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[Field Report] Ultimate Sound Fair 2014 Jakarta (long topic, and image heavy)

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Posted · Original PosterOP



After Beijing (I think), the Ultimate Sound Fair (USF) came to Jakarta Indonesia. It was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on 26-27 September 2014. I was lucky enough to hang out at the event that housed 17 audio brands. 


The 17 brands were (in no particular order):  Astell &Kern, Audeze, Audio-Technica, Aurisonics, Beyerdynamic, Crystal Cable, Dita, Final Audio Design, Grado, Harman Kardon, JHAudio, Pendulumic, Philips, Sennheiser, Shure, Sony and Westone.


I didn't go to each and every booths there. There are some booths that I didn't go, mainly because there are already other people there, and I forgot about it later :)


So here are some pictures, and my personal impressions on some of the products/brands I've tried there. Keep in mind that my ears are already used to the sound of my HE-400 + Aune T1 (warm tones), so my impression might be biased toward my daily setup.


This topic is gonna be long, so if you really wanna read it, better grab some coffee and cigarettes or something.... :)


*a note on the pictures: the room was kinda dimly lit with mixed lighting (incandescent + neons), so the colors on the pictures are a little F-ed up. The camera's white balance just can't quite pinpoint the right color...




The USF in Jakarta was organized by Soundwave.co.id, an audio store. They put up a nice display rack of their founder's personal collections. There are some pretty vintage and cool headphones on display there. 


My downside about this event was the schedules were all messed up. There were supposed to be talks on the stage on both days of the event, by a few audio icons, like Jerry Harvey (JHAudio), Alexander Rosson (Audeze), Henry Park (Iriver), etc. Instead, on the first day, there were only 1 talk, by Dale Lott (Aurisonics), who gave a nice talk and shared his experiences and history about Aurisonics. I didn't stick till the end on the second day, so I don't know if there were any talks on the second day or not.


Astell & Kern was showcasing their new products, the AK100 II and the AK120 II. They loaned every booths there with 2-3 units of those, pre-loaded with various songs. It's a pretty clever move, I think. On one side, they were showcasing their products for testing, on the other side, with uniform audio players and songs, people can focus on the real sound signatures of different products (instead of if every booths got their own different kinds of audio players and songs).










My ear canals were a little sensitive/inflamed back then, so I didn't try/audition a lot of IEMs. Only tried a few. 




Some of the Crystal Cable's products.




Pendulumic and Shure booths.


Pendulumic is a wireless (bluetooth) headphone brand. I didn't try it, but few people there claimed that it's comparable to the Parrot Zik.


The IEM on Shure's booth's poster is their flagship IEM, the 846.




The Philips and Dita booths. The 2 guys on Dita booth are the CEOs, Danny and Desmond.


So here are some of my personal impressions, on some of the products there.




I spent most of my visiting time hanging out at the Audeze booth. My friend attended the booth (not official Audeze employee, just local attender), so we chatted a lot there. The booth was run by the official Indonesian representative of Audeze, Mike from Headfonia.com, the renowned review site and audio store. Plus side was, they got 4 great sounding headphones on display, free for testing, the LCD-2, LCD-X, LCD-XC, and their flagship, the LCD-3.




Indeed Audeze have made the newest revision of their products to be very efficient. 




Tried plugging the LCD-3 directly to my crappy $40 candybar Nokia, and it could reach my desired volume easily. 




LCD-X plugged to AK100.


I've always loved the sound of the LCD-2, since the first time I tried it a while back, but honestly, on that booth alone, the LCD-2 was the least desired sounding. Not because it sounds bad, of course, but because the other series sounds better.


- The LCD-X in my opinion is very efficient, and very 'energetic'. I'd say it's good for fast songs like metals, hard rocks, and maybe electronic musics, but I'd say it's not as good for easy listening songs, like jazz, slow pop, accoustic, etc. It also got a bit of sharp trebles, at least according to my ears. Tried it with a mellow accoustic song, and it still sounded too 'energetic' :)


- The LCD-XC was crazy....crazy good.... After using open backed headphones for a while, I can't seem to stand closed backs anymore. Feels too constricted and too 'claustrophobic'. The XC on the other hand, was amazing. It still sounded closed in a room, but a big, wide room, with amazing accousticaly treated walls. Feels like the songs are played in a mini concert hall/studio. It got some kind of reverby sounds, the good kinds of course, that are just delicious!!


- The LCD-3, now this is THE headphone to go. Usually with middle to higher end headphones, they got distinct sound signatures that I can pinpoint, i.e. sharp trebles, warm tones, good clarity, tight basses etc. With the LCD-3, everything are so balanced, and kinda 'click into place'. I couldn't pinpoint what the distinct characteristic was, but man oh man, talk about good sounds. The sounds are very relaxed, smooth as silk, and intimate. Tilted to the warmer tones, it's very good for slow and easy listening. I could just imagine myself drift away listening to that headphone.




Met Alexander Rosson, the CEO of Audeze, on the second day. He's a nice and funny guy. We chatted for a bit about Audeze's efficiency and stuffs. He said, every Audeze headphones (newest revision) are efficient enough to run straight off any audio players, including cell phones. But, if you wanna add an amp in between, that's fine, and could potentially make the sounds better.




Signing a time bomb....nah, just an Audeze case.... :)




Oh look, he's reading our dear dark_wizzie's topic about the LCD-2 :)




Unfortunately, like I said, my ear canals were a little sensitive, so I didn't try many IEMs, only tried a few. Didn't try the JHAudio's products on the booth, but I've tried their flagship, the Roxanne (universal type) before, and man, it was as great as a pair of IEM can be. Out of all the IEMs I've ever tried, the Roxanne is one of the three best for me, and I have tried many types of IEMs. Some people said that they have made some upgrades to the Roxanne to make it sound better. So it should be better than the last time I tried it, which was already amazing.






That's Jerry Harvey from JHAudio







I didn't stop by and check their products, but from a quick glimpse, I do like the way they look. They were showcasing the 'Rockets', which after a bit of googling, is designed as a 'tough-ass' IEM. It got titanium shell, kevlar woven cable, etc, military grade durability. Too bad I didn't tried it, but people who have tried it (and chatted with me) said it was very good. 


The red and silvery ones on the poster (the red one on the table in the picture above) is their flagship, I think, the AS-2.5. It's their custom series IEM.




I didn't take any pictures of the Sony products, so I'll just write my impressions on their stuffs at the booth. I tried 3 headphones, the XBA-Z7, the MDR-1A, and the XB450BV.


- The Z7 was very good. I honestly didn't expect that from Sony. Although it's closed, it's spacious, wide, got deliciously smooth basses, and good frequency separations. I think it's their flagship for 2014, and rightly so, considering the quality of the sounds I heard.


- The MDR-1A is the upgraded version of the already-so-good MDR-1R. I think they employ more metals in the construction, and got (supposedly) upgraded sounds compared to the 1R. Too bad, they didn't have the 1R to test side by side. I love the sounds of the 1R, so no doubt I also love the sound of the 1A.


- The XB450BV, okay, I actually don't know what to say about this. It got its own DSP built-in to the cups, powered by 2x AAA batteries  It got 1 switch and 1 slider on it. The switch is for turning the 'bass boost' option on and off, and the slider, get this, to make it vibrate. I'm not talking about rumbles from basses, but it got its own dedicated vibrating components. The headphone would literally vibrate in sync with the basses. The sound? If you're looking for a Japanese version of Beats (studio to be exact, with the DSP), this is the one you're looking for. Best sound is achieved by turning the DSP and vibrating function off, and even after doing that, it just sound average. At 70 poundsterling (amazon.co.uk price), I'm guessing the target demographic for this headphone are kids and youngster looking for more 'sensations' on gaming (with little or no regards on the quality of the sounds itself). Sorry Sony, but that's what I really think about this headphone....


They also showcased their IEM, the Z5, if I'm not mistaken. It's supposed to be good, but I didn't try it on, so I don't know for sure.


Final Audio






Talk about fashionable audio, the Final Audio got what I think are the most beautiful headphones and IEMs there. They actually look half gadget half fashion thingy. With all the shining surfaces and the blings, those things would surely turn some heads around. Too bad they're too feminine looking for my taste, and I guess that's their aim, headphones and IEMs for women. 


For fashionable gadgets, the sounds were actually quite good. I especially like the sounds of the Final Pandora (the shiny headphone in the top picture). It's a bit reverby, the good kind, and spacious. Not so much clarity and frequency separations though, but nevertheless, it sounds quite fun. It'd make a good gift for women of your life, that's for sure. 




I didn't take any pictures on Philips booth, only tried a few of their headphones. They were showcasing a few new headphones, the DJ series, endorsed by Armin Van Buuren, the Fidelio X2, and some IEMs.


- The DJ series. They got 2 headphones on their DJ series on display. OK, honestly, these 2 are the least bassy DJ headphones I've heard, ever. I've done some DJ-ing myself, a few years ago (ok, more likely almost 10 years ago). From my experience, yes, there were a few DJs that prefer to beatmatch using the mids and trebles, instead of the kicks. But those DJs never used DJ headphones, just some regular headphones (not aimed for DJs), because DJ headphones are supposed to be: a little heavy on low frequencies, to get nice kick sounds, and can get quite loud, for clubs and noisy environments. Philips' DJ series can get quite loud, but yeah, very lacking in the low frequencies, compared to other DJ headphones. Might be a good thing, or a bad thing. Didn't appeal to me, that's for sure.


- Fidelio X2. This headphone actually got bigger low frequencies than the DJ series (which is actually weird). The X2 sounds simply delicious! I never tried the X1, so I don't know how the two would compare. Again, honestly I didn't think Philips can produce such a good sounding headphone. but they did. 


Continued in posts after this.

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Posted · Original PosterOP



I've always loved their SE215 and 215SPE. It's the best valued IEM in terms of sound quality vs price, in my opinion. Upon closer comparison, I like the SPE version better. I'd say the SPE got more spacious sound, and just a tad more basses. Besides, I love the transparent blue shells :)


Their headphones, however, I'm not so sure. They all sounded too flat/neutral for me. They're not bad sounding, that's for sure, just too neutral for me, less fun. Again, keep in mind that my ears are already used to the sounds of HE-400 + tube DAC, so perhaps to my ears they're too neutral, but they're not to your ears. 


I tried the SRH440, which I'd agree, good performance vs price value, the SRH1540, and the SRH750DJ (DJ headphone). Out of those 3, if I have to choose, I'd go with the 750DJ. Least neutral, more fun sounding to my ears. 




SRH1540, too neutral for my ears.




The SRH750DJ, which I quite like, out of all the headphones they're showcasing in the booth.


I also got the chance to try their flagship IEM, the 846 (balanced armature). It sounds nice, but honestly, I expected more from their flagship. Again, this is from my ears' perspective, might be different from your ears' perspective.




In the Senn's booth, they showcased the HD800, HD700, HD650, and HD600, along with some IEMs. I didn't look at or tried their IEMs, I'm more interested with their headphones.




This is the first time I tried the HD700 (the right one in the picture), but I loved it immediately!! I've always stereotyped Sennheiser headphones as being either heavy on basses, or good clarity, or just neutral. The HD700 is certainly unlike any other Sennheiser headphones I've tried. It's warm, warm, warm. It actually sounds very similar to planars I've tried and loved, like the HE-400, and LCD series. The vocal is very rich and got that intimate feels to it. Vocals like Norah Jones' especially. The guy who attended the booth agreed with me, saying he himself prefers HD700 than the HD800. I don't know if he was just being nice or not, though :) Overall sound quality-wise, I'd still say the HD800 is better, more spacious (very wide), more clarity, and more distinct separations. But yeah, I'd enjoy the 700 more than the 800. 


For me, even if they're priced the same, I'd still go with the HD700 over the HD800. With the fact that the HD700 is about $400-$500 cheaper than the HD800, this might very well be my next headphone. Fingers crossed....


I've tried the HD600 and HD650 numerous times before coming to this booth, and frankly, neither of them appeal to me, so I'll just skip them.




This is the amp that they're using to power the HD700 and HD800. It's the HDVA 600. It's about the same design as the HDVD 800, with the difference of the HDVD 800 includes a DAC. This amp is really beautiful, and powerful at the same time. It got 4 connections that can all be used simultaneously, 2x XLRs, and 2x 6.35mm jacks. The extra blue light in the inside is also a good aesthetic touch. It doesn't look very good in the pictures, but in reality it's quite eye-catching.






The American guy (the guy with glasses) was very friendly, and explained a lot about Grado, the products along with the history of Grado itself. Too bad, he spoke too fast for my ears. My written English is average, but my conversational English is below average, for sure. He spoke at normal rate, but still too fast for my ears :P


From what I could gather, until today, all Grados are still handcrafted, with only 10-11 people in the production line. Well, that fact alone is amazing for me. 


Tried a few of their headphones. 




The SR325 was a bit tilted towards mids and highs, if I remembered correctly. People says it's good for metals and hard rocks which got lots of instruments on the mid and high ranges. Not exactly my cup of tea, though.




Now this one I like. The PS500e. It's neutral, tilted a bit towards warmer tone. Nice and wide sounds. 




Beyerdynamic actually got quite a lot of stuffs on their booth. IEMs, as well as headphones. From the COP (Custom One Pro) to the T1 (their flagship). Too bad they didn't bring any of their DTs. They got 3 T series there, the T1, T50p, and T70.




The T1, their flagship, was a very bright sounding headphone, with amazing clarity. I think the clarity of the T1 might even surpasses the clarity of the HD800. The highs are amazingly nice sounding. Too bad I'm not a fan of bright sounds, though. So even though I can appreciate its clarity, it's still not my cup of tea.




The T5p was also very bright, although the clarity was still below the T1. Out of the 3 T series, the T70 was the most friendly to my ears' preference. It's the least bright out of all the T series there.



Audio Technica


In the Audio Technica booth, they got a few headphones and a few IEMs on display. 




By aesthetic factors, this one took the cake, naturally. The A900X-limited edition. It actually sounds quite nice, with the distinct Audio Technica's 'taste'. 




Now this one actually got amazing sounds, the W5000 Raffinato. It sounded a bit like the Audeze LCD-XC, but of course still a level or two below it. It got that nice reverby nuances. I wonder if it's the closed wood shells (as with the LCD-XC) that gave them that reverby nuances.


On the back, in the picture above, was the AD700x. I tried it on to compare it to my AD700 (without x). It's less wide, but got more low frequencies compared to the AD700. Other than that, they sound pretty much the same.




Now this little cutey attracted my attention immediately. It's a very pretty and cute tube amp, with 2 tubes (inside the cage on top). Seems like it can drive 2 headphones simultaneously. It's not officially released in my country as of yet, though, so it's not for sale. I think it's originally meant to be sold in Japan market, but you can get it from ebay at around $340. Just search for the code in ebay, 'at-ha22tube'

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Dita Audio




Even though I've only learned about Dita as a brand in this USF event, I love Dita, both the products and the history of the brand itself. That's why I think they deserve a whole dedicated post.


Their booth was attended by 3 people, 2 of them are the CEOs of the brand, Danny and Desmond, from Singapore. I chatted for quite a while with Danny, and this is what I can gather:


Dita is a 'baby' brand, meaning it's a young aged brand, compared to other 'veteran' brands in USF alone. If I'm not mistaken, their products was launched the first time back in October 2013, so it's only about a year old brand. Of course the R&D started long before that, though. The shocking thing was, ever since its first launching, their products began to capture the attentions of audio-manias in the high end product range. Even though the brand itself is still considered new, the people behind it are not new at all. They are all experienced in the audio world, and it shows in their products.




Their products are actually 1 type of product, with 2 variants. They name their first released product as 'The Answer', shown in the picture above. 




The cables are around the ears, with no tapping sounds at all. Meaning, when you're wearing the IEM, and you tap the cables, you won't hear any tapping sounds at all. As you can see from the picture above, this IEM is absolutely gorgeous and elegant looking. The shells are made of rugged metals. The back plates are factory engraved with very fine details. Danny said, you can take macro pictures of it, and blow the picture up, to really see the beautiful details. Too bad I didn't bring my macro equipment with me, so I couldn't take the macro pictures. He said, there were even 1 time when they ordered 100 pairs of the shells, and threw away 80 of them, only keeping 20, because they deemed the engraving of that 80 pairs were not good enough to pass their QC.


Funny enough, in the era of 'balance armature war', where other brands seem like they're racing with how many balanced armatures they can cramp into their high end IEMs, Dita chose to stick with dynamic drivers to build their IEM. They seems to be keeping their products 'old-skool', by using a single dynamic driver, and not-removable cables.


One more thing I love about the IEM's design is the thin and flat profile of the shells. It doesn't protrude out of your ears, meaning more discretion when wearing in public places, and most importantly, you can wear it while lying on the bed with your head on the pillow. With most IEMs, when your head is on the pillow, you'd have to look straight up, can't face left or right. Well with this IEM, you can!!




Even the packaging was very elegant looking. It really gives you that feeling of purchasing something luxurious and elegant from the start. They paid lots of attention to details, from the main unit itself, down to its packaging.




I must admit, at first glimpse, my thought was, OK, another fashionable gadget/fashion statement. Man, I couldn't be more wrong. Tried them on, and the sound was amazing!! Spacious, detailed, good frequency separations, balanced, with a bit tilted to the warm side. Acoustic vocals sounded so good on The Answer. It got a bit of sibilance though, at least according to my ears.


So that's their first released product, The Answer. After The Answer, they released their second product, which is a variant of The Answer. They call it 'The Truth'. Like I said, The Truth is actually a variant of The Answer. They use the same drivers and same shells. The differences are, the shells of The Truth is black, while The Answer is titanium colored. But that's not the main difference though.






The main difference between The Answer and The Truth is the cable it uses. The Truth uses custom made Van Den Hul cable. Danny said, the process of making the cable itself was a bit tiresome and took quite a long time. They send the specs and what they're looking for to Van Den Hul, and they sent Dita the cable. Dita then listen to the sound, taking notes of any revisions they'd like, and sent it back to Van Den Hul for tweaking/revisions. This went back and forth until Dita were finally satisfied, and started producing The Truth. 


Now I know for sure that most of you won't even touch the subject of 'different cables'.  I tend to look at different cables as 'filters', altering the EQ of the sounds a bit. So, not better sounds, just different. Subject of debate, of course. My personal opinion, the cable seemed to withheld some of the sibilances from The Answers, so The Truth doesn't have as much sibilance as The Answer. Of course I'm talking about small details here, so it's not heaven and earth difference. Best is to test them side by side, to see if you can hear any differences or not. If you can't, then The Answer should be fine for you.


Too bad I didn't spend enough time for full impression/review, and none of my friend have one that I can borrow. 


Overall, I'd place Dita IEMs on the top three best IEMs I've ever tried. The other two being Fitear, and JHAudio's Roxanne. Dita IEM falls back just a bit compared to those two, but still better than the other IEMs I've tried. As for this moment, they're getting ready to release the balanced 2.5mm variant of The Truth. According to their website (ditaaudio.com), their distributor on the northern hemisphere is in UK, hifiheadphones.co.uk







That's Danny, the one with glasses.






And who's this gorgeous lady? A product promoter lady? Well, guess again. If I'm not mistaken, she's the head of Dita's China branch. Talk about 'beauty with brain'...  :)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

so, with Audeze newest revision I could just use them straight from low end amp like E11K or Topping NX1?


Yep, proven and tested. Even their flagship could run straight up from my crappy Nokia. But my personal opinion though, that the LCD series are sensitive to amps' colorations, meaning with a good and matching amp, they will sound better. Subject of debate, but that's what I think anyway...

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Yep, proven and tested. Even their flagship could run straight up from my crappy Nokia. But my personal opinion though, that the LCD series are sensitive to amps' colorations, meaning with a good and matching amp, they will sound better. Subject of debate, but that's what I think anyway...

Either way, I don't see myself running Audezes off of a cell phone, because that means mobile use. They are too heavy and bulky and open for that kind of use. I still go back to cheap in ears for that.





Signing a time bomb....nah, just an Audeze case....  :)


:o Maybe the bombs are inside the headphones, lol.




Oh look, he's reading our dear dark_wizzie's topic about the LCD-2  :)




I actually posted my own Headfi meet impressions uh... like 3 months ago on my blog. Should I post it? 

In Placebo We Trust - Resident Obnoxious Objective Fanboy (R.O.O.F) - Your Eyes Cannot Hear
Haswell Overclocking Guide | Skylake Overclocking GuideCan my amp power my headphones?
Stop worrying about your audio gear and start jammin' to your favorite tunes already!

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i love you #nohomo
too bad i can't go there cuz i just bought and enjoying a new headphone a day before the festival.
and about the headphones, are you sure the T70 is least bright? :blink:  for me its the brightest of tesla beyers...

When 2 things meet each other, Quantum stuff happens.

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Yep, proven and tested. Even their flagship could run straight up from my crappy Nokia. But my personal opinion though, that the LCD series are sensitive to amps' colorations, meaning with a good and matching amp, they will sound better. Subject of debate, but that's what I think anyway...


how about clipping?

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Posted · Original PosterOP


Either way, I don't see myself running Audezes off of a cell phone, because that means mobile use. They are too heavy and bulky and open for that kind of use. I still go back to cheap in ears for that.


That's because you're not a hipster.... :ph34r:



i love you #nohomo

too bad i can't go there cuz i just bought and enjoying a new headphone a day before the festival.

and about the headphones, are you sure the T70 is least bright? :blink:  for me its the brightest of tesla beyers...


If my memory served me well, yeah the T70 was the least bright of all 3. Perhaps it's a new revision? Unlike the T5p and the T70 which played right off the portable audio player, the T1 was driven from Grace Design DAC + Beyer's headphone amp, because unlike the other two, the T1 got 600 ohms impedance. I think the portable audio player doesn't have enough voltage to break through that big of resistance.



how about clipping?


Only tried listening to 1 acoustic song on my Nokia, and no clippings there. 

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Great read.i wonder why does audio technica still used those wings even on their limited edition A900X also those reds are so sexy.BTW my mum still uses that very same Nokia. :lol: 

Sent from my Nexus 7 (2013).

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Great read.i wonder why does audio technica still used those wings even on their limited edition A900X also those reds are so sexy.BTW my mum still uses that very same Nokia. :lol: 


I think all of their A and AD series, and a few others (like the W5000) use that wing. It's patented by Audio Technica, but I think Superlux copied it :)

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