Thursday, December 22, 2016

Beyond Love (True Story Of A Dipsite)

Originally published at:

http://therodinhoods.com/post/beyond-love-true-story-dipsite/

Dear Friend,

You definitely don't want to be bored with a sermon. Being a copywriter, I ought to know to not do that to you. So. I'll keep this short for you. 

You probably want to know who the hell am I? I'm Aakshey Talwar. And I was diagnosed with Asperger's when I was in class 9. You saw SRK in My Name is Khan? For now, this introduction should suffice. 

But. I have set out on a journey that none of my *normal* school and college mates dared to take. You're probably wondering what the heck is this guy talking about. 

I'll get that to that in a bit. 

I'll be telling you 2 short stories today. Just 2 of them. No big deal. 

These short stories form the basis of who I'm today. And I'm sure they will help you in some way or the other, in your own journey. 

First, let us talk about love. 

Back in DPS RKP, in class 11, I fell in love. And I was madly in love. Her name was Annie. And I found her beautiful. 

I found life harsh because she used to hate me. You probably know how terrible and painful that feels. Time didn't stop though. 

School ended. And of course, there wasn't much hope after that. 

But. I hope you don't love anybody that way. Because it is poison. But. Now we're moving off topic. 

The question is why did Annie hate me?

And the answer is simple. I was different. Weird in fact. Teenagers, and popular girls in particular don't like that. One bit. You'd agree with that perhaps. 

My classmates used to call me an Alien due to my stratospheric IQ but weird behaviour. 

And most of all, I just didn't have the courage to approach Annie directly. I never got the courage to talk to her confidently. Even though she was in the same school bus!

And as you probably know, girls hate lack of confidence. And I was as under confident as one could be. 

Long story short, Annie was never in my life as my GF. 

And it was the biggest setback ever. You'd probably not want anything remotely similar to happen to you. Pray it doesn't happen to you. And I'll pray for you too. 

And the biggest hurdle that was there was overcoming that Asperger related behaviour. You understand that. Right?

Anyway, enough about the first story. 

You probably want to hear the next one. 

The final one. 

My love for Annie made me start my own company. Weaving Thoughts. When I was not even 18 years old. 

Yes, I did enrol in a full time college course. From Delhi University, no less. I attended Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies and majored in Finance. And I did graduate as well. Albeit. I just about passed. But that isn't what we are talking about right now. Right?

Coming back to the point. 

Back in 2008, age 18 years, I still loved Annie. A lot. And that will never change. It hasn't changed in 2016 either. And starting Weaving Thoughts was the best way I could think of to impress her. And to earn enough to buy gifts for her. Of course the gifting part never materialised. 

You'd have done the same thing. Right? Thought so!

And later on Weaving Thoughts was to become my dream. My passion. My love. My life. I didn't need to take up a job when my friends were taking up jobs or going for higher education. 

There were times of success and those of failure. And even now I'm still recuperating from a low. But at least I'm happier than ever and I can see a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. 

To top it all. I have been on anti-depressants ever since school ended. I have been suicidal for a significant part of this journey. And not everything is hunk dory even now. As you'd probably have guessed. 

But. 

There is a point I'm trying to make. 

Had Annie not been in my life as an inspiration, I would have never started Weaving Thoughts. 

Had I not started Weaving Thoughts, I would just be an unhappy and disgruntled employee in a corporate job with no existence of his own. I would never have been happy. And I wouldn't know what to do about it either. 

Had Annie accepted me, I don't know whether I'd have taken out enough time to pursue Weaving Thoughts through college. 

And this is just the tip of the ice berg. 

There is a lot of stuff that never made sense till even a year ago. And there is much that doesn't make sense even now. 

But. 

Once you believe that you reside in the Creator of the Universe. And that he resides in you. And. That you and the Lord are all but one. You'll be better equipped to deal with the problems that come. 

It may not always work out. But. Do you know anything that will?

And just to show a glimpse of how much I loved Annie:


Back in grade 12, when all of us were 17 year olds, Annie had kept a Karwa Chauth fast for her then boyfriend, who of course didn’t do the same for her! Frustrated at the thought of enjoying my meal while she was hungry and thirsty, I decided to keep one for her myself. That day, I didn’t drink a drop of water nor ate a bite of food till I broke my fast with her pic when the moon came out. Of course, she doesn’t know this even today.  (I did drink a few drops of water early morning with my medicines, but that’s it!)


P.S. The name of my love has been changed to Annie to maintain her privacy. Which becomes even more important now that she's happily married. Not to me of course! 😩 I'm single and ready to mingle. 
🙈

P.P.S. Some 340 or so poems that I wrote for Annie, that I have self published on Amazon.com. Across two volumes. 

BOOK 1


BOOK 2


P.P.S. You can download the poems for free from my server:

BOOK 1


BOOK 2


About the author:

Aakshey Talwar is the founder and CEO of Gaia Internet aka GaiaQ.com and Weaving Thoughts. Both companies are really two sides of the same coin. 

Gaia Internet is an on-demand content writing service that is trying to make a mark for itself. 

GaiaQ has worked as a content vendor with Nearbuy, MobiKwik, Portea, VC Circle,  Economic Times, Times Internet, Hyatt, CoverFox and many more big brands. 

Aakshey was a Dipsite and graduated from CBS (DU). He is a big foodie, avid music lover and crazy gadget freak!

To learn more about Aakshey Talwar or to contact him, visit Aakshey.com

To learn more about GaiaQ, visit GaiaQ.com

To learn more about Weaving Thoughts, visit WeavingThoughts.com

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sennheiser's HD 800 - You nailed it Sennheiser!

I'd like to clear a few things before you read the review. 

1. Sennheiser India was kind enough to lend me their HD 800 for a home demo, for an undetermined length of time. Knowing fully well that I won't be buying them. As I can't afford them at this point in time. So I'd like to thank you Sennheiser India for this kind gesture. 

2. The demo unit is a piece from 2009. One of the first 250 HD 800 headphones that Sennheiser built. So it is the old version. And doesn't need more burn in either. 

3. You'll be disappointed to know that most of the review was done with the Sonarworks Headphone Plugin. SW is a VST plugin that corrects the headphone's frequency curve to bring it as close to neutral as possible. I also enabled the Linear Phase option in SW alongside. 

4. The reason for doing this was because in its stock form, the HD 800 was way too bright. And coming from the HD 650 I was unable to adjust. Nevertheless, the HD 800's sound fantastic even with SW enabled. 

The Test Setup

Headphones - HD 800 (old), HD 650 (2013 - silver), HD 700 - All burned in heavily due to their age.

Amplifier - Project Ember Hybrid Tube Amp by Garage1217.com (with supercharger) -> Sylvania 6SN7WGT

DAC - Asus Essence One Muses Edition

Software - JRiver with Sonarworks for HD 800, HD 650 and HD 700 (HD 800 setting)

Music - Recent Bollywood

Now. 

You should get ready to read the review. :)

REVIEW

Long story short, you'll be delighted to know the HD 800 blows away both the HD 650 and HD 700. 

The HD 800 is clearer, cleaner, faster, more detailed, has much less distortion and just better all around. 

In comparison, the HD 650 sounds muffled and distorted. It almost seems like a toy compared to the HD 800. Now. You may not like to hear this. But this is indeed the truth. 

The only advantage the HD 650 has over the HD 800 is that it is a touch more musical and lusher. But the HD 800 is plain and simple better. And so much better than you'll never touch the HD 650 if you buy the HD 800 once. 

After hearing the HD 800 for a few days, I'm finding it really hard to go back to the HD 650. 

You name it. Breaking through congested passages. A larger soundstage. Better sound isolation. The HD 800 nails it nearly every time. 

Even with SW, the HD 800 is a bit brighter than the HD 650. But no big deal. Without Sonarworks, yes, you'll find it hard to listen to the HD 800 if you're not used to a bright sound. 

But that too has perhaps been fixed in the 2013 revision of the HD 800, perhaps. 

Anyway, both headphones were used with Sonarworks. 

And there isn't much of a contest. 

You should take the HD 800 over the HD 650 for anything and everything. For all types of music. 

Comfort

HD 700 >= HD 800 >> HD 650

Both the HD 700 and HD 800 are very comfortable. The HD 650 isn't in the same league. Although it is pretty comfortable on its own. 

Mids

HD 800 is cleaner and clearer. HD 650 is lusher. But HD 800 is in a different league altogether due to its lower distortion. 

Treble

HD 650 has recessed treble. 
HD 800 has forward treble. 
With Sonarworks, I prefer the HD 650's treble over the HD 800's treble. But only because the HD 800 is still brighter. It is still better in every other way. 

Bass

Again, HD 800 has less bass. But better bass. You know that!

Soundstage

The HD 800 feels like it has a 50-100% bigger SS as compared to the HD 650. 

Everything else

The HD 800 is clearly a big step up. 

To wrap it up

I'd even say if they could take care of the bright treble of the old HD 800, it would be perfect. 

The HD 800 deserves to be priced 3-5x the HD 650. IMO. Your mileage may vary. 

And the above impression hasn't been formed over 10 minutes. Initially, I was a bit disappointed. But having heard the HD 800 for a while, going back to the 650 was shocking. 

There is a big difference!

I recommend the HD 800 wholeheartedly. To everyone. 


P.S. HD 700 vs HD 650 review - http://akshaytalwar.blogspot.in/2016/03/sennheiser-hd-700-sennheisers-queen-in.html

Reviewed at:

http://akshaytalwar.blogspot.in/2016/04/sennheisers-hd-800-you-nailed-it.html

http://hddaudio.net/bb/viewtopic.php?id=10726

http://diyah.boards.net/thread/1276/sennheiser-hd-800-650-700?page=1&scrollTo=20697

http://www.hifivision.com/headphones/63098-sennheiser-hd-650-vs-hd-800-review.html

http://www.erodov.com/forums/sennheisers-hd-800-you-nailed-sennheiser/83101.html

https://www.techenclave.com/community/threads/hd-800-vs-hd-650-vs-hd-700-sennheiser-reviews.179507/

http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/sennheiser-hd-800-v-s-hd-650-v-s-hd-700-review.2028/

http://forum.digit.in/audio/197202-sennheisers-hd-800-you-nailed-sennheiser.html#post2286847

http://www.head-fi.org/t/398829/the-sennheiser-hd-800-the-first-listen-the-first-review/5865#post_12562712

http://www.head-fi.org/products/sennheiser-hd-800-headphones/reviews/15944

https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/4i959m/sennheisers_hd_800_you_nailed_it_sennheiser/

Also, updated the review on Amazon.com and Amazon.in, both 5 stars :)



Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sennheiser HD 700 - Sennheiser's Queen In 2016

Sennheiser was kind enough to lend me their HD 700 for a home demo. And as you know, I already own the HD 650 (silver drivers) to compare them to. And thankfully, Sennheiser has also agreed to lend me their HD 800 in a few days, for a more thorough side by side comparison. But that is best left to another review.

I'm not sure whether these HD 700 headphones have been burned in or not. But. Neither do I care. Because I'm not a big believer in burn in making a radical difference to the sound. At least in the majority of cases. Anyway, just mentioned this to explicitly state that I've no idea.

How much time have I spent with Sennheiser's HD 700 so far?

Not much. Less than 24 hrs in fact. But. I've already listened to a few songs I'm reasonably familiar with.

So. This isn't a review done after extensive testing. But. I've tried to be as accurate as possible.

How much time have I spent with the HD 650 and the rest of my setup?

At least over 2 years or so. Maybe longer. So that shouldn't hinder this review.

The Setup

Headphones: HD 700 (2012), HD 650 (silver drivers)

Headphone Amplifier: Project Ember v1.0 (just tried a single tube, Marconi 6dj8 is what I recall from memory)

DAC: Asus Essence One Muses Edition

Transport: Asus Essence STX SPDIF to the PC

The HD 650 was tested with and without Sonarworks. Sonarworks is a VST plugin that neutralises the tonality of supported headphones. Sonarworks doesn't support the HD 700 yet.

Music

Bollywood (Arijit Singh etc)

Mozart (very little)

I'd like to sum up the basic advantages of each headphone over the other, before I proceed to a more detailed review. So those in a hurry can still quickly get to know the overall gist in brief.

Advantages of the HD 700 over the HD 650

Way more comfortable. In fact, the HD 700 is so comfortable that that alone justifies twice the price over the HD 650 if you consider them equals otherwise.

More or less better all around when it comes to technical prowess.

Clearer, cleaner, more articulate, crisper transients and better speed.

The overall sound is very tight and coherent.

The bass is a lot tighter.

Much better resolution; more detailed.

Reasonably improved soundstage and imaging.

More open and slightly more speaker like.

More detailed and believable vocals.

Basically, the difference in going from a mid range to a high-end can. 

Disadvantages of the HD 700 over the HD 650

Additional treble that makes it unnaturally bright (not ear piercing though).

Fatiguing and not as polite for extended listening sessions.

There is something that makes them sound less natural and less musical.

The tonality isn't as neutral; the vocals are a bit upfront as compared to the rest.

Advantages of the HD 650 over the HD 700 (Many of these advantages may be audible only if you have Sonarworks, as that takes the experience to another level.)

More musical, lush, smoother and sweet overall.

The bass isn't as tight but perhaps more natural and with greater punch.

The treble isn't as sharp; it is smoother.

More suitable for extended listening.

It has most of the pros of the HD 700 but not quite to the same level. In terms of technical prowess, it is what it is. An outdated flagship. 

Now.

You're probably waiting for a more in-depth comparison between the two. And that is exactly what I'm coming to now.

HD 700 v/s HD 650 (with Sonarworks) - One on one

Sound signature

HD 700

The HD 700 isn't as connect in tonality. But it is a very enjoyable sound signature nevertheless. The bass is super tight. The treble is lively and slightly Brit. The vocals are upfront. The sound is very tight overall. Everything is very tight.

HD 650

More neutral and balanced. Sounds smoother and sweeter, more musical. Nothing stands out even though the vocals are delicious.

Soundstage & Imaging

HD 700 > HD 650

The difference isn't huge. But is still significant. And easily audible. Can be a deal breaker for many once they get used to the HD 700.

I'm not too certain about the imaging. But. I think the HD 700 has an edge there as well.

Vocals

HD 700

More articulate and realistic. They have better resolution and are more detailed. Also more upfront. Crisper.

HD 650

More musical, rounded and smoother. But not quite of the same stature.

Bass

HD 700

A lot tighter. Perhaps artificially tight. Not sure though.

HD 650 

Far more hollow and rounded. But a tad more natural. Smoother. And with more punch.

Treble

HD 650 > HD 700

HD 650's treble is just right with Sonarworks. HD 700 is a bit peaky and that takes time to adjust to. Note, the HD 700 isn't very bright. But the 650 is just more natural and balanced.

Transients, speed, articulation

HD 700 > HD 650

Not even a contest. There are really far apart here. The HD 650 is very good in its own right. But not of the same pedigree.

Timbre and tonality

HD 650 is a bit better than the HD 700 here.

Comfort

Don't get me wrong. The HD 650 is pretty comfortable on its own. However, although its sound is suitable for extended listening, it's comfort isn't exemplary. It is just good.

The HD 700 is probably the most comfortable headphone ever. More comfortable than the HD 800 I think. (I have tried the HD 800 twice.)

It is like going from average to superlative in terms of comfort. That alone justifies 2x the price for the HD 700.

Finally. Is the HD 700 a true upgrade to the HD 650?

Technically, yes. Definitely.

However, since the sound signature isn't exactly the same, subjective preferences may differ. Some may take one over the other.

But as far as technical prowess is concerned, the 700 definitely has an edge. And a definite one at that. And combined with the much better comfort, its price is justified. Without doubt.

Yes. I recommend the HD 700 over the HD 650 even at twice the price. But only if you feel the need for something that the HD 650 is unable to deliver. And ideally, you should try to audition before you buy it.

Update to Sennheiser HD 700's review

I have had a chance to listen to the HD 700 with two more setups:

Asus Essence One Muses DAC/Amp

iPad Mini 2 -> FiiO E12

I also compared it to the HD 650 with both setups.

The Fiio E12 setup sounds pretty good. With both cans. But not quite at the level of my previous setup or even the Asus E1 Muses.

I didn't do an AB test or DBT, so I can't be sure. And being an objectivist, I'm not sure why or whether there should be this kind of difference. But for some reason, the Asus setup sounds cleaner, clearer and less muffled.

The FiiO E12 is very good in its own right. And even with low gain I'm at about 12 o clock to get reasonably loud volume with either headphone.

HD 700 vs HD 650

After some more listening, I have come to realise that the HD 700 is a clear and very significant step up. And not only in terms of comfort. 

The HD 700 is a lot cleaner, clearer, tighter, more articulate, faster and just gets the vocals a lot more right. 

The HD 650 is still better for extended listening as the HD 700 does fatigue you after a while. But I've become used to HD 700's treble in under 72 hrs (and less than 2 hrs of use). It is not really fatiguing. But definitely a bit for extended listening. Unlike the HD 650. 

Everything else goes in favour of the HD 700. You can hear a lot more detail. And the transients are a lot crisper as well.

The HD 650 does sound musical and lush. But vocals are relatively frighteningly real with the HD 700.

Honestly, I can't see much reason to choose the HD 650 over the HD 700 except for the smoother treble and better suitability for extended listening.

The HD 700 is difficult to use for over 20-40 minutes tops at a time. Unlike the HD 650. But that could be very personal. I couldn't listen to Soundmagic E80s for over 5 minutes tops. So maybe I'm just used to the less treble energetic HD 650.

Also, do note that most of these comparisons have been done while using the HD 650 with Sonarworks. So the HD 650 was dot neutral. In its stock form it is a bit too laid back for my tastes. And just can't compete with the HD 700.

Stuff like breath and air movements are something that really make the HD 700 shine. The HD 650 is okay here. But not in the same playing field.

The Fiio E12 does a good job with both the HD 700 and HD 650. But. I don't know why. I preferred the Asus Essence One Muses Edition with both the headphones.

Solid State vs Tube

For some reason, I always felt the HD 650 felt dead and cold with the Asus Essence One Muses edition. It felt lifeless. Like something was lacking.

However, the HD 700 also fares really well with this solid state amp. In fact, I preferred it with the Asus over my hybrid tube amp Project Ember, I think. I'm not sure though.

But. With the HD 650 I always chose Project Ember instead.

Now I'm really not sure why this is happening. I may have gone mad and maybe this is all placebo. But these are my findings so far...

P.S. Honestly, after listening to the HD 700 for a while, the HD 650 sounds like a distorted and muffled mess. The difference is at least as big if not bigger than moving from a HD 598 to a HD 650. The jump is probably a lot bigger in fact.

The HD 700 does better most of the stuff the HD 650 does well, and much better at that. But it is definitely a different presentation. And it is best to audition before you buy either!

BOTTOMLINE

Go for the HD 700 if you want:

More clarity, a clearer and cleaner sound, a tighter sound, tighter bass, more treble, better transients and speed, better soundstage and a more airy sound, better comfort.

The HD 700 is better in all of the above by the HD 650 but not hugely so. The difference may be big if you don't use Sonarworks. But with Sonarworks the difference is audible but not big.

And if you use Sonarworks with HD 700, it actually sounds a bit more natural but worse overall. And even closer to the HD 650 in terms of the above. So I prefer the HD 700 without Sonarworks. Obviously I am using HD 800's Sonarworks profile with HD 700 as that is the closest available.

Go for the HD 650 if you want:

Most of the above (HD 700's strengths but just 90% of the HD 700) along with a more musical sound that is lusher, sweeter, smoother, better for extended listening while also retaining 90% of the HD 700's strengths but not quite 100% of the HD 700. Also, the HD 650 scales better I think. And is more amp dependent. Of course, this experience is with Sonarworks for the HD 650. So it may differ for you.

Also, the HD 650 sounds more natural and real with Sonarworks. Even though HD 700 does produce more realistic vocals and extremely tight bass.

I prefer the HD 650 personally. But it does come down to personal preference. There is no doubt that technically the HD 700 is a more capable headphone and Sennheiser nailed the comfort and design part. But the HD 650 just sounds more natural and right.

But again, many people prefer the HD 700 over the HD 650 and over even HD 800.

Also posted on:

http://www.head-fi.org/products/sennheiser-hd-700-headphone/reviews/15460

https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/49tydr/hd_700_vs_hd_650_comparison_review/

http://hddaudio.net/bb/viewtopic.php?id=10593

http://www.hifivision.com/headphones/62490-hd-700-v-s-hd-650-a.html

http://diyah.boards.net/thread/1215/hd-700-650-comparison

http://www.erodov.com/forums/showthread.php?p=996812#post996812

https://www.techenclave.com/community/threads/hd-650-v-s-hd-700-comparison.178711/

http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/hd-650-vs-hd-700-review.1578/

http://www.head-fi.org/t/612502/sennheiser-hd-700-impressions-thread/5985#post_12410575

http://forum.digit.in/audio/196578-sennheiser-hd-700-review.html

http://www.amazon.in/review/R3IWH7177FDIYB/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0070U8KSM&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=976419031&store=electronics

http://www.amazon.com/Sennheiser-HD-700-Headphone-Black/product-reviews/B0070U8KSM/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=recent#R1JTF7CQKBF23E

http://www.amazon.de/product-reviews/B008B8UBCA/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=recent#R1N99TVT4N3T74

https://www.amazon.ca/review/R2C77TUCCIGJ14/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0070U8KSM&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=667823011&store=electronics

Also posted a review on Amazon.co.uk, Flipkart.com and Infibeam.com.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Philips SHE-3590BK IEM Review

Cost approx INR 400 or so or about USD 6 or so

Biggest Advantage:

More comfortable than any IEM/EarPod I have ever worn. I have had several expensive and cheap IEMs in the past, these are hands down the most comfortable I've ever worn. It isn't even close. The difference in comfort is huge. 

My ears don't ache when I wear these. Unlike other IEMs. The moment I use any other IEM my ears have always ached. These aren't perfect, but much better in this regard. 

And I'm talking of stock tips. Comply tips are the most uncomfortable for me and I fail to understand how people find them wearable. And I've bought both comply and monster tips in the past. But these IEMs are hands down the most comfortable I have worn till date. 

Headphones are still more comfortable. But these are pretty decent. Unlike typical IEMs that are a big pain. 

Coming to the Sound:

I have owned much more expensive IEMs in the past like Monster Turbine, Soundmagic E80S, Soundmagic PL50, Sennheiser CX500 and others. 

I won't say these are as good. But they aren't that far either. I actually sold my Monster Turbine after I got these. Yes, the monster turbine were a bit better. But not worth the discomfort that came along. 

And no, these aren't neutral. They have a V shared sound signature. Similar to the Soundmagic E80S. But they have less treble energy than the Soundmagic. These are less harsh and less fatiguing. Even if the Soundmagic E80S (retail USD 99) were for USD 5, I'd still take these Philips over them because:

1. They are not as harsh. 
2. These aren't as fatiguing and bright. 
3. They are way more comfortable. 

Of course in terms of clarity and transients the Soundmagic has an edge. But wearing the SM for a few minutes is enough to give me a headache. And yes I did burn them for a few hours. And the Philips sound okay right out of the box. 

They can't rival high end speakers or headphones for sure. Nor are they the ultimate in neutrality. 

But they definitely compete with IEMs a few times their price. And when it comes to comfort they are legendary. I don't even see the reason to experiment with more Hifi IEMs any longer because all of them are uncomfortable. That and because I'm mostly a speaker and headphone guy. :)

The sound of these Philips IEMs is good. Of course you can do better for several times the price. But these aren't bad. I'd buy them over anything else even if they were 4x or 5x their current price. 

I don't see much wrong with them. Yes, they are far from neutral. But considering the V SS they still aren't fatiguing and harsh like many others. 

They aren't the most clear or articulate if you include competitors in the sub USD 50 market. But they aren't bad. And you must remember that they are a steal even for USD 20, much less the USD 6 asking price. And still have their merits that punch well above their asking price. 

Highly recommended!

Audiophilia: WhatsApp Group for Audiophiles

Hi guys

I have started a WhatsApp group for Audiophiles all over the world.

If anybody would like to join, they are most welcome.

Please message +91-9910623813 via Whatsapp if you want to get added to the group.

I have also started a MeetUp.com Virtual Meet group for audiophiles all over the world (not just India). Should you wish to become a part of it, please visit the below link:

http://www.meetup.com/audiophilia

You may join both if you want, that would be best.

And of course there is no fee involved. It is absolutely free for all audiophiles and other interested people :)

Thank You

Aakshey

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Superlux HA3D Headphone Amplifier Review

I'd like to tell you that I had read a lot of excellent reviews about this thing and was biased in favor of it. Greatly, in fact. Somebody who I really respect recommended it to me and the review I'm writing wasn't even imaginable when I bought this and switched it on.

Setups Compared 

iPad Mini Retina -> Superlux HA3D -> HD 650

Asus STX -> Superlux HA3D -> HD 650 / 598

Asus E1 Muses -> Garage1217.com Project Ember 1.0 -> HD 650

Setups From Memory

Asus STX -> Garage1217.com Project Ember 1.0 -> HD 650

Sounds close to the E1 Muses / Garage1217 pairing. Maybe a bit different. But not that far. Both are pretty good. But again, they are in different price brackets. And honestly I don't believe even an iPhone DAC is a limitation.

iPad Mini Retina -> FiiO E12 -> HD 650 

Asus STX -> HD 650

iPad Mini Retina -> HD 650

MacBook Air Early 2014 -> HD 650

BRIEF

Superlux HA3D disappoints. However, It trounces the Fiio E12 in terms of transparency, resolution, clarity and details. But it still loses out to the Fiio E12 in producing a smooth and non-rough sound. 

Between the Fiio E12 and Superlux, it comes down to preference. However, the Superlux is technically superior and far more powerful, in fact way too powerful.

Actually, details are excellent. It may even compete if not beat the Ember in detailing, at least partially, not sure though. Didn't test long enough. However, I would any day take the STX amp over the Superlux as both are neutral and transparent and detailed, but the STX is smoother, less rough and more enjoyable.

The Superlux, It has enough gain and does go very very loud. So loud that it is infact a con as there is nearly no travel available with the volume pot. 

IMPRESSIONS

There is a certain roughness to the sound. There isn't any grain in the conventional manner. But the sound is a little rough and coarse. It doesn't have the smoothness of my AVI speakers or the other setups I have ever heard. 

Even my hybrid tube amp sounds cleaner and smoother in comparison. The sound signature isn't that different but my other amps are cleaner and much more refined. Even the Asus STX jack. The Fiio E12 of course isn't better than the Superlux except for the fact that it is smooth, but not very clean either, and definitely not more refined than the Superlux. Not sure which is more refined between the Fiio and Superlux, didn't test the Fiio again.

There is no distorting in the form of crackling but it just doesn't seem to be able play the HD 650 with any smoothness or refinement. I say this primarily because of the certain roughness I heard. The bass slam and stuff is just fine.

HA3D has a completely black background. And that is one thing that goes in its favor. 

However, with the exception of a MacBook Air or iPad Mini Retina not being loud enough to power a HD 650, I even preferred those setups to the HA3D if all you want is very soft volume levels. 

And yes I tried several hours of burn in on and off my ears. I tried to get used to it. I took breaks and came back. Nothing helped.

I even tried the HD 598 which sounded absurd out of these, perhaps due to an impedance mismatch issue. Since the Superlux has a 200 ohm headphone out impedance.

Mids

The midrange is a little recessed. Not too bad. But definitely recessed. And it isn't involving. It is clinical. And I say that as a bad thing. I have tried the headphone jack of Asus STX and FiiO E12, neither is anywhere near as loud, but both are better in this regard. Either is more engaging. And even AVI speakers are far better than this in this regard. In fact, I like clinical and analytical, but this isn't that good compared to other setups I have, trust me!

The Fiio is in the same league as the Superlux actually, with both having their strengths and weaknesses. The STX is better than both.

Highs

The highs are slightly harsh. And they don't sound that natural. Just rough. Again, I know I am emphasizing this, and I believe I may be overdoing it. Because in this price bracket it may be very good actually, but I have no idea whether that is or isn't so. The roughness isn't that over emphasized, but that is one of the only drawbacks this HA has.

Bass

The bass is tight and good. No major issues here. 

Soundstage

The sound stage isn't as good as Ember, but no major issues here either.

ON THE PLUS SIDE

The biggest plus is it manages to totally unveil the HD 650. Maybe better than most/all setups I have heard, by a small but audible margin. However, at the same time it does make it sound rough, coarse and sorta unclean and very slightly harsh, which is absolutely unlike the HD 650 is meant to behave. 

It is built like a tank. And I mean it when I say it. 

It isn't very heavy. It is portable, not pocketable but transportable. It runs on 2 AA batteries. 

It can power 3 headphones at once each with their own volume controls. 

It has a good many forms of inputs and outputs and even accepts XLR input. 

It also runs on DC electricity. I tried it on both by the way. Batteries sounded better to me but not 100% sure there, might be placebo, not sure.

ALBEIT

Lower impedance phones like the HD 598 sound even worse compared to what I described above. And 32 ohm / IEMs will probably blow up even with the volume at the lowest setting. 

It is very very loud. So loud that I would consider it a con. 

I agree it has its own unique USPs that no other amp especially at this price range, has. 

However, sound quality is something where it underperforms. Especially when you compare it side by side to better stuff, including the STX headphone jack that may not be a big upgrade over it but is certainly far more enjoyable. 

BOTTOMLINE

I'm sending my unit back to Amazon.com. Partly because I already have 3 SS amps and one hybrid amp, and I have no intention of adding just another SS amp to my stable. Under $99, it may be very good/okay, not sure, but I don't need it right now and I don't love it enough to add it to my stable. 

I'm glad I have that privilege without losing much money that I spent. 

Do NOTE:

Other setups sound far closer to each other than to this one. The other setups above are not identical but given a similar volume and all that, they aren't night and day from each other. 

This unit is a significant step lower than the others (maybe except the Fiio E12)

It may be able to compete under USD 100, especially for those who want to go loud with difficult to get volume out of headphones. But it surely doesn't do neither of my headphones justice. 

And I'm a believer in the fact that most transparent DACs are kinda indistinguishable. Most amps are sorta close unless there is a sound signature difference or unless one is poorly designed. Cables don't make a difference. 

If you want to get the most our of your headphones, a FiiO E12 isn't very good but it definitely makes the HD 650 loud enough and is far smoother. Not as clean or transparent as this, but smoother and more musical. And of course there are probably several better amps than this like O2 and many others perhaps, not heard the O2 though, so no idea whether the Superlux is better or worse.


I'd say between the Fiio E12 and Superlux, it comes down to preference. The Superlux is technically better but doesn't have Fiio's smoothness or musicality. However, when it comes to the Asus STX, it is definitely a step up from the Superlux. And when talking of Project Ember or Muses, then there isn't even a comparison.


CURRENT GEAR

Home HiFi
AVI ADM 9RS

DACs
Asus Essence One Muses Edition 
Asus Essence STX 
iDevices 

Headphone Amps
Garage1217.com Project Ember Hybrid Tube Amp 
Asus Essence One Muses Edition 
Asus Essence STX
Fiio E12
iDevices

Headphones
HD 650
HD 598

Earphones 
Philips SHE3590BK

GEAR I ONCE HAD

Home HiFi
Aktimate Mini+
Aktimate Micro
Swan H5
Swan M50 2.1
Swan M10 2.0
Audioengine A5

DACs
Asus DX

Headphone Amps
Bravo Ocean
Fiio E11
Fiio E5

Headphones
Sennheiser RS 170
Sennheiser HDR 180 with TX 170
HD 439
Pioneer SE-A 1000

Earphones
Soundmagic E80S
Monster Turbine 
Soundmagic PL50
Sennheiser CX500
And many more!