Saturday, December 7, 2013

Congratulate Me...!

My end game Audio Nirvana Setup is complete now! :D 

Home HIFI 1 (Primary)

Computer / Asus STX Sound Card SPDIF out -> 
SPDIF Splitter -> 
Asus Essence One Muses Edition DAC -> Hybrid Tube Headphone Amp/Pre "Project Ember" -> 
AVI ADM 9RS 2.0 Active Bookshelves with 6.5" Drivers (325 wpc)

Home HIFI 2 (Secondary)

Computer / Asus STX Sound Card SPDIF out -> 
SPDIF Splitter -> 
AVI ADM built in DAC/Pre / AVI ADM 9RS 2.0 Active Bookshelves with 6.5" Drivers (325 wpc)

Home Headphone HIFI 1 (Primary)

Computer / Asus STX Sound Card SPDIF out -> 
SPDIF Splitter -> 
Asus Essence One Muses Edition -> Hybrid Tube Headphone Amp/Pre "Project Ember" -> 
MX Headphone Cable Extension 25ft -> 
Sennheiser HD 650

Home Headphone HIFI 2 (Secondary)

Computer / Asus STX Sound Card SPDIF out -> 
SPDIF Splitter -> 
Asus Essence One Muses Edition -> 
MX Headphone Cable Extension 25ft -> 
Sennheiser HD 650

SPEAKERS (on Wall mounts supplied by Magma)
AVI ADM 9RS 2.0 Active Bookshelves with 6.5" Drivers (325 wpc)

HOME HEADPHONES (Headphone stand bought by
Sennheiser HD 650

Asus Essence One Muses Edition (Primary)

AVI ADM 9RS Built-in DAC (Secondary, it is in the same league as my primary DAC, worse in some ways but better in many ways as well, however, it doesn't suit my personal sound signature as much, despite being exceptional in technicalities and easily being worth more than half the price of the speakers itself!)

Asus STX (Stand-by/By product)

Motherboard built-in (Stand-by/By product)

HEADPHONE AMPs/PREs Hybrid Tube Headphone Amp/Pre "Project Ember" (Primary)

Asus Essence One Muses Edition built in (Again, comparable to my primary amp, and better/worse in some ways, just that I prefer the tube sound of my other amp :))

Asus STX (Stand-by/By product)

Bought over 25, mostly through including some really nice/expensive ones but at good bargain prices!

Nothing exotic, regular stuff: Belkin and MX mostly

Mostly WAV/FLAC with occasional MP3s (mostly 320 Kbps) / YouTube

Asus STX (Works nicely for that, so is definitely worth having in the setup!)


Netbook / Ipad / Iphone ->
FiiO E12 (Coming Soon) ->
HD 598 with a handmade cable of more than 1m which ends in 3.5mm


Active Speakers : AVI ADM 9RS  
Bought from AV Nirvana India (Mumbai) (Through Rajdeep)

Headphone : Sennheiser HD 650 (Home) / Sennheiser HD 598 (Portable)
Bought from

Hybrid Tube Headphone AMP/PRE : Project Ember
Bought from / Can also be bought directly from the website via
US Made and Comes with 3 years Warranty
Customer service is top notch!

DAC : Asus Essence One Muses Edition
Bought from SMC International (Nehru Place - New Delhi) via Rashi Peripherals via Asus India (SMC Agent - Dilip
Bought from Faheem

SPDIF Splitter : Generic from

Bought locally and through Rajdeep (AV Nirvana India)

Portable Headphone Amp : FiiO E12
Importing from USA through my Mamu,

Portable HD 598 Mini Cable Handmade

Wall mount
Magma Ali / Sound Foundations http://www.SoundFoundations.In/

Headphone Stand
Faheem /

Over 25+, mostly NOS and many really good ones, mostly through

Thank You so much in sharing my moments of bliss! :) People in Delhi are invited (everybody) to come over to my place if they wish to listen to my setup, I would love it :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Asus Essence One Muses Edition Impressions

Asus Essence One Muses Edition Impressions
PC – USB – Asus Essence One Muses – Project Ember – AVI ADM 9RS / Sennheiser HD 650
PC – SPDIF – AVI ADM 9RS via Internal DAC
Asus STX – Project Ember – AVI ADM 9RS / Sennheiser HD 650
The Muses Edition is a huge improvement over the other two setups above.
Pros over AVI DAC / STX DAC: (Also, AVI DAC >>> STX DAC)
Way more articulate, not even close, a night and day difference
Far more spacious, wider, deeper, taller
Far more natural and lively without being bright
Far more rich, detailed as well as lush
Immerses you in the music and makes you want to dance, unlike the other setups which are more analytical but not as good in the above ways.
Imaging is much better
Dynamics are better
Cons over AVI DAC:
Not as transparent or clean
I prefer the Muses to the AVI dac by a huge shot, not even a comparison, especially for the mids and sound stage and because it actually sounds like music with emotion and depth!
With HD 650:
It feels as if the music is floating around my head rather than just sitting over there.
Imaging and dynamics are better as I said above.
Melting delicious sound presentation
More balanced yet better all around
Above pros as well
No cons over STX DAC
Not tried much, just for a few seconds. Sounded very good, but not in the same league as the DAC. My Ember sounded slightly better but I haven’t tried the amp much anyway! So can’t really say…
It doesn’t sound sterile or dead like the other setups. It sounds like music and real, something which immerses you.
The AVI DAC is very good, but not in the same league as this DAC (though it is more transparent and cleaner).
This DAC sounds rich and lush while being powerful and articulate.
The bass isn’t as prominent as the AVI DAC which isn’t bass heavy either.
I never got the WOW effect, not even when I went from Aktimates to AVI ADM, or from Bravo to Ember, and both above are night and day upgrades. But this upgrade gave me the WOW effect that was I missing all along. Now my setup feels complete and truly end game without any upgrade itch in me. Don’t get me wrong, AVI ADM and HD 650 and Project Ember are all excellent at their price points and work exceptionally, but I was probably missing the Source I needed and this Source brings out the best within all my devices/setup and makes them really sing.
With Muses, HD 650 sounds like a flagship headphone, not as detailed as the HD 800, but definitely truly end game and the sound presentation is to die for!

Monday, November 4, 2013

ADM AVI 9RS Mini Review

ADM AVI 9RS Mini Review
ADM AVI 9RS on custom desktop stands
Surround and sub duty by Swan M50W 2.1
DAC / Preamp Setup 1 : Asus STX, Project Ember by
DAC Setup 2 : AVI Built in DAC
Aktimate Micro Asus STX Swan M50W Project Ember
Aktimate Mini+ Asus STX Swan M50W
Swan H5 Asus STX Swan M50W
Sennheiser HD 650 Project Ember Asus STX
Sennheiser HD 598 iPad 3 iPhone 4s
HD 650 has been properly amped by Project Ember which is an amp comparable to Schiit Lyr, Graham Slee, Lehmann BCL etc. I have also tried it with Beta22, so I know how HD 650 sounds.
I still believe that HD 650 are awesome headphones, just that AVI is a step up from them, while still a step below HD 800.
Initially, I was disappointed not having heard any speakers for the last few days except my Sennheiser HD 650 setup. But now that the speakers are slightly burned in, I am used to it and tried my HD 650 setup again, I can easily say that ADM AVI 9RS trumps my HD 650 setup. I don’t even want to compare it to Aktimates because they seem unlistenable after hearing to AVIs for a few days.
Don’t get me wrong, from a value for money perspective, Aktimates are still the best there is, but if you can afford ADM AVI then there isn’t much of a contest really.
After listening for a while on my AVIs I went back to my HD 598s and they sounded muddy and distorted in comparison. And they used to seem like heaven compared to my Aktimates. They were a huge step up from my Aktimates and now they are nearly unlistenable.
HD 650 is still much better than HD 598 now, which I didn’t appreciate as much earlier. HD 650 is comparable to AVIs but AVIs are better in many respects and often by a significant margin, so you can perhaps call them LCD2 territory. As AVIs aren’t as resolving of details as HD 800. I have listened to both HD 800 and LCDs properly amped.
I still believe that HD 650 are awesome headphones, just that AVI is a step up from them, while still a step below HD 800.
HD 650 and AVI both are mid centric setups. AVI has clearer mids by some margin I guess. However, HD 650 has thicker vocals. I would give this one to AVI.
HD 650 has more bass, but AVI has tighter and sharper bass. Both are very good but again AVI is more audiophile like.
Both are very good, but AVI seems at least as good if not better.
AVI is clearer and sharper here, HD 650 is more natural but sounds muddy in comparison.
AVI is better than anything I have heard before for stereo, including HD 650.
AVI is a step up. As transparent as it gets. Though I don’t find HD 650 veiled either with my amp, but AVI is just better.
AVI is wider, deeper and taller.
Not even a contest, AVI hands down.
AVI wins.
AVI is cleaner, clearer, more transparent though not sure whether it is more resolving or not, perhaps about equal, the two of them, not sure though.
HD 650 is excellent but AVI is just better but both are very listenable :)
I still believe that HD 650 are awesome headphones, just that AVI is a step up from them, while still a step below HD 800.
HD 650 is better than cinema grade sound I would say, but AVI takes it a bit further with being more refined.
I have only tried with my Preamp so far.
With the inbuilt DAC (and not my preamp): It sounds slightly cleaner, but slightly less lively. Though the two are very close. However, without inbuilt DAC/without preamp, it doesn’t sound as good as I described it above, then it sounds a step below the above description.
And AVIs are not analytical at all, they are musical, perhaps not as much as HD 650, not sure about it, but definitely very musical and resolving, very transparent as well.
Thank You


In short, HD 650 and AVI ADM9RS are very close to each other in overall performance with AVI may be being a bit better overall, in several aspects that too. But both are very comparable.

HD 650 is definitely lusher, sweeter and more musical though. Though there are lots of place where AVIs are very close or better than them :)

I prefer to listen to AVI over HD 650 unlike with Aktimates where I never listened to them and spent time only with HD 650 :D

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sennheiser HD 650 Mini Review

Hi guys.

HD 650 made in 2013.

Setups I have tried HD 650 with
DIY Dac -> Beta22 3ch upgraded -> HD 650
DIY Dac -> Project Ember -> HD 650
Asus STX -> HD 650

Primary Setup
Asus STX DAC -> Project Ember -> HD 650

Project Ember Settings
High Gain
Input Capacitors Bypassed
Low Output Resistance

Tubes tried with Project Ember
RCA 12AT7 Black Plates NOS
Siemens 6922 NOS
Telefunken 12AU7
RCA ClearTop 12AU7

Other Headphones I have listened to
HD 800
HD 598
HD 518
RS 180
RS 170
HD 439
Pioneer SE A1000

Other Amps I have listened to
Lehmann BCL
Asus STX
Bravo Ocean
Lyrita Preamp

Other DACs I have listened to
Asus STX
DIY dac Ad Labs
Asus DX
Motherboard onboard
Iphone 4S
Ipad 3

Brief Impressions of HD 650
It is a dark sounding, smooth, laid back yet high resolution headphone which is engaging enough to listen to hours at a time while being mid centric with a mid bass hump. The deep, tall and engaging soundstage is a good point as well.

Rating Expained
5 - Excellent / Very Good
4 - Decent for the price/taste/sound signature
3 - Passable for the price/taste/sound signature
2 - Not acceptable for most
1- Horrible, deal breaker

Mids 5
Lush, crisp, slightly forward, reasonably articulate.

Lushness 5
Really lush and sweet unless you try off the STX amp of course. Crisp with the Ember while being rich.

Bass Quantity 4
Needs heavy amping to get the right amount of bass. With a certain tube on Ember it is 4.5 and with Beta22 it is 5. Mid-fi amps don't do full justice but ensure an enjoyable experience.

Bass Quality 5
Ember and Beta22 both do a good job in getting out quality, tight bass.

Treble 4
There is less treble than what a neutral setup should have. However, it is acceptable considering LCD2 off Beta22 was worse as in darker! HD 598 is better in this respect but doesn't sound better overall.

Tonal Balance 3.5
I prefer the tonal balance of RS 180 as my perfect tonal balance, but the HD 650 is superior in all respects and I don't really miss the RS 180 too much though I still own it :) The sub bass is a bit less, mid bass needs heavy amping, and the headphone is dark instead of neutral like HD 600.

Soundstage Width 3
As we all know at this price, most other headphones have better soundstage width.

Soundstage Height 5
Better than the width. Better than the HD 598 I think.

Soundstage Depth 5
Much better than any other headphone I have tried except HD 800.

Soundstage Overall 4.5
Pretty nice for a yesteryear flagship.

Imaging 4
Good, perhaps not as good as K702, not fully sure, but reasonably good, no issues here.

Comfort 5
Comfortable for long hours after the initial opening up of the headphone.

Clarity 4
Not sharp like a K702 but definitely better than HD 598.

Articulate 5
Articulate enough for the price. Not as good as LCD2 but that is twice the price. HD 800 is a definite step up though.

Engaging 5
Very engaging to listen to hours on an end.

Non-Fatiguing 5

The So Called Veil
I didn't find it on the Beta22 at all. On Ember I sometimes feel it, sometimes I don't. It is pretty good with Ember, though perhaps zero veil at all times, though. Not a deal breaker though. However, with a preamp phono with headphone out it did have a veil. So it does need heavy amping. Anything less than $200-500 on the amp and you will probably feel veil, and even then it won't disappear completely.
However, with Project Ember it is enjoyable and very often there is no veil.

Dark Sound
With RCA Black Plates 12AT7 it is darker, so the veil seems more present. With brighter tubes like Telefunken 12AU7 or brighter still RCA Clear Top 12AU7, the veil is less present and the tonal balance is more neutral. On the other hand, it sounded the warmest/darkest with the Beta22 but with no trace of the veil.
I recommend a bright amp with the HD 650 or a ultra high end neutral Amp. So if you choose a tube amp make sure that it uses a bright tube.

Low Volume Listening
Not ideal for low volume listening, especially because of the slight veil and HD 650 nature. However, moderate and loud volumes are very enjoyable. However, when I say moderate, that is probably low for most people. So this isn't a deal breaker for anybody, trust me. You will be fine! :)

It is an all rounder headphone though some people may not like it because of its dark nature. However, with the right amping, most people will get used to it. It definitely scales very well with an amp.


Monday, September 16, 2013 Project Ember Initial Impressions

Hi guys,

Just received my amp today, the tube is brand new as well. No burning done so far. And used only as a preamp so far, not even tried any headphone :)

Aktimate Micro powered speakers
Swan M50W 2.1ch speakers
Asus Essence STX DAC

Out of the box, default settings with the Siemens 12AU7 tube (same tube that I was using with my Bravo Ocean):
A little warm for my taste but some improvement over the Bravo. Noticeable out of the box. But I didn't spend too much time on this setting.

I changed Output to Low, Input Gain to High, bypassed Input capacitors and then tried again with the same tube:
Again, some more improvement over the previous combination. Not night and day over the previous setting, but again, I didn't spend too much time and it did seem less warm, louder and more to my taste.

Then I tried the Philips USA 6DJ8 tube with the new settings itself:
This was a significant improvement over the previous tube. Much better. Clearer, cleaner. Better pass, better in every way. I didn't listen too long but many would call this a substantial jump considering you don't expect the lyrics to change in the audiophile world :P

Then I finally settled on the Siemens 6922 with the same new settings:
Again, a noticeable jump in performance over the previous tube. Bass did become less tight and somewhat muddy in comparison to the Philips. However, for non bassy parts, it is cleaner, sharper and clearer. Seems more lively and dynamic as well. I might go back to the Philips later but for now I seem to have settled on the Siemens 6922, at least for the time being.

Changing the tube makes a hell lot of difference. Perhaps somewhat less than with the Bravo Ocean if you really ask me, not quite sure about it.

However, it does make a very significant difference to the extent that you might like an amp with one tube and dislike it with some other tube.

Especially, when you change the family, the difference is even more pronounced. And the tubes I tried from 6DJ8 and 6922 pawned the best tubes of the 12AU7 family :)

Compared to the Bravo, with the final setting and tube:
Much cleaner, much clearer, better bass response, better treble I think, much more hifi, a huge difference if you pay attention to details and listen for a few hours. Unlikely that you will want to go back after a couple of hours I think. Though, it has barely been 30 minute for me but the clean clear sound has already won me over :D

Far more dynamic and lively over the Bravo as well.

But of course, to somebody with less finicky ears, the difference might be barely noticeable. But for audiophile ears, the difference is significant, just less than night and day I would say. But then again, to each his own.

You do end up with diminishing returns, so provided you have the dough without being clinched, it should be a decent boost in sound quality.

Mids: Much more articulate. I can clearly make sound lyrics I couldn't before. It is much closer to cinema/hi-fi compared to the Bravo. Again, the difference won't bring you to the moon, but it is rather significant if you pay attention to details and articulation.

Details: A decent jump over the Bravo. Not night and day but perhaps I will know better with time.

Bass: 6DJ8 and 6922 families give much better bass response, at least the tubes I tried, and these families are not compatible with Bravo. Those 12AU7 tubes which have similar bass response lose in other areas, so this is a very clear win for the Ember by a long short.

Treble: Much more realistic and natural compared to the Bravo Ocean. Not a night and day jump, but a huge jump I think. Much cleaner and a bit sharper. Far better at realism. This is without burning in!

Dynamics: A night and day jump. Not even a comparison. Far more lively and realistic out of the Project Ember.

Realism: Project Ember is significantly more hi-fi and cinema like. Far more natural.

Soundstage Width: A decent jump, maybe huge or at least noticeable, not sure about the extent of the difference. But it is better for sure. Wider and more realistic.

Soundstage Depth: A night and day difference. It is far more profound and natural. Deep voices which engage you!

Imaging: Not too much difference, some difference, perhaps a bit noticeable. But not too big a difference out of the box at least. Definitely more balanced without channel imbalance and stuff, a bit more natural, but not as good as what I can get without any preamp in the chain.

Clarity: A huge jump in terms of clearness and cleanness. The PRAT is better as well I think. It is speedier when required but in a natural way. The PRAT isn't night and day difference, but not nil either I think.

Volume: The Bravo Ocean is much louder than the Project Ember with high gain. Night and day louder, the Bravo Ocean is.

Most significant differences over Bravo Ocean:

No channel imbalance like in Bravo Ocean
Much much clearer and cleaner
More dynamic and realistic
A huge difference in articulation and mids
Many more differences, lots more, which really matter, but the above is what will really matter to you out of the box to the most extent.

And the tube/tube family/brand within the same family make a huge difference even with the Bravo Ocean, and also with Project Ember. It is enough for you to like or hate the amp based on the tube used. It is rather significant. Changing the tube is like trying another amp which is similar but different at the same time.

Would I call it a worth it upgrade over the Bravo Ocean for the price difference I paid?

I got my Bravo Ocean new with 1 year warranty shipped to my country including customs etc for less than USD 100.
Project Ember cost me nearly $550

Is the difference worth it?

If you can afford it and have the money to spend this much on a preamp, then yes, it is worth it, provided you have audiophile ears and can appreciate minor nuances and changes.

Is it worth it for every Tom Dick and Harry who finds Bose better than Sony?

NO, the difference isn't as large. But it is huge for most audiophiles, considering people spend 1000s+ on a single equipment, this is definitely worth what I paid, provided money isn't an issue for you :)

PS: I am not reviewing Bravo Ocean with Project Ember. Just trying to point the differences as these are the only two full sized desktop amps I have owned. They are in different price brackets and of course Project Ember is much better. But how much better? I try to answer that!

Thank You

Read more:


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Aktimate Mini+ v/s Aktimate Micro v/s Swan H5 v/s Audioengine A5 REVIEW

Aktimate Mini+ v/s Aktimate Micro v/s Swan H5 v/s Audioengine A5

The first ever review in the world which puts these four legends to test in the same environment by the same reviewer.

All these are 2.0 systems.

Test Bed:
Asus STX
Auralex Mopads

None of the speakers were burned in except AE5 because I needed to ensure that they were within the return window. So only a couple of hours of burn in for the rest.

Aktimate Mini+


Relatively flat

Forward with forward mids

Most clear and with the most prat

Thin, clean and analytical sound

Needless to say, one of the only truly HiFi powered loudspeakers which delivers crystal clear sound with a high index of prat. Supreme clarity, thin analytical sound with a huge soundstage. Neutral to slightly forward. One of the best deals in the sub $1000 US market.

Swan H5

Most musical

Sweet mids

With the least prat

Most depth in the sound

Most weighty and powerful sound

Very warm and sweet sounding monitors which may not suit everybody's taste but are still a big step down from Aktimate speakers.

Aktimate Micro

Not in the same league as Mini+ but performs like a speaker half or even one third of Mini+

A step down from Mini+, much smaller and often cheaper.

Audioengine A5

Neutral and flat but relatively warm as compared to Aktimates. Much lower than Micro. But has more weight to its sound than Micro and more depth than Mini+.

Popular desktop loudspeakers which ruled the roast before Aktimates came in.


Mini+ - Tight, thumpy, controlled bass which doesn't bleed into mids

H5 - Punchy, heavy weight bass which removes the need for a separate sub woofer. Slightly thumpy but not as tight and controlled.

A5 - Similar to Mini+ in quantity but much lower in quality. Not thumpy. Not as tight. A bit boomy as well compared to the above.

Micro - Barely any bass, though it is tighter than A5 and more controlled. But the quantity is far from sufficient.

H5/Mini+ > A5 > Micro


Mini+ - Neutral and flat. Pretty good.

H5 - Somewhat harsh. Also, the speaker is extremely dark sounding.

Micro - A step down from Mini+. Not as strong in highs but pretty good.

A5 - Between Aktimate and Swan in terms of brightness. Closer to Aktimate but nowhere near as good.

Mini+ > Micro > A5 > H5

Mids/Vocals without eq:

Mini+ - Neutral natural, cinema hi fi like vocals. Crisp, clean and clear. Forward mids

H5 - Recessed mids which sound bloated and overly dark.

Micro - Similar to Mini+ but a big step down in all respects without the hifi/cinema air. Neutral.

A5 - Relatively muddy but neutral.

Mini+ > Micro > H5 > A5

Mids/Vocals with eq inc treble eq:

Mini+ - No treble boost needed. Perfect.

H5 - Excellent but a bit too bright if they need to be made like able. Ear fatiguing else too dark without eq. Unable to find a suitable balance.

Micro - Clarity is almost as good as H5 without the depth etc. EQ not needed.

A5 - Tolerable compared to the rest but deep sounding as compared to Micro or even Mini+.

Mini+ > Micro > H5 > A5

Soundstage Width

Aktimate Mini+ > Micro/A5 > H5

With Mini+ the speakers disappear. Difficult to compare Micro to A5 without more time on my hands. H5 being a studio monitor is more fussy for me.

Soundstage Depth

H5 > A5 > Mini+ > Micro


Swan H5 is a step above the rest here. The difference to the others is huge so difficult to compare.

Clarity and Sharpness

Hands down winner Aktimate Mini+. Aktimate Mini+ competes with several a few times as expensive whereas swan can't even stand a chance in front of aktimate here,

Micro is a distant second and H5 is a distant third.

Mini+ > Micro > H5 > A5


Aktimate Mini+ is the hands down winner. Not even a contest.

Mini+ > Micro > H5 > A5

Listening Sweet Spot

Aktimate Mini+ is the best.

Mini+ > Micro > A5 > H5

Low volume listening feasibility

Mini+ > Swan H5 > Micro > A5


A5 > Mini+ > H5 > Micro

Mini+ is fairly priced within $1000. The Swan is fairly priced if you like its sound signature which probably few will, otherwise you won't like it at all. At their current pricing both are a steal provided you like the sound signature, and it is much easier to get it right with Mini+!

Micro has a clearer, slightly tighter/sharper sound than A5 while A5 has more weight and depth to its sound with more bass. I would rate the Micro better than the A5 by about 100% but is also comes down to preference to a significant extent.

Micro is fairly priced at around $500 but that should be the upper limit of its pricing. I would say it should be priced less than half of Mini+ so closer to $400 or less. A5 is overpriced at $400 considering the other options in the market.  But if Micro is $400 then A5 should be more like $250 or so.

Between Mini+ and H5:

Both have their plus and minus points. Aktimate has a thinner voice as compared to Swan's thicker voice. Swan is dark and needs eq for similar clarity due to excess warmth. Aktimate is neutral yet more lively.

Bass and treble are a bit more natural on Swan (yet Swan somehow seems harsh and gives ear fatigue very badly) though while Aktimate is much nicer sounding and to the general taste.

If you like Audioengine sound signature without the muddled and muffled sounds, then Aktimate is better. The H5 is a depart from the sound signature of the previous Swan speakers. So listen to it before buying.

Swan is more musical, albeit slightly, with sweet mids while Aktimate is crisper, clearer, cleaner, faster and pretty much better in every way possible despite its much thinner sound and worse bass!

Mini+ Impressions V/S Other Speakers

Wharfedale 10.1 + Marantz PM6004: I preferred the Mini+ by a long shot because of its more fun sound, faster PRAT and pretty much because of the WOW factor. I have read or heard by at least 3 other people who prefer Mini+ to Wharfedale 10.x with any decently priced amp. The Wharfedale did have more bass impact though.

Monitor Audio MR1 + Marantz PM6004: This is far worse than Wharfedale 10.1. Not even close.

Polk Audio TSI 100 + Entry level Denon amp: Nothing good to say about the Polk.

Polk Audio TSI 300 + Entry level Denon amp: Again, it has more bass, a bigger sound, but really doesn't have passion and musicality of $500-1000 powered speakers. Not even a comparison.

Monitor Audio BX2 + Marantz PM6004: In the same league as Mini+ but still doesn't have the same crisp, transparent and musical sound. It is very good and in the same league. But not to my taste. Though it does cost more than Mini+.

In words of an Anonymous member (Anonymous forums, not literally though, PM me for his details)

Under $1000, Mini+ is an excellent speaker and you really can't beat it by a long shot whether you go passive or active, especially for home use. According to him Adam Audio speakers under $1000 are more accurate but not hugely better for home use. And Genelec's are worse for home use.

Mini+/Mini is a step up from the Swan range including Swan T200B in terms of musicality and for home use. And the MK series are not in the same league.

According to Rajdeep (ADM AVI Dealer for India and a music enthusiast)

Maxi beats:
Monitor Audio Bronze series (with decently priced amps like mid level Marantz or NAD etc)
B&W 6xx series
Quad 11L (He found Aktimate Maxi more dynamic)
Genelec 8030 (Genelec doesn't have very good mids according to him, relatively, that is)
It comes very close to entry level Epos speakers and comes down to preference.

ADM AVI has a similar sound signature but trumps the Maxi is every way and is a huge improvement over it in every regard. However, with a similar sound taste.

Please NOTE: According to people who have tried Mini+ and Maxi
Mini+ is better than Maxi except for quantity of bass or for a bigger sound. Mini+ is faster, tighter, slightly more detailed, has better PRAT, is sharper, has slightly better mids etc. Though they are in a similar league.

Comments I have read on various forums by people who have tried various combinations

Mini/Mini+ is preferred to:
MA RS1 + Rotel amp
Wharfedale 10.1 + Marantz
Polk Audio 30
Usher S520 + Icon amp

Swan VS Audioengine A5

Swan M10 has better mids than A5. But I preferred A5 overall. Swan M50W has better bass as well thanks to the sub but doesn't have the weight A5 has in its sound. But it really comes down to preference between M50W and A5.

Swan MK200MKII is a big step up from A5. Much more powerful, much bigger sound, wider and deeper sound stage. Much better vocals. Just warmer than A5 but better in every other way. And from what I have heard, even entry level Swan bookshelves trump the more expensive A5/A5+ Audioengine speakers.


I am not a sales person. I am an Aktimate lover and music enthusiast and can't praise Aktimate speakers enough :)

Thank You so much for reading this!



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sennheiser HD 598 v/s RS 180 v/s RS 170 Mini Review

Sennheiser HD 598 v/s RS 180 v/s RS 170 Mini Review

I went to the Sennheiser office for demo of their headphones.

I preferred RS 180 in this lot because the sound quality was nearly as good as HD 598 but with more thumping bass and very little difference in clearness and clarity, while being wireless. HD 598 was a bit better but not by much.

RS 180 was significantly better than RS 170. RS 180 has more quality and quality of bass compared to RS 170 even with bass boost enabled. The clarity is better with RS 180. It was deeper and more authoritative and with a much deeper and wider soundstage. It wasn't anywhere close to as loud as RS 170 though. And RS 180 didn't leak much sound, not enough to be heard outside the room. HD 598 did leak much more sound though, still not enough to be heard outside a moderately soundproof room.

I proffered the sound signature of the RS 180 the best. The treble of the RS 170 was better than the RS 180 however the mids were best with HD 598, almost as forward and good with RS180 and slightly worse with RS 170.

All three had forward mids. I tried the RS 180 velour pads on RS 170 and the difference between the two was reduced by 30-40%, the RS170 improved a lot by doing just that. And it was also more comfortable.

In retrospect, I would prefer to buy RS 180 over RS 170. The price difference isn't as much as the difference in quality. The difference is not night and day, but certainly noticeable and very significant. Not worth upgrading at full price unless you can sell the previous can for at least 70-80% of the purchase price though.

I recommend the RS 180 over the RS 170 at current pricing. Surround option is decent but just Dolby Headphone isn't bad either. And RS 180 has better bass quantity and quality than RS 170 anyway, partly due to the velour ear pads though. The HD 598 is like marginally better than RS 180 except for thumping bass but then the bass with everything nearly as good makes the RS 180 a clear winner if you can afford it. Especially since it is wireless.

But all this was with the Lehmann amp which costs about 750 pounds. My Asus STX card doesn't power my RS 170 anywhere close. The difference from the Lehmann amp is nearly night and day with it being far livelier, open, with a bigger soundstage and brighter as well. With an STX card you don't get the same effect with a RS 170. It isn't even close.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Swan M50W 2.1 v/s Audioengine A5 2.0 Review

Swan M50W 2.1 v/s Audioengine A5 2.0 Review

Asus STX sound card
Audioengine A5 2.0 Powered Bookshelves on AE DS2 desktop recliners
Swan M50W 2.1 multimedia speakers on Auralex mopads
The positioning etc wasn't the same because I couldn't manage that. Anyway,
I listened to one set at a time.
Music only

Sound Signature:
Audioengine: Natural, clear and neutral sound. Deeper and more powerful authority sound. Fun sound despite not being colored at all.
Swan: Warm mid forward sound which is noticeably colored to sound better to most consumers. I am not saying that is bad, but it is just the difference between neutral/pro vs hifi/regular speakers, assuming we aren't speaking of quality. However, the sound was relatively thin due to smaller drivers and also less fun sounding once you are used to natural and neutral music. For most newbies however swan might sound better.

No competition. Swan has more quantity and more thump and lfe because of the subwoofer. Audioengine has less quality wise but slightly tighter but not as solid/punchy as Swan due to the sub woofer. The swan sub woofer is better than the polk psw110 I used to have and which costs almost as much as the swan speaker set. Infact I have bought swans primarily for the bass and also for rear surrounds of course. The bass of swan isn't comparable to that found in a disc, it is pretty boomy as well compared to high end subs. But definitely not logitech crap although it doesn't go as loud as them either. But it surely beats logitech and computer speaker subs I guess in quality and texture. It really isn't that thumping though, more like punchy. Some people may prefer Audioengine here though. So depends on choice. Because AE has less quality, but tighter yet lighter and without the lfe though. For movies and even bassy songs I like the swan sub. But then I listen to both sets together usually. So if I had to choose one, it could be difficult.

Audioengine has more powerful deeper yet natural and clean treble. Swan has brighter yet thinner/lighter and crisper treble. Audioengine is way more natural though. I prefer audioengine here.

AE is balanced and neutral. Swans are mid forward but only very slightly which I do like. Some stuff is cleaner/crisper on Swan than on AE which is like.    However AE has deeper and more powerful vocals which are more musical despite being I colored. Swan isn't natural/neutral but still musical, however not as much. I haven't tried movies on swan alone, but I guess if you put the sub on minimum and use the swan for movies, then the swan might be better for crisper and sharper vocals and mids because sometimes vocals sound too recessed on AE since they are natural and neutral. I might prefer swan there if I try it out. So again, both do well here. AE is more powerful and deeper vocals with Swan being better to decipher since they are slightly mid forward.

Swan is better here. The sounds are relatively sharper and cleaner and better to decipher. I don't like this point about AE but the difference isn't huge, it is there but not huge.

AE sounds clear. Swan seems to have some veil to it. AE sounds clear and natural while Swan doesn't sound as good here.

Sound stage and sweet spot:
Audioengine has a deeper soundstage but Swan has a wider soundstage with a much bigger sweet spot.

IMO I find AE to have a wow factor which Swan and even Wharfedales lack. Perhaps their sound is a bit brighter yet warm and colored at the same time. Whereas the AE sounds powerful and natural. However the mids in both swan and wharfedale are sharper and cleaner, so they are a clear win there. But AR is more fun sounding for some reason. But, it is possible that due to the sub etc for movies/games swan might be better.

Also, the swan is not upgradable as it doesn't have an rca out whereas the AE have. Not too big a deal considering splitters are easily available,  but still worth considering.

Also, they don't even come in the same price league nor do they target the same market.

AE costs around Rs30000 whereas Swan is a 2.1 which costs about Rs21000 or so inc sub. I am sure that Swan bookshelves in a comparable range could perhaps easily outdo the AE overall. M50W only has satellites. Not bookshelves.

If you don't have much rear space on your table, at least around 8-12in then it is better to get Swan if you have space for the sub as they are front ported. However purely for music 2.0 bookshelves by AE will probably be better. However, some people may prefer Swan even for music or perhaps find them nearly as good considering they are cheaper and with a sub. For movies/games the swan might win because of the sub, not sure.

Also, Swan are loud. But only for a mid sized or med/large room. They are comfortable at 25-35%+ volume. AE are loud enough for a hall. I listen to them at 10-15% volume. They are much louder. But at loud volumes swan seem more comfortable while AE appears to be screaming because of the powerful and overwhelming sound.

I won't really say which is better as it depends on your needs and preferences. But I prefer audioengine however both are pretty good, especially at what they do.

Also, I have also listened to Swan M10 which just costs Rs8600 or so. It is nearly the same as the M50W in terms of sound except with less quantity of bass and not as powerful bass but bass which is tighter. And it doesn't play as loud but still loud enough for a small to small/med room. Honestly, if bass isn't a priority and nor is the volume, then I would take M10 over M50W any day as they are nearly equally good. Even M10 has more forward and audible mids compared to AE5. For the price I say they are better than AE2 I guess which cost nearly twice as much. I haven't heard AE2 though and I am sure they have their merits as well.

But honestly, nothing comes close to M10 in their price range, not Bose/JBL. And even otherwise, M50W do a nice job in their price range but nowhere close to the VFM of M10.