• Headphones

    by Published on 11-21-2013 06:34 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. Preamp,
    5. Headphones
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    Meridian Audio is on a roll this year releasing the Explorer, Director, and now the Prime. All three are headphone amplifiers but the Prime is another league. In addition to asynchronous USB input for sample rates up through 24 bit / 192 kHz PCM like the Explorer and Director, the Prime can function as the center of both digital and analog audio systems. Featuring both digital and analog inputs that donít cross paths internally the Prime is much more of a foundation piece upon which to build a high quality audio system than solely a headphone amplifier as its name suggests. The build quality and the look of the Prime are terrific. The Prime exudes both a pride in craftsmanship from Meridian and no doubt a pride of ownership for the consumer. I envision the Prime quarterbacking many an office audio system in the near future driving both headphones and powered loudspeakers. The Prime is fairly small but it isnít portable. Listeners enjoying the Prime at work will likely want a matching unit for the house once they hear what Meridianís Analogue Spatial Processing if capable of delivering via the headphone outputs. Listening to plain in-the-head audio just doesnít cut it any longer. Whats more, add the Meridian Prime Power Supply to the mix and itís primetime for audio enthusiasts everywhere. ...
    by Published on 09-20-2013 11:03 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Preamp,
    3. Headphones
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    As a follow up to the recently released Auralic VEGA Dac, designer Xuanqian Wang decided to give his Taurus balanced headphone amplifier a refresh with the newest MkII revision ($1,899). The new version employs the same silver minimalist stylings as the VEGA and allows for both single ended and balanced headphone connections. As an added bonus he chose to include a pair of SE and balanced outputs, so the Taurus MkII is free to take on pre amplifier responsibilities as well. I am a big fan of the VEGAs design and build. The entire unit felt well kempt and detail-oriented. Likewise the Taurus is solid from top to bottom. While the 3 legs its chassis rests upon is designed to reduce vibrations from entering the component, plugging cables in to the back turned out to be slightly more prone to tipping left or right than the conventional 4 leg setup. Minor quibbles aside, everything works as it should. The Taurus runs though the courses with the expected panache of the full high-end experience. Its relatively heavy weight convinces you its innards are chock full of lovely audiophile-oriented components. Indeed, the size is the same as the VEGA, which was a fine choice by Wang. The chassis still large enough to be taken seriously (especially for a solid state head amp), but not so big that it takes up two parking spaces on the precious real estate of your desktop. It even makes a fine visual pairing with the Macbook Air I reviewed it with. Similarities between the two are easy to spot, the finish bears a close resemblance to the recognizable laptop line and the footprint is almost exactly the same. ...
    by Published on 08-28-2013 12:44 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Digital to Analog Converter,
    3. USB Interface,
    4. S/PDIF (RCA) Interface,
    5. S/PDIF (TosLink) Interface,
    6. Preamp,
    7. Headphones
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    exaSound e28 8 Channel DSD DAC: Computer Audio Is Surrounded!
    Argh! A multichannel review? Seriously? Who likes multichannel? And file-based multichannel? Seriously? Who does file-based multichannel? Isnít surround sound for sci-fi spaceship flyovers and spooky foley effects in horror movies? And you call yourself an audiophile?

    Ok, so I got all that (tongue in cheek) out of the way. Those of you who have embraced computer audio and are content with two-channel soundstages, I implore you to read on. Maybe just one or two (thousand?) of you can discover the incredible potential of the realism and adventure, in the VAST catalog of hirez multichannel music that is becoming available to use, at your listening seat.

    When I first realized the potential of computer audio, when I first heard and experienced both the sonic improvements and the incredible convenience of remote-controlled file-based music playback, I was dreaming of the day when this paradigm would allow me to listen to ALL my music, both 2 channel and multichannel. I have a significant amount of time and energy invested into my multichannel music (not to be confused with movie setup) signal path, and am lucky to have dedicated equipment for both 2 channel and multichannel hirez listening. Itís not necessary to be this OC, but I am. ...
    by Published on 06-26-2013 12:46 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Headphones
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    A solid amplifier can make all the difference to a pair of top-flight headphones. When portability is not a concern, the elusive ďtop 10%Ē of performance has a firm launching pad to ramp up its well-polished delivery. The finest headphones available today are supremely complemented by proper amplification. Beauty begets more beauty in this case. Iím not just talking about raw watts to muscle high impedance cans around, but the grace, finesse, control and ultimately natural sounding reproduction that hopefully accompanies properly implemented R & D. The Luxman P-700u flagship headphone amplifier ($6k) offers all the versatility and sonic integrity you would expect from amplifier that costs 5x more than the headphones it would usually drive. ...
    by Published on 05-03-2013 10:19 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Headphones
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    ALO Audio along with a handful of other companies has been leading the charge on portable audio amplification. Their product lineup includes one of the largest and varied sections of both tube and solid-state portable headphone amplifiers. Sitting atop the mobile offerings is the ALO flagship Rx Mk3-b ($650). Offering both balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, this battery-powered headphone amplifier is a reminder that head fi audio is slowly adapting the same principals as audiophile loudspeaker components. While close competitor Ray Samuels and budget brand Fiio provide even more illumination to the landscape, ALO pushes the performance (and price) of portable even further north with the Mk3 over previous amplifier-only incarnations. Even more recent than the Mk3, a new wave of amp+dac combinations is sweeping the countryside with the promise of everything you need for desktop listening in a compact package. This new arrangement however, doesnít allow for the versatility that accompanies the Mk3. As Iím sure you know if you are reading this review, that DAC technologies and improvements are moving at a much faster clip than the rest of HiFi audio, especially in the portable realm. For the purpose of this endeavor, I paired the Mk3 with a wide variety of sources in an attempt to deliver the fullest viewpoint of applications. On both the giving and receiving ends the Mk3 is quite a flexible device. ...
    by Published on 03-11-2013 09:55 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Headphones

    I've been using IEM earphones for about ten years and custom IEMs since 2005. I started with a pair of Etymotic ER-4Ps. These earphones were great for iPods back in the day and remain on my shelf of earphones that I use once in awhile. The Achilles heel of the Etymotics is the uncomfortable foam tips required for a good in-ear seal. Another less than stellar element of the ER-4P is the cord. First it protrudes from the ear in a way that prohibits resting oneís head on a pillow of any type. Second the cord acts like a microphone picking up every brush against oneís clothes and passing the noise right into the ear canal. After a couple years with the ER-4Ps I moved to Ultimate Ears 11 Pro custom earphones. The fit of the UE 11 Pro was excellent, but the sound was a bit bass heavy. I lived with the UE 11 Pro until February 2013 when I received a pair of JH Audio JH13 Pro customs with the new Freqphase technology. The JH13 earphones are so much better than the UE 11 Pro I canít believe I hung on to the 11s for so many years. Iíd heard from friends and colleges that the JH Audio products were excellent, but for some reason I held on to what was familiar for far too long. Now, Iím on a thirteen hour flight to Seoul, Korea enjoying every bit of the 26 dB passive noise suppression of the JH13 Pros and the sound of my favorite music like Iíve never heard it before on an airplane. ...
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