A New IEM from Brainwavz — The S0

The Brainwavz S0 (ZERO)

Review by TrollDragon


I was contacted by Audrey a few weeks ago to sample a pair of Brainwavz’ new $50 category IEM’s, the S0. Since I really like the R3’s and enjoy the HM9’s as a full size headphone, I jumped at the chance to try something that I hoped would not be as treble HOT (to my ears anyway) as the S5’s. I received a production sample of the S0’s with all the included accessories but without any retail packaging.

I would like to thank Audrey for providing me with the review sample of the S0. Brainwavz is exceedingly generous to the Head-Fi community and it is greatly appreciated.



What I received was the familiar Brainwavz Red and Black dual zippered EVA case that also shipped with the R3’s and S5’s. This is a top quality case to protect your IEM’s and store the accessories, it is really good to see that Brainwavz provides this case so you can take care of your gear.

Inside the case there were the S0 IEM’s, a big Brainwavz logoed shirt clip and a plenitude of various tips consisting of 6 pairs of S/M/L silicone, dual and triple flange, and a pair of medium Comply S-400 foam.

 I didn’t provide pictures as there are already quite a few reviews with great pictures of the S0’s packaging and contents.



The S0 looks very similar to the S5 model which I had reviewed a while back, but since the S0’s are quite a bit smaller people are labelling them the S5’s little brother. I don’t find it fair to pit the two against each other as they are only similar in shape and design but are two completely different IEM’s. If Brainwavz wanted them to compete with each other then they probably would have called them the S5 Junior or something similar so I will not pit them toe to toe.

The S0 has a well machined all aluminum housing and a flat rubbery cable with a heavy duty, contrasting red coloured strain relief. The cable extends down 40cm to a slim Y splitter. The chin slider looks like the ribbed end of a typical strain relief and blends in quite nicely with the splitter. The main cable continues down another 80cm to a 3.5mm TRS plug that has a rubber shell molded on the plug.

Brainwavz S0 Specifications

Drivers: Dynamic, 9mm
Rated Impedance: 16 Ω
Frequency Range: 18Hz – 18kHz
Sensitivity: 100 dB @ 1 mW
Cable: 1.2m /Y-Cord/Flat/Copper
Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated


A Possible Recommendation for Brainwavz

It would be nice to see Brainwavz incorporate a very flexible round braided cable similar to the Jelly Galaxy’s cable from Joinhandmade. I just adore that little blue cable as it is very soft and flexible without any memory.

JG Cable



I was not impressed with the sound of the S0’s right out of the case. I always use a large sized tip and after I mounted the large tips on these at the first listen I really didn’t care too much for the sound. The bass was lacking and there was just a little too much treble, it wasn’t a good experience. I put them in their case and went back to them a few days later. This time I decided to roll a few tips and see if I could find something that worked. As I require a large tip to get a proper fit, I tried one of the default opaque tips in medium. Well that was a night and day difference for me with the S0’s, they actually came alive at that point as it’s all about the fit.

My default go to track for first initial testing is AC/DC’s “Who Made Who”

(Sorry, it’s the best of the poor quality sound that is YouTube.)

A nice quick bass test right off the start with Simon’s drum kit, moving up into Malcom’s riff and then onto the sibilance test of Brian’s opening lyrics. If I make it to Angus’s signature licks then there is a good chance I will easily like the IEM/Headphone right from the start. Brian’s voice for example with the black filters on the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus brought the painful winces out of me immediately.

The medium opaque tips on the S0 had none of that sibilance that feels like daggers to my ears. The S0 actually has a balanced sound leaning towards the warm side with a laid back treble. I used the S0 daily for a few weeks and can say that these sound good with anything you throw at them. The bass can be EQ’ed up a bit if required for some nice thump with EDM or just left alone to for a little Prog Rock reminiscing session.


S0 & X3



My favourite IEM’s from Brainwavz at the moment are the R3’s granted I have not experienced a lot of their product but the sound of the R3 is perfect to my ears. I could very easily grab the S0 while dashing out the door and be perfectly satisfied with the sound all day long. The flat cable has a fair bit of mechanical noise and that is always an issue with IEM’s, Brainwavz has included a nice shirt clip that I really couldn’t get to work well, the main cable kept falling out of the retainer and the S0 thread suggestion of putting both earpiece cables in the holder has just too much fiddling around with for my liking. I think it’s time for a different type of cable from Brainwavz or a nice shirt clip like the JVC one here.

The Brainwavz S0 is a very easy IEM to recommend for anyone wants a fun sounding IEM with an excellent build quality and a generous amount of accessories.

Constructive criticism is always welcome,

Categories: IEM, Impression | Tags: , , ,

A High Quality Mainstream Headphone

Brainwavz HM9 Headphone

Review by TrollDragon


In the following review, I would like to present my impression of the Brainwavz HM9 headphone. The HM9’s have a nice dual functionality where they work as a full sized headphone for home use and will convert to a folding portable for on the road. I would like to thank Audrey for providing me with the review sample of the HM9. Brainwavz is exceedingly generous to the Head-Fi community and it is greatly appreciated.


The HM9’s arrived at the same time as the R3’s I reviewed a while back. As with previous impressions of other Brainwavz products, the packaging on the HM9’s is not as splashy as their IEM packaging. There is no flap to open or no window to display the product in all it’s glory. Since I am a fan of great packaging, the HM9 box was nicely laid out with all the standard information that Brainwavz is known for, but it’s just a box.

Box Front & Back

HM9_Box HM9_Box_Back

There is a nice product picture on the front. Detailed specifications of the headphones, connector compatibility and inline microphone description are on the back.

 Left and Right Side

HM9_Box_Side2 HM9_Box_Side1

The left side of the box has a detailed description of the HM9 headphones with usage suggestions. The warranty information and package contents are found on the right side. I do like the consistency Brainwavz’s puts into the packaging, it doesn’t matter which of their products you pick up to look at. You know exactly what you are getting and what is included, there are no surprises.  Until NOW…


When I opened the box all I found was this big egg shaped EVA dual zippered hard case in Brainwavz traditional red and black. I had to recheck the security stickers on the box as I thought I had possibly received a used product. No, both stickers were cut by me and there was nothing inside the box but this big case. I would have figured that the case might have been put inside a plastic bag at least so it doesn’t take people by surprise, thinking they have a used or refurbished headphone. Anyway, this is a very well made large zippered case for storing the HM9’s in with all the included accessories.

HM9_Case1.  HM9_Case2

Unzipping the “Egg’s” Velcro bottomed storage pouch reveals all the generous accessories that Brainwavz is known for. Inside you will find 3 cables, an airline adapter, warranty card and the shoulder strap for the case.

HM9_ContentsThe three included cables are of a very nice quality with minimal mechanical noise when connected. The smartphone cable with the inline microphone is round, where the short 1.2m and 3m cables are flat. The only thing that I have issue with on these cables is that the headphone end has a custom TRS plug with a small shoulder. This shoulder snaps into the socket on the headphones to make sure the cable stays securely attached when plugged in. If anything were to happen to cause a cable to stop functioning, you would have to get a replacement from Brainwavz as a standard TRS removable headphone cable would not work.


The HM9’s have an exceptionally high build quality that is mostly metal with thick sturdy plastic hinges and ear cups.

HM9Aluminum yokes are made with metal sliders that have a definitive click for each position when adjusting their length. The earcups swivel up and down but not side to side. The HM9 can make a little bit of a clacking noise when taking them out of the case or when folding and unfolding them. Brainwavz has installed little rubber bumpers at the end of the yoke forks and at the top to lessen the noise these make when the cup swivels and hits the yoke. This clacking noise the first time your hear it makes the HM9’s present as a cheaply manufactured product which they are not. A spring inside the cups to provide tension would have been a good solution to stop this noise. It is a very minor issue that I have with the HM9’s and in no way does it affect the operation or sound of these headphones.

HM9_Standing HM9_Folded

A very solid build, with headphones that have a hinge, I am always worried about that being the weak link in the chain as it is the thing that usually ends up breaking first. The hinge on the HM9’s is quite thick and attached with a steel pins. I could not imagine them breaking even with the daily use of being thrown into a back pack with books, etc., instead of packed up back in their case. A heavy duty build does come at a cost though–the HM9’s have a considerable bit of weight to them for a folding headphone.

The attention to detail Brainwavz puts into their gear is quite impressive. I pulled one of the super thick, plush ear pads off to have a look at it and found out that they actually have a locking ring mechanism to hold the pads on.

HM9_Earpad_Installed HM9_Earpad_Ring

The ring fits inside of the lip on the back of the pad, you place the pad over the driver baffle and turn till the three little tabs lock in place. Which is a a nice feature for a headphone in this price range. It is too bad that Brainwavz does not offer a velour replacement pad, as pleather pads can get quite sweaty on warm days. If these had velours you could easily just pop them off and put them in a wash when required.


I was also impressed by the model number and driver size on a little plate attached to the baffle that you only see when the pads are taken off. Is there any other company that puts the same level of detail into a product of this price?

Performance and Sound

The Brainwavz HM9 are one of the most comfortable headphones I have worn in a while, considering their size and weight.  The headband and ear pads are very thick, soft and plush. There is a light clamping force to the headband which does keep the HM9’s in place during daily activities, I don’t think they would stay on with a serious head banging session though… If you do have a large head the HM9’s might bother the top of your ear/helix area after extended periods of use. This is due to the ear pads being halfway between Supra-aural and Circumaural in size. I didn’t experience any of this during my testing or listening sessions but I understand how it could happen, as full sized pads would have brought the HM9’s to an unsurpassed level of comfort.

Brainwavz HM9 Specifications

Drivers: Dynamic, 40mm
Rated Impedance: 40 Ω
Frequency Range: 10Hz – 24kHz
Sensitivity: 104 dB @ 1 mW
Max Input Power: 1000 mW
Detachable Cables: 1.2m & 3m Flat Cables
Detachable Cable: 1.2m Cables with Remote
Distortion: 0.3% @ 94dB
Channel balance: 2dB (@ 1000Hz)
Plug: 3.5mm Gold Plated

With a Sensitivity of 104dB @ 1mW these headphones are very easy to drive from just about any source you connect them to; an amplifier is not required to bring out the best in the HM9’s. But if you do have an amplifier strapped onto your DAP like I always do, then the added feature of that amplifiers Bass Boost nicely kicks up the low end a notch or two for those that crave a little more Boom Boom.

Brainwavz HM9, Colorfly C3 and FiiO E11K


The cable extensions are attached to the E11K as I usually have this setup in a case on my belt and FiiO decided the volume control should be on the opposite end of the I/O ports, which puts it at the bottom of the case.

Brainwavz HM9, FiiO X3 and E12


 Information on the X3’s leather case can be found in my signature.

The sound from the HM9’s is a perfectly mainstream oriented sound. This is a pair of headphones that any member of your family can just put on their head, plug into whichever device they have and hit play.

The HM9’s work with all genres of music, a really fun all around headphone that is very easy to listen to out of any device. There is a good quantity of Bass that is not boomy or muddy, these are not your typical Bass Head quantity headphones but they will respond to a little low end EQ quite nicely.  The Mids are warm and very enjoyable, smooth clear vocals and guitar riffs that make you want to crank up the sound.  The Treble is tuned just right in my opinion, I am really sensitive to harsh or bright headphones. Even though the treble might be a bit rolled-off for some, it still has a bit of sparkle to it and you will find no fatigue in listening to these for hours at a time. They have a great deal of musicality that is a step above most of the other consumer oriented headphones. And those headphones are available at a much higher cost.


If you are looking for an excellent all round headphone for yourself, a family member or even a friend, and don’t want to worry if they are going to like the look, fit or the sound, then don’t hesitate to pick them up a pair of Brainwavz HM9’s for a $120. (Amazon.com price at the time of this writing.) You will not find a better sounding headphone that just about everyone will enjoy in this price range.

Thanks again to Brainwavz for creating another excellent personal audio product, and to Audrey for the sample used in this review.

Constructive criticism is always welcome,


Categories: Headphone, Impression | Tags: , , ,

Brainwavz R3’s – Strange Shape, Excellent Sound.

Brainwavz R3 IEM

Review by TrollDragon


In the following review, I would like to present my impressions of the Brainwavz R3. A very odd shaped IEM compared to the majority available on the market today, but there is absolutely nothing odd about the sound or fit.

This will be my second review of a Brainwavz product and I would like to take this moment to thank Audrey for providing me with a review sample of the R3. Brainwavz is exceedingly generous to the Head-Fi community and it is greatly appreciated.

First Impression

Upon unpacking the R3 from the FedEx bag, I was completely taken aback by the shape and size of these polished aluminum drivers that look like little bottles with an ear tip sticking out of the middle of them. I have seen the product and review pictures, but you really can’t get a good estimate of their shape and size till they are actually sitting in front of you. My first thoughts were that no way are these things going to fit my ears or even be comfortable to wear for any amount of time, but more on that later.


Packaging and Contents

I really enjoy Brainwavz packaging; there is always a good quantity of information on each side of their boxes. From the brief product description on the front and the detailed information and cutaway view on the back, to the package contents, product specification, and warranty on the sides–all are presented in an easy to read and well laid out format.
There is a generous quantity of accessories included with the R3.

Tips Included:
6 pairs of Silicone in S/M/L.
1 pair of Bi-Flange.
1 pair of Tri-Flange.
1 pair of Comply Foam Premium T-500.

1/4″ Adapter
EVA Hard Case
Warranty / Instruction Card


The included hard case is of excellent quality with dual zippers and web pouches inside to hold all the accessories out of the way when you want to pack up the R3 for travel or storage. There is no Airline Adapter included with these, so if you require one you will have to borrow it from another unit. I personally have never used the Airline Adapter since I am not required to fly anywhere.

Brainwavz R3 Specifications

Drivers:   Dynamic,10mm x2
Crossover:   Passive
Rated Impedance:   32 Ω
Frequency Range:   20Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity:   95 dB @ 1 mW
Rated Input Power:   2 mW
Plug:   3.5mm Gold Plated
Cables:   1.3 m Y-Cord, Copper


Build & Fit

After these are all unpacked and upon closer examination, you will quickly realize that they are extremely sturdy and well built. The aluminum body is very smooth with no rough edges, corners or excessive weight, as the drivers weigh less than 15g`s on my scale.

R3_Slider R3_Nozzle

The cable is the real issue with the R3’s–it might be a little long for some and it is very rubbery and rather heavy duty. The section before the Y splitter seems to keep its shape from being coiled up for packaging and does not want to lay flat or stay where you put it. The Right and Left sections after the Y splitter are a tiny bit more forgiving and only half as thick. This is the R3 version without the built in memory wire, so that short section of black cable coming from the drivers is a little different than the other sections of cable, but is still quite flexible.

I thought the fit on these would be an issue, but the first time I put them in my ears with the large silicone tips they sealed perfectly. I actually found this to be a pleasant surprise as I usually have to fiddle with IEM`s to get a good fit. I have also tried them in the down position but didn’t care for it as they are really made to be worn up. With a little practice you will be able to put them in very quickly and easily. I wear them up and slightly angled forward for better cable routing around my ear. Since the cable does have a mind of its own and will pop out from behind your ear, depending on what you are doing, you really have to use the chin slider to keep the wires in place. I didn’t experience any problem with them falling out of my ears or coming loose, just cable movement issues before I started using the slider.


Sound & Conclusion

After reviewing a few other IEM’s recently and finding the Brainwavz S5 way too bright for my liking, I didn’t quite know what to expect with the R3’s. I was hoping they didn’t follow the sound of the S5’s or have the extreme bass of the Silver filters on the Rock Jaw Alfa Genus.

What I did discover was one of the most pleasant sounding IEM’s I have listened to so far. The R3’s have a very nice neutral sound that can be enjoyed with many different genres of music. Since these have dual opposed drivers, one for bass and one for midrange/treble ,with everything being mixed together in an acoustic chamber, I had half expected a great quantity of overwhelming bass, but there was none of that to be found. Same with the upper end–since there is a driver specifically tuned for that I half expected the R3’s to be a touch aggressive as well. No, there was none of that either.

With a sensitivity of 95 dB @ 1 mW, the R3’s work optimally with an amplifier driving them, if your source does not put out enough power. The Colorfly C3 will just drive them unamplified with the volume control at 38/40 on tracks that are quite loud, but the R3’s really come alive when you put an amplifier in the chain.


They sound even better out of the slightly darker FiiO X3.



I found an IEM that, to my ears, has a very smooth and spacious sound that I really enjoy listening to. It might not be as aggressive or as airy as some listeners like, but to me, the R3 is going to be hard to beat as my new daily IEM.

I would recommend the Brainwavz R3 to someone looking for a great sounding neutral IEM that works very well with multiple genres. The heavy cable is easy to get used to, but it might be an annoying issue for some listeners. Since there are many new IEM’s on the market these days, the price/performance value of the R3’s might not continue to be a feasible solution.

Constructive criticism is always welcome,

Categories: IEM, Review | Tags: , ,

Jelly Ear — A Quality Handmade IEM from Vietnam

Joinhandmade – Jelly Ear

Impression by TrollDragon

Today I am presenting my impressions of the Jelly Ear and the Jelly Galaxy IEM’s from Joinhandmade, a new personal audio manufacturing company based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

A little over a month ago I was looking around Google images at various headphones and IEM’s when this picture of a box with a white hand on it piqued my curiosity. Upon dropping the image back onto Google’s reverse image search I found links to https://joinhandmade.com from Vietnam. The page text was all in Vietnamese at that time and Google translation leaves a lot to be desired; I noticed there was a Facebook link and I contacted them that way. Within minutes, I received a reply from one of the founders of Joinhandmade. We had a little discussion of their product and I expressed great interest in reviewing the Jelly Ear Balanced Armature IEM.  Hùng agreed to send me the IEM for evaluation and he also included a prototype of their new Jelly Galaxy, a Dynamic Driver IEM to try.

Joinhandmade is new to the manufacturing of IEM’s but they are not a new player to the personal audio industry itself.  They have previous experience operating a business called 7xu.vn where they sold name brand personal audio equipment and started creating custom headphone and interconnect cables. Eventually all of this customization evolved into exploring CIEM’s, offering a reshell service and gave them some insightful experience into creating their own line of IEM’s which I will present to you now.


Jelly Ear

The first thing that impressed me about this product was the packaging, it’s a wooden box. This is ingenious.  Is there any better way to protect your product for worldwide shipping than packed inside a wooden box?The box has the product name, Serial number of the IEM’s and a “made in Viet Nam” burned into the wood.

JE_Box JE_BoxOpen


The content of the box is rather spartan with only a plastic case containing the small and large foam tips.

Jelly Ear Specifications

  • Driving Unit: Balanced Armature
  • Impedance: 22 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB @ 1000 Hz
  • Frequency Response: 50 – 22000 Hz
  • Distortion: Less than 0.1%
  • Body Material: Acrylic
  • Cover Material: Silicate
  • Cable Material: Bronze – Teflon
  • Cable Length: 1.2 M
  • Plug: 3.5 mm


Build Quality

This is one aspect of the Jelly Ear that Joinhandmade takes a great pride in–each unit is hand built by a team of skilled artists. Each Jelly Ear requires 48 hours of processing and goes through 21 phases of finishing. The molding of the 2 body layers, cable and clew knitting and even the surface abrading is all done by hand.
I can attest that the build quality on these units is top notch, there are no seams and no rough edges. The ear hook is made by whipping nylon cord over top of the cable, which in my humble opinion works exceptionally well. The exact same whipping is also applied to the Y Split and at the end of the slim 3.5mm TRS plug.

The only issue I have with these is the cable, since it is Teflon coated and tightly braided it is very stiff and has quite a bit of memory to it. The mechanical noise of the cable is minimal since it is worn over ear, they do not include a shirt clip or chin slider so you will have to provide your own clip or get creative with wire routing.

I have been informed by Joinhandmade that the next version of the Jelly Ear slated for release in the new year will have a totally redesigned cable very similar to the cable on the Jelly Galaxy in the next review. 


Fit & Sound

I personally found the Jelly Ear to be very comfortable and easy to get a good seal with, I switched to a pair of my surplus silicone tips in the above picture as I find the provided foam tips do not seal very well for me. The ear hook is very comfortable and nicely stays in place as you go about your activities while using these throughout the day.


Since this is my first experience with a Balanced Armature IEM, I was unimpressed by quantity and quality of bass that  these these deliver. The more I used them with different genre’s of music, I found that the bass extension and quality is actually quite good. There is just not a lot of it, since Balanced Armature’s do not move any air, drums don’t have that nice thump I am used to but the sound of the strings on a standup bass guitar are very tight and quite detailed.

Testing these with Allan Parsons Sound Check CD reveals that the bass does go down to 25 Hz and drops off very quickly below that frequency.


Forward is the name of the game here, but I guess that is what BA’s are know for, very detailed and clean. Hammett’s lead guitar and Hetfields vocals on Metallica’s legendary track “One” are great, it’s just when the drums kick in that you are let down with the sound. These are by no means a good choice for Rock or Metal music, they are fast and articulate keeping up the pace of the music, just lacking in the lower end where the sound of the kick drums are required.


The treble on these are a dream to me, not bright or hot in the least, cymbals and the upper register of the trumpet does not make me wince like some IEM’s do. I am a little treble sensitive and these are quite good, they might not have the detail many are looking for but for my ears they are perfect.


The Joinhandmade Jelly Ear are very easy to drive from the Colorfly C3 and the FiiO X3. I did not find the EQ ability of the X3 able to bring out any missing bass quantity on these as it is simply not part of the BA driver, now if these were a multiple BA with a tuned bass driver or possibly a BA/Dynamic combo I could see them being great for all genres of music.


 If you are looking for a very unique, single BA IEM and you listen to acoustic or jazz, then these might just be something to consider. There is a dizzying and confusing selection of IEM’s in the $100 – $150 market so you have many choices. Just the knowledge that these are all hand manufactured by a small company in Vietnam that is trying to get a foot hold into the very competitive personal audio market is a purchasing factor on it’s own, in my humble opinion.

I have really enjoyed my time with the Jelly Ear and everyone who saw me using them were very curious about their origin, when they found out that they did not come from one of the major manufacturers, people were very interested to try them out. So I let them listen to some really great tracks from albums like Roy Hargrove’s “Ear Food” and Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out” as  those tracks are a joy to listen to on these. As I discovered, as well as those who listened to them, they are not the most analytic IEM’s on the market but we all need to just kick back and listen to some great tracks sometimes and leave the critical listening for another time and place.

I would like to personally thank the Joinhandmade team for the sample of this finely crafted product that I used in this review. I also look forward to future hand made quality products  from the team at Joinhandmade.com.

Also I do believe that all the Jelly Ear’s will be shipping with silicone tips instead of the foam tips as shown in this review.

Constructive criticism is always welcome.





Jelly Galaxy

The Jelly Galaxy is Joinhandmade’s dynamic driver IEM. This version I have is a prototype and very close to the finalized product.

JG_Box JG_BoxOpen


The accessories included with my Galaxy are different than what will be included with the finished product. The ones I have included a foam tip and a sample silicone tip.

The finished product comes with S/M/L silicone tips in a new packaging insert like in this picture that was posted to Joinhandmade’s Facebook page. Notice the nice cord whipping of the strain relief on these.


Jelly Galaxy Specifications

  • Driving Unit: Dynamic
  • Impedance: 16 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 113 dB @ 1000 Hz
  • Distortion: Less than 0.1%
  • Bodies Material: Acrylic
  • Covers Material: Silicate
  • Cable Material: Bronze – Rubber
  • Cable length: 1.2 M
  • Plug: 3.5 mm

Build Quality

Just like the Jelly Ear’s build quality, meticulous attention to detail is given to creating the Jelly Galaxy. There are no seams or rough edges to be found anywhere since the manufacturing process is done completely by hand. This attention to detail creates an IEM that can be used outside in the elements or in the gym, without having to worry about rain or sweat getting inside the unit and causing trouble. As a cosmetic touch, there are flakes of reflective silver mixed into the housings to add a sparkle for that Galaxy look when light hits them.

The cable on the Jelly Galaxy is a great improvement over the current Jelly Ear’s cable. The change from a Teflon jacket to a “Rubber” jacket (not the type of rubber that sticks to everything) and a looser braid has made for a great cable. There is no shirt clip or chin slider on this cable either and it does have a little mechanical noise, but that can be alleviated with a user-provided shirt clip. I do not have any pictures of the Y Split since my unit is a prototype and has a bit of glue on it that would not properly represent the build quality of the finished product. The Jelly Galaxy has an ultra slim 3.5mm TRS plug with a housing that is made from the same material as the body.

Fit and Sound

The Jelly Galaxy is a very light IEM and very comfortable, you can easily forget you are even wearing these when the music stops. I  switched over to some surplus silicone tips on these as well for for a good seal while listening.

The sound of these will be different than the finished product as Joinhandmade has increased the lower bass and removed a little of the midrange and treble. Therefore I really can’t give you an impression of what they will sound like, but if the changes are not too drastic then they will be a great earphone for EDM and POP music. I enjoy the sound of the prototype as it is, but it could use a bit more sub bass, which is probably the reason for the changes in the final version. The treble is not bright, hot or sibilant which is a welcome relief unlike a few other IEM’s I have reviewed previously. If I receive a finished version of the Jelly Galaxy I will update this review to reflect the changes.


The Jelly Galaxy is easily driven from the Colorfly C3 and especially the FiiO X3, with the X3 you can turn up the bass and the Galaxy handles the EQ adjustment quite nicely.


So if you are looking for a nice hand made, quality product from a group of artisans who put care into each build, then look no further than the Jelly Galaxy from Joinhandmade!

I would like to personally thank the Joinhandmade team for this sample of the Jelly Galaxy Prototype that I evaluated in this review.

Constructive criticism is always welcome.


Categories: IEM, Impression

A Musical Union of Ebony and Aluminium


Review by TrollDragon


Way back in April a new Sponsor on Head-Fi called RockJaw created a post looking for members to test and review a new product line consisting of multiple IEM’s and headphones. I applied at once and was accepted by RockJaw’s representative Rockbob.  This is going to be a great experience for myself as well as quite a few others, since we get to evaluate the new products and our opinions will be factored into the final retail products.

With all the formalities and details looked after, a large box of RockJaw products appeared on my doorstep, multiple IEM’s and a pair of headphones. I have spent several weeks with the ALFA GENUS IEM’s out of various sources and will now present my review.

*Champagne Filter Update September 10 2014*


I usually do an overview but the product we have is with beta packaging. The complete product line will have a totally revamped, nicer looking packaging in the near future.



Case CaseOpen

The slide out storage case is a great way to store your IEM’s or pack them for travel. Too thick to be used as a daily carry case, i believe RockJaw are going to provide a soft pouch with future versions.

ContentsAccessories consist of nice silicone tips in S/M/L and two pairs of tuning filters in Silver (Enhanced Bass) and Black (Monitor Class). I understand that with the final product there will be a third filter tuned between the Silver and Black. These filters and IEM body are nicely threaded allowing an easy way to switch filters without fumbling to get the thread started. I can see that once you have found your desired sound signature by experimenting with the filters at the beginning, most people will stick with the one they like best and store the other two sets back in the case.

Filters The build quality of the ALFA GENUS is exceptional and looks very solid with it’s aluminum strain reliefs and ebony wood body. I feel these will hold up to a fair bit of rough usage, the cable is a flexible shiny black PTFE material I do believe. There is a little bit of mechanical noise in the cable which can be alleviated by using the provided shirt clip or by wearing them up.


Fit & Sound

AG_C3_MiuAudio AG_X3

The ALFA GENUS are one of the easiest IEM’s to get a good fit on that I have used so far and the large tips provide an excellent seal.
I have run these out of a Colorfly C3 amplified with a Miu Audio MRA DIY amplifier and a FiiO X3 on low gain, switching between the two for my review. In my opinion the ALFA GENUS are very source dependent and will not have a great synergy with all devices.

Silver Filters

I started with the silver filters installed and found the sound to have an amount of bass that was just about unlistenable to my ears. The bass is overwhelming and very boomy, it bleeds up into the lower midrange and will muffle voices quite easily. I tried the silver filters with a 3rd generation iPod nano and they seem to be a little more tolerable from that device. I do like a nice solid punchy bass that digs deep where you can feel the impact on EDM tracks, but  somehow I doubt that bass heads would even like the silver filters. I never even bothered with testing the treble on the silver filters since the bass was so overwhelming.

Black Filters

Now the black filters are at the other end of the spectrum, some will find them a little too far at the end. The bass on the black filters is acceptable to my ears, not boomy and doesn’t bleed into the mids. Some might find it a little anemic, which is why RockJaw has created a filter in between the two provided. This new filter should fill the gap perfectly regarding bass. The treble on the black filters can be a little sharp to my ears depending on the source and the genre of music played. I found Paul Simon’s Graceland 25th Anniversary Edition very sibilant at points and actually starting to get annoying, with the FiiO X3 I was able to bring the treble setting down to -5 and take some of the edge off. This could not be done on the Colorfly C3 since it’s EQ was programmed by simians and is basically unusable.

Now Jazz at the Pawnshop was a little sharp in spots but not unlistenable by any means. Some of the users in the RockJaw test group do not find these sharp or sibilant except with overly bright tracks. It is highly possible that I just may be a little too treble sensitive.

Champagne Filters

Well, well, well let me tell you that when the package arrived from the RockJaw in the UK with two little champagne coloured filters in it I was ecstatic! I was off work that day and talking to a friend in the post office parking lot who inquired about said package, “any new toys?” he asked, so I showed him… Sorry dude but I have to get home NOW and hear these.


I installed them into the ALFA GENUS and prepared a set albums to check out, favorites that were either way too sharp with the Black filters or totally unlistenable to me with the Silver filters.


The first album is one of my absolute favorite Hard Bop standards by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. The track Moanin’ has some of Lee Morgans great trumpet work which can get really piercing on bright headphones and IEM’s. I prepared a wince for the first blast at 1:00 minute in and it was not required, the Champagne filters presented Morgan’s improvisation with that perfection I am used to. So I ended up actually listening to Moanin’ twice, I was really that impressed.

Up next was another standard by Charles Mingus called Tijuana Moods, the track Ysabel’s Table Dance is an amazing track for the mixture of instruments from Ysabel Morel’s vocals and castanets, Hadi’s saxophone work and of course Mingus’s bass. Again the Champane Filters presented this track with no congestion whatsoever.

Switching away from Jazz, not that I wanted to but I have a lot of Jazz… I fired up the Dropkick Murphys album Signed and Sealed in Blood. The track Rose Tattoo is a classic Celtic Punk ballad with great vocals from Ken Casey and traditional instruments picking up a great driving pace at the 3:20 minute mark. This is really not the greatest test track for the AG’s even though they did a good job, it is a song that needs to be played on speakers, LOUD!

Switching again, this time to Metallica and the album …And Justice For All, we find out how the AG’s do with the track One. Which starts out slow and clean building in speed and intensity as the song progresses to the dual guitar solo at near the end. This track is a great test for the AG’s to see how well their bass responds when Ulrich’s double bass kit kicks in. The AG’s have the speed to keep up it is just the Champagne filters are not as bassy enough for this track as I would like, but that is where the Silver filters might come in for some.

Finally we move into something a little more recent and that would be Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King and the title track Hail to the King, A7X has hit the motherlode with some classic riff based heavy metal. The guitars of Syn and Vengeance provide a great driving sound that works perfectly with M. Shadows vocals on this track. The Champagne filters are not sharp or too bright like they were with the Black filters, Shadows sounds amazing again instead of painful to my ears.



I would like to give some very high praise to Rockbob and his team for all the hard work they have put into modifying the ALFA GENUS filters that those of us in the test group have suggested, a job well done on the Champagne Filters! I would like to personally thank him for creating this filter so that picky/treble sensitive people like me can now use with the AG’s and get great enjoyment.

 These IEM’s are a serious contender in the sub $100 bracket that will please the vast majority of listeners with a sound that can be custom tailored exactly to your liking now.

 I would like to thank RockJaw and Rockbob for the samples used in this review, RockJaw is a definitely a company to you should keep in your radar when considering your next IEM purchase.


Categories: IEM, Review

A leather case for the X3

Nerb Handcraft

FiiO X3 Leather Case

Review by TrollDragon

Nerb Logo


Quite a while ago in the FiiO X3 thread on Head-Fi, there was a post with a very interesting looking leather case for the X3. I wanted to get one of these cases for my player but there were no details of how to acquire it in the thread. With a little reverse Google Image search; I discovered the creator of this case was a company called Nerb Handcraft,  who produces finely handcrafted leather goods in Bangkok, Thailand. This was great–I contacted them on Facebook and inquired about the X3 case. I was informed that is was a custom production run for one of their customers and if they were ever going to produce any more of them they would let me know. Well a few months later there was a status update on their Facebook page that the X3 case was going to be made again and available for sale.

This was great news, so I contacted Nerb via Facebook and they were very friendly and very prompt to reply to my questions. I was given the option of brown or tan so I made my choice and ordered the case. Today an XpressPost package arrived from Thailand tied with string; a nice little nostalgic touch. Who does that these days?  Packages usually have so much shipping tape wrapped around them it’s crazy. The package from Nerb didn’t have a piece of tape anywhere to be found,  inside or out. You will be able to see in the upcoming pictures, that the packaging is quite environmentally friendly.



The shipping box in all it’s glory!

Shipping Box



The Contents

Inner Box Contents

BagThe inner packaging is exceptional! This box is tied up by a strip of leather with a Nerb stamped fob in the center. Upon opening this box, you are presented yet with another surprise, a drawstring cloth bag stamped with the company logo in ink.

We are now going to get down to brass tacks, after opening all of this great packaging the cloth bag finally reveals a leather case for the X3.

Case Back Case Front

The exquisite smell of leather is the first thing you notice; you just have to pick it up and smell it again.  In my opinion, all cases for electronic devices should be made from leather.



The FiiO X3 Installed

Case & FiiO X3 Installed

As you can see by the above picture, the holes lineup fairly well with the X3’s buttons and since the leather is quite thick, you will have to use the end of your finger to push them.

Top and Bottom View

Top Jack USB & Line Out

Left and Right Side Views

Hold Button Memory Slot

There are openings in the case for all the ports and switches–the only thing missing is the reset hole at the top for resetting the X3. This hole could be easily made yourself or Nerb might just include it in their next case builds.




The Nerb FiiO X3 Case has an excellent look, feel and smell to it; the leather is thick and the workmanship top notch. Since the leather on the case is substantial, you will have to use the end of your finger to push the buttons. Installing the X3 into the case requires a fair bit of pushing as the case is very snug. Removing the X3 from the case is a bit of a chore since there is nothing to grab onto.

The only thing that needs to be redesigned on the case, in my opinion, is the area around the headphone jack. You will need a headphone plug with a long shoulder on it like the ones made for cell phone cases.  Plugs without this shoulder will get caught up in the stitching or be too large in diameter for the hole.

So if you are looking for a great little leather case, send a message to Nerb Handcraft on Facebook; this seems to be the only way at the moment to get in contact with them.  Tell them Charles sent you, or you saw a review on Head-Fi.

Nerb Handcraft
Finely handcrafted leather goods in Bangkok, Thailand


Constructive criticism is always welcome.


Categories: Review | Tags: , , , ,

Vacuum Tube Hybrid Amplifier


MKTP1 Vacuum Tube Modular Preamplifier

(EH 6922 tube)

miuaudio logo

In my previous review for Miu-Tech of Hong Kong, I built and reviewed their MRA DIY Portable Amplifier which is a great little DIY amplifier kit. In this review however, I am taking a look at their hybrid headphone and preamplifier, the MKTP1.

A rather large box for a tiny little amplifier…

Box Box_Open

As you can see from the open box picture, the amplifier is well surrounded in molded fiber board. A hefty power supply and an RCA to 3.5mm TRS audio cable are also included.

ContentsThe only thing that didn’t come with mine was an AC cord, which is not a big issue; the AC adapter has a standard IEC C14 socket that takes a C13 computer cable and I don’t think there is anyone out there that does not have a few spare C13 cables in a drawer.

The Amplifier

MKTP1_FrontFront Panel

The workmanship you find after you get the amplifier unpacked is excellent–the machined aluminum front plate with recessed TRS jacks, an aluminum volume control and hex screws holding it to the case. The TRS jacks are recessed in larger holes to accommodate plugs with bigger ends like the Grado mini adaptor cable I use on the DT880’s. Everyone who sees the amplifier finds the acrylic tube protector a nice touch.

MKTP1_BackBack Panel

The same attention to detail is also evident in the back panel, a Line Out TRS jack, RCA Line In jacks  and the power adapter connector.


Tube Rolling

Part of the fun of owning a tube amplifier is the ability to experiment with different tubes that are available on eBay and from other sources. The tubes you can roll in the MKTP1 are a little limited compared to a full size tube amplifier, but there is still a great variety of available compatible tubes that you can try.

Tube rolling is not for everyone. I got involved in it with my Little Dot MK IV amplifier and the LD Tube Rolling thread on Head-Fi. Chasing the little “Fire Bottles” can be an expensive hobby if you allow it to be as there are always “Better” tubes that are just out of reach. The sellers on eBay know how much demand there is for popular NOS tubes. They also know quite well how much these tubes can be sold for; it is like anything, the higher the demand, the greater the price. Occasionally some have found a very good deal on excellent tubes that the seller either didn’t know what they were or the auction was badly worded etc… But you have to scour eBay globally and possibly haggle with the sellers and at some point in the game, the work involved acquiring these tubes outweighs the sonic benefits gained.

When the MKTP1 arrived I listened to it for a few days in its stock format, which I must say is very enjoyable. Then the case was removed and the rolling began; I have a few compatible tubes and quite a lot more that are not. Well I rolled them all with a few minor modifications, I don’t recommend this as it is not really advantageous to roll tubes that you can’t just plug in, adjust the bias trimmers and enjoy. I rolled the incompatible ones just to see if this amp would run them and I was very impressed with the results.

At one point I had a Reflektor 6H9C octal socket tube running just for a “lets see if…” scenario, it worked with modifications and is not really a tube you would use.

The MKTP1 is not a rolling friendly amplifier compared to others that are on the market.  The board has to be removed from the case and you have to have a voltmeter to measure the bias voltages with the new tube installed and the MKTP1 powered up without the case.

*Note When working with regular tube amplifiers there are always LETHAL VOLTAGES present that will kill you instantly. The MKTP1 has none of these voltages so you can change tubes and run the amplifier safely without the case installed.

To change the tube or the opamp you first need to remove the acrylic tube protector from the top of the case. It is a little hex head screw but the 6mm Torx screwdriver will fit perfectly.
Then you can pull the stock tube straight up and out.
Tube Socket
After the tubes are removed:

  • Remove the volume knob and unscrew the nut & washer from the volume control shaft.
  • Remove the 4 corner screws from the back plate and slide the board out of the case.

*Note The 7806 voltage regulator on the bottom side uses the case as a heat sink so the case can get rather warm after a long period of use. When changing a tube you won’t have the board out of the case long enough to cause the regulator any trouble with no heat sink.

Get a jewelers flat blade screwdriver and your voltmeter handy, set the voltmeter to DC Volts if it is not an auto range model the scale should be 20V, now look at the following board layout.
Board_TopDepending on which tube you are installing, you might have to move the jumper at the top of the picture. If you are installing another 6DJ8 tube it should already be set on the 6DJ8 side. If you are installing a 12AU7 tube then you need to move the jumper to the other pair of pins. The following voltage measurements are the same for both tube types.

Install your new tube and power up the amplifier.  Your headphones do not need to be plugged in to adjust the bias.

Push the Negative or Black probe into the board via marked with a Ground Symbol in the picture.

Push the Positive or Red probe into the top or bottom via surrounded by the white silkscreen box next to the tube socket, one via is marked with a 1 the other with a 6.

Measure the DC voltage on each hole and adjust the A trimmer pot for via 1 and the B trimmer pot for via 6. The voltage reading should be the same value for both sides and be between 6 and 8 volts according to the online manual for the MKTP1.

Opamp rolling is the same as it was in my previous review of the MRA DIY amplifier except in the MKTP1 there is only one opamp.

*Note The NE5532 that comes stock with the MKTP1 is an industry tried and true opamp that is used in many high end audio products, so changing it out would just be a mater of personal preference rather than performance.

After everything is changed and the measurements are done you can test it to see if there are any problems by plugging in a set of headphones and your source–if it sounds okay then put it all back together in the case and enjoy.

Tested Tubes


Electro Harmonix 6922EH

This is the stock tube that ships with the MKTP1, still made to this day in Russia at the ExpoPul Factory (Reflektor) at Saratov, Russia. You can see by the date code on the above tube it was manufactured approximately 1 year ago (April 2013) and is a new tube not NOS. The ExpoPul factory makes two-thirds of the world’s vacuum tubes used for music, Tung-Sol’s, Sovtek’s, Svetlana’s and Genalex Gold Lion’s all these tubes are manufactured at Saratov under the management of the New Sensor Corporation.

The sound of the 6922EH tube is very clean.  It is a good all round “neutral” tube that is very popular and used by many manufactures of high end audio gear. These could very well be some of the reasons miuaudio chose the Electro Harmonix 6922EH as the stock tube for the MKTP1. It is inexpensive, has a great neutral sound, readily available and very popular.

Mullard ECC88 (6DJ8)

This tube was, I believe, manufactured in Britain in 1964. The code on the bottom of the tube is “B4L1″ someone can correct me if I am wrong. The ECC88 went in nicely and a little bias adjustment later I was listening to the Mullards’s detailed, warm and musical sound. This is a good tube to use if you can get one for a reasonable cost.

Voskhod 6Н23П (6N23P)

This tube was made at the Voskhod – Tube Plant in Kaluga Russia around April of 1978. This is one of my favorite Russian versions of the ECC88/6DJ8 type tube. It has the most bass compared to the other two tubes and can be a little too dark for some listeners or setups.

*Note many tubes were tested in the MKTP1, I don’t have any compatible 12AU7’s but I did have a pair of Sylvania 5751’s (12AX7) that I tried and did get to work after a few modifications.


Test Setup

The MKTP1 inital setup was with my FiiO X3 and beyerdynamic DT880 Pro’s. The MKTP1 can drive the DT880 with authority and the volume control at 10 o’clock provides a very respectable listening level.


DT880_MKTP1 DT880_Glow

The album I use for a lot of my testing is Jethro Tull’s “The Best of Acoustic”, 24 tracks of Tull’s best acoustic songs. This is an excellent album for the DT880’s as they faithfully reproduce the instruments in realistic detail with a nice soundstage. The acoustic guitar work and Ian Anderson’s flute on the track “Salamander” will give you chills.

Jethro Tull
The MKTP1 has a neutral sound, not overly warm or bright. The stock 6922EH is a tube used in many high end preamps so it doesn’t colour the sound in any way. It provides an excellent level of richness and detail to the MKTP1 that one would expect in higher end systems. I like my headphones neutral as well as my amplifiers unless I want that bass thump of EDM and then I have Ultrasones for that purpose.

My DT 880’s are always plugged into my Little Dot MK IV, which is an amplifier that punches well above it’s price point with some cheap replacement tubes. If I didn’t have a regular OTL tube amplifier for the beryer’s then I would be very satisfied with the MKTP1 as my main desktop amplifier. I have used this amplifier steady for the past 3 weeks I have done a minor modification to support one of my favourite tubes from the 60’s, the Westinghouse 6BQ7A which I find very euphonic in it’s presentation, smooth and musical.




The miuaudio MKTP1 is a very proficient tube hybrid amplifier that competes well with more expensive tube amplifiers, it will drive 250 Ohm headphones with authority as well as lower impedance headphones. (Sounds great with the Koss Porta Pro’s as well.)

If you are looking for a hybrid desktop amplifier with a small footprint, great sound and is versatile with Line In & Out, then look no further, the miuaudio MKTP1 for $107 USD from the Miu-Tech store will meet your needs.

I would like to thank Ivan Lai for the review sample and to thank you for taking the time to read this review.
Constructive criticism is always welcome.


Categories: Review | Tags: , ,

A Portable DIY Amplifier

miuaudio MRA DIY Amplifier

Review and Build Log by TrollDragon

miuaudio logo
Head-Fi-LogoBack in February I contacted Ivan Lai of Miu-Tech in Hong Kong to review a few of their products. I was generously sent a pair of amplifiers for review, a nice little Do It Yourself portable and a Vacuum Tube Hybrid desktop. This review is for the MRA DIY amplifier kit, it is an M47 style amplifier with the second opamp on each channel configured as a voltage follower providing more current for a low impedance output.

Upon opening the box you are presented with a schematic of the amplifier, a static bag full of components, the case parts and a silicon band to attach the amplifier to you source.

Box Box_Open

The amplifier comes with absolutely no instructions other than the schematic, the parts are well labelled and separated into small zip lock type bags. This is very helpful as it allows you to easily sort and retrieve the required components quickly throughout the build process.

The printed circuit board is a quality made board with excellent traces and a great silk screening providing component layout and polarity. This is the board with the gain switch and all the resistors soldered in place.
Board*Note R1 & R2 were removed from the board after the picture was taken.

I recommend putting all the resistors on the board first, they are a small component that requires one leg bent over 180° to accommodate vertical mounting. The resistors are the most time consuming part of the build and install much easier when there is nothing else on the board. The board was very easy to populate and solder, those with previous kit building experience could quickly put this amplifier together in a half an hour. Those without kit experience or basic electronics knowledge need to be aware of the correct orientation of the electrolytic capacitors, opamps, rail splitter and LED.

There are a few issues that should be addressed before the board is fully populated.

  • The Rail Splitter circuit.

    The opamps in this audio amplifier require a positive and negative voltage to operate. This can be achieved with the included TLE2426 Rail Splitter or the pair of 4.7K resistor’s as voltage dividers.
    TLE2426The schematic of amplifier shows both options in effect at the same time which is strange, in every schematic I have seen of a TLE2426 virtual ground, the resistors R1 & R2 are not installed. So I did not bother installing them on the board. If anyone knows a reason why the resistors should be there then please let me know.

  • The Potentiometer.

    There is a little tang on the bottom of the potentiometer to stop rotation when it is chassis mounted. If this tang is left intact, the front cover will not install flush with the case.
    PotentiometerGrab this tang straight on with a pair of pliers and just bend down and away from the shaft; it will snap off cleanly.

  • The Case LED

    When you mount the case LED on the bottom of the board, bend the pins of the LED through the mounting holes so that it sits flush on the edge of the board with no overhang. If it sticks out past the board the front panel will not mount flush with the case properly. Also install the LED before you install the input jack, trim the legs that come up through the board as flush as you can. The edge of the input jack mounts directly overtop of one of the leads and if you leave that lead long the input jack will not mount flush or line up with the hole in the front panel mount.


After the board is fully assembled it is time to test the amplifier for functionality before you put it into the case. It’s easier to repair any mistakes if something is wrong.
AssembledThe easiest way to mount the board in the case is to push the front panel onto the volume control and audio jacks, then slide the board into the case making sure it lines up with the little channel on the sides of the case. If you try to install the board after the front panel is screwed on, it is just about impossible to get the two audio sockets lined up and pushed through the holes.

Case Finished


Operation & Results.

I removed the two thumb screws on the back of the case to install a brand new Energizer 9V battery. Turning the unit on, I measured an average 12mA of drain on low gain with a normal listening level of about half way on the volume control, this should give you a good bit of life out of a standard 9V battery. The audio sockets click nicely and hold tightly onto any TRS jack you plug into them. It is good to see quality audio sockets included with the kit, the sockets on my FiiO E11 are starting to get quite sloppy from use. The volume control is very smooth and free from any wiper static, the on off switch attached has a positive click and a solid feel to it.

Using the Ultrasone HFI-780’s with low gain on the MRA and the Colorfly C3 as a source.

Sound & Impressions

Headphones tested:

  • German Maestro GMP 8.300 D Professional (300Ω)
  • beyerdynamic DT880 Pro (250Ω)
  • Ultrasone HFI-780 (35Ω)
  • JVC HA-S500z (32Ω)

Sources used:

  • Colorfly C3 (Headphone Out)
  • FiiO X3 (Line Out)

The MRA DIY amplifier has a very nice clean sound and black background with the KIA 4559P Bipolar Dual opamps supplied in the kit. You can change out the stock opamps with many other popular opamps. The LME49860, LME49880, LME49720, LM4562, OPA2107 and the ever so popular AD8620 were all tried in place of the stock 4559P’s with very similar results. The AD8620 was the only one provided a nice crisp sound to the amplifier over the stock opamps, the others all sounded very similar to the 4559P’s except for the LME49880 which distorted because of too low of a supply voltage.

Opamps Board_Opamps

RollingSome of the above opamps are not utilized or run within proper design specifications for this amplifier and were tried on a whim. The stock opamps were put back at the end of the test as they do sound very good.

Comparison to the FiiO E11 amplifier gave very good results. I connected the FiiO X3’s Line Out to both the E11 and MRA inputs with a DIY splitter, hooked up a headphone switch to both outputs and played quite a few test tracks. Using the headphone switch I could easily and quickly jump between both amplifiers for a sound comparison. Matching the volume as best as you are able to by ear with the DT880’s, I found it very surprising that both amplifiers actually sound identical at a moderate listening level. Once the MRA got up to about 80% of maximum volume I started to notice distortion that was not there in the E11, I figure that the MRA could not provide enough voltage swing for the DT880’s and both amplifiers were on high gain. I didn’t try any other opamps in this configuration as the DT880’s were tried just to see if they would work and they did. This was not an optimal setup as the DT880’s are not a portable headphone and really shine when driven from an OTL tube amplifier.

A different story for the HFI-780’s though, switching the amplifiers back to low gain I tested out some EDM tracks, again the amplifiers sounded identical and this time I could not get the MRA to distort without going deaf first. Now if the MRA just had a bass boost is would have been nice to compare that with the E11’s as well.

My time using the MRA DIY amplifier out and about were with the GMP 8.300 D’s and the low output Colorfly C3, even though the GMP’s are 300Ω, they are very easy to drive and the amplifier didn’t struggle with them at all or distort. I find the 8.300 D’s to be a nice, neutral, closed headphone very similar to the sound of the DT880’s.


Conclusion and Recommendation

This is a DIY amplifier kit for someone who wants an easy project that has excellent results in the end. Pair it with a $10 soldering iron and it makes a perfect gift for that budding Audiophile who has an interest in electronics and audio, the enjoyment they will receive from using an amplifier that they built themselves is a great thing.

I highly recommend this amplifier to anyone who wants a kit that looks nice, has a great sound and is very easy to build. I really enjoyed working with and building this amplifier. The miuaudio MRA DIY kit is available for a very reasonable $42USD from the Miu-Tech Store.

I would like to thank Ivan Lai for the review sample and to thank you for taking the time to read this review.
Constructive criticism is always welcome.


Categories: Review | Tags: , ,

Top of the Line Impressions

Burson Conductor SL / Audeze LCD-3

Impressions by TrollDragon



When Burson Audio of Melbourne Australia posted on their Facebook page for Head-Fi’ers to apply for the Conductor SL & Audeze LCD-3 loaner program, I gladly jumped at the chance to try these two top tier products. Well I was selected for this round and have spent a glorious 3 weeks with the Conductor SL and LCD-3’s reliving all my music through this amazingly well paired combo.

The Conductor SL arrived equipped with Burson’s Cmedia CM6631A USB module installed. Two DAC boards were supplied as well for comparison,  the TI  PCM1793 and the ESS Sabre32 9018.


The boards were extremely easy to change after the cover was removed. Locate and remove the 4 screws holding the DAC board in place, lift straight up and away. Line up the pins on the new DAC board with the sockets on the main board and push down till it seats. Check that the pins are inserted properly, reinstall the 4 screws and close up the unit.

I enjoyed the sound of the ESS DAC quite a bit better than the TI. The ESS was very clean, crisp and detail oriented to my ears which gave it an nice overall neutrality. The TI DAC on the other hand has a much warmer sound and I only listened to it for a day in the unit. The sound was close to that of my FiiO E17 with none of the ESS’s neutrality and since I was already familiar with that similar sound, I wanted more time with the ESS.

The design of the Conductor SL is quite unique, all the parts are modular. If you wanted to change out the Alps volume  potentiometer with a stepped attenuator it should probably be easy to do since everything plugs onto the main board. You will notice from the pictures that it’s all discrete FET’s (Field Effect Transistors) which Burson says gives the amplifier a transparency that cannot be achieved with opamps.

Dual power output controlled by the front panel gives 0.18W per channel in Low and 2W per channel in High, which in turn will allow you to drive anything from 5Ω IEM’s to 600Ω beyerdynamic’s. Power to spare while driving the 45Ω LCD-3 and my 250Ω beyerdynamic DT880 with the volume control at 10 & 12 o’clock respectively.

Three types of input, USB, Toslink and RCA allows you to connect the Conductor SL to just about anything. The only thing I would like to have seen included with this unit is a line stage, but I understand that is available on the higher model. A Line Out option into the Little Dot MK IV would have been a good test of the two DAC boards through some nice Soviet 6Ж5П driver tubes.

Over all the Conductor SL with the ESS9018 DAC is a very clean crisp detailed amplifier providing more than adequate power for the two headphones I have tried with the unit. At a friends house we also tested a pair of Denon HP700’s but quickly put them away and didn’t speak again of that…


The Audeze LCD-3’s arrived in their rugged IP67 rated  SKB travel case with a custom molded foam insert that keeps the headphones nicely protected. I have one problem with most all cases that the manufacturers provide for headphone storage. Why do they build them in such a way that you have to fully retract the yokes in order to put them back in the case? I do not want to adjust my headphones every time I take them out or put them back in the case. Craft the foam insert so the cup area is the same as the current insert, but allow a wide cut out for the headband to fit regardless of yoke position.

Upon lifting these from the case I was immediately blown away by the weight of them, after you’ve handled the LCD-3’s for a while the DT880’s feel like a set of Porta Pro’s. The LCD-3’s are not something you would want to swing your head around while wearing as they would fly off your head and seriously hurt someone near you. :)

Luxurious leather pads and headband give the LCD-3’s a very comfortable fit considering the weight of them.
I found the DT880’s to be one of the most comfortable headphones I have tried but these are just that much more so. Some listeners have felt the weight of them was hard on the neck but I didn’t find this to be an issue at all and I have some long sessions with these.

I am not going to attempt to try to describe the LCD-3’s sound in detail, since there are many reviews on Head-Fi from those who are quit a bit more fluent in sound speak than I could attempt. I have only compared these to the DT880’s and to my ears there is a night and day difference between the two headphones. The DT880 is a great neutral headphone who’s sound I enjoy across a wide spectrum of genre’s. Listening to the same music through the LCD-3’s was amazing in my opinion, every quality the DT880’s have, the LCD-3’s has in spades above them. I find the DT880’s a little lacking in the bass department, the bass is there but for any type of electronic music I’d rather listen to my Ultrasone’s. Then you listen to the same electronic music through the LCD-3’s and bass is there very strong and deep. Acoustic, Metal, Progressive Rock, World Music and so on, there wasn’t a genre that I could throw at the LCD-3’s that wasn’t reproduced in a very enjoyable way. The LCD-3’s are quite a bit more open than the DT880’s, and I don’t have a “Perfect” listening environment so when you crank up the power, there is no peace and quiet for anyone around you or even in the next room. The recommended from Audeze is 1-4W of power to properly drive them and they will take a momentary burst of 15W if only for a few milliseconds, which is incredible considering the DT880’s maximum power rating is a very tiny 100mW.


The LCD-3’s were auditioned with the Little Dot MK IV. A pair of Soviet 6Ж5П’s or the Hytron 6CS6 tube’s pictured below, brought a very warm and liquid smooth sound that solid state amplifiers do not provide.
Here are a few pictures of the Burson Conductor SL9018 and Audeze LCD-3, all copper stands pictured are my own DIY creations.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Burson Audio of Melbourne Australia for the opportunity of experiencing the Burson Conductor SL9018 and Audeze LCD-3. It was a glorious 3 weeks that went by way too fast, now I want to hear the T1’s, HD800’s, LCD-2’s, LCD-XC’s and as many as I can. ;)


Categories: Impression | Tags: , , , , , ,

DUNU Landmine DN-23 Review

DUNU Landmine DN-23

Review by TrollDragon


This is my third review for the Chinese IEM manufacturer DUNU, in this review I will be looking at the Landmine DN-23 in-ear monitor.


DUNU provides aesthetically pleasing packaging which is consistent across their complete product line. The packaging consists of an outer sleeve that has a picture of the Landmine DN-23’s on a totally black background.

When the sleeve is removed, the box underneath, complete with side flap and magnetic catch, opens to reveal the DN-23’s in a very pleasing manner with the hard storage box below.

The Box Contents:

  • The Landmine DN-23 IEM’s
  • Rigid EVA protective case with a DUNU logo zipper pull.
  • Soft leather-like draw string pouch
  • Cable Clip
  • Airline Adapter (Does anyone even use these?)
  • 3.5mm to 6.5mm Adapter
  • Sony Hybrid’s in S/M/L
  • Large Bore’s in S/M/L
  • Double Flange in M
  • Warranty / Maintenance Card

(I would still like to see some foam tips in a S/M/L included with newer product.)

The DUNU Landmine DN-23

The Specifications of the DUNU Landmine DN-23

  • Driver HQ(10mm)
  • SPL 120 +-2dB
  • Impedance 16 Ohm
  • Frequency Response 16Hz~22KHz
  • Noise Attenuation 26dB
  • Weight 28g
  • Cord Length 1.2m
  • Plug Type 3.5mm (45° Angle)
  • MSRP $85

Like the Detonator DN-22M which I have previously reviewed, the DN-23’s are manufactured very well, the body is all metal, hence the 28g weight. The chrome finish on these is extremely well done; DUNU logoed aluminum end caps provide a nice touch. A red and green band around the body of each earphone denotes the R and L designations.


A non detachable cord terminated with a 45° angled 3.5mm TRS jack has a rubbery coating and very little memory, it is a nice rubber coating that does not stick to everything like silicone does.

The Y Splitter and slider have a nice aluminum look to them and the slider moves very smoothly on the cable.

Standard DUNU cable management is included on the cable and is a handy feature for keeping the cable in check. As you wrap the cable around your fingers the cable strap holds everything together with no tangle when you want to use the DN-23’s again.

I have found the cable to be quite microphonic.


I tested these with the Colorfly C3 and an iPod Nano 3rd Generation, the two players had absolutely no problems driving the DN-23’s to well above a tolerable listening level.

c3 Nano

I even plugged the DN-23’s into the FiiO E11 that is always strapped onto the C3 and there was a very prominent hiss to them. I was just testing out the Bass Boost on the E11 with these, a resistance adapter will solve the hiss problem on the E11 but you really don’t need an amplifier with these.

The Sound:
To quote Wreckx-N-Effect
“All I wanna do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom and a boom-boom”
The bass on these just deliciously sweet, I just kept digging out Bass-centric music to throw at them and they performed flawlessly.

I tested these with the following albums:

Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five: Greatest Message’s
LFO: Frequencies
Bob Marley and the Wailers: Personal Compilation
A State of Trance 500: CD2 Mixed by Paul Okenfold
Infected Mushroom: Army of Mushrooms and Friends on Mushrooms Volume 1
Juno Reactor: Shango and Gods & Monsters
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
Metallica: Self Titled (The Black Album)
Rammstein: Made In Germany
Led Zeppelin: Mothership
Rush: Gold
Plus many more throughout the test period.

To my absolute enjoyment, I have found the DN-23’s to have the familiar V shape of the Ultrasone HFI-780’s that are my current goto headphones for EDM and other bass-centric music.

The bass on the DN-23’s is a warm and sturdy bass, not the loud overpowering tubby bass of a few other inexpensive IEMs I have tried. The DN-23 could use a little more quantity of bass, but these are not sold with an “Extreme Bass” sticker anywhere to be found on the box. It does have a definite presence that makes one want to dance and bop around… the Daft Punk RAM album will have you up and moving in no time while wearing these. These have sweet non sibilant highs that are a pleasure to listen to, the Rush and Rammstein albums that I listened to played very nicely with the DN-23as well as the EDM.

Final Thoughts:

The DN-23 is another exceptional product from DUNU-TOPSOUND that I will enjoy as my “on the go” IEM, I’m going to refer to these as my mini “Sones” which I do enjoy and they get quite a bit of head time these days. In my opinion there are not many items worth the MSRP, but the $85 asking price is very reasonable and I will recommend them to friends who are looking for a great little IEM.

The metal construction on these is heavy which might be a deal breaker for some, personally I find it gives them a sense of quality as soon as you lift them from the box and this is something that you don’t find in many products these days.


  • Solid value for the $85 MSRP.
  • Generous accessories.
  • Outstanding DUNU build quality.
  • Nice cable with minimal memory effects.


  • Metal construction might be too heavy for some.
  • Cable is quite microphonic, it can be minimized by wearing over ear and with the clip.
  • No foam tips included.

Like a good cigar, the DN-23’s are one of life’s little pleasures to be thoroughly enjoyed.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rocky and DUNU for the sample I received for review.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Review | Tags: , ,

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