Sennheiser, Sonoma, Bowers & Wilkins, etc.

The UPS delivery man was unhappy.

He didn’t like the fact that we have “Beware of Dog” signs posted on our front entrance door to the yard, he also seemed genuinely confused as to why he had to carry all the boxes into our foyer.

Upon seeing our dog chilling out in the living room as he dispassionately dragged boxes in that looked like Ace Ventura had delivered them, he muttered something in a thick Cockney accent that sounded like ’Oooh, Nice dawg…no bat’her there” that reminded me of Stephen Graham’s character Tommy in Snatch.

Regardless, the five huge boxes that showed up yesterday contained about 20 headphones from the discontinued Wall of Fame, and I happily tore into the cases to see what made it across the country unscathed.

I’m relieved that everything seems in good nick and just needed a dusting/wipe down to get them shiny and new again.

With the Naim DAC-V1 now I the house, along with the Astel&Kern KANN, and the PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell DAC, I’ve got some options for review listening.

I also tried out the Sonoma Model One last night for awhile and was blown away – just incredible timbral accuracy, beautiful full tone, and a sense of being present at the recorded event. I’m looking forward to getting some hours on these cans.

More kit is arriving soon (Chord!), so stay tuned for that along with my Audeze LCD-XC review that I know all you wallflowers are dying to read.

More to come very soon!

COMMENTS
Al T.'s picture

Great to hear that you found the Sonoma Model One accurate and so real that you had the sense of being present at the recorded event.

But you left out the bit that we are all dying to hear. Did this headphone connect you to the emotional tenor of the music?

Rafe Arnott's picture

I'll write more once I've put some hours on both the Sonoma amp and the headphones.

detlev24's picture

Kindly do also address the relatively high levels of distortion, which are a major influence on accuracy and therefore do limit headroom /especially on music with a high DR.

Thank you!

Mrsnikoph78's picture

"Your money's worth" was written in the early 20th century and led us to Consumer Reports and its reviews of even mundane products like toaster ovens and air conditioners. For the record, I don't heart their headphone recommendations, and they err on subjective since no measurements are offered.

In any case, over a century ago, there was a huge gap to fill between the misleading, and sometimes patently false claims (outright lies) of product manufacturers and objective reality. So the Consumers Union formed to bring some science into the world of shopping. The marketing department of a company will tend to substitute biased information for objective facts because: sales. They will also tend to pollute the airwaves and packet traffic of our lives because: money. So ultimately outfits like Consumer Reports are a godsend because they attempt to apply some objective science (product testing) to enable cash-strapped consumers to make an informed choice. That means the consumer gets the best value they can. Helping promote consumer welfare makes for a world of happier consumers, and directs rewards to companies that seek to make consumers happy as opposed to ripping them off. Do you like the ripoff society? I don't. Particularly since most of us aren't making more money than our grandparents did because: Inequality.

The huge amount of "snake oil" in the audio industry means we have not advanced a whole lot in 100 years - we still arguably lack a lot of objective information (e.g. facts) about the products we can buy. There are products across ranges that command different prices but the quality and performance of those products is not necessarily correlated with these high prices. That's where I see Innerfidelity coming in. This market is incredibly saturated with products from tons of companies at prices that range practically nothing to thousands of dollars. All these products are chasing consumer dollars. That's great - just point me to the products that don't have any damning flaws. Do it with facts. Have a standard. Drop pretensions once in awhile.

In other words, I WANT objective information, period. The usefulness of this website rested almost entirely on the subjective impressions weighed against objective facts like frequency response. I seek websites that dare to pit products against each other and reveal high-value options (where high value is also a rather objective finding once the performance envelopes are known - ya, even "comfy" head clamp force).

Websites that ask me to rely on my emotions and ethereal moods want me to be and stay ignorant, then pay maximum amounts for products that do not deserve my hard-earned money when there are better products made by better companies. The articles popping up on this site are scaring me to death. No one is in denial that we do this - all of this - for the love of music, for clear dialogue, for movies on airplanes. Audio is exciting, elegant, and cool - even if most of the tech is decades old. The denial is manufactured by bad writing and a refusal to engage with the facts because they will tend to set the snake oil aflame.

But if you spew this "be emotional" nonsense week after week, and write about swirling a 10 year old cabernet whilst noticing how the amplifier and 50 mm diaphrams placed an equally-dry orchestra precisely above the fireplace, emotions welling up as you cried into your bag of Doritos, I'm out of here. Don't forget we don't all listen to baroque classical. We also like complete crap compressed to high-heaven. You know - modern music. Heck, I even STILL buy CDs. Because you get to own the music for ever - and even share it with a friend - No LOGIN required! Amazing!

One more thing. I like objective measurements because I am geek, and find them endlessly interesting. I don't know why. I measure things all the time. It just makes life more interesting.

choccoyote01's picture

Well written. Second that.

crazywipe2's picture

means the best of the best!
What about the hd600, do you like them?
Also, if the wall of fame is discontinued, are you planning for a good substitute?
For me, the wall of fame was one of the best Innerfidelity features. In the end, peoples want to know what headphones are the best and worth to buy for their money.
Cheers.

PeteMtl's picture

I agree. Please consider continuing the wall of fame. It’s a great feature on this site, and it distinguishes Innerfidelity from other sites. It’s very helpful. Thanks

Rafe Arnott's picture

Thank you for your concern.

The Wall of Fame is no more, please accept it and move on.

It was useless from an SEO standpoint as no one from around the world searches 'Wall of Fame" they search "best headphones" or "Top 10 headphones." It only had cache among a very small percentage of IF users.

InnerFidelity stands apart regardless of the WoF, and will continue to grow.

KaiS's picture

The wall of fame had its problems mainly because innerfidelity was a one (great) man's show.
Therefore it represented some of the best headphones of the world, but couldn't cover all of them. For example, Sennheiser Orpheus never made it into being reviewed here.
And despite the principles of the WOF, not all listed headphones where still present during their time on it. The totl STAX SR009, e.g., wasn't present to serve as a reference, some time before it had to leave the WOF.
I guess you will still work with reference headphones in the future, I am curious to see how it turns out.
Kind of a ranking list is essential if you compare, even if a lot of subjectivity is incorporated in all audio testing.
.

Rafe Arnott's picture

We're working on the most SEO-friendly nomenclature for categorizing headphones, but there will be a breakdown of sections such as style (over-ear, on-ear, etc. ), price, (something like sub-$500, $500-$1,000, $1,000+, etc.) and a reference-level section based on type and price.

Same will go for head-amps and DACS.

Making major changes to a website is not a fast process, I understand that people are antsy, but you're going to have to be patient. Because this isn't overnight work, it requires coding skills, SEO/Google analytics understanding and knowledge of how not only search algorithms work, but how to thrive within their structures.

KaiS's picture

I don't see much point in breaking the range into sections related to the price. This would mean it's hard to compare models of different price ranges.
Quality is not strongly related to price with audio products, in my experience, specially in the upper price/quality range.
Plus, prices are not a constant over time for the same product, quality is.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

This sounds like a cool plan Rafe! SEO optimization is a good idea...you want other folks to be able to find this community easily. You were correct in another posting that most people (myself included)typically google stuff like "best rated headphones" or "top 10 headphones 2018" when fishing around for new sites or reviews.

I think separation by style and price range are realllly good categories...the hope/dream is that we'll find contenders from one range that "punch up" and can beat ones in higher ranges...best bang for the buck.

I noticed your comments about video shooting. May I ask what kind of gear you shoot video with? Higher end DSLR w. nice lenses?

Best of luck to you and your team on all the new stuff. Im looking forward to what y'all have in store.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

Three Toes of Fury

chadl2's picture

I agree SEO is important not only for the sites page views, advertising, and revenue (so you can do more and higher quality reviews for us), but the whole point is to spread the best sounding headphones around the world. I will say I like to see the "short list" and read about them as it saves me a lot of time. I've frequented this site for many years, but I definitely haven't read every detailed review and article or watched every video. But when a new amp, dac, or headphone sparked my interest I might read it or watch the video twice as I tried to make purchasing decisions (Oppo PM-1, LCD-3, Aeon Flow Open, Concero HP).

It would be nice to see more portable amp/IEM reviews as I'm always left a bit dissatisfied with Bluetooth and to be honest most of the portable options out there really. Also more home amp options would be great. I love my Woo Audio WA-7 which never really got a proper review here.

Overall excited to see something new. I'll miss the Wall of Fame, but it might still be nice to have a "badge" at the end of an article. I really, really like the way (now owned by Amazon) structures their reviews and gives both a score and a Silver or Gold award to stuff they really like. As an amateur photographer as well they are my favorite site because the reviews are all structured in a similar way for comparative purposes.

Anyway, looking forward to see what's ahead. I might be nostalgic of the old ways, but I'm with you guys and exited for the times ahead. Keep working hard for us please! :)

chadl2's picture

In my comment I meant to mention and link to DP Review but typo'd my HTML. :)

Simply Nobody's picture

Why not do it like Stereophile does? ........... Class A, B, C etc. regardless of price? ...........

Rafe Arnott's picture

I've had a conversation with John Atkinson about this very topic a few weeks ago and moving forward that type of categorization may be happening.

Thanks for your comment!

Simply Nobody's picture

Thanks for your response Rafe ......... When it comes to headphones (may be even for IEMs but may be not for CIEMs) consideration could be given for design, ergonomics, comfort etc. for different classes ..... not just sound quality alone ..........

Simply Nobody's picture

.......... Of course, sound quality is the most important consideration .............

amadeogt's picture

Rafe, I would like to hear your thoughts on the HD600. Cheers

Rafe Arnott's picture

Listen, I just got these (along with a bunch of slightly beat up headphones from what was left of the WoF) and my place looks like a headphone and amplifier bomb exploded all over it.

I've only had a chance to spend a few hours with the HD600s since they arrived a few days ago and first off they are incredibly comfortable/light, and fit my ear/head shape very well.

Quality is a word that comes to my foggy, pre-coffee mind right now.

Frequency response across the spectrum seems pretty linear, with excellent (if ever-so-slightly warm and wooly) bass response (which I like). I've found the upper registers to not be the most open, but they have beautiful timbral and tonal reproduction and are a joy to listen to.

Wood-bodied instruments sound real, have weight and an organic presence to fret work.

For around $300 these things rock.

This isn't a review, it's my thoughts while waiting to plunge the French press and get my damn coffee.

So, all the pointy heads go nuts, normal people take it for what it is: a passing commentary.

amadeogt's picture

Thanks for the quick impressions.

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Thanks for sharing your initial thoughts on the HD600!

My story: When i started to get into the idea of higher end headphones, these were the first real upgraded open headphones i ever bought. (They remain my go-to open cans). After purchasing i plugged them into an ipod and thought they sounded TERRIBLE. I was worried that i'd purchased a copycat pair. It wasnt until i googled around that i learned about impedance rating of headphones and what it took to drive them. DUH! Once i plugged them into my first Schiit Magni i was blown away. They are just so wonderfully OPEN and crisp.

Lesson Learned!

Of course then one goes down the slippery slope of "Gear Escalation" where you need to get a better amp for better cans....something im sure alot of regular visitors here are well accustomed to!

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3ToF

tony's picture

the Sennheiser HD 580,600,650 series are good enough, especially for me. In fact they are the lifetime, Desert Island, must keep headphones , especially with Shit Asgard 2 or shit Valhalla 2 w/nice Russian Glass from Kevin Deal . I own both!

You sure got plenty of PS Audio gear. Which gives me reason to listen to your point of view on things.

Wish you well,

Tony in Michigan

abvolt's picture

Just a question Rafe will you be doing the youtube videos as Tyll did ? good luck man..

Rafe Arnott's picture
Hi,

No, I won't be doing those old videos like he did.

I will be doing in-depth pieces on audiophile/headphone-related topics though.

I'm a trained filmmaker who worked for decades as a journalist, and also did postproduction for film and television.

If you want to see what type of audio-related filmmaking I do check out this piece I did on Shindo Labs for Pitch Perfect Audio in California. Go full screen, enable HD and wear some decent headphones... you might enjoy it.

 

logscool's picture

It's clear that you are able to make very high quality films. I think many would still appreciate a review video. It's possible to do both just look at MKBHD.

abvolt's picture

That was really well done I look forward to more of you're video's..

KaiS's picture
anshulbangia's picture

Quick impressions please.. don’t know if u guys will do a review of these....

John Grandberg's picture

I reviewed the Stellar DAC not long ado. Quite enjoyed it. See the review section, then choose DACs, to find my rehire.

Rafe Arnott's picture
Hi John,

Thanks for the heads-up.

The Stellar Gain Cell DAC Is in for review along with the Stellar mono blocks at AudioStream.

John Grandberg's picture

I meant to say - reviewed the Stellar DAC not long ago, see our review section under "DACs" for my review. Damn autocorrect.

I also used the Stellar S300 for a while in my speaker rig. Very nice indeed. If you don't need the added power of the monoblocks, the S300 is still fairly potent, and the sounds is excellent. They are using newer ICEpower modules combined with the Gain Cell input stage, so it's a rather different sound than many of the older class D amps out there.

Anyway, veering off topic here, sorry.

roskodan's picture

Who is gonna do the measurements interpretation / break down (like, a second opinion attached to the main review, that would be cool)? Are measurements gonna be the same format (fr, phase/impedance, square and impulse responses)? Will others contribute with headphones reviews? Will there be a rating system?

Rafe Arnott's picture
I will write the much-admonished subjective headphone reviews (for the most part, there will be guest headphone reviews by contributors).

Measurements are handled by Keith Howard in the UK on his Doppler Spectrometer 2000.

It'll be set up similar to how Stereophile does it with Keith's comments added-in (if he cares to comment) on the measurements page of the review.

A rating system? Like what? Four out of five bananas?

What if it's more orange than banana?

;-)

chadl2's picture

I agree SEO is important not only for the sites page views, advertising, and revenue (so you can do more and higher quality reviews for us), but the whole point is to spread the best sounding headphones around the world. I will say I like to see the "short list" and read about them as it saves me a lot of time. I've frequented this site for many years, but I definitely haven't read every detailed review and article or watched every video. But when a new amp, dac, or headphone sparked my interest I might read it or watch the video twice as I tried to make purchasing decisions (Oppo PM-1, LCD-3, Aeon Flow Open, Concero HP).

It would be nice to see more portable amp/IEM reviews as I'm always left a bit dissatisfied with Bluetooth and to be honest most of the portable options out there really. Also more home amp options would be great. I love my Woo Audio WA-7 which never really got a proper review here.

Overall excited to see something new. I'll miss the Wall of Fame, but it might still be nice to have a "badge" at the end of an article. I really, really like the way DP Review (now owned by Amazon) structures their reviews and gives both a score and a Silver or Gold award to stuff they really like. As an amateur photographer as well they are my favorite site because the reviews are all structured in a similar way for comparative purposes.

Anyway, looking forward to see what's ahead. I might be nostalgic of the old ways, but I'm with you guys and exited for the times ahead. Keep working hard for us please! :)

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