Fiio F9 Pro

Last week, my ATH-IM70 broke. The two pin connector on the left ear piece broke. This gave me good reason to get another pair of IEMs for daily commute use!

I’ve read that the Fiio F9 Pro punch above their weight but Fiio headphones aren’t too easy to find. Luckily I did happen to find one shop in Wanchai computer centre that did stock them. And despite not being able to audition them, I purchased the earphones purely on the good reviews I read.

First off, these IEMS are comfy and I quickly forgot I had them on. They don’t penetrate deep into the ear canal and I was worried that isolation wouldn’t be great (esp. when using them in the underground). I was using the comply tips at first, but found that the spinfit tips work better – both in terms of fit, comfort and isolation.

Sound quality is excellent. At the moment, think it still needs more burn. Compared to the ATH-IM70, it seems more refined and less bassy (again, perhaps needs more burn in). The soundstage is good too.

The package is quite reasonable – one hard case, one soft pouch, a good variety of tips, 2 cables.

Overall, an enjoyable IEM.

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Audeze iSine 20

Read many reviews online about the Audeze iSine 20 and was very intrigued. Went to give it a trial a few weeks ago and compared it to Campfire Audio’s dynamic driver-BA hybrid Polaris; liked the Audeze better and bought it.

After a week or so, have finally become accustomed to the fit. I now find the iSine 20 physically rather unobtrusive. It produces a nice and natural soundstage, and while bass may not be thumpy heavy as my other headphones (ATH M50, Beyer T51p) it’s really excellent at jazz and spacey psychedelic / prog rock genres.

KEF Egg

This year’s birthday present is the rather nice KEF Egg active speaker. It is replacing my older M-Audio AV40 (which I took out from storage after I busted my Ruark MR1).

The KEF offer a much wider soundstage and great deal more detail. Bass is tighter too, although there is less of it.

Will give it more time to run in. Liking it very much already.

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Ruark MR1 : Awesome Speakers

Last week, I walked past an audio shop in Wanchai Computer Centre and heard an amazing pair of active speakers – the Ruark Audio MR1 Bluetooth Speakers. Another fellow and I auditioned the Ruark MR1 and Focal XS Book in the shop with some hi rez audio files and standard redbook FLACs. To my ears, the Ruark has a more expansive soundstage and more sparkling highs; the Focal sounder warmer but the bass wasn’t exactly tight and the treble didn’t sound as refined. Both of us ended purchasing the Ruark in walnut finish.

Back at home, I’ve connected the Ruark to my PC, playing FLACs and 320 MP3s via Foobar through  the FiiO E10. Likely, when I re-rip all my CDs into FLACs, I may consider getting a better DAC 🙂

The Ruark is a definite upgrade from my M-Audio AV40, especially when listening to jazz, blues and classical. The speakers are well built and packs some very neat features. I really like the high quality feel of the volume knob and it is miles better than the plasticy AV40s.

I’m really happy with these. The M-Audio AV40s are good and I enjoyed them, but the Ruark is a step up and since I listen to music mostly at most desk these days, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Ruark MR1

My new PC speakers : M-Audio AV40

3 months ago, I decided to buy a pair of speakers with decent sound quality for my PC and ended up getting the Swans HiVi D1010MKII 08. I wrote in an earlier post that I found the sound quality to be excellent – I had no complaints at all, especially since I got them at a decent price. But unfortunately, the build quality was a lot less impressive: on one fine Sunday morning, the left speaker refused to produce any sound. I called the retailer and apparently the dealer no longer represents Swans here any more. I found out the hard way that I wasn’t going to get any support for this and was not happy at all.

I couldn’t go back to my old Altec Lansing 221 speakers either – they worked alright – but treble and resolution were completely missing and after a few months of using the Swans, it was unbearable. So I ended up buying another pair of speakers, this time I opted for M-Audio’s AV40.

Right out of the box, I found the speakers’ bass overwhelming even without using the bass boost feature. I put this down to speaker placement as the AV40s have a bass port at the back of the speaker and my limited desktop space means the speakers sit close to the wall. I used some foam to stuff up the port and that really helped.

So how do they compare to the Swans? I would say that I still prefer the Swans which sound slightly better (from recollection) and are less fussy with placement (because it has no ports). The AV40s also look and feel more tacky because of the use of plastic despite costing nearly twice as much. BUT, what’s the use of preferring the Swans if they are so unreliable? On the plus side for the M-Audio is the speaker wires are just normal speaker wires, so they are replaceable and upgradable.

Don’t get me wrong, the M-Audio AV40s are nice and are definitely an upgrade on run-of-the-mill PC speakers which really aren’t cheap these days. And they are keeping me happy too.

Swans HiVi D1010MKII 08 is a major upgrade for me

My latest upgrade to my home PC, where I listen to most of my music, is the Swans HiVi D1010MKII 08 powered speakers. I am indeed very happy with my new acquisition as I managed to get them for a very reasonable price and I am now hearing details that my previous pair of Altec Lansing 221 multi-media speakers could not reproduce.

And now I finally have a reason to re-rip my CD collection to FLAC.

Samsung YP-T9 : Part 2 – Sound quality

t9-01.jpg I loaded a bunch of Lame encoded MP3s at V2 (around 192kbps) and did some listening with my Creative EP630, ATH-CM7Ti, Senn PX100 and HD595. All EQ was turned off.

Overall, I found jazz sounded best on the T9 with its crisp sound and good sense of rhythms. Music feels more open on the T9 than on the Creative ZVM or the iRivers. Subjectively, I think I can tell the difference between 160 kbps from 192 kbps MP3s on the T9. Bass is tight, not muddy and not lacking. Soundstage is expansive. Stereo imaging is good. The gap between tracks is there, not horrendously long, but definitely noticeable.

The T9 seems to be very sensitive to “defects” in MP3 files. I don’t really know how to explain this but I had the following experience. When I loaded a pop track – Carly Simon’s James Bond theme song Nobody Does It Better – there were more than a few glitches, sort of like a skip on a CD player or HD based player. The same file displayed no such problem on the other 3 DAPs I have and was also problem free upon playback in Foobar. After mucking around, I failed to locate the problem, so I re-ripped the track with EAC and reloaded it onto the T9. It seems fine now. I have noticed that a few other tracks are behaving the same way, and I suspect it has to do with clipping and high gain on the tracks. This situation is particularly bad with no EQ (i.e flat / normal mode). After I applied some EQ (I boosted 60Hz by one notch under User defined EQ), these glitches seemed to go away. Initially I thought I had a defective player and even went back to the retailer to exchange for a new one. So if you have alot of crappy sounding or badly ripped music, this player might give you a nasty ride!!

After a second night of use, I found the T9 rather unforgiving on older recordings or over-compressed CDs. I found hiss ing much more prominent on the T9 than any other DAP I’ve used.

How loud does it go?
Volume ranges from 0 to 40. With the EP630, I normally have it between 22 to 26. To achieve the same levels of volume with the EP630, on the H320 I have volume at 20-25 (max is 40), on the iFP-795 volume is at 16-22 (max is 40), and with the Creative ZVM I normally have it between 15-20 (max is 25). The iRivers’ output feels more muscular than either the ZVM or the Samsung T9.

Using my Senn PX100 on the T9, I really had to push the volume up to the 30-35 range, though sound was still clean. I feel the T9 does not have the juice to drive the 595. The CM7Ti was the easiest to drive and was damn loud even at under 20/40 volume levels. Headphone output is rated to be 20mW at 16Ω in the manual.

The T9 has some volume features I have not encountered before. Namely, the player automatically resets the volume to 20 at power up regardless of the volume during the previous session. The user can also set a volume limit if needed.