Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Mid Fi King of Mod Backs an the Jester

Curious about how the new TH X00 compares to a fully Modded Denon LA D5K?

In Short, at a cost of around $800 for the full Lawton Audio Package, the LA D5k is worthy of it's price tag, an stands toe to toe with my own modded W1000X.  Though you'll pay a hefty premium for a New In Box AH D5000, if you can even find one for sale. An 9/10 what ever you do find has already aged more than a few years now,

Though at almost half the price an not even a year old, the TH X00 with Mr Speakers Alpha Pads, is easily one of the best purchases you'll make! In my own home rig I found the TH X00 to be an amazing sounding headphone! 

While on one hand, the LA D5k an W1000X Mod have a better overall quality, both are extremely picky about their sources, an seeing as each is now discounted and more than a few years old. They are very hard to come by, so what Fostex has done with the Th X00 is brought a fresh new face to the table! One that offers a phenomenal quality of sound, without the hassle or investment of hunting down two classic heavy weights.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Mid Fi Queen of Mod Backs

I’ve had my Audio Technica W1000X for a little over 2 years, and there have been some extensive changes to my set up over the years as well as this headphone! So I decided it was long overdue for a revised review!  Though, keep in mind I’ve been slowly upgrading an modding this headphone, and while most of the mods are simple to do… ymmv


Price                                      $350 stock $750 after Mods
Wearing Style                    Floating Mount style Head Band Over Ear
Frq Response                    5-42k
Housing                                North American Black Cherry
Transducer Principle       53mm Dynamic with OFC 6N Voice Coil
Impedance                         40 ohms
Sensitivity                           100 db/mW
Final Score                          76/100 

Build Quality [10/10]
The W1000X is very well built, the metal headband is firm yet springy. The plastic connectors attaching the cups to the headband are also very firm, not brittle or flimsy. Though, the finish on the cups is prone to scratching, so it’s not something you’re going to want to use portably, though I did for my first year of ownership an managed to only get one ding in the finish. I’ve also kept the original 6.5mm plug, which I always though was beautifully crafted!
For Mods, I have L3000 Pads, Dynamat Extreme Dampening in the cups, and my cable is also after market, built by Brian of BTG Audio a few years back, he also did a mini 3pin XLR Pig Tail mod, in addition to using the stock cable to make a matching 4pin XLR to 6.5mm adapter
Though, there are many Cable Builders now who can build a high quality cable, for less than what I paid for mine.  The down side, is I have no idea where you’d get a pair of L3000 pads now... 

Utility [5/10]
With it’s high sensitivity the W1000x is very picky, it does not play well with poorly mastered music, noisy sources and cell phones.  It has a very transparent sound so much so it’s what prompted me to sell my HM 801 an buy the HM 901, though in stock form it’s more forgiving. However I have a 3mm Patch of Dynamat over the two screw cavities in each cup of my W1000X, doing this mod dramatically decreased the decay in the bass an mids, thus making the headphone very revealing to noise or compression.  Also, while it's very comfy to wear it does move around a bit if you walk around with it on, I spent many days during my years in college doing just so, while a wonderful conversation piece it makes a poor portable...  though I did very much enjoy listening to it while studying in my College's Library! 

 Comfort [7/10]
The comfort on the W1000X is a very mixed bag, on one hand the floating mount style headband makes a fairly heavy headphone feel… as if it’s floating! The also clamp well, though I did have to bend the headband quite a bit to get it to adjust to my head, none the less in 2 years it’s retained the shape I bent it to my first weeks of owning it. My biggest gripe would be the pads though, my W1000X has L3000 Pads, genuine leather mind you an $100 a pair, while they are very comfortable… they are “on ear” they don’t sit over your ears but on them… kinda. I have to roll the back of my ears around the top edge of the pad to get them situated, then the bottom of the pads sit on my lower ear. I have a funny little motion I do, and it’s what I need to do to get a proper seal. Though honestly, after about 2 hours I start to have some fatigue due to the on ear pads. 

Isolation [5/10]
The isolation is very poor; it’ll muffle voices well enough and drown out the sound of people shuffling past you in a small library. Though I’ve found it to be limited to about 60 dbs of back ground noise, anything louder than that an you’ll start to notice a slightly degraded quality of sound. I did in fact use these most of my college career, they worked wonders in the Library, in the cafeteria depending on the day, and they were horrible in a full classroom of 30 people. Non the less a smaller classroom fit for 40 people, an only half full was the isolation limit I found them to have.

Ease of Use [2/10]
Oh man, so I had a very funny stiff way I used to walk with these on my head back in the day. Wish I had a video as I was told I looked very foolish, so using these as a portable can is not ideal. Not to mention how picky the W1000X can be with sources an amps, I find it to be to slow an sluggish on Tube Amps an I’ve tried a least half a dozen all with different tubes.  Then there’s the headband and pad modding, an the driver mods. So this is not a simple headphone to own, this is a project to undertake, however it’s one that’s been well worth all my time and energy! I also had the original wood 6.5mm Jack converted into a nice adapter as well, I liked the design of it so much I decided to make use of it! 

Sound Quality
Timbre [10/10]   Sound Stage [7/10] Detail   [10/10] Speed [10/10] Scale [10/10]

Sound is where the W1000X is king, I still use it as my reference for any closed back headphones as it’s the most transparent and the quickest closed back I’ve owned! It rivals my HE 4 on speed and detail as well!

The sound signature is very deep and well layered with a focus on the mids, meaning vocals, guitars, stringed instruments and the like take the center stage. With mods, the W1000X is very aggressive as well, giving a very quick an dry presentation with a lot of texture without being sibilant or edgy, the treble on the W1000X is equally as energetic an detailed as the HE 4 without the same tendency for sibilance the HE 4 has with very hot tracks.  For me, the W1000X has the same presentation of the mids an treble as a you’d expect from a tube, it’s very pleasant an while at the same time out of a solid state it’s very tactile an quick, it’s mid presentation is unique in that sense! The bass on the W1000X is punchy throughout the mid bass, with a good kick in the sub bass, though with a very solid attack and almost instant decay some may not appreciate the sub bass presentation. 
The sound stage is narrow when compared to my TH X00 Alpha, Denon LA D5k and HE 4 however it’s overall depth an spatial cues far exceed the previous two closed backs. It has the same 3D presentation the HE 4 has, while maintain a sense of intimacy the HE 4 cannot.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sennhesier HD 25-1 II; The Rugged Road Warrior

Sennheiser’s Classic the HD 25-1 II,  is a headphone that’s been around longer than I have been and one that’s proven its worth over two decades now!  Bringing an excellent quality of sound and a rock solid build quality, the HD 25-1 II a true companion for the road Warrior in us all! 

Box & Accessories

Packing for the HD 25-1 II is very simple, it came with a plastic draw string bag an a gold screw in 6.5mm adapter.


Price                                      $249
Wearing Style                    On Ear
Frq Response                      16-22k
THD                                     .3%
Transducer Principle           Closed Back Dynamic,  43.1mm Drivers
Impedance                           70 ohms
Sensitivity                           120dbs
Score                                   81/100

Build Quality [10/10]

It is built entirely out of very rugged plastic, and assembled with only two visible screws.  The drivers are attached to the headband by a plastic tooth mechanism. The headband itself features a spilt function, allowing the user to further adjust comfort, by widening or narrowing the gap between each rung of the headband. The cord for the headphone rests within a space etched into the head band itself.  The cable is a gold plated 3.5mm right angle at 2m length, and the ear pads are composed of synthetic leather.  The headphone also exerts a lot of clamping force, so it doesn’t move around much when on your head.

Another very interesting fact is that this particular headphone has been in production for almost two decades! As such, getting replacement parts from Sennhesier is a very cheap and simple process.  Meaning, if you ever manage to break any piece of the HD 25-1 II it’s a simple and cost effective to repair, that factor alone contributes to the sheer value of the HD 25-1 II.  I personally purchased the HD 25-1 II for use at the gym because of it’s durability and simple cost effective repairs. After having used it many times, I’ve found it to be a wonderfully rugged, well built an easy to use headphone! It’s defiantly a product I can throw into my car, and slap around my neck without having to worry about it breaking. Personally, I love that about it! I should also note that it’s the ONLY headphone I dare take into the jungle of iron machines that is my Gym! 

Utility [10/10]

The HD 25-1 II is built for portable use regardless of where and how you’ll be using it. It’s tough enough to be dropped, bumped and banged around. Additionally its sensitivity allows it to achieve high volumes without a lot of power. The clamping force also helps this headphone to stay in place. I recommend it for anyone who’s wanted a headphone to listen while on the go through most public spaces, anywhere there could be accidents, drops, scuffs or spills.

The HD 25-1 II is able to be driven by a wide range of sources, and it does however benefit from scaling. While the sound out of my LG V10 was acceptable, it had a much better sound quality driven from my HM901 LineOut to my ibasso PB2.

Comfort [5/10]

While rugged and durable, the HD 25-1 II is rather uncomfortable for listening after an about an hour.  The clamping force of this headphone can quickly fatigue anyone who is not used to On Ear Headphones.  Moreover, the pads tend are sweat magnets, especially if it’s hot whereever you are.  The HD 25-1 II will work flawlessly within reasonable temperatures, I’ve used them outside as low as 15 an as hot as 107. Though, at hotter temperatures it does get sweaty and at colder temperatures it can be a little painful on the ears.

Isolation [10/10]

Despite lack luster comfort, the HD 25-1 II has outstanding isolation! First time I put them on it scared me how… quiet everything was with them on!

Ease of Use [7/10]

The HD 25-1 II is an easy headphone to drive, though the better your source the better it will sound. When paired with entry level devices, such as cell phones or cheap Digital Audio Players, the sound will be sub optimal. It responds very well to amplification and EQ, I found it to be very enjoyable when Eq’d from my LG V10. Though, even with EQ out of the V10, the HD 25-1 II sounded it’s best driven from my Hm901 LineOut PB2.  Out of all my sources, the iPod Nano Gen 3, had the worse quality of sound  with the HD 25-1 II out of all my sources. 


Visually, I love the style of the headphone. The split headband an the top mounted cables really command your attention, while the rounded cups ease your eyes down, till you've reached the end of the saw tooth adjustment rods. From a design perspective, I love the use of soft shapes an sharp lines!

Sound Quality

Timbre [8/10]   Sound Stage [7.5/10] Detail   [8/10] Speed [6.5/10] Scale [9/10]

Overall, when driven and sourced properly it has a very dry and even sound. The bass is a touch forward but very taut with slightly recessed low mids, with a nice leading edge to the upper mids and treble.  The sound stage is of average width and a little shallow however instruments are well layered within the sound stage and have good spatial cues. 
However, if driven from a cheaper phone or digital audio player, the HD 25-1 II can sound sluggish, muddy, incoherent and very SHARP. With a very loose overall sound, in addition when listening to low bit rate music you will notice the artifacts that are inherent to poorly encoded music. When purchased and used right out the box with lower end gear and poorly encoded mp3s it’s nothing impressive, heck I’ll dare to say that right out of my iPod Nano Gen 3 [using 320 CBR mp3s] my Beats Solo 2 sound much cleaner than the HD 25-1 II. 

 Although the HD 25-1 II responds very well to EQ on low end devices and smart phones, so I recommend tinkering around with a quality Parametric EQ and DSP filters to get the best sound from these if your initial impression of them is negative.  Sadly though, there is no substitute for quality hardware.

Finally, regardless of source or amp, the HD 25-1 II is on the slower side of “dry.” While it excels with moderately paced music, I do find it a little lack luster with faster pieces such as progressive metal.

In terms of music genres though, the HD 25-1 II does an excellent job with them all! Personally, I LOVE it for Electronic Dance Music. The bass is easily one of the BEST I’ve heard from a headphone in this price category and form factor! It can take a nice bit of bass boost without any distortion as well!

In conclusion, landing a final score of 81/100 with a price of $249.99,  I love the HD 25-1 II. It offers unmatched durability, and an excellent high quality of sound! When paired with higher quality digital audio players, amps and properly encoded music, the HD 25-1 II can easily outpace the Solo 2! 

I highly recommend the HD 25-1 II to any one looking for their first real upgrade, or to those of you looking to purchase a headphone along with a quality Digital Audio Player such as the Fiio X5

Saturday, December 5, 2015