Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 vs. Sennheiser PXC 250

I do a fair amount of air travel; in 2007 I flew about 50,000 miles without leaving the U.S. As a human factors guy, I know that the airplane rumble contributes to feeling fatigued as a result of air travel. I don’t like having things in my ear canal (I apparently have some skin condition in my ears and they always irritates the skin in my ears) so IEMs (that’s “in-ear monitors” for the non-headphone crowd) are not a good option for me. So, active noise cancellation (ANC) was a possibility. I wasn’t sure about all this but years ago I got some cheap Aiwa noise-cancellers as a gift and I’ve never looked back, active noise cancellation is for me.

So, I’ve owned, and been reasonably happy with, the Sennheiser PXC250s for some time. I got them on sale at MacMall for $90 back in 2003, which was pretty much a steal at that time. That was the only PXC model at the time. The PXC 250 is simply the Senn PX200 with Sennheiser’s active noise cancellation.

A little while back, Audio Technica released a new entry into the ANC party, the ATH-ANC7. Sennheiser also release some new players like the PXC 450 (which I understand to be the drivers from HD555 in closed form with Senn’s ANC circuit). The PXC 450 is a bit on the spendy side and has gotten some negative reviews, so I wasn’t all that interested in them, despite the fact that I really like the Senn HD 555/595 sound signature. I asked for the ATH-ANC7s for Christmas and my wife obliged.

So, now I’ve had them for a couple months and they’ve been on a few plane trips (including two transatlantic flights); how do they stack up against my tried-and-true PXC250s?

I should preface this by saying that Sennheiser and Audio-Technica are currently my favorite headphone manufacturers. My main cans at home are Senn HD595s (the better 120-ohm model), but when I need a closed can, I go for my ATH A700s. So this is a shootout between two companies I’m predisposed to liking.

I’ll face them off on a number of attributes. However, first, details on my usual air travel rig:
• 5.5gen 80G iPod video
• SendStation lineout dock to bypass Apple’s attenuator
• Xin Supermicro amp
• Custom mini-to-mini cable (made by Norm of “Vibe” amp fame)

Portability
This one goes hands-down to the PXC250, no contest at all here. They fold up into a pretty small little package and Senn provides a nice zippered cloth case which also has a zippered pocket on the outside, which is perfect for the dock adapter and SuperMicro. The ANC7s fold kind of flat and also have a nice zippered hard case, but the thing is probably almost three times the size of the Senn case and doesn’t have as nice a pocket.

Noise Attenuation
This is more or less a tie. Due to their small size, the PXC250s don’t block out very much sound without ANC engaged. This means they don’t muffle mid-range and higher sounds very well. The ANC7s are much more substantial and do a better job with that. However, the Senn ANC circuitry is flat-out better than the ATH circuitry. With no audio being fed into the headphones at all, switching on the PXC250s just completely wipe out airplane rumble. The ANC7s do pretty well, but not as well as the Senns. Now, with any kind of music playing, the rumble is pretty well masked by the music so it’s not a big deal, but I know the Senns have the better ANC circuit. The ATHs, however, do a much better job with the screaming baby three rows back because of their superior passive noise cancellation.

Annoyance Factor
I’m not sure what other term to use for this. Basically, I want to give a point to the ATHs because the physical setup of the Senns is kind of irritating. The ATH is physically bigger, and the over-ear unit also houses all the electronics and the battery. Thus, you can put on the ATHs and have no cables coming from them at all, so if you just want the noise attenuation and don’t want to listen to anything else, you can do that without having to mess with anything else. The ATHs also take a standard mini-to-mini cable so you cable freaks can recable if you want, or anyone can replace the cable if it breaks. The Senn setup is not so slick. The cable that runs out of the ear cups goes a ways, then there’s a unit about the size of a candy bar which houses the batteries and ANC circuitry (including the mic), and then there’s a few more feet of cable ending in a mini plug. So when you’re wearing them you have to find a place to clip the candy bar thing. I have thus gone to wearing shirts with breast pockets when I fly just so I have some place to clip the stupid thing.

Comfort
This is again a no-brainer. The Senns are feather-light and very comfortable; I can wear these babies for hours without any discomfort. The ATHs are reasonably comfortable headphones, but they just cannot match the Senns. After about two hours I need to take breaks with the ANC7s. The place where this really matters is sleeping; I find it very hard to fall asleep with the ATHs on, but this is not a problem with the Senns.

Sound Quality
So, which one sounds better? The PXC250 is based on the PX200, which is just simply not one of Senns better-sounding cans; both the highs and the lows are a bit rolled off with the PX200 (yes, I own a pair of those, too). I think the PXC250s sound better than the PX200s, though. I know it’s the same driver but the PXC250s are a little more lively. The highs have more sparkle and the bass is not so weak, though the mids are still emphasized. The ANC7s have the Audio-Technica sound signature to them, which means the mids are somewhat recessed overall. Overall I think the ANC7s sound a bit better; they’re a little more detailed and involving than the PXC250s and definitely have more thump for you bass-heads out there, though I would give a slight edge to the Senns for classical and acoustic music.

It should be noted, though this should be a surprise to nobody, that both of these sound dramatically better than any Bose NC product and they cost less. I’ve listened to both the QC2 and QC3 in stores and they both sound like crap, especially for those prices.

Driveability
That’s probably not a word, but you headphone geeks know what I mean. The Senns are 300-ohm cans. With ANC on, they’re not quite as quiet as that, but even still, they aren’t all that easy to drive. With ANC on and no amp, putting the iPod volume on max still isn’t all that loud. This is why I got the Supermicro in the first place. The ATHs, on the other hand, while also not super easy to drive with ANC off (260 ohm), are much better behaved unamped with the ANC on than the Senns. They do improve when amped, as most headphones do, but not as much as the Senns. In particular, the ANC7s are adequate for watching movies without an amp, where the PXC250s need one even for that.

The Bottom Line
So, which headphone do I like better? I’m kind of on the fence, as there are obvious tradeoffs. I think in the future for transatlantic flights I’m taking the PXC250s because of the comfort and size advantages. (Coming out of the UK you only get one carry-on total, and that includes laptop bags, so space is at a bit of a premium, and I’m rather hoping to make trips to the UK more regularly in the future.) But for domestic flights I’ll probably go with the ATHs.

Postscript: What is ANC?
This is for those of you who don’t know anything about active noise cancellation. ANC is a pretty cool idea. Basically, there’s a microphone on the outside of the headphone which listens to the noise around you. A circuit takes that input, inverts the phase, and feeds that into the audio signal passed into the headphones. The result is that the outside noise is “cancelled out” of what you hear. Phase inversion is a little tricky and only really works at low frequencies. So, for instance, ANC doesn’t really block out voice all that well, particularly high-pitched voice. The good news, though, is that it’s the low frequencies which have an easier time passing through solids. (You know, when someone’s got the music too loud in their car with all the windows closed, all you can hear is the bass; the low-frequency stuff.) ANC is generally very good with any kind of constant, low-frequency rumble, like jet engines.

Audio-Technica ATH A700 Initial Impressions

I have occasional need for closed headphones. Normally when I need closed cans at home I’ve been listening to HD280s and at work, Sony V6s. The HD280s are good for what they are but they but they do have their drawbacks, including rolled-off treble and an overall kind of boxy sound.

The Audio-Technica Ax00 series gets a fair amount of coverage at head-fi, and so I decided to give them a whirl. I went with the A700s since most have either the A500s or the A900s and I just have to be contrarian. That, and my self-set limit for cans I know I won’t use all that much was $150. With the audiocubes sale, the A700s were just under that, including shipping.

Anyway, they came while I was out of town last week, and last night I hooked them up when I got home from work and let them break in for about six hours before I put them on.

So, first, physical characteristics. As everyone says about these things, they’re HUGE. They’re not heavy at all, but they are big. The 3D Wing deal for the headband feels odd at first, like it’s going to fall off, but it stays on pretty well. They’re surprisingly comfortable given their size, though they do cover a lot of the side of my head and they do get a bit warm on the old noggin after a while.

The color is funky. The picture on Audiocubes just doesn’t do them justice–at first, I thought the pic was totally off and my pair was just black. They’re not, they’re this really deep midnight blue, which is all sparkly if you look closely in good light. Subtle and very nice.

Build quality seems very solid. They’re terminated with a 1/8″ plug, which I don’t like, and the 1/4″ adapter is kind of cheesy–I like the screw-on style of the HD280s and V6s much better.

So, the big one: how do they sound? Well, remember that these are initial impressions–I haven’t had them long enough to do what I’d call a full review but I have run them through my Audio Test Mix and I have at least something of a feel for them. (Note that my main cans are HD595s and so most of these impressions are relative to those.)

The good:
Soundstage is very impressive, especially given that it’s a closed can. This is a common response to the Ax00 line and I expected it to be decent, but I wasn’t expecting this. I can see why gamers love these.

Detail is good, instrument separation is pretty clear. The sound is very energetic. Performance on string quartet was better than I expected, good job controlling shrillness of violins.

The bad:
Again, everyone says “recessed mids.” Absolutely true. I’ve not seen a frequency response curve for these but I bet it’s almost exactly the inverse shape to the HD280 curve (see Headroom for that). It’s not as bad as I sort of expected, but it is noticeable, especially for male vocals. Female vocals sound slightly better than male vocals, I think because the higher end of the female vocals don’t sound as recessed.

Highs sound kind of unnatural in a way that’s hard to describe. Cymbals don’t sound exactly like cymbals. It’s just… off. It’ll probably take me more time with them to get a clear handle on this.

Bass is pretty good, certainly more prominent than with the HD280s, but extension is not as good. It’s not quite as tight as I would like. It’s not horribly flabby or anything, but I’m so used to the HD595s tight and clear bass that they sound a little muddled to me.

Overall:
I know that was more bad than good, but overall for $150 closed cans, they are actually pretty good. They’re definitely more fun than the HD280s. I’m certainly not inclined to give up my HD595s but they might replace the 280s as my normal closed cans.

Sennheiser HD595 Full Review

So, over the course of the last (almost) year, I’ve made a lot of comments about the HD595s that have become my primary cans, but I haven’t gotten around to writing one big detailed review. So now I’m finally getting around to it, spurred on in part by the recent chance I had to listen to a lot of different cans through a lot of different amps at the Headroom tour stop in Houston.

I want to say up front that I really like these cans, but this will not be a purely one-sided review. There are very legit reasons for people to not like these cans and I want to be as clear as I can about them.

So, off we go. Oh, one very important thing to note: I was an “early adopter” of the HD595, which means I got them before the now-famous Senn factory fire, which means my set is the 120-ohm variety. I don’t know exactly how they compare to the 50-ohm version as I’ve never A/B’d them.

Equipment and Music
My current rig consists of:
* A Sony CDP-601ES player. This is now a “vintage” player, circa 1993 with one of the early Sony 1-bit DACs in it.
* A 1st-generation Headsave Classic with OPA627s.
* I’ve also driven them from an iPod both directly and through a Xin Supermicro (v6)

I’ve had these for a long time now so the music is, well, my whole collection, which ranges from new age solo piano and guitar to AC/DC and Tool to chamber and symphony classical to techno and electronica. I listen to only a small smattering of jazz and rap and exactly zero country and opera. A good slice of my critical listening for review/comparison purposes is based on my Audio Test Mix.

Non-sound Considerations
Ergonomics

I find these cans to be the most comfortable I’ve worn for any extended period. They have velour pads (which I prefer to leather or pleather) and a nicely padded headband. To get them to sound their best you have to position them so the headband is slightly more forward on your head than most other cans, but this doesn’t affect comfort for me. Based on short tries with other cans I’d say the high-end Beyers are in a similar category. Some people do report some head clamping but fortunately my head isn’t big enough for me to have experienced this. They’re light for full-sized cans which really helps.

The cable is one-sided on the left, which I prefer over y-cables. However, the cable is a little light for my tastes and tends to snag more than I’d like. The slightly rubbery plastic covering doesn’t help with this–I’d prefer a heavier cable with one of those cloth-like covers.

Build Quality and Appearance
These are a little bit funky looking, kind of extra-modern. The grayish green color choice is not something I would have picked, but I guess it’s not that bad. I like the Senn logo underneath the grilles. Build quality seems good; they feel solid and I don’t worry about damaging them in routine handling.

Sound
Obviously, the most important part of the review!

The big draw of these phones that brought me to them in the first place is that the reviews generally say that these phones split the difference between the (to me) overly harsh and bright Grado house sound and the dark and laid-back Sennheiser house sound. These are extremely well-balanced headphones. That’s a good-news, bad-news story. The good news is that they spit out a very faithful reproduction of what’s fed in. If you like it really bright, the recording has to be bright. If you like it bass-heavy, then the recording will have to be bass-heavy. For me, this is what hi-fi is supposed to be all about; fidelity to the input. However, if you want your headphones to color the sound in a particular way, these are not the way to go. For me, this is a positive, because it means these headphones sound good across a wide range of music. While I listen more to rock/electronica than anything else, I do listen to acoustic/classical enough of the time that I wanted a headphone which doesn’t sound bad going there (a real weakness of the Grado house sound in my book).

Bass is tight and clear but not overdeveloped. Bass extension is good. I will admit that there are times when I would like a little more bass from them; I tend to tweak the volume knob up just a little bit when I hit a recording where I really want to focus on the bass.

Mids are very well-balanced. The Senn “house sound” cans (the 580/600/650) sounds to me like there’s a little bit of a push in the lower mids which the 595s do not have. I think these perform particularly well on female vocals and piano because of the balanced mids. Detail is terrific, ambient sounds are clear and placeable. The drawback here is that the mids can be a bit grainy. This is particularly exacerbated by bad recordings and compression artifacts. I’ve never heard them through a tube amp but my suspicion is that these might not synergize well with the distortion generated by tubes; tubes may make these sound even more grainy. Any tube fans want to comment on that?

Highs are clear and detailed, energetic but not overpowering. In classical, I do like quartets, which means the violin can sometimes be miked rather close. Cans with treble harshness can make such recording sound screechy but the HD595s handle violins very well. They resolve detail very well in the upper register and cymbals actually sound like cymbals.

Soundstaging is excellent. To me it’s a little deeper than the Senn 580/6×0 soundstage, but definitely not as wide. I’m constantly impressed with how good the soundstage is. These sound a little sharper than the traditional Senn flagships, but they’re definitely not as full-sounding.

Finally, they’re not too hard to drive but amping them does indeed make a difference. They sound good unamped out of my iPod, but they definitely sound better amped. In particular, bass energy is much better with an amp.

Redux
The thing about the 595s is that they do almost everything well but they aren’t the best at anything (except maybe comfort if you don’t get clamping, which some do, but comfort is so individual I’d be hard-pressed to suggest everyone would find them the comfort champ). Kind of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I think that’s why some people really don’t like these; for every application, there’s probably something better in this price range.

So, if you listen to entirely rock or hip-hop (maybe techno), these might not be the best choice. If you can get past the comfort issues (which I can’t) with Grados, well, Grados are hard to beat for involvement and energy. The 595s bank in somewhere around the SR225-SR325 price range depending on what kinds of deals you can find, so for the same money you’re in a pretty nice spot in the Grado line.

If, on the other hand, you listen to entirely acoustic or classical (especially symphony), your money is probably better spent on something from the Senn 580/600/650 family. The classic Senn sound is more lush and full and I would recommend those over the 595s for classical. The 595s come in kind of in between the HD580s and the HD600s on price (again, dependent on what deals you can find).

So, if instead of $250 for one pair, you have $500 to spend on two cans, you can drop $350 on your primary desire and $150 on your secondary cans, and you’ll definitely be better off than if you try to do everything with the 595s.

However, if you listen to a wide variety of music and only have the budget for one good set of headphones, I really think this is a very strong option, particularly if you’re really into detail and can stomach a bit of grain in the mids to get it. They are indeed more lively than the classic Senn house sound, but they’re not as forward as Grados (or other cans like the Sony CD3Ks) so they hold up dramatically better for music that isn’t happy with ultra-forward presentation.

OK, so what did I miss?

Review: Garbage Bleed Like Me

Funny to see the split on opinions about their previous album BeautifulGarbage. First time I heard it, I thought it was weird, but still good. Just different. Apparently a lot of Garbage fans were put off by it. Now, I’ll admit I still think Version 2.0 is their best disc, but that doesn’t make BeautifulGarbage bad. I like BG better than their first disc.

Anyway, I’ve been through Bleed Like Me probably a dozen times now and it’s decent, but nothing to write home about. As mentioned, some of the tracks are really simplistic (lots of choruses which simply repeat the same phrase over and over); overall it’s certainly not as complex an album as BeautifulGarbage. While simple, though, some of the tracks are pretty catchy. It is definitely more of a rock album than BeautifulGarbage and probably more than even their first two.

Taken as a straight rock album, it’s good but not a huge standout. I really like Shirley’s voice, which is worth a lot. Now that Curve is no more (sniff) and Kate Bush is long retired, Garbage is the flagbearer for female lead singers for me. I like her edgy and loud, so I don’t care much for most of the mellower tracks of theirs. However, I do sort of like the title track. I think the top track, though, is “Why Do You Love Me”–Shirley seems to be channeling Debbie Harry on that one. Yes, that’s praise. Other standouts for me are “Bad Boyfriend” and “Why Won’t You Come Over” (despite being one of the repetitive-chorus tunes). There are losers on this disc as well, which I won’t single out by name.

So it’s an OK disc. There are certainly some good tracks, but it has it’s share of weaker ones as well.

Review: Sennheiser HD595

(originally posted to Head-Fi on 2004.06.28)

Hmm, well, I’m sure I’ve mentioned some bits and pieces of this elsewhere, but let me go through my decision process on how I ended up with the 595s, and my impressions now that they’re here.

I was, as you know, running CD780s unamped, though off a decent NAD headphone jack. The CD780s are truly fantastic for the whole $35 I paid but they’re… well, they’re sloppy. Transients aren’t crisp, soundstaging isn’t very good, flabby bass, etc. And the mids are a bit recessed. So, given I picked up a little consulting money recently, I decided it was time to upgrade.

I figured on my current budget I could go for something like a PIMETA and either 580s or fork out extra for 595s. (I didn’t even consider Grados because the Grados I have heard just did not impress me in terms of performance on classical, build quality, and especially comfort. Not sure why I didn’t consider Beyers–I guess I’m just a Senn kinda guy. A year ago I hadn’t even heard of Sennheiser. Another Head-Fi victim! :-p )

Anyway, I went with the 595s over the 580s for two reasons: [1] easier to drive so the PIMETA should be enough, and [2] I do listen to more rock/electronica than I do classical & acoustic, but I do listen to both. I wanted a phone that would be slightly better for rock/electronica while still being tolerable for the other stuff. According to various posts here (including pp312) that’s what the 595s should give–something in between the 580/600 laid-back sound but not quite as bright and aggressive as the Grados. Oh yeah, and I hate y-cables and the 595s have a single cable rather than a y.

So, I got them Thursday and broke ’em in for a couple days and have been listening a bunch this weekend. So far I’m very impressed. The transient issues I was having with the CD780s are totally handled and the soundstage is FABULOUS–I never expected headphones to have this much soundstage! Mids are of coursre much better, as the 595s are very balanced (you’ve been told that before); they handle a wide range of material very well. They are truly stunning on acoustic solo piano: it really sounds like you’re in the room with one; I was quite shocked at how good this was. And yet they are still fun with more aggressive rock/dance music.

If I was going to nitpick, I’d ask for a smidge, and only a smidge, more bass. I find myself wanting to just slightly nudge up the volume knob when I’m trying to get into a bass-heavy piece. That, and the cable seems a bit flimsy–I’d like it to be a little heavier just so it won’t loop on itself and catch on stuff so much.

They are also VERY comfortable, though not quite in the “strap pillows to your head” way that the 780s are. I love that aspect of the Sonys, but even the 780s feel heavy after a while. The 595s don’t go on quite as soft and fluffy like, but they fit on very comfortably and are very light, even over extended periods. They stand up to multi-hour listening better than anything I’ve ever tried.

Of course, take this with some grain of salt; I’ve never seriously listened to the 580s or 600s. Maybe at the meet next month I can have them go head-to-head with 580s or 650s or something.

Nor can I say how they compare to the 555s since I haven’t heard those at all. I went with the 595s over those because a couple folks here said “smoother treble” and to ward off future upgraditis.

Not as direct a comparison as you wanted, but I hope that helps some, blessingx.

My air travel audio rig

(originally posted to Head-Fi on 2004.01.27)

Well, wow. I mean, just wow.

I just got back from a business trip where I got the chance to really put all the pieces of the my “air travel” rig seriously through their paces, because my flight home was ultra-delayed (4 hours). And what I have to say is, while I may not have reached pure headphone Nirvana, but I’m pretty amazed in terms of size/performance:

15Gb 3rd-generation iPod
Sennheiser PXC250 and MX400
Xin SuperMicro Amp

Many will argue that Shure or Ety would be the better choice than the PXC250s, but I really find all forms of canalphone uncomfortable–or maybe just unsettling. Regardless, I don’t like ’em.

The PXC250s have at least OK passive isolation (closed can, can get a decent seal with practice) and very solid noise cancellation circuitry, which handles the pesky airplane noise. The real drawback with these cans is that, at 320 Ohms, they’re tough to drive from a portable, even a relatively high-output one like an iPod (don’t even think about these from a 5mW MD player without an amp).

The solution? The Xin SuperMicro. I only got this recently and haven’t had much of chance to listen, but did let it run down a couple AAAs to burn it in before this trip. It’s so little it slips easily into the case for the PXC250s. And for such a little thing, AMAZING performance! Very neutral, clear highs, tight lows, maybe a very smidge on the bright side (probably the 8620 opamp).

The MX400s are for waiting in the stupid concourse for them to find a plane, since ya gotta be able to hear them announce the two gate changes (grr), you can’t run the PXC 250s. Xin is right, the MX400s really sound a heck of a lot better amped–not so dark. And they, too, fit in the PXC250 case, even with the SuperMicro in there.

And, or course, an iPod (or some other HD-based player) was necessary since between the wait and the actual flight, I think I cleared over seven hours plugged in. I suspect the crossfeed in the Xin helped reduce listening fatigue as well because normally I find it hard to listen that long to phones in one stretch. So my first experience with a crossfeed was a positive one.

So, I wanted to thank all the folks here at Head-Fi, because I never would have heard of, much less bought, the SuperMicro or the PXC250s without this site (though the iPod is what actually got me here).

Oh, and thanks to Sennheiser, Xin, and Apple for making what could have been a miserable wait seem, well, not so bad.

(Just for the record, the playlist: Crystal Method’s Legion of Boom, Deepsky’s In Silico, Thievery Corporation’s Richest Man in Babylon, Soundtrack from The Fifth Element, Tool’s AEnima, my audio test mix, and some other random tracks.)

iPod vs. Minidisc

(originally posted to some forum, maybe iPodLounge, on 2003.07.26)

I’ve been in MiniDisc since 1999, before the MP3 thing really got serious. I never really liked MP3’s because Sony’s ATRAC blows away the “standard” 128 kbps MP3 in terms of sound quality. I had little interest in solid-state MP3 players when they first came around, and while I thought the first iPods looked cool and all, I still wasn’t inclined to switch over. What moved me over was the combination of AAC encoding, reasonable drive sizes, PDA features, and size of the 3rd gen iPods. While they aren’t as good as ATRAC, 160 kbps AAC files encoded with QT’s “best” setting are actually good enough for the places where I tend to use portable players–airplanes/airports, buses/taxis, mowing the lawn, etc.–noisy places. So I took the plunge and got an iPod.

Wow, do I ever NOT miss MD. Having 1000+ tracks on the iPod means that I don’t have to have remembered to pack a specific disc if there’s a particular song I want to hear later. I never have to dig through my bag on an airplane for a disc which I can’t tell from another one in the dark. It’s tons easier to make a mix via playlists in iTunes than it is to record one to MD.

Of course, that may be because I don’t have a “NetMD” since those weren’t on the market when I got into it. In fact, I don’t have a portable player that even supports MDLP because they didn’t exist back then, and even though all I want is a play-only player, I can’t get one with a remote for less than $150, and I ain’t blowing that for another player just to get a modest technology boost. But I can get firmware upgrades for my iPod. (Actually, I don’t think I could use a NetMD anyway since I’m on a Mac.)

The iPod convenience more than makes up for the very marginal difference in sound quality. At least in the U.S., I give MD like five more years tops–it’s a dying technology that even Sony only supports in a half-ass (err, arse) way here. Oh, and Sony’s role as a member of the RIAA doesn’t exactly put me in their corner, either.

Of course, despite all this, I’m still archiving all my old analog cassette tapes onto MD, go figure. It has its uses.

Oh, and iPods have a drastically higher coolness factor.

Review: PSB SubSonic 5

(originally posted to audioreview.com on 2003.05.05)

Overall Rating
5 of 5

Value Rating
4 of 5

Product Model Year:
2002

Summary:
I have PSB stuff all around for my HT: 4Ts up front, 8C center, 1B surrounds. However, I thought the Sub5 was a bit pricey for a 10″ sub so I considered a couple others like the Paradigm. Truth be told, I didn’t find the comparable Paradigm much different–probably a little louder, but not quite as musical. For pure HT use, I might have gone with the Paradigm. But since I do music as well, I went with the PSB. My living room has a funny shape to it and is entirely open to the kitchen in back, so while the “standard” sub to go with the setup I have is a 12″ (the Sub6), for me, this is more than enough. This thing can easily rattle all the windows in the room when something in a movie explodes–no power issues for me.

Strengths:
More musical response than others in price range.

Weaknesses:
Not quite as loud as others in price range

Similar Products Used:
Paradigms. Also listened to consumer-grade stuff like Infinity and Polk, which isn’t even in the same class–avoid.

Review: NAD T751

(originally posted to audioreview.com on 2002.02.07)

Overall Rating
5 of 5

Value Rating
4 of 5

Price Paid:  $600 at Happy Medium

Product Model Year:
2000

Summary:
I’ve been a big fan of Proton/NAD for some time, and so naturally I listened to the 751 when it was time to go to home theater. Good call. Very good DACs with the expected NAD clean amplification. As others have mentioned, NAD concentrated their efforts on getting it to be clean, not on lots of idiotic DSP modes. This is one of the only HT receivers in this price range that also features solid music-only two-channel performance (I thought this was a particularly weak point for the Denon models). Very clean NAD sound in all modes, not just HT.

Other people have complained about the remote, but I have a universal remote for my whole system anyway and I rarely have to use the NAD remote. When I do end up using it, it doesn’t seem all _that_ bad.

The one thing I don’t like about it is the delay when you switch inputs while the unit searches for a digital signal. Kind of annoying.

Composite to S-video conversion seems pretty OK to me–this only comes up with the VCR for me, since all my other sources are S-video anyway, and we don’t watch much on VHS anymore.

I have this set up with PSB speakers all around: the Image 4Ts up front, the 8C center, and 1B surrounds. I highly recommend the NAD/PSB combo. NAD and PSB are owned by the same parent company and share the same “performance first” design philosophy, and work together very well.

Strengths:
Sound quality, including 2-channel mode

Weaknesses:
Lag on input switching

Similar Products Used:
I auditioned Onkyo, Denon, Yamaha as well.