LB-Acoustics MySphere 3 - Floating, Over-Ear, Dynamic Headphone - Official Thread

LB-Acoustic’s MySphere 3, which might be seen as the spiritual successor to the AKG K1000, and is one of a very small number of headphones designed to hover, float, or be suspended over the ear instead of resting, and sealing, on it.

In fact the K1000 legacy is further linked to the MySphere 3 by the fact that the people primarily responsible for the AKG model, Heinz Renner and Helmut Ryback, are also behind the MySphere 3:

Specifications

  • Style: hovering next to the ears, fully open
  • Sensitivity: 96 dB / 1 mW RMS = 115 dB SPL/V eff. (at Ear-Drum Reference Point)
  • Maximum input power: 60 mW
  • Rated Impedance: 15 Ohms (MYSPHERE 3.1) or 110 Ohms (MYSPHERE 3.2)
  • Transducer type: dynamic
  • Transducer size: 40 x 40 mm
  • Diaphragm: squared, glass-foam enforced
  • Membrane excursion: 4 mm
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 40 kHz (-10 dB)
  • Magnetic structure: radial, fully vented
  • Magnet type: Neodymium N52
  • Magnet density: 1.5 T
  • Weight: 345 g (without cables)

You can read more about the development, philosophy, features and technology behind the MySphere 3 here.
Major benefits of these suspended, open, cup-less designs include better spatial representation and imaging, since the impact of the ear’s pinnae are more directly involved in what you hear and less coloration, or other issues, from the ear-cup.

The unconventional fit and operation of headphones like this warrant proper auditioning and, like other companies entering this space, LB-Acoustics has an at-home trial option for them.

This is the spot to discuss the MySphere 3 …

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I just received notification that my trial set of MySphere 3 has shipped, so should be here in the next week. After my experiences with the SR1a, which is probably the next closest comparable headphone other than the AKG K1000, I am especially anxious to hear these.

There will, of course, be comparisons between the two.

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looking forward to your thoughts. does the trial set include both 3.1 & 3.2?

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Yep, both sets of drivers are included.

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If this trend continues, it’s only a matter of time until someone makes a helmet I can mount near-field monitors on. :wink:

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I was a big fan of the K1000 for many years and spent a lot of resources on getting the best possible performance out of them, it’s what got me into using speaker amps to drive headphones in the first place. I was also involved as a beta tester for the Mysphere pretty early on although I only expressed interest in the 3.2 version. The 3.1 I have heard, and it feels like a very viable semi-portable option, sounding pretty okay straight from the SP1000, but it doesn’t gel as well as the 3.2 with most high-end desktop amps.

I have a full review of the 3.2 on Head-Fi, the short version is that I very much enjoy owning the Mysphere and it is a very direct continuation of the K1000 tuning but also a substantial upgrade in just about every way. The modular approach means that if LB Acoustics stays around, we’ll get to gradually expand the performance envelop of these cans in the future.

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The potential challenge I may run into with with them, I think, is on how broadly they’ll work with the array of amplification I want to be able to drive the MySphere with.

Especially as it seems the two principal use cases I have would both want both versions. For example, one use case would be driving off the SS and tube outputs on a Cayin N8 AND the SS output on a Hugo TT 2.

And the other would be from either DAVE or Phonitor X AND a Woo WA234 MKII …

We’ll see when they get here … one may work fine for all scenarios, since there are no OTL amps involved, and even the Cayin N8 has the ability to push more than their maximum power handling into even 110 ohms.

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Yes, that’s an issue that I also had some difficulty with. I decided to just settle on the 3.2 and go all solid state. The 3.2 sounds pretty good straight out of the Dave and I assume that the Phonitor X is a fine choice. Stateside something like a GSX Mini or a Niimbus might be a good dedicated amp for the 3.2 version, and the WA234 will be really good - but possibly overkill - for the 3.1.

I run mine from the same setup as I run my Abyss Phi and SR1a, two speaker amps. I won’t recommend this to everyone, because running a 300mw headphone on a 175w amp is living a very dangerous life, but the sound is good, and I know Heinz well enough that I trust that he’ll comp at least one round of replacement drivers for me. Probably :slight_smile:

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It looks like FedEx are being nice to me today, and the demo set that was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday is actually going to be delivered today.

Very interested to see which of the versions works best with the primary sources it’ll be driven from. And whether it provides either a) unique and compelling enough experience of its own to justify and b) how it compares to the SR1a overall.

From everything I’ve read I suspect the 3.2 will be the way to go. They are mostly going to get driven from a Hugo TT 2, Hugo 2 and Cayin N8 (in both modes), which are all very low output impedance devices (between 0.075Ω and 1.2Ω). And my SET tube amp isn’t OTL … but varies between, I believe 8Ω OI and about 38Ω OI, depending on how its configured - but that probably won’t get used here.

Should be an interesting evening …

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They arrived! Yesterday in fact; though I’ve not had much time with them so far (just a few hours), and so far I’ve only tried the 3.2 version “Soundframes” (drivers).

A few things to note before reading, what are very much first impressions, further:

First, the 3.1 and 3.2 soundframes are intended to be matched with different types/levels of amplification and I’m told have a substantial impact on how sound is rendered … it’s not just about how easy/hard to drive they are. And, again, I have only tried the 3.2 soundframes so far, so results could vary significantly when I swap to the 3.1.

Second, I am by no means at a place where I have these “dialed” in. These are just first impressions as I work to figure out if/how they’re going to work with/for me and what strengths/weaknesses/quirks I encounter along the way.

They are beautifully made and feel a lot more solid than they look, even given that the top of the frame is just a thin band of metal. Cable entry is single-sided, but there are connections on both sides of the units, so you can have it whichever side you like. The connection on the headphone itself is 3.5mm TRRS and is wired for balanced operation.

Fit and positioning is, so far, rather fussy. It is made somewhat easier due to the “Soundframes” (the drivers/wings) being individually height adjustable, and how open they are is also a per-driver setting. I am definitely taking advantage of that, as my ears are not exactly the same height.

One positioned they stay reasonably well put … just taking them on and off won’t move them, but they don’t “lock” … it’s just a friction fit. For height there is a graduated scale on either side so you can make a note of where you have them and easily set them back in the same position if you accidentally move them.

So far I am fiddling with their positioning more than I am not … as I have not yet found a sweet spot for sound that is also comfortable (at least for more than a few minutes). I went through this with the Abyss as well, and once figured out it was not an issue any more - so absent hot spots or just coming down to a raw “isn’t going to fit me” situation, I expect this will be temporary and only mention it by way of expectation-setting.

In terms of sound … and, again, first-impressions on the 3.2 soundframes …

I expected bass levels to be significantly affected by how wide the “soundframes” are set. It is - profoundly. It drops off very rapidly as you open up the angle on the drivers. However, I was not expecting the change in volume to be so pronounced by how open they are set. That shifts enough that opening them all the way means switching output power levels on the amp.

Range of motion on the drivers, at about 40 degrees, is much smaller than the SR1a, which can be literally turned to fire way from you (not very useful, of course). Stage depth increases as you open the drivers, but for me the bass and volume drop-off occurs so fast that to run them wide-open would render them a bit pointless.

In fact, so far, to get satisfying bass levels (think neutral rather than elevated) I have to have the driver pads just touching my ears. I don’t like that very much - and is possibly a deal killer as its both a comfort and a sound issue.

Haven’t played with EQ nor the 3.1 soundframes and no doubt have more tuning to do in terms of placement, so this isn’t an issue just yet - just an observation.

If I forget about comfort/fit for a bit and just talk about sound in raw terms, with the drivers fully closed down the bass is at a level mostly similar to things like the Utopia. The overall signature is a tad brighter here - more so than I hear with the SR1a, but is closer to studio-neutral than it is “actually bright”. Resolution/detail and speed are at least comparable to the Utopia. Not sure on dynamics yet, but (so far) they’re quite punchy. Bass is clean, articulate, fast and tight … none of the nasties that often occur with traditional driver designs … it’s really only the level that’s a potential issue.

I like what I am hearing … enough to be encouraged that these might just do what I’m looking at them to do. And are more than good enough to be something I will spend every minute of the available demo time (7 day) with getting dialed in and experimenting.

In terms of driving them …

They were fine off my Hugo TT 2 (on low power mode) as long as the drivers were not set too wide. On high-power mode there’s much more power than they need (or can take). The portable Hugo 2 has no problems driving the 3.2. In fact while fiddling with bass this morning (in the office) I accidentally drove the MySphere to their excursion limits (and this is the harder to driver version I’m playing with at the moment). My Cayin N8 in P+ mode, on medium gain, was also powerful enough, though for quieter pieces, switching to high-gain gives a bit more headroom on the volume control.

Anyway, more after I swap over to the 3.1 soundframes and see what changes occur there, after which I’ll also hopefully be through the “fit/comfort/sound” adjustment period and can focus on which driver version and raw sound evaluation.

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Still on the 3.2 soundframes (which switch to the 3.1 this afternoon) …

Comfort aside, the biggest issue I am having is getting sufficient bass (i.e. a neutral level) without having the soundframes touching my ears. Having them closed in that far the stage becomes far more like traditional headphones, and that’s to get very high-quality, if just neutral, bass response.

If I open the soundframes wide enough to a) not touch my ears and b) provide some actual stage depth, the bass is just too low in level to be worth it for my normal range of music.

Easy fix … in theory … use EQ to bring the bass level up.

That works, to a point, but to get it to the level it needs to be at, and at a suitable listening volume (nothing excessive, my normal 80-85 dB at my ear), particularly factoring in the volume drop off that comes with opening the soundframes wider (so they’re playing probably 6-8 dB louder than they would be if they were touching my ears to get the same perceived volume level), they are clearly reaching/exceeding the limits of the driver and is horribly distorted.

Why not just let them touch my ears?

It’s uncomfortable for one thing. Any head motion, in quiet passages, allows me to hear the pads moving on my ears for another. And having them closed down that far kills the stage depth - which is a big part of my interest in these cans.

More fiddling with fit/adjustement and, of course, trying the 3.1 soundframes to come, and which may well address these couple of issues. And they may only be issues for me.

I do like what I hear enough to keep persevering. There’s a lot of capability and promise here. And some desirable traits of their own that are not necessarily found (individually or together) in other headphones.

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Location, location, LOCATION!!

(Or position, position, POSITION!!)

Eureka!

Some actual progress here … significant progress at that.

I finally found a position that is much more comfortable and allows me to have the soundframes set such that they’re open enough not to touch my ears while preserving a satisfying (free-field neutral) level of bass!

And that is a big transformation in the overall sound of these things. Enough that I finally feel I can say a bit more about them - as the path I was on it was hard to really pay enough attention to what else they were doing, at least in detail, to appreciate them.

I’ll talk about fit/position first, though … and that’ll be brief.

The manual shows, and describes, how to put the MySphere on and how they should be worn. The illustration for the listening position it uses is this:

At least on my head that’s uncomfortable, so I’d been tilting them back and forth a bit, but all that seemed to do was mess up my hair more and change where the hotspots were (and I almost never get hot spots with conventional headphones, nor has that happened with the SR1a).

Then I saw this illustration on the MySphere website:

Yeah … a lot further back than I’d tried, mostly due to reading the manual … but in this position the contact points don’t get uncomfortable, the drivers sit much more completely over my ears, and I can open the soundframes wide enough not to be resting on them without losing all the bass.

Short version … for me the above position is necessary to get the drivers properly aligned with my ears. I had THOUGHT they were previously, but clearly not. And once you do get the right position you’ll definitely know, because it is a total transformation of their presentation as well as their volume and bass performance.

Now I feel I can start to properly evaluate the MySphere.

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I had a meetup with a friend who also owned a pair of the 3.2’s in Hong Kong. On the whole, these headphones are pretty sensitive to head shape, and if your noggin is too large, too square, or if you have a lot of hair, the Mysphere’s might simply not agree with you. Heinz is working on some options to improve the fitment, including thinner/thicker cushions, but it seems like they’ll only be useful to a degree. I have trouble with them on one pair of my glasses but not the other.

Re: friction fit, I use some electrician’s tape on the soundframe cushions to lock the drivers in place. The excursion limit and maximum power rating being low is by design - a necessary evil of increasing the driver efficiency, and under the reasoning that the output remains well beyond volumes that will damage hearing if listened to for prolonged periods. A bit unfortunate for EQ needs, of course.

The realistic answer on my part is that they are mostly a vocal/strings/Jazz kind of headphone unless you’re fine with about -3 or more across the bass range. That’s what the K1000 has always been, it’s just that you can crank the K1000 up a bit more (and at a nontrivial risk of blowing up the drivers). The midrange is very, very tastefully colored, though, there’s a delicate cohesion there that I haven’t heard on anything except the K1000 and maybe female vocals on the recent Audio Technica offerings.

Driving the 3.2 through the SP1000+AMP was passable, the WA11- I’m selling mine, FYI - is a lot better if you bypass the internal DAC and run them on high gain or sufficiently high voltage from the DAP. The CMA 12 was very good, one of the best all-in-one solutions I’ve heard for the 3.2. Not a perfect substitute for upper echelon amps (800R monoblocks, GSX2, 394 mk2) but the argument for better amplification is weaker for the Mysphere’s because of how efficient they are.

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I’m past the fit/comfort issues now. I should have been more aggressive in trying different positions, beyond just moving the drivers around. Though having optional frame sizes, combined with different padding options, is something I could definitely see being useful.

I swapped in the 3.1 Soundframes.

Doing that exposes exactly how they connect and work, and explains some of the design at work. Very clever … and very quick and easy.

I have started my proper listening evaluations with the 3.1 and then will repeat with the 3.2 configuration on the same sources/amps/materials.

Initial thoughts on Sound:

Sources here are all solid-state (or Nu-Tube, with a solid-state buffer), very low OI (0.075Ω to 1.2Ω), and all can deliver more clean power into either the 3.1’s 15 Ω impedance or the 3.2’s 110 Ω than the headphones are rated to handle (even accounting for their frequency-variable impedance).

With the 3.1, and them properly aligned, I have bass at a level I am happy with for most genres, even with the Soundframes set wide open. They’re not going to be a basshead’s headphone, and they’re a good way from my first-choice for things like organ music or EDM, but for most of my musical diet they’re quite satisfying bass-quantity-wise now.

These are REALLY fast. Not SR1a fast. Maybe not quite flagship-electrostatic speed either. But as fast or faster than any other dynamic or planar headphone I’ve heard or own, including most IEMs. Transients are extremely impressive, with no sense of overshoot or lag.

Clarity is exceptional, with none of the potentially clarity-robbing artifacts that accompany essentially all traditional cup/driver headphones due to interactions, reflections and resonances from the cup itself. This, of course, also helps with resolution and details with are both superb.

Within the limits of the bass capabilities, and depending on where you set the Soundframes the signature is impressively neutral and uncolored. Moving the drivers wider attenuates the bass, and as you get closer to the fully open position the extreme upper treble starts to take a dip as well. Though somewhere in the middle there’s a range where they’re losing bass faster than treble and can tip towards being a little bright. In most cases they’re somewhere between “studio neutral” and maybe a little bass-shy. Fully closed, the bass is proper-neutral … at about the same level as the Focal Utopia, maybe a bit more prominent in the upper bass, and less in the sub-bass, but close. But better articulation, a hint more detail, and similar tunefulness.

Timbre is extremely natural. Again, the lack of any kind of cup coloration or interaction seems to pay big benefits here. Though the SR1a do seem a bit cleaner still, it’s a back-to-back thing there to tell.

Stage/imaging, is only bested by the SR1a and actual speakers. Even the HD800S and Abyss aren’t close here, at least as long as the MySphere’s Soundframes are opened up a bit. There is actual depth to the stage too, and while not quite as vivid or deep as with the SR1a (which can be opened much wider), it’s easy to discern and a very welcome change from the usual “width-only-at-some-specific-distance-from-the-listener” stage you get with the other headphones.


So, I’ve gone from not getting on with these at all to being rather impressed fairly quickly. Too early to say if they’re “keepers” yet. But I can say that they’re definitely the closest thing to the SR1a I’ve heard so far. And much of my interest here is in having something “SR1a” like (especially in terms of resolution/clarity, speed and stage/imaging) to use where I cannot have a speaker amp (e.g. where I’m headed now … out to the deck, with a DAP, to enjoy the sun and water and just listen for a bit).

Fit/positioning was the major part of that, and is more sensitive than any other headphone I’ve tried, including the SR1a (which I find to be quite a lot more flexible and forgiving) and the Abyss (easier to get a proper setting with, but doesn’t stay put nearly as well if you move your head etc.).

In short … very cool and very impressive … and certainly worth spending time with.

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Doing some more back-to-back comparisons with the Focal Utopia, I need to revise what I said about their relative bass performance. The Utopia has a higher natural level of bass output, even with the MySphere Soundframes fully closed in.

The difference in that configuration isn’t huge. Maybe -3 dB in the sub-bass, and 1-2 dB in the bass. By the time we’re into upper-bass it is about even.

Opening the frames, in the position I am wearing them now, still results in further drop-off, but not nearly as quickly or as much as before.

Qualitative comments on bass remain accurate, though.

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Several hours on 3.1 vs. 3.2 comparisons … using A&K SP1000M (balanced), Cayin N8 (all outputs), Hugo 2, Hugo TT 2 and DAVE all clearly sound better with the 3.2 (higher impedance) version. I figured the differences would be subtle, but at least with that range of gear it’s not that subtle at all.

I’ll be trying the RME ADI-2 DAC, Phonitor X and the big Woo tube amp (on both it’s OI settings and both plate and cathode outputs), but the real use case I have for the MySphere is with the two DAPs, Hugo 2 and Hugo TT 2.

The other pieces are in my main rig, and I don’t see a reason not to just use the SR1a with those.


A slight aside … whenever I’ve tried headphones that are offered in different impedances, I’ve always liked the higher-impedance cans more. Regardless of what they’ve been paired with. The MySphere seem to want the opposite of what one expects in terms of impedance vs. OI, but still the higher impedance version sounds better to me.

So …

I expect if I’d gotten the fit right immediately, and hadn’t already heard the SR1a, my initial posts on the MySphere would have been a lot less mixed than they have been so far.

Ahead of having some time to write things up a bit more coherently, especially with regards to specifics/details on sound, I can say the following:

  • With my sources and amplifiers the MySphere 3.2 are clearly the better bet*, across the board (vs. the 3.1, that is, not the SR1a).

  • They’re fantastic out of the Phonitor X … some definite synergy going on there.

  • They’re a take-no-prisoners proposition and highly revealing of upstream issues/marginal content.

  • Bass-heads should look elsewhere (and EQ really won’t help enough). But if you like neutral, or are treble-biased (old farts especially), these are as close as I know how to get to the SR1a.

  • The cables are more like shoe-laces than anything I’ve seen with other cans. They’re extremely flexible, non-microphonic, and lightweight, which are all important factors given the nature of the headphones themselves. They are enormously tangle-prone, however.

  • I’ll be placing my order in the morning …

All that really remains is to see what additional carnage occurs now, in the wake of that already inflicted upon my headphone stable by the SR1a.


*This does require balanced output and high-volume settings on the A&K SP1000M, and medium or high-gain, and P+ mode on the Cayin N8 (but they’re fantastic off either the tube or balanced outputs). Hugo 2, Hugo TT 2, Phonitor X and RME ADI-2 DAC shrug them off and have ample power.

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Interesting. It seems like these are in the same competing space as SR1a but all the hype is so much bigger around SR1a. What does the MySphere do better than SR1a?

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Based on what @Torq has been saying and not to put words/text in his place, my take away from this thread is that they are basically the next “best” thing to the SR1A, but the bigger pull is the ability to power them from say a DAP or standard desktop amps.

I think @Torq likes to sit on his deck and imbibe while listening to quality gear, which would be doable with the SR1A but it would involve the lifting, moving, unplugging, plugging in of multiple amps and other gear =) which would probably take one out of the mood of listening to music :wink:

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Runs off normal headphone gear.

And … that’s pretty much it.

I will say the build/finish has a more high-end/luxury consumer goods finish/polish to it, where the SR1a is more like a high-end/high-tech tool.

But sonically? The SR1a is, for me, stronger across the board than the MySphere.

The SR1a can be “too much” after a very long day where all I want is some background tunes while I work on other things. Not because it is in anyway unpleasant, but because it is so good that invariably I wind up tuning out what I was trying to do and just getting drawn into highly-active listening … paying rapt attention to the music, and not getting anything else done.

If the SR1a would run directly off a DAP, a Hugo TT 2 or DAVE or my big Woo amp, I would have bought at least two pairs, and sold literally every other headphone I have except for the ZMF Vérité, the Focal Stellia, and one pair of flagship planar cans.

So, as @DarthPool says, it is more that the MySphere are as close as I can get to the desirable traits of the SR1a as possible, while still using normal gear, including portable stuff like DAPs.

And that’s actually why I started looking into them. They seemed like the best available option to get some of the unique aspects of the SR1a’s performance without needing a speaker amplifier (or even other desktop amplifier). And the MySphere do fulfill that desire so far …

One of those things is their ability to provide an image/stage with actual depth, like a good near-field speaker setup. Most other headphones project an image that only has width and then everything sits on a plane, or curve, at a fixed distance from the listener. Both the MySphere and the SR1a project a very vivid image that not only has width, and sounds like it is coming from speakers a few feet in front of you, but also has depth delineation and projection. Though the SR1a lets you adjust this more and can project a much deeper and wider stage (due to having more adjustment on the drivers and them being further from the ears in the first place).

Another is the essentially complete lack of coloration and/or resonance/cup-driver/baffle interactions. Both of these headphones deliver sound with a degree of clarity, purity and tonal neutrality that I’ve not heard with any other can. Not even flagship electrostatics and TOTL amplification.

The MySphere (at least the 3.2) do have a subtle element of “moistness” (it’s not “wet”, nor really “lush”) in the mids … where the SR1a don’t.

Speed, transient response, and raw resolution are also in a class of their own with the SR1a. Most planar cans sound flat out slow in comparison, and even dynamic headphone renowned for their speed, like the Utopia or the HD800S, don’t quite keep up. The SR1a literally resolve and expose things that get smoothed-over with some other cans.

The MySphere are the next-fastest, most resolving, headphone I’ve heard that doesn’t require specialty amplification. A high-end electrostatic can and a proper amplifier (one of the KG line, solid-state or tube, for example), is a bit faster, and maybe more resolving, than the MySphere. But I can’t name another conventional dynamic that is quite as fast.

I do think the MySphere are outright excellent.

And I can easily use them with my existing tube-amplifier.

So I am buying myself a pair - for all those times when I can’t use the SR1a.

Because as good as the MySphere (and some other flagships I have are) … the SR1a are just the best headphone I’ve heard - and their biggest, perhaps only, drawback is simply that they need a sturdy speaker amplifier to work.

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