Image credit @zhugunic https://drop.com/talk/67372/gl-2-k
Do I need an amp? What are these acronyms like DAC, DSP, or DSD? What even are all the components that make up an audio chain? Let’s take a beginner’s look at the core, essential building blocks of a digital audio chain, and lay it plain what each piece does. We can cover the major pieces separately, but I’ll still include a few tips to optimize playback here. Please hit the little bookmark button and feel free to check and share this guide whenever you need a reference!
For people who need a visual and audible explanation, or are worried it would take too long to get a working knowledge of the audio chain, here is my YouTube video on this subject that is just 7 minutes long! I like writing though, so let’s get started with an overview, then break it down into what each piece does and how an upgrade would benefit the final sound quality.
Image credit @SpeleoFool https://drop...
Announcing Our First Wireless Bluetooth Headphones
Bluetooth headphones are known for their convenience—it’s great not to have that cable hanging around—but in the past, they haven’t been able to hold a candle to wired headphones when it comes to sound quality.
We’re looking to change all that with our next project, our first foray into Bluetooth headphones. Taking advantage of advancements in Bluetooth technology and battery design, we’re aiming for the best of both worlds: an audiophile sound in a wireless package.
These headphones will use Bluetooth 5.0, the latest version of the Bluetooth standard, and communicate over Bluetooth Low Energy for reduced power usage and a longer battery life. Bluetooth 5.0 is faster than older versions and can operate over greater distances. Plus, it allows you to play audio on two connected devices at once.
They’ll feature the latest Qualcomm® Bluetooth chipset and THX AAA™ technology, which is known for delivering the world’s highest fidelity audio with infinitesimally low levels of...
With the success of the AAA™ 789 Linear Amplifier (and now the Panda Wireless Headphones), our partnership with THX is only getting stronger. Now, we’re excited to announce our latest collaboration: the Drop + THX AAA™ ONE Linear Amplifier.
The ONE will be the new entry point for ultra-clean, linear sound in a desktop headphone amplifier. Just like the 789, it’s designed to optimize your audio experience. While the 789 provides more power with its balanced design, the ONE will still drive most headphones with ease. It’s also built with an all-metal enclosure to protect the technology inside. Now we’re including a pre-amplifier output that allows you to connect the amp to a powered speaker and switch back and forth between headphones and speakers on the fly.
Here are some other highlights:
Ultra-low distortion AAA™ circuit with high-voltage swing
Ultra-low noise THX architecture (less than 1 uV of output noise)
Power to drive demanding headphones with ease (Up to 2000...
Over the years we’ve seen countless discussions full of audiophiles wishing for a strong wireless offering. With the wireless headphone space focused on noise-canceling over audio quality, it’s been tough for us to leave the Altoids tins and rubber-bands behind.
Thanks to your support and interest, I’m excited to finally announce the Drop + THX Panda wireless headphone; the first portable wireless headphone to deliver full-system sound.
Panda utilizes a Planar Ribbon Driver. This driver type is a subset of planar magnetic drivers that utilizes a dual sided magnetic structure on a braced diaphragm to deliver a carefully-tuned, phase-correct sound. This driver technology has only been used in one series of headphones previously, the Oppo PM-1, PM-2, and PM-3.
Feeding the Planar Ribbon Driver, you’ll find a discrete THX-AAA amplifier implementation designed by our team in collaboration with THX. This amplifier can drive Panda to comfortable...
At Drop, we’ve earned a loyal following through our exceptional headphone and headphone amp collaborations. From our original collaboration with the AKG K7XX back in 2014 to our best-selling Sennheiser HD 6XX and our newly-released Drop + THX Panda, we've worked closely with some of the industry's top names to develop great-sounding products for every listener. Having established ourselves in this area, we are now looking to branch out in the two-channel space, which includes speakers, turntables, and speaker amps.
The Drop + Audio Technica Carbon VTA turntable will mark our first turntable collaboration. While vinyl has remained a popular listening format among the dedicated, its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years to include many new fans searching for a more tactile music listening experience.
As fans of vinyl ourselves, we created a great sounding turntable that hits all the marks: user-friendliness for new vinyl listeners, and exceptional performance for...
We’re Teaming Up With Audio Legend Axel Grell
You read that right! Drop will soon be partnering with the venerable Axel Grell, known for his work developing many of Sennheiser’s most notable headphones.
Since leaving Sennheiser in 2018, Axel has started his own audio brand. Having worked with Axel in the past, we know how dedicated he is to creating excellent audiophile sound. For our next combined effort, we’ll be focusing on an audiophile-worthy True Wireless IEM, built from the ground up.
At the core of the product is a custom-designed 10mm dynamic driver able to deliver a detailed-yet-punchy sound. Also critical to the product is its adaptive, active-noise-cancellation circuitry. While most ANC headphones are good at attenuating high frequencies, we worked to develop a system that filters out even more of the surrounding environment—and does so without compromising the quality of the audio signal.
Be on the lookout for the TWS IEM in the coming weeks, and let us...
They’re here! The Drop + NuForce Move IEMs promise best-in-class connectivity and wireless performance. Each pair features True Wireless technology: the result of a year and a half of collaborative development and testing. Boasting a full-range sound, remarkable clarity, an IPX5 waterproof rating, and 24 hours of battery life with the included charging case, they’re a great option for running on the treadmill, commuting to work, and transitioning seamlessly between tasks at home.
First impressions are coming in and we couldn’t be happier with the response! Take a look at what the community and the press is saying about our latest collaboration: the world’s first wireless headphone with full-system sound.
Jude, Founder Head-Fi - "The DROP + THX Panda is an audiophile-class wireless (and wired) planar ribbon headphone with a rich tonal balance and excellent detail. I love that the Panda was tuned acoustically (no DSP), supports high-resolution Bluetooth with aptX HD and LDAC, and has an integrated THX AAA amplifier. I measured the DROP + THX Panda in Head-Fi's measurement lab, and its frequency response and extraordinarily low THD were essentially identical in both wireless and wired modes!"
Marv Chen, SBAF - "In comes Drop to resurrect the PM-3 as the Panda, but their style, has added their flourishes: revised tuning, a THX AAA amp with feedforward distortion correction, and wireless Bluetooth functionality. How 'bout that? How many of...
Audiophiles are no strangers to Koss. After all, the Wisconsin-based company has been at the forefront of audio innovation since developing the world’s first stereo headphone in 1958.
Over the years, we’ve sold many of Koss’s flagship headphones and worked with the company extensively to create a few collaborations of our own. However, we’ve never entertained the idea of working together to create a gaming headset—until now.
Koss is known for its affordable, high-quality audio gear. Our goal with this project is to make a performance-driven headset that won’t break the bank and can still be used in a professional setting. Based on the Koss GMR-540-ISO gaming headset, our version will seamlessly transition from the game room to the office to the streets. It will have all the functionality of a PC and console gaming headset, with a look you can wear out and about.
As far as tuning, we’re not reinventing the wheel. Like the original, our closed-back gaming headset will...
When enthusiasts talk about control schemes, they mostly complain. Which seems fair given most control schemes aren't great.
Among the most consistent points, we see displeasure toward touch controls, and intuitive menu prioritization (single tap for virtual assistant, double tab for next track, etc).
For this headphone, we're using one physical control for all major functions.
The physical controller is a short throw joystick + button.
We're still developing the joystick surface finish and shape.
Here's a summary of the control scheme:
To clarify the volume up and volume down, you're pushing the stick up or down with your thumb. Shockingly, up is volume up, down is volume down.
What do you think? Did we draw the right conclusions on intuitive prioritization? Let us know your thoughts!
As mentioned in the first story, one detail that makes the BMR1 Nearfield Monitors unique is their removable, customizable grilles. By default, the BMR1s don’t actually come with any grilles. This is because:
1. While the grilles are designed to minimize the audible impact, audiophiles know grilles will inherently add some coloration.
2. We wanted listeners to only pay for what they need and make the speakers part of their workspace; and plenty appreciate the bare, industrial look of the exposed BMR1s. But sometimes, you want a cleaner aesthetic—one you can customize. That’s where the grilles come in.
Made of coated steel with an ABS frame, each grille attaches to the BMR1 with a satisfying magnetic click and a sleek form factor. Lightweight yet durable, they provide added protection for the drivers and surfaces of the speakers. But their main function? Personalization. We are working on a number of grille concepts and planning to include the...
Today, we want to take some time to cover one of the major Drop-exclusive improvements on our Audio Technica turntable—so important that we included it in the product name. That feature is known as Vertical Tracking Angle, or “VTA” for short.
While there were many great features in the original version of the turntable (no surprise, given Audio Technica’s prowess in the industry), we felt strongly about including VTA to allow listeners to fully explore the wonderful world of cartridges. The importance of the cartridge on a turntable cannot be overstated. Since it’s the part which actually generates the electrical signal that gets amplified into the sound you hear, it has a major impact on the sound. While the Carbon VTA is designed to work out of the box with the pre-installed cartridge, we also wanted it to be usable with a broad range of cartridges. Enter VTA.
VTA allows the tonearm height to be adjusted to compensate for differences in the height between different cartridges....
Some collaborations start with a community request for a specific product type.
Some start with a beloved community product.
Some start with a partner we really want to work with.
Some collaborations have proven, replicated modifications that the community have discovered and implemented.
Some products aren't readily available, they're pretty hard to get...
This project has all of the above.
Some people have been asking us behind the scenes for 2-3 years to work on a "high-end Dynamic Driver IEM that is balanced and natural with an effortless bass kick".
They have given a lot of reasons why we should do this:
"Dynamic drivers have a more natural sound (timbre)"
"Single driver IEMs don't have phase/timing issues that multi-drivers can have"
"We like <XX dynamic driver IEM>'s effortless bass but the treble is just fatiguing"
"We like the <XX dynamic driver IEM>'s mids & treble but the bass is just overpowering"
"I'm willing to pay up to $500 for a...
The Most Modded Headphone Ever Just Got Even Better
Since we launched the Fostex T-X0 planar magnetic headphones back in 2017, we’ve been paying close attention to your comments and feedback. We’re excited to announce that we’re working on a brand-new version of the Fostex T-X0, the T-X0 II, which uses a combination of parts from the original T-X0, and now the T50RP MK III.
The first T-X0 was based on the famed MKII model and was made in a limited batch. Since that time, Fostex rolled out with an MKIII version and we are now in a position to bring back the T-X0 with some new refinements.
This headphone is widely known for being tuned and modded by many companies and the community. We took feedback from the original T-X0 and worked to address those concerns (wooly bass, etc.) The new tuning is something that is a bit more linear than the first version and closer to the T60RP. We also experimented with different densities of foam which are inserted around the driver opening. The less dense...
In the world of speakers, there is one category which is more or less overlooked by audiophile speaker manufacturers. That is the desktop speaker category—and, more specifically, its affordable segment. As we looked at this category, we wanted to design speakers that satisfy our true Audiophile community but also borrowed some inspiration for customization from our Mech Keys community.
We saw a gap in the current market, which looks something like this:
- Affordable Desktop Speakers
- Tiny satellite speakers with a subwoofer. You get all that bass but not much else.
- Bose Companion Speakers. These practically dominate the space and are the speakers to beat. They’ve been around for years and years.
- Benefits: Small size, easy for any workspace to accommodate (unless you use a 2.1 set with a subwoofer).
- Drawbacks: Limitations in audio performance due to smaller driver sizes. Generally limited connectivity and not suitable for other audio use. No customizability.
Axel Grell - Audiophile Innovator & World Leading Headphone Legend
Axel Grell: An Audiophile Innovator
For over three decades, Axel Grell has crafted headphones designed to produce world-class sound—at times, with little-to-no regard for price consideration. Pairing high-quality components with cutting-edge product designs, Axel Grell created some of Sennheiser’s most sought-after headphones. Throughout his mission to enhance the clarity and transparency in the product lines he produced, Grell garnered a devoted following among members of the audiophile community for his close attention to detail throughout all parts of the manufacturing process. By the 1990s, his unwavering quest to design the most neutral headphones possible catapulted him to legendary status amongst those obsessed with high-end audio.
A New Brand Breaks Ground With a True-Wireless IEM
Continuing to push boundaries in the audiophile space, Axel Grell has founded a new brand—grell—with a launch product...
Drop + Etymotic: Teaming up to Create Exceptional Earphones
We’re collaborating with legendary IEM manufacturer Etymotic to bring the community something special. The ERX: a high-performing pair of earphones that blends the best of two iconic models. But before we get to the earphones, we need the history—about Etymotic and its signature IEMs.
In the Ear Canal, From the ‘90s to Now
Etymotic is widely known for its ER Series of IEMs, which came out in the early 90’s. Since then, the company has continued to produce the same product line with minor changes over the years. One unique aspect of Etymotic’s products is that they are designed to sit in the ear canal. This creates an excellent seal and with accurate sound; however, it can be a less secure fit than most in-concha designs with ear hooks.
A Legacy of Hi-Fi Firsts
Etymotic was founded in 1983 with an emphasis on auditory research and engineering-driven product design. Shortly thereafter, in 1984, Etymotic invented the first insert earphones for audiological research (The...
At the time work began on the upcoming Drop + Grell headphones, Drop and Axel Grell were showing off their first collaboration – the wireless TWS1X – at the New York CanJam show. Behind the scenes Axel had been working on his next concept to develop and the discussion evolved into Drop asking Axel to create a version exclusively for its Audiophile members. Axel himself was, of course, already well known among this crowd for the sound of the highly popular wired headphones he developed while working at Sennheiser. So, the pursuit began to create the ideal-performing Axel Grell wired headphone with the most open-back design possible.
The headphone was to originally share many of the same parts as his starting concept, such as the headband and most of the earcups. As development progressed it was decided that rather than design a headphone which could lead to two models it was better to optimize the design for one to maximize its performance. This led to a complete redesign...
Today we are introducing a unique twist on one of our most popular headphones, the AKG K7XX Pulse headphones. Previously, with the AKG K7XX Red Edition, we decided to introduce an additional colorway based on community feedback. We are now rolling out a new colorway to coordinate with the newly announced MiTo GMK Pulse keycap set. This is our first cross-interest headphone collaboration, bringing together mechanical keyboards and audiophile. For those wanting to step up their color coordination game or for someone wanting an electric blue AKG colorway, we hope the K7XX Pulse will please.
The K7XX FAQ
As audiophiles ourselves, we believe that headphone choice and sound perception are deeply personal.
With over 16K posts in Red and Black K7XX discussions, you can imagine that almost every question has been both asked and answered by the community. A big thank you goes out to all of the community members who have answered questions and cleared up...
Earning a spot in the name of our BMR1 Desktop Speakers, BMR Drivers are the driving force behind the sound—and size—of these cutting-edge workspace staples. So, what are BMR Drivers? Let’s start with the technical explanation, from a white paper by their manufacturer: Tectonic Audio.
Ever since the first drive unit design (patented by Rice and Kellogg in 1925), loudspeaker drive units have been steadily evolving with improved materials, refined motor design, and modern manufacturing techniques. However, many of the component parts of a modern day loudspeaker are still very similar to those used in the original 1920s prototype.
Of all these components, it could be argued that the most critical is the diaphragm, as it provides the interface between the induced mechanical vibrations and the resulting acoustic pressure waves that we hear.
Balanced Mode Radiator (BMR) technology provides a novel approach to diaphragm design that addresses two significant limitations of conventional...