Reviews

by Kevin OBrien on April 27th 2018

AUDEZE VISITS THE YFS SHOWROOM

Evan Grimm paid us a visit this week to showcase Audeze's latest headphones along with their classic offerings. Evan is in charge of the Audeze product training program as well as being part of the marketing department. He also gives feedback to the founders of Audeze and wears several hats all while working remotely from Michigan. I believe Evan told me Audeze employs just under 50 employees so the California based company is not "large" by any means but not a 5-man outfit such as YFS.

Audeze got their start by performing demos of their first headphone, the LCD-2, at RMAF Can Jam in 2008. They weren't able to get a booth so they simply walked around Can Jam with their LCD-2 headphone allowing RMAF attendees a chance to listen. It all worked out as the LCD-2 gained popularity and the rest is history. Fast forward to 2018 and Audeze has become a major player in the headphone manufacturer arena worldwide.

Evan was nice enough to stop by my home here just on the outskirts of Boulder to let me get my hands and ears on the entire LCD series along with the iSine series of headphones. This also included the LCDi4 which looks similar to the iSine series but packs the LCD-4 technology in a very small form factor. 

The first thing on our agenda was to talk about the new offering Audeze has in the works. Evan was able to grab one of the first production LCD4-Z cans to bring on his trip to Colorado. I felt pretty fortunate to be able to get a feel for the latest offering from Audeze. The LCD4-Z gives the listener the same frequency response as the acclaimed LCD-4 but at a much lower impedance of 15 Ohms vs the standard 200 Ohms. This is huge as the LCD-4 can be a difficult headphone to drive. With the LCD4-Z, the load becomes much more manageable and this special headphone can be powered via a small amp and even some portable devices with great results.

 

I was able to compare the LCD-4 along side the LCD4-Z and go back and forth. Unfortunately, the LCD4-Z was fresh from the factory with only 26 hours of play time. The other cans all had several hundred hours of play which made a discernible difference in my comparison. I believe with the same amount of burn-in, the LCD4-Z will be a very potent headphone and may be your go-to can in your quiver.

I spent time comparing the various cans in the LCD series from the LCD-2 all the way up to the LCD-4. It was interesting to hear from Evan that the LCD-3, the LCD-X, and the LCD-XC were all basically the same headphone with very small differences. The X is their most neutral headphone besides the LCD-4, which is their most neutral sounding can. The LCD-2 Classic is their warmest sounding headphone with the LCD-3 situated right between the standard LCD-2 and the LCD-X as far as presentation is concerned. The LCD-MX4 was put in place to offer an option to those that need to wear an Audeze headphone for 5+ hours a day. This particular model offers a lightweight yet capable headphone for the professional in the studio setting. The LCD4-Z borrows the lightweight feel of the MX4 but gives the listener the sound quality of the reference LCD-4. The LCD4-Z shares the same magnesium ear cups and carbon fiber suspension headband of the MX4. For an added fee, wood rings are available on the LCD4-Z but that adds 1/3 of the weight of the entire headphone if this option is desired. The LCD-4 remains Audeze's reference can and is the benchmark for the rest of the line. I especially enjoy the LCD-4 as it is the most neutral and detailed can Audeze manufacturers which allows me to hear my equipment and cables more clearly throughout my chain. 

The LCD4 and LCD4-Z offer custom wood rings for an added $500 to the already lofty $4,000 MSRP. The LCD-4 comes with Ebony wood rings standard but some folks may want to spice things up a bit. The other LCD models offer dealer exclusive options such as Shedua wood rings (available on the LCD-2), etc that are only available through authorized Audeze dealers such as YFS. All the LCD series headphones offer the new suspension headband made of spring steel and leather. The 4 series cans get the carbon fiber version of this new headband design. This newly designed headband allows the listener to enjoy their tunes for sustained listening sessions. The old headband was due for an overhaul and Audeze has knocked it out of the park with this latest update.

The microsuede ear pads are no longer available but they are being replaced with leatherette ear pads. They are black in color and look identical to the standard black leather ear pads. The one main update to the ear pads, no matter which version you choose, is the addition of memory foam. I was not exactly sure what the memory foam accomplished but Audeze does not make rolling changes unless there's a good reason to do so.

It was very eye-opening to see how the Audeze headphones were hand crafted in their factory in Southern California. Evan shared a video he took of a pair of LCD-4s being produced from start to finish. Every step involved careful assembly by an Audeze employee. Drivers were thoroughly tested and then matched. Once the various pieces were assembled, the headphones were placed in a sort of miniature anechoic chamber to get an accurate frequency response plot which was then tied to the serial number of that specific headphone. Feel free to contact Audeze to get your frequency response plot. This applies to the LCD-X and above models only. The headphones were then burned in for 24 hours prior to being boxed up and prepared for shipment.

Audeze uses a measurement system that rivals the cost of most pre-owned entry-level luxury German sports cars. A type of "dummy head and ears" system is implemented to simulate the human ear/ head for accurate measurements. The microphones used are sophisticated and can capture the sound of a snail chewing on a leaf (yes, this has actually been done and is a procedure the test mic manufacturer has used to evaluate their microphones' sensitivity).                                        

The iSine series of in-ear headphones looked intriguing but I only had time to test the LCDi4. All I can say is 'wow'. I didn't believe Evan when he told me the LCD-4 tech was packed into this little IEM but he was right. After listening to one of my favorite DSD tracks, I could clearly hear the same cues as if I was listening to the bigger brother, the LCD-4. The LCDi4 is not cheap ($2,500 MSRP) but it may be worth the price of admission if you're serious about your IEMs and want that Audeze reference house sound in a small portable package.

I want to thank Evan for his time and ability to meet me at my home on a Tuesday night. That was very cool and it shows the type of dedication and effort the Audeze team is willing to make to get dealers the right information and the ability to accurately help their customers.

If you're interested in purchasing any of the Audeze product offerings, please feel free to contact YFS. We are an authorized Audeze dealer and your purchase carries the standard factory warranty and support. We strive to remain competitive price-wise and our support is top notch.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to hearing from you.

- YFS Review Team

 

by Kevin OBrien on October 7th 2017

FOCAL CLEAR HEADPHONES - FIRST IMPRESSION

Today was the second day of the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse of the new gear on display and our focus was on Focal's newly released Clear headphones. What exactly does this latest creation from France include and what makes this new model different from Elear? Given the similar price point to their established Elear model headphone ($1000 MSRP), it was key to find out if the extra $500 was going to be worth it for the upgrade. 

At $1500 MSRP, the Clear sits above the Elear but is no where near the price of admission of the Utopia at $4000 MSRP. Setting the price at $1500 is important. Getting this hobby back where pricing should be is a good thing for all of us as recent street prices for models from various manufacturers has sky rocketed. It is important to get as many people into the game as possible and the Clear is doing just that. 

Is the Clear just another Elear but with a different finish? We found out the Clear comes with 3 different cables. Inside the packaging you'll find one short 4ft single ended cable with an 1/8" stereo jack, and two longer 10ft cables. One 10ft cable sports a 4-pin balanced connector and the other a single ended 1/4" stereo jack. This is nice. Focal is listening to feedback from customers who don't want a 13 foot cable. The balanced and single ended options give the listener flexibility and allows the Clear to be mated to almost any amplifier on the market.

As far as sound quality goes, the Clear steps up the midrange and treble information and keeps the bass response of the Elear but hits with slightly more punch. Clear does just what its name entails. It reminded us of a clearer, more detailed, and more refined version of the Elear. We went back and forth between the Clear and Elear models listening to the same test tracks and the Clear was definitely our preferred headphone. We also spent considerable time with the Clear and the Utopia. The Clear is about 80% of what the Utopia can offer as far as detail retrieval, air between instruments, and overall soundstage but with a better bass response. It appears the driver compliment used to bring out the reference presentation of the midrange and treble in Utopia does not do as well in the lower regions. The Clear was the winner when comparing the low end of the frequency response. Can the Clear touch the overall presentation of the Utopia? Nope. However, it positions itself right where it should be in the Focal over-ear line-up and pretty much makes the Elear obsolete. For $1500 MSRP, we think a lot of folks will want to bring a pair home, especially after comparing to Focal's reference, the Utopia.

Impedance for the new Clear has been set at 55 Ohms and sensitivity comes in at 104 dB. This allows Clear to be used with a wider variety of devices. Clear implements the same type of driver that Elear uses but with a new copper voice coil inside the driver. This updated voice coil along with an upgraded ear pad provides a more refined sound. Is the asking price justified in this case? We feel it is, especially when you realize what Clear includes that Elear does not. The Clear comes with both balanced and single ended options as well as a slick, hard shell portable carrying case. The Elear does not include either of these options. Focal has done a great job of listening to end user and dealer feedback. It's going to be a hard decision for me personally to try to justify the Utopia's cost when such a great performer can be had for such a comparatively small investment.

We suspect demand will be high for Clear based on what we've shared above. If you're wondering when Clear will be available, that's a good question. The very first batches of Clear are slated to be available on the 17th of November 2017. Once production ramps up, more pairs of clear should roll out but supply will be very limited. Focal states they will be as fair as possible by allocating an equal number of Clear to each dealer that wants them but with all products that are in high demand, it's going to be tough to get your hands on them. 

 

Thanks for reading.

- YFS Review Team

 

by Kevin OBrien on January 25, 2017

YFS AND MUTEC TEAM UP FOR AXPONA 2017!


 

YFS and Mutec will be teaming up in Chicago for the AXPONA 2017 audio exposition on the weekend of April 22nd. Come see our HD.Ref-3 music transport in action in Room 554. The Mutec MC-3+USB / Ref-10 clock combo will be mated with our YFS HD.Ref-3 server transport and EMM Labs DAC2X V2 DSD DAC to bring you some of the finest digital source equipment around. Our YFS CA-60a custom tubed preamp and custom YFS Headphone Cables will be on display along with our latest Custom Ref 'Split' Copper USB. The all new Von Schweikert Unifield II Mk3 3-way monitors will be taking care of speaker-duty. Be sure to ask us about show specials. Don't miss this special event in the Windy City. We are excited to get to know our customers and chat all things audio-related in late April. We hope to see everyone there.

 

by Kevin OBrien on June 15, 2016

YFS, MUTEC, AND EMM LABS TEAM UP FOR RMAF 2016!


YFS, Mutec, and EMM Labs will be teaming up in Denver for the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2016 on the weekend of October 7th. Come see our HD.Ref-3 music transport in action in Room 7010 in the 7th floor Tower. The Mutec MC-3+USB and latest Mutec external clock (REF-10) will be mated with our YFS HD.Ref-3 server transport to bring you cutting edge digital source equipment at its finest. The new EMM Labs DA2 DAC as well as our YFS modified vintage McIntosh MC75 amplifiers will be on display. Our YFS CA-60a custom tubed preamp and custom YFS Headphone Cables will be on display along with our latest Custom Ref 'Split' Copper USB. We will have YFS USB cables on hand to sell to the public at discounted prices as well. Be sure to ask us about show specials. Don't miss this special event in the Mile High City.

We are excited to get to know our customers and chat all things audio-related in early October.

We hope to see everyone there.

by Kevin OBrien on April 27, 2015 

AXPONA 2015 - YFS SHOW REPORT

We would like to thank all the folks that came out to see us in Chicago in 2015 to allow us to pull off another great showing. YFS, Endeavor Audio, and Constellation Audio teamed up to get the tunes going and the folks tappin' their toes in the Westin O'Hare room 426. We wanted to thank all the reviewers and audiophiles who showed up to listen to what our team had to offer.

We wanted to personally thank Jason Victor Serinus from Stereophile, Greg Weaver and Jonathan Valin of The Absolute Sound, Gary Beard from Positive Feedback, Mal from Part Time Audiophile, and Peter Breuninger and his lovely wife from AVShowrooms for taking their time to listen to our system and give us their comments and suggestions. We wanted to wish a special farewell to Spencer Holbert of The Absolute Sound as he recently left the publication. We miss you already Spencer and the show wasn't the same without you. Thank you guys for all of your hard work.

We were showing our newest additions to the YFS lineup in Room 426. The new YFS PS-512 Mac Mini power supply ($1,095 MSRP) was on display along with our new copper Litz headphone cable ($395 MSRP), The Super 30, and our new YFS Custom Ref 'Split' USB cables ($1,195 MSRP) offered in pure copper or silver conductors of your choice. The PS-512 is a dual-rail power supply that is especially designed for the Mac Mini. It has one 5V rail and one 12V rail. It allows our customers to implement a 'Split' USB cable that plugs into the rear of the PS-512 while simultaneously powering the Mac Mini. This saves space in your rack and keeps more money in your wallet. Our PS-12m is still our reference Mini PS but we now offer a cheaper version for our customers so more folks can get on board.

Our equipment list is shown below. We didn't get too detailed in our descriptions of the gear because it's all online already in multiple locations. Just do a simple Google search to find out more about each product.

   

The EMM Labs DAC2X was on display along with the new affordable line of Constellation gear named the Inspiration Series. This is one serious lineup. This gear is legit although it's Constellation's entry-level gear. Do not let that fool you. These are very special pieces indeed and there is nothing 'entry-level' about them. 'Reference' is the word that immediately comes to mind when trying to describe these works of audiophile-art.

Our YFS HD.Ref-3 streamed the digital files through all these fine pieces ultimately ending up at the mouth of Endeavor Audio Engineering's new E-5 loudspeaker system. This is Endeavor's new flagship and it was mighty impressive. I personally loved the new silver metallic finish and no, the speaker is not made out of aluminum, it just looks that way in the pictures.

We hope to see everyone next year. Thanks for stopping by and chatting and we'll keep designing and building as long as all of you keep asking us to. It appears we will not be stopping anytime in the near future. We're not going anywhere, that's for sure.

We want to thank all of our customers. You are responsible for making these audio shows happen in the first place. Without you guys supporting our work, we wouldn't be able to travel around the country to see all of you.

Thanks again! 

Until next time...

- YFS Design Team

 

 

YFS and Endeavor Audio will be at Axpona 2015 in Chicago on the weekend of the 26th of April. Come join us for some of the finest food in the lower 48 as well as some of the most amazing computer audio sounds available anywhere. We will be showing our YFS HD.Ref-3 LE along with our EMM Labs DAC2X. Our YFS Headphone Cables as well as our NEW Mac Mini power supply, the YFS PS-512, will be on display. Constellation Audio will be showing their Inspiration Series Monoblocks and Linestage. Endeavor Audio will be showing their E-5 loudspeakers. The E-5 speaker system measures over 6 feet from top to bottom and utilizes an array of various drivers. The E-5 system is a sight to see and an amazing, one of a kind creation. Come on by room 426 of the Westin O'Hare and check it out. We'd be happy to chat and talk all things audio. We hope to see all of you there...

 

 

by Kevin OBrien on October 25, 2013

RMAF 2013 - YFS SHOW REPORT

Denver is a great place to be this time of year. The fall colors and the cool, crisp air remind me that the snow will be flying just around the corner.  For now though, the weather is great, the foliage is amazing, and it's audio time in the Mile High City.

We're taking the time out to give the folks who could not make the journey to Denver a peek into what went on in the YFS Room at the 10th annual Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. We were truly grateful for having Meitner DesignConstellation Audio, and Von Schweikert Audio support us at this year's show. Thank you Shahin, Peter, and Albert for an amazing opportunity to show the world your truly outstanding gear.

An equipment list below gives our readers a glimpse into the scene inside room 542. As always, there's a little left to be desired as far as the room layout goes but most exhibitors pretty much had the same room to work with. We were looking into renting a ballroom but that's not going to happen ANY time soon due to pricing.

 

 

The YFS Room was lucky enough to be graced by some of the hardest working reviewers in the industry including Jonathan Valin of The Absolute Sound, Stephen Mejias from Stereophile, and Mal & Kirsten Kenney from Part-Time Audiophile. I'm sure we're forgetting a few others, namely from Enjoy The Music and Stereomojo, and a few other reviewers from some other audiophile magazines we can't remember at this point.

We don't want to forget to give a shout-out to Chris Connaker at Computer Audiophile. He stopped by our room on Thursday to chat and talk computer audio as per usual and discuss the latest Pearl Jam happenings. Thank you guys for taking the time out to come listen, snap photos, and give us feedback. We truly appreciate it. We would also like to thank all the showgoers who showed up to chat and listen to our latest designs. It's always fun to catch up and describe our latest iterations of computer audio madness. In fact, this year we debuted our brand new YFS Mac Mini which we are truly excited about. Thank you folks.

We would really like to thank Jonathan Valin for taking the time to stop by our room. We don't play analog sources such as vinyl or tape at any of the audio shows we exhibit at. Unfortunately, those are his favorite sources, but he still managed to give a listen to our system and compliment us on our sound. In fact, it turns out he liked our tonal balance and presentation along with our smooth sound...

YFS has some announcements it would like to make regarding some new developments that took place this year at the show. We became Authorized Endeavor Audio dealers! Check out their brand new E-3 floor standing loudspeaker pictured above. Holy crap did these things sound good for the money. In fact, they sounded great regardless of cost. Nice work Endeavor Audio! We also ran into Mat Weisfeld from VPI who hopefully will welcome us back into the VPI family. (We were recent dealers up until a year or so ago). It was great talking with you at the show Mat. And yes, we do actually listen to vinyl.

EMM Labs will be coming out with a firmware update for their DAC2X some time in the near future which should give the Meitner MA-1 as well as the DAC2X a nice boost in performance. EMM Labs will also be debuting a new Reference DAC some time next year which utilizes a two-chassis design. One chassis houses the power supply and the other chassis is for the D to A conversion circuitry. Pricing will come in at ~ $30,000.

Overall, we had a great time at the 2013 RMAF and we hope next year is even better as far as attendance goes. If there were any complaints, that would be it. It seemed like less folks were at the show this year in comparison to last year's show. We were assuming the Broncos game and the beer fest were partly to blame but I have a feeling the recent flooding in Colorado was really the reason attendance was down. Hopefully folks will rebuild and be back for 2014.

Until next year...

-YFS Design Team

 

by Kevin OBrien on May 3, 2014

AXPONA 2014 - YFS SHOW REPORT

 

We love coming to Chicago because we always know we're in for some great food and some really friendly people. This trip reinforced this for us yet again. Thanks Windy City. The second AXPONA event took place (we're not counting the past 20 years) here in Rosemont, IL and it was an even better show this year than last year. This was mainly due to the new location and hotel if you ask us. We could have used some better room signs but that's a small gripe. We felt the rooms were a little tough to tame but we run into that no matter which show we travel to.

Check out our 2014 AXPONA equipment list below. This should give our readers some idea as to what we were showing this year. Unfortunately, a list won't do the room justice....

We'd like to thank Spencer, Jonathan, Robert, and Steven from The Absolute Sound for their hard work and killer reviews. We'd also like to thank Jason Victor Serinus from Stereophile as well as Scot Hull from Part-Time Audiophile. We don't want to forget all the other reviewers from the other publications as well. Thanks guys! We'd also like to thank Steve from AXPONA for stopping by our room to chat and listen. We couldn't pull this off without your help so thank you!

Here are some pics from our room. They don't do it justice but this is all we have for you unfortunately. The room sounded MUCH better than it looked which is saying a lot. We did get a considerable amount of compliments from folks on how good our room looked.  Thanks everyone...  

The weather was a bit cold and the wind did not disappoint. We were counting on this but what we were not counting on was how well we were able to manipulate the sound of our room. This was helped by Bryan from GIK Acoustics. Thanks Bryan for bringing the acoustic treatment by our room. It was VERY helpful for tweaking and getting that last bit of performance from our crappy hotel room. This is what we deal with at every venue but the square rooms and thin walls were especially tough on us this year.

Below we are showing a pic of our YFS static display. The modified YFS Mac Mini is sitting to the left, an Android tablet displaying our YFS website in the middle, and our remote control for this show, our MacBook Pro, to the right. Yes, we were controlling our Windows 7/ 8 based YFS HD.Ref-3 via our MacBook Pro. That threw some folks for a loop.

Overall, we felt our sound was top notch and apparently the reviewers and show-goers agreed as well. We kept hearing praise from folks from all sorts of various backgrounds. The one constant was that the Endeavor Audio E-3 speaker system was not being out-shined by any of the components in the room. This naturally also included the Constellation Audio gear. Every component complimented one another nicely and nothing stood out. It's great when all our gear plays nicely with one another.

Finally, we'd like to thank you, the readers, for taking the time to read. Nobody has time to read anymore. Video seems to be the easier way to do things but we think it never hurts to take the time to sit down and read books, magazines, web blogs, etc. As tech keeps advancing, it feels like if we can't get our info spoon fed to us in 30 seconds, we just don't have the time. Let's all remember to sit back, relax, and take a break from the busy world every now and again to enjoy the music.


-YFS Design Team

 

by Kevin OBrien on June 5th 2013

NEWPORT BEACH T.H.E. SHOW 2013 - YFS SHOW REPORT

The YFS / VSA crew is back from Newport Beach, CA and we must say it was a great show. We would like to thank all the visitors for stopping in and saying hello, and most importantly, for taking the time out to hear our gear. THANK YOU.

The weather was fabulous and the music was superb. We have some pics to share with our readers and a few notes we feel are worthy of mentioning. A big thanks goes out to Peter Breuninger, Robert Harley, Jason Serinus, and all the reviewers who came to visit our room. We'd also like to give a shout out to Peter at Constellation Audio. His amps are AMAZING. THANK YOU guys!

 

 

I also wanted to personally thank Paul Zimmer and Leif Swanson as well as Devon Von Schweikert for their help setting our room up and doing the heavy lifting. You guys are awesome! A lot of folks don't realize these are the guys that make these shows happen. Thank you!

 

 

First off, let's get everybody familiar with what we had on display. There's always some confusion it seems about what was in the show rack so we'll give you a list below.

 

 

We felt we got some pretty decent sound. The room is always a battle but things seemed to sound good right out of the gate which was a nice change of pace. We tweaked the system Thursday and then a little more on Friday and by Saturday things were sounding GREAT.

We had plenty of folks in and out of the room throughout the weekend but the main highlights for me were meeting Fred from Audio Prana representing Metrum Acoustics, Dusty from Channel Islands Audio, John Thompson from J.River, Steve from Empirical Audio, as well as a host of other non industry-affiliated folks.

 

 

After speaking with Steve from Empirical Audio, we cannot wait to get our hands on Steve's Off Ramp 6 SPDIF converter which should be coming out in the near future. It implements the XMOS USB input chip and should be compatible with all Linux, Mac and Windows based computer transports. We're excited!

 

 

The California atmosphere, the weather, as well as the really NICE cars outside of the Irvine Hilton were all reminders that we're some of the luckiest guys on the planet. We get to play with VSA speakers and mind blowing amps and DACs all in the name of providing outstanding sound for the most discerning audiophiles. What more could we ask for? (OK, a winning lottery ticket would be nice!)

 

 

Well, that pretty much wraps things up for us and we're excited to show some really cool NEW products from VSA at the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver. You'll all have to wait and see what we're referring to. You won't be disappointed!!!

THANKS for reading!

 - YFS Design Team

 

Subcategories

Digital Analog Converter Reviews

Headphone Reviews

Audio Show Reports

Music Server Playback Software Suites

Power Product Reviews

Source Equipment Reviews

Cable & Interconnect Reviews

Power Amplifier Reviews

Reference Recording Reviews

Connect with us today!