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What was your Ah ha! moment in becoming an Audiophile?
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Believe it or not, it was some $30 Sony earbuds from 20 years ago. I've since spent thousands of dollars on DAP then more $$$ on flagship headphones, DAC + AMPS. My current flagship setup is well over $10k.
However even going to these lengths, it still hasn't given me that same euphoric moment when i moved from cheap $3 earbuds to the $30 Sony earbuds.
I even put on the new mighty orpheus as well as some extended time with a loan of the stax 009s from a mate but I still feel these fall short from my virgin euphoric moment
Because we buy into the hype of the latest version of the latest gobbledy gook stuff believing you will get that 1st time feeling... that was a lot back then, but outrageous nowadays...
Sony Z1R - my new end game
My moment of epitome for my audiophile journey came about when I moved from a cheap pair of $3 to $30 Sony earbuds. It was a moment of enlightenment and nothing came close ever since, even when I moved onto my current flagship setup consisting of a reputable source + DAC/AMP and sub $3000 (LCD-3 / HE-1000v2 / Elear) headphones towards the diminishing point of return in terms of performance/value. I hold my respect for the HD800S and T1v2 though, these German cans can each hold their own in my opinion - being around $1000-$1500 they are also quite a bit cheaper than the aforementioned cans.
It wasn't until I put on the Z1R, it completely blew me away. A good headphone gives good bass slam, impactful presence and visceral effect. But the Z1R is something very special, not only it retains the former qualities but I could also literally feel the bass reverberating the air around me, none of my other high end cans could achieve this. The mids were sweet, lush, clear, addictive and not intrusive and the highs were exceptionally detailed, not rolled off and none fatiguing, it could do with a slightly tiny bit more sparkle in my humble opinion. I could not believe the presentation of the soundstage is from a pair of closed cans, analytics aside, speaking from my experience, it feels like it is up there on par with the HD800S. Imaging is also superb and more focused than the Sennheiser. Overall the Z1R has a very good presentation along with a nice tonal balance and to me they do not feel recessed in any spectrum of the audio – a complete package where everything is intimately present.
The Z1Rs walks all over the Focal Elear that I have been listening to as my daily driver. I would even rate it higher than my Audeze LCD 3 (unrefined highs) as well as the Hifiman HE-1000v2 (feels slightly dry and unexciting / a little cold and recessed in the lower mid region to my ears). Sound staging has always sucked on the planars from my personal experience but in terms of musicality, I prefer Sony's presentation over these two cans. The only other headphone I would put it alongside is the humble and improved Senn HD800S. But I still reckon the Z1R is the best headphone for under $3,000. I've spent some time with the Stax 009 recently and I would even go as far to say that I enjoy the Z1Rs more than the 009s - these also suffer from a narrowish sound stage and you will need to strap these next to a power sub station (or something that could drive the shinkansen) to run these to their max potential, otherwise they just sound dull and bland, and not able to flesh out the lustrous hyper details from tracks. The Z1R on the other hand scales well with my current DAC/AMP (Burson Audio) combo.
20 years ago it was Sony that did it for me from the $30 earbuds. 20 years later, it is again Sony that has taken me to the audio nirvana that I had been longing for.
The Z1R is the best purchase I made in pursuit of audio perfection.
The Shangri-la is a joke when standing against the Orpheus - USD$50k - somebody please shoot Fan Bian in the head as he would put it in his own words, [we can charge you this much] "because it sounds good" - if it goes for $5k then I would consider it, take it or leave it.