I’ll be honest, for years I saw the LSA ads and never knew until last winter that the initials stood for Living Sounds Audio until I reviewed their sneaky good Statement 10 standmount speakers. Since then, I'd patiently awaited the HP-Diamond headphones. Due to their popularity and COVID, I was limited to just a month with these planar design, Russian-made beauties. No question, the wait was absolutely worthwhile.
Up front, I need to say I was a bit concerned about the dual headband, as I had a very disappointing experience with a pair of Pioneer headphones. Needless to say, my fears were quickly dismissed as the designers (Kennerton) created both comfort and a consistent fit via a terrific bit of self-adjusting design. The latter being critical for optimal performance of the open-back design. The band is wide enough to disperse the weight without sliding. Something I’ve found to be more important as the follicle retreat on my scalp has increased. The transducer is now made with lighter weight aluminum rather than traditional metal for added comfort.
The elegant solid wood cups and grills mated to the comfortable pads seal nicely with room to spare, something much appreciated I’m betting by those with larger ears. The cables attach to the bottom of the ear shell via a mini-version of an XLR cable. Truly an excellent design pioneered by Audeze, and hopefully one day will become universal. My only quibble is that the cable was a good twelve inches short of my headamp/DAC when seated in my listening position
Unlike room speakers where one can get at least somewhat of an idea as to their performance by looking at the drivers and cabinet, headphones are much more of a mystery until the music starts. Before I get to the HP-Diamond’s specialty, the base qualities need to be addressed. That begins with the overall character, and much like the LSA Statement 10 speakers, the headphones' sonics lean slightly warm whether it be powered by the Simaudio 230HAD or the Oppo HA-1. Woodwinds and string instruments play very evenly, except in the most demanding of efforts by the musicians. Lead vocals are nicely centered, while the chorus stays a bit back and slightly up in the soundstage.
So where do the HP-Diamond’s excel? It’s percussion, whether it be orchestral, jazz, or rock. Anything requiring some sort physical strike, this over-the-ear headphone elevates those instruments. When the hammer, hand, or stick hits the surface, the HP-Diamond’s deliver that impact to the listener. As a one-time tympany player in my youth, it’s all about the appropriate power behind the whack. Spin Phil Collins classic track “In The Air Tonight” and reveal the force behind the hits on the toms. The combination of power and resolution is stunning.
Dig up any of the great drummers and savor how the HP-Diamonds shine the spotlight on their work. The recent passing of the understated Rolling Stones Charlie Watts sadly,finally gave him his due. “Undercover of the Night” on the HP-Diamond’s, the rapid fire snare work is a gift to the listener. Watts lets loose in “Paint it Black”, and these headphones let one know that Watts is having a moment of showy fun.
Swinging the rock pendulum over to the frenetic, the HP Diamond’s replicate Keith Moon’s drum kit into a fireworks display of auditory color. From the shock waves in “Out in the Street” and “Happy Jack” to his ever so slightly tempered “Bargain”, and endless rolling waves of the snare blended in with sounds of the shore, these headphones replicate the the endless blitzkrieg that made Moon uniquely special.
The piano qualifies in a unique way as percussion with the key hammers hitting the wires. The HP-Diamond’s grab onto the ivory notes and relay them to the listener as solid strikes tinted with in-person concert resolution. Elton John’s keyboarding in Live From Australia captures his technical prowess of floating tickles in ballads and staccato strikes in rocking tracks. The HP-Diamond’s open back design recreate the concert halls and expansive arenas of the album while avoiding the hollowing out that can happen.
Tonally, the HP-Diamond’s have some similarities to the Sennheiser HP800’s in that they stay pretty neutral throughout the audio spectrum with the slight warmth as mentioned previously. Cellos and violins resonated the wood tones of the cabinet with a hint of lushness. Vocals have room to radiate into space. The subtle nuances of each vocalist’s unique voice are well resolved along with the occasional limits of the room itself.
The clear soprano of Alison Krauss’ vocals have proven to be a good stress test for the headphones I have experienced. HP-Diamond’s have no problem replicating her voice without any type of strain. The rich intonations of Karen Carpenter in “Crescent Noon” are recreated with stunning accuracy. With male vocals, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” with the lower tones of the refrain includes the slight gravely inflections. While Van Morrison’s classic Moondance album one can clearly hear the artist’s accent with certain words and phrases.
Audiophile headphones are a unique addiction. Over the forty years I’ve been a part of this hobby I’ve been truly enamored three times before this review. The first was the budget lightweight Sennheiser 477, then came the Master & Dynamic MD40 , and finally the Sennheiser HD800. Now I can add the LSA HP-Diamond to the list. The planar magnetic, easy to drive design provides an exciting listening experience, especially for percussion fans. Just select any Tito Puente song, sit back and let the dynamic immersion begin. For $1990 ordered directly from Underwoodhifi.com, the HP-Diamond headphones are a gourmet meal to the ears.
The LSA HP Diamond Headphones featured in the article look incredible, and I appreciate the author's discussion on the embedded software development that went into creating them. It's exciting to see the potential of Embedded Software Development in improving the functionality of audio devices. As technology continues to advance, it would be valuable to see more discussion on this topic in future articles.ReplyDelete