“Warm and Detailed”, and More.

I’ve been using the same description for quite a few DACs that I’ve come across recently: “warm” and “detailed”. The term has been used so many times that now they almost work like a single adjective “warm and detailed”.

That’s precisely what most audiophiles like to hear these days, and manufacturers who’s done a good market research will know that. That is why a lot of DACs all take a similar stance when tuning for sound signature: warm and detailed. Quite a few DACs fall into this description: The Styleaudio UD-1, the Ibasso D4, the Audinst HUD-MX1, the uDAC, the AMB Gamma2, the Headamp Pico, the Neko D100, the Dr. DAC2 DX, and the Matrix Mini-I DAC. And although they all fall into different price brackets, and their technical performance is also quite varied, it won’t be wrong to classify them as “warm and yet detailed”.

Here’s a simple illustration to describe what I mean:

They are all slightly different, but you would still call them as “Red”. Likewise, there are different DACs with the same “warm and detailed” description, yet they each maintain a slightly different rendition of “warm and detailed”. Hence you can say “it’s very warm sounding”, or you can say “it’s slightly tilted to the warm direction”.

This phenomenon actually extends more to just DACs, but to IEMs, Amplifiers, and full size Cans. The CEC HD53N is warm and detailed, and so is the Beta22. The Hifiman HM-801 warm and detailed, and so is the Sansa Clip. The Fischer Eterna is warm and detailed, and so is the UM Mage. Though possessing the same adjective of “warm and detailed”, there are still differences in the degree of warm or the level of detail, and if it’s possible I wouldn’t mind using numbers to describe them: i.e warm (6) and detailed (7). But of course that would be ridiculous.

Now I’d like to talk about another adjective that’s also used quite often: Neutral. A lot of products have also been branded as “neutral”, and the same phenomenon applies here. Is “neutral” described as a single point in a scale, or is “neutral” a range of values within a given parameter? Is neutral, a dot, or a circle?

After the first illustration with the red blocks, most of you will probably agree that neutral should be a range of values. I think so too. Neutral can’t be a dot, because that is too limiting. Just like I am human and you are too, but that doesn’t make us the same. So, the HD800 can be considered neutral, like how the UM3X can be considered neutral, but they’re actually quite different sounding.

Very interesting.

Okay, last one.

Is “good sound” subjective, or is it objective? If good sound is subjective, then can you claim that the JH13 is better than the Ibud?

The comment box is below.

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  • Reply May 13, 2010


    Hey mike,

    to be honest I don't really like those "how does it sound" parts of your reviews.

    As you said it yourself,

    ("[…] their technical performance is also quite varied, it won’t be wrong to classify them as “warm and yet detailed”.")

    you really could just throw any of those nice adjectives at it..

    What you basically say is: "sounds good" and as long as there are no negative comments that tell me that something's actually wrong I just skip those parts.

    The differences you seem to hear are too gross anyway to be taken seriously, imho, ymmv etc.

    Let other people sort those squares from brightest to darkest with the help of their eyes only – the results will be equally funny.

    Talking about "neutral" I don't agree either. I think that it's a single point in a scale. However where this point lies is defined by a number of variables. Of course other points that are close to this/these ideal(s) can sound quite similar or even identical, still they're only close.

    And about your last point: I really wish it was more objective.

    • Reply May 13, 2010


      Hi Xnor,
      Thanks for being honest with the comments there. I'll try to think about what you said, and see if I can write an improved review in the future.

  • Reply May 14, 2010


    About 'Good sound' or 'Sounds good' is like 2 circles, intersect each other, which share some common section that common to both, but they also have other section / area that they don't share.

    I believe there is a common ground or point to what audiophiles (trained ears) will agree as good sound. But there are other areas that is specific to individual preference.

    Good reviewer would be able to identify those common and uncommon areas, and describe them precisely in their review.

    For example, 2 cans, they are both good cans, but they sound different. Some might like one and dislike the other due to personal preference, and good reviewer would be able to describe why both are good cans, and how their differences can fit user personal preference.

    My2cents 🙂

    • Reply May 15, 2010


      You should be writing the reviews…. (twice now). 🙂

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