Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Headphone Journey 2023

Headphone Journey

Headphone Journey.   1989 - 2023



Portable set up

PCDP (Portable CD Player), Amperior Headphone, iDSD headphone amp/DAC




In my hifi journey, so much of the time was spent on MRT. Although for hifi equipment and hifi music I do not have a very high requirement, within my budget I will still go for equipment with audiophile performance. My first portable system has been with me throughout my career, the Sound Devices HX-3 headphone amplifier and Sennheiser professional DJ headphone HD 25-1. Both of them are designed for professional use, so they are both very rugged and and take lots of abuses and still will survive. For HX-3 what I really like is the ability to use two conventional AA batteries or rechargeable batteries, very practical, although the current trend is using build in high power density rechargeables for more power and reduce space. As for the HD 25-1, the mechanical parts are very durable, only the head rest cushion and the ear pads need replacement after a while due to wear and tear.


Half way the headphone journey I had been poisoned by my hifi editor friend with a few wonderful headphones. Out of the few headphones i audited, the Sennheiser Momentum over ear and HD 800 left me with very deep impression. So one of the those good years I have good luck with used headphones, as I met generous seller letting go their headphone in good price and so I end up with my Sennheiser Amperior, Momentum and HD 800!!!!


The Amperior is actually a HD 25-1, but with better material used for production. The impedence is also much lower and thus more friendly to Handphones and tablets. Music performance wise, Momentum Over Ear is better and it is closer to HD 650 in my opinion, but Amperior is still much prefer for use in public transport for its compactness and ruggedness.



Bryston BP-25 preamp with headphone output

PCDP, HD 650 and silver coated interconnects



By the time I bought my Momentum Over Ear and HD 800, I realised time passed so fast as I last reviewed the two was three years ago. The Momentum in the market was already the second generation. Sennheiser had also launched the HD 800s. The HD 800s was in black vs HD 800 in silver. The Sennheiser engineers had work very hard to further improve the already very good HD 800 by further reduced the effect of one of the resonance in HD800, which I was already not very much bothered by it in my review. The resonance was at 6kHz as pointed out by some very detailed audiophiles. However Sennheiser was still selling both HD 800 and 800s. I believed engineering is always a best compromise in design, so when the HD 800s wins some, it probably loses some. Just like Sennheiser still selling the HD 600 despite they already designed the HD 650.


For public transport Journey I mainly used Amperior. Momentum was used for home when I needed more isolation. And HD 800 used for the ultimate music enjoyment. I was very pleased to listen to HD 800 music again, 3 years after I reviewed the headphones, enjoying the broad sound stage and the tremendous details.


Amperior, Mometum and HD 800 all have interchangeable headphones cable. Amperior is using the same connector as HD 25-1 and HD 650. Momentum and HD 800 each using its own special connector. These headphones models are quite popular so audiophiles can get various type of cables to use. I typically prefer silver coated copper cables for the sound and price. 


After upgraded the headphones, the next were the headphone amplifiers. First I bought the IFI micro iDSD portable amp cum DAC. Relatively micro iDSD is cheaper than many amp/DAC in the market, not too cheap but at least affordable. Micro iDSD is a headphone amp, a DAC, and also a power bank. Micro iDSD DAC supports DSD/PCM/DXD formats. The amplification module provides different output sensitivities and gains. So it can drive I guess almost all the headphones on the market. 


The advantage of iDSD over my HX-3 headphone amp is that with its DAC capability, iPad and iPhone music sounds noticeably better vs their own native analogue headphone output. But I only use it as DAC art home. On public transport I still much prefer portable CD player with headphone amp. 


My home headphone amp was a 10 over years German Corda HA-2. HA-2 has a refined sound signature, but maybe for some not enough punch. Ever since I audited the not so popular but very impressive Perfidus headphone amp, I could not forget its musicality, wide sound stage and very accurate positioning of instruments. Lately I saw the Bryston BHA-1 headphone amp. Being a long time Bryston user of their fantastic pre and power amplifiers, I was naturally being attracted to the BHA-1 slim and rugged design. BHA-1 can accept balance, RCA and mini-jack inputs. It provides very common 1/4in headphone output, and two types of headphone balance output (single and double balance). The HD 800 I bought comes with a single balance headphone cable, just nice to be used with the BHA-1. 


Marantz SACD player KI Pearl Lite

Bryston BHA-1 and HD 800



The earlier BHA-1 did not provide line out to power amp. The batch I bought Bryston has listened to feedback and the BHA-1 now provides RCA and balance line output to power amplifiers!



Bryston BHA-1 with headphone balance outputs and HD 800

HD800 with a single balance connector headphone cable

Below a Sony PCDP




After all the work, I am very pleased that the BHA-1 performs well as compared to the Perfidus, but provides more input/output options. Currently my sources are connected to BP-25 preamp, and the preamp line out to BHA-1, and BHA-1 to the power amp. For CD source I use Marantz KI Pearl Lite SACD player. After a long headphone journey, time to enjoy music. :)







Main Menu