New Audio Rig - Grado 325e v 10 other Headphones x Mojo DACport HD Dragonfly RED 7 USB DAC Shootout!

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by RumorConsumer, Aug 6, 2018.

  1. RumorConsumer, Aug 6, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018

    RumorConsumer macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #1
    I am finally doing a big upgrade from my Echo Audiofire 2 / Grado SR225 (bought in 2001) to a Dragonfly Red + either the Shure SRH1540 or Grado 325e. I have both on order and the question seems to be are the Shures really $150 better to justify the price. Both are considered "top end" of their particular price bracket. Any thoughts? They come tomorrow.

    and my dad ordered the same ones and we're gonna test them together.

    Update:

    This project has taken on new life.

    I have so far purchased for testing:

    Headphones:
    Grado 325e and Shure SRH 1540.

    This project resulted in the order of:

    beyerdynamic Amiron and DT990, DT880

    Sennheiser
    600, 650, 660S, and 700

    HIFIMAN SUNDARA and HD-400i's

    Grado PS500e's w the G Cusions

    I already own Grado 225 (no i or e!) purchased about 15 years ago and going strong. Ill include them in the mix.

    DACs:

    Audioquest DragonFly Red w the USB Jitterbug attachment (will see about this placebo nonsense myself)

    Chord Mojo

    Meridian Explorer USB

    Resonessence Labs HERUS+

    Apogee Groove

    Cambridge DACmagic XS

    Centrance DACport HD.

    I will be testing them all together to see what combos come out of it.

    The DACs replace (hopefully) my trusty old Echo AudioFire 2 which is a Firewire 400 interface. To connect to my MacBook Pro it needs: a FW 400-800 cable, a FW800 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, then a Thunderbolt 2 adapter to USB-C adapter. And a 12v AC adapter bc the bus no longer supplies enough power after all that adaptation to adequately power the device. It was originally bought to power those Grados and a pair of Swan T200b's that I think arent made anymore but freaking rocked.

    My desire is to have an adequately mobile listening situation that fits lightly and comfortably in my day backpack that does not require an additional power source/battery.

    Ill post result and impressions.
     
  2. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

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    #2
    No thoughts, as I don't own either, but will read the results of your testing with interest.
     
  3. RumorConsumer, Aug 9, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018

    RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #3
    Updated the original post. Even better!
    --- Post Merged, Aug 9, 2018 ---
    Some initial first impressions:

    I have received the Dragonfly RED, the 325e's and the Shure's. More DACs coming soon.

    Initial comparison between the Audiofire and the Dragonfly:

    The Dragonfly is really good. Its precise and its a little bit... barren. Like a cyborg to the Echo's human counterpart. The Terminator v Kyle Reese. Like it sounds damn good but there is like a certain guttural oomph that the Echo still has over it that Ive grown accustomed to. Not super pronounced but I notice. My reference song for these is The first 45sec-1 min of The Black Crowes "Sting Me" from their Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. There is something about that snare drum on the Echo that makes me smile and tap my foot and on the Dragonfly it sounds nearly there but not QUITE. Also the Echo is just a warmer sound in general which I love. Dragonfly is about 1/10th the mass so not bad at all for the size reduction. Ill suspect Ill keep the Echo no matter what but I would love the replacement to be something that hits that note, so to speak. So the Dragonfly is definitely a killer replacement and would do. I am praying that the Apogee Groove (a company hitting the same modern market Echo tried to hit a long time ago) is a worthy contender here. It gets here today as does the Jitterbug.


    Initially between the Shures and the 325e's

    I prefer the 325e's. They just have that rock n roll ramble. Like loud exhaust on a sports car. The Shure's feel more composed. I want to feel more of them but I can't quite get there with them.

    The 325e's are maybe more on the trebly side as some reviewers have noted and they pair well with the warmer and still very detailed Echo Audiofire. 325e's with the Dragonfly produces great sound but again its brighter and detailed. Shure + Dragonfly is a better mating there but, again, I prefer the 325e's. Come on Apogee Groove!

    PS. the Jitterbug is said to help the Dragonfly produce warmer tighter bass. Let's see if it helps. If it does, it'll be ugly as *** but maybe that's the solution right there.
     
  4. willentrekin macrumors regular

    willentrekin

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    #4
    Oh this is neat. Will definitely watch this thread. I'm not familiar with the Shures you're testing, but I know Grado is consistently great. Nice simile to the sports car. I could see something like Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic being more comparable to a BMW/Benz, with that analogy. Nothing wrong with any of those cars!

    I had the Explorer for a couple of years. I liked the sound well enough but it fell apart on me. The plastic pieces on either end came loose, and it got to the point that it was too inconsistent between the headphone jack on the front and the USB on the back; at one point I taped it down to my monitor stand so that it wouldn't move, because otherwise the connections wouldn't work.

    This was a couple of years ago; it's likely improved. But that was what moved me over to the DragonFly (first) and now the Mojo.
     
  5. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #5
    How would you compare the Mojo and the Dragonfly? Was it the RED? The mojo is the other one Im feeling might be a contender.
     
  6. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #6
    Ok first impressions of the Jitterbug on Sting Me and Beyoncé's Daddy Lessons (Grade 325e's and DragonFly RED). Using it on a MacBook Pro 2017 w the Apple USB-USBC adapter:

    2 audio geeks can't hear a lick of difference, prefer the Dragonfly (which does sound better today) WITHOUT the jitterbug.

    One non audio geek but still a geek who has owned a 25k stereo - cant hear a difference in blind test.

    One non geek non audio geek - can't hear a difference in blind test.

    We had the Audiofire out and ready for a run for it's money but alas it was not needed.

    Could work for some people and maybe the power source on these is really clean. But I believe this device will be returned. We'll see when the other DACs come.
     
  7. willentrekin macrumors regular

    willentrekin

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    #7
    "How would you compare the Mojo and the Dragonfly? Was it the RED? The mojo is the other one Im feeling might be a contender."

    It's been a while, and I didn't use them long, so I can't speak to it in great depth.

    After I got frustrated with the Explorer, I bought Dragonflys in both red and black, along with a Jitterbug, figuring I would return whichever one I didn't want. I noticed a solid step up from black to red; there was more 'oomph' to it. It's hard to describe, but it was a pretty clear difference just between those two. Given that, though, I thought I should try the Mojo.

    The Mojo is even more discernible. The first song I listened to was Yo-Yo Ma performing Unaccompanied Cello Suite in G (I think it's Bach), and it blew me away. There was an imagery to the sound that wasn't just the soundstage. The notes had greater depth, more nuance, and the same was true for -- and this might sound weird -- but the sound between the notes. Breaths and placements of fingers -- I'm pretty sure I can hear when the note requires a bit of distance between one finger placement and the next. Stuff like that.

    I use it with Sennheiser HD700s (which for me had more warmth and resonance than the HD800s more 'clinical' sound), as well as Shure SE535s, which have a wonderful mid-range presence. I have a pair of NuForce something-or-others, too, that sound fair, but the Shures and the Senns are what's over or in my ears when I'm at my desk (where I spend a lot of time; I'm a novelist and publisher).
     
  8. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #8
    That’s an awesome description. And you also concluded the Jitterbug was a non starter for your setup?
     
  9. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #9
    I've been corresponding with the President of Centrance, Michael Goodman, who has been awesome. He assures me I will be returning all other products and keeping the DACport HD. When I referenced that I would be replacing an Echo Audiofire he let me know one of the former executives at Echo now works at Centrance. Nice omen. That product arrives early next week.

    Big DAC arrival today. I think 4 of them should be coming. We'll see what we come up with!
     
  10. willentrekin macrumors regular

    willentrekin

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    #10
    "And you also concluded the Jitterbug was a non starter for your setup?"

    I don't remember it making much difference, and I'm not using it with the Mojo. OTOH, it's like $20, right? I mean at that price can't hurt to have either way. I returned mine because it was part of a bundle.
     
  11. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #11
    Yeah I perceive no difference.
     
  12. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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  13. RumorConsumer, Aug 10, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018

    RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #13
    OK first up

    The Meridian Explorer2 is gutless. Might even be worse than the onboard. Don't even consider it. If its between this and the Dragonfly Red the Dragonfly is far superior. My 1992 Walkman might be superior. Maybe not but you get the idea. Amazon label printed.

    Next is the Resonessence Labs Herus + Which was just kind of uninteresting. It's an ok device. It sounds decent. Better than onboard thank god. Got distorted on Midnight from the Inside Out from The Black Crowes Live which is apparently a very difficult to reproduce guitar sound at higher volumes. The Echo and the Dragonfly Red have no issue though. I don't like it. There are these moments where theres a lot happening in the song as it goes along and the device chokes pretty bad. Can’t quite separate the sounds well and you get that audio frequency traffic jam effect. Amazon label printed. Comes in a cute box though.

    The Apogee Groove is on the better side of things for sure but I believe the Dragonfly RED has also eaten its lunch. The Dragonfly RED is just so darn clear and unconflicted. Clear as a bell. The Groove started out maybe sounding like fun aka not donkey crap in the first 5 seconds but it turned out like handle of cheap grain alcohol fun on a greasy dinner. Dirty fun. Got a bit sandy and unrefined, top heavy not like trebly (if anything it was thicker than the Dragonfly) but clumsy and imprecise; careless even. Not unrefined in a way that ends up feeling like rock n roll, just like messy. Uncalibrated. Definitely not justifying the price tag in the end. For $100 cheaper Dragonfly RED for sure.

    The Chord Mojo. Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.Damnit.

    Its twice the price AND THEN SOME as the Dragonfly but its really damn good. Really good. Clear, detailed, bold, generous with all dimensions. I said out loud "f***, I can't find a problem with that" after kicking the volume up and hearing a practically perfect rendition of Midnight from the Inside Out. It's like a perfect juggler of all these noises. No one feels compromised for another like they did on the other units (particularly the Meridian) and there’s just so much space for it all. This just feels fluffy and sharp respectively in all the right places. It's like emotionally there is enough space for every instrument in this mix. But it is battery powered (I didnt realize) and Id like to know more about how all that jazz works before seriously considering. It has two USB ports one for interface and one for power (a little weird). It does sound really good. Damnit. But it looks like a damn guitar pedal. The "WOOF" at the start of Robert Randolph and the Family Band's Aint Nothing Wrong With That is more "WOOF" on the Mojo. I keep listening to the Dragonfly RED saying Ok thats freaking awesome, and then the Mojo just offers a bit more love.

    My friend who knows nothing about audio whatsoever tried a blind test between the Dragonfly RED and the Mojo and immediately upon hearing the Mojo said "oh this one is more intimate". I agree. I will be sitting with this decision.

    Behold, the remaining contenders.

    IMG_2069.JPG

    And the loser's circle:

    IMG_2070.JPG




    Last thing to try tonight is the Dragonfly RED v the Mojo with the Shure's, which have stayed in the box now for a few days.... I think they'll probably be going back, too.

    - 20 minutes of listening -
    Annnnnnd the Shure's, while they are kind of the responsible adults in the room, are going back. They’re pulled back. Afraid to get their hands dirty. The Grado's are so so so much more lifelike. My non-audio knowing friend (had no idea what either of them meant or what to expect) did an A/B test and said the Shure's, while they sounded good, had the “musical feeling of an unavailable boyfriend”. That about captures my sentiment though I think she is much more qualified to know than I. For her, we listened to Scissor Sister's Take Your Mama and Wicked Games by the Weeknd. The Grado's were obviously the sexy, intimate, emotionally available boyfriend. Without a doubt.


    Remaining gear:

    Grado 325e's
    Dragonfly RED
    Chord Mojo

    Good old trusty Echo Audiofire 2.

    Still to arrive is the DACport HD. The guy said Id be returning everything else. That is big s*** talking. Let's see if it measures up. Should be arriving on Tuesday or Wednesday. If they blow I will have a difficult decision between the portability and easy and LESS THAN HALF THE DAMN PRICE of the Dragonfly and the battery powered, bigger, heavier, uglier, better sounding Mojo. Which also has two audio jacks. Ugh.
     
  14. D.T. macrumors G3

    D.T.

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    #14
    For another DAC in this price range I'd definitely check out the Schiit Modi 2 $99 (just USB) or Modi 2 Uber @ $149 (adds Toslink and Coaxial SPDIF), great build, excellent SQ, etc.
     
  15. RumorConsumer, Aug 10, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018

    RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #15
  16. Scepticalscribe macrumors Westmere

    Scepticalscribe

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    #18
    Great review, informative, interesting, exceedingly enjoyable to read, and extremely comprehensive.

    Thank you for taking the time to pen and post this.
     
  17. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #19
    I forgot - I also ordered the DACmagic XS which for the price I doubt will compete. Its really up to Mr DACport HD at this point I think to change my mind and with all the press and, from what I can tell, concurring viewpoints of all this gear I’m skeptical. And I am keeping an open mind.


    Some things I’ve learned about the Mojo

    Its very very smart. I’m highly skeptical of weird engineering choices (which this thing seems to have no lack of) but these geeks have a muse and its actually almost like an inside joke at this point. I understand the choice now for two USB jacks - because if there was only one then you'd HAVE to be supplying it power and they wanted to give you the option not to do that especially if you're like me and want to use this connected to a MacBook Pro. Very smart! 2 audio jacks because if you're like me you should be including the special somebody in your life more often than your own head would tell you to and that unused audio jack just reminds me to include them. It apparently auto senses how much gain your headphones need to operate at optimal conditions. Thats cool. I noticed that when I had the Shures and the Grados plugged in simultaneously the Shures were a bit softer but you know thats not unexpected. It can't listen to the damn headphones for you. The battery is replaceable for $120 by them (waiting on whether there is a DIY solution) and the guy on the other end of my email says he has a first production run unit and its not depleted at all yet. So thats awesome if true. And, they are Brits so what do you expect?

    Oh... and here is the kicker on the Mojo: It has this thing The Chord Poly, which adds more battery life, a card slot, wifi and bluetooth, Roon and DNLA whatever the hell those are, and makes it so that you can stream your music to this thing as it powers whatever speakers or whatever that you want. So you put this thing in your living room and connect speakers and then when you're ready to leave you just unplugg it from the Poly and throw it in your bag. That is GENIUS. Absolutely Genius.

    https://www.trustedreviews.com/reviews/chord-mojo-poly

    I won't get it now, but I can see when I move to my new place in a few months and get those ELAC B6's this will power them beautifully and then if I can just add this wireless thingy to it I got AirTunes without ever having to purchase another amp. Too cool.
    --- Post Merged, Aug 11, 2018 ---
    Thank you! I’m going to keep adding details. It was kind of on the fly.
    --- Post Merged, Aug 11, 2018 ---
    More interstingly are you gonna buy anything?
     
  18. willentrekin macrumors regular

    willentrekin

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    #20
    "It has this thing The Chord Poly, which adds more battery life, a card slot, wifi and bluetooth,"

    So am I understanding right that the Poly effectively makes the Mojo a Bluetooth receiver? Like, you can plug it into its power source and then connect via Bluetooth from whatever source you like (MacBook, iPhone, etc) and output to whatever you want (speaker, headphone, etc)?

    Because I totally agree that is GENIUS.

    It would also negate the need for the multiple USB in; I have mine plugged in simultaneously for power and source in my Mac mini. Which I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but I do notice that it's pretty much always warm (almost hot) to the touch.

    In terms of hiss, I think I've noticed something like that. As, when not playing music, I hear absolutely nothing in my HD700s, but I usually hear some noise (almost a cycle) using my SE535s. That always disappears the second I start playing music, so I've never minded.
     
  19. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #21
    Yes it becomes a bluetooth receiver. Or Airplay. Super cool. While it would negate the need for the dual USB, you'd still need to get the Poly connected to do this and that adds quite a bit of bulk to the unit. Plus, only wireless in? The masses would howl. I like it as is.

    They have said in a billion places on their site that the hiss is normal and not to worry. How long have you had it? Anything else to report on it?
     
  20. willentrekin macrumors regular

    willentrekin

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    #22
    "Plus, only wireless in? The masses would howl. I like it as is.

    They have said in a billion places on their site that the hiss is normal and not to worry. How long have you had it? Anything else to report on it?"

    I feel like, at least for me, I'm less concerned about the 'in' than the 'out.' As long as the Mojo creates a great sound for any headphone plugged into it, I don't think the source makes much difference, mainly because the source basically is the Mojo. I think of it like televisions that upsample input to create higher resolution imagery.

    I think I've had it for about two years. As you can probably tell, I don't worry about it at all. It's perpetually plugged into my Mac, and the only thing I change is whether I'm listening using my headphones or IEMs. And the volume, obviously.
     
  21. RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #23
    Fair enough!
     
  22. RumorConsumer, Aug 12, 2018
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2018

    RumorConsumer thread starter macrumors 6502a

    RumorConsumer

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    #24
    The game thickens

    I am trying out some more headphones. I have heard the Beyerdynamic name a few times and I am gonna try out some of these German headphones. I ordered a $600 pair of Amiron home's with the wired interface. Let's see how they stack up.

    I am also going to do something which feels... unnatural for me. For years, everybody I talk to wants to sell me on these Sennheisers and it feels like one of those things you're supposed to like. I have loved loved loved my Grado sound and I have to admit they are not that comfortable and the high end treble, while exciting, is a bit sharp. I think I like it but I am going to face my fear of perhaps liking something better and ordered a few more headphones to test.

    The Sennheiser HD 600, 650, and 660s are on the way.
    As is the HIFIMAN Sundara
    HIFIMAN HE-400i
    Beyerdynamic DT 880
    the Amirons I mentioned before
    And just for ***** and giggles the Grado PS500e

    Should be a fun party. Hopefully they go back as easily as the DACs did.
     
  23. willentrekin macrumors regular

    willentrekin

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    #25
    That's a nice mix, but any reason you're sticking with the 6xx in the Senns? I had 598s I was upgrading from, and went to a local shop to try out a bunch of cans, including the Beyerdynamic, HIFIMAN, and Audeze. The HD800s have earned their reputation for clear, neutral sound, but the HD700s have been my cans for the past several years now. They were out of my price range at that audition, and I ended up with a pair of Beyerdynamics, which were terrific, but you can get the HD700s for <$500 now, and I think that's really a steal. (That's what I did several months after the fact.)

    You got the higher ohm Beyers? I tried the 33s(?) but I liked the 880s in 250 (if I'm remembering right).

    Look forward to hearing your further thoughts?
     

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