Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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I measured the E55BT Quincy Editions using a G.R.A.S. Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer, a laptop computer running TrueRTA software with an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface, and a Musical Fidelity V-CAN headphone amplifier. On the G.R.A.S., I used the original KB0065 simulated pinna for most measurements, as well as the new KB5000 pinna for certain measurements, as noted. For Bluetooth-sourced measurements, I used a Sony HWS-BTA2W Bluetooth transmitter to send signals from the Clio 10 FW to the headphones. These are “flat” measurements; no diffuse-field or free-field compensation curve was employed.

I had trouble getting consistent frequency-response measurements from the E55BT Quincy Editions. Their relatively small earcups (which don’t swivel very freely) and relatively small headband made it difficult to get a consistent fit and seal on the ear/cheek simulator. The measurements you see here are the results of many curves taken to find the best seal (indicated by the level of bass) and the most characteristic average response. Also, measurements using Bluetooth signals had to be gated to compensate for Bluetooth’s latency; this gating can affect the measurement curve.

Frequency response

The E55BT Quincy Editions’ frequency response, taken with a Bluetooth signal, looks basically textbook above 1kHz, with a strong peak at about 2.6kHz and a weaker one at about 6kHz; this is the response generally considered to best mimic the sound of real speakers in a real room. The dip in the lower midrange at around 300Hz is a little unusual.

Frequency response

This chart shows the E55BT Quincy Editions’ right-channel frequency response measured with the old KB0065 pinna (which I’ve used for years) and G.R.A.S.’s new KB5000 pinna, which I’ll be switching to because it more accurately reflects the structure and pliability of the human ear. I include this mostly for future reference, rather than as something you should draw conclusions from; I intend to show both measurements in every review for at least the next year before I begin using only the new pinna.

Frequency response

This chart shows the right-channel frequency response of the Quincy Editions, measured using pink noise fed via a Bluetooth signal and using a wired connection from a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone. The wired-connection response is almost identical, with just a couple dB more low-bass output. This is an admirable and, sadly, rare result for active headphones; most show substantially different response when used in passive, wired mode. Although I didn’t include the chart here, the wired connection produced no notable difference in response when I added 70 ohms additional output impedance to the V-CAN amp’s 5-ohm native output impedance.

Frequency response

This chart shows the right-channel frequency response of the E55BT Quincy Editions vs. the standard E55BTs, measured using pink noise fed via Bluetooth. There seem to be slight but consistent differences in the responses of the two models.

Frequency response

This chart shows the E55BT Quincy Editions’ measured right-channel frequency response compared with those of three closed-back headphones: NAD Viso HP50, Bose QC35, and Sony MDR-7506. Except for the Quincy Editions’ deep midrange dip at about 300Hz, their response seems well within the norm.

Waterfall

The spectral-decay (waterfall) chart shows a very clean response free of troublesome resonances.

THD

The total harmonic distortion (THD) of the E55BT Quincy Editions -- measured with a wired connection because the Clio 10 FW’s sine sweeps can’t accommodate Bluetooth’s latency -- is higher than average below 100Hz, rising to maximums of 4.7% at 90dBA and 13.5% at 100dBA. However, these levels, especially 100dBA, are much louder than most listeners will want to -- or should -- use, and I heard no distortion when listening to the headphones.

Isolation

In this chart, the external noise level is 85dB SPL; the numbers below that indicate the degree of attenuation of outside sounds. (Note that I recently switched to measuring at a level of 85dB instead of 75dB; this doesn’t change the way the isolation curves look, but an 85dB level lets me get better measurements of noise-canceling headphones, which demand a lower noise floor.) In my measurements, the isolation of the E55BT Quincy Editions is relatively poor. This is surely due in part to the difficulty I had in getting a good seal on the ear/cheek simulator, but it also corresponds with my subjective listening impressions.

Impedance

The E55BT Quincy Editions’ impedance magnitude and phase in wired mode are almost flat, with an average of 36 ohms through most of the audioband, and a low maximum phase shift of about +20°.

The sensitivity of the E55BT Quincy Editions in wired mode, measured between 300Hz and 3kHz with a 1mW signal, is 103.8dB. If the battery runs down and you have to switch to a wired connection, the JBLs will still play plenty loud.

. . . Brent Butterworth
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I measured the Wave 5s using a G.R.A.S. Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer, a laptop computer running TrueRTA software with an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface, a Musical Fidelity V-CAN amp for most measurements, and an Audio-gd NFB-1AMP amplifier for distortion measurements. On the G.R.A.S. Model 43AG, I used the original KB0066 simulated pinna for most measurements, as well as the new KB5000 pinna for certain measurements (as noted). These are “flat” measurements; no diffuse-field or free-field compensation curve was employed.

Frequency response

The Wave 5s’ frequency response is a little unusual, but not crazy unusual. Normally we see a pronounced peak around 2.5kHz, but here it’s a gradual peak rising from about 500Hz. Note also the strong peak at 6kHz. It’s common to see a second treble peak, but usually it’s about 6dB lower than the peak at around 2.5kHz. This is probably the cause of the occasional mid-treble brightness I heard. Note also the hashiness between 500Hz and 2kHz; I’ve seen this in some other planar magnetics, but I can’t recall seeing it so pronounced.

Frequency response

This chart shows the Wave 5s’ measured right-channel frequency response, measured with the old KB0066 pinna (which I’ve used for years) as well as with G.R.A.S.’s new KB5000 pinna, which I’ll be switching to because it more accurately reflects the structure and pliability of the human ear. I’m including this mostly for future reference rather than as something you should draw conclusions from; I intend to show both measurements in every review for at least the next year, before beginning to use only the new pinna.

Frequency response

This chart shows the results of adding 70 ohms output impedance to the V-CAN’s 1 ohm, to simulate the effects of using a typical low-quality headphone amp. There’s no audible difference in the response, which means the Wave 5s’ tonal balance won’t change with a change in amp.

Frequency response

This chart shows the Wave 5s’ measured right-channel frequency response compared with some other high-end open-back headphones. The Wave 5s’ response looks, at first glance, flatter than the others above 100Hz, but in general, a headphone that sounds subjectively flat will have more of a bass hump, plus a strong peak at about 2.5kHz and a less-strong peak around 6kHz. The Tidal Forces also seem to have the most restrained bass response of all the models represented here.

Waterfall

The spectral-decay (waterfall) chart shows a strong resonance at about 400Hz, and another at that frequency’s second harmonic, 800Hz. Above 1kHz are some more very narrow, “hashy” resonances, but this is fairly common for open-back planar-magnetic models.

THD

The Wave 5s’ total harmonic distortion (THD) is slightly high, at 1% to 3% below 1kHz, but I doubt that such a level of THD in a transducer would be readily audible. Unusually, raising the level to 100dBA -- which is extremely loud -- had a minimal effect on the distortion measurement.

Isolation

In this chart, the external noise level is 75dB SPL; the numbers below that indicate the degree of attenuation of outside sounds. (Note: I took this measurement before I switched to measuring at a level of 85dB instead of 75dB. That doesn’t change the way the isolation curves look, but an 85dB level lets me get better measurements of noise-canceling headphones, which demand a lower noise floor.) The Wave 5s offer a tiny bit more isolation than typical open-backs, but not much compared to the closed-back and noise-canceling models also included in this chart.

Impedance

As with most planar-magnetic headphones, the Wave 5s’ impedance magnitude and phase are dead flat, in this case at 31 ohms.

The sensitivity of the Tidal Force Wave 5s, measured between 300Hz and 3kHz with a 1mW signal, is 103.2dB. That’s excellent for planar-magnetic headphones, and enough to ensure that the Wave 5s will play loudly from any source device.

. . . Brent Butterworth
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I measured the Susvaras using a G.R.A.S. Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer, a laptop computer running TrueRTA software with an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface, and an Audio-gd NFB-1AMP amplifier. On the Model 43AG, I used the original KB0066 simulated pinna for most measurements as well as the new KB5000 pinna for certain measurements, as noted. These are “flat” measurements; no diffuse-field or free-field compensation curve was employed.

Frequency response

I see nothing out of the ordinary in the Susvaras’ frequency response; it’s a lot like what I’ve measured from other open-back, planar-magnetic headphones. Although the response of the two channels doesn’t seem to match quite perfectly, headphone measurements are susceptible to slight changes in headphone position on the ear/cheek simulator. This was the best match I could get.

Frequency response

This chart shows the Susvaras’ measured right-channel frequency response, measured with the old KB0066 pinna (which I’ve used for years) and G.R.A.S.’s new KB5000 pinna, which I’ll be switching to because it more accurately reflects the structure and pliability of the human ear. I’m including this mostly for future reference rather than as something you should draw conclusions from; I intend to show both measurements in every review for at least the next year, before I switch to using only the new pinna.

Frequency response

This chart shows the results of adding 70 ohms output impedance to the NFB-1AMP’s 1-ohm output impedance, to simulate the effects of using a typical low-quality headphone amp. There’s no difference in the response. This doesn’t mean you can use a low-quality amp with the Susvaras -- they won’t play loud enough -- but it does mean you can expect good sound even with a tube headphone amp that has a high output impedance.

Frequency response

This chart shows the Susvaras’ measured right-channel frequency response compared with some other high-end, open-back headphones. The Susvaras’ response is largely similar to the others, although it appears to have the flattest response of the bunch.

Waterfall

The spectral-decay (waterfall) chart shows a lot of strong resonances across the audioband. Though this isn’t uncommon with open-back, planar-magnetic headphones, these might be the most I’ve ever measured. But there are enough of them, and they’re so well spread out, that it’s unlikely that any of them will stand out other than the multiple narrow resonances centered at 4kHz. However, those correspond with the Susvaras’ peak in response at that frequency, a characteristic observed in the measurements of most headphones.

THD

The total harmonic distortion (THD) of the Susvaras is very low at 90dBA, and at 100dBA it’s only slightly higher, in the band of 1-2kHz. Interestingly, the tiny distortion peaks seem to correspond with some of the resonances in the spectral-decay plot.

Isolation

In this chart, the external noise level is 85dB SPL; the numbers below that indicate the attenuation of outside sounds. (Note that I’ve switched to measuring at a level of 85dB instead of my previous 75dB; this doesn’t change the way the isolation curves look, but it does let me get better measurements of noise-canceling headphones, which demand a lower noise floor.) Like almost all other open-back, planar-magnetic headphones, the Susvaras offer little more isolation than draping a piece of thin fabric over your ear. But that’s OK -- if their isolation were any better, they couldn’t sound the way they do. For comparison, I’ve included the isolation charts of the NAD Viso HP50 closed-back and Bose QC25 noise-canceling headphones.

Impedance

As with most planar-magnetic headphones, the Susvaras’ impedance magnitude and phase are effectively dead flat. The measured impedance is 62.5 ohms across almost the entire audioband.

The sensitivity of the Susvaras, measured between 300Hz and 3kHz with a 1mW signal, is 80.6dB. Compare this to 86.9dB for the HE1000 V2s, 79.6dB for the classic HE6es, and about 100dB for a set of typical headphones.

. . . Brent Butterworth
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I measured the Monoprice M1060s using a G.R.A.S. Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer, a laptop computer running TrueRTA software with an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface, a Musical Fidelity V-CAN amp for most measurements, and an Audio-gd NFB-1AMP amplifier for the distortion measurements. On the G.R.A.S. 43AG I used the original KB0065 simulated pinna for most measurements, as well as the new KB5000 pinna for certain measurements (as noted). These are “flat” measurements; no diffuse-field or free-field compensation curve was employed.

Frequency response

The M1060s’ frequency response is pretty standard for an open-back planar-magnetic model. I noted two anomalies. First, the response between 8 and 16kHz is lower than I’m used to seeing. For reasons discussed here, above about 8kHz, headphone frequency-response measurements are less reliable, but this measurement does jibe with what I heard in my listening tests. Second, there’s an apparent mismatch between the right and left channels between 1 and 4kHz. This is the best match I was able to get after many attempts with both the Monoprices’ left and right earpieces.

Frequency response

This chart shows the M1060s’ measured right-channel frequency response measured with the old KB0065 pinna (which I’ve used for years) and G.R.A.S.’s new KB5000 pinna. I’ll soon be switching to the new pinna, because it more accurately reflects the structure and pliability of the human ear. I include this mostly for future reference rather than as something you should draw conclusions from; I intend to show both measurements in every review for at least the next year before I begin using only the new pinna.

Frequency response

This chart shows the results of adding 70 ohms output impedance to the V-CAN’s 1-ohm output impedance, to simulate the effects of using a typical low-quality headphone amp. The difference is negligible; the M1060s’ tonal balance won’t change depending on the amp used.

Frequency response

This chart shows the M1060s’ measured right-channel frequency response compared with two similar $299, open-back, planar-magnetic headphone models (the Tidal Force Wave 5 and HiFiMan HE400S), plus the NAD Viso HP50, a conventional closed-back model. The M1060s have a flatter measured response than the other planar-magnetics, with more bass -- an effect that could be due to a better seal of the M1060s’ plush faux-leather pads on the ear/cheek simulator. Again, you can see that the M1060s’ response between 8 and 16kHz is comparatively soft.

Waterfall

The spectral-decay (waterfall) chart shows low resonance in the bass, scattered narrow resonances in the midrange, and a strong series of resonances centered at 4.5kHz. The last, while scary looking, are not surprising for an open-back planar-magnetic model, most of which show a similar resonance pattern somewhere in the upper midrange/lower treble.

THD

The M1060s’ total harmonic distortion (THD) is about as low as I’ve measured. Planar-magnetic headphones usually do well on this test, but this is excellent even when compared to most of the other planar-magnetics I’ve measured.

Isolation

In this chart, the external noise level is 85dB SPL; the numbers below that indicate the attenuation of outside sounds. (Note that I recently switched to measuring at a level of 85dB instead of 75dB; this doesn’t change the way the isolation curves look, but a level of 85dB allows me to get better measurements of noise-canceling headphones, which demand a lower noise floor.) The M1060s offer about the same isolation as most open-back models: almost none.

Impedance

The M1060s’ impedance magnitude and phase are almost perfectly flat right at the rated 50 ohms, except for a little bump to 57 ohms at 4.4kHz.

The sensitivity of the M1060s, measured between 300Hz and 3kHz with a 1mW signal, is 100.5dB. That’s fairly high for planar-magnetic headphones, and means that the M1060s should deliver adequate volume from any source device.

. . . Brent Butterworth
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I measured the Libratone Q Adapts using a G.R.A.S. Model 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio 10 FW audio analyzer, a laptop computer running TrueRTA software with an M-Audio MobilePre USB audio interface, a Musical Fidelity V-Can headphone amplifier, an Audio-gd NFB-1AMP amplifier for distortion measurements, and a Sony HWS-BTA2W Bluetooth transmitter/receiver. In some cases, the inherent latency of Bluetooth necessitated a change in measurement technique, to using pink noise as a stimulus rather than the swept logarithmic “chirp” tone I normally use. This is a “flat” measurement; no diffuse-field or free-field compensation curve was employed.

Frequency response

The response curve seen here, measured with the Q Adapts in Bluetooth mode with noise canceling on, isn’t quite as anomalous as it might seem at first glance. The large peak in the 2.5kHz frequency is fairly typical of most of the headphones and earphones I measure. There are a few dB more bass relative to that peak than I’m used to measuring, and a little less energy between 3 and 10kHz. There does seem to be a bit of a mismatch in the bass response between the left and right channels, probably due to different internal acoustics in the two earpieces (which is fairly common in active headphones), but it’s unlikely to be audible.

Frequency response Bluetooth vs. passive

This chart shows the response in Bluetooth mode with NC set to Level 4, compared with a passive connection using the included cable. It’s not a huge difference compared with what I’ve measured in some other active headphones, but it indicates that the sound will be a bit different: more bass kick in Bluetooth, more upper bass (and perhaps a bit of a bloated sound) in wired mode.

Frequency response

This chart shows the response in Bluetooth mode with NC off (Level 2) and on (Level 4). This is a subtler difference than I usually measure in this test; many headphones sound completely different with NC on, but the Q Adapts will sound pretty much the same either way. The measured response with Level 1 (open mike mode) was essentially the same as with Level 2, and the response with Level 3 was essentially the same as with Level 4.

Frequency response

This chart shows the Q Adapts’ measured right-channel frequency response compared with Bluetooth NC headphones (Bose QC35s), wired NC ’phones (AKG N60 NCs), and conventional closed-back ’phones (NAD Viso HP50). The Q Adapts have a more pronounced response in both the bass and treble, which suggests that they’ll sound fairly balanced yet rather vivid, with perhaps some deemphasis of the midrange.

Waterfall

The spectral-decay (waterfall) chart shows a little bit more resonance below 500Hz than I’m used to seeing, but all the resonances are extremely well damped and die out within a few milliseconds.

THD

The total harmonic distortion (THD) of the Q Adapts (which I had to measure using a wired connection because of Bluetooth’s latency) is low for compact headphones such as these, hitting about 1% at 20Hz at 90dBA, and 3% at the extremely loud listening level of 100dBA.

Isolation

In this chart, the external noise level is 75dB SPL; the numbers below that indicate the degree of attenuation of outside sounds. For comparison, I’ve included the isolation plots of two other noise-canceling headphones: the Bose QC25s and AKG N60 NCs (which, like the Q Adapts, are both on-ear headphones, which in my experience can’t match the isolation of comparable over-ear models). The Q Adapts beat out the N60 NCs in the midrange around 1kHz, but don’t cancel bass frequencies as well. They might do a little better at rejecting the noise of conversations or an airliner’s air-circulation system, but probably not quite as well at reducing the noise of jet engines.

Impedance

Using a wired connection, the electrical impedance of the Q Adapts is basically flat at 25 ohms, and the electrical phase is similarly flat.

The Q Adapts’ sensitivity, measured between 300Hz and 3kHz with a 1mW signal, and calculated for 32 ohms impedance (my “unless otherwise specified” test impedance for active models with passive input), is 100.2dB. That means that, unlike some active headphones, the Q Adapts will play plenty loud enough when connected with a cable to the average smartphone.

. . . Brent Butterworth
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