Audiophiles should not suffer! Sony WF-1000xm4: the review

Russian verison of the article.

Just in case: this introduction isn’t about the WF-1000xm4, so you can safely skip it if you want.

Pure hate

Sometimes a company tries to make a good product, but they produce a monster instead. This is exactly the case of the Noble Falcon Pro (my review): these are disgustingly poorly functioning headphones with a rather pleasant sound delivery. After 2 months of use, I had to say goodbye to them, since it turned out that I like to remain sane more than I like good sound: even after the Falcon Pro firmware update, these sometimes weren’t able to connect to my smartphone, the equalizer kept saving the presets it liked (and not what I tried to save), the control gestures were unstable, and the quality of speech transmission was just awful. I’m a very patient man, but one thing made me take the final decision. It’s pretty easy to reproduce: the headphones (being ON) should just lie next to each other – just for a minute. Believe me, it’s a common thing: for example, when buying your triple espresso and holding the headphones in your hand. Or when chatting with your buddy you accidentally met when heading home. Or even when you just fail to put the headphones right against the contacts in their case. And then there may be a squeaky seasoning to your daily musical indulgence, and the loudness of such an effect depends on the physical position of one earpiece relative to the other and the distance between them. Which makes me think it has something to do with the magnetic fields. At the maximum volume, the squeak can be heard from 10 meters away! I even recorded this, watch with sound (no NSFW, promise):

Theoretizer, hold your horses! There’s no ANC in this model, the acoustic transparency mode is turned off (and can only be enabled via the app).

How on earth could they possibly miss this crap during testing! You may want to know why nobody among the reviewers or just users has ever dropped a word about this. I suppose, nobody was able to take it for 2 months like I did.

So, here’s a bitter truth: the Noble Falcon Pro headphones are complete and downright shit. Don’t buy them and don’t even think their sound quality would compensate for all those glitches. PTSD is extremely expensive to treat, you know.

The Sony WF-1000xm4

Well, why Sony WF-1000xm4? Believe it or not, it’s insanely hard to find anything decent, that’s why. All of the TWS headphones models I’ve tried (about 30 of them) didn’t fascinate me in any way, and it just so happened that the WF-1000xm3 I once owned were cool. I really enjoyed them, but then the battery capacity decided it’s time to go.

Therefore, I thought, at least some decent active noise reduction is guaranteed, and ordered the WF-1000xm4 (hereinafter: 1000xm4).

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Noble Falcon Pro TWS headphones: the review

Let’s get straight to the point: the Noble company managed to make some completely wireless headphones with very good sound. Like, phenomenally good sound. But are these Noble headphones themselves? This is actually a big question.

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Kennerton M12S (2021). Out of the blue

In 2007, Nassim Taleb wrote a book called ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’, in which he introduced the concept of a ‘Black Swan’ event. He describes it as an event that was unpredictable before, but became completely rationally explicable in hindsight, and also triggered some significant consequences.

Why am I telling this to you?

It’s no secret that all Kennerton headphones have a strictly subjective setting, and the manufacturer themselves have repeatedly stated that they try not to focus on the measurement graphs, but to use their own hearing and subjective understanding as reference for the way different items should sound. I’d say, such an approach is a viable one, since it allowed Kennerton to gather a community of loyal fans around their headphones.

And that is why the release of the M12S 2021 edition was a complete surprise for me personally. Below I will try to explain why I absolutely fell in love with these headphones and think they’re one of the best among all the current company’s models.

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About headphones measurements and frequency response in particular

Эта статья на русском языке.

This article is a part 2 of this article on target curves.

Let’s start by answering a simple (but not too simple, actually) question: what are the headphones sound parameters that can be measured at all? Or, more precisely, the sound parameters that are usually measured. I’ve divided those into two categories: the main ones – the most significant and frequently cited, and the additional ones – less significant, but also important.

Main measurements

  • The frequency response is the dependency of the sound pressure level on the frequency of the reproduced harmonic signal at the headphones output. The frequency response is a reflection of the played sound volume at different frequencies. In the audiophile universe, it’s called tonal balance. The frequency response is the most significant characteristic of the headphones sound delivery. This is what we most often pay attention to when describing the sound.
  • The cumulative spectrum (waterfall) reflects resonances and reverberations at different frequencies after the headphones stop playing the signal. Each resonance adds a certain emphasis to its corresponding frequency. If the amplifier also introduces some distortion, such a distortion is going to be amplified at the resonant frequencies. At some point, the resonances can be considered as a qualitative parameter, where less is better. However, it’s still more correct to address it as a versatility indicator, like less resonances mean less glitches visibility on the amplifier side.
  • The impulse response — a response to a single shortest possible impulse. The pulse response wave form primarily depends on the frequency response, the attenuated resonances and reverberation of the headphones themselves, as well as on the acoustic test chamber stand. The total length of the impulse is about 5 seconds, while visually it’s somewhere around 2-4 milliseconds long.
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Shure Aonic 50

Эта статья на русском языке.

In my pursuit of a perfect pair of headphones, I laid my hands on the next wireless Bluetooth model, which is the Shure Aonic 50.

On the Shure website, there’s a hint about the Aonic 50 having to deliver a smooth sound, because ‘some comfortable, high-quality headphones with studio-class sound are the least we could do for you’. And since I’m a big fan of neutral sound delivery, my audiophile libido immediately kicked in.

After all, ‘studio-class’ should be neutral, right?

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