New Year – New Gear

My favorite headphones for the past 5 years have been the Sennheiser HD-380 Pro series. I thoroughly tested them against the ATH-M50 (their closest competitor) and preferred the Sennheiser model in every category of comparison from comfort, design aesthetic, durability, transparency of audio signature, and portability. (The HD-380 Pros ship with a wonderful semi-hard shell travel case.) You can check out my original comparative review from 2011 here.

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After 5 years, I’ve replaced the earpads once, but the replacements are third-party aftermarkets and have already separated from the frame after only a few months. I’m considering investing in a new pair and am exploring alternative models.

In April of last year, I picked up a pair of AudioQuest Nighthawks – the company’s flagship headphone. Aesthetically they are absolutely brilliant and precisely the style I’m after. They wed both vintage and contemporary design with their liquid wood finish, biometric diamond-cubic butterfly latticework grills, and retro-style dual headband. (Check out my featured images and more design details from this entry to Innerspace.) But of course, what matters most with headphones is their sound signature, and I quickly found that while the Nighthawks deliver a punchy and powerful sound for live and rock recordings, that they were somewhat lackluster in their delivery of classical, ambient, and electroacoustic works.

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The features I most desire in a headphone are supraaural closed-back leather earcups, detachable cables, passive noise cancellation, and studio-style sound signatures which focus on transparency rather than colorization. These will primarily be used in my listening room and in bed, which are both low ambient noise environments. Comfort is another key factor as I do not want fatigue to distract from first-listens to subtle and nuanced recordings like ambient, space, and drone works. I’m eyeing the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 cabled headphones as a potential upgrade.

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But before I jump into a new pair, I’m going to hold off until I pick up the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red USB DAC. Universally acclaimed as the finest portable DAC at its price point, the device has been sold out from all licensed distributors twice since November of 2016, so I am just awaiting the next replenishment. I am hopeful that the Dragonfly Red will correct the somewhat disappointing (but fully understandable) performance of my Android cell phone, Chromebook, and my desktop in playback of FLAC and 320CBR audio from my server.

Stay tuned!

An Audiophile Christmas Story

I’ve spent the last few years tracking down my most favorite LPs but have kept them all sealed waiting for a system that would truly do them justice.

A few years ago, a WONDERFUL friend gifted me a McIntosh 4280 amplifier, a DAC, and Focal speakers for being the Best Man at his wedding.  Sadly the MAC was faulty and after 3 years of servicing it at McIntosh headquarters, it was declared dead.

The beautiful McIntosh MAC 4280... now retired.

But on December 23rd, 2012 he drove 9 hours across the USA and delivered me a replacement MAC and new cables to go with it!

I had also recently upgraded my linear turntable to a glorious Denon and picked out the best cartridge I could afford.

FINALLY after 5 years I’m removing the shrink and spinning my favorite LPs!

The new setup includes:

Denon DP-60L Rosewood Turntable w Ortofon 2M Red cartridge
and my trusty Yamaha CR-840 integrated tuner/amplifier
(The Yamaha was my first so I keep it around but powered off)

Denon DP-60L Rosewood Turntable and my Yamaha CR-840 integrated tuner/amplifier

Cambridge Audio DACMagic for my Music Workstation

Cambridge Audio DACMagic Digital to Analog Converter
McIntosh C39 pre amplifier w remote and manual

McIntosh C39 Pre Amplifier
Integra adm2.1 power amp

Integra adm2.1 Power Amp
Harman Kardon Solo
(repair in progress)

Harman Kardon Solo
Sonance Sonamp 260
(repair in progress)

Sonance Sonamp 260
Focal 814v floor speakers

Focal 814V floor speakers
Sennheiser HD 380Pro studio monitors
(I LOVE these headphones!)

Sennheiser HD380Pro studio monitors
Pair of XLO Ultra 10′ speaker cable

XLO Ultra 10' cable
AudioQuest Python interconnects


AudioQuest Python interconnects
and Tributaries Silver Series RCAs

(from the early 2000s before Trib became stupid)
NOTE: Sample image not an exact match – mine have silver caps on the connectors

Tributaries Silver RCA
Next I plan to order a VTI 304 cherry audio rack, one of the few units which can accommodate the mammoth size of these vintage components.

VTI 304 Cherry audio rack
THANK YOU, dear friend.  You made my Christmas one to remember!