Denon AH-D340 Music Maniac Review

Denon had recently refreshed their headphones lineup with several new entrants to keep up with the demands of the personal entertainment market. You can check out the complete lineup on the Denon homepage. The Denon AH-D340, reviewed here comes under the Music Maniac line with a neutral tuning (no enhancement of bass or treble regions of the music).Though the company has not made it clear, I believe this lineup matches up closely and could be the successor of the their previously popular D2000, 5000 & 7000 models. Denon is a competent player in the audio entertainment industry and my personal experience with the D2000 left me with a very good impression of their headphones line as well.

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The Canjam Europe 2013 Experience.

Canjam 2013 was a memorable and interesting event.The experience of meeting like minded headphone ehtusiasts and getting to try out such diverse gear at one place was priceless.The organizer’s had a special VIP lounge for enthusiasts to bring their own gear and share with fellow headphone audiophiles.

Image The Inear One IEM from Germany, the first I have ever heard of! Did not spend much time with it but initial impressions were good, the flat cable is a bit annoying! If I do get the chance, I would love to spend some more time with them to provide a better opinion. Hopefully a review may ensue, thanks to Ultrazino. Edit: Previously wrongly mentioned as an IEM from India!

ImageI started out with the STAX booth, with top of line Stax 009 Earspeaker! Popular opinion amongst audiophile circles places the 009 as one of the best headphones ever made and I was quickly enamored in an entirely “divine” sound. Such effortlessness and transparency from a headphone (though the official term is Earspeaker) is something that I never thought would be possible.Once you start listening, the headphone totally disappears and you are left with an intimate but open concert for one. The Stax setup driven by the Malvalve amps were so unreal with their presentation and dynamics that I would hardly believe that these were a relatively compact personal music listening setup.That is also when I met a fellow headphone enthusiast who introduced me to his Stax music listening setup (thanks Wolfgang), the earspeaker showed some age but the sound was only just behind the new releases from stax. The kicker was when he told me that his setup is over 20 years old!…I am now a believer in the Stax line!

ImageThe B&O H6 was a in an enclosure and was just calling out to me with its understated but lovely color scheme. Upon holding the H6 in my hands I could feel a solid build and yet luxurious appeal that it held. The earpads were wonderfully comfortable and provided more than expected isolation. My first impressions of the sound was, well balanced with good bass, clear mids and treble. The build and looks put them in close competition with the Sennheiser Momentums, the H6 felt more comfortable than the On ear momentums. The sound was smooth, a nice presentation for a portable headphone.

Grado SR60i & the Fosgate Signature Headphone amp I have been eager to try the Grados for a long time now and my wish came true during this Canjam.After extensive reading about the pros/cons & sound of the Grados you think I wouldn’t be surprised by them but I was! They lovely and I intend pickup the SR80i at the earliest possible opportunity. Grados have  very little presence here (in Germany) and as such more expensive! The Grados were driven by Fosgate Signature Tube amps. The higher end models like the RS1i and PS1000 sounded fabulous (a presentation that I have personally never heard before), though driving the lower end Grados like the SR60i, 80i and 225i with a $1500 amplifier was great but impractical.A cheaper tube amplifier alternative could do the job (though not as well) with good sound and value for the money.

Note: I expected to share this post a while back but never managed to get around to it.There may be some more impressions that I may add to this post later! I do however recommend the Headfonia post for a more or less complete coverage of the event.

The Mellifluous Sony MDR MA900 – Review

Sony, a leading manufacturer of Consumer electronics have for a while been overtaken in the highly competitive headphone market. I still have pleasant memories of my Sony MDR V6, an excellent headphone. Lately with the rise of niche companies such as Audeze, Hifiman and so on, Sony has been playing the catch-up game. They have been seeing success with the MDR1R and now the MDR-MA900 may be another shot in the arm for the giant.

Design/Build & Comfort

 The MA900 is “less headphone & more music”. The build is sparse, minimalist and does raise some doubts about durability. The magnesium alloy frame is the backbone holding the plastic enclosed lollipop drivers. The cable is nothing special and I never had issues with tangling. This headphone may not rank high on the build category but remember that it well makes up for it in comfort. Thankfully the MA900 was designed as a stay-at-home headphone and delicate handling should make it last for years.

The highlight (or delight) of the MA900 (apart from the sound) is the comfort. The MA900 disappears once the music starts! The clamping force is delicate, but the headphone sits comfortably on the head – the 70mm drivers cover the ear with ample space to breath! You can wear this headphone for hours and not feel the stress of something sitting on the head. I will confidently say that the comfort offered by the MA900 is unmatched by any headphone in this price range or even several times higher. Kudos to Sony!

Sound Impressions

As the review title suggests the MA900 has a sweet and lovable presentation. It is polite and smooth, yet has enough bite for an engaging but relaxing listen. Treble is well presented and is without any sibilance. The clarity in the treble is apparent since the rest of frequencies are well balanced. Comparing the MA900 to the HD650, the latter is definitely the darker sounding and colored headphone. The thick bass and smoky mids of the HD650 tend to take away much from the treble, not so with the MA900.Though the overall presentation of the MA900 slants to the warmer side, the treble presence is balanced to provide a good sense of detail and transparency. Some may feel the treble to be a bit too bright (compared to, say the HD650), but in my opinion it is just right! If my memory serves right it’s just like the HD600 tonally and is refreshing to listen to coming from the HD650.

 Mids are transparent, detailed and bring out the palpability without any bleed from the bass regions. I personally prefer the voices to be much more intimate than the MA900, which by the way is the saving grace for bad recordings. This also suits the general presentation style of the MA900 (SMOOTH!), and its wide genre compatibility.

Surprisingly good bass for a open headphone! The bass is with texture and speed in the upper and midbass regions. There is of course some amount of “boominess” in the bass but that is still forgivable for an open headphone. The whole “Bass lens” acronym had me worried but all’s good. This is by no measure a “bass-head can” but should satisfy most listeners looking for a good bass performance. The attack and punch of the lower frequencies are however slightly distant in the vast soundstage.

The sprawling “soundscapes” that the MA900 fleshes out is fabulous! This is also where the angled drivers do their magic, and magic it is! Better soundstage presentation in terms of size and accuracy are impossible to find in this price class and can only be experienced in models like the Hifiman HE500 & Sennheiser HD800.The other headphone with such a lavish soundstage that I have listened to is the AKG 240DF, then again it definitely not as musical nor easy to drive! As a design advantage, open headphones generally have a more wide and nautral soundstage. The MA900 in particular with its large 70mm driver, angled driver placement takes the open design to new highs.

Perhaps the biggest asset of the MA900 is its undemanding nature when it comes to other gear in its signal route. I listened to the MA900 through a Burson HA160 Headphone amp/DAC Magic, Macbook pro headphone output, Dell XPS M1530 headphone out, iPod Classic headphone out, iPod LOD to Fiio E11 & O2 headphone amp. Remarkably the overall presentation and much of the detail and clarity remains across the different gear. Yes, the Burson/O2 firmed up the impact and boundaries, the Fiio E11 could add some more warmth but they never altered the overall experience drastically. Good source material meant better clarity and definition, bad recordings (in my opinion) were not intolerable and the MA900 does a decent job here (though you may not be doing justice to this headphone!).I can whole heartedly recommend the MA900 as a single component music listening setup from a computer, AV receiver or any other source – it’s that good! Adding a DAC/lossless audio should provide a higher quality signal to the 70mm drivers for better detail retrieval.

Conclusion

The only thing going against the MA900 is that it is a very niche headphone! If you are a closed headphone enthusiast, then this headphone is out obviously (though you should give it a listen). Some listeners like the presentation to be a bit intimate, the MA900 however projects a large soundstage and therefore may not appeal to these listeners. The first few days of my listening sessions were unsatisfactory because of this very fact; the HD650 & HD600 creates a slight but perceivable sense of intimacy that is lacking with this headphone. As for competitors to the MA900, this budget is crowded with several good headphones like the Sennheiser HD598, Audio technica AD900x and even the Sennheiser HD600 if you can find it at a competitive price!

In spite of the above statements, there is no question in my mind that the MA900 is an excellent buy at the price and performance levels (as good as the HD600!). It goes well with most music genres and could become the “go-to headphone” for music lovers not wanting the hassle of having additional gear or heavy headphones. The Sony MDR MA series is available in India from Flipkart and other online stores and don’t forget to check flipit.com for discount coupons to save on your purchase.

 This post was sponsored by Flipit.com.

Review Gear:

Burson HA160 Headphone Amplifier/ DAC Magic DIY O2 Headphone Amplifier & Fiio E11 Amplifier
Lossless Audio/ 320 Kbps mp3/ 24-96 Hi-Res Files
Headphones: Sennheiser HD650

How good is your hearing?

As an audiophile and music lover the only equipment that you need to be most careful about are “the ears”. Hearing loss with age is natural, especially in the higher frequency regions of the sound spectrum. If you have been constantly exposed to loud music playback via a personal music device/headphones or at concerts, the damage could be more!

Practice listening at safe volume levels and remember that the greatest audio gear in the world is the human ear and our ability to hear! Recommended reading: The Universal Sense by Seth Horowitz.