Review of Cyberdrive Clarity Feather DAC

Along with three of their in-ear headphones, someone (presumably Cyberdrive but I’ve never been in contact with the company as far as I can tell) sent me their “Clarity Feather Hi-Res Notebook DAC” to review. This product is aimed at laptop or desktop users who get poor sound quality from their computers on-board sound. It’s marked “DSD256 + PCM192HHz”. Read on for more of our thoughts.

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Audio Technica ATH-A900X review – very disappointed

The A900X is a big step backward for the ATH-A family of headphones, primarily because the poor support offered by the new 3D wing design results in the headphone cups slipping down and resting on your ears. I strongly recommend against purchasing these headphones.

Read on for more.

Continue reading “Audio Technica ATH-A900X review – very disappointed”

Sennheiser HD650 vs Audeze LCD2 Headphones with Headroom Balanced Desktop vs Custom PPA Headphone Amplifiers

We have a bit of a treat in at the moment, the loan of a pair of Sennheiser HD650‘s and a very expensive Headroom Balanced Desktop Amp, to pair with our Audeze LCD2 and a custom made PPA headphone amplifier. We’ve been swapping cables all day! The balanced amp can drive two pairs of headphones or one balanced pair, which has been invaluable for head to head testing.

We’ll do a full review in a week or two, but for now my impressions are that the HD650 has a little more detail than the LCD2, especially at the high end, but the LCD2 has stronger, punchier bass. Don’t get me wrong, the HD650’s have bass, and the LCD2 has treble, we’re talking about subtle differences between two of the best headphones in the world here! It’s not always about each part of the sound is though, sometimes it’s about how it all comes together to play the music we love. Both are very comfortable headphones, but I think the Senny’s with their soft pads, lighter weight, and lower clamping force just edge out the still excellent LCD2’s leather pads and slightly greater clamping force.

I’m not sure whether or not I can hear a difference between the two amps. Sometimes I think the headroom has slightly better high end detail and a touch more bass, but I doubt I could tell the two apart in a blind test.

We may throw in the old A900s, since they’ll be back in the office tomorrow anyway, and there are some Beats by Dr Dre’s laying about that we’ll add in too.

Questions are welcome!

AudioEngine 2 speakers review (aka AudioEngine A2)

With the recent dearth of headphones for review I thought I’d post about my latest audio purchase – the AudioEngine 2/A2 desktop speakers. Yes I know this is a headphone blog, but we’re all music lovers, and speakers make it easier to share the music!

These speakers are really quite tiny, 15cm (6″) high, 14cm (6″) deep, 9cm (4″) wide. They’re small enough that I might just take them next time I go on an overseas holiday! They could easily be packed up in the included soft cases and taken to a bbq or a party (mains power required).

The left speaker has the inputs, the amplifier, the connection to the right speaker, and the power/volume switch on the back. The volume switch is right beside the 3.5mm input, it’s a pretty poor choice of location since the 3.5mm lead gets in the way, but you get used to it. It looks better to have everything on the rear as well. The bottom is a soft padded material so they don’t scratch your desk.

The sound that comes from these speakers isn’t small – for the size of the speakers it’s really quite remarkable. They’re surprisingly loud if you crank them up, louder than I will ever need. The bass is much better than you could reasonably expect for such small speakers, better than many headphones. It’s not room shaking, but it’s quite low and strong considering their size and price. There is a sweet spot for the bass, if you go way off center or into a different room it’s less impressive, but if you want room shaking bass you probably want  a different system. They do have a subwoofer that seems to have a wireless module, but their website is a little cryptic about how it all works.

The clarity of the mid range is impressive. Vocals are clear and understandable, but musical. They cope well with dance, jazz, and vocals. The highs are good, not super super sharp, but they’re there and well balanced. Well balanced describes the sound overall, along with musical, and enjoyable. I don’t think they’re enough for a home theater system, though their big brother the AudioEngine A5 may work ok for that.

Compared to my entry level Wharfdale Vardus home theatre 6.1 speaker system there’s really no comparison: the Wharfdale easily best them. Remember though the Vardus cost six times more, they have 18 or more cones compared with four, they’re about 20 times the size, and probably weight about 40 times more. The AudioEngine together are 1/2 the size of the Vardus center speaker, and the sound while not near as good is definitely a heck of a lot better than a TV could produce.

Overall I can highly recommend these little speakers as ideal for music for one or two people in small areas, at their desks in a home office, for portable use, or really anything else. They’re available on Amazon.com for US$199.

Audeze LCD-3

We reviewed the Audeze LCD-2 around six months back, and pronounced them perhaps the best headphones on the planet. I’m listening to them right now, and they really are quite awesome.

We were blown away today to discover the LCD-3 exists! I’m not sure how they could improve the LCD-2, but we’d love to find out! At US$1945 they’re definitely a niche market, but we expect a definite evolution and improvement on the LCD-2.

Redeveloping the website – ideas welcome!

The headphone reviews website starting life as an experiment, as a service for head-fi.org users to keep the headphone reviews all in one place. It was thrown together quite quickly, and has worked really well for a few years, but as it’s grown and the viewers of the website have changed it’s come time to put some time and effort into redeveloping it.

Over the next few months we’re going to be redeveloping the website from the ground up, a complete replacement of the front end and the logic that runs it. All the existing users, reviews, and ratings will be kept, but there will be minor changes like discarding the soundstage field, which I now think is pretty much a load of baloney. The redevelopment will make it much easier for us to add new content and features, fix bugs, and evolve the website over time.

I’m open to all ideas, big and small, that will make the website better. Please comment below with any ideas you’d like to see.

The look and feel of the website is a little dated now, but we don’t have the skills in-house to make a really nice, modern design. If I can find an individual or firm who would can do this for me their payment would be a link on the home page, which is seen by around 30,000 people per month. We want something modern, clean, and fresh, html compliant, seo optimised, perhaps a bit of gee-whiz ajax, that will integrate well with our user interface template framework. Any individuals or firms interested in working with us should use our contact page to get in touch.

New headphone search function

We’ve finally gotten around to adding a much requested feature – a text search function! Yeah, we know, welcome to the nineties, but at least we go there eventually!

You can search for manufacturer names or headphone models.  Please play with the text search on the site (not the blog search), if you have any problems email us or comment below.

Submitting Headphones for Editor Review

We love getting headphones to review! It’s awesome to stay up to date with new releases in the headphone world, getting to try things out for ourselves and share them with our readers. The Audeze LCD-2 have been the standout cans we’ve reviewed so far, but the Beats by Dr Dre are still in rotation here to beat air conditioning and plane noise. Ultimate Ears also sent some really nice 5 EB Pro’s to review a while back, and while we were offered JHAudio in-ear monitors they never turned up, which was disappointing. We’ve never gotten Sony, Sennheiser, or Beyerdynamic headphones for review either.

Lately we’re getting a lot of cheap, poor quality headphones sent to us for review. Our reviews are honest and objective, so we pretty much bag them, but they’re not fun for us to listen to or review. Remember, this site is aimed toward quality headphones, not value headphones, headphones are reviewed according to their performance not their price.

We’re be happy to review good value, good performance headphones, as well as the high end, but please don’t send us rubbish. In future really poor performers won’t even be listed, as we don’t want to give them the SEO benefit of a link from our site.

Website traffic

I was just having a quick look at the web stats, and wow, traffic has really grown in the past twelve months! We’re averaging between 35,000 and 45,000 unique visitors each month, with about 1 million hits, 200,000 page views, and 10GB of traffic. That’s not to shabby!

The site isn’t commercial, it’s just a hobby and a service to people interested in headphones, but if it was that kind of traffic could probably be turned into a few dollars somehow! I hate web advertising though, so don’t worry, we’ll stay add free until someone makes us an offer I can’t resist… six digits might do it 😉