An Expensive Cheap Headphone : A Paradox

Amp pairings

In general it’s very similar in it’s driving needs to the LCD-2. It has a similar sensitivity and impedance. So, I threw my array of favourite portable amps at it. The first amp I tried with them was ALO’s Pan Am. It was a good pairing. Great sound stage, smooth mids and a bit recessed treble. But the LCD-2/LCD-3 is a much better match. The extra bass matches the Pan Am very well. And the amp started distorting after about 12 o’clock, no like. The best pairing I’ve yealded is the ALO Rx MkIII-B. Even via the Single-Ended output the bass, mids and treble is perfect. Fast and exact. Making the Pan Am feel sluggish.  And running them balanced, all that is good gets a bit better. And the part I was getting to, regarding the bass… If you want that extra thick Audez’e bass, just turn the bass knob. Not too much. About 10-30% and the bass is almost identical in quality and quantity. Recommended. But for the non-electronic genres… The Rx gives more than enough. Portable, semi-closed and light. Check, check, check. Driving it with the Zana sounds great, but the HD800 sounds better. So for analytical, sitting in the sofa relaxing, it’s not my “final” headphone. I love that expansive sound stage and let’s face it. OTL and planar magnetics, not optimal. So why didn’t I borrow a _______ (e.g. Schiit Mjolnir, Cavalli Liquid Fire, EC Balancing Act) and give it a go? Well it’s pretty simple for me. Closed light headphones. Transportable audio for me. That was their purpose and that’s how they’ve been judged. So my comparision to EC ZDSE + HD-800 is slightly biased. However, you the reader might get even better results than I get from the Rx Mk-IIIB with some other amp. The rest is up to you, but please share!

 

End words

Light. Well-built. Balanced sound. Sounds open but it’s closed. Quite easy to drive. It can get as pricy as you let it be, sound will be the same. And let’s finish with a rhetorical question. If LFF can make a 199 USD headphone sound like a thousand dollar(s) headphone, what could he do with a “better one”? Well for starters, without saying too much. The T50RP as a stock headphone is an unpolished gem. So there’s plenty of room to make the Paradox a very refined product . I honestly think that better isn’t possible from this “cheap” headhone. And secondly, maybe LFF indeed does have something planned using a larger driver. 😉 That’s all I can say at the moment…

Paradox - Earpad and jack close-up

Equipment used in this review: Eddie Current Zana Deux SE, ALO Audio Rx Mk3-B, ALO Audio The Pan Am + The Passport, Vorzüge VorzAMP Duo, NAD  Electronics M51, April Music Stello DA100, CyperLabs Algorhythm Solo, iPod Touch 4th gen, Paradox Sounds T50RP, Audez’e LCD-3, Sennheiser HD-800 w/ Analixus 2.0 mod, Unique Melody Merlin, Toxic-Cables, Double Helix Cables and Whiplash Audio headphone cables and interconnects.

An Expensive Cheap Headphone : A Paradox
4 (80%) 3 vote[s]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Valentin is a mid-20’s multi-tasker. Played a lot of instruments from the age of 5-6 and onward. Grew his hair, experimented with 4x12” Mesa Boogies whilst growling in front of a mic. Cut his hair and DJ’d electro beats at clubs. Grew a moustache and people started calling him Dr. Hogea. Has ravaged through all genres you could imagine. A playlist with Warren Zevon, Dissection and Dead Prez is the daily diet. Preferably in a transportable manner. Life is too short for a desk.

    65 Comments

    • Reply March 1, 2013

      L.

      I’m thinking: Page breaks 😉

      • Reply March 1, 2013

        Valentin

        It actually had 4 pages but something was really weird when I posted it..

        Page 1 was good
        Page 2 was emtpy and showed a total of 7 pages
        Page 3 jumped pass the whole contents of page 2, but otherwise good
        Page 4 was good

        When logical things aren’t logical… It’s annoying.

        • Reply March 1, 2013

          L.

          yeah the system likes to play tricks on you. A ctrl F5 normally solves that issue though 😉

          • Reply March 1, 2013

            Mike

            Done. We are so unprofessional.

            • Reply March 1, 2013

              L.

              A beer for Mike!

            • Reply March 1, 2013

              Valentin

              Maybe remove all comments so far? 😉

              Thx Mike!

    • Reply March 1, 2013

      Rūdolfs Putniņš

      Review of the year!

      Great job, Valentin! I might pick one up instead of the HE500.

      I just hope LFF is able to keep up with the orders!

      • Reply March 1, 2013

        L.

        Awesome review, maybe a bit early to give it the gold medal though. Last week I saw an article with the “Best headphones of 2013” which kind of is extremely funny as only 2 months had passed and lots of new headphones will be released over the next 10 months 🙂

        • Reply March 1, 2013

          Rūdolfs Putniņš

          Bah! The headphone of the year is HD650, everyone knows that! And if anyone thinks differently they are just not properly amping it!

          But really, I very much enjoyed this review! Especially the intro.

          • Reply March 2, 2013

            Trent_D

            FINALLY! A man talking sense!

          • Reply March 2, 2013

            Valentin

            I’m glad that several found the intro interesting. I was a bit uncertain to how it would be interpreted.

            My goal was to share it from “my own eyes” not that many years ago…

            • Reply March 2, 2013

              Trent_D

              I think a personal touch is always welcomed in a review.

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Valentin

        Thx!

        Last I had contact with LFF, he has upgraded the work shop with some pretty high-tech stuff for a “modder”. Ventilated paint booths etc. etc.

        Let’s hope Fostex keeps the T50RP at 199 USD. The jump from 99 about 6 months ago was enough. 😉

        • Reply March 2, 2013

          dalethorn

          Glad to see he’s not breathing any paint fumes. Could make the job more fun, though.

    • Reply March 1, 2013

      Trent_D

      Another excellent review Valentin! I hope no other guest reviews get posted soon, as they might pale in comparison.

      • Reply March 1, 2013

        L.

        Actually, there are and good ones too!

        • Reply March 1, 2013

          Trent_D

          Obviously (to you anyway), I am self-deprecating, but I really do like the way Valentin writes.

          • Reply March 2, 2013

            Spencer Chan

            Me to. I like the no nonsense tone.

            • Reply March 2, 2013

              Valentin

              Thx guys. I try to be as objective as possible. And give a good background and that those that read feel that it has been compared in a as non-biased way possible.

          • Reply March 2, 2013

            Mike

            Me too, I really like how Valentin writes.

    • Reply March 1, 2013

      dalethorn

      Very clear review of the headphone, and good to have that background to put everything into perspective.

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Valentin

        Glad that you found it imformative.

        As I have said earlier. I would never dare review something if I didn’t feel I had a pretty good hum of the competition. Alas, there will never be a NAD M51 review by me, since it’s impossible for me to compare it to the DACs it should be compared to. 🙂

    • Reply March 2, 2013

      NHong

      Great review. Also, not really headphone related, but where did you get those stands from? They’re gorgeous.

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Valentin

        Great that you liked it!

        Regarding the stands. A close friend made a small batch of stands. All sold out. 🙁

        /V

        • Reply March 2, 2013

          L.

          I got 6. Should have gotten more

    • Reply March 2, 2013

      shipsupt

      What did your brother think of his gift? (You generous guy!) I’m wondering what a non-audiophile type thinks of the Paradox?

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Mike

        That’s a good question. Val?

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Valentin

        Hi Chris!

        Brother-in-law! 😉 Anyway… At first he thought the bass was too thin. This was moving up from some really poor 20-30 USD USD IEMs.

        I told him too give them a couple of days and if he still thought the bass was too thin I would lend him an amp with EQ.

        After a couple of days he thought they were more than perfect.

        The reference-talk I had in the beginning. To him they were bass-thin compared to his reference.

        I on the other hand I would definitely not describe them as bass-thin. More on the bass-heavy side of headphones (in general).

        /V

    • Reply March 2, 2013

      Carl

      Nice piece of writing! Just got home after midnight and really enjoyed reading it; intro was interesting and even entertaining. I really enjoy the mix of writing styles on headfonia, all generally have a balanced, interesting and ‘generous’ feel. That also includes the help given in the comments too; they often feel almost like mini-mini-reviews!
      I also really liked the photos, especially the close-up of the black pair on the stand at the bottom of page 2; the photo-aesthetic that Headfonia has is just fabulous and sets the site apart from others from the get-go.

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Mike

        Thanks, Carl. I enjoy Valentin’s writing style very much too.

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Valentin

        Thanks Carl! I guess that I will keep writing then! 😉

    • Reply March 2, 2013

      Sasmit

      nice review! Though perhaps the first page rant could be shortened ……so since HP100 also had the same neutral description, have you had the chance to compare them?

      • Reply March 2, 2013

        Valentin

        The rant.. Well, some like it some dont. It might depend on how much one has read or thought about the headphone business in general.

        The HP100… I will try to get them for some listening impressions.

        However, bear in mind that Lieven is comparing them to 300-400 USD-headphones and that I’m comparing the Paradox to 1500-1950 USD headphones. My guess is that they are similar, but in different price brackets.

        /V

        • Reply March 2, 2013

          Sasmit

          I did enjoy the research aspects and thanks valentin

        • Reply March 2, 2013

          L.

          i’ll try to send them to you this week

    • Reply March 3, 2013

      Sasmit

      Hi Valentin, I was wondering have you had a chance to compare it to the new mad dogs with alpha pads?

      • Reply March 3, 2013

        Valentin

        Hi, No unfortunately not. Although this is a question I’ve asked myself too. Is the Paradox worth the extra $ compared to Mag Dog. I can’t answer on that point. However, the objective measurements I’ve seen comparing Mad Dogs and Paradox are in the latters favour.

        • Reply March 4, 2013

          Sasmit

          Thanks Valentin…..

    • Reply March 4, 2013

      Jonathan Yeung

      valentin, first of all, really great read! second, i thought the more expensive models are balanced with custom cables while the basic mod doesnt mess with the cable part so its still single entry? third, have you heard of the mad dog? can you make a comparison to that? thanks

      • Reply March 4, 2013

        Valentin

        Hi Jonathan,
        Great. Thanks!

        —–
        Level 1 is just sound modding and new earpads.

        Level 2 includes paint job, comfort strap and double-entry recable. That can be terminated to your choice. A tip would be to have it balanced with a SE-adapter.

        Level 3 can have detachable cable if one wants.


        Regarding the new Mad Dogs. I’ve contaced MrSpeakers to try to obtain a review sample of the new updated one. So we’ll see what the future holds.

        All the best,
        V

        • Reply March 5, 2013

          Jonathan Yeung

          thanks for the info, and im looking forward to see the comparison with the mad dog alpha pad mod, i have neither, i have the stock fostex t50rp though and i dont like it that much

        • Reply May 1, 2013

          Jonathan Yeung

          hey valentin, one more question, if i dont like the stock fostex t50rp, is that kinda an indicator that i wont like the paradox?

          • Reply May 1, 2013

            Valentin

            Hi Jonathan,
            Not necessarily. They are very-very different.
            If you don’t like a BMW 320d doesn’t mean that you won’t like a BMW M3. 😉

    • Reply March 5, 2013

      Sam Pascoe

      You post was an entertaining rant. The only thing I would add, being someone in the music industry, I have been in many studios with treated rooms. I have seen mastering engineers use anything from ath-m30’s to hd6x0’s. True neutrality is overrated, even when doing mastering, the engineer will use other songs in the same genre as a template or benchmark to match. So unless you were there for the recording, for which I have done a several, after all of the mixing is done, what you hear is nothing like the original. Just find something that allows you to get lost in the music and forget about the equipment, that is the key to finding the best setup

      • Reply March 5, 2013

        dalethorn

        New technology can be a blessing and a curse. It allows you more flexibility making the music, but it’s hard to wear three different headphones for different genres when you’re riding the bus or a plane.

    • Reply March 5, 2013

      Carl

      Just out of sheer curiosity(as I’m not likely to hear either anytime soon!), I wonder how this would stand up to a listening comparison with the TH-900.
      You have been comparing it very favourably to other high-end ‘phones, so why not it own exceedingly big brother?!

      • Reply March 6, 2013

        Mike

        I have the TH900 and TH600 here, listening out of the HP-A8 but too bad I don’t have the Paradox around.
        They are two high end dynamic headphones though, very different than planers.
        Would I say that they are better than a vanilla Fostex T50RP or a Mad Dog headphone? Definitely as these should be compared to the other $1K+ dynamic headphones or at least the high end orthos.

      • Reply March 6, 2013

        Valentin

        I have not had access to a TH900 to be able to give a honest comparision.

        However, paying 1800€ in EU for a headphone that is 1250€ in Japan… Something is very-very fishy in the distribution chain I must say. The same for HP-A8. Close to 1750€ in EU, 840€ in Japan.

        In short. Until Fostex sort out their distribution. I’m not interested. 😉

        It didn’t answer your question. But I hope you understand my viewpoint.

        /V

    • Reply March 7, 2013

      DaveWave

      Nicely done. Your intro is one of the most intelligent pieces on headphones that I have read. I especially like your reduction of the LCD-2 vs HE-500 vs HD800 debates to three basic generalizations–stereotypes, if you will, in a no pejorative sense of the term.

      You should have published it separately, as your review of the LFF Paradox did not match the clarity of your intro, unfortunately.

      Keep up the good work!

    • Reply March 13, 2013

      Sam

      I’m confused. How are these 199 USD?

      • Reply March 13, 2013

        L.

        The stock fostex?

        • Reply March 13, 2013

          Sam

          The stock T50RP were selling for $75 and now are around $100.

          • Reply March 13, 2013

            Valentin

            MRSP for T50RP is 199 USD.
            Just as the MRSP for Sennheiser HD800 is 1499 USD.

            If you can find them cheaper than the MRSP, well that’s something completely different. 😉

    • Reply March 13, 2013

      Papoom Vibhatasilpin

      Great article. Love it.

    • Reply March 14, 2013

      Portal

      “A LCD-2/LCD-3 driven well is very close to a well-driven HD-800”

      All credibility lost. Stopped reading there.

      • Reply March 25, 2013

        Valentin

        Haters wanna hate, lovers wanna love.

    • Reply March 28, 2013

      jtr3

      Thank you for your review of the Paradox. I’ve been interested in a more thorough write-up. Overall, well done, although a little editing would’ve given it a more professional polish. One question: you mentioned the HE-500 in the intro but is there reason no direct sound comparison was made with HiFiMAN?

    • Reply May 31, 2013

      Rūdolfs Putniņš

      A Paradox is coming my way. Let’s see if I did right by selling the HD650.

      • Reply May 31, 2013

        L.

        Do keep us posted R!

        • Reply June 6, 2013

          Rūdolfs Putniņš

          I fully concur with everything Valentin said. Mind. Blown.

          • Reply June 6, 2013

            L.

            Glad to hear that!

          • Reply June 6, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            Where did you get it, Mr. R?

            • Reply June 6, 2013

              Rūdolfs Putniņš

              A guy in UK was selling the basic version. Took it off of him for like 240GBP.

    • Reply August 30, 2014

      Andrew Muse

      Might want to edit in a bit about the new Paradox Slants (with a bit emphasized bass and larger soundstage from what I hear), and the upcoming Enigma.

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