So this is going to be another piece on synergy except I’m going to get a bit more specific. The setup that I’m going to look at is my modded Fostex T50RP (review of the cans to come later), ODAC, and Project Ember.
To start, when looking for synergy on the Ember, the first thing that should be dealt with are the output resistance settings. When looking for an ideal setup, I found the high output resistance setting of 120 ohms to sound overly smooth to the extent that details got fudged over and the Fostex sounded slow with flabby bass (just a note that this doesn’t apply to every headphone – Grados sound best at high). The middle setting of 35 ohms was better, but still not ideal. At the low impedance setting of .1 ohms, the magic began. The bass became tight and precise, lost details re-emerged, and everything became more grounded and precise.
The next thing I looked at was whether or not bypassed or non bypassed input caps sounded better. With bypassed input caps, the sound becomes smoother and more resolving, which again for something like Grados is more desirable, but for the Fostex which with my mood are already on the darker/smoother end, the enhanced precision of input caps receiving a load enhanced the sound further.
After that, tube selection is where I look. For the Fostex, I don’t like thing that sound cold/solid statey and due to the fact that making things still remain detailed with the input caps and resistance settings took away most of the smoothness and roundness from the sound, tube choice becomes very important to bring some of it back. That said, I still want to take advantage of the strengths of the Fostex which are its smooth and grounded mids and great bass extension. To bring back the lush mids, there are two directions of lush that can be gone into. There’s the kind of lush that’s extremely smooth and airy and then there’s a type of lush that’s thick, dark, and sweet. I chose the latter as the Fostex have a natural inclination to that sort of sound and I don’t want to work against what they’re good at. In addition, I looked for something with forward mids as again, it’s part of the Fostex natural sound signature and I want it to show. Enter the Voshkod 6N1P.
The sound is dark and wet but in a spectacular fashion. I’ll do this in a conventional review sense.
The treble is rolled off…a lot. There is little to no sparkle on the high end and instruments don’t have the bring ring that they do on other setups. That said, what treble is there is extremely crisp. In this case I’d argue that the treble roll off is a great thing though.
And the reason for the above all comes down to the mids. You see, without an emphasis on the higher frequencies, the mids stand out much more and they are absolutely sublime. They’re warm, think, and sweet without being overly smooth or syrupy. Vocals are not veiled at all, but they are extremely full bodied. With guitars, since you get mostly the lower end, smooth sections are extremely soothing while loud sections hit in a very hard and deep fashion. The beauty of this setup is that it does not sacrifice the clarity and definition of the sound — it simply makes the tone of it more “tubey”.
The bass is typical for tubes as well. It has the same sweetness that the mids do with the slightest bit of roll off at the lower end and it’s very round sounding although over extension is very good. That said, it makes loads of noise at the low end and I wouldn’t hesitate to listen to rap or dubstep with this setup as the bass is incredibly full.
The overall presentation is fairly mid centric with spectacular imaging. You can pinpoint exactly where every sound is, but unlike with some setups, it doesn’t interfere with the musicality of the song. It simply adds another dimension. In fact, if musicality vs analytic sounding is considered a tradeoff, the sound is more on the musical end of things. Soundstage is not the largest, but what takes place within that space is extremely precise.
As far as what the setup is ideal for, things that are vocal driven, acoustic or not extremely busy such as Sufjan Stevens, Jeff Buckley, Joanna Newsom etc come to mind. In addition, things that require walls of sound such as Alexisonfire work very well too since the walls of sound are very deep, and vocals come to the forefront. Things like classical that require high end sparkle is not a good choice. Rap and electronic genres are also spectacular if you’re alright with bass being more full sounding than snappy.
As always thanks for reading and if you have any questions/comments let me know