Amping and power requirements.
Neither Turbulent Labs nor Symphones publish specs for their drivers, and nor will I spend much time discussing the relative merits of different forms of amplification because to be perfectly frank, the Turbulent X drivers sound great when powered by just about anything. They’re a breeze to power with portable and desktop equipment alike.
They appear to be on-par in terms of sensitivity with each of the 32-ohm Grados I have in the house (GH1, PS500e, and ‘The White Headphone’), and they get very loud, very quickly with my Samsung S9+ smartphone making them uncomfortably loud at around 60% on the volume dial.
Solid-state sources, including the Schiit Asgaard 3, Questyle CMA600i, and Topping A90 all sound predictably excellent with no effect on the Turbulent Labs Customs’ frequency response in any noteworthy nor contrary way. I did thoroughly enjoy pairing them with the Hagerman Audio ‘Tuba’ tube amp, which is a terrific pairing with low-impedance Grado-like headphones. The Tuba give the Turbulent Labs cans an overall rounder, softer timbre, and tames their highs for a sweeter, more mellow effect. Moving back to a solid-state source does tend to make them feel relatively grainy and almost harsh, by comparison.
Thought and conclusions
Like any hobby, there’s a huge amount of satisfaction to be reaped from something that you’ve researched, configured, and then made for yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of building these Turbulent Labs custom headphones, and I have a suspicion that I’ll continue to keep tinkering with them long into the future. And, it goes without saying that these look amazing. The quality of the parts and workmanship is first-rate, and they feel like a million bucks in the flesh. Entry into the wood-based Grado Labs club is a $500+ proposition, and so it may well be worth creating your own ground-up ‘woodie’ for less than that asking price. Or, owners of the cheaper plastic-built Grados can transplant their drivers into some tasty new furniture for even less asking price – that’s the beauty of modding, and modular construction.
Anyone who is keen to capture a slice of the Grado DNA and sound-signature, yet with an appropriate degree of sonic plus aesthetic differentiation ought to consider basing a custom build around the Turbulent X drivers + matching bespoke parts. For the price, the Turbulent Labs customs will yield definite visual, comfort, and quality-of-life upgrades over the nearest stock Grado headphones. And, if you prefer a leaner, V-shaped sound signature with bite, attack, and air, then you should definitely start brushing-up on your soldering skills.