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Positive Feedback ISSUE 57
september/october 2011

audiodiscourse

 

Starting with an iPod Classic, the AlgoRhythm Solo, Ray Samuels SR-71B and Beyerdynamic Tesla T5p's Versus the Ultrasone Edition 8's Alone: Which Sounds Better?
by Andy Schaub

 

Beyerdynamic Tesla T5p

"Always know sometimes think it's me, but you know I know and it's a dream.
I think I know of thee, ah yes, but it's all wrong.
That is I think I disagree."
–The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Recently, I went to visit my Dad in Washington State and, knowing it would be a stressful trip (he's ill), I wanted to take as much music as possible. Naturally my 160GB iPod Classic occurred to me because of its incredible capacity and generally very good sound. Now the problem was how to get the best sound out of that iPod Classic. Historically I would have used it with a Moon Audio Silver Dragon V3 LOD (not the IEM LOD), my Ray Samuels SR-71B and my Moon Audio Silver Dragon-modified Beyerdynamic Tesla T5p's, using the "Protector plug" termination to the adapter system that Drew Baird at Moon Audio offers; but I had fond memories of the AlgoRhythm Solo from a previous review using all ALO wiring and components, so I asked Drew of he offered something similar—because I didn't want to buy a whole new amp as well—and he said he did make a kit to go with the Solo (which he sells) using the Silver Dragon IEM cabling. It goes something like this:

Apple 160GB iPod Classic → Moon Audio Silver Dragon IEM digital dock cable → AlgoRhythm Solo →  Silver Dragon IEM mini-plug-to-mini-plug cable (very short) → Ray Samuels SR-71B → Silver Dragon V3 Tesla T5p's

Stacked together from top to bottom as iPod Classic/SR-71B/Solo with short Silver Dragon IEM wire, all held together with a single black rubber strap (I dare call it a "rubber band"), it is quite imposing and requires that I carry three power adapters with me to recharge things, the shortest-lasting components (the Solo) only having a fully-charged life of 7-8 hours; however, the sound is quite open and natural, much better than the iPod Classic alone or the iPod Classic with the SR-71B, and portrays a very warm, natural finesse with strings and voices not to mention that "thwack" I have discussed previously in bop-style jazz and progressive rock (or even dream pop like Mazzy Star). Of course, I had to carry a power strip from Ace Hardware with me just to plug in all three devices; but I honestly felt it was worth it, and still do.

ultrasone

Now things get a bit complicated because of something called synergy and the desire not to look to extreme with my "iPod" at my new place of business, a Silicon Valley startup. So I looked around at various boxes and found ANOTHER 160GB iPod Classic and a pair of Silver Dragon V2 (notice the V2 versus V3) Ultrasone Edition 8's also equipped with multiple terminations. I stuck the second iPod Classic, it's charger and the Edition 8's with the mini-plug termination in their leather pouch in the lovely brown and orange Timbuk2 messenger bag that my girlfriend gave to me and trotted off to work. I didn't get to use it the first day because things got busy; however, on the second day I had a task requiring a certain amount of patience with my computer, so I plugged the headphones into the iPod and donned the Edition 8's. Starting up "Vespers" on ECM by the Iro Haarla Quintet, I was immediately taken by a certain magic and realized I had quite unintentionally found no small amount of synergy; and while I would not say it sounded better than my Solo sandwich, it sounded very, very good indeed. Would it have sounded better with the Solo and the SR-71B? Maybe, I'm not sure. I could try; but why spoil the magic?

I can't emphasize enough how much of a difference synergy makes (the dictionary definition of synergy being, "the potential ability of individual organizations or groups to be more successful or productive as a result of a merger", from http://www.dictionary.com); in other words, A plus B is greater than C in what would otherwise be a simple equation like A + B = C or the whole is greater than the value of the sum of the individual parts, again, magic. I noticed this when I was I was using by iBasso D12 "Anaconda" DAC and headphone amp with my MacBook Air. The Tesla T5p's sounded good but the Edition 8's sounded better, fuller, with more deep bass definition and more bass "authority", the exact opposite of what I would expect. (For the record, the USB cable I was using with the D12 was a mini-B version of the late Lee Weiland's Polestar, which I am quite lucky to own). So again, we see synergy. This does NOT mean that—across the board—the Edition 8's sound better than the T5p's; in fact, generally, I would say the exact opposite, particularly since my Edition 8's use the Silver Dragon V2 cabling but my T5p's use the V3; however, in some cases, the Edition 8's do seem to offer an edge over the T5p's (like alone with an iPod) that I wouldn't have expected. And that is one of the amazing things about this "high-end audio" hobby. 

Kindest regards,

Andy

P. S. For the record, I did try the Edition 8's with the Solo sandwich using the proper "Protector plug" and in THAT context I felt that the T5p's offered a distinct advantage over the Edition 8's in terms of imaging and soundstaging even if they are a bit bigger and more difficult to jam in the generic messenger bag or backpack.

 

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