My first foray into portable hi fi was a “Chu-Moy” headphone amp in an Altoids tin. We’ve all been there, Well most of us have. It makes your iPod or Walkman sound brilliant and brings your headphones to life!
But it never lasts long. That bug we all know and have takes hold and soon you find yourself wanting more.
I already had a pair of Sennheiser HD25’s which really don’t need an amp at all, But at the time I was young and naive and wanted all the portable hi fi shiney goodies.
So I scrimped and saved and soon after ordered a Graham Slee Voyager.
A simple looking amp in a plastic “project” style box, The only thing that hinted to anything special at this point was the print, The “just right” movement of the volume pot and the construction. It’s definitely not one of the sexier amps out there but you get a sense of good craftsmanship from the get go.
Now my only qualm with the Voyager is this. It takes a 9v battery which is fair enough, However, If there was one thing I would ask Mr Slee to change about this diamond of an amp would be to make it USB rechargeable. It would make my life so much easier. It does have the option of battery, USB or DC power and comes with the power adaptor needed. However as I use this primarily as a portable amp, It’s 99% of the time running on battery power. Graham, If you’re reading this and you ever think about building a Voyager 2, Please include rechargeable capability.
Now did I say Diamond of an amp? Only ONE qualm? Well I did say we were jumping straight in with this blog…
The Graham Slee Voyager is currently my Go-To amp and nothing else in my collection can knock it off it’s spot. Even the iBasso Pelican PB2, Paired with the Boomslang in fully balanced mode can’t get close. The Voyager doesn’t only feel robust but sounds robust to. If I want to listen to my HE400’s I simply switch the “Contour” switch to active & this amplifier drives them with little effort and doesn’t lose quality or power, Where the others just don’t cut it, EVEN in balanced configuration. Rock, EDM, Classical or Opera, It just rolls with it and delivers a clean powerful performance. Noise is not an issue, I can’t hear any hiss or uneven balance. As hard as I try, I just can’t fault this amp.
It is quite simply built like a tank. I have dropped it, Dropped objects on it, Knocked it and so on and I can’t find a scratch let alone a dent on it. If you shake it with no battery in there is no rattle of any form. The screws and switches haven’t worked their way lose over the years and the volume pot still has that “Just right” feel to it.
Simply put, It’s a trusty workhorse.
Who would I recommend it to?
Anyone who wants a rugged portable headphone amplifier that delivers as punchy a sound as the the thing feels in your hand.
I will say if you pair it with an iPod Classic or an iBasso DX80 like I have then as much as it will fit in your pocket, You’re probably going to prefer to have it in a bag of some sort.
Battery life is pretty good. I can get a couple of two to three hour listening sessions out of it before the sound begins to crackle and lose cohesion. Obviously running on USB or DC power is a different kettle of fish and of course there is now the option of using a portable battery pack…. I’m yet to try this.
Bottom Line, It’s a bloody brilliant headphone amp that punches above it’s weight and can take what life throws at it with a grin on it’s face. It’ll take something rather special to de-throne this beauty!
Sony MDR SA5000 with Balanced Recable made by Brandon Peterek.
These were bought by me 5 years ago used and in a bit of a state ( I don’t understand how people can even buy something so expensive and awesome yet treat it with such disregard. )
Either way, I was able to afford a cheapish pair of headphones I otherwise could have only dreamt about for the rest of my days!
For whatever reason, The previous owner had replaced the stock cable ( Decent but renowned for falling apart rather quickly ) with another stock cable from a Sennheiser HD600/650. Another decent but meh cable. The SA5000’s deserve, No. Demand better. So when they arrived in the mail I was shocked at the state they were in.
First port of call was to strip anything broken or filthy away and see what I had to work with. First thing I looked at were the drivers, Which thank the audio gods were in perfect condition. Apart from the absolute bodge of a soldering job. How they hadn’t shorted I don’t know. So I un-soldered that garbage and got rid!
The original ear pads had unfortunately been in some kind of altercation with a wild beast of unknown origin, They had been so badly messed up I gave them a little funeral ceremony and bid them on their way.
Some screws were missing so I bought a few various sizes of screws and found some that fit.
I gave them a really good clean, Put all the parts in bags and boxed them up for work to be done later on.
A few years later I decided it was time to have a go at re cabling them.
I had the soldering down well enough to trust myself opening these cans once again to perform surgery without killing them entirely.
I played with some ideas in my head about which wire to use, Did I want them balanced or single ended? and so on.
I decided on a Detachable cable so I would be able to run pretty much anything I wanted.
I fitted & glued in some MMCX connectors which became the bane of my life for several days. Eventually the connection gave out so I went back to the drawing board.
OK I thought… Pigtails. I can run the cable out of the cups so far and have the connectors a few inches outside of the cups.
I sourced some Sennheiser HD800 Connectors and got to work. They worked well, However, Being the fussy person I am ( I swear I’m a bit OCD about these things ) I didn’t like possible strain being put on the connections on the drivers themselves.
This is where Brandon comes in.
I had worked with Brandon before some time ago on a pair of custom build Senn-Grado’s and he had made me an amazing cable along with a one-off balanced to single ended adaptor jack. We’ll talk about this more in another blog.
But suffice to say Brandon’s cable making skills are far superior to mine.
And being Mr Perfectionist, I wanted the SA5K’s to have a cable that really complimented them in both sound and looks.
After a lot of late night talks ( Bran’s the other side of the pond to me so the time difference is rather large ) We decided on a hard wired cable terminated in a 4 pole XLR with a Pigtail to single ended jack.
By now I had just picked up a pair of HE400’s and had re terminated it’s already decent cable with a 4 pole XLR as I plan on getting a balanced amp with that connectivity. So it made sense to have all of my cans using the same connectors with the ability to make pigtails with various connectors for use with almost any amp.
Yesterday The finished Peterek cable arrived and I got to work.
I didn’t take internal shots as frankly it was a pain in the posterior job and the photos would have been hard to look at lol.
Again I am very impressed with Brandon’s workmanship! He is fast becoming a cable maker on par with other more widely known brands that I also use.
Packaging is simple but very well done .
The cable it’self is subtle and with the chosen y-splitter suites the SA5K’s perfectly!
They’re still fresh out of the box so they’re not properly burned in yet ( We won’t get into that today ok lol ) But Along with the new ear pads I managed to source from amazon ( Inexpensive – £3 for the pair. ) The sound has improved.
They already sounded amazing in their poor beat up state I found them in, But now the low end is tighter and more pronounced, Highs have been reigned in just a touch but still very crisp and clear.
The MDR SA5000 are well renowned for being a very unforgiving pair of headphones.
They are analytical to the point that any sub par recording falls flat.
Every little detail is emphasized in a clinical way that any imperfections or artefacts are named and shamed for all to hear!
Thank you Brandon for working with and helping me out yet again my friend! I understand being a dad, and having an audiophile in your ear about every tiny detail of the job must be a pain! You sir are a star!
It’s been some time, 12 odd years in fact since I wrote a blog or owned a website or forum. Back then I was a young new dad with little experience of the internet. I wasn’t a gamer, I wasn’t a pc builder or a hardware reviewer, I had no knowledge of how to post or edit in a forum let alone run one. The only tech I really owned or knew anything about was audio gear. Whether it was my Hi Fi or my DJ equipment.
It was a normal day in 2005 when I decided to boot up my very rapidly ageing pc that was handed to me by some dodgy neighbour. I think it was running a very laggy and bloated version of XP, Or was it ME, Memory fails me…
I wanted to see if I could get connected to the internet with an old modem my father in law had passed to me and start exploring the web. Well one thing led to another, fast forward some “odd” internet searches on Yahoo ( I didn’t know about google at the time ) And I came across a site that had just recently changed it’s name from Pimprig to PcApex. Little did I know that after an initially very cringe worthy first post, A horrific looking “Case-Mod” called “The Claw” and a few months down the line of annoying, pestering and talking the ears off some of the members that I would become a moderator & hardware reviewer. Little to do with audio I know, just bear with me….
PcApex became like an online home and family to someone that didn’t have a social life due to becoming a carer and as time went on I got a good number of reviews under my belt. I loved that forum and I loved the close friendships I had made there. I still remember them all sending me various PC parts so I could build my first proper gaming rig. I’ll always be thankful to them all for what they did. Rob, Ollie, HighTechRedneck, Slay, Dave…. If you ever read this gents, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to lay the foundation and propel me into the online world I now use so much for so much. You gave me my wings.
A time came when I received a message from my good friend & Overclocking legend Pat ( SolidNecro ). Someone owns a forum named VoidedWarranty and it’s collapsing in on itself. Pat has been asked to come in as an admin and in turn has asked me if I want to step in and help out as lead moderator. Well as much as I loved my place at PcApex, I felt it was time to spread my wings and take on a challenge. Gary ( Glitterkill ) gave me his blessings to go forth and do what I could. Another one of those people who deserves thanks and doesn’t really understand what he did for me back then. So with my now mentor and close friend Pat, We went in against vehement rebellion and abuse from an eroding and toxic member core that had overrun the forum then pretty much given up on it. I think It was then even though I didn’t realise it that I made my decision to aim higher. Pat gave me the green light when I decided I needed a team of mods to help regain control of the forums. We managed to a decent enough degree. But membership was slowly falling and eventually the owner decided he wanted done with it all. After all the blood sweat and tears we put into that site I was damned if we were just going to let it go, so with a bold plan in mind, I rallied some of the gang from “VW”, PcApex & HardOCP ( Blake, Steve and Casey, You guys were my A-Team! ) together and suggested we buy the site and take on the domain. Much to my surprise they all agreed and between us we bought the site, Its domain and all its rights out from the previous owner. Soon after we had a name change, a redesign from the ground up, We were offline for two weeks getting it just right! Soon after Solid handed the reigns over, Making me Sole Admin & Webmaster. We took on more team members and most importantly starting making and maintaining contact with industry vendors, designers, brands & developers. Reviews started to flow, Traffic grew. Membership increased and we had ourselves a pretty sweet website and forums under the new name of AppetiteForTech. I changed the name as my plan was to gradually make the site a place for more than just PC and gaming content, And after some time I started getting reviews online covering audio gear, photography and gadgets. it went well for some time and I started working with some renowned brands, I even had something lined up with Sennheiser. That’s when it all came to a grinding halt.
My family suddenly went through some BIG upheavals and as a result I ended up sofa surfing/homeless and all I had worked for slowly but very surely slipped through my fingers to eventually become a part of internet history. At the time I was too messed up to think about it, but now when I look back I wish I had held on to that website. I miss that site as much as I do PcApex, however, times change and we must adapt or be left behind.
Sometime during all of this, Facebook appeared out of the blue and rapidly gained momentum, And I still to this day attribute this advent to the demise of many popular online forums. At least it was a way to stay connected with the world and the few people left in mine that I trusted.
Since then I have dabbled here or there with various Facebook groups that didn’t really take off or didn’t sit right with me. My own disabilities reared their ugly head and life has been rough at times. But hey, Less of that! I’m not that person. Nor do I ever intend to be again.
Through determination and probably some divine intervention I worked with my then ex to repair our relationship and create new memories. Now we’re happily married in a new home with a rapidly growing teenager, no longer that little baby sat next to his young dad learning about the guts of a computer.
Being a Disabled carer, It really doesn’t give you much flexibility with employers and so I am unemployed. However, Being the determined person that I am and coming from a family who taught me to never quit, I decided yet again, to do something fulfilling. So now armed with some internet experience ( Ok for those who know me mentioned above, I know we’re Internet veterans now. ) I pounced on Google and Youtube and started looking at anything and everything I could do from home, maybe even make an earning if I got lucky.
I ended up refreshing my IT skills because by now I’m not that young man who didn’t have a clue about computers and I wanted to get up to scratch with this new era. I got certified and then researched some more… I came across a channel on youtube ( Crimson Guitars ) and after watching almost every video from that channels beginning I had a desire to buy some tools, some wood and have a go at building a guitar kit.
It’s not complete yet and I’ll most probably use this blog to share my progress, however, I will say for now, for someone who hated woodwork in school, I’m doing ok. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself if you delve deep enough.
Not happy in my now 40’s to take on one project, out of no-where and spurred by an introduction to Jeremy Corbyn I decided it would be a really clever idea to get involved in politics, a subject I have despised for many years and get very frustrated with. We may get into this another time, but as of this moment I’m my local Labour Party’s newly elected branch Vice Secretary & Social Media Coordinator. Who knew?
So after this long and winding essay we find ourselves asking, What exactly is the point in this and what the hell has it got to do with an Audiophile Cafe?
By around 2018 I was in a few audiophile groups on facebook at the time and immediately noticed an alarming scale of negativity aimed at women and the LGBT community in these groups. Being a socialist this kinda irks my freshly found passion for politics and seeing one particularly nasty post on a fairly normal Wednesday, I got angry.
Grown “men” objectifying and drooling over an almost nude model sat atop a pair of JBL speakers. A few women got angry and rightly so, just to be hurled abuse in a toxic environment that no admin or moderator seemed bothered to rectify.
So I acted.
I went around and did the one thing those old pre-facebook forums turned their noses up at and told members never to do, and I poached, I wilfully and unashamedly poached, not just from one, but a handful of groups with the same problem. I hand picked wronged members from all walks of life, because I’m a man who sees a person equally no matter who they are or where they’re from.
I asked them if they would be interested in a currently unnamed group that would be different in it’s approach. that would not accept anything less than excellence and respect for one another and this passion for music and audio that we share.
Later that day I created “The Audiophile Cafe” I invited the people I had been in contact with to this fledgling group, This tiny insignificant corner of the internet on facebook. Within days I had a small but diverse admin team. Within only a few days we jumped from just a handful of us to 150 members ( at the time of this publication ). Hailing from far and wide, Regular listeners and people from the industry. We are a broad church in so many ways. And our community is blossoming. We have created a relaxed, respectful and informative atmosphere that I am very proud of, and proud of my team that helped me get it off the ground.
So the journey began some time ago, But it seems fate, life, older age, call it what you will decided to show me now that it’s all been one big journey, That old cliche’ “Roller Coaster Ride” has brought me here to this point. I decided to create this blog to run alongside the group, to allow me to express my views, my mistakes, My passion and anything else in between. I’m hoping to don that old “reviewer” hat of mine again, but focus this time mainly on music and audio gear.
No. this is my passion, It has been since I was little, sat on my late grandfathers lap listening to and watching his Decca SRG-899 radiogram. Later when I was around 10 years old I experienced Jean Michel Jarre for the very first time on a Revox Reel to Reel deck at my parents friends house. As a young teenager I listened to my first pair of decent headphones and a Dual turntable, the headphones were a pair of original Sennheiser HD400s. I rejoiced in music, particularly the UK 90’s Rave scene in my mid to late teens and early 20’s. I drowned myself in it as a DJ in the clubs, always discovering new styles of electronic music. And finally as a 40 something year old it has become a companion, A friend that makes this life complete. There are folk who don’t get it, there always will be. And that’s ok.
Anyway, That’s me, Laid pretty much bare on the table. It’s not my life story by a long shot, It’s not meant to be. But it is a slice of me. And this is my first proper attempt at a blog!
I promise the next time I log in and write something it will be something to do with music or audio gear. What? I am not sure yet. It depends what the wind blows my way that day.
All my very best wishes on what happens to be fathers day at approximately 2:48am GMT 2018.
Until next blog, Peace, Paul 🙂
Edited on Monday 2nd November 2020 during the Covid-19 Pandemic after a very strange, very quiet halloween. Edited to tidy the blog up a touch, edited this first piece as some of my grammar was awful at the time. And added dates and a few more details for future reference. It’s a warm feeling coming back to this first post to remind myself that I didn’t have a clue where this would all end up. As of this edit, the group is now 753 members strong and still growing. Dan, my son is now a moderator in the hope that he will learn the ropes and eventually be prepared to take The Audiophile Cafe on and carry on my vision through the years, passing the torch to his children one day and so on. Yes Daniel, that includes the Radiogram! The blog is succeeding with a now consistent flow of review samples. We’ve taken on a number of sponsors and made some great friends in the industry along the way. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m still learning. Paul. 😉
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton