The following post is of a personal nature. It’s about moving from a beautiful possibility that will never be. I think I need to air it out somewhere. And then I’ll return to blogging about the usual stuff. Maybe.
I’ve gotten a set of G-Cushes for my Grado SR60s. As I’m listening to them, it came to me how much the Grados are reflective of its city of origin: New York.
Hear me out on this one. My set of Grado’s been with me for about 6 years now. While some of the luster has faded away, for the most part, the Grado has been a tough piece of audio gear. It’s brash (trebles can be harsh), loud (takes to loud volume quite nicely), but occasionally brilliant, especially with a slice of a NY Pizza. Brash, Loud, Tough as Nails, and Occasionally Brilliant. And holds on to classic looks like no other.
Then there’s Chitown. Home of Shure cans and mics. Nice, easy going, gets along with everyone, but can be vanilla from time to time. Nothing wrong with that. Goes especially well with Blues and Jazz.
And expanding to Japan, Sony and its ilk? They are delicate and has propensity for brightness and it’s partner, loud looks. It has depth like no other, but if you’re coming from outside in, it’ll take a long time to discover that depth. A long time. It’s very shy, almost xenophobic. But beneath that there is depth and character that’s waiting to be discovered.
Sennheisers and other European Cans? Deep, bold, can be brooding at times. Never boisterous but don’t let that fool you. European Cans are not for excessive brilliance. It’s backed by years and years of tradition, and likewise, perhaps classical music suits it best. However, it doesn’t mean that the Europeans are not behind the times. It just doesn’t go for that loud brash stuff. Normally.
AS for the Chinese headphones? Mostly copied from here and there. While most are imitation, every once in a while, the cover song becomes the definitive version of the song it covered, like how Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” is the definitive. Case in point: Superlux’s HD661 vs. MDR-V6. There’s much to come from China. But right now, mostly bad cover songs that is teetering on the edge of brilliance.
American cans? It’s a melting pot of Japanese and European. They can be loud, large, brilliant, deep, engrossing, ditzy, flashy, tough, weak, and everything in between. However, I still stick to my claim that, for the American Cans, the city more than the country defines the cans. And I present Los Angeles as the prime example: Flashy but no substance (celebrity cans mostly).
What do you think?
Alas, the Nano Killer that wasn’t. But Fuze Killer? Maybe.
The NWZ-E series has been, if nothing else, very workman like. Simple UI that’s easy to get into with the usual Sony Sound Quality (which, for the most part, is good) with decent battery life is the E-series in a nutshell. The E354 is nearing its life cycle, judging by the low cheap pricing on sony.com, which can be had as low as $50. For a 8GB DAP, that’s pretty darn cheap. And given its sound quality, I’d say it’s a no brainer.
(Why a separate DAP? Well, the Tablets are too damn big to be a nice, on the go music player. And your smartphone? I’d love to except the batteries kinda poop out after awhile. So, until the whole battery bit gets resolved with phones, I think that the DAPs have their place. Dwindling? Yes. But they still have a purpose, if nothing else, to deliver music without draining other resources).
Then there’s the replacement model, the NWZ-E465. It’s got two new redeeming additions, one neutral feature added and one major setback when compared with the E354. But for the most part, the two players are more or less the same. Same size, same UI now that’s graced the X-series (modified for the tactile E Series), same sonic signature. The two new redeeming additions?
1. 16GB Capacity. I knew immediately that the E354 was a bit of a sad horse because of it’s capacity. Two years ago it was more than enough. Now, not so much. The additional 8GB makes me happy, though it’s still the same player compared the E354.
2. Bundled in MDR-EX83s. If you’re a regular reader, this makes little sense, as you will have buds and cans that are magnitudes better than the bundled EX83s. But if you’re in a market for a new player and a new earbud, getting the EX83s with the E465 is definitely a plus. It’s a overwhelming upgrade vs. the standard earbuds that Sony, Apple, and others throw in. It makes the E465 one of the best DAPs on the market with this combination.
The voice recorder feature is there and maybe useful, but I doubt it getting much use. It’s overwhelmingly one of those meh features that Sony threw in. Meh Indeed.
Disappointingly, the E465 uses the WM-Port cable vs. the Mini USB Cable that’s graced the low end Walkman until now. Sure, this means that I can use the E465 with some of the accessories out there… Too bad they don’t really exist. I mean, it’d been nice if my Sony mini-fi on my desk had the WM-Port capabilities. Except it has the iPod 30-pin adaptor rather than WM-Port… And so on. I’d been happier with the Mini-USB or even Micro-USB vs. the WM-Port. Bit of a dealbreaker considering that the last two low end players was doing fine without the WM-Port. It is a dealbreaker I think to a degree. How much? Not sure.
Overall, the E465 is a refinement of the E354. If you’re getting a new DAP (because your smartphone won’t last the day if you’re using it as a DAP substitute) and don’t have a set of earbuds other than the pack ins, the E465 is a compelling buy. Otherwise, I’d just get the E354, or just skip it altogether.
NWZ-E465: B+/B (depends on your situation and your headphone loadout)
NWZ-E354: A- at current pricing (Up from B).
This time, with NWZ-E35x series of players. Last time I offered such hijinks, it was a life time ago for a different line of players. The idea is the same, you’re fiddling around for B-Gain (Bass Gain) and T-Gain (Treble Gain), which becomes a very simple parametric equalizer of sorts (or is that paragraphic?). Again, I’m not responsible for what happens to your NWZ-E35x series of players should you fiddle the wrong bits and pieces. You’ve been warned, and actual voiding method after the jump.
In question: CMT-MT500i from Sony. It sounds really good. It charges my iDevice (of which I have two, an ye olde iPhone 3G, and iTouch 2G) but doesn’t like the ye olde iTouch. Not a big deal. It plays MP3CDs and CDs. It sounds really good. Heck, it can even stream audio output from my PC to the speakers with a simple 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable.
One hitch. There’s no headphone out on this thing. As a big headphone user… I’m torn. All in all, it sounds better than any $150 Stereo System has any right to sound. It’s dead simple to use. But the lack of headphone out is… questionable to say the least. Well, considering that some of the cans I’ve in my possession costs more than this system, I suppose it’s something that I could look over easily.
But then again… It’s a $0.25 part, with $0.25 to solder that in. Hell, the European model even throws in a USB port for direct USB Playback. WTF, Sony? Almost, but not quite.
Grade: D (function wise), B (audio)
I have with me the low end of the lot, the MDR-ZX100 and MDR-ZX300. In my previous review, I said that the MDR-ZX700 was pretty darn good. And I still stand by that remark.
Now then, for $20 and $30 (respectively), the ZX100 and ZX300 represent the entry level cans, replacing the “venerable” V150 and V300s, which could be best described as garbage and fodder, irrespectively. The ZX100 and ZX300s are a bit more stylized versions of the low end V series cans. From a distance, one could almost think that the users were rocking a set of Beats for instance. And with the low end ZXs, you can indeed to single ear monitoring! Imagine that.
As for the sound? It might be my imagination but the ZX300s sounds noticeably worse than the entry ZX100s. The ZX100s are helped by its low price of a Jackson, and sounds as most $20 cans, with exaggerated bass, almost but not quite piercing trebles, and a rather decent mid-range presence. No, this isn’t some pair of JVC earbuds that outdoes the competition, but then again, you’re not going to regret blowing $20 for these vs. Skullcandies that costs 2x as much.
The ZX300s? Same bass and trebles with more detail towards the treble end of things. The midrange is much more recessed, though. It doesn’t help that it takes a lot of equalization to get it sound semi decent. Yes, there are more detail in the ZX300s vs. the ZX100s. The ZX100s, on the other hand, has a bit of warmth to it (not much) that sounds somewhat more inviting than the 300s, which are bit more clinical. Well, as much as a bassy $30 cans go anyways.
Compared to the Beats that costs 10 times as much, yes, they are quite good. But frankly, I think the money’s better spent on a set of Superlux HD668B. Or better yet, save some dough and get the ZX700s instead.