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 Turntable.

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.

Meze Audio Rai Solo IEM.

Next up in an ever growing line up of Meze Audio products, I review the Rai Solo.
Read more to get my thoughts on this very cool looking IEM.

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Disclaimer:
I have not been paid or sponsored by Meze Audio for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased and my own.
Alexandra and Meze Audio kindly sent these my way to review.
The Rai Solo retail at $249 at the time of this review.

You can pick some up by following the link below-
https://mezeaudio.eu/collections/all/products/rai-solo

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Review equipment:
Meze Audio Rai Solo.
Astell & Kern AK70.
Samsung Galaxy Note Ten+.
Audioquest Dragonfly Black v1.5.
Qobuz Studio Premier.

Music:
Fleetwood Mac – Audiophile Collection. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
David Bowie – Hunky Dory. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Rebecca Pidgeon – The Raven. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Mahler – Symphony No. 5. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Mastodon – Once More Around The Sun. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )
Gorillaz – Demon Days. ( Redbook 16bit / 44.1kHz )

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

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:
2x Meze Audio Rai Solo IEM.
1x 1.3m MMCX braided, silver plated copper cable.
1x Hard Case.
3 pairs of soft silicone ear tips S, M, L.
3 double flanged ear tips S, M, L.
2 deep insertion double flanged ear tips M, L.

Spec:
Driver: 9.2mm UPM dynamic driver.
Diaphragm thickness: 9µm.
Impedance: 16 Ohm.
SPL: 105±3dB at 1mW/1kHz.
Frequency response: 18Hz – 22kHz.
Distortion: <1% at 1mW/1kHz.
Stock cables: MMCX connector ending in 3.5mm.
Warranty period: 2 years.

Build and finish:
You’ve gone and done it again Meze Audio!
Meze have created an IEM that had I not known the price, would have guessed at being priced between $500 and $600. At the least.
Premium craftsmanship is to be found throughout. The sintered steel shell has been lovingly designed, crafted and finished to the highest quality with colour coded machined nozzles to match with left and right being very clear between red and blue.
These are an ergonomically designed IEM and it shows. Nothing was rushed here.
The included cable is perfect. Stylish, lightweight yet sturdy with nearly zero microphonics, again I wish more headphone and IEM brands would take note and put as much time and effort into the cable as they do the main product. Meze Audio are one of the brands leading the way in creating premium cables to complement their products.

Comfort:
Meze Audio have designed a lightweight ergonomic IEM that sits inside your ears and disappear. The silicone ear tips included are smooth and comfortable but with enough texture to help them stay put creating a good seal, offering good isolation.
The included cable has a flexible sleeve covering the last few inches or so that go up around your ear and these help to hold the Solos firmly but comfortably in place.
Glasses can be worn with no issues which is something that I sometimes struggle with with this style of IEM and cable.
I found that after 3 hours of solid listening I experienced no discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
What we have here is an IEM that easily punches above its weight due to an impressive dynamic range and low impedance.
Starting with a wide soundstage and great imaging the Solo put you right in front of the stage or behind the mixing desk.
Instrument separation is excellent squeezing out every little detail, and remaining so in busier sections of music.
Vocalists and instruments are clearly positioned creating an almost 3D image.
Lows and mid bass are articulate and on point with great extension and presence. They have a controlled sound with form and plenty of reach into the lower frequencies.
Mids and Mid highs are neutral and have an organic sound. Vocals come through beautifully with air and body without sounding exaggerated.
The Solo have a fair amount of upper frequency sparkle which is immediate with detail and accuracy that I have rarely heard in an IEM at this price.

Summery:
Amazing looks that are more akin to a $500 IEM.
Ergonomic design which allows them to essentially disappear and be worn for extended periods.
Sound performance that punches well above its weight with an extensive dynamic range.
Great all-rounder that plays any genre with ease.
Easy to drive due to low impedance.
A 5 Star audiophile IEM!

I would recommend these to anyone after an affordable pair of IEMs that have a full bodied sound without sacrificing quality.


Thank you again to my readers for their ongoing support.
Please remember too subscribe, like and share.

A big thank you to Alexandra and everyone at Meze Audio for their generosity and continued support of The Audiophile Cafe!

And thank you to todays sponsor, Airpulse Audio.

Big Fudge Vinyl Inner Record Sleeves

Continuing with this series of reviews, Big Fudge Vinyl’s inner record sleeves are up next…

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 inner sleeves currently retail at $16.50 for a pack of 50.
You can find this and other products on their website here:-
https://bigfudgevinyl.com/

What’s in the box:
50x Big Fudge Vinyl 12″ paper inner sleeves.

Build and finish:
This will be another short review as there’s only so much one can say about paper sleeves.
They are well made and some thought has gone into their design.
The exterior seams and rounded corners make insertion into the record cover easy with no frustrating folds, creases or catch-ups.
So far I have noticed no dust or flakes from the paper as I have heard can happen with some paper sleeves. I’m experiencing zero static which is of course what we want. Static is the enemy!

Spec:
Acid and alkaline free paper.
Bright white, heavyweight paper. 20Ibs.
Exterior seams.
Rounded corners.

Thoughts and summery:
Perfect replacement inner sleeves to ensure the continued protection and care of your precious vinyl.
At $16.50 for 50 sleeves, it’s another bargain and great investment from Big Fudge Vinyl.
Big Fudge Vinyl also stock packs of 100 and have various sizes of inner sleeve for your every vinyl need.

Thanks to all my readers.
Please be sure to subscribe, like and share these reviews and the blog.

Many thanks. Paul.

The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Custom Cans, providing the blog with custom cables for almost any requirement and keeping the signal path consistent between devices.

Grado GT220 True Wireless IEM.

Grado have finally stepped into the True Wireless arena with the all new GT220.
And what an entrance! Read on as I review the first pair of True Wireless IEMs to truly impress me…

Disclaimer:
Rich and John at Grado kindly sent the GT220 True Wireless IEMs my way for review.
I have not been paid or sponsored by Grado and the thoughts and views expressed in this publication are unbiased and my own.

The Grado GT220 True Wireless IEM retail at $259 at the time of this review.

You can pick some up by following the link below-
https://www.4ourears.net/product_p/4e-gt220.htm?fromgrado=yes

Review equipment:
Grado GT220 True Wireless IEM.
Samsung Galaxy Note Ten+.
Qobuz Studio Premier.

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

The Audiophile Cafe readers can now 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. 
Note: Existing Studio subscribers need to unsubscribe first before activating the gift. 
Please click 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:
2x Grado GT220 True Wireless IEM.
1x Charging case.
1x USB Type C charging cable.
6x Multiple ear tips.
1x Instruction leaflet.

Spec:
Bluetooth: 5.0
Battery Life: 36 hours
Headphone Battery: 6 hours; 50mAH
Case Battery: 5 full charges; 500mAH
Charging: USB-C, Wireless; 2 Hours
Codec: aptX, AAC, SBC
Frequency Response: 20Hz~20KHz
Nominal Impedance: 32ohms

Build and finish:
I’ve owned my fair share of Grado products over the years and their attention to detail and craftsmanship has always brought joy to my audiophile heart.
The GT220 are no different here. The IEMs and the case are well designed and have clearly been thought through thoroughly. Now there’s a tongue twister!
I digress. The case is subtly stylish and robust. The IEMs sit inside the charging ports firmly and will not budge when one tries to shake them out of an upside down case. That’s the first test passed! They are lightweight and pocketable and the case is no bigger than others I have reviewed. Grado get 5 stars for including wireless charging. See it’s not difficult folks. This is a most welcome feature! USB Type-C is still available around the rear of the case, as we all know we can’t always access a wireless charger so kudos there.
The lid is easy to open and stays shut when closed. I know you would think this would be an all too obvious feature, however I have struggled with other cases.
The IEMs themselves are a thing of beauty. Again Grado have opted for a subtle yet stylish design in a smooth satin black and it works so well. The Grado logos are backlit and indicate various functions of the GT220, however they don’t remain lit when inserted so don’t worry about losing any battery life.
I’ll get into more in the comfort section however I’ll add here that like the case, the GT220s are lightweight.
Battery life so far is bang on the money. I got 6 and a bit hours out of the first listen.
On my second charge now and I can confirm the 2 hour charge time.

Setup:
Setup couldn’t be easier and Grado include a step by step guide in the instruction leaflet that a 5 year old could follow.
Pairing took seconds and the connection is stable with no glitches or drop outs.
Grado don’t have a control app for these IEMs and to be honest it really isn’t required.
There is no active noise cancelling which is frustrating, however it’s not a deal breaker.
It all depends on what you’re looking for in a True Wireless IEM. And as I will discuss in a moment they more than make up for the lack of ANC in other ways.
This is not however all that much of an issue when you consider that the 220s can be individually synced allowing just one side to be worn when you need to be aware of your surroundings.

Comfort:
The GT220 are one of the comfiest True Wireless IEMs I have had the pleasure to wear.
I got a good fit with the included ear tips and they provide excellent isolation.
They are lightweight as I mentioned before and this translates into being a very comfortable, non invasive experience.
Giving my head a good shake to the point I nearly triggered a migraine, I can confirm they are shake proof. These IEMs aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. In fact against the 5 True Wireless IEMs I have used prior to the GT220s I have them currently level pegging for top position in the “Head-shake” test. So that’s another In-use test well and truly passed.
I have been listening to these on and off for 6 hours today and I am not experiencing any discomfort or fatigue.
Grado have utilised a touch pad approach with the GT220s and it is implemented well.
The gestures work every time with no hick ups. I always prefer touch pads as you don’t get to experience having your ear stabbed with a pokey thing. Which is a thing. And I have had the misfortune of having to endure it. Thank you Grado for not subjecting users to needless pain when skipping tracks or activating their voice assistant of choice. More Kudos!

Sound:
And here we come to the heart of the matter.
I have tried so hard to find fault here to ensure my readers of an unbiased review.
I will state for the record right now that so far, The GT220 are by far the best True Wireless IEM I have heard to date.
The moment I opened Qobuz and started on my playlists I was taken back by the bass.
Deep, Rich textured bass with an accuracy and impact I have not heard from a True Wireless to date. This applies to the various genres I threw at them.
Midrange is smooth and neutral with plenty of detail and air right through to the high mids.
Saxophone, Cello, Oboe and Trumpet are front and centre stage as are needle scratches and percussive pieces.
The high frequency range is spot on in its accuracy and definition. There is a natural sparkle that is a delight to hear. Cymbal hits and crashes, Guitar solos, Harp and Violin all sound sublime.
No EQ, No DSP, No tuning ports or cable swaps. They sound this good out of the box.
I say this as almost every True Wireless IEM I have tried so far has needed EQ’ing or tweaking of some form to get them to sound right. The GT220’s need no such wizardry.
The soundstage that the GT220 creates is big and spacious with headroom and depth to complement. Instrument separation is clear and concise even in busier parts of tracks.
And the imaging… I thought I understood how imaging works in IEMs, wired or wireless. Obviously I was either wrong in my assumption or I hadn’t heard anything that so far created a good enough image for me to get it. Close your eyes and play your favourite live performance and you’ll soon understand. I felt like I was in the performance not listening from the outside.
So ok, Grado decided to leave off the ANC, but great Scott they more than made up for it in the sound department!!!
I must add here as they do have a built in mic that call quality is excellent and the few folk that I test called confirmed they could hear me clearly and with no muffle or too much background noise.

Summery and recommendation:
At $259 I would say it’s a choice between active noise cancelling or superior sound quality.
If you want a pair of True Wireless IEMs that are as close to a far more expensive headphone with an astounding dynamic range then this is the one. Aside from the lack of ANC, Grado have knocked it out of the park and created what I would consider a great all rounder suiting most genres and a genuine audiophile True Wireless IEM.
I hereby award The Grado GT220 The Audiophile Cafe 5 star rating and a massive thumbs up for releasing what I consider a game changer.
If they have a model in the works with ANC you’ll be sure that I will ask to review a pair and let you know my thoughts as I predict they will be better again.
Finally, I find myself asking would I swap my other TW IEMs for these if given the chance?
In a heart beat!


I would like to thank John and Rich for allowing me this opportunity and will shortly be trying to sweet talk them into letting me keep these. I really don’t want to give them back!

Many thanks as always to my fantastic readers for your continuing support.
Please be sure to subscribe, like and share. Thank you.

Stay safe. All my best, Paul.

Big Fudge Vinyl Outer Sleeves

As part of a bulk delivery Big Fudge Audio sent out a pack of 50 of their outer sleeves. Are they worth it?

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 outer sleeves currently retail at $15.95 for a pack of 50.
You can find this and other products on their website here:-
https://bigfudgevinyl.com/

What’s in the box:
50x 12″ 3 mil HDPP, Crystal Clear, Wrinkle-Free outer sleeves.

Build and finish:
The Outer Sleeves have a robust and sturdy feel to them with no detectable sharp edges or blemishes.

Spec:
High-density polypropylene.
3 mil.
Crystal clear.
Wrinkle free.

Thoughts and summery:
The outer sleeves are well made and you can tell they’ve been through stringent quality control.
They will easily fit a gatefold which is an added bonus.
As Big Fudge state, the sleeves are clear and not cloudy at all so your record art is clear for all to see with the added bonus of being well protected!
I also noticed zero static when handling them, before and after putting my record covers in them.
$15.95 for a pack of 50 in my opinion is an absolute bargain. I’ve already covered my entire “rotation-stack” of records and still have a load of sleeves to go.
At this rate I think I’ll be able to protect my entire collection for not much cost.
Definitely a worthwhile investment.
I’ll add here that Christian has been an utter gent and legend to deal with since I made contact. Very kind and helpful and usually replies to any queries pretty quickly.
Big Fudge Vinyl are rapidly becoming a go-to brand for me due to the quality of products and the people who create them!

Thanks again to Christian and Big Fudge Vinyl for being fantastic to work with right from the get go.

Thank you to my readers! Please be sure to subscribe, like and share.

And thanks to my sponsors who make what I do that little bit easier.

HIFIMAN Deva Wired.

Hot on the heels of the HE400i 2020, I get a look at the wired version of HIFIMANs Deva headphones.

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 Deva Wired retail at $219 at the time of this review.

You can find the Deva Wired here:
https://hifiman.com/products/detail/305

Review Equipment:
HIFIMAN Deva Wired.
Astell & Kern AK70.
iPad Pro running Qobuz Studio Premier.
Audioengine B1 bluetooth receiver and DAC.
Cambridge Audio DACMagic-100 USB DAC.
Eufonica H5 tube headphone amplifier.

Music:
Various FLAC files on the AK70.
And the following playlists on Qobuz.
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

The Audiophile Cafe readers can now 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. 
Note: Existing Studio subscribers need to unsubscribe first before activating the gift. 
Please click 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:
1x HIFIMAN Deva.
1x 3.5mm headphone cable.
1x 1/4″ adaptor.

Spec:
Frequency Response : 20-20kHz
Impedance : 18Ω
Sensitivity : 93.5dB
Weight : 360g
Socket : TRRS 3.5mm

Build and finish:
The HIFIMAN Deva are a good looking headphone with a fantastic finish that oozes premium craftsmanship.
They use the same headband design as the HE400i 2020 that I previously reviewed.
I like this new design, It’s comfy, robust and has less moving parts.
The ear pads are sumptuous and look amazing.
I really like the silver and tan aesthetic. They look and feel like something from a higher price range.
A single balanced headphone jack is used in combination with a 3.5mm stereo headphone cable which can easily be swapped out for a balanced cable or the bluetooth adaptor that is made specifically for this headset.
The cable that comes with the Deva is a thick robust rubber sleeved affair with a good quality jack on either end.
HIFIMAN knocked it out of the ballpark with the Deva. A very well made headphone indeed.
The Deva pictured below is the wireless version. The black unit you see is the bluetooth adaptor.

Comfort:
The HIFIMAN Deva Wired are an extremely comfy pair of headphones.
The ear pads are really soft and luxurious on your ears. The headband is the same and sits nice and softly on your head.
I wore these for a four hour session with zero discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
Fast paced, accurate planar magnetics with good dynamic range and a spacious sound stage.
Low frequencies are tight and have good presence if a little lacking in the lower end. It’s there but in a subtle manner but well defined.
Midrange is flat and neutral. Lots of detail and air but not too forward.
The highs are fast, crisp and precise.
Live performances shine through with lots of depth and superb imaging.
Classical and Jazz are a delight to listen to on the Deva. Vocals come through with an organic neutrality that make these a very soothing listen.
I’d say they are forgiving and almost a good all rounder. Although I found EDM and heavy rock/metal a touch unsuited to the Deva. Everything else they managed with ease.
Switching to the Eufonica tube amplifier I found the Deva sounded a lot warmer in the lower end, with a smoother midrange and softer highs.
The AK70 had no problems powering these from its single ended headphone out. At 18ohms that’s going to be obvious anyway.
$219 is a really good price and friendly on your wallet.
They’re a truly classy pair of planar magnetics that sound as good as they look.
Who would I recommend them to? Anyone wanting to get into planar magnetics at a low price point. Someone who’s looking for a planar magnetic with flexibility in connection options. Or even if you want to add something a little different to an existing headphone collection.
It’s going to be a struggle to send these back. I’ve grown quite fond of them.



Thank you as always to my brilliant little group of readers!
Please subscribe, like and share!

Paul.

Sponsors:
The Audiophile Cafe is sponsored by Airpulse. Supporting the blog and helping me to bring better content to my readers.


http://www.airpulseaudio.com/en/

HIFIMAN HE400i 2020 Version.

Already the owner of the original HE400 from HIFIMAN, I am interested to see how the 2020 version differs or improves upon a classic and personal favourite.

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 HE400i 2020 Version retail at $169 at the time of this review.

You can find the HE400i 2020 Version here:
https://hifiman.com/products/detail/304

Review equipment:
HIFIMAN HE400i 2020 Version.
Astell & Kern AK70.
iPad Pro running Qobuz Studio Premier.
Burson Audio 3X Performance.

Music:
Various FLAC files on the AK70.
And the following playlists on Qobuz.
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3784071

The Audiophile Cafe readers can now 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. 
Note: Existing Studio subscribers need to unsubscribe first before activating the gift. 
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Whats in the box:
1x HIFIMAN HE400i 2020 Version.
1x detachable single ended 3.5mm cable.
1x 1/4″ adaptor.

Spec:
Frequency Response : 20Hz-35KHz
Sensitivity : 93dB
Impedance : 35 Ohms
Weight : 370g
Cable Length : 1.5m
Plug : 3.5mm/6.35mm

Build and finish:
The HIFIMAN HE400 have long been a favourite planar magnetic. However I was never that keen on the build quality and over time they have shown their age. They still sound amazing but they’ve definitely seen better days when it comes down to construction.
The HE400i 2020 version is of a far better finish and they feel more robust. The 3.5mm connectors installed in the cups are a welcome change to the screw in connector first used in the original HE400 and offer the ability to swap out different cables with greater ease than before.
One noticeable improvement that jumps at me are the forks and how they work with the new headband. The clicks are solid and click firmly into place and the forks no longer have a screw in the centre, instead favouring a one-piece design. Good call!
I like the charcoal black satin finish. It works well with these headphones and gives them a subtle yet premium quality.
HIFIMAN have provided a very decent cable with the HE400i 2020s which is well made and nicely sleeved in black. If more headphone companies did this the headphone world would be a far happier place.
At 35ohms they are easy to drive from a desktop, portable or even built in amplifier.

Comfort:
HIFIMAN have made a comfortable headphone here and the new headband design is a welcome change and improvement.
The ear pads are no different to what I have experienced on the original HE400 model and this is a good thing. Those pads are still going strong now and as comfy as ever.
The pads on this 2020 model are then by default onto a winning streak.
I found I could wear the HE400i 2020 for hours of listening with no discomfort and no fatigue.

Sound:
The HE400i 2020 use the same drivers as the original version and it shows with the same premium sound quality as before.
However I do notice a slight change in soundstage and the upper frequency range.
Whether this is because my HE400 “Originals” are older now and far more broken in than this pair or whether they have been tuned slightly differently I don’t know, but I love what they have done here.
The soundstage is wide and has some depth to it.
Separation is excellent and instruments are easily distinguishable from one another, even in noisier parts of some tracks.
Bass extension is here in bucket loads and with good definition. Also managing to sweep low without any distortion or lack of detail.
The HE400i 2020 has a smooth forward midrange and upper midrange that works very well with vocals, and acoustics lending a “Jazz-club” feel to the sound.
High frequencies are detailed and fast paced. A little rolled off. However not as rolled off as the original HE400 model, so when I compare the two versions I found the HE400i 2020 to have a better dynamic range over the originals.
At $169 I have to recommend these as a very well rounded and exiting headphone to listen to which would be great for someone who wants to try their first planar magnetic, or maybe it’s your first proper pair of headphones? Either way you can’t go wrong!

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