01 July, 2017

Editor's Note: The Times They Are A-Changing
Letter from NYC (63) 2017 (2)
Brief Review: Grado SR-80e Headphone
Headphone Talk VIII: Grado SR-80e vs Audio Technica ATH-AD700

The Times They Are A-Changing
Here is a brief note to those who follow my Blog regularly; you must have noticed my output recently has taken a nosedive. Here, in the wee hours, suffering from jetlag, I am penning a few words.

Lately, a succession of unexpected matters relating to my family has consumed most of my time. The challenges ahead are considerable; while there will be strife, I shall focus on keeping a strong mind.

At this moment, audio, even listening to music, is indeed as they say, "guilty pleasure". But listening to music shall never lose its paramount importance, and it is often therapeutic, even lifting (think a Bruckner symphony). What equipment I use however becomes less important. In HK, if I only have an hour of stolen time, I am not going to fire up my Kondo rig, instead I'd use my Flying Mole (see Sidebar, "System C" "Newer Location"), which currently is driving my Dayton B652's. You will be surprised how satisfying this ridiculously inexpensive setup can be.

What about writing? That will go on, as it is another form of therapy. If you ask me, anything that demands concentration is therapeutic. I actually itch to do so. Although recently there has been few published posts, that doesn't mean I have shelved my writer-self; in the pipeline are quite a few half-written ones on good topics crying to be finished. I should however try not to be as comprehensive and compulsive as before, so as to get more out. After all, as an adult one doesn't always need to detail or justify one's impressions.

And Yet Things Don't Change...Listening On
My listening and writing activities may be curtailed, but they are very much alive. Here in NYC, I have a little more time and shall try to catch up a bit. A few hours ago, like yesterday, I fired up my Reference System I, and listened at very low level (sounds great). However, with the current weather it gradually grew too warm for comfort, and I then switched to listening on my Headphone Setup, which comprise an ancient Magnavox FD-2041 CDP fed into Meier-Audio Corda Swing (my previous brief review here) driving Grado SR-80e headphones.

Grado SR-80e Like the similar SR-60's, these likely need little introduction. The review in Whathifi is excellent, and I basically agree with all the points made. Since I listen at quite a low volume, its small shortcomings are quite irrelevant. vs Audio Technica ATH-AD700 (my previous review of the Audio Technica here) The differences are considerable. The Grado has a drier, possibly more precise and definitely upfront sound; the Audio Techica is more laid-back, more embedded in ambience. Piano (Messiaen Vingt Regards Pour L'Enfant Jesus; EMI/Beroff) is impeccable on the Grado, but a string quartet (Brahms; EMI/Alban Berg) is more wholesome on the Audio Technica, with more ease, more string sheen and better intimation of bow and bridge sound. As I only have less than 20 hrs on the Grado, I expect the SR-80e to further improve and smoothe out a bit.

Meier-Audio Corda Swing Mine is likely an earlier version of the current Corda Jazz. It works quite fine with the smoother AT, but is a likely little dry with the more forward Grado. There is plenty of gain (I use the low gain) and sound is lively. Although a German design, I think it is built in China by Shanling.

Magnavox FD-2041 This is exactly the same machine as Philips CD204, employing the CDM-2 mechanism and 14-bit TDA-1540 DAC chip. Sound is quite musical and organic, as one expects of the TDA-1540, with its unique je ne sais quoi (not everyone will agree, but to each his own). I also think the low oversampling rate of that earlier era makes for a more direct sound closer to non-oversampling than later extensive oversampling (artificial).

The setup is satisfying, though not quite at the level of my Stax System (here).

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