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  1. #51
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cincy2 View Post
    Mike,

    Do any of these preamps have headphone outputs? That's the beauty of the Woo. It provides a pass through mode to act as a preamp but also has headphone outputs. I'm going to give it a trial and see what happens.

    Eric
    Headphone outputs as in headphone XLR?

    No. The new Esoteric N-05XD may work.

    Wouldn’t you come out of the DAC into the pre and then output to the various headphone amps?


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  2. #52
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I tracked down the Block preamp specs. It actually does have two headphone outputs: one jack and one four pin balanced. You could wire it up as you say but if the preamp does both functions (pre-amp) and headphone, you reduce the number of cables and electronics while still making it possible to use both electrostatic phones (MSB) and dynamic driver / planar magnetic phones (pre-amp). I'll give you a call to discuss the Block after I try out the configuration with the WA33.

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
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  3. #53
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cincy2 View Post
    I tracked down the Block preamp specs. It actually does have two headphone outputs: one jack and one four pin balanced. You could wire it up as you say but if the preamp does both functions (pre-amp) and headphone, you reduce the number of cables and electronics while still making it possible to use both electrostatic phones (MSB) and dynamic driver / planar magnetic phones (pre-amp). I'll give you a call to discuss the Block after I try out the configuration with the WA33.

    Eric
    Correct. Sounds good.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    My Systems: http://www.audioshark.org/showthread...481#post158481

    "We can hear everything we measure, but we can't measure everything we hear. Let your ears be your guide."

    Dealer for: Aqua Hi-Fi, Aurender, AudioQuest Cables & Power Products, Avantgarde Acoustics, Avid HiFi, Bakoon Audio, Berkeley Audio Design, Block Audio, Boulder Amplifiers, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), Bryston, Chord, Classe’ Audio, Degritter Record Cleaning Machines, Esoteric, FirstWatt, Focal Headphones, Franco Serblin Loudspeakers, Furutech, Fyne Audio Loudspeakers, GigaFoil, Harbeth Loudspeakers, Hegel, HiFi Man, ISO Acoustics, Keces Power Supplies, Kharma Loudspeakers and Electronics, Koetsu Cartridges, Kuzma Turntables, Lumin, Luxman, Magico Loudspeakers, MBL Speakers & Electronics, MSB Technologies, MySonicLabs Phono Cartridges, Naim Audio, Nordost Cables, Ortofon, Pass Labs, Quadraspire, Rega Turntables and Electronics, Shunyata Research, SimAudio, Stein Music Products, Stillpoints, VAC, Vicoustics, Viva Audio, Vivid Audio Loudspeakers, VPI Industries, WireWorld Cables.

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  4. #54
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I also considered using the Woo as a pre-amp... only one input would not work for me as a main unit (I need at least two, but actually have four hooked up on my pre-amp). If I were doing only digital, for example, then it would work just fine. As it is I consider a very nice back up pre-amp. But if it works to allow you to feed the MSB headphone amp from it then that certainly would give you some real flexibility.

    The Woo also lets you tailor the sound somewhat since they work well in rolling tubes.... I added a couple sets of driver tubes and a couple rectifier tubes because those provided by Woo were not at appropriate levels. The power tubes actually were on some trusted tube knowledgeable friends list of excellent tubes!
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  5. #55
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    I also considered using the Woo as a pre-amp... only one input would not work for me as a main unit added a couple sets of driver tubes and a couple rectifier tubes because those provided by Woo were not at appropriate levels.
    I've got everything hooked up and will do some critical listening today. Because I am running only a headphone set up, one WA33 output works just fine for me. I'm curious how this will work out.

    Eric
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  6. #56

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cincy2 View Post
    My only nit is one that all headphones have - No forward projecting soundstage. Someone will figure out how to fix that eventually with some type of processing, hopefully in the amplifier in the analogue domain so it doesn't screw up the digits. Hats off to MSB and Stax. They nailed it.

    Eric
    If you get a chance, listen to the German made, SPL line of professional headphone line of products designed for the recording industry. I had a lot of fun listening to my SPL Phonitor 2700B. The circuitry works very well as it is designed to give the mixing engineer a sense of what the soundstage will sound like with speakers while using headphones for mixing, etc. Their newer products offer even more. Fantastic headphone amps even if you don't use the circuitry by the way. The sound is profoundly powerful down low with a meaty midrange that is just right. The music has lots of drive and body while sounding completely neutral as a good amp should. The amp's 120 voltage rails are exemplary for control over any impedance headphone.

    Serge

  7. #57

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOctopus View Post
    If you get a chance, listen to the German made, SPL line of professional headphone line of products designed for the recording industry. I had a lot of fun listening to my SPL Phonitor 2700B. The circuitry works very well as it is designed to give the mixing engineer a sense of what the soundstage will sound like with speakers while using headphones for mixing, etc. Their newer products offer even more. Fantastic headphone amps even if you don't use the circuitry by the way. The sound is profoundly powerful down low with a meaty midrange that is just right. The music has lots of drive and body while sounding completely neutral as a good amp should. The amp's 120 voltage rails are exemplary for control over any impedance headphone.

    That looks like an interesting alternative to the Smyth Realizer. It also reminds me of a demo I saw at a MEMS technical conference that used multiple MEMS as speakers in headphones, each of which powered with DSP to present very realistic 3D imaging and surround sound. The demo was many years from a product, but if people can figure out how to get micro-speaker efficiencies up it could offer some pretty amazing options.

  8. #58
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I did try a lower level SPL headphone amplifier. It certainly was a solid piece, and much better than most other headphone amps I have tried. However it was definitely not on par with the Bryston, SimAudio, and the Woo. Of course they might be doing something much different in their higher models, although they claim that their lower models perform on par with their higher models. Of course it did not have most of the extra features of this SPL model. I am only referring to sound performance and not features.
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  9. #59

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    I did try a lower level SPL headphone amplifier. It certainly was a solid piece, and much better than most other headphone amps I have tried. However it was definitely not on par with the Bryston, SimAudio, and the Woo. Of course they might be doing something much different in their higher models, although they claim that their lower models perform on par with their higher models. Of course it did not have most of the extra features of this SPL model. I am only referring to sound performance and not features.
    I can only speak for the SPL 2730B as that’s the only one I have spent time with. I had at least a dozen other amps come through to compare with, WOO, Audeze, Bryston, various Schiit, Violectric V281, tubes, SS, Class A…

    Played with about a dozen headphones such as Focal Utopia and Clear, various Sennheisers, Audeze, ZMF, E-MU, Fostex, etc…

    The SPL 2370B was a professional grade instrument for recording studios, not a hobby grade headphone amp. It easily won the shootouts between itself and most other amps. Solid foundation of iron fisted grip down low with any headphone, dense and rich midrange that stood out against the more fragile and leaner sounding lesser contenders. The rich presentation did not come at the price of the amp sounding dark nor lacking any air or sparkle. It just sounded effortless and powerful. Music/recording quality always made the biggest impact rather than any flavor of the amp itself. An amp should amplify the signal with an iron fisted grip and not add much of anything of color or flavor to the music. It did exactly that.

    In the end the WOO and Audeze amps made the cut and stayed. That’s only because I like a more romantic and sweeter presentation if not exactly accurate like the professional grade SPL presented the music with.

    The Bryston was slightly leaner and more forward sounding compared to both SPL and Violectric (another German professional grade headphone amp).
    Serge

  10. #60
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I spent some time on the SPL site looking at their range of products. I had some questions that I posed to their tech support people. I am familiar with their Crossfeed feature. Years ago a company called HeadAmp did this in their amplifiers. It was interested but not revolutionary. The key question to SPL for me is "Do you manipulate the L/R signals in the analogue domain to create a front/center image?" I wouldn't want to use their DAC. I couldn't get the answer from their website.

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
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  11. #61

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cincy2 View Post
    I spent some time on the SPL site looking at their range of products. I had some questions that I posed to their tech support people. I am familiar with their Crossfeed feature. Years ago a company called HeadAmp did this in their amplifiers. It was interested but not revolutionary. The key question to SPL for me is "Do you manipulate the L/R signals in the analogue domain to create a front/center image?" I wouldn't want to use their DAC. I couldn't get the answer from their website.

    Eric
    Believe it or not, it is all accomplished in the analog domain. Those Germans! No AD/DA, no DSP involved at all.


    I played around with the older Phonitor tools/circuitry and it does create a more believable simulation of listening to speakers. I can see how that would be a very valuable tool for a mixing engineer who is working in headphones and wants to hear an approximation of how the instruments/vocals are placed in the "soundstage". Having said that, I have been listening to headphones for decades and have racked up tens of thousands of hours so my brain is very used to listening in headphones and creating its own soundstage....



    Serge

  12. #62
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Just curious if anyone, especially for headphone listening has played with the Roon equalizer feature to help make a near perfect headphone accent or downplay any undesired frequencies? Would love any recommendation for software or hardware based EQ options.
    Nick
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  13. #63

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by veindoc View Post
    Just curious if anyone, especially for headphone listening has played with the Roon equalizer feature to help make a near perfect headphone accent or downplay any undesired frequencies? Would love any recommendation for software or hardware based EQ options.
    Nick
    Yes, Roon DSP is a very useful tool for creating your own custom response from favorite cans. It will of course take some time and experimenting to get it just right and of course recordings and quality vary. Also what sound great with one genre may not necessarily sound as good with another.

    Roon has very well tuned Audeze headphone EQ settings/presets for various Audeze models. I have tried the EQ presets with the few Audeze headphones like the LCD-3 and LCD-2C and they were spot on for my taste making both headphones sound even better.

    Don't be afraid of DSP, it can be very useful with headphones and increases enjoyment even further.

    Crossfeed is also part of Roon DSP tools for headphones if one wants to play around with that.
    Serge

  14. #64
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    where do I go in app to access these eq settings in roon?
    thanks
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  15. #65
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    found it
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  16. #66

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by veindoc View Post
    where do I go in app to access these eq settings in roon?
    thanks
    It's a "right click" on the zone audio device and select DSP
    Serge

  17. #67
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOctopus View Post
    It's a "right click" on the zone audio device and select DSP

    The zone audio device on the Roon Nucleus?
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

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    Model.

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  18. #68
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Ok, cool... back to Eric's headphone evaluations... I am really enjoying his thread and his exploration! Please keep it up Eric.

    By the way, I had the crossfeed function (or whatever the particular manufacture calls it) on a few amplifiers that I owned. I did not like it on any of them. They were a McIntosh, SPL, and the SimAudio. All fine pieces other than that feature. It plays with the sound attempting to simulate the crossover of one speaker to another when you listen to the speakers in your room. They sort of bleed some of the left channel and blend it into the right channel, and vice versa.

    Headphone listeners have come to appreciate the distinct left and right channel and center blend that is in the recording and do like or need blending small amounts of the other channel to simulate the open room affect.
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  19. #69
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Thanks Randy. The Abyss 1266's shipped yesterday. Can't wait to try them with Woo amp.

    Eric
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  20. #70
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cincy2 View Post
    Thanks Randy. The Abyss 1266's shipped yesterday. Can't wait to try them with Woo amp.

    Eric
    I Demo’d that setup @ RMAF - one of the very best headphone experiences I’ve had. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up to other combos you’ve tried.
    Tom

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  21. #71
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    has anyone played with the ZMF top open back models? I am very curious also about Audeze LCD 5 which now claims a weight reduction design that is 420grams not 690gms. To me their sound was always excellent but the weight was just such a non starter for me. This hopefully will trickle down to some of their other models.
    Nick
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  22. #72

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by veindoc View Post
    has anyone played with the ZMF top open back models? I am very curious also about Audeze LCD 5 which now claims a weight reduction design that is 420grams not 690gms. To me their sound was always excellent but the weight was just such a non starter for me. This hopefully will trickle down to some of their other models.
    Nick
    I’m using ZMF Auteur in African Blackwood as my standard/favorite. Something about bio-cellulose drivers that just sounds “right” to my ears. Also choice of wood matters greatly.

    The ZMF edged out Audeze, Focal and a dozen others eventually. I only kept a Sennheiser HD600 as backup and that has been my all time favorite for decades as the most musical, fatigue free and pleasant set of headphones. The ZMF raises the bar on musicality with a few veils removed as compared to HD600.
    Serge

  23. #73
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by veindoc View Post
    has anyone played with the ZMF top open back models? I am very curious also about Audeze LCD 5 which now claims a weight reduction design that is 420grams not 690gms. To me their sound was always excellent but the weight was just such a non starter for me. This hopefully will trickle down to some of their other models.
    Nick
    The Audeze were always good sounding, although a bit bass heavy in my view. However I have never found an Audeze that felt good to me. On the other hand I am totally happy with the feel of the Focal and Abyss.
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  24. #74
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOctopus View Post
    If you get a chance, listen to the German made, SPL line of professional headphone line of products designed for the recording industry. I had a lot of fun listening to my SPL Phonitor 2700B. The circuitry works very well as it is designed to give the mixing engineer a sense of what the soundstage will sound like with speakers while using headphones for mixing, etc. Their newer products offer even more. Fantastic headphone amps even if you don't use the circuitry by the way. The sound is profoundly powerful down low with a meaty midrange that is just right. The music has lots of drive and body while sounding completely neutral as a good amp should. The amp's 120 voltage rails are exemplary for control over any impedance headphone.


    ANd this company also makes a killer analog crossover device for mains and subwoofers.
    2chl : Pass Xa-30.5, W4S STP, Kef 201/2, KEF 140, Vapor Breeze, Lumin, VPI Classic, Manley Chinook, Bryston CD, BHA-1, HD650, HD800s, HD820's, Dan Clark 1.1, OPPO 203, 105.

  25. #75
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    After having experienced a variety of headphones and headphone amps, I learned that the output of the Select II DAC in certain combinations of amp/phones had to move out of its linear gain region when the amp/headphone combination needed serious juice. The correct solution is to put a good quality preamp in the system to make sure this is not an issue. There are soooo many different choices. I picked a dark horse from a Czech company called Block Audio. Mike B. introduced me to the brand. The architecture is extremely modular. It is literally made up mechanically and electrically isolated blocks for left and right channel amplification, left / right channel power (batteries!), A/C power / battery charging, display / logic, phono stage and yes even a headphone amp. The design intrigued me. Mike vouched for the sound so I placed an order. Lead times are about eight weeks. During that time, I will be evaluating the Woo WA33 with the Abyss 1266 Phi due in tomorrow. I'll also compare the Abyss to a DCA Stealth closed back headphone. Probably not fair but should be informative. My room is a mess as I am short of rack space and the Critical Mass platforms I have were custom built to individual equipment that I no longer own. The racks are very robust with professional engineering and a great isolation system. If I had to do it over, I would have them build in a standard size instead of custom. I've ordered a more flexible rack system to replace them. I'll put the CM racks up for sale in a few weeks. Hopefully someone will have equipment in sizes that can use them.

    In case you are interested in the Block Audio line stage.

    LINE & POWER BLOCK SE – Block Audio

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
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    Woo Audio WA33 Elite Headphone Amp
    Transparent Opus Gen5 XLR interconnects
    Shunyata Everest power conditioner and power cords
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    MSB M500 Monoblocks (For Sale)
    Magico Q-Sub 15 subwoofers (For Sale)

  26. #76
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Block sounds interesting for sure. I run my system through the Hattor pre-amp with Hattor's optional tube active stage. In this way I can listen to any of my sources either through the speaker amps or the Woo. I have XLR cables running to the Woo. I agree that a good pre-amp really does cement a system.

    Good luck with the Block unit. I am looking forward to your results with the Abyss and the Woo combination!
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  27. #77

    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I use the Audeze Deckard Class A as a standalone DAC/headphone amp but when the mood strikes to fire up the magic toobs, the Deckard then feeds the WOO amp with its variable out preamp section. Very handy. The WOO WA6 definitely likes a certain sweet range of preamplification to sound its best.
    Serge

  28. #78
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    are they comfortable as ZMF are quite heavy and my scalp for some odd reason gets hot spots easily if heavy or padding is not plush
    Nick
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  29. #79
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I am ordering ZMF Verite Open in November when it will have a new wider more cushioned headstrap option even though his base models are extremely comfortable. I am loving my new Woo WA-6SE amp on my older Focals while I wait for the ZMF. Zack of ZMF is very responsive and both his open and closed versions are great sounding not just great looking. The ability to customize is also very appealing. My high impedance tube amp will work great with the 300ohm impedance of the ZMF Verite. His 50mm Beryllium coated driver has many of the attributes of Utopia 40mm all beryllium driver with perhaps a hair less treble issues. I have tried Meze Elite,Stax 007,Focal Clear MG, Hifiman Arya, DianaV2&Phi, 800s and Audeze lcd4.All sounded very good with my amp many were just not comfortable on my head. The planars except for Audeze all lacked a certain PRAT and bass. All the planars had wonderful wide sound stage but I kept coming back to certain attributes of dynamic drivers that were more in my desired sound. After listening to my friends ZMF VO the wider planar like soundstage and great vocals and separation I decided to skip the more restrictive amp route for electrostatics and possible future headphones choices.
    Now the wait. I wish I could have heard the lighter Audeze LCD-5 but $4500 was a tad more than I want to spend.
    Nick
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  30. #80
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I've spent a few hours with both the Abyss / Woo and Stax / MSB set ups and can now offer some thoughts. I am feeding the Woo with a balanced output from my Select II DAC. I ran a balanced cable set from the WA33 output to the MSB amp and ran it in PreAmp mode when listening to the MSB setup. The WA33 output was four pin balanced JPS upgrade cable to the Abyss 1266 headphones. The Stax had the factory electrostatic cable. I chose 15 tracks from Chesky / Mapleshade that have the best overall sonic characteristics of my collection and showcase certain elements of recorded sound...bass, vocals, woodwinds, percussion and soundstage. The results so far haven't really surprised me. Some conclusions:

    1. The best headphones don't add or subtract anything from upstream components. Both the Stax and Abyss phones got out of the way and let me clearly discern the amp characteristics. I can't say the same for any of the other brand headphones I used. I still have to evaluate the new Stax flagship, Audeze CRBN, ZMF Audite closed and the Meze Elite. I'm going to stop after these. While the Stax and Abyss were far superior to the other phones I used, all headphones still have a way to go to compete with say the tweeter on a Magico M3. Nothing I have heard can equal the metallic shimmer of cymbals like that speaker projected. Now that the prices on new headphones are headed north, I expect to see more innovation in this space as everyone competes for the audiophile's interest.
    2. In the absence of a playing track, the MSB had a blacker background than the Woo. The WA33's slight background noise wasn't really an issue with me while the music was playing. The MSB sound did show more contrast from the background because of this.
    3. The Woo's vocals, woodwinds and bass were "juicier" than the MSB's in every instance. As I result I could make a more emotional connection to the music
    4. The MSB gave faster, more detailed percussion instruments such as cymbals, bones and piano.
    5. The soundstage on both systems was impressive and too close to call. This surprised me. I expected the MSB to dominate. I can't say that when the DAC fed the MSB amp directly the results were the same. I'll leave that evaluation for a later date
    6. Both systems were capable of presenting some far right/left sounds as being forward in the soundstage. This was very enjoyable.
    7. Bass on both was tight and controlled. The WA33's had more bloom on some of my tracks.

    Surprisingly (to me) I didn't prefer one system or the other universally. On some tracks I preferred the Woo and others the MSB. If I were economically restrained however, I would jump on the WA33/Abyss train. At half the price of the MSB/Stax set up, it delivers far more than 50% of the performance and exceeds the fidelity of the MSB in some areas. I want to rerun this test again when both amps are being fed by the same Block Audio line stage to see if things changed. I also need to standardize balanced cables. The Woo had Transparent Opus XLRs while the Woo to MSB connection was with very nice but lower level Shunyata XLR's I had laying around.

    I intend to keep both amps and use them alternately depending on whether I prefer detail or density on any particular day. There is no wrong answer between the two.

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
    MSB Select II DAC
    MSB Headphone Amplifier
    Woo Audio WA33 Elite Headphone Amp
    Transparent Opus Gen5 XLR interconnects
    Shunyata Everest power conditioner and power cords
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    MSB M500 Monoblocks (For Sale)
    Magico Q-Sub 15 subwoofers (For Sale)

  31. #81
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    ZMF Verite closed or typo for Audite? I use my msb dac to my Woo. and it works beautifully.
    enjoy
    Nick
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  32. #82
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Eric,

    many thanks for all this information. i had considered the Woo/Abyss too at one point, nice to hear that both the MSB/Stax and Woo/Abyss seem to be playing in the same neighborhood. i wonder how the new Stax flagship headphones might tip the scales?

    the other thing is 'tubes'. they change, then change some more. get noisy. or you roll them here and there. one can view that as a positive or a negative. and then the whole form factor of the Woo compared to the MSB.

    i guess we see in 6-12 months what is remaining in your system. and you likely will still have both.

  33. #83
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Thank you Eric. Excellent reporting. Curious, are you using stock tubes. Some people swear by tubes others look for the negative. Woo has a reputation for improvements with different tubes. I have a few NOS tubes, and some newly manufactured tubes. There are many ways to improve the Woo, to accommodate moods, etc.
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  34. #84
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    Thank you Eric. Excellent reporting. Curious, are you using stock tubes. Some people swear by tubes others look for the negative. Woo has a reputation for improvements with different tubes. I have a few NOS tubes, and some newly manufactured tubes. There are many ways to improve the Woo, to accommodate moods, etc.
    Randy,

    I have the stock tubes. I may start "rolling' at some point in time but right now I have too many other variables to address (cables, pre-amp, headphones).

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
    MSB Select II DAC
    MSB Headphone Amplifier
    Woo Audio WA33 Elite Headphone Amp
    Transparent Opus Gen5 XLR interconnects
    Shunyata Everest power conditioner and power cords
    Multiple Headphones
    MSB M500 Monoblocks (For Sale)
    Magico Q-Sub 15 subwoofers (For Sale)

  35. #85
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Hey Eric,

    I totally get that and I am not familiar with what Woo sends with the WA33. I know what they send with the WA22 are very basic tubes for the most part, and huge improvements were had by upgrading the tubes. Researching at Head-fi I read suggestions. Some made sense many were of course over the top. There is a dedicated Woo thread, and also one for the WA22. I have not checked but I assume there is also a dedicated thread for the WA33.

    Usually a good set of NOS tubes can be had for between $50 - $150, and also some good new built tubes are in similar price ranges. I particularly like the Gold Lion and the Black Treasure tubes that are currently in production. A good NOS rectifier is not that expensive either... $100 range for a Mullard for example.

    JAN Phillips are some good solid NOS tubes, RCA, GE, and Sylvania made certain highly regarded models. I also have always like CBS-Hytron NOS tubes, although they are starting to raise in price. Some of the ones that Woo sell are supposed to be very good, but they do sell them at a very premium price.

    Anyway, if you like the Woo sound as it is, and I certainly can't blame you since I am thrill with their lower model WA22, my point being is you haven't heard nothin yet . Get yourself a good set of replacement tubes and the Woo will improve dramatically! My second suggestion is to not buy tubes from Woo. They sell top shelf tubes but at way over the top pricing.

    Cool little video from Abyss talking about the WA33 :
    ABYSS Top Of The Line videos | Page 9 | Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  36. #86
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Cincy2 View Post
    I've spent a few hours with both the Abyss / Woo and Stax / MSB set ups and can now offer some thoughts. I am feeding the Woo with a balanced output from my Select II DAC. I ran a balanced cable set from the WA33 output to the MSB amp and ran it in PreAmp mode when listening to the MSB setup. The WA33 output was four pin balanced JPS upgrade cable to the Abyss 1266 headphones. The Stax had the factory electrostatic cable.
    Eric, re-reading your post this morning the comment underlined above jumps out. i wanted to make sure i'm clear about how this looks; are you saying while you were A/B'ing the MSB/Stax and Woo/Abyss that you ran the signal from the MSB dac, through the Woo, and back to the MSB amp then to the Stax?

    MSB dac -> XLR cable -> Woo amp -> XLR cable -> MSB amp -> Stax 009S's. do i have this right?

    i suppose your reason is to allow quicker A/B switching?

    in my mind that is a handicap to the MSB amp and Stax. the synergy between the MSB dac and the MSB amp is not trivial, and you discard it in this approach......if i am properly understanding. you are adding an additional cable, plus the Woo circuit, to the signal the MSB amp sees. with the nuance and delicacy of the MSB/Stax this has to be audible. and that balanced cable from the Woo to the MSB amp could really make a huge difference. i know changing cables between my MSB dac and the MSB amp was huge. it's a spot where i plan on an upgrade at some point since it's clear it matters.

    i do respect you are trying to level the playing field.......and if your long term plan is an easily switchable scenario then it is answering your question. yet it's not hearing the MSB Stax at it's best.

  37. #87
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Randy, you really have me sold on Woo products. But I've spent enough money the last couple years that if I mentioned buying any other major components, at least for awhile, I'm liable to undergo involuntary castration.....without benefit of anesthesia (swallowing hard). I'll have to admit the wife has been pretty darn good about the money we've spent on high end audio.....to this point. But there is a limit. I reached it with my last purchase (Focal Stellia phones and NAIM Uniti Atom Headphone Edition headphone amp/music player/streamer/server). As for spending any more right now I'd have to echo the words of a former President....."Nut guh dut."
    Amplifier: Pass Labs INT 250 integrated.

    DAC/Streamer: MSB Discrete Dual Power Supply.

    Server: Roon Nucleus with lifetime subscription.

    Speakers: Harbeth Super HL 5+ 40th Anniversary
    Model.

    Headphones/Amp: Focal Stellia phones, NAIM Uniti Atom Headphone Edition headphone amp/music player/server/streamer.

    Cables: AudioQuest Rocket 88 speaker cables,
    Mackenzie interconnects.

    Speaker Stands: HiFi Man.

  38. #88
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Hehe... not my intention... just making suggestions to Eric about his Woo . You have a fine, and brand new setup. I would think you should be good for now . I certainly understand both wife factor (and her being incredibly understanding) and trying to keep things in check. Especially when considering the expenses of the new exotic kitten, and everything that goes along with her (she was my wife's birthday present to me).
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  39. #89
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Lavigne View Post

    MSB dac -> XLR cable -> Woo amp -> XLR cable -> MSB amp -> Stax 009S's. do i have this right?

    i suppose your reason is to allow quicker A/B switching?

    in my mind that is a handicap to the MSB amp and Stax.
    Mike,

    You are correct. I am currently using the Woo as a pre-amp between the Select II and the MSB headphone amp. This is an experiment and will likely change. My new preamp will have a pass through feature that will take it out of the loop.

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
    MSB Select II DAC
    MSB Headphone Amplifier
    Woo Audio WA33 Elite Headphone Amp
    Transparent Opus Gen5 XLR interconnects
    Shunyata Everest power conditioner and power cords
    Multiple Headphones
    MSB M500 Monoblocks (For Sale)
    Magico Q-Sub 15 subwoofers (For Sale)

  40. #90
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
    Hey Eric,

    I totally get that and I am not familiar with what Woo sends with the WA33. I know what they send with the WA22 are very basic tubes for the most part, and huge improvements were had by upgrading the tubes. Researching at Head-fi I read suggestions. Some made sense many were of course over the top. There is a dedicated Woo thread, and also one for the WA22. I have not checked but I assume there is also a dedicated thread for the WA33.

    Usually a good set of NOS tubes can be had for between $50 - $150, and also some good new built tubes are in similar price ranges. I particularly like the Gold Lion and the Black Treasure tubes that are currently in production. A good NOS rectifier is not that expensive either... $100 range for a Mullard for example.

    JAN Phillips are some good solid NOS tubes, RCA, GE, and Sylvania made certain highly regarded models. I also have always like CBS-Hytron NOS tubes, although they are starting to raise in price. Some of the ones that Woo sell are supposed to be very good, but they do sell them at a very premium price.

    Anyway, if you like the Woo sound as it is, and I certainly can't blame you since I am thrill with their lower model WA22, my point being is you haven't heard nothin yet . Get yourself a good set of replacement tubes and the Woo will improve dramatically! My second suggestion is to not buy tubes from Woo. They sell top shelf tubes but at way over the top pricing.

    Cool little video from Abyss talking about the WA33 :
    ABYSS Top Of The Line videos | Page 9 | Headphone Reviews and Discussion - Head-Fi.org
    Thanks for the tube advice Randy. I need it. This is my first tubed amp of any type in the 30 years I've been involved in audio.

    Eric
    Aurender W20SE File Server
    MSB Select II DAC
    MSB Headphone Amplifier
    Woo Audio WA33 Elite Headphone Amp
    Transparent Opus Gen5 XLR interconnects
    Shunyata Everest power conditioner and power cords
    Multiple Headphones
    MSB M500 Monoblocks (For Sale)
    Magico Q-Sub 15 subwoofers (For Sale)

  41. #91
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    I went through the same thing with a couple pieces some years ago. I am certainly no expert but have done some research and tried a few different tubes over the previous couple years. I currently have only two tube pieces; the Woo and the add on Tube Active Stage for my pre-amp .

    The guys on Head-Fi are pretty good with suggestions, although a few tend to go quite over the top.
    Hattor; NAD; MBL; McIntosh; Rega; Technics; T+A; Woo; Abyss; Focal; KEF; Rythmik; Oppo; Magnum Dynalab

  42. #92
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Eric,

    Real great writeups. I am catching up with your thread and enjoying your reviews very much. I recently got the ZMF vertie closed (olive LTD wood). It will sound warm when you first hear it, give your brain a day or two to adjust. I've grown to love it, after a couple of weeks befor I realized it "sunck on me" and my hands were reaching to it most of the time from my collection (as a reference for my taste, my favorite headphone is the Sony MDR-R10).

    Nick,

    I was a bit intrigued by your comment about a new wider/more cushioned headstrap coming in November. Can you share where yout got this info? I may try to chase that upgrade if I can. Many thanks

    Eyal

  43. #93
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    10 days ago from Zach of Zmf. It is already designed but not available till November when his b stock sale is over. I asked if it will fit older models but did not get any answer. BTW how did you decide VC vs VO. I have always been a open guy plus the lighter the better as my scalp hates too much pressure.
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  44. #94
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    Thanks Nick. I'll reach out to Zach and ask him about it!

    I am myself more of an open-backed headphones guy (my favorite open is the Kennerton Thekk - for its gorgeous timbre).

    I do have use cases for closed-back (some family ambient noise at some times of the day). When I bought the verite, I considered both the closed and open versions. I haven't had a chance to listen to both (afaik, unless you meet them at a canjam, there are no dealers in the US to demo from; I think outside of the US, they are puchased through local dealers). So I relied on reviewers suggestions that the were both very similar in profile, with some suggesting the closed may be preferrable, even for soundstage (bit unusual).

    From experience, I can only comment about the verite closed (VC). It is very enjoyable. I spend much more time with it than I thought I would.

    Build and comfort - Its passive isolation is excellent (ANC level). Build wise, it exudes high quality. And, you are right - they are heavier than average (varies by build; around 500-550g). If this is any comfort to you, I am sensitive to heavy weight, and in fact held back on this purchase for a year for this reason until I decided to gamble and order one. I can report that it is better than it sounds, with the weight distribtued well around head and ear cups. I did get the ZMF co-pilot headstrap pad (their currecnt headstrap is indeed mediocre and needed an extra cusion). I would summarize this as average comfort.

    Music profile - For context, I am not a basshead and tend to like mids and highs; most of what I listen to is jazz, acoustics, and vocals (and any other high quality recordings of classic, pop, even country and rap music). With that, I found the headphones too warm and bass heavy first time I put them on. Within 1-2 days, as my brain got adjusted to their sound profile, this percetpion dissapeared. Also, ZMF explicitly states 200 hr burn it are required. It took over a week of ping noise to get there, so that could be part of the adjustment process. After that - I have since found the VC offer a very dynamic bass response - extremely fast attack and highly resolving. This is very stastifying, and I'd cautiously say that is the best bass I've heard on any headphone (including hifiman planars). Not a deep sub-bass rumble, or high on quantity; just great quality. Mids - very accurate tonal reproduction (as much as I can judge); great vocals. Treble - not shimmery or airy, but accurate. Overall feel is of sharpness and speed, coupled with a wamr and pleasant musicality. These aren't well-defined audiophile terms, just my layman attempts to convery a "feel" of how I am experiencing them. I hope this helps!

    In summary - assuming you have at least 2-3 headphones in your collection, these would have a very welcome place in the mix. They have a unique profile that is distinct, versatile and enjoyable.

    Eyal

  45. #95
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    thanks Eyal,
    I will be using my Woo WA-6se-hopefully a good match for either VC or VO. I greatly appreciate the detailed summary. Often wonder why they don't burn them for us in advance.
    Nick



    Main system :TAD CR1 speakers, Viola Labs Symphony amp,Pass XP-20 preamp., MSB Discrete DAC with twin power supplies and V2 Renderer module, Gigafoil V4 inline ethernet filter with uptone LPS-1 power supply with Ghent audio Gotham 2.1mm to 2.5mm cable and AG diamond ethernet cable, Sonicorbitor Roon Audiophile 6 TB network server-player , MG Audio Design Planus III jumpers & speaker cables, Zitron Cobra power cords, Shunyata Hydra AV, and acoustic zen absolute copper IC,. Room treatment ASC tower traps, Vicoustic absorber premium cinema wall and ceiling panels, and MSR acoustic trifusser side wall panel

  46. #96
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    Re: Headphone Evaluation

    My pleasure Nick.

    Some cable manufacturers offer burn in as a device, indeed great idea for device manufacturers to do the same..

    Most reports of VC/VO with tube amps are very favorable.

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