CrisisHawk
10
Mar 28, 2019
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I am interested in participating in this test, just not sure what to get. I already have the HE4xx and HD6xx, using an SMSL M3 dac to drive them. Anyone know if it would be worthwhile for me to pick up the K7xx or O2 dac/amp?
(Edited)
Mar 28, 2019
Duncan
3616
Mar 28, 2019
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Miiiiiight be able to get some help with this one. @Evshrug, @ElectronicVices, little help?
Mar 28, 2019
ElectronicVices
1995
Mar 28, 2019
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With you already owning the HE4xx/HD6xx you've got music covered IMO, if gaming or movies are a major concern then 7xx has a much larger soundstage that you might enjoy. Personally never liked AKG's mids, always sounded a bit artificial compared to my Hifiman and Sennheiser headphones. I don't see a lot of reason to switch from the M3 if you are getting the volume levels you need without maxing the volume pot. The O2 will have more power available on both ends of the impedance spectrum so you may get some benefit over the M3 amp section. DAC section is a wash for me as the variation in features is much greater than the variation in sound in most modern DAC's. A certain site that is FotM makes a big deal out of minor noise/distortion changes in the -120db range... which 99.99% of the world's population would have zero ability to detect. I use an O2 + Dragonfly 1.2 at the office and it gets the job done. I personally prefer to keep my DAC and HP amp separated so I can swap out pieces for new features/performance without altering the whole chain or having unused electronics. I own the HD650 and have for a decade, owned the HE500 from Hifiman for 6 years. Both continue to show improvement as I add/upgrade my chain. They both currently sound their best on my PC>TEAC UD-501>Cayin iHA-6 amp but make decent music out of an O2. O2 + Dragonfly cost me $180, the TEAC/Cayin combo cost me $1060 and had an MSRP of 1850. There IS an improvement, I personally feel it was worth it. I don't however think that everyone will feel the same way.
Mar 28, 2019
Evshrug
1413
Mar 28, 2019
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@Duncan *tag* Hey CrisisHawk, I agree with how @ElectronicVices started: ask yourself what you might get out of owning a K7XX, especially considering you already own an HD 6XX and an HE 4XX. I have owned a high end AKG since 2010 (one model or another, including the K712 the K7XX was based on, though currently I have the K612 Pro), an HD 650 for two years (which the HD 6XX is a re-coloring of), and I have an HE 400i on loan in the house (I am least familiar with this one, and it isn’t a direct analog to the HE 4XX from what I’ve read, but close). If you want all three in order to feel a collector’s sense of completion for having each of the Massdrop collaborations, that in itself can be a reason so long as you don’t mind spending the money. If you’re not simply a collector, I would say their differences should be the biggest concern for you. The AKG is the most analytical and slightly more tight and resolving than the other two, while also having a soundstage that sounds more “speaker-like” and close to out of your head (though processing can greatly enhance this “holographic” sense). I don’t think it sounds boring, or lacking in bass/mids, or overly strong treble, so it’s a good kind of “analytical” that has a similar flavor as the highly regarded HD 800 – I enjoyed movies like Dredd and Star Wars with them, far more than with TV speakers and my friend’s Soundbar. The K7XX also looks cool in a fusion of retro and modern. Some people will also find the light clamp force, large circular pads, and even distribution of the very low weight between head and ears to be very comfortable, if not the most comfortable headphone design (I personally have been known to wear them for 8 hour gaming sessions sometimes, but I added a baby seatbelt wrap over my headband, though @DekoniAudio sent me some of their Nuggets which I have found to be a BIG comfort upgrade). It also responds really well to DSPs for surround sound (loved them with my Creative Labs X7, especially with an OpAmp upgrade, and I’m itching to try out the new Super X-Fi dongle from Creative that is supposed to customize the surround sound for your head). While the K712 Pro sounded pretty great off of a $70 DAC/Amp combo, they also scaled up and still revealed a benefit when using a Chord Mojo as a DAC and a Cavalli Liquid Carbon as an amp (about $1200 of DAC/Amp gear). Those are all positive reasons to consider the AKG, but you still have to decide if it would really be a benefit to you. The K7XX is essentially a sidegrade from the other two you already own... all very high value, but you would kind of be “stuck” in mid-fi. I also find it kind of amusing that the AKG (owned by the Harmon Kardon group) doesn’t follow the Harmon Target Response Curve as well as the HD 6XX. Saving up a bit more on something high end or top-of-the-line to really blow you away might be a better investment, since you already have 2 good mid-fi headphones. The K7XX also isn’t as different as, say, a Koss electrostat. As someone who started out as a “holy grail seeker” for that one “perfect” headphone, but became more of a collector as I got more into the hobby, I could see why you would buy the K7XX or pass on it. Personally, I was too curious what I could learn and experience from the different brands, and only a few disappointments were not “keepers” in my book. If you want what is in my opinion the best headphone to use with surround DSPs without breaking the bank OR giving up on bass (like Audio Technica AD700 or Sony MDR-MA900) and musicality, then I would recommend the K7XX. I’ve never been excited enough about the O2 to try one. I’d buy a Schiit Magni 3 first, but I would recommend a Cavalli Liquid Spark or Liquid Carbon X if you like musicality (both of these would be GREAT pairings with the K7XX, and I do enjoy my Carbon with my HD 800), and I would be excited to try a THX amp based on my demo at a CanJam of an extremely transparent prototype (felt like it brought out the natural sound of the music and headphone). I haven’t heard the SMSL M3, so I can’t tell you how it compares.
Mar 28, 2019
CrisisHawk
10
Mar 28, 2019
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Thanks for taking the time to make such a detailed response. It makes sense to me as in my experience the M3 gets uncomfortably loud passed around 60% on the dial while using the HE4xx and I do spend a lot of my free time gaming. So it seems like it is worth a shot and I just placed an order for the K7xx. I have considered buying these a few times in the past but ended up getting something else instead (ex. the HE4xx) and have been curious to try them for a while. So I at this point I figure if I don't grab them now I will just end up looking at them again in a few months. Thanks again.
Mar 28, 2019
ElectronicVices
1995
Mar 28, 2019
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You are most welcome, glad we could help out. @Evshrug makes good points as well. I will have to mention that the K7xx was based on the K702 anniversary edition, the K712 is also based on this design. The "Annies" as they were known were made in Austria and cost roughly $500, manufacturing has since been moved to China and tweaked into the K712 along with the MD collaboration of the 7xx. This is just me being a stickler for details Evshrug... :)
Mar 28, 2019
CrisisHawk
10
Mar 28, 2019
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Thanks for taking the time to respond. (Though I have already placed the order ) Just to be clear I am going into this expecting a side grade, to add some variety and as @ElectronicVices suggested they seem to be worth a shot for gaming/Movies. There may be something to the collectors aspect you mentioned, I also have the PC37x for when I need voice coms and the EDC3 IEMS for out of the house, The HD 58X Jubilee for...hell I don't even know at this point, the KSC75X basically because Zeos said so and I placed an order about a week ago for the HE-35X (It was $90 don't judge me XD. ) Funnily enough up to a few years ago I keep telling myself I wouldn't get into the higher end audio game, for pretty much exactly this reason, (and I was happy with my HyperX clouds and on-board audio at the time) but then I got a job with some more disposable income and it just kinda happened over time. The price range for all of these is pretty comfortably in the treat myself on occasion range so I am ok with making a purchase like this from time to time. (I'd normally wait longer than week between purchases like this, but time is limited in this case). I do understand your point that saving up for something higher end would probably make sense, but spending HD800 type money in one go is still more that I am comfortable with for most things, not just audio gear. Even the Fostex TR-X00 that are also in this test are a stretch for me. Doable, but I would need a really good reason and probably a chance to try them first. Thanks again to both of you for the help.
Mar 28, 2019
ElectronicVices
1995
Mar 28, 2019
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When I bought the HD650 I thought I was done, had only really used the HD555 prior to that. I've now got 31 pairs and looking at my largest purchase yet... Hifiman Arya. I learned a ton working my way up the chain so I don't necessarily agree with the folks who recommend going straight to "endgame". I don't believe you can truly appreciate the differences the upper echelon provide without first understanding the limitations of "mid-fi" cans. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would have purchased more than one headphone with a MSRP in excess of $500 bucks I would have said you are off your rocker and that was just a waste of money. I purchased a lot of side-grades but they did things differently or worked better in different situations. Hell, also purchased several "downgrades" in my efforts to find IEM's sub $200 bucks that competed with the offerings north of $500 (IMO they don't exist).
Mar 28, 2019
Evshrug
1413
Mar 29, 2019
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Well, you’ll hear support from ME (and ElectronicVices) to explore around since you enjoy music, gaming, and sampling different headphone flavors. I probably have the same quantity of headphones as E.V. (this acronym amuses me, as someone with my username), but it was a slow process, and some of the ones here are borrowed or on loan from companies. I tried to present both pros and cons so you could make your own choice, but yeah I think it was a good idea for you to go for it ;) If you are into gaming, I would recommend a surround DSP before a new DAC/Amp. Does the M3 have an analog input, or optical input? The Sennheiser GSX1000 was amazing for me right out of the box (though sometimes I hook it up to beefier amps), and Audeze’s planar magnetic headphone with the built-in surround and head tracking has gotten even better with the release of an app that lets you enter your head size measurements. Both of those have been good enough that I had to double check my desktop speakers were off a few times 😉 Of course, as a surround fan, I am very curious about the Super X-Fi I mentioned before, because that lets you customize the sound by taking pictures of your head and ear! If you think about it, we naturally hear in 3D in our walking life, so surround is a feature that can make a huge difference (especially when done well). @ElectronicVices it is worth mentioning that the K7XX are produced in China (like many other things) and that now you can only get Chinese-made K712 Pros. If there is any difference between the Austrian and Chinese produced units, I wouldn't know firsthand. I am well aware that the Annies and K712 Pro were both the first to use memory foam ear pads and have the final sound to have +6dB more bass than the regular K702 (and a bit more than the Q701 I had before), but I bought the K712 Pro right when it was released, when they were also still being produced in Austria and literally were the same design as the Annies other than the color scheme.
Mar 29, 2019
CrisisHawk
10
Mar 30, 2019
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The M3 does have both an optical in and analog in, though it is not a 3.5mm plug, it's a similar plug to the RCA outs on the back, but yellow instead of red/white, don't think I have anything that can use that. I have just been using it over USB so far, what do you have in mind for those inputs? I came pretty close to buying the GSX1000 once or twice before after watching Zeos' review on it, but didn't end it getting it so far, as I wasn't convinced that it would be a big enough difference for the cost at the time, Might be worth taking another look at, at some point.
Mar 30, 2019
Evshrug
1413
Mar 30, 2019
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Some of Creative Labs’ DSPs (Omni, G5, G6, E5, X7) have optical outputs that can pass along the headphone surround goodness to your choice of DAC. A better DAC makes a noticeable improvement in the depth, imaging, and realism of surround effects, but the only real weakness of Creative I think is their amps tend to be a little bright and brittle in stock form (even the X7, but upgrading the OpAmps made it sound like an amp worth $100s more). If you game on PC, you could get an Omni 5.1 or G5 for surround and mic 🎙 duties, and use the optical out to connect your SMSL. If (like me) you game on a PlayStation 4, you could connect a G6 to the PS4 for movies and games, then connect your SMSL optical to the G6 and SMSL USB to your PC for music/YouTube, and have a nice setup that you wouldn’t have to unplug things for different sources :) I think Zeos (Stephen’s) GSX 1000 review was one of his better ones, he did a nice job going in-depth with the benefits and weaknesses of the design. Personally, I have a GSX1000 hooked up to my Mac, and then the headphone out jack connected to a desktop amp. The USB also works connected to my PS4 Pro, but only for stereo and connecting a microphone.
Mar 30, 2019
CrisisHawk
10
Mar 30, 2019
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I mostly play on PC, though I did pick up a PS4 when Kingdom Hearts 3 came out, Just been using the audio jack on the controller for that so far but it might get an upgrade later. *partially related rant* I'm not the biggest fan of creative at the moment, I brought a Sound Blaster X Katana a while back after watching the hardware Canucks review and I've been having a few software/firmware issues with it. In retrospect not my best move and I don't pay attention to their audio gear coverage anymore. If I wasn't using headphones most of the time anyway and desk space wasn't at a premium I'd be looking to replace it with a better set of speakers. /rant That said the use case of the Omni is intriguing and at 55 euro it's at a price point that I'm okay with picking it up as an experiment, so I did, if it works out happy days, if not, no big loss. Aside from trying out the DSP to see what kind of difference it makes in games. If the quality of those built in microphones are up to the task, I like the idea of able to use my more premium headphones while still using VoIP. (I know I could also use a modmic/minimic or one mounted on an arm, but both of those have some ergonomic issues I'd rather not deal with right now. The PC37x is still preferable to those options.) I'll look into the G6 a bit more as well, I might still end up investing in one at some point. Thanks again.
Mar 30, 2019
CrisisHawk
10
Apr 16, 2019
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@Duncan @Evshrug @ElectronicVices Hi All, Just wanted to follow up on this thread. First off the EU based shipping, in my experience this has been a big improvement over the normal US based shipping. Aside from the faster shipping time, while the price was higher than the standard version, having the price listed on the drop page being the total cost and not having to worry about import charges makes all the difference. (Think it was the HD6XX I had to pay over 80 euro in import fees on.) If this program is expanded I fully expect to make use of it again. The Meze 99 Noir comes to mind, they have piqued my interest at the moment as I have been looking for a good closed back alternative to the headphones I have been using for a while now, would be useful when more noise isolation is required. (I know Zeos has a set so I will be waiting for that review before making the decision to buy or not either way.) As for the K7XX, I have been using them for over a week now and found that they are a worthy addition to the collection, as expected I like how they sound in games and as far as comfort goes, they might have been a contender for the easiest set I have to forget I am wearing after a while, if not for some squeaking from the ear cup mechanism, mostly on the right side. Not a major issue, but it is there. Next up the Omni, I set it is as an optical input into the M3 as suggested, and spent a few hours testing with and without it in a few scenarios (but mostly Apex Legends matches). Maybe I didn't configure the software correctly, but I didn't notice any difference from using it as a DSP, at least I didn't find it changed my ability to locate gunfire/footsteps/etc. May require more testing, but if it doesn't see further use in this case. I'm sure I'll find another use for it down the line. Lastly, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered a Super X-Fi. It was delivered yesterday but I am on shift at the moment so haven't had much time to play with it yet. Set up was a bit tricky on my own but was able to get the required pictures with use of a mirror (to see the phone screen). First impressions so far, after only using it with the Aurvana SE set it was bundled with are that it is a significant improvement over the 3.5mm jack built into my phone (Pocophone F1). So far I haven't been able to put into words what it is doing, but I like it.
(Edited)
Apr 16, 2019
Evshrug
1413
Apr 16, 2019
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Thanks for all the details! regarding the Omni, it can be hard to know if everything is set correctly sometimes. You have to •check that your computer (Windows, right? Works with Mac too) is outputting to it as a 5.1 Surround device (or 7.1 if available), •check your Omni software suite settings (I’d recommend starting with Surround at 100% and Smart Volume off, turn off the other enhancements too but after you get used to it you can turn them on one-by-one to see if you like the effect) •and then in Apex you want to make sure it’s settings are for “home theater” and all the speaker surround settings. That last bit might sound counter intuitive, but that setting will be the highest quality, and allow the Omni to have the proper split of directional signals to do it’s work. If Apex is set for headphones, then you’re only sending two “directions” to the Omni anyway, and furthermore Apex might be adding some of its own processing on top of the Omni’s processing, which usually is a bad thing. The Super X-Fi is more advanced and allows you to customize for your headshape, so I would be interested in how well that works for you! Your smartphone is probably only sending it 2 channels (two directions) so at best it can just sound like two speakers in front of you, so the real test will be after you get home and try playing a game. On the upside, glad to hear that you at least have found a portable piece of equipment that improves the sound quality compared to your phone. By the way, I haven’t tried updating my Katana’s firmware yet... just used it out of the box with Optical to my PS4 (Dolby decoding and headphone surround! I was surprised!) and Bluetooth to my phone and computer. Any suggestions on what not to do? Hah! My headphones sound better than the Katana speakers, and my Chane bookshelf speakers (about the same cost for the pair, but I also needed a DAC/Amp) in the living room sound better too, but the Katana beats my iMac speakers and it’s an easy option when I sit in front of my computer at my desk. It’s like a big Bluetooth speaker, with a subwoofer. I need to change the battery in my remote. I love when a headphone gets close to letting you forget it’s there, and let you feel immersed in your media. That’s why I do all this! Have fun!
(Edited)
Apr 16, 2019
ElectronicVices
1995
Apr 17, 2019
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Good to hear you're enjoying some of your new toys. I can't say I'm a big fan of DSP when it comes to games but I don't do that much PC gaming any more and when I did the processing was pretty terrible relative to a good set of speakers/headphones and a quality signal. I still think that full on 7/11 speaker surround sound is optimal for positional audio but I hear things have greatly improved on simulated surround front.
Apr 17, 2019
Evshrug
1413
Apr 17, 2019
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I didn’t much care for Dolby Headphone. Too much echo and “room reverb” that makes every game feel like it’s happening in a cave. I have the same issue with speakers in my apartment too though... I can always hear the “boundaries” of my walls affecting the soundstage depth. Doesn’t make sense when a game is in an “outdoors” setting. Apparently, Creative’s CMSS-3D with OpenAL was the golden age though... instead of having 7 speaker channels for direction, a sound could “come from” any arbitrary direction... including 14° to the left and 40° downwards. Some of the last games to use OpenAL were the original Bioshock and Borderlands 2. Borderlands 2 in particular had some great verticality. But Windows Vista removed support for OpenAL, and we’ve mostly had home theater simulation and poorly-optimized in-game headphone modes since then. Dolby Atmos Headphone is promising, but it doesn’t allow for calibration to your head shape, and it’s not as convincing to me as Sennheiser’s binaural engine or Creative’s latest processing. ... still waiting on my Smyth Realiser 😅
Apr 17, 2019
ElectronicVices
1995
Apr 18, 2019
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I don't believe my old Creatives supported Open AL but the standard CMSS-3D available on whatever the hell that Creative 3.5" bay "audiophile" sound card I threw in my XP Media Center Edition HTPC back in the day was essentially worthless. Dolby Processing on a stereo signal blew it away. I used it primarily for it's quality digital output, something that wasn't all that common at the time Sound was something that the early iterations of modern consoles did much better than PC (OG Xbox for example), that ground has since become pretty level but Atmos Surround Encoding (on what few xbox games offer it) is pretty fantastic. Running a 5.2.4 Atmos system at the moment.
(Edited)
Apr 18, 2019
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