Ortofon Quintet Blue Cartridge.

The second article from Anthony Ingrassia. He lets us know what his views are on this cartridge…

The Quintet Blue, much like the rest of Ortofon’s colour coded series of cartridges is one step up from entry level in the Quintet line. 

It has a unique body design that lends itself well to set up and calibrating the cartridge properly, and a threaded body is always an appreciated “feature”. 

The Quintet Blue is a .5mv Moving Coil cartridge that weighs in at 9g, on the PLX this took the additional tone arm sub-weight to be installed in order to balance the cart properly. 

This cart will also need a decent pre-amp and system to show its true prowess in my opinion, on the Insight the Quintet Blue’s sweet spot fell on a gain of 55 at 100 ohms, and all in all, the total play time came out to about 70 hours, with most of the critical listening happening after about 45 hours, I have to admit it was hard to move on from this cartridge.

The Quintet Blue has a neutral sound, exceptionally smooth and musical without being too warm and or analytical, this balancing act is by far one of its best traits. Across varied genres the Quintet Blue was very dynamic, had a nice soundstage with an extraordinarily strong dimensional presentation. 

Music not only filled the space left, right and centre with detail and texture, but it also had distinguishable depth with better pressings. 

That being said, the Quintet Blue also did a more than acceptable job breathing life into more “well loved” albums by maintaining its extremely low noise floor and tonal control. 

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I’ve used the 80’s harshness as an example before, and the Quintet Blue polishes off the edges really well.   

The standout qualities of the Quintet Blue really shine on more “Audiophile” pressings. 

Jazz and Blues albums have strong emotion, instruments and vocals find homes in just the right space while grabbing the finer details in and around the musicians.

Again, one of those experiences where you listen to something you are remarkably familiar with and can pick out a new sound, or depth and separation, that you cannot recall hearing before, it is not always obvious, but you know there is something more to it with the Quintet. 

The bass also presents itself tight, full and deep, giving an authentic sound, not muddy or overwhelming, it just sits there unobtrusively as it should, giving more texture and feel to the music. 

Playing a bit of classic rock such as Cheap Trick and Boston or production heavy albums from the Gorillaz hip hop sound to Donald Fagen’s amazing instrumental compositions, the Quintet Blue hung strong, rock continued to have the power you would expect behind it without the sound getting all muddy in the middle. 

The same strength carries over to the electronic heavy baseline induced music from the Gorillaz with force and clarity. 

The Nightfly was an audible treat with its perfect vocal and instrumental placement, tone, space and clarity. This was an ongoing trend from album to album, the Quintet Blue continually delivered what you would expect from the music with “UMPH”. 

In comparison to the 2M Blue I recently sampled, the Quintet is much more refined, as it should be, while I felt the more analytical 2M Blue was not really for me, the Quintet Blue has found its place in my list of favourites, it presents a very “real” audio experience with amazing balance, space and clarity with just enough warmth to rub off some of the analytical edge. 

In its price pool it is worthy of consideration, even with the lack of a user replaceable stylus, the initial cost of about $525 and a 30% trade in discount bringing the cost down to around $360, makes it a more than an attractive price for a quality MC cartridge. 

If your system can support the Moving Coil Quintet Blue, it is an easy recommendation to toss on your list if you are in the market or thinking of your first foray into MC cartridges. 

As always, if you have any additional questions feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer. 

KBEAR Robin 1DD + 4BA Hybrid IEM’s.

The third and final review in this recent Keep Hifi drop. Let’s see if the Robin has what it takes to play the lead role this time around? ( Yes, I went there! )

Disclaimer:
I have not been paid by KBEAR or Keep Hifi to write this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased and my own.
Vivian & Keep Hifi kindly sent this IEM my way to review.
The Robin IEM retails for £58.99 at the time of this review and they currently have a discount voucher in place on Amazon.

You can find them here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Monitors-Cancellation-Headphones-Detachable-Earphones-BLACK/dp/B099WD45H8/ref=sr_1_3?crid=1HAT6SI8Y0XLN&dchild=1&keywords=kbear+robin&qid=1632517099&sprefix=KBEAR+R%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-3

Review gear:
KBEAR Robin IEM’s.
Astell & Kern AK70 MKI.
Stock KBEAR 3.5mm copper cable.
Balanced KBEAR 2.5mm copper cable.

Music:
Various hi res files.

What’s in the box:
1x pair KBEAR Robin IEM’s.
1x 4N oxygen-free copper cable with right angle 3.5mm jack. ( single ended )
4x pairs soft silicone ear tips.
1x hard case.
Documentation.

Spec:

  1. Brand: KBEAR.
  2. Model: Robin.
  3. Color: Black. ( Also available in blue )
  4. Interface/Connector: 2PIN 0.78mm.
  5. Plug type: 3.5mm.
  6. Impedance: 18±2Ω.
  7. Sensitivity: 110±2dB.
  8. Frequency response: 20hz-20kHz.
  9. Driver unit: 10mm Dual Magnetic Circuit DD+KBEAR Four Customized BA.
  10. Wearing type: In-Ear.
  11. Cable available with or without in-line mic.
  12. Cable length: 1.2m
  13. Cable material: 4N Oxygen-free Copper. Gold plated 3.5mm plug.
  14. Cable is detachable.
  15. Zinc alloy electroplated front plate.
  16. Translucent Polycarbonate rear housing.
  17. Anodized Aluminium guide mouth.
  18. Soft silicone ear tips.
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Build & finish:
It’s one of those products, where in the beginning you’re not sure whether you like or not, just going on stock internet images. Well, for me anyway.
Until they arrived… Kudos to KBEAR for designing and creating a smart, stately appearance.
With clean lines and facias, we’re off to a promising start.
The housings have a robust factory finish with zero flaws or faults in fitment.
KBEAR supply the Robin with a 4N oxygen free copper single ended cable which is basic but it does it’s job almost admirably. The 3.5mm gold plated plug is right angled and has some flexibility without showing any sign of weakness or possibility of ease of damage later on down the road.
I said almost didn’t I? 3.5mm plug, y-split, two pin connectors, all frosted translucent. Different. And although some may like this design choice, I found it a little jarring against the black/grey metallic & “Crystal” clear aesthetic of the IEM housings. The two just don’t match in my eyes, Read comics? Imagine “Nightwing” in near see thru crocs and you may get my point! But then I’m pretty anal about these things and it obviously boils down to individual taste, so, you may like it!
I digress. Third IEM in this run of reviews, and finally an IEM with a hardcase! Thank you KBEAR.
It could have been a pouch and I’d have been more than happy. More kudos!
Finally, we come to the ear tips. These are some of the softest, smoothest ear tips I’ve come across to date. But I’ll get into that a little more in the next section.

Comfort:
The “Soft silicone ear tips” speak for themselves here and are possibly some of the smoothest, comfiest ear tips that I’ve had inside my ears!
With the stock cable comes a pair of ear hooks which work really well. They’re not too stiff, yet stay where you need them to.
Wearing glasses is as comfortable as you would want it to be.
The IEM’s sit inside the ear canal comfortably. Not too deep. Nor do they stick out.
I was able to wear the Robin IEM’s for a good three hours without any discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
A focused soundstage with lots of depth and width that culminates in good imaging.
instrument separation is respectable.
Where these IEM’s stand out is in the low frequencies.
Tight articulate bass that sweeps impressively low while retaining all of its texture and accuracy.
The mids are neutral and smooth with a nice airyness to them, especially through vocal pieces.
Mid high to high frequencies are fast paced and crisp.

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Final thoughts & thanks:
I didn’t know what to expect out of these out of the box.
What I found was a very well made, high performance IEM.
The Robin has a classy look, sporting a high standard finish.
This IEM does not skimp in the sound department.
They are a lively, full bodied IEM accompanied by a decent soundstage & image.
Perfect for EDM, great with Rock & Metal and phenominal with Jazz & Classical.
At £58.99 I really can’t recommend them enough.
The closest IEM I own that I could try and compare them with is the iBasso IT01 which originally retailed at £90.
I found the Robin to be on par with the IT01. With the IT01 having the slightest of edges with just a little more high frequency sparkle.

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Grado Headphones.

The first in a series of articles about my love for my personal gear, specific brands and my reasons why.
Starting off with the family run business that is Grado and wondering what’s next?

Pictured here, the SR125 with the Periodic Audio Nickle and iPod Touch.

My first experience with Grado was a pair of iGrado, which I still have somewhere in storage.
I enjoyed the sound and liked the build quality enough that I quickly upgraded to a pair of SR60’s.
This was back when high end headphones were a new thing to me. I’d only recently joined Head-Fi and the bug set in fast.
Aside from other headphones & IEM’s I soon took a step up the ladder and purchased a pair of SR80’s which became my go to open back headphones for a number of years with a pair of Sennheiser HD25.1.II’s doing all of the closed back work. Budget wouldn’t allow any further upgrades, and besides, I loved the build quality and sound that they created.

Skip forward to a few years ago and I was now well into writing reviews and trying out a larger number of headphones anywhere from £50 all the way up to an £8000 electrostatic system.
I began searching for a new pair of Grado’s as my need for something slightly higher end had kicked in, and it wasn’t long before I bought a pair of SR125’s.
They have been a beloved addition to my collection and next time I upgrade, these will be staying with me!
They have a beautifully rich sound with warmth and sparkle in equal measure.
I find they’re a very forgiving headphone that will happily play any genre I throw at them, on any system, whether it be portable, desktop or my main system. Again, Tube or Solid State, they’re happy paired with either.
They’re very easy to drive, like the SR80’s, SR60’s, iGrado’s & GW100’s that I’ve either owned or still have.

Earlier this year I got to review both the GW100’s and the GT220’s.
I enjoyed both so much that I asked Rich if Grado could hook me up with a pair of each and it wasn’t long before I owned both.

The GW100 was Grados first dip into wireless waters and instead of a dip they made a splash!
I compared them a lot with my 125’s and I like to think of them as the SR125’s wireless counterpart, although the GW100 can be used as a wired pair, which they excell at!

The GT220 on the other hand was Grados first attempt at a True Wireless IEM.
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to have a listen to a set of wired IEMs from Grado, however at the time I wrote the review for the GT220, I had already listened to my fair share of True Wireless IEMs, from both pairs of Apples Airpods, Sonys WF-1000XML3, Both of HIFIMANs attempts too samples from Bang & Olufson, RHA, Soundcore and others.
To date, the GT220 have trounced all. They’re that *@&^$*(@(&£ Good!
No ANC? Not an issue when the sound quality is exquisite. Just take one side out and you’re good to go.
These are all about producing the best sound possible in a small IEM housing that also crams in bluetooth technology.
If Grado ever bring out a pair with ANC, I can only imagine how good they’ll be.

What’s next in my journey with Grado? I’m not sure yet.
I still need to try out some of their cartridges with my turntable system so that’s something I want to work on soon.
As for headphones, I really don’t know. I love what I already have, but I’m feeling that itch again.
I may need to give Rich a shout and see what he thinks.

I’d big Grado up further here, talking about their world class customer service or their friendly and helpful attitude.
But I do that all the time in my reviews of their products, so I’ll just say that you can always rely on them to help you pick the right product for you, and to look after you in the event that something goes wrong.

As a reviewer they’ve been very supportive and helpful from the start, which I appreciate from the bottom of my heart.

Thanks for reading.
I hope you’re all being safe and well out there.
Until next time….

Paul.

CCZ Emerald DD+BA Hybrid IEM’s.

In my second review of the Keep Hifi drop that just landed on my doorstep, we have the Emerald Hybrid IEM’s.

Disclaimer:

I have not been paid by CCZ or Keep Hifi for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased and my own.
Vivian & Keep Hifi kindly sent this IEM my way to review.
The Coffee Bean IEM retails for £28.99 at the time of this review and they have a discount voucher in place currently.

You can pick one up here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Emerald-Headsets-magnetic-Headphones-Earphones-blue/dp/B09BC7BJYY/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=X7AUJE5BORZ0&dchild=1&keywords=ccz%2Bearphone&qid=1631216916&sprefix=CCZ%2Bin%2Bears%2Caps%2C167&sr=8-1-spons&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyWURFV0xOVFBHNVVKJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTkzOTgzMThIRVREVU5IVFBWTSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNzU1Njc1TlZFWjBFNFdKTjBVJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ&th=1

Review equipment:
CCZ Emerald IEM’s.
Astell & Kern AK70 MKI.

Music:
Various hi res files.

What’s in the box:
1 pair CCZ Emerald Hybrid IEM’s.
1 pair spare silicone ear tips.
Documentation.

Spec:

1. Brand: CCZ
2. Model: Emerald
3. Color: Green; Blue
4. Interface/Connector:2PIN 0.78MM
5. Plug type: 3.5MM
6. Impedance: 16±2Ω
7. Sensitivity: 110±3dB
8. Frequency response:20hz-20KHZ
9. Driver unit: 10mm dual magnetic circuit DD unit+CCZ customized BA
10. Wearing type: In-Ear
11. Whether with cable: Yes
12. Whether with mic: No mic;With mic
13. Cable length: 1.2m
14. Cable material: 4N OFC
15. Whether can replacement cable: Yes
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Build and finish:
CCZ have made a fantastic looking and very well built IEM here.
Like the Coffee Bean, we find the “fins” that help the IEM’s sit in the ear easier and more comfortably.
The housings are flawless and feel robust.
The ear tips again are silicone and feel very smooth and well made.
The cable is identical to the one that came with the Coffee Beans and is made to a high standard.
The pastel blue is a beautiful colour to use and I love the simplicity of the design choice for these IEM’s.
Subtle yet classy.
Unfortunately though, as with the Coffee Bean, no pouch or case is to be seen.
It’s a shame such a lovely pair of IEM’s come with nothing to keep them protected when not in use!

Comfort:
These are very comfortable in the ear and around the top of the ear.
They can be worn with glasses with no issues or discomfort.
The fin at the top of the housing fits comfortably inside the ear and is unnoticeable once it’s in.
I wore these for three hours of listening time with no discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
Soundstage is focused with some width and depth. Instrument separation is very good and imaging is on point.
Lows are textured and deep. The bass performance is less boomy than the Coffee Bean, yet carries the same heavy hitting punch. Adding to an all around tighter, more articulate sound.
The mids are full bodied, airy and smooth yet without overwhelming the rest of the listening experience.
Highs are beautifully crisp and detailed, lending to just the right amount of sparkle and clarity.
Listening to various genres is a pleasure and the Emerald’s perform admirably!
These are very much a more forgiving, laid back IEM in comparison to the Coffee Bean.

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Final thoughts & thanks:
For a few more quid, and at the moment with a discount voucher in place, I would choose these over the Coffee Bean. And I would highly recommend them at their price point.
They’re a fantastic entry level IEM for listeners with not a lot of coin, yet they’re also going to be a worthwhile listen to those with larger collections of IEM’s.
Either way you can’t go wrong with this set.
A very comfortable and enjoyable listen!

Thanks again to my valued readers. Please remember to like, share and subscribe.

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CCZ Coffee Bean IEM’s.

Fresh off the back of the Moondrop QUARKs, Keep Hifi sent a haul of IEM’s, the first of which to be reviewed being these CCZ Coffee Beans from Yinyoo Audio. Read on to find out more…

Disclaimer:
I have not been paid by CCZ or Keep Hifi for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased and my own.
Vivian & Keep Hifi kindly sent this IEM my way to review.
The Coffee Bean IEM retails for £21.99 at the time of this review.

You can pick one up here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/CCZ-Coffee-Bean-Yinyoo-Headphones-Lightweight-Black/dp/B099F3WP33/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=2IEJUB5NVIDWK&dchild=1&keywords=ccz+coffee+bean+iem&qid=1630940863&sprefix=ccz+coffee+bean+%2Caps%2C168&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFIMTZQWTRSSlkySjUmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTEwMjE5MTUyNDNMVEtBWUxBMDJRJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTAwMjg1MDNUS1ZZTFg1VU5NWEcmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGYmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl

Review equipment & apps:
CCZ Coffee Beans.
Astell & Kern AK70 MKI.
Samsung Galaxy Note Ten+.
Audioquest Dragonfly Black V1.5.
Qobuz Studio Premier.

Music:
Various FLAC and other Hi-Res files. ( Various genres )
My Qobuz demo playlist:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3785941

What’s in the box:
1 pair CCZ Coffee Bean IEM’s.
1 pair spare silicone ear tips.
Documentation.

Spec:

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Build and finish:
In my first of an IEM drop from Keep Hifi, are the CCZ Coffee Beans.
The Coffee Beans are a plastic housing with a silicone “Fin” that hooks nicely inside your ear.
The build is really good here and I could find no flaws in their finish.
The cable is well made and the pins fit nice and snugly.
The silicone ear tips are also well made and I found no flaws in these either.
CCZ’s Coffee Beans are a nice looking pair of IEM’s and are evidently made with ergonomics in mind.
Sadly though, there is no pouch or carry case to be seen.

Comfort:
7/10 for comfort.
They’re almost perfect.
However I find they sit a little too deep and wide inside my ear.
Bare in mind that this will differ from user to user.
I found the fins helped to hold the IEM’s in place, but at the same time I didn’t even notice they were there.
The silicone tips are nice and smooth and fit my ears well.
I wore the Coffee Beans for a good two hours of listening with no noticeable discomfort or fatigue.
The cable fits over the ears comfortably and the IEM’s can be worn easily with glasses.

Sound:
Focused, studio like soundstage, accompanied with good instrument separation.
Hard hitting bass with plenty of clout.
Mids are forward. Lot’s of detail and clean vocals.
Highs are aggressively rolled off, though hint at a sharp and fast delivery.

Final thoughts & thanks:
The CCZ Coffee Beans are very bass and midrange orientated, they bring a lot of bounce and livelyness to your listening experience and pair especially well with EDM.
However, they are aggressively rolled off in the high frequencies, so if you like your IEM’s to have that crisp, articulate high end, you may want to consider this.
At £21.99 you could do far worse and they are a solid, robust contender.

Thank you to all of my readers for looking in, and please don’t forget to like, share and subscribe.

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Many thanks to all who support the blog! You can now see our sponsors and partners in the sidebar of the blog.