural sound in the higher frequencies. After checking out the frequency responses for each microphone, I noticed the MD 435 peaks at around the 5k-7k range in a way that reminded me of the Sennheiser 935, capturing very clean sound with a little help in the higher frequencies for vocals. Meanwhile, the MD 445 has a darker yet slightly fuller sound, because the frequency response has a smoother curve at those 5k-7K Hz frequencies. Both microphones needed a decent amount of gain from my mic pre to get a respectable signal, but there was little to no white noise created.

I’m a big fan of the super-cardioid polar pattern from my live-mixing days—and now in my studio, too, for getting for ultimate rear rejection—and in that respect, the MD 445 really knocks it out the park. The beautiful vocal response that it produces is second to none in dynamic handheld microphones, and I found I like this microphone on male vocals a little better for the darker lower frequencies.

In use, I found that handling noise for both the MD 445 and 435 handhelds was almost nonexistent, as you can hear for yourself on a special episode of The Art of Music Tech podcast that I recorded with my business partner, Denis. We recorded an entire podcast using the microphones, and at one point switched mics to hear them on female and male vocals. I was amazed at the silence of switching hands with the microphone and not getting those weird low-frequency thumps that are heard with all handheld microphones. That truly blew me away—and it’s exactly why I would use them for a live podcast setting: They sound excellent and reject the noise that’s happening behind the microphone.

Apple Mac Pro Rack: A Real-World Review

Out of the two, the MD 435 is my favorite for a female vocalist because of the sweetness around the 8 kHz range. I didn’t need to EQ frequencies as much as I would for the MD 445; I don’t like to tweak things if I don’t have to, so I would definitely have this in the audio toolbox for a female vocalist. As I mentioned earlier, the MD 435 sound reminds me of a richer toned Sennheiser 935, and they share similar frequency responses with the MD 435 at 40 Hz – 20 kHz, and the 935 topping out at 18k Hz. The MD 435 has a silky tone on the top end that’s not too harsh, but lets the vocals sit on top.

Overall, the MD 435 and MD 445 are amazing microphones. The bodies of the microphones are a slick, black finish and have that nice feel and shape that we’re used to seeing from the Sennheiser brand, along with a weight that is solid and but not heavy. Each microphone retails at $499, so it’s not a beginner’s microphone, but well worth it for a road warrior engineer or vocalist. I’d even suggest it to podcasters that record in a non-studio setting. Sennheiser has continued its legendary evolution in the microphone world.

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Wilson Audio ActivXO & WATCH Dog Subwoofer | Review

Does a 260-pound loudspeaker that packs an 8- and 10-inch driver need any re-enforcement in the lower octaves? Add in a delicious amplifier that can generate 500 watts at 4 ohms with ease and you are off to the races, right? The engineer in me is always looking for opportunities to continue to move closer to that moment when the music was recorded. The release of a new Wilson Audio ActivXO stereo crossover designed by John Curl tickled my interest. I was fascinated to see what would happen if I added a pair of 211-pound Wilson Audio WATCH Dog subs and Wilson ActivXO into my room. Could these elevate my system further? If so, in what ways and by how much? Wilson Audio ActivXO: Do I really need subs? Over the years I have listened to musical systems where they added a set of stereo subs to various loudspeakers. In the setups that were done correctly, it was not about more bass. Instead, it was about creating more space. By “space,” I mean that feeling when you close your eyes and the associated soundstage grows and takes you a few steps closer to that feeling of being there at that moment [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Sonner Audio Legato Unum Loudspeaker | REVIEW

The story begins with my coverage of the Sonner Audio (website) Legato Unum at hi-fi shows, and what I found accompanying the brand. Touring the hi-fi show circus circuit I often found myself face-to-face with many of the audio industry’s most interesting characters. The bulk of them are pleasant and interesting people. A select few are extraordinarily engaging and charming. Gunny Surya, the President of Sonner Audio, easily fits into all of those aforementioned descriptions. If you care to explore our past show coverage of Sonner Audio loudspeakers, those articles can be found here, here, here, and here. Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook I feel very comfortable around people like Gunny Surya. His personality is not an act. The idea of him having a facade seems totally unfathomable. There is no artifice with him. Whether it’s the genuine passion he expresses for his company, or the earnest way he treats others with the same respect often reserved for long-time friends and family. It’s these little actions and details that collectively tell the same story: Gunny is true to himself and to those around him. He cares about what’s really important in life and so he guides Sonner Audio [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

FOCAL Stellia Headphone, Arche Amplifier | REVIEW

I don’t listen to headphones like the Focal Stellia (website). Okay, let me back up—I listen to headphones all the time, just not for pleasure, but rather to check my work in the studio and occasionally to make eq decisions on a master. Words by Dave McNair and Nan Pincus When Eric Franklin Shook asked me if I wanted to review some headphones, I said “Uh, I don’t think so.” “Wait, these are special ‘phones—the Focal Stellia AND their killer headamp the Arche,” he says. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot,” I reply since I know Eric to be the best at deciphering the fake news you can trust. Dave McNair’s Take So here I am with these gorgeous, French-made beauties. The Focal Stellia headphones look like they’d be at home on location at the season’s showing of the new Chanel or YSL line. Not too blingy but a certain unmistakable French elegance in fit and finish. After I whipped up a batch of Coq au Vin and got out a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, I sat down to listen to some Serge Gainsbourg. Tonight, the headphones will deliver you the words I can’t say The first thing I did [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

FOCAL Utopia Headphone, Arche Amplifier | REVIEW

Focal Utopia. “World’s Best Headphone.” This was the proclamation made by the man who gave me my first job doing headphone reviews, my mentor and predecessor at Innerfidelity, Tyll Hertsens. As a young teenager I remember learning a lot from Tyll and Innerfidelity, and the exciting discussions of his reviews and measurements that made their way onto the forums at head-fi and other sites. Words and Photos by Grover Neville To my great surprise, the reviewing game came with far fewer entitlements or perks than I had been led to believe by cynical forum goers. By contrast, earning manufacturers trust as a young reviewer was a process – not an uphill battle, but certainly a proving ground of sorts. I always felt the need to hold up the standards that had been set by the OGs as it were. Those guys worked hard, damn hard at their jobs. “The Best Headphone in the World!” The declaration then of the Focal Utopia (website) as the world’s best headphone was a moment to pause and reflect, we had all been to the summit and back, and though these would not be the last headphones to earn the moniker, they were first that [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

HEDD Audio HEDDphone Review – Coup d’etat

Pros –

Superlative extension and resolving power, Endgame imaging, Well-balanced yet non-fatiguing tuning, Outstanding soundstage depth

Cons –

Mostly large and heavy design, Note presentation can sound unorthodox relative to competitors

Verdict –

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.

Introduction –

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.

Disclaimer –

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.


Behind the Design –


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).

Unboxing –

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.

Next Page: Design, Build & Fit

The post HEDD Audio HEDDphone Review – Coup d'etat first appeared on The Headphone List.

Original Resource is The Headphone List

Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition Headphones | REVIEW

The story of the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 Carbon Edition (website) is one of many welcomed surprises. Not often in life are we gifted with genuine surprises, and the ones most common to occur are usually anything but welcomed. The story begins as I’m wrapping up the Audeze LCD-1 headphone review, and finding a new appreciation for all things sonically flat in regards to headphones. The act of searching for a balanced sense of color and low-distortion through the careful matching of associated electronics becomes in itself an addictive pursuit. Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook Here I was, finding new levels of transparency and bliss with the LCD-1 and its remarkably even-handed measure of eq and dynamic balance, when something completely different arrives in the form of “noise-cancelling Bluetooth” headphones. And with that arrival: color, warmth, excitement, sexiness, and a seductive sense of refinement. I typically think of “noise-cancelling” headphones as something you purchase specifically for air travel, as the first implementation of noise-cancelling technology in earphones was designed to block out flight noise and nothing more. No imparted side-role of setting the stage for music playback, it was purely a tool for bringing about a more enjoyable [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Rotel A14 Integrated Amplifier | REVIEW

  Why in the world would I want to review the Rotel A14 (website), an integrated amplifier with DAC and phono stage and headphone amplifier all sorts of features for just $1500? What is this, 1985? Am I still in college looking for an optimal amplification match for my Snell Type Js? Look over there, on the racks and around the listening room. I’ve got $10K worth of Rowland over here, and $25K worth of prime Pureaudio amplification over there. I should be set, ready to go, ready to review turntables or speaker cables or something else other than amplification. But when I got the chance to review the Rotel A14, I jumped at the chance. Again, why? Because I love doing reviews on gear from companies I know well, the brands that convinced me to fall head over heels with this hobby so many years ago. If you haven’t noticed, I love telling those stories. I love talking about my hi-fi history. Some guy in an elevator in 1992 who turns out to be Jeff Joseph and 28 years later I finally get to review his speakers. Meeting Colleen Cardas for the first time at CES—I remember meeting her, [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile