Welcome to The Vagrant Audiophile

2022 Rolling Issue


Editorial line & Disclaimer — I buy what I listen to. Usually after thorough research as I consider things holistically being five years into the rabbit hole. I am not immune to marketing, opinions and, of course, Head-Fi. As we all have different sensibilities, my preferences lean towards an effortless, open, warm sound with definition, texture and soundstage. The goal? Minimalism and musicality.


Entry #012 |PlusSound Exo Gold Plated Copper cable x Campfire Audio Solaris 2020

Recently, I found my beloved 64 Audio U6t to be a bit much in terms of how intimately they conveyed sound. Even with the MX module, I caught myself thinking that it was a bit much.

Since I also missed the timbre of a dynamic driver, I decided that, instead of buying a new IEM, I’d give another chance to the excellent Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 which I still hadn’t sold.

Accordingly, the idea behind the Exo Gold Plated Copper cable was to find a comfortable and good-looking cable which would push a very good IEM to new heights. (Worthy of note, I ordered the cable single-ended as my experience is that balanced kills the Solaris 2020’s midrange.)

It’s also the first time I was deliberately getting a new cable in order to fine-tune an IEM and didn’t really know what to expect.

Would the resulting synergy end-up being too warm? Would it emphasis something I wouldn’t like? Or would it do what I aimed it to do, i.e., lift the low end, bring more punch, soften the treble and leave the mids, layering and imaging pretty much intact?

Wishful thinking? Maybe. But hey, I never did a write-up on a cable, so…


Sound impressions

The leather pouch bundled with PlusSound cables is perfect for the A&K SR25 MKII

The following sound impressions were using my trusty A&K SR25 MKII as a source, after I left the cable for hours on hot water stones while sitting in front of my audiophile shrine repeating « this cable will improve my Solaris 2020 » until my better half called the psychiatric institute from which I just escaped to type these words.

Anyway, to cut a not-so-long story short: I’m essentially in awe.

In the past, I only changed cables due to comfort/fit issues and always stuck to the materials the stock cable came with. This is the first time I’m deliberately changing a cable in order to fine-tune an IEM — and boy what a surprise.

While I researched it extensively, I frankly never imagined that it’ll nail so well the sound refinements I was looking to get with the Solaris 2020.

Lifts the low end: check. Brings more punch: check. Softens the treble: check. Mids, layering and imaging pretty much intact: check (although, admittedly, I found the latter two to be slightly improved compared to the stock cable).

To my ears, the synergy and tonality I get out of the Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 via the PlusSound Gold Plated Copper cable is nothing short of exceptional. 


Conclusion

Cable matter.

Ah! Who would have thought!

This cable hasn’t merely pushed the Solaris 2020 to new heights — it pushed them to the summit.

If you’re looking to improve an IEM’s low-end, slightly tame the treble, leave the mids, layering and imaging pretty much intact (and/or slightly improve the latter two), I wholeheartedly recommend PlusSound’s Gold Plated Copper cables.

‘Feeling good ☀️


Entry #011 | Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII

With Lotoo’s PAW 6000 and Cayin’s N6ii x R01 failing to find a place in my heart; I decided to come back full circle and get A&K’s updated version of the SR25, the MKII.

Something tells me that things got a little uncomfortable for Astell & Kern following the release of Luxury & Precision’s W1 and W2 DAC/Amp dongles.

Not only did they share the same DAC as the SR25, their performance was getting really close to A&K’s new entry level DAP.

While A&K could have relied on the market of people like me who insist on a dedicated DAP, for $450 more than a L&P W2, A&K decided to go the extra mile.

Enters an improved tuning, the addition of a 4.4 balanced output (is this a male-driven hobby or what?) as well as improved shielding. While not advertised — at all in fact — another new feature the SR MKII included was the addition of DAC filters.

Already available in the W1 and W2, it’s something I pointed out last year to A&K’s representative on Head-Fi after having tested the W2. His reply was that he’d pass it on to A&K engineers. While I’m fairly certain this isn’t because of my comment, I’m certainly glad to see them implemented in the MKII.


Unboxing & First impressions

As usual, A&K’s unboxing is elegant, premium, yet to the point.

No bundled case here. I did get the black one sold separately and it’s better than the previous ones.

Despite the power button having been moved next to the playback buttons in order to make space for the addition of the 4.4 balanced output on top of the player; there’s now more space in-between the buttons making them easier to operate — or at least, it feels like it. However, there’s no way around the fact that it remains a small device.

The DAP is bundled with matte front and back protectors — some of the few I can easily install without hiccups though this could also be from the fact that this isn’t my first A&norma DAP 😇

The SR25 MKII feels faster than the previous versions and, the welcome addition of the 4.4 balanced output aside, the tuning might or might not be different from the original SR25 but I can’t tell you for sure as I don’t have the original anymore.

What is most definitely new, however, are the DAC filters which are a tremendous addition that many should welcome given how different they sound from each-other. This allows one to genuinely fine-tune their pairings in order to get the best synergy possible. This alone is, to me, worth the upgrade.

Another welcome addition is the ability to directly download major streaming services from A&K’s great UI though I haven’t much used this feature as I’m not streaming anymore.


Sound impressions

Their respective features as DAPs aside, the Lotoo PAW 6000 and Cayin N6ii x R01 were respectively too transparent and bright for me. We’re not talking huge amounts here but enough for me not to keep either.

I clearly prefer a more balanced source such as the SR25 MKII and, apologies for taking the easy way out here but, its standout feature is that there’s none. It’s not overly this or that, it does everything well, single-ended as well as balanced, and, thanks to the inclusion of filters, it now adapts very well to different IEMs/Headphones for those seeking musicality above all else.


Pairings

By alphabetical order, starting with IEMs and finishing with headphones

64 Audio U6t (MX module, stock cable, SpinFit tips, LG) — Excellent, well-balanced, pairing, especially with the Phase Compensated Slow filter.

64 Audio U6t (M15 module, stock cable, SpinFit tips, LG) — Very good, warmer than with the MX module, pairing, especially with the Phase Compensated Slow filter.

7Hz Timeless (KB EAR 8 Core Single Crystal Copper UPOCC balanced cable, Final E tips, HG) — Excellent pairing, especially with the Low Latency Slow filter.

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (Stock cable, Silicone tips, LG)— Excellent pairing, especially with the Low Latency Slow filter.

Audeze LCD-2 Classic (PlusSound Copper balanced cable, HG) — Excellent pairing, especially with the Phase Compensated Slow filter.

Grado RS2e w/G-Cush pads (HG) — Excellent pairing, especially with the Low Latency Slow filter.


Conclusion

Cheaper isn’t better…

… nor is necessarily something more expensive.

What matters is what you hear — not what others are saying because, truth be said, unless your tastes align closely with mine, my own opinion frankly shouldn’t matter to you.

As far as I’m concerned, I find difficult to beat the SR25 MKII. After all, this is the fourth DAP I have from Astell & Kern’s A&norma line.

If you’re looking for a light yet well-crafted, well-built, dedicated DAP with an excellent battery life, UI and flexible sound, I’d be hard pressed to recommend anything else than Astell & Kern’s SR 25 MKII. Contrary to most of the new DAPs out there, you’re actually going to take this one with you and will listen to music. Finally… 🎶


Entry #010 | Diamonds & Rust

A golden hour song from Joan Baez, one of the leading figures of the ’60s and 70’s folk rock scene.

That night, Joan’s writing is interrupted by Bob Dylan, calling from a phone booth in the Midwest. He reads her the entire lyrics to “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” he just finished.

The rest is history — Joan herself doesn’t remember what she was writing about that night. “Diamond And Rust” ends-up being about Baez and Dylan’s past relationship. ☮

Well, I’ll be damned 
Here comes your ghost again 
But that’s not unusual 
It’s just that the moon is full 
And you happened to call 
And here I sit 
Hand on the telephone 
Hearing a voice I’d known 
A couple of light years ago 
Heading straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes 
Were bluer than robin’s eggs 
My poetry was lousy you said 
Where are you calling from? 
A booth in the midwest 
Ten years ago 
I bought you some cufflinks 
You brought me something 
We both know what memories can bring 
They bring diamonds and rust

Well, you burst on the scene 
Already a legend 
The unwashed phenomenon 
The original vagabond 
You strayed into my arms 
And there you stayed 
Temporarily lost at sea 
The Madonna was yours for free 
Yes, the girl on the half-shell 
Could keep you unharmed […]

[…] Now I see you standing 
With brown leaves falling all around 
And snow in your hair 
Now you’re smiling out the window 
Of that crummy hotel 
Over Washington Square 
Our breath comes out white clouds 
Mingles and hangs in the air 
Speaking strictly for me 
We both could have died then and there

Now you’re telling me 
You’re not nostalgic 
Then give me another word for it 
You who are so good with words 
And at keeping things vague 
‘Cause I need some of that vagueness now 
It’s all come back too clearly 
Yes, I loved you dearly 
And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust 
I’ve already paid


Entry #009 | Cayin N6ii x R01 R-2R module


Unboxing & First impressions

So, I got my hands on a rare Cayin N6ii bundled with the R01 R-2R module.

In terms of unboxing, it’s a little less subdued than the Lotoo PAW 6000 with a big box which opens like a book. On the left-end side nests the bundled leather case, cable and 2.5 to 4.4 balanced adapter. On the right-end side nests the DAP.

The DAP is well built and has a very nice matte finish. It’s a bit on the heavy side, though its form factor makes it much more convenient than the 20g heavier, but much bigger, FiiO M11 Plus LTD.

The volume wheel works but isn’t as precise as on A&K or Lotoo devices. Playback buttons work really well, even with the case on. Speaking of the case, it’s well-made and is a snug/tight fit. It also features a convenient opening for the microSD card.

In terms of UI, it’s an Android DAP. The Cayin music app, as well as the HiBy music app, are subpar. Thankfully, given the open nature of Android on the N6ii, installing another music app, such as FiiO’s, makes for an overall much more pleasant — and much smoother — experience. With that said, despite its age, the DAP remains smooth to operate and I wouldn’t let its specifications put you off.


Sound impressions & Comparison

The R01 has been surrounded by so much hype that it can be tough to make sense of what it’s all about.

In order to do this, I’ll use Cayin’s very own RU6 set in NOS, an increasingly popular R-2R DAC/Amp dongle which happens to be more than $1000 cheaper and an easy way to compare the R01.

Using the 64 Audio U6t with the MX module, the R01 is brighter and technically more able — it’s like lifting a vail off of the RU6. The R01’s mids aren’t as pronounced and the soundstage is narrower. The R01 shares the same natural and organic capabilities the RU6 present which, I believe, is what most find stunning given how technically apt the R01 remains.

Having the PAW 6000 still in mind, the 6000 is technical yet slightly musical. The R01 is musical, natural and organic yet technical. The 6000 is an analytical instrument with musical capabilities, the R01 is a musical instrument with technical capabilities.


Pairings

By alphabetical order, starting with IEMs and finishing with headphones

64 Audio U6t (MX module, stock cable, SpinFit tips, LG) — A bit on the bright side for my tastes although it can be nice for short-term, genre-specific, listening sessions.

64 Audio U6t (M15 module, stock cable, SpinFit tips, LG) — Better than the MX module, but I prefer the U6t (MX module) with the RU6 in NOS than this pairing.

7Hz Timeless (KB EAR 8 Core Single Crystal Copper UPOCC balanced cable, Final E tips, HG) — Same conclusions as with the 64 Audio U6t (MX module).

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (Stock cable, Silicone tips, LG) — Even better than with the Lotoo PAW 6000, though the Solaris 2020 still ended-up sounding a little wonky, especially in comparison to the U6t which have an overall more coherent, natural, tonality.

Drop + JVC HA-FWX1 (Stock cable, Final E tips, HG) — Even better than with the Lotoo PAW 6000 — the best pairing here.

Audeze LCD-2 Classic (PlusSound Copper balanced cable, HG) — Same conclusions as the Drop + JVC HA-FWX1 — headphones’ version.

Grado RS2e w/G-Cush pads (HG) — Same conclusions as with the 64 Audio U6t (MX module).


Conclusion

While I do get the appeal of the R01, due to my personal preferences in terms of tonality, I found it to be an underwhelming experience after the RU6. I clearly prefer a warmer source.

I also must be upfront about my expectations which were a tonality closer to the RU6 and better technicalities. While the latter happened to be true, it’s in all likelihood the former which left me disappointed.

It’s however technically excellent and bests the PAW 6000 in that regard as it has natural and organic capabilities the PAW 6000 lacks.

For those who prefer a neutral, natural and organic sound signature as a sources and/or have the IEMs and headphones who would benefit from such a pairing shouldn’t disregard the N6ii x R01 for its age — it’s an exceptional DAP.


Entry #008 | Lotoo PAW 6000 – Part 2


Unboxing & First impressions

Very nice unboxing, classy yet understated, does not feel overdone nor cheap.

The DAP size, shape and weight are excellent, and so is the screen, bundled case, screen protector and cable — a genuine first. It’s also the first time that I find a claim such as “anti fingerprint coating” to be accurate. The button layout is excellent, and so is the ability to customise the previous/next buttons as well as the volume wheel. There’s also the option to double-tap to wake the DAP up — very nice.

Start up time and overall operations are very fast, and so is the microSD card load time which actually happens in real time. The PAW 6000 also came already up to date which is nice. From an UI standpoint, short of the inability to browse by genre (which is frankly preposterous), it’s straightforward as can be and I liked that I could customise some of the UI colours.

Now, one of the likely reasons it’s so fast is that the OS browse by file name. This quickly turned out to be an issue for me as I buy my music from Qobuz and file names come as follow: Disc#_Track#_Artist_Album_Title.
Albeit a minor issue, I didn’t like the looks of it when browsing. The major issue was that the OS listed the tracks as follow: 1, 10, 11, 12, … 2, 3, 4, 5… you get the idea.
Fortunately, this was quickly fixed using mp3Tag to rename my entire library — I’ve put the renaming format string I used in the footnotes (**).

In other topics, I found the battery life to be as advertised after a few days’ worth of use and I haven’t used Bluetooth nor Wifi.


Sound impressions

All of the below are with the PAW 6000 set with the Super slow Roll-off filter.

The PAW 6000 is a musical DAP. However, it’s first and foremost a transparent DAP. Its particularity is that it combines both musicality and technicality. It isn’t, however, a warm DAP.

Pairings will therefore be of particular importance as it will bring out the character of your IEMs and headphones a great deal more than most other DAPs.

With that said, ATE presets — which Deezel described better than anyone here — are quick and very well implemented fixes which will save you the usual thousands of dollars you’ll spend on another DAP which just has this extra hint of bla-bla-bla — sounds familiar?


Pairings

By alphabetical order, starting with IEMs and finishing with headphones

64 Audio U6t (MX module, stock cable, SpinFit tips, LG) — Very close to how it sounds paired with the Cayin RU6 in NOS though slightly less warm and dynamic with mids being less pronounced — something the ATE “Dental” preset can partially alleviate bringing more warmth.

64 Audio U6t (M15 module, stock cable, SpinFit tips, LG) — Brings out more low-end and warmth. Compared to the MX module, this one is more musical and warmer. The PAW 6000’s balance and transparency complements well the intimacy brought by the U6t with the M15 module — my favourite “stock” pairing here.

7Hz Timeless (KB EAR 8 Core Single Crystal Copper UPOCC balanced cable, Final E tips, HG) — Same conclusions as with the 64 Audio U6t (MX module).

Campfire Audio Solaris 2020 (Stock cable, Silicone tips, LG) — The best pairing I’ve heard with the Solaris 2020 although, after a short wow effect, the Solaris still managed to sound a little wonky, especially in comparison to the U6t which have an overall more coherent, natural, tonality.

Drop + JVC HA-FWX1 (Stock cable, Final E tips, HG) — Being a dark and lush IEM, the PAW 6000’s musicality and technicality, together with the Final E tips, makes the most of this IEM.

Audeze LCD-2 Classic (PlusSound Copper balanced cable, HG) — Same conclusions as the Drop + JVC HA-FWX1. The PAW 6000 powered the Audeze LCD-2 Classic effortlessly with some headroom to spare.

Grado RS2e w/G-Cush pads (HG) — Same conclusions as with the 64 Audio U6t (MX module) although the ATE “Dental” preset didn’t solve everything in this case.


Comparisons

All below comparisons were made using the 64 Audio U6t (MX module) and the PAW 6000 set with the Super slow Roll-off filter.

Cayin RU6 (NOS) — The RU6 has slightly more pronounced mids, is more dynamic and warmer. This results in an overall more organic feel.

FiiO M11 Plus LTD (Super slow Roll-off filter) — The M11 Plus LTD is softer, warmer, with a more intimate presentation and narrower soundstage.


Conclusion

Looking back at the stated aims in Part I, what are my conclusions?

As a dedicated, local library, DAP, the PAW 6000 is much more convenient than the FiiO M11 Plus LTD and is technically better which, in some cases, sounds better. However, pairings are trickier with the PAW 6000 if you like something warm — although the ATE “Dental” preset can easily and quickly turn things around. It’s also very close to Cayin RU6’s sound in NOS though, again, the aforementioned preset can considerably help if you like something warmer.

Bottom-line, the PAW 6000 is for those looking for the perfect dedicated DAP, paired with warm IEMs or headphones which aren’t overly transparent nor overly technical — unless you like a transparent sound. Regardless, the PAW 6000 will bring out the true character of your IEMs and headphones and, thanks to its ATE presets, could easily be an all-rounder for some.

(**)  Using mp3Tag, the following format string renames your files into “Disc# – Track# – Artist – Album – Title” as well as renames track numbers into 01, 02, 03, … 09, 10, 11, 12, therefore avoiding the issue mentioned:
num(%TRACK%,2) – %ARTIST% – %TITLE%


🏴‍☠️

Entry #007  | Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

I took a five year High-Res trip and came back to reality
44.1 kHz 16-Bit CD Quality is the new Vinyl
Free yourselves & Your hard drives
Stream less & Buy lossless
(Also, save earth ☀️🌵✌🏼)

Further readings


Entry #006 | Cayin RU6

Short of raw power and holding your music on a dedicated device, the gap in-between DAPs and DAC/Amp dongles has never been so small since the introduction of Lotoo’s PAW S1/2, Luxury & Precision’s W1/2 and, more recently, Cayin’s RU6.

Sound-wise, the RU6 exhibits a level of detail and musicality which is absolutely stunning. I personally prefer it in NOS as I find the OS mode to sound more like a delta-sigma DAC but that’s just me — there’s no wrong choice here.

You’ll have a small interruption/pop every 10 volume steps but it isn’t much of an annoyance and is normal. One can hear EMIs while streaming and wireless equipment around you can also have an impact. These are potentially the only two downsides I found this DAC/Amp dongle to have.

Power draw is similar than via L&P’s W2 which means there’s consequent drain on the battery of an iPhone XR which will impact you if you genuinely need to use your phone during the day.

Since I bought and received Cayin’s RU6 shortly after I got the FiiO M11 Plus LTD, here’s a brief sound comparison. While equally musical, the RU6 set in NOS breathes a bit more, has a bigger soundstage and is more organic and effortless than the M11 Plus LTD.

Unless one specifically seeks a DAP, there’s hardly anything at fault here. Cayin’s RU6 is a safe bet for a high-end DAC/Amp dongle with all the flexibility dongles bring as well as an excellent foray into R-2R sound and technology without breaking the bank.

Headphones: Grado RS2e w/G-Cush pads

IEMs: 64 Audio U6t (MX and M15 module), stock cable, silicone and Spinfit tips | 7Hz Timeless, KB EAR 8 Core Single Crystal Copper UPOCC 4.4mm balanced cable, Final E tips


Entry #005 | 64 Audio U6t

I returned to 64 Audio for two reasons.

The first is comfort. The second is the upgraded cable.

While I didn’t much like the Nio which were too smooth for my tastes, I enjoyed the fact that they were the least tip-dependent IEMs I ever heard.

This allows one to choose their tips based on comfort alone instead of seeking the tips which corresponds to ones’ ear anatomy and tuning preferences.

The upgraded cable was also a must for the brand and, as far as I’m concerned, their new stock cable is a home run.

Now, out of all 64 Audio’s lineup, why the U6t? Well, money for one. It’s tuning also seem to diverge from the Nio, leaning towards a more detailed sound while retaining some of the Nio’s organic tone. It’s also an all-BA IEM which, together with planars, I seem to prefer for IEMs. Moreover, they look stunning and are, to me, the best looking IEMs of 64 Audio’s entire lineup.

So how do they sound (with different modules)? Effortless (across the three modules), intimate (across the three modules but especially with the M15 and M20 modules), musical and organic with a superb tonality (across the three modules) while retaining a good amount of detail, layering, texture and soundstage (three attributes which are increasing from the M20 module onwards).

While I never heard the U12t to which the U6t are often compared, I had the Sony IER-M9 which have been described as being technically superior though a bit boring in comparison. I don’t recall a major difference in terms of technicalities and almost certainly not with the MX module. In terms of dynamics and overall musical engagement, however, the U6t are clearly the best of the two, without a shadow of a doubt.

If you crave a good amount of low-end rumble, you won’t be disappointed with the stock M15 module — and this is directly coming from the 7Hz Timeless. The mids straddle that line where there’s enough grit where there should be in order to convey emotions without being all in, all of the time. The highs are absolutely wonderful and I haven’t come across a single track where things got uncomfortable in spite of throwing a few tough ones at it. Last but not least, I find the soundstage to be excellent with particularly good stereo imaging; something which I tend to prefer over something grandiose as it often ends-up sounding wonky to my ears.

With the MX module, things will breath a bit more and you’ll likely hear a bit more details as well as a more extended soundstage with a slightly less intimate and less forgiving presentation. The biggest and genuine surprise, especially compared to the Nio, was that I expected to loose too much low-end moving from the M15 to MX module for my tastes. Not at all. Yes, there’s slightly less low-end letting the mids and soundstage shine a bit more, but the low-end remains excellent and very much present.

Last, but not least, how do they compare to the below 7Hz Timeless? The U6t (with MX module) are more intimate, have a narrower soundstage and are thicker, warmer yet less congested. Comfort and fit are further increased thanks to the U6t’s size and apex module although the Timeless are extremely well vented IEMs. The U6t sound like IEMs, the Timeless like headphones. Both are extremely coherent. Texture and tonality are slightly in favour of the Timeless and U6t, respectively.

Aside the new cable, tip holder wheel and selection, leatherette case, excellent fit and finish (and we’re talking B-Stock here), apex modules and LID; if the idea of IEMs which are effortless, intimate, musical and organic, with a superb tonality, excellent and balanced amount of detail, layering, texture as well as soundstage — give the U6t a try (but I’m keeping mine)!

Cable: stock
Tips: silicone and Spinfit
Sources: Cayin RU6 (NOS | FiiO M11 Plus LTD (Super Slow Roll-off)


Entry #004 | 7Hz Timeless

In a hobby where spending above $1500 for IEMs can be considered “normal”, the idea of IEMs costing 6 times less while being 2 times better might be a tough pill to swallow. And yet… here we are.

As of this writing, I’d be hard pressed to recommend anything else to anyone looking for the best price:performance ratio.

So what makes these IEMs so compelling? And are there any reasons not to get them? Let’s start with what you don’t want to hear.

Comfort and fit. There are multiple reasons for which one can find a pair of IEMs uncomfortable: nozzle angle, length, width and all associated issues with finding the right tips, shell shape and size and, last but not least, poor venting which results in too much pressure into one’s ear canal.

While I personally had to let go of IEMs I loved in terms of sound due to most if not all of the aforementioned issues; the Timeless are one of the most comfortable pair of IEMs I ever had.

In terms of reason(s) not to get them, this is it as far as I’m concerned. Just bear in mind that you might be faced with a similar dilemma with IEMs at any price point.

Now, the 7Hz Timeless defy so many aspects and notions of this hobby that it’s hard to know where to start, or finish for that matter. Accordingly, I’ll give you 3 reasons why I find these IEMs to be so incredible.

1. They sound like headphones.

Compared to my Audeze LCD-2 Classic, there are some differences but, frankly, the weight of the Audeze is likely the main difference you’re going to notice and remember.

2. They’re well-tuned planar magnetic IEMs.

Three things are important here: “well-tuned”, “planar magnetic” and “IEMs”.

Planar magnetic IEMs are notoriously difficult to tune, even for companies specialising in planar magnetic headphones and IEMs. It’s also a type of driver which presents the listener with an amount of detail and texture in an effortless manner which I am yet to hear from other drivers. Whether you like classical music and are moved by strings, or you prefer the deep rumbles of modern music; planars will deliver in spades. Accordingly, having the above in an IEM form-factor is simply amazing.

3. They’re (one of) the best IEMs out there from a price:performance ratio.

In this hobby, the law of diminishing return can hit really hard. While you’ll likely end-up with a good or very good product at around $1000, this is not always the case and there’s no guarantee. Moreover, the higher you go, the smaller the perceived benefits will be. With the Timeless, it’s as if 7Hz turned the audiophile’s law of diminishing return upside down.

Let’s be blunt: if a well-known western company would have released the Timeless at $999, many would have heralded the Timeless as the masterpiece that it is today in its own right.

Tips: Final E
Cable: KB EAR 8 Core Single Crystal Copper UPOCC 4.4mm balanced cable
Sources in order of preference: Cayin RU6 (NOS) | Luxury & Precision W1 (NOS) | FiiO M11 Plus LTD (Super Slow Roll-off)


Entry #003 | On filters

While doing some research on DAC filters, I stumbled on a write-up by Tomonori Sato, “Audio Meister” at the Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation, manufacturer of the renowned AKM DAC chipsets.

Although I’d recommend you read the whole piece (Direct link | PDF), two things stood out in particular.

The first is a table listing the filter names by sound types together with useful remarks (see below).

The second is best quoted in its entirety in order for you to make the most of it:

The availability of six different types of digital filters leads to a common question: “which filter is the best?” Sound quality is subjective, so there is no definitive answer. As an example, I’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate our digital filters to many customers and AKM engineers all over the world and have noticed regional trends with respect to sound quality preferences. Listeners in Asia tend to prefer the sharp roll-off filter and the slow roll-off filter, while customers in Europe and the Americas seem to like the short delay, sharp roll-off filter

… I’ve tried to find explanations for these regional preferences. Perhaps the characteristics of the language spoken by the listener have an influence. Maybe those who speak a language requiring a high sensitivity to consonant sounds, such as English or German, prefer the short delay and sharp roll off filter, with no pre-echo, and those speaking Asian languages (e.g., Japanese or Korean), with more sensitivity to vowel sounds, tend to prefer the sharp roll off or slow roll off filter.

Now, I know from personal experience that I prefer a “Super Slow Roll-off” or “Slow Roll-off” filter. A blind test with my better half during which “Slow Roll-off”, “Short Delay Sharp Roll-off”, “Super Slow Roll-off” and “Low dispersion” filters were used in this order on the FiiO M11 Plus LTD resulted in her picking the “Super Slow Roll-off” first and “Slow Roll-off” second, without hesitation. (*)

Through various forms of entertainment and work, both of us are frequently exposed to a language which requires a high sensitivity to consonant sounds although our mother tongue requires more sensitivity to vowel sounds — which seems to confirm Mr. Sato’s hypothesis in our case.

With this in mind, you might want to try different filters should you have a DAC which allows for it.

If you do so, just remember Mr. Sato’s words: “let your ears be the judge.”

Mine say “Super Slow Roll-off”.

(*) Via the Grado RS2e w/G-Cush pads, using the same 30s portion from a 24-Bit 48.0 kHz track


Entry #002 | Lotoo PAW 6000 – Part 1

Two to three years after its release, the Lotoo PAW 6000 still sells for a hefty price tag which hasn’t budged since its official release.

In 2022, many will see a DAP with no internal memory, no streaming capability and an old, single, AKM 4493 DAC chipset. Others will see a DAP with a good battery life, size, weight, screen, UI, EQ, implementation, decently-powered single-ended and balanced outputs, low noise floor as all as a bundled case.

I belong to that second category.

I’ve been curating a local, digital, music collection for the past few years and have been missing a dedicated DAP with a simple, straightforward, UI allowing me to concentrate on one thing and one thing only: music.

Streaming is, let’s say, convenient — especially in order to discover music or ensure you really like something. However, I cannot but feel that it’s ephemeral and cannot relate to it as much as I can with my own collection. Think — and I’m going on a limb here — your Vinyl collection versus radio, albeit on demand.

What could go wrong?

A roundup of the Lotoo PAW 6000’s reviews from the usual suspects (*) reveal a tuning most consider neutral/musical-natural-warm, all the while retaining technical capabilities. In other places such as on Head-Fi, one can pretty much read everything and its opposite — as usual.

Bear in mind that, while writing these lines and the ones just above, the Lotoo PAW 6000 is yet to arrive in my hands.

While this will avoid any bias for this introductory piece; it goes without saying that Part 2 will be written after I’ll receive and hear it.

So, what could go wrong?

Simply put, if the balance tilts too much towards the neutral and not enough towards the musical-natural-warm, I might not like it.

Moreover, if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t pair well with my favourite IEMs (64 Audio’s U6t w/MX module) or headphones (Grado’s RS2e w/G-Cush pads); I will be disappointed.

I’ll also compare it to Cayin’s RU6 R-2R DAC/Amp dongle in NOS mode (my favourite source as of this moment) and FiiO’s M11 Plus LTD.

For its price, I will have to prefer the PAW 6000 to the FiiO (both in terms of device and sound) and it’ll have to be very close to, if not on par with, Cayin’s RU6 in NOS, in spite of their technological differences.

A tough ask? Perhaps — we’ll see.

For now, time for you and I to wait 👻

(*) Sources: Audio Discourse, Audiophile Heaven, Headfonia, Headfonics, The Headphone List, Twister6 and Wyville


Entry #001 | Succession

Let’s kick-off the year with some Music, shall we? I mean, it’s the reason you’re here, right? Right 😉

Written by New York-based composer Nicholas Britell, the soundtrack for the first season of HBO’s acclaimed TV Show Succession is a marvel. A true modern classic, in every sense of the term.

No wonder it won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music in 2019.

Enjoy!


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