XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S Review

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

Pairings:

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In this section we will check out how the Broadway amplifiers pair with certain over ear headphones and In Ear Monitors. As with most things in our hobby, synergy is a crucial aspect. A lot depends if products play well together. Please always remember, that the volume dial of the Broadway and Broadway S starts at 11 o’clock. So positions like 3 or 5 o’clock are normal here.

Broadway

We start with the more powerful of the two Broadway’s. It was made to play with low sensitivity and high impedance headphones. Unfortunately for me, my 600 Ohm AKG K240 (early 70’s Sextett) has a hard-wired 6.35mm plug. So I can’t use it with the balanced only Broadway. But we will check how it handles hard to drive and critical planar magnetic headphones.

HiFiMAN – Susvara (83 dB/mW; 60 Ohms)

The Susvara is probably one of the least efficient and hardest to drive headphones of the current market. I turned the volume up to 5 o’clock as this is where it reaches my comfort levels. I don’t want to blast my ears and this is just loud enough.

The Broadway has a very good grip around the low ends of the Susvara. You get a fast and snappy bass with excellent dynamics. Bass reaches deep into sub-bass with good grunt and rumble. What I especially like, is the physicality and naturalism the pairing manages to capture. Bass has very nice resolution and texture, where nothing seems smoothed over. There are clear edges, which could have been a bit softer maybe.

Mids are clean and transparent with wonderful resolution and definition. You get rich and natural mids, that sound accurate and precise. Instruments have good body and weight, while the lower mids have a bit more physicality in them than their center and upper-mid counterparts. The Susvara always manages to mix its technical finesse with a certain level of musicality.

You also get that incredible technical performance from the Susvara. Which means a wide and deep stage with superb layering and control. The Susvara brings out the finest of details with spot on precision and accuracy.
Treble is well extended and of richer tone overall. With the Broadway highs get hardened a bit, but the mix with the Susvara is just right. You get a softer approached treble overall, but with excellent speed and energy.

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

Abyss – Diana Phi (91 dB/mW; 32 Ohms)

The Diana Phi is one of the most critical to pair headphones that I have. It doesn’t play well with any gear and that makes it a tricky pairing for most amplifiers. With the Diana Phi the volume dial goes to 2 o’clock for me.

It doesn’t surprise me that the Diana Phi plays well with the Broadway, given that the two companies cooperate in many aspects. JPS Labs often offers special wiring for XI Audio products and as mentioned before, Michael Xiao made the Formula S specifically for the AB-1266.

With the Diana Phi you get a tight and fast bass, that reaches deep when it has to. It’s not a headphone that displays bass at all times, but rather brings it out when called upon. Bass has good body, weight and authority. It’s not as big as the Susvara’s, but that is the general signature of the Diana Phi.

You get extremely clean and clear mids, where everything is on a pitch black background. Mids have superb body, emotions and air. With the Broadway the Diana Phi sounds a bit bolder and thicker but maintaining the same extreme clarity I know it for.

The sound stage stretches in very wide and deep dimensions, out-stretching the Susvara. You’ll get impressive levels of resolution and rendering. The Abyss brings out very fine details with ease, and the Broadway presents them in a seamless manner to the Diana Phi. Together they deliver nothing short of everything. Imaging, texture and layering are all superb and certainly among the best I’ve experienced on the Diana Phi yet.

The Diana Phi can come across as upper-mid forward, which can be interpreted as even shouty at times. I also noticed that imperfect pairings of the Diana Phi. With the Broadway however, it doesn’t come across as that. Yes, it’s still a sound that has good upper mid-range focus, but it’s not as much an in your face sound than it is more enjoyable with the Broadway. You get incredible vocal clarity and presence, where vocals can take you in with their emotions.

Treble is fast, energetic and shimmering in a slightly brighter tone. But the delivery is not harsh or hard-edged. For now the Woo Audio WA11 was my favorite amplifier for the Diana Phi, but this is quite a bit better overall. This might just be my favorite pairing of all that I’ve tested.

Broadway S

The Broadway S was created for portable headphones and IEMs. While my arsenal of In Ears is quite big, I don’t have many portable headphones. One of the more popular ones is the Aeon 2 by DC Audio (formerly known as MrSpeakers). Unlike what the Broadway S’s specs might suggest, it can also get headphones like the Diana V2 or the HE1000se to blasting volumes. But since it’s aimed at lower impedance and higher efficiency gear, I want to take a look at those.

DC Audio – Aeon 2 (92 dB/mW; 13 Ohms)

It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of the Aeon 2 Closed. It just isn’t my signature. But it has to serve as a reference point here. The volume dial of the Broadway S reaches 4 o’clock and I’d still have room to go, should I want it extra loud.

With the Aeon 2 you get a mellow sound, where the bass is taking up most of the attention. You get a bold and big bass, that primarily focuses on mid and upper bass regions. It’s a thick sound that covers up mid-range clarity on many occasions.

Mids sound syrupy and stiff. But that definitely isn’t the Broadway S’s sound. You get thick and dark mids, where instruments and vocalists are missing clarity and definition. Mids are full and lush, with intense richness and density.

The technical performance of the Aeon 2 is limited by a narrow stage with moderate depth. Instruments could be better separated with more room between them. They sound more bound together with the Aeon 2. The background is dark, but not black, which doesn’t help in imaging either.

Treble extension is okay, but nothing special. You get a laid back treble that doesn’t produce a lot of air or energy. It’s more of a calm and relaxed response, rather than forward and agile.

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

XI Audio Broadway & Broadway S

FiR Audio – M4 (unspecified dB/mW; 6.4 Ohms)

The FiR M4 is one of the products I was very excited to review. I actually started listening to it with the Broadway S and went to the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch after that. That’s when I noticed how incredibly well it scales with higher end gear. The Broadway S really releases its full potential. With the M4 I notice audible hissing on the Broadway S (on low gain). I don’t have much room on the volume knob until I reach my desired listening level. The dial goes to 12 o’clock and I’m set.

What has drawn my attention with this combination at first listen, was how holographic everything seems. The stage expands very well into width and depth and portrays everything in front of you with perfect layering.

The M4 puts every musician in excellent spotlight and if it weren’t for the hiss in the background, it would probably have a very dark background too. The bass is dynamic and comes delivered with great speed and punch. It reaches low with a very organic and natural sound. Lows have a big and full body with a tightly bound grip.

Mids are rich and engaging. The M4 has a musical tuning, that comes packed with good harmony and richness. It’s a slightly warmer and softer tuning overall. You get very high resolution and rendering. The M4 brings out a high amount of details and presents them as pieces of the whole picture.

The Broadway unleashes the full advantages of the tubeless design of the M4. You get an open stage with impressive separation and imaging. Instruments are placed very carefully in the room, and pin-pointing them is very easy with the Broadway S. What impressed me the most however, was how open yet solid the vocals sound on the Broadway S x M4 pairing.

Treble has a clean sound with very good extension. It’s rich and soft, but detailed and clear. I don’t experience any sharpness or sibilance on the FiR, but certain cymbals and string instruments sound a bit forward.

One page left. It’s full of comparisons!

4.3/5 - (76 votes)

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A daytime code monkey with a passion for audio and his kids, Linus tends to look at gear with a technical approach, trying to understand why certain things sound the way they do. When there is no music around, Linus goes the extra mile and annoys the hell out of his colleagues with low level beatboxing.

8 Comments

  • Reply June 2, 2020

    cfranchi

    Hello Linus,

    Given your review of FA-10, I have ordered it, given the price and the quality of it, I think I won’t regret my buy (it is to power Hifiman HE6-se).

    You said that Broadway S drives headphone with more authority and punch than FA-10 (that’s funny given the huge power difference) : is it true even for hard to drive headphone like Susvara ?

    Thank you

    • Reply June 2, 2020

      Linus

      Hi Cfranchi,

      thanks for your comment.
      I am very sure you won’t regret buying the FA-10. It’s a fantastic amplifier.
      As for your question. The Broadway S won’t power the Susvara to its fullest. The comparison was more in regards to easier to drive headphones.

      You’re safe with the FA-10. No worries. 🙂

      Hope that helps.

  • Reply June 2, 2020

    cfranchi

    Thx, of course I was wrong, I didn’t talk about Broadway S but about its big brother the Broadway.

  • Reply June 3, 2020

    Guy Lamaar

    Battery powered, transportable desktop amp? How about a Bakoon HPA-01? Sits between the 2 Broadways in terms of power & price, but top of the tree in terms of build quality. How do they compare in terms of sound?

    • Reply June 4, 2020

      cfranchi

      Really don’t understand this notion of output current and output voltage. Amp power P = U*U / R = I*I * R : R is the headphone impedance and so U and I have fixes values for a given R.

  • Reply June 4, 2020

    John

    It would have been interesting to read how Broadway S copes with more sensitive full size headphones. Like something from Fostex, or Ananda, or maybe even Focal Stella?

    • Reply June 7, 2020

      Linus

      Hi John,

      thanks for your comment.
      I agree, but sadly I don’t have these headphones in my inventory. My collection of headphones concentrates on harder to drive right headphones. If I ever get the chance to audition easier to drive headphones with the Broadway S I will let you know how they play together.
      Again, thanks for your feedback. 🙂

      Cheers

  • Reply June 7, 2020

    Linus

    Hi Guy Lamaar,

    you’re right about the Bakoon. Didn’t think about that one. Also haven’t had the chance to listen to it ever. I’m not sure if I even saw it in person, so I can’t compare them. Sorry.

    Cheers

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