AF Audio “Bodhi” pure silver interconnect.

I recently came across Andrew Foster of AF Audio on social media and became interested in the cables he builds. He kindly sent me one out for review. Here are my thoughts of a well rounded, affordable cable…

Cable in picture NOT the Bodhi.

Disclaimer:
Andrew / AF Audio have been very kind in sending out this sample for review.
I have not been paid to write this publication.
The views and opinions herein are unbiased and my own.

For prices please take a look on the AF Audio website:
https://afaudio.co.uk/

For a three meter Bodhi like the one I have it would retail at £400.

Review equipment:
iPad Pro.
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance DAC/Pre.
Airpulse A200 active speakers.
AF Audio Bodhi pure silver interconnect.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioner.
Audioquest mains cables.

Music:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

What’s in the box:
1x 3 meter pure silver Bodhi interconnect.

Spec:
RCA TO RCA Interconnect Pure Silver 99.99%.
Pure Silver 1mm Conductors.
PTFE Dielectric.
Copper Tape Screening.
Black or Red Outer Sheath.
High Quality Gold Plated RCA Plugs. (Locking Plugs)

Build and finish:
Any reader who knows me will know I’m quite anal about cables. In the sense that I am always on the lookout for a cable that is built not only to improve sound, but also one that looks good and can take some heavy use.
I have annoyed so many builders in the past with my incessant need for updates throughout the build with photos of the process.
This is something I try very hard not to do these days, so Andrew surprised me when he sent a photo of the cable when he was finishing it up. I didn’t even think to ask yet here I was being sent a photo of the build, which struck a chord with me. This chap really takes care in what he does and isn’t uncomfortable in being transparent with his work.
In the cable building industry this is something I wish more brands would do!
The cable arrived in a timely fashion and I was greeted with a cable that oozed with premium craftsmanship right out of the parcel.
From the parts used to the finesse of the finished product, the Bodhi is a statement of how good Andrews cables really are.
In my experience, whether it be a headphone cable, USB cable, speaker cable or an interconnect I often note that the connectors used tend to be a weak link in the cable.
Andrew has used some very high quality locking plugs that look and feel like they could probably outlast a nuclear blast! I kid you not.
The cable is equally high end and is well protected beneath it’s outer sheath.
For build and finish alone, I’ll certainly be coming back to Andrew for more cables in the future.

Setup:
Andrew includes instructions in the package in regards to which direction the cable should be connected. Does the direction make a difference in sound? I’ll get into that in a moment.
The locking plugs are easy too unscrew and re lock. This is important to me as with Osteoarthritis some plugs can be hard to work with.

Sound:
Ok, let’s deal with the elephant in the room.
There are people in this world who believe that cables make absolutely no difference in sound or performance. And that’s ok.
There are also folk who hear a difference in sound. Whether that be a very small change or a significant one. We exist, and that’s ok too.
I’m of the latter group, so let me go into more depth…

I used the Boghi exclusively between my Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance in DAC mode and my Airpulse A200 active speakers.
Up until this point I was using a far cheaper “Edge” interconnect I picked up on Amazon a while back which in its own right, is a great cable with good sonic performance.
After switching that out for the Bodhi I noticed a significant tightening up of the higher frequencies with improved agility and resolution.
The mids are now more refined and the airiness of my system sounds smoother.
My system is already quite bass heavy when it wants to be and with the Boghi in place, the system now sounds less overwhelmed. The bass is more refined with better control and just slightly rolled off in the deeper frequencies. But only just.
All of this adds up to a more balanced delivery. I also noticed a considerably broader soundstage and vastly improved dynamic range.
Earlier I mentioned direction. I tried the Bodhi in both directions and I did hear a slight change. If I were to describe it I would say that using the cable in the opposite direction than advised, the sound reproduced was not as vibrant and sounded a little muddled in busier passages of music.

Thoughts and recommendation:
I am glad that brands such as AF Audio and people like Andrew are in the industry.
What they bring to the table is a mixture of class, dedication, transparency and flawless craftsmanship!
Andrew / AF Audio just leapt straight into my list of top 5 cable builders.
On the question of value for money?
This is a cable that performs on par with others priced at least three times as much.
Could I find any flaws? I tried. I really did in the name of being unbiased. I found none.
Would I recommend AF Audios cables? Yes, without a second thought.
Andrews cables are a testament unto themselves. But you also get a transparency and customer service that I have rarely seen elsewhere.

Thank you to you all for reading this review.
Please be sure to subscribe, follow, like and share.
And as always, stay safe!

All my best. Paul.

I’d like to thank Andrew for sending this cable my way and for his help and advice throughout.

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SpinFit IEM ear tips.

When a brand sends you their entire line of products to review in one shot, they must be good…

Disclaimer:
SpinFit have very generously sent me this collection of ear tips to review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.

Prices vary. I would list them here, however seeing as it’s their entire catalogue I don’t want you having to read the entire list before you get to the review.
Saying that, I haven’t come across a pack that was any more than £20.

You can find and purchase SpinFit tips in most countries on Amazon.
You can find a list of distributors here:
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en/distributor


Follow this link to find out more:
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en

Review equipment:
This by all means is not my entire collection. However I wanted to use a broad selection of wired and wireless. *TW – True Wireless.

Apple Airpods Pro. ( TW )
Sony WF-1000XM3. ( TW )
Bang & Olufsen E8. ( TW )
Grado GT220. ( TW )
HIFIMAN TWS800. ( TW )
HIFIMAN TWS600. ( TW )
RHA True Connect 2. ( TW )
Shure SE425. ( Wired )
Shure SE215M+. ( Wired )
Westone Wx. ( Wired )
iBasso iT01. ( Wired )
Sennheiser IE8. ( Wired )

Music:
The following playlists on Qobuz were used for this review:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

What’s in the box:
Ear tips. Lots of them!
However, in your case you will get a blister pack with your chosen ear tips and any adaptors inside.

Spec:
Premium soft silicone.
Ergonomic design.
Easy installation.

Build and finish:
“SpinFit has an ergonomic concave design at the core to allow the ear tip to swivel, making it flexible to bend and twist to the contour of a person’s ear canal.”
“Premium soft silicone material along with the ergonomic design provides outstanding and lasting comfort.”
“Consistent optimal seal even for headphones with an awkward insertion angle, allowing increased noise isolation.”
“Enhancement on treble and bass ensures a superior listening experience to the foam and the stock ear tips.”
“Simple installation makes SpinFit an easy upgrade for your earphone. A perfect replacement for your stock ear tips.”

I agree with every point.
Once I found the right size fit for my ears ( SpinFit supply different sizes of each tip ) I can safely say that all of the above is true for each model.
The ear tips and adaptors are built to a very good standard and I found no rough edges or burs on any of the silicone or plastic.
Even Apple Airpod Pro users are covered by SpinFit.
The packaging is a simple blister pack and that’s just fine. However I do hope in the future SpinFit and other brands switch to either plant based “plastic” or maybe a small cardboard box? I tried contacting SpinFit to find out more about the packaging but received no reply.

Setup:
Installation is very straightforward and easy.
SpinFit even include a little pictorial guide on their website to help fit ear tips with adaptors.
The Apple Airpod Pro tips for example, come with plastic ring adaptors, these are easy to fit and work very well.

You can find a pictorial guide at the bottom of the page here:
https://www.spinfiteartip.com/en/about

Comfort:
The silicone SpinFit use is very soft and comfortable in the ear.
However if you don’t get the right fit you will find that the smoothness of the silicone will mean IEMs falling out of ears, a lot. Frustratingly so.
Get the right fit and they stay in place with no difficulty.
Dependent on IEM, I found I was able to wear most of the models I used in this review from anywhere between two and four hours. This variance is related more to the IEMs specific quirks than the tips. If all IEMs were created equal and on par with the comfiest pair then I would say 4 hours upwards easy.

Sound:
In my experience over the years, I have found that using different material and designs of ear pads and ear tips can make a difference in what I hear.
The same is to be said for fitment. Considerably.
SpinFits claim of enhanced treble and bass is accurate. I noticed this more on IEMs that have a more “V” curved sound signature.
I also noticed that midrange was a little rolled off in some cases and need to make a few tweaks in EQ to bring the mids back to a level that I prefer.
Soundstage doesn’t change in my view, although reviewers with better hearing than I may notice a small difference.
Isolation, especially in the models without active noise cancelling is good.
I noticed with the Grado GT220 and HIFIMAN TWS600 that the passive noise cancelling was improved when using these tips.

Thoughts and recommendation:
I really like what SpinFit have created.
I have always struggled with ear tips in the past, whether that be comfort or getting the right fit. I always saw ear tips as my weak link in my IEM usage.
SpinFit have changed that by offering an ear tip that makes fitment a lot easier.
Would I recommend them? Absolutely. Improved comfort, enhanced sound signature and increased isolation / passive noise cancelling all for £20 or under!
I’ll definitely be looking to SpinFit in the future for more ear tips.

Thanks for reading and for your ongoing support!
Please remember too subscribe, like, share and follow.



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Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon.

Hot on the heals of the recent Debut Carbon Evo review, I follow up with one of Pro-Jects more affordable turntables…

Disclaimer:
Henley Audio / Pro-Ject have kindly sent this turntable out to me for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.
To integrate the RPM1 Carbon with my system, Henley Audio sent out the High Power it power supply and I am running the turntable without a ground cable.
You may find you probably need to use the ground cable in your system so please take this into consideration.

The Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon comes in a choice of gloss white, gloss red, or gloss black and retails at £399.00 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up at the following link:
https://www.henleyaudio.co.uk/products/RPM-1-Carbon?DepartmentIds=1&BrandIds=2

Review Equipment:
Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon. ( white )
Pro-Ject High Power it power supply.
Ortofon 2M Red.
Sure Shot cork platter mat.
Origin Live “Gravity One” record weight.
Custom isolation platform.
IsoAcoustics Orea Indigo isolation pucks.
Custom Cans phono cable.
KECES Audio ePhono pre amplifier.
KECES Audio ePower linear power supply.
Eufonika H7 tube head amplifier. ( 6N1P and 6N13S )
Sennheiser HD600 headphones.
Custom Cans HD600 cable and extension.
Airpulse A200 active speakers.
Airpulse S200 stands filled with Atacama “Atabytes”
Audioquest and Qucheng mains cables.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Music:
Pink Floyd “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.” 180gram re release.
Jean Michel Jarre “Equinoxe” 180gram re release.
Alice In Chains “Dirt” 180gram re release.
Gustav Mahlers “Symphony Number 5.”

In the box:

  • RPM 1 Carbon with Ortofon 2M Red
  • Connect it E Phono Cable
  • Felt mat
  • Adapter for 7“ singles
  • Power supply
  • Allen key, stylus pressure gauge

Spec:

Nominal Speeds::33 / 45 RPM (Manual)
Dust Cover:No (Optional Extra)
Motor Completely Decoupled:Yes
Platter Weight / Diameter:1.6kg / 300mm
Speed Variance:±0.19%
Wow & Flutter:±0.13%
Signal to Noise:-70dB
Tonearm:S-Shape Carbon/Aluminium 
Effective Tonearm Length:8.6 ” (218.5mm)
Effective Tonearm Mass:13.5g
Overhang:22mm
Tracking Force:0 – 25mN
Power Supply Type:Outboard PSU 110-240V, 50Hz ( stock. )
Output Voltage:15V / 500mA DC
Power Consumption:5W Max. / <0.5W Standby
Dimensions:380 x 110 x 350mm
Weight:3.8kg

Build and finish:
This will be the fourth Pro-Ject turntable I have been sent out for review from Henley Audio.
Pro-Ject have a long track record of building high quality turntables. High end aesthetics teamed with functionality and intuitiveness lend themselves to a good, robust model.
Whether it’s a £400 or £700 turntable, the same signs of good, competent craftsmanship are seen throughout. Something of note here is the inclusion of a carbon fibre tone arm with an aluminium core, and an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. Both often seen on higher end models, with the cartridge alone coming in at roughly a quarter of the price of the RPM1 Carbon. I think it’s great that Pro-Ject include them on a lower cost model and a testament to their way of thinking.
The RPM1 Carbon is a solid MDF piece, as is the platter. Damping down any unwanted resonance. The motor is fully decoupled cutting down on any noise further still.
The finish is flawless and minimal. The performance, exceptionally satisfying.
My only complaint is the tone arm lift. I like when a tone arm lowers slowly and smoothly. Usually the needle settles into the groove just as I’m sitting down. Unfortunately the RPM1s lift mechanism is fast and not so smooth.

Setup and use:
With the cartridge already fitted and dialled in, setup is not a difficult task.
There are clear instructions in the box and further still, Henley Audio have created a setup guide to help you get up and running in no time.
As I do with every turntable that comes my way if a cartridge is preinstalled, I double check the calibration. You never know what can happen in shipping so I always advise to ere on the side of caution. Using the provided tools this does not take long and I found that just like the other Pro-Ject turntables, the calibration was spot on.

Henley Audio include a helpful setup video which I have linked below:-

Using the RPM1 Carbon is very straight forward.
All you need to think about are three things.
Tone arm lift.
On/Off switch.
Pulley belt position for switching between 33 / 45rpm.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy your favourite album or single.

Sound:
On the same day I had a final listen to the Carbon Debut Evo, I had it packed away and the RPM1 Carbon unboxed, setup and ready to go.
They both ship with the same cartridge and I used the same power supply, mains cable, phono cable and pre amplifier as I had with previous reviews. The same can be said for the rest of the system.
So I went into this with the mindset that any improvement or drop in quality of sound would be down to the rest of the turntable in regards to materials and parts. Obviously there is a significant gap between the two turntables in price and features, so this isn’t a direct comparison.

The RPM1 Carbon performs very well. Low end frequencies are tight and punchy, reaching deeper passages easily with good extension and a fair amount of detail. Mids are forward yet smooth and clear. Highs are fast and crisp, yet a little rolled off in the higher frequency range.
When the needle is moving between tracks, the RPM 1 is virtually silent.
I would say that what I got from this was a fun, exciting listening experience with a turntable that played everything I brought to it in a lively, fast paced manner.
In comparison with the Debut Carbon Evo I found the Evo to have a more dynamic sound with highs, more extended and a more refined bass. But then given the difference in cost, it’s to be expected.
Saying that, Pro-Ject offer a plethora of upgrades for their turntables, including the RPM1.
There would be nothing stopping you buying these upgrades later down the road and I believe that the sound could be substantially improved upon for not much outlay. Not that it needs improving mind!
Note the “Acryl-it” platter upgrade in the picture below:

I hope at some point to request some of these upgrades from Henley Audio so I can bring you my thoughts on this more. As they say, watch this space.

Thoughts and recommendation:
The Pro-Ject RPM1 Carbon may not look like a lot of turntable, but don’t let its minimal appearance deceive you.
For £399 you’re getting a lot of high end tech for your money. The cartridge and tone arm alone justify the price tag.
If you’re just getting into vinyl and want a minimal, stylish turntable that offers great performance to match its appearance then look no further!
All I ask of Pro-Ject is to make the tone arm lift smoother and slower on the next reiteration.

Thank you for reading this review and as always, stay safe!

Thank you to Simon, Molly and the rest of the team at Henley Audio for going above and beyond over the Christmas period in their support of myself and the blog.
And of course, thank you for sending this product out for review!

All my very best to you all. Paul.

The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Airpulse.

Big Fudge Vinyl Record Friend.

Big Fudge Vinyl continue to impress with yet another of their vinyl cleaning products…

Disclaimer:
Big Fudge Vinyl have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this piece are my own.
I’d like to thank Christian at Big Fudge Vinyl for kindly sending this package out to The Audiophile Cafe.

The Big Fudge Vinyl Record Friendly currently retails at $61.95.
You can find this and other products on their website here:-
https://bigfudgevinyl.com/

What’s in the box:

  • Vinyl sink with lid.
  • Drying rack. ( holds 10 albums )
  • 2x 150ml cleaning fluid concentrate.
  • 2x microfiber cleaning brushes.
  • 2x adjustable rollers.
  • 1x all purpose cleaning cloth.
  • 1x microfiber cleaning cloth.
  • Complete instructions.

Build and finish:
The Record Friendly is as I expected. Great robust build quality.
The kit is made of a strong plastic and designed well, but manages to look smart at the same time.
The drying rack slots in underneath the “sink” and all of it is protected with a really nice soft touch lid with Big Fudge Vinyls branding neatly included in the bottom right corner. it will hold ten records at a time.
The sink has four rubber feet attached so it won’t go slipping everywhere and can be sat on a smooth surface without any issues.
I wish BFV had included the same underneath the drying rack, however this is my only complaint. ( I can easily add some rubber feet or a rubber mat of some kind at a later date )
After checking all of the parts, I found no burs or rough edges on any of them. Which is something I have experienced before on a similar product in the past.
The clothes and brushes included are high quality and I think will hold up for quite some time before they need replacing.
Big Fudge Vinyl include two bottles of solution which according to Big Fudge will last 500 washes per bottle. That’s a LOT of cleaning sessions for not a lot of money!
The rollers can be moved to different positions allowing the easy cleaning of 12″, 10″ and 7″ records.
The kit includes full instructions which are simple and easy to understand.
And if that wasn’t enough, Big Fudge Vinyl have this video on the product page to guide you through the process. I can’t compliment this enough. It’s a great touch and a fantastic way to connect with and help customers.

Setup and use:
Setup is straight forward and the included instructions make it so.
On the instructions, Big Fudge Vinyl recommend using distilled water.
In this video warm water is used, we don’t know if this is regular tap water or otherwise.
In my review of this product I used deionised water as that is what I had at hand, and from the advise of some fellow audiophiles I have been told that this is the next best thing to distilled water. I understand this will be subjective and dependant on the condition of the tap water in your area. So please do take Big Fudge’s advice and use distilled water if you can, otherwise I would say go with the next best thing. I bought two litres of deionised water for just £1.39 from Amazon so it is not expensive.
All the parts are easily removed and replaced and the whole system comes apart and can be put back together and stored away with great ease.
The kit really is very easy and intuitive to use.

Thoughts and recommendation:
I cannot recommend this product enough.
Big Fudge Vinyl have yet again brought the consumer a high quality product, with ease of use in mind. The customer experience as always is second to none.
As stated before, the only little complaint I have is the lack of rubber feet or a mat underneath the record drying rack. Otherwise this is a fabulous system and considering the sheer amount of cleaning cycles you will get from the included bottles of solution, it’s a very affordable and worthwhile investment that will help maintain and keep your treasured vinyl collection in top form.

Thanks to my readers and supporters as always. Stay safe and keep well.

Please be sure to subscribe, like, follow and share this publication and indeed the blog.
Thank you.

And thank you to our sponsors, STAX Headphones. Supporting The Audiophile Cafe and it’s readers.

HIFIMAN TWS800 True Wireless IEM.

After my initial review of the TWS600, can their big sibling, the TWS800 improve on what came before?

Disclaimer:
HIFIMAN have been very kind and sent these my way for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored for this review.
These are my own unbiased views.

The HIFIMAN TWS800 retail at $299 at the time of this review.

You can find the TWS800 here:
https://store.hifiman.com/index.php/tws800.html

Review equipment:
HIFIMAN TWS800.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
Qobuz Studio Premier.

Music:
The following playlists on Qobuz were used for this review.
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

What’s in the box:
TWS800 IEMs.
Wireless charging case.
USB Type-C charging cable.
8 pairs of ear tips.
Documentation.

Spec:
Bluetooth Version : Bluetooth 5.0
Frequency Response : 20Hz-20kHz
Music Playback Time : 4.5 Hours+27 Hours
Earphones charging time : 1 Hour
Charging Case charging time : 2 Hours
Weight of charging case : 74.4g
Weight of one earphone : 6.9g
Standby time : 140 Hours

Battery life:
HIFIMAN’s numbers are so far spot on with the sample they sent me giving me the times per the spec.

Build and finish:
When I opened the box I instantly noticed that compared with the TWS600, the TWS800 have a more premium appearance and feel. USB Type-C is included in more and more true wireless IEMs now and I’m glad to see HIFIMAN carrying on with this.
A very welcome addition here would have been wireless charging. Alas this is still not to be found. Frustrating seeing that other high end brands have managed this in smaller charging cases. Which brings me to the size of the charging case… it’s big! Out of the 9 pairs of true wireless IEMs that I have had experience with this is by far the largest case. It’s pocketable but it creates quite a bulge and won’t fit inside smaller pockets.
One thing the charging case has going for it are the deeper ear tip wells, allowing you to use larger or longer ear tips and still be able to close the case and charge the IEMs.
As far as how well the case holds onto the IEMs, unfortunately again like the TWS600 the IEMs just fall out with the mildest bump or shake.
The case does look good, really good. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t follow through with the rest of the design.
The IEMs themselves are a beautiful pair of IEMs to look at. HIFIMAN really knocked it out of the park this time with the aesthetics.
On closer inspection, these are, like the case, big. when worn they protrude from the ear quite far, making them rather awkward to wear with a beanie hat.
The LED’s are now hidden behind the IEM facia which is a nice touch with the lighting now being a subtle feature instead of the TWS600’s “Gamer” styling.
Otherwise they are very well made with a nice quality finish.



Setup and use:
Straight forward.
Paired in seconds.
No app. I really think HIFIMAN need to think about an accompanying app for their range of True Wireless IEMs, specifically an EQ.
Touch controls are frustratingly temperamental, I found that I need to touch a specific space on the surface of each IEM to get it to work and even then it’s hit or miss.
FF and RW are a bit odd, with the left ear being FF and the right ear being RW. I’m used to this being the opposite way around on other TW IEMs.

Comfort:
The TWS800 are comfortable to wear. Though the housings are a touch on the large size, a little heavy and not easy to wear comfortably with a beanie. Definitely not a pair you want to wear in bed for any soft listening.
I was able to wear these up to an hour, however they got quite uncomfortable passed this point.

Sound:
The TWS800 offer a spacious soundstage with good separation.
The isolation / passive noice cancelation is quite pronounced with the TWS800 blocking out most external noise.
I don’t normally do measurements but looking at the chart in the image below, I would say it’s pretty close to the mark.
Bass is tight and clean with some punch to round things off.
Mids are smooth and natural, lending to great vocal presentation.
Mid highs too highs are somewhat bright and over extended.
I had to tweak my phones EQ quite heavily to tame the brightness to a level that was comfortable for my hearing. Once I had them dialled in I found the highs to be fast paced with a good level of detail.

Final thoughts and recommendation:
The TWS800 are without a doubt a lovely pair of true wireless IEMs to behold, they ooze class and elegance in their appearance.
Once EQ’d, they sound great and work well with all the genre’s I listened to while reviewing them.
Would I recommend them? I don’t know if I can at this price point.
At $299 and taking into consideration the size of the case, I would expect to see at this point, wireless charging and better magnets to hold onto the IEMs.
With a sound signature some will find a touch harsh I feel that by now the inclusion of an app with EQ settings from HIFIMAN would be a good way to go.
Finishing off with the size of the actual IEMs, lending to discomfort or awkwardness in certain circumstances I just don’t feel comfortable recommending them at this time or at that price.
I hope HIFIMAN can work on these issues and come out with a better thought out version next time around.

Thank you so much to my readers, sponsors and supporters for being patient with, and supporting me and the blog.

All my very best wishes for 2021.
Paul.

The blog is sponsored by Silver Note Tonearms.
https://www.facebook.com/Silvernotearms/


Happy New Year from The Audiophile Cafe!

Hello and Happy New Year to you all!
I hope you all had a safe, enjoyable and peaceful Christmas and New Year.
It’s been extremely tough on so very many people around the globe.

As you’ll see, I took a break from the end of November through the holiday period to spend much needed quality time with my wife and son.
We were extremely lucky and got to spend Christmas day with my parents. We’ve been in a “bubble” since March last year so were able to do this safely.
On the flip side we were unable to see my Grandmother, brother, sister and my nieces or my in-laws. It was hard to not see them at what is usually a very special time of year for our whole family, however we hope we can make up for it all later this year. EVERYTHING crossed!

As of today I’m back online and will be updating the blog with some much needed new content, so keep an eye open for some new reviews over the following days.

Over the holiday period I have been in talks with a few brands and friends I have made in the industry and am happy to announce that a few new brands are now on board as contacts.
I’m also in talks with a few possible new sponsors.

This year the blog will at some point, be upgraded to a business account which will allow me to monetise ads, in the hope I can begin to make a bit of revenue out of this ongoing project.
It will also mean that I can get better support from WordPress when things don’t work as they should.
I will make it clear now that the blog will remain free to read and sign up too. This was always my plan and always shall be.

Finally.
Please be aware that through the pandemic it isn’t always straight forward to get products sent my way to review.
For the most part, contacts and sponsors have been able to ship items with no issue. However there has been the occasional time when an item is delayed or a brand is unable to ship out a product. Whether that be due to stock levels or shipping restrictions.
As a result I will be spreading reviews out as much as possible so there is always something to publish on the blog.
So if you have a product awaiting review and it’s taking a little longer than expected, please be patient with me and rest assured your product WILL be reviewed and published.

Many thanks to you all for your patience and ongoing support.

All my very best, All my hopes.

Paul.

STAX SRM-700S Electrostatic Ear speaker Driver and SR-009 Electrostatic Ear speaker.

In my first STAX article I take a look and listen to the awe inspiring SRM-700S driver paired with the SR-009 electrostatic ear speaker. Thank you to Audrey and Kay for making this possible.

Disclaimer:
STAX have not paid me to write this article.
I am writing this in the form of an article due to this being my first experience with electrostatic equipment and as such I have no means of comparison at this moment in time,
making a review difficult at this point.
Although The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by STAX, the views and thoughts in this publication are my own unbiased opinion.
Audrey and Kay have been most gracious, kind and patient with me and I would like to personally thank them both.

The STAX SRM-700S currently retails at $3,400 at the time of this article.
The STAX SR-009 currently retails at $3,699 at the time of this article.

Follow these links for more.
https://staxaudio.com/driver/stax-srm-700s
https://staxaudio.com/earspeaker/sr-009

Review equipment:
STAX SRM-700S.
STAX SR-009.
STAX SRE-925S. ( Extension Cable. )
Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance.
IsoAcoustic Indigo isolation feet.
KECES Audio ePhono and ePhono Power.
iPad Pro running Qobuz Studio Premier.
Technics SL1200 MKII.
Ortofon Quintet Red.
Isonoe Isolation Feet.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo.
Ortofon 2M Red.
QED, Custom Cans and Van Damme interconnects.
Audioquest NRG mains cables.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Music:
Vinyl:
Jean Michel Jarre – Les Chants Magnetiques. ( Magnetic Fields )
Jean Michel Jarre – Revolutions.
Jean Michel Jarre – Equinox. ( 180 gram )
Jean Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China.
Depeche Mode – Violator. ( 180 gram )
Pink Floyd – The Wall. ( 180 gram )
Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair.
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No.5.
Qobuz/Streaming:
Mikaela Davis – Delivery. ( HI-RES / 48.0 kHz )
Lissie – Thank You To The Flowers. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Chris Rea – ERA 1. ( HI-RES / 96.0 kHz )
Fleetwood Mac – Audiophile Collection. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Mastodon – Once More Around The Sun. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Kylesa – Static Tensions ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
The Audiophile Cafe Demo playlist:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941 ( mixed file formats )

The Audiophile Cafe readers can receive 1 month’s free subscription to Studio, which allows you to listen to Qobuz’s entire music library in Hi-Res and CD quality. 
Please note: Existing Studio subscribers need to unsubscribe first before activating the gift. 
Please click on the following link for more:
https://try.qobuz.com/tqs_fr/?qbzs=society&qbzc=THE_AUDIOPHILE_CAFE&utm_source=society&utm_medium=partner_page&utm_campaign=THE_AUDIOPHILE_CAFE

What’s in the box:
SRM-700S:
STAX SRM-700S Electrostatic ear speaker driver.
STAX Mains cable.
Documentation.
SR-009:
Wood engraved presentation box with foam cushioning.
STAX SR-009 Electrostatic ear speakers.
Documentation.

Spec:

SRM-700S:
Type: All-stage FET configuration DC amplification driver unit.
Frequency response: DC – 100kHz (with one SR-009S).
Gain: 60dB.
Harmonic distortion: 0.01% or less (1kHz/100Vrms output).
Input impedance: 50kΩ (RCA), 50kΩx 2 (XLR).
Maximum output voltage: 450Vrms (1kHz).
Bias voltage: PRO 580V.
Operating temperature / humidity: 0 to 35 degrees C / less than 90% (non condensing).
Input terminal: RCA x 1, XLR x 1.
Output: RCA parallel output terminal.
Power consumption: 46W.
Dimension: 240W x 103 H x 393 D mm (maximum protruding portion included).
Weight: 6.3kg.

SR-009:
Type: Push-Pull Open Back Circular Electrostatic Headphone.
Frequency Response: 5 – 42,000Hz.
Electrostatic Capacitance: 110pF (including cable).
Impedance: 145k Ω (including cable, at 10kHz).
Sound Pressure Sensitivity: 101dB / 100V r.m.s. 1 kHz.
Maximum Sound Pressure: 118dB / 400Hz.
Bias Voltage: 580V DC.
Left & Right Identification: “L” and “R” indicated on the arc assembly (inside head spring) Left channel cable is marked with a solid Line. Right channel is marked with a dotted Line.
Ear Pads: Genuine Lamb Leather (direct skin contact), high-quality synthetic leather (surrounding portion).
Cable: Silver-coated 6N (99.9999%) OFC parallel 6-strand, low-capacity special wide cable, 2.5m full length.
Weight: 1lb without cable / 1.3lb with cable.

Build and finish:
Opening the box for the SR-009 I knew I was in for a treat when I saw the large engraved wooden box.
Within the box are what I can only describe as an exquisite pair of ear speakers. ( Oh the amount of times I’ve typed “headphone”… ).
The craftsmanship is elegant and classy. These ear speakers make a statement in design.
You can see and feel the countless hours that have been spent to get the aesthetic just right with a flawless finish.
The cups have a wonderful mix of a polished concave surround, bordered with a satin ( sand blasted? ) housing. The grills are a fine black metal mesh that feels sturdy, looks fabulous and contrasts well against the silver metal cups.
The headband is one little concern. Where the headband attaches to the adjustable sliders the connection feels delicate and I find myself being very mindful of this and always taking extra care when putting the SR-009 on my head.
STAX have made a cable that is very unique compared to anything else I have owned or demo’d. A flat ribbon style cable, It is robust in its build and doesn’t tangle. it and the extension cable both have a gold line running along one side of the cable making it difficult to plug it in the wrong way around. Saying that the 5 pin connector only connects one way. The plugs are solid and plug in firmly. I found no audible microphonics.
Coming next to the SRM-700S Driver, there is no wooden presentation box this time.
However the SRM-700S more than makes up for this in it’s appearance and finish.
The driver is big! and it’s heavy. Sat on my hi fi stand the SRM-700S stands out with it’s clean lines, the almost champaign tinted silver metal housing. It reminds me of high end hi fi gear that I would drool over when I was younger during the late 80’s into the early 90’s The front panel has a simplicity about it, easy to understand markings and a subtly chamfered split volume/balance knob that is smooth in its operation and feel.
The power button is rounded and smooth and has a good solid “Clunk” when pressed or depressed.
Going around to the rear of the driver we find a panel that is laid out well. The inputs and outputs are clearly labelled, offering ease of use.
We also find two selector knobs on the back panel. One to switch inputs and the other to select either internal or external volume control. Both have a solid click. I’ll get into that in more detail later though.
All of the components used in the SRM-700S are very high quality, for example, the volume/balance control is extensive on the inside and it shows in it’s use.

Setup:
Setting the STAX system up is straight forward and simple.
With the rear and front panels being clearly labelled you will be up and running in mere minutes. However, I will recommend for safety reasons that you read the documentation. Electrostatic ear speakers work very differently from regular dynamic or planar magnetic headphones and the amplifiers that drive them.

In my system I run both a DAC in pre amplifier mode and a phono stage directly to the SRM-700S. The DAC sends a single ended signal and the phono stage is sending a fully balanced signal.
The SRM-700S’ volume can be controlled with it’s onboard volume control or it can also be switched to “external”, bypassing the internal volume control and allowing an external pre amplifier to control volume, essentially working like a power amplifier. I use it in this configuration so I can utilise the Conductor 3X Performance’s remote control.
I found no difference in audio quality, control or levels when using the system in this manner.
Note: the onboard volume knob is split into two knobs, one in front of the other.
One controls the left channel and the other the right channel.

Comfort:
Moving on to the SR-009 ear speakers comfortability.
I’ve owned and reviewed a lot of headphones from budget to high end. DJ, Studio and Audiophile alike.
The SR-009 are by far the most comfortable pair of over ears I’ve had the pleasure of using.
The ear pads are sumptuous and feel luxurious over my ears. They are soft and cushiony.
I experience no heat or sweatiness, which I have known to be an issue with other headsets.
My ears don’t come into contact with the “staters” as the ear pads are deep.
There is some weight to the SR-009, however it doesn’t translate directly to the wearing experience. STAX have designed these to sit comfortably on the head in a way that distributes the weight so it isn’t noticeable. I also notice almost no clamping force. In my experience I believe the weight of the SR-009 achieves the same effect. The headband is soft and forms to the top of my head perfectly.
Little positioning is required to get the required or correct sound.
I found I could wear these for long hours of listening time with no discomfort or fatigue. If they weren’t so heavy they would easily make the “disappears on my head” list!

Wearing the SR-009. Note the Sony MDR-SA5000 in the background.

Sound:
And here we are. There are no direct comparisons here as I have no other experience with electrostatic gear at this point.
However I found it important to at least compare this system to my highest end and favoured headphones. The Sony MDR-SA5000. I currently drive the SA5K’s with either the Conductor or the Schiit Jotuneheim. Both fully balanced DAC/Amps.
Where the SA5K are clinical, finely accurate, fast and slightly on the bright side, the STAX SR-009 driven by the SRM-700S take all of these qualities, not including the SA5K’s brightness and heighten them, expand on them exponentially and prove their worth in every detail.
I mention the SA-5000 as I enjoy their fast paced accuracy and almost clinical detail.
They are my favourite headphone and so far nothing has come close to how they perform.
They do lack in the lower frequencies out of the box, however with a few tweaks I have remedied this by using aftermarket ear pads and a fully balanced re cable.

The STAX SR-009 have been heavily tested at The Audiophile Cafe. I have played every genre I enjoy for several hours each and the SRM-700S/SR-009 take every track in their stride.

A spacious expanse for a soundstage with depth and headroom that separates the SR-009 from anything I’ve heard before. Instrument separation is on point and definitive.
The signal from the SRM-700S and SR-009 is silent. In quieter passages of tracks I find a dark void of silence that gives a nice contrast to the music.

They are a dynamic ear speaker from the low end right through to the higher frequencies.
They do lack in sub bass, however it is present and has texture and detail. From there, I hear a full bodied, articulate low end that performs with immediacy and a hard hitting punch. Mids are smooth and airy, capturing and reproducing vocals in a manner that puts the vocalist in the room with me. Highs are fast, detailed and shimmering with a depth that I’m not used to in the higher frequencies.
Together with the aforementioned soundstage and separation the SR-009 and SRM-700S deliver a perfectly balanced, super-detailed sound with a liveliness and presence that will have you struggling to pull yourself away.
They are a fabulous all rounder, managing to play every genre with precision and grace.
One thing that stood out was their ability to perform heavy rock/metal better than anything I’ve experienced before. A lot of gear I’ve listened to over the years has struggled, especially with the harder metal that I like to listen to. The SR-009 and SRM-700S have no such difficulty, In fact I am noticing details in songs that I haven’t heard before. I also noticed how this system gives rock and metal more body and texture. So much so that I’m currently working my way back through my entire metal collection, joyfully rediscovering it as I go.
Classical and Jazz are a delight to hear and some classical works are quite a moving experience on the STAX. Electronica from the likes of Jean Michel Jarre and Depeche Mode are exciting and highly detailed. Studio recordings are clean and precise. Live performances are on a level that I struggle to put into words. They are truly that good.

Cost? I’ll admit, I’ve not worked with anything in this price point before.
$7,319 is a lot of money, ( includes the cost of the extension cable )
Is it worth it?
If I had the money in my bank to cover it, I would buy this system in a heartbeat.
The experience I have had with the STAX SR-009 and SRM-700S has been eye opening and life changing. Again, I struggle to find the words to convey how I feel about this system.
It’s like driving a perfectly brilliant Mercedes daily drive throughout your life, then swapping it out for a Ferrari.
I’ve heard some truly fantastic headphones, IEMs and speakers, at home, shop demos and at shows. And I’ve been blown away at times. None of it prepared me for the STAX.
Is it an “end-game” system? IMO? no. It’s close and very well could be for some, however, there are higher end drivers and ear speakers that could appeal to those looking for something further up the electrostatic chain.

Thanks:
Thank you to my readers for your ongoing support!
Please be sure to subscribe, like, follow and share.
Thank you to Qobuz for continuing to supply The Audiophile Cafe with some truly remarkable music!
And thank you to STAX Audio for making this article possible, not only that, but also for sponsoring The Audiophile Cafe. I truly appreciate the level of support and help you have given to me and the blog!



Ongoing works:
Please keep an eye on the blog for further articles and reviews of STAX products.

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo.

After a short break I return with my first review under The Audiophile Cafe for Pro-Ject and Henley Audio, I get to grips with this new evolved turntable and share my thoughts with you…

Disclaimer:
Henley Audio / Pro-Ject have kindly sent this turntable out to me for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.
To integrate the Debut Carbon Evo with my system, Henley Audio sent out the High Power It psu and I am running the turntable without a ground cable.
You may find you probably need to use the ground cable in your system so please take this into consideration.

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo retails at £449.00 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up at the following link:
https://www.henleyaudio.co.uk/products/Debut-Carbon-EVO?DepartmentIds=1&BrandIds=2

Review equipment:
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo.
Pro-Ject High Power It psu.
Ortofon 2M Red cartridge.
IsoKinetic acrylic platter mat.
Origin Live “Gravity One” record weight.
KECES Audio ePhono phono stage.
KECES Audio ePhono Power low noise linear psu.
Airpulse A200 active speakers.
STAX SRM-700S & SR-009 SE electrostatic ear speaker system.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.
Qucheng high fidelity mains cables.
Custom Cans and EDGE interconnects.

Music:
Jean Michel Jarre – Revolutions.
Jean Michel Jarre – Les Chants Magnetiques.
Jean Michel Jarre – The Concerts In China.
Pink Floyd – The Wall.
Gustav Mahler – Symphony No.5.
Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight.
Peter Gabriel – So.

What’s in the box:
1x Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo turntable.
1x Ortofon 2M Red cartridge pre installed.
1x wallwart power supply.
1x Lid.
1x Platter.
1x Felt platter mat.
1x 33.33/45rpm belt.
1x 78rpm belt.
1x Counter weight.
1x Anti skate weight.
1x Semi-balanced RCA cable.
Documentation.

Spec:

Nominal speeds33/45 r.p.m.. *** 78 r.p.m. optional
Speed variance33: ±0.50% 45: ±0.60%
Wow and flutter33: ±0.17% 45: ±0.15%
Signal to noise68dB
Effective tonearm mass6g
Effective tonearm length8.6 ” ( 218.5 mm)
Overhang18,5 mm
Power consumption4 W/ 0 W in Stand-By
Outboard power supply15V / 0 – 0.8 mA DC (set at 0.5 mA), universal power supply
Dimensions (W x H x D)415 x 118 x 320 mm, dust cover open 415 x 365 x 405mm
Weight5,6 kg
Dimensions packaging (W x H x D)488 x 235 x 393 mm

Build and finish:
True to other Pro-Ject products I’ve either owned or reviewed, the build quality here is yet again superb.
It’s great to see Pro-Ject have been able to improve on an already very good platform, namely the Debut Carbon DC.
Pro-Ject offer plenty of upgrades to the Debut Carbon Evo, however I think you’ll find you’ll be extremely satisfied with this deck straight out of the box.
In contrast to the still available wood grain and high gloss finishes, The Evo is also available in a mix of satin colourways. Henley Audio originally sent me the yellow satin Evo. If you want a turntable that’s going to stand out against the rest of your system then you can’t go wrong. With so much choice in colour, Pro-Ject are spoiling us.
Out of the box we find a heavy 1.7kg steel platter with an integral TPE dampening ring that equates to quieter moving parts and additional weight.
It doesn’t end there. The 3 feet are a new improved metal construction height adjustable design ensuring a level deck.
The Semi-balanced RCA and ground cable is very well made and against other cables I tried, carries it’s weight effortlessly.
The Carbon Fibre tone arm is audibly dead and adds an exquisite style to the overall aesthetic. Pro-Ject have now included a dual speed selector rocker switch fitted to the underside of the plinth. So no more lifting off the platter and moving the belt for speed changes. Note: Pro-Ject include a 78rpm belt in the box. When this is used the 45rpm position is now used for 78rpm.
The lid is solid and uses the standard Pro-Ject mounting brackets.

Setup:
Pro-Ject’s Debut Carbon Evo only requires minimal setup out of the box.
Fit the belt in place, place the platter on top.
Plug the RCA and ground cable in at both ends.
Here I would advise using the included cartridge protractor just to be sure the cart is set right. In my case on *both turntables I found I didn’t need to make any adjustments.
Plug in the power and start spinning your favourite records.
*I would like to make a note here that although Henley Audio were very helpful over the phone and quick to send out a replacement, it turns out they didn’t need to do so.
My system in its configuration was generating a feedback loop. At first I thought it was the turntable, however upon a more detailed inspection of my kit and removal of the ground cable, it remedied the issue. Or Non-issue in this case. Do not take this as a recommendation as each system is unique and will behave in a different manner than mine did.


Sound:
The Evo is vibrant, full bodied and dynamic in its presentation.
With a hefty low end, neutral midrange and shimmering high frequencies with snappiness and detail, it’s an exciting listening experience.
Every genre I played performed flawlessly and the Evo brought every note, every symbol crash, fret sweeps, background sounds on quieter parts of classical pieces and punchier percussion sections to life in a way that put a grin on my face!
My Jean Michel Jarre records were a particular delight to listen to. I’m pretty OCD about how my system delivers Jean Michel Jarre’s unique sound and the Evo exceeded expectations.
Live recordings sound great and don’t get lost in the busier parts of those records.
Phil Colins “In The Air Tonight” hits like a freight train in all the right ways and Peter Gabriel’s “So” is bouncy and full bodied.
Gustav Mahler is possibly one of my favourite classical composers and Symphony No.5 gets played the most at The Audiophile Cafe “HQ”. The Evo performs this record in a way that sounds natural and organic and doesn’t colour the piece in any discernible way.

Summery and recommendation:
At this price tag I can’t find anything about this deck to find fault with or complain about.
In fact there is a lot going on here that make the Debut Carbon Evo a compelling investment.
Solid build with a stunning and elegant finish. Sound characteristics that engage the listener and induce prolonged listening sessions.
Sure there are competitors out there at this price, however at this point I have not had them here with me and so cannot comment on any other deck.
I would happily go out tomorrow and buy an Evo if I was in the market for another turntable, which unfortunately I am not.
However, my son is looking for his first decent turntable and the Evo just made the shortlist.

Thanks:
Many thanks to Simon and Molly at Henley Audio for making this review possible, their patience and for all of the help and advice over the phone.
And thank you to all of my readers. As always, I appreciate your ongoing support!

Sponsors and partners:
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by a number of sponsors who help me bring better content to the blog as well as being in a few partnerships. I mention each sponsor and partner on rotation per review or article.
This once I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my sponsors and partners.
Without their support over the past few years and some more recently, the blog wouldn’t be where it is now.

Thank you in no particular order to:

STAX.
Airpulse.
Custom Cans.
Meze Audio.
Silver Note Tonearms.
Qobuz.

Grado GW100 Wireless Headphones.

Grado have entered into the wireless audio market with 2 models now, let’s see how the GW100 fairs…

Disclaimer:
Grado Labs have kindly sent these out to me for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored to write this.
The thoughts and views in this publication are my own honest and unbiased opinion.

The Grado GW100 retails at $249.00 at the time of this review.

You can pick a pair up at the following link:
https://www.4ourears.net/grado_gw100_wireless_bluetooth_p/4e-gw100.htm?fromgrado=yes

Review equipment:
Grado GW100 headphones.
Grado SR125e headphones.
Astell & Kern AK70.

Music:
Micheal Jackson – Dangerous. ( 16bit / 44.1kHz Redbook )
David Bowie – Hunky Dory. ( 16bit / 44.1kHz Redbook )
Indigo Girls – Indigo Girls. ( 16bit / 44.1kHz Redbook )
Fleetwood Mac – Audiophile Collection. ( 16bit / 44.1kHz Redbook )

What’s in the box:
Grado GW100 headphones.
Warranty.
Grado story-sheet.
Micro-USB charging cable.
3.5mm audio cable.

Spec:
Bluetooth Version: 5.0.
Battery Capacity: 850mAH.
Working Distance: 10m.
Battery Life: 40 hours**.
Frequency Response: 20Hz~20kHz.
Mic Sensitivity: 42dB +/- 3dB.
Transducer Type: Dynamic.
Operating Principle: Open Air.
SPL 1mW: 99.8 dB.
Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms.
Driver Matched dB: .05 dB.

Build and finish:
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to own 9 Grado headphones and IEM’s.
Grado is a renowned family run company that have been around since 1953 creating in my opinion, some of the best headphones, IEM’s and cartridges out there.
Their work ethic, attention to detail and quality is evident from their lower end line right through to their higher end models.
Their design process is creative yet sensible. As a result you won’t see a product released that hasn’t been painstakingly thought through, tested or tweaked.
Of the products I’ve owned I can attest to all of the above.
The GW100 are no different in this regard. The same solid build is here boasting premium craftsmanship.
I admire the satin black finish. It’s a change from the usual gloss black and has a premium, subtle aesthetic.
The headband has been updated with a slimmer but thicker headband with improved padding. The forks feel robust and adjustment is firm and stays in place.
Compared to the SR125’s I noticed a slightly stronger clamping force which I’ll get into in the comfort section of this review.
There are three physical buttons. A Power button and a volume +/- rocker. Both have a firm click with little play.
The audio cable included is slimmer than usual but has the advantage of being detachable, allowing the end user to upgrade to any cable they choose. However I will add here that the included cable is more than satisfactory and doesn’t hinder or change the sound signature.
The charging cable is USB type-C. More brands are now embracing this connection over Micro-USB and this is a most welcome development.
The ear pads are I believe the same foam pads seen on the SR60, SR80 and SR125. They’re made from a high grade foam that doesn’t easily tear.
It’s comforting to know we can swap the pads out for others from Grado’s multiple options.
G-Pads anyone?
Grado have opted for an almost all plastic construction similar to the SR125’s etc. I’m glad in this instance that they have used plastic cups and forks as this results in the GW100’s being a lightweight headphone. I’ll also say that the plastics Grado use have always been high quality and make for a hardy construction.

Setup:
Pairing is straight forward.
Put your device into pairing mode, Hold down the power button on the GW100 until the LED flashes red and blue.
Your device will ask to pair, click ok and you’re done.
Grado don’t have an app and in all fairness it’s not required.

Battery & charging:
40+ hours is a big statement but it’s accurate. After an initial charge I was able to use the GW100 at the stated 50% volume for a few days before needing to charge.
2 hours is also an accurate statement and they took exactly two hours to charge from flat.

Comfort:
As suspected the GW100 are a lightweight comfortable headphone that disappears when you’re wearing them.
They have a slightly stronger clamping force than I’m used to from a Grado headphone but it’s only slight and doesn’t affect comfort in any way. In fact it helps to keep them securely in place which makes sense as the GW100 is going to be used as a portable headphone in many cases. I’m confident they’re not going to fall off when I’m out and about.
I managed to wear the GW100 for a solid 4 hours ( wired ) with no discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
Wired or wireless the GW100 sounds exciting, although when listening to them over a wired connection I hear more body, a little more clout.
Thanks to the GW100 being an open backed headphone we are presented with a wide, open soundstage, bestowing depth and headroom.
I hear layers of sound, separating instruments and vocals into a refined stereo image.
The GW100 is not a bass heavy headphone, yet they retain a lively, fast paced bass that grabs your attention with both its agility and punch.
The mids and high mids are dynamic, clean and detailed. Vocals are airy and transparent.
High frequencies are extended and vivid, though not obnoxiously so.
Grado claim to have reduced sound leakage by 60% and although I can’t measure this, sat next to my SR125’s I will say that they have indeed managed to tame the GW100s without losing the “Grado sound”.

Summery and recommendation:
For $249 you’re getting a wireless headphone that has a capable and stable bluetooth connection which doesn’t impact on timbre or performance.
The controls are easy to comprehend and placed in a manner that is soon remembered through muscle memory.
The Grado sound signature is clear as day and the GW100 haven’t lost any of that Grado magic.
They are stylish and lightweight with a more retro design than what the competition have to offer.
Grado have made some discreet improvements to the design without losing the look and feel that we are all familiar with, while improving comfort and robustness.
The sound they reproduce is well balanced, fast and lively, if a touch on the bright side. A wide open soundstage with a vivid image. Suitable with various genres. And when listening to them in a wired setup you’ll find they perform with a boost in timbre and scale.
If you want to have that Grado sound and ruggedness with you when you’re on the move or pottering around the home and don’t want the hassle of having a cable to deal with then look no farther. With the added bonus of reduced sound leakage you really can’t go wrong!

Thanks:
Thank you to you, my ever supportive readers! please, as always, subscribe, like and share.
Thanks to John and Rich Grado for sending these out and for your patience. You’re both proper gents!
And thank you to todays sponsor, Airpulse. Sponsors of the blog are an invaluable source of support and generosity.

Apple Airpods Pro True Wireless IEM.

In my fourth True Wireless review I get to grips with the Airpods Pro. Can the tech giant compete with the rest?

Disclaimer:
Apple have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review of an item I purchased myself.
The views and opinions in this piece are my own.

The Apple Airpods Pro currently retail at £249. ( At the time of this review. )
You can find them and other products on their website here-
https://www.apple.com/uk/airpods/

Review equipment:
Apple Airpods Pro.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9″ 2019 edition.
Apple iPad Pro 12.9″ 2018 edition.
Apple TV 4K.
Apple MacBook Air.
Apple iPhone XS Max.
Apple Watch Series 4.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Spotify Premium.

What’s in the box:
2x Airpods Pro.
1x Wireless charging case.
1x Lightning to USB Type-C cable.
6x Silicone ear tips.
1x Instructions and information leaflet.

Spec:
Active Noise Cancellation
Transparency mode
Adaptive EQ
Vent system for pressure equalisation
Custom high-excursion Apple driver
Custom high dynamic range amplifier
Dual beam forming microphones
Inward-facing microphone
Dual optical sensors
Motion-detecting accelerometer
Speech-detecting accelerometer
Force sensor
H1-based System
Sweat and water resistant (IPX4)
Dimensions:
Height: 30.9 mm (1.22 inches) Airpods
Width: 21.8 mm (0.86 inches) Airpods
Depth: 24.0 mm (0.94 inches) Airpods
Weight: 5.4 grams (0.19 ounces) Airpods
Height: 45.2 mm (1.78 inches) Case
Width: 60.6 mm (2.39 inches) Case
Depth: 21.7 mm (0.85 inches) Case
Weight: 45.6 grams (1.61 ounces) Case
Charging and battery:
Works with Qi-certified chargers or the Lightning connector
AirPods Pro
Up to 4.5 hours of listening time with a single charge (up to 5 hours with Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency off)
Up to 3.5 hours of talk time with a single charge
AirPods Pro with Wireless Charging Case
More than 24 hours of listening time
More than 18 hours of talk time
5 minutes in the case provides around 1 hour of listening time or around 1 hour of talk time
Connectivity
Bluetooth 5.0
Accessibility
Accessibility features help people with disabilities get the most out of their new AirPods Pro. Features include:
Live Listen audio

Build and finish:
The build and finish of the Airpods Pro are what you would typically expect from Apple.
Clean minimal looks, robust build and a premium finish.
Admitted, Apples style isn’t every ones cup of tea. However if you’re like me and love the minimal user friendly aesthetic that they use then you’re going to enjoy the Airpods Pro.
They are lightweight and out of every True Wireless IEM I have reviewed, they are by far the most pocketable model.
The case is compact and the wireless charging is fast. Battery level for both the case and Airpods can be seen in iOS in the side bar.
The ear tips are made from a premium grade silicone and Apples unique mount works well without being fiddly. You’ll be glad to know that there are aftermarket tips available that are made specifically for the Airpods Pro, including brands such Spinfit.
The stems are a lot less obtrusive than on the previous Apple Airpod model and benefit from the force sensors inside them. The feedback is just enough to simulate a light button click.
I just wish Apple would ditch the chrome rings as It takes away slightly from the otherwise very clean white and black. Then I’m probably being a touch petty as they’re not that noticeable. And they are an integral part of the Airpod Pro.
They don’t come across as an audiophile product in their looks but then they’re not aimed at the audiophile market.
Do they pass the upside down open case shaky shaky test? Yes, with flying colours.

Setup:
This is where Apple are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest.
Have your Airpods in their case next to your iPhone and open the case.
They will pair instantaneously and iOS will take you step by step through the setup process.
Once set up you’ll find the Airpods pro to be very easy to use and they will integrate into your Apple eco-system very nicely.
Swapping between devices is a breeze, whether it be Mac OS, tvOS, iOS or iPadOS. Your devices will see the Airpods Pro automatically and all you need to do is select them in the menu. Apple have also now made it possible to share what you are listening to by allowing more than one pair to me connected at one time.
There is no app to speak of as iOS does all the software and firmware management.
Noise cancelling, transparency mode and spacial audio can be accessed either in the Control Panel by clicking on the Airpods slider or through Siri.
Siri works effortlessly with the Airpods Pro and so far I’ve had a 100% success rate.
Apple have now included another handy feature called Live Listen which utilises the iPhones mic to amplify the outside world. This can be accessed in the Control Panel.


Comfort:
The contrast between the Airpods and Airpods Pro in terms of comfort is night and day.
I could not get on with the original Airpods, they would not stay in my ears and if I used aftermarket ear-hooks to hold them in place I found them extremely uncomfortable within a short space of time.
The Airpods Pro are completely different, more in line with a tradition IN-ear design unlike the previous “in/out/slipping all about-ear” design as I like to call it. Sorry, Not sorry!
No the Airpods Pro are comfortable to wear for longer listening sessions and have a good seal and fit. IF you do struggle with keeping them in there are aftermarket ear-hooks available for the Airpods Pro online.
As always I gave my head a good old shake to the point of my eyes almost coming loose, I’m afraid to say in my case they will shake loose if I shake my head vigourously enough. In normal use they stay put with no issues. Ok for me as I’m not a gym-bunny or very active. However if you’re in the prime of life and out there running your posterior off then this is something you may want to consider when looking at the Airpods Pro.

Active Noise Cancelling:
Apple have nailed it with the Airpods Pro on the ANC front.
Easily accessible through iOS, a few second squeeze of the left or right stem or through Siri. “Hey Siri, Activate Noise Cancelling.” or “Hey Siri, Activate Transparency Mode.” It’s that straight forward!
It’s good enough that I never feel the need to take the Airpods out of my ears.
If I’m out and about I leave them in and with a click or quick voice command I can hear everything around me, if anything even a little amplified. On the same note switching to noise cancelling is just as fast and it works really well, muting almost everything outside of my ears. It’s definitely one of the better implementations I’ve experienced.
Calls are crystal clear and my voice is picked up really well with hardly any background noise.

Sound:
Here’s where it gets a little interesting.
By most, the Airpods Pro aren’t considered an audiophile product.
However I think it depends on your interpretation of the term audiophile.
Anyway we won’t get into that here today.
In stereo with no eq’ing or tweaks the Airpods Pro sound good.
We get a medium-wide soundstage with a satisfactory audio image.
Separation is ok but gets lost in noisier parts of songs.
Bass is tight and punchy and can reach the low notes without too much difficulty.
Mids are forward and vibrant. Vocals and classical instruments sound particularly good here.
Highs are crisp and well paced if a little rolled off at the higher end.
The Airpods Pro do have a detailed sound but you could find better at this price point.
Source is the key here. Find a good source in hi res and they will sound great.
Play anything below Redbook ( 16bit / 44.1kHz ) or something that’s been recorded/mastered poorly and it’s going to sound bad.
Things change however when we view the Airpods Pro as a multi media IEM.
Apple just recently introduced a firmware update that included “Spatial sound”.
When watching a video or playing a game on iPhone it turns the Airpods Pro into a virtual home theatre with a genuinely great 3D audio image. And you don’t lose any bass performance or detail.
And as I stated before, switching between devices is easy. So if you need to use them with your iPad for a zoom meeting or your MacBook to edit a movie you can switch seamlessly and get straight to it.
Being able to use them with the Apple TV is awesome. I sometimes enjoy having a Netflix or Amazon Prime binge into the early hours and being able to use the Airpods Pro has become an invaluable tool to allow me to enjoy my programmes without waking the rest of the household.

Summery:
At £249 the Apple Airpods Pro are priced well when considering the tech and features packed into a compact IEM.
If you’re looking for a truly audiophile pair of True Wireless IEMs these aren’t going to be the model for you.
However if you’re invested in the Apple eco-system, and looking for a great all rounder with excellent active noise cancelling with the added bonus of extra features then you could do far worse.
Yes there are other brands that will work with the iPhone that sound far better, however they won’t have the long list of features or the flexibility that the Airpods Pro offer.
It’s a decision that each user will need to weigh up taking into account what’s important to them as an end user.

Thank you to my readers for taking a look and please don’t forget to subscribe, like and share.

All my very best. Paul.

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