Audeze headphones are here. Todd and I were instantly taken with them and felt they deserved a dedicated area of the store for listening. So, we got to it, moved things around and set up what we are fondly calling, the Headphone Nook. We have all four models of Audeze headphones ($995-$1,945) as well as NAD ($299) and PSB ($399) to try out. The middle Audeze models, (LCD-X, LCD-XC) are designed to be easily driven. Your phone, computer or IPod/MP3 player can drive them if you are on the run. Of course, for more serious listening, they benefit highly from a designated headphone amplifier, just as the other two models do.
The Audeze headphones are impressive in looks, comfort, and sound. Everything you want in a headphone. Sonically, they are non-fatiguing, eerily resolute, but realistic, while having deep, defined bass. The listening experience is immersive. Truly a must hear in the store. Click HERE to see what Audeze Ambassadors are saying about them.
For amplification we are using the new and very cool McIntosh MHA 100 headphone amplifier ($4,500). The MHA 100 is specifically designed for headphones. Featuring a built in DAC and three headphone impedance ranges of 8-40, 40-150 and 150-600 ohms, to drive any headphone you can throw at it. Not a one trick pony, the MHA 100 also has a power amplifier with output terminals for speakers. No wimpy amplifier here, 50 watts/channel into 8 ohms and 100 watts into 4 ohms.
At the Sound Environment we always are trying get the most out of every system. Elevating this system, we have Transparent power cables and conditioning as well as the new Nordost Heimdall 2 Headphone Cable. The Heimdall 2 is a brilliant match. These headphones are incredible on their own, but adding this cable takes this system to the next level.
If you’re into headphones, grab some of your favorite CD’s or your laptop, maybe a cup of coffee and come relax in our Headphone Nook.
Recently you may have noticed VTL product begin to appear again in The Sound Environment’s showrooms. In our World Class system you’ll hear the excellent VTL TP6.5 Signature Phono Preamp. In our east demo room, the wonderful VTL IT85 integrated holds forth on Audio Physic classic 10’s, a synergistic match. Coming soon, the highly regarded VTL mono-blocks will give customers more amplifier listening opportunities and selection. It is our belief that VTL offers the special magic of vacuum tubes without many of the typical drawbacks.
The Sound Environment relationship with VTL goes back to the mid 1990s. Today VTL is doing their best work. Tube products that belie their tube circuits with highly resolved and sophisticated sound, yet retain the dynamic ease and vast sound staging capability that is their heritage. Visiting Luke Manley and Bea Lamm at their VTL factory near Los Angles helped us understand how they do it.
Bea introduced us to their manufacturing process system. It’s not unusual for this kind of system to be in place for giant companies like Apple, but impressive for a specialty company like VTL to be able to have the multiple stage quality control (parts, boards, assemblies, final product), assembly and testing instructions for every version of their product, information on who assembled each circuit board and what parts were used. For you, our customer, this translates to consistent performance, unit to unit. You get the same performance as that reviewer who raved about the product.
Luke showed us some of the technology VTL has introduced in recent years. Self-biasing tube circuits, multiple-level fail protection, oversized power supplies and speedy regulation circuits.
At the end of our look at the factory we listened to some music. Note in the picture of VTL’s listening room that the speakers are Rockport and the cables are Transparent Opus. Bea listens to every VTL product before it leaves VTL’s doors for a final quality check.
I left with the confidence that VTL not only gets great reviews, but makes sure the experience their customers have lives up to their lofty reputation.