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  #1  
Old 01-28-2009, 08:58 AM
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Default Listening and RMAA Tests, Cowon S9 (vs. D2, O2)

First the test with my own ears. I matched the volume of the S9 and O2/D2 to within 0.5dB (vol. 16 on the S9 = vol. 14 on the D2 = vol. 24 on the O2). I listened to various kinds of music with my UE11 IEMs, switching the phones between the three players. I used flat settings without EQ and enhancements, and also my favorite BBE settings (BBE@1, M3B@5, MP@on, no EQ, no other stuff).

The S9, O2 and D2 sound very much the same to my ears, hardly any difference at all. The S9 and O2 do sound the tiniest bit "richer, fuller" than the D2, though, perhaps because of less bass roll-off. The S9 furthermore has microscopically less "harshness" than the D2. However, the differences are so incredibly tiny - to 95% of all people all three players should sound absolutely the same. These negligible differences are only apparent in an A/B test with matched volume anyways.

Both the S9 and D2 hiss pretty bad with my UE11 (18 Ohm, 119 dB/mW) - the O2 doesn't.

Here's some RMAA comparisons:

RMAA: S9, O2, D2, X5 - 16 Ohm Loads, Full Volume
RMAA: S9, O2, D2, X5 - No Loads, Full Volume (how a headphone amp would "see" the players)

Frequency response with 16 Ohm loads:


Stereo crosstalk with 16 Ohm loads:


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  #2  
Old 01-28-2009, 11:06 AM
odigg odigg is offline
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Wow! I've been waiting to see these results. I'm not really surprised that all the players sound the same. Some reviewers really get overexcited during a first listen and end up stating "The best sound we've ever heard." I'd bet half the improvements in "quality" people hear can be explained by mismatched volumes.

I believe that most headphones and IEMs don't reproduce frequencies below 50 hz very well or at all. So, judging from the graph, it's just a matter of a 1db drop by 50hz. That's not very much at all. A 1db difference is just at the threshold of what people can hear in a quiet environment.

Thanks for doing this.
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Old 01-28-2009, 11:46 AM
pseudohippy pseudohippy is offline
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There have been two people that said they noticed a SQ difference with the D2 and fw3.59. Im assuming that 2.59 would be the same. So it would be very interesting to me if there is a difference or not before I change firmware. Just curious, why did you use the older d2 firmware? Either way I appreciate the tests, thanks for all the hard work.
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Old 01-28-2009, 12:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by odigg View Post
I believe that most headphones and IEMs don't reproduce frequencies below 50 hz very well or at all. So, judging from the graph, it's just a matter of a 1db drop by 50hz. That's not very much at all.
Trust me, my phones go down to 20Hz... But you're right, the bass roll-off with the S9 is negligible. With the D2 it's a tiny bit more audible with bass-heavy tracks, but the flaw certainly is in the "last 5%" on the quest for audio perfection.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan View Post
There have been two people that said they noticed a SQ difference with the D2 and fw3.59. Im assuming that 2.59 would be the same. So it would be very interesting to me if there is a difference or not before I change firmware. Just curious, why did you use the older d2 firmware?
I did the tests back when I had 2.57 on the D2, no need to redo them. People are definitely hearing placebo (or forgot to change the EQ/BBE stuff), nothing else. The same nonsense has been said about earlier D2 firmwares as well, and they all measured exactly the same with RMAA.

Considering a firmware update takes a long time (especially when formatting and reloading) - nobody could really remember the tiny differences in sound quality over such a time frame.
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Old 01-28-2009, 01:04 PM
pseudohippy pseudohippy is offline
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Cool, thanks for passing down that knowledge to me. I was only going to update my d2 firmware if it was confirmed that there was a SQ difference. Im not that knowledgable about SQ changes with the past d2 firmwares so I didnt realise it was nonsense.

My d2 is on borrowed time anyway as Im getting ready to order the S9, I do wish however there was more of a jump in SQ. That being said the tiny change in SQ and its richness is exactly what I want since I already adore my d2. You say the richness may be because of the d2 bass rolloff, so does that mean the rolloff is less with the S9? If that is the case I could go ampless with the S9, and considering the shape and size of the S9 that would be a nice thing.

I am a bit disapointed to learn that you are hearing hiss with the S9 since I have SE530's which are pretty sensitive and hiss with my D2. Another reason I pair with an amp. My SA6 should be pretty hissless at 60ohm? Or is that not enough to effectively eliminate hiss. If you cant tell I hate that hiss lol.

Anyhow, thanks for the continuing education, Ive been learing alot and much of it is thanks to you and your opinions.
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  #6  
Old 01-28-2009, 01:47 PM
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Well, my current listening tests were done with 2.59, I only used the older 2.57 RMAA tests for comparison. Back when I did the same thread for the O2 I was using 2.57. The results were the same, no difference.

As for the bass roll-off, the graph says it all. D2 is -2.5dB at 50Hz, S9 is -1dB at 50Hz... it is somewhat noticeable with good phones and certain audio material. A decent headphone amp will fix this in any case, but without an amp the S9 is a (very) slightly better performer than the D2.

60 Ohm Sleek without an amp should be dead silent compared to the SE530 (which I use to call "The Hissmeister"), and should not suffer from bass roll-off either.
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  #7  
Old 01-28-2009, 05:43 PM
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thanks for the tests always interesting.

At first I though I could really tell the difference in bass rolloff when using an impedence adapter, but in a blind test I couldn't tell the difference at all! Guess my ears aren't there yet. At least now I don't have the carry around the adapter anymore
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  #8  
Old 01-28-2009, 05:47 PM
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Don't blame your ears, for many types of music and many phones it's really negligible.
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Old 01-28-2009, 08:07 PM
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I'm sold on getting an S9 dfkt,. thanks bro!!!!
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  #10  
Old 01-30-2009, 10:36 AM
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You said not many people will notice, but from what I gather, the o2 seems like the "best?" audio player from Cowon(strictly from a listening standpoint)? Not trying to one up anything, but that just stinks even more that the videos sound so bad considering the way it sounds.
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  #11  
Old 01-30-2009, 11:12 AM
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Yes, you're right. Sound-wise the O2 is so far the best Cowon audio performer in my opinion. The O2's TI DaVinci has an excellent hiss-free audio circuit for problematic phones. Both the D2 and S9 are TeleChips/Wolfson based, and not that great without a dedicated headphone amp.

This almost makes me cry, considering how awesome the S9 and D2 are for both usability and video sound enhancements. And the O2 piece of junk gets it all wrong and lacks features and usability, has clicks between tracks and huge gaps - but has the best audio circuitry...
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  #12  
Old 01-30-2009, 11:33 AM
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So the hiss is due to low impedance on the headphones, not high impedance? And does it happen to all low-impedance phones, or just some?
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  #13  
Old 01-30-2009, 11:36 AM
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It is the most audible when low impedance is combined with high sensitivity. UE11 and SE530 hiss a lot with such players - Phonak Audéo, Ety ER-6, and such don't hiss.

It's a shame some companies like UE and Shure use such overblown specs for their phones... nobody needs them to be that loud (and therefore hissy), I dare to say.
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Old 01-30-2009, 06:13 PM
saratoga saratoga is offline
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Good to see someone is finally holding manufacturers to task for their sound quality claims. I'm sick of clueless reviewers breathlessly repeating marketing nonsense.
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  #15  
Old 01-30-2009, 06:19 PM
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I think many people are duped into thinking "awesome SQ" by the default settings of the players, which aren't flat.
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  #16  
Old 01-30-2009, 06:37 PM
Scottyyy Scottyyy is offline
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I am jealous of your UE11s.

Awesome writeup though dude, very helpful.
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  #17  
Old 01-30-2009, 07:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfkt View Post

60 Ohm Sleek without an amp should be dead silent compared to the SE530 (which I use to call "The Hissmeister"), and should not suffer from bass roll-off either.
What is a 60 ohm Sleek?
Are you saying that it takes away the hiss that the d2 and s9 does?
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  #18  
Old 01-30-2009, 07:25 PM
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Yes, a high-ish impedance like that paired with a reasonable sensitivity should have no hiss.

This is a Sleek: http://beta.sleek-audio.com/products/sa6 (actually it's 50 Ohm and 110dB/mW, but that's fine).

Anyways, a 40+ Ohm impedance adapter will fix the hiss for any phone.
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  #19  
Old 01-30-2009, 08:25 PM
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Good work! Thats all I can say. Cause most of this talk doesnt make any sense to me..
at all hahah. Im learning as we speak about audio etc.. lol.
Glad to see people are responding so positive, gives me even more confidence in the S9
which I will be getting in 32 gig.

Two questions though:

Those sleek earpieces above this post scared the shit out of me.
I didnt even know people would pay that amount of money..
My question: I am planning on getting the Creative EP-830,
I can get m for around 30,- euros.. specs are as followed:
  • Frequency: 6 Hz / 23 kHz
  • Impedancy: 16 ohm
  • Sensitivity (1kHz): 106 dB/mW
Will these do good combined with the S9?
Or will I need to go and search for a 40+ Ohm impedance one?

Second.. somewhat lame question haha.
On the RMAA comparisons..
Where to place the iPod Touch between the Cowons?
Could someone give a rough estimate haha?
(and a nooby explanation would also be appreciated)

merci.
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  #20  
Old 01-31-2009, 07:57 AM
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dfkt, this may be a bit off-topic, but since the RMAA tests for the D2, and now the S9, I've wanted to know the RMAA results for... iPods. Happen to uh... have those, or know anyone that has the data?

You know, to have something solid to compare to, instead of simply knowing their soundchip is garbage.
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