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.