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Positive Feedback ISSUE 55
may/june 2011

audiodiscourse

 

The Audez'e LCD-2 Planar Magnetic Headphones with the ALO Audio Reference 8 - Universal - Silver/Copper Headphone Cable: And Then There Was One (Plus the AlgoRhythm Solo and the ALO Audio Rx II with all ALO cables, a Beautiful Sandwich of Sound)
by Andy Schaub

 

"It's getting late have you seen my mates

Ma tell me when the boys get here

It's seven o'clock and I want to rock"

ĖBernie Taupin

 

Anyone who has been reading my articles knows I have a bit of a headphone fetish; and in addition the Moon Audio Silver Dragon Beyerdynamic Tesla T5pís I use with a Ray Samuels SR-71B and a black iPod Classic, I have a Whiplash Audio TWag v2 pair of Ultrasone Edition 10ís I use with a Blossom Blo-0299 fully balanced headphone amp in my office system. I have a lot of headphones of all different shapes sizes, sizes, and varieties that I use with the Woo 22 headphone amp in my main system. Up until recently, I had considered auditioning one of the many fine all tube electrostatic headphone systems by, e.g., Ray Samuels, or Woo Audio with a pair of Stax 007 "ear speakers". However, after a brief email exchange with Ken Ball at ALO Audio I ended up with a loaner pair of the planar magnetic Audez'e (pronounced "odyssey") LCD-2ís and Kenís own very best Reference 8 headphone cable in a combined balanced/single-ended configuration; and you know what? They sound really, really good.

LCD phones

Many years ago, I owned a top of the line pair of Stax electrostatic headphones with the solid-state headphone amp for them (Stax also made a tube amp; but I felt it lacked bass); however, as part of an all-Spectral system the sound lacked finesse, and I quickly sold what I had purchased second hand. All the things thatóat the timeóI felt that the then state of the art Stax headphones lacked the LCD-Ds now have, which means plenty of detail but at the same time a lush, rich midbass and purity of midrange that rivals my old Quad ESL-63 USA monitors. Plus, with the ALO Reference 8 headphone cable, thereís a sweetness to the treble I have only heard from dynamic headphones in the past; even my TWag v2 Tesla T1ís canít quite match the LCD-2ís in that respect although I will fully admit that the T1ís need hundreds of hours to really complete the burn in process, something for which I just donít have the patience (which is not to disparage the otherwise fine sounding Tesla T1ís; they will burn in eventually).

algorhythm

I also have to say I was rather amazed by the combination of the AlgoRhythm Solo portable iPhone, iPod, and iPad DAC and the ALO Audio Rx II headphone amp. They have the same for factor and sandwich together nicely even with my iPod Classic stacked on top, and can drive virtually any headphone out there. Last night, I connected the 4-pin balanced to mini plug adapter to the ALO Reference 8 headphone cable and listened to Hugh Masekela's Hope via the Solo, Rx II and LCD-2ís and was rather amazed with the clarity, depth, deep bass and dynamic range I was getting from them. There was a distinct "thwack" from the drumbeats that reminded me of my home system and purity to the midrange that, again, reminded me greatly of my old Quad ESL 63 USA monitors except that it actually had deep bass and could play very loudly. I then put on Vespers by the Iro Haarla Quintet on ECM (again from my iPod Classic) and lulled myself off to sleep with no hint of grain or distortion at all to the sound. The combination of the iPod Classic, Solo, Rx II, Reference 8 headphone cable and LCD-2ís does make for a rather large portable system, but I already have visions of rearranging the insides of a camera case or having some blank foam cut by the House of Foam (yes, thatís a real store) to hold everything for traveling. It sounded so good it would be worth the hassle.

Over time, my favorite pre-LCD-2 combination has become the balanced version of the Whiplash Audio TWag v2 wired Beyerdynamic Tesla T1ís with CryoParts XLR connectors and my Woo 22 headphone amp using all premium tubes (i. e., the premium tubes offered on the Woo site). As I mentioned before, the combination still needs hundreds of hours of burn in; but the T1ís have a lushness and sweetness to the treble that the Sennheiser HD800ísówhich are more spacious soundingódonít necessarily share. However, the Audez'e LCD-2ís with the ALO Audio Reference 8 headphone cable have a naturalness and "just rightness" to them that makes them work with everything from Vespers played through my big system with the Woo 22 to Emmylou Harrisí Hard Bargain with its rocking guitars and Harrisí throaty voice. Today I listened to Imprint by the Juliana HŁlsmann Trio on ECM and found myself easily falling into the music, again on the big system; and tonight I return to an adventure with Rruga by Colin Vallon, Patrice Moret, and Samuel Rohrer, again on ECM, as copied onto my 160GB iPod Classic and played through the Solo/Rx II with all ALO cables including the universal Reference 8 with the mini plug termination. I have to say I am profoundly impressed by the quality of connectors used in this arrangement as well.

As a reality check, I played Matthew Sweetís Girlfriend on vinyl using the office system with the Blossom Blo-0299 headphone amp (featuring the Welborne third-party power supply and the Stealth Swift loom power cable system) with my Ultrasone Edition 10ís and the TWag v2 balanced cable with the CryoParts XLRís. In this case, there was purity to the midrange that the LCD-2ís donít necessarily share; but I have yet to try vinyl on the big system with the Woo 22 and the universal Reference 8, something that will happen soon. I'm listening now to Rruga by Colin Vallon, Patrice Moret and Samuel Rohrer using the portable ALO rig and guess itís a sign of how much Iíve been enjoying the almost home-stereo-like sound that I let my iPod Classic completely run out of battery power, something thatís never happened to me before. So, sadly, I need to take a break and watch Glee on TV while I wait for the batteries to charge; the sound is so smooth, so sweet and just so damned musical that I completely forgot about practical limitations like the thirty-six hours of audio Iím supposed to get from the 160 GB iPod Classic. It just never occurred to me that I havenít been listening to a home stereo over the past few days and that I need to pause occasionally to recharge. Now that I have had to wait for a solid 4 hours for a full charge to get the music back (and I wanted the music back so badly), I appreciate the purity and clarity that has an almost tube-tube presence to it that much more; and the transient response of the planar magnetic LCD-2ís is truly world class even powered by the portable Rx II.

Listening to Jerry Garcia and David Grismanís Shady Grove, I hear layers of detail in the guitars and mandolins and in fact all percussive instruments that I am just not used to perceiving from a portable system, or really from any system short of electrostatics. I find myself carrying the mighty iPod Classic/Solo/Rx II around the house with me using the LCD-2ís and wondering if thereís any way I can afford this marvelous combination, even if it means letting go of most of the rest of my portable equipment. Going back to my reference 160 GB iPod Classic/Ray Samuels SR-71B and Beyerdynamic Tesla T5p headphones all with Moon Audio Silver Dragon cabling and a Protector plug, I would say that the ALO sandwich has a cleaner, clearer sound quality to it that is musically a bit more engaging; however, the 160 GB iPod Classic/Ray Samuels SR-71B and Beyerdynamic Tesla T5p modified with Moon Audio Silver Dragon V3 cableówhile slightly veiled by comparisonóhas a sweetness, glossiness and warmth that makes it equally engaging in a different sort of way. It truly is six of one and half a dozen of another. Iím leaning in the direction of preferring the ALO sandwich and LCD-2ís, but given that the Ray Samuelís SR-71B/Tesla T5p combination is smaller and I already own it, it makes for a most entertaining conundrum and, sadly, in todayís world we canít necessarily have everything we want, leaving me with much to consider. By comparison, the iBasso D4 "Mamba" used with an iPad 2 and a pair of Moon Audio Silver Dragon V2 Ultrasone Edition 8's or with a Silver Dragon V3 LOD coming from the analog out of my 160 GB iPod Classic sounded very dynamic and slightly closer to the magic of the ALO arrangement; but even the iPad 2 used with the Mamba and a Locus Design Polestaróa really fantastic combinationócouldn't quite equal the all ALO/LCD-2 configuration in terms of depth, dynamics, clarity and spatial representation.

woo

Returning to the main system, I auditioned two albums today using the Woo 22/ Reference 8/LCD-2 combinationóin the four pin balanced modeóone being a 24/96 high-resolution download of Eric Claptonís 461 Ocean Boulevard played through my digital music server and the other being a performance of Mahlerís Fourth Symphony by the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam under George Solti, this time on vinyl, specifically an original Decca SXL 2276. In both cases, I found the sound to be superb. There was ample deep bass with crisp, clean presence in the Eric Clapton download and a richly sonorous quality to the violins and delicacy to the voice of the soloist in Mahlerís Fourth. Again, strings, drums, vocals, everything simply sounded like music and a quality that I have often described as harmonic integrity, meaning that it all comes together as if attending a very synergistic live performance. There is no doubt that, portable or stationary, the Audez'e LCD-2 planar magnetic headphones with the ALO Audio Universal Reference 8 headphone cable make for world-class listening; and I highly recommend them!

Kindest regards,

Andy

ALO Audio www.aloaudio.com

 

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