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Sennheiser’s ultimate ‘ear bud’ – CNET

I was a big fan of Sennheiser’s original IE800 in-ear headphone when it debuted — I can hardly believe it — five years ago! It was a super comfy, extremely open, natural sounding ‘phone. Sennheiser’s newly revised model, the IE800 S looks similar, but sounds different.

It’s designed and hand-made in Germany.

The Sennheiser IE 800 S in-ear headphones.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The IE800 S features a single 7mm driver mounted in each ceramic ear piece; impedance is rated at 16 ohms. It comes with a rather deluxe looking real leather travel case. I like the silicone and Comply ear tips that securely snap in place on the ear pieces, that’s good, but their non-standard fitting means you can’t use other brands off-the-shelf replacement tips with the IE800 S.

I found it a little trickier than average to achieve a good, air tight seal with these in-ears. The original IE800’s injection-molded ceramic ear pieces looked snazzy in high gloss metallic grey, the IE800 S’ are finished in a more subdued satin grey. Sennheiser isn’t making any great claims about sonic differences between the two models, other than to say the IE800 S’ 7mm drivers are redesigned.

The IE800 S retails for £1,000, GBP870, AU£1,600; the original IE800 is still listed on Sennheiser’s Web sites, it’s £800, GBP560, AU£1,200.

The IE800 S’ “Y” splitter and tail cable.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The user replaceable cables are configured in a different way than what you get with other in-ears; with the IE800 S you can change the cable after the “Y” splitter (see photo). The “Y” cable is permanently attached to the ear pieces. Also the new cables are more flexible and supple than original IE800’s cables.

The IE800 S comes with three cables, the standard one’s terminated with a 3.5 mm plug, another one with a 4.4mm Pentaconn plug for some of the latest Sony high-end portable players, and 2.5 mm balanced connector featured on Astell & Kern and other high-end music players. My first impressions about the IE800 S’ sound was that it was very clear, without even a hint of exaggerated treble “detail,” it sounded like it wasn’t doing anything at all. It was also extremely open, so the sound wasn’t stuck inside my head.

Pianist Nils Frahm’s “Felt” album features him playing a “treated” piano, with felt damping the piano strings, muffling their sound. It’s an ambient sounding recording, and it was very atmospheric over the IE800 S. I split my IE800 S listening time between my iPhone 6S and an Astell & Kern Kann portable hi-res music player.

The Kann had superior control of bass, so definition tightened up, and the IE 800 S’ overall clarity improved. That was with the standard cable with the 3.5mm jack. Stepping up to the cable with the 2.5mm “balanced” plug yielded further improvements in those areas with the Kann player.

Comparing the original IE800 with this new IE800 S was fascinating. The IE800 is brighter and bassier, the IE800 S sounds smoother and more spacious. The midrange is more natural, so voices, strings, and guitars sound more inviting.

I’ve always liked the IE800, but the IE800 S sounds like a more refined device.

Then I pulled out a set of Shure SE846 in-ear headphones (£899) that feature four balanced armature drivers in each ear piece. Right away the SE846 was nowhere as transparent as the IE800 S, but the SE846’s bass was more muscular and better defined. The IE800 S’ bass prowess was very decent, but the SE846 more viscerally potent.

It’s more rock and roll, the IE800 S fares better with acoustic music. So it’s a tie, I like both for different reasons and they will appeal to different tastes. The Sennheiser IE800 has been one of my long term reference in-ear headphones, and the IE800 S ups the ante.

That said, the IE800 stood the test of time, and I’m expecting the IE800 S will still sound great five years down the road, in 2023.

Schiit’s tiny gizmo breaks a cardinal audiophile rule – CNET

The Schiit Loki equalizer.

Lee Shelly

Tone controls and equalizers went out of fashion in the 1980s, and I’ve missed them ever since. Audiophiles in their search for ever greater sonic purity saw any deviation from “flat” frequency response heresy, but that’s not always my goal, so I was thrilled to check out Schiit’s Loki four-band equalizer. This ultra-compact component is priced at just £149, GBP140 or AU£299, and is the best audio “SB© toy” I’ve played with in ages.

Loki is a tiny thing, just 5 by 3.5 by 1.25 inches (12.7 by 8.9 by 3.18 centimeters), with four knobs squeezed onto its front panel. The knobs from left to right control 20- and 400-Hertz, 2- and 8-kHz, and the toggle switch on the front right engages the equalization in the up position, and bypasses the EQ in the down position. With the knobs set to their 12 o’clock positions they are “flat.” So it’s easy to switch between flat and equalized sound.

The 20 Hz and 8 kHz knobs have +/- 12 dB of adjustment range; the 400 Hz and 2 kHz knobs have +/- 6 dB of adjustment. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze to get my fingers in there to turn the center two knobs. Loki is a fully analog device you hook up between a source — such as a phono preamp, digital converter, radio or preamp — and your receiver, integrated amp, headphone amp or power amp.

Loki is a fully discrete, all-bipolar, symmetrical current-feedback design with no capacitors in the signal path. The rear panel has stereo RCA inputs and outputs. Loki is made in the US, and it’s sold with a 2-year warranty.

Audiophiles’ disdain for tone controls and equalizers notwithstanding, virtually every commercial recording you’ve ever heard was equalized during its mixing and mastering stages, so a little fiddling on your part might make sense. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different settings to learn what EQ can do to the sound of your speakers, headphones and best of all, your music. For example, those nasty and harsh latest recordings from Arcade Fire and the National were tamed by just nudging the 2- and 8-kHz controls down a bit.

The 400 Hz and 2 kHz controls can be used to bring vocals forward or lower them in the sound mix. You can have a ball just experimenting with all four controls and learn how they change the sound of your speakers, headphones and music.

I found Loki particularly useful with headphones, where for example I could bump up the deep bass to add weight to the sound, and tame brightness by shelving down 8 kHz. While a lot of audiophiles are biased against EQ or tone controls, most don’t actually have ears-on experience with a great sounding EQ like the Loki.

I hope Schiit incorporates the Loki design into a future preamp, but as it stands Loki is pretty darn cool, I really enjoyed using it.

Gene, one of my old audio buddies bought a Loki a few months ago, and he absolutely loves it.

Try it, you might like it.

These fabric bicycle spokes will lighten your load and keep you moving

When it comes to improving bicycle performance, weight is among the most important factors. With so many parts, developers have endless opportunities to shave off a gram here or an ounce there. The caveat is maintaining the bike’s integrity and strength when making reductions.

The Minnesota-based Berd is putting its resources into improving components that might not be at the forefront of your mind when thinking about performance. The company is introducing “ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE)” spokes, GearJunkie reported. GearJunkie further reported that wheel sets sporting the “fabric” spokes will be up to 250 grams lighter, according to Berd.

The spokes are patent-pending and Berd offers custom builds on its site. Berd PolyLight spokes, as they’re called, “leverage the latest advances in polymer technology to create the world’s lightest spoke while maintaining exceptional strength, aerodynamics, and durability,” the company states on its website. They are supposedly lighter than anything you can find on the market.

And just as importantly, Berd claims that its PolyLight spokes are “stronger than most” of the spokes out there. PolyLight spokes are compatible with standard rim and hub connections, so you can easily add them to your rig. On the hub side, they use an eyelet that is pulled through the hub hole and secured with a rod.

On the rim side, a stainless steel rod is screwed into a nut. The polymer spokes can be maintained in the same manner as steel spokes, so you won’t have to learn any new methods. In addition to their weight-saving properties, Berd’s spokes damp road vibrations and are more resistant to impact, smoothing out the ride while reducing rider fatigue.

Polymer construction give the spokes a long life thanks to reduced stress on the material itself. Steel spokes are more susceptible to fatigue as the wheels turn and deal with bumps in the road. Berd’s special spokes use a customized coating to increase resistance to wear and tear, abrasion, moisture, and UV exposure.

If you’re concerned about the legality of the spokes when it comes to racing, Berd has got you covered.

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body for sports cycling, has itself approved Berd’s PolyLight spokes for competition.

Editors’ Recommendations

The Rogue Packraft rolls up to the size of a roll of paper towels

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Packrafting allows you to go farther in the outdoors than you’ve ever gone before. It’s a sport that can be paired with bicycling, hiking, skiing, and other activities — if you can imagine it, you can do it. That’s because packrafts are easy to transport due to their small packed size and relatively light weight. Kokopelli has been designing packrafts for the past five years, and the Rogue Packraft is their latest addition.

The Rogue weighs just 5 pounds and rolls up to the size of a roll of paper towels — so you can take it with you anywhere the trail might lead. The Rogue series encompasses the standard Rogue and the Rogue-Lite. The Rogue is designed for performance and durability while the Rogue-Lite is for the minimalist at heart, boasting the smallest size and lightest packed weight.

The Rogue measures 90 inches in length and tips the scales at 7.5 pounds, including a seat and a backband. The Rogue-Lite measures 85 inches in length and weighs in at just under 5 pounds, including the seat. Both products are constructed with a Kevlar- reinforced floor and feature V-tape reinforcement.

There is double reinforced seam tape on the outside seam, ensuring the packraft will remain afloat even through the harshest of rapids and during contact with sharp rocks or other debris. Both products include the diamond ripstop seat but the kayak style backband is unique to the standard Rogue. The Rogue and the Rogue-Lite include a leafield D7 valve for inflation.

The best part? No pump is required — the Rogue series includes a nifty inflation bag. While the delivery of crowdfunded products is not guaranteed, you can pledge £725 for the Rogue-Lite or £800 for the Rogue on Kokopelli’s Kickstarter campaign page.

Both pledges include the packraft, inflatable seat, inflation bag, and repair kit. The Rogue includes a kayak backband. The company stresses that specs are estimates based on prototyping and design and that actual weight may vary plus or minus two ounces based on final material specifications.

Buyers should proceed at their own risk, even though the campaign has met its original funding goal. Find out more about crowdfunding projects.

Editors’ Recommendations

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