Yurbuds: Earphone Untuk Runners

Sudah lama saya penasaran dengan earphone merek Yurbuds. Mereka ngejanjiin earphone yang bakal nempel terus di kuping meski aktivitas olah raga kita rusuh banget. Juga ngejanjiin earphone mereka sweat proof. Cocok banget nih buat nemenin lari. Tapi saya ngga tau di mana yang jual kalo di Indonesia, sampai satu hari saya lihat di YouTube-nya Headfonia Store, mereka memperkenalkan Yurbuds. Exciting banget!

Lanjutkan membaca “Yurbuds: Earphone Untuk Runners”

Playlist Musik Untuk Menemani Lari – Edisi 9 Mei 2015

Kalau saya lari di jalanan, jelas saya lebih suka kuping saya bebas ngga terganggu earphone. Sederhana aja, faktor keselamatan diri buat saya sangat penting. Tapi kalau saya lari di area yang memungkinkan, misalnya di Gelora Bung Karno saat TNR atau di area Car Free Day, rasanya menyengangkan sekali bisa lari sambil dengar musik. Karena itu saya mau share playlist musik yang menemani saya berlari saat ini.

Lanjutkan membaca “Playlist Musik Untuk Menemani Lari – Edisi 9 Mei 2015”

Impresi Plantronics BackBeat FIT

Plantronics® BackBeat FIT

Beberapa waktu yang lalu, saya dapat kabar bahwa teman-teman saya di Headfonia Store buka cabang baru di Mal Ambassador. Kebetulan saya lagi nyari earbuds untuk jogging dan di website mereka ada beberapa pilihan earbuds untuk sport. Salah satunya Plantronics BackBeat FIT. Langsung saya meluncur ke toko mereka untuk nyoba earbuds ini. Seperti apa impresinya?

Lanjutkan membaca “Impresi Plantronics BackBeat FIT”

Pilihan Earphone Untuk Jogging

Ilustrasi jogging pakai earphone. (sumber foto)

Baru-baru ini saya memutuskan untuk mulai jogging. Memang sih saya mulainya relatif terlambat dibanding kebanyakan orang, tapi better late than never. Saya akui dari kecil memang tidak pernah kuat lari. Makanya saat pertama mulai jogging, saya ngga pasang ekspektasi tinggi. Benar saja, baru juga 200 meter kaki sudah berasa sakit. Setengah jalan kemudian, mulai berasa keleyengan/pusing. Sampai di rumah, saya cek hasil di app Nike Fuel, ternyata saya sudah menempuh 3 km. Wah! Betul-betul ngga nyangka. Jadi tambah semangat kalau begini.

Lalu saya jadi membayangkan, betapa enaknya kalau jogging sambil ditemani musik. Sepertinya akan cukup ampuh untuk mengalihkan perhatian saya dari rasa sakit dan capek. Jadilah saya mulai kasak kusuk online untuk cari tahu ada pilihan apa saja yang cocok untuk menemani jogging. Apa saja pilihannya?

Lanjutkan membaca “Pilihan Earphone Untuk Jogging”

UE Mini Boom: Ukuran Kecil, Suara Gimana?

Baru-baru ini, saya dihadapkan dengan kebutuhan sebuah speaker untuk presentasi. Permasalahannya sih standar, suara yang keluar dari laptop jelek banget untuk dipakai presentasi video iklan atau pun iklan radio. Kesulitannya, saya ngga bisa datang ke toko untuk coba speaker satu-satu alias ngga ada waktunya. Akhirnya saya pakai metode ‘percaya merek’. Dan pilihannya (yang dikasih lampu hijau dari kantor) jatuh kepada Ultimate Eears (UE) Mini Boom.

UE Mini Boom – portable wireless laptop speaker.

Lanjutkan membaca “UE Mini Boom: Ukuran Kecil, Suara Gimana?”

The Addictive and Affordable Topping D1 Mark II

Photo credit: Solen Electronique Inc.
Topping D1 Mark II (photo credit: Solen Electronique Inc.)

Audiophile or not, I love music. I take my music with me almost where ever I go in my laptop, so I’ll be needing a portable DAC/Amp to get the best out of my headphone. Thus came the Topping D1 Mark II (D1) into the picture. I’ll tell you; this little device performed WAY BEYOND my expectation!

I know I did a mini impression article before, but I love the synergy between the D1 and my Mad Dog so much. I’ve decided to give the D1 part a little more length to express what makes me really happy with it. Here we go!

From the first touch, it looked and felt expensive. If I didn’t know earlier, I would never have thought that it’s under $100. But enough about appearance, it’s the sound that matters and this is where I found things got even more interesting.

Listening to India Arie’s Video and Muse’s Panic Station, my thought was, “DAT BASS!!” Seriously. This little thing delivered a good weighty bass punch to my music. I feel that the weight even surpasses the Headroom Total Bithead and the iBasso D-Zero. I’ve tried comparing to the Fiio E17 and Audinst Hud-Mini. They didn’t even come close. It’s very addictive!

On to the rest of the sound. I was told that the D1 will have a good synergy with my T50RP Mad Dog and I think I agree to the suggestion. It has a quiet, black background. The sound stage was not wide, but rather has depth. Layering was obviously felt by my ears and it made guitar sound and other rhythm lively. The sound was warm, dark, quite fast, but less in your face than the D-Zero. It makes the D1 more versatile from modern music to acoustic music (such as jazz). Again, that weighty bass punch that I can’t soon forget. It was just the perfect amount and quality that it brought the music much even more alive.

However, the D1 also come with some downsides. One, being 16-bit resolution only, giving more space for noise which makes the music sound grainy. I wish it had a built in battery like the D-Zero for use as a portable amp. The build quality, though looking fine, is actually prone to dent from accidental fall.

 

More comparisons to other gears

Compared to the Total Bithead, I found the D1 similar to the Bithead in warmth. The D1 was darker. Bass punch on the Bithead was good, but the D1 had a tad more weight to the punch. Midrange was definitely fuller on the D1. Sound stage was wider on the Bithead, and the D1 had more depth. The Bithead had a more sparkly treble than the D1 which sometimes can lead to shrillness. I also found that the D1 was more natural sounding than the Bithead.

Compared to the Hud-Mini, the D1 was a tad darker. Bass punch of the Hud-Mini was nowhere near the D1 and attacks were also slower. Midrange was similar in character, but the D1 had a fuller presentation. Highs were smoother on the Hud-Mini. Soundstage was a bit wider than the D1 and there was a tad roomy feel to it. The D1 was somehow livelier than the Hud-Mini; must’ve been from the better layering. I think the Hud-Mini was more intended towards vocal lover, whilst the D1 was the more versatile choice.

Compared to the Fiio E17 “Alpen”, I think the Alpen is quite a neutral DAC/Amp, but tinkering with the settings can give colorations to match the desired listening preferences. The best setting for me was to add 6 db gain, +4 to bass, and +8 to treble. I felt the D1 still sounded more natural than the Alpen. The Alpen also still can’t match the weighty punch of the D1, but better in speed. Sound stage was a lot more spacious on the Alpen, though still less depth than the D1. I think midranges were on par on both devices, with a fuller presentation on the Alpen and better layering on the D1.

Compared to the iBasso D-Zero, they were similar in warmth. The D1 was darker. I think bass punches were on par on both devices, but the D1 punch weight gave a lower heavier feel. Midrange was a tad fuller on the D1 than the D-Zero. Treble on the D-Zero was quite smooth, while the D1 was sparkly. Soundstage on the D-Zero was more spacious, yet the D1 again had better depth. I believe the D-Zero is the closest competitor to the D1, especially given the similar price range.

 

To sum it up

I think the Topping D1 Mark II will bring the most bang for the bucks, at least for the time being. It’s currently going head to head with the iBasso D-Zero but I believe they will appeal to different crowd. The sound of the D1 was fun, VERY addictive weighty bass punch, convenient to carry around, and it’s very easy to set up. But most importantly, it’s not going to make my wallet cry.

 

Do you agree with my review or disagree? Let me know your opinion in the comment below. :)

 

Gears used:
Topping D1 Mark II, iBasso D-Zero, Audinst Hud-Mini, Fiio E17, Headroom Total Bithead, HifimeDIY, Fostex T50RP “Mad Dog with Dog Pads”, and PC (Foobar2000 through WASAPI).

Impressions of 6 portable DAC/Amp

I was loaned 6 portable DAC/Amp to play around with. Most of them are products that have been in the market for quite some time. However I think all of them are affordable in terms of price.

This is the first time I encounter more than one product to critically listen to, and to be honest, I found it hard to do. So instead of making reviews, I decided to write impressions of each one of them. The impressions are meant for those seeking convenient and affordable solution for their mobile audiophile need.

All impressions were based on a simple setup: laptop (foobar with wasapi) to DAC/Amp to headphone, in this case I used my Mad Dog T50RP. Please take note that although the T50RP has a low impedance number, it is also orthodynamic which makes it kind of tricky to drive properly.

Here we go…

HifimeDIY (link)

Vs the on board sound card (mine’s Realtek btw), I noticed that the sound smooths out a bit. The bass is laid back a little bit. Midrange is thicker, noticeable from the sound of guitar distortion. Overall it has a more forward presentation. The background is not black, I can still notice noise when not playing music. The HifimeDIY doesn’t include amp, so volume changes must be done from the audio player or the OS. On WASAPI setting, it works on 24 bit.

To sum it up, it really is a simple solution if you just want a better sound than your on board sound card. It can also be useful in the case of dead sound card (like my colleague’s here at work).

iBasso D-Zero (link)

I understand why a friend of mine recommended this DAC/Amp for me over the Hippo Cricri+. The overall sound presentation is rather big or in your face. The DAC section smooths out the sound a bit. It is also sounding a bit spacious. It is somehow mid centric to my ears. The bass has good extension but not enough punch for my preference. The highs felt boosted, but maybe it’s because of the overall sound presentation. However I notice noise from the USB connection, though I didn’t notice it when music started to play. On WASAPI setting, it works on 16 bit only.

To sum it up, if you’re listening to modern music, then this might be suitable for you. The sound is big and fun. It honestly made me forgot about other things such as depth, imaging, and other tid bit.

Headroom Total Bithead (link)

I wasn’t impressed the first time I try this amp, paired with a Vsonic GR02 IEM. However, pairing it with my Mad Dog brought a different impression. The most noticeable character of the Bithead is the bass with good solid punch. I noticed there’s a bit of depth to the sound stage. Width wise was also quite okay, meaning it’s not narrow. However, the imaging was rather confusing for me. On WASAPI setting, it works on 16 bit only.

To sum it up, I believe that this DAC/Amp is more suited for modern music. I prefer it for electronic music. Those kinds of music tends to ignore technicalities and just bring fun to the table.

Audinst Hud Mini (link)

This DAC/Amp is probably the one who sits in the middle of the intersection out of all 6 gears loaned to me. The sound is grainy. I couldn’t tell for sure if the midrange was smooth or a bit laid back. It added a little bit of spaciousness to the sound. However the overall sound is a bit slow or mellow if you’d like. I assume that it was caused by the lack of current to drive an my Mad Dog. The synergy was a lot better when I plugged my GR02 IEM to it.

Those being said, I do like it as a convenient mobile solution for audiophile. It has two headphone out jack, 1/4-inch and 1/8 inch, which eliminates the need of an extra converter. The build quality is nice. I can easily notice where the volume pot pointed at compared to most of the bunch. And 4 small rubber feet to keep it steady on the table. Tid bits but really nice to have.

Fiio E17 / Alpen (link)

I used to crave for this compact portable solution. I finally got the chance to play around with it. However, pairing it with the Mad Dog did not make a shining synergy. I felt a spacious sound created from the lower frequencies. But the punch was felt after I increase the volume from 20/60 to 40/60. Alas, I didn’t get the preferred weight in the punch. Thankfully, the Alpen came with an internal EQ system for bass and treble, though I didn’t play around with it for the sake of giving impressions from ‘out of the box’ state. Okay, I finally tweak around the settings. I found that I like to add 6 db gain, bass boost to 4 for that added oomph, and treble boost to 8 for a little bit of sparkle in the high. Volume is at 28 and I felt that I got loud enough to have an enjoyable sound.

To sum it up, the Alpen really is a convenient all in one solution. The overall sound is on the safer side of the bunch. I think it’s also tilted a bit towards laid back.

Topping D1 Mark II (link)

I was suggested that the D1 will have the most synergy with my Mad Dog. After hearing it myself, I have to agree with the suggestion. It has a quiet, black background. The sound stage was not wide, but rather has depth. Layering was obviously felt by my ears. It makes the D1 more versatile from modern music to acoustic music (such as jazz). The sound was warm, dark, quite fast, but less in your face than the D-Zero. It has a weighty bass punch that I can’t soon forget.

As you may have noticed that I like the D1 best among the bunch. But it also come with some downsides. One, being 16-bit resolution only, giving more space for noise which makes the music sound grainy. I wish it came with a built in battery for portable use with a DAP. The build quality, though looking fine, is actually very prone to dent from accidental fall.

To sum it up, I think I’ve found the bang for my bucks out of this little DAC/Amp. It’s quite convenient, and the additions of a line out port and a s/pdif port are pluses.

My overall ranks:
1. Topping D1 Mark II
2. iBasso D-Zero
3. Headroom Total Bithead
4. Fiio E17 Alpen
5. Audinst Hud-Mini
6. HifimeDIY

End words:
Please remember that this is a one man’s opinion. YMMV and I’m not sorry about your wallet. :)

Mad Dog by Mr. Speakers with Dog Pads

I recently bought a new pair of headphones, the Mad Dog (MD), which is a modded Fostex T50RP by Mr. Speakers, a Head-Fi member, with their new Dog Pads. I thought I’ll write my impressions here to share with you guys. It was originally written in an Indonesian headphone forum (in Bahasa Indonesia of course) and I’ll write them again here in English for the broader readers. Here goes…

I bought my Mad Dog with Dog Pads from a local store here. Fortunately they have stock Fostex T50RP, the previous MD, and the latest MD. So I can compare all of them. Indeed the MD is a significant improvement over the stock T50RP. They have an improvement in depth and much detailed sound. So, for sure I can say that the stock T50RP isn’t for me.

I continue to do an A/B-ing between the old and the new MDs, There were improvement in the bass section, just as the creator (Dan) claims it. But the improvement was also relatively subtle. I think Dan wanted to improve the bass but still keeping the sound signature that a lot of people already liked. In case you didn’t know, the old MD uses Shure SRH-840’s pads, while the new pads are designed by Dan himself and using lamb skin material.

Now I want to talk a little bit details on the sound improvements. As mentioned earlier, I noticed an improvement in the bass section. It has more bass body, plus a little bit of punch. In the previous MD, the bass was there but I often felt like I had to relax my ear muscles a bit to let get bass response to my ear drums. Maybe it’s just me, but it is what it is. With the changes in the new MD, I can hear the same bass quantity without having to relax my ear muscles as much.

The Dog Pads also made the MD sounded a little more toward dark, whereas in the old MD I felt a more bright / forward sound. In addition to the bass improvement, the high was also slightly elevated. Thus the mid sounded a bit recessed  although it’s not when compared to the old MD. With the old one, the mid was more forward but sacrificed the bass section. It’s a give and take situation.

Comfort in the old MD was excellent already. The additional leather headband minimize stress around the dome of my head pretty significantly. When brought to a brief comparison, the 840’s pads felt more comfortable. But when using the headphones at a longer period of time, the Dog Pads performed far better. I expect the life span of the Dog Pads can be quite long since it uses lamb skin. I just need to use it as often as I can, if not  every day.

Now for amp pairing. The store only had a limited number of amps. They’ve got an RSA Dark Star and other high end amps, but I stick to the smaller ones. I like to keep things in the affordable side. From a number of amps that I’ve tried pairing the MD with, I felt the most suitable to be paired with the new MD is still the ALO National. I tried pairing it with the ALO Pan Am, they’re still okay despite having to twist the volume pot to 2 o’clock to match my preference sound. Maybe I should have a setup that is better than a Sansa Clip Zip rockboxed with WAV files. Next I tried to pair it with the Matrix Mini and it became too dark. Lastly I tried pairing it with the ALO RX MK3B. With this amp the sound changed again. Head stage felt bigger, sound were a bit more open, a little to the bright side, and honestly it was quite impressive. However when the song on my Clip Zip played a trumpet (I listen to jazz by the way), whoa… too sharp for my taste. Too bad. So, I concluded until now, the most impressive setup for the MD is still iDevice -> Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo -> ALO National -> MD with stock cable.

And because cable is detachable, it’s open for re-cabling experiments. According to a friend, the MD sounded dark and can be improved with silver cable from Homegrown. But I guess that is if your sound preference is more to the bright side. For me, I tested the MD with Oyaide cable with a Viablue jack on one end and an unknown jack on the other end, the sound became smoother which is more to my sound preference. I think I’m going to make a short cabled version for other purposes.

So there you go. A short impressions on the new Mad Dog by Mr. Speakers with Dog Pads. If you asked me was it worth it to buy the MD? I’m going to answer: Yes, they quite suit my taste and give a bang for my bucks.

I still need to complete my setup with a good DAC (HRT MSII or Dacport LX), good cables to connect my laptop to the DAC and then to my vintage Sansui AU-2200 amp, and then I’m all set. So let me know in the comments below, what DAC will go better with my setup?

Audio-Technica ATH PRO-500MK2 : Affordable DJ Headphone

Disclaimer:
I offered to do a review for the ATH PRO-500MK2 to Ms. Mariane, Audio-Technica Indonesia representative in one of the local audiophile forum. After a few private messages, she agreed to give a loaner unit to me for a review. So, thank you Ms. Mariane and Audio-Technica Indonesia for the kind loaner.

The Audio-Technica ATH PRO-500MK2

First impression

It’s a DJ pair of headphones. The unit that I received came without a box, so I didn’t have any unboxing experience nor knew what other things that came with the packaging. But that’s alright, in the end it’s the cans that matters. My unit is a red, or should I say burgundy, with doff metallic finish. The material is plastic, but the build is sturdy. The headband is covered in pleather which is soft enough on the dome. Albeit a little bit heavy, it didn’t give any unnecessary pressure to my head when worn.

The ear cups are rather small for my ears. However it IS a circumaural headphone. The sound isolation is good. I tried cranking the volume all the way up and just a tiny bit of sound leaks outside. But when I take the headphone off and put it on my desk, I can say that the volume is quite loud. To get a more proper seal, I tuck my ear inside the cup. Thank goodness the clamping pressure is not strong, otherwise my ears would soar or I might get headache. That being said, right now maybe some of you may think that the clamping is not good. That is not the case. The clamping is not strong if you’re thinking that you can go head-banging with this headphone. It will definitely slip off of your head.

Some DJs do jump around while performing, but most of the time their headphone is worn around the neck. On that application, the Pro-500MK2 can be laid nicely around my neck with its swiveling cups’ pads facing down. The cups also can swivel in another axis which makes the cups facing outward. This is very useful for DJs who want to check for their beats and cues while holding the headphone with just one hand. It’s also useful for folding the headphones for travel use.

The cable is thick enough to withstand normal abuse. It’s coiled so that you don’t have to deal with messy cable on your DJ rig, but still can give a nice length for you to travel back and forth between your turntables and your LP or CD carrying case inside your bag that you put behind you. The cable is detachable, you just have to twist to open. It’s terminated with a small jack. However, based on what the jack looks like, I think the PRO-500MK2 also come with a big headphone jack adapter. DJs will also find this feature useful.

Preparing the sound

Since it came without a box, I have to assume that my unit had already been burned in. I read on the website that the can quite is easy to drive, based on the impedance. So I tried to think like a non-audiophile who loves bassy tunes or like a DJ. What will they do? Do they have DAC and amp? Maybe an amp, but not necessarily so. I’ve seen my friend, who’s a DJ, plugged his DJ cans right into his DJ mixer. So I guess I’ll just plug it in directly to my PC.

DJ cans should be able to handle bass, right? So the first thing that I do was prepare a list of CDs and music on my PC that are bass heavy. I think I’m all set. Let’s see how it went.

How does it sound?

I can tell that the ATH PRO-500MK2 handles bass well. It can reveal those low sub bass sounds as well as tight and punchier bass. Though sonically it’s in the mid-fi level, but if you’re not doing critical listening, it can deliver a really good bass. Besides, who’s doing critical listening to fun club music anyway? :P

In Skrillex’s Kyoto, I can feel the sub bass rumbling. On Chemical Brother’s album “Further”, I can feel the bass rumbles on to the head band. I felt tingle on my dome. On Deadmau5’s “4×4 = 12” and “For Lack Of A Better Name” albums, I felt the bass rumble lower to my shoulders. On Noisia’s “Split The Atom” album, I noticed that the Pro500MK2 not only handle bass well, it also handles mids and highs real good too. I’ve never enjoyed drum n bass music as intense as this. I also tested John Digweed’s “MMII” album, “Transitions Vol.2” album, and DJ Jeno’s “United DJ of America Vol.7” album. I got carried away and was lost in the mix.

As I progress to more popular genres, I felt that the bass is also well controlled. I didn’t think I’ve noticed any bleed to other frequencies so far. I tested the cans on Timbaland’s “Shock Value II”, “Total Club Hits 4”, “Ultra Dance 11”, Rahzel’s “Make The Music 2000”, Scratch’s “Loss 4 Words”, Pandji Pragiwaksono’s “Merdesa”, and “Miike Snow”.

What about the other genres? Now this is where it gets pretty unique for me. If I didn’t test on other genres other than the typical “basshead”, I would have said that this is a basshead headphones or at least a typical V shaped or U shaped headphones. I was quite surprised to realize that I was wrong.

My first suspicion came when I tested Adele’s “Someone Like You”. The vocals were not recessed, at least not as I would have expected from a bass head cans. However I did feel that it’s a bit congested. From memory alone, it reminded me a bit of the ATH M-50.

I was so curious that I have to tested it with another set of tunes. My collection is mostly jazz, so I chose the “Benyamin on Jazz” album. Inna Kamarie’s voice on “Hujan Gerimis Aje” sounded good. The track “Superman” came very enjoyable too on the PRO-500MK2. On goes the playlist with Jamiroquai, Suara, Owl City, Lady Antebellum, RHCP, The Lost Fingers, Yuna, and many more. However, I noticed that once in a while, the bass have a tendency to overwhelm the rest of the frequency. I found this very annoying in The Lost Fingers’ albums (gypsy acoustic guitar). I didn’t notice this issue in the “bass head” music genres. So I guess the PRO-500MK2 is still a basshead headphone.

What about performance with low quality MP3s? I think the PRO-500MK2 is quite a forgiving headphone. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, simply said the headphone can play those kinds of MP3s and still performs nicely. You will still notice the drop of audio quality but not on a large scale. So you will quickly forget about the quality and back to enjoy the music. I’ve tested it with Noisia’s BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix that I’ve got, which is an MP3 with 128 kb bitrate. And if you’re unfamiliar with the numbers, high quality audio that’s commonly used are in FLAC or WAV format, which can carry bitrates over 1000 kb, which means richer audio details are carried within the file.

The quick sum up

Overall, I think that the ATH PRO-500MK2 is a mid-fi priced hi-fi headphone that can handle bass really well. A pair of DJ cans that works on a broader genre of music, at least up to a certain point. The bass, which is it’s selling point, is tight and packs a punch while also able to go to the sub bass level. The sound stage is typical of closed cans, not too wide though not as narrow as on ear headphones, and the depth is quite shallow. But if you’re DJ-ing with this headphone, it won’t matter, really. The PRO-500MK2 can handle fast paced music well, thus creating exciting toe tapping factor. However, just remember that this headphone is priced in the mid-fi level, so expect it to perform in that level too.

Does the ATH PRO-500MK2 live up to its promise or as advertised? Yes it does. On a longer listening session, I felt like I was back in the days where I always go to a club every weekend to enjoy some music, dancing, and sightseeing. So if you’re looking for those kinds of qualities in a DJ headphone or just starting to learn DJ-ing, then the ATH PRO-500MK2 might just be the one for you.

I would like to add some notes. I wish the ear cups were a bit bigger so that the cup can actually go around the outer part of my ear. I wish sound isolation could be a tiny bit better. The pleather material can cause sweat around the ears. I do recommend using it in a cool environment. Put the AC on if you happen to have one in the room.

Impressions from non-audiophiles a.k.a. your average consumers

Aldi:
“It’s less aggressive than my HD202. I can crank up the volume to where it supposed to hurt, but my ear drums are still okay. It’s not fatiguing. It feels a little heavy on the head. I can hear hiss in the background. It’s light on the ears. Cool bass impact.”

Dini (wears hijab):
“It has the feel of an earphone (she uses IEM – red), the bass is not bloaty. Feels good on the head and ears. Great detail. Cool design.” Take account that she wears hijab which would effect on her impressions. However she’s very interested in the PRO-500MK2, she even googled it.

Fajar:
His first impression was, “Enak”. After I encourage him to be a little bit more detail in his impressions, this is what he told me, “I really like the high. They’re clear. Crunchy. I’m not satisfied with the bass and the mids.”

Ibe (metal head):
His first impression was also, “Enak”. And then “But the sound is kind of like lacking some room. It’s like too close to my ears (he probably referring to the sound stage – ed). I’ve tested directly to my iPod, and I can really notice when I changed the EQ, unlike when listening from my speakers. I would probably got fatigue when listening for a long period of time because the ear cups are small.”

Rayan (gamer):
His first impression was about the sound stage. He said, “It doesn’t sound open like your other headphone”. After I explain that this is supposed to be a DJ headphone, he understood the PRO-500MK2 better. He said, “No wonder. DJs don’t need headphone with high technicality. I think this (the PRO-500MK2) is more than enough.” He gave a thumb up after knowing how much it cost. “That’s a good value for the sound”.

dbE HP30, Affordable Headphones with Good Performance

Before I start, I want to thank dbE for choosing me as one of the lucky few to participate in the loaner program. However, I will keep my review as objective as possible, there fore I won’t be misleading to both my readers and as feedback for dbE. Let’s start!
Packaging
The outer packaging is quite informative and looks expensive in terms of design (layout & photos factor), but the finishing could be better. When I show it to my wife, she thought that it’s an IDR 800K pair of cans, more than twice of the real price. The inner box also give an expensive feel because it’s in black. But the inner wall of the box is plain card board so it looks cheap. The headphones is placed on some kind of housing covered in velour. Looks expensive again. However, the velour cover is more like a pouch, thus it doesn’t hold the cans and the included converter jack quite properly. Under the housing, there is a simple compartment to store other stuff that goes with the pack. It’s simple, very handy and looks neat.
Build Quality
The HP30 looks like a Beyerdynamic cans (880 and 770) but with oval shaped ear cups. It looks solid with steel ear cup handles, steel grill, and plastic housing with silver color. I don’t know whether the steel parts are stainless or not, but I sure hope it is. Again I think it lacks the finishing touch. Brushed steel can indeed give fancy effects, but the one on the HP30 still looks rough, unlike the Beyer’s. The lack of finishing touch also shown on the rubber material, eg. seal around the velor pad. To me it washed away the whole expensive looking experience. The cord is long (2m) and thick, but I think the rubber sleeving is a little weak, it may also be easily peeled off. So it’s better to be careful not to crush the cord or accidentally run it over your chair’s wheel. The cord terminates into a small gold plated jack.
Comfort
Although the HP30 is a bit heavy when carried on the hand, it’s surprisingly comfortable and not fatiguing for long session of use. The velour pad are really comfortable. The circumaural  oval shape fits nicely around my ears. The fake leather padding material on the head band is very soft and reduce clamping on the top part of my head by a lot. Overall the comfort of the HP30 is good. I’ve tested it for a non-stop 9 hours use (long live long weekend!) and had no significant comfort issue, except that it gets a little bit warm on the ear.

Other Things That Came with The Cans
An extension cord, approximately 2m. So the total cable length can be approximately 4m. Then there is the jack converter, also gold plated. The HP30 is obviously designed for home / desktop use, not for portable.

Method of Testing
The unit I received is said to have fully burned in, so the condition is ready for review. The setup was direct to a PC, no amp, dac, or additional sound card used. For the player, I used Foobar 2000 without enhanced output component, and direct to the Sansa Clip Zip with high volume setting. Equalizer was off, so I can hear the  of the original sound signature of the HP30. Please see the image gallery on the end of this article for a screen shot of the playlist that I used to test the cans. File format were FLAC and MP3s.

Impression For High
It’s a bit love & hate for me. Sometimes I can hear sibilance, for example, the articulation of the letter S on female vocals & open hi-hat sound. However the quantity of sibilance can still be tolerable. Cymbals sounded good, but not as articulate on some tracks. I still think that this is caused by the recording quality. I noticed that the lower highs (a little above the upper mids) was tuned so the snare drum sound was quite accurate. However, there’s a metallic impression the whole sound experience.

Impression For Mid
The mid of the HP30 is quite strong, especially in the upper mid. In songs by Adele, Sierra, & Michael Buble, the vocals sounded clear and articulation sounded pretty clear, even though not crystal clear. In addition to vocal tracks, I also tested it for blues (Roy Gaines – Stormy Monday). I can hear the use of the brush stick on the snare drum and I love how it sounded through the HP30. The articulation was near perfect, both when the stick was brushed on the snare and hit the snare. The acoustic instrument sensation was great. Trumpet sound (between the centre mid and low mid, I think) sounds polite, not recessed, but could use a little more tuning up. It’s not as convincing as the snare drum sounds.

Impression To Low
The low of the HP30 was behaved. The bass was quite full bodied. My wife (whose not an audiophile) said that “the bass is big”. I tested the low using Right In by Skrillex, where in this track the bass goes low. I found it difficult to listen to the low bass, because it’s so thin. Impact were very weak on the HP30. It was more like a bass hump but the frequency was closer to the mid. It’s thin. However the speed was good, quite tight.

Other Things That I’ve Noticed
The sound signatures are laid back, warm, a little bit bright/sharp. Instrument separation was okay. Sound stage was far from small, but not huge either. In Adele’s Live at Royal Albert Hall album, the vocal was forward, the instruments were staged behind her, and the distance of the audience can be felt as well. Despite the sharp sound, it’s still comfortable for long listening session.

Video Game Test
I tested the HP30 playing Mass Effect 3. It’s a 3rd person shooter with RPG elements, so there’s a lot of dialogue. So far I like how the HP30 sounded. 3 dimensionally, I can pin point directions of sound, the effects of explosions and gunfires are good, the dialogues was believable, and the atmosphere of the game environment sounded good. The lack of bass impact actually made the game more enjoyable.

Overall SQ
The results of the audition with no amp/dac/dedicated sound card, the HP30 can deliver good sound. This cans is suitable for vocal music, live performance, concert, jazz and pop. It’s good for rock, but guitar distortion are not quite as articulate for my taste. For hip hop, the HP30 is a bit love & hate because of the lack of bass impact but overall still adherents. For dance, techno, and the like, I would not recommend it.

Summary
The sound of the HP30 is easily enjoyable. Really suitable for vocals and jazz. Easy to drive, it’s already good without an amp, so I’m sure it can be better with an amp & a DAC. In terms of comfort it’s also good, though a bit make the ears warm if used for too long. I think the HP30 needs to be improved in the mid and high section to remove the sharpness. From physical aspects, it needs an improved overall finishing touch in order to look expensive as a whole. Last but not least, I would love if it came with a detachable cord.

Verdict
Despite the benefits and drawbacks, the dbE, HP30 is a good value full sized open headphones (MSRP IDR 390.000). I’d recommend it!

For an amateur photo gallery, using phone’s camera :

V-Moda Crossfade M-80 Review

Introduction

V-Moda is a new brand for me. I recently read about V-Moda when I was looking for an upgrade to my Sennheiser HD 202 headphones. It was Tyll Hertsens of InnerFidelity that got me into the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 on-ear headphones in the first place. His videos on YouTube open my eyes so much about the world of audiophile. So, thanks, Tyll!

Why Did I Decide To Upgrade?

The only pair of serious cans that I’ve ever own is my 2 years old Sennheiser HD202. It suits my music, which varies from jazz, rock, pop, R&B, hip-hop, dance, house, and recently I’ve got myself into dub step. For $30, these are the best pair of cans available in the market, at least where I live. My gripe with it is only to the cord, which is a long and winding one. But since I only use it at the office, it’s safe to say that I have no complaint about the HD 202.

Until one day, I felt like there are more sounds in my music that the HD 202 simply can’t deliver. Now I’m not really an audiophile, so please excuse me if not putting the right terms in the right place. Here’s what I think about the HD 202. The bass is punchy, but to me it’s not deep or whole enough. The mid and high are good, but they sounded a little bit recessed. It’s like a shy group of musicians playing in a large stage. And it’s also sounded narrow.

On the positive side, the HD 202 does not require an amp to sound good. It rests nicely and comfortable enough on my head and ears. It’s around the ear design does a good job at blocking sound. I’m simply deaf from outside noises, but I think they can still leak a little sound but not so much. These cans are good enough for everyday listening that don’t really need too much detail.

The Hunt for a Better Pair of Cans

My budget was $200 and probably can stretch up a bit, but not much. At this point I should remind you that all prices that are written in this post here roughly translate $1 to IDR 10.000, although the real value is less than that.

My research came up with these and I’ve auditioned some. They are :

  • AKG K240 Studio ($175)
  • Audio-Technica M50 ($160)
  • Sennheiser HD 555 ($130)
  • V-Jays ($70)
  • Marshal Major $(120)
  • Shure DJ 750 (I forgot how much)
  • AKG K518 DJ (I didn’t ask for the price)
  • Sennheiser HD 25-1 II Adidas Originals ($380)
  • Beyerdynamic DT 1350 ($310)
  • Bose AE ($140)
  • Bose OE ($160)
  • Bose Quiet Comfort 3 ($499)
  • Skull Candy Aviator ($199)
  • Soul by Ludacris SL 150 ($250 – $300, different stores)
  • V-Moda Crossfade M-80 ($200)

Now some of these cans are way beyond my budget, but it never hurt to try, especially when the store let me try them, right? Wrong! For a couple of days, I was haunted by the image of the HD 25, Aviator, M-80, SL 150. Argh! I also began to think that maybe all I want is just a fashion/celebrity cans with good sound. Argh!!

Whenever I’m at an intersection of good choices, I let my gut feeling decide. So I decided to go look for an HD 555 or an HD 558 first. Alas, none of the online store that I’ve contacted can confirm of a ready stock unit. So I turned to the M-80 and the SL-150, since they both got good reviews and looks awesome. Should I fail to get either one, the ATH M50 will be my last resort.

First Impression

I noticed immediately from the packaging that this thing has a fashion statement. It’s a hexagonal box with a little slant the top part. The material used for the box is doffed and felt premium. On the top there was some sort of leatherette with snake skin texture which functions as a handle. There were three securing points, a clear sticker, a hard to open snap button, and lastly a fabric ribbon which you must cut to open. Based on what I see, it’s still in a BNIB condition.

Inside the box, there were two protective foams placed on top and on the bottom, ensuring that the product is safe. There was also a user manual, one discount code voucher, and the exoskeleton looking case. Surprisingly, they all smelled like new rubber coming out of a factory. I didn’t expect that.

I opened the case and there it was, the M80 sits nicely inside. There were two cable holder each holding an iDevice cable and a regular audio cable, both has mic function to accept phone calls. The cables has the same length, roughly about 1 meter each. There’s also a carabineer to attach the hard case to my backpack whenever I want to carry it along.

I was itching to try the durability test just like Val Kolton (V-Moda Founder & CEO) did in a video. The steel flex band past the test of straightening and bending. I didn’t have the heart to try the drop test though. I’ll just have to believe Val’s demonstration in one of the video. Haha!

Cans Impression

To test the M-80, I used my android phone (HTC Desire Z) with an app called andLess that support FLAC. I used the non iDevice cable and adjust my M-80 to approximately 6 – 7 clicks so that they fit my head better. It turned out that I do have to adjust the band by bending it a couple of times to make it fit my head perfectly. However I noticed later that it was stated somewhere in the packaging (or was it the user manual?) that I need to use it for at least 24 hours to optimize the M-80.

On to the sound test. I listened to tracks from Adele, Cold Play, Foo Fighters, Michael Buble, and Skrillex. They all sounded way better than I’ve previously heard on headphones. I’ve noticed immediately that these cans are quite bassy, but not like the AKG K518 DJ that I’ve auditioned. The K518 has too much base that it somehow engulf the mid and the high, at least for my taste. Though it’s bassy, I’ve also noticed that the M-80 didn’t sacrifice the mid and high. The mid has a good presence, but not as forward as the V-Jays that I’ve auditioned. The high also has good presence and I haven’t notice any sibilants from all my listening.

To simplify things up, my impression of the V-Moda M-80 is that they sounded like Sennheisers, somewhere between the HD 202 and the HD 25-1 II Adidas Originals. You don’t have to agree with me on this one, and those of you who have experience with a lot more various cans than I do might have a different take on the impression of the M-80.

The mic is good and I can hear people talking clearly. The brushing noise that people often complained about is actually coming from the Kevlar sleeve. It has a rough texture and as with other sleeved cord they tend to be stiffer. Rough surface becomes the source of the noise and the stiff structure becomes a good media that’s spreading the noise. I tried brushing and tapping on my HD 202 which uses a regular rubber cable and also tried it on my stock HTC earphones with mic. The results are less brushing noise, but they do tangle a lot easier. I believe t-shirt users are not prone to the brushing issue as much as shirt users. As for the mic position, I have to agree that the placement is at an awkward position.

M-80 vs Stock HTC Earphones vs Philips Stereo TV Headphones

I know this part is silly, but there are comparisons that I’d like to address. So here we go.

Compared to HTC’s, in terms of SQ there’s really nothing to compare now, is it? Although I prefer the earphones whenever I wanted to listen to my music while walking or riding my scooter. I need the openness just to be able to remain conscious of what’s going on in my surroundings. Safety first.

As for the Philips, it has a deep bass but lacking the punch. The M-80 can also deliver bass that deep, but it’s sounded more whole and can deliver some good punch. Other than the bass, the Philips tends to be neutral. It’s not for music listening anyways.

M-80 vs HD 202

I will be comparing to my HD 202 which is my primary driver for the last 2 years. This is a hard comparison for me, because in my opinion both cans sounded very good. But since this is a comparison, one must be the victor over the other. The comparison will be divided into segments so you guys can read my review easily. Here we go!

Comfort:
I do prefer headphones with around-the-ear design over on-ear design, because they felt more free comfortable to me. However, I do find that the V-Moda M-80 is also comfortable once you give it enough time to “mold” into your head and ears. As for the clamping force with the M-80, I really can’t compare it simply because it’s still new. And as with other new things, we need time to adjust to it or have it adjust itself to us.

Bass:
Both cans can deliver a good amount of bass. The M-80 has the upper hand because it can deliver a more whole experience to the bass sound. The HD 202 is no slouch either, since it can pack more punch with the bass than the M-80, although the experience is less rich.

Mid:
Again both cans deliver good mid. The difference is, the HD 202 has a more forward presentation. As for the M-80, I like how it has a good bass that doesn’t “eat” the mid. Yes, the cans presented mid clearly, though I’m not sure if it’s accurate.

High:
Both cans can handle high sounds quite good. However I found that the M-80’s high has a richer experience compared to the HD 202.

Similarities:
Both the M-80 and the HD 202 can deliver fun sound. They are both great for dance and electronic music. However the M-80’s ability can be suited to a wider range of music genre. Both cans isolates a good amount of noise from the outside, but they still leaks a small amount of sound to the outside.

 

Conclusion

I found that the V-Moda Crossfade M-80 is a good choice for upgrading my cans. Now I own 2 pair of cans, each with its unique sound signature. The V-Moda is now my primary driver and I carry it everywhere with me. It’s the new toy syndrome thingy. You’ll understand lah… :p The HD 202 is still going to be my daily driver but only at the office since it’s less portable.

M-80 Pros:
Great sounding, good bass, fashionable, portable, durable.

M-80 Cons:
Needs more time to adjust, brushing noise, smells like rubber at first.

Do I recommend the V-Moda Crossfade M-80? Yes I do, but only if you’re okay with its price tag, looking for headphones with a fashion statement, or you’re into serious music listening.

What’s next for me? I think I’ll be saving up for an amp or the Soul by Ludacris SL150. Yes, I think I’m starting to get into these fashion headphones with good sounding thingy. I hope you enjoy the review and find it useful.

Thanks for reading! :)