Monday, 30 March 2015

Sennheiser Momentum 1.0 On-Ears Review

Sennheiser Momentum 1.0 On-Ears Review

First Impressions:  Wahay! A Sennheiser box that’s straightforward to open, think that might be a first.  Not there is anything “wrong” with their normal boxes, just they have the most infuriating habit of wildly over engineering them, making it not obviously apparent how you’re supposed to get into the damn things.  Ooh pretty case thing.  Wait, there is a baggy too?  Ooh and two cables.  A normal and a phone one, its kinda nice to get both.  Personally it seems a little wasteful as surely you’re going to pick one and use that permanently?

Slapping them on my ears and you will doubtless be shocked, shocked I tell you, that these are really heavy in the bass.  Waaa, a bass heavy Senn, noooo surely not, lol.  You probably also won’t be shocked that these are acoustically reminding me of the Momentum In-Ears.  I had figured the Momentum line would share a tuning style and it seems they do.  That warm, lush bottom, broadly spaced mids and a little flare up top.  It’s not quite as delicate a flare up top as the In-Ears, maybe a little burn in will settle that down?  Let’s find out.

Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Nexus 5.

Lows:  Sumptuous. As you already knew these are really quite large in the bottom end.  Like its IEM kin its pushing toward the realm of more bass than I want, though I do think here it’s comparatively a little less.  I suspect that may be down to my having trained myself to listen to the bass and so I think I’m a bit less susceptible to the mental trickery where by the rest of your ear feeling bass tricks you into thinking there is much more than strictly is.  Still it’s quite a bit and given you feel it too it’s probably easily enough for all but the most crazy bassheads.  I did notice that on the lower powered sources the bass took on a slightly more punchy character as more is found in poppy music.  When you stepped up to more powerful ones it slipped to being more of a controlled, powerful but more articulated bass.  I don’t know if that’s deliberate but it’ll appeal to both mainstream poppy listeners plugging into their phones and to more discerning listeners with more potent DAP’s.  So power wise the rule is, the more you have the more controlled it is, the less the more aggressive it got.

Depth is good, as you would expect but it does dissipate more than what I’m used to with sealed IEM’s.  I would that it were more linear as it descends but the headroom graphs say it is already, I can only presume my ears, therefore, are not getting a perfect seal.  Such is a price to be paid with on rather than over or in ears.

Mids:  Nice.  They are in a clear bit of a valley but they are well articulated with good breadth to them.  They tinge on the warm but they have a fair degree of air which contrast against each other well.  If you pair it with a richly warm source you get mids that swing that way.  Richer, more liquid and creamy.  A crisp, snappy source and those mids dry right up, more breathy and cleanly open.  It’s nice it’s so versatile.  Detail retrieval on them is really quite good but it’s not the most readily apparent.  With these being quite V shaped the bass and treble like to fight it out for the front of the stage.  The mids can quite regularly feel like they need to get up off their backside and start belting it out.  Still we knew going in these weren’t going to be midhead cans.  It reminds me lots of their In-Ear brethren.  Good quality, greatly versatile but too reticent to stand up at the front like they ought to, even on very midcentric tracks.

Strings are likewise great, highly versatile and a surprise hit pairing with Elgar’s cello concertos.  There isn’t much bass and almost no treble to dominate so strings have a lovely dash of liquidity and a soupçon of dry twangyness.  Hmm for all its mainstream pretentions the Momentum On-Ears makes for a really not bad classical listening headphone.

Highs:  There is a really treble flare going on with the Momentums.  Senn’s normally are quite V shaped and this while not as linearly dominant as the more usual Senn signature, they follow the “Momentum” sound signature.  They have that big, rich and quite rotund bass, valley for the mids and then a lightning narrow flare for the treble that then gently decays away.  It’s a good style to produce a heightened sense of clarity and yet not be too aggressive.  The trail away adds to that delicately detailed impression.  It makes it seem of the highest quality by being highly explicit in that spike but quickly rounding and softening to be smoother on the ear.  While it is somewhat easier on the ear my ears still find it to be a little bit demanding.  It liked to leap out and show off just how clever it can be.  Yes dear that’s very nice but I would steer clear of bright and aggressive sources.

Outright quantity isn’t super-duper vast but it’s pretty elevated, its general refinement means despite its quantity I’m not sure treble heads would be quite satisfied with it.  Quality wise though I don’t have much to fault.  It’s well detailed, it isn’t directly abrasive and it does a convincingly metallic impact with a very well controlled shimmery decay.  It’s more grown up than it is party beast treble.  Nevertheless its quantity was pushing my tolerance limits.

Fit/Comfort:  Hmm, well fit I felt was good but I did get a bit of bass trail off which would suggest a leak.  I never felt that getting a good fit was a problem though.  Comfort, hmm well it has a reasonable clamping force, which I absolutely accept is needed to keep them on your head when walking about.  Still, it did somewhat squish my ears onto the arms of my glasses.  It did after an hour or so began to make the backs of my ears hurt a bit.  So while they do stay snuggly on your head when you walk about I’m not sure I’d be happy suggesting to glasses wearers that these are something you’d want to use at stretches of several hours at a time.

Cable:  Both cables are rather thin feeling.  Obviously they are removable and so replaceable if you kill them.  One has no mic, the other does.  It also has volume buttons but they didn’t like my Nexus 5, oh well.

Microphonics:  Not really any but once or twice I did hear the mic catching on my collar.

Phone Use:  Despite being Apple orientated the mic did work fine with my Nexus 5.  The mic though was a little far from my face I was told I did sound a tad muffled.  The mic really did like catching on the other side of my collars so I’m putting it down to that.  I still could carry on a conversation fine so it worked sufficiently well.

Amped/Unamped:  These got increasingly maturely natured the more power you threw at them.  I just happen to have a Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear here and out of that, the Momentums sounded really quite grown up. The highs especially grew in their refinement.  The bass too was quite noticeably more even tempered and articulate.  On the other end, the 1G Ipod Shuffles liked to make things more aggressively vigorous.  More pithy, punchy bass, more sparkly and edgy treble.  I’m pretty sure this will suit everyone.  Those I’d expect to like more punch and dazzle are those I’d assume would have more basic sources and those who want more grown up refinement are the more likely to have superior amping.  So I’d say it’s a win win for everyone.

Isolation:  Hmm, it’s okay.  I could I suppose be able to use these out and about.  I wouldn’t though, less for my being interrupted but for the amount these would leak.  It’s not like its terrible but I would never want to be THAT GUY sat on the bus irritating all around him.  Given their grippy clamping force it’s maybe something that could suit a gym though I thing they look a bit too nice for that.   They are suede for god sake.  Maybe more sit in Costa or Café Nero and get some work done listening to soothing music.

Accessories:  You get a not bad haul.  There is the case, then a little baggy and the two cables.   Can’t really imagine what else you could want for them.

Value:  Their pricing seems a bit all over, I got them for just £66 from Amazon Spain.  At the moment they are £106 on Amazon UK yet only US$100 on Amazon US.  At that US price its greatly awesome value.  The UK, well it’s not that they don’t sound good enough to cost that, they do with some ease but wildly differing prices irk me.  Still that aside these are premium sounding and premium feeling product.  This is possibly also due to the launch of the 2.0 versions.  Given Senn has done this before I’d imagine the 1.0 and 2.0 version to sound near, if not identical.  So could be a way to bag yourself a bargain as I feel I have done.

Conclusion:  The pricing weirdness I don’t like, I did see that some colours cost slightly differing amounts too so it could be that the production run of colours hasn’t paired up too well to the sales of the respective colours.  Still I got the blue for a bargain and I’m just fine with blue, the pink though, err I’m not so sure about.  I’m also unsure about the new 2.0 versions.  I am currently working on the assumption Senn has done as they did with the IE8 to IE80 move.  It’s technically a new version but by all accounts I’ve seen they sound the same.  I would therefore presume that the 1.0 and 2.0 versions also sound the same.  It’s a guess but even if I’m wrong, I’m having absolutely zero with how good these ones sound. 

Tonally they have a rich nature which works well for me though I do from time to time still find their inclination to get a little over expressive up top a teeny bit much for me.  Yes it’s good, yes it’s refined, yes its shimmers beautifully but it’s that pin sharp spike that when subjected to hard or aggressive music I find tiring.  I feel like it’s trying just too hard to keep pace with its low end and I wish it wouldn’t.  The low end feels much more effortlessly agreeable.  Rich, weighty, warm and there is a casual feeling about it.  It’s just strumming away, no stress or strain.  It’s just getting on with it as casually as you could please.  The treble feels like it knows it isn’t quite as good but is ever the more determined to keep up and its gets a little ratty doing so.  The mids, well they are like, well they remind me of Jane Horrocks character in Little Voice.  At the beginning, when she is so meek and retiring yet with such potential if you can only eek it out.  Elgar’s cello concertos do what they can in that regard but the mids just never want to take centre stage vocally.

In terms of balance and audience, as with the In-Ears Sennheiser have shown they can tailor things enough to win praise from the audiophile community and yet be mainstream enough to also cater to the taste of a mainstream audience.  It’s a careful line to walk and they do it quite masterfully.  For me I’d still like more mids and a smidge less treble but hey, given all the coverage the Momentum range has been getting it’s pretty damn clear the Sennheiser have a goodly bunch of winners on their hands here.  The On-Ears 1.0, if you can bag a set at some of the low prices it’s been at then it makes for a most excellent bargain.  Sure it’s not perfect, it clamps a bit hard, some colours are clearly acquired tastes but on the whole it’s an excellently build product that looks good and sounds even better.

Sennheiser Momentum 1.0 On-Ears Quick Review

Sennheiser Momentum 1.0 On-Ears Quick Review

Brief:  Sennheiser’s style range On Ear.

Price:  Today on the Rainforest sites its £106 or US$100

Specification:  Impedance 18 Ω, Frequency response 16–22,000 Hz, Sound pressure level (SPL) 112 dB (1 kHz/1 Vrms), THD, total harmonic distortion < 0.5% (1 kHz, 100 dB SPL), Contact pressure approx. 3.2 N, Ear coupling Supra-aural, Jack plug Cable 1: 3.5 mm low profile angled plug, Jack plug Cable 2: 3.5 mm straight plug, Cable length Cable 1: 1.4 m iPod®/iPhone® cable with integrated smart remote and microphone, Cable length Cable 2: 1.4 m cable for computers, phones, music players and any device with a headphone output, Transducer principle Dynamic, closed, Weight 160 g (including remote), Load rating 200 mW

Accessories:  A sizable case, a little baggy thing and two sets of cables, one with a mic and phone controls, the other without.

Build Quality:  As you would expect from Sennheiser, excellent.

Isolation:  Meh.  There really isn’t very much.

Comfort/Fit:  Great at first, I did find after a couple hours where my ear was squished onto my glasses got a little sore.

Aesthetics:  Just take a look at them, tre fancy.  They come is various colours too so I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find one to your tastes.

Sound:  Excellent.  I get the impression that Senn has targeting the Momentum range to have a specific sound.  A slight deviation from their normal sound to more closely emulate Sony or B&W.  A rich full bodied warm low end.  Mids comparatively broad and open.  The highs, a little flared spike but on the whole delicate and smooth.  It sounds really very much like the In-Ear version and I’d be willing to bet the On-Ears do too.  I’m half temped to just copy paste what I wrote before, lol.  The bass is big and rich, rotund with a good level of depth but more what I’d think of as rounded.  It does climb up a little towards the mids before dropping into a bit of a valley.  The bass does move quite a bit of air over the ear.  The mids are very broad sounding, so open and naturally airy. Slightly warm but still so much air it just flows beautifully.  The highs are really well refined and mostly delicate. There is a little spike that cuts right through and makes quite an apparent treble flair.  It really bolsters the V shape and makes them rather more detail hurling.  It does well to act as a counter to that huge bass.  It makes them quite instantly and noticeably attention grabbing without being ear savaging.  It’s a really mainstream bit of V shaped drama and a healthy dose of smooth too.  Oh and they sound huge too, very broad and as though they have oodles of power.  Personally I’d like a little more mids though. 

Notably though my Nexus 5 the bass and treble somewhat lessened so a beefy source has a quite an effect.  Proportionally more even handed and smooth the more power you threw their way which suited my tastes exceedingly well.

Value:  Price seems a bit in flux but they are a considerably quality product.

Pro’s:   Bass, its rotund and articulate.  Mids have excellent breadth.

Con’s:  Bass wants to come out and play constantly.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

RHA T10 Review

RHA T10 Review

Thanks to RHA for the sample.

First Impressions:  If there is truly one thing that can be said about RHA, that absolutely everyone can agree on, my word don’t they know how to put a package together.  Just look at it.  No, seriously just look at it.  While I being well versed in headphoney stuff I recognise that the tip holder I see in there is not practical, not one tiny bit, but just look at it.  Never has there been a tip holder that looked so impressive.  Carry that on to the filter holder too, dubious practicality but god, just look at the damn thing!!!  As very first impressions go, you peel back the lid flap and visually you cannot hope to be unimpressed with just how good it all looks.

First listen, they came with the “reference” filters on them.  Hmm by “reference” I think they mean the same as was meant on the Kommands.  “Reference” actually means V shaped, lots of bass and lots of treble.  Eek gosh there is a lower treble abrasiveness, ear scratchy scratchy.  I’m not worried as that’s the sort of thing a burn is usually smooth’s out but I suspect the silvers won’t be my filter of choice.  I’d be willing to bet right now that it’ll be the black or “bass” ones that suit my little ears best.

Source: Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., FiiO E7/E9 combo, HiFiMAN HM-650, Nexus 5 and FireyeDA.

Lows:  All of the reviews I’ve read on the T10 say its bass is gargantuan, even with the treble filters it’s ever present and dominating.  I don’t hear that.  I went through every tip they came with and several others.  After some time and trouble I settled on the foamy ones I liked so much with the 750.  What I have found is that the bass is highly variable.  I still can’t say I found it be so insanely vast as some have reported but it did change significantly.  You see with softer sources like the lovely HM-650 the bass was more genteel and polite.  On changing to more cool and aggressive ones like the FireyeDA the bass got significantly more face smacking.  Like my old and unlikely favourite, the Denon C751 there is a cold, hard and unyielding quality to it.  I think it in part down to the unyielding enclosures.  it’s a big dark, cold bass that reeks of power yet so cleanly detached.

While it was a bassy it’s really nothing beyond what so many others are these days.  The one that springs to mind is the Momentums.  These have the same if not a touch more deep bass while the senns bass spreads up towards the mids a little much where these just don’t at all.  That’s all using the Bass filter almost exclusively.  I really did not find the bass on the treble filters to be overarching in the slightest and I’m hardly a bass head.  It’s really high quality bass and it really shifts some air when you push it hard, I could see fans of things like dubstep or other electronica loving the deep deep punch its capable of.

Mids:  Nice.  They always have a slight air of reticence to them and I find that there is an overall hard quality.  It’s not unlike some other metallic beasts and the ones I’m most reminded of are the C751 and the HJE900.  There is a hard, inorganic quality that is somewhat hyper digital, an unyielding quality.  In my head it comes over as a cold darkness. With its hard deep bass, highs I’ve yet to come to and the mids that have a dryness that feels so explicit.  Detail levels are as you might expect rather good and their vocal coolness emphasises that detail.  It’s not something you melt into but that you can examine and it cuts through vocally like a knife.
Guitars and strings likewise have a certain coolness to them that makes them feel so clear and hyper explicit with every note edge so clearly defined.  Actually fast acoustic guitar sequences are splendidly explicit.

Highs:  Hard.  I found that if there was one acoustic aspect I did not get on well with it was the treble.  There is a real hardness to them, as with some other hard enclosure IEM’s if encountered.  A complete lack of give so the enclosures are desperately hard and unyielding.  The C751, the MA750, the HJE900 all exhibit the similar lack of forgiveness.  It’s hard and it can be aggressive.  The foamy tips did soften the edges of that treble which I would characterise as still somewhat cold.  It’s hard and explicit.  Extension wise it is more focused on the lower and middle highs, extension it quite tamed by those bass filters.  With the V and treble ones they are considerably more alive.  Wildly alive even, much sparkle and dazzle with a really crisp edge to it.  Treble junkies who loved the likes of the DBA-02 will no doubt be greatly pleased by its clean metallic twang.

For little old treble sensitive me, in a heartbeat the relatively less abundant treble of the bass filter was the one I got along best with.  The treble though is still that hard and unyielding kind.  It’s very explicit and makes everything feel hyper clearly defined, a very clean sharp edge.  I know that some will adore this sound, the aural equivalent of brutalist architecture.  A projection of authority, power, ability and with great severity.  You will either love it, or well you get where I'm going.  Its potent stuff but with the bass filters on even I could find it quite liveable.

Fit:  Excellent.  Not really much more to say, of course you have to wear them up but I would anyway.  The ear guide here is rather better than the one on the 750 too.  Curiously I seemed to get a much more hard seal on the right ear.  A tiny bit of driver flex inducing but after a min or two it equalised.

Comfort:  Great.  My hands tell me they are a bit heavy but in the ear you’d never know it.  I’m sure give their shape there will be someone out there they want get along with, but it wasn’t me.

Cable:  Huge.  It’s thick, really thick and it’s equally grippy.  It did like to work its way between my open jacket and my jumper then tug at my ears every now and again.  Otherwise the thing is a monster and you could probably tow a car with them. (Disclaimer, RHA probably won’t recommend you actually try that.)  The jack and y splitter too are of the most impressive build.

Build:  The best build quality of anything, ever.  Well you get what I mean, the buds are created by heating steel to 1300 degrees and injection moulding them.  I would put money on these things out living me.  Impressive isn’t the word.

Microphonics:  Erm none pretty much. There is a neck synch too so if you were getting any you could remove it but I honestly never noticed any.

Amped/Unamped:  Plugging these into my Nexus 5, not a device known for its elegant treble I found that on the whole they were pretty good.  That it comes in a phone version (the T10i) so clearly RHA have aimed for it to be a driver that doesn’t need shed loads of power to sing.  It worked really very impressively well.  Its bass stayed taught and vigorous with only a little softening.   The treble though, well it stayed vigorously forceful.  It’s still a cold hearted beast.  I can’t fault its ability to sound great out of any old source no matter how weedy.  Though I am thinking maybe their dark and cold tonal nature might be well complimented by the warm and soft Iphone hp output? 

Anyway in short, yes with an amp it certainly takes on a tautness and there is a noticeable difference but while growing with a more power source it does not really yearn for one like some do.  That said, with a cold, clinical source and it becomes a truly dark beast of a thing.  All dark, bassy, hard and all of the power.  The FireyeDA and Danny Elfmans "What's This" and I’m grinning like an idiot trying desperately not to burst into song in the office.

Isolation:  Pretty good.  Around what we have come to expect form a dynamic, maybe a touch more.  So it would be perfectly reasonable an option for normal out and about, on a bus etc etc.  Not one I’d personally opt for on the Tube or a long flight but it would do if needs be.  Obviously its way more than sufficient to block out that bus coming up behind you.

Accessories:  So you get 10 pair of tips in the fanciest tip holder thing ever, then you get the 3 sets of filters and their little holder thing.  There is a 6.25mm to 3.5mm jack and there is the case.  I still don’t love the case they give you.  It works but it’s just a bit big and well I don’t know, I just don’t really like it.  Clearly a completely rational assessment there but what can I say, there’s just something about it I don’t like.

Value:  Hmm.  If you are a habitual breaker of things then RHA is probably the brand for you as the sturdiness of the T10 and MA750 are beyond imagining.  Sound wise.  The 750 was instantly apparent great value, the T10 though I’m just not feeling it.  It’s good but the things in my head I want to compare it to are all a bit cheaper, granted the T10’s have the most epic build quality and are clear visual statements of premium goodness.  With the filters too its one that would make for a great gift, it looks wildly impressive and they can tailor the sound to their liking somewhat.

Conclusion:  I do like while I’m reviewing something to have a look and see what others have said about it.  If there is something in particular it can give me ideas on what to play or what to pair it with.  The reviews I read often said the T10(i) were so stupendously bassy it was a problem.  I did not find that at all.  I mean its well above neutral but you know I constantly chose to use the bass filters.  Sure it’s pretty bassy but next to the C751 or Momentum and its just not the most bassy, it’s not especially close either.  So those saying that even with the treble filters on the bass was overwhelming, from some reviewers I trust the ears of too, I just wasn’t getting it.  Why you may ask, I know I did and the summation of all my efforts in this regard were, god knows.  We could not figure out why we were hearing things so differently.

The more I listened the more it really reminded me of the old Denon C751.  Big, dark, cold bass.  Cold in that it feels hard and unyielding with none of that gentle softness I associate with warmth.  The uppers too have a hard and unyielding quality.  They are relentless.  Gosh they to me are so much like a newer version of the C751.  Such unyielding potency and vigour.   Think Michael Jacksons "Earth Song" played at volume,  it feels so powerful, like there is some endless reserve from which to draw and simply overwhelm anything in its way.  No give, no bending to the will of anything else.  Raw and unconquerable like it’s some newfound force of nature, no wait some force outside of nature as there is no natural softness here.  Like some behemoth of steel coming at you as a battleship might.  You are of so little consequence it just powers right through, ignoring you.

The T10 is however a master of build quality and it has enormous visual appeal.  Both are aspects that are runaway successes.  Sound though, if I personally had to pick I’d find myself opting for the cheaper and almost as lovely and well built MA750.  I don’t recall anyone saying anything bad about it or not getting along with it.  The T10 though is more of an acquired taste, some will love it but like marmite, others will hate it.  That is despite having the tuneable filters too.  No doubt the T10 is an impressive work of art, just maybe one that isn’t to everyone’s tastes in the way the 750 was.

RHA T10 Quick Review

RHA T10 Quick Review

Thanks to RHA for the sample.

Brief:  The best built IEM ever.

Price:  £140 OR in the US US$190

Specification:  Drivers Dynamic (model 770.1), Frequency range 16-22,000Hz, Impedance 16 ohm, Sensitivity 100db, Rated/max power 1/5mW, Weight 41g, Cable 1.35m, multicore OFC, Connections 3.5mm, gold plated

Accessories:  Tuning Filters with Holder, 6 pairs, dual density ear tips - S x2 / M x2 / L x2, 2 pairs, double flange ear tips - S x1 / M x1, 2 pairs, memory foam ear tips - universal fit, Stainless steel ear tip holder, Premium carry case, Clothing clip

Build Quality:  Beyond imagining for an IEM.  1300 degree injection moulded steel construction.

Isolation:  Rather good for a dynamic.  Though someone else has said it’s terrible.  For me it would be good for normal usage, maybe even the odd flight.  Easily enough to get yourself killed if you don’t use your eyes.

Comfort/Fit:  Physically they fit me excellently. Their physical comfort was superb too.

Aesthetics:  Oooooooh pretty!!!  They walk a magnificent line of looking amazing, attention grabbing and yet multiple shades of grey and steel which makes them look more refined.  I like them very much visually.

Sound:  All of the sound!!!!  Like a powerful wall of it coming at you and hitting you like the proverbial ton of bricks.  Except a ton of actual bricks would be more gentle.  It’s hard, unyielding, aggressive, potent, powerful and yet those words don’t quite capture the brutality it will hurl your way.  Its bass is cold and dark, aggressive with no hint of softening and just grows as it descends, like the darkness might falling into a glacial crevasse.   Mids are cold, dry and highly explicit.  Still that dark icy quality that feels like it might rise up and cut you.  Its highs are cold too, hard, oh so hard and contain a lower treble, near sibilant edge.  It’s like a freezing cold wind that stings.  It is all these things and that just with the bass filters!!!  The silver is more V shaped retaining that bass but exploding up top in the treble.  The gold diminishes the bass and gave me a wildly dynamic treble.  Treble junkies might love it but my treble sensitive ears were left reeling, near blinded by its dazzle.

The T10 is hard, coldly aggressive power cannon, it’s not to be taken lightly.  A truly epic beast of a thing.

Value:  Well it’s the best built thing ever and one of the best looking too.  Would make for an awesome looking gift.  I’d be more tempted by the MA750 though if for myself.

Pro’s:   Beyond epic power, beyond epic build in a drop dead gorgeous package.

Con’s:  All of the power, coldly aggressive hard bass.  A true uber beast of an IEM