IRT Diffuse Field Equalized
500 Ohms 88db/1mw (holy shit)
Made in Austria
Purchased for $85 (2018)
I’ve never quite understood the psychological makeup of the self-professed audiophile – the sort of person who spends £500 on a gold-plated lead and can’t listen to a three-minute pop song without instinctively carrying out a painstaking forensic audit of the sound quality. That’s not a music fan. That’s a noise-processing unit.
Headphones are predominantly an old man hobby, with the remaining quarter consisting of weeaboos in their 30's. As a hobby it's kind of a joke due to the subjectivist squintfests. Discussions always devolve into hopeless bickering, revolving around amorphous factors like DACs without documented measurements. The hobby's inherent ambiguity is best exemplified by the adjectives people use to describe sound, like a vegetative sommelier hooked up to a fax machine. And it gets worse as you spend more money, shrugging your way up until you hit "I guess this sounds better?"
My advice? Buy some HD600/650's and a JDS Atom. Easy to resell if you're not a fan and diminishing returns start peaking quickly after that. Vintages can be fun but they're not worth your time if you're a pragmatist. The K240DFs might be considered an anomaly in that sense. Purpose-built for German radio stations in the 80's, these things hold up remarkably well. These headphone are put on a pedestal, often compared to the $1600 Sennheiser HD800.
I'll get into a comparison later, with the heavy asterisk that I was only able to demo the latter. Take someone else's ABX side-by-side testing as an voice of reason, no matter how falliable reviews on the reproduction of sound may be. This is just my verbal diarrhea from memory.
Build is alright, typical of your average K240. Very light, sort of flimsy, doesn't really fit on your ears right. It does have fabric covering the driver grills though, so that's a plus. While it looks all plastic, it actually has aluminium rings like any other K240. A giant plus is that K240 spare parts are absolutely everywhere. Overall, I'm satisfied and the durability of any K240 variant is well-documented.
Comfort is mixed to be honest. Very light and the suspension system works well, but the pads are giant, a la DT770. I never seem to know if i have them too far forward or backwards. Ears still get sweaty despite being semi-open.
First, a bit on the IRT standard and the Diffuse field tuning.
"Diffuse field equalized headphone will try to mimic a flat frequency loudspeaker response in a reverbant room that has equal sound pressure in most locations inside the room (i.e. diffuse field). Such a headphone might have a different kind of frequency response, such as a peak at 2-3 kHz and 5-7 kHz and a sharper dip at 8 kHz. The effect should be similar to that of a diffuse field, but with a slightly different tonal balance."
Innerfidelity measurement PDF
Very resolving, amazingly accurate midrange. It's to an almost boring degree until you listen to something smeary and horrendous to compare. nobass. Grainy, bright treble with a peak around 5khz. Decent soundstage but it still feels like a pair of headphones.
What do I think of it? I'm going to admit that this sort of frequency response isn't really my thing. While the mids are amazingly accurate it's not as musical as the K240 Sextetts. While the accentuated treble is around where I prefer, it contributes to the overall cold-sounding tonality. And while bass is one of those details that I'm a bit more lenient on, this is a bit too much.
I respect it but I don't really enjoy it. Regardless, I regard hobbies that change your perspective to be one of the most valuable, and audio certainly deserves that title.
Gave these another listen. While I can't say the soundstage is wide, separation is very good. The tonality lends itself to easy listening, although the treble peak does make some songs fatiguing. Not as musical as the K240 Sextetts, but their differences complement each other well. The detail retrieval is very good. I was considering selling these off while I wasn't near them, but fuck that.
back to top ⤴
6 passive drivers
600 Ohms 98db/1mw
Made in Austria
Purchased for $34 (2017)
In the world of hobbies, "older is better" and "buy used" are deafeningly parroted, heard as loud as windchimes in a blend-tec. The inability to acclimate to new technologies and the ruthless pace of the global economy are usually to blame for beloved manufacturers going under. The Japanese intrusion of quartz movements decimated the Swiss watch industry through the 80's, spurring ruthless consolidation into burgeoning conglomerates like the Swatch Group. Similarly, the pursuit of digital photography killed off camera companies that were already struggling with autofocus. Today, rising material and labor costs in core countries inhibit domestic manufacturing to a large extent. But unlike most other hobbies, older isn't better for headphones. German and Japanese companies have largely weathered economic downturns and market shifts to a remarkable degree, dodging those "extinctions." While the defacto benchmark for headphones are the pre-historic Sennheiser HD600s released in 1997, others haven't aged as gracefully. Anything older than an underage drinker is prehistoric, granting audiophiles a valuable cultural intersection with child predators. Most vintage headphones are relegated to novelty status for forum users to laugh at. The AKG K240 Sextetts sit on the border.
I will admit, these disappointed me at first. They don't feel cheap, but they are light with an unconvincing rattle to the swiveling earcups. Considering they cost $1000 USD in 1979 adjusted for inflation, your money definitely goes farther today. All parts excluding the perforated headband and silver badges are replacable with parts even available today, a welcome feature for modders. The cable is a truly odd thing, reminds me of either twizzlers or those candy canes with vertical channels that obliderate your mouth.
Being pretty light, they should be comfortable. The combination of sweaty leather earpads and large earcups mean fit is a bit tricky even with my grotesque brain vessel. Beyerdynamic pads apparently fit with ease, so if pad-rolling is your thing, that's an option.
Innerfidelity measurement PDF
Early production (orange passive drivers) has the most bass and least treble
Late production (white passive drivers) has the least bass
I got the Mid-productions with white/orange passive drivers. It's the variant I enjoy the most. Regardless of version they all pretty much have the same forward upper-midranges and grainy highs. And the midrange truly makes this a special headphone. Vocals and instruments sound lush and able-bodied. It's by far the best pair of headphones for rock I've heard thus far, the guitars are really up in your face with an impressive amount of detail and even in genres like power metal none of the instruments melt into each other. The treble however shows its age. Grainy and lacking detail, cymbals sound one-note. Soundstage is also strangely smaller than the K240DF despite having the same housing, but it's certainly better than HD600's. Despite being a darker sounding headphone it has zero sub-bass extension, which rings true for all variants of the Sextetts, 80's headphones, and open-back headphones as a whole. There's no rumbling in your stomach when you have these on. It's the achilles heel of an otherwise impressive sounding headphone, one that manages to reasonably differentiate itself. I really like these.
back to top ⤴
- 45mm drivers
- 80 Ohms 96 dB/mW
- 10ft cable
- Made in Germany
- Purchased for $64 (2018)
There exist several variations of the DT770 from 32 to 600ohms. 80 ohms means that they benefit a little from amplification, but work fine with portable devices like smartphones. Don't buy the DT770M variant, they clamp harder, come with a coiled cable, and have isolating leather earpads. Completely different beast, mainly aimed at drummers. Like the Sony MDR7506/V6, you'll see the DT770 everywhere in the TV and music industry. Unlike the former however, these are actually pleasant to listen to. These go for around $150 and I lucked out in getting an as-is pair and soldered the cable back together. While for-parts stuff is questionable for analog cameras, headphones are dead simple. Worst case scenario was a dead driver but even that could be rectified for $45, still under the average asking price of a used DT770.
Simple, solid, serviceable as expected from Beyerdynamic. Most parts can bought and changed out.(at a price) Steel gimbals and solid polymer earcups. Very un-German if you ask me. I prefer the look of vintage DT770s since they lack the wAcKy font of new pairs.
Very nice. Everyone gushes about the velour pads and for good reason. They rarely get hot and dissappear on your head. As they're grey the pads get grimy fairly quick. Soap and water can only go so far. My pair is probably 2+ years old so the pads look like a smoker's walls and have collapsed a fair bit: my ears occasionally touch the driver, which is uncomfy. I can sleep with these headphones though, which is a testament to their comfort. Don't lay on your side, or you'll inherit a crusty pensioner's spine. Unfortunately, the non-swiveling earcups and 10ft cable make this an at-home headphone. I've tried taking it out but even having it around your neck prevents you from looking downwards. They're also get hot if you live in a temperate region. Not a huge deal for me since I prefer IEMs.
Sound is very dependent on how you wear them. Wearing them with the trailing cable to the right will make the soundstage a mess. A loose seal can reduce bass. And universally for headphones, the pads can change everything.
Bass isn't boomy despite the 250 ohm version's trailing reputation, neither does it extend particularly deep. Relative to the flowery conjecture it seems fairly modest. That of course can be attributed to my prehistoric earpads, resulting in a poor seal. There are a variety of mods to improve the low-end involving applying Dynamat that are fairly well documented. Haven't done anything yet, but If I free up some time I'll probably get to it. If you're into bass get Creative Aurvana Lives.
Mids aren't that pushed back, and do a generous amount of detail retrieval. Vocalists breathing, percussionists fiddling with their drumsticks: If the music is well mastered, these headphones can bring them in. It may bother some people used to HD600 tuning however, and on some tracks or sources it can sound hollow like the vocalist is a few meters away from the instrumentals. There's also a peak in the upper mids that I hear that bother me more though, and it can make some instruments sound too forward.
Highs are great. Beyers are notorious for harsh treble, and the 770 80ohms is on their tame side. Despite this, Guitars sound energetic and detailed. This accentuation no doubt helps the soundstage a great bit.
Soundstage is odd. I felt like the center intimacy was its weak point. I've had them for half a year and I can't quite put my finger on it. Again, maybe it's due to my refusal to buy $30 pads. Regardless, it is very good, certainly better than any other closed-back headphones I've heard. The sharp treble and adequate bass also makes this an ideal ASMR headphone, and I find myself repeatedly pulling these off my head thinking it was something outside my house.
Yep, this is exactly what I expected. The DT770 are the premier "babby's first headphone." Probably one of my best buys of 2018, alongside a straight razor and a silicone tube I have intercourse with.
Trying my hand at modding. Replacing the driver foam with paper erases any sort of intimacy while not changing the soundstage. Not recommended. A paper towel cuts the treble by a bit, not for me either.
back to top ⤴
?mm Piezoelectric Drivers
100dB/3V holy fuck
Made in Japan
Purchased for $50 (2017)
These along with the SE-300/500 were a series of piezoelectric headphones sold through the 70's by Pioneer. The SE-700's were the high-end of that line, produced
from 1974 to 1980. They were priced at $80 in the US, which translates to around $350 today.
Here's a Popular Mechanics article on them, complete with other competing open-backs in 1975.
Being supraural with a substantial clamp force, they are painful with glasses. The earpads have flaked after 40 years of life, luckily they are only connected
with a bit of adhesive. I'll have to try my hand at stitching up some pleather pads or maybe some over-ears since I'm sick. The beautiful steel gimbals
connect to the headband in a Beyerdynamic-like manner, and is often the weak point of these headphones. The rest is simply gorgeous.
They are incredibly hard to run, only producing producing listenable volumes through 1 side on my buddy's Technics 5370 receiver phones out. We hooked them up to the speaker outs using an RCA to 3.5 adapter and that finally produced enough power. They were initially sold with a dedicated amp, but I've yet to see one for sale.
FR is a remarkably flat A-shape, with both the treble and bass rolled off. It also only extends to around 20khz, which makes these headphones unsuitable for bats.
Sound is incredibly odd. It lacks detail and transients to a strange degree, it sounds like you're listening to them with a fever. The frequency response is smoothed and lacks any sort of peaks, so that probably explains the sound. Treble and bass really lack presence and impact/sparkle, but it's not completely absent either. Regrettably I didn't fuck around with EQ so I'll have to wait until I can see how they react.
While it's become more of an uncomfortable gimmick today, it fits well alongside my "I love mid-range" vintages. Thanks for reading.
edit: 8/1/2020: one of my headphone pictures were used in a uni powerpoint, this means some italian professor has heard me comparing audiophiles with child predators
back to top ⤴
6mm dynamic drivers
35-42 dB noise isolation
32 Ohms ?db/1mw
Made in China
Purchased for $40 (2019, not by me)
Etymotics are known for two things: their stunning sound isolation that will leave you with only your tinnitus to keep you company, and their almost suppository quality of deep insertion. As confusing as the naming schemes are, the MK5's are a cheaper variation of the $100 HF3's. There exists an alternate variant, the Etymotics Kids, which has a resistor in the cable that prevents listening at higher volumes. It simply retards current from flowing into the drivers, meaning there's no definitive decibel cutoff. They're not that distant in price, so I see no reason to consider those over the MK5's. As such, there are one of the cheapest Etymotic entryways relative to the HF and EX lines. Speaking of build, the MK5 uses dynamic drivers compared to balanced armature drivers of the higher end offerings. BA drivers have a reputation of having fast transients that translate into detail, having a bright and tinny sound signature without much bass response. And these characters are what definite Etymotic's offerings, like how lead poisoning defines the dollar store. Strangely this flavoring seems to have also transferred to the MK5.
Not much to say here. A nozzle to slip an eartip onto, a LEGO-esque grey ABS housing, terminated into a slightly angled 3.5mm jack. The cable has a non-slip matte finish and is sufficiently thick without being too heavy. The cable is non-removable which is thoroughly unfortunate, but the durability seems to be quite good. I've never seen any pair of Etymotics be recabled with MMCX or barrel connectors on /r/headphones. Not luxurious, but not cheap feeling either. No volume controls, but I never used those things anyway.
Deep insertion earphones, like anal intercourse, is something most don't explore and a minority who do fanatically enjoys it. For the MK5's, the rubber eartips are not for me. They never work with my massive receivers, especially the flanged ones. Ants could probably recreate Plato's allegory of the cave in my ears. Foam tips were recommended by reddit and included in the packaging, so I went with that. Stiffer than complys and slightly bigger than your typical airplane earplugs. Day and night difference. Much higher sound isolation and comfort to a surprising degree. These things turn into earplugs.
I also found that this magnitude of sound isolation enables them to take the place of full-sized headphones, a very welcome addition for commuters or just people who want to firmly segment their outdoors/indoors audio equipment. Thank the lord for letting me leave the DT770's at home. High isolation also means lower listening volumes, I just gave up listening to anything on the subway with my Tennmak Pros. With the MK5's, I don't even have to touch my volume controls. They are quite inefficient, having to be pushed to the same level as my full-sized 80ohm DT770 headphones on my LG V20. You'll probably want a decent source to do these justice. I wonder what amplification will do to the sound.
There is however, one massive caveat. Because the isolation is so high, the cable noise is absolutely deafening. Any vibration migrating through your body will be picked up. Imagine a stethescope with the diaphram glued to your forehead. That's what these are like. Every step you can hear, and in really quiet settings, even your own troubled heartbeat. This was a dealbreaker for my sister. The MK5's are included with a shirt clip as a rememdy but that's another fiddly bit you have to worry about. Routing the cable through your shirt will reduce some noise, but not everything.
Innerfidelity measurement PDF
The treble is delightful, if a bit splashy. Reminds me of the K240DF's. They do seem to roll off around 14~15khz.
Vocals are just right, with great clarity. Piano in particular really shines.
Anemic bass is unfortunately one of the parroted downfalls of Etymotics' cheaper offerings, and the MK5's are okay. They don't extend particularly deeply, but they're present and clean. Can't say the same for my K240DFs.
Soundstage was better than I expected, with an average separation and good directionality. No floating instruments like the Tennmak Pros, but not terrible like the M6 Pros.
With their extremely linear frequency response and fantastic isolation, the MK5's opened my eyes to another category of earphone. If you can get over the comfort and cable noise, I highly recommend the MK5. You probably won't be able to explore this kind of flat frequency response for under $100. They probably can even serve as an exploratory jumping pad for HD600's.
back to top ⤴
9mm + 6mm Dynamic Drivers
Made in China
Purchased for $20 (2018)
So I gravitate to over-ear headphones or speakers and I really only use IEMs for commuting and sleeping. I sold/gave away my Etys and T2's and for a long time my daily driver was the M6 Pro. It was alright but the biggest gripe I had was the lack of soundstage and proprietary connector. After they bit the dust, I decided to look for a new pair rather than shell over $10 for a new cable. As IEMs aren't my bread and butter, I thought I wouldn't be as critical in this review but you'll see where that went.
The Tennmak Pro seemed to fit all the bills and I bought mine off Amazon. It belongs to a family of audio that is colloquially called chi-fi. Not too many heavy hitters made by Chinese companies but in the world of gallivanting audiophiles, a $20 pair of earphones are thoroughly welcomed. It has two dynamic drivers arranged side-by-side, terminating into an MMCX connector that facillitates swapping cables. (Don't do this) The housing is clear to ride off Shure's clout. The standard offering comes with an in-line mic cable for $35, but they also sell one without for just $19. It comes with a decent amount of accessories including a small case and 4 different eartips. Just supply your own cable and you're set.
I picked these for the housing as I wanted to sleep with them in. My previous M6 Pros were good at that, but the sound was amazingly unremarkable. I would've been satisfied with some semblance of sound isolation and soundstage as I wasn't expecting much from $20.
First thing you notice with this IEM. First it's kinda filthy, like a pair of greasy fingers had a field day with it. Don't know if it's adhesive or flux around the drivers but it doesn't look quite right. The M6 Pro looks clean in comparison. What concerned me is that my first pair from Amazon actually had one of the drivers completely engulfed in hot glue, even reaching into the channel that joins both together. This second pair isn't that bad and doesn't seem to have an impact on sound but it's worrying to see the same issue twice on the same driver.
Sizewise the housing is only 1mm thicker than the M6 pros and I have no issues sleeping with them in. I have quite cavernous ear canals so I used both the included red foams and large rubber eartips. The latter reduced the bass so I went with those but they both isolate very well. I haven't spotted any bass vents unlike what previous reviews have pointed out.
As for FR, my pair has a substantial midbass emphasis with rolled-off treble starting from around 5k.
Once you insert these things inside you the first thing you notice is grain. Distortion at low volume and the fuzz persists at high volumes. EQing and amplification did little to help, and this is probably a dealbreaker for most people. If you listen to something like the minecraft soundtrack the opening piano turns into an electric guitar which is pretty tragic.
Bass is impactful and extends quite well but bleeds heavily into the mids. The bass guitar often dominates the rest of the song and the overall tonality sounds bloated as a result.Audiobudget's review from 2016 shows a more neutral tuning and Igor's main detraction was a lack of bass. That is no longer an issue, the equivalent of eradicating malaria by eradicating its potential hosts.
The mids are submissive to both the overbearing midbass and graininess.
The treble is somehow the weakest point of this IEM. So pushed back it misses the clarity and sparkle so analogous with chi-fi IEMs. It's the first earphone where I feel as if I'm missing a chunk of my music and I own nobass K420DF's. EQing from 4k onwards doesn't do too much either, sounding vague and compressed.
The soundstage is very impressive for an IEM. It conveys distance and separation well and is a joy to listen to. If I nitpick the center imaging could be better but it's still miles ahead of any other IEM I've heard thus far. Certainly not as compressed as the Etymotics or M6's and even surpasses some full-sized headphones. Could've been good for classical music or ASMR but again that treble roll-off.
Damn. Even though these are barely passable for the instances I use IEMs in, They are certainly a letdown for the ~$35 they go for full-price. The tuning is just baffling and I suspect it's a knee-jerk reaction to that audiobudget review.
TLDR: Grainy, bloated sounding IEM with an impressive soundstage.
Edit 7/17/18: Switched to foam tips and poked ports where they used to be in the older version. Subbass is gone, overbearing midbass has been toned down. Mids are a bit more forward but the grain and lack of highs is still there. Isolation is poor, they remind me of semi-opens. Still a "meh" from me.
Edit 4/27/19: Re-did the ports, now has a peak in the upper mids, still no subbass. Might try excising the smaller drivers to see if it fixes the ever-present grain.
Edit 5/30/19: On a second cable now, male MMCX connector bit the dust. MMCX connectors are not designed for requent disconnects. Got a V20 and the grain is somewhat gone, which tells me these IEM's are extremely selective regarding source. Sounded like shit on the 7 other devices/amps I tried it with. A bit more detail but the upper mid peak is still there. Tolerable to listen to and the soundstage is still great, but it's a sea of asterisks if you're considering getting these.
Edit 8/17/19: A year later, the driver adhesive has turned a grotesque shade of brown. oh no
Originally written: 7/15/2018?
back to top ⤴