Posted tagged ‘audio’

Headphones comparison – my guidelines with @Grado 325is as the reference



Recently I got quite a few questions to help choose proper headphone with certain price tag, so after some research done on the web I decided to write down my few cents about it.

Before we start, I’d like to point you out that the starting point and my comparisons are with Grado SR325is’es, which I own and know pretty well their sound signature. The cans which I am talking about here are rather low impedance (32 – 62 Ohms) and with certain price range as said at the beginning. I looked also for rather open or semi-open cans to use them at home for serious hi-fi listening since they have bigger soundstage from the closed ones. The drawback is of course that they do not isolate you from the outside noisy word as the latter ones.

Keep in mind also that before buying any headphones you MUST hear them first, ideally taking a loan from the store and connecting them to YOUR source from which they’ll be mostly used. Low impedance cans usually don’t need dedicated headphone amplifier to be driven properly, but as you’ll see later on some may have impedance drift at certain frequency range and then appropriate headphone amp may help a lot. This amp may also help if your source equipment does not have top notch headphone amplifier — it is quite common on many consumer audio equipment where headphone out is rather a joke – then it could be less resolving, congested and so called “dark sounding”.

In my comparison I’ve taken into account parameters like: frequency response (looking for rather neutral, flat response), harmonic distortions and impedance drift for certain frequency regions (ideally should be flat as possible as well). Looking for such headphones within mentioned price range and with similar as Grado 325is sound signature, but maybe with better isolation and comfort I’ve found three models: Sennheiser HD598 (around 700plz), Beyerdynamic DT880 (around 840plz) and AKG K701 (around 900plz). Take a look at them, all graphs are build using a tool from the excellent website.

Starting from the cheapest one – Sennheiser’s HD598. They are the cheapest from three of them, but looking at the graphs those might be quite good cans!

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Based on the frequency response and comparing them to my private Grado 325is they will probably sound “darker”, because they have more bass and less treble according to the graph. Midrange is quite similar to some boost comparing to 325is’s and this may give them quite balanced overall sound. It may suits you well, that’s why being me I would give them a try and listen while being on the market for good cans.

Looking for the harmonic distortions the measurement shows that they’re pretty damn good, only slightly more distorting then Grado’s – around -90db for lower frequencies and going down to -100dB for higher ones.

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Talking about the isolation they’re better then my own headphones:

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Now, let’s move to the impedance drift where it shows that you may need good headphone amp to control their bass response to the highest potential:

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There is quite big bump in the graph around the 100Hz, going up from their declared impedance of 52 Ohms, up to 250 Ohms, where you need more power to drive them with control and adequate damping.

Now let’s move to Beyerdynamic DT880.. They seems to be quite neutral and flat according to the graph below. They’re also praised for the comfort! I’d love to here them first when looking for new cans!

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Harmonic distortions are also not bad, less than HD598 and just slightly bigger then Grado’s, but with less money!

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They don’t have any impedance drifts as well and are one the best with the isolation – thanks to their semi-open construction:

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At the end let’s move to the AKG K701.. Another goodie when talking about the isolation, lack of impedance drift and quite in the middle between all the cans when considering neutrality – frequency response graph. Another pair of cans I’d love to here by myself!. They don’t have too much distortions as well.

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Summarizing, if you’re looking for new cans give them a try! Personally, when I would considered to get another pair of headphones for myself and being Grado user for years, I would have start with Beyerdynamic DT880 – to get better isolation and more comfortable ear cushions. I hope that article will help you to figure out what options are on the market and for what parameters you should look being on the market for new cans.

Update: AKG has also K702 model (around 950-1000plz) – also pretty good with detachable cable (potential for upgrades!) and the same isolation level as K701. Here, you can find also very good review of DT880 and K702 – must read!. Their frequency response balance is even better.

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Feel free to comment about it and give us your personal experience if you’re the owner of one of the mentioned here cans. One last thing, if I want to get another pair of Grado’s I would be opting for GS1000 or PS1000 series, but THAT”S COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STORY and PRICE AS WELL đŸ˜‰

New speakers at my home



Finally I was decided to change my speakers from Dali Zensor 1’s to something better, with much more low frequency response, but with better or equally superb tonal balance as Zensor 1’s. It wasn’t easy and I went through several audition sessions starting with floorstanders also from Zensor product line, Focal Chorus line, Monitor Audio, Dali Ikon 2’s and finally true High End Mentor 2’s audio monitors.

At the end I thought that Ikon 2’s should be perfectly fine, but after listening to them at the store I found them little bright with granular, metallic high tone frequencies which annoyed me little bit. Than, I tried Mentor’s with the same tune playing and they sounded more refined with smoother top end. They can cover all the string in the upper bass instrument going down to 37Hz – perfect for jazz and classical music as well.

I couldn’t afford to them back then, but because this line is about to be replaced by the recent new Dali’s Rubicon line I’ve got pretty nice discount at the store. So, to make the story short here they are standing on the SoundOrganization Z1’s stands.

Dali Mentor 2


Below without the grill:


Based on the included guide they need some break-in time to improve their overall performance, but this guide do not provide how long, so I asked about it directly to Dali. According to Dali’s product manager they need around 50-100 hours of run-in period with normal listening. In my case it will be around one month. Of course I will report back then how they sound. Their build quality is stunning with original wood veneer and top quality binding posts with ability for bi-wiring/amping if needed.
According also by Dali they should be placed at least 10-80cm off of the rear wall with no toe-in thanks to widespread tweeter characteristic.

For my old speakers I used QED Strand 79 AWG14 speaker cable which is pure copper simple wire. I am skeptical about hugely priced speaker cables, but I decided to re-wire my Mentors with something what looks better (pro-kinda) with bigger diameter – AWG 12. My choice is Mogami W3103 as you can see below.


It’s quite thick cable from their professional line, but rather flexible. It has negligible resistance and pretty low capacitance. It looks much better with my new speakers ;-). How it sounds, I will let you know after the run-in period as well.

Hot discussions about high resolution audio



There is a lot of discussion about the high resolution music on the Internet and a lot of controversial approaches and comments. As an example we can cite this article:

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And the whole discussion here with long thread:

However very interesting and informative, please keep in mind that it is not about if we can hear above 20kHz range! We cannot! It is about how good and what we can hear within this range, audible for humans and taking into account the DAC filters, antialiasing and harmonics important for the actual instrument timbre and tone.

Happy reading…and listening!

Experience from my home HiFi equipment upgrade



Just recently I’ve upgraded my audio gears from Denon brand mini system to the full width Marantz CD5004 player and PM6004 integrated amplifier. Budget was at constraints, but after reading a lot of reviews I’ve decided to buy these babies with very promo prices since those are not latest and greatest from the Marantz portfolio. However, it doesn’t mean worst in fact.

I am still using Beresford Caiman Gatorized 7520SEG digital to analogue converter (out of sale now) made by Stanley Beresford which was highly modified by Grado Fan GFMod company to sound like 3 to 4 times more expensive device – and it does really! Even the volume control potentiometer was replaced by the high grade ALPS – commonly used in expensive devices. Mine uses high grade Wolfson WM8716 cheapset with special Gator board. If you interested in this techno talk, read about it in the link presented.

As the main source, I am using Macbook Pro connected over the optical TOSLINK cable and Audirvana Plus software, the sound is warm with very deep and wide soundstage. I use it also to take the digital signal out of my CD player working in that case only as transport device time to time. Than I can get the same sound signature from both ripped CD’s and those played over the CD player without using my computer. Bliss.

What I can say about Marantz to be honest? Well, not expensive devices, but if you read reviews you will see there are highly recommended and even compared to much more expensive gear – in fact they use a lot of solutions from the higher grade equipment range.

What I can recommend for DIY is to not waste money for the very expensive speaker wires or power cables, but instead, buy yourself good quality pure copper speaker wires with at least 2.5mm2 gauge and good quality banana plugs (24k gold with two screws tube wire handling) and make them on your own diligently. I have QED Classic Strand 79 wires. Make sure that banana plugs are done with copper – using magnet for instance. I have Vitalco plugs similar to these. After the wires are tidily put into the banana plug tubes you can use heatshrink tubes to isolate them from the air and corrosion in the future. One word about the speaker wires – if you can get the information about the electrical parameters of the wire take a look at the resistance per meter, capacitance and inductance comparing different cables. Less is always better, but it may increase the price. Don’t worry about any fancy design and things like that in my humble opinion. For QED Classic Strand 79 the parameters are as follows: loop resistance (that’s there and back again) is 0.016 Ohms/m therefore its 16 Ohms/km. If comparing with another cable make sure you are not looking at the single run resistance figure which would be around 8 Ohms/km (the same for other params). Parallel capacitance is 58pF/m and loop inductance is 0.66uH/m.

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The same for the power cables. I used LAPP Kabel OLFLEX 110CY wire with 3×2.5mm conductors shielded and Shurter IEC/Bals schuko-type plugs. This makes pretty “heavy” good quality, shielded power cable without breaking the bank. For the power plug check if the screws inside are non magnetic ones (using magnet) and if you are connecting the PE wire with shielding make sure to leave so called safety loop for this wire – make it longer with the other ones in case when you pull off the cable from the plug, hot wires should be disconnected first! One comment maybe after I have finished that power cable – it is rather heavy and pushing the connector on the equipment down little bit, at least on Marantz, so some kind of cable holder to lift them up would be nice – however, so far working just fine.

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If you have small monitor speakers like me (Dali Zensor 1’s) – lifting them up on heavy stands is a must (tweeter should be on your eyes high around). You’ll get much deeper and wider soundstage and using spikes you will extend the stereo imaging even better with better bass response. Also toe in them little bit to yours listening position – I’ve found it useful, but it needs experimenting on your room of course and depends on your listening taste. For small monitors sometimes it is better also to put them close to the rear wall – again experiment. You may also try Vandersteen method using odd numbers to calculate your room intersection points for the loudspeakers as a base for the experimentation.


For stands, I have grey Sound Organisation Z522 stands with spikes on floor protection metal rings. Fortunately, my stands can be also filled with sand in the future (I didn’t know it!) to dump down the resonance and vibrations even better. If you’re going to use sand make sure if it has very small particles, dried and than free from organic elements (you may use an oven).

Talking about the interconnects I have also not so much expensive ones, but solid build and very good shielding is a must. For RCA’s I bought Profigold PROA4201 and for the optical connection OxyPure OXYA5601 cable. In case of optical cables try to get the glass one, not polymere made. Lifatec is also good cable for Mac use, but I’ve got mine with very good price that’s why decided to stick with it for a while – even using the mini plug adapter.

For the headphones go and listen for yourself or borrow ones to do it at your home at best. I have Grado’s SR80i now, if you are interested in it. Maybe I will upgrade to SR325i’s in the future (top model from the Prestige series) since I like the Grado sound signature versus the price and kinda old school radio amateur look.

Grado SR80iGrado325

At the end of the story – few words about the music quality. This is quite true today, that more and more recordings nowadays suffer from so called “loudness war” disease which is VERY, VERY bad! If you build quite good stereo system and have good, revealing and non-coloring headphones it will be a real pain to listen to these recordings – believe me! So, if you wanna enjoy the music first of all do not listen to MP3, but to lossless CD quality or High Resolution files. Look for the record labels with good sound and mastering reputations like ECM for instance – if you like jazz and modern classics. If not, watch out who mastered the content on the CD are you gonna buy and research on this forum for under the Music subsection or go straight for the high resolution music with quality better than CD to:, or

That is all about my audio story so far. As you can see, before you buy, do research and read reviews – not always more expensive means anything or is always better in my humble opinion. It is truism, isn’t it? Sure, it is not High End, but sounds pretty darn good. Anyway, enjoy the music!