Cyrus ONE.

Earlier this year I decided to purchase a new integrated amplifier, and it was high time I began my journey with Cyrus. Read on as I get stuck in with the Cyrus ONE…

Disclaimer:
This review is not sponsored or paid for by Cyrus.
I purchased this brand new Cyrus ONE myself.
The views in this review are my own unbiased and honest opinion.
The Cyrus ONE retails at £799 and can be bought from Cyrus at the following link:
https://www.cyrusaudio.com/shop/cyrus-one/

Review equipment and software:
Cyrus ONE.
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO. ( Ortofon 2M Red )
Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3.
Klipsch RP-500M.
Sennheiser HD600.
Grado SR125e.
Apple MacBook Air running Qobuz Studio Premier.
Apple iPhone XS Max running the Cyrus ONE app.
Apple TV 4K running Apple Music.
& a few live concerts I have in my movies library.

AF Audio & Custom Cans cables throughout the entire system.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.

Music:
Various new and old albums on vinyl.
Qobuz streamed over Bluetooth.
Live concerts via Apple TV 4K over Bluetooth/Airplay.

What’s in the box:
Cyrus ONE integrated amplifier.
Remote Control.
Mains Cable.
Documentation.

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Spec:
Power consumption: Maximum 750W.
Safety Compliance: CE.
EMC (230V): CE.
EMC (115V): FCC.
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 220 x 86.5 x 390 mm.
Weight: 5.72kg.
Material: Non-ferrous chassis.
Input Sensitivity: (50W/8Ω) 200mV.
Input Impedance: 10kΩ.
Frequency Response: (-3dB) 6Hz > 50kHz.
Signal to Noise Ratio: (A-WTD) 85dBA.
Power Output: (2 channels driven) .6Ω 110W.
THD+N: (Pre-Amp) 1kHz <0.006%.
THD+N: (1kHz, 25W) 6Ω <0.012% (both channels driven).
Bluetooth specification:
Bluetooth version: V4.1.
aptXTM: supported for compatible sources.

Build and finish:
This is my first product from Cyrus so I’ve not experienced their gear up close and personal until now.
If I were to sum the Cyrus ONE up in no more than 5 words, I would go with Classic, Flexible, Powerful, Smart and Precise.
The ONE is a piece of art. It’s subtle styling and layout is something that will look great in any room, in any system. It’s built very well and is pretty robust. It has a really cool classic aesthetic to it and wouldn’t look out of place with an older system from the 80’s.
My one complaint: the plastic bezel, as fabulous as it looks has a flaw…
There is a lip that fits over the metal housing of the amp. That lip has the slightest gap between it and the metal. I believe in shipping some pressure has been put on top of the unit resulting in a hairline crack in the centre of the top of the bezel, from front to rear.
Luckily it’s not noticeable as it’s so thin. I don’t know if this is a problem others have had but it’s an annoyance, if a small one.
Otherwise it’s a thing of beauty.
It’s packed with features and offers a good amount of flexibility in regards to how you can use it. Class D Integrated amplifier, pre amp, Power amplifier ( using the AV input ) or dedicated class A/B headphone amplifier. Cyrus have you covered on all fronts.
And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve included a bluetooth channel along with an accompanying control app.
The ONE, packs a wallop. I’ve so far used it with the Klipsch RP-500M my Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3’s and my old Acoustic Energy AE100i’s.
In each pairing, the ONE powered these speakers flawlessly and without breaking a sweat!
A “smart” feature is SID or system impedance detection . When you power the Cyrus ONE up, it runs through a calibration of the amplifier first. It detects the impedance of the speakers you have connected and optimises the output impedance accordingly.
I’ll get to precision a little later in the sound section.

Setup and ease of use:
The Cyrus ONE is very straight forward to set up and use.
But it’s also very versatile.
Use it as an integrated amplifier, pre amplifier, power amplifier, or headphone amplifier.
And the Cyrus ONE performs perfectly in each configuration.
Remote control is a breeze either with the included physical remote or via the Cyrus ONE app, available either on iOS or Android.
The remote and the app are both simple and easy to understand and use.
One feature I love is the ability to dim the LED’s on the front panel. I really wish more brands would consider this, as some install LED bulbs that are way too bright and work against the aesthetics of an over all system.
Your choice of inputs is from Bluetooth, through 3 line level inputs to an onboard MM phono stage. So you have plenty of options for hook up.
There is also a pre-out, allowing you to use the ONE as a pre amplifier.
My only gripe is the missing line level output. I would have really appreciated the ability to run a line out to my STAX system instead of using the ONE as a pre amp in that regard.
Bluetooth pairing is really easy and the connection is strong and stable once paired.

Sound:
Over speakers:
Powering my Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3’s the Cyrus ONE doesn’t break a sweat, it performs with authority. With bottom end clout, midrange smoothness and clean crisp highs it packs a wallop in all the right places.
Of the amplifiers I have so far tried with these speakers, this is by far the best pairing.
On a side note, I also reviewed a pair of Klipsch RP-500M recently, using this amplifier as the power source and it did not disappoint!
I was dabbling with the idea of running a subwoofer with my speakers, however since buying and using the Cyrus ONE that idea has melted into the background.
With my B&W’s positioned correctly the Cyrus ONE provides enough power and low end grunt to the point where bass presentation is a joy. Mids and highs are airy and fill the room with clarity, speed and sparkle.


Over headphones:
To keep things realistic and within the price range of this amplifier I decided to use two of my go-to headphones that are under the retail price of the Cyrus ONE.
Both open backed headphones, the Sennheiser HD600’s and Grado SR125e’s are a staple part of my headphone inventory and see a lot of use.
The Cyrus ONE drives both pairs easily, with power and precision.
I found the amplifier to be pretty neutral and didn’t “colour” the sound of either pair of headphones.
I have read good things about the headphone amp section of the ONE but wasn’t expecting it to be on par with, if not better in some cases, than some of my dedicated headphone amplifiers!

Phono stage:
The built in phono stage is a good one. Clean, quiet output which is balanced well with the rest of the Cyrus ONE’s input stage.
I tend not to use onboard phono stages, however this one is good enough that I use it regularly with my Pro-ject Debut Carbon EVO, freeing my KECES Audio ePhono up for an extra tonearm or turntable.

Final thoughts:
This is the first time I’ve spent over £300 on an integrated amplifier, so at first I was a touch nervous at shedding £799 on the Cyrus ONE.
However, since spending time with this integrated amplifier I have been more than impressed with it. It’s been a worthwhile investment and as a reviewer it offers me a lot of flexibility in regards to how I can use it.
For £799 I have a phenomenal Integrated amp in it’s own right. But it’s also a fabulous power amplifier, pre amplifier and headphone amplifier.
The bluetooth connectivity is the icing on the cake for me.
If you’re in the market for a versatile, powerful amplifier that ticks a lot of boxes for under £1000, I can’t recommend the Cyrus ONE highly enough!
If you want to put more your budget up a few notches, You also have the option of the Cyrus ONE HD, and their latest offering, the Cyrus ONE CAST. Each have built in DACs and the CAST also has more flexibility again being compatible with Alexa etc.

Thank you for reading this review and as always, please like, subscribe and share 🙂

Many thanks, Paul.

Partner:
The Audiophile Cafe is partnered with Qobuz.

Origin Live Gravity One Record “Weight/Clamp.”

An interesting record “weight/clamp” from Origin Live with a hefty price tag. But is it worth it’s asking price? Read on to find out more…

Disclaimer:
I have not been paid or sponsored for this review.
The views in this publication are unbiased, honest and my own.
Origin Live have been kind enough to send this item out for review.
The “Gravity One” currently retails for £195.

You can grab one from Origin Live here:
https://www.originlive.com/shop/origin-live-record-weight.html

Review equipment:
Origin Live “Gravity One”
Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO. ( Ortofon 2M Red )
Technics SL1200 MKII. ( Ortofon Quintet Red )
KECES Audio ePhone and ePhono power.
Cyrus ONE.
Bowers & Wilkins DM601/S3.
Airpulse ST200 stands filled with Atacama “Atabytes”
STAX SRM-700T.
STAX SR-009 Signature Edition.
AF Audio & Custom Cans interconnects.
AF Audio speaker cables and filter.
AF Audio mains cables.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners ( x2 )
Various accessories and tweaks.

Music:
Various vinyl.
Some 180gram, some older, lighter pressings.

What’s in the box:
Origin Live “Gravity One”

Spec:
Origin Live don’t have any information about materials or parts used on their website, aside from the following:
Dimensions:
80mm diameter x 25mm height
Weight: 67 grams
Fits over spindles between 8.5mm to 23mm height (where height is measured between top of record and very top of spindle)

Instead they state the following in their “Main Description”:

“At last a Record clamp which works as it should.

Record clamps or weights serve 2 purposes

a) They flatten warped records on the platter – thus giving your cartridge an easier ride and enabling it to maintain the same VTA (angle to the record).

b) They change the way your records sound by damping their vibration.

Most clamps flatten records successfully but have very mixed results on sound quality. As a generalisation, most they tend to enhance the bass whilst dulling down the upper midband. There is also a perceived slowing down of the sound and the decay of notes suffer.

For 25 years or so we’ve tested record clamp designs (both ours and 3rd parties) and never come across a clamp which was worthwhile to use. Then one year we were sharing a room at the indulgence show with the importer of Shun Mook and he introduced us to their record clamp. To my astonishment this actually worked and enhanced everything in the music with no downside. The only problem was that it cost £2000.

This experience got me thinking and after some interesting design experiences with previously untested materials we though it worth trying again. Strangely enough just as we came up with this idea my friend Tony Sharman started talking to us about a record clamp he designed for his own personal system. Anyone who knows Tony knows that he’s a no nonsense kind of guy and one of the more experienced in the industry. My interest was aroused and we duly arranged a date for him to come down and demonstrate his clamp.

As I’m sure you can guess this was an ah-ah moment and his design coincided almost exactly with our own thinking but he had refined things and gave us some helpful tips to speed up the design.”

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Build and finish:
So where do we start? I can take a look online and at the Gravity One itself to see what I can glean from it’s construction.
Indeed we have a very lightweight “puck”, I say puck because this is most certainly NOT a weight, it isn’t a clamp either. It doesn’t work or act in the same way as a clamp.
Going off of the Gravity Ones design and the way it works I would call it an anti-vibration “puck” maybe?
The shell is constructed from a light weight plastic of some kind.
Internally the Gravity One isn’t solid. When we flip it upside down we find some very light weight wood, what appear to be acrylic screws and a small acrylic or delrin base. All of which, have movement. As a whole unit the Gravity One weighs in at just 67 grams.
The Gravity One is made well. and the finish is good. The design is subtle and basic which for some will be a welcome aesthetic. Those looking for a funky looking weight/clamp or “eye turner” will not find one here.
Personally I find the design pleasing and it’s neither a great thing or a bad thing.

Sound:
I have been using a few weights for a while now so to begin, I went back to listening to my vinyl “weightless” for a few months before listening with the Gravity One. Cleansing my pallet if you will.

So what did I hear?

I heard a slight improvement, with the most noticeable being bass performance and presentation.
Bass is more impactful and textured. It’s richer and sounds more refined.
Mids are softer and airier, but allowing vocals to sound more organic.
Highs are more articulate, faster paced and with improved sparkle.
I also noticed quieter sections of music sounding, well… quieter. bringing out more detail from the background.
I noticed this across both the EVO and the 1200 MKII, However I found the differences more pronounced when using the Gravity One with the EVO. So much so that it has become a permanent fixture in the EVO’s retinue of accessories and upgrades.

Thoughts and recommendation:
Ok, let’s cut straight through it all and ask, Is it worth £195 though?
I’ll be honest, as I always am and say I think that’s subjective.
We all have our own tastes and preferences, some of us hear big differences from the slightest of tweaks to our systems while some of us hear little to no difference from bigger, far more extensive tweaks.
As someone who is in his 40’s and in the midst of their hifi journey, I’m still building my system. I’m still swapping things in and out, making little and big tweaks as I go.
I’m still learning!
As I’ve stated above, I did hear some improvement in sound, most notably, the bass performance.
I do use it every time I power on the EVO and dig out some vinyl, like I said, it’s now a go to upgrade.
Is it something I would go out and buy? Yes, however reluctantly. It’s a lot of money for what it is.
Would I recommend it?
I’d recommend when the pandemic and lockdown rules allow, to go and demo one first if possible.
Maybe see if it’s possible to borrow one from a friend? Or if like myself you’re a reviewer, most certainly go that route first.
All of this being said, Origin Live say “We are so pleased with the results that it’s a no brainer to offer this as an upgrade for all other decks. As with so many of our products this carries our guarantee of satisfaction or your money back.
So if you’ve got £195 to blow and you’re looking to squeeze some more detail and performance from your turntable, give it a whirl.

Thank you as always to all of my readers for your ongoing support!

Many thanks, Paul.

Sponsor:
Thank you to Jason and Custom Cans for the support, help and cables!
Always a pleasure.

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New Branding and an update.

Hello and welcome cafe goers.

Come in, grab your favourite beverage and pull up a chair.
I hope you’re all well and keeping safe. this past year and a half has been testing for so so many of us across the globe hasn’t it?!!

Finally, The Audiophile Cafe has branding! I’m working with a young lady by the name of Becca and she’s been doing a fantastic job of designing logo’s, banners and awards for the blog and across our social media outlets.

You may have already seen a sneak peak at this new branding on Facebook and Instagram.



The plan eventually is to have branding available for use on merchandise. Watch this space as they say!

I must apologise for the inconsistency in reviews being published.
Put simply: I’m eeking out the products I have in currently. Getting items in has been somewhat difficult over the past months which I believe are in part due to the pandemic, lockdowns, but also brexit.
There is a constant flow, it’s just a little slow at the moment.
In light of this, as I said, I’m eeking out what I do have, in order to have something to publish for you each month.
Let’s hope this doesn’t continue for much longer and I am able to increase the frequency of reviews each month!

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my sponsors and partners for helping me through these past months. Without their help and support there would have been far less content.

In no particular order, our sponsors are:

AF Audio.
STAX Headphones.
Custom Cans.
Silver Note Tone arms.
Airpulse.
Meze Audio.
Qobuz.

And of course it goes without saying, a big thank you to every brand and distributor that has supplied the blog with items to review and in some cases keep over the past year and a half!

The Community!

Some of my readers may not be aware that we have a growing community on Facebook under the same name which is nearing the 1000 membership count, along with a dedicated page and a trade hub.
If you haven’t already, please feel free to take a look by following the links below.
Come, pop your head in and say hi 🙂

Just make sure you read and agree to the group rules first!

We also have a Twitter and Instagram, which I’ll also leave below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophilecafe
https://www.facebook.com/TheAudiophileCafe
https://www.facebook.com/groups/theaudiophilecafetradehub

https://twitter.com/Paul81981747
( this one may get a little political at times. )

https://www.instagram.com/the_audiophile_cafe/
( Sneak peaks at upcoming reviews and other interests )

Ads…

You will have noticed that I now have a few ads inserted into each of my reviews.
I’d like to make a little kick back from what I do, however, I don’t believe in making readers pay for a subscription so this is why I have it set out this way.
Eventually I hope to upgrade from premium to a business account so I can start charging for ads more selectively, meaning they’ll be better targeted at our hobby, instead of ads for random products.
I hope that you all understand and support me in this.

Thank you for taking the time to have a red of this little update.
And if you’d like to see more pieces like this as well as the reviews and articles, please leave a comment and let me know 🙂

All my very best, take care. Until next time… Paul.

KBEAR KS1 Budget IEM.

KBEAR send me their KS1 IEM for review. Let’s see what this little belter is capable of…

Disclaimer:
KBEAR have not paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own.
I’d like to thank Vivian & KBEAR for kindly sending these IEM’s out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.

The KBEAR KS1 currently retail at £15.62!
You can find them and other products here:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002184896879.html?spm=a2g0o.detail.1000023.2.6d4b6738rMmmhL

Review equipment:
KBEAR KS1 IEM.
Astell & Kern AK70.

Music:
Various FLAC files.

What’s in the box:
KBEAR KS1 IEM’s.
3.5mm stereo cable.
Spare ear tips. S,M & L.

Specs:
Brand: KBEAR
Model: KS1
Interface: 2PIN 0.78mm(TFZ)
Frequency response: 20-20kHz
Sensitivity: 109dB
Impedance: 16ohm
Earphone material: 10mm High polymer PET diaphragm
Color: black, white
Cable material: 4 core 4N pure copper cable
Plug type: 3.5mm L-type gold-plated plug
Driver Unit: Dual Magnetic Circuit Single Dynamic driver, dual cavity

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Build and finish:
“You get what you pay for” is a phrase we’ve all used before and one we hear a lot. So what really can we expect from an IEM that costs only £15.62???
I was not expecting an IEM that looks and feels more like something in the £50 to £80 price point.
The box they come in is just a plain “No frills” cardboard box with the branding printed on the exterior.
Inside you’ll find the IEM’s, Cable and spare ear tips. No pouch or case here, no cleaning tool.
Just the bear basics. But then you really can’t expect anything more at this price.
Once unboxed we’re greeted with a fairly standard but nice looking pair of IEM’s. And if we take another look we’ll notice a pair of aluminium ear stems. Interesting.
Then we come to the cable. Again, fairly standard and nothing that stands out like other aesthetically pleasing cables, however, it’s very well made, with a good quality plug one end, and a decent pair of two-pin connectors on the other.
The Y-Splitter is encased in a robust plastic.
The version I was sent has the in-line mic and this is something I’m not so sure about. The casing and button appear to be cheaply made and I worry this could be a weak link in an otherwise pretty strong chain. If I didn’t have other cables that would fit these, this would be a major concern!
However, all said and done, for £15.62 you’re getting a very decent IEM that appears to have been through some good quality control.

Comfort:
The KS1’s are designed to ergonomically fit your ear and they do this surprisingly well.
The ear stems fit comfortably and don’t extend too far into your ear canal.
KBEAR provide some silicone ear tips which are up to the job and fit without any trouble.
Passive noise cancelling is pretty good which is going to be handy if you intend to use these with a phone. ( If your phone even has a headphone/mic jack at all. )
The cable provides flexible coverings over your ears which help to shape them and hold them in place.
I was able to wear the KS1’s for a good hour and a half without any discomfort or fatigue.

Sound:
Bass: The KS1 carry a lot of weight in the bass department with tight, low sweeping delivery.
Mids: Midrange frequencies are a little withdrawn, lending to a v-shaped curve in the over all sound.
Highs: High end is crisp and fast paced, but rolled off at the very high end of the frequency range. We still hear the v-shape here but you can tell the very high end could use a little lift.
If your device has EQ this shouldn’t be an issue.

Soundstage here is somewhere between medium too wide with some depth to it.
Instrument separation is good but gets muddled in busier pieces of music.

Final thoughts and recommendation:
They’re £15.62. But they perform more akin to a £50 up pair of IEM’s.
They’re relatively comfy, built well and are a great solution if you’re after some hard hitting IEM’s with some detail and clarity.
If these are qualities you’re looking for and you’re on a mega-tight budget, you could do far, far worse! So put those cheap “checkout” in ears down that you spotted whilst putting your shopping through the till and give these a look.

Sponsor:
Thank you to our sponsor Meze Audio!

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Soundcore Life Q30 ANC Wireless Headphones by Anker.

In my first review for Soundcore by Anker, we have the surprisingly impressive Life Q30…

Disclaimer:
Neither Soundcore or Anker have paid or sponsored me for this review.
This is an unbiased review and the views and opinions in this publication are my own.
I’d like to thank Lorna & Soundcore for kindly sending these headphones out to The Audiophile Cafe for review.

The Life Q30 currently retail at £79.99
You can find them and other products here:

https://uk.soundcore.com/products/a3028011?37369766084768&variant=37369766084768&utm_source=kelkoo&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_content=kelkoo&from=kelkoo&gclid=Cj0KCQjw4v2EBhCtARIsACan3nx4AV4sBwcuOdJDnychfMkW27Ikxof97EC0mpIW-x-zvIERDupChCgaApd7EALw_wcB

Review equipment and software:
Soundcore Life Q30.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+.
Soundcore app.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Spotify Premium.

Music:
Qobuz Studio Premier.
For all your High Res music needs please take a look at our partner Qobuz and give it a try:
https://www.qobuz.com/gb-en/discover

Various playlists and genres on Spotify Premium.

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What’s in the box:
Soundcore Life Q30 wireless headphones.
USB Type cable.
Stereo 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable.
Hard travel case.
Documentation.

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Specs:

  • Upgraded Noise Cancellation with Multiple Modes
  • Hi-Res Certified Audio with Remarkable Clarity and Detail
  • Clear Calls via Built-In Microphones
  • Extended 40-Hour Playtime
  • 5-Minute Charge = 4-Hour Playtime
  • Lighter Build and More Comfortable Fit
  • Customizable EQ with Soundcore App
  • Transparency Mode
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Driver (Full Range): 2 × 40mm
  • Frequency Response: 16Hz – 40kHz
  • Range: 15 m / 49.21 ft

Build and finish:
Soundcore have created a good solid headphone that is on par with brands such as Sennheiser and Bose. For a relatively new player on the scene they’ve designed a capable and competitive product here. The plastic used is high quality and I don’t hear or feel any noticeable creaking when I wear them.
Zero sharp edges or burs could be found anywhere, so it’s safe to say Soundcore’s quality control is on point.
The power and control buttons are firm and have a nice positive click. They’re also clearly marked and easy to read, which was something lacking on a more expensive pair of wireless Sennheiser headphones I reviewed last year. Kudos where kudos are due!
The USB type C port is well situated, is a nice solid fit and has no wobble.
The same can be said for the 3.5mm wired audio port.
The touch pad on the right cup is brilliant and works every time.
A very positive addition is the hard travel case. Something sorely missing from every headphone I’ve reviewed to date with the exception of Meze Audio.
Bear in mind these are by far the cheapest headphones I’ve reviewed to date. Other brands could learn a thing or two from Soundcore and Meze Audio in this respect!
My only complaints about the Q30 are the ear and head pads, and the lack of water resistance.
The ear and head pads are a funny thing. On the downside they feel flimsy and not very robust. However they are extremely comfortable and the headband has robust but buttery smooth positioning with the slightest but secure click.
As for the water resistance, They’re a £79.99 wireless headphone with ANC. And they pack a lot in to a very affordable package. I just can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have been too far of a push to include water resistance?
The battery power and charge time stated are so far true after 3 full charges and listening sessions.
And finally, the folding mechanism is flawless, easy to utilise, allowing the Q30’s to be placed in the hard case easily. And they don’t feel like they’re going to break any moment like I’ve seen with other similarly priced headphones.
One thing though Soundcore…
Please, next time you design a hard travel case, Please sew the internal accessory pocket/pouch in the right way up.

Setup, software and ease of use:
Pairing the Life Q30 with my phone was easy peasy. And installing and connecting the Soundcore app was straight forward.
Once the Soundcore app is installed you have a lot of features available including ANC settings and an eight band EQ.
The addition of fully functional EQ is brilliant and something I wish the likes of B&O and Sennheiser would embrace and include for their end users.
The app is frequently kept up to date through software updates as is the firmware on the Q30’s.
As mentioned before, the controls on the headphones are clearly marked and positioned in a way that is easy and intuitive to use.
The control to switch between ANC modes is incorporated via the touch control built into the right ear cup.
Bixby activates every time by voice. No button presses or touches required here.
After some time with some products that have lacked the use of additional software, this has been a welcome change here at The Audiophile Cafe HQ.

Comfort:
The Life Q30’s surprised me. It’s no lie. When I initially unboxed them and noted the “flimsy” ear and head pads, I didn’t expect much from these headphones by the way of comfort.
I was wrong. VERY wrong!
Ok, so I just recently reviewed the STAX SR-L300 and am in the midst of reviewing some Sennheiser HD820S’s. It’s going to be pretty obvious that the Q30’s aren’t in the same league as these high end ear speakers and headphones, however, what I imagined would be a massive degradation in comfort, was in fact only a minor step back.
They’re closer fitting due to their size and the clamping force of the Q30 is quite strong. But they’re extremely comfortable. So much so I put them on par with the Meze Audio Classic 99’s and the Beyerdynamic T70p.
I was able to wear these for hours at a time with no discomfort or fatigue.

Sound, voice and ANC:
Alright, they’re built really well with minor complaints, they’re good to go in the comfort department and they’ve got the software and functionality down to a T.
But do they have what it takes in the audio realm?

ANC and voice:
The active noise cancelling works very well. Easily switchable modes with one touch, and impressive noise cancelling. The transparency mode is good. It’s not as good as the Airpods Pro, currently my go to ANC based device, but it’s still good. Good enough for me to use these headphones more and more as a daily beater when I’m out and about with my Samsung phone.
After several phone and video calls it’s safe to say the mic works as well as you would expect. The reports are in that my voice, as annoying as it can be, comes through crystal clear and without any harshness or sounding muffled.

Sound: ( EQ set to zero across all frequencies. )
The Life Q30 have a focused soundstage.
Imaging is good and I would liken the overall image akin to being sat in a studio or listening room.
Bass is full bodied and forward, if a little loose.
The Q30 reach deep frequencies with ease and don’t distort when doing so.
Mids are neutral, clear and detailed.
And the highs are crisp and airy, however they’re a touch rolled off at the top end.

All of this being said, with some tweaks in the EQ, The bass can be tightened up quite noticeably and the highs can be lifted by cranking up the higher frequencies.

With these tweaks in place the Q30 are a pleasure to listen to and easily on par with the Sennheiser HD450 BT.

Extra content:
Anker USB Type C fast charge plug:
I must mention quickly that Soundcore were kind enough to include the Anker fast charge plug with the Q30’s and I used it to charge the headphones throughout this review.
It works as expected. Doesn’t get overly hot and does what it says on the tin.
I hope soon, they design a charger with retractable pins as other brands are doing. This would be a very welcome improvement in the next iteration.

Final thoughts and recommendation:
For £79.99, I can’t not recommend these. When considering how I feel they’re on par with and in some cases better than a £159 more expensive offering from Sennheiser…
There’s not one argument I can pit against them.
ANC, Robust design, full bodied lively sound, full EQ customisation, extremely comfortable and did I mention they were on sale on Amazon for £59.99???
Go get a pair already and don’t forget to like, subscribe and share. 😉

All my thanks to you all. All my best. Paul.

Sponsors:
Thank you again to my sponsors who make everything so much easier and help me to provide better and continuous content.

This publications sponsor is our newest sponsor.
I’d like to thank and welcome AFAudio onboard. Andrew makes superb cables and accessories.
He’s also an exceptionally decent and kind chap to talk with.

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STAX SRS-3100 Electrostatic Earspeaker System. (SR-L300 / SRM-252S)

This time around, STAX send me out their understated entry level electrostatic ear speaker and driver system.

Disclaimer:
This review is sponsored by STAX.
Audrey, Kay and STAX have been very kind and shipped out this ear speaker and driver system.
The SRS-3100 retails for $1,140.00 and can be found here:
https://staxheadphones.com/collections/amplifiers/products/srs-3100

I will note here that although this review is sponsored by STAX, I have been honest and unbiased in my opinion.
You will find a link to STAX if you’re interested in their products at the bottom of this review.


Review equipment and software:
STAX SRS-3100 electrostatic ear speaker and driver.
Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 USB DAC.
MacBook Air running Qobuz Studio Premier.
Audiocrast USB cable.
Cambridge Audio RCA interconnects.
Tacima 6 way mains conditioner.

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Music:
Various High Res and Redbook ( CD ) files on Qobuz Studio Premier.
A few links to some of my playlists and a few from others:
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/5941393
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/2553797
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3729960
https://open.qobuz.com/playlist/3891569

I’d like to quickly thank David Solomon & Qobuz for our ongoing partnership.
Their support of The Audiophile Cafe has been stellar and is much appreciated.

What’s in the box:
SRM-252s:
STAX SRM-252s Electrostatic ear speaker driver.
STAX transformers. Japanese and UK version supplied.
Documentation.
SR-L300:
STAX SR-L300 Electrostatic ear speakers.
Documentation.

Spec:
SR-L300 ( Earspeaker )
Type: push-pull electrostatic, oval sound element, rear open-air type enclosure
Frequency response: 7 – 41,000Hz
Electrostatic capacitance: 110pF (including attached code) 
Impedance: 145kΩ (including attached cable, at 10kHz) 
Sound pressure sensitivity: 101dB / input 100Vr.m.s. / 1kHz 
Bias voltage: 580V DC
Ear pad: high-quality artificial leather (for SR-L300 only)
Cable: parallel 6-strand, 2.5m full length, low-capacity special wide OFC cable
Weight : 448g (including attached cable), 322g (without cable)

SRM-252S ( Energizer )
Frequency response: DC – 35kHz
Rated input level: 125mV (at 100V output)
Gain: 58dB
Harmonic distortion: 0.01% or less (at 100Vr.m.s. / 1kHz output) 
Input impedance: 50kΩ(RCA)
Input terminal: RCA x 1
Maximum output voltage: 280Vr.m.s. / 1kHz
Standard bias voltage: DC580V
Power consumption: 4W
Operating temperature / humidity: 0 to 35 degrees C / less than 90% (non condensing)
Dimension: 132 (W) x38 (H) x132 (D) mm (protruding portion not included)
Weight: 540g

Build and finish:
Being my second system from STAX, as with other brands, this is an opportunity to get a better insight to the brands quality control.
Just like before I’m very impressed with the build quality of both the driver unit and the ear speakers.
I’ve seen and heard many reviewers give STAX a hard time over their build quality and to be honest I don’t get it. I may be sponsored by STAX for this review, however they never ask for a positive review, there are never any conditions in place.
And they know I will always be unbiased and honest when I write these pieces.
So I can say now that I am honestly impressed with STAX’s craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The SRM-252s driver unit is a solid and robust little box with a housing, ports, knobs and switches finished to the highest standard. The power switch/volume pot is smooth as butter with a nice firm switching action.
The RCA ports and power port around the rear are sat firmly in place and don’t move or wobble when plugging or unplugging cables.
On the base are four sorbothane feet which hold the unit in place with no slippage.
On the front plate we find a simple layout of Volume pot/Power switch, Power LED and the STAX pro output port. Two hex bolts hold the plate in place and the STAX logo is printed in the centre without being too large or obnoxious. It’s good to note here that the Power LED is a nice tone of green and is neither too bright or too dim. Which is something other brands still struggle with, either being too bright or dim, and often using harsh colours that can be jarring when in use. With the SRM-252s in my mind being a desktop solution, this is something I take seriously!
And finally, I did wonder whether this unit would get very hot and I can confirm it does not. It gets warm when in use but nothing to complain about.
On to the L300’s…
The SR-L300 ear speakers or their siblings are something I’ve wanted to experience and own for a very long time, ever since the day I came across the brown Lambdas online in the early years of the internet.
The design is unique to say the least and I personally love it. Like the SR-009’s I have here at The Audiophile Cafe HQ, they have that ribbon cable that you don’t see anywhere else, and it’s a very good cable. It’s made well with a tough feeling rubber sleeving. The plug itself is constructed to a high standard and has an industrial feel to it. In fact the entire plug and cable do.
The housings and headband are a tough plastic that is nicely finished with no rough or dodgy edges to be found. I don’t know how easily they would snap as I don’t intend to drop them or twist them to their limit as some reviewers do. I don’t see these as a portable ear speaker, neither do I see myself moving around my home wearing them.
In my case I’m using them sat in my listening space, with the system next to me on a solid pine table. I have the STAX ear speaker stand and plastic cover right next to me so I can safely put the L300 away when I’m not wearing them. In my opinion, if you use your common sense and take care of your gear, you’re less likely to do any damage.
I love the uniqueness of STAX ear speakers. Aside from the sound they produce ( which I’m coming to in a moment ) they’re a head turner. Any visiter I have here is always interested in their “weird” looking design and appearance, and want to hear them.
In my my mind they scream “Audiophile” and they have certainly earned that label!

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Setup:
There’s really not much to say here, setup is very straight forward.
Plug your source in and the ear speakers, power on and you’re done.
On a side note, the SRM-252s has a parallel output, meaning you can run a cable from the driver unit to your pre-amp or maybe another headphone amplifier. One very handy thing about this feature is if your SRM-252s is powered off, it doesn’t interfere with the signal being fed through the parallel output. So you don’t need to have it on for this to work. Nice touch STAX.

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Comfort:
Surprisingly, unlike the SR-009 the L300 have quite a firm clamping force. Which at first concerned me as I wear glasses almost all the time now.
My concerns however were quickly dissipated when I put the L300’s on my head.
Just like the SR-009 the comfort here is on another level. The L300’s sit nicely on my head with the headband hardly noticeable. The “Cups” sit over my ears like pillows with the ear pads being luxurious and feeling very premium. Again my ears don’t come into contact with the “Staters” although there’s probably only a few mm’s in between them and the outermost parts of my ears. I’ve found another “headphone” that essentially disappears on my head once they settle in. Also I found little positioning was needed to get the correct level of comfort and image.
I found I could wear and listen to the L300 for a good 3 to 4 hours with no discomfort and zero fatigue.

Sound:
Where the SR-009 take every headphone and amp that I own and move everything up into another realm, the SR-L300 along with the SRS-252s take a different fork on that path.
Where the SR-009 are spacious and wide open, the L300’s have a more focused soundstage, though still wide and with good depth.
Like the SR-009 the L300 are a dynamic ear speaker, performing superbly throughout the frequency range. However, with a slight improvement in one regard and a small step back in another…
The L300 comes out on top here with a deeper and more lively low end. The texture and clout of the SR-009 is still present, but we also have a lower reaching bass with lower sweeps without losing any detail. I noticed this more when I listened to some Drum ‘n’ Bass tracks and a few techno mixes. The highs are crisp and clear with a beautiful sparkle. Compared to the SR-009 the highs are rolled off, but not by much.
Mids are more forward and less organic sounding, that’s not to say they don’t sound good. They sound great, smooth and full bodied. And I found this a really pleasing trait when listening to live acoustic performances.
I’d say they sound more grounded and have a “flatter” neutral tonality to them.

Final thoughts:
“It’s like driving a perfectly brilliant Mercedes daily drive throughout your life, then swapping it out for a Ferrari.” – Those were my exact words when you go back and read my review of the SRM-700S and SR-009.
If the SR-009 and SRM-700S are a Ferrari, the SRS-3100 easily earns it’s place as that “perfectly brilliant Mercedes”
If I were to keep these I’d be tempted to use them on my desktop along with my Mac and gaming PC setup. The comfort and sound they produce would be ideal for that system and its various use cases.
In all fairness, it’s not entirely fair to compare the L300 to the 009’s as I have. The L300 is a $455 ear speaker vs the SR-009 coming in at $3,699. It’s a huge difference in cost.
And I have to say, The L300 perform more akin to a $1000 headphone and outperform a certain dynamic headphone I’ll be reviewing soon that comes in at £1,799!
Would I recommend the SRM-3100 ear speaker and driver system at $1,140?
Yes. Against every dynamic or planar magnetic headphone I own, currently have in for review
or have heard either in a review or previously owned, the L300 outperform every single one of them. Even my beloved Sony MDR-SA5000s.
They make the perfect desktop, bedside or sofa-side system for lively, engaging sound reproduction.
If you want to have a $2,000 plus sounding headphone system but for less budget, you can’t go wrong here.

Thanks:
Thank you to my readers for your ongoing support!
Please be sure to subscribe, like, follow and share the blog.
Thank you to Qobuz for continuing to supply The Audiophile Cafe with some truly remarkable music!
And thank you to STAX for making this 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!

All my best. Paul.

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