Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis
Reviewing audio devices require extensively trained ears and lots of experience. Even for audiophiles, it may prove challenging at times to obtain an accurate evaluation of a product without a thoroughly familiar product to use as a simultaneous reference. While I am not going to even try to claim that I am the only trustworthy or best reviewer for sound, it is fact that most computer review sites have editors that are insufficiently trained in reviewing earphones. Give them practically anything and all you will read about goes along the line of "good bass, nice midrange, awesome treble, really clear sound, 10/10". While there are many knowledgeable audio reviewers at various respected online media outlets, these are by far the minority.
As I have mentioned in my past audio reviews, there are really no true objective measurements for earphone sound quality. As the reviewer, however, I'll put it through a series of subjective tests to try to come up with the most objective rating possible (Yes, it's quite a paradox haha). The tests were conducted primarily with the V-MODA XS. They are not particularly high impedance at 28 ohms, but the V-MODA XS are one of the most renowned headphones in the market today, known for its superior accuracy in sound reproduction thanks to its impressive flat frequency response. All tracks used for auditioning are uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher. For comparison, I used my Apple iPhone 5 16GB.
After a quick driver installation, we were off. I found the XMOS audio driver to be a little buggy under both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. On three different machines I have used it on, it will give me pop up error when I try to adjust the volume, which is quite annoying.
To be absolutely fair, the Apple iPhone 5 actually produces pretty good sound with the V-MODA XS out of the box. With a pair of 28 ohm headphones, and listening to music at volumes that will not cause hearing aid company stocks to rise anytime soon, what kind of difference does the SilverStone EB01-E DAC and EB03 headphone amplifier make? A good analogy I would like to make is similar to buying a car equipped with a V6 engine, rather than the same model equipped with an I4. Sure, you are not going to go drag racing with anyone anytime soon, and both can do the legal speed limit on the highway just fine (Because we obviously all travel at legal speeds, right?), but the six cylinder will do it more effortlessly in a much smoother manner. The EB01-E and EB03 combination is no different.
Upon listening, I was immediately drawn to the system's flat and consistent frequency response. As I have mentioned earlier, the V-MODA XS are designed to be very accurate and neutral from the factory. The iPhone 5 is also pretty good at putting out a flat signal. However, when certain devices do not have enough power to drive the headphones, you can kind of hear certain details veer off. Obviously, the average output is still going to be pretty flat, due to the nature of the source and headphones. That said, the SilverStone EB01-E and EB03 are noticeably superior in this regard. For one thing, the perceived resolution is improved. This is because the bass, midrange, and treble are more defined at the final output; causing specific details to stand out more prominently.
Secondly, thanks to the quality analog signal produced by the EB01-E DAC, and the increased drive power provided by the EB03, the final sound output was clearly smoother than the iPhone. At medium volumes, the iPhone sounded a little harsh at the extremes. When plugged into the SilverStone rig, my series of test tracks -- which I am very familiar with throughout years of testing with the same songs -- is warmer and smoother to listen to. The total auditioning performance is much more harmonized and comfortable to the ear. I have noticed a slightly boosted soundstage from the result of using the EB01-E and EB03 as well.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis