Friday, February 15, 2008



And some of the phones in regular rotation in preparation...

Update - May 2009.

Ah... If only you could see the number of unfinished 'Draft' posts on this blog. So many reviews ended up this way - the D2, RH1, ESW9, etc etc...

Considering what to do about this blog. In the meanwhile I've cleared out as much of the comment spam as I've been able to find. I wouldn't look for much in the way of headphone updates to be honest with you guys - if anything changes, you'll probably see it here or on Head-Fi first.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I hear you...

...coming to pwn me.

All the gear, no idea. A pic from a while back.

Bose Triport OE (On-Ear) review

The newest Triport headphones from Bose are of a folding On-Ear design, and are intended to address a more mobile user than the older, non-folding Around-Ear Triport. The OE usually commands a price premium over the AE - perhaps unsurprisingly so, given the added accessories and the higher grade of materials used on the phone.

The Triport OE has a contemporary design which is quite smart, if not so successful when actually on the head due to its rather “broad-shouldered” look once the ratcheting headband rails are slightly extended. The phone is a very high quality item in terms of construction. Materials are good with well-chosen plastics, padding in the right places, and cast aluminium alloy used at points of higher stress such as the folding joints.



The cable actually attached to the earcup abruptly ends just half an inch or so from the earcup, terminated in a 3.5mm standard stereo plug. Two extension cords are supplied to plug into this – a short 16” cable for remoted and jacket-pocketed players, and a longer 45” article for more traditional use. The plug is very standard and there is no obstruction to using third-party cables for longer or shorter runs, unlike say Sennheiser’s replaceable cables.


While it’s not a rugged design as such, it feels well made and seems like it will last a while if used properly. The phone folds flat with the cups rotating to a flat position and then folding into the headband. The folding process is an absolute no-brainer. The package is shipped along with a smart, if rather bulky carrying case which holds both the phone and the two extension cords.


Bose quotes no specifications for this phone from what I can see, unlike the older AE’s for which they quote efficiency and impedance. A nominal electrical measurement of the phones reveals them to be a ~54-ohm load (but of course, effective impedance usually changes over the frequency response of a phone and I’m not equipped to measure that). They seem pretty efficient, delivering decent levels of sound from reasonable volume settings on most portables.

The phone has an unusual design for the ear cushions which effectively seals the driver to the ear, and this is one aspect of why the phone has a high degree of isolation for something so compact.


This has certain sonic implications we’ll look at later. While it doesn’t keep out as much noise as in-ear monitors the level of isolation on offer is very usable, and would be ideal for most commutes.

As you can see, the Triport OE is notably more compact than the Triport AE, and is clearly better suited for the regular traveller.


And the big achievement is perhaps that Bose have managed to isolate a phone pretty well, have it as a compact on-ear design yet have it remain pretty comfortable. The key is the relatively low pressure exerted on the ears and how the oval cups sit on the ear without creating large areas of point pressure.

A long time ago, some members of Head-fi adopted a phase "Fart Cannon" - a headphone whose bass response was bloated / slow so all bass hits came like a wave of flatulence. While the Sony MDR-V700DJ (a mediocre phone by all yardsticks) was the recipient of the title back then, going straight from the Bose Triport OE to the V700DJ makes the Sony sound like the heights of hi-fi.

You might say "Say it ain't so bangraman, surely it isn't that bad?"
I would say "It is."

I’ve avoided a one-word summary here because it’s worth mentioning just how excessive this phone’s bass is, partly I suspect thanks to the unusual earcup design. And it’s not a tight, well defined large slap of bass. It’s basically audio diarrhoea that's more commonly heard in cheap & nasty car stereo systems.

And because of this, the OE is surely the king of Fart Cannons. Because of the constant assault of this bass, it's also very fatiguing to listen to. I could mention soundstaging, accuracy of the trebles and mids, etc – but it’s pointless. The bass completely dominates the scene the moment something in the mid-bass downwards comes along… which is let’s face it, most music. You’d think, hey, “I’ll slap some classical on and figure out whether this phone can resolve!” – nope, the cellos are low enough to let rip the Fart Cannons and kill any attempt at gauging this phone fairly.

Quoted from the Bose website: “You'll hear deep lows. Clear mids. Sweet highs. Distinct separation of instruments. Try them with your favorite tracks and you just may find nuances you never heard before.”

My response would be: “Bollocks.”

A well designed and well built phone in terms of construction, and one which provides good isolation while retaining excellent comfort for a supraaural closed phone. Add the adjustable cord length and physically it has all the elements of a winner. But of course a headphone’s sole actual purpose is to produce sounds and this is where it falls flat, unless your idea of quality audio is what comes thudding out of a low-rent car tuner’s meeting.

However even if you like bass, and even if you possess an MP3 player that could do with a bit of bass boost (like the iPod), I very much doubt that the Triport OE’s rendition of it will leave you feeling anything but nauseated. I have nothing to say about the sound apart from that - because there are no saving graces. Avoid like the pla… no, I’ve already written that before, and we need to take it up a notch. Avoid like extremely contagious Ebola.

Link: Bose

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sony MDR-710LP review

Recently I was handed as part of a deluge of other gear a pair of MDR-710 headphones. I didn't actually get around to opening it for a few weeks, but closed mini-phones are something that I'm quite keen on. So, with the 710 being targeted squarely at the PX200 and the AKG K26P, I thought I'd give it a go.


In the UK at least, the price for these phones is about the same as the AKG and the Sennheiser competition. The earcup diameter is very similar between these phones with the AKG being the biggest, the Sennheiser being the thinnest and the Sony being somewhere in between with an earcup diameter identical to the PX200 but with a thicker cup assembly.

The phone arrives in a ball, shipped along with a plastic puck-shaped case.


The folding mechanism is easily the most fiddly when comparing between this, the AKG and the Sennheiser. First the bottom part of the phone has to be folded out, then the top bit folded out and the adjusted into position.


Takes a good deal of time longer than the AKG or Sennheiser, and also is fiddlier to hold in an unfolded position, as it doesn't have enough self-support to prevent it from going into an 'auto-strangle' position.


It's not actually a bad phone to look at, and personally I think it has a fresher look than all the miniphones out there bar the Audio-Technica ATH-ES5.

Because of the extensive creases in the earpad cushions, the phone is not able to form a seal around the earlobe like the K26P or the PX200. And it's not just that - there's actually an opening around the area which the earcup pivots whic lets in /out sound. Which means that rather like the Audio-Technica ATH-ES5 I reviewed a long time ago, the earcup assembly is not actually as acoustically closed as the K26P or the PX200. This also means that it leaks sound outwards significantly more than the AKG and Sennheiser competition, although I couldn't call it an offensive level. While the K26P and PX200 are inaudible at normal volumes when my 'test head' is held out at arms length, the MDR-710 was clearly audible.

A weekend's burn-in being over, I stuck them on my head. I went outside, started walking, cued up Diana Krall's Night In Paris album on the NW-E005 and pressed Play. I didn't even get to the opening cymbals before I made a face. The audience clapping at the start had a dreadful, enclosed tin-can aspect. This is 'closed phone honk' at it's worst. The phone delivers the usual musical frequency range without problems but the treble takes a back seat while the 'tin-can' midrange and the bloated lows take centre stage. The soundstaging is not bad with a fairly spacious feel to the sound, but the overt roughness which is spread throughout the frequency range has an odd 'downsamping' effect, where the song feels like a lower bitrate than it is actually recorded at.

Pros in comparison to PX200 / K26P:
Looks - Rather "90's Japanese Mecha-Anime". Just the sort of headphones the partially armoured, large-gun-toting scantily clad schoolgirl about town might wear. The PX200 has dated and the K26P looks rather bulbous.

Cons in comparison to PX200 / K26P:
Less isolation, more leakage, heavier than the PX200 with no higher potential durability, lower quality sound, more fiddly to fold/unfold, less practical folded form factor, one year less manufacturer's warranty.


You know, what with some products recently I'd hoped that with the MDR-710 Sony might be making a worthy competitor to address the PX200, a phone that's proved very successful for Sennheiser. Alas, the ball remains dropped. No doubt by dint of their still considerable marketing muscle, Sony will still shift bucketloads of these phones... but the fact remains that the MDR-710 is a distinctly subpar mini closed phone.

While the Audio-Technica product in this category (the ATH-ES5) has superior sound quality to partially make up for the fiddlier folding mechanism and the lack of isolation / increased leakage, the Sony has no such advantage in it's bag. Apart from the visual aspect, the MDR-710 is inferior in every single regard to the AKG and Sennheiser miniphones. Buy them instead of this.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sony BMG Settlement

Usally I don't put non-original material up on this blog, but the more news gets out about this the better... The settlement reached by Sony/BMG regarding the stealthed exploits (aka rootkits) that their audio CD's dumped on PC's upon insertion. These guys need to be punished for their contempt for the public in the only way a corporate knows... via it's bottom line. If you're affected, go claim.

(Spotted on