Hey guys, sorry for the late impression. I had kchew's HD800 on my Audio Lab M-DAC and Burson HA-160 for 2 weeks and also managed to listened to these 2 critically acclaimed headphones on a Headamp GS-1 last week and here's some of my impressions.
By now, I'm sure majority of you guys here would have known about the signatures of HD800 and LCD-2 and I shall only go straight in with my impression on HD800.
HD800 is easily right up there as one of the best dynamic driver headphones, if not the best. For me, HD800 sounds amazing because of its crystal clear mids, amazingly wide and ravine-deep soundstage and of course, Sennheiser's famed superb imaging and separation powress. Despite its strengths, I can see where people are coming from with the criticism about the treble and lack of musicality, but I have come to appreciate good treble over my audio journey, so I can accept HD800's presentation of the treble. If I had any minor quib about HD800, it would be the bass. While it extends deep, the punch and impact is missing a bit, I would have loved a slightly fatter and more impactful bass. But as a whole package, I found the HD800 to be an amazing headphone; it allowed me to listen to my music as the recordings are meant to sound, and for that reason alone, I love it as a complement to my LCD-2. I like it so much, I think I might have to grab one next year (budget for 2012 almost gone due to LCD-2 & M-DAC); that is how highly I rate it.
The GS-1 is a creation from Justin at Headamp. It has been around forever, but I have only started to take notice of this amp recently. Online reviews and impressions have stated that GS-1 is a dead neutral amp that allows one to listen to their recordings as it is meant to be heard.
Upon listening to GS-1, I can confirm that is true. GS-1 is one of the most neutral amp I have ever heard, and its transparency is just amazing. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that it is DEAD neutral with just a tinge of very very very slight warmth (I used my Miracle with Silver Dragon to test that). Another absolutely astonishing fact I noticed about GS-1 is its background blackness. Some amps might only have a very very low hiss when its turned to maximum volume when no music is being played. Not GS-1. It is DEAD SILENT, even when turned on to maximum volume, and as a result, one gets to enjoy his music with absolutely no background noise at all.
I brought my laptop, M-DAC, LCD-2 and kchew's HD800 along for the GS-1 listening impression, simply because I was very keen to hear how this amp would pair with HD800 and LCD-2. The files format I used was FLAC and the player was the J. River Media Centre if anyone is interested to know.
Listening to some Jazz pieces from Michael Buble, Chris Botti, Jane Monheit and Jazz at Pawnshop with both HD800 and LCD-2 brought entirely different feelings to me.
As mentioned earlier, as GS-1 is very neutral and transparent, it allows me to listen to the source; with only the headphones used providing the colouration.
First up, with kchew's HD800 that has been recabled with TWag V2, the music sounded very clean and crystal clear, with a very fast transient. As both GS-1 and HD800 are considered lean and neutral, it might be suggested that this combo might sound too clinical and soulless to the majority. Not for me. GS-1 has a very fast and deep bass, but it is also has the impact that was missing in action a little for me for HD800. As a result, I could hear bass done correctly; HD800's deep bass coupled with GS-1's fast and more impactful bass. The mids is crystal clear, with no colouration, as if I was looking out through an open window without curtains or any veil. Clarity and transparency is outstanding. Treble performance here is acceptable, with only TWag V's organic signature keeping the treble from being too hot. Imaging, separation and staging performance was outstanding. Overall, I like the combo of GS-1 and HD800, but for this combo to work, one would have to tame the potentially hot treble with some nice copper cables or TWag for HD800. I like how my music sounded; transparent with outstanding clarity, allowing me to listen to recordings with no colouration at all when I'm in a "critical listening" mood (if u guys know what I mean).
Next up, I tried GS-1 with my LCD-2 with stock cable. If I like how GS-1 pairs with HD800 previously, I immediately fell in love with the GS-1 and LCD-2 pairing. Allow me to explain the reasons. My current combo of Burson HA-160 and LCD-2 synergizes very well; I love how musical LCD-2 sounds with an excellent bass punch and magical mids. But other than further improving the already excellent bass and seductive mids, HA-160 does nothing to improve the weakness of LCD-2, namely, the slightly soft treble and narrow staging performance. And sometimes, HA-160 and LCD-2 combo gets too thick sounding as both the amp and the headphone are mid-centric. With the GS-1 and LCD-2 combo, things improved, and my, did they improved! GS-1's deep and fast bass with LCD-2's excellent bass impact dovetailed to produce bass that achieves a complex but amazing blend of high definition of deep, quick and powerful bass, and yet all this bass did not once bleed into the mids of highs. Short of explaining how amazing the bass sounds, I have to say this was achieved through witchcraft. Mids, as everyone knows, is the stronghold of orthodynamics. Combining LCD-2's absolutely magical and seductive mids with GS-1's absolutely clean, transparency and utter clarity and all I got was a deeply satisfying blend of warm magical mids with a clarity that I never thought was capable from my LCD-2.
Though not as dark sounding as it Rev1 brother, the LCD-2 Rev2 was still held back a little by its treble performance. GS-1's clean and blackground, coupled with its clarity and transparency raised the bar of LCD-2's treble and showed me what it could do with an amp with good treble performance by its side. Staging also improved with GS-1 by its side. Previously with HA-160, LCD-2 achieved a deep multi-layered soundstage performance, but the soundstage width was a little narrow. With GS-1 driving LCD-2, not only the multi-dimensional staging performance remained, and the soundstage performance became wider, though not substantially, it was sufficiently noticeable. I have always thought my LCD-2 already sounded so clear and transparent when I audition it on 2 separate occasions at Stereo and the comfort of my own home, but the GS-1 and LCD-2 combo really redefined the kind of performance that my LCD-2 is capable of. The combo achieves an excellent blend of musicality with oodles of details and clarity to boot. And the best of all, GS-1 took my LCD-2 and did what HA-160 could not; making an already great headphone sound better, not by further improving on its strength, but by improving on its weaknesses.
This is a super lengthy post and I hope no one fell asleep reading it.
Anyway, I would like to extend my heartiest thanks to kchew to agreeing to the 2 week temporary swop. It is an amazing experience to be able to listen to HD800, it really opened my horizon in this audio journey.