Skoll made me want to find the best cables possible for it...

A lot of this is based on the first cable comparison I did a while ago:

Top pic:

Hybrid XLR - Mundorf SGF for signal and tinned copper braid, both in cotton

Bottom pic:


Test setup: Lyra Delos -Supra shielded tinned copper- Skoll XLR in - RCA comparison cables - Ragnarok 

Want to find a replacement for the Supra cable I use for the Skoll XLR input:

ACW 105 in PTFE

SGW 105 in cotton

SGW115 in cotton

Duelund DCA20GA

Silver in oversized Teflon tubing

One of the things that I've tried to keep secret for as long as possible is that my HD800 still had its stock cable for as long as I've had it all the way back in 2013. While I knew very well exactly how shitty it sounds and that even the HD600 cable would be an improvement, I never knew which wires to chose for building a new one, etc. Well, it's finally starting to break so I don't have any excuses anymore for not building a new cable.

I chose to buy 5 'audiophile' style 'purist' wires to test. I ended up testing them on my speakers by extending the wires to the widebanders and the woofers, which worked much better in being able to evaluate the sonic losses from each cable than I expected. The differences were so easily audible that the hard part was picking a cable, not concentrating on the differences. I didn't burn in any of the cables and might post update in the future.

The wires I bought are:

Here's a short description how I thought each wire sounded versus not having the wire connected:

Jupiter 26AWG copper

Duelund DCA20GA

Duelund 0.4mm silver wire in silk/oil

Jupiter 0.32mm silver wire in silk

Mundorf SGW 105

Overall the three silver wires clearly overshadowed the copper wires for me. The Duelund silver and Mundorf SGW are my favorites so far. The Jupiter silver is a bit overshadowed by the Mundorf SGW for me so far, because the Mundorf seems to sound similar to the Jupiter tonally, but with slightly better technicalities and a more liquid presentation. Still, I haven't tried it with an insulation yet, which makes it somewhat unfair.

To put things into context, I think I will go for the Duelund silver as my HD800 cable and the Mundorf SGW105 for my widebanders. Not sure about my woofer cables yet, since those need a larger diameter. I was thinking copper foil like PAP sells, but after hearing how much worse the copper sounded vs the silver even in the bass I'm not so sure anymore.

I also tried a regular PVC insulated copper wire (1.5mm²) and also household aluminium foil (lol), which were both much worse than these wires. I think all 5 of these are very good wires, as they should be at their respective prices. 

Skoll makes me questen if digital can be this good, it's that good.

Day 1:

Okay, quick first impressions using just a couple records. SE to BAL for both. 70dB and 72dB gain respectively...

I can tell the iFi is decent, however the Skoll makes it sound veiled/compressed, slightly lean/bright/sharp* and one-dimensional.

*Something in the sound of the iFi irks me. I've had it on half a day now and the Schiit also took a while to stabilize, so it could be a matter of burn in.

The Skoll has some inherent warmth that the Zen Phono lacks, but the Zen also doesn't have a lot of impact.

The Skoll just sounds so lively, so unrestrained and yet so smooth. The tonal range, the depth/layering, real impact. Compared to the iFi it simply sounds more real.

So far I'm impressed. The real comparison should be against the kilobuck Restek MRIA+ (which is just another OP amp phono pre, aswell), anyway. Or rather something like the EAT E-Glo Petit. 

Day 2:

Okay, quick first impressions using just a couple records. SE to BAL for both. 70dB and 72dB gain respectively...

I can tell the iFi is decent, however the Skoll makes it sound veiled/compressed, slightly lean/bright/sharp* and one-dimensional.

*Something in the sound of the iFi irks me. I've had it on half a day now and the Schiit also took a while to stabilize, so it could be a matter of burn in.

The Skoll has some inherent warmth that the Zen Phono lacks, but the Zen also doesn't have a lot of impact.

The Skoll just sounds so lively, so unrestrained and yet so smooth. The tonal range, the depth/layering, real impact. Compared to the iFi it simply sounds more real.

So far I'm impressed. The real comparison should be against the kilobuck Restek MRIA+ (which is just another OP amp phono pre, aswell), anyway. Or rather something like the EAT E-Glo Petit. 

Day 7 (comparison):

I don't want to hype it up too much, but the more I listen the more impressed I become. Now, this would likely be different if I had actually heard a phono preamp in my system that's better than the Skoll, but so far that's not the case.

Even still, I simply really like the way it renders sound. Yes, it's resolving, dynamic, does all the audiophile trickery, etc. But it seems really well tuned, the tonal purity (it doesn't impart nearly as much of its own sound as the OP-amp preamps), the transients. There's just a general sense of ease and transparency, if that makes sense.

FWIW: I find the Restek MRIA+ much better than the iFi. I thought they would sound kind of similar, but the MRIA+ is way more refined, sounds less sharp. It just imparts less of its own sound.

My dad kind of prefers the straighter lines of the MRIA+, but he had to admit that there's just more information with the Skoll. I prefer the Skoll with silver cables (RCA) and the XLR outputs so far, anyway.

That's actually my main gripe so far: It's kind of warm sounding and while I really like how smooth it sounds, the transients via the RCA output can also be a bit too rounded.

47kOhm with the Delos should be right up my alley, as it sounds less restrained, but I think it's too uncontrolled. Also it just doesn't make sense.

SE comparison against the MRIA+, aswell as the other phono preamps see image.

I also tried the XLR input via custom Mundorf ACW cables, however I could never get rid of some ground-loop-like-hum or maybe it's interference. I'll have to try with different (shielded) cables ASAP.

SInce I don't really know how the ACW compares to my other cables I can't quite say how much is due to the cable. I don't even know if there should be a difference.

However it's a presentation I enjoyed, less soft on the attack, a bit more neutral overall. Some might say there's less sweetness that way. The ACW in cotton is likely a good sounding cable, though.

Some things I thought were worth mentioning:

FWIW the comparison wasn't as clear cut in the living room with my dad's Canton Reference 3K speakers and the Aegir in a more reverby room. It's just harder to hear differences there. 

I helped somewhat, especially regarding construction and ideas. My dad did however build and polish most of it. The right TT has a 12" carbon armwand and the left ones are 16" aluminium for the stereo cart and 14" for the mono cart.

I also did the setup and basically listened to them through all the stages.

The platters are bought parts. Maybe some of you recognize the left one. I'm not entirely happy with the tolerances of either of them, but it is what it is.

Both use dual motors, which we found somehow sounds better, despite not really measuring any better.

The left one is decoupled using squash balls and the right one is decoupled using a foam in between its two layers of wood. Both are Ashwood, just the left one treated with a heck more of the white pigmented hard oil.

It started with a Dual CS504 that we built an extra arm for. In the beginning based on the Schroeder arm with the string and the magnet. However we couldn't get proper anti-skate from that, so that design was discarded. The arm would always turn one way and also the VTF was never constant.

However a lot of time was invested until we discarded the design. At one point we were like "screw this, let's just do a unipivot:

In hindisght I should've cleaned the dust before taking the picture, those aren't scratches.

So this is a bit of a VPI copy. There's a spike and a small hex rod with a hole in it that the spike sits in. The tonearm lift is a bought part. The tonearm is height adjustable while playing, though it's a bit tricky. There's a large screw inside the counterweight to easily make small adjustments. I wish more tonearms did it like this or in a similar way. Azimuth doesn't have to be adjusted with the weight, you can simply rotate the armwand and then screw it down with a setscrew.

One arm I kind of want to copy at some point is the Schroeder LT, but I feel copying it would be a disaster. It just wouldn't work properly without all the right bearings and tolerances and machining, etc. Nothing you can just copy at home.

The 16" arm uses solid core silver wire, the 12" carbon one a Mundorf solid core silver gold wire and the mono arm just uses regular old copper litz wire.

In the lower right corner of that picture you can make out my dad's newest creation: A tonearm raiser!

When my dad told me he wanted to build his own I said he was nuts! It would require such fine tolerances and would basically be impossible to do at home. I told him to just buy the Audio-Technica one and be done with it.

Well, after two days of swearing and tweaking the design he had one that worked - most of the time. By now it just works. Crazy.

The carts used are:

This all goes into a Restek MRIA+, which then goes into the Freya and into the Aegir for the M/T section and a 400W Class D Hifiakademie amp for the bass section. Speakers are Canton Reference 3K.

After my DIY project based on Tang Band W6-2313 coaxial drivers disappointed me I wanted to compare it to two other speakers I've been wanting to hear for a while:

One, the HEDD Type 07. These are the Series One without the built-in DSP. I know frenchbat has these speakers and I know Voldemike uses Adam A77Xs. I also liked what I heard from the Adam A7Xs and the larger S3H when I compared the studio monitors available at the justmusic store near me. I thought the HEDD Type 07 would essentially be an improved Adam A7X, so I was very interested in trying them.

Two, the KEF LS50 Meta. It's been getting very good reviews ever since it got released and it seemed to fix the tonality I disliked about the original LS50. I always found the LS50 boomy, shouty and sizzly in the treble. The LS50 Wireless already fixed the tonality and in addition managed to achieve minimum phase response through its crossover region, which I think improves imaging.

I wanted to replace my 'DreiZwo Sat' speakers on my desk with either of those speakers, but I mainly compared them on speaker stands in front my my large OB speakers, since the desk isn't a very optimal place to put speakers.

TL;DR: I tried to rate the speakers from 0-15 in a couple areas that matter to me so you can get a glimpse of their performance quickly:

Without linearising the frequency response magnitude and phase:

HEDD Type 07:

First up, these are not studio monitor neutral. They have a pretty large upper midrange dip (2-3kHz) and while it's tastefully done I wouldn't rely on their stock performance to judge tonality. Sadly the Lineariser goes too far for my liking, with a measurable elevation around 3kHz at the listening position. More on that later.

The AMT here seems the most improved compared to the Adam A7X. Gone is the grit that plagued it at times. However I think it's also a bit too smooth sounding (which I think was also a problem with the Adam AMT). It reminds me a bit of those lightweight planars in its treble presentation. This is a minor complaint however and something that I only noticed after some time. It's also easy to adjust to.

What disappointed me the most was that it consistently omitted some low level information. Certain claps on Hotel California from HFO were missing compared to the other two speakers, for example. I still think it resolves at a high level and from memory I think it outresolves the Adam monitors I heard, but only by a small margin. This really surprised me, but I think most studio monitors just aren't that resolving. Maybe ATCs, which I haven't properly heard yet.

The imaging and coherency also suffer from the transition from a 7" woofer to the AMT. I don't think the woofer can quite keep up with the AMT. This is an area where I would expect the HEDD Type 20 and Type 30 to be noticeably better. I got to hear the HEDD tower mains for a short period of time at High End and from memory those were markedly better in that respect. The imaging just ends up lacking depth, something that is helped a bit by the Lineariser, but not as much as I'd hoped. The crossover also seems to be very steep between the woofer and tweeter (effectively 36dB/oct acoustically), which I think hurts the coherency.

Subjectively the HEDD still manages to sound like a very fast speaker, no doubt helped by its lightweight AMT. It's also a much more complete speaker than the LS50s, with very respectable bass. While I wished the bass tuning was a bit deeper at times (which could be achieved by plugging one of the ports to effectively lower the tuning frequency) to help with some boominess I got both on the stands and on my desk, the bass quality here is on another level compared to the other speakers. The bass is taut and authorative, impressively so for a speaker of its size. The 3rd order bass distortion was impressively low at higher levels in my measurements. Generally distortion was low at higher levels. These are speakers you can push hard and they won't give up on you.

Timbre is somewhat two-sided: The AMT seems light on its feet and the woofer seems to have a somewhat thicker timbre to it. It's still a good compromise. I'm glad they didn't put in a metal woofer here since the AMT is so smooth sounding. It actually makes for a pretty good match.

Hiss: It's audible from most normal listening distances, but not bothersome. In my room I could hear hiss at up to 4m distance. On the desk it was very much audible at all times, but I never found it annoying. I measured the hiss at roughly 10dB(A) at 1m distance. I don't think it's a problem, but those sensitive to hiss will probably be better off with passive speakers. I don't think many active speakers have less hiss than these. To put things into context the hiss I heard on my desk was subjectively similar to the hiss of the HD800 + Vali 1 combination.

KEF LS50 Meta:

It's been a while since I last heard the LS50, but immediately the Meta seems to fix my main complaint about the LS50: Its tonality. The LS50 Meta is IMO a very neutral sounding speaker with a very lifelike midrange reproduction. If I'm nitpicking I'd say the air region past 16kHz is a little elevated for my liking and obviously they lack bass extension. In my measurements I also saw a small 1-1.5dB dip around 3kHz.

What really stands out is how transparent and resolving these speakers sound. If I'm honest I don't remember any KEF speaker being this resolving and I have some experience with the KEF Blade and Reference 1, aswell. That may sound like an outlandish claim and it could be, but I expect the other ranges to be upgraded with the metamaterial tech in the future.

It makes listening to it very involving, much more so than I expected. It's also the smoothest coaxial I've heard from a frequency response perspective. There are no treble response issues even listening to it on-axis, something that is a big issue with many other coaxials (including my DIY one).

Where it disappoints the most is, of course, bass response. I find the bass quality disappointing even when considering its small size. The HEDDs have a much more substantial, more realistic bass response. They're truly on another level compared to the puny LS50s. This is where the coaxial suffers from its smaller surface area (compared to other 5" drivers) and its special surround optimized for treble response. OSMTs likely beat these in their bass performance.

However the midrange stayed free from congestion at all but the highest SPLs. This is an area where the Meta is supposed to be an improvement over the original LS50 aswell. My measurements show very low distortion in the midrange and treble from 200Hz on at all levels.

The LS50 is well known for its imaging and I'm not sure if the LS50 Meta is as good as the LS50 here. It may be due to the different crossover with what seem to be 24dB/octave slopes instead of 12dB/octave acoustically, but I found it somewhat lacking in depth, especially when compared to my OBs. Not really a fair comparison and it definitely beats the Type 07 both in image precision and depth placement, but images seemed a bit diffuse and spread out aswell.

Timbre is pretty life-like on these speakers to me, especially considering the metal drivers. There doesn't seem to be much metal sound in the midrange as is so often the case with metal midranges (the DreiZwo doesn't fare too well here, either) and the tweeter strikes a good balance between being too smooth and being too hard sounding. The cohesion between both drivers is also very, very good.

With FIR filters that linearize the magnitude and phase response:

HEDD Type 07:

The Lineariser plugin is one of the selling points of the Type 07. Unfortunately, while I liked what it did to the treble response (lowers the upper treble), I thought the correction for the upper midrange dip was a bit overdone. I still prefer the sound with the Lineariser plugin, but I also made my own file to be used with Equalizer APO. It still corrects the phase response, but with a slightly different target for the frequency response magnitude.

To my ears the effect of correcting the phase response was very pronounced with these speakers. Subjectively they sound even faster, much more cohesive and the imaging improves drastically. It's still no match for the LS50 in terms of imaging, but it's much more realistic this way. I also really liked being able to fill in the upper midrange and dial back the upper treble a bit. Otherwise the upper treble from the AMT can get somewhat overbearing at times.

KEF LS50 Meta:

The frequency response correction here was very minor: +1dB at 2800Hz, Q4 and -2dB at 16kHz, Q4. The effect of the frequency response changes alone is very subtle, but the change from fixing the phase response is not subtle. As with the Type 07 the imaging becomes more pin-point and with better depth-localization. Images that seemed stretched out in their depth are now concentrated to a point. The effect isn't as strong as with the HEDDs, but it's there nonetheless.

Quick notes on desk usage:

HEDD Type 07:

Bass got a bit too thick on my desk in the corner of my room. I didn't try, but I'm sure plugging one of the ports would've been a good idea. At these close distances the integration between the woofer and the AMT suffered a bit, but not as much as I'd expected. Also the AMT is almost high enough as is without extra speaker stands when leaning back in my chair.

KEF LS50 Meta:

I ended up using the outer foam to make the diameter of the port smaller, lowering the tuning frequency. It's a very nice touch that KEF offers multiple bass tunings this way. Speaker desk stands are absolutely necessary. As expected the coaxials work very well on the desk, still offering superb imaging even in cramped listening environments. Listening at closer distances solves some of the power handling issues these speakers have with deep bass at higher volume levels.


As you might've guessed, I'm keeping the LS50 Metas. I'm still not entirely sure about it since the performance upgrade from my DreiZwo Sat is actually not night and day, while the price difference is very large. Especially considering the amp I'm driving them with on my desk and the acoustics there it's sort of a waste. But the LS50 Meta is the upgrade in microdynamics and overall transparency I was looking for. I think it's also a good reference to keep around and compare other speakers against. While its bass performance is nothing to write home about, the midrange and treble are very good considering its price.

Next post: measurements 

Here are my quick impressions:

Topping PA3s balanced vs Fosi TDA7498E SE

Even still the Topping is far from a good amp, the Ragnarok absolutely slaughters it.

Fosi has audible noise, the Topping doesn't

Topping PA3s SE vs Fosi TDA7498E SE

The difference isn't too big, SE sounds a little less dynamic/more compressed, a little less 3D and has somewhat less bass

Still more resolving and more 3D than the Fosi

vs Ragnarok:

Yeah, no. You can hear all sorts of information even the Topping obscured

Ragnarok is lean and mean tonally, but still stays smoother than the Topping

Less bass, but more extension, more controlled - this is likely from the inherent bass-light tonality of the Motu M4

Staging is out of this world compared to these cheapo amps

Much more engaging, microdynamics are much better

(I didn't realize how good these speakers really were before plugging them into the Ragnarok.) 

An old TerraTec DMX6Fire USB interface that my dad didn't need anymore started giving up the ghost recently, so I looked for a replacement. I used to use it for some rough vinyl rips and as a mic preamp with phantom power for gaming.

In the price range that I was looking at I only found the Steinberg UR22C, Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3 and finally the MOTU M4. Another option would be to buy a used Clarett range Focusrite, which also seems like a viable option. I compared the sound as an ADC unless otherwise noted. Made vinyl rips and compared them across three different systems.

Steinberg UR22C

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Gen 3


After I was dissatisfied with the two other USB interfaces I also bought a Motu M4. I bought the M4 for its input monitor mix knob, which I thought was a fantastic feature the UR22C has. I liked being able to hear exactly what the other person hears through my microphone and being able to adjust my volume so it sounds natural. Like many people I don't usually like hearing my own voice, but I really like this feature.

So this is the one I ended up keeping. Despite being slightly more expensive than I initially would've liked to spend, it was the only one I thought was a decent upgrade over my TerraTec thingy.

One thing that put me off was that it uses a SABRE DAC, so I'd have to listen to SABRE during gaming. I found that this was one of the warmer SABRE implementations, though. It seems like they really tried to smooth over the sandpaper treble of the typical SABRE DACs. I even found the sound out of the headphone output to be slightly better than the other two interfaces: Slightly larger stage, more resolving of low level information, better clarity.

It's not as good as a GO2A (even from its SE output), but I found it usable and definitely more than good enough for gaming.

The 2i2 and UR22C sounded very similar when used as an ADC and as a DAC, not so the M4, though. M4 sounds decidedly smoother and more natural as an ADC compared to its DAC section. I'd recommend it more as a ADC than using it as a real audio interface for driving powered monitors, for example. But even in that case it does the job.

Also the small LCD panel is immensely useful for getting the correct volume. It's helped me on multiple occasions to set the gain for my mic. Helps to see just how compressed modern music is, too. It even has 64dB of gain as compared to the 56dB of the 2i2G3. Doesn't help much with my fairly sensitive condenser mic, but using an inefficient dynamic mic it's probably a very good thing. I also seemed to get slightly less noise from the mic output when testing the limits of my mics (when digitally compensating for the gain difference). But getting the noise level indoors low enough to properly test it is virtually impossible. 

Usually I wouldn't bother writing about such a thing as an AirPod revision, but this one caught me off guard. It's basically a complete redesign internally and I think it paid off. If you haven't noticed I'm excited about the new AirPods Pro and I will most likely grab a pair for myself at some point.


In a quick test there was always some bass leakage with the old AirPods Pro with stock tips. I'm using stock tips here to make comparing easy (I don't have two pairs of the same aftermarket tips). This is despite a proper seal with good bass extension during listening. The AirPods Pro 2 fixes the bass leakage and even adds some better midrange isolation. I think it's not quite up to AirPods Max levels of isolation, but it beats out custom IEMs for me now.

AirPods Pro 1 < CIEMs < AirPods Pro 2 < AirPods Max


In a word: smoother. The new AirPods Pro sort of fix the faults in the tonality of the original AirPods Pro. The bass has better integration with less of a hole in the lower midrange, the upper midrange is less harsh, the treble is smoother. As a result it can sound warm, but so far I like the new tonality. It pulls it off while also increasing the stage size aswell as microdynamics and resolution. It sounds clearer instead of sounding veiled. Very nice.

I can't compare it against the other newer IEMs in the same price range and I bet those are better with a proper source, but obviously these serve a different purpose. And I will say that I use even my AirPods Pro 1 a lot more often than my UERM. They're perfect for a quick walk, etc.


The rest is of course pretty similar. The case is much better with a built in speaker for cute pairing sounds and it even has a hole for a lanyard! That alone makes it a substantial upgrade in my opinion. And being able to find the case with a sound playing is super useful in theory, but I couldn't get it to work.

The gestures all seem to work on Android. Volume, Play/Pause, NC/Transparency, Skip/Back, etc.

Overall I think it's a worthy successor for sure. 

I came into this review expecting a very different sound than what I hear with the AirPods Max. I expected a fairly laid-back sound with a tuning not too unlike the 2016 to 2020 Audeze Era or the STAX SR-007, but with a bass boost.

Cue measurements:

Instead what I got was a brutally honest, revealing and neutral midrange and treble, but with still the same bass boost. The midrange tuning of these headphones is so spot on to my own tastes that it's almost scary. Seriously, the midrange reminds me more of my modded HD800s than my UERMs or, frankly, any other headphone does. I have no clue how Apple arrived at their target, but I know it's not a Harman midrange tuning (albeit the bass is very close to Harman tuning). Either way, hats off to the engineers who came up with the tuning. Think HD600, but kinda smoother somehow?.

More importantly it's not insipid, not soft and boring sounding. This is what I feared the most coming from other ANC headphones. The Sony and Bose headphones are major offenders in that regard.

Plugging an HD600 straight into my old phone results in a more boring sound. Sure, even the lowly Vali + HD600 combo results in a livelier sound, but the Vali is actually a really good amp in that regard for the price. A better comparison is the MOTU M4's headphone output (which kind of sucks in the grand scheme of things). The AirPods Max is comparable in micro dynamics, if not slightly better compared to that. It makes me bop my head and shake my foot more than I expected.

The soundstaging is also very impressive for what it is. Far bigger stage than the Sony, no doubt also due to its deeper and more leaky pads. To my ears the stage is somewhat bigger than an HD600/Focal Utopia size, but images are a bit blurred. I've read some people complain about instrument separation and it certainly isn't as good as an HD600 here. I'm fairly certain it's hurt by the bitrate as the acoustic design seems quite good.

Where it completely obliterates most closed back headphones is in the lack of cup coloration and bass quality. It's funny how making the cups really inert seems to have paid off so much for the sound. None of that plasticky sound that plagues other ANC headphones. And its bass is solid and doesn't linger when it shouldn't. Plus it's cleaner than a 40mm driver has any right to be. Bass quality seems to be superior to entry level orthos and even the HD800 on a decent rig, only surpassed by the best kilobuck orthos. ANC headphones generally seem to use microphone servo technology to dramatically reduce low frequency distortion, but neither the Bose nor the Sony flagship sound anywhere near as clean to me. It holds up extremely well to very high SPLs. Bass distortion is much lower than an HD800 or Focal Stellia for sure. The tuning even reminds me somewhat of the Abyss AB-1266 with a broken seal, except the emphasis is centered on 30Hz rather than 40Hz. Not that the bass approaches what the Abyss can do, but it's addictive nonetheless.

Where it fails most is the occasional sibilance. The treble tone is sharper than it should be and as a result some tracks are hard to listen to. It's only the tracks which I already knew for being borderline, but in that case it often pushes it over the edge. 95% of what I listen to sounds fine. The treble is still quite linear and transparent sounding.

Overall the AirPods Max sound like an almost metal driver headphone to me. Kind of a hard sound in general, bass to treble. Not in a bad way, however. It also makes it fast and responsive sounding. It's like the engineers spent a lot of time listening to Focal flagships and turning them into a more portable ANC headphone. It'd be fun to compare to the Focal Stellia (which I absolutely loved when I briefly auditioned it). The APM may even sound cleaner due to it being lower distortion. The Stellia is on another level technically, of course.


The ANC is the best in the business, seriously. I have both the Sony WH-1000XM3 and XM4 here and the APM consistently outperforms both while also sounding more natural.

The transparency mode is a joke on the Sony headphones. On the AirPods Max it's actually quite natural sounding, if a bit sibilant. More natural than the shouty APP transparency mode and that's already first rate.

While the noise in both NC and transparency modes is still audible, it's the lowest I've heard so far. Impressive considering how noisy these small microphones are. Also I've heard that the Sony's microphones are easier to clip, so these must be the widest dynamic range microphones available in this size.

Noise in the NC active mode I'd estimate is in the 10 dBA range! In transparency mode I'd guess it's in the 25 dBA range. APP noise is roughly 5dB louder subjectively.

Sometimes I find the pads a bit itchy. The material is somewhat hard. However I find them comfortable despite the weight. The headband works really well for me and might be the most comfortable one I've worn so far. The clamp is strong, but manageable for me. Might be a dealbreaker for some, but you can't have this kind of NC performance without it clamping your skull.

The build quality! Seriously impressive. The 3D audio is thankfully not overdone. There's not really any loss from using them on an android phone, sonically. Charging is slow and battery life isn't that good. You'll likely end up charging them every other day or so. Pressure on the ears with ANC active is there, but I don't find it too bothersome. The Sony headphones have somewhat less of a pressure feeling for me. 

Select comparisons:


PREFACE: I prefer the XM3 over the XM4 sonically. I'm using the built-in EQ with the XM3 for a less U-shaped sound.

The AirPods Max are the much more transparent sounding headphones. Larger stage, better micro and macro dynamics. Smoother sound in general, most notably the upper midrange to lower treble. Faster. More resolving.

Really no comparison.

AirPods Pro (AZLA tips)

• Midrange on the Pros is really fake due to their 3kHz bump. No way the same engineers voiced these.

• Treble smoothness is a strong suit of the Pro and it wins here.

• Overall clarity, transparency, resolution etc. goes to the Max

• AirPods Pro sound boring in comparison, more compressed. This is where the HFM TWS600 might win versus the APP.

• Surprisingly even the bass on the APM sounds like it has better pitch differentiation,

• Treble on the APP is too smooth however and lacks zing and sibilance when called for.

• APP just sound much more boring.


• With a light break in the seal (glasses) the PM-3 is similar tonally, but I prefer the APM's tonality overall

• Need to compare again with replacement pads as the original pads aren't available anymore.

• APM is more spacious and somewhat cleaner sounding, somewhat smoother midrange

• Similar in terms of liveliness and resolution, slight edge for the APM

• PM-3 probably has a slight edge in resolution, but with the HA-2 it's hard to say.

• APM is also more open sounding, less closed back coloration.

• I think I prefer the APM for its dynamic driver sound.


PREFACE: My HD600 is slightly modded to boost the region between 100Hz and 2kHz to prevent the upper midrange bump around 3-4kHz from standing out and to make them slightly warmer sounding in general.

• tonality is overall very comparable

• Treble is somewhat smoother on the HD600

• better micro dynamics, macro similar

• stage is larger on the APM, imaging is more precise on the HD600

• Bass quality is a joke on the HD600

• HD600 is more open sounding (duh)

• APM isn't trailing by a lot in resolution

• APM has a bit smoother midrange tonality (this depends on fit)

• both lack stage depth in this comparison

• APM seems faster, somewhat cleaner

• delineation during busy passages is better on the HD600 setup

• Don't get me wrong, I'd rate the HD600 as the more transparent headphone in this case. Still, the APM is surprisingly close.

• Also this rig is more expensive than the AirPods Max.

I know this sounds like an outrageous claim, but overall I think many of the AirPods Max disadvantages come down to lossy signal transmission, small chip amps and finally their closed back nature. When comparing against the HD600 driven from the M4's built in amp and listening to 256kbps lossy files the advantages are much slimmer.

Other comparisons:

I wish I had UE4s to compare. From memory I'd say I prefer the UE4. Between TWFK IEMs and the APM I may prefer the APM.

Comparing against the UERMs isn't really fair. UERMs all the way.

Audeze Penrose is likely interesting. Might buy one to compare.

ADDENDUM: Quick measurements (album):