Objective Reviews & Commentary - An Engineer's Perspective

July 19, 2011

Banned at Head-Fi!

head-fi-bannedMOVING UP! I’m moving up in the world. First I found a number of inconsistencies with the AMB Mini3’s claimed specs, but rather than have a rational discussion about the discrepancies Ti Kan apparently found it easier to just ban me from the AMB forum (see the Mini3 Review). And now I get banned from a much bigger forum—Head-Fi! This time it’s apparently for questioning the safety of a Head-Fi sponsor’s product.

JUST TRYING TO HELP: I’ve spent hardly any time on Head-Fi since March when Jude started censoring my contributions there. But someone considering a Schiit Asgard headphone amp (yes, the company really is named Schiit Audio and the amp is the Asgard) wanted my opinion regarding a problem reported on Head-Fi. The problem appeared serious so I joined the discussion and here’s a rough break down of how it went (I have copies of the entire thread should it get censored and anyone is interested):

  • There’s a rather shocking video of an expensive AKG headphone driver being literally deformed by a large DC current when the Asgard is shut off. I’ve never seen anything like it nor had several other people who commented on it.
  • Jason Stoddard from Schiit Audio (a paying Head-Fi sponsor) responded claiming the power down transient of the Asgard is only 0.10 – 0.15 volts and supposedly similar to a half dozen other headphone amps. Therefore, he argued, the glitch was quite harmless. Several seemed satisfied with that response but it didn’t make sense to me. Driving a headphone diaphragm that hard against its limits should require much more voltage. So I continued to push for more answers.
  • Several owners of Schiit products chimed in defensively to support the Asgard and some even started attacking me. In their eyes Jason had to be right and I was the bad guy. It was a classic case of “shoot the messenger” (see Subjective vs Objective). 
  • Another Schiit employee, Mike Moffit, joined the discussion by first attacking my credibility and then singing the praises of Schiit in general. Not very helpful.
  • Eventually, with some prodding, kwkarth who owns an Asgard reported his amp has the same problem and he measured the power down glitch at 2.2 volts—about 15 times worse than claimed.
  • AKG reported even 0.25 volts of DC during power down might damage their headphones. Based on this, and the above bombshell, the original poster decided to return his Schiit Asgard.
  • So I was correct all along and the glitch was far more serious than Jason had claimed. But, despite the glitch being well beyond what AKG considers risky, kwkarth continued to try and downplay the problem telling everyone the Asgard was still safe. This defied all common sense to me. With people’s headphones at stake, I and others tried to reason with him and got nowhere. Kwkarth is a Head-Fi admin, and claims to be an “audio engineer” in his profile. Yet, when challenged, he didn’t respond with much applicable engineering, just mostly hand waving, evasive answers, and silly animated pictures. It’s interesting to me Head-Fi would have someone like kwkarth who seemingly is willing to put people’s headphones at risk for some very questionable reasons. But then again, Schiit Audio is a sponsor.
  • About 48 hours after my first post, I was banned from Head-Fi—for trying to protect people’s headphones from damage and not agreeing with a Head-Fi admin who would apparently prefer to see the same headphones harmed.

THE BIGGER STORY: The above drama points to a bigger potential problem at Head-Fi. Here’s a product that deforms headphone drivers and, according to AKG risks damage, but Schiit’s initial response was to dismiss it. And, more alarming, several Head-Fi members simply accepted Schiit’s response and a Head-Fi admin also insisted there was no issue. My impression was they were trying to say “nothing to see here folks” and wanted the whole thing to be forgotten.

THE NEED TO BELIEVE:  If you read the thread it’s really obvious people want to believe in their gear and the company that made it. I can understand people wanting to believe in Schiit. But many don’t realize how harmful DC can be to headphones. They may not understand that wrinking up headphone drivers (as seen in the video) likely creates weak areas in the diaphragm changing the sound quality. And some don’t know volts from Volkswagens so when someone like Jason says it’s only 0.15 volts they’re not in a position to question him. Ultimately, with enough continued pressure to find out the truth, Schiit admitted there might be a problem and offered some resolutions. So the ending turned out reasonably OK but the path getting there is still rather disturbing to me.

ANOTHER OUTCOME? Given that most seemed to accept Schiit’s original assertion the glitch was nothing to worry about, what would have happened had I (or someone else familiar with the technical side of things) not been around to keep questioning Schiit’s numbers? Would everyone have gone back to business as usual with Schiit cranking out Asgards that were quietly trying to destroy headphones on power down?

GEEKS CAN BE USEFUL: Ignorance is not bliss here. It’s good to have someone around to keep manufactures honest and help those who might be less technically inclined understand what the issues are. But, to me, it seems Head-Fi would rather keep their members in the dark and protect their sponsors--even if it means expensive headphones being damaged. Consistently, from the threads I’ve seen, the first reaction to any problem with a sponsor’s product is denial. And not just from the manufacture. Before they even come along other members are jumping in defending the product. And the next reaction is to bury the factual information in the thread with dozens (or often hundreds) of useless posts—like kwkarth posting silly animations instead of discussing the problem at hand. It’s weird and rather disturbing.

WHY THE BAN? I didn’t violate Head-Fi’s public rules for conduct. I didn’t call anyone names or attack anyone personally (although several tried to attack me). I didn’t use any offensive language. So why ban me? Jude’s public excuse for censoring me last time was that I was using Head-Fi to promote this blog but he deleted benign posts that didn’t even mention this blog. Everything behind the scenes pointed to the fact NuForce was seriously unhappy with me. Now, once again, I find myself in the opposite corner from a Head-Fi sponsor. And I end up banned. I can’t help but believe Jude, in both cases, is trying to protect his sponsors. Head-Fi, from what I can tell, is not an open forum where everyone’s welcome as long as they follow the public rules. Back in March Jude made it clear he could censor or ban anyone for any reason if I kept pressing my point. And censor and ban he does.

BAN UPDATE 7/20: It came out in the comments Jude claims I threatened Head-Fi legally. For the record, I did not and that makes no sense. I can’t conceive of any legal basis as I can’t claim any sort of damages or harm. I have no income related to any of this and Jude’s certainly within his legal right to ban who he wants. So how could Jude feel threated by legal action from me? The only legal involvement I’ve ever had has been seeking legal advice to make sure I don’t cross any lines with this blog that would put me at legal risk.

HEAD-FI: FACTS OR FANTASY? If Head-Fi bans people who are just trying to be factual and help Head-Fi members and visitors understand technical issues, and perhaps save their headphones from destruction, what does that say about Jude’s priorities for the entire site? I’m certainly not the first person banned there for just trying to speak the truth (several came out of nowhere and contacted me over the NuForce drama). And why has he banned any discussion of blind testing everywhere at Head-Fi except the back-of-the-bus Sound Science forum? The factual element seems to be largely missing at Head-Fi. From all I’ve seen it’s rather hard to find under vast quantities of myth, smoke screens, snake oil, and misinformation. And it seems to be rather deliberate.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: It would seem Jude is trying to maintain an environment that supports people spending lots of money on products from Head-Fi sponsors—like $1000 cables from Qables, Asgards from Schiit, etc. While suppressing guys like me obviously benefits certain Head-Fi sponsors, and hence Jude’s bank account, it seems harmful to the thousands of active members. Imagine a $1000 Qables product going up against a $5 cable in a blind test and losing. This article, using blind testing in audiophile’s own homes, discusses how that’s more likely that most probably realize. Check out Sound & Vision Wired Wisdom. It seems, because of his “blind ban”, Jude would rather Head-Fi folks see only the subjective claims and have objective blind testing be extremely difficult to even find. Why not let both sides be presented and Head-Fi visitors can decide for themselves?

SCHIIT AUDIO (revised 7/20): I have never tested a Schiit Audio product. It’s obvious they have plenty of loyal fans so it’s entirely possible they make some nice stuff. It’s also commendable they have stepped up to the problem.But I can’t avoid some NuForce déjà vu here. Small audiophile oriented companies, especially with headphone products, desktop products, and DACs, either seem to be skimping on measurements, perhaps because they design more by ear, or they’re seriously compromising their designs intentionally. This is often because they (usually falsely) think they need to in the interest of better sound. When it comes to the safety of expensive headphones, neither of those are acceptable to me. And I still don’t understand why the issue was initially dismissed given the description, video, etc. From my perspective, the best outcome here is to encourage Schiit, and all similar manufactures like NuForce etc., to do more testing before they ship their products and be more realistic and honest about their product’s performance. And if they don’t have the right equipment, expertise, etc. find someone who does. It’s likely cheap insurance in the long run. Otherwise, issues like this will just keep happening. So for those shopping, and not just from Schiit, caveat emptor.

BOTTOM LINE: I gave up on Head-Fi a long time ago so the ban isn’t a big deal to me. But you might want to ask yourself what Head-Fi’s real priorities are and remember they actively suppresses people and content. I personally believe it’s a very commercial environment focused mainly on the sponsors. Even Jude’s personal videos seem like paid infomercials for sponsor’s products. Ultimately, Jude wants you to buy stuff from his sponsors as that’s how he makes money. And, obviously, I’ve not been helping with that cause (although Benchmark is a sponsor and I have only good things to say about them).

ALTERNATIVES: If you’re not comfortable with the heavy commercial bias, irrational subjective bent, and censorship at Head-Fi, there are some great alternatives that are much less of a sponsorfest and much more manageable in size:

  • AnythingButiPod (ABI) – This is a very friendly headphone/portable player centric site with some great content and a much better “signal to noise ratio” than Head-Fi. And most of their sponsors have nothing to do with the products being discussed.
  • HydrogenAudio – This is a much more objective site than Head-Fi with lots of really smart people discussing often rather geeky topics. If you’re a geek, engineer, or more objective, it’s worth checking out.
  • GearSlutz – This is more of a pro audio site but its loaded with some good discussions and reviews of headphone gear. Musicians and guys who record, mix and master music know a thing or two about headphones.
  • diyAudio Headphones – For DIYers, this is the best place I know of.



  1. I am going to nominate you. I need company in the "Ill [sic] informed attack blogs" award winners circle.

    To their credit, I think Schitt did right by offering ways to make people whole. It does not excuse what appears to be a marginal design, and certainly Mike Moffat's tirade does not put them in the best light (but then again, he's known as a prick), but I have to give them credit for at least confirming it might be an issue and taking your suggestions to heart.


  2. Since I was the one that originally noticed this issue I thought I should post. For those interested in the video I made of the Asgard on/off cycle with the AKGs in question:


    Jason made a response later in the thread that deserves a nod (nwavguy was banned before this):

    "Hey guys,

    To clear things up:

    1. Lyr has a 20 second relay-switched delayed output and immediate relay mute on turn-off. It's a running change we made in production.

    2. From the start, we've always urged extreme caution with Lyr, and we have never recommended it for high-sensitivity headphones.

    3. Relying on any form of protection--relay delays, microprocessor-controlled DC monitoring systems, whatever--can still bite you, when and if there's a failure in the system. And all of them (to us, at least) involve sonic compromise. That's why you'll typically find many of the highest-dollar components out there running naked, so to speak.

    That said, we now understand that the precautions common to ultra-high-end (where it's well-known that turning on your multi-kilobuck amp before you turn on your multi-kilobuck preamp may involve having a very bad day) simply won't fly with inexpensive gear, so we're making the changes necessary to have our stuff be as user-friendly as possible.

    Asgards will now ship with the same relay mute as Lyr, when we are back in stock. We will also offer a retrofit relay mute for Asgard and Lyr, for customers who want the convenience, and install it on any current owner's amp for free. I am still conflicted on relays, since it means another contact in the signal path, relay contact degradation over time, and the possible reliability hit (there's a joke in high-end that if something's broken, it's probably a relay.) That said, I think we have identified an acceptably reliable, least-sonic-impact solution.

    And--to complete the trio--Valhalla's inherently slow turn-on (tube outputs) negates the need for a relay.

    All the best,


    As such, he's retrofitting a relay onto concerned owners Asgards and new production units. While I'm relieved he's doing so, the fact that he initially said it was normal and safe leaves me weary.

    As nwavguy said, caveat emptor. If you have an Asgard and aren't wanting to return it, I highly recommend at least getting the relay installed for the safety of your headphones. This, of course, is my two cents.

  3. Have you notified retail sites like Headphones.com Head-Direct.com which are also sponsors of Head-Fi?

  4. They ended up adding relays to try to sort out the problem. Also, Head-fi claims that you threatened them in a PM.

    Anyhow, with your experience in designing amps and speakers, and the fact that you're still looking for the 'perfect' amp... maybe you should throw in your hand in designing one ;)

  5. I'm not privy to the details, but from what I understand you were banned from Head-fi not for your speculations about the Asgard, but for threatening legal action against them in a private message.

    Similarly, the ban from the AMB forum was not for your measurements but for making personal attacks.

    Ultimately though, these are privately operated websites, just like yours. The owners have the right to run them as they see fit. I'm sure you also remove comments that are deemed offensive from this blog.

  6. There's no place for sound engineering principles on Head-Fi. Most people (and this includes the people with engineering backgrounds) will accept wildly contradictory ideas and theories just so they can justify whatever junk is being peddled there.

    The few sensible people on that site are basically forced to the sidelines with all the BS posts.

    I'm sorry you were banned, but I suppose it was expected :)


  7. Hi:

    Just a quick note that I am a lifetime banned HFer as well, but my mistake was attacking Jude directly via PM, as well as his Gestapo, certain mods who were not fans of mine.

    Be that as it may, I don't really care. But just wanted to say your view is on the money.

    Also, I am a writer and know a bit about web design, and reverse type, white on black, is a deadly no-no for copy. It's fine for the links on the right in green, but reading your page is not easy, and readability studies will tell you that simple black on white is the way to go. Show me one mag or newspaper online that uses reverse type. None is the answer. I know, trust me.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

    Also, I typed in the code to send you an email, exactly as it was shown, but it didn't work.

  8. To Anon, I haven't attacked anyone at Head-Fi. I've tried to keep it reasonably polite and objective. The comments directed at me have been far more inflammatory. So the issue here really seems like Jude wanted me gone and my lowly PM to kwkarth seemed like a viable excuse.

    Thanks for the tips about black on white. You're not the first to complain. I'll work on that. I know some monitors do much better with it than others. It looks pretty good for me ;)

    As for the email issue, I've heard that too. I'll work on using a different form (I'm open to suggestions?).

    The weird thing is even the public comments dialog screws up for some people and takes 2 or 3 tries to get it to work. And that's pure out-of-the-box Google Blogger. Go figure.

  9. Trying to oppose Head-Fi's totalitarian regime and its Supreme Leader jude is ultimately an exercise in futility and as such a waste of time.

  10. I like the new layout, my eyes feel quite a bit better.

    Will keep watching your blog for the mystery amp you keep alluding to. ^_^

    As for admins/mods at head-fi I can say there's only one I truly have any respect for. In terms of members at head-fi in general that I respect I'd say less than ten or so? Meh, most of the time I use it for buying selling anymore anyway.

  11. How this color scheme (for now at least)? Better? Worse? (ignore bits of yellow on white text like in the review spec tables)

  12. Vast improvement in reading ability....


  13. The color scheme is much better :)

  14. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for getting rid of the white on black text! I've been having headaches and fuzzy vision after each time I read one of your articles but the information has been worth it.

    This is SO much better.

  15. OK, the new color scheme stays! Thanks for the quick feedback :) Now back to the topic at hand...

    To those of you still posting comments about me allegedly threatening Head-Fi with legal action, please see my comments above (7:29pm). I've never done any such thing and it doesn't make any sense how or why I would. On what grounds could I take legal action against Head-Fi? And even if I could, how would banning me help the cause?

    My only involvement with an attorney has been to try and prevent the reverse from happening. And that was back in March. So, really, I think Jude and crowd are out on limb with that one.

  16. i guess we all saw the ban coming. I can't help but to concur on the fact that headfi these days is a huge business thus they won't ever let anybody publish hard data against any sponsor product thus headfi is just helpful to know how certain devices work in general but you can not trust anything related to sponsors devices.

    Your blog is a far more useful site for choosing gear since eveything said is backed by hard data. That's why i'd like you to review the iBasso T3 ;)

    Btw the new color scheme is very good.

  17. Ouch :(

    I'm sorry to hear about your ban... - but I think a lot of places seem to be locking down open discussions recently. Newspapers as well as forums - and not only US based ones or sponsored companies.

    At least you are free to write as you please on your blog (within some legal limits).

    I hope you keep up the good work so I can enjoy reading it :)

  18. Didn't kwkarth design the Monster Turbine IEMs? I remember reading that somewhere.

    If that's true then he likely knows what's really going on and is deliberately obfuscating.

  19. +1 for the new color scheme.

    Anyway, this situation seems pretty typical of esoteric audio manf's. Rather than put a simple protective device on the back end of the signal chain or have a power supply capable of shunting on/off transients they jeopardize safety/reliability for a perceived (no scientific backing mind you) increase in sound quality. And a relay that has a 90% failure rate would still be 10% better than nothing... no excuse.

  20. Am I the only one who liked the old color scheme? I find white pages extremely hard on the eyes. Maybe user selectable colors are best compromise?

    Content however, is everything. Thank you for fighting the good fight. Your objective approach is extremely valuable and informative.

  21. Great blog. most of the technical stuff is over my head but its still all very interesting.
    about headfi... i totally agree with everything you put. i have noticed in my couple years there that it has been getting progressively worse from the top down to the newest members. he has a cash cow and hes not about to let that go. he will make those that oppose him look bad to remaining members and go dancing his way to the bank. mods are suppose to help, solve issues in a neutral manner, and point new members to threads or resources they could use; instead, some (that i have seen) are snobby elitist and they know they are the law on that site. get over yourselves. you really think you matter in the world?
    power corrupts... absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    i wish there was a better site like headfi... i havent found one with the traffic, insight, and good members as headfi.


  22. I've been thru several run-ins with Head-Fi moderators. It's common practice for them to suppress and discredit forum members who put sponsors' reputation at risk. Jude joins in every so often and seems to quite enjoy it - it's all very playground.

    Not that any sponsor runs the risk of losing face on Head-Fi as their fanboy masses will always rally behind them and do their utmost to drown out any criticism.

  23. Thanks Dave, anon and b0ck3n. What I want to know is how did all those "fanboy masses" come to be in the first place? How is that companies making seriously questionable gear end up with such a rabid bunch of fans effectively on their payroll?

    And playground is a good analogy. Some are like a bunch of popular, but dumb, high school jocks who punch anyone in the face who tries to present anything that's either contrary to their own purchase or they don't understand.

  24. I think it just sort of grows and evolves naturally. The same sort of thing happens with any sort of woo where ever people stop caring about evidence or logic and thus don't let their beliefs be restrained by reality. Its really no different from homeopathy, reiki, anti-vax, or any other pseudo or anti-science movement. Memes are born through a combination of blind chance and conscious manipulation and are pruned by natural selection.

    Although there are people who are aware of this to some degree and attempt to steer it in ways which are profitable for themselves there is no mastermind or conspiracy. No one planed or created it from whole cloth like some sort of comic book super villain. It mostly happened on it own.

    After it was created people noticed how useful it was or could be to them and now they consciously act to perpetuate it. It is now a symbiotic relationship.

    Basically this is all just a long way of explaining why Hanlon's Razor is usually true.

    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

  25. maverickronin's response above roughly coincides with my thoughts on the matter as well. Anyway, this whole head-fi banning thing was pretty much inevitable unfortunately.

    On a side note, what does "single-ended" refer to in the context of amps? I presume it's some topology.

  26. Mike, thanks.

    Most modern audio amps, and virtually all op amps, use an output stage known as "push-pull" which is centered at zero volts and then pushes or pulls the signal in the positive or negative direction to reproduce the audio signal. It was developed as a huge improvement over the much more simple single-ended designs which date back to the first tube designs for radios when they didn't know any better. Single-ended amps have much more distortion for reasons that are too complex to explain here.

    You'll have to ask the single-ended fans why they prefer a Model T to a Porsche as I can't answer that question. Most of their reasons are mythical with little basis in reality.

    Here's a link for tube amps but it's the same theory and some more Googling should turn up something better.


  27. You offer very interesting information, NwAvGuy.

    I'm nearly for ten years on head-fi.org and I've experienced myself that much that is written there should rather be written on another forum called "hype-fi" than there.

    But there is no "hype-fi" forum afaik and so head-fi has simply no separation between useful and weird info, while it seems that the last type of info has enormously grown in the last years.

    The shame is that no one stops this sh*t. Far from it!

  28. You're quite the trouble maker it seems. First NuForce, now Schiit. I just stumbled on the Asgard thread this morning and read the entire thing. First, I must say I'm disappointed that you were banned. I think Jude and company are being very shortsighted in doing so. They're kind of martyring you in a way. I also don't care for the "he said, she said" bs. Someone is not telling the truth. And considering their reaction to all this, I'm inclined to believe you a little more at this point. I do get the sense however, that you have a preconceived notion that most people who consider themselves to be "golden eared" audiophiles have there head up their arse because you are an engineer and clearly have superior technical and scientific understanding than most in regards to this hobby. You're probably mostly right. The thing is that part of the allure of Head-Fi and being an enthusiast of anything really is partly a sense of exclusive belonging and partly living in this sort of escapist fantasy bubble that propagates a sense of sophistication (this doesn't apply to all of course). When some one like yourself rolls up and tells all the kids that Santa is just a fat drunk with a fake beard, you're gonna get some cranky kids. I also think you may have gone a bit too far in your criticisms of Schiit and their products without having actually tried them out, despite the fact your suspicions regarding the Asgard proved to be correct. I don't feel that they're deliberately trying to mislead people at all and in fact they quickly offered a very fair solution to the issue (in large part thanks to you). I don't see any conspiracy at work here though. Considering that both Mike and Jason have been in the business for awhile and have designed a variety of successful DACs and Amps while you haven't put out anything to my knowledge, it comes off as very arrogant when you characterize them as being "sloppy" and incompetent. Having said all that I appreciate what you're doing with this blog even if at times it does seem you have some general sort of axe to grind. Furthermore, you clearly know your schiit and frankly, I find your ban and overall treatment excessively harsh and as another poster put it... "playground". I don't like this policy of seeming sponsor protection in regards to any kind of blind testing. It should not only be allowed but encouraged. It all seems kind of Big Brotherish to me. The more informed the better. Just my fitty-two cents. Thanks.

    All the Best

    Jason (Locknar on Head-Fi)

  29. Personally, I think the whole idea of banning someone from a forum for most anything other than spamming is just childish. Its basically an admission that you've lost the argument on merit and have nothing left but authority.

    I don't think that most of the people running the show over at head-fi actually understand that though. I think that they actually think they're being fair and haven't noticed they're failing miserably.

    There are a few different explanations for how that sort of thing happens, but this comment would turn into a dissertation if I just outlined a few of the more likely suspects.

  30. As I said at the end of my post, I appreciate what you are doing here. I've read just about everything on here, and although some of the info is a little tough to digest for the layperson, I get the gist of it. I was actually considering the NuForce initially, but after stumbling upon your blog I decided to go with a cmoy and the HRT MSII (I almost went with the Behringer), so thanks. Reading your blog pulled me back from the brink of "audiophile" ridiculousness a bit. I can also understand why you may have gotten a bit too abrasive as you were pounced on from the outset. Obviously, the NuForce thing put you on the shit list. The bottom line is the Schiit amps are well regarded and there might be a good reason for it. Like they sound good, even if there's a chance they could destroy one's cans. Buyer beware. Basically, don't knock it until you've tried it. In terms of Jason's response, maybe initially it was just an "Oh Shit! Oops!" type moment. Initial response maybe could of been better, but everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes one's initial reaction is to contain damage. You have to appreciate how quickly and fairly they reacted to rectify the issue though. I do, and let's be clear, they're not Toyota, but an upstart Amp manufacturer. Now that the Asgard will have a relay mute, you should check one out, you may dig it. I hear it's pretty good with HD650's. In any case, thanks for all the time and effort you've put into this, it is helpful.


  31. Hey Jason. Thanks for your comments and glad you find something useful here.

    I'd happily listen to an Asgard sometime just for fun. I've listened to several tube amps, and other designs I may not agree with, and it's fun to check them out. And some, under the usually random unfamiliar conditions, have sounded nice enough. But it's hard to form much of an opinion with a quick listen, to unfamiliar music, often with unfamiliar headphones, background noise, etc.

    Before I yank off Santa's beard again, let me make two important points:

    I do have respect for guys like Nelson Pass who can pull off at least acceptable performance from single-ended (SE) designs. I think part of the appeal to SE from a designer's perspective is it's a far greater challenge than using modern techniques. I won't go into all the technical reasons, but it's sort of like making your own pasta from scratch versus buying it ready made like most people do. The hand made stuff will probably be a lot more irregular, and might not taste any better, but some enjoy the process of making it and that makes the meal more enjoyable. I get that.

    And I also agree single-ended amps, with the right headphones especially, can sound fairly decent. Some may have various sorts of euphonic distortion that some may prefer over more accurate reproduction. And others may be clean enough not to do anything obviously objectionable.

    Where Santa's beard comes off is in terms of being true to the music, everything an SE amp can do, a push-pull amp can do cheaper and way better. And the push-pull amp is much more likely to be compatible with a wider range of headphones.

    So I get the romance of the hand made pasta. And designers who come up with reasonably well measuring SE amps have something to be genuinely proud of as that's not an easy task. But that's because they're trying to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. I'd rather use a match.

    I'm an engineer. That's how most of us think. We generally don't start out intentionally doing things the hard way when there's no objective benefit. And in this case, it's not just a longer road for the SE design. For the same budget, a push-pull design can always be made to overall outperform an SE amp. And I don't use the word "always" very often in statements like that. But I'm pretty sure it's true here. Matches, overall, always beat rubbing sticks together no matter how clever you are with your sticks.

    So that's why I'm willing to make such strong statements about SE amps like the Asgard. I may not have tested one, but I honestly don't have to. Schiit could have designed a better amp using a push-pull output stage for the same price or even less money. It's just that such amps aren't as "sexy" or "exotic" and they're perhaps more difficult to market even if they do sound better.

    Finally, it would be interesting to measure an Asgard just for the fun of it. If it has genuinely good objective performance I would readily give Jason credit for that as it's not an easy task.

  32. I'm afraid to ask but:

    "Ask Parasound about their fireball amplifiers."

    Care to elaborate? I've never heard bad things about Parasound amps, but I guess there's a first time for everything . . .

  33. I just received notification from a mod at head-fi that my post in that thread has been deleted. I had stated that I was uncomfortable with the perception that Schiit had leaned on Head-Fi to ban you. I got told that I wasn't allowed to talk about bannings and you'd been banned because you were making legal threats should any of your posts be deleted or edited. It was also recommended that I not trust you since you haven't revealed your identity.

    I bet you can guess which, objective, not-for-profit side I'm taking on this one, lol.

  34. Their real names are sort of floating out there in limbo, where the people who know each other personally call each other by their real names instead of their handles.

    You could probably find all of their info by digging through old posts but they'd probably call you rude if went and asked for it publicly.

    kwkarth's isn't much of a secret though, those are his first and middle initials...

  35. I couldn't tell you since I haven't been around head-fi long enough.

    In the LCD-2 thread he was recently telling people not to listen to headphones unless their hair was completely dry because its bad for drivers but apparently this on and off thump isn't a big deal...

  36. The thread is now locked (big surprise!). The moderation on Head-Fi is incredibly flexible - rules of conduct seems to change with each passing day, but one pattern is emerging: whenever a sponsoring vendor finds itself in harms way, Jude and his merry men come to the rescue.

    I've had posts deleted aswell. I'll give them credit though, I'm not the most prudent poster, but I still find it exceedingly annoying that they keep censoring posts and locking threads when it's in a sponsor's best interests to do so - you'll never see appreciations threads where people heap praise on equipment, later found to measure like cr@p, locked, even though they're only serving to perpetuate a lie and cost people they're hard earned money. Likewise, positive remarks, or excuses, are never held accountable but can be made without any shred of objective-, or subjective for that matter, data to back them up.

    Since kwkarth deleted my post we've been arguing over this unhealthy shift of balance via PM, and the guy seems to possess alot more humility than he lets on in the thread. The problem at Head-Fi is often likely that moderators are too closely related to the vendors.

  37. I salute you for persuing the truth!

    This has sparked my interest in how amps work. . .

    So, because of distortion: Single ended is bad, tubes are bad, Class A is good?

    I'm curioius because I use the Matrix M-stage which is often compared to the Asgard. I assume it's Class AB and people modify it to be Class A. (I hope that makes sense, idk)

    When I asked about the Class A biasing of the opamp on Head-Fi I was told:

    "The biasing is all about making the op-amp work more in single-ended mode (with its own internal transistors) which makes it sound better."

    So, if I do the biasing will the M-stage be single ended and blow up my headphones? (which is baaaaaaad) Or will it just make it Class A? (which is gooooood) :P

    I'm a n00b.


  38. kwkarth: "If you'll read back in this thread, you'll see that there are other amps by other manufacturers that are made also without protection, because doing so provides potentially better sound and higher reliability. I'm not going to have either one of my amps upgraded because I would rather have the best possible sound and the best possible reliability for my dollar. That's my personal choice."

    What do you make of this gem?

  39. In reverse order... To Anon regarding kwkarth's comment, that's not the sort of thing any rational engineer would say. Everyone should really question his motives.

    Obviously the more amps that are returned for the relay modification, the more money it's going to cost Schiit. I suspect Head-Fi is favoring a sponsor by trying to discourage people returning their amps. The fewer amps modified, however, the more headphones will likely be damaged. My opinion: Get the relay installed. No contest and here's why...

    SOUND QUALITY: There's all kinds of high end gear full of relay contacts. Some high end gear has dozens of them when they're used by the dozens to make precision stepped volume controls, for source switching, and more. The contacts add a few thousands of an ohm, which in contrast to the output impedance of the Asgard, is insignificant. The 3 conductor headphone jack is a far bigger problem in the signal path than a relay. The Audio Precision and dScope audio analyzers, used to evaluate the finest audio gear on the planet, are also full of relays in the signal path.

    RELIABILITY: Relays have been used in telecom for over half a century. They run 7x24 and get more cycles of use than any Asgard ever will. It's not uncommon for telecom relays to last decades running 7x24. Mechanically even cheap signal relays these days are typically rated for at least a million cycles. The main issue is contact degradation from high switching currents causing arcing. This happens with speaker relays if you turn the system on or off while it's playing loudly. But the currents in a power amp are roughly 100 times greater than a headphone amp. There won't be any contact arcing in a headphone amp. Hence the relay will very likely outlive the amplifier. The electrolytic caps in the power supply will dry up and fail before the relay will.

  40. To anon regarding:

    "The biasing is all about making the op-amp work more in single-ended mode (with its own internal transistors) which makes it sound better."

    That's kind of funny. First of all, it's entirely wrong. You can't make an op amp with push pull outputs (virtually all op amps) run in "single ended" mode just by changing the bias. You can force some to run in Class A to a point, but unless they were designed to, that's generally not a good idea.

    Forcing op amps to run outside their design criteria is kind of like the guy who buys a new Porsche and puts monster truck tires on it and tries to convert the gas engine to run on bio diesel. He thinks he knows better than the massive team of automotive engineers at Porsche who designed the car. Really?

    As for the M-Stage, I'm not familiar with the internals of that amp. But most op amps in normal plastic packages (DIP, SOIC, etc.) are already a bit thermally challenged to drive headphones directly. Forcing them into Class-A will make them run much hotter and that could create other problems and/or seriously shorten their life. If an overheated op fails, it very likely will take the headphones with it as it will dump the full DC power supply voltage to the headphones.

    Doug Self, a really smart guy who's spent most of his life studying amplifiers and publishing his world-class research, has shown most audio amps have an optimal class AB bias point. They actually perform worse when you add more bias if they will ever fall out of Class A. This is because the transition from Class A to Class B when overbiased creates a far bigger problem than the amp had in the first place.

    With op amps, it's really questionable if you can keep them in Class A at all volume levels into all headphones without the chip burning up. So you end up with an overbiased Class AB design that performs worse than if you had just used it as the manufacture intended. No surprise there. We're back to the Porsche engineers.

    Manufactures sometimes do this stuff to differentiate their products. Otherwise they have a boring "me too" headphone amp with nothing much to talk about. And, in my opinion, some of the small guys do it out of ignorance. They honestly don't understand the nuances involved, like the Class A to Class B transition described above, and they lack the equipment to measure it.

  41. He's friends with the guys at Schiit? Like I said, moderators and vendors have too close a relationship to ensure bias- and censorship free moderation on Head-Fi. And yes, I think Jude is the driving force behind it.

  42. And oh, some engineers believe in magic too, education notwithstanding.

  43. Sorry to see you banned NwAvGuy. This just follows a general theme of 'I have the science and proof that shows others claims are dubious if not false', is followed by a ban.

    The loss of a scientist from the forum, indeed any forum is a bad thing.


    Prog Rock Man

  44. People are strange.

    I've been living amongst humans for 42 years and I still don't understand them.

  45. Guess I'm a little bit of a hard lined engineer type too, because I believe making a product out of an outdated, technically inferior methodology while bashing technically superior ones is just... well, wrong.

    Btw, I think it is awesome all of the support from head-fi that has shown up over the last few days.

  46. I agree completely that that's the core issue here, and it's common practice for Head-Fi moderation to smooth things over when a sponsor's involved.

    I really love the way forum members get behind the vendors though, now they're praising Schiit Audio for their great customer service and admire Jason for how he's handled the situation. If mankind always had that mentality we'd be stuck in evolution, as the guy who was supposed to invent the pebble tool kept messing around and everyone loved him all the same. I mean, nevermind Jason putting everyone's headphones at risk and only offering a solution when he's found out. Did they replace headphones that were already killed off by the Lyr? I'm fairly sure alot of people over at Head-Fi like that the Schiit amps are dangerous, it just adds to the mystique.

  47. Do you think the HiFiMan cans are overpriced?

  48. I have no idea about HiFiMan cans. I just know they cost more than most AKGs. I've never heard any but I'd like to.

  49. I've heard the HE-5LE and HE-6 and think they're legitimately good sounding headphones. I've never heard their IEMs but they're well regarded by some of the sane people over on head-fi.

    Their DAPs OTOH...

    dfkt's HM801 RMAA thread went pretty much the same what the Schiit thread did.

  50. I can't think of another hobby where good information is at such a premium. It's unbearable trying to read a review about a set of headphones when the person reviewing starts uttering things about letting the cable "burn in," or "the treble lovers will be looking for a good silver re-cable," and on and on, it becomes nearly impossible for me to take anything they say seriously. Anyhow, keep up the great work. I really enjoy the blog, I just wish you had time to review more equipment!

  51. It's on the main page, but some may want to check this out:

    O2 Headphone Amp

  52. Head-fi's mod-owner circlejerk is working hard to sweep the AudioGD power cord debacle under the rug (for those of you that don't know, hundreds if not thousands of the popular $75 audio-gd power cords were wired in reverse, effectively negating the fuses in your system, and potentially causing fires and destroying your gear). They basically tried to pooh-pooh and discredit anyone that tried to press that this was a big deal. One MOT got banned for saying that Kingwa wouldn't acknowledge that this was a big deal, which he wouldn't do. So, on head-fi, if you pay the $500 per month to be a sponsor, you get a team of bodyguards and a reality distortion field to let you sell your faulty/dangerous products without any fear of reprisal.

  53. Some thoughts about the "don't criticize if you haven't built it" bandwagon:

    Some people think you shouldn't criticize something if you only know it or the subject from a theoretical point of view - in the end that is just covering up your own incompetence.
    Lets look at another topic - engineering & mathematics - so can the mathematician never criticize the engineer because he/she only works out the theory? And should the engineer be left to do as he likes, even if his/her results are complete rubbish? - The only logical answer here is no.

    With audio it is just the same:
    Instead of attacking someone for pointing out a flaw, a company should be happy that someone went to the trouble of actually finding out what is wrong - especially if they offer an alternative.
    Further, especially in this case, it isn't something that is very uncommon to occur. If an amplifier created some strange distortion/spikes at just a few set frequencies, it might be easy to overlook it during testing. If it creates spikes when switched off the design is inherently flawed - and to be honest - to use another analogy: A car might be all a person dreams off, but if it hasn't got any brakes it will never ever be a good car - and you do not need to build one to see that.

    It is the same here: If obvious flaws are overlooked it just shows that you have a sloppy engineering/design/testing department - someone messed up. Attacking the person offering a solution doesn't exactly help at all here - and never has anybody anywhere, at least in the long run.

  54. I had retreated mostly to the Sound Science subforum on head-fi for I always thaught it to be one of the least censored and a bit more BS-resistant place compared to the other subforums. I was naive enough to believe that the mods and admins allowed free discussion there (within TOS/rules of course).

    Oh boy was I wrong and I'm very disappointed.

    Finally, it's time to leave that place. Once and for all. Certainly, I will miss a couple of guys from there, those of the reasonable kind, but I hope they also see that Huddler-Fi is not the right place for reasonable people or non-BS discussions. I can only hope that more people will notice the disappearance of posts, even entire threads and general mess.

    See you on hydrogenaudio / abi / diyaudio.
    - xnor

  55. Thanks for the reply about the M-Stage, I guess I won't mod it. funny, dozens of Head-Fi members seem to think it's a good idea! I'm inclined to take your word for it that it's not tho.

    From what I've seem in the media the standard reaction to something being wrong with a product is to pretend it didn't happen instead of assuming responsibility, it's kind of sad. . .


  56. hello fellow audio engineer hehehe
    so sad you were banned but you know some forums have the matrix philosophy you have two options to try to find the truth and get kicked or to just ignore it, I'm glad you choose the truth.

    life continues and I'll keep reading your blog ;) maybe I can get some tips for my work (I'm learning to use an AP2700 and an apx585)

    btw I like the new colors of the site.

  57. Amanuense, thanks for your comments. And if you have access to AP analyzers, please have a look at:

    O2 Headphone Amp

    I would love to find someone independent to at least spot check a few of my measurements (or all of them) as I will, no doubt, be accused of bias, or cheating, or having a hidden agenda, or whatever. It would be immensely useful for someone else to add some credibility to the numbers. And it never hurts to double check test results in general (especially using different test instruments).

  58. I'll take a look when I have some time, also if I can get my hands to the tested devices (and I get some free time) I gladly make the tests to confirm your measurements ;)

  59. Amanuense, Thanks! Please contact me via the link on the right if you would? We can talk further about getting you an O2 amp to test if you'll have the time. That would be great!

  60. Just wanted to add that I'm not surprised by this in any way... either way, keep up the good work, NwAvGuy - and I'm looking forward to building my own O2 sometimes soon.

  61. Nothing will ever make sense in Head-Fi's bans because of their secret agenda. If it were really headphones they would have jumped on that problem. Good luck on prying anything out of those guys, even in a deposition. They have too much to lose.

  62. As with anything, you start to pick whose opinion you trust and whose you don't. This applies to anything. I do frequent Head-fi often however since I've been there a while, I've learnt whose opinion I trust and whose I don't. To be honest,there are several people on there who tbh, I consider to be shrills while others are to be commended and tbh, they dfo a far better job than some professional reviewers. the Amp and Cable subsections of Head-fi are really the 'dark underbelly' of Head-fi but it's not to say that all the infomation on Head-fi is useless! Don't let a few bad apples ruin the whole basket! Head-fi is still very good for info on headphones and in-ears. But yes, office politics like this is ruining Head-fi, it must be said. Your ban wasn't the first controversial ban that I, admitted Head-fi frequenter, have basically wondered WTF about. Remember people, Jude's agenda is not representative of all of Head-fi.org's members.

    BTW, if I were to pick sides on this, it'll be on Nwavguy's side. People, however otherwise caring and goodwilled they might be to start off with, will always get corrupted by money and power.

  63. Head-Fi's owner wants to make some money. I don't agree with the way the site is being run, but I don't begrudge anyone for trying to make a buck on their own hard-earned work. Similarly, the mods are volunteers and work pretty hard for a hobby they love. The real problem are the vocal idiots from the general membership who have come to dominate that forum. In the past, their constant spewing of nonsense, claptrap, and generally useless "information" would have been effectively self-policed by other members. Not so anymore for a variety of reasons. The groupthink over there is strong--very strong--and current members have only themselves to blame.

  64. Apparently the O2 can *never* be discussed at head-fi as long as you're banned (I don't know if they gave you a perma-ban or not...) because on head-fi you aren't allowed to even discuss people who have been banned or anything else they do or have ever done.

    That's not in the TOS but that's what I was told by a mod via PM...

    OTOH, when my profile lists "The Amp Which Cannot Be Named" in the near future it might stir up some interest.

  65. Nobody at Head-Fi ever even attempted to make contact with me regarding the ban or alleged PM. In fact, kwkarth (the recipient of the PM) just went right on tangling with me in public long after it was sent. He never even acknowledged it. So I have no idea if it's a "perma-ban" either and my guess it has little to do with the PM anyway and everything to do with me helping expose a problem with a sponsor's product.

    I'm in the process of re-measuring the distortion on the O2 as I found a fix for the somewhat higher levels of distortion I previously reported at 16 and 33 ohms. It's just looking better and better all the time. I've probably got at least 30+ hours of listening time on it so far and it still makes me smile.

  66. Well most bans there are between a week and a few months from what I've seen. If you ban does expire, it might be best if you just never post there again so they have no more excuses to ban you and thus no excuses to stop other people from linking to you or discussing the O2.

  67. I was banned recently Avguy, there's a group for people against the headfi stupid policies.


  68. Well NwAvguy, the only true Communist country from a geopolitical stance is North Korea today ;) The others (China, Vietnam, Laos, even Cuba) have implemented or in the case of Cuba with Fidel's brother, starting to implement, capitalist economic systems but this isn't a politics forum :P It's scary how much gold Vietnam and China has actually got.

    That said, I wouldn't say they , meaning many of Head-fi's members, are protecting the sponsors because they have agenda but I would argue it's more as you like to say, protecting their 'fantasy', but also buyer justification and disbelief. Many audiophiles as you know, regardless of age or preferred sub section of audio, just dunno much on the science sound of sound. List of Head-fi's member who've gained by trust (in no order, list far from complete)

    maverickronin (same guy who posts here)

    Uncle Erik (this guy speaks a lot of truth)

    |joker| (should be a professional reviewer tbh. His two prolific comparision threads are amazing)

    ClieOS (another prolific reviewer in in-ears but also knowledgeable about the science side and has industry contacts on the manufacturing side in Asia)

    james444 (this guy has $$$$ thus he mainly reviews the higher end in-ears)

    kool bubba ice (before he was banned lol!)

    Dalamar (before he was banned too!! He was like you Nwavguy in that he is an electrical engineer..y'know the story)

    Tyll's measurements from Headroom are fantastic as well. His measurements finally settled the argument over the difference in the impedance models of the beyerdynamic DT series in that there are audible subjective differences that ARE backed up by objective measurements (different damping levels etc..). A case where the subjective guys were right ;) (because they were backed up by the data).

  69. NwAvGuy said...

    Karl, thanks for a helpful post. That's a good way to put a positive face on what's otherwise a somewhat ugly situation. I have admired, and also respect, those who have tried to be reasonably objective and put a lot of time into trying to educate others. And I'm all for more measurements--Tyll's included--as that's what I'm trying to offer more of.

    But don't underestimate the broad reach of a "blanket of bias", "group thinking", or whatever someone wants to call it. It can be far more powerful than might be obvious to many.

  70. I felt the swing of their ban-rake tonight. Much as I expected, my criticism of the AlgoRhythm Solo and the HiFiMAN players (I posted Markus Kraus' RMAA measurements and told people to decide for themselves what to make of them) were to be my last posts on that forum. I received a message by kwkarth but I'm not allowed to read it, and I didn't receive an e-mail detailing the contents of the message either, so I'm not sure exactly why, or for how long, I've been banned.

    I'm pretty sure they'll make certain the O2 never gets mention on the boards. It's too bad really, I would've loved to see Jude do a video review of it.

  71. "I would've loved to see Jude do a video review of it."

    HA! The case is all aluminum otherwise he probably would just set fire to it on camera with a torch. ;) I think we'll all be the ones eventually having the last laugh, however.

    Sorry to hear you've also been marginalized for merely being factual. Join an ever growing club. You're in good company!

  72. I just noticed that my posts criticizing Head-Fi leadership for controlling information have been removed, so I guess that's the official reason why I've been banned.

    Steve Eddy quoted me and said that "The first rule of Head-Fi is you do not talk about Head-Fi", it seems he was right.

  73. Trends of Head-Fi.

    1. Shut up.
    2. The more expensive the product, the better it is. I think the whole HM-801 affair thread is more than enough proof.
    3. Shut up.

    Course, don't want to make an excessive generalisation here, but basically if you talk about any of the sponsors' product, you're screwed.

    I'm not banned. I've simply left after seeing how Head-Fi has become.

    3602 of Head-Fi.

  74. Oh, and forgot to say, thank you for your very nutritious blog. Things like these are rare these days.

  75. I believe I've published every comment posted here so far except for an earlier one full of offensive language (this isn't an adult-only blog) and just now one that referenced full names. As I said earlier I'm not trying to escalate this issue into a war and I'm trying to maintain some level of respect for those involved.

    Personally, I'm happy to leave Head-Fi behind and move on. For me, that's the O2 amp. Just like this blog has found a following on its own merits, so will solid products. If Head-Fi wants to censor the O2, let them. It will just make their true agenda even more obvious to even more people.

  76. Woot! We're having some fun now!

  77. Like your objective posts. I don't care for the general dichotomy of opinion of measurement vs sound in general and I'm not pointing at you here. If something has technical issues, there's a problem but 2 items that measure similarly and where differences should be in the inaudible range can sound different. It seems that those that rely on measurement don't really like to go there and would rather keep the blinders in place just like those that think a certain coloration from a less than great design may be nirvana. When we're talking portable amps, there's much to improve in most and I agree with virtually all of your design decisions regarding DC, supply, bandwidth and layout etc. but there will still be differences in coupling caps and op amps etc. Not necessarily a better/worse type deal or great but relatively apparent with good enough associated stuff. While I'm a big fan of proper engineering, I also allow for some sonic deviation so don't feel bad. Everybody hates me. LOL
    Sorry to hear about your issues with Moffit. He's no dummy and quite good at sonics. Doesn't make him perfect and it's good that you alerted all to an issue in that amp.

  78. I at least partly agree with Anonymous above regarding measurement vs sound. But, in my blind testing experience and research, audible differences that don't show up in measurements are usually with something more complex than a headphone amp. Otherwise someone just isn't making the right measurements or they're talking about biased sighted listening.

    There's just not that much going on in a headphone amp. Pushing a small fraction of an amp and a few volts into the relatively benign load of a pair of headphones is trivial compared to what's required to drive a lot of serious high-end speakers with their complex highly reactive crossovers, peak current requirements of 20+ amps, voltages exceeding 120 volts peak-to-peak, etc.

    The sound of a DAC is more difficult to be certain about from just measurements. Jitter is somewhat difficult to quantify, the digital and analog filtering can have an audible impact on the sound, and there are significant functional differences between DACs. They also have different op amps, caps, etc. Still, look at Meyer & Moran. If the audible differences between DACs were even slightly obvious it should have come out in their 500+ trials. But one can correctly argue they used an A/D and D/A that were better than some of what's popular on Head-Fi. Their hardware was past that objective point of being "good enough" and it proved extremely transparent in blind listening.

    I might error on the side of being a bit too black and white at times with some of my statements, but I try to allow for (or I'm at least open to) that 1% corner case or exception. In all my years of blind testing and research I have learned a few listeners are far more able to detect really subtle differences than others. They're the Olympic athletes of listening.

    But it's a fairly weak argument to extrapolate using an extremely rare gifted and highly trained listener, who requires a certain track of music to hear any difference at all, on an extremely high-resolution system, etc. Such a test might prove there really is some audible difference but the reality is it's so slight it will escape detection 99.9% of the time by everyone else. So how important is it really?

    I'm sure the guys running 400 meter races in the Olympics notice details about their running shoes few others would ever notice. And race car drivers notice tiny details about the performance of their cars that would otherwise go undetected. They're among the best athletes in the world looking to shave 0.001 seconds from their times. And they run the exact same track over and over hundreds or thousands of time.

    I bet the runner is much less aware of problems with their casual shoes. And the race car driver doesn't have the same level of awareness driving his family's sedan on public roads. It's important to keep these things in perspective and be realistic about what actually matters in 99.9% of real life.

    In a perfect world it would be great if anyone could walk into Headphone Emporium at their local strip mall and plug their current rig into "A" on the blind switch box, plug the $500 amp they're considering into "B", plug in their favorite cans, cue up their favorite music, and decide right then and there for themselves if they can hear a difference. And if they can hear a difference they can contemplate if it's worth $500.

    The problem with that plan is the Headphone Emporium chain wouldn't sell many amps and would have to make enough profit selling mostly headphones.

  79. I have to say, I loved the posts you placed on head-fi because they pointed to real-world technical testing on products instead of magical, hi-fi audiophile-speak. When I saw that you were banned, I was amazed. I'm now purposely trying to get myself banned over there by singing your (& ABI's) praises. Head-fi sucks.

  80. I'm starting to jump on Ethan Winer's idea; where educating people about the frailty of the human perception system is the best way to make people understand why more is needed than just sighted listening tests.

    Oh, and the lastest from Stalingrad... now we aren't even allowed to talk about NwAvGuy, mention any products associated with you, link to your website, or even PM between members about you... according to kwkarth at least.

  81. In my opinion, the further they go with trying to suppress sponsor product problems, the O2, discussion of me, etc, the more they're going to call attention to their own agenda. Which is fine as even more people are likely to decide Head-Fi isn't for them or at least be much more suspicious of what goes on there. And that will mean more suspicion of the Head-Fi sponsors that appear to be protected and promoted by guys like kwkarth. Thankfully everyone knows how to use Google search.

  82. I would agree, and I guess I'm an example of this suppression running against them. At first, when you were banned I was taking the view that I might never truly know what was going on and to keep an open mind for both sides. However, as this saga has progressed, it has become more apparent what the real agenda in all of this really is. It's sad, because I really just want to learn about and enjoy this new hobby. C'est la vie.

  83. I seriously hope they're not scanning PMs, that would be the biggest scandal yet. I doubt that they would.

  84. Part 1

    I've read that they do go through PMs from a few different people. No idea if its actually true though...

    If they really are and it comes out I'd love to see how the zombies defend it.

    The place needs a *major* shake-up. Head-fi actually does have a few redeeming qualities left but either intentionally or not, the leadership is doing everything they can to undermine its long term survival for a small short term profit. Neither becoming a mouthpiece for the sponsors nor censoring views that they don't agree with is a recipe for building a community of trust.

    I hope that such a large shake up occurs and either makes the leadership change direction or simply causes a mass exodus to another forum.

    I'm not usually one to concoct conspiracy theories. IMO, you should never postulate malice when stupidity will suffice. While the behavior of the leadership certainly appears quite similar to what someone would do to protect the sponsors for the sake of bringing in more ad revenue, that's not the only plausible motivation for their actions.

    The hypothesis I lean towards is that they are simply trying to preserve the status quo for the sake of "everyone getting along". They don't want flamewars which is understandable, but they don't even want discussions about issues which could lead to flamewars. In effect, the position they have taken is that it is acceptable for the truth to be a casualty in the struggle for "public order".

    Its hard to say if this is exactly what they're thinking or even if they realize it themselves, but based on way they handle most of these issues I'm inclined to pick this route.

    Lets take this latest Schiit storm as an example. There is a serious issue with a sponsor's product. Some members are concerned but lack the equipment or knowledge to make a definitive statement. Then NwAvGuy shows up and does make a definitive statement. NwAvGuy is promptly trolled by an admin, etc, etc. The thread more of less ran its course with the issue at hand as solved as best it could be by Schiit, and then was locked.

    If we assume a purely malicious intent among the admins then how did it get that far in the first place? Why did it get to run its course? Why wasn't the whole thread deleted as soon as the Schiit hit the fan? Why was it locked at all.

    Near as I can tell I think they they actually believe they are being somewhat fair. All mention of the Schiit storm could have easily been erased before it blew up into as issue that would cost a sponsor money.

  85. Part 2

    The recent bombshell of miswired AudioGD power cords followed a somewhat similar track. Someone posted it after taking suitable measures to confirm the data, most people didn't understand or care why it was important, the sponsor danced around the issue, eventually said they fixed it, a member was even banned temporarily, and the thread was locked. If they wanted to, they could have disallowed it from the beginning but it didn't happen that way either.

    That why I'm leaning towards them thinking they're being fair and having "public order" as their first priority instead of simply defending the sponsors at all costs.

    What really hurts them in this area is the stunning lack of transparency in moderation and administration. When the first rule of Head-Fi is, "You do not talk about Head-Fi" and posts disappear left and right while bans are handed out for unknown reasons there's nothing left to do but speculate about why. Between that and the "members first, mods second" policy they do their best to pretend that moderation doesn't even exist and then tell everyone they're not allowed to talk about it. What does that remind you of? They created the equivalent of a despotic police state and I'm not even sure they realize it.

    Unfortunately this hypothesis, while possibly showing "innocent" motivations on the part of the mods is actually the worst for the community. I can't remember the exact quote, but there's a saying that goes something like, "Those who torment you for their own profit and pleasure may one day be satisfied and stop but those who torment you for 'your own good' never will."

    If they were simply defending the sponsors then it would be quite easy to figure out what is and isn't allowed but if they are attempting to defend their own convoluted dogma or keep some sort of "public order" then everyone is walking in a minefield. There are no rules and anything that offends one of the mods puts you in danger.

    That isn't a formula for success either, but its far actually far worse for the community than if they were just defending the sponsors. That kind of thing will break in fairly large scandal eventually and cause either a reformation or the exodus I mentioned above. If it continues on this path it will likely just slowly wither and die as the knowledgeable people leave and newbies have no reason to join and ask for advice. Head-fi's greatest asset is its numbers and if they all slowly fade away then useful information will become much more diffuse.

  86. Thanks for your lengthy comments, anon. I agree they're forcing everyone to speculate (or in some cases providing explanations for their actions that simply don't make any sense leaving everyone to speculate anyway). Many businesses and governments have found out the hard way that sort of policy typically doesn't work out well in the long run--just as you suggest.

    I personally believe the information at Head-Fi has been getting steadily more "diffuse" over the last few years and has reached a point where much of it is already buried in the noise. And the mods and admins themselves create, or encourage, significant amounts of the useless noise. That, in itself, seems incredibly self-defeating to me. Even most animals are smart enough not to make a mess where they have to sleep.

    I believe they didn't delete the Schiit and AudioGD threads as they know once a thread has a significant number of views it will be missed by many and a record of what was deleted could come back to haunt them--especially collectively. So, instead, they try to downplay the issue any way they can, flood the thread with garbage posts so the real facts are much harder for anyone to find, ban people, etc.

    In my opinion it's a very childish, immature, and short sighted approach as it's making a mess of their own website and driving some of the best people away. And many still conclude they're protecting their sponsors to an unreasonable degree. So it hurts Head-Fi on many levels. But, as you suggest, they don't seem to realize that.

  87. "I seriously hope they're not scanning PMs, that would be the biggest scandal yet. I doubt that they would."

    I don't know if the automatic spiders are scanning everyone's PMs, but it's naive to think they're not reading them. Besides it's a private site and they can do anything they want. It's in your TOS.

  88. What Head-Fi admin does, is cheating a lot of innocent people who are just trying to buy decent headphone equipment for hard earned money. I think a lot of people now will lose interest in the Head-Fi forum, and search out more decent behaving alternatives. I think O2 will sell in large quantities, and shock the whole headphone-business. It is so fun watching this process.

  89. If they've been reading my PMs, and I've given them reason to, they haven't acted on any information gained.

    I don't think the O2 will make much of a difference to the audiophile masses at Head-Fi - the Clip+ isn't exactly regarded a reference audio player on those boards, though you'll find many praising the HiFiMANs. Objective performance is practically never taken into consideration, unless you're the type of Head-Fier who frequents the Sound Science sub-forum, and many here know how difficult it is to convince an audiophile to blind test equipment. The gimmick components, the enclosure and the price-tag are usually the deciding factors in determining whether a piece of equipment becomes a hit or not.

  90. If you asked me what I liked least about Head-fi it wouldn't be the censorship or commercial focus, it would be the sheer arrogance and snobbery that pervades the place.

    Too commonly price is used as the sole measure of quality and if you disagree you will likely and in all seriousness be told its because your music sucks. Others will confidently declare themselves immune to placebo and suggestion and even the less bold will rarely concede that there is a chance they are mistaken in their perceptions.

    That's what bothers me most...

  91. NwAvGuy, it's been disheartening to read about your treatment at Head-Fi, especially after your posts were aimed at helping to expose a problem that would've proven to be costly for a lot of Head-Fiers. I'm shocked(especailly as a fellow Head-Fier) that it seems the management at Head-Fi is more concerned about keeping the peace and or sponsors happy instead of what is in the best interest of the forum members as a whole.

    I cringed(from the posted video) at the way K701's drivers were buckling under the load of the Asgard on/off phase. That is most certainly NOT normal and to assert initially that it was not a major issue(as kwkarth did) was reprehensible! When being asked to spend hundreds(or in some cases thousands) of dollars on audio equipment, full objective unbiased information is essential. Just imagine if Consumer Reports or other publications like it didn't exist? We'd be stuck with just company ads claiming each of their product is best with no real assessment of what is actually worth owning.

    It saddens me to read that things like this are happening at Head-Fi a site that I've grown to enjoy using the past few months. I really hope things do change as many have pointed out, they're only doing a disservice to members and countless others who depend on the site for information, insight and advice.

    On a positive note, I've really enjoyed reading through your blog as it's clear that you have quite a bit of knowledge and understanding of audio. Your comments on the supposed "benefits" of single-ended amps have really been eye opening for me. So, you get a very big thanks from me! Keep up the great work!

    P.S. Is the E9 you reviewed some time ago a push pull or a SE amp? I ask as I am an E9 owner and would like it to last for quite a while! :p

  92. Thanks for the encouragement Anon. Your observations about Head-Fi agree with many others.

    The E9 is a modern fighter jet compared to the Wright Brothers era technology the Schiit single ended amps are based on. The TPA6120 in the E9 is a push pull design and one of the newer ICs on the scene.

  93. Excellent! Your answer really put my mind at ease. Thanks!

  94. Wow...

    There are a few different people over at head-fi calling you "He Who Must Not Be Named".

    This "pretend he doesn't exist" thing is getting pretty ridiculous already and you haven't even released the schematic for the O2 yet. I'm having a hard time figuring out if this policy is born of arrogance or fear.

    I wonder if they're going to censor the O2 en-mass from people profiles a few months down the line.

    In any event, congratulations of your promotion to fantasy super-villain.

  95. Lord Voldemort is available as user name over there ;)

  96. So I wonder what happens if you say "NwAvGuy" three times in the dark...

  97. As an experiment I recently tried posting a link to this blog on Head-Fi.

    So there's a thread where somebody asks if a FiiO E7 would be good for his Grado RS2i. The poster already owns a portable amp, the PA2v2.

    **** My post below, on Head-fi ****
    The Grado RS2i are specified at 32 ohms impedance and 98 dB SPL / 1 mW according to Grado's website. Grado headphones tend not to need that much power.

    The FiiO E7 has decent performance as a DAC and amp and can put about 80 mW into 32 ohms. See here for some technical details and measured performance:


    80 mW into 32 ohms with 98 dB SPL / 1 mW is about 117 dB, which is already way too loud. This means that the E7 should have plenty of power, and I'm not sure if there's a more accurate DAC/amp for the price. Since the E7's integrated amp is decent enough and has enough power for the job, I doubt you'll need to use the E7 as a DAC only and sent its signal to the PA2v2. As for whether or not you'll hear a noticeable improvement, that depends on the integrated sound output on the laptop. Many laptop audio outputs are kind of noisy and may have a few issues.
    **** End of my post on Head-fi ****

    Eventually that post got deleted and I got the following PM from Currawong. The deletion took about a day or two, so I don't think it's automated:

    **** Start of PM ****

    This is to let you know that the following post deleted as we don't allow posting on behalf of, or linking to sites of banned members.

    We hope you understand, even if you don't agree.

    **** End of PM ****

  98. maverickronin said...

    "So I wonder what happens if you say "NwAvGuy" three times in the dark..."

    Currawong or kwkarth will ban you.

  99. You guys have it all wrong. It’s not that Head-Fi is protecting their advertisers; it’s that Head-fi is in the business of promoting sales…..

    They are heading toward the Huddler Audio Store which will sell everything you need, right from the forum… probably at a “Head-Fi” discount to encourage sales right from the forum.

    The only thing that’s important is getting things sold. The faster the better. Why are we even on a forum whose motto is “Sorry About Your Wallet”? Didn’t we realize they were telling us something?

    I’ve long thought the flavor of the month was nothing more than a financial arrangement between a vendor who wants to sell a "burst" of units on Head-Fi. The FOTM threads always work the same way with many of the same people pushing what ever the new product is. Flak is controlled by the mods and the fanboy culture. It’s so easy to have a large number of quick sales this way, producing a short term profit bubble, which Jude is always pleased to take advantage of.

    The converse is also true. If you don’t play ball, there will be little interest in your product on the forum and you will be lost in the sheer volume of threads. If you post too often, you will be told to rent a space in the MOT thread area and do your promoting from there…

    I don’t think Jude set out to do it this way, but once he saw what was happening, he realized the huge profit potential that was there and that he had the power to make or break a product.

    A personal endorsement by Jude is another cool source of income and with his new videos, he pulls in even more. There are so many new members, who have no idea what’s going on, that each time he recommends something, the manufacturer is guaranteed sales.

    Head-Fi has become nothing more than an online advertising machine dedicated to generating income for Jude. An interesting question is this: Do the MODS and Administrators share in his profits?

  100. Never go on head-fi that much myself these days, it would be interesting to know how many amps are flowing when the power down glitch happens it could be a lot worse.

  101. So, are the copies of the thread this entry refers to somewhere on this site? I'd like to read it as I missed the entire discussion. Highly interesting!

  102. Sphinxvc, last I knew the thread was still at Head-Fi but locked. It was in the Sound Science forum. I can't reproduce it all here due to copyright law. It's also quite long.

  103. Just wanted to post that Jude has been arbitrarily deleting/editing my posts in the Head-Fi thread, couldn't really figure out why. . .

    "If you want to make that thread a stink about nwavguy, go ahead. I will, however, close it.

    You are free to protest about the matter all you want, just not on Head-Fi.org.


    cc: joe

    At the risk of sounding immature, I will say that a mod and a contributor first started questioning NwAvGuy's motives, etc. where the original post clearly states to stick to discussion of the amp.
    My post wasn't about NwAvGuy anyway, it was merely chatter.

    I not only disagree, but at this point I no longer understand.

    No offense intended, but I'm confused.


    btw, here is another blog. He rambles on a bit but it's interesting never the less.


    I'm trying to understand, I really am, but it's hard not to perceive the Head-Fi staff as blatantly hypocritical d-bags. :(

    I shall protest away!


  104. Head-fi IS made up of blatantly hypocritical douchebags. Why else would they ban any discussion related to blind testing outside of a tiny underutilized subforum?

    Because they want to fill the bank accounts of their sponsors. It's not just an internet message board; it's a business, and its primary purpose it making money.

  105. Haha, this stuff goes on at every forum I have visited. I fell off my chair when people at Head-Fi were recommending 3k USB cables. Glad to hear your side of the story.

    There is something big going down on another tech forum right now and one lone guy keeps popping up to point out the marketing aspect and gets his posts deleted right away...

  106. Having a person like kwkarth as a moderator in any forum, is a disgrace!
    I did read some of his posts, and his level of knowledge seems as low as most of the self-proclaimed "n00bs" that are asking for simple advice instead of searching for the info they need in older threads there in HeadFi.
    And when he cannot respond to criticism because it would expose him too much, he deletes posts and threatens with bans.
    I have been there in HeadFi for some time, I have registered the drop in competence and the increased shilling/advertizing level that is happening there, so I guess it is time to clean up my past there and leave.
    HeadFi once was a source for getting information about anything regarding portable/private music enjoyment, but that is getting a long time ago!

  107. So they don't just ban you, they block you from even accessing the site at all from your previous IP? Wow. Very paranoid. Someone's holding onto their wallet in abject fear of their cash flow being interrupted.

  108. Reposting information and stills that are in-context of an argument, debate, or entertainment parody (like a comedy sketch) are all part of fair use, journalism, and free speech. That has been repeatedly held up in the courts. If Head-fi was making legal threats against you to go after you for copy-right infringement if you posted screen pics as evidence of censorship they claimed they did not engage in, it was they who were incorrect in thinking they had any civil recourse. A counter-claim would actually be easier for you to file, and cheaper, in such a circumstance. Head-fi is also potentially guilty of libel themselves if they are editing posts by authors and not disclosing it somewhere in the post. It is standard practice to do so at the bottom of forum posts for a good reason. That is an inherent act of libel otherwise, as you are the author of each and every post. They can delete it at will. They can ban you. And they can even edit at their leisure, but if they edit it they are supposed to disclose that otherwise they are misrepresenting your words with your name right next to it. Head-fi is a very unique forum in their manner of abuses. Just as a profit-making newspaper is subject to legal recourse if they step over the line, so are speech and community outlets on the internet. The manner of the abuses is likely tailored to the magnitude and frequency of the censorship; i.e. they do this so much they must engage in libel to create the appearance of propriety. Otherwise their entire forum would look overtly and highly edited and censored. Since they don’t want their censorship to be seen as so wide spread, they must hide it.

  109. Thanks for the last 3 posts. The legal advise is relatively consistent with what I found out back in March after their first attempts to bully me. Although I wasn't aware of the editing disclosure issue. That's VERY interesting!

  110. People fail to realize that forums like Head-Fi are commonly populated by shills that are paid to post favorably to their employer's products & to put competitor's products down. One shill can have multiple forum user profiles and they post constantly to hide their deception.

    I used to spend alot of time on forums that discussed auto detailing products before I began to realize that shills were posting constantly, & that the same person was the website forum administrator of 3 or 4 different auto detailing websites.

    The very fact that Head-Fi runs "Appreciation Threads" for products should be a HUGE red flag pointing to the presence of shills. No other forum that I have ever visited is dominated by anything like "Appreciation Threads"

    While I do lurk at Head-Fi (I don't want to post there LOL), mostly to check on the IEM & Full Sized Headphone Deal threads, as well as the "Pictures of your Portable Rig" thread, I distrust much of the propaganda that is spread there. I trust your blog, and several other blogs more, along with Anythingbutipod.

    As far as opinions go, I trust dfkt from ABI more than anyone at Head-Fi.

    I hope Head-Fi is replaced by something better sooner than later.

  111. Thanks Anon. I couldn't agree more about AnythingButiPod (ABI). It's much more pleasant, rational, and useful. And yes, dfkt has the right idea. We need more people making meaningful measurements as he does.

  112. I agree that Headfi's practices regarding banning are heavy handed in many cases. And I personally believe in maximum freedom of expression in content consistant with keeping some level of decorum. But I understand restricting certain subjects in the general forums.

    Double blind and hi-end cables are two such subjects. These subjects introduced into non-technical threads tend to de-evolve them into "you didn't do DBT, so your opinion is invalid" or diatribes about how the purchaser is a idiot for how he chose to spend his money followed by general mud slinging in both directions that derail the original subject of the thread.

    Now I have a technical background and am very skeptical about cables, but I don't think DBT is particularly useful for evaluating audio gear for what I think are solid reasons. But I don't insist on my point of view for everyone and believe a specific forum to discuss this stuff is appropriate.

    I do think that Headfi is overly zealous to defend their benefactors. It's understandable that they would not want to jeopardize their support, but I think most of them are big boys and can defend themselves. I think it looks worse for the manufacturer if it seems like censorship is necessary to defend their position.

    I personally wish their was more restraint in which threads people choose to post. For example, what's the point of posting an anti cable difference rant in a thread reviewing some fancy cable? People who disagree get ticked off and folks who agree with your premise won't be reading the thread anyway. Or conversely, knee-jerk defending a favored manufacturer or product from legitimate criticism? And it all tends to degenerate into a boring (to all but those directly involved) flame war.

    Certainly, moderating a large diverse web site such as Headfi is not a simple thing. But I think the culture there is to over-react to things which opens them to the criticisms expressed in this blog.

  113. Too many businesses cow tow to advertisers. Even throwing some morals out from time to time. Yes money is tight, but this never ends until over-inflated data, and out and out lies are no longer allowed in advertising. Have a big laugh there? Like that will ever happen. I am so bloody tired of Manufacturers lies, poor quality merchandise and wayyyyyyyy too many pricey items that have become so quickly disposable. Ouch! Like your blog. Thanks.

  114. Having been banned at Head-Fi for similar reasons, you have my sympathies. I have found that dissenting opinion no matter how rationally argued and dispassionately expressed, is not welcome at Head-Fi. Make mention of the LCD-2's "shelved-down treble" at your peril as its evangelical owners (including a forum administrator) quickly gather to denounce you for having the temerity to find fault with it. Head-Fi is a forum in name only where "debate, even heated debate" is not encouraged but stymied by partisan forum members who mistake barracking for discussion, and over-zealous moderators who abuse their powers without compunction.

  115. Thanks for the last several comments. I've been told Jude and his gang of mods/admins operate under the premise of keeping Head-Fi a "nice place" and that's their basis for censoring many things that are controversial. But, in my opinion, Head-Fi needs to look long and hard at some of their own admins/mods who seem to create more controversy than many of the members they censor/threaten/ban. And there's no question some of them are anything but "nice" at times.

    Head-Fi admins/mods have been accused of trolling, provoking members into being banned, making personal attacks, adding stupid and childish posts that serve no helpful purpose, diluting threads they personally don't agree with, etc. So there seems to be a massive double standard and, in my opinion, it's become toxic.

    The ABI O2 Thread already has 20,000 hits and 250+ posts--many probably from Head-Fi members. And it's been largely drama free. In contrast, the Head-Fi O2 thread is filled with the nastiness Jude officially says he's trying to prevent.

    Besides the fact ABI admins and mods seem to be vastly better behaved and genuinely helpful, I think the other big difference is ABI doesn't have (to my knowledge) cozy/financial relationships with lots of companies selling headphone gear. ABI, without continual draconian action by their mods/admins, is a vastly friendlier place--the very sort of place Jude claims he wants Head-Fi to be.

  116. What took you so long? I took down all of my posts and closed my Head-Fi account at least five years ago. My mother brought me up correctly, I don't need Head-Fi telling me what I can and can't say. Without my free content, they have nothing.

    There has ALWAYS been a bit of hucksterism in the audio business. I don't know the economics of everything, but Head-Fi sure have their favorites!

  117. Head-fi took advatage of a lot of folks, when TTVJ started selling $10k headphone amps the handwriting was on the wall. They actually edited a post to set up a ban when the amp was discussed. Very devious, but when you are ripping people off for thousands of dollars it is a big big poker game. I could care less, I believe I helped quite a few folks there, but learned nothing.

    I will say NwAvGuy, I can tell you are an engineer as am I. But sometimes I think you confuse transducers, ADC's, and FFT with human anatomy, perception and consiousness. Its common for engineers to have a cartesian mindset, but understand that in reproducing live sound perception there is no definition for accuracy. Hearing/perception can't be modeled with physics anymore than human consciousness can be. You are a smart guy, and must know that DBT's are nothing more than statistical sampling and by their foundation always have a confidence interval of uncertainty dependant on sample size. DBT comes from the "field" of psychology, which as an engineer you should know is not a science, rather probability and inductions:)

    Let me put it this way, fast foward 400 years. We have a brain scanner that maps all our neuron activity. Guy plays his guitar in his room daily, the scanner maps out all the neural activity of what he heard. Now in the 400 years we have developed accurate recording (we don't have that now.) So we he plays back his recording on an class A SE amp his hearing neural activity mapped again, then he plays it back with a class AB amp and his hearing neural response is once again mapped.

    Now after 400 years we can say which amp technology is more accurate. An ADC+FFT can't do this :)

  118. Thanks for your comments anon. Given that we can't all fast forward 400 years for our neuron mapping we have to do the best we can with what we have today. And, most into the more objective side of all this, would agree that blind listening--flaws and all--is a huge improvement over the usual biased sighted listening. While objective measurements serve many useful purposes for comparing gear, determining compatibility of gear, etc.

    I have no issues with subjective preferences and have said many times its ultimately about what puts the biggest smile on someone's face. This blog, however, is mostly about challenging objective claims--manufacture's specifications, claims that 3 channel amps have lower distortion, and in the case of this article and Schiit Audio, transients the manufacture claimed were a few hundred millivolts but turn out to be ten times higher. No blind tests or neuron scans are required to properly use an oscilloscope.

  119. Congratulations: this blog is the third thing in the list when you Google "Head-Fi", which means that their decision to ban you backfired pretty enormously.

    My posts on Head-Fi generally go in the Music forums ... it seems to me that the general posting population is in decline there, so maybe they've picked a bad time to go making enemies.

  120. You might consider to +1 this entry. Helps to keep this on top of the list.

  121. I will speak slightly in the defence of Head-Fi.
    I doubt that Jude and the mods are evil, though they should by no means be worshiped as all knowing gods of truth.

    Personally I think Head-Fi is an excellent forum, as long as you take it with a big pinch of salt. Most members would agree with me on this. And at least a majority of the members also agree that $4k amps or DAC don't heavily outperform a $250 one. The difference is there, and the difference in quality might be audible.
    Many members also agree that cables and burn-in are large part myth and claims not backed by opinions rather than numbers.

    On the other hand a technically perfect amp could be found as boring. For example, the slight distortion added by tubes is delightful, though technically inferior. Sound signature of audio products is what makes us consider it bad or good; numerical data is only part of the picture.

    Head-fi is a pretty enjoyable place, as long as you ignore everyone stating that you must spend thousands of dollars on amps or DAC's (or even cables) to fully enjoy a headphone. A decent amp is required, and anything better is nice, but far from justifiable from a bang for buck perspective.

    I must admit though that my favorite threads are the ones about anime, music and pictures of peoples rigs.
    Maybe it's time for me to move on to another forum.


  122. Tilpo, thanks for your comments. I would suggest reading my Subjective vs Objective if you haven't already. Some of what you mention is arguably false and there's little objective evidence to support "the difference is there" as you claim.

    Sure, if you want to listen to your amp along with the music, tube amps can sound different. But a lot of the claimed differences in electronics on Head-Fi are purely the result of sighted listening bias.

  123. I wouldn't say there is no difference. I have compared some amplifiers from difference price ranges and once you get into the 'decent' range there are small differences between most of the amps.
    But I wouldn't categorize it as a difference in sound quality, but rather a different in sound signature.

    Of course, the amps that I compared might be bad examples. I.e. I compared a 1980's high-end receiver, a tube amp (Little Dot MKIV) and a solid state amp (Audio-GD NFB-12). These amps are expected to have varying sound signatures due to their different topologies.
    And once again the differences were small, making me almost regret my purchase of the Little Dot, but I guess we need to learn things the hard way in this hobby.

    There is of course the possibility of looking at my preference from a completely different perspective. Let's start with the example of when I owned a Razer Megalodon gaming headset. I was convinced it was the best thing ever, and I denied (subconsciously or otherwise) the people stating that it wasn't good at all. I was proud of my purchase, and it's mere human nature to defend our choices, whether they be good or bad.
    This could be happening now as well; I paid $400 for it, and I expect it to outperform the cheaper Audio-GD NFB-12. That might bias me and subconsciously cause me to prefer the more expansive amp purely on a cost basis.
    Still this wouldn't change a single thing; I still genuinely enjoy it, so whether it's a placebo or not is not something I should care about.

    That's why I think being %100 objective does not completely work either; if you hear a difference, it is still a difference even if it's imaginary.
    Furthermore sound signature (e.g. distortion caused by tubes) can't really be defined numerically and makes listening preference more important than specs.

    Forgive me for any possible inconsistencies, I'm not very good in putting this to exact words.

  124. No worries. The guy behind Audio-GD seems to have some very odd priorities. He openly states he doesn't expect Audio-GD gear to measure well, and from what I've seen, the measurements are downright horrible. He was also caught shipping mis-wired products that many consider dangerous. In my opinion most, if not all, of his designs are pure snake oil.

    By his own admission he designs by ear and I've shown countless examples of why that doesn't work (and you just described your own example above). I've got dozens of AES papers, blind studies, and more that support my side of this argument. What does Audio-GD have that's credible besides a bunch of apparent shills and irrational fan boys on Head-Fi?

    So, in my opinion, Audio-GD gear cannot be taken seriously or genuinely compared to anything that measures even remotely well. Old stereo receivers typically have 200+ ohm output impedances so they're not in the game either. And a cheapo Chinese tube amp can't be expected to measure well either. So yeah, if you want to compare those three products--all of which are likely seriously flawed--I'm not surprised if they each mess the sound in audible and different ways. That's like comparing three leaky buckets. Does it really matter which one leaks the slowest? Why not get a bucket without a hole in it in the first place?

    If you take well design products that measure reasonably well, like say the $900 HeadAmp GS-1, and compare it to the $100 O2 Headphone Amp. In a blind test, the odds are good nobody can hear a difference. Just like happened with the O2 up against the Benchmark DAC1 Pre in a blind test.

    I've offered the O2 Challenge and so far haven't had so much as a nibble.

  125. I don't get this argument some people make about tricking themselves into liking the sound of more expensive gear. If a product costs $2000 and doesn't end up performing much better than a $200 one... then can't you "trick" yourself into liking the cheaper one just as easily?

  126. Well stating they are all 'seriously flawed' might be going to far. They each change this signal in some audible way, but that is not bad per se.
    Like I said, I love the stuff that a tube amp does to sound. It might be flawed from a technical perspective, but it might be good from a musical perspective. As tempting as numbers can be, the most important thing is how well we can enjoy our music.
    I wouldn't go bashing too much on the NFB-12 though; It's a great DAC for $200, there might be better ones at that price, but the difference would be marginal. I would have to agree that Audio-GD does some things which can be considered controversial, or just plain stupid (e.g. the Australian cables which were wired wrong)

    On another note I guess I can hopefully end (some of) my madness by testing one of your claims:
    Soon I'll be building a mini3, which you claim to be seriously screwed up. If I later built an O2 as well I can compare the two and see to what extend your argument is correct.
    If the mini3 is better to my ears, then [i]in my opinion[/i] your 'political' stand point is not entirely correct. If they draw or especially if the O2 wins I might be leaning more towards your side of the coin.
    I won't be at a loss, since I can always sell the one of the two I don't like for more than the price of the components.

    I have a word of advice for you, but don't take it too personal. I respect your perspective on the audio world, and I would consider myself sharing a similar perspective. But you do seem to react in a hostile way whenever someone says something that goes against your ideals/opinion. It can easily be interpreted as you trying to make a fool out of the people who don't share your opinion. This is probably part of the reason some people don't like you (and ban you).

    I'm not saying you're wrong, just that you are not entirely right at all times either. And the way you formulate your argument can be interpreted as hostile.

    Just stating my obeservation.

  127. Thanks for your added comments Tilpo. I try to keep most of my "hostile comments" as you call them centered around more objective sorts of things that are more black and white. If I'm wrong, I admit I'm wrong. That's the nice thing about objective claims--they can hopefully be verified by others.

    When an amplifier has significant measurable and audible distortion, from an objective perspective, that qualifies as flawed. I think any audio engineer would agree. If an amp distorts the audio enough to be audible in normal operation it's flawed. You might like driving a V8 car that's running on only 7 cylinders but that doesn't mean the car's not significantly flawed just because you like an engine that runs rough.

    Where is your objective evidence "the NFB-12 is a great DAC for $200"? I haven't seen any. If you're aware of proper measurements, or blind listening tests, comparing the NFB-12 to other similarly priced DACs, please direct me to them? If you simply mean you like its distortion, that's like saying you like the color blue so that makes blue the best color for everyone. You're using subjective criteria that's heavily influenced by personal bias. That's very different than what I'm talking about.

    From a subjective perspective I've said many times it's about personal preferences, etc. You don't see me going after say Bottlehead, even though their tube amps have lots of flaws, because unlike AMB, Bottlehead doesn't make false objective claims for their products.

    You may well like the Mini3. It does OK into higher impedance loads with fairly sensitive heapdhones. You also seem to like distortion and it has more distortion than many amps. Some have even proposed the Mini3's interchannel distortion creates a kind of ill-conceived "crossfeed" that some might like. So your "test" won't really prove anything except what you personally like.

    To run tests that are applicable to everyone, you really need to stick to objective criteria which is what this blog is all about. One person's subjective preferences are not much help to everyone else. But objective measurements, that can be verified by others and are conducted in a fair way to allow comparing products, can be a huge help.

    The Mini3, for example, measures much worse than AMB claims it does. If AMB simply said it sounds good, I'd have no complaint at all as "sound" is a purely subjective thing. It's when people start making objective claims that it's valid to see if they're really true. That's what I've done with this blog and on Head-Fi. And that's appears to be what got me banned on Head-Fi and AMB because it went against financial interests with those who run both sites.

    To put it another way, I don't think I was banned from Head-Fi or AMB for being "hostile". If you go read the applicable threads, I was far less hostile than many of the fanboys who didn't want to believe the truth about products they own or have a financial interest in. And the fanboys were not banned--I was.

  128. My evidence for saying the NFB-12 is a great DAC for $200 is because it improved sound quality a vast amount over another DAC - one from some cheap AV device as well as the integrated chipset of my motherboard.
    I have no way to compare it to similarly priced DAC's, but so far it performed to it's expectations and I found it worth the $200 investment.
    If I made a mistake by buying it because there were better ones available (and there probably are, I have to admit I might have been trapped by flavor of the month), then so be it.
    I think that without out doubt it might have been a mistake to buy it given other options, but just not a very big mistake.
    It's like making a gamble where each multiple outcome makes you happy, but some outcomes might be slightly better than others.

    The DAC is dead silent when nothing is playing, and it really improved sound quality, so I would not call it bad.
    If you would have proof that other DAC's priced at $200 vastly outperform the NFB-12 [i]in listening tests[/i]. I would personally doubt that there will be an audible (or otherwise obvious) difference between the NFB-12 and other DAC's.

    Like I said: numbers are only part of the story.

    A lot of extremely expensive cables [i]measure[/i] a lot better than your average $5-10 cable. The question is whether that difference is audible or not.

  129. This is getting off topic. If you want to continue to discuss subjective points, the Subjective vs Objective article is a better place. And again, short of some really esoteric cables that are way outside the norm, I'm not aware of any measurements that show differences at audio frequencies. If you have a link to such tests, please post it. Claims like that without anything to back them up are fairly meaningless.

    As for DACs I've published reviews of a few that cost quite a bit less than $200 and I'll be publishing more. I suspect even the $30 Behringer UCA202 I tested outperforms many, or perhaps even all, of the Audio-GD DACs. Zero/low feedback is a deeply flawed approach to audio design and the measurements I've seen of Audio-GD designs back that up.

  130. My previous comment might have been slightly ambiguous. What I meant to say was that it doesn't matter if there are better alternatives to something, as long as it's good enough.

    My personal approach to live is more or less the following: "Better would be nice, but I'll settle for 'good enough'". Some people might see this approach fundamentally flawed, but so far it has helped me go through a lot of important decisions without much regret.
    This approaches decreases the maximum gain out of making a decision, but on the other hand it also makes the decision making process far easier. As well as lowering the chance of making bad decisions and gambles.

    The NFB-12 was the same. I realized the other options, but due to the popularity of the NFB-12 at the time of buying I reckoned it couldn't be a bad choice. That's why I settled for the NFB-12; I estimated it would be good enough and satisfy my needs withing my budget. I.e. I estimated the risk involved in buying to be very low, while the gain was satisfactory.

    With hindsight I regret my purchase, but I'm still satisfied with the NFB-12. That's why I said it was a 'great DAC for $200'

    I'm sorry for getting a bit of topic, but this is the last thing I wanted to say.
    I've read a good part of your blog and it made me realize that numbers are more important than I though when it comes to amplifiers and DAC's. As well as the fact that a proper design is in all ways better than a creative design. Studying electronics a bit further than the high school stuff also helped me in realizing this.

    I wish to thank you for this, as this realization could help me save a lot of money.
    I honestly think you're an awesome guy that deserves some respect. I think it's very unfortunate you got banned from Head-Fi; we need guys like you.

  131. Hi NwAvGuy,

    I am wondering if you can provide measurements for audio-gd's DACs? or links to them? I almost bought one but instead went the fiio e7/e9 route for the Senn HD 650 after reading your reviews (and also finding out there aren't any good options at that price without DIYing)

  132. I've never bothered to test any Audio-GD gear as everything I know suggests it would be a waste of time. For example, Google Samuel Groner and "Operational Amplifier Distortion" and search the PDF on "Audio-GD".

  133. Hi anon, if I may.

    After NwAvGuy comments I felt a need to look up whether Audio-GD is really as bad as he said it would be.
    I looked up RMAA test results for the NFB-12 and found the following two:

    They both show a bad frequency response curve when running at 44Hz but once you run 96 or 192 it isn't really noticeably anymore. I'd be interested in a technical explanation of this phenomenon.
    Their reported s/n ratio is a bit optimistic at well over 10dB above measured values, but to be honest s/n of more than 100dB is not bad at all.

    The scandal of the dangerous wires should not be ignored, but overall the NFB-12 honestly doesn't look too bad.

    For reference here are 2 more RMAA results. All of the four seem fairly consistent. I'd also be interested to see what you would have to say on the test results, NwAvGuy. I'm not implying Audio-GD is the best company ever, but from the interpretation of my limited knowledge these results don't look too bad at all.


    One weird thing though that is potentially dangerous: Audio-GD reports the NFB-12 operating temperature is +5 °C to +40 °C.
    When I measured temperature during normal operation the casing was already around 30°C. The circuitry could easily be 40°C at normal playback. Maybe I should measure temperature inside as well?
    Weird if you ask me.

    Very best,

  134. Rik/Tilpo, First off, please see my RMAA article for all the problems and issues with RMAA.

    There was apparently no load used if they even tested the headphone output and that renders many of the tests meaningless. Audio-GD's low/zero feedback design principals will not fully reveal their poor performance unless the output is properly loaded. Again, see the Audio-GD op amp reviews.

    In addition, the NFB-12 apparently always uses 24/192 digital filtering and that creates potentially audible problems with high frequency alias distortion at lower sampling rates. The DAC chip(s) are being used in an invalid way as they are designed to be configured by a microcontroller on the fly for different sampling rates. But the NFB-12, AFAIK, doesn't have a microcontroller.

    The alias issue doesn't normally show up in RMAA tests although the IMD sweeps don't look very good for the NFB-12 and that might partly be why. It's also interesting the THD vs frequency sweeps were left out. They might hint at the problem as well.

    99% of all music is 44 Khz yet the NFB-12 is optimized for 24/192 and does poorly at 44 Khz because it cannot properly reconfigure the DAC chips for different sampling rates. And re-sampling (or up-sampling) can have audible artifacts that won't show up in RMAA testing.

    RMAA doesn't test jitter which is one of the most difficult things to get correct in a DAC--especially via USB. Because Audio-GD doesn't seem to even believe in measurements, I have to wonder if the NFB-12 has even been tested for jitter?

    The 96 dB SNR number at 16/44 is highly suspicious as that's the theoretical maximum for 16 bit audio if the device were 100% perfect. In other words, I suspect either RMAA was not working correctly or there is some other problem with the published results.

    Many have complained the NFB-12 "runs hot". Heat shortens the life of electronics--especially electrolytic capacitors of which there are many in the NFB-12. Audio-GD's weird designs with lots of discrete transistors, class-A circuitry, multiple power supply regulators, etc. all create more heat. A simpler more traditional design would draw much less power, create much less heat, and most important, very likely perform much better.

    You don't have to read very far on the Audio-GD website to realize the design priorities are more about myths and snake oil than proper engineering. Yeah, you get a lot of trendy parts jammed into a nice looking box for $200. But if those parts don't play nice together (which in this case it seems they don't), and the performance is not properly documented, I personally think it's a waste of $200.

    Audio-GD products are the exact opposite of what this blog is all about--focusing on objective performance. Despite what some may think, I try to review products that I can recommend as being solid performers in their category for the money. If a product has one or more obvious flaws before even testing it I usually don't bother. Viewed from an audio engineer's perspective, most Audio-GD products are seriously flawed by design.

    1. "The 96 dB SNR number at 16/44 is highly suspicious as that's the theoretical maximum for 16 bit audio if the device were 100% perfect. In other words, I suspect either RMAA was not working correctly or there is some other problem with the published results."

      RMAA tends to print SNR and dynamic range values that are about 3 dB higher than they really are. This is either a crude attempt to compensate for the additional noise from the ADC, or the levels are referenced to a 0 dBFS square wave instead of a sine.

      If the sound card and the NFB-12 were used on the same PC, and there is no ground isolation in the path from the USB port of the machine to the line input of the sound card, then the results (particularly the noise) could have been affected by a ground loop.

  135. I have read your article on RMAA before posting that, but I was mainly just wondering what your interpretation of the data would be.
    Since I don't have an incredible amount of experience with RMAA I suspected my interpretation wouldn't have to be correct. (turns out it wasn't)

    Also interestingly Audio-GD does measure stuff, but they do admit that they don't think the best measuring stuff sounds the best. Kingwa said the following on which digital filter to use (paraphrased from bad English)
    "I don't know why the WM8741 has digital filters that measure so differently. I don't think it's a joke.
    But I don't think all users prefer the best measuring results.
    A cheap PC soundcard already offer excellently measuring sound similar to some $5000 gear."
    So you are indeed right in noting that Kingwa (Audio-GD) doesn't design his stuff by measurement, but more by ear.
    I was actually very dissapointing in reading this, but I guess I had it coming.

    Thanks for your input.

  136. NwAvGuy: Well, why are you cryin' about being banned ... didn't you see (were pre-warned by) this:

    LOL! This is an old (short-lived) thread that may very well have been edited by Jude and his Overlords. I'm surprised it is still up. How ironic that he last post was from a person that was "BANNED".

    Speaking of "BANNED" -- the logo that appears below the Member ... it seems to have "evolved" a bit. Used to be any angry red background, and "BANNED!" with that excl. point!

  137. The way Schiit handled this issue reminds me the way Toyota handled the breaks issue. First deny, second deny, third deny - and when pressed investigate and offer a recall. No one congratulated Toyota for the recall and no one should. For some odd reason, people are throwing confetti at Schiit for offering to install a DC relay (a protectoin device) for existing units...

    As a software engineer who works in one of the largest tech companies, the way Schiit handled it is offending. R&D usually stands for Research and Development, but I have had my share dealing with charlatans where it stood for "Redirect and Deflect".
    Once I open a ticket for a software bug, I attach steps for reproduction. The engineer who is assigned to the bug then has to respond to it by trying to reproduce it. If it cannot be reproduced then then the case is closed. An engineer who would close a ticket without trying (just like Jason and Mike didnt try) would get severely spanked if the matter escalates further. For some reason, Schiit-heads at head-fi see things otherwise.

    While I have my doubts about the numbers Jason initially reported were of actual measurements of the Asgard model, I have no doubt about that they didn't test any production unit. He might have checked a prototype. Might have.

    What I take from this is that the testing methodology at Schiit is shaky at best, if it were not, they would have had a complete list of tests that they do on prototype and later on production units.

    I originally considered buying a Schiit amp. I stumbled upon this issue by incident.
    I read the entire 170post thread on head-fi. I was even more outraged by Moffat's direct attack on you. You have your reasons to stay behind an anonymous nickname. I respect that. Calling you a coward is what bullies do and bullies are the worst kind of cowards.

    Needless to say that I have no intention of doing any business with Schiit.
    Even though they are US company, I would rather buy made in PRC from a brand that I know has thorough testing methodology than a small "moms and pop" shop like Schiit.

    Mike and Jason have a reputation of good designers, but designing something is different than producing something. You need to have procedures and protocols, otherwise you end up burning headphones ... or houses...

  138. There is a hugh head-fi thread about the O2 and "that guy" who shall go unlinked. Makes one want to visit here for root cause of the fuss. Head-fi has a wonderful mix of sensible people and idiots. There is much interest in building the O2.

    I like this blog. It's a great resource for understanding 3 channel amps and such. I share your concern about phones at risk from unreliable amps.

    I have Fubar III/Mk2 DAC/amp which has 4 relays. Does it really have the lo-z output as claimed? I will try your impedance test. -- fubar3 at head-fi

  139. NWa, sorry to hear about the ban. after you've been around a while you realise that sites like headfi and computer audiophile and little more than ad sites for the brands on them, they are not true user forums like hydrogen audio.

    I'm glad to see Schit rectified the issue, that's fair and we should measure them on their actiosn not their short term bluster and rushed initial response.

  140. If I don't want to get my asgard relayed, what's the workaround to get around the issue of the voltage spike?

  141. @Anon, relays are a GOOD thing. The only work around is to always unplug your headphones before powering the Asgard on or off and hope the power never goes out while it's powered on. Or get a properly designed and tested amp.

  142. Bravo!
    Kudos for for being banned. I left in disgust years ago once commercial interests starting taking over the DIY forum. I posted enough inflammatory things that I'm surprised (and a little disappointed) I wasn't banned!
    These days Head-Fi is just a magazine full of ads. DIY is almost discouraged it seems with the majority of the subforums devoted to sponsers. The topics are about products and fanboys are rabid.
    I think you're a good engineer. Remember the Lloyd family motto: Truth Against the World!

  143. Well, in one more example of censorship at Head-Fi, the O2 thread has been locked.

    So in a O2 review thread, people started wondering why the main thread was locked.

    Next day all the comments about that were gone or edited, as if that had never happened.

    This is really scary, it is clear that administrators at Head-fi delete and edit posts as their own wish. As a poster there, I feel like being in an oppressive police state, really really scary.

    We have a need for a reliable head-fi substitute. IMHO Head-Fi is not worth reading it anymore and people should look for other places.

    NwAvGuy, thanks for highlighting the issues with Head-Fi. Fortunately this post in high enough in Google so people can get good information.

    At first I didn't agree with some of your methods (like in the AMB case), but as time passes, it is more clear to me that you were right in every concern you had. Keep up the good work.

  144. Head-fi got afraid, because the O2 has been way more popular than they ever could believe. It is a pity, because the O2 thread was the only thread I read there. NwAvGuy`s blog is now the main resource when it comes to head-fi equipment. This is now the only site I trust, and what I buy will be decided by rewievs I find here. I have allready ordered the O2 from Mr Slim, and look forward to receive it. Thanks for all the time you spend here making this superior blog.

  145. Head Fi is a place for Snobs to mate with each other. The best advice I can offer is to get the info you need from the site and get out as fast as possible before one of the snobs recommend a $400 interconnect or something dumb like that. On that site, being an audiophile means you own the best and most expensive gear imaginable. Everywhere else, it means you have a love for and passion for audio gear and music of all types. Schiit created a piece of junk that could possibly damage your gear, as some people are saying. ( I've never tested it so I cant say for sure )but they are a sponsor, they are American made and they have a cool name. That alone is enough for sales to skyrocket and naturally Jude and the other administrators will of course defend and protect them to the death.

    Have you seen Judes youtube blog videos? I think he is a nice guy but needs to take a deep breathe and a few steps back and try to realize he is a nut bar, sellout and only wants to showcase the most elite gear. If I were in a position of power like he is, I would be talking more about Best Buy gear that are affordable rather than the $2000 LCD3, ALO products and other scam gear from some of the other sponsors.

  146. I have just ordered an O2, its becoming very desirable by the headfiers but most are hush hush because , you know why!
    Any advice what dac to get, price max $500.
    Thank you for the O2 hoping it will meet my expectation

  147. Thanks everyone for the last several comments and views on Head-Fi. I generally agree with most of it.

    To the last post, I hope you enjoy your O2 as well. Here are some DAC suggestions to pair with the O2:

    - Check back here in December for an article about the upcoming desktop version of the O2 (the Objective Desktop Amp or "ODA") and the optional 24/96 over USB DAC that I'm hoping will be available to go with it. The ODA DAC may also work with the O2.

    - I believe there are going to be more reasonably priced DACs coming that offer 24 bit support over USB. The first is the FiiO E10 which I hope to test before the end of the year. But I can't yet recommend it without testing it. 24 bit has some genuine benefit if you want to control the volume from your PC rather than with the volume control on the amp (or headphone DAC).

    - If you want something relatively cheap and portable, perhaps as an interim purchase until the other options are available, the Creative X-Fi Go! Pro (see my recent review) performs fairly well, is very portable, and under $40. For desktop use the Behringer UCA202 is even cheaper. Both fall a bit short of even 16 bit performance, however, so are best used with the PC volume an maximum and the volume controlled at the headphone amp.

    - If you want something now that's fairly high-end, the Centrance DACport is a good option. The DACmini is even better for desktop use with multiple inputs, etc, but a bit over your price range. If you order either with the 1 ohm output option you may not even need the O2 unless you have really hungry headphones.

    - I haven't tested one, but the Music Fidelity V-DAC II might be another option that supports 24 bit over USB.

  148. Thank you very much for the DAC advice,as quoted from a very well known DIY company representative :
    "Yes, it's a shame Head-Fi had to ban NwAvGuy. He may not be the most agreeable character, but he's a top-notch engineer!"

  149. Interesting. Epiphany is now an official Head-Fi sponsor and has a sponsored thread promoting their assembled O2.

    Maybe you should ask Jude what his rates are to get un-banned. ;-)

  150. @Anon, yeah, it's a good laugh isn't it? It's just more evidence pointing to H-F's true agenda.

  151. So many forums are jokes anymore. Censorship just makes a place look like they have a corporate agenda. I, too, have been kicked off head-fi and my work's IP address has been banned. I simply made a remark about how Chinese-made goods are usually copies of better stuff, made cheaper, with corners usually cut, and multiple people came in and jumped on me for being racist, despite no slurs or mention of a race. Then when I got the ban notice from the owner, and saw that his profile picture had a picture of a little Asian girl, who I would presume is his daughter, it all made sense. Since I was banned before for saying someone's headphone painting job ( http://www.head-fi.org/t/524540/yay-i-finished-painting-my-grados-purple-talking-dinosaur-style ) looked like a a 6-year-old did it, after the OP wasn't even offended, but rather other people. I don't care much for hydrogenaudio, but at least they are mainly objective in their views, but I think to the point where they ignore people's actual proof with pseudo-scientific terms and excuses to say that nothing can be better than what something in the past claims.

  152. A lot of those chinese products they are promoting on Head-fi, are just crap. I have tried several of them, and they have all had major flaws. Now I stick to NwAvGuys blog, and follow the advises he gives.

  153. It's not just in the audio realm that this type of ban happens.

    I was banned from a forum devoted to Buell motorcycles -- one with rules that prohibit even mentioning deals on Buell parts and accessories if the seller is not a "sponsor." The board's owner get a large chunk of income from the annual fees he collects from the "sponsors." Even pointing out the merits of products that compete with those sold by the "sponsors" is likely to result in the owner and his minions (moderators) coming down hard on you, questioning your engineering knowledge, intelligence, experience, and skills. If you make valid points that support your position, those posts often mysteriously disappear.

    People need to become more savvy and recognize that "sponsored" forums are about as unbiased as global warming "studies" funded Exxon. If you want fair, open, and honest discussions of the merits and flaws of products, then discuss them in forums that do not take payments from the manufacturers and sellers of the products being discussed.

    P.S. I've also been banned from audiophile forums for espousing double-blind testing and measurement over the pompous musings of self-proclaimed golden-eared audiophiles. I've been censored and banned for pointing out the utter stupidity of RCA coax cables with directional arrows (for an AC signal!). I was attacked for calling George Tice, of Tice TPT clock (look it up) infamy, a con-artist.

  154. Thanks for the last 3 comments. Did someone post a new link to this article somewhere? There's been more activity lately.

    Some forums make it very clear the forum is funded by a group of sponsors. They also typically make it clear the users are to respect the method of funding and not post things that might cause sponsors to drop their support. If that's all stated clearly on the appropriate pages, as it often is, I'm OK with that.

    Head-Fi is different. While there are clearly commercial ads in your face all over every page, it's not clear Jude and crowd often act behind the scenes like some communist government trying to keep their citizens from finding out the real truth. Head-Fi's policies are not stated clearly, or in an obvious way, and what policies they do have hidden away are applied very inconsistently. There's massive bias in who gets censored or banned.

    Head-Fi is very much like opening a magazine to the middle of a "Special Advertising Section" but nowhere on the pages you're looking at does it say that. You think you're looking at say a product write up, but it's really a paid ad. Another analogy would be channel surfing into the middle of a paid infomercial that looked like a talk show host interviewing someone.

    There are reasons most magazines and TV networks required the words "Paid Advertisement" always be displayed when the content isn't what it seems. To do otherwise is unethical and perhaps even fraudulent.

    Jude and crowd do the opposite of clearly labeling Head-Fi. Instead they seem to try hard to make Head-Fi seem like this open, happy, social, forum where anyone can share their thoughts about gear, etc. But that's far from the reality. I call that deception.

  155. I've been a member of Head-fi for a number of years and I have to say I've never been quite so disappointed in them since reading about the aftermath of your experiences. I understand that the site has financial interests, but their ham handed suppression of objective criticism is a little too overt a display of their profit motive. It's kind of sickening.

    I just wanted to extend my thanks and encouragement for doing what you do. It's never easy to go against the grain and tell the emperor he has no clothes. You're in a unique position to be armed with the knowledge to look past manufacturer and fanboy hyperbole and call it BS when it's BS, while presenting supporting facts for the public to decide for themselves.

    Being a computer systems engineer I know that while numbers don't always tell the whole story, the numbers don't lie.

    Keep up the great work, we need more troublemakers like you! :)

  156. I would really love to see you do some testing on a schiit bifrost dac. Given its immense popularity as a slightly above entry level dac, and the claims they make about it essentially be incredible value for the money, and the fact that I own one and want to know if i got what i paid for.

    Thanks, keep up the amazing work!

  157. @br777, I'm not sure if I'll get the chance to test a Bifrost or not. Given Schiit's highly "creative" marketing, and the well documented problems with some of their other products, it's hard to know how the Bifrost really performs. But, more to the point, there are less expensive options that do have well documented performance--like those from HRT and Centrance.

  158. Hi there NwAvGuy.

    I've just read my way through the whole of the section of your blog and just wanted to say that you have my sympathies. I've not got myself banned from Head-Fi (or any other forum as yet), but that's probably only because I've rarely found a subject worth commenting on and have a 'have a cup of tea before posting' policy with anything controversial.

    Unfortunately forums can be the best of worst things on the web. When they are good (and to be fair, there are many which are), they are a very useful source of information and engaging discussion. However they can frequently be spoiled by apparent commercial conflicts of interest (as would appear to be the case with Head-Fi) and/or jumped-up PITAs who 'own' the forum and feel entitled to do as they choose, while stopping others from doing the same.

    My general experience is that forums who use a deliberately personal approach (i.e. real names rather than just hiding behind user-names), are less prone to the kind of nonsense which frequently takes place. It's all too easy to act 'the big man' when you're just a nameless username on the web....

    Anyway, love your blog and will be keeping up to speed on goings on while I keep searching for a head-gear site where freedom of speech (within the normal reasonable limits) hasn't been totally squashed.

    All the best and kind regards

    Steve Gascoyne

    p.s. As I've used the same username and mentioned my real name, I'm half expecting this post to earn me a Head-Fi ban. I'll let you know. :-)

  159. Hi NwAvGuy,

    Years ago, I got banned from a subjectivist-run audiophile forum. I called George Tice a con artist and publicly went up against him in the forum and even over the phone. (If you're unfamiliar with his Tice R-4 TPT Clock, look it up.) I had more than a couple of run-ins with the often-unpleasant John Curl (designs for Parasound), a man who later wrote "Most passive parts have some measurable distortion. Some distortion mechanisms are subtle and are difficult to measure, but are detected in listening tests."

    I got tired of "The Emperor's New Clothes" approach to audio in which people claimed that 'any true audiophile' would hear improvements with $400 audio cables or green paint on the edge of CDs or whatever. If you claimed to hear no difference, you would be accused of lacking 'critical listening skills', having poor hearing, or not having a true high-end audio system.

    Remember the printed arrows on RCA cables, purportedly to tell the consumer (ahem, "audiophile") which end should to into an input? That was ridiculous enough with AC signals. But someone on the aforementioned forum claimed that the arrows were going the wrong direction on some cables because he reversed the cables and could hear an improvement. (I'm sure he said something like 'a veil was lifted' or 'there was an air around the instruments' or that 'woodwinds had a tangible presence" or some such nonsense, but fortunately, I can no longer remember the details.)

    There was always an excuse for why a blind (single or double) test could not be performed. An AB switch would degrade the sound so much that the comparison would be meaningless. Switching cables would take too long. The person would need to listen to each device for at least a week at a time. The excuses went on and on.

    So you're not alone. But being a subjectivist engineer in most audiophile forums is like being a medical doctor in a room full of people waiting to see a faith healer.


  160. Thanks Fred. I know I'm not very popular in some circles as I'm the guy exposing Santa Claus to a group of wide eyed little kids as the fat, drunk, next door neighbor. Sometimes the truth hurts. If you haven't seen my Subjective vs Objective article you may enjoy it as well.

  161. People don't want facts, the want their favorite gurus and site-supporting shills in the industry with big names who support lore and have nothing but pseudo-scientific rhetoric to add. Us lesser members can't say anything truthful, scientific or unflattering, that's unwelcome. A few sites like Canuck Audio Mart and AudioKarma have been going this way, really bad and its always the same people tryig to convert the newcomers. Anytime someone with measurements or solid technical advice comes on, they are trampled by the mystics in the FLat Earth "it can't be measured becuase I read it on the internet" society. What really surprised me at first but has become the norm is there always seems to be a posse of members (who haven't visited the site in months or a year) who pop up out of nowhere all at once to throw their piece in about how great a retailer site supporter's junk supposedly is.

  162. Nwavguy is correct on all accounts, headfi is a biased forum and will remain so

  163. It seems like I've been banned from head-fi for pointing out flaws in the Hisoundaudio Studio V, and previous flaws in the Clip+.

    1. hey kiteki san!!! yeah I saw you got banned that's sadness :(( where do is your new hang out place?

      -Sad Panda.

  164. Hi - just came to look at the O2 amp, and was not at all surprised to see that you were banned from head-fi for not joining the groupthink and sucking up to sponsors as is expected. I'm a "headphones supremus" there though I rarely visit these days. Jude is one of those "I want to believe" types and the place just does not allow science or critical anything (thinking, posting, whatever!)

  165. Head-fi is business make money why you not understan??

  166. @businessman, I know Head-Fi is making lots of money (over $500 a day according to the link you provided). What I don't understand is Head-Fi is a ".ORG" site which implies it's not for profit. And Jude and crowd seem to be deceiving many into believing they offer expert unbiased advice and just want Head-Fi to be a place where headphone geeks can hang out. I don't believe they're accurately representing just how commercial Head-Fi really is.

    1. Oh ya... head-fi is advertise space.

      It has mask like open forum to keep traffic flow high.

      Internet is free, you can make "truth-fi" forum, if you feel.

  167. Hi NwAvGuy, before, you said that Audio-GD products can't be taken seriously. I've been wondering about the NFD design of their DACs. Is this one of the flawed concepts? You mentioned that amps with NFD can suffer with an inductive load. Does this also hold true for DACs?

    Also, you seem to have an idea about how a few of the designers/manufacturers in the audio community work. Are there any that you would recommend without testing their products, just based on what you know of their design philosophy?

  168. @Anon, I think you mean "NFB" (as in Negative Feed Back)? NFB is a complex topic and worthy of its own article here someday. Suffice it to say NFB is an essential tool in audio design and most of its bad reputation is no longer applicable, pure myth, or the result of the designer not using it correctly. I'm not aware of any objective evidence showing low or zero NFB designs perform better in any way. In fact, the reverse is nearly always true.

    Virtually every recording of music you can play has already been through high NFB audio circuitry--sometimes dozens of times. Op amp buffers are used throughout the recording signal chain and have extremely high levels of feedback. If it really sounds as bad as some claim, that means 99.99% of the music we all listen to must sound bad. So yeah, I think Audio-GD, Schiit Audio, or anyone else, touting low/zero NFB designs are selling snake oil or marketing gimmicks. Unless, of course, you like to listen to your gear rather than your music.

  169. Confusingly enough, Audio-GD uses "NFB" to mean "Non-Feedback"...

    Translation issues maybe? Their English site isn't exactly very clear.

  170. maverickronin, that's interesting. misled me. wonder how no feedback would work. I'm assuming it's discrete?

    1. Anon, from what I've seen Audio-GD is mixing discrete and ICs in their designs in ways that are difficult to justify by any objective criteria. You're correct that zero feedback designs are generally discrete. While some claim their DAC supports 24 bit operation, they fail to mention that's only via S/PDIF not USB. Companies like Audio-GD claim zero feedback when that may apply only to a portion of the signal path. In my opinion it's either a marketing gimmick or seriously misguided audio design.

      All too often "esoteric" audio design seems to have a lot in common with using filters on the lens of a DSLR camera. Designers toss a tube stage in to supposedly "warm" or "sweeten" the sound. And Audio-GD tosses a zero feedback stage in for similar reasons. But just like a soft focus or pink tint filter permanently degrades the accuracy of the photo image, so do these high-distortion audio stages. So while some might like all their pictures to have a pink tint, most agree pink filters are generally best reserved for rare circumstances.

      Buying an Audio-GD or similar product is like buying a new camera with a non-removable pink filter welded onto the front of the lens because the designer likes the shade of pink. Most of us want accurate and neutral color reproduction in our pictures. If a particular image is too blue you can adjust it in software. The same is true in audio. The gear should be as accurate and neutral as possible (just like cameras) and if a particular track or pair of headphones needs some adjustment, you can do that in software.

  171. just a curiousity but how is schiit pronounced?

  172. On head-fi, some people don't like it when you tread on their fairytales.

    It's like walking into a room of people watching a movie and saying "You know vampires aren't real, right...".

    I've heard someone with an exotic desktop CD player and exotic power cables say "Snake-oil this and that, if it makes you happy then why not?"

    Like Randy Jackson said on American Idol so many times "Just keeping it real, yo" ;)

  173. So you so approve of the dacport portable usb dac/amp? Your blog is wonderful to read, though I'm not an engineer and the details are beyond me. I'm reading widely in search of the most appropriate portable dac to play acoustic jazz on my grado 325i phones and maybe boost the bass a wee bit.... Love reading your comments. You opened my eyes about head-fi.org and that's a real public service! thanks!

  174. I recall seeing somewhere on HF that Jude was paid a percentage directly by Hifiman on the sale of those 'audiophile' players. So no wonder he and all the mod/admin cronies were peddling them like audio salvation.

    That site sickens me to no end.

    1. Previously, members which posted a shining review on a HiFiMAN / head-direct product received a 50% discount on their purchase after Fang's approval.

      An online store called Jaben has a similiar scheme called the inner circle.

  175. Let me first say congrats that you are the second hit at google for head-fi. :)

    I've read a bit in the posts above about single ended and push pull topology.
    I'm not really technologically literate but is not the goal for amplifier engineering is the final product which is the sound? I also understand that human perception is prone to placebo, but to judge the performance of amplifier from instrument measurement only is not wise I think, because in the end it is the sound it produced which matter.
    On the other side, I've always thought if placebo comes to the argument, which probably mean that the difference is small enough, then the factor does not really matter anyway, doesn't it?

    What do you think?

    1. It depends on if you want your amplifier to alter the sound or deliver what the recording engineer and artist intended. Once you get into altering the sound it's all subjective--like playing with equalizer settings, using bass boost, etc.

      But if you want accuracy it really is best to consider the right measurements. This has been proven in blind listening tests many times. Please see my Subjective vs Objective article from May of last year.

      Single ended amps are among the least accurate amplifier topologies. The can and do alter the sound in ways that deviate from the rest of the signal chain.

    2. When we are talking about "what is intended", I think it is highly relative. I mean even if our equipment is accurate, like the one the recorder used in making the sound, the sound rendered might not be actually what the recorder intended, e.g if it is intended for lo-fi system.
      As much as some audiophile want to be purist, coloration is unavoidable from two aspect, the listener and the equipment. Listener, when listening, actually want to hear what is pleasant to him/her and that kind of sound mostly is not accurate. In my experience reading forums in the internet, audiophiles choose not to alter the sound not because they want accurate sound, but more to the unpredictability and the hassle of it. They do change the sound to but by changing the equipment itself not by manipulating it because it is easier, the variable they can change more limited and such result is more uniform. Changing the sound is what recording engineer do, isn't it? The point is to make a sound sounds good in an equipment, rather than having an equipment that sounds good at all sound.
      The second aspect is the equipment itself. I am not a recorder myself but I've looked for recording interface for my guitar and I've found out in internet forums that even for expensive equipment, color is a big factor to consider, different circuit gives different coloration. The same also apply for playing equipment especially for speaker.

      My point is that most hobbyist do and like to alter the sound but for the less adventurous one, by changing equipment itself, well if there will be a difference in the first place.
      That is all IMHO, other may not agree.

    3. I agree with some of what you have to say, but there are a few problems. The biggest one is many differences or "coloration" that people think they hear really do not exist. All you have to do is throw a piece of cloth over the gear and the differences often disappear. And that also applies to recording engineers. It's just the way our brains work. Our senses are unavoidably influenced by other knowledge.

      So my biggest complaint are people who spend $1500 on a headphone amp thinking it sounds better than a $150 amp. Their decision is often based on false information. Countless blind listening tests and studies back this up. See: Subjective vs Objective

      But there's also a good argument to be made for having players, DACs, preamps, and amplifiers be as accurate and transparent as possible. It provides the most compatibility with other equipment and it also provides the most flexibility for altering the sound, if desired, in other ways (i.e. using EQ or other signal processing).

      Using a tube amp that rolls off in the highs to compensate for a hard surfaced room or bright speakers/headphones is like putting bags of sand in the back of your car to make it ride better. There are better options that don't involve a lot of extra distortion and the other disadvantages of tubes.

  176. One side of head-fi is a nice place for news, photos, discovery, and community meet ups. The other is well, what your whole blog entry is about.

    7 years I've been visiting the site and these incidents only get bigger and worse. So it’s absolutely disheartening to watch more and more members get banned over the same “offenses”. The pattern has yet to change.

    I recently observed more users getting banned (no idea if it was from their posts in the O2 threads or not). I just wanted to finally let you know I really appreciate work, writing, and your past efforts over at head-fi. Keep it up NwAvGuy.

  177. I've noticed a lot of posts lately that contain the words "output impedance" and more folks being skeptical of having to drop huge wads of cash to get good sound; you are like a fifth column (I hope that's the correct...uh, comparison...weeeee, English). Banning you does not seem to have had any real effect because people read stuff here and take it over there.

    I also found it funny that when you criticised certain designs, people would say something like, "What do you know? Name me something you've designed." Then, when you did design something and lots of people seemed to like it, those same folks (generalizing) said, "Ah ha! Now we know your true motives. It was to sell O2s!" Makes me want to get drunk and crawl into a cave.

    Anyway, enough ass-kissing, thanks for your blog.

  178. It's sort of like this. One amateur self-professed "audiophile" who has money to waste hears a product and claims that is great in a lengthy yet lacking substance review. Others think, well, he thinks it's good so it must be. Then they proceed to comment to others as if they owned it and tried it themselves, and the few that attempt to quell this tyranny by the majority and the grow of the idiocracy are quickly subdued.


    1. Correct. And, as I discuss in my Subjective vs Objective article, you can usually trace it back to unavoidable sighted listening bias. We're all subject to our brains filtering our hearing when we know what we're listening to. And once you start reading those forum posts and subjective reviews, you're even more biased.

      It's kind of interesting to note the rise of snake oil in audio over the years almost exactly corresponds to the rise in popularity of online forums. Forums, like Head-Fi, have made it possible spread subjective opinions, and snake oil marketing, to a much wider audience. It's something like a pyramid "multi level marketing" scheme. One person gets a few others excited about a product, and they in turn tell their friends, who in turn....

  179. There is so much snake oil at head-fi that I only read the sections about headphones;anything about amps,cables,dacs I just ignore because it's most likely hype driven.

  180. I have to say what a great amp and design. I am by no means a engineer, I am just a hobbyist when it comes to electronics but can tell when something is well designed. Such a great amp that can power about any headphone (I have D5000's and HD650's) with no noise, great clarity and also no heat, that's an impressive circuit!

    Thanks for developing this and releasing it to the public.

  181. After all the complaints about how adding relays to the Asgard would degrade its sound or be unreliable their upcoming "statement" amp will have 24 relays between volume control and the input switching...

    1. Perhaps Jason Stoddard should run for Congress instead of doing audio work? He publicly opposed my suggestion to consider relays several times.

  182. Oops, Schiit happened again... ;-)
    This time an HD 650 was daggered by a Lyr.

  183. This is stupid . . . I started this page on Facebook called Stop the loudness wars because all the other pages were inactive and hadn't seen posts in a long time . . . the purpose of the page was to spread recognition of the problem that is the loudness wars to more people and I started some threads on head-fi and avsforum about it and both sites deleted my threads. An admin from head-fi sent me a private message and said that self-promoting posts were not allowed on head-fi. They weren't self promoting! Like I said above I was just trying to get people on head-fi to like my page so that recognition of this problem could be spread!

  184. Hey,

    I just wanted to let you know that the link above, for the diyAudio Headphones forum, doesn't work.

    Here is the correct link: http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/headphone-systems/

    Thanks for the link! I didn't know about that forum!


  185. "It came out in the comments Jude claims I threatened Head-Fi legally. For the record, I did not and that makes no sense. I can’t conceive of any legal basis as I can’t claim any sort of damages or harm."

    I have deleted my head-fi account, and will inform everyone I know of your experience.


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