From the Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab
**Much of the editorial copy below has been destroyed (changed/dumbed-down/call it what you'd like).2.27.17**
**I'm in the process of trying to secure this blog, as it's been a true labor of love for me - but I MAYBE forced to start anew - will keep you Updated - M.Mercer**
Being a hired gun ain't easy these days, but I'm not gonna drop some kinda' Woes of a Freelancer-type crap on you either. I'm grateful for the struggle! Sounds ridiculous I know. But, I'm on my own, and have been for years now. It's also the scariest time of my life: Straight-Up.
NOW: Has the internet opened up tons of new pathways for generating income through your art and online? SURE.. But anyone can say that. It's how much are you willing to grind in order to do what you love that matters most.
I'm meandering through that RIGHT NOW - My life has completely changed since my separation (20yrs of marriage). My Fam, and my Music are gettin' me through!!
And in this day and age: You Gotta Stand Out from the NOIZE!
I've been doin' this half my life and I'm still trying to figure some things out. But I guess it's that way with everything isn't it...
THXGiving Cavalli Liquid Carbon Rig
THXGiving Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon Rig: w/ my Mytek Stereo-192-DSD-DAC + Brand-New Black Ravioli bases & Sticky Pads (Doubls + Singles) ALL wired w/ Kimber Kable Select w/ Silver Shadow XLRs. Nordost Heimdall2 for ENIGMAcoustics Dharma D1000
Schiit Audio's Insanely Musical Jotunheim!
This thing should make other personal audio companies run for cover. I was honored to help the Schiit Team w/ Schiit Show 2 introducing the Amazin' JOTENHEIM in LA months ago - and we had a BLAST. I was even more pumped to try the Jotunheim w/ all sorts of cans from my Audeze LCD-3s to MrSpeakers ETHER & ol' skool Mad Dog Pros (shown here - runnin' balanced).
This thing is a BEAST - fully-balanced w/ phonostage/DAC option - and full line-stage/headphone amp - Could be my FAVE product of the year!!
Did you you know this place existed? I didn't, and I lived in Pasadena (LA area/SoCal) for 3 years! It's an open-air reservoir in the North Hollywood (or - "NoHo" as the native Angelinos are callin' it these days).
I hiked up to the top of this crazy lil' mountain w/ Michael Hobson (Original Owner/President of Classic Records, later CEO of HRT and also Elite A/V Distribution) to this spot called The Wishing Tree. I could finally see the geography of Los Angeles in all directions!
I finally figured out where The Valley is - which is appropriate cuz' I live there now...
Get out sometimes, get fresh air into those lungs. We ain't around all that long. Soak it up...
Sonic Satori Settlin' In
The new spot for the S.S. P.A.L (Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab) took some gettin' used to, but once I got things sounding tight and focused - I knew it was a good room for headphone listening. I'm not quite sure yet how to accurately describe the ways different rooms (hence: room acoustics) effect varying headphone transducer technologies - but there's somethin' to it!
And the new spot has it in spades! It's been a helluva ride, and damn: I'm still on it! But as long as I got the sweet sounds of music at my fingertips At-All-Times I'm OK.
Questyle Audio's Gold Series Headphone Stack
Blingin' & Questylin' + Stacked-n-Racked
The only thing that's EVER been unfortunate about the Questyle Gold Series Headphone Stack: When it was Oh-So-Happy here at the Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab, it's time in-house was at its end... And: I was Questyles Brand Master! So obviously a direct conflict-of-interest there! It was time to blow some other reviewers skulls back a bit. Dave Hanson ROCKED-IT w/ his review at EnjoyTheMusic.com! Also known as Hansotek (his handle at Head-Fi.org and SBAF?) Dave knows high-end personal audio gear, specially Statement-type stuff. I usually enjoy much of the same things musically and sonically as he does - and check out his review ASAP!
The Village Headphone Meet
Before Shinola Audio threw a party for their sharp-lookin' Runwell turntable at The Village Recorder - (legendary recording studio in an old Masonic Temple - Fleetwood Mac to Pink Floyd recorded there)
I was honored to work with Alex Rosson (Founder, and then, still at Audeze) on the first event there: The Village Headphone Meet - w/ CEntrance (I was Director of Marketing at the time) Head-Fi, ALO Audio, Schiit Audio, and V-Moda!
It was invite-only (small but grand event - we used their magnificent rehearsal space) and we got to party it up at a mansion afterwards! The house belonged to Val (Owner of V-MODA) and Reid Speed got on the decks!
We NEED MORE EVENTS LIKE THIS
Surreal Sound w/ new Burial thru Woo & Cavalli Audio
Last nights listening session (tryin' to get the new Mercer Memo completed) was truly MAGICAL.
I just got the digital copy of the new Burial release (Below - check it) out on 12" as well. Rockin' my Audeze LCD-2F via Double Helix Cables Comp3 dual-XLR headphone leads into my beloved Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold headphone amp.
Also used the AWESOME Woo Audio WA7Fireflies w/ tube power-supply. I never get tired of listening to Burial on these rigs! Floating a-top a magnetic-levitation shelf by Higher-Fi (incredible) the deep almost urban-like atmospheric sounds of Burials genius was like, as it usually is: A wash of pure originality as always. Nobody else sounds like Burial, PERIOD!
Questyle 600i: The Greatest Component I Never Reviewed
(and, its' CMA600i)
Breaching a level of honesty that's bordering on stupidity: I'm not sure what happened when it came down to writing the damn review...
I loved the damn thing so much all I wanted to do was listen. I know I know - you've heard that before.
I ain't messin' around: I would own one right now if I could. It drove the hell outta everything ,from my most-cherished Audeze LCD-2Fs to Sennheiser HD800s, and was superb with my Audio-Technica 900Xs. Even with ENIGMAcousics Dharma D1000 or Audeze on-ear SINE, the 600i does such a spectacular job of capturing the essence of fine recordings. It's the kind of contemporary amp/DAC that sounds like an old school high-end integrated amplifier - just when they were getting good!
I got tons of notes on my listening sessions, and I loved every damn minute of music through this thing. With Questyle's own patented Current Mode solid-state amplification technology, the 600i, like all QA components kicks some serious ass; and it's not merely about slam and dynamic gestalt (though it's got both of those, make no mistake). There's a level of musical precision, that magical resolving capability that draws you in. I usually hear this kinda' quality reserved only for a lines statement products. But, at $1,300 - the 600i is a tight, slickly modern masterpiece!!!! Most highly recommended.
for Hector, it's ENIGMAcoustics Dharma Every-time
I've got only a handful of regular visitors Here at The Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab. There are a multitude of reasons for this: My nomadic existence since the separation, and, as I'm writing this very second, I'm realizing the primary reasons are not meant for public consumption. But it's always nice to have people you trust to share your passions with.
Hector, a friend of Mr. Bruce Balls, has also become one of my most trusted friends during the last 18-months. He lives down the block, and knows this hood like the back of his hand, as he grew up here in the Valley, and he's proud of that fact. He's also a fellow music addict and somewhat of a high-fidelity convert, though I don't believe he'd admit it. He's been enjoyin' the hell outta RHA's T20i's though. And its refreshing to talk about the aspects of sound with Hector, as he's not wrapped up in our lil' audiophile/personal audio world.
His headphone preference, as shown in the corresponding image - has always been, since I've been down the block anyway, ENIGMAcoustics Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/dynamics. Hector was actually part of the first listening sesh in the new temporay spot for the Lab. I was rockin' a Questyle Audio stack that night: a CMA800 headphone amp + CAS192 DAC. Without hesitation, when I asked him which headphones he'd like to use, he told me "My favorite is the ENIGMA." I was psyched to hear that. As my pair has been broken-in beautifully.
Hector's no stranger to high end audio however: He's worked with Bruce at a couple of Head-Fi Meets and shows, including CES. We met, shit, I can't remember now, probably a year or so ago at a small show at Prohibition Studios with Dannielle DAndrea on the mic. That night was a blast. Hector came along with Bruce, so we hung out and watched Dannielle hold the little crowd in the palm of her hand. It was a great way to start a friendship.
So, naturally, when I got my ENIGMAcoustics Dharmas set-up with my Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold (via Cardas Clear dual-XLRs) I had to have him check it out. An enthusiastic thumbs up. It was another solid start to a great evening.
We all need times like these, don't we?
Schiit's Jotunheim: A BANGIN' Balanced Headphone Amp
I was honored to work with the Schiit Audio team on SchiitShowII this Summer. My good friend Warren Chi (currently the CEO of Cavalli Audio) and I watched the MDR Hotel (venue for Schiit Shows I & II) take shape in Marina Del Ray over the last two years or so. I used to stay there when I'd come down to visit Warren and my crew, and the hotel was being renovated that whole time.
Once we saw what the hotel transformed into - (a modern rock-n-roll paradise) we wanted to throw an event there. I thought a smaller, invite-only of personal audio event - more like a record rel/ease party, would be cool. Meaning: Smaller but a better crowd (not in the vane way, more in the down-to-Earth kinda' way - OK, so its still a lil' snobby ;) and have the focus on one striking new product. Like the record. When these companies introduce their new stuff at the Canjams and other big events - they tend to get lost in the noise...
Schiit Audio introduced the Jotunheim this time around at Schiit Schow2. The Jot is a breakthrough performer - technologically and price-vs.-performance wise. A configurable balanced headphone amp and pre-amp (meaning you may choose a phonostage or USB DAC module, in addition to its main functions - which are as a balanced headphone amplifier and line-stage). All of this for the f___in' price of $399!
The Jot SHOULD make some other personal audio companies RUN FOR COVER. STRAIGHT-UP!
I was psyched to handle the social media for the event - but honestly, I was for more excited to hear the Jotunheim with some of my Favorite cans! At the show I brought my beloved MrSpeakers ETHER-Cs (was gonna be surrouned by fellow attendees so...) figured the closed-back was the way to go for noise-control. I loved the Jot at SchiitShow2 - I couldn't wait to get one cookin' in the Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab!
I'v tried it as an Amp/DAC and separate balanced headphone amp w/ my MYTEK Stereo-192 DSD DAC as well as my McIntosh D100 DAC. I've driven everything from my Noble Audio SAVANT CIEMS, JH Audio Roxanne CEIMS, to my beloved E-MU Systems over-ear dynamics, Audio-Technica ATH900x, Sennheiser HD800s, and Audeze SINE, LCD2F, 3, and X. Admittedly, I end up using my MrSpeakers ETHER & ETHER-C with the Jot more than any other cans. The synergy between these cans and amp is just fan-f__in-tastic!
The music's pacing and flow is so fluid, so textural, it's audible candy for the brain. Especially underground electronic dance music. Tonality is spot-on, and the soundstage is as wide as I've heard on amplifiers costing more than 3X its price.
Check the Jotunheim out if you're in the market for a new headphone amp - and you're lookin' for the musically magical advantages of running your headphones balanced. I also dig the DAC section enough that I can say, without any doubt, that I could easily live with the Jot as my reference. I haven't had a chance to check out a phonostage module yet. But I'm lookin' forward to it!!
Amarra4 Beta + CEntrance DACportable + Audeze LCD-X
I've experimented with tons of different portable rigs for workin' On-The-Go over the years. For this short burst I'm talking about something that I feel is stellar for workin' on music, mixing, mix-downs to stereo, and listening for pleasure (or for review purposes in this case). Now: Admittedly, I don't have nearly as many hours on any other cans that approaches the amount of spent with my Audeze LCD-Xs. If my activity is going to range from writing beats, composing electronic music, maybe mixing, and critical listening for review, for me it's the LCD-X or MrSpeakers ETHER (open-backs)
With planars are my reference monitors - this lil' system could've very well provided the most powerful sonic experienced I've heard in a system this compact. At the very heart of this:
The CEntrance DACportable - I wrote some things about this incredible lil' battery-powered MONSTER of an Amp/DAC here at OccupyHifi in a piece entitled Transcendence For The Rest Of Us - It's Hard Work But It's Good Work that, essentially, inspired Mercer Memo and the S.S. P.A.L (Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab). The article became an on-going kinda running series on one LONG-running page. LOL.
The DACportable exemplifies why I went to work for Michael Goodman at CEntrance when he asked me. I'd covered his original DACport at The Daily Swarm and that cigar-shaped 96k/24-bit headphone amp/DAC paved the way for so many products - and MANY of them didn't even come close to the original DACport, IMHO - when it came to resolution, dimensionality; I hate to use this term, but if there was a "flat" or "more truthful" sound - meaning a sound that served-up the music: Nothing more, nothing less. It was - and, is now again, when it comes to compact, battery-powered amp/DACs CEntrance with the new DACportable!
Goodman got to show the CE world, (consumer electronics) yet-again, the man should be locked a proper r&d facility and told to just innovate: Get us closer and closer to the music with smaller, and cooler playback gear. Whomever is smart enough to figure that out (and well, if ever you were in his office, and saw all the examples of gear in the field with his USB solutions - ranging from Playback Designs to McIntosh, Benchmark, all the way to Korg) they'd be WINNING. Not like Charlie Sheen - more like Elon Musk. If you're cryin' bias here because I know and worked for Michael and Co. at CEntrance: You're absolutely right! But, guess what, just like HRT all those years ago, I went to work for CEntrance AFTER reviewing their gear. I was already an evangelist. So call me biased on the side of whatever-the-fuck gets me closest to my music and farther away from the stresses of the grind...
The DACportable is chargeable and runs via micro-USB, so you just need the right cable kit whether Android-Based or iDevice - (just s/w the guys at CEntrance if you have any questions). You've got switches (they're damn tiny - but then again, they DON'T CATCH ON ANYTHING IN YOUR BACKPACK OR POCKET) for EQ: Highs and Lows and gain. Very Nice.
I've been runnin' it, as I am this very moment: Rockin' the up-coming II by Vermont (a.k.a Innervision Co-Producer Marcus Worgull & Danilo Plessow) comin' out on KOMPAKT via my MacBook Pro/Amarra 4' Beta - and and I've moved onto (since starting to type this update) my Noble SAVANT Custom IEMS & E-MU Systems over-ear dynamic headphones, and it's just ambient liquid goodness all-around. Whether through my Nobles, LCD-X, or E-MU System cans: The sound is full-bodied, layered beautifully, and as textural and colorful (NOT-colored) as I've heard in a battery-powered amp/DAC. At this price? If you're lookin' for something like it - well, I'd recommend this to my closest friends - I thought that might say more than all my drivel above - but who knows. I love it!
System Breakdown :
MacBook Pro runnin'
Amarra 4 (Beta) software
Moon Audio Silver Dragon USB
Rocketfish USB Mini-B-to-Micro adapter
4 Black Ravioli Sticky Pads
Audeze LCD-X planar magnetic cans
E-MU Systems dynamics
Noble Audio SAVANT custom IEMs (or, "CIEMs)
Double Helix Cables headphone leads
A Glimpse: Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab in-Action
So this is a shot I took when I was still packin' the Questyle Audio CMA600i desktop Headphone Amplifier & DAC.
The headphone amp section was, and I admit (unlike most audio reviewers) that it's pretty damn tough - if not impossible, to pick out which section we're hearing/critiquing in a component like this because the DAC and the amp are integrated - which is why I don't do this too often - but, QA's ASS-KICKING Current-Mode Operation technology (with its stunning DAC section of course, capable of handling Direct DSD) was as detailed and staunchly resolute in its musical renderings of recordings as I have heard, period. Of course, in order to achieve this - the unit had to be mated with just the right headphones that yield that type of magic synergy you need to get in order to produce these kinds of results.
My preferred Cans-of-Choice for this very Noble endeavor ;):
ENIGMAcoustics Dharma D1000 Hybrid electrostatic/dynamics
L8Night Studio Six Session - Blessing & Curse
A L8Night listening sesh of the First-Order, which meant firin' up my treasured ALO Audio Studio Six tube headphone amp (my review at Positive-Feedback) became necessity outta nowhere last night at the Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab! I can't even begin to tell you how strange things got around here: I can't/won't go into specifics, but we got news that an acquaintance was having some difficulty navigating the rough waters that were produced by 2016!!
What I mean is: It's been a rough year for a few people I know. So I'm not sure if you gotta friend or friends who are strugglin' too (we all got struggles I know - I mean, perhaps a lil' more than usual this time).
I'm so grateful for all of you. It doesn't matter if we never meet, or don't speak the same language (verbally). In this wondrous modern age we can talk to each other from different time zones, across oceans. And despite all that technological phenomena - It's immeasurable how much the messages from you guys (the readers) mean to me.
Not only can I say that my readers of OccupyHifi saved me this year. But YOU GUYS, those same readers, have also officially, Thus Far, given me more support than my own family.
And please believe me when I say: As I keep typing, that doesn't feel good at all, and I'm not messin' around or showin' off. Just lettin' it flow...
The lights of my supporters have, more than a few times in my seemingly short-life, led me to where I need to be. So, with all my heart and soul: THANK YOU
Early Days of Portable Hi-fi Circa 2012
Took this shot at a departure gate at Oakland Airport back in 2012.
Personal Audio was already on a fast trajectory, but I remember feelin' like I needed to rock somethin' old school. Somethin' special on this trip back to Brooklyn and upstate NY...
My moms was having her first kidney operation (actually came up as a Facebook Memory TODAY - and I didn't even know the date, or if this was around the time of the original trip! I just felt an attraction to share this image.
I already had an integrated Amp/DAC by the time this trip came round, but the Headroom Total Bithead was not only the first bit of personal audio gear that Tyll (Herstens - then still head of Headroom) sent me - but my Sonic Satori column at The Daily Swarm was my first article ever to appear in the old school Head-Fi ticker that traversed the old school home screen.
Lehmann Audio Traveler STILL ROCKS - So...
How far have we actually come in personal audio/portable (typically battery-powered) headphone amplifiers? Needing the sonic integrity of my cherished Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab on-the -go tonight - I decided to reach for an old standard. I say this, because Norbert Lehmann re-wrote the rules of engagement for personal, portable headphone amps back when he offered the Traveler.
The thing had a reported, astounding battery-life of 12-14 hours! Now, admittedly, when I heard about this, I said to myself: Shit, I could have that magnificent dynamic range and AIR I'd become accustomed to with Lehmann, but On-The-Go?!?!
How could an amp play for so long, and at the same time honor the music? And we're talkin' honoring the music in the same way a classic old school stereo amp would if you had the right Speakers.
The Lehmann plays music (when mated with the proper cans) much like my David Reich-designed Classe Audio DR-9 amp does while driving my beloved Zu Audio Omen Def loudspeakers! The sound is controlled, but not congested: It's open, excitable and infectious. My Classe has the necessary high damping-factor: A spec that, IMHO, is probably THE MOST important for amplifiers: As it tells you the amps ability to control the overhang of your drivers. The Traveler has always managed to do more than its expected job. The lil' magic amp always gets me pumped to keep listening, and seek out tunes I haven't explored in a LONG time.
Now, if those aren't the markings of a great amp, I'm not sure what is. As I sit here this very moment, the traveler (in the system pictured above) has got me groovin'.
PS: I'm going to touch base with Mr. Lehmann - as I have a few readers who weren't happy with the fact that I got outta doin' a full review of the headphone amp. If it's still available (or, for that matter, "current" as they say) I'd love to tackle it now!!
Love My SubPac. How the Hell Could I Go Back?
When I'm goin' nuts on the dancefloor, whether in a club or an underground warehouse party, the BASS is such a vital part of the experience. It's the backbone of dance music: The frequencies that keep our booties shakin', and our fists pumpin'. On a large-scale, resolving, loud-as -F___ sound-system like Funktion One, so much of the low end is felt, not merely heard. I believe this is perhaps the most important sonic element in dance environments like this (raves, etc.). You ever catch ourself outta wind, and you gotta take a break from sweatin' it out on the floor - only to find yourself nodding your head, moving your hips, there's an energy you just can't shake, no matter how freakin' exhausted you get.
You sit there with your friends, trying to get a break, you got smiles ear-to-ear, and still everybody's movin'. You look lik a bunch of mental patients in an old psych ward where the patients can't talk, but they can move an appendage or two. You can't help it. The bass has gotcha. And if you don't know what I'm talkin' bout: My sincerest condolences.
Sometimes I think the only reason I'm still walkin' around today is because of the all-night stomp sessions at those parties. It's a great way to face your demons down head-on, or, just dance away your bosses snarky f___in' attitude...
Before Subpac came along, if you wanted an experience like the ones I described above, in those collective situations or the studio, you needed some pretty big-ASS loudspeakers/monitors. With their tactile bass system (meaning, the bass is in-fact tactile - it resonates directly onto (and seemingly through) your body.
Their S2 (pictured to the right - my lovely Subpac) is designed to be affixed to your chair, or, you can sit it on a couch, a deeper chair, car seat, etc. Their M2 is wearable (on your back). It looks like something the dudes from Tron would wear on those funky cycles that left lines of light behind to kill each other. I mean, it's actually a very positive thing:
After all, Subpac has become deeply involved in spreading the job of bass to deaf kids, and that rings a very personal tones with me. So I salute their efforts, and, as OccupyHifi is an official SubPac Supporter I look forward to perhaps volunteering at one of those events. As it's great to give back.
The Pac is also an incredible production tool, and you really gotta feel it to believe it. My utmost apologies for that total cookie-cutter line... Unfortunately I gotta get my ass outta this seat and head to a meeting!
I did some work for Subpac last Summer, helping them build awareness for the brand. I'll be sharing more on both models ASAP!
Audeze LCD-2F + Schiit Jotunheim = MUSICAL MAGIC
OccupyHifi devotees will recognize Schiit Audio's new Jotunheim here in the Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab: Their BAD-ASS configurable fully-balanced headphone amp/DAC/line-stage/phonostage. Oh, damn, SORRY bout that. I got a lil' carried away for a sec - but hey, for $399 the thing does ALL that and does it so damn well it should make some personal audio manufacturers run for cover, and others, hopefully, will see it as a serious challenge.
I believe it could be one of (if not THE) Greatest Sonic+Innovative achievement from Schiit to-date! Now, I'm already a fan of these wonderfully crazy guys - and I remember Jason Stoddard & Mike Moffat from their time in the ol' school high-end two-channel industry. So believe me, these guys know what the fuck they're doin' - plain-and-simple.
Their gear? While minimal in design and aesthetic (which I LOVE) the stuff just OOZES soul. Like my tiny Schiit Vali? $120 bucks for that ll' hybrid headphone amp that drives my Audezes beautifully! I still recommend it for starters - because it's good enough for hi-fi vets as well.
More to come on Jotunheim ASAP! We'll be tossing lots of different headphone styles and other system goodies at the thing here in the Lab.
Experiencing Jot w/ my most-cherished Audeze LCD-2 planar magnetic headphones via my top reference: Double Helix Cables was so damn addictive I sat for way too long. I'm like an old man these days: My back locks up much faster than it used to, but I can't stop listening! Not very wise.
PLUS: Somethin' Else JUST-ARRIVED for official review here at OccupyHifi HQ! If you missed my - Daniel Wright's Modwright Tryst headphone amp blew my ears and brain to pieces (in the greatest possible way that is) at that event. So I'm Honored to get serial number #0001!
Things are gettin' Interesting around here! Keep checkin' in!
Merry Xmas + Plat lots of music!!!!
Modwright's TRYST Tube Headphone Amp Is HERE!!
Serial number: 0001 and I am so grateful to Daniel Wright for this opportunity to bask in the already-dazzling sonic magic of his masterful Modwright Instruments TRYST tube headphone amplifier! I only got to sit down with a few headphone amps at CanJam SoCal 2016. Admittedly I was lookin' forward to hearing the TRYST the most. Why? My good friend and former Audio360 teammate Kevin Venable had one of Modwrights pre-amps w/ a headphone output, and he loved that damn thing. I often end up, though not always (we're all human) on the same side as Kevin. Well - soon he's bringin' over his Focal Elears and MrSpeakers ETHER Flow cans - and we goin' GIT DOWN'...
We're workin' on the plan: Something similar to the roundtable/live chat pieces we did over at Audio360! But keep an eye out! Impressions coming.
I had to take a quick pic here because the thing looks so wonderfully classic + modern, yet contemporary as well! It's a timeless design needless to say. So it looks like it could be perfectly at-home next to your OG cappuccino machine, or your Shinola Runwell turntable!
Fancy looks aside - When I plugged my MrSpeakers ETHER (open-back) and Double Helix Cables Xtreme into the TYRST at Canjam SoCal I immediately thought, though I don't remember if I said it out-loud: "Get the damn Eagles off ASAP"! There was magic in this system boy...
I'll be commenting on it ASAP!! - In the meantime:
Here's my Behind the Booths & Back series at Positive Feedback on CanJam SoCal where I share my initial thoughts on the TYRST!!
SO psyched to have it at the #SonicSatoriPersonalAudioLab!!
Audio OCD WORKS ON-THE-GO
I never thought I'd find a situation where my OCD is ALWAYS an asset - but when it comes to preparing my personal audio arsenal for long or short trips I gotta admit - though it may sound NUTZ:
I'm grateful for the organizational madness that comes along with the disorder - the compulsiveness however, that shit' gotta go.
So - somebody in a freakin' lab somewhere: KEEP WORKIN' AWAY on that magic pill so I can step away from this damn laptop right now and go hang w/ this beautiful girl! DAMN OCD - So what I usually say about? OCD is great for some things, terrible for others.
Stackin' my REI backpack for this particular excursion? OCD or no disorder, it was downright fun to re-load my DAPS and refresh the hard-drives with some new tunes!
I took this pic as it represents what I've been rockin' daily for a year - excluding a couple other staples not in the pic:
Like my JH Audio Roxanne custom IEMS, Meze 11Neo universal IEMs, Oppo PM3s, Sennheiser HD7 (both wired w/ Double Helix Cables), and especially my Audeze SINE on-ear planar headphones - those are my FAVE travel cans - perhaps of the decade!
The gear in the pic, these components never leave my backpack:
Sennheiser Momentum universal IEMs (superbly airy & dynamic at this price!!)
Noble Audio SAVANT Custom IEMs w/ Moon Audio Silver Dragon IEM cables (I love the SAVANTs - 400 bucks - IMHO, they are literally a STEAL. They actual have, except when
Acoustic Research ARM2 DAP (I LOVE this freakin' digital audio player - but I firmly believe if AR doesn't bring the price down, I don't know if it will stick around. It's a shame, because the AR-M2's music playback is wonderfully engaging far more dynamic than I anticipated!
Questyle Audio QP1R: This DAP, if I use the the ol' Desert Island approach (meaning: If I could only have one DAP, while stranded on a desert island )- there's, IMHO, NO chance for the others! The QP1Rs patented Current-Mode amp technology takes it to levels, dynamically, gain-wise, and the sound is fluid and continious. This DAP rocks dual mini SD Card slots, for a helluva lotta' memory expansion - YEAH. It also SHINES when mated w/ IEMS. It can drive just about anything. I use my Oppo PM3s with it, or my Audeze SINE - which I also bring Double Helix Cables to wire both of these cans.
Astell-n-Kern AK380: This is, IMHO, the Rolls Royce of DAPs. if we're talkin' straight-up resolving capabilities and overall sexiness (DAMN, I used that term again when discussing audio - I've got problems) - when it comes to the 380s Gorilla-Glass-Like resolution and micro and macro-dynamics its just leagues beyond.
Astell-n-Kern AKjr: I LUV the AKjr. It feels great in my hand, powers IEMS splendidly, as well as easy-to-drive on and over-ear headphones. Plus: when set to line-out/2.25v output - this lil' magic DAP as a source component - I may actually prefer it's signature to the OG AK240! Bottom-Line - at this price you can experience high end personal audio - and if you're a music addict like many of us - it will most likely end up being your audible gateway drug - pulling you further and further away from the big box stores full of crap with employees who don't know enough to sell you batteries, let alone a decent personal audio system!
Acoustic Research ARM2 DAP+Noble Audio SAVANT CIEMS
Make for a splendid combination! I grabbed the ARM2 last night as I wasn't in the mood to set-up my trusty and much-loved ALO Audio Rx IEM headphone amplifier! One of the coolest (and, obviously, equally GEEKish) totally-by-accident-features of using the Rx w/ the Noble Audio SAVANT customs is the Pelican Case that comes with the IEMs happens to fit both the ALO Rx and CIEMs (as it "custom" in-ear-monitors) perfectly! Making that lil' system an easy, POWERFUL one-for-the-road...
Now - utilizing the Acoustic Research ARM2, which, admittedly, I hadn't tossed many CIEMs at that DAP for whatever reason (could be that it's got a shitload of power, and so I never think to try out the amp w/ IEMs - pretty simple explanation - yeah - I just realized that myself - as I've said a million times: Excuse me: I'm a burn-out. Nonetheless, the ARM2 was actually far quieter when handling the SAVANTs.
I imagine the on-board headphone amp has a decent damping factor (an important, yet overlooked spec in amps) you toss in the fact that Acoustic Research did a fine job of stuffin' a ton of power into a slim-line - contemporary design that's easy on the eyes, hands (some of these things get pretty FAT once we Head-Fier and SBAF-ers start stackin' our personal audio gear: Different DACs, amps, etc.: Just like tiny stereo systems! Nothin' like that here: It's slick, sounds fantastically dynamic and lush, and I didn't wanna take the damn IEMs outta my ear. There ain't many times I've been able to say that.
Both of these get the OccupyHifi.org Seal of Approval (though most likely a broken seal cuz I stole the suckers ;)
ALO, Astell-n-Kern, Meze & Noble Come Together
and what sweet music they made...
This combination, it's trial, was actually born-of audio-OCD'ing out like mad more-so than anything! I was PUMPED to get my Noble Audio SAVANT custom in-ear-monitors or "IEMs" as those of us music junkies consistently seeking our portable high fidelity fixes call em'. And, what a bonus: The lil' Pelican Case they come in has, literally, the perfect amount of free space to stack the SAVANTs in their cloth bag atop my beloved ALO Audio Rx IEM headphone amplifier!
And HATS OFF to Brannan Mason at Noble for his impressions (for the custom mold) technique! These CIEMS have, perhaps, the greatest seal I've experienced with a pair of customs.
More Updates comin'!
Check out the new stylings of the Sonic Satori Tumblr page!
Richie Hawtin DE9_ Closer To The Edit via AMARRA 4
Richie Hawtin's BANGIN' DE9_ Closer To The Edit via Amarra 4, and my beloved Audeze LCD-2F fitted with Double Helix Cables Molecule 4 - 4-pin XLR.
Together with my Schiit Audio Jotunheim balanced headphone amp/DAC - - - DAAMN!
Check out what I got to say on the Sonic Satori Tumblr Page!
Another Round with Schiit's Jotunheim: Hell Yeah!
I know, we've seen a few pix with Schiit Audio's Jotunheum here at the Sonic Satori Personal Audio Lab page! But, at $399 the Jotunheim is by far, IMHO, for beginners to even the most advanced techno-geeko-HeadFi-Fo Mo's - the greatest deal in the personal audio industry/hobby today: PERIOD!!
For that price, to get a balanced headphone amplifier which is also a line-stage, plus optional DAC or phonostage - and it performs at a level that continues to surprise me the more it settles in (or, breaks-in for that matter). I mean: I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'm going to sell my Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold because of the Jotunheim!
Now: I'm not going to deny that my divorce (current economic status) isn't playing a factor here. I need the cash. However: It wouldn't matter how broke I was! If the Jot didn't sound this musical, this transparent, and frankly, warm-as-hell (which I LOVE) I couldn't part with my LAu. But thanks to this sleek gem of modern electronics I can part ways and not feel like I'm missing anything. I'm sure that's gonna sound nuts to a few of my personal audio brethren - well, I'v been doing a helluva lotta' experimenting with the Jot - and I got it SINGIN'!
This particular combination: The Jot + my cherished Audeze LCD-2F (w/ Fazor) is stunning. I've had many sunrise and sunset listening sessions w/ this rig - and, though all these words come down to a glowing recommendation - there's something about it that stands out: Beyond the audiophile-speak.
Harry Pearson had buttons made for TAS (The Absolute Sound) in the eighties (yeah - I was a kid - he showed em to me later) that said: "TAS has TDF" - that stood for: "TAS has twinkle-dust factor." I never knew what the hell that meant: But if I'm close - I'd say the Jot's got it in spades...
Check this damn thing out ASAP
**and my utmost apologies for the FAR looser sailors mouth in the Schiit Audio Jot pieces above on this page - that was the work on my invaders/hackers/haters/biters**
CRAZY LIL' IEM System
I LOVE it when happy personal audio accidents happen:
I didn't choose the componentry for this IEM system as usual (considering system/component synergy, etc...). I just happened to have a BOATLOAD of gear with me at my friends house while writing the recent Mike Drop here at OccupyHifi.org - and I tossed this together FAST.
The result? Sonic Stunner!
Here we have ALO Audio's splendid lil' Rx IEM headphone amp, my trusty Astell-n-Kern AK380 DAP and my Meze Audio 11Neo universal IEMs!! The source and amp are connected via Double Helix Cables mini-to-mini
YEAH - the Meze are only 60 bucks, compared the $3,500.00 of the AK380! But, frankly, I don't give a shite if the system sounds like music and keeps me listening!
Check out Meze - haven't had a dud from them yet. GREAT styling, sound, and DAMN affordable!!
One of My Favorite Music Quotes
Thoughts I'd drop this in here at the Labs.
Gotta finish a few things and start this music review for Hifi+!
Thanks to Spirit Science for NAILING this one!
NEW Mercers Winning Combo! Portable Sonic Heaven
When I was writing for my friend Scot Hull over at Part-Time Audiophile, the personal audio wave was just starting to crest over the uber-hobbyist-level, and Hi-Rez music had become not merely more portable, but easy to use and, yeah thank God it happened: stylish!
After a while of dealin' with these big bricks of plastic and such - Astell-n-Kern introduced their lil’ black AK-100 Hi-Rez player back in 2013, and I think they got a HUGE jump on the competition.
We also got them to Newport for their first American show. At T.H.E Headphonium (hosted by our Audio360.org blog ) headphone show at T.H.E Show Newport: That was my first headphone show that I ever co-produced. The player had a terrific, excitable sound, and it was sleek...
So I discovered this holographic-like, beautiful sonic synergy between the AK-100 DAP (digital-audio-player), the Original battery-powered ALO Audio International headphone amp/DAC, and my beloved Audeze LCD-3s. I loved the system so much I wrote about the whole thing entitled Mercers Winning Combo at Part-Time Audiophile!
The system pictured above, thus far, has taken high-fidelity on-the -road (a series I did here at OccupyHifi.org) to an tirely new level, in dimensionality, dynamic punch, so much of what I love most about music sometimes.
This portable rig: Audeze LCD-X, Astell&Kern AK380 DAP, and the Lehmann Traveler headphone amplifier, which is not only as clean AND exciting-sounding as I've heard in a little amp - it's battery life is, pardon me but: Just plain Redonkulous. It drove my buddy Chris Sommovigos LCD-3s for like 23-26 hours at The High Fidelity Report!
I have experienced, already with this system; some of my most intense personal audio listening experiences. And now - certainly my new #1 experience with this kinda stuff...
It’s also amazing with Questyle’s QP1R DAP, but, admittedly, the A&K needs amplification (and the Lehmann Traveler showcases that for sure, though many of us already agree there) so the X's also rock on the QP1R alone because of its Current-Mode amplification - but this particular combo, all wired w/ Double Helix Cables - SHEESH!!!!