Archive for the ‘Impressions’ Category

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JDS Labs Bass Boost CMoy v2.02 Impressions

March 4, 2010

Headphone amps are pretty much standard equipment in the setups of audiophiles everywhere. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research on headphone amps and come across a number of different amps in all shapes and sizes but the one type of amp that piqued my interest was the “CMoy” amp. This type of amp, designed years ago by Chu Moy is an unconventional but powerful amp design that can be made by anyone with the right parts and a soldering iron. Well, I don’t consider myself one of the handiest of guys with a soldering iron at the moment so, instead of taking a chance and trying to build one myself, I decided to buy one that had been pre-made from a company called JDS Labs. After a few hours of listening, I’m impressed.

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Altec Lansing Backbeat Pro First Impressions

February 28, 2010

Since I got my RE0s and I started going to Head-Fi, I’ve been…experimenting with a number of different headphones/earphones and listening to the various sound signatures these devices create. In the short time since I received my RE0s, I’ve heard (of course) the RE0s the V-Moda Vibes, MEElectronics M9Ps, Koss KSC75s (with some light modifications) and one of the only things I haven’t yet heard is an IEM with a balanced armature speaker. Well, a few nights ago, I happened to be browsing eBay for some reason and in that time, I came across the Altec Lansing Backbeat Pro IEMs.

The auction I happened upon was open-box and on sale for about $16. I did some research on them and saw that the MSRP was about $100 but they were retailing at most online retailers I saw for about $30. Apparently, Altec Lansing has a number of IEMs on the market and many of them are simply rebranded versions of IEMs from Ultimate Ears with the Backbeat Pros being Altec Lansing’s version of the Super.fi 4 IEMs from Ultimate Ears. After doing a little more research into the sound quality, I said “what the heck” and ordered them. Shipping was strangely fast for USPS and I received them early Saturday and went about putting them through their paces after watching a movie (The Hurt Locker, great film by the way).

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MEElectronics M9P First Impressions

February 23, 2010

Early last week as I was browsing the forums at Head-Fi, I was alerted to a discount special by MEElectronics, a small California-based manufacturer of various gadgets such as DAPs and IEMs. Having read a few reviews on their more popular IEMs, the $40 M6 and the M9, which apparently uses the same dynamic driver and retails for about $20, I looked over their product lineup and settled on the slightly more expensive M9P, which comes with a built-in inline microphone which I figured I could use for making Skype calls with my iPod Touch. Yesterday (after a few shipping gaffes by USPS), I received my M9Ps and immediately gave them a listen straight out of the box.

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HiFiMan RE0 Impressions/Pseudo Review

February 10, 2010

Over the last week or so of listening to the RE0s with a wide variety of music, I’ve grown accustomed to its unique sound signature because they are so unlike all of the various headphones/earbuds/IEMs I’ve listened to so far. Everything I’ve listened to prior to the RE0s has colored the music I’ve listened to with its own sound signature. From the cold, analytical presentation of my HD280 Pros to the deep, bloated bass of my V-Moda Bass-Freq earbuds, everything layers a bit of itself over the music. With the RE0s, there’s nothing there. The sound signature is entirely flat and while that may sound like a negative, trust me, it isn’t. This neutrality creates total transparency and allows the source to come through exactly as the artist intended it to. Because of this, the RE0s are unquestionably the best headphones I’ve ever heard.

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HiFiMan (Head-Direct) RE0 Unboxing and Initial Impressions

February 2, 2010

Earlier today, I received my Head-Direct RE0 In Ear Monitors (IEM) which I ordered early last week to replace my aging V-Moda Bass-Freq earbuds which decided to call it quits shortly before then. So, I recorded a short “unboxing” video which I’ve uploaded to YouTube and will be shared below.

After my Bass-Freq earbuds decided to call it quits, I did a bit of research into the world of portable headphones, coming up with a number of positive candidates in the process. My search turned up quality portable headphones from a number of manufacturers both familiar (Ultimate Ears, Klipsch and Shure) and not so familiar (YUIN and Fischer Audio) and after reading reviews on a multitude of portable headphones, I finally decided on the Head-Direct RE0 IEMs.

A few of you may know Head-Direct and they’re pretty famous in the audiophile community for being one of the leading importers of headphones and other audio accessories from a number of small overseas companies, some of which I’d never even heard of before venturing to Head-Direct’s site (YUIN being chief among those).  As it turns out, Head-Direct decided to venture into the highly populated IEM market themselves and begin selling their own RE line at varying levels of quality. Among the highest of these was the RE0s which, until the fairly recent release of the RE252s, were the company’s flagship IEMs. I checked out a number of reviews on the headphones before making my decision and saw that they were very close to the top of their class and could easily hang with some of the best on the market, even those which cost 2 – 3 times more than the RE0s themselves. After going to Head-Direct and seeing that they were on sale for $79 (down from $169), I was sold and placed my order.

So, I’m pretty sure you’re wondering if these things live up to the hype. So far, I have to say yes. I’ve listened to a number of songs on them already such as Wale’s Contemplate, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and 2Pac’s Temptations and they all sound great. I instantly noticed that the sound is, above all, transparent. The clarity in the sound signature jumps to the forefront the instant music begins playing and is immensely satisfying. After listening to my V-Modas for as long as I have and comparing them to the RE0s, they’re far muddier and less…open. The low end on the V-Modas is satisfying, but it really can’t compare to the RE0s and honestly, I didn’t expect them to, given how inexpensive they are (about $20) in comparison.

Now, I haven’t heard a great number of the more expensive IEMs so I can’t vouch for the quality of the RE0s just yet in comparison but I can say that they have impressed me right out of the box and, considering that IEMs with dynamic drivers such as the RE0s sound better after they’ve been broken in for a number of hours (10 – 50 is usually enough but some audiophiles say they need upwards of 100 hours to sound their best), things can only get better from here. I haven’t even listened to them with my portable headphone amp yet so I can tell that I’m in for a treat when they’ve been broken in and I listen to them amped.

As of now, I’d give the RE0s a high recommendation. This should be taken with a grain of salt seeing as I’ve only had a few minutes’ worth of listening time with them thus far. At the price they’re currently available for ($79), I honestly can’t see how you can go wrong with these as they offer exceptional depth and clarity even now, before they’ve been broken in and settled into their final sound signature. So, if you’re interested, you can check them out here. Keep in mind, however, that this is marked as a “Christmas Sale” and Christmas has obviously been over for a long time now. It’s highly likely that this sale price isn’t going to last for much longer so get them while you can!

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Race Pro Impressions

February 27, 2009

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Two days ago, I picked up Race Pro, a game I’ve been highly anticipating since its announcement in the form of an Xbox 360 version of the PC racing sim, GTR 2. This title hails from Simbin, a developer that has been heralded as one of the best in the business of creating racing simulators. This is their very first console racing title and the racing simulation community has been abuzz, wondering if they can replicate the notoriously hardcore PC racing simulation experience on a console with little compromise. After investing a few hours in the game, I can say with ease, they’ve done a damn fine job.

As I popped the game into my Xbox 360, I decided to jump into the game by playing it for the very first time with Microsoft’s official wireless racing wheel, which I’d purchased a little over a year ago for Forza Motorsport 2. It seemed fitting to play this title with the wheel in hand. If you own Microsoft’s official Racing Wheel, you owe it to yourself to use it for this game. Racing with the wheel, coupled with the interior view, feels incredibly natural. It can be tough going from racing with the controller to the racing wheel but undoubtedly, it truly is the best and most immersive way to play.

Onto the driving physics, there’s no doubt in my mind that Simbin has created one of the most realistic racing simulators ever, thanks in large part to the physics engine. Even driving something as seemingly mundane as a Mini Cooper (a highly modified version of a Mini Cooper no less) can be very exciting and trust me when I say the Radical SR3 is not to be taken lightly. I have yet to get behind the wheel of the Dodge Viper SRT-10 and Audi R8 (two of my favorite supercars) as of yet, two of the unmodified cars included in the package, but I did get behind the wheel of the Dodge Charger Super Bee, an exclusive download included in copies of the game sold at GameStop (don’t think of that as an ad…). Race Pro does an excellent job of simulating the high weight and power this car possesses, which makes it characteristically difficult to stop at the end of a long straightaway.

Race Pro is one of the rare racers on the market today that is able to blend accessibility with, at times, crushingly realistic physics. The instant you enter the career mode, it defaults to the professional difficulty setting, in which all assists are turned off. For the sake of accessibility, it’s nice that these settings can be changed to your liking. They can all be adjusted in varying degrees, from low, medium to high.

So far, the AI drivers generally make for fairly competent opponents but, on occasion, they exhibit some…questionable behavior. For instance, as the Autodriver lead me out to the track in my Chevy Lacetti, a sequence that you can’t override as far as I can tell, it nicked a barrier while exiting the pits and compromised my aerodynamics. I was essentially forced to restart the session due to my bent front bumper. Hopefully, this isn’t a common occurrence.

I’ve played a couple of online races so far and they all have been free of any perceptible lag, even with as many as ten vehicles on the track at once (the game supports 12 online). Despite the fairly limited options compared to other racing titles on the 360 such as Forza Motorsport 2 and PGR 4, it is nice to have the ability to take to the track in a practice session to play around with vehicle setups before beginning the big race.

Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about Race Pro so far is its incredibly basic presentation. The menus aren’t presented with any sort of visual pizzazz or flair and hardly go beyond the call of duty.  This can be somewhat off-putting, even for me, a person who appreciates what lies under the hood far more than visual aesthetics (which is why the Corvette Z06 has captured my heart more so than the far more visually appealing Ferrari F430).

Overall, after investing just a few scant hours into the game so far, I’ve very much enjoyed Race Pro. It has delivered exactly what I expected to, an involving and incredibly realistic racing simulator. Race Pro may be a little rough around the edges especially concerning the interface and overall presentation but it delivers where it counts. Stay tuned for the full review, which should be posted very soon.

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Playstation Home Beta Impressions

December 2, 2008

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In the days, weeks and months since the announcement of Sony’s Xbox Live killer, Home, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve gone from hotly anticipating this feature to almost completely uninterested after numerous delays. I began to think that this was one of many things that looks and sounds great on paper but ultimately fails in execution. And who could blame me for feeling this way? What was supposed to launch to all Playstation Network users as early as September 2007 is still only in the beta stages well over a year later.

Oh how quickly things change when you press the right buttons…

Yesterday afternoon, I opened my email account to see that I’d received a long awaited invitation to the pubic beta for Playstation Home. Naturally, I quickly rushed over to my Playstation 3 to turn it on, input my beta access code and start playing around with it. So, how do I feel about it? Well, in a word…conflicted.

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