I'm Sailing Away

This appears to be more a thread that’s slowly become an impromptu, random, personal blog than anything else. Certainly not the original intent, but I guess I’ll go with it for now …

Portable Stuff

The rationalization/simplification of my portable audio setup is complete. Well, excepting some minor odds and sods that aren’t really worth expending the energy to sell.

  • Astell&Kern SP2000 Cu
  • Chord Hugo 2
  • Lotoo PAW S1
  • Empire Ears Odin
  • Etymotic ER4-XR

Even then, most of my portable use cases are just iPhone/AirPods [Pro | Max].

I do have a Sony MDR-1000X, WH-1000XM3 and WF-1000XM3 I also want to sell, but those may be “craigslist” material.

Sennheiser HE-1

My dream to get down to a single headphone system and, indeed, single high-end headphone has been brutally killed. Callously slain at the hand of Sennheiser’s staggering lack of responsiveness.

That’s both in regard to trying to get the purchase process going (“Please take my $60,000!”), as much as (not) getting any information on their future in relation to the “Sonova” situation.

Very disappointing.

Particularly since I sold my relatively recently acquired HE90/HEV90, something I’d not spent more than 100 hours with before having to pack it back up, in the face of an offer I couldn’t, but clearly should have, refused.

What now?

The HE-1 issue, coupled with not having listened to headphones for more than two hours in the last two months, raises other questions.

Is it even worth me keeping a “proper” headphone setup?

If I do, it is quite clear I do not need nearly the level of specialization and variety I have now.

I suspect another round of rationalization, starting this week, in the realm of “conventional” headphones.

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I am heading to Definitive Audio in Seattle sometime next month. It would be interesting to demo the HE-1. Do you think that they have a demo available?

For reasons of travel, and my wife’s bat-hearing intolerance for (“turn that down”) speaker-driven audio, it looks like I will be headphone-centric for the foreseeable future.

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They did before I left.

Give “Mel Mesick” a call and ask (tell him I referred you).

They have $1M+ listening rooms … so if they no longer have the HE-1 there it’s at Sennhseiser’s behest (I am pretty sure @antdroid took my lead and got to listen there).

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Thanks. I will do that. I have been a customer there for over 35 years, and bought my Bartok from them.

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I did contact Mel, but I got pretty busy and then forgot about it and never got back with him! I still would like to at some point. Definitive is also a store my dad and I have shopped/purchased from for a very long time as well!

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All around great crew at Definitive. Years ago as a desperate college student I took my broken thrift store turntable in to them for help. I think they took pity on me as they happily spent a good 20 minutes teaching me how to replace the belt, general turntable maintenance, and what type of cartridge to look for as a value upgrade. Made a big impression that a hi-fi store would help me out like that even though I couldn’t afford to buy anything in the store.

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I think that they look at each customer as a potential customer for life. So they invest the time to create a good relationship with them.

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Love the peeps at Definitive. Great place to shop. Nothing but love from me.

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A little Lagavulin … (hey, it’s early …) …

A little Linn …

A little Lynne …

Add a little Lovin’ …

And suddenly I find an escape from my non-headphone-listening-solace … in the form of an SME Series V (HTFH Silver), and a new bearing for the turntable.

Another week and the next batch of LPs from my collection in the UK should be here* …

And that is, as “they” say, “that”.


*I’ve stopped doing needledrops. It’s not time/cost-effective. If I want to listen to vinyl, I’ll play the actual LP. I bought digital copies of all the vinyl I have that was actually available in digital (most of it, now) - and only the remainder will get needledropped.

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I enjoy my LP’s each and every day

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I’ve spent the day piddling around with some electrostatic stuff, just to “make sure”, ahead of the big headphone purge. No, not the HE-1. And since BHSEs and Carbon CCs are not a same-week, let alone, next-day proposition, not those either. Though that’s the path I’d wind up on absent an HE-1.

I decided to revisit the Pro iESL.

My first foray with it was not great. I had been advised that best way to feed it was using the Pro iCAN, so that’s what I tried. That did not go well. I couldn’t get satisfying levels with the SR-007 or SR-009, it was easy to wind up with bass issues, and, well, it just wasn’t meant to be.

I’d since been advised to try it using a proper speaker amplifier, and I finally had the motivation to do so. In fact, I’m going to give it a run with my Chord speaker amps, the speaker outputs from my WA234 MKII and … what I’m running it off right this moment … which is:

RME ADI-2 Pro FS R BE → Raal HSA-1b → iFi Pro iESL

(Excuse the quick-n-dirty cell phone shot).

What makes this interesting is that, in theory, this trio can drive anything from the most sensitive IEMs, through pathologically hard to drive conventional headphones, the SR1a and electrostatics … all in one compact (half-width) stack!

And off the Chord stack I can put the Pro iESL ahead of the SR1a interface, and switch between them using the Pro iESL without having to add cables, move anything around, or deal with external switches etc.

Anyway, going into it I wasn’t sure the HSA-1b (off its speaker outputs, of course) was going to have enough grunt to juice the Pro iESL any better than the Pro iCAN did (I have no such concerns about my Chord amps).

Turns out it does.

And it results in a very different impression of the Pro iESL.

Now, you will need to run the HSA-1b with the input attenuation set to 0 dB, and from a balanced source, with the Pro iESL on its 24 ohm setting if you want to run the SR-007 or SR-009. For good measure, I upped the reference level on the RME to +13 dBu - though that wasn’t strictly necessary.

But doing that gives me full range on the HSA-1b’s volume dial, with my preferred listening level being right at the middle of the dial, and with plenty of headroom even for quiet tracks, and a vastly more convincing result than from the Pro iCAN.

More thoughts, and pictures, as I piddle around with it more …

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