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Maryland Ortho/Electrostatic Meet 11/01/09


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What an epic meet. We listened for like 4 hours straight, went out for some Chinese, then went straight back to listening for another couple hours (wasn't keeping track of time that well, correct me if I'm wrong).

I'd first like to thank Marc for shipping the LCD1 and Fostex T50v1 up here so we could do a great three-way match up between the TOTL Head-Direct, Fostex, and Audeze (the LCD2 isn't technically out yet) orthos.

And so, without further ado, here is my view on the three:

HE5: A good amount of soundstage and there is a slight angling of the pads, which is a nice touch. The pads themselves are quite stiff and aren't the most comfy, and the cable isn't all that great, but otherwise the build quality is superb. As to the sound, it is indeed the most balanced ortho I've yet heard, with no particular frequency spikes or troughs I could detect, through to the extremes, which are well extended. Speed is middling for a planar, which I don't mean at all in a negative way - there can be too fast as well as too slow. Amazing that this can be accomplished through absolutely no damping whatsoever, and very simple traces. The midrange is not as organic as I've heard so I'd like to figure out how to open it up and tweak a bit myself.

Don-modded LCD1: Indeed, the tonal balance is brighter on the LCD1 than on the HE5 and in fact kind of sounded like my SR-X. The mids were clearer than on the HE5 but the tilt toward the treble made the HE5 still the more enjoyable listen, in comparison. There wasn't any hint of harshness/peaks in the treble; just the tilt, and so the LCD1 is the second best ortho I've heard to date. I'm eagerly awaiting impressions on the LCD2 now, especially since I hear the impedance will be quite a bit higher than that of the HE5.

Don-modded Fostex T50v1: I actually thought the T50v1 was stock when I first heard it and immediately recognized the classic under-damped vintage ortho sound (raw, slightly bloated upper bass to lower midrange). I turned to Colin and said it needed damping, to which he replied it had already been damped by Don. We agreed it needed more tweaking, possibly in the form of more damping or pads that had larger holes in the middle to let more treble through, or a combination of both. Overall the sound was decent, with no glaring flaws (the soundstage was surprisingly decent, though not above average), and so was third ranked among the orthos.

It'd be great to hear the T50v1 again after further modding since I think it has potential.

----

Will post rest of impressions later.

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HE5: As to the sound, it is indeed the most balanced ortho I've yet heard, with no particular frequency spikes or troughs I could detect, through to the extremes, which are well extended.

wow..that is telling how differently our ears are tuned. I wouldn't dare call the HE-5 balanced in any way. It is the nicest ortho yet but no way is it a balanced presentation, to my ears at least.

Of course, the LCD-2 is going to be very ver interesting to listen to now.

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And so, without further ado, here is my view on the three:

Well it seems that we have similar taste and hearing. Though I've not heard the HE-5, I completely concur with your impressions of the other two. I do think that if the treble on the LCD-1 could be slightly less tilted I could be quite happy with them. Can't wait to hear the LCD-2.

Thanks for the impressions, sounds like a great meet.

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Well it seems that we have similar taste and hearing. Though I've not heard the HE-5, I completely concur with your impressions of the other two. I do think that if the treble on the LCD-1 could be slightly less tilted I could be quite happy with them. Can't wait to hear the LCD-2.

Thanks for the impressions, sounds like a great meet.

No problem, and I'm glad this is the case, since it means we can pretty much go by each other's opinions.

More impressions:

Last bit on orthos:

I was kind of unimpressed by the stock T40RP and it was a fair bit inferior to my modded T40v1 that's shipping out tomorrow. Less bass, more closed-in sounding, was the gist of it... I didn't listen for too long. Kind of glad I was lazy about sending my T40v1 off now, since I got to compare the two. Dusty, if you ever want me to try and work on modding your pair, I can try my best. I should've thought about this yesterday, but didn't until today.

Moving onto 'stats:

I brought my modded SR-X and SR-5NB to the meet, while Colin brought his O2 and probably a bunch of other 'stats but we never got around to listening to them (I saw his 404 at the very end). Dusty also had his SR-202 so there were 'stats all around.:D

Once again, I found the treble presence on the O2 to be insufficient for my tastes, at least out of the SRM-1 and the Stax amp Dusty had (forgot the model number). It clearly had less than even the SR-5NB, which is already slightly dark. The bass had some serious rumble and the midrange was sometimes overly lush, which I'm not sure I liked either. It's probably just a case of being under-amped, and I'm never going to go full on KGSS/BHSE with massive bias and heatsinks, dissipating 200W, so unless the eXStatA amp can bring out the treble and control the bass and midrange, I pretty much confirmed the O2 will never be for me. I can't imagine the bass on an Omega 2 MK2... must be like the electrostatic version of a DT770/80, but with mids and no treble instead of the other way around.

The SR-202 was decent and representative of the Lambdas, but not really up to the level of some of the others I've heard, like the normal bias and what I remember of the SR-404 (Colin, you should've mentioned you brought your Lambdas :D). I thought there was a bit of a veil and not the best frequency extension... I did try it out of both Stax amps present to make sure, and thought it sounded better out of the SRM-1, which gave it better mids.

I don't mean to sound like a pompous asshole but I thought the SR-X and SR-5NB kept up decently with the other electrostats and orthos present, despite their being older and cheaper models, and are a great entry into and representative of the magic of Stax. I also thought my bigass Yamaha CR-620 kept up decently well with Colin's kickass SPUD amp and did a decent job driving both the orthos and the 'stats through the SRD-7. Oh, and his DAC with custom discrete output stage is pretty great sounding, and made me realize my DAC is probably the weak point in my system right now. I may open up my E-MU 0404 USB and do some opamp swapping and see if it helps... otherwise I'll have to find a better DAC. Here's to hoping I never end up with a giant pile of them, and refer to them as my DACses.:P

Again, these are all just my opinions and if whoever thinks what I say is complete shit then that's cool too.

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Oh, yeah, we're definitely going to have to do some work on my Orthos, now that I've heard what good modding can do. I already have the felt -- how does one attach it? I want to have all the necessary materials and tools before I ask that we get together again.

Marc -- thanks from me as well for sending those along just for us to hear, that was really nice of you to do so. My wallet hates you however. I really liked the LCD-1's, despite the apparent lack of bass -- I thought it still went down quite a ways, it just sounded more attenuated than the HE-5's. Detail freaks like Hirsch would love it as is, methinks (which, admittedly, was modded), but I still really liked the sound (which is weird, because I hated the non-bass R10's). So from what I hear of the rumors of the differences between the LCD-1's and the LCD-2's, it sounds like they're improving it in exactly the right areas.

The HE-5's were superb as is, I'm getting a pair, even though they're open. I'm also probably going to have to get the LCD-2's. :palm:

And yeah, the SRX Mk3's sounded awesome out of your SRD-7 and Yamaha.

The Stax amp was the SRM-310 -- and yeah, it sounded like shit after listening to the Orthos and whatnot, which is weird, because I had been listening to it out of the Oppo all week, and I don't remember it sounding like this then.

And the O2 MkII's aren't as bad as everyone else says it does, it's only mildly more bassier, but of course, there will be a resultant relative drop in treble, but it's like the bass in the LCD-1's -- it's there, it's just attenuated. Nothing a little EQ can't fix.

Also, didn't think of it until later, but you should give the Sony MDR-V6/-7506's a go, I think you'd like them.

Edited by Dusty Chalk
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Oh, yeah, we're definitely going to have to do some work on my Orthos, now that I've heard what good modding can do. I already have the felt -- how does one attach it? I want to have all the necessary materials and tools before I ask that we get together again.

Tape... I just use electrical tape. Usually they go right behind the drivers but I'm thinking the stock damping will actually need to be removed since we need as much bass as possible. The backs of the cups need to be damped, though, to reduce resonances. I think I can still find my weatherstrip and we can use your felt or whatever. If we want to be hardcore about it, we should get some bitumen board. Not sure just how much the T40RP can be improved, since usually ortho potential rests on having big but bloated bass stock, but there's definitely ways of making them sound better.

And the O2 MkII's aren't as bad as everyone else says it does, it's only mildly more bassier, but of course, there will be a resultant relative drop in treble, but it's like the bass in the LCD-1's -- it's there, it's just attenuated. Nothing a little EQ can't fix.

I need to buy a proper EQ box in order to use EQ. foobar2000's EQ isn't that great and distorts and the tone controls on my receiver are too limiting... only a bass and a treble knob. Either version of the O2 would be too much of a beast to drive, so I'm not going to bother. I'm perfectly happy with my cheap mid-fi gear and am not looking for the end all perfect headphone rig, since I already have that with my instrument rig.

Also, didn't think of it until later, but you should give the Sony MDR-V6/-7506's a go, I think you'd like them.

Hm, they're both closed and dynamic, so two big no-no's for me, but if they sound good, they sound good.:P I'll give them a try.

Thanks for the impressions lads, I thought the HE5 sounded good too. The pair NoNoNoNoNoNo had was not as balanced as you describe but it sure had all the qualities I like about orthos.

..dB

It might indeed be some sort of variation in production because none of the three of us detected any treble peaks (I think).

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I need to buy a proper EQ box in order to use EQ. foobar2000's EQ isn't that great and distorts and the tone controls on my receiver are too limiting... only a bass and a treble knob. Either version of the O2 would be too much of a beast to drive, so I'm not going to bother. I'm perfectly happy with my cheap mid-fi gear and am not looking for the end all perfect headphone rig, since I already have that with my instrument rig.

You know you cant turn stuff up on the foobar eq, but rather move the rest of the spectrum below zero?

It might indeed be some sort of variation in production because none of the three of us detected any treble peaks (I think).

I didnt detect any treble peaks, and these usually bother me. Of course, very different rigs, and different music and listening tastes/habits.

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